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LittleMoon (loving my life in the rain)
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Roberts 'Play Duo' DAB/DAB+/FM RDS Stereo Radio with Built In Battery Charger - Grey
Roberts 'Play Duo' DAB/DAB+/FM RDS Stereo Radio with Built In Battery Charger - Grey
Price: £73.25

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple and effective DAB/FM radio, 3 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Really pleased with this simple and effective DAB radio from Roberts. Simple because it doesn't contain any advanced features such as an alarm function, but effective because it is user friendly and has everything that I need in order to listen to my favourite radio stations. The radio is a nice size, not too big and light enough to be easily portable; there's also a headphone socket.

I am one of those odd people who read the instruction manuals for products (and the one included is clear and tells you everything you need to know) but you hardly need to read this one as the radio essentially sets itself up once you've turned it on by automatically scanning for all the available services in your area. You can then scroll through the lists selecting the station you want to listen to, and you can add 5 presets for each waveband (ie: five for DAB and five for FM). The Band button selects between DAB and FM and an Info button allows you to change the information shown on the display - my favourite thing is being able to see the name of the singer and song currently playing.

The selling point of this particular model is the built-in battery charger which can take either alkaline batteries or rechargeables - just make sure that you move the switch located in the battery compartment to the correct setting (NiMH or Alkaline) in order to avoid "serious damage to the batteries or radio". It takes 4 AA sized batteries which are not included. Battery life, according to the manual is up to 20 hours (when used for 4 hours a day at normal volume) using alkaline cells. Mine is currently plugged into the mains, and I haven't used batteries in it yet.

The radio comes with a 12 month guarantee, and should you wish to, you can buy interchangeable Roberts Play Bumper covers for £9.99 each.

All in all a good quality basic-level portable DAB/FM radio perfect for the simple pleasure of listening.


Kensington Keyfolio Fit Universal Folio with Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard for 9" and 10" Android Tablets UK QWERTY Layout - Black
Kensington Keyfolio Fit Universal Folio with Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard for 9" and 10" Android Tablets UK QWERTY Layout - Black
Price: £60.42

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful for tablet typists ..., 6 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Was lucky to get offered this keyboard as I’ve just got my first tablet, a 10.1” Samsung Galaxy Pro, and it fits perfectly.

The 4 silicon straps hold the tablet very securely in place and don’t cover the screen at all. The inside of the folio case is soft and feels nice to rest your wrist against when typing; it also makes a snug, scratch-free home for the tablet if you decide to keep it on all the time. The outside of the case is black with a ribbed-like appearance, but is smooth to the touch and classical enough in looks. The folio snaps satisfyingly closed thanks to the magnetic flap.

Basic picture instructions come with the keyboard, though if you’re not a visual learner or au fait with using Bluetooth technologies and “pairing” you might not even recognise them as anything other than random pictures. It’s easy enough to bring up the online user manual by going to Kensington’s website – the url for which is helpfully located under the images – and the “Quick Start” will walk you through “connecting” the keyboard to the tablet. It’s quick and easy to do. The keyboard comes with a USB connector that will attach to your tablet’s charger in order to re-charge the battery; fully-charged it has 110 hours working time.

The keyboard itself feels comfortable to use. It’s smaller (obviously) than a laptop keyboard, but still manages to fit fingers to keys without noticeable problems with hitting the wrong keys when typing. The keys are soft and springy, making a quiet clicking noise when depressed – not as clacky as my laptop. I’ve not experienced any problems with the connection between the keyboard and the tablet, and no lag between typing and letters appearing on the screen. There is the option to launch apps from the keyboard; I haven’t really used this function as yet, except to test that it works, but it’s there for those who might find it useful.

If your main reason for owning a tablet is portability then it’s worth knowing that this keyboard does add quite a bit of weight – it is actually heavier than my tablet. The folio only allows for one angle to fix the screen when typing and it’s quite steep (a bit too steep for my personal preference) but this doesn’t cause any real issue and the screen stays in place and resists being easily jolted out.

The Kensington keyfolio also comes with a 2 year limited warranty.

Definitely worth a look if you’re doing a lot of typing on a tablet and don’t object to the extra weight it brings.


