Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!!!





From Ellen, Neil, Shortie, Tigger and Harvey. xxx

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Kawaii Box Giveaway

A few days ago I reviewed the very cute Kawaii Box on my blog (you can read my review here). 


Kawaii Box is the cutest monthly subscription service. Subscribe now and receive a box filled with hand-picked kawaii items from Japan and Korea directly to your home every month. Your box will be shipped in the beginning of each month and the shipping is absolutely free, anywhere on the planet! Each box includes 10-12 cute, original and licensed kawaii items.

The lovely people at Kawaii Box have allowed me to run a little competition to give away a box to one of my blog readers.

To enter the competition simply complete as many of the steps as you wish on the Rafflecopter form below. A winner will be chosen at random at the end of the competition. The competition is open worldwide so anyone can enter this one. Good Luck. 

Listed on Loquax
Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com

Monday, 8 December 2014

Kawaii Box Review

It's time for another unboxing review. Today I've got something a little different and quite special. I've been sent the autumn Kawaii Box. (For those of you who haven't encountered this Japanese word, and didn't immediately reach for google translate, Kawaii means 'cute'). I've been a little slow on writing this unboxing up, mostly because of the usual family visits and the crazy increase in competitions that always happens this time of year (I cannot believe how many more advent competitions there are this year compared to last year! It's hard to keep on top of them all!). Anyway without much further ado, let's jump right in. 

The first thing you notice before even opening the box (I'd say the box is the size of a good, thick, hardback novel) is that it's come all the way from Singapore! Most boxes I get and review originate from the United Kingdom and don't really have to travel that far, but this has travelled half the world to get to me! (And for all that travelling, the box arrived in good condition!) 



Opening the box and removing the suitably pink tissue-paper packing reveals a collection of cute things; I wasn't entirely sure what to expect (well, I was expecting cute) but was thinking there'd be a few things that my niece would love -- although I might sneak a couple of cute things out of it for myself! (shh, don't tell her). 


First up we have a postcard welcoming us to the Autumn Kawaii box, quickly followed by a box of Pocky! If you've been to "nerd stores" like Forbidden Planet, you may have seen these chocolate biscuit sticks before (alternatively the "import candy" places like 'Cyber candy' etc. might have them too).

Now THESE we love - a few years back there was a big push on 'Mikado' chocolate biscuit sticks - and we couldn't get enough of them - these Pocky (I think) are what the Mikado sticks are based on.



Next up we have what looks like a pair of ankle socks with a cute 'hello kitty' type rabbit style character on. They're for size 23-24cm (a bit of a google converts these to a ladies size 4/5 UK). I have fairly small feet and always like cute socks so may well sneak these into my sock drawer (and onto my feet) in the very near future! 



We then have a roll of "Bud silk stationery stickers" - 18mm x 1m of a nice and lacy heart tape. Looking at the label I think the idea is that you use this tape to make your pens, pencils, books, desk sorters etc. look cute and a little more individual. Not something I've ever seen here in the UK before, but something that looks like it could be quite fun - and would make your otherwise "same as everyone else" stationery set look a little bit more special. 



There's also a cute anime/manga style cat key ring which looks really sweet. It looks like you can use it either as a key ring or a bag charm as it has both a clip to attach it to your bag and one of those rings you usually break your nails on as you try and slide your keys onto it. 



Next there's an incredibly cute 2015 Little Sheep Mini Calendar. I've not taken it out of the wrapper yet but it looks really cute even though it has a bit of a minimalistic design to it. It has a definite anime/manga feel to it and I will definitely put it on my desk for the coming year. 



We also have an XI YUAN key chain/bag charm. The one we have is a bubblegum pink OMG one. Unlike the plush cat keyring/bag charm, this only has the "break your nails putting the keys on it" ring, but I don't this really detract from it. I think this might be something my niece would get a lot more out of that I would. 



The box is just full of cute! Next there's a zipper bracelet. I've been told they're "in" at the moment, but I've not seen any other than this one. That said, it looks really quite cool and fun. The only thing wrong with it is that it's a bit fiddly trying to put it on one handed like a lot of bracelets are. 



We then have a couple of cute "little talk" post-it note style sticker blocks with the phrases "don't worry" and "dreams come true" on them. Very cute - although only a small number of them (20). I think these will be used in specific little messages to special people rather than the usual "remember to get milk" type notes that post-it style things are usually used for. 



