Sunday, 26 July 2015

Degustabox Review - June 2015

Here we are again; the knocking on the door means our postie (well, courier person) has another foodie surprise from those lovely people at Degustabox. The theme this month is picnics – and the food inside certainly plays into it well including plenty of drinks and snacks. Great stuff! So pausing only to take photos of the products before we scoff the lot (*or at least 90% of them), on with our views on what we've been sent. 

This month we were sent the alcohol-free version of the box; those receiving the “alcohol” version would have had a vodka icepops (from Icycl, RRP: £2.50) and Rekorderlig strawberry-lime cider (RRP £1.49 per bottle) instead of our non-alcoholic substitutions. 

Brioche Pasquier Pitch, Chocolate flavour filled Brioche - RRP £1.70 

First out of the box is a 6 pack of Pitch Chocolate flavour filled Brioche. In a previous Degustabox (October 2014’s box) we had been sent some Brioche Pasquier products and really enjoyed them (then it was the Pain au lait and the sliced Brioche loaf). This month sees us getting two different products – the first is this Pitch! Chocolate flavoured 6-pack, the second is a chocolate-chip 4-pack. But let’s not get distracted and side-tracked here – one product at a time, please! Opening the bag, it’s nice to see that these are individually wrapped; already making them ideal for the picnic theme, or for putting into a lunchbox for a post-sandwich treat. Like we found with the previous Brioche products, the ‘bread’ of these rolls is a little sweet, soft and – well – actually has a lot of flavour; warning – very moreish. The filling is tasty, a mix of chocolate and hazelnut (imagine Nutella) and works well; I’d say it’s a little nicer than the traditional, darker chocolate filling you get with pain au chocolate (style) products. Definitely a favourite!

Brioche Pasquier Pitch, Chocolate Chip 4 pack - RRP £1.70

The second of the Pitch Brioche Pasquier products we were sent this month was the Chocolate chip four-pack. Just like the Chocolate flavour ones, these are individually wrapped – making them ideal for picnics and lunchboxes; but instead of a chocolate and hazelnut sauce filling, these have dark chocolate chips throughout – which give them, all in all, a more traditional pain au chocolat style flavour. As you can probably tell from the review, my personal preference was for the others – but loved these too, just that little, tiny bit less.

Enhance for Water, Apple and Blackcurrant flavour - RRP £2.49

Here we have another product making a welcome return to the box; Enhance for water’s squash thing. In October 2014’s box we were sent the Orange and Passion fruit flavour which we enjoyed; this month we have the slightly more traditional squash flavour, Apple and Blackcurrant. These are simple to use and ideal for those who prefer a little more flavour to their water. The small size makes them great for carrying in a bag (or picnic hamper) and we’re already big fans. A plus is that they’re low calorie (1 calorie per drink) and will make up to 32 drinks – which is probably on a par with those huge bottles of squash you usually pick up at the supermarket.

The flavour isn’t bad – it tastes exactly how you’d expect apple and blackcurrant to taste. 

Not bad – and a nice, quick and easy way to add flavour to water – especially when you’re “on the go”.

Kallo Sea Salt & Vinegar corn and rice snacks - RRP £0.70 

This month saw us get sent two items from the Kallo range of corn and rice snacks. The first being the 25g bag of sea salt and vinegar snacks. 

Now I know as low fat, low calorie options, rice cakes seem to have wormed their way into the snacking market place as a healthier alternative to traditional potato-based crisps. But are they any good? To be honest, I’ve been a fan of them for a while. They have a texture not dissimilar to popcorn, and usually the choice of flavours added – be they sweet or savoury – works well. 

These Kallo snacks were good. The sea salt and vinegar flavour tasted a little different to me – compared to other salt and vinegar flavour snacks. The vinegar tasted a little more subtle – much less of a “burn your tongue off vinegar sensation” compared to other snacks – and to be honest, I find that a welcome difference! 

These were good, tasty; only 91 calories and gluten free. Something we’d definitely look out for in the future.

Kallo Belgian Milk Chocolate with Caramel Pieces Rice Cake Thins - RRP £1.69

As impressed as we were with the Kallo salt and vinegar corn and rice snacks... well... our socks were blown off by the Belgian Chocolate with caramel pieces rice cake thins. These are DIVINE! At only 65 calories per…well...reasonably sized square... you don't feel too bad about giving in to their moreish qualities and having "one more". 

Delicious! And definitely something we've added to our list of favourites to look out for at the store! (Only problem we had is that the packet didn't appear to be resealable - fortunately we had a roll of tape to hand to help with our self control in not eating the whole lot in one sitting). 

