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Tower T80410 Spudnik Spiralizer 18/08/2017

Space Age Spiralizing

Tower T80410 Spudnik Spiralizer Tower T80410 Spudnik Spiralizer, Green Introduction As a member of Amazon Vine (an invitational program for top ranked Amazon reviewers) I am sometimes sent an attractive list of things to test in return for an unbiased and balanced review. One such product was this Spiralizer from Tower, which popped up on my list last year. I had heard of these gadgets before and was intrigued to try them but was always put off by the fact they’d probably just join the steamer and food processor and gather dust whilst taking up space. Getting it for free made me feel a lot better about giving it a try. Tower Tower are a brand I was previously unfamiliar with, although it seems they are a British brand of some 100 years standing making a wide range of kitchen and food prep gadgets. The company was founded in Wolverhampton in 1912 and made metal containers, pans and tableware. They became part of the Russell Hobbs brand and today manufacture blenders, bread-makers, cookware, electric knives and can openers amongst many other gadgets. Oh, and spiralizers! A Spira-what? The must-have kitchen gadget that you didn’t know you needed! It can cut your vegetables into attractive ribbons or julienne ‘spaghetti’ to help make more interesting dishes, and supposedly makes it easier to introduce more vegetables into your diet. As a vegetarian I have this covered pretty much, but am always on the look out for new ideas for healthy, quick and tasty midweek meals. The Product It’s green and looks ...

Keighley & Worth Valley Railway 14/08/2017

Chuff Chuff!

Keighley & Worth Valley Railway Chuff Chuff! Introduction Whilst visiting friends in West Yorkshire recently, they took us for a day out to Worth Valley vintage railway and Haworth. We drove to Keighley station and parked in the car park there, which was free. You can access Keighley by modern train (National Rail) too, I think the stations are just next to each other. The other stations on the line would be accessed only by car, bus or vintage railway. Tickets An adult return is £11 which takes us the full length of the line to Oxenhope but we were only getting off in Haworth. A Child would be £5.50 (5-15 years) and concessions are £10. You may find it best to get a Day Rover and explore the region of you have more time as this allows you to hop on and hop off for multiple journeys. This is £16 for an adult, £14 concession and £8 child and there is a small family ticket for £20 (One adult or concession, plus one child). Some trains have a buffet car and real ale in the bar. Some have a ‘posh’ bit where you can have a cream tea. Not all trains are steam, there are some diesel but check the timetable on the website if you have a preference. Different days operate different timetables. If you are a local or regular visitor to the area you may find membership is good value for you. A Bit of History This line which leaves Keighley and travels through the Worth Valley and part of the Pennines opened in 1867, partially funded by local mill owners to help bring coal to power their mills, as well as to ...

America Unchained - Dave Gorman 10/08/2017


America Unchained - Dave Gorman America Unchained – Dave Gorman Introduction I was bought this book in paperback by a friend around 2008/9. I have always had a problem with the fact I had more books to read than time to read them in, which was only exacerbated by the purchase of a Kindle the following year, so to my shame only got round to reading it some eight/nine years later. There is a film that accompanies the book but I haven’t seen it, although I understand it is available on DVD. Dave Gorman Dave Gorman is a British born comedian and writer. His previous work includes Are You Dave Gorman? where Dave travelled the world looking for other Dave Gormans and Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure where Dave searches out other Googlewhack websites (where you get just one result for a search term of two valid words) amongst other projects. Previously her has written for comedy shows such as Mrs Merton and The Fast Show and these days still does stand-up comedy and presents various shows on TV. The Book Following a soul destroying comedy tour of the US staying in bland hotel rooms and travelling with people he didn’t particularly like, Dave decides to do his own road trip and avoid such places (and people). He (and a camera person) take a road trip in a vintage 1970s Gran Torino estate car from California to the East Coast avoiding chain hotels, restaurants and gas stations. Things don’t often go to plan and Dave is pragmatic in his approach and acceptance that he could have bitten off more than he ...

Quality Hotel Cobden, Birmingham 02/08/2017

Not Quality Hotel Cobden.