Kipling Women's Cayleen Shoulder Bag K12452B94 Party Dot Pr P
Kipling Women's Cayleen Shoulder Bag K12452B94 Party Dot Pr P
Offered by The Necessity
Price: £57.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and functional, 21 Nov. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I’d not heard of Kipling bags before, but having the need for a new little bag I thought I’d give this a try. I’m pleasantly surprised by the quality; nice stitching, for example, and good solid fasteners and zips. The nylon it’s made from means it has some water resistance (not been tested yet) and its feel and texture mean that it’s sporty and durable rather than being showy.

The bag is a good size, and remains nicely compact when carrying the basics (which for me is purse, phone, keys). However, the base expands and the bag can actually accommodate a surprising amount of stuff, should you want it to. For instance, height-wise it just fits in an A5 size notebook, or an average paperback book (though not a 10.1 inch tablet). It has also been stuffed with gloves and my fat glasses case and held them quite comfortably.

The strap is reasonably wide and doesn’t seem to dig in when carrying a heavier load. It’s nice to wear it across the body and the strap is plenty long enough to do this. The main compartment to the bag is zipped, and an outer flap folds over this and secures with a satisfying snap into the magnetic popper. There’s a small pocket at the front with a Velcro fastening and a roomy zipped section at the back which can be accessed without going into the main bag. Inside the main compartment is a zipped pocket, a key fob, a mobile phone pocket and a pen pocket (the latter two are perhaps a smidgen too shallow, but certainly do the job).

I don’t really get the monkey thing if I’m honest (Kipling references aside) but for those of you who do collect them, this is Davina and she (?) will happily suck her thumb, hold her hands together or do a flying monkey thing with both arms outstretched. All rather cute!

Low-key, slightly retro in design and colour, this fun and functional bag is a nice size for those of us who don’t carry everything around, but like to have room for the essentials and a little bit more.


In Praise of Bees: A Cabinet of Curiosities
In Praise of Bees: A Cabinet of Curiosities
by Elizabeth Birchall
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.45

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars encyclopaedic, disjointed ..., 9 Nov. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The reader cannot want for information in this encyclopaedic coverage of everything bee, from “Bee Masters Through the Ages” to their biblical heritage, from honey to “Bee Beards” and a cornucopia of facts and fictions in between. This really is a cabinet of curiosities, and I did have the feeling when I opened the pages of this book—much as I imagine someone opening the doors to a cabinet crammed with the strange and unusual—that I wasn’t quite sure where to look first.

I started at the beginning, with Birchall’s Introduction which takes us chronologically through some of the preeminent humans who have been interested in bees; and it’s a fascinating history beginning with Aristotle and ending with Brother Adam of Buckfast Abbey, a man so dedicated that at 90 “he was carried up Kilimanjaro in a cane chair.” Don’t ask me why, the book doesn’t say, although Wikipedia furnishes the fact that he was in search of a particular bee. And this is my first niggle about this book, it offers tantalising snippets of information, but often they seem incomplete or out of context.

My next is the way that Birchall has organised her work. Let’s talk about poetry—a genre of writing I love perhaps above all others—and the fact that Birchall writes it and necessarily wants to put it in this book. OK, but, it’s a tricky thing to balance poetry and prose and difficult to combine the two into a coherent whole even on a small scale, let alone in a volume as complex and wide-ranging as this one; and it doesn’t work for me. There are occasions when the poetry doesn’t feel like an unwanted interruption but I found I began skipping it lest I lose the already tenuous narrative flow. The author’s style of writing, and her method of organising information seemed quite random and disjointed.

And I suppose that leads me to my final niggle which is that in throwing everything and the kitchen sink into this book (or perhaps not quite everything, Birchall makes no claims to have written “an authoritative work of entomology or manual of the beekeeper’s craft”) the experience of reading it is all a bit cursory. In a way this is ridiculous to say, because there is so much information gathered here, yet it began to feel like reading the literary equivalent of soundbites. Even after deciding to just pick up the book and read a random section, I still felt that I was being told a great deal but learning very little.

