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Reviews Written by
A. Byrnes "Andie" (London, UK)

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Blank Multi-Colour Key Ring 100 Pages (54x90mm)
Blank Multi-Colour Key Ring 100 Pages (54x90mm)
Offered by Xoo
Price: 6.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Quite pricey. but solidly built and the colours help, 17 Mar 2014
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I have been using these to help me learn Italian - writing words and phrases in Italian on once side and the translations on the other. They can then be flipped through from beginning to end or end to beginning, depending on whether or not I want to revise from Italian to English or English to Italian.

I liked the fact that the cards were divided into four colours, which means that I could categorize topics or themes and focus on those when I am on the bus or otherwise unoccupied.

The structure of the paper, which is actually light-weight card, is robust and doesn't crease. It is excellent to write on without leeching through to the reverse side (even with fountain pen), and the retaining ring is solid and can be opened to rearrange the pages or remove unwanted ones.

The overall quality is impressive and although I treat them badly (I have two of them, chucked into my handbag) they have shown no signs of giving in to the abuse for the 10 weeks.

Trefl Puzzle Sicily Italy (1000 Pieces)
Trefl Puzzle Sicily Italy (1000 Pieces)
Price: 9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Well made, but where did that skyline come from?, 17 Mar 2014
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This is a very well constructed jigsaw. If you are a puzzling fan you will know that the construction of the individual pieces makes all the difference between an enjoyable and a tedious experience. In this case, the pieces fit beautifully, they are thick and well made and the colours are as vibrant as on the box.

My only grouch is that I bought this as a souvenir of my holiday in Sicily and the view on the box has only an ephemeral relationship with reality. It was, however, the only puzzle I could find to buy. The bottom half of the scene shows the Greek amphitheatre in Taormina, a really lovely place. Beyond the amphitheatre, in real life, is a scene of colourful hill-side buildings on green slopes with Mount Etna rising up in the background. So why is there a completely silly over-saturated and obviously inappropriate sunset superimposed over the real background view?

If you aren't particularly worried about the authenticity of the scene, or can put up with the fact that you're looking at a pastiche of one photo superimposed on another, then this is a perfectly enjoyable puzzle to do.

How to Write Art History
How to Write Art History
by Anne D'Alleva
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Aimed at first year undergraduates and perfect for the job, 17 Mar 2014
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Anne D'Alleva is Associate Professor of Art History and Women's Studies at the University of Connecticut and write from the point of view of a teacher with a lecture hall full of students who have never looked at art in an informed way before, and have never attempted to write art history. The structure and content is all based around how to look at paintings, sculpture and buildings, how to describe them as a formal exercise in description (one problem) and how to interpret them in their historical and cultural context (a separate problem). She then goes on to explain how to deal with specific university essays and assignments that are likely to be set.

Her attitude is pragmatic - she has organized the book so that it can be read either from cover to cover or so that students can dip in and take out of it what they need. I was giving myself a much-needed refresher course after many years of writing archaeology articles and having got out of the mind-set of writing art history (in which I have a Masters degree from a long time ago), when I started writing articles about archaeological themes in art. But I can see that it would be just as useful to keep on one's shelves as a reference book.

It is a quick read. At 183 pages it isn't particularly long and it is the dimensions of an ordinary paperback. The font is quite large, there are a lot of bullet lists and the whole things is assembled more as a manual than a dense text, so it is very digestible and I read it very quickly. That is not to say that the content itself is light-weight, because it isn't. It is concise without skimping on detail, and contains enough examples and illustrative details to reinforce the author's points.

The book is a practical guide to how to make the most out of an undergraduate art history course, and how to make the most out of the material being studied.

I found it both enjoyable and useful, and would recommend it as a starting point for any students new to art history or anyone like me who is coming back to it after many years.

Belgo Cookbook
Belgo Cookbook
by Denis Blais
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great food, great fun, 12 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Belgo Cookbook (Hardcover)
This is typical of the Belgo Centraal restaurant itself - all about great food and fascinating beers with lots humour. There's a quirky edge to the presentation, which is intended to emulate the menu design and raises a smile, but the food is taken very seriously and the recipes are excellent.

The book opens with an introduction to London's Belgo restaurant and why it was established. It is then divided into seven sections: Moules, Frites, Biere, Cuisine A La Biere, Traditional Belgian Dishes, Belgo Specialites and Plus. Plus has special features including a brief history of Belgium and chocolate.