Quality Hotel Cobden, Birmingham Cobden Hotel Note: This hotel is no longer affiliated with the Quality brand. It is the same venue/address however. Introduction I was recently attending an event at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens one evening so elected to stay over in the area. A friend had used this hotel before and found it quite nice, so a group of us booked to stay here. We booked via on a cancellable package and paid £58.50 for a twin room, no breakfast on a Saturday night. The hotel is situated on Hagley Road in the Edgbaston district and close to Cadbury World (I went there in the afternoon, it was about 20 mins drive) and bus-able from central Birmingham. Apparently also a good stopover for West Midlands Safari Park and Dudley Zoo. Arrival and First Impressions The hotel looks quite nice from the outside, not particularly tall, just a well maintained inconspicuous brick building. Parking is round the back and plenty of it. I unloaded and dragged my case into the building. The reception is in the front and whilst small there wasn’t a queue. Check in was quick and painless and I paid for the room and taking my key card (my friend wasn’t arriving until later) trundled off to find the rooms. The communal areas all seem very nice and modern The Room Our room was on the first floor and there was no lift on this wing of the hotel. Not a huge problem for one flight, but with bags is a bit of a pain in the bum. Our room was extremely basic – two beds, two dated bedside cabinets, some ...

The Essex Serpent - Sarah Perry 25/07/2017

Snakes Alive!

The Essex Serpent - Sarah Perry The Essex Serpent Introduction Being an Essex girl I was naturally interested to read a literary fiction book set in Essex. I think we are a bit hard done by when it comes to setting books in the English countryside, authors preferring prettier and posher counties. As usual I hadn’t got round to reading it as quickly as intended until it got picked as the July book for my book club, giving me the incentive I needed. Award Winning The book has been nominated for many awards (a Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction longlister (2017), Shortlisted for Costa Novel Award , Book of the Year winner at the British Book Awards and Waterstones Book of the Year alongside topping the Sunday Times Bestseller list. I usually struggle with award winning fiction, finding these worthy tomes a bit of a slog sometimes but was looking forward to this one as it also seemed to be a popular book being picked up by Richard & Judy’s Bookclub. The Plot (no spoilers) It’s 1893 and Cora Seaborne has been newly widowed. Unlike many young widows of the time. Cora feels a sense of freedom that she is no more shackled to behave as a typical Victorian woman and pursues her hobby of naturalism whilst wearing a man’s coat. She decides to move to Colchester in Essex with her son and his governess and her companion, Martha. Here they are introduced by some family friends to the Reverend William Ransome and his family, and end up moving to the salt marshes east of Colchester and the village of Aldwinter. ...

Huawei P9 32GB 21/07/2017

Happy with my Huawei

Huawei P9 32GB HUAWEI P9 Introduction It was phone upgrade time and I was tired of my Sony Xperia Z3 compact. Generally it was a good phone but had a few niggles that came apparent after long term use. I was always disappointed with the front view camera (I don’t take a lot of selfies, but this didn’t inspire me to do more) and low light/unnatural light pictures (which is when I want a convenient camera – because I am not taking my expensive hybrid camera to the pub). When O2 called regarding the upgrade I explained what I wanted from a phone and said a camera was important (I had a few phones in mind, but was quite interested to hear their suggestions). The advisor suggested this one and said many people didn’t go for it as they didn’t know the brand but that the P9 was their top spec phone (presumably until the P10 comes out) and was very good, as well as having a Leica dual lens camera. I decided to go for it on a 14 day trial and have stuck with it. Price and Availability I have a 32GB version (expandable storage is available). My device plan with O2 is £12 per month for 24 months (plus my airtime plan). There was a small upfront cost of £9.95 which was waived, making the phone £288.00. Other providers who offer the phone on contract include Three, EE and Vodaphone and also via Carphone warehouse. Giffgaff will also sell the phone unlocked (£349) and Amazon (for £410). There are various versions including a Plus, which seems to be larger in size and have 64GB memory, and a ...

