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captive8122@hotmail.com "Isla" (Nutzville)

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Breville Cupcake Creations VTP100 Cupcake Baker
Breville Cupcake Creations VTP100 Cupcake Baker

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Might go over well in the states..., 26 April 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Call me an old-fashioned grouch, but they're fairy buns, not cupcakes. This imported mania for quasi-muffin style cakes tarted up to dazzling extremes is a long way from the humble and beloved butterfly bun or just the simple airy light fairy cake that I remember very fondly from my childhood. That's one of my earliest memories - my mum whipping up fairy cakes using her hands to cream the butter and sugar and add the eggs. No fancy gadgets at all. Just careful folding in of the flour, a patient explanation to my fascinated 5 year old self about the perils of curdling, and into the oven for 15 minutes. They were always, always perfect. Never been able to replicate them, either, but is anyone ever able to recreate the magic of their childhood?

I guess there's a bit of that magical promise contained in the premise of this gadget. You're being sold the idea of perfect 'cupcakes.' The reality of the thing is a long way from that, though. Unless burnt fingers, stuck-on batter, and over browned lumps of nuked bun are your personal cuppa tea. Maybe the quality of the cake doesn't matter so much these days given the trend for ever-increasing mountains of multi-coloured icing and decoration. Seems like the bun itself is almost an afterthought, or just the coat-hanger for the tacky clothing. All a bit American for my tastes. Give me a good WI fairy cake any day of the week. They're not meant to be totally symmetrical or uniform or capable of being churned out like sausages on a production line. The whole charm of home-made cakes is that they're never the same twice and the fact that you've bothered to create something (hopefully with love and care) is what elevates them and makes home baking special. There's no real point just blitzing a batter together and then slinging it in some gadget, especially when that gadget doesn't produce good results.

Your humble patty tins, paper cases or even silicon moulds are a lot cheaper and far more reliable. Don't buy into the tarted-up hype!


Sherlock Holmes: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries & Other Stories
Sherlock Holmes: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries & Other Stories
by John Taylor
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £13.25

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No Conan Doyle, but very entertaining, 21 April 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I wasn't sure what to expect from John Taylor's stories - I'm an avid fan of Sherlock Holmes in all his incarnations and I've treasured Conan Doyle's stories since I was a little girl - so I was reluctant to take a chance on a pretender to the throne. Still, I'm glad I had a listen. The stories lack the great layering of the originals, and if you approach them expecting the same dazzle and drama then you may be disappointed, they're entertaining in parts but never wonderfully baffling. What elevates them, though, is Benedict Cumberbatch's excellent narration and performances. He really throws himself into the job and teases out as much menace, colour, comedy and pathos as he can possibly squeeze from the material. I found him captivating - the CD certainly beat listening to the traffic news during the easter road mayhem! Keep your expectations modest and you may be pleasantly surprised.


Vipre Premium, Protects 1 PC for the PC's Lifetime (PC)
Vipre Premium, Protects 1 PC for the PC's Lifetime (PC)

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic package, 21 April 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've tried many anti-virus packages, but none have been as user-friendly nor as comprehensive as Vipre Premium. Even the installation process is a breeze compared to resource hogs like Norton etc. It's very easy to customise your settings and even for total newbs the interface is so clear, and the accompanying guides and advice so generous, that you won't feel at all baffled or blinded by science. It's lovely to have found a package that I doubt I'll need to think about exchanging - and, as a bonus, this appears to be working well on two laptops I have, so I think the license must be for one user rather than one PC. Highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 13, 2011 5:47 PM BST


Starting Over, One Cake at a Time
Starting Over, One Cake at a Time
by Gesine Bullock-Prado
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly sincere..., 24 Mar. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm a cake, pastry and general sweet fiend, so I couldn't resist giving this book a go, but I was braced to set it down very quickly after skimming through for recipes. I assumed (stupidly - not the first time) that it would be rather luvvy-ish and peppered with gratuitous Hollywood name-dropping and sickly anecdotes.

I was totally wrong. And very glad to be! Gesine B-P (the double surname is the only jarring thing about her, seriously) writes immediately engaging prose, the secret of which is her absolute honesty. She hides nothing - her self-confessed freakiness, 'misanthropy,' and neuroses, her unhappiness working an empty job in movie production, right through to her greatly enthusiastic and infectious raptures about the joy that a simple little cake, lovingly prepared, can bring to someone's day. I think it'd be impossible not to warm to her, she comes across as so sincere and so human. She freely confesses her many cock-ups, is honest about not wanting to share her bread-and-butter best recipe, but generously provides recipes for just about everything else, comprehensively detailed with plenty of tips and useful pointers. As usual, there's the slightly sticky wicket of the American 'cups' issue, which will drive you mad very quickly, but Gesine often uses European measurements, too, and she also includes conversion tables at the back of the book which help take some of the hair-tugging frustration out of it.