I forgot to mention this, but there's a bit of a poetry thing going on with some of this months items (on top of the picnic theme). The two Kallo products have little poems on their packets; the salt and vinegar snacks have a poem about a "Captain Jack" who balloons around with sandbags full of sea salt and vinegar - these Chocolate and Caramel ones have a poem about a caramel cannon, clown and circus... It made us smile - and it's a bit of fun (which kinda suggests something playful about these products).

Multigrain Melba Thins Quite Somethin' - RRP £1.39

I said about poems - the Melba Thins came with a little flier with a poem on describing how to use them at a picnic (and on the back, a picnic essential checklist; which, obviously suggests taking some Melba thins along plus things to top them). 

To be honest, these have a feeling of fun "all over them". The box has a vegetable steam train on it with a "typical rail-styled announcement" on the back of the box talking about 1st, 2nd and third class toppings. 

Opening their box reveals 10 individually wrapped packs of six; one pack being a portion-size (78 Kcal for those that are interested). Which is brilliant - as well as picnics, it makes lunchboxes a bit of a quicker affair - one pack of things, a couple of cheese spread triangles and lunch is sorted.

Tastewise, they're good. They have a nice (loud) crunch to them, a nice texture and a flavour that - while not bad by itself - complements whatever you top them with. (So far we've been boring and just had cheese - but can see it being really nice with pate, spreads, veg and all sorts). Very nice - one we enjoyed!

Maul and Sons Coconut water

Now this wasn't listed on the Degustabox, but we suspect it was a substitute for the Vybe 100% coconut water (similar product listed, but not in the box); or that it was in the non-alcoholic box but not in the alcoholic one. I know that coconut water is a bit like marmite, in that you either like it or you hate it. I don't like it, but Neil does. It is full of good things, and probably good for you after you do sport or run or something; not my thing though. But like I said, Neil likes it. He is odd though *smile*,

Cinnamon Love Chin Chin - RRP £1.00 

Well these were a pleasant surprise - Love Chin Chin, African based biscuits that claim to crunch like a biscuit but taste like a cake. To be honest we didn't know what to expect with these, but the fact they had "Cinnamon" as their flavour (and Cinnamon is a favourite flavour here at Chez Webkin) gave us high hopes for this snack - and we weren't disappointed. Opening the bag, you get a large number of thin biscuit-like fingers (but really thin - like chipsticks or something) They have a slight powdery coating to them, and they do both crunch like as biscuit and taste cakey - as claimed! 

Long story short - we liked these. We liked these a lot (and wish there'd been more bags of them in the box). They are tasty, we love the cinnamon flavour - which is on the more subtle, sweeter side of the cinnamon taste range (rather than the "hot and fiery" you sometimes get). A definite success and one we'll definitely be looking out for more of in the future!

Zeo, Zeo carbonated soft drinks - RRP £1.29 per bottle 

Keeping with the picnic theme, we were sent two bottles of Zeo (lightly) carbonated soft drinks; we got the flavours "Zesty lime" and "Peach and Grapefruit." First impressions - we loved the bottles; we could imagine them being upcycled as vases for a small bunch of flowers. 

Anyway, onto the taste. Both the zesty lime and the peach and grapefruit have a really good taste to it. They're nice, clean and refreshing, and for those concerned about calories, each bottle is only 30 calories. We had ours with a nice salad - and think that worked well. 

Have to say that we liked this, and are wondering what the other flavours are like...

Vybe Jele Collagen with Vitamin C

This Collagen jelly drink thing (How would you describe it?) is really nice. It looks like it's an international product distributed by Vybe drinks in the UK. Essentially what we have here is a little drink pouch thing - a little like those lunch-box yoghurt drink pouches - that contains a fruity drink with jelly bits inside it; a little like the Chinese "bubble tea" things you see springing up in various malls and shopping centres across the country. 

We liked it. The strawberry flavour was really good; it is low calorie and full of vitamin C and other good stuff. It made a nice desert-y type drink - and it would be one we'd seriously consider getting for lunches and snack boxes and similar.

Coconom coconut sugar - RRP £3.25 

Now this is something a little different and exciting. One of the things we do like about Degustabox is that they do put things in that we probably wouldn't consider picking up in the store - which gives us a chance to sample and go "actually, this is quite good - maybe we should pick it up in the store?" This time it's coconom coconut sugar, which is a natural alternative to sugar made from - well - coconuts. We've not sampled this yet, but there was a recipe for coconum brownies on the back of the Degustabox flyer and we're planning on "having a go" at making it and seeing what difference the coconut sugar makes. 