A lot of the recipes are accompanied by excellent photographs of the finished dish, which is always helpful, but others leave it to your imagination. The recipes give both the Belgian and English names, the number of servings that the recipe is designed for, and simple instructions for how to assemble each dish.

If you don't like mussels you are going to be seriously upset with the first chapter and much of the rest of this book. If you love them, you are going to be in ecstasy. There are good instructions for how to clean mussels, their shelf life, how to cook them and how to eat them. The recipes are wonderful, making the most out of the humble moule. Some are delivered in their casserole pot, (like the wonderful Moules Moutarde - mussels with mustard and cream) whilst the Moules Platters are cooked in the casserole but then arranged opened out on a platter, covered with toppings and finished under a grill or fried (like the simple but divine Moules Meuniere - pan-fried with lemon and butter).

The chapter on Frites starts with a history of the humble chip, a discussion of the various national approaches to cooking it, and a guide to cooking them. This book goes with the fry-twice approach, which most chefs seem to recommend these days.

It goes on to provide a history of Belgian beers, the types of Belgian beer available and what to drink them with, and how to pour the perfect glass, followed by a guide to cooking with beer and several recipes that use beer as a main ingredient. Getting hold of the beer might be a bit of a game unless you live near a specialist off-license - when did you last see Kriek cherry beer or Framboise raspberry beer in your local offie? But others use more mainstream beers like Hoegaarden and Duvel . Examples of dishes from this section are Duck with blackcurrant beer sauce, Chicken with beer, cream and mustard sauce, Pork fillet with Westmalle Dubbel Trappist Ale and Flemish Beef Stew. There are even two fruit beer desserts!

Next, there's a chapter on traditional Belgian dishes, and this is the least quirky and most mainstream section of the book. The ingredients are usually easy to source and there's a freshness to the dishes that is very appealing. There are starters, main courses and desserts. Including dishes like scallops with seafood and cream sauce and shrimp and brandy bisque croquettes, it follows up with dishes like eels in green sauce, Salad Liegeoise (warm salad with bacon, new potatoes and green beans), tarragon spring chicken, black pudding with sherry vinegar, Belgian sausages and mash, and several wonderful Waterzooi (stew) dishes. There are several desserts including lemon tart and Belgian chocolate mousse.

Belgo Specialities moves beyond the traditional and explores some of Belgo's signature dishes, including numerous recipes based on asparagus and leeks (both served simply with sauces), more mussel dishes, and others using some less obvious ingredients including snail and mushroom tartlets, warm pigeon salad, sauerkraut with mushrooms, and turbot with squid ink sauce. The mussel, cream and saffron soup is wonderful, as is the asperge meuniere, I am not much into desserts but the crepes look lovely, as does the triple chocolate terrine.

Two criticisms, apart from the difficulty of sourcing some of the ingredients: The descriptions of how to make the various oil-based dressings (particularly in the asparagus and leek sections) really don't make it clear that the incorporation of the oil into the ingredients is a tricky business that makes the difference between a thick sauce and a pool of liquid. The second is that there are no instructions for making the standard and distinctive Belgian mayonnaise that come with the frites in the Belgo restaurants.

I used to work around the corner from Belgo Centraal and we were regular lunchtime visitors there. The book brings back some great memories. If you are only interested in the food, you may be disconcerted by the number of pages dedicated to types of beer, but it would be a perfect gift for someone who is interested in both cooking terrific food and would have fun sampling the beers to go with it.

Savoury Specialities from Alsace
Savoury Specialities from Alsace
by Didier Roeckel
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A good guide to Alsatian recipes, 7 Feb 2014
As the title indicates, this book focuses exclusively on savoury dishes, so there are no desserts. The book is divided into aperitif, soups, starters and light bights, main courses, fish and side dishes.

Recipe titles are shown in French then English. Each recipe is accompanied by a photograph, which is immensely useful, and the photographs are good. Each has an estimate for preparation, proving (where needed) and cooking, and an indication of how many people the dish will serve. The ingredients are listed clearly on the left and the instructions for putting the recipe together are on the right of the page. Everything is very clear and easy to follow.

The recipes are fairly representative of what is available in restaurants in Strasbourg, which means that the cuisine leans firmly towards the German rather than the French. Examples of the dishes are savoury kougelhof, onion soup, white asparagus cream soup, onion tart, Alsatian style snails, black pudding and apple in puff pastry, baeckeoffe, lamb fries in Riesling, jugged venison, pheasant with sauerkraut, Munster cheese casserole, cockerel in Riesling, pot au feu, liver dumplings, fried carp, fish stew, spaetzle, fromage blanc quenelles, dampfnudel and potato salad.