There's then an awesome macaroon charm for your phone or desk or - well - where-ever you'd put it! It's very cute and I discovered after a bit of fiddling that the macaroon opens up and is a little pot that you could put something in. It would have been cool if it was a lip gloss or something similar but I guess you could use the pot to put tablets or earrings in for example. 



Finally - and I really love these - there's some YOOFUN Puffy Stickers. They have a big written sticker of "Have you ever seen a Panda?" and that's because if you haven't, you will now. The sheet is full of pandas in all sorts of poses and shapes and sizes. (Well, actually they're mostly the same size). They're really cute and all look to be unique for the most part, we're light on repeaters! (Only a couple of the panda heads are duplicated - which is really nice!) They seem to be arranged in a "doing things" sort of order, so you have pandas dancing, crawling, doing ballet and just having a bit of a relaxing chill time. Very nice! Although, to be honest, it almost feels a shame to take them off the sheet and use them! 

Kawaii Box is the cutest monthly subscription service. Subscribe now and receive a box filled with hand-picked kawaii items from Japan and Korea directly to your home every month. Your box will be shipped in the beginning of each month and the shipping is absolutely free, anywhere on the planet! Each box includes 10-12 cute, original and licensed Kawaii items.


This really was an awesome surprise, and something a little different. Have a good rest of the day - and may it be filled with CUTE! KAWAII! ^_^;




Links: 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Degustabox Review - October 2014 Box

Hello everyone; here we are again with another delightful box of foody delights from Degustabox. This is the second box we've reviewed (We previously reviewed September's box in this blog entry). For those who haven't encountered Degustabox before, it's a box subscription service that send you a selection of food items every month for £12.99 per box including delivery.  




So here we go; you can see there's a mixture of items here. But that's not all; we've also been given Degustabox fridge vouchers so we can pick up some Benecol yoghurt's at the local supermarket and completing the box this month. 

So without any further ado, we'll tuck into the goodies and let you know what we thought. 

Jelly Belly Sours - 100g bag (RRP £2.50) 




The first of the snacking items that caught our eyes were the bag of Jelly Belly (Gourmet Jelly Beans) sours. We're a big fan of Jelly Beans and have been a huge Jelly Belly fan - the only problem I had was that these were the sours, which aren't my favourite (but Neil LOVES them!) Unlike the regular Jelly Belly flavours, the sours are limited to five flavours of bean (rather than the fifty that you get with the non-sour varieties) but they were just as good as the regular beans. 

Blue Dragon Sweet Chilli Sauce  - 190g bottles  (RRP £1.39 each)




When we opened the box and saw that there were bottles of Blue Dragon Sweet Chilli sauce in the box Neil whooped and punched the air! Although, that might be a slight embellishment... Neil was definitely happy to see them in the box - he is a fan of chillies and curries and spicy things, and is often dribbling spicy sauces over his chips and burgers. 

The sauces are tasty and sweet (like it says in the name); they're packed with flavour and we're going to be honest, something Neil's previously purchased and had before (many times!). A definite win there! 

Brioche Pasquier Sliced Brioche Loaf (RRP £1.69) 




Brioche Pasquier Pain au Lait with Choc Chips (RRP £1.60)




Of all the things that jump out at you on open the Degustabox, the largest were the two Brioche Pasquier items. The Pain au Lait and the Sliced Brioche loaf. "Hello," we thought, "they've sent us bread this time." 

Taking each in turn, the loaf I'd say was a medium slice. Each piece being slightly smaller than a regular loaf of bread (although still a size that fits into the toaster). The taste was slightly sweeter than usual. Neil said that it reminded him of some of the standard loaves you get from supermarkets in America. We tried it toasted, replaced regular bread with it, and combined it with another item from this month's box. 

All in all the loaf was a delicious change; its slice-size meant it toasted a little quicker than regular bread so needed watching (or a toaster adjustment) to ensure they didn't get burnt. 

There was a recipe suggested on the Degustabox contents card (Maple Pecan Brioche Pudding) which looked delicious, but we ate all the bread before realising we needed it for the recipe - we thought it needed the Pain au Lait; not that that would have helped - we ate both well before we got around to looking at the recipe suggestions - whoops!  (The recipe looks DELICIOUS though!) 