And that is that - another box of foodie goodies (mostly) consumed. We really enjoyed the mix this month, and, probably because of the snacky nature (and the weather) found we got through the box a little quicker than usual. We are big fans of the Degustabox food surprise boxes! 

If you would like your own Degustabox, please go to their website. It costs £12.99 a box (including delivery) however Degustabox has given us a special offer code for our readers to get £3 off their first box. The code is:


We are very happy to recommend the service and selection they provide.

Disclaimer: The Degustabox - June box was sent to me for the purposes of this post. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Taffy Mail Review - July 2015

Another knock at the door, another foodie box delivered for our sampling delights; and this time we’re talking another box of sweet, sweet candy! (Or sweets… no… wait…. This is Taffy Mail, a USA Candy subscription box service – so Candy is definitely the correct word). 

A classic box costs £14.99 a month which includes 10 - 12 pieces of candy and a can and free package and posting, and you can get your own box by visiting Taffy Mail's brilliant easy to use website. 

As you may have read I am currently on a bit of a diet at the moment so I let my fiancĂ© Neil do most of the taste testing for this review but I did manage to try a few bits too. Here is what we thought of the box: 

Wow! They cram a lot into the small box don’t they? As you can see there’s a mixture of things, mostly candy, and range from really big packets to small, individual chews. I can’t wait to get stuck in (although my dentist might be going “NOOOOOOOOO! RESIST!!!!”). 

As a regular visitor to the USA, there are some favourites in here that I’m familiar with; but, there’re also a bunch of things that are new to me!

Big Peach Soda


Starting with one of the bigger items in the box, the can of peach soda. This is a carbonated drink made by “Big Red” (in Austin, Texas) and tastes very much of sweet peaches. 

It’s quite nice and I’d like to use words like “refreshing” and makes a change; here in England we tend not to have many peach flavoured things (except for peaches, which are naturally flavoured). Something nice and different. The Big Peach soda gets a thumbs up from us. 

Snickers Peanut Butter Squared

Something I’d not tried before, but couldn't wait to sample; a Snickers Peanut Butter Squared bar. Peanut butter candies seem to be sneaking their way into the UK now – the fact that you can find Reeses peanut butter products outside of specialist stores being a real indicator of that fact; but this is one that hasn't snuck over to the UK yet. Snickers, in the USA, have a much wider range than they have in the UK. UK – one flavour (ignoring the limited edition “more nuts/ caramel/ chocolate editions that snuck out last year) – USA – lots of flavours. Although in my travels I’d not encountered the Peanut butter squared bar before. Long story short, it’s like a snickers, but with peanut butter instead of peanuts (although you still get a few, small ones in there). 

It is nice having the two squares in the packet so you can (if you have enough self-control) save one for later. I think I prefer this flavour to the regular ones! 

Swedish fish

Swedish Fish, which I think aren't actually from Sweden, are little gummy (jelly?) sweets. Think Jelly Babies and you'll be on the right lines. Unlike Jelly babies and similar, these are thin and have a little bit of a different texture to them - and aren't coated in any sort of powder. Very nice! A nice, fruity (not fishy) flavour. To be honest, they're something we've had before but was, and still are a favourite! They are very moreish! 

5th Avenue bar

This is a new one to us; I don't know if it's one I haven't seen, or just one I've seen but not sampled. Still, it's chocolate and peanut butter - what's not to like? (Pauses to bite) Mmmm. I have to say that this is good. It's fairly similar to "butterfingers" with crunchy - almost like peanut-butter brittle or something surrounded in chocolate (rather than a smooth or crunchy peanut butter filling). Very nice - and something definitely on my "to look out for" list in the future. 

Cow tales 

Another one "new to us"; the cow tales bar is a mix of caramel and … white stuff... um... it says "cream center" - so imagine the sort of thing you'd find in a custard cream biscuit or something. The caramel has a fudge-like quality to it, and the white cream stuff is sweet and I think tastes pretty good. It's an interesting, if slightly different combination of things. Not a bad one though. 

Jolly Rancher Chews 

An old favourite here; we have long been fans of Jolly Ranchers - particularly the boiled sweets (or "hard candy" as Americans tend to refer to it!). They're always packed with flavour and really seem to get the fruit tastes spot on. These chews are no exception - essentially they're like an American Opal Fruit (what do you mean they're not called that any more!) but with slightly different flavours. Very nice, very tasty - and not too bad a box size. 

Tootsie Roll 

Another old favourite here, the Tootsie roll. Now whenever I try and describe Tootsie Rolls (or the other Tootsie variations) to people, I always start off with "It's kinda like a chocolate flavoured chew that doesn't quite really taste of chocolate but tastes of something similar but not quite and you either like it or you don't." 

