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One of the products that I'm not too fussed about is shower gel. As long as it does the job and keeps me clean then this is its main function and I've never been one for all these fancy smelling, tempting you to want to eat them, shower products. Cue the entry of the ASDA Smart Price Shower Gel in a 500ml bottle. The bottle is made of semi see through plastic with a white flip open lid that is easy to operate and robust enough to handle multiple use. One thing I will say is that this bottle is completely different from the one in the review category picture!
The label is the usual green and white Smart Price packaging that advertises the product name, the refund and replace promise, recycling information as well as the fact that the product is safe to use for up to 24 months after opening. It also has instructions on how to use the product however these are pretty self-explanatory and I won't go into detail here. It also advises to avoid contact with eyes as well as that ASDA is against animal testing and funds research into alternatives. Lastly it lists the ingredients which are mainly made up of water and a variety of various chemicals which are beyond the understanding of most normal people such as me.
The shower gel itself is a sort of light luminous green in colour and reminds me of nuclear green for some reason. When applying it does lather to an acceptable level but I do find that I have to use more of this then for other shower gels and think that this is down to the product being slightly more diluted than more expensive brands. It does also appear to be slightly more runny than other shower gels.
The shower gel also doesn't have much of a fragrance to it but to be fair the label does say that this product is lightly fragranced and it may very well be but I certainly can't distinguish anything other than a vague sort of generic soap smell.
With a price tag of £0.50 and being available to purchase both in-store and on-line, this is a cheap, does the job product that is certainly budget friendly. Based upon the price, fact that it does the job but has a lack of fragrance, I give this product 3/5.
Please note that this review may appear on Ciao under my username.
So tonight I got home from work and despite my resolution to try and cook I decided that I wanted something quick and easy. Cue the ASDA Smart Price Cheese & Broccoli Pasta & Sauce. Coming in the usual green and white ASDA Smart Price packaging, this product is sold in a sachet with a picture of a bowl of pasta on the front with what appears to be pieces of broccoli in it. The packet itself weighs in at 110g so it's relatively small.
The packaging says that the product is free from artificial colours, flavours and hydrogenated fat while also being suitable for vegetarians. It has the usual allergy advice on the back and states that it contains gluten, wheat and milk as well as may contain traces of various types of nuts.
Upon opening the packet you are faced with short little tubes of pasta and a type of dried powder coating them along with small apparently freeze dried pieces of broccoli. I tend to make mine on the hob and the cooking instructions for this is to empty the contents into a saucepan, add 150ml of milk, 300ml of cold water and 15g of butter or margarine. It then tells you to bring it to the boil and simmer for between 12-15 minutes while stirring frequently. I generally tend to make mine without the butter/margarine as I add other things such as cold meats, tuna or veggies to flesh it out a bit. Of course it does taste a bit more creamy if you add the butter/margarine but that is down to personal taste. I do find that adding things to it increases the cooking time though.
You can also make this in the microwave, with the only difference being that you use boiling water instead of cold water. Cooking time is then between 10-12 minutes depending on the power of your microwave with a recommendation to stir in between and leave to stand for 3 minutes after cooking. I personally haven't tried to make this in the microwave yet so can't really comment on this.
When it comes to the taste, texture and general hitting the spot, this product does fall a bit flat in the taste department. Now lets be honest, this is a cheap pasta meal and is great for adding to other things but on it's own it certainly doesn't have a cheesy taste to it. It certainly has something akin to broccoli in it and it fills a gap when you are hungry, but it's not the best pasta meal on the market. If you're looking for something basic thought then by all means go for this.
At a total cost of just £0.37 a pop, this is a real cheap meal but is not filling at all. Storage instructions are the same as for almost any type of packet meal, store in a cool and dry place. You can also purchase this both in-store or on-line and if buying in-store then it's generally found at the bottom of the shelf.
I have given the product 3/5 as it does what it's supposed to but it certainly doesn't have a cheese taste to it and it also really isn't very filling.
Please note that this review may appear on Ciao under my name.
Now I am not the most ardent of peanut butter fans but I do occasionally feel like indulging in a little bit of peanut butter overdose on the odd occasion and hence I found myself staring at this jar for a good while in my local ASDA. This jar of Crunchy Peanut Butter comes in a plastic jar with the ASDA green and white Smart Price label wrapped around the middle of the jar. Topped off with a white plastic lid, this little jar weighs in at 340g.
