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Decorated: Sublimely Crafted Cakes for Every Occasion
Decorated: Sublimely Crafted Cakes for Every Occasion
by April Carter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Too pretty to eat!, 20 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What I like about this book is that the recipes are doable even for an amateur, because the emphasis is on making simple but clean-looking cakes with a professional finish, rather than very complex decorating schemes that require a lot of modelling skills.

A number of the cakes are un-iced and the wow factor comes from stacking multiple layers of them and decorating with fresh fruit or flowers for an opulent but achievable look, e,g the black forest tower. Among the frosted cakes, there's an amazing looking chocolate cake embellished with glittered blackberries, a fabulous white rose cake with ombre effect buttercream, and no other decoration apart from a scant scattering of petals on top, plus (my favourite) a paper flag decorated sea-salt caramel and chocolate cake. In addition to the traditional sponges, there are also cookie stacks, choux buns and a fig tart.

There's additional info on prep and suitable equipment, icing techniques and transporting your cakes - even how to photograph them to best advantage if you have a blog or are thinking of setting up a catering business. All in all a good book which should help even those not very skilled at baking to be able to turn out something more than fit for a celebration.


Heyland and Whittle Green Tea and Grapefruit Body Wash
Heyland and Whittle Green Tea and Grapefruit Body Wash
Price: £12.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated citrus., 20 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The grapefruit gives this body wash a nice citrusy edge and, in my opinion, is vastly preferable to the sharper lemon based products which can sometimes smell like bathroom cleaners. Also the green tea has a softening, and slightly herby effect, which helps tone down the zing factor to make the cleanser a bit more sophisticated than it otherwise might be. The gel is reasonably thick and lathers well. Some decent ingredients included like Vitamin E which is great for your skin and found in high end skin care and bath products like Jo Malone. The packaging is of very good quality - a sturdy bottle with a decent pump. I like that there is a range so you can pair this up with a body lotion or home fragrance such as a candle. Nothing wrong with this product - the only reason I'm not giving it 5 stars is because I tend to prefer slightly milkier fragrances like shea butter or vanilla, and the heavy dose of moisturisation you usually get from a cream formula.


Carte Noire No.6 Lungo Nespresso Compatible Coffee Capsules 56 g (Pack of 4)
Carte Noire No.6 Lungo Nespresso Compatible Coffee Capsules 56 g (Pack of 4)
Price: £11.16

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The lapsang souchong of coffees., 14 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've tried a ton of different Nespresso capsules - only found one that I thought was worth purchasing again - and had come to the general conclusion that this type of technology just cannot make a decent cup of coffee. I was preparing to be similarly underwhelmed by these Carte Noire capsules, but actually they're not at all bad.

The capsules are packed in individual wrappers, then boxed in tens. You get a lovely aroma upon opening the wrappers so there is clearly a benefit to having them prepared like this, though I did think compared with some of the other Nespresso capsules I've tried, the packaging seemed a bit wasteful. They fit my Krups machine nicely - not too tight - and the capsules are pierced quite easily (also unlike some other brands) which meant I didn't feel I was risking my machine by using non-branded coffee.

The description in the Amazon précis of a smokey note is spot on, also there's a slight bitterness, though this was easily countermanded by the addition of a little brown sugar. I drank mine at espresso strength, rather than 'lungo' as suggested on the box, with a tiny dash of semi skimmed milk, though I think they'd also be fine diluted for a latte or cappuccino. There was an impressive crema on top - one of the thickest layers I've seen from a Nespresso capsule - though the coffee beneath seemed just a little bit thin to me in comparison.

All in all this is not a bad product by Carte Noire and I would imagine the average Nespresso user would quite like these in comparison to other brands of capsules. However, I still don't think any Nespresso gadget makes coffee a patch on a proper high pressure espresso machine though - sorry!.


BLACK+DECKER 32.4V 2-in-1 Stick Vac with ORA technology
BLACK+DECKER 32.4V 2-in-1 Stick Vac with ORA technology
Price: £249.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Svelte but costly, 14 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a near-full sized vacuum cleaner that's slightly lower in weight than a standard model, and charges via a base station so that you can use it cordlessly around the house. It comes with a number of attachments for cleaning upholstery, and you can also take it apart, using the centre section alone, without the bar beater and long handle, so it's more like a traditional small scale dustbuster if you prefer.

There's some basic self-assembly to do - the handle requires attaching, and you will need a Philips screwdriver to do this. Once fixed into place the handle does not collapse down, which I think is a bit of a disadvantage in terms of storage. Mine came partially charged - there is a large, easy to read illuminated dial that tells you the percentage charge remaining, and after giving it a bit of a boost I tried it out on carpet and hard kitchen floor. It has decent suction (for the size and weight of the model), though some pet hair was still left behind on the carpet. It tilts right back so you can get under even quite low furniture, and is easy to transport from room to room because there's no unplugging and replugging in anywhere. The lack of cord and plug to stow also makes the unit very streamlined and easy to carry.

