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Kukana

Kukana

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Living in Cyprus with husband, three cats and about three thousand books. Two adult sons, one daughter-in-law, one grandson :-)

Reviews written

since 12/08/2003

347

Zanussi ZWF71243 26/05/2016

Lovely Laundry

Zanussi ZWF71243 We knew the time had come for a new washing machine almost a year ago when our former one managed to boil-wash a load of laundry set to 40 degrees, and then refused to spin. A repair might have been possible, but would not have been cheap - and at nine years old, it had had a good life. OUR REQUIREMENTS So we went to the website of our favourite local ‘white goods’ shop, and perused the options. I knew we wanted a machine that would take at least 6kg, preferably 7kg. Although there are only two of us living here, I like to be able to wash duvets at home, and also to know that a week’s worth of sheets or towels can be washed without overloading the machine even when we have visitors. We didn’t want a washer-dryer. Living in Cyprus, we hang everything out to dry. We wanted a washing machine that would be as efficient as possible, from the point of view of electricity and water usage. I was a little surprised to learn that the energy ratings now start at A (the lowest) up to A+++ (the highest). I had assumed that an A+ rating, as we have on other appliances, would be very good until I realised that it was next to bottom. Price-wise we wanted a mid-range machine. We’ve learned from experience that the cheapest appliances sometimes have irritating features due to budget constraints, and tend to wear out sooner. But we weren’t interested in a top-of-the-range washing machine either. I’m not good with electronics in general, and there are only four or five settings I regularly ...

Kenwood FPP220 17/11/2015

Kenwood Kompact

Kenwood FPP220 I’ve had various jug blenders over the years, some better than others. I’ve also had a couple of second-hand Moulinex food processors which more than gave me my money’s worth. When my most recent one started making graunching noises, I decided to look for a new one before it gave up entirely. I discovered that the Moulinex varieties are no longer made. FOOD PROCESSOR HUNTING We live in Cyprus, and good quality appliances tend to be over-priced here. So I checked the Lakeland website in the UK. They offer excellent service, an excellent guarantee if anything goes wrong, and a reasonable fee for postage via courier. Browsing through their options, I was struck by the Kenwood compact Multipro FPP220 series food processor. It has a blender as well as a food processor (some variations also have a herb mill/grinder, but this particular box set doesn’t) and seemed to be highly rated. It was on offer at just under £50. I was concerned it might be a bit small, but then there are only two of us living here now. I entertain from time to time, and like having a food processor for many things I make from scratch. KENWOOD BRAND Kenwood Ltd is a British company, in origin, which has been in business since the late 1940s. It’s known internationally for its kitchen appliances: in particular the iconic (and pricey) stand mixer with a ‘K’ shaped beater which seems to last forever. While I realised that this ‘compact’ system was not to be compared with the famous Kenwood mixers, it was a ...

Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage (Crosswicks Journal) - Madeleine L'Engle 22/10/2015

The Story of a Marriage

Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage (Crosswicks Journal) - Madeleine L'Engle THE AUTHOR Madeleine L’Engle was an American writer born in 1918. She grew up in a fairly bohemian family, surrounded by music and books, and never really fitted into the expectations of her strict schools. She married an actor, and when, some years later, they were struggling to make ends meet, she started writing seriously. I find myself having a growing affection for L'Engle's books. She’s best known for her children’s science fiction classic 'Wrinkle in Time', which didn’t particularly grab me as a child, but which I rediscovered, along with its sequels, when I read it aloud to my sons about eighteen years ago. AUTOBIOGRAPHY I was interested to learn from a friend, a few years ago, that Madeleine L’Engle wrote a four-part autobiographical series. It's known as the 'Crosswicks Journals', and based on her musings about her life and faith over many years. I acquired and read the first in the series, 'A Circle of Quiet', and borrowed from my friend its sequel, 'The Summer of the Great-Grandmother', which I read a few months later. I enjoyed them both, but had plenty of other books to read and so didn’t rush to find the next book. I then discovered that one of our sons had, 'Two-part Invention' on his shelves, which is last in the autobiographical series. The third is ‘The Irrational Season’, which I have still not read. I decided that, as each book is complete in itself, I would read ‘Two-part Invention’ anyway. I dipped into it at first, a page or two at a time, rather ...

