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If I told you Id just bought a pack of six individual apple pies for 37p, what would your initial thoughts be? If youre very slightly greedy, as I am, then your thoughts probably wont go any further than the simple apple pie to share. However, the more cost conscious amongst us might take note of that 37p. I mean, that isnt a whole lot of money to pay for six apple pies, is it? Mr Kipling sells his apple pies for £1.03 for six in my local asda, so how can these be so cheap?
Well, Im guessing here, but Id imagine that Asda have cut corners wherever possible, when producing their Smart Price Apple Pies. For example, these apple pies are sat on your bog-standard six slot plastic cake case, each encased in its own little metal cup, then all six sealed into one plastic bag which proclaims Asda Smart Price 6 Apple Pies on the front. Theres a small picture of a cup and saucer on the front but that is the only decoration on the pack. All other information on the plastic bag is in green, black or white ink the only three colours used, thus cutting down on ink costs. Obviously, as these pies are in a see-through plastic bag, not a costly cardboard box, theres also no need to stick an expensive picture on the front of how wonderful the apple pies look, we can actually see the real pies and make our decision from that.
Well, I didnt see the pies before I bought them, because I shopped online, but I certainly wasnt disappointed when they arrived. Before even opening the packet I could see that the pies are beautifully golden brown, with thick pastry and a sprinkling of sugar glinting on top. Of course, the minimalist packaging is also better for the environment, so youre a double winner on that score, but Id suggest that Asda only make a very minimal profit on their Smart Price produce, if any profit at all. I was taught when I worked at my local Safeway many years ago that these very low price products are offered as a loss leader to get people into the store in the hope that once theyre in theyll spend extra money they hadnt intended to spend. Not quite sure how that works out with shopping online, though
Checking the packaging I was pleased to notice that these pies are suitable for vegetarians, some Smart Price products Ive recently bought havent been, which is always a disappointment. For allergy sufferers the advice is clear, this product contains gluten, wheat and sulpher dioxide and may also contain traces of nuts/seeds.
Of course, apple pie is never going to be an aid to dieting, but if you do have a craving youll need to know that each one of these little pies contains a whole 176kcal, 12.6g sugar and 7.2g fat which is making me feel just a little guilty, as Ive just eaten three of the little devils. Still, they did taste exceedingly good But Im getting ahead of myself again, I do have a habit of doing that.
When I first opened the pack of apple pies I certainly couldnt smell any apple at all, but then I reasoned that the apple is all sealed inside the pastry, so I wouldnt be able to smell it. The only thing I could smell was the pastry, which does make sense. It smells warm, even though its freezing cold today. Warm, and, well just like pastry, to be honest. Sorry, smells were never my best point. The pie comes out of its foil cup easily, and at this point looks no different to any other apple pie Ive ever eaten. The apple filling is generous (14% according to the pack) and sweet; the marriage between apple and pastry is a good one, though this is definitely a pie for the sweeter toothed amongst us. The pastry itself is soft, sweet and almost melt in the mouth, almost, but not quite. Theres still a little bit of chewing required.
Im far too greedy to wait to heat them through, so ate these pies cold, straight from the packet. However, I bet theyd be even better warmed through and served with a hot custard or a scoop or two of really creamy icecream.
Over all, for 37p a packet this is a very nice apple pie, and a damn good value product. Of course, Smart Price is a no frills range, but if you did a blind taste testing of an assortment of apple pies, I think these would still score highly. The only criticism I have is that the apple in the first of the three pies I greedily munched today was just a little bit too crunchy, it felt as if it shouldve been cooked for just a little longer. The other two were fine, and if Im honest, Ive had the same slightly too crunchy problem with named brands of apple pies too.
As its getting closer to Christmas now, Ive been checking out No Frills products from all of the major supermarkets, in a hunt for better value. Some of them have been exactly what Id previously expected of a basic product Sainsburys foam fruits, for example, are not my cup of tea at all. However, in general Ive been pleasantly surprised by the quality of Asda Smart price products, this one included.
I may have only begun to shop Smart Price because Im on a budget, but I dont think Ill stop when the budget increases again this has been a real eye opener for me. This pack of six apple pies is, in my opinion, every bit as good as pies youd spend two or three times as much on and if were honest here, once the wrapper is in the bin and these are displayed nicely, whos going to know theyre Smart Price anyway?
If youre an apple pie fan, my advice would be to give them a try. If you enjoy them youll be making a huge saving on your usual brand. Even if you dont like them as much as I do, youve only lost 37p. Plus, even if you find anything wrong with your pies, Asda offer a refund and replace guarantee so you really cant lose.
Im a huge fan of dessert, but Im also a lazy slob. I want my desserts to taste great, but not take much effort. Here are a few of my favourite really easy dessert recipes. Hope you find something to appeal to you.
*** Chocolate Rice Crispies or Cornflake Cakes ***
- Big bar of milk chocolate (I like Galaxy myself, but Dairy Milk or something similar would be fine)
- Box of Rice Crispies or cornflakes, whichever you prefer or have at home
- Glass mixing bowl
- Wooden spoon
- Paper cake cases
1) Put a couple of inches of water in the bottom of your saucepan and bring it to the boil (or cheat, like I do, and add water straight to the pan from the kettle).
2) Sit the glass bowl on top of the pan, making sure that the base of the bowl is not touching the water.
3) Break the chocolate into chunks and chuck into the glass bowl, be very careful here not to accidentally drop a chunk into your open mouth, these accidents can happen so easily.
4) Stir the chocolate occasionally until it is totally melted, then pour in a generous portion of your preferred cereal and stir into the melted chocolate (you will probably find it easier to switch to a large metal spoon here) until it is all well covered.
5) Once the cereal is evenly covered, scoop up a large, heaped spoonful and drop it into a paper cake case. Repeat until all of the paper cases are filled or youve run out of mixture.
6) Leave cakes to cool completely before tucking in. (I know, I know, but they just fall apart if you try to eat them before theyre cold).
Ive also made these cakes with crunchy nut cornflakes, and they worked astoundingly well.
PS that's not cooking, that's melting
*** Eton Mess ***
- Ready made meringues (broken into pieces)
- Double or whipping cream
- Glass mixing bowl
- Sharp knife
- Serving bowls
1) Clean and hull your strawberries, sprinkle with sugar and mash lightly with the fork
2) Softly whip your cream, so that it thickens but isnt totally stiff.
3) Add broken meringue pieces to the strawberries, fold in the cream and spoon into the serving bowls. Drop a full strawberry on top for decoration if youre in a whimsical mood.
*** Pavlova ***
- Ready made meringue nests
- Double or whipping cream
- Fruit or fruits of your choice (eg summer fruits, grapes, kiwi fruit, pineapple these can be fresh, frozen or tinned)
- Cadburys Flake (crumbled)
- Glass mixing bowl
- Serving plates
- Knife, scissors or can opener for preparing fruit.
1) Whip the cream into stiff peaks
2) Prepare the fruit
3) Using one or two meringue nests for each serving, select your meringues and top each with a generous dollop of cream
4) Put the meringue nests onto serving plates, then top each with a generous portion of your selected fruit or fruits, making sure that the cream is well covered, and allowing the fruit to spill around the bottom of the meringues too.
5) Sprinkle a little of the crumbled flake over each dessert, and your mini pavlovas are ready to serve
*** Berry Soup Float ***
- Icing Sugar
- Wooden Spoon
1) Put the washed, hulled fruit into the blender and whiz until squishy
2) Push the squished fruit through a sieve using the back of a wooden spoon to remove the pips
3) Taste the blended fruit and add a little icing sugar if required. If the soup is too stiff add a small amount of water and stir in.
4) Pour the berry soup into serving dishes and float marshmallow islands on the top.
This is a great recipe for kids and very healthy, as long as you dont overdo it on the icing sugar and marshmallows.
Use up any leftover marshmallows by putting them into your mouth and chewing.
Skittle is a Border Collie with an obsession. That obsession is toys. When Skits about, no toy is safe, especially not the air Kong fetch stick, let me tell you why.
The Air Kong Fetch Stick first appeared in my local pet store a few years ago, around about the same time as I realised that said pet shop allowed you to take your dog along with you to shop. Skitson and I (shes a dog of many names, not all of them printable) rather got into the habit of jumping into the car and popping along to the pet store together every other week or so, because at the time I was attempting to feed my dogs on Burns dog food, and this was the only place nearby that I could get it. Still, thats another opinion, one Ive still got to get around to writing.
Unfortunately, for me anyway, there was absolutely no way that Skittler was leaving that shop without a new toy, and yes, I do mean every single time we visited. It has been said that I spoil my dogs, thats utter nonsense, they just have me well trained. This particular week Skitty-La had chosen herself a rather natty looking red fabric type toy, I think it was supposed to be some kind of monster, but I couldnt tell you what. However, this was instantly forgotten the moment she set nose on an Air Kong Fetch Stick thatd fallen down from the display above into the basket thats placed very conveniently at nose level for the average dog.