It's a good, professionally produced book, and efficiently reproduces the meals that I ate in restaurants in Strasbourg.

Robertsons Lemon Pepper 100ml
Robertsons Lemon Pepper 100ml
Price: 2.90

1.0 out of 5 stars Very powdery and a very unnatural taste, 1 Feb 2014
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There's no description of the product at the time of writing, just a photograph, but having had gorgeous lemon pepper in the past from other brands, I was expecting this to be black peppercorns with lemon pieces ready for grinding. So it came as a bit of a surprise when it turned up, to find a very finely ground mixture that consists of a long line of ingredients, most of them artificial flavourings.

It's strange stuff. The dominant flavour is white pepper, with a strong black pepper aftertaste and a very, very chemical lemony tang. To me it was like eating a lemon-flavoured sweet covered in white and black pepper. I found it most unpleasant, but one has to allow for different tastes.

Out of curiosity I had a look to see what had gone into the bottle. Not a bit of lemon zest in sight! Here's the ingredient list from the label on the back of the bottle: Deep radurised black pepper (black and white 44%), salt, sugar, fumaric acid, radurised maize flour, monosodium glutamate, dried radurised garlic, vegetable oil (palm fruit), dried radurised nutmeg, flavouring, flavouring enhancers.

I'm not generally over-fascinated with reading ingredient lists on bottles, but this was really quite an eye-opener. I really hated the flavour so I chucked it straight in the bin. In the future I will be far more careful about what I when there's only a photograph and no accompanying description.

Monteverde Fine Point Ceramic Refill for Most Capped Rollerball Pens - Black (Pack of 2)
Monteverde Fine Point Ceramic Refill for Most Capped Rollerball Pens - Black (Pack of 2)
Price: 3.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Saved me a fortune and great to write with, 21 Jan 2014
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The packet of two Monteverde refills, at just under 4UKP at the time of writing, saved me an absolute fortune on refills for my Acme Design Studio pen, which was a gift. The branded Acme refills are over 5UKP per single refill, plus postage, but these Monteverde refills fit perfectly, doing just as good a job. They come with a printed outline on the packaging so that you can measure your own used refill against the shape to make sure that it is going to fit before you tear the packaging open (which means that you can return it for a refund should you need to). There is also a list of the pen manufacturers that the refill is expected to fit on on the outside of the box, although the blurb on the back of the pen makes it clear that none of these manufacturers endorse this product.

The packaging describes it as being composed of a resin tube, stainless steel tip with ceramic ball, and is filled with non-dry ink (it claims it is non-dry for up to two years).

A number of other reviews have criticized the refills on the grounds of poor smoothness and ink flow, but I have not experienced any problems to date. The refill is producing good results, the ink flows well and the point runs very smoothly across the page.

In all, a good experience to date and I am delighted to have found an affordable supplier for a much-loved pen.

Gastronomic Dictionary: Italian-English (Travel Books)
Gastronomic Dictionary: Italian-English (Travel Books)
by Thomas Harmsworth
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Small but very broad in scope, 13 Jan 2014
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Around 10x15cm in size, and 5mm width, this is a pocket guide that can be taken out in public without tearing the seams of said pocket and doesn't leave you with one side of your jacket longer than the other.

The book is an odd mixture. It describes itself as "The Perfect Pocket Italian Restaurant Menu Dictionary" but that doesn't quite get the scope of the thing. When it arrived I opened it at random and my eyes immediately picked out the word "istrice" - hedgehog. Is hedgehog the delicacy of some Italian region? Ditto with white whale - I cannot imagine sitting down to dinner and seeing that on the Specials board. But examples like this do suggest that the book is comprehensive. However, I then looked up "salmoriglio," a sauce that accompanies chicken and seafood, and is very common on Sicily. But there is no listing for that, even though it really is an Italian rather than regional term. There were a couple of other terms that I looked up on menus that were not listed, although many were. So as a restaurant decoder it is a bit of a mixed blessing.

On the other hand, if you pick up an Italian-language cookbook or two to bring home when in Italy, this is amazingly helpful as it gives you a lot of the words that you will need to translate the recipes, like "blanched," "thickening" and "grind."

More randomly, although still food-related, it includes words like "digestible," "gluttony" and "swallow." You might want to say some of these things, but this is an Italian to English only dictionary so the dictionary appears to assume that you will be reading this somewhere where you will need to translate these words from Italian into English, which seems a bit unlikely.