Masalas Indian Restaurant, Larnaka 25/09/2015

Meals at Masalas

Masalas Indian Restaurant, Larnaka We live in Larnaka, in Cyprus. We don’t eat out very often, unless treated by visitors. Birthdays and anniversaries are usually the only times we pay for meals out, and then we usually opt for tried and tested favourites rather than anywhere new. But our twenty-something son is now living and working in Larnaka too, after five years of studying and working in the UK. And he has a taste for Indian food. We both make quite acceptable curries of various kinds, but he likes to take us out, once in a while. His restaurant of choice, currently, is one he was delighted to discover: an Indian one known as Masalas. Indian food isn’t particularly popular with Cypriots, who have their own style of cuisine and are unlikely to try anything too different, and we had looked in vain for an Indian restaurant when our son lived here as a teenager. FINDING MASALAS This restaurant is on the left of the coast road about mid-way between Larnaka and Dhekelia. There are a lot of restaurants in this area, mainly attracting tourists and also the military folk in the garrison. We were concerned we might miss it the first time we set out to find Masalas, but Google Maps had pinpointed the correct section of the road for us. It turned out to be easy to spot as we approached it, although it seemed a bit incongruous to see that it was next-door to a KFC. Had we not realised until we had driven past, it would not have been too difficult to find a place to turn. There’s a slip-road in front of the ...

Rolser City Print Shopping Trolley 18/09/2015

Trendy Trolley (updated)

Rolser City Print Shopping Trolley I didn’t really acknowledge ‘middle age’ until I was fifty… and even then, my advancing years didn’t start to make themselves felt at first. However, towards the end of last year my occasional twinges of backache (after doing too much) began to turn into more of a chronic problem. One issue turned out to be that I was regularly sitting less than a metre from a wireless router; removing that cured a lot of the back pain almost immediately. But I still found aches and pains on certain days, and finally realised that it was when I had walked back from our local shops with heavy bags of groceries. I used cloth bags with shoulder straps and tried not to buy too much at a time; but at last I realised that I would have to find a different way of transporting shopping home. I don’t drive, and don’t have a baby to push in a pram; my husband is not always available to take the car. So I decided that my only option was to consider a pull-along trolley. I had always rejected these previously as being too old-lady-ish. Someone gave me a rather tatty plaid-covered one many years ago, and although I did use it once or twice, I always felt quite awkward with it, and eventually got rid of it. But the aches and pains were becoming hard to live with. In browsing the Lakeland site, I discovered a wide range of trolleys that looked far more modern than the ones I had previously seen. So I decided to admit publicly to being middle aged, and start to use one. REASONS FOR MY CHOICE I chose the ...

A Sense of Belonging - Erica James 11/09/2015

A Sense of Belonging

A Sense of Belonging - Erica James I first came across Erica James when my husband bought a couple of her books for me, over fifteen years ago. He thought they would appeal, and he was correct. Erica James is quite a prolific British writer in her mid-fifties. One of her novels won an award from the Romantic Novelists' Association in 2006. She writes character-based women’s fiction, based around families and their relationships. This is one of my favourite genres, and the kind of book I read to relax. A SENSE OF BELONGING I’ve read 'A Sense of Belonging' twice now. The great thing about character-driven stories, from my perspective, is that the plots are not usually very memorable; so after a gap of eight or nine years I can re-read a book and it’s as if it were for the first time as far as the story goes. But there’s also the pleasant sense that I ‘knew’ the people; a tug of memory, or nostalgia, that makes me feel a part of their world even more quickly than I did the first time around. This novel is about a small informal community; it develops naturally when various people move into some new houses on a redeveloped site in the Cheshire countryside. The story focuses on the lives of these diverse households: TONY AND AMANDA First there are Tony and Amanda, the only married couple in the community. Unfortunately, they’re rather an ill-assorted pair. Tony's first wife died in an accident, and he married Amanda primarily to give his daughter Hattie a mother. But Amanda is - not to mince words - a ...

Hyundai KVE 305 04/09/2015

Weigh to go....