Opening the jar is relatively straight forward and you are faced with a gold bit of paper over the peanut butter itself as a way for you to know the product is protectively sealed. Upon removing this you will notice the light brown Crunchy Peanut Butter which sometimes appears smooth until you dip your chosen implement into it. This is when you will notice that this particular peanut butter is quite crunchy and has large pieces of peanuts in it. It is also of a relatively thick consistency even as peanut butters go. I do find it works quite well on toast as it's much easier to spread on the warm bread.
In terms of taste this is pretty generic and isn't the most tasty peanut butter around, however for the price there really is nothing to complain about. In terms of smell it doesn't have much of one in my opinion, other than maybe a slight whiff of peanut oil.
Like most ASDA Smart Price products, this Crunchy Peanut Butter is free from both artificial colours and flavours while also being totally suitable for vegetarians. The back of the jar contacts further information such as the ingredients which are listed as peanuts, rapeseed oil, sugar, palm oil and of course sea salt.
Unbelievable as it may seem there is also an allergy warning on this product that states it may contain nuts. Like most perishable products it is also recommended that you store this in a cool, dry place such as a cupboard.
The only down side I have found with this product so far is that it can be quite oily, however this is somewhat expected as the product is firmly aimed at more budget conscious consumers. Of course this problem isn't confined to this product alone as other Peanut Butter's I've tried have been the same so it's not enough to put me off buying it.
At a total cost of £0.62 per jar, this is certainly one of the cheapest around and will do it's job admirably enough. Available to purchase both on-line and in-store, this product is generally found close to ground level on the shelf.
Overall I would recommend this and have given it 3/5 due to the oiliness and the fact that it does fall slightly short in terms of taste.
Please note that this review may appear on Ciao under my name.
So part of my new year's resolution was to try and be more healthy in my eating and more adventurous in my cooking/baking endeavours. Suffice it to say that all fired up with this new determination I have been slowly building up my larder with things such as this Smart Price White Self raising Flour. Not one for bothering about whether the product comes in a fancy pack, I spotted this in my local ASDA and thought I'd give it a try for a Bacon and Cheese bread recipe I've been wanting to try out.
The flour comes in a green and white Smart Price branded paper bag which is similar packaging to almost all types of flour nowadays. The flour itself is classified as a blend of selected UK wheats with added raising products and is apparently untreated. Ingredients include Wheat flour and raising agents such as sodium bicarbonate and diphosphates. It almost goes without saying but apparently it's a legal requirement in our modern age to point out that this Wheat flour does contain Wheat and therefore is not suitable for those with Wheat allergies. It also contains Gluten so is not suitable for Gluten free diets either, however is suitable for Vegetarians.
Open opening you are presented with a fine white flour which has been milled quite well, or appears to be finely milled to my untrained eye. I've used this once so far and must admit that the bread in question that I made didn't rise quite as much as I would have liked. Now I don't know if this is due to my abject failure as a maker of anything food related, my dismal excuse for an oven, or the flour itself so I can't really be too harsh on the product itself.
Oh yes and it's important to remember that this flour is supposed to be stored in a cool, dry place and is supposed to be kept away from direct sunlight. I normally find an airtight container works quite well but this is obviously your own choice.
Costing only £0.45 for a hefty 1.5Kg bag, this while self raising flour is certainly a no brainer. Available both in-store and on-line, you will be able to get baking in no time at all with this frills free product.
I have given the product 4/5 as I am not sure if the recent failure of my baking is directly related to this product or not but I'm simply not able to give it full marks yet.
Please note that this review may appear on Ciao under my name.
Never one to shy away from trying different products and unashamedly being a fan of process cheese in my weaker moments, I decided to try these last week on my recent shopping trip to my local ASDA. These come in the standard ASDA Smart Price packaging, which is green and white and not as in the picture shown with the product type for the review category! The packaging is mostly white and you are not able to see the product inside. The packaging does state that the product contains no artificial colours or flavours as well as the fact that the product is suitable for vegetarians. It further displays the content of each serving in terms of guideline daily amounts of calories, fat, sugar, saturated fat and salt. A product expiry date is also prominently featured on the bottom right hand side of the front packaging.