It's tempting to skim through and focus on the recipes, but if you start reading each chapter in earnest, it's very hard not to be drawn into the world of her Vermont bakery and taken up with all the daily trials and dramas and triumphs she shares, not to mention many very funny stories - look out for the heavy-breathing phone pest with a fetish for pastries anecdote! It's also very interesting, and moving, to hear about the impact her mother and her grandmother have had on her relationship with food, and the recipes that were passed from generation to generation. Patisserie is quite clearly a vocation for her, a real passion and far more than just a job. If you share a little of that sweet-toothed fanaticism, then it's lovely to read the thoughts of a kindred spirit.

It's hard to pick a favourite recipe from the book, but I've tried several now and been very impressed with most - there's a number that I would love to try but they're real 'statement' gateaux and would take an amateur like me probably a couple of days to finish, so they'll require advanced planning just to attempt! But if I had to recommend one recipe that's given me a lot of pleasure, it'd be the simplest one - Raspberry Meringues. I don't know why, but I'd just never have thought of adding raspberries to meringue mixture before cooking. Probably would've been scared. But I've made so many of them now, and they're maybe the most popular treat I have on stand-by in the pantry, for kids and adults alike. Everyone demands a raspberry meringue. So, many thanks to Gesine for sharing that recipe in particular, and I have to heartily recommend it to everyone else!


The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (BBC Audiobooks)
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (BBC Audiobooks)
by Derek Jacobi
Edition: Audio CD

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Absolute Delight..., 24 Mar. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This was really the perfect pick-me-up treat for a cold and incredibly miserable winter's night's listening. Nothing on tv (not quite sure why we bother with the license fee anymore) so we decided to give these recordings a whirl, and once started, one story just wasn't enough! We listened into the wee small hours, right through to my personal favourite of them - The Musgrave Ritual. Derek Jacobi is quite simply an absolute genius, and the way in which he manages to not only feed atmosphere, menace and tremendous subtlety into his narration, as well as nailing every aspect of characterisation, is really spellbinding. This little box (rather unattractively packaged, must be said) was a real joy - amazing that you can be so transported out of space and time and totally entertained by little more than the powers of a first class actor reading the work of a timeless storyteller. Save these for a really horrible night, sit down by the fire, get yourself a big mug of tea, a couple of thickly buttered crumpets and something (or someone) squidgy to cuddle up with, and enjoy! Certainly beats the bloody X Factor by a few squillion country miles...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 18, 2014 10:28 AM BST


Nickel Wire Trinket Box Oblong Bellied With Butterfly/Handle
Nickel Wire Trinket Box Oblong Bellied With Butterfly/Handle

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous little bargain for savvy stocking-fillers, 25 Nov. 2010
This really is great value - I've seen similar trinket boxes and jewellery stands in places like M&S for at least three times the price, and they weren't even as pretty as this one. It's generously sized and surprisingly weighty, doesn't feel too rickety or fragile, and the embellishment around edges has real sparkle. The base is just over 6 inches across with a sturdy set of little feet that keep it well anchored without slipping, and the smoky-hued frosted perspex feels solid, not plasticky. The detailing really is lovely - there's a gorgeous topazy mother-of-pearl leaf with silver veins and a delicate pewter and amethyst toned daisy on the front. The lid has even more bling - the butterfly is more of an iridescent champagne shade in more mother-of-pearl, with feet spanning the top and forming hinges for the handle which has some very pretty floral knotwork.

Fantastic item, especially for the price, I just hope Amazon replenish their stock in time for Christmas!


Juliana & Wire Black - Mother Of Pearl Jewellery Holder
Juliana & Wire Black - Mother Of Pearl Jewellery Holder
Offered by Adelbrook
Price: £12.50

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely little solution, 23 Nov. 2010
I wish I'd got one of these a lot sooner! The time I've spent teasing apart tangled pendants and bracelets... my own fault for being a messy bird, but I swear all the jewellery seems to gravitate together and knot itself. This has sorted me out nicely at a bargain price. The stand is just over 9 inches tall and surprisingly sturdy - there's good weight in the 4 inch base and it can handle a good many items without teetering. I really love the design, there's some lovely knotwork in the detailing of the lilypad at the base, and the lopsided mother-of-pearl butterfly is very pretty. A slighter bigger one would be nice (said the chorus-girl to the bishop...!) but that's just me being greedy. At this price, there's no reason not to spoil yourself with a couple of them. A larger stand wouldn't look so dainty, to be fair, and the limited number of hooks does encourage you to get organised and just keep your key pieces on show.

