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Magicalthinking (London, U.K)

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Shirley Valentine [DVD] [1989]
Shirley Valentine [DVD] [1989]
Dvd ~ Pauline Collins
Price: £3.84

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great film but I won't be tickling my you-know-what's over the DVD!, 11 July 2011
A lovely film that stands up really well. The themes are timeless and Willy Russell's script is very perceptive about women (and their relationships with men and each other) as usual. Pauline Collins gives the performance of a lifetime here and the supporting cast is excellent, especially George Costigan and the late Anna Keaveney as the type of provincial and bigoted British holidaymakers most of us have met abroad. Willy Russell and Lewis Gilbert opened up the one-woman play very successfully and watching the film you really wouldn't know it was originally a play.

It's a four star film but I'm knocking off a star for this poor DVD. Shame on Paramount for giving us this - like others have said, not only is it not in widescreen format but we've got the American version which has about four words that have been replaced and to hear the sound difference and watch the words not matching with what the actors are saying is pretty disconcerting. The 'MFI' thing - one of many hilarious lines in the British version - is just ruined. Looks like I'm going to have to go hunting in charity shops for the VHS version, which I originally had and gave away!

British Baking
British Baking
by Oliver Peyton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.00

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A long overdue and well thought-out celebration of British baking!, 5 Jun 2011
This review is from: British Baking (Hardcover)
This is my favourite recent cookbook and one I'm glad I bought.

It's designed gorgeously as some of the other reviewers have said - simple and not fussy, with inducingly mouthwatering super-duper photos of the recipes. About 90% of the recipes have accompanying pictures, which is a huge plus for me.

Chapters are; Techniques and Equipment, Biscuits, Cakes, Fairy Cakes and icings (huzzah - a return to Fairy cakes!), Fruity cakes, Tarts and pies, puddings, Breakfast goods, A cup of tea and a bun, Special Occasions, and Basics. Basics covers meringues and a few pastry recipes, plus things to cook and prep that accompany baked recipes, like lemon curd, brandy butter and a new one for me, pastry cream.

There's a superb range of recipes here. Most of them are the classics that you've probably either done before or want to have a go at like Bramley apple pie, eccles cakes, and a Victoria sponge, to things that you may not have heard of, like Cornish saffron cake, and poor knights of Windsor (an adult eggy bread with some alcohol), and recipes that should impress anyone - the carrot cake with honey cream cheese icing, and the marshmallow teacakes (never seen that in a recipe book before) to name just two. I've also noticed that these recipes aren't overloaded with fat and sugar, in the way that Nigel Slater's cakes and deserts aren't either.

Each recipe has the prep and cooking times, as well as how long it keeps, and the instructions are clear and detailed. All very helpful.

I made the banana nut loaf and the buttermilk scones, both very good but the loaf was out of this world! Substantial and not sickly, it was like no other banana loaf I've made before. Don't know if it was the butternut milk used that made the difference but it was terrific.

A small criticism is that at the back I would have liked a list of stockists but apart from that, this book is just magnificent.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 19, 2012 6:48 AM GMT

The Skinny French Kitchen
The Skinny French Kitchen
by Harry Eastwood
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.00

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good but spoiled by not enough pictures, 3 April 2011
Great book for the most part.

Chapters are:

*Apéritif (appetiser)
*A Table for Two
*Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (The lunch on the grass)
*Cold Comfort
*Les Desserts

Lots of lovely reading recipes (mostly without pictures) of the classic French dishes like bouef bourgiugnon (362 calories a portion) and crêpe Suzettes (201 calories) and Harry's also done versions of recipes not too familar to may of us in the U.K, such as rabbit and pork terrine with pistachios (184 calories). Vegetarians are bound to feel short-changed as in three of the chapters on main courses, there's only 12 vegetarian recipes. I realise that traditionally omnivores have been comparitively ignored in French cuisine but I did expect someone like Harry to be more open minded and imaginative with this.

Calories for each serving are stated on each of the recipe page along with a Skinny Secret which is about why that recipe is low in calories (very informative and sometimes enlightening), and sometimes there's a cooking tip too. What's also insightful are observations in the introduction on how and why French people generally stay slim. As I can be a bit lazy I would have also liked Harry to do what she did in her last book and say what equipment you need.