The Pain au Lait with Choc Chips was too tasty and very moreish! 

The pack contained a number (we didn't count them, maybe 8, maybe 10?) little sweet chocolate-chip rolls (think small hot-dog rolls). They were tasty! I think the closest thing I can think to them is the "Pain au Chocolate" rolls you get, only a little smaller and not quite so overpowering with the amount of chocolate in them. These were delicious and there was a good balance between the dough (which had a slightly shiny appearance to it, similar to bagels I'd say) and the chocolate chips. It never felt too sweet, or too chocolatey and conversely it never felt deficient of either. I can see us definitely buying more of these next time we see them in the local supermarket! 

 Solo Marshmallow Crème - Toasted Flavour (RRP £1.99)




You know how you see tubs of things, and you find yourself wondering; "What is that like? I can't imagine it!" - well, tubs of Marshmallow stuff is on that list for us. We've seen it before and wondered. To cut a long story short, it tastes like Marshmallows. In fact, our tub which was toasted flavour, tasted just like toasted marshmallows. But what do you do with it? 

We spread it on bread (actually the Brioche loaf that was in the box), both on it's own and with chocolate spread. It worked. Although might have been a little too sweet! We did experience a problem with spreading too - it is quite possibly the stickiest thing we've ever attempted to spread on a piece of bread!  - seriously! However, that aside, it is incredibly tasty. We even added a dollop to hot chocolate (to see if it works as an actual marshmallow) - I'd say it 'kinda worked' but real marshmallows are better suited. 

This is another product that has a recipe associated with it - easy chocolate crème mouse. We might try this out at a later date. 

Although we might be a little perplexed as to what to do with it, we did like this. The experiment continues  

Enhance Drinks (RRP £2.49)




Now this was a nice surprise; this little pocket sized thing is one of those things that seem to have taken off lately (you might have seen adverts for a competitor to this during the summer). What you do is take a glass (or bottle) of water, squeeze your enhance for a few seconds into the water, and hey presto! You have a flavourful squash drink. 

We were sent the Orange and Passion fruit flavour and found it very enjoyable. The container says it makes approximately 32 drinks (although I guess that all depends on how hard you squeeze!). We haven't quite got to 32 yet, but have gotten quite a number out and it doesn't seem to be running out yet. 

I think it's a nice product, the flavour we were sent was a good one. Because it's a low calorie thing (1 calorie per drink) we were expecting a noticeable 'sweetener' after taste. To be honest, some of our early uses seemed to have a little after taste, but later ones didn't. It might be a case that we were adding too much (or too little) in our first uses and later ones we got the balance right. 

It is a nice thing to take on trips (where you might only be able to get bottled water (or chose to buy bottled water due to everything else being too expensive!)) to give a bit of extra flavour. It'll be good for picnics once the summer returns, and good for those who maybe work in an office to give them an alternative from the water cooler. 

We'll definitely pick these up again. 

Dr Oetker Premium 90% Extra Dark Chocolate (RRP £2.49) and
Dr. Oetker Fine Dark Cocoa Powder (RRP £1.89)




These are cooking items, which are nice. But what do you do with them? Fortunately for those who haven't ventured into the baking part of the kitchen the dark cocoa powder comes with a free recipe card - ours was for chocolate muffins! We haven't made these yet because I've just come back from visiting my family and my mum always makes more cakes and things than I know what to do with - but as soon as we're done eating those, Neil has plans for choc-chip and cherry muffins. If they're good I might even blog about them.  

Can't complain about them though. It's good quality baking ingredients from a well-known company - looking forward to those muffins! 

Get Buzzing Flapjacks (RRP £1.30)




We were sent a Get Buzzing flapjack; they come in a range of flavours but we were sent the original nutty. Neil is a big flapjack (and nuts) fan so he got to munch this one. He said that it was really tasty, had a good texture and wasn't overly crowded by nuts, but had plenty. He said it was sweet and you could taste the sugar in it - again, this was part of the texture of the thing. He said it was really nice and pleasing and he would consider picking some up were he to see them in the store. 

An additional note from the packaging: All the products are wheat free, are free from artificial colours, flavours, preservatives and additives and are suitable for vegetarians and diabetics. The ingredients list (just to prove this) is: Oats, Mixed Nuts (pecans, brazils), Raw Cane Sugar, Sugar Syrup, Butter, Dates, Apricots, Honey, Sunflower Seeds, Sesame Seeds and Cranberries. 