Larkin (yup, still one of Skittles other names) decided once and for all that this was the toy for her (for this week anyway) and no amount of persuasion otherwise would make her change her mind. Personally I put this down to the tennis ball material that theyre made from Ive never met a dog yet that doesnt like it, and Skitty is no exception. Even though this one was still in its cardboard packaging shed made her furry little mind up, and she would brook no argument. On checking the price I was rather shocked, Skittley had chosen the medium sized Air Kong Fetch Stick, which retails at a rather astonishing (for a tightwad like me) £3.99. The toy is available in two other sizes, small at £2.99 and large at £4.99, lucky for me it wasnt the large one thatd fallen off the display.
Batears then went on to choose the biscuits she wanted that week, before attempting to bite the head from a gorgeous little Staffy puppy on the way to the tills, shes nice like that. Back at home, I was given fair warning that if new toy wasnt forthcoming from carrier bag pretty darn smartish thered be hell to pay and they say dogs cant talk So, never one to argue with a superior canine, I removed the Air Kong Fetch Stick from its cardboard packaging and had a quick look before Ratdog snatched it away. The stick itself is basically just a tennis ball, but in a sausage shape. Tennis balls have long been favourites of both of my dogs anyway, so instantly appealed. The beauty of this toy, though, is that this tennis sausage is on a reasonably long, lightweight rope, which makes it perfect for throwing long distances and giving your dog some really good exercise.
We went outside to try out the new toy, and unfortunately as I throw like the girl I am, I promptly lobbed the Air Kong Fetch Stick into next doors garden. Dougal was not amused (nope, I have no idea why we call her Dougal, she just likes it) and sent me around to the neighbours to get her toy back immediately. This time I managed to throw the toy in a vaguely straight direction, and found that the rope really does allow you to throw it much further than your ordinary toy, I was having to be careful not to throw it too far and have to pester the neighbours again.
A day or two afterwards the dogs and I decided to take my husband on an outing to the nearby common. As 'new' toy, the Air Kong still had favourite status, so was quickly selected by Skit (the rest of her names are just too bizarre to carry on any further) to come along for a little light entertainment. Once out walking I found that the toy is much easier to carry than most other toys as you can hold it by the end of the rope. I actually found that Skitson liked to hold the stick end in her mouth, too, which had the added bonus of preventing her from barking at any of the many evil, dangerous boy scouts, carrier bags, cuddly bunnies and cyclists that we were bound to pass. This came in ever more handy later on when the toy had been well played with and was covered in mud, drool and all kinds of other things that I dont even want to contemplate, as I could just hold the rope at the end and didnt have to hold the slobbery bit.
As Id discovered earlier in the back garden, that rope really does make it much easier to throw the Fetch Stick further. It quickly became apparent, though, that the rope was a bit of a menace when Skit was bringing the stick back. The rope would bounce about on the end of the toy, slapping her in the face and often tripping her up, however, Skit cleverly solved this problem herself a few days later by chewing the rope in half. One plus point for this toy is that the blue and white rope is easy to spot in long grass, the yellow tennis ball stick, however, really isnt. We very nearly lost the Air Kong Fetch Stick on our first outing when the dogs couldnt find it in the long grass, it took me a while too, even though I was standing almost on top of it.
The Air Kong Fetch Stick floats, so its perfect for dogs who like to play in the water. Luckily, mine arent water babies, but the toy has come in handy in the past for keeping them happy when theyve gotten restless in the bath. It does also mean that its very easy to get the toy clean when we get home from a run, I can just run it under the tap and it cleans up really well.
So would I recommend the Air Kong Fetch Stick? To be absolutely frank, despite the fact that Skittykins still loves it now that its practically bald and without a rope, I prefer those long plastic sticks that allow you to throw an ordinary tennis ball for miles. I have never found it possible to throw the Air Kong as far as I can with the plastic thing and tennis ball contraption, and with the tennis ball theres no danger of Skitson causing herself an injury as she brings it back. Replacing the odd tennis ball is much more cost effective than replacing a £3.99 Fetch Stick every time Skitty chews the rope off it too.
So no, Im afraid that for me the Air Kong Fetch Stick, though a decent toy, is not a toy that I would buy again. The plastic tennis ball thrower is much better suited for us as a family. Im not 100% certain Skit would agree though, she REALLY enjoyed chewing that nasty rope.
The lazy womans cauliflower cheese.
I dont know about you but I get those evenings, especially at this time of year, when I just want to eat some good, honest comfort food, but I dont want to have to spend hours cooking it. In fact, the less preparation time the better, for me. But comfort food from the microwave just isnt the same The answer could well be my Really Easy Cauliflower Cheese. Honest!
You will need:
- Bag of frozen cauliflower and broccoli florets
- Packet of cheese sauce mix
- Bag of grated cheddar, or a block if youre feeling energetic enough to grate it yourself
- Milk (for the cheese sauce)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 x saucepans
- Wooden spoon
- Ovenproof dish
- Cheese grater (if using a block of cheese)
- Measuring jug
- Baking tray
1) Turn the oven on to preheat at gas mark 6, 400f or 200c.
2) Take your oven proof dish (I use a reasonably deep one, the kind youd use for a fruit crumble, this size of dish only needs one packet of cheese sauce) and fill it to about halfway up the sides with the frozen cauliflower and broccoli, or just the cauliflower if you prefer. Once you have the correct amount, turn the frozen veg into a saucepan and cook as per the packet instructions.
3) Meanwhile, make up the cheese sauce as per packet instructions, dont forget to season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper at this stage, if you like it.
4) Once cooked, leave the sauce to one side and drain the veg, being careful to remove as much water as possible (too much water makes the cheese sauce manky, that's an official term) and then put the drained veg back in the bottom of your ovenproof dish.
5) Cover the cauliflower and/or broccoli evenly with the cheese sauce (some say you should leave both to cool before you do this, but Ive never bothered) making sure you dont leave any big chunks of veg sticking out uncovered.
6) Grate as much cheddar on the top as you like
7) Pop your ovenproof dish onto a baking tray, and put it on the middle shelf of the preheated oven. All you need to do now is go relax for 40-45 minutes and come back to a kitchen rich with the smell of melted cheese, and a cauliflower cheese thats thoroughly cooked, with a golden brown top and a cheese sauce thats bubbling.
This dish will serve 1 very hungry person as a main meal, or 2 as a main meal with accompaniments.
This is perfect served with a bag of leafy green salad and a sprinkling of bacon bits (the strong, salty flavour goes well with the rich cheese sauce). A generous squirt of tomato ketchup or barbeque sauce also goes well and helps to cut through the blandness of the cauliflower cheese. This makes a good meal on its own, but its also great served with chips, as the filling for a jacket potato or as an extra special portion of veg in a roast dinner.
This dish also works really well if you substitute macaroni or another pasta shape for the cauliflower and broccoli, just make up as per the packet instructions.
If you want to make things even easier for yourself, you can make up a batch of the basic mix and store it in the fridge for a day or two. Itll keep for even longer in the freezer, just get one out to defrost in the morning, then sprinkle grated cheese on top and stick it in the oven when you get home.
To tell the truth, Im not a particularly patriotic person, Im also not particularly proud of our Monarchy, but thats not to say that I want them all beheaded and their wealth redistributed to the Country, not at all. Im happy that they do an excellent job as figureheads for Great Britain. They pull in the tourists, act as unofficial Good Will ambassadors to other countries and most of all, they make the Americans green with jealousy. So personally, Im very happy to keep our current National Anthem, if God exists, which Im seriously not sure about, he/she/it has been doing a pretty good job of saving our queen so far, long may he/she/it continue.
In fact, the National Anthem is so closely intertwined with our National History and the Monarchy that you could almost call it an advertising jingle, and you wouldnt change an advert when the product is still flying off the shelves.
When I first saw the title of this topic, my initial reaction was why bother? God save the Queen (or King, if Charlie ever gets to take over) is a perfectly serviceable National Anthem thats recognised the world over. Its got the weight of history behind it, and Goddamnit, it makes me feel proud and (a bit) patriotic to hear it, and there isnt much else that does, nowadays. Many (including the Royalist) would say that the National Anthem is sacrosanct to our National Identity would you want to be the Prime Minister whod be forever remembered as the one whod scrapped God Save the Queen?
Its often been rumoured that there was once a verse in the National Anthem that exhorted the crushing of the Scottish Nation, though I have never found any proof of it. Shame, that couldve been quite fun, if it were true. And I say that as a person with one English parent and one Scottish.
The National Anthem is still played on Royal visits and at sporting events around the world. When you look at this issue from a purely logistical point of view, changing the National Anthem would mean that every single copy of God Save the Queen, whether it be a recording or sheet music, would need to be replaced with a copy of the new National Anthem. That would be a truly enormous job, and who would foot the bill?