As a cautionary note, I anticipate having to empty this cleaner quite frequently, as the bin is on the small side - I have a Dyson similar in design, and much as I like the compactness of these models I find the low capacity of the bins a bit of a pain. Also, I find that the small single brush bars of the type that are seen on this machine tend to get clogged up pretty quickly and need cleaning out quite often, so am a little wary of that too - though would be happy to be proved wrong (and will update this review later if in fact I am).

If I'm honest, I'm not really sure what the intended market for this vacuum cleaner is. If you want something compact and lightweight to clean the car or tidy up isolated small spills around the house, then there are handhelds that can do the job for typically two thirds of the price. Likewise, you can get a good quality full sized more powerful vacuum for pretty much the same cost as this Black and Decker. True, this is a little bit lighter than a normal vacuum cleaner. and the cordless feature means it's quicker to go from room to room, but I'm just not convinced it will work as a main vacuum - and it's pricy enough that I think for this sum of money it should be able to. It would probably work best for someone who is very tidy and doesn't have a huge amount of cleaning to do, and/or someone who has dexterity problems or can't manage heavy vacuums. There's nothing wrong with it at all - it does what it's designed to do quite well, but I personally think it's a bit pricy for what it is.


Wahl Full Size Massager
Wahl Full Size Massager
Price: £30.14

3.0 out of 5 stars Limited oooh and aaah potential., 6 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I thought this massager was ok but nothing special.

The positives are that it feels well made, comes in a really good quality zip case for travel, and despite some of the other reviews saying it's quite heavy, I felt the weight was actually not too bad once I got it out of the box. The changing of the various massage heads is very straight forward - just pull the old one off, and snap the new one on.

On the downside, the instructions are printed in a weird difficult to read font, although the fact the device is fairly self-explanatory means this isn't much of an issue. The biggest drawbacks for me were 1) that this massager is not cordless - it meant I had to stand by an electrical socket to use it which hardly aids relaxation, and 2) that the knobbly heads really aren't that enjoyable to use - the only sensation you get is a generalised vibration and that doesn't qualify as a massage in my book. Btw, if the word 'vibration' conjours up alternative uses in your mucky mind, I'm sorry to have to disappoint, but it clearly states 'not suitable for use on the genitals' in the instructions :-P. The flat heated massage head was probably the most pleasurable to use but short of dragging my bed or the sofa closer to the plug socket, I don't think this gadget will be coming out of its box much.


Pure Evoke D2 Mio Portable DAB Digital/FM Radio with Bluetooth - Cerulean
Pure Evoke D2 Mio Portable DAB Digital/FM Radio with Bluetooth - Cerulean
Price: £119.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality build. Quality sound. Quality product., 6 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Pure is renowned as a producer of high quality DAB radios and the Evoke D2 carries on this tradition with considerable aplomb. Although it's the smallest of the Evoke range it doesn't skimp on features or sound.

I currently own a Pure DAB One Mini and use it constantly as a bedside radio so I was keen to see how things have moved on in the five years since I purchased it. To be fair the Evoke D2 is a higher end product than the One Mini but that notwithstanding it's still evident there have been some new developments in the intervening years. The unit is about twice as deep and a third as high as the One mini but still sits comfortably on a kitchen top or bedside table. It looks fabulous. The soft grey wooden unit enclosed front and back by leather effect, detachable covers that come in a range of colours. It sits on two rubberised strips that provide some grip on smooth surfaces.

The front of the unit hosts the display panel, with the usual station identification, track now playing, time and signal strength indicators. There are four station preset buttons with the ability to store up to twenty presets. Volume and channel selection are via two chunky knobs with sound source and menu located on two smaller buttons below the display. The power button is also on the front, although some have mentioned they think the placement is not ideal, due to the potential for pushing the radio over, I found the pressure required to switch on and off insufficient to risk toppling it.

Out of the box it took less than two minutes to attach the power cable, select the language and have it scanning for stations. The scanning was extremely quick and found all the stations I know to be available without any difficulty. Unlike the Mini One The Evoke D2 also has an FM option. Again the auto search for those stations was simple and the sound quality good. The single speaker produces a rich tone with no discernible crackle, hiss or signal dropout. It was really very impressive for so small a box and a big improvement on the Mini One. The rear of the unit has sockets for headphones, auxiliary speakers and the power cable. I popped in my headphones and the quality of stereo output was excellent. It also sounded great through a set of 5.1 speakers. Another party trick of the Evoke D2 is it's ability to connect to bluetooth devices. It was easily discovered by both my laptop and phone and was playing tracks in moments.

Although the unit is very portable it's limited to tethered operation unless you buy an additional rechargeable power pack. The cost of this is probably my only niggle with the Pure range but buying one does improve your options. I probably wont bother as I already have a decent bluetooth stereo speaker. The Evoke D2 also has some very useful alarm and timer functions as well as the ever useful snooze option which, given the likely locations of use, should prove handy

In summary the Pure Evoke D2 Mio is an easy to use, nice sounding DAB/FM radio with excellent build quality. So confident are Pure that they throw in a three year warranty in the unlikely event something should go wrong. I'd be very surprised, on my previous experience with Pure radios, if I ever have to use it.