The back of the packaging contains the contact details and, consumer contact information for ASDA as well as the usual nutrition advice and allergy information. These cheese slices are made from a combination of vegetable oil, milk protein and cheese but totally exclude hydrogenated fat. Interestingly enough the packaging describes these as food slices and not cheese slices.
Upon tearing open the pack, you are presented with 10 individually wrapped pieces of processed cheese which are a sort of light orange/yellow colour. The clear plastic surrounding these is easily enough removed if you look for the small arrows indicating where to open it and you can then peel the plastic off. The texture of the cheese slice is slightly rubbery and definitely feels artificial, however this is what one would expect of processed cheese. As for the taste, it is a pretty standard artificial cheese taste no different from pretty much any other one you would find.
With a price tag of only £0.58 for the 170g pack, these are about as cheap as you can find for cheese slices. Available both in-store and on-line, these are cheap and cheerful. Be warned though that this isn't a fantastic product, but rather one that is a no frills cheap alternative. It is not recommended for cheese die hard fans but rather for those on a budget or those who like me just like the occasional bit of artificial, processed cheese.
I have given the product an overall rating of 4/5 as you there isn't really much that can go wrong with these.
Please note that this review may appear on Ciao under my name.
So on my recent visit to family in Ireland, I discovered that my niece is learning to play the Tin Whistle and in a moment of weakness I admitted to her that I used to play the recorder while growing up. This of course elicited plenty of pleas for me to play with her and eventually led to me purchasing this Yamaha Descant recorder.
The product itself is pretty simple, made of plastic with a shiny appearance, this Yamaha Descant recorder comes in a white Yamaha branded bag with drawstring and the words "Yamaha Soprano/Descant Recorder Baroque YRS - 24B" printed on the material. Inside the bag you will find the brown coloured recorder along with a user manual and cleaning rod. The recorder itself is made of moulded plastic and can be taken apart for easy cleaning.
As for the quality of sound, this is certainly an instrument aimed at either the beginner or those who are just a casual enthusiast. Having said that the sound quality isn't bad at all and considering the price of only £6.49 you really can't go wrong. In terms of robustness, this little recorder seems to be pretty sturdily made, with no rough edges at all so it's perfectly safe for little ones and adults alike. I would say that the spacing on the finger holes is probably more suited for older children, teenagers and adults though.
I purchased mine from Amazon but I am sure that most music stores will have this stock, however I'm sure the price will vary somewhat. Bear in mind that the price quoted does not include delivery so be aware that this may increase the overall price. Overall I am more than happy to recommend this Yamaha Descant recorder to all those who are looking for a basic instrument that does exactly as described. Taking into account the overall appearance, quality of sound, construction and materials used as well as the price, I'm quite happy to give this 4 out of 5 stars.
Please note that this review may appear on other websites under my name.
So I am not a very big mustard fan but there are times that I find myself wanting a bit of a bite to certain dishes. As a result, I thought I'd try this Smart Price English Mustard as a cheap alternative to the usual brands.
This mustard comes in a small glass bottle with a black lid and the usual smart price labelling while weighing in at 200 grams. This labelling includes the product name, nutritional information and the fact that no artificial colours, flavours or hydrogenated fat are added into the product while it is also suitable for vegetarians. The packaging does also have a tamper evident button on the top so you know if the product has been tampered with prior to opening.
As for taste, I've noticed that this mustard does have a slight mustardy tang to it but it's not as sharp as one would usually expect from an English mustard. Being one who isn't a massive mustard fan myself this isn't really a big problem for me, however some mustard aficionado's might have issues with this. The colour of the product tends toward a darker yellow with some flecks in it and I've established that about a quarter of a tea spoon is enough to for a sandwich.
Coming in at £0.25 a pop this is about as cheap as you will find mustard anywhere. I bought this in store however a quick search of the Asda website has shown that you can also buy it online.
I would have no problem purchasing this product again and feel that if you are looking for a basic product that will not bite into your budget, then you can't really go wrong with the Asda Smart Price English Mustard.
Please note that all pricing and packaging is correct as of time of publishing.
I recently decided to take a down shift challenge and see if the basic products that supermarkets sell are in any way comparable to the leading brands or supermarket quality brands.