Copenhagen (Denmark) 17/07/2017

Wonderful, Wonderful, Copenhagen!

Copenhagen (Denmark) Copenhagen I recently had a long weekend (four days/three nights) in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. We were very lucky with the weather and we approached the weekend on a budget, with budget airlines, cabin baggage where possible and staying in a hostel. Copenhagen is an expensive city, but not as prohibitively so as I first though and when compared to some attractions in the UK (especially London). Getting There and Away We flew with Norwegian Airlines direct from London Gatwick to Copenhagen. My early morning flight out on the Friday was £57 and return was £24.50 on the following Monday. We booked about 7 months in advance. You can pay extra for a seat reservation and for cabin baggage. The flight time was an hour and 50 minutes. Flight are available with other airlines and airports at other times (some of our party flew on Saturday, and one flew from Edinburgh). Getting into the city is really easy from the airport – you have metro, train and bus all costing DKK36 (£4.25) each way. Just choose whichever route is best for your accommodation. Accommodation and Transport We stayed at the Danhostel Copenhagen City (reviewed separately) as it was centrally located and large enough for a big group. It was expensive as hostels go but there are plenty of other accommodation options that are centrally located and not unreasonable for a European city, cost wise. Beware if you staying a little out of the centre that public transport around the city is a bit less simple ...

Danhostel Copenhagen City, Copenhagen 10/07/2017

Hostelling Danish style

Danhostel Copenhagen City, Copenhagen Danhostel Copenhagen City Introduction Some friends and I booked to got to Copenhagen for a city break over the late May bank holiday. The place chosen to stay was the Danhostel Copenhagen City. A big, city centre hostel which had a good location, seemed clean and modern, and wasn’t too expensive to stay in. We didn’t book as a group, just a few of us booked some rooms ourselves via We booked a twin, triple and quad as well as a dorm room. However the Twin had four beds and all the others had six anyway! We had the rooms to ourselves which was the main thing. Where is it/How to Get There Danhostel Copenhagen City H.C. Andersens Boulevard 50 1553 Copenhagen V The hostel was about 10 mins walk from the main train station which was a short ride from the airport (Tickets 36 DKK/£4.25). There is a bus stop at the back of the hostel which will take you there direct for the same price, but slightly longer journey. It is on a busy road however, so there is some traffic noise if your room is on that side. Most of the things we wanted to see were within walking distance (sometimes a longish walk) and there are buses but we never really got our heads round them, and were happy to navigate the city centre on foot (the hostel will hire bikes too – there are lots of cycle lanes). Booking/Prices You can book on the website : Or Via telephone of e-mail. Booking: +45 33 11 85 85 / Group booking: +45 33 18 83 38 / ...

PurMinerals Disappearing Act Concealer 04/07/2017

For My Next Trick....

PurMinerals Disappearing Act Concealer Pürminerals Disappearing Act 4-in-1 Correcting Concealer Introduction I am not a big user of concealer as, up until last summer, I rarely had any breakouts. Unfortunately I had a bad run of spots so had invested in a Bare Minerals concealer. I was happy with it but when I saw this product on my list with Amazon Vine (an invitation only list for Amazon reviewers) I decided to try it as I had recently received a foundation from Pür. In the past I had tried a Pür mascara , whilst I hadn’t particularly been impressed , I had liked the company’s brand ideals. Pür I have really struggled to find very much information about Pür online. They are an American company and part of the Astral group. They are based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA and were founded around 2001. Pür manufacture cruelty free, mineral make-up, so it is not tested on animals and they are environmentally responsible (according to their website). My own research seems to back this up as they are on Peta’s cruelty free list, amongst others. They seem to be quite a small brand so fly under the radar of most sites. There isn’t much information on their environmental claims either. Many (but not all) products are paraben free as some are also vegan and gluten-free, and no product contains Bisphenol A (BPA) which is a toxin. Price and Availability This product has an RRP of £19.50 for a 2.8g pot. It’s not cheap, but cheaper than my Bare Minerals concealer, whilst being slightly larger in product size. Prices don’t ...