Do-Ahead Christmas: Stress-Free Cooking for the Festive Season
Do-Ahead Christmas: Stress-Free Cooking for the Festive Season
by James Ramsden
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the sprout..., 18 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Handy little book full of things to make for the festive season. I liked the drinks section which had some very original cocktails such as tangerine whiskey sours and chestnut punch, and the turkey alternatives like pork loin stuffed with figs and a fab-looking salmon en-croute. The veggie mains were less impressive - yet another version of nut loaf (albeit tarted up somewhat with a savoy cabbage leaf coat)- however the veggie side dishes looked really good - red cabbage with port and an unusual braised fennel with orange and vermouth. There's a small section of foodie gifts including damson gin, which I've had before - you would not believe how morish this drink is - and a leftovers section suggesting turkey fricassee and panattone bread and butter pudding.

I have another James Ramsden book, Small Adventures In Cooking, which I think has the edge in terms of novel recipes - however this Christmas book wins in the styling stakes, with a proper hard cover and loads more pictures. Clever use of Christmas giftwrap as endpapers and chapter dividers, plus Nigella-style bottle brush Christmas trees and plastic deer adorning a number of the recipes for that essential little bit of yuletide kitsch.


Lake District: Low Level and Lake Walks (British Walking)
Lake District: Low Level and Lake Walks (British Walking)
by Vivienne Crow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cagoules at the ready!, 8 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I live by a river and often take weekend walks along the riverbank or over the water meadows, so whilst I am perfectly happy in the great outdoors, I have no high level walking or climbing experience. This book thus appealed to me greatly with its less common take on the Lake District - with the exception of a few elevated sections, mostly low level walking away from the peaks. Please don't think that means uninspiring scenery though, because in addition to the lakes themselves, the treks also bypass tarns, waterfalls, stone bridges and ancient forest, often with the fells as an imposing backdrop.

Vivienne Crow's guide is well set out, with 30 walks included, all between 4-10 miles in length. The walks are graded 1-5 for difficulty, with maps showing whether the trails are circular or linear (if they are linear public transport options to complete the loop are given). There are details on where you can stop for refreshments en-route, and most importantly, lots of inspiring colour photographs - many of the traditional guides have no pictures, or resort to line drawings which look stylish or evoke a sense of the edwardian intrepid explorer but ultimately aren't always that helpful. The book is small enough to fit into a rucksack or large jacket pocket (along with your compass and Kendal mint cake!).

There are a few minor downsides such as the font being quite small and a little tricky to read, plus as the author herself admits the maps included are for a broad overview only, and you will probably need the appropriate OS map covering the route you've chosen as well, although to be fair the descriptions of the trails are very well written and might prove sufficient on some of the more straightforward walks. Since many of the routes start from car parks or station car parks I would have ideally liked some info on number of parking spaces/likelihood of getting in at busy times. Apart from that though it's a great book and I can't wait to try out the walks.


Cole & Mason 165 mm Dark Wood Morley Crank Pepper Mill, Brown
Cole & Mason 165 mm Dark Wood Morley Crank Pepper Mill, Brown
Offered by Nextday Catering Equipment Supplies
Price: £24.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Stylish, effective and great value., 24 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've previously had the Cole & Mason powered pepper grinder and it was a quality item but like all powered grinders it becomes a bit useless when it runs out of juice and you don't have spare batteries to hand. No such problems with his hand cranked version.

It's has a solid reassuring weight and feel that cries out durable reliability. It looks fabulous, the high shine chrome finish contrasting with the warm brown of the wooden body and handle. The capacity is such that you won't need to refill it every couple of days but even the process for refilling is a breeze. The top crank pulls off allowing you to simply pour in more peppercorns. The crank action is extremely effective and delivers a good dusting of pepper on every easy turn and doesn't at any point feel flimsy or require forcing. It's quite pricey for a simple pepper mill but I think at this level of quality the price is justified. A great addition to the pantry and thoroughly recommended.


PetSafe ScoopFree Replacement Crystal Litter Tray, Blue, Pack of 3
PetSafe ScoopFree Replacement Crystal Litter Tray, Blue, Pack of 3
Price: £38.26

3.0 out of 5 stars Very, Very Expensive!, 22 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What's to be said about these. They go with the Petsafe Self Cleaning Litter trays I reviewed previously. Notionally they're supposed to last up to 30 days but this is dependent on the diet and size of your moggy. With my large British Shorthaired male on a wet food diet I think I wouldn't get more than 20 days out of one tray. At that rate of usage and working out at almost £17 pounds a tray this is much less economical than my usual non clumping litter. I just don't think they do a good enough job to justify that cost.


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