Special K Cracker Crisps (RRP £1.29)




We were sent a sharing pack of Special K Cracker Crisps (Barbeque flavour). How would I describe these? You remember when you were a kid and would have bags of K.P. Skips.  Well the texture of these is very similar to that of Skips, although maybe a little bit firmer and a little less melt-in-the-mouth. And slightly larger and flatter. 

I do realise they sound nothing at all like K.P. Skips... but they must be related, like second cousins in a food sense. 

The flavour is great. It tastes of juicy barbeque sauce and is quite convincing. (I'm glad they sent us the barbeque flavour myself, the other flavours (sea salt and balsamic vinegar, sour cream and onion and sweet Chilli are much more Neil's tastes than mine!) 

Enjoyed these a lot - and over a couple of days (with the aid of a bag clip - or a peg - to keep the taste in and stop them getting affected by the atmosphere). Would pick them up again, but probably in the smaller bags rather than the share-bag (as it's too easy to eat too many of the share bag).


Kent's Kitchen Meal Kit (RRP £2.50)




We were sent a Bengal meal kit; it seemed like this month's box was geared a little more to "make your own" than "eat what we give you", but that's not a bad thing. The pack contained three little pots. The first being garlic infused oil, the second being curry herbs and spices and the third being a curry paste.  

Although we were scratching our head as to what a Bengal meal kit actually means (something to do with Tigers maybe? We should google it and find out, but sometimes things are just nicer being a bit more mysterious!), we didn't let it stop us and we ploughed right into making it. 

I say "we ploughed right in," in this case, Neil ploughed right in as I'm not that much of a curry person (I eat occasional curries, but I do worry about spicy food! Neil is less concerned about such things). 

The kit isn't a complete meal (you can't just put the tubs in a pan and magically have a curry appear), you have to add meat and coconut milk (and rice and optional garnish). Our local store is a Morrisons so we picked up some diced lamb (around £2-£3) and a can of coconut milk (about £1) and ignored the optional garnish because we didn't care too much about making it look pretty - and the rice we used to microwave pilau rice (approximately 50p-£1 per pack depending on brand/pack size). We could have used other meats - the instructions suggested beef or chicken, but probably any diced meat would suffice. 

It was fairly easy to make; you heated the oil in a pan, added the meat. After a few minutes you added the paste, and a few minutes more you added the coconut milk and the herbs and spices. You then brought it to a boil and left it to simmer for about 10 minutes or so. 

One pack serves two people, but if you have more people you just add more meat to the sauce. 

Tasting was a pleasant surprise. Neil was worried that he should have bought diced turkey (chicken and turkey breast meat is similar, especially when cooked with spices - and any other time of year turkey is usually a bit cheaper) instead of the diced lamb he had bought; however the lamb was perfect. It was tender and infused with the flavour of the curry. It wasn't too fatty (I know some people worry about lamb being a bit of a fatty meat, but Neil didn't find that this time).  

But enough of the meat - the main thing is the curry itself. It tasted good. It had a nice warming heat, and while there was the texture of the coconut milk in there, it didn't taste too mild and had a little bit of a kick to it. The pilau rice was a nice complement to it.

We haven't tried these sorts of kits before - usually we don't go much further than the tinned or jarred cook-in sauces, but this worked really well and wasn't that much harder. If anything it tasted better than some of those sauces and we were really happy with the results and would consider buying more of these in the future and trying the other kits they produce. (There's much more of a feeling of 'making it yourself' with these kits than with your standard 'cook-in sauces'). 

Bear Paws (55p per pack) and  Bear Alphabites - Free Sample




I have to say right at the start that I didn't really like either the Bear Paws or the Bear Alphabites. I don't think it is anything to do with the product, more that (as an adult) I'm not the intended audience. 

The Bear Paws are a fruit-based snack which is free from artificial colours, flavours and additives in general. We were sent the apple and strawberry flavour pack (which is basically split 50/50 between apple flavoured snacks and strawberry flavoured paw-print shaped snacks). The intended audience for these are babies and toddlers - the idea being that they get all natural snacks that aren't loaded with artificial additives or full of refined sugars etc. 