PurMinerals Hydrafluid Water Serum Foundation 26/06/2017

Not Quite PurFect

PurMinerals Hydrafluid Water Serum Foundation Pür Hydrafluid Water Serum Foundation Introduction I am happy with my Bare Minerals Bare Skin Serum Foundation but I have always found shopping for a good new foundation quite stressful, after all it can be wasteful to spend a lot of money trying a new product if it doesn’t work. I got the opportunity to try this due to an invitation on Amazon Vine and as they had a light shade available I jumped at the chance. I had tried a Pür mascara a few years ago, and liked the brand’s ethos, but wasn’t entirely impressed with the product. Pür Pür are an American company, founded in 2001 and are part of the Astral brands group, based in Atlanta USA. There is very little information about them available on the web. They specialise in mineral make up that is cruelty free and do not test on animals and claim to be environmentally responsible. As we all know, not all companies are clear about these claims and hide behind clever phrasing in their disclaimers. As far as I can tell their claims are accurate making it on to Peta’s cruelty free list and several other cruelty free websites. I can’t find much information on the environmental claims, I think the company is not big enough to have come to the notice of various ethical groups who concentrate more on the big corporations. Many (but not all) products are paraben free as some are also vegan and gluten-free, and no product contains Bisphenol A (BPA) (a toxin). Price and Availability This product has an RRP of £28 for a 30ml ...

Radisson Blu Hotel, East Midlands Airport, Derby 12/04/2017

You won't Be Blu(e) About Staying Here

Radisson Blu Hotel, East Midlands Airport, Derby Radisson Blu Hotel, East Midlands Airport Introduction I was recently invited to attend an evening event at this hotel. Booked through a third party group, that included entertainment, a twin share room on bed and breakfast basis and a hot buffet dinner. This is an award winning hotel – it was 2016’s Luxury Airport Hotel of the Year, having been open just 5 years. I was very much looking forward to staying here. Prices As I booked it through another organisation it includes their mark-up so to list that price would be misleading. Prices do vary depending on the time of year/day of the week you may want to stay but they advertise rooms from £67.20 per night. I found this price is available for a Friday night for a standard room (advance purchase, so no refund/cancellation) and doesn’t include breakfast or parking. I have also found a similar deal for £75 on a Saturday. If you want two weeks parking after your stay then you can get that with your room for £144. You would pay more for a better class of room or for a breakfast included. Midweek prices seem to be more (as this is also a business hotel) and prices were £111 for standard room only. Location Herald Way, Pegasus Business Park, East Midlands Airport, DE74 2TZ, Derby, United Kingdom +44 (0) 1509 670575 It is near Castle Donnington, Derby, Nottingham and Leicester and convenient for East Midlands Airport, where there is apparently a shuttle bus service. The hotel is right off the M1 and also a few minutes ...

Bliss The Youth As We Know It 07/04/2017

Not Blissed Out

Bliss The Youth As We Know It Bliss - The Youth As We Know It Youth Serum Introduction Bliss is a brand I am vaguely aware of. It’s one where I know the name but couldn’t really tell you anything about their products. An opportunity to try their Youth Serum came my way and I decided to take advantage of it. I am of the age when anti-ageing products (as sceptical as I am about their name) are things I need to look at more often as my skin changes with the on-set of middle age. I’m not happy about this at all, but console myself by indulging my beauty product addiction. Bliss Bliss is a US Spa brand, with their fist spa opening in New York in 1996. They have opened a few other spas across the UK and a handful outside, with a branch in London (Sloane Ave, SW3). At some point they started to sell their own products both in store and online. I am not sure how long this has been going as I only became aware of them about four years ago. Amazon have been selling this product since 2010. Despite EU laws preventing products tested on animals being sold in Europe, and Bliss’ own website claims that they do not test on animals, Bliss is flagged by both PETA and Cruelty Free Kitty as brands that do test (in the USA). Price and Availability Bliss products are stocked on the high street in larger branches of Harrods and Harvey Nichols. Larger branches of Marks and Spencer stock Bliss products, but I am not sure if they stock this particular one as it wasn’t available online last I checked. Whilst Bliss ...