The book itself is a lovely thing, packed with photographs and illustrations and printed on lovely glossy paper; there’s even a yellow ribbon to bookmark your page. There’s no denying Birchall’s love of her subject, or the meticulous detail and research that must have gone into writing this work, both of which I admire immensely. In fact, these things only make it even more disappointing that I haven’t been able to engage with this celebration of bees as so many others so obviously have. I will keep trying …


Pasta: The Essential New Collection from the Master of Italian Cookery
Pasta: The Essential New Collection from the Master of Italian Cookery
by Antonio Carluccio
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Pasta for everyone ..., 25 Aug. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Down to earth and gently humorous in tone, the "master of Italian cookery" Antonio Carluccio welcomes the reader into the world of pasta with open arms. He waxes lyrical about his lifelong passion for pasta and invites us to learn from his "pasta knowledge" gathered over the last 50 years ... just don't add garlic or oregano to a Bolognese sauce or he'll be "hurt"!

Part One is "All About Pasta": history, types, sauces and how to make fresh pasta. There are pictures galore and easy to follow instructions for making your own pasta, either by hand or machine, and if you're interested in being able to tell your Pappardelle from your Tagliolini, your Ravioli from your Tortelloni, then Carluccio is the man to help you do it. The Pasta Code breaks down the cooking, serving and eating of your pasta and leads you temptingly into the recipes in Part Two ...

Pasta lovers rejoice! Pasta in soups, pasta with sauces, filled pasta, baked pasta, pasta salads, pasta leftovers and even pasta desserts (chocolate noodles!!). Carluccio isn't a purist either, mixing his Puglian pasta with a Sicilian caponata to create a delicious fusion dish for instance. There's a good selection of dishes and though many contain meat and fish there are some vegetarian recipes to be found. Simple, easy to source ingredients for the most part, and recipes that aren't unnecessarily complex, means that this is the kind of cook book you can actually use in the kitchen. Penne pasta with celeriac sauce and pasta twists with nut and herb sauce have me feeling really hungry already!

Lovely photographs accompany the dishes, and they're not just for decoration, often helping with the making of the dish. A short introduction to each recipe, with a little map showing where in Italy the food originates, and with useful alternatives included too; there's everything you need here to become a pasta master yourself.


The Natural Cook: Eating the Seasons from Root to Fruit
The Natural Cook: Eating the Seasons from Root to Fruit
by Tom Hunt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fruit & vegetable heroes ..., 20 Aug. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Always good to find a cook book where fruit and vegetables are the stars of the show. Not only that, but this book is based around seasonality and helps the cook to choose the best quality ingredients at the best time. The author also rubbishes sell-by dates and celebrates growing your own and compost heaps. Great! I do get excited about compost heaps!

Lest you think this is all sounding a bit hippy, don't worry, there are plenty of full-page full-colour photographs, the recipes are clearly presented, and illustrations accompany each section. It's a fun book just to flick through and read, though possibly not as practical as it might be for use in the kitchen.

So the book is divided into 4 sections, one for each season, and each season has its selection of "heroes" (be they fruit or vegetable). Spring, for instance, has broccoli, mushrooms and watercress; Summer has peas, strawberries and fennel; Autumn offers up celeriac, parsnips, squashes; Winter has recipes for apples, celery and kale. Hunt expounds on the virtues of each "hero" ingredient and then includes a whole bunch of recipes that allow it to take centre stage; from side dishes to mains, both savoury and sweet.

It's not just the recipes that I like in this book, it's the fact that the author asks us to consider where our food comes from, and how we use it. This is a manifesto for buying fresh food locally, for minimising waste by storing food correctly and using up leftovers, and for thinking ethically about how we source meat and fish. The Natural Cook brings interesting recipes--and ideas--to the kitchen.


Eyrie
Eyrie
by Tim Winton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.57

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutally beautiful, 11 May 2014
This review is from: Eyrie (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"... looking out from on high. Out and down. Like a prince. From your seedy little eyrie. On all the strange doings and stranger beings below."

Tom Keely wakes up with a hangover, a real "pearler" with one leg "still intoxicated". It's a phenomenal opening couple of chapters (unnumbered) as he struggles to get down the street to get some food, and make his way back home again. For the reader, stuck in the skin of this "mouth-breathing moron", it's a full-on fall into the broken pieces that still somehow cling together to form the shape of this "flannel-tongued Jeremiah with neither mission nor prophecy".