There's a small list of stockists at the back, which is handy because a small minority of the ingredients (like pigeon, frogs legs and rosemary vinegar) are hard to find.

On Friday night, I cooked the gratin Dauphinois from the book. Much less creamier than the traditional method - you have to poach the potatoes in garlic and milk, and use just three tablespoons of half-fat crème fraîche - and for me the lighter feel was preferable. The taste of the nutmeg and garlic came through nicely and I would happily serve that for a dinner party. It was also very easy and quick to do.

My main criticism is regarding the lack of pictures and is why I can't give the book five stars. 41 of 100 recipes are included here, which just isn't good enough. I find this particularly frustrating because even though I've been to France many times I'm not overly familar with French food and I would have liked to have seen photos for more of the recipes I want to try, especially the mushroom tart and poire belle Hélène dessert. I also like seeing what the recipe is supposed to look like, whatever the cuisine and find it off putting when I find a recipe in a book when there's no photo to accompany it. Some of the more difficult recipes like rabbit and cider casserole with caramelized apples, and thyme-roasted pigeons with cream of garlic confit are also missing photos. It's not in the slightest bit helpful. The pictures of Paris, Harry, and single ingredients actually outnumber the pictures of the recipes.

And no bread recipes at all?!

So not the masterpiece it could have been but once again Harry has done something original and on the whole done a great job.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 25, 2013 11:37 PM BST

The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days
The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days
by Tarek Malouf
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.60

73 of 83 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quite lovely but works best if you don't have the other book, 25 Mar 2011
Flicking through the book initially I wanted to cook absolutely everything in it - and there's the right amount of cakes, loaves, cupcakes, cookies, whoopie pies, and cheescakes here - but looking through it again I think there's some problems with it.

It's split into these chapters:

*Valentine's Day
*Spring Weekend Bakes
*Mother's & Father's Day
*Summer Afternoon Tea
*Birthdays and Celebrations
*Rainy day treats
*Halloween & Bonfire Night

But better if, like the first book, this book was split into chapters on the types of recipes themselves. It's a bit easier finding what you need, as another reviewer says. I don't think dividing it into events and occasions is that useful for most people.

Chapters on baking essentials (most of which are for beginners), are at the back of the book along with decorating ideas and a list of suppliers.

I'm not keen on the overlap between this and the other book. There's three identical recipes, all cupcakes - vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet, plus six other recipes that have obviously been slightly tweaked from the first book - lemon cupcakes/lemonade cupcakes, ginger cake/gingerbread cake, blueberry cake/blueberry and soured cream cake, pecan pie/chocolate and pecan pie, carrot cake/carrot and ginger cake, and lemon and poppy seed cake/lemon poppy seed loaf. More originality please next time and less laziness.

As most of the seven show-stopping cakes here are layered you'll need three or four sandwich tins to make them and so they require an awful lot of fat and sugar. They're pretty hardcore. Personally I prefer to make cakes in just one tin (less of a faff and a teeny bit healthier) but as I'm an experienced baker I can adjust the amounts of ingredients and timings of them, which I think is worth it - the spiced apple cake with brown sugar frosting looks especially heavenly. And with these cakes, as another reviewer says you're eating alot of sugar in one portion, if you do them layered as in the book. I guess if you're doing them for an occasional celebration they're fine.

The chocolate guinness cake isn't layered yet needs 400 grams of sugar in the sponge alone. It looks divine but I'm thinking this is a rather excessive amount! Would love to hear from anyone who's tried it. I'm thinking of adapting it with half the amount of sugar.

I made the walnut and honey loaf the other night and enjoyed it alot. Perfect for a warm spring day with a cup of tea and as he says the two ingredients marry really well.

All in all I would (cautiously) recommend it, especially for those without the first book.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 7, 2013 5:26 PM GMT

Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache: The ultimate feel-good book of natural cakes that taste naughty
Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache: The ultimate feel-good book of natural cakes that taste naughty
by Harry Eastwood
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.60

4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome breath of fresh air, 19 Mar 2011
In an age when so many dull cookbooks are being published, I applaud Harry for coming up with something new and gorgeously presented.