Of course, if God Save the Queen were to be scrapped, what would replace it? Jerusalem is seen as a rebel rousing alternative, Land of Hope and Glory or Rule Britannia are other possible replacements. But do either of those really have the same Kudos as our present National Anthem? Would changing the National Anthem now set a precedent for changing it more often in future and to Hell with history? Do any of us really care? I dont honestly know.
So, should we change the National Anthem? I can't think of even one really convincing argument why we should. Not one. Im afraid that after thoroughly considering the alternatives, Im still left with my initial reaction, why bother? Yes, I fully agree with the argument that God Save the Queen really is not a musical masterpiece, but does it really need to be? It is, after all, instantly recognisable as the Great British National Anthem, therefore doing its job, as I see it. And anyway, if it was changed, think of all of those poor footballers whod have to learn the words for the new National Anthem, how would they cope? Oh yes, theyd just mumble like they always have
Cleethorpes is the end of the line.
True that. The local railway line terminates in Cleethorpes, the station is literally right on the beach, you can just walk down off the station, cross the road and youre paddling (when the tide's in, that is). Now the really important question is, should you want to?
Cleethorpes, for those of you that dont know, is a coastal town in North East Lincolnshire. Known as Meggies by the locals, for some reason lost in the mysteries of time. Its often referred to as a seaside resort, but thats not strictly true. Cleethorpes actually sits on the banks of the Humber Estuary, not the North Sea. However, it does have a nice long stretch of beach thats lovely for walks or horse riding, though youre only allowed to take dogs on some stretches of the beach at certain times of the year.
The border between Cleethorpes and Grimsby was built upon years ago, so that nowadays for all intents and purposes theyre just one big town. One place thats commonly known as the border between the two towns is Park Street, a street where the houses on one side are in Grimsby, but their neighbours across the road are in Cleethorpes. Its an interesting thought that if you were to drive down the middle of the road youd be in one town, but your passenger would be in the other.
But the closeness of the two towns isnt all that Grimsby and Cleethorpes share, oh no. Grimsby Town football club actually has its home, Blundell Park, in Cleethorpes. Having said that, plans are being considered to move the home of Grimsby Town back into Grimsby itself, to an area of open ground close to the Grimsby Auditorium. Mind you, this is something thats been rumoured and talked about for years, and nothing has yet to come of it.
Cleethorpes has its own pier, which was opened on August Bank Holiday of 1873. Its length, back then, was an astonishing 1,200 ft. There have been two pavilions on the pier, the first was built at the end of the pier, but sadly this burnt down in 1903. The pier was shortened during the Second World War, for fear of invasion, and sadly was never rebuilt. However, the shortened pier is still there with its second pavilion kept in good order and now running as an infamous local nightclub.
Thats not the only landmark in Cleethorpes thats been affected by war, though. In the Humber itself stand two monuments to the role the Humber and its towns played in the Second World War. Haile Sand Fort stands at around the low water mark between Cleethorpes and Humberston, whilst its partner, Bull Sand Fort is 1.5 miles from shore off Spurn Head, on the opposite side of the Humber. These forts were built during the First World War to guard the entrance to the Humber Estuary, unfortunately, they were completed just as the First World War ended. During the Second World War a netting was strung between the two forts to prevent enemy submarines entering the Humber and travelling upriver to Hull or Grimsby. The forts were often attacked by enemy aircraft, but theyre still standing now. There have been many attempts to find a new use for the forts over the years, but none has ever been successful.
Cleethorpes as a town has gone through a period of regeneration lately, noticeably along the front where older buildings have been torn down and replaced with luxurious, new apartment blocks with views over the water. One such older building, the Winter Gardens, was torn down last year despite complaints from local people, as it was the last remaining entertainment venue of any decent size in the town.
Primarily, though, Cleethorpes is a holiday town. If youre looking to step back in time for a traditional seaside holiday, then you should really look into renting a chalet on the Humberston Fitties, a conservation area with a whole village of chalets next to the beach.
Haven now own Thorpe Park and offer caravan holidays in the town. Their holiday park is situated at the quieter end of Cleethorpes, right next to the beach and only a very short walk from Pleasure Island, the towns theme park. Ive never been to Pleasure Island myself, not being a fan of theme parks as such, but friends who have been say its a good day out. Its owned by the same people who run Flamingoland, and from the outside on a nice day you can hear plenty of screaming and yelling from people on the bigger rides, believe me.
Back up near the pier and train station is the more cosmopolitan area of Cleethorpes if you like, with its pubs, bars, nightclubs, shops, arcades and the infamous Wonderland. Wonderland is generally packed every Sunday with punters looking for bargains at the Weekly Sunday market. If you want to spend your money fast, this is the part of Cleethorpes to head to, and Yorkshire people congregate here in droves every year. In mini-homage to Blackpool, Cleethorpes has a string of illuminations all the way along the front, too.
You cant turn around in Cleethorpes without seeing somewhere selling food. All of the usual seaside treats like candyfloss and rock can be bought practically everywhere, as can the ubiquitous fish and chips. However, if you feel like splashing out and youre looking for a really decent fish supper, you cant do any better than checking out Steels in the marketplace. Steels is a bit of a local secret, being away from the main hustle and bustle of the front, set back in the towns market square. However its always full, and with good reason, the food there is generally considered the best fish & chips available in Cleethorpes.
If youve had enough of arcades and shopping, and you dont want to get sand in your shoes, then you can go for a walk along the prom and take in the beautifully tended gardens and modern art displayed within them, perhaps stopping off for a quick game of crazy golf on the way.
If you walk far enough youll come to the Cleethorpes Leisure Centre, which is right next to the beach. Just behind the Leisure Centre you can check out the wildlife around the boating lake, or take out a boat for a little light rowing, if youre feeling energetic enough. Leave the boating lake by the beachside path and youll quickly come to a row of pretty beach huts, past which is the Greenwich Meridian marker, marked by a bar set into the pavement.
If you keep walking youll pass Pleasure Island, then Thorpe Park with its row upon row of caravans all the way down to the chalets on the Fitties. The very last building, where the Fitties end, is the Yacht Club, with its yard full of boats of all sizes.
Beyond this is probably my favourite place in the area, the nature reserve with its beautiful lake and fields of long grasses. Theres ample parking here, with paths around the lake and beyond. Youll always come across birdwatchers here, sharing the area happily with dog walkers and the odd horse rider too. Its tranquil and beautiful, especially in the winter when I always try to remember to bring plenty of bread to feed the ever-hungry birds on the lake.
By taking you along the beach path, weve missed the Cinema, one of those multiplexs where you can be assured of watching the latest films with a bucket of cola and the same again of popcorn, without having to queue for long. The cinema is on a little retail park with some shops and a fast food outlet or two, and a bowling alley.
Across the road, and along a little way, you can find The Jungle a mini zoo with mostly parrots, but also with some small furries and goats for the children to pet and feed. Theres a monkey at the Jungle that always looks sad when I go, I expect because hes all alone with no monkey friends, poor little guy. Still, the Jungle is definitely worth a look, youll easily spend an hour or two in there oohing and aahing over the animals.
If all of this sightseeing has quite tired you out, then you can catch a train on the Cleethorpes Light Railway at either Kingsway, Lakeside or North Sea Lane Stations and enjoy a trip on the East of Englands last surviving steam seaside light railway.
Cleethorpes is often overshadowed by Grimsby, but I think thats unfair, its a decent town in its own right thats well worth a visit if youve never been.
Making cheese straws is really easy baking that will still impress your friends and family no end. These can be knocked together in 20 mins, with very little effort on your part.
You will need:
- Ready made puff pastry
- Block of hard cheese, I prefer a mature cheddar (or you can buy a bag of ready grated cheese to make it even easier)
- Small amount of milk
- A little flour
- Cheese grater
- Rolling pin
- Baking tray
- Fish slice
- Wire cooling rack (you can use the one from your grill pan if you dont have another)
- Sharp knife
1) The first thing youll need to do is get your oven on to preheat at gas mark 7, 425f or 220c.
2) Grate the cheese if you havent bought it ready grated
3) Sprinkle a little flour onto the clean work surface and your rolling pin.
4) If your pastry is ready rolled this is even easier, just plonk it onto your floured surface so its in a portrait position, taller than it is wide, as you look at it. If yours isnt ready rolled, dont worry, you just need to use your rolling pin to make it into a rectangle then position it as above.
5) You now need to take your grated cheese and sprinkle a handful over the top two thirds of your rectangle of pastry, leaving the bottom third plain.
6) When youre happy that the top two thirds of your pastry have a nice even covering of cheese, gently lift up the bottom third of pastry, the part without cheese, and fold it over on top of the middle third, sandwiching the cheese in between the two pastry layers.
7) Now do the same again, this time folding the new double layer on top of the top third of the pastry. If youve done this right you should now have a little rectangular parcel of pastry with all of the cheese sandwiched inside (apart from the little bits poking out of the edge!)
8) Turn this parcel once to right or left so that youre looking at the edge that probably has bits of cheese sticking out between the folds.