Hyundai KVE 305 I cook just about everything from scratch (as they say in the US). Sometimes I use American style measuring cups for ingredients, but more often I prefer to weigh them. In Cyprus, thankfully, it’s relatively easy to find kitchen scales, either of the spring-balance kind, or the modern digital ones. I was a little dubious of the latter a few years ago - how could electronics replace a physical weighing mechanism? - but my husband persuaded me that digital ones would be fine. And, indeed, our previous set of scales worked well for many years. So when they started failing, not always switching on properly, sometimes going off in the middle of weighing something, even with new batteries, we knew the time had come to replace them. We were surprised to find quite a variety of kitchen scales available. The basic ones all cost around 12-15 euros; they all said that they would weigh up to 5kg. A feature I particularly liked on our previous scales was that they would also display the ambient temperature, so I narrowed my choice down to those which included a temperature sensor. In the end we opted for the Hyundai; my husband liked the look of them, and said it was a brand name he’d heard of, even if it’s usually associated with cars. Our previous scales came with a plastic bowl; these ones didn’t. It was my only hesitation about buying them, although I knew I had plenty of plastic bowls that I could use if necessary. SCALES: TAKE ONE Our first purchase wasn’t very successful. On ...

Silvercrest Sorbet Maker 17/08/2015

Satisfactory Sorbets with Silvercrest

Silvercrest Sorbet Maker Although I do the majority of cooking in our household, my husband is always keen on looking at small kitchen appliances or gadgets. A couple of months ago we were in Lidl, the German supermarket that’s spread through Europe. There were a variety of appliances on special offer, in their Silvercrest range. Most of them were in garish shades of green or red, which I really didn’t want in my kitchen… However, my husband was taken with a machine which promised to turn frozen fruit into ‘delicious sorbet’. We live in a country with extremely hot summers, and I used to make ice cream regularly, but my husband is now dairy-free, and although I’ve made a few sorbets or cashew-based ice creams, they are somewhat time-consuming. He loved the idea of being able to take frozen fruit pieces out of the freezer and produce a sorbet within a few minutes. PURE FRUIT SORBETS I glanced at the enclosed booklet - instructions were, thankfully, in English as well as several other languages - and there were some recipes included, most of which were, quite simply, chopped fruit. No added sugar, no egg white: just fruit. Some of the recipes also included grated chocolate or coconut, but the basic idea was to freeze prepared fruit in suitable quantities for two or three people so as to be able to make sorbets whenever wanted. We have a local fruit stall which sells ripe fruit in small crates for a euro at a time; we sometimes struggle to use it up. So I could see that this could be quite useful; ...

Ever After (DVD) 08/08/2015

The 'true' story of Cinderella?

Ever After (DVD) Browsing around on Amazon, as you do, this film was recommended to me based on others I had watched and rated highly. It sounded pleasant enough, it starred Drew Barrymore, and it was rated PG. I like gentle family films rather than thrillers, so it sounded like my kind of thing. Reviews were mostly positive so it went on my wishlist, and I was given it for Christmas a couple of years ago. It’s taken until this long to decide to watch it. A few days ago my husband and I wanted to see something light and relaxing that would not tax our minds. He has eclectic tastes and was happy to see anything I chose. So we curled up on a sofa in the air conditioning to watch ‘Ever After’. EVER AFTER Billed as a ‘Cinderella’ story, that’s exactly what it is - but with a difference. There’s no fairy godmother in this, no pumpkin turning into a carriage, and no excited mice. This is far from the Disney version, or any other variation I’ve seen of the classic fairytale. Special effects are entirely absent. Instead, this film is topped and tailed by a discussion between an elderly monarch and a couple of writers; the monarch wants them to know the ‘truth’ about the story of Cinderella, which, she says, happened in its original form to one of her ancestors. The majority of the film is then set in Mediaeval times - probably around 1500, since one of the significant characters is the elderly artist Leonardo da Vinci. We first meet young Danielle, aged ten. She’s a happy child; her mother ...

Love Wins: At the Heart of Life's Big Questions - Bell, Rob 31/07/2015

All you need is love...