The problem I had was that, as an adult, I'm used to all the bad stuff. (We don't have babies or toddlers here to experiment with). Without the sugar, the additives and so on, these just felt a little bland and not quite as flavourful as I was hoping. However, their intended toddler audience would probably receive them better. 

The free sample of Bear Alphabites follows the same principle. Nothing artificial. No refined sugars. Again, it is an admirable goal, and for their target audience a better cereal to give compared to all the sugary brands we'd traditionally give. For me though, again it felt a little lacking - most probably due again to me being used to "all the bad stuff". 


Degustabox Fridge Item - Benecol Yoghurt

 




Benecol a a yoghurt that is proven to lower cholesterol. It's available in a variety of flavours. We were given a voucher for any of them, but we really wanted to try the greek-style yoghurt but unfortunately our local store only had the regular styles along with the spreads and yoghurt drinks.

We weren't sure what to expect from these, but they tasted quite nice. For how healthy they are trying to be, they are actually full of flavour and quite tasty. While we aren't needing/wanting to watch our cholesterol right at the moment, should we need to we wouldn't hesitate to switch to these yoghurts over our regular brands.


We have to say that we really enjoyed this month's Degustabox; it was another great selection of food items - both those which were ready-to-eat and those which were make-it-yourself. We always are impressed at the value and find ourselves being introduced to new ideas and flavours that we might have passed by in the supermarket isle, as well as being given some old favourites and 'one-of-these-days-I-want-to-try-these' to enjoy.

I think our only disappointment was that, for an October box, the only reference to Halloween  was the doodled jack o' lantern and bats on the logo. (I know it's an October box and it's the start of December we're putting this review out; that's due to the shipping schedule from Degustabox and our taking our time sampling everything)

We are always happy to recommend the service; our experience is always positive and we think the box represents great value for money.

Links: 

Monday, 1 December 2014

Advents, Shortie and Phillip Schofield

 *** Advents *** 


So here we are at the 1st of December, wow time seems to be flying. Today is a manic day for all compers (people who enter competitions) as there are hundreds of daily competitions all over the internet to enter. The first day is always the hardest because more and more are being added and there are various sites to choose from for the listings. This year I have yet again decided to use Loquax for competitions because the listings are in a nice easy list. You just click on the duck each day when you have entered and it's reset the next day or click on the cross if you don't want to enter the competition ever again and it blanks it out. I looked at other sites but came straight back to Loquax. Even if they miss a few advent competitions there are still plenty to enter and of course it will be nice to do the normal competitions as well too. Good luck to everyone entering competitions this month. I actually received a win through the post today of a Budweiser Christmas jumper...here it is modelled by my fiancé Neil. 



*** Happy Birthday Shortie ***


Today is a very special day because it is our dog Shortie's 12th birthday. We adopted him from Bath Cats and Dogs Home nearly three years ago. He is a lovely boy and is a very important part of our family. He is still full of energy and enjoy's life to the full. He loves nothing more than walking with his friends. Here is a picture of Shortie enjoying a birthday treat today. 




*** Phillip Schofield's 24 Hour Live TV Marathon ***


Today I have also been watching Phillip Schofield on ITV3 since 11am. As a lot of people know I am a huge fan of Phillip and have been since I was about 8 years old. I even met my fiance Neil through him on twitter (story here). Well today Phillip is doing an amazing 24 hours of live television for Text Santa which is the big annual ITV fundraising event. This year the six charities that the funds are going to is Teenage Cancer Trust, Guide Dogs, WellChild, Alzheimer's Society, Together for Short Lives & Marie Curie Cancer Care. 

I have to say I am so proud to be a fan of Phillip today because he has done so much already and he still has 13 hours to go. Just some of the things he has done so far; been a loose woman, been on the national news, gave us the national weather forecast (which I know he was really nervous about but did brilliantly) and abseiled down the ITV building. He has been so entertaining and is just amazing. 

Phillip has also asked people to send their #Schofies on twitter (pictures of you with Phillip on the tv - here is mine.....I am not good at taking selfies hehe) 



It really is TV bliss watching Phillip on all the time and he is so lush. Wish he was on all day every day. Or that there was a Phillip Schofield channel with repeats of all his old shows including Going Live! and The Movie Game etc. 

Phillip has a JustGiving page where you can donate to Text Santa in support of his great effort. Donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/TextSanta-PhillipSchofield/

Well done Phillip!!!