I was a little dubious of the concept of substituting butter or oil for vegetables but on the whole it works wonderfully. I've made the cinnamon and banana loaf (with courgettes), and the carrot cake, both very tasty and not as dry as I expected. But they weren't as moist as the traditional cakes I've made and I felt that I missed the taste of butter a little. However, as Harry's recipes are a little healthier than I think that's something worth getting used to. Everything looks lovely but especially the cake which gave the book it's title, plus the chocolate pistachio cake.

I'd have liked a little more pictures of the cakes but everything else visually is superb. Just the right amount of pictures of Harry, clear instructions, useful 'trust me' tips for most of the recipes and thank goodness she tells you what equipment you need for every recipe, separate from the ingredients, a small and helpful touch still overlooked by too many cookbook writers. Some people will doubtless find her writing of the cakes as characters twee but I found it refreshing and different.

But why I'm not giving it full marks is because I think that on the back page and in the introduction, Harry makes a little too much of the cakes being 'healthy'. The health benefits of the vegetables once they've been finely chopped, then cooked, then eaten with the sugar I'd have thought would be almost negligible...

BlackBerry HDW-24206-001 Pocket Case for BlackBerry Curve 8520 Series Handsets - Black
BlackBerry HDW-24206-001 Pocket Case for BlackBerry Curve 8520 Series Handsets - Black
Offered by DeviceFun
Price: £1.69

5.0 out of 5 stars An essential BlackBerry product, 11 Mar 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A quite wonderful product. I've had it a few months now, since I bought my BlackBerry, and my phone is almost constantly coming in and out of this case and despite this, the case has kept it's shape brilliantly. I also like that you can see the light flashing on your phone when it's in the case and that there's no faffing around with a strap at the top. You don't need a strap anyway - I've just held my phone in the case upside down and it hasn't dropped out! It fits snugly, and you can charge it when it's in the case. Brilliant.

Longtime Companion [DVD]
Longtime Companion [DVD]
Dvd ~ Stephen Caffrey
Price: £4.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An underseen classic of American cinema, 11 Feb 2011
This review is from: Longtime Companion [DVD] (DVD)
I've loved Longtime Companion ever since I first watched it as a teenager in the mid-90's and it loses none of it's power rewatch after rewatch.

It follows a group of mostly gay friends in New York over eight years in the 1980's as they initially become aware of HIV and AIDS and subsequently how the disease makes a devastating impact on all of their lives. Norman Rene's direction is unobtrusive and Craig Lucas's script is insightful, occasionally hilarious, non-preachy and has excellent characterisation. Something else I love about this film is that with this material, the script and performances could have easily veered into mawkish territory at times but they never do. Acting-wise, a terrific ensemble of actors are in this film and Bruce Davison more than earned his Oscar nomination - his `let go' scene is incredibly poignant. I would say that the single greatest thing about this film is that you care immensely about the characters, which is why the last five minutes has such a massive impact, a great tribute to Lucas's magnificent screenplay. It's perhaps the most moving scene I've ever seen in a film. I won't say anymore about it but be prepared!

No extras whatsoever but the film speaks for itself.

It's a really wonderful film - an emotional celebration of friendship, beautifully realised. I only wish I could give it more stars!

Leonard Maltin's 2011 Movie Guide (Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide)
Leonard Maltin's 2011 Movie Guide (Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide)
by Leonard Maltin
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable! Every one I've had gets well used, 10 Feb 2011
I've been getting his movie guide most years going back since 1992 and it's so invaluable, whether you want to see what he thinks of your favourites, or what I do more often, which is to check reviews in this book of obscure films I quite fancy watching but aren't sure about. None of the reviews are in-depth but that's not really the point of this book. They're concise, often funny, and always informative and the film index of stars and directors, past and present, is really useful too.

Baking Made Easy
Baking Made Easy
by Lorraine Pascale
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £4.85

22 of 33 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It could have been so much better, 26 Jan 2011
This review is from: Baking Made Easy (Hardcover)
I really feel this was, on the whole, quite a missed opportunity from Lorraine.