Fab little solution. Now if only there was something similar for shoes...


Bill's Basics
Bill's Basics
by Bill Granger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Feels a bit dated, but decent for sweet-lovers, 23 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Bill's Basics (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I will always be grateful to Bill Granger for his recipe for 'Simple Scones.' I found it by accident on google and I've never used another recipe since - they're always light, incredibly easy and cheap to make, and they keep the squad of scone-scoffers in my life happy.

So I was really looking forward to a whole book of Bill magic. First impressions kind of put the brakes on, though. Yes, never judge a book by its cover, but it's one of those very hefty coffee table affairs with a cover so glossy you could apply your makeup by it, and a rather too perfectly posed and achingly-stylised feel. Still, I had my preliminary greedy scramble-through, gaping at the pictures. They're unquestionably good food photos, credit to the photographer - lush colours and beautiful confections, but to be fair, most of the book is just pretty pictures of not very practical recipes. I think the issue might be that Bill is a baker at heart. He's not a natural with savoury food. My heart belongs to sweet things too, so I can spot a fellow pastry fanatic, and while Bill shines at puddings and pies and cakes, his meals are repetitive and pretty tepid. Lots and lots and lots of noodly southeast Asian themes, weak soups, too much emphasis on chicken and chilli, and a generally very loose chuck-it-altogether-and-hope-for-the-best feel. There isn't one savoury recipe here that makes you think 'oooh, I must try this, it sounds delicious.' It's all too quick and stir-fryish and 10 minute meal orientated to really develop great flavours. There's no good old-fashioned slowly cooked winter warmers. No good old Brit-style stodge that'll stick to your guts. At this time of the year, that's what I'm craving, I guess. Not a bowl of noodles swimming in anaemic stock with beetroot and grated coconut.

The presentation and style feel very set in one era - the 90s. Ready steady cook, quick and easy, nothing timeless here. I'm afraid, for the most part, it's style over substance, although I'll admit that his recipe for brownies is a winner, and his all-in-one cake to feed the kids is a handy weapon in your budget baker arsenal. I think Bill should stick to baking - it's where he shines.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 26, 2010 8:31 AM GMT


The World at War - The Ultimate Restored Edition [2010] [DVD] [1973]
The World at War - The Ultimate Restored Edition [2010] [DVD] [1973]
Dvd ~ Peter Tiffin
Price: £18.00

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, comprehensive, shattering, 18 Nov. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm afraid I can't compare this restored version to the original because I can only vaguely remember watching the series as a child with my dad. I will say that from your very first glimpse of the dvd menu and the credits, the picture and audio are both clean and crisp. In particular, some of the black and white footage is incredibly clear, and I must admit that I don't feel I'm missing anything due to the cropping/widescreen transfer. I can appreciate that many people view this series as a sacrosanct work of art (which it is) and are angry at what they perceive as sloppy reasoning by the producers of this version, but for me, the spirit and heart and guts of the series are very much intact, and I found it utterly mesmerising.

It's strange - war is a topic that usually makes me switch off mentally. I have no real interest in the minute details of military history, nor noisy war films and gory footage. I find war quite maddening in its waste and destruction, and all it says to me is failure, no matter who 'wins.' The fact that war is waged at all surely means that politics and society have failed to work as they should. So I found it surprising that I wasn't just engaged by this series, but utterly gripped from the very first episode to the very last. I think it's because there is absolutely no spin here, no bombast, no romanticism, just ruthlessly honest history, painstakingly crafted and researched, and the very weight of each eyewitness never fails to make you hang on their every word, whether they were a major political player, a rank and file soldier, or a civilian. The stories they tell are unvarnished and they reek of total truth. You never fail to be astonished by their revelations, and also by the sheer variety of people whom the producers managed to record on film - prime ministers, generals, prominent nazis, ordinary folk who had experienced untold horrors and were willing to share them. There is an included Making-Of documentary with Jeremy Isaacs, among the hours of other generous extras, which is fascinating. He says that over 50 people were involved in making the series. I find that amazing, but only because I would have assumed it was many, many more. 26 hours of remarkably presented and edited history, a wealth of original sources and eyewitnesses, reams of unseen footage - I have no idea how such a monumental work was completed in such a relatively tiny timeframe. It's a credit to the commitment and integrity and vision of all those involved.