On which point, this is only Italian to English so you cannot look up food items and ingredients that you might like to look out for on a menu, and there's no indication for how to ask for your steak rare or well done.

Overall, this was very inexpensive and is so small and light that it is well worth buying to throw into your luggage. It's a bit of a mixture but great fun to read randomly and it does help with menus and recipes.

Sicily 14 tci (r) wp (Regional Road Map)
Sicily 14 tci (r) wp (Regional Road Map)
by TCI
Edition: Map
Price: 7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best of three options that we used on a driving holiday, 13 Jan 2014
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On a driving holiday for two weeks in Sicily, based in Taormina, we took the Marco Polo, the Michelin and this map. They all had various merits and downsides, but I think that overall this one was the best.

Like many other tourist maps, scenic routes are marked with a green line along the side of the road, and these are easily picked out. The Marco Polo has a lot more information (using stars and underling) about its evaluations of towns and sights as tourist attractions, but the lack of clutter on this map is very much welcome. There are helpful symbols, which are somewhat similar to Ordnance Survey maps - icons for ruins, monuments, battlefields, castles, churches, etc., so there are some indications of what can be found in an area, but they are tiny so not particularly easy to pick out. Most people carry guide-books so this may matter very little.

There are no contours shown but the relief is clearly marked, which helps. Peaks are marked with their altitude. The background colouring (mainly ivory and pale brown) mean that the colours used for rivers, roads and national parks stand out well.

Road numbers are particularly well marked, although whether this will be of much use in practice is another matter - most of the road signs on Sicily fail to mention road numbers.

The map itself is shown on one side of the map, which means that you don't end up turning yourself into origami in the car whenever you need to go from one part of the island to another. However, the reverse has been used to create an index of place names, which is useful. There are no town maps (which there are in the Marco Polo).

If you are intending to the use the the motorways a lot then I would recommend the Michelin, where the junctions are far more clearly marked and give you some idea of what to expect. This map indicates where there the junctions are located with a white dot, but is not particularly helpful at letting you know what to expect when you get there.

Sicily has a huge road-expansion and improvement strategy, and some of the roads are being upgraded to dual carriageways, whilst ring roads and other new roads are being added all the time. As a result all maps will become out of date very quickly and it might be a good idea to check on the year of publication.

As to durability, this is the only one of the three maps that we took with us that was made of a paper that is designed not to tear. It feels someone fragile as it has a strangely soft and thin feel to it, but it is actually very robust. It is also impermeable.

Overall, no map can do everything, so taking more than one is a good idea, but if I had to choose only one to take to Sicily this would be it.

Aeroxon Xon071 Food Moth Trap X2
Aeroxon Xon071 Food Moth Trap X2
Offered by Gardening Naturally
Price: 2.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It worked - and much more efficiently than other brands, 13 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Aeroxon Xon071 Food Moth Trap X2
Moth infestations are appalling. I've had clothes moth problems in the past but a couple of months ago I started having a moth problem in the kitchen. It took me a while to figure out what was going on, by which time they were firmly established and breeding rampantly.

There's no instant cure-all solution to food moths and it requires a multi-pronged approach. A thorough clean of all cupboards and draws with disinfectant, an obsessional watch-out for tiny caterpillars and their nests (usually hanging from walls and ceilings) and throwing out all susceptible food that could have been used for laying eggs (flour, rice, oats, cereals, chocolate, bird food etc) and the deployment of airtight (preferably clip-shut) boxes are all necessary. Removing a food source for the larvae is vital, or you'll never get rid of them, so sealing things away from them is essential. The moth traps are part of the armoury that you will need to successfully wipe them out.

I was so horrified that I went a bit mad and bought moth traps made by four different manufacturers (my experience with clothes moths having indicated that some brands are more effective than others). The Aeroxon was by far the most effective. Not only did it catch many more moths than other brands, but the sticky backing that lets you affix it to the inside of cupboard doors etc actually works (two of the other brands fell off almost immediately).

Note that the traps work by attracting male moths to a pheromone. This means that it does not trap the females, and they can continue to lay eggs, so it is a long-term job to use the traps to undermine the entire breeding population. But keep going with it, and it gets there eventually.

They need to be replaced every six weeks and there is a place on the trap that lets you write in a replacement date reminder, which is handy.

If you are unfortunate enough to have food moth problems, my sympathies and I wish you the best of luck resolving the situation. From my own experience, this should help.

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