Love Wins: At the Heart of Life's Big Questions - Bell, Rob I first heard of Rob Bell some years ago. He’s a pastor in the United States, who founded a huge and very successful church, although he’s now left it. However, he’s far from being a right-wing evangelical. He’s a somewhat unorthodox and thought-provoking writer and speaker. Until recently, I had only read one of his books, recommended by a friend. I liked some of what he said, but felt that the style was too repetitive and rather annoying, and in the end found it a frustrating read. It then took me three years to get around to reading anything else that he wrote. I eventually picked up 'Love Wins' because the rest of my family had read it and were talking about it. They mostly described it in positive terms, but not entirely. I knew it was controversial: it’s a book that has caused huge waves in Christian circles around the world. Some people loved it, others denounced the author as a heretic. So, I thought it was a good idea to read for myself what the book actually says. LOVE WINS The author’s style seems to be to write in a way that creates a lot of empty space on the pages. This book doesn’t do this in an extreme way, although the margins are quite big and the paragraphs short. He has some very short sentences, or sometimes makes a point spread out over several lines, but not quite so much as the first book I read. Despite a passing thought that this style could be a way of increasing page count without writing more text, I didn't find it annoying at all. The book is ...

Ahmad Tea Raspberry & Pomegranate Flavoured Green Tea 24/07/2015

At least I liked the box....

Ahmad Tea Raspberry & Pomegranate Flavoured Green Tea I am one of that breed of Brits who does not like tea. That is to say, I don't like traditional black tea, whether served with milk, lemon, sugar, or none of the above. On the other hand, I do like a lot of fruity teas, both as a hot drink in the winter, or iced in the summer. In Cyprus, where I live, we need a lot of cold drinks in the hottest months. A few years ago I was convinced of the health benefits of green tea. It's made from unoxidised tea-leaves, and thus contains more antioxidants than regular tea. Alas, when I tried it, I disliked it almost as much as I dislike black tea. However, someone offered me a cup of the London fruit & herb brand ‘blackcurrant and green tea’, and I found it quite pleasant, tasting more fruity than tea-like. I bought some, and started drinking a cup each morning. I can’t say I felt any healthier, but these things are supposed to have long-term benefits rather than immediate. Our local supermarket stocked the London brand of teabags for a while, and sometimes their ‘raspberry and green tea’, which I also liked. But then they stopped doing so. So I would buy some when in the UK and bring them back, but didn’t want to stuff suitcases with a year’s supply. Online ordering from Holland and Barrett was fraught with problems, and Amazon’s stockists of these teabags refuse to deliver to Cyprus. AHMAD TEA So, when I spotted an Ahmad brand of teabags labelled ‘raspberry and pomegranate green tea’ in our supermarket, I decided to buy some. I ...

Organic and fairtrade products : are they part of your shopping list and do you think it’s just another marketing argument? 13/07/2015

Ethical consumerism?

Organic and fairtrade products : are they part of your shopping list and do you think it’s just another marketing argument? it’s easy to go through life in reasonable comfort, with barely a thought to the rest of the world. I know, I do it too often. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the horrors I read about in the news and elsewhere, and it’s far too easy to retreat into my cocoon, convinced that nothing I can do will make any difference. But change happens one step at a time. A butterfly flapping its wings in the Far East, we’re told, may trigger a hurricane, weeks later, in the United States. So I try to stay informed about global issues, and do what I can, however insignificant, to help those who have no voice of their own. FAIR TRADE PRODUCE Until a few years ago, I vaguely thought that when something was stamped with the Fair Trade logo, it simply meant that those who produced it were offered a fair wage. I would sometimes buy something stamped that way, but wondered whether even an unfairly low wage was better than nothing. Was I simply supporting large global conglomerates by succumbing to the Fair Trade ideal? Then a friend did some research. He uncovered horror stories about the chocolate, coffee and sugar trades in South American and African countries. Workers were not just badly paid, but in many cases enslaved. Young children are forced to pick coffee and chocolate beans in blazingly hot conditions, with no education, no freedom. They are treated as badly as the chimney-climbing children of the Victorian era in the UK. If they try to escape or collapse in exhaustion, they are ...