Laurence Olivier's narration is quite simply perfect. It is grave, it is understated, and it never fails to capture the right tone. The score and credits are both remarkably haunting. I can think of no criticism I would level at this production; the only shame is that it really does show up the pap we're subjected to on tv these days as the brainless tripe it really is. 'Reality tv.' The irony is that this series is true reality television and it really demonstrates how profound the medium can be when it's in the hands of intelligent and talented people who have a real interest in producing something of timeless value rather than lining their own pockets. I do believe that this series should be on the history curriculum in schools, I can't think of a better grounding for kids in not just history, but in human understanding and realising how desperately important it is that we don't repeat the mistakes of the past. There's a lot more I could say about this wonderful work, but if you haven't seen it already, you really must because it's probably one of the most important and enriching experiences you'll ever find in the world of television.


Tea With Mrs Simkins: Delicious Recipes for Making a Meal of Tea-Time: Cakes, Pastries, Biscuits and Savouries
Tea With Mrs Simkins: Delicious Recipes for Making a Meal of Tea-Time: Cakes, Pastries, Biscuits and Savouries
by Mrs Simkins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No photos, just excellent recipes and advice from an expert..., 17 Nov. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an absolutely beautiful little book. From the minute you get it in your hands, it just feels right. It's weighty but compact, beautifully bound, lovely grosgrain touchy-feely cover with pop-art teapots and fairy cakes and muffins. It feels like a Grimm's fairytale of a baking book. Alas, I don't have a gorgeous old farmhouse kitchen with an aga or open hearth to sit down and enjoy this book by -just a wee flat with limited space and battered utensils, I'm afraid - but the book makes me feel transported to a very homely old almost Victorian kitchen where a copper teapot is always whistling, the oversized table heaving with goodies, and delicious scents wafting from the oven. Sorry, I'm getting carried away...

At first I was dubious about a cookbook with no glossy pictures or even proper illustrations of the finished results, but for some reason this feels entirely right for Mrs. Simkins' style. She really conjures up the old-fashioned magic of baking and I think that part of that is visualising the end results in your head rather than seeing some carefully primped and artificially glazed presentation of impossible-to-replicate symmetry. When you take your attempts out of the oven, you can just enjoy the wonderful smell and the rough-around-the-edgesness of your home cooking, rather than compare it to the culinary equivalent of an airbrushed Kate Moss. If you have Elizabeth David's bread baking book, it's the same story here. Just little pencil sketches, but the quality of the recipes speaks for themselves. I can particularly recommend the wonderfully titled 'Cosy Cake' on page 104. I'd never before used Mrs. Simkins' method of just boiling up fruit/butter/sugar/booze/spices, letting it cool and simply mixing in the eggs and flour, but it's a lot easier (and less noisy!) than my old whisking butter and eggs together and carefully folding in the dry ingredients. And the cake... well, in the fortnight that I've had this book I've made 3 of them, with some slight tweaks of my own (who can resist tweaking, eh?) and it is absolutely, divinely, unspeakably moreish and moist and gorgeous. Needless to say I've gained 5 lbs, too, but it's been worth it!

Mrs Simkins manages to be completely comprehensive, covering the tiniest of basics (how to prepare great sandwiches or pack a picnic, for example) without ever seeming remotely patronising. It just feels like you're being given kindly pearls of wisdom from a favourite relative. Mrs. S. even covers preparing refreshments for a funeral, and gives some great, sensitive and practical suggestions. That's the spirit of the book, really - baking as a fundamental, useful and enjoyable part of everyday life. No fancy schmancy tricks or ridiculously labour-intensive recipes, just good sound advice and an amazingly generous selection of recipes that you just know have stood the test of time and demand an outing in your own kitchen. There's also a really priceless chapter on dough recipes using your breadmaker - the Plum Bread is delicious, as are the bridge rolls, and Mrs. S. manages to disperse much wit and warmth and wisdom in among her recipes, making the book a joy to just dip into whenever you like. I think the hallmark of a great cookbook is how sticky its pages become, and I foresee this being one of the messiest and most battered on my shelf. No hesitation in recommending it to anyone, whatever your age or ability, it's an absolute treasure and would make an ideal gift for a loved one.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 17, 2011 2:49 PM BST


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