9) Roll the pastry out into a large rectangle again, fill the top two thirds with cheese and refold. Turn again, before repeating this step 3or 4 times. You need to add cheese for a total of 4-6 times, depending on how cheesy you like your cheese straws.
10) When youve added your final handful of cheese and folded the pastry keep the parcel with the smooth end facing you, so the cheesy ends are on either side. Use a sharp knife to slice your pastry into finger sized strips, from top to bottom along the pastry. About 2cm, or an inch, is about the right width.
11) Arrange these pastry fingers on your baking tray, leaving gaps between them as theyll rise and expand during cooking. Brush the fingers with milk.
12) Put your baking tray on the top shelf of the oven and go and have a glass of wine for ten minutes, youve earned it!
13) Ten minutes after putting your cheese straws in the oven you need to check to see if theyre a lovely golden brown colour. If theyre black, you've set the oven too high. If theyre still looking pale leave them for a couple of minutes before checking again, keep checking every minute or two, as they can burn very easily, until theyre golden brown. Then remove from the oven, use a fish slice to transfer them to the cooling wire. Leave them to cool down for at least a couple of minutes (if you can last that long) before eating.
I like these best served with a dollop of humous to dip the ends into, but theyre just as good plain, especially warm from the oven.
One word of warning, really easy cheese straws are addictive, but as theyre so very, very high in fat and calories they should only be an occasional indulgence.
The Fruit & Barley range was first launched in 1994 and is available in a range of No Added Sugar flavours with added vitamins. The available flavours are apple & blackcurrant, citrus, orange, peach, pink grapefruit, summer fruits and my personal favourite, and the subject of this opinion, Strawberry & Kiwi flavour.
Ive only tasted two flavours from this range so far, the orange, which is very nice, but the strawberry & kiwi flavour is the one I prefer out of the two. That is surprising for me, as I dont normally like strawberry flavoured drinks, but this one is really lovely. It has a very subtle strawberry flavour, but if Im absolutely honest, I really cant taste the kiwi at all. Still, the drink has a really pleasant taste even if the kiwi is a little too subtle.
Fruit & Barley comes in a one-litre bottle, which the label says makes 20 servings. 20 servings is about what I get from a bottle, but obviously the amount of servings it dilutes into would be dependent upon the amount of it you use in a drink, and the size of your glass, etc. If you like your drink very strong itll make less, of course. To be honest, though, I dont think youd ever feel the need to make a particularly strong glass of Fruit & Barley. The addition of barley to a drink always struck me as a little odd, but it actually works very well, it seems to make the drink a little thicker and smoother than a normal juice drink. Because of this thickening affect I think that if you did make a particularly strong glass of Fruit & Barley you could practically stand a spoon up in it. Still, that must be a bonus, as less juice per drink means itll go further and cost you less in the long run.
The fruit juices in Fruit & Barley strawberry & kiwi are from concentrate with strawberry at 5%, kiwi at 3% and apple at 2%. There are no artificial colours or preservatives added, but Robinsons do use aspartame and saccharin, sweeteners that Sainsburys have recently removed from their soft drinks and replaced with Sucralose, a sweetener made from sugar that tastes like sugar. Sainsburys dont mention that there is any problem with aspartame, they dont explain why theyve decided to remove it at all, but it would surprise me if theyd removed it from their soft drinks for absolutely no reason.
As you can see from the picture above, this drink comes in a clear, plastic bottle. The drink itself looks cloudy in the bottle, unlike an ordinary juice drink, presumably because of the barley. The whole range has no added sugar, so 100ml of Fruit & Barley has only 15 calories, and any sugars in the drink are the natural ones from the fruits and other ingredients.
When you open the bottle of Fruit & Barley youre met by a sweetly subtle, strawberry flavour. Pouring a measure of the juice into a glass youll notice the thickness that I mentioned earlier, although it is only slight. Top up the glass with water and the drink will still be cloudy and a lovely, pretty pink. This would be a great drink for a girly party, made up with lemonade or fizzy water with crushed ice and a slice of kiwi on the side and perhaps a splash or two of vodka if youre feeling naughty.
The only problem that would prevent me from buying Robinsons Fruit & Barley on a regular basis is the cost. Im almost afraid to tell you that a 1 litre bottle costs a whopping £1.09 from Asda and Sainsburys. The only reason I purchased a bottle at all was because it was recently on buy one get one free from Sainsburys, an offer which is now over. However, Asda produce their own Fruit & Barley drink in orange, grapefruit and peach & apricot flavours for only 58p per litre, and in apple & blackcurrant flavour for 61p a litre. Ive tried this too, and its easily on a par with the Robinsons drink. At that price I really cant justify paying the extra for Robinsons Fruit & Barley, even if I do adore the strawberry & kiwi flavour.
In my oh so humble opinion the World is in need of more than one invention to sort out some of its problems right now. A diet that actually works would be a nice place to start. Yes, I know that if you eat less calories than you burn off youll lose weight, but in the golden age of labour saving devices, McDonalds and 4x4s more and more of us are finding it hard to keep those extra pounds at bay.
Its shocking really that we in the West have mounting problems with obesity. The strain thats likely to cause on the NHS in this Country alone is phenomenal. Latest statistics show that we are also throwing away around one third of the groceries we buy, too, whilst in the third world people are starving. So my first invention would be a redistributer, to redistribute the worlds wealth (and food) more fairly and evenly so that everybody can eat, and less is wasted. Yup, Im fully aware I have communist leanings, but Im not talking about paying everybody the same rate no matter what job they do, Im just talking about an invention to magically find some way of getting food thats being wasted in one Country into the mouths of starving children in another. Nope, I dont know how theyd do it either thats why it needs inventing.
Whilst Im solving the problems of the World, Id love a chance to get rid of one of the major ones, one George W Bush. Id like to invent something Ill call an Idiotometer, which would test people in important roles around the world and calculate a score to ascertain if theyre really qualified to do their job. If not, it will allocate them a role theyre more suited for, and suggest a list of people with the skills, knowledge and intelligence to take their place. I can see what the result from George Ws test would be already Want fries with that?
Well, from George Bush to another type of public nuisance, dog poo. Now, I love dogs, I have three of them myself, but I never, ever take the dogs out on a walk without pockets bulging with carrier bags incase of the inevitable accident. It drives me insane to see people walking away from a poo that their dog has just done, leaving it for somebody else to stand in, or worse. Im always tempted to confront these people and demand to know why they cant be responsible for their dogs mess and it got me thinking that there must be some way for encouraging them to clean up after their dog.
Now, this is a bit unlikely, Ill admit, but Id love somebody to invent a stealth robot that patrols parks, woods, open ground and anywhere else that dog walkers generally congregate. These robots would be specifically designed to target owners who dont clean up after their dogs, wait until the owner and dog have both moved away from the poo, so are clearly not going to clean it up, then clean it up for them. Now, and heres the clever part, this stealth robot would then follow the dog walker home. The little gift that the dog so graciously left in the park would then be posted through the letterbox for the dog owner to clean up off their own carpet. Thatd stop them
But by real pet hate of all time, however, is to see people walking along busy roads with their dog trotting along next to them, but not on a lead. What makes me even more insane is people who just let their dogs run about completely unattended on the streets at any time of the day or night. Theres a girl who lives near me whose dog can jump straight over the back gate and does so several times a day. She also lives one block from a busy road, and Ive lost count of the times Ive seen that dog nearly get hit by a car out on her own. So to solve this problem Id employ my little stealth dog poo robots again. This time, theyd capture loose dogs, whether out walking with their owner or not, and reunite them with their owner in a more permanent way. Id have the robots handcuff the owner to their dog with an electronic handcuff that will not come off for a set period of time, say a week. The plan is that if anybody had to spend a whole seven days chained to their dog, theyd be more careful about letting them off the lead in future.
If this system didnt work, Id put the next stage of the two step programme into effect with an invention that took a picture of the dog in question then incorporated it into a film showing images of the dog getting run over by a lorry, or attacked by another stray dog, or captured and taken away by vivisectionists, or tangled in barbed wire where it slowly starved to death, or being hit by a firework or any other hideous situation you can think of that could happen to a dog out on their own. Horrible, I know, but so is letting your dog wander without you.
Another thing I really hate to see is people dropping litter when theyre feet away from a bin. One of the most annoying things for me is when people drop empty cans and bottles near my local shop, when theres a recycling point literally 4 or 5 metres from them. Still, I havent really worked out a way of encouraging these people to clean up after themselves yet, especially as most of them would probably be too drunk to actually see the recycling point anyway. Still, the thought of these bottles and cans that could otherwise have been recycled made me think about other things that we throw away, and how we could stop polluting the environment. So Id like somebody to invent a foolproof method of recycling for plastics or even some kind of a alchemical solution that you could add to plastic that would make it evaporate harmlessly into the atmosphere, now that really would be cool.