Keely's life is in ruins. A once-successful environmentalist who refused to compromise his ideals, now shafted, washed-up in a high-rise apartment popping pills and drinking alcohol, his existence is peppered with unexplained caesura which might be self-induced or symptoms of some neurological disorder. Keely has cut himself off from the world--alone, apathetic, physically and psychologically mired in self-pity--slowly but surely erasing himself. One day he meets Gemma, one of the "Buck girls" from his childhood, who would come "knocking ... sobbing..." on his parents' porch. She has a child with her, Kai, a "scary-smart" boy full of nightmares and dread premonitions. They bring their own desperate world that Keely will be irrevocably drawn into.

This is my first Winton novel. I think it's superb; it's easily the best novel I've read this year. His prose is magnificent: unflinching, brutally beautiful. His descriptions of character and place are pitch-perfect, and devastating. He has taken the violence, greed, injustice, and all the ugliness of the modern world, mixed it with human frailty, gracelessness, and the unlovable, to create a novel that rages with contempt at the futility of it all, yet is deeply moved by the struggle of the individual. Winton sees redemption even where there is no hope, finding in the most abject and ill-fashioned connections between people a glimmer of salvation. There's almost a sense that whether this is realised or not is not important, the fact that it is there is enough.

Despite it being bleak, I was addicted to this novel, sitting long into a Sunday morning to finish. The speed with which things spiralled out of control and the shortening chapters pulled me headlong into oblivion; I almost came out of the novel gasping for breath. The Road was the last novel I read that gave me such a profound reality check. Eyrie is similarly haunting, a dystopian novel exactly of its time that seems to be searching for the cure to our grand malaise.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 16, 2014 8:04 PM BST


Pulse: Truly Modern Recipes for Beans, Chickpeas and Lentils, to Tempt Meat Eaters and Vegetarians Alike
Pulse: Truly Modern Recipes for Beans, Chickpeas and Lentils, to Tempt Meat Eaters and Vegetarians Alike
by Jenny Chandler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have volume on pulses..., 16 April 2014
There really is no overstating how brilliant this book is. I got it as a present for Christmas and have been enjoying trying out lots of the recipes since. I’ve just made the delicious Houmous bi Tahini (hummus with tahini) for lunch and I love its strong bold flavours.

The book has plenty of interesting sections before the recipes start, 19 pages with provocative titles such as “Saving the Planet” and “The Wind Factor”. Fun! In “All You Need to Know” Chandler explains about buying pulses, whether or not to soak them, how to store them and what partners work well with them. At the end is an equally useful “Identification Parade” of pulses that untangles the confusingly complex world of lentils, beans, peas by type.

The recipes are divided into 11 sections and cover all the bases from Nibbles, Dips and Purees, through Soups, Salads, and Sides, to Vegetarian Mains and Sweet Bits. There are lovely extras such as pages devoted to making baby food, or easy lunchbox combinations. Each recipe is given a brief introduction, and is clearly laid out and easy to follow; there are also plenty of sumptuous photographs to accompany many of the dishes. An excellent addition is the How about? guide that features at the end of most recipes and suggests all sorts of other options to try, like adding different ingredients, herbs and spices to adapt the basic recipe.

I’ve loved every recipe I’ve tried so far. The Pumpkin, Coconut and Lentil Soup is wonderful, fragrant and packed with flavour. As a vegetarian, many of the vege mains have graced my plate over the last few months: the Seven-Vegetable Tagine, the Lentil and Nut Loaf, the Punjabi Chickpea Curry, the Mung Bean Casserole and the Three Bean Chilli with Bulgur. They’ve all been fantastic recipes, and I’ve been really pleased that they’ve all delivered on flavour. The Quick Supper Beans is great for food conjured up in a hurry and there are so many others that I’m looking forward to trying, especially the salads over the summer.