Coming in the usual smart price green and white packaging, these chips are packaged in a completely no frills plastic bag, exactly what you would expect from a product aimed at the entry level side of the consumer market. Targeting the more budget conscious, these chips are touted as being suitable for oven baking or normal frying, with the product stating that it is suitable for vegetarians and that it contains no artificial colours or flavourings. I can't really comment on the frying part as I make them in the oven, which makes them nice and crispy. As they already come with a covering of oil, you simply need to put them on a baking try and straight into the oven, preferably a pre-heated oven though.
In terms of looks, texture and taste these are pretty basic without any sort of added spices or anything along those lines however they taste like pretty regular potato chips. I have noticed that they tend to be generally quite short, however the this doesn't in any way affect the taste. All in all they are basic but don't taste bad at all.
If you are looking for a basic product without any frills, then this certainly hits the right spot. I purchased these in store however you can also find them on the Asda website. Coming in at only £0.82 for 1.5 kilograms, you are certainly getting value for money, especially in the current economic climate where everyone seems to be tightening their belts.
Please note that all prices are correct at time of reviewing but may be subject to change. Also please note that the packaging has changed slightly from the one displayed in the photo Dooyoo has posted for this product.
Like most South Africans, I am a fan of Amarula Cream albeit in small doses or mixed with other choice beverages. Of course this is a firm favourite in the land of my birth, especially with the ladies, and I was pleasantly surprised to see it stocked at the local Sainsburys.
Amarula is actually a fruit often found growing wild in Southern Africa and is quite well known as being a favourite with many a wild animal. These animals tend to eat the fruit that has fallen off the tree and has fermented slightly, resulting in what some consider to be a comedic appearance of drunkenness. The fruit itself is well known for providing lots of Vitamin C but don't expect to get your daily Vitamin C from drinking this!!
The bottle itself is a dark, almost chocolate brown in colour with a yellow tassel wrapped around the neck. The label shows a picture of an elephant with the word Amarula writ large above it. The bottle does also flare every so slightly towards the top and bottom, purely for aesthetic appeal I'm sure, although I like to think it helps to prevent the bottle slipping from your hand!
In my opinion the taste is great, with a slightly exotic touch at first and a smooth finish which should appeal to most cream fans. Of course the exotic taste might put some people off and the creamy consistency can become a bit much. This is generally drunk with ice to thin it out or as a mixer (normally with Peppermint liqueur to make Springbok shooters).
A 700ml bottle will set you back in the region of about £13 or so but you may be able to get it cheaper by shopping around. Apparently you can also get a larger bottle but I haven't yet come across it. So far I've only seen it in the larger supermarkets, but then I'm not one who frequents the smaller off licenses and such.
Amarula is imported into the UK by Distell Ltd, who are famous back home for making a wide range of spirits! At 17% alcohol content, this is by no means a strong drink but it is on par with other creams on the market.
Also published on Ciao under the same name.
This is a particularly difficult review for me to write as Cape Town is my birth city and as such will always hold a special place in my heart. Having said that, I will try and be objective while also giving a native Capetonian's perspective.
Situated towards the southern most tip of Africa, Cape Town is located at the foot of Table mountain and on the cusp of Table bay, while False bay gently foams on the rear side of the city. Being quite close the southern most point of Africa, and the point where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, the waters on either side of Cape Town are classified as cold (Atlantic ocean) and warm (Indian ocean). Of course the merits of the words cold and warm are highly debatable to the locals as it is more of a difference between cold and not so cold.
Cape Town has relatively pleasant weather, with the Summer months being hot and dry but at times quite windy. The winter months tend to be wet and colder, probably equivalent to an early English autumn. One notable mention is the south easterly wind which is locally known as the Cape doctor due to it helping to clear some of the cities air pollution. It has been noted to be quite a strong wind at times though and can even cause property damage on particularly windy days.
Cape Town was the site of the first Dutch colony in South Africa way back in 1652 when Jan van Riebeek (under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company) landed to construct a way station between India and Europe.
Slavery was still quite prevalent in those early days and slaves were imported from all over the world with a heavy concentration from the East, especially Malaysia.