My next invention would be to do away with hospitals, doctors surgeries, dentists, opticians damn it, even chiropodists Id make the lot of them redundant by introducing a cure-all machine. This machine would look just like a photo booth, though very likely it would look a lot funkier. Theyd be in all of the places youd expect to see a photo booth and more the local supermarket, library, railway station, shopping centre, etc. Youd step in, press a button to lock the door and start the diagnoses, and the machine would automatically do a full system check and fix all of your ailments in one fell swoop, lasting only a few seconds. Youd then get a printout telling you what youd been suffering from and advising you of any precautions you needed to take. Would be nice though, wouldnt it.
An invention to give you more hours in the day when youre particularly busy would be marvellous too, or perhaps just an invention that allowed you to work twice as fast so you could get more done.
And my final invention (because Ive been pretty busy so far) would be Teenager Island. Not really so much an invention as a fantasy, to be honest, but Teenager Island would be a beautiful desert island somewhere in the middle of nowhere, where every child would be sent on their thirteenth birthday, to be released only when they hit the age of 20. Bliss.
I dont think Im going to make many friends with this review, to be honest, but Im going to write it anyway. You see, for a vegetarian I think Ive got pretty unusual views on some things, wearing fur is probably one of them. Personally, I dont see wearing fur as the problem yes, its a catalyst for more people to see fur, like it and want to buy it, but not wearing fur that you already own once animals have died for it would be pointless. Worse than pointless, it really would mean that theyd have died for nothing. No, in my opinion its not wearing fur thats the problem, its buying it in the first place. But it goes deeper than that; its the designers who use it in their clothes that are causing the problem, fuelling the desire for fur, especially when there are so many good imitation furs around nowadays.
Of course, it could also be argued that imitation furs are all part of the problem nowadays they really are so hard to tell apart from real fur that some unscrupulous characters have been smuggling dog fur into the UK, calling it faux fur. This was something I saw a while ago on Watchdog. Even if you do buy genuine faux fur to wear, isnt that also fuelling the trend for fur? People who see your faux fur dont usually know if its real or not, so it may very well have the same effect as real fur you see it, you want it.
I struggle a lot with the morality of wearing fur. In some ways its no worse than wearing leather, suede or sheepskin theyre all the skin of an animal, an animal has had to die for you to wear their skin. As a vegetarian I still wear leather shoes, mainly because plastic shoes or shoes made from fabric are not only more expensive, but also less durable (fabric) or dont allow youre feet to breathe (plastic). So, then, it would be hypocritical of me to criticize somebody for wearing fur, essentially the skin of an animal, when Im doing exactly the same thing on my own feet.
However, if you look at the flipside of the same coin, the leather from the cow that died to make my shoes was a by-product of the meat industry. The cow died to feed people and animals, primarily, the leather was a side effect, if you like. Morally, surely, this is better than the chinchillas that are killed purely and simply to make somebody an exquisitely cut fur bolero, the rest of the body discarded as waste?
I also wonder if the outcry against the fur trade would be as strenuous if the animals involved werent mainly small, cute and fluffy. As I mentioned earlier we use sheep and cow skins far more than we do fur in this Country, but you dont hear the same outcry against wearing leather. Is it because cows arent cute and cuddly? Or is there some other reason Im missing that makes it more acceptable to wear the skin of one animal than another? I honestly dont know the answer to this one.
On the other hand, there are countries where its so damn cold that wearing fur is a normal part of every day life, how can you criticize people for that? If you were in Russia being frozen half to death on the back of a Troika would you turn down a fur throw to keep you warm? I doubt I would.
I could go on and on about this subject, but I still dont think Id ever come to a real conclusion, I just dont know. Who am I to say if wearing fur is right or wrong, if some animals skins are worth more, morally, than others, or if anybody else should wear fur for that matter. Its a huge argument and could go on for a very long time. What I do know, though, is that personally I couldnt wear fur with an easy conscience.
So, my answer will have to be No, other than in extremely unexpected instances I dont think I would ever wear fur.
The story of how my dogs came to eat Wagg is a long and involved one, Im afraid, that began about ten years ago as my pre-dog family (basically myself and my husband) set out one fine summer morning for a trip to Alton Towers. We were living in Nottingham at the time, so it wasnt going to be a long trip. He was driving, I was navigating, and apart from the traffic being a bit heavy in places, everything was going well.
That was, until my husband spotted a huge sign at the side of the road I think hes regretted his next words ever since, but he (quite stupidly, in all honesty) said oh, shall we go have a look? You see, what was written on the sign in enormous letters was puppies and kittens for sale farmyard. The poor fool didnt know what hed let himself in for. We never did get to Alton Towers that day, wed forgotten it was the school holidays you see, and the place was packed, so we headed to the nearest pet shop and stocked up, then went to collect the puppy. Skittle. And she was gorgeous, and we loved her, but she was a farm bred Border Collie, and for those of you who know anything about the breed what happened next will be no surprise at all.
Basically, having been in our flat (thats right, flat, with no garden either) a couple of days and settled in she turned into the devil in disguise! The Hubster had dreadlocks back then and one of her favourite tricks was to grab one as it swung past and cling on for dear life but this puppy reminiscence isnt helping me to tell you about Wagg. Skit settled in, but she got desperately unhappy whenever she was left alone. Still, we persevered, moving to a house with a garden when she was around nine months old.
Still, no matter how much exercise she got, Skittle was constantly hyperactive. She was eating tinned meat and meal at the time. Of course, I now know that this is normal teenage collie behaviour, but at the time I was going hairless. Id phoned the RSPCA helpline for advice and been told to exercise her more, which was laughable as she insisted we play fetch constantly, in the house or out. Then the local dog club suggested I get another dog to keep her company, they could play together and use up their energy that way.
Enter Mokee, Collie crossed with heaven knows what else. An utter sweetheart of a dog, but last in the list for looks, Im afraid. Mo was seven weeks old when we got her, the story being that when her mum was pregnant it was snowing outside. She was desperate to go out to toilet, but her owner was loathe to let her, in such awful weather. Still, she was working herself up to such a state that eventually she went out on a lead, and as she came back in, Mokee was born on the snowy back doorstep.
So, as youve probably guessed, I soon found myself with a hyperactive teenage dog plus a demanding puppy to look after, double trouble. I was practically tearing my hair out when I took Mo for her jabs and spoke to a different vet at my surgery. This very scary, incredibly efficient German first of all told me off for getting a collie as a pet anyway, then instructed me in no uncertain terms to switch the dogs from tinned food to complete. According to her, tinned food contains far too much protein for pet dogs that dont do any real heavy work, hence keeping them constantly too full of energy that has to come out somewhere. In this case it was naughty behaviour.
So I bought the nearest generic bag of complete dog food and switched them both to it straight away. It took a few days for hunger to set in enough for Skittle to touch it, shes a pretty stubborn dog and even now she still prefers tinned food. I dont know if it was solely because of putting her onto complete food, or if it just happened to coincide with the end of Skits teenage period, but it was only a few days later that she began to show signs of becoming more relaxed, less demanding and way, way better behaved. Shed gone from a roaring lion that I was, quite honestly, deciding that I was unable to care for properly, to an (almost) adorable family pet in a matter of days.
Things carried on like this for years, Id basically buy whatever brand of complete dog food was on special offer to feed my dogs, with the exception of Pascoes, which they dont like. We even had a disastrous few months trying to get used to Burns, a very expensive dog food that is supposed to be the most nutritionally complete dog food out there. My two both hated it, even worse, Skitty began eating her own faeces, and lost so much weight that I eventually gave up on it. However, Id always avoided Wagg because it was the cheapest of the bunch, so in my head it couldnt be any good, could it?
What finally changed my mind was a trip to my In-laws one Christmas where Skit and Mo both completely ignored their own bowls of food to get at Bonnies (the mother in laws poodle) bowl of Wagg. They finished it in no time, then asked for more, all the time ignoring their own full bowls of Butchers, or whatever brand I was feeding them at the time.
So, if they wanted to eat Wagg that much, who was I to argue with them? At only £1.99 a bag it was considerably cheaper than even the cheapest brand Id bought them previously, and they liked it better.
I buy Wagg in the 2.5kg bags, as these are more convenient for me to transport and store. However, its also available in a 17kg sack at around £9 to £10. You can pick up Wagg Complete Original Beef & Veg at Asda, Morrisons, Jollyes, Pets At Home, Spar, Tesco, Wilkinsons and various Independent Retailers.
Your bag of Wagg has a yellow and red background which is pretty striking. Theres a picture of a Spaniel on the side and a bowl of Wagg complete. When you open the bag youll notice that the food in the bag doesnt look much like the food on the front it tends to get banged about in transit and the food does break up a bit, and tends to get coated in a powder made up of broken bits of food. This dog food does seem to have less crunch then some other brands. Still, the individual pieces are all recognisable, and the food smells good even to a vegetarian. It smells wholesome, if such a thing is possible. Not overpoweringly smelly, but not so without smells that youd worry it was bland, either.