Pulse is everything you could wish for in a cook book; it’s packed with tasty recipes that are wonderful in their own right, or can be adapted in many different ways; it’s fun, informative and passionate about its subject, and it’s beautiful to look at and flick through. Without doubt, Jenny Chandler’s Pulse has become one of my all-time favourite cook books and I can’t ever imagine tiring of it. Quite simply, the quality and range of recipes contained within this book make it a must-have volume for every cook’s shelf.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 31, 2014 9:22 AM GMT


Suki Tea Earl Grey Blue Flower Fairtrade (Pack of 1, Total 15 Pyramids) (Organic)
Suki Tea Earl Grey Blue Flower Fairtrade (Pack of 1, Total 15 Pyramids) (Organic)
Price: £4.45

4.0 out of 5 stars a subtle Earl Grey blend, 16 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I really like Suki Tea; I first came across the brand in a little patisserie/café in Nottingham when I tried their loose leaf earl grey and blue flower. Delicious. Suki is an ethical company and that’s important to me. This tea is their “ethical champion”: Ecocert organic, Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance Certified.

Earl Grey is my second favourite tea after green, so it is great to be offered the chance to try some of Suki’s “tea pyramids”. I never use tea bags as they generally produce an inferior flavour to loose leaf tea, so I was a little bit wary of the “pyramid” idea, even if Suki do put their same loose leaf tea in their pyramids. Having drunk my way through the whole packet of 15 pyramids, and looked at how they allow the tea to expand, I'm impressed with the depth of flavour achieved.

Earl Grey’s distinct flavouring comes from Bergamot, and it’s just 1% of the ingredients in this blend. My current Earl Grey has 4%, and I can tell the difference. The Suki tea is more subtle, and very enjoyable, but to be honest I prefer my Earl Grey with a stronger Bergamot hit. With this tea the Assam black tea tends to dominate, and is softened and perfumed just a little with the Bergamot. The addition of the blue flower (cornflower to me) petals is visually attractive, which I like even though it doesn’t seem to serve any other purpose in the blend.

The ingredients used by Suki are of a good quality. They source organic Sicilian Bergamot oil where most tea companies add a synthetically produced version of the oil, and all of the ingredients are organic. This method of using fine ingredients and caring about their sourcing is a big part of why I like Suki Tea as a company. There’s no doubt that their tea is expensive and I can’t afford to drink it every day, but for special occasions it’s a lovely treat.

Overall, this is a very nice rich-flavoured tea, and I’ve enjoyed every cup of it, but for my personal taste there’s not quite enough Bergamot.


Russell Hobbs 20210 Illumina Hand Blender, 700 W - Black
Russell Hobbs 20210 Illumina Hand Blender, 700 W - Black
Price: £27.50

4.0 out of 5 stars a useful addition to the kitchen, 14 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My current food processor is an old Braun that is a hand-me-down from my mum; it's at least 15 years old and has plenty of glued on bits and only 1 blade left after others have been lost in the mists of time. That 1 blade is still excellent, the only problem being that it doesn't do small batches of soup, pesto, hummus etc very well. I was delighted to get my hands on this Russell Hobbs hand blender which fills a welcome gap in my range of kitchen equipment.

The hand blender itself is very easy to put together, use and clean (not having to wash up the many pieces of a food processor is one of the hand blender's main advantages). I am surprised at how heavy it is, and this makes it a little more awkward to hold and manoeuvre than I expected. I've compared the weight with a friend's 400W version though and they're almost identical: at least the Illumina gives me a bit more power!

To control the speeds, the Illumina has a small wheel that has 4 numbered settings. These settings each correspond with a ring of differently coloured light, though I don't pay any attention to this feature. When I made soup for the first time, I tried it on the soup setting and found it a little too slow, so I ended up blitzing my soup beautifully with the smoothie setting. I just use the speeds from 1 to 4, and adjust accordingly. I don't want to bother having to remember which colour goes with which type of blending to be honest, so though the coloured ring of light looks cool, it doesn't really add anything useful.

The 1 litre beaker is a good size, and is excellent for making things like pesto, hummus or Thai curry paste. It also has a lid and a rubber base to help stop it from slipping. The blender has titanium-coated blades which are supposed to stay sharper for longer. There is a small instruction book included that has quite a few basic recipes in it, including smoothies, soups and sauces, though I haven't tried any of them out.

In summary, the Illumina is a bit on the heavy and bulky side, but that doesn't stop it from being a good blender and it makes a useful addition to the kitchen, especially if you often make soups, smoothies and pastes. I use mine a lot and am really happy to have it around.


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