So how do I describe this? I guess the easiest would be like that. I mean, if you imagine chocolate - but not the stuff of Cadbury or Galaxy - rather the cheap or strangely foreign chocolate you'd get making up some of those odd Easter eggs or Christmas novelty shapes - and you're about halfway there. And instead of it being chocolate, it is like a chew bar with that sort of flavour... 

Anyway, we like these - and always have (since we've known about their existence). 


Another favourite (we have a few favourites) is the Airhead chews; they're soft, chewy candy, but - as you can see with ours - come in a few flavours that aren't regular English ones. This one is Grape - which is a "favourite flavour we almost never get over here" one for us. Nice, tasty and grape-a-licious. 


Dot's are an old favourite of Neil's; these fez-shaped, jelly box-candies are ones he looks forward to - and often brings back on his travels. They are small, gummy-jelly things and taste pretty much as you'd expect. Fruity with a certain moreish quality. 

Mint M&Ms 

Like with Snickers, some favourite brands we actually get over here in UK have a much wider range in the USA; one such brand is M&Ms that have dozens of different varieties - compared to our measly "with peanuts" and "without peanuts" varieties here in the UK. In the Taffy Mail box this month was the Mint (Mint and Dark Chocolate) which is one of our favourite flavour combinations.

Mike and Ike 

Mike and Ike are another candy we've encountered in the past, but this month's box has a special "Jurassic World" tropical fruits box of Mike and Ikes which contains a special "mystery" egg shaped candy; well, we've tried it and the mystery is (not saying - it would spoil things!). The rest of the box is full of the usual Mike and Ike flavoured gummy candy ( Kiwi-banana, Caribbean Punch, Strawberry-banana, paradise punch and mango) and is really nice and fruity! 

One thing we do tend to notice about USA candy is that they seem to get fruity flavours right!

We loved them! 

Tootsie Caramel Apple Pops lollipop

Last but not least is Tootsie Caramel Apple pops (lollipop). Now I always have problems with lollipops - I can never get them out the packet without breaking them - so I was happy this time that the lolly stayed whole and on the stick.. Now I was expecting something to taste like caramel apple -but there's more too it than that. Actually there is a line of green apple hard candy surrounded by a circle of caramel. 

It tastes delicious! Like a candy apple on a stick! 

And that was our box, we were sent the "classic" box (10-12 types of candy and a can of soda) priced at £14.99 per month. Taffy Mail also do a "lite" box (4-5 types of candy) priced at £7.49 per month and an "extra" box (up to 20 types of candy, a can and at least one premium item) priced at £24.99. 

If you would like to get sent your own "favourite piece of mail", then you can sign up over at Taffy Mail

We also have a discount code for our blog readers - simply use the code : WEBKINS at the checkout to get 10% off your first three months subscription! Bargain!

All in all, it was a really great selection and we were very impressed and hope that you will be too!

Disclaimer: The Classic Taffy Mail box was sent to me for the purposes of this post. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Chronic Fatigue Information Session

Last week I went to Bromsgrove hospital to a Chronic Fatigue information session. I was quite worried about going as it was a group session and I suffer from bad anxiety in those situations but my friend Debs kindly took me and came in with me which helped me a great deal. Just to have someone there as support really helped. I found the session really good and felt comfortable enough to relax and take in all the information. 

When the list of symptoms for Chronic Fatigue came up I recognised so many of them in the way I have been over the past 18 years. I first got fatigue after glandular fever in my late teens and have been suffering ever since and only recently got the diagnosis of CFS/ME. 

Key symptoms I personally suffer from:

  • Post-exertional malaise - fatigue after pushing myself too much. 
  • Sleep disturbance - I tend to find getting to sleep at night really hard and then wake feeling tired so therefore nap in the day. I pretty much always feel tired.  
  • Recurrent sore throats - I have sore throats quite often and also enlarged glands. 
  • Digestive disturbances - I suffer from indigestion and get cramps in the stomach often.
  • Temperature disturbance - I always get hot especially at night.

The whole point of the session was for information and access to further help so we didn't really talk about our experiences but occasionally someone would open up a bit and I learnt some great ideas. I have had the illness for a long time and what I need to do is to try and control it better so that I am not spending most of the day in bed. At the moment I don't work because I don't feel reliable enough. I would love a little part time job at some point and that is my goal. So that I have my own money. At the moment I don't claim any benefits and I am lucky enough to have a lovely fiancĂ© who supports me but my long term goal is to be able to get out and work so I can have my own money. It's not nice to have to ask Neil for money for bills let alone for things such as getting my hair cut (which I haven't had done for over a year). I love him totally and appreciate everything he does for me but I want to also have my own money and think a little job in the future would do me so much good. 