Lisboa Central Hostel, Lisbon 28/03/2017

Friendly and Modern Central Hostel

Lisboa Central Hostel, Lisbon Introduction Some friends of mine were arranging a trip to Lisbon, Portugal for a New Year’s break and I managed to wangle an invite. It had already been arranged to stay at Lisboa Central Hostel. I didn’t book the hostel but this can be done online and pay upon arrival (48 hour cancellation policy). You can pay in advance if you want, which (pre-Brexit) some people did. The less organised of us didn’t and suffered the post-Brexit exchange rate. We were all arriving on different flights, so at different times, but this was no problem. Myself and three friends stayed in a 4-bed female dorm, with ensuite and the price is on average €21.50 per night plus €1 tax per night. You can pay by cash or card. At certain times this price may be cheaper and you can also opt for rooms with shared bathrooms and larger dorms. We paid slightly more as it was over the New Year period. I believe there are limited twins, doubles and singles available too. Location The hostel address is : Lisboa Central Hostel, Rua Rodrigues Sampaio nº160 1150-282 Lisboa Phone: +351 309 881 038 Fax: +351 214 023 596 It is based spitting distance from Marques de Pombal Metro Station (exit: Av. Da Liberdade). The station is on the Yellow line and the Blue line and is easy to get to from the airport, requiring one change (there are escalators and lifts). Taxis from the airport cost about €10-15 There is a small supermarket, a cashpoint and a few restaurants in walking distance, but it is a relatively quiet ...

Bare Escentuals BareMinerals Blemish Remedy Concealer 22/03/2017

When Baring Your Blemishes Are Not An Option

Bare Escentuals BareMinerals Blemish Remedy Concealer Bare Minerals Blemish Remedy Concealer Introduction Last year I struggled with break outs of a few spots on the side of my face. It is not something I have often but for some reason I was getting them one after the other. Normally I would ignore then as I knew they would go away by themselves, but as this didn’t seem to be happening I decided it was time to buy a new concealer. I selected Bare Minerals as I buy their foundation and get on well with it, thus I popped into a large branch of Boots one evening and this product was recommended by the assistant. Bare Minerals Bare minerals was founded in 1994 in California, USA and is part the of Bare Escentuals, (a bodycare manufacturer) group. Their speciality is in mineral make up, which you probably guessed from the name. They used to sell via QVC, the TV shopping channel where they developed a cult following. The company has a full range of mineral based make up and skincare in a wide variety of shades. Japanese firm Shieseido bought the company a few years ago. Bare Minerals are against animal testing and claim not to ask any others to do so on its behalf. As it is not sold in mainland China, they are not required to test by Chinese law either. This statement is backed up by other research I have done, however their parent company Shieseido do sell in China, so some consumers may prefer to avoid them. Some products use animal by-products (where the animal isn’t harmed/killed) and they do offer some vegan friendly ...

Clarence House, London 16/03/2017

Hobnobbing With Chas and Cammy

Clarence House, London CLARENCE HOUSE Introduction Clarence house is the home of Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall . Price Harry also lived here until recently. It is used for official receptions and other events. It is open to the public through guided tours usually in the month of August and I visited on the last August bank holiday 2016. It is managed by the Royal Collection Trust which is a registered charity entrusted with numerous art objects. The Queen does not own them as a private individual but is a trustee. The RCT receives its income from the opening of the palaces to the public and gift shop sales and its aims are “care and conservation of the Royal Collection and the promotion of public access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities” (according to their website). History of the House Much of the history of the house is covered in the tour and I have ‘topped up’ my memories and fact checked by referring to the guide book that I purchased when I visited. The house was built between 1825-7 and was designed by John Nash for the then William, Duke of Clarence (hence the name) and was part of St James’s Palace. Nash also designed Brighton Pavilion and did a lot of remodelling of Buckingham Palace. The Clarence House project did go massively over-budget but forms the basis for the house there today, the man difference being the entrance was on a different side, on Stable Yard Road which ran at right ...
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