As Wagg is a complete dog food you dont need to add anything to it, no meat, gravy or any kind of supplement, though of course you can if you wish to, and Im sure your dogs would thank you for the occasional change. Personally, I tend to stir grated cheese in with their Wagg sometimes, thats what my girls prefer. Of course, its essential that you always have plenty of clean drinking water available with their food, too.
Wagg proudly proclaim on their packaging that theyre all about natural, healthy ingredients and its true that they dont use any artificial flavours or colours in their foods. What they do use is:
Wheat, meat meal (min 10% in beef kibble), wheetfeed, maize oils & fats, linseed, beet pulp, peas (min 4% in pea kibble), Lucerne, vitamins & minerals. Added citrus, yeast and yucca. With antioxidant: EC additive.
Wagg add yeasts and fibre to this food to aid digestion, vitamins A, E & C and natural antioxidants to support you dogs immune system. They also add Yucca extract, thats been used for many years to help reduce the unpleasant odours from flatulence.
The crunchy kibbles in Wagg help clean teeth and gums and are enriched with digestible calcium and phosphorus to help promote strong teeth and bones. Though Wagg cant take all of the credit for this, Skittle and Mo are ten years old and nine this month, respectively. They both still have all of their teeth, and last time they had a vet check the vet commented on what good, clean teeth they have for their age. She also commented on how nice it is to see a Border Collie with a proper collie waist, as so many are overfed and fat, these days, another tick in the box for Wagg. Thats not all, either, they do not have bad breath, like so many dogs do, and they both have gorgeously silky coats.
This dog food comes in small chunks that even a miniature poodle can manage with no trouble. Theres a feeding guide on the side of the pack that advises you how much to feed your dog each day too, but my dogs eat nowhere near that amount, one bag lasts them for nearly a week, whilst according to Wagg they should finish it in just over two days.
Theres information on the pack about storage of this food, ingredients list and analysis, and an explanation of why they choose to include every item in this bag of food. Theres also the usual marketing blurb, which this time is strangely comforting. You could honestly believe that the makers of Wagg really do care about the health and well-being of your dog, as they tell you that Wagg is made in the Yorkshire countryside with care by a family of dog owners.
If you have any enquiries about Wagg, you can contact them at:
Wagg foods, Dalton Airfield, Topcliffe, Thirsk, North Yorkshire, YO7 3HE.
tel: 01845 578111
The website is well worth a look too, at www.waggfoods.co.uk where I discovered that Wagg actually employ their own dog listener, Georgina Bowe, trained by Jan Fennel. Wagg state that shell be happy to help with any behavioural issues you may be having with your dog, you can contact her at the details above.
To be absolutely honest, Id have been happy with the fact that Wagg is an economical brand and my dogs are happy and healthy and enjoy eating it, but something quite wonderful has happened in recent weeks that has made me trust Wagg even more. Asha is an eleven year old blue merle Border Collie who joined our family around 6 weeks ago. Prior to coming to us shed spent far too long locked in a house with only another dog for company, her owners coming in to feed the dogs and let them out a few times a day.
When she came to live with us she was thin, I believe the other dog had been hogging the food, her coat was coarse and dull, feeling very rough to the touch and was so sparse in places that she was almost bald. She hadnt coped well with the stress of living without human company. In only a few weeks Ashas coat is now soft and shiny, her fur is much fuller and the bald patches are all but gone, her skin colour has calmed down and shes putting on a bit of weight too, all thanks to Wagg, and an awful lot of cuddles and love, of course. Thats a better testimonial than any other I can give this product.
It seems like Ive got something in common with all of the other ladies whove written a review about sexy actors, keeping the list down to only ten is incredibly hard, but I think Ive finally done it.
- Jude Law
Theres just something about Jude Law that I cant quite put my finger on (well, all of him, if you take that comment literally). Obviously hes one of the beautiful people, a talented actor, much sought after (and not just for his acting ability) always got a beautiful lady on his arm, etc. Still, behind all of that charm theres something just a bit mean about him, something about the set of his jaw or a certain coldness in his eyes that just makes me think hes a bit of a bad guy underneath. Still, hes certainly hawt, and to be honest probably shouldve made it higher than bottom place on my final list.
- David Boreanez
The pretty boy with the big fangs from Buffy is now all grown up and perfectly formed. Hes in a really good series at the moment called Bones, and I make sure I watch it every week to lust aft I mean, because its so excellent. Actually, it really is excellent, but so is Mr Boreanez. Hes matured from the good-looking youngster who, lets be honest, looked just a little unfinished. Nowadays hes carrying the confidence and just a tiny bit of arrogance that shows that hes all growed up and knows it. Rawr!
- David Duchovny
Ive always held a little candle for Mr Duchovny since I first saw him in the X files, even though he always wore those damn suits and acted like he had a pencil constantly clenched in between his cheeks. But occasionally in the X files youd get to see him in ordinary clothes, or sometimes a little less, and those rare glimpses definitely caught my interest. Then the X files finished and I relished seeing more of Dave in Evolution. Ive always had a bit of a thing about really dark hair with pale skin, probably spent too much time around Goths as a teenager, but Davids a perfect example of exactly what I like. Now Californication means I can see even more of him than ever. Bliss.
- Robbie Coltrane
Of course Im serious. I know hes a bit older nowadays and not a classic Adonis, but Ive been a little bit in love with Mr C since the Cracker days. Cracker was all man with none of the rough edges knocked off, and I liked him an awful lot. Since then, everything Ive seen Robbie in has just made me like him more, well, apart from the Harry Potter films, cant say Hagrid did much for me. Hes got huge amounts of charisma, beautiful eyes and hes another one that I reckon could be a bit of a ruffian, given half the chance. Why do women always go for the bad boys, anyway?
- Daniel Craig
The new James Bond really is too hot to handle. Hes far more than just a bit of rough, hes rougher than a erm well a very, very rough thing, thats what. Before Casino Royale was released I remember my husband telling me that the new Bond was going to be blonde, I was mildly disappointed as Id always imagined Bond to have my preferred raven hair. Black hair always looks so damn good with a dinner jacket. But within seconds of setting eyes on Mr Craig his hair colour was forgotten, this is a man who could drink my martini any day of the week, shaken or stirred.
- Ewan McGregor
Not only is Ewan McGregor absolutely blooming gorgeous, but hes a family man too, the perfect package. I fell in love with him in Shallow Grave, first time Id ever seen him, but it was when he played Renton in Trainspotting that I really went head over heals for him. I dont know if it was my mothering instinct kicking in or if its just the same old good girl attracted to bad boy thing again, but now that Im hooked on Ewan nothings going to drag me away again. Im currently watching the Long Way Down every week for my McGregor fix, but no, Im going to resist the urge to make jokes like he could ride me the long way down any day. Oops.
- Jonny Lee Miller
Another one from Trainspotting, this time its Sick Boy who caught my fancy. The character he plays in this film is somewhat sick, hence the moniker, but Id actually seen him before in the pretty appalling Hackers against Angelina Jolie when he played the good guy, and even that didnt put me off. Unfortunately, hes now beginning to lose his hair, and although I generally find that doesnt affect my attraction to a guy at all (think Bruce Willis, yum!) with Jonny Lee Im finding my flame is on the wane. Hes got a bit of an oddly shaped head, you see, where that gorgeous shock of hair used to be hes now got an incredibly high forehead, and without the hair to balance out his face, his chin seems to stick out. I really wish hed just take the plunge and get what hair he has left shaved off rather than staying in this semi-bald limbo, its doing him no favours. So for old times sake Jonny Lee still gets my number 4 spot, but he used to be number one.
- James McAvoy
This is quite a new crush for me, but its hit hard. Theres just something about James eyes that I find absolutely captivating. Of course, hes also got my favourite dark hair and pale skin, but those eyes are definitely his best feature. Maybe its because theyre so very, very blue and thats pretty rare in a dark haired person. Or maybe its because hes an adept at the unblinking stare, but whatever it is, I hope he doesnt stop doing it. He also has an incredibly sweet smile that makes him look almost boyish. Ive got the feeling hes going to be one of those lucky guys that just gets better with age, too.
Another of those men who just gets better with age, and probably the man Ive lusted after the longest on this list, with the possible exception of Robbie Coltrane. Keanu, or Canoe, as my husband has always called him is, once again, the perfect example of black hair and pale skin that I keep going for, and until I wrote this list I didnt even realise that I had a type. With Keanu, whilst the acting isnt always perfect, hes got the vacant stare down pat. He originally caught my eye in Bill and Ted, but I think he was at his best around the time of Speed, though obviously he looked pretty darn special in the Matrix too. Personally I like to see him with a bit of a floppy fringe, though shorter hair suits him well too. I dont even mind the beard. Hes looking damn fine for a man whos already seen his 40th birthday, and long may he continue to do so.
