Monday, 11 January 2016

Degustabox Review - November 2015

Our November Degustabox arrived at the beginning of December. With Christmas and New Year being hectic we have only just got around to finishing our review. 

The November box was full of delightful foodstuffs; from breakfast delights through to festive desserts. Lets have a look inside.

Butterkist popcorn - £1.49 / £0.55 per bag (156g/27g)

First thing that jumped out of the box at us was popcorn! We were sent two bags of Butterkist popcorn; one being the rather posh, share-sized 156g bag of Butterkist discoveries, salted caramel flavoured popcorn. The other, a smaller individual serving-sized 27g bag of Butterkist sweet and salted popcorn. 

The first thing I have to say is that I have always been a fan of Butterkist. As a child, if I was to think of popcorn, it would be a bag of Butterkist. Now these two bags are very different to the caramel covered corn I enjoyed as a child. First up, the sweet and salted popcorn. This 136 Kcal, 27g bag (with 60% less saturated fat and best ever recipe). It's simple, but not detractingly so. It's a good balance of sweet and salty; exactly what it says on the packet. 

Moving onto the Discoveries salted caramel. SOMEBODY TAKE THIS BAG AWAY FROM ME! I CAN'T STOP EATING IT! If heaven was popcorn, this would be it. The taste is similar to the butterkist of my youth, but, as if Heston Blumenthal was let loose on it and reinvented it and made it so much posher. This is divine popcorn. And although the recommended serving size is 20g, 81Kcal... I bet you can't but help shovel the whole lot in and munch like there's no tomorrow. LOVE IT. 

Divine 70% Dark Chocolate with Raspberries - RRP: £1.00

From divine tasting popcorn to Divine chocolate. I'm a fan of this. Many moons ago I was fortunate enough to win a chocolate hamper from Divine chocolate. There is something about them that is quality. Divine by name, divine by nature. The dark, velvety chocolate is complemented nicely by the raspberries. Fruit and chocolate – what is not to like? 

(For those that need a bit more of a reason to like Divine chocolate over other brands; they are fairtrade, suitable for vegetarians and free of palm oil). 

Nim's Pineapple and Mango Fruit Crisps - RRP. £0.99

Now these are an incredibly nice surprise. I was expecting thick chunks of dry fruit; but these are nothing like that. These are very thinly sliced. I think the thinnest slices of dried fruit I've ever encountered! And there is something definitely inspired about the Mango and Pineapple combination. Sweet and delicious, and counts as one of your five a day fruit-and-veg. They're high in fibre and Vitamin C and we love them! 

Tuckey's Proper Digestives - RRP £1.80 

Now this is a nice idea. The Db Discovery this month is a box of Tuckey's proper digestive biscuits. Proper? These 'demonstrably different' digestives are made from a 1950's original recipe. 

Inside the 240g box are four packs of four biscuits; ideal to take as a snack in your lunchbox. I have to say that these are quite nice. I am a digestive fan, and these do have a different taste to them than your regular digestive. It's like a subtle difference, but it is there. It would be definitely be good to try other biscuits in the range and see how they compare. 

I'm not just saying that because I like biscuits. Honest! 

We enjoyed these a lot. Not sure we picked up on the nostalgic "before all the good was taken out 10-15 years ago" vibe though; but maybe that's because today's digestives don't actually taste that bad. But I think it's a personal thing. We'd like to try other biscuits from the range though, definitely.

Bourne and Wallis pickled onions - RRP £1.40

Just the thing to accompany our boxing day meal of Turkey, Chips and Pickles. And these are delicious! Some of the best pickled onions I've ever tasted! A lot of it is the vinegar. The vinegar has a distinct sweetness to it, but with a gentle hint of spice. And it perfectly compliments the onions.

With the Tuckey's biscuits; the difference between the traditional and the current, I feel is slight. With these onions though, you can taste something definitely more traditional about them. Almost a handmade-ness to them. 

Like the jar lid says, "made with love and care" and they definitely taste like they are. 

Belvita Soft Bakes - RRP £2.79

Now we are already fans of Belvita; they are our "go to" for a quick breakfast bite in the morning on those days where the alarm doesn't go off on time and we have to eat on the run. But these soft bakes are new to us. 

Like other Belvita products, each box comes with a number of individually wrapped portions; 5 in the case of these soft bakes. Each portion contains a single, rather thick biscuit bar. 

There are three different flavours available, but we were sent the Red Berries this time. 

Sampling; they taste good. The soft baked bar has a slightly unexpected quality to it; I think being used to the firmer bars in the range didn't prepare us for how soft and chewy these are. There is a bit of a crunch to them though; which for some reason reminds me of a crumble. 

All in all. Loved them. The only problem is that although one bar is enough, they're a bit more-ish and it's hard to just have one bar. 

Teisseire gourmet flavour drops - RRP £2.79 each

Not necessarily just for breakfast, we were sent two little flavour drop, squirty pot... things. (I'm not entirely sure how you're meant to describe them); you've seen them before, usually adding cordial flavours to water bottles in the summer; these are for the coffee-shop connoisseur. We were given the vanilla and caramel flavour drop-pots; so set about using them right away. 

All I can really say is they do what you'd expect them to. They turn an ordinary coffee into a vanilla one; they make a hot chocolate a caramel hot chocolate... 

The flavours are good; they work well. 

What I might do is – next time I'm at the coffee shop – sneak a squirt into my plain latte and see if I can save on the 30p plus they always charge for these little additions. 

Cheddar and cracked black pepper Ryvita Thins - RRP: £1.89

Okay; you got me. How did you know my Achilles heel was cracker things I can dip into hummus (and similar things)? These are great. Alone you get a subtle cheddar flavour with the heat of the black pepper. 