Bosch BSN 1900 Arriva 25/06/2015

Bosch Arriva

Bosch BSN 1900 Arriva Living in Cyprus, we don’t have any carpets. Our floors are tiled, and although the first house we lived in had carpets in the bedrooms, the one we bought nine years ago does not have any. So most of our floor cleaning happens with a broom or a mop. However, we have a biggish rug in our living room which helps the acoustics if we want to watch a DVD or listen to music. And rugs need vacuuming, particularly when the household consists not just of humans but contains three cats, who moult extensively at this time of year. I usually vacuum our soft furniture too, and sometimes, if there are a lot of crumbs on the dining room floor, I might run the vacuum over that - if it’s out - to save an extra brushing. We had an elderly bag-free cylinder vacuum cleaner, bought when we first moved to Cyprus. It did its job, but I always loathed emptying it as dust would fly everywhere. And it wasn’t all that powerful, either; it would get extremely hot at times. It had an attachment for carpets, but no rigid extending pieces, so it was always a bit awkward to vacuum a carpet. So when our son moved out and ‘borrowed’ it, we decided to make it a gift to him, and invest in a new vacuum cleaner ourselves. So, nearly seven months ago, we went out on a date to the large local supermarket which has a good selection of appliances upstairs, and were immediately overwhelmed by the possibilities. OUR REQUIREMENTS We knew that we wanted another cylinder vacuum cleaner. We have a large drawer in ...

Apple MB110B/A 11/06/2015

Apple Parfait

Apple MB110B/A Although I've had a Mac mini computer for some years now, it's only recently that I've acquired an Apple keyboard to go with it. Previously I had used a series of inexpensive keyboards, none of which really suited me. When my last one started to become unresponsive, my husband lent me one of his office Apple keyboards for the weekend. I was cynical at first, although grateful for something to use. However, within a couple of days I wanted one for myself. MY REQUIREMENTS I’m quite sensitive to wifi, so I have to have a wired keyboard, preferably one plugs into the computer via a USB port as it’s the simplest to set up. The wire is non-negotiable. I didn’t want anything that looked fancy, and since I’m quite a fast touch-typist (about 90-100 wpm) and write a lot, I didn’t want anything with clattery keys. I’ve liked a couple of laptop keyboards I have used, which are flattish, with a small gap between the keys, and a responsive feel; but had not thought it possible to emulate the laptop feel with a separate keyboard. I don’t often use the numeric keypad on a keyboard, preferring to touch-type with the numbers that are above the letters, in regular documents. But it can be useful to have numbers at the sides, if I’m entering figures on a spreadsheet or dealing with accounts, so on balance I prefer one, although this wasn’t a major criterion. As we live in Cyprus, I sometimes type a few words in Greek; my previous keyboards have had Greek letters on the keys, where they’re ...

The Magic Of Belle Isle (DVD) 29/05/2015

Captivating

The Magic Of Belle Isle (DVD) I assume that Amazon recommended this particular DVD to me a couple of years ago because I’ve enjoyed other films starring Morgan Freeman. I put it on my wishlist at the time and promptly forgot about it. So I was very pleased to be given it last Christmas, although we were both a little surprised to see that - other than the title - the DVD case is all in German. It's listed as 'Region 0', which should be playable on any player internationally, although there are some complaints on Amazon about people being unable to view it. Neither of us knows more than about half a dozen words of German, so I wondered if I’d made a mistake. However, English is listed as a language on the back, and thankfully it was easy to set the film to be in its original language when we decided to watch this with our twenty-something son a few weeks ago. Not that I’m any good with remotes and DVD settings, but happily I’m surrounded by those who understand them. Since I’d entirely forgotten what the reviews on Amazon said, and the blurb on the back was all in German, we had no idea what to expect. Still, we hoped for something pleasantly lightweight, perhaps mildly amusing, and, if possible, uplifting. We were pretty sure the acting would be good. We were not disappointed. THE PEOPLE OF BELLE ISLE Morgan Freeman stars as the cranky Monty, an elderly widowed writer who spends his life in a wheelchair and drinks too much. He has lost his writing muse and seems determined to drink himself into ...
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