So what I took from the session is that firstly I need to try to improve my sleep hygiene. My main problems is that I have an awful routine because I find it so hard to sleep at night and then I tend to nap a lot in the day. I don't know why but I have always found it easier to relax in the day. The last month has been the worst for me. I get times where I get so anxious and frustrated that I can't get to sleep at night which makes it worse. I have also been getting extremely hot at night recently even with the window open I sometimes have to turn the fan on to cool down. A bad habit I have when I can't sleep is getting my phone out and checking Facebook and Twitter. Also I continually look at the clock and then get stressed when time goes by. I need to stop doing both these things. I also need to try and set an alarm and get up at that time every day and try to reduce my naps in the day. The advice I got is to do this very gradually because my body is used to napping in the day so make small steps and that at first I will feel a bit yucky but it will get better. Some days I have been known to sleep for 20 hours a day. Too much sleep sometimes makes things worse. I think for me this is going to be quite tricky. The best way I can describe how I feel when I am feeling really tired is that I feel like my body is going to just fail and I am going to die and then I get tearful and almost like a toddler when they haven't had a nap. I just feel that if I don't have a nap I can't cope with the rest of the day and I go into melt down mode.  

I also need to learn to pace myself better too. When I have a good day I tend to try and get lots done because I don't know when my next good day will be. I need to learn to rein it in a bit and save some of that energy so that I don't end up exhausted and unable to do anything the next day. This is easier said than done I am sure and overall I am a lot better than some people because I don't tend to suffer from muscular pain often so I am able to walk the dog and things like that but if I over do it I do tend to get punished the next day or a few days later and then I am in bed exhausted again.  

The session was really good. I found the information really helpful and hope to take on board some of the suggestions. I have also put my name down to have an individual session to discuss my fatigue and then I am hoping to join one of the group courses to learn relaxation techniques and other ideas of how to help control my fatigue but I am hoping they will have some of these in Kidderminster later in the year as Debs can't always take me every week and as Neil and I don't drive it's not easy to get to Bromsgrove. 

Overall I feel positive that I am moving forwards. For years I have been living like this without any diagnosis. I have had so many tests over the years it's good to have a formal diagnosis and to know that I can get some help to get myself back to the point I want to be where I can get a part time job and have more of a life. I think the hardest thing for me at the moment is letting friends and family down because I just don't have the energy. But overall things are looking up!

The ME Association 
Action for ME 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Serenata Flowers Review and Competition

On the weekend we were sent a hamper from Serenata Flowers; for those who haven't heard of Serenata Flowers they are a company that specialises in luxury food and flower deliveries; including food and wine hampers, flower bouquets, potted plants and a selection of luxury chocolates. 

Our hamper (we said, "surprise us!" because they have such a great selection and we couldn't decide - everything looked too delicious!) was a luxury cheese and crackers basket.

Inside we had three types of cheese (Cropwell Bishop's Finest Blue Stilton, some Godminster Vintage Organic Cheddar and some Croome Cuisine Black Berries and Apple Mature cheddar), a jar of Kay's Kitchen's handmade Organic Tomato and Onion Chutney and a box of Godminster Rosemary Water Biscuits.

Now you know what we're like; someone sends us food, we have to eat it! We had a few water biscuits, sliced off some of the Black Berries and Apple Cheddar and got out the chutney. Obviously it tasted delicious! You'd expect that. But you could tell that these were much higher quality than the sort of thing you'd pick up at the local supermarket. The water biscuits were light and the taste of Rosemary running through them was inspired, the cheese was beautiful - and the fruit gave it a certain je ne sais quoi, which really complemented the sharpness of the cheese. The Onion and Tomato Chutney though was awesome! We loved it! I'd be tempted to say it could double up as a salsa dip as it had a warmth to it which was pleasant and not overpowering; not to mention the fact that it was full of flavour and went well with the cheese and biscuits.

The rest of the cheeses look equally high quality and we're expecting to be just as wowed by them. Our Cheese Trug hamper retails at £39.99 (which includes free delivery) and we think is a great luxury selection to spoil a cheese lover in your life. 

  *** Competition time *** 

Serenata Flowers have kindly given me a £40 voucher to give away to one lucky reader of my blog. You can spend it on anything on their website - be it a hamper, chocolate, flowers or plants. 

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 to residents of the UK only. Good Luck. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Listed on Loquax
UK competitions at ThePrizeFinder

Disclaimer: This cheese trug hamper was sent to me for the purposes of this post. All opinions are my own.