The presentation of the book is quite dull and plain so with that and the lack of pictures I sense a rush job here. It could have done with some illustrations and more colour. Exactly half of the 100 recipes have photos and I don't imagine this being helpful in a book that will inevitably mainly appeal to less experienced bakers simply by virtue of the book's title. There's a little too many photos of Lorraine also, which is a bit distracting and tacky.

What's going on with the inclusion of the eleven recipes that aren't baked? They're either cooked on the hob, chilled in the fridge or both, or in the case of the chocolate and raspberry swirl cheesecake, it's just a matter of putting the ingredients together with no cooking involved at all. This is a book about baking and Lorraine says in her introduction that she `wanted to offer a series of recipes to showcase the magical chemistry of baking' so why are they are in here? I might have been a little more forgiving if Lorraine had mentioned at any point in the book about why they're in here but she doesn't. Perhaps she just didn't have 100 baking recipes ready before her deadline and shoehorned these in instead. If so that's fine, but she should have said something in the book. As C.M Dunne said earlier, it's totally misleading to have these in a book about baking.

Most of the recipes have been done before many times and therefore would appeal more to beginners. Not keen on some of them at all - grated cheese lollipops for a dinner party? Much more suited for a children's party, surely? And vol-au-vants? Who wants all that puff pastry crumbling down your clothes when you're with company? Nothing much original here at all in here and I wouldn't recommend this for experienced cooks, not buying it anyway. But last night I cooked the hazelnut and lemon Madeleines as I've never seen this recipe before and wanted to do something super-quick after work. Lovely, and good as petit-fours, as she says. I look forward to trying the baked butternut squash with quinoa, feta, basil and mint. The instructions for the Madeleines and all the other ones I read in the book, including some of the fairly tricky ones, were no more `easier' to understand than in the recipes of most other food writers.

A baking cookbook that will mostly appeal to beginners should have a section on the equipment you need, why you need it, and stockists for it all but this doesn't. Tips for each of the recipes should have been included here too in a separate section on the recipe's page (though there are general tips at the beginning), and a glossary also.

Why no note about using free range eggs and some organic ingredients? It seems a bit strange not to have mentioned these for issues surrounding ethics, health and taste as most cooks do these days. If Lorraine doesn't believe in using them then she should really say.

I've always thought that the belief that baking is difficult is a fallacy. You just need a book that's well written, comprehensive and from an erudite author with as many pictures of the recipes as possible to give you the guidance and there's loads out there already that provide this. Best of the bunch in my opinion are Mary Berry's Baking Bible and Bake. It feels like Lorraine's tried to appeal to the novices and experienced cooks but I think she should have focused on one or the other. If you're interested in the book then I would get it from the library if you can as I did or buy a better all-round baking book.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 10, 2011 12:12 PM GMT

What Would Audrey Do?: Timeless Lessons for Living with Grace & Style: Timeless Lessons for Living with Grace and Style
What Would Audrey Do?: Timeless Lessons for Living with Grace & Style: Timeless Lessons for Living with Grace and Style
by Pamela Keogh
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful, charming, and inspiring gem of a book, 23 Jan 2011
I accidentally stumbled upon this book a couple of years ago one rainy Saturday afternoon while I was browsing in a bookstore and I've read it three times since. There's very few books I have the inclination to read more than once but this is one of them.

The chapters cleverly combine biography with tips on how and why to emulate Audrey Hepburn, including things on her fashion sense, her spirit, her home, and her relationships. It's clear that Pamela is a huge fan and has really done her homework yet her tone isn't deferential. I love the ten gorgeous illustrations of Audrey by Monika Roe that begin each chapter and they're really the icing on the cake of this divine book, which is masses of fun to read. It's informative too and never worthy or pretentious.

Buy it (it would make a wonderful gift), or at least get it from your library. You don't need to be earning movie star-type big bucks to take alot away from this book. As Pamela says in the introduction, 'don't you think we could all use some Audrey in our lives, right now?'

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