With the Dutch power on the decline, the British fought the Battle of Blaauwberg (1806) and thereby established British rule over the Cape Colony. By this time there were quite a number of various European languages being spoken and in conjunction with the eventual disgruntlement with British rule, this would lead to the establishment of the Afrikaner nation and tongue.
The importation of slaves has had a profound effect on Cape Town, most notably in terms of the cuisine, and examples can clearly be seen today in area's such as the Malay quarter. The actual culture of Cape Town is a hodge podge melting pot of races, beliefs and creeds. The people tend to come from all walks of life and the city has a heavy European influence.
By and large the culture is a mish mash of the first world meeting the third world head on and is difficult to classify according to the established standards. Suffice it to say that if there was a second world standard, Cape Town would be the epitome of it.
While large parts of Cape Town are considered English, there is still a very healthy percentage of the city which claims Afrikaans as it's home language. Throw in a not insignificant amount of current European ex patriots and you have a broad range of languages being represented. It is of particular interest that Cape Town has a large enough German population to merit it having it's own German school.
Getting around the city centre itself is relatively easy as it is quite compact by most countries standards. There are abundant private metered taxi's and the city has recently introduced a new bus service. Sadly the bus service only services part of the greater metropolitan area at this point however plans are in hand to expand this service.
The bus service is the MyCiti service and prices will vary depending on where you wish to travel from/to.
Something to be aware of is that you need to check the meters on metered taxi's as unfortunately some of them can be quite unscrupulous.
The night life in Cape Town is abundant and at times frenetic. From the diversity of Long street, to the student night life in Stellenbosch, there is something to cater for all tastes. A particular favourite among locals and tourists alike is to spend the day wine tasting along the Stellenbosch wine route and then spend the evening dancing away across various clubs in the city.
Unfortunately clubs in Cape Town tend to change quite quickly so I won't mention individual clubs, however areas that are of interest are Long Street, Greenpoint and Stellenbosch. Should you wish the more alternative and tending towards Gothic, then the Observatory area would be of interest to you.
Tourism is a massive draw card for Cape Town and rightly so when you consider the abundance of natural beauty prevalent in the city. From the sweeping views of Blaauwberg, to the allure of Table Mountain, the melancholy of Robben Island, the exhiliration of shark cage diving, Cape Town has something available for every type of adventure spirit.
The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (yes named after the British monarch) is an absolute must for any visitor and provides world class shopping and restaurants. Should beaches be more to your liking then the ever popular Camps Bay is the place to be seen. Cable car rides are available to the top of Table Mountain or for the more adventurous there are a myriad of hiking trails. Another notable mention is Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens which is heralded as one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world.
Interestingly Cape Town and the province of the Western Cape is the only area in the world where the floral kingdom of fynbos is naturally occurring. This makes the Western Cape one of the world's seven floral kingdoms.
There is so much more to the city that could be written here, but the best things to do is to simply experience it for yourself. The city always has some new surprises to throw at you and it is best to keep an open mind. I would recommend the city for those of you who want to get out and about to see things. You absolutely have to take a camera and be prepared to take lots and lots of pictures.
It is sad but true that South Africa in general does have a very high crime rate. Luckily Cape Town is relatively safer than other parts of the country but still a modicum of caution is recommended. I would advise speaking to a local before going off the beaten tourist track and the best possible advice I can give is to be aware of your surroundings.
Thanks for reading and feel free to contact me should you have any questions.
Another awesome book from the master of fantasy. What could I possibly say that could describe how I feel about David's books. Unfortunately as with everything in life, somethings are better than others. While I really enjoyed White wolf immensely, I do feel that it isn't as "good" ( I use the word good only comparitively) as The Swords of Night and Day. Not that there is one particular thing that I found wrong with the book, it's just that I find that David's later works have more of an appeal.
Maybe it's the style of writing or maybe just a sense of maturity in his later works. I can't quite put my finger on it.
But I'll leave that for you to decide.
The book is set in the world of the Drenai, but has been broadened to include some of the other races that have only been mentioned in passing before. The main characters are Olek Skilgannon (a Naashanite, otherwise known as the damned) and our old (and I mean literally) friend Druss the Legend.
Skilgannon the Damned has disappeared from the world. Nobody knows where he is, much to the chagrin of Jianna, the Witch Queen. But then a monastery of peaceful monks is attacked by a bloodthirsty mob....where one of the monks defends the life of his abbot and suddenly people realise that The Damned is back.