- Kris Marshall
Or you may know him better as Nick Harper from My Family. No? Well how about the guy from the latest BT ads, the tall strawberry blonde one? Strangely for me my number one sexeh actor at the moment is not pale and raven-haired at all, but ginger. If youve ever seen him in My Family then youll know that hes a very, very funny guy, and humour goes a long way in attracting me. But this isnt a poll for my top ten nicest actors, you want to know why I find this person attractive, and Im going to tell you. Not only is he tall with broad shoulders, my absolute favourite feature in a man, but hes got a damn fine body too if I had to sum up the one thing that makes Kris stand out from every other man on TV at the moment, it would be his killer smile. It just makes me go week at the knees. Its a knowing smile, but also warm and open, with a hint of promise around the edges. Phew, now Im getting all hot under the collar.
Anyway, thats my ten, the others will just have to make do with a mention. Relegated to the second division were Sean Connery, though only just, hes still a God. Johnny Depp, a real toughy to leave out, very nearly took Robbies place. Brad Pitt, nuff said. Bruce Willis, because I adore the real man-ness about him. And, if I wasnt limited to only actors, the lovely Russell Howard. I could go on and on, but Ill stop myself here, before I really begin to bore you.
The title of this topic quite honestly leaves me asking more questions instead of trying to answer it, if you see what I mean. My first thought when I wondered if there should be a limit on fast food places was what would you hope to achieve by setting a limit? Presumably the answer is a lowering of the obesity rate, but in all honesty if people really want junk food theyll just cook it at home if they cant get it from a take away, so I have to question if limiting the number of fast food outlets would even scratch the surface of the problem. Even if, for whatever reason, a person couldnt get fast food at home say they live with parents who control their diet a limit on fast food outlets would not stop somebody who really wanted to eat fast food, theyd just queue for longer, or go further afield to find it.
Quite frankly, I believe that addiction to junk food needs to be tackled on a much more intelligent level than simply limiting the availability of it. For a perfect example, think about Jamie Olivers school dinners programme. When junk food was removed from the menu at schools and replaced with healthy, filling foods some of the children simply went without food altogether whilst others had grown ups bring in unhealthy food for them and pass it through the railings at lunch time. Where the parallel falls down is that these were children who were, supposedly, under the control of adults and even then, severely limiting their access to fast food didnt stop every one of them from obtaining and eating it. In the real world, adults who really want to eat fast food will get it and eat it, and limiting their access to it will not prevent that.
Also, limiting fast food intake is not as straight forward as just cutting off the supply so people have to eat more healthily. Eating in itself is an extremely complex issue, as any dieter will tell you. Its not like drinking alcohol, taking drugs, smoking or any other addiction you care to name, because you have to eat to live. You cant just abstain like you can (and should) when trying to quit other addictions. Can you imagine how hard it would be for an alcoholic if they were told they had to cut down their alcohol intake, but to stay alive theyd need to drink half a can of warm, flat special brew three times a day? Its the same for somebody with an addiction to unhealthy food, and its not an issue that can be solved that quickly or easily.
But this is a bigger issue than even obesity, if youll pardon the pun. If the number of fast food outlets was limited, how would this limit be enforced? Would it even be enforceable? Also, as there are already lots of fast food places across this country at the moment, would some of these be closed down to meet the new lower limits? If that was the case, what would all of those redundant people do for work? Im not just talking about the people who ask if you want fries with that, but the fisherman who bring in the fish and the farmers who grow the potatoes for your local chippy. The haulage company who cart kebab meat all over the country. The guys who supply trays, paper, plastic cutlery. The landlords of all these buildings thatd now be standing empty. The printers who used to print all of the menus. It just goes on and on and on, the knock on effects of limiting the number of fast food outlets in this Country are too huge to fully appreciate.
Of course, Im also making the mistake of looking at fast food but actually only seeing junk food too. If junk food outlets were to be closed down and replaced by outlets selling fast, but healthy, food would that be a better solution? If instead of popping into McDonalds or Burger King for a lard burger with fries, you could pop into a takeaway where you could pick and choose food thats ready as quickly as a burger but without all of those calories. Im thinking about Subway, who have some really healthy options on their menu, but the food is ready quickly (even if at a pretty high price).
I used to visit a salad bar in London when I worked in Farringdon and they had a choice of loads of different salads and hot, filling, healthy meals for you to help yourself too. I seem to remember that you just picked up a plastic lunch container, then could choose three salads to fill it with for one price, or a greater variety for another price. I went there practically every day, and would now if there was a similar place close to me, but there isnt. So perhaps not limiting the number of fast food places out there, but changing the unhealthier ones for healthier options would be a better solution. Perhaps even a Government initiative offering grants and concessions to outlets only offering healthy fast food would be a better idea in the long run, therefore adding to personal choice, rather than limiting it.
This has actually been quite a short opinion for me, but in all honesty I think this discussion question, whilst an interesting idea, is a bit of a non-starter. Its just not feasible in the real world.
Im a sucker for a romantic movie. Well, thats not quite true, if Im going to be absolutely accurate Im actually a sobber for a romantic movie, have been for as long as I can remember. I find it intensely embarrassing, so Im trying to exorcise that embarrassment by telling you all about my favourite romantic movies in the hope that your laughter and derision will cure me. Here they are in no particular order:
Lets get the worst one out of the way first, shall we? Yes, Im fully aware that it went on for hours and hours and its full of cheese, schmaltz, corn and other things that probably shouldnt even be mentioned. However, I am a girl, and as a girl I absolutely loved it and stayed riveted to the screen with tears pouring down my face until the end. Yes, I wanted to shove a sock in Celine Dions gob too, but other than that this tale of the short time that Jack and Rose spent together on the doomed ship has me in floods every time I watch it, and I watch it a lot. Hard to believe that its ten years old already.
Starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr as Birdee Pruitt and Justin Matisse, youve probably guessed already but this is another film that has me in tears every time I see it (get used to it, youre going to be hearing it a lot). Birdee finds out on National TV that her best friend is having an affair with her husband. She and her daughter, Bernice, go back to Birdees home town and try to pick up the pieces of their lives. This film is far more than just a mere romance, it deals with marriage break up, dementia, death, new relationships, bullying, families I could go on but Ill stop there. Birdee is at her lowest, drinking, staying in bed all day and neglecting her little girl until Justin comes on the scene. Its all very gentle and slow moving, but a lovely film that Id highly recommend you watch if you havent already.
City of Angels
Guess what? This one makes me sob too! Its the story of Dr Maggie Rice, played by Meg Ryan, who doesnt believe in Angels. She meets Seth, played by Nicolas Cage, who does believe in Angels, mainly because he is one. Seth and Maggie begin to fall in love, but their love can never be because of what Seth is. Seth has to make the difficult decision between heaven and earth can he give up heaven to live as a mortal with Maggie? It all sounds so tawdry when I try to sum it up, but its a beautiful film slow moving with the achingly haunting music in the background. You so want Seth to make the right choice, youre desperate for them to be happy and yet somehow you know nope, youll have to watch it. This is another one that I cant recommend highly enough if you love your romantic films, or just want to impress a girlfriend.
Starring Alicia Silverstone as Cher, and apparently based on Jane Austens Emma, this film is about as far from City of Angels as its possible to get whilst still being on the same planet. Shamelessly shallow, but still a lot of fun, Cher and her best friend Dionne are the beautiful people at school they decide to take on a project, new girl Tai, and they set about making her over into a carbon copy of them. Meanwhile, Chers step-brother, Josh, is constantly irritating her at home that is, until Tai decides that shes fallen in love with him. Clueless is incredibly twee in places, but it really isnt pretending to be anything it isnt. Its a feel-good, fun and happy movie that makes me smile, and thats good enough for me (hooray, not crying for once!)
10 Things I Hate About You
Whilst were talking about teenage feel-good movies I really should carry on the theme with this one. Again, this film is said to be a remake of a classic, this time Shakespeares the Taming of the Shrew. Julia Stiles plays Kat Stratford, the shrew of our story her tamer being Patrick, played by the lovely Heath Ledger. Kats popular younger sister, Bianca, wants to date the glamorous Joey, but theres one little problem daddy wont let Bianca date until Kat does, and Kat doesnt like boys. Meanwhile, her cute French Tutor, Cameron, also fancies his chances with the lovely Bianca, so hatches a plan to get Kat a date, leaving the way clear for him to hook up with Bianca. Patrick Verona is the only boy in the school brave enough to take on the blatantaly hostile Kat, but even he struggles to win her heart. Again, its corny enough for Kansas but good fun and a definite feel-good movie. I can watch it again and again without getting tired of it.
Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant star as the odd couple looking for romance in this movie, and odd couple they certainly are he runs a travel book store and shes an incredibly famous Hollywood movie star. What follows is plenty of Hughs bumbling, typically English antics matched by Julias killer smiles. It shouldnt work, it really shouldnt. Nothing about those two people matches, and yet theyve got a certain chemistry going on that is undeniable. Even so, I still think the film wouldve been a dismal flop without the excellent supporting cast that, for me, make the movie. Rhys Ifans as Spike, the flatmate with decidedly interesting taste in clothes and Emma Chambers as Honey (Alice from the Vicar of Dibley) really lift the film onto another level making this, for me, a worthy addition to my top ten.