What follows is a quest across nations that are being annihilated by the horror and madness that is war. The ever opportunistic Jianna is ever looking to increase her empire, and she is willing to try anything to weaken her enemies.
Skligannon seems to be a man fighting for redemption, while Druss is just Druss. As implacable as a mountain.
There are a couple of unexpected twists toward the end, and a couple of interesting characters, as well as the normal foreseeable twists.
The book explores the human concepts of "love," and how it is not to be confused with duty. I feel that this is a central theme to the story as Skilgannon seems to be driven by what he perceives as duty. It teaches us a very valuable lesson in that it helps us define what motivates us.
Betrayal and treachery, also feature quite prominently and these force us to examine the nature of heroism and friendship and the thin line that divides evil and good, damnation from redemption. It also makes us aware of the fact that we should not be too quick to judge and that even the best/worst of us can have honourable/dishonourable intentions.
I know that you are all yearning for a bit more of the story...but as you might have realised I am loathe to give away too much of any Gemmell novel as I feel that they should all be read and your own opinion formulated.
You might feel a bit lost at the beginning of the book, due to a lack of background history on certain characters....don't worry it is all explained later on. The style of writing is somewhat different to what we normaly encounter in a Gemmell book, but it serves it's purpose quite well. Lots of reminiscing and hindsight, which makes for a sligthly different sort of angle.
£3.05 online from Amazon market place but remember that postage and packaging will vary. You can also get it for £5.59 with free delivery.
Please note that I have previously published this review on Ciao under the name tomsox
Off Armageddon Reef - Literally hanging on by a thread.... this is in fact the fate of both the human race and of the kingdom of Charis.
Before I get into the review of this book I would like to point out that this review may contain spoilers. Now I have long been a fan of science fiction and especially of the space opera genre so recently dominated by the likes of David Weber. I must admit that it was with some trepidation that I first decide to give this book a go as admittedly I normally read David Weber's books as they are light reading (meaning they do not require lots of reader involvement). But this book was to prove me wrong and suck me into the well constructed and almost agonizing world of Safehold. Without further ado, here is the review.
The human race has expanded into the great unknown, space, only to encounter a race who not only refuses to communicate but seems hell bent on galactic genocide. Within a short space of time, the enigmatic Gbaba have all but exterminated Humanity and only a masterful sleight of hand colonization effort allows a small group of humans to escape.
Upon arrival at their new home, the colonists are duped into believing God has created them from a blank slate and they are beholden to the ultra conservative church.
Fast forward roughly nine centuries and we find ourselves in the current setting of the book. An android containing the persona of Nimue Alban is tasked with restoring Humankind to their previous technologically advanced state. Nimue awakes to a world completely dominated by a corrupt and self servicing Church which deliberately sees any innovation as sin and is not afraid to act for it's own, selfish gain.
Nimue identifies one of the feudal realms, Charis, as being the most likely to aid in the long term goal of returning Humanity to the stars and insinuates herself into the ruling families good graces. Unfortunately Nimue is forced to alter her appearance to that of a man and take up the name Merlin due to the intensely Patriarchal society she finds herself in. Through a combination of advanced technology and drawing upon her encyclopaedic knowledge, she is able to provide Charis with limited technological advantages to aid them in staving of certain destruction by the Church of Humanity Unchained.
This is a very well written book, with attention to detail and obviously lots of research put into the workings of different processes. The author provides a lot of detail of the various workings of sailing ships and weapons as well as the various methods of production. I do feel that some people might not enjoy all the attention to detail as well as the relatively slow pace of the action, however as this is an open ended series (at this point) build up is quite important and the author has taken the liberty of long explanations.
I would definitely read this book again and would also recommend it to both fans of Sci-fi as well as David Weber fans. I do suspect that by the time the author finally gets to the last book, a re-read of the entire series may very well be necessary.
Off Armageddon Reef
The hardcover version is about 608 pages
Published by: Doherty (Tom) Associates,U.S.; hardcover edition (1 Jan 2007)
You can pick up a second hand copy for about 75p (plus P&P) on Amazon.
Kindle price is about £6.02 on Amazon
This review is also on Ciao under my name tomsox.
Thanks for reading!