While You Were Sleeping
Lucy (Sandra Bullock) works as a ticket seller on the L railway, where the highlight of her day is watching a beautiful businessman buy his ticket and board his train every morning. Co-erced into working on Christmas morning, Lucy watches in horror as her mystery man is pushed from the platform, and with nobody else around, Lucy has to save him from the oncoming train herself. Hes out cold, but when she accompanies him to the Hospital and theyll only allow family in to see him, she passes herself off as his fiancé, with quickly spiralling results. His family wants to know all about her, and whilst Peters coma leaves him oblivious to the shenanigans, Lucy becomes closer to his family, including his attractive brother, Jack. Theres just something so very down to earth and friendly about Sandra Bullock, and she uses this to full potential in this film. Its another one that makes me smile instead of cry, although there was a tear or two the first time I watched it before Ah, Ill hush now, before I give the game away.
You mustve all seen this by now, havent you? Even the boys mustve been forced to sit through it at some point by a snivelling girlfriend, sister or mum. Im of the age where Dirty Dancing was the romantic movie we all raved about when we were growing up. Well, this and Top Gun, for some reason. Its the age old story of good little girl growing up and falling for the bad boy she shouldnt be mixing with. Except hes not really all that bad, and everybody likes him in the end, even though he did do the dirty with Baby (hm, somehow that sounds much more like child abuse then romance). Baby, incase you really have been living under a rock, is a teenage girl whos gone on holiday with her parents and sister to a large hotel complex, where she falls in love with Johnny, the dance teacher, who shows her how to dance, and along the way they fall in love. Pure Cheddar, but a true classic also.
Another one thats got to be on most womens favourite romantic film list this one stars Julia Roberts as the beautiful young country girl whos fallen into prostitution to make the rent. Watching this film nowadays Im struck by exactly how very young she was making this film, and how very, very thin. She picks up Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) whos lost in Hollywood in a beautiful Lotus and by the time shes driven him to his hotel hes intrigued enough to invite her up to his room. In my opinion the reason this film works so very, very well is that it is believable (if only barely) but examples of older men taking beautiful (and very young) women under their wing (and into their bed) are rife today. Of course, the ending is somewhat less believable, but hey, its Hollywood!
50 First Dates
The ultimate in romantic movies, for me, is this one. Its a film Id wanted to watch for a long time before I finally convinced the evil one (the husband) to rent it from Blockbusters, and did I cry? You dont really need to answer that one, I wept buckets. Drew Barrymore plays Lucy, a beautiful art teacher who was in a terrible accident, and is now suffering short-term memory loss - she wakes up every morning thinking its the morning of her crash. Her family try to protect her, following the same ritual day in, day out, so that Lucy is never hurt by learning the truth. But then she meets Henry, and he is totally smitten. What follows could have been an extremely maudlin film of love winning over disability, but its nothing of the sort. Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are favourites of mine anyway, but in this film the humour really shines. That doesnt mean that the film is lacking in romance or quieter moments, but the humour raises it above a simple Rom Com and into the realms of something quite special, in my opinion. The final scene in this movie has me crying buckets time after time, and believe me Ive seen this film a lot. My all time favourite romantic film, and the one I always turn to when Im feeling a little lonely or maudlin.
I always feel like I should add a comment or two at the end here, but this time I dont know what to say, so Ill just leave it at that. Feel free to mock, I'm ready.
If youre not too busy this year could you stop by my house and bring me the following, please. Some of them may be a little hard to find, but I know youll do your best for me. Yes, of course Ive been a very good girl this year, when am I ever anything else? Well, apart from that time, but we dont talk about that anymore, do we, Mr Claus.
1 Subscription to my Favourite Magazine
Nice easy one to start off with, dear. A subscription to Cross Stitch Crazy magazine would be marvellous, please. This magazine is packed with loads of cross-stitching gossip, advice, competitions, charts and free gifts. If you subscribe at the moment Ill even get an extra free gift of a Cross Stitch Kit worth over nearly £20, or a bag full of Madeira goodies (second option for me, please, Santa mate) the bag includes loads of random bits from Madeira including lots and lots of lovely threads I can use to make more Christmas cards for next year.
2 Digital Camera
Its not that I havent loved my old digital camera, its been a good friend and a sturdy workhorse, but its getting on for 8 years old now, and its looking a little old and tired, its also costing me a small fortune in batteries. Any decent digital camera will do, Santa, in fact theres a very nice one on offer for the winner of Dooyoos latest competition. If you were to speak nicely to those lovely people at Dooyoo maybe you could convince them to send theirs to me, then you could get me something else instead. What do you mean, thats not a very nice thing for a good girl to ask?
3 A Job
Not really a want, more of a need, actually, but if you could sort me out with a new job Mr S Id be more than grateful. No, not that grateful However, I would be grateful enough to give you a glowing reference if you ever decided to change your career path. Last time I was out of work I logged onto the internet and applied for a job after breakfast in the morning, had an interview in the afternoon and started work for the same company two days later. Then I moved up North and this time its been slightly different. Ive been looking for work for nearly a year and havent had an interview since August. Though having said that, typically enough I got two letters inviting me to interview this week are you weaving your Christmas magic a bit early Mr Claus? I blooming well hope so.
4 Trolley Dash around Hobbycraft
Ive always been a pretty crafty person (in the non sly kinda way) and my idea of paradise would be to run around Hobbycraft, or any similar craft store, Im not that fussy, filling my trolley with all of those oh-so-expensive craft kits, patterns and equipment that I long for but would never be able to afford. The dash bit of this prezzie would make it even more exciting as Id be throwing stuff in the trolley without any kind of consideration, who knows what Id grab! Coming home to unpack all of my booty Id find all kinds of crafty bits and bobs, and probably some crafts that Ive never tried before which would be great.
5 Cure for Writers Block
I love writing, I really do, but recently every time Ive sat behind the computer or notepad, nothing happens. Well, thats not strictly true, I usually moan and complain a lot, but nothing creative, or even productive is going on. Ive managed to break my block a little lately by writing on Dooyoo for fun instead of pushing myself to write fiction that wasnt working at all. However, a simple cure for this dreadful condition would make my life much easier and happier, please.
6 Relaxed Asha
Asha is a (nearly) eleven year old blue merle border collie. Shes got one blue eye and one brown, wonky ears, a bit of a limp on one of her back legs where she was run over as a youngster and really funny teeth that make her appear to be smiling at you all the time. Shes also my dog, and shes gorgeous, in a funny-looking kinda way. I already had two dogs when Asha came to live with us, Skittle is a ten year old border collie, and Mokee is a collie cross, shell be nine this month. Ashas owners couldnt keep her any longer, and Id been thinking about taking on another dog anyway, so we exchanged a lot of e-mails, met each other, and finally we all agreed that Asha would move in with me her first owner would never have let her go if she wasnt happy Id love her as much as she did. And thats the thing, I do love Asha, but she hasnt really totally relaxed into living here yet shes still a bit wary and reserved, and Im not sure why. Id really love for her to just relax and be loved for the sweetheart she is.
7 Border Collie Sanctuary
This is on the condition that it comes with the money to keep it running indefinitely, Sants. Wouldnt be any good to me if I couldnt afford to feed the inhabitants. Hm, perhaps this could be combined with wish number three, so long as youre paying well. The Border Collie is a popular breed, Ive yet to see a cuter puppy than a Collie puppy, and so many people take on these dogs without any idea of how much work and exercise a Collie needs to stay happy and healthy. Of course, my sanctuary would take in Collie Crosses too, and even Rough Collies and Bearded Collies in need. Id also make sure that no dog was ever put to sleep unless it was what was best for the dog, and have a separate section of the Sanctuary away from the public gaze for those dogs that cant be rehomed, for whatever reason.
8 New American President
Not for my own personal use, of course, but I think that giving America a new President for Christmas would be a joyous gift for the whole world. Perhaps Im being mean blaming Bush for all of the problems in his Country No, Im really not, hes the President, its his job to accept the blame. The man is a fool and needs to be replaced.
9 Miracle Diet
Now, this is the holy grail of Christmas prezzies, Santa, but if you could find me a diet that lets me eat anything I want in enormous quantities, whilst still losing weight, I would love you forever. Failing that, could you perhaps find me a love of vegetables and aversion to chips, please? Id also accept a hatred of chocolate and puddings, if youve got one available.
10 Ten more wishes
Cheesy I know, but theres so much more I could do if I only had ten more wishes. I could wish that the World of Warcraft actually was a real world. How many addicts would stay addicted if they really had to fight poison-spitting dragons and mean n nasty Orcs every couple of minutes, I wonder? Or I could wish that I didnt always get spots every time Ive got a night out coming up. Or wish that the bloke who cut me up at the roundabout yesterday gets red lights on every set of traffic lights he comes to for the next week, no, the next month. Or I could
No, thanks Santa, but lets just leave it at the nine Christmas wishes, shall we? I dont think I can be trusted with the tenth. Perhaps Im not that good a girl after all.