But with a flavoursome dip, the cracker thin seems to compliment and not overpower. The only problem I have with these is that they are far too more-ish! I can't stop eating them. Great for a party platter or a buffet style meal thing. Very nice. 

Ryvita Green & Black Olive Crackers - RRP £1.29

A second cracker pack this month; whereas the other crackers were very much party dipping thins for sharing, these are individual packs of crackers for your packed lunch; or to help you with that all important portion control – or maybe, just maybe, to stop that annoying cracker malady that happens – the soggy, soft, open cracker disaster. 

These are thin, crispy, firm crackers. I'd compare them to water biscuits, but with a bit more of a crunch to them. They're available in a variety of flavours, but we were sent the green and black olive flavour – and you can definitely taste the olive in there. At first bite it throws you, but subsequent nibbles and you wonder what you were worrying about. 

Nice with stronger cheeses that would definitely compliment the cracker. 

Williamson Lemon Tea - RRP £4.00

In previous Degustaboxes we've been offered Williamson teas before – a few boxes back it was the ginger tea – which is a firm favourite in our house. However, lemon teas we approach with some trepidation. Lemon tea is one of those things that... well... I'd say it doesn't always tickle our tastebuds. 

First we tried the tea black; and it didn't do it for us. But, committing the heinous crime of adding a splash of milk and some sugar and it turned it around. There is a nice flavour there; the lemon is maybe a little subtle, but all in all, it's not bad. 

Very much a quality product with their nice little fabric pyramid bags. This ethical tea … well... because we're not lemon fans, we won't be picking it up – but we'll definitely be keeping an eye open for their other flavours. 

Branston Orchard Fruit Chutney - RRP £1.49

Unfortunately, we have so many open jars of chutney in the fridge at the moment, we didn't manage to get around to this one – however – it looks and sounds delicious! So we'll be looking forward to sampling it in a few months time when we throw away the last empty, open jar. 

We're a fan of Branston – so are expecting something tasty! 

Hartley's Jelly -  £1.29 

Another item we didn't manage to make up yet – but definitely will; we're Jelly fans! And the glitter sparkle jelly looks and sounds really cool. (We were sent Black Cherry Jelly and Strawberry Glitter Jelly). This one fell foul to us having too many mince pies, chocolate puds, Christmas puds, crumbles and other deserts to munch our way through... but... as most of those have now been eaten, these won't sit untouched for long! 

Jim Jam's no added sugar Hazelnut Chocolate spread

And one final item we haven't gotten around to yet; we have some 'other brand' hazelnut spread on the go as I write this – although I expect that we will be onto munching this very soon. It looks good! 

And that's it! That was the November Degustabox - another great value foodie box full of wonderful surprises. 

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 £6 off their first box. The code is:


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

Disclaimer: The November 2015 Degustabox was sent to me for the purposes of this post. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The Past, The Present and The Future (Goals for 2016)

It's 2:30am and I can't sleep. I have things on my mind that I need to get out in order to rest. This may be a long post. 

The Past

When you are around the age of 16 and you start choosing your path in life you get a rough idea in your head as to where you want to be. I always saw my life as follows by the age of 30, I thought I would have a good job in I.T., married to a lovely man with two children. However life really doesn't always turn out that way. 

Here I am at 36.....going on 37 and the only good things I have going in my life is my relationship with Neil and of course my lovely family.  When I was 18 I got glandular fever followed by depression and Chronic Fatigue (which wasn't formally diagnosed until this year) which changed my life forever.  Before I got hit by illness I had a good job in I.T. Support and was just moving on to become a web designer. Then boom....I got ill and never recovered. I know there are a lot of people worse off than me but that doesn't stop me from thinking wow I really did screw up my life.

I am not going to lie. I have never been confident about the way I look. Even at 18 when I was stick thin I didn't think I was pretty. In my early teens when I started liking boys I hung around with the local paper boys who I fancied and each one of them ridiculed me because I didn't have in their words "big tits." so they played around with my feelings and joked about me a lot. Things like that at a young age really affects you. I think it's just that some boys are immature and they probably didn't realise that it would go on to affect me. However despite this things were going good for me in other areas of my life. I was gaining some confidence whilst still suffering from a lot of my anxiety issues in certain situations that I had from a very early age (more info on this in my post about my mental health). 

So then I got the dreaded glandular fever and depression and it all pretty much went downhill from then. I put on a huge amount of weight (as in going from 8 stone to 18 stone in a matter of two years) which I continue to battle with constantly. As I was ill I couldn't work and was off for two years. Then my mum bought a B&B and I worked there until she sold it. After that I found a job working from home for an online B&B booking agency. The job was good for me in that my boss understood about my illness and I could sleep around my job. I met the love of my life Neil (our love story is here if you would like a feel good read), Three years ago I moved to Kidderminster to be with Neil and everything was looking good. Then sadly work dried up and I lost my job. It was a big blow to me. 

The Present

So for the last two years I have been jobless and I feel getting deeper and deeper into a state of depression. I think 2015 for me was my worst year mentally and physically. Firstly I found out that the stomach problems I have been suffering from is gallstones. Then after waiting for ages to see a consultant I found out that I am too fat to operate on so it's just another problem I have to live with until I lose enough weight to have it removed. So that;s another problem on top of chronic fatigue, depression and asthma. 

My fatigue is totally out of control, as in right at this moment I sleep better in the day than at night. My body clock is totally screwed up. Any energy I do have (which isn't much anyway) seems to be in the evening and at night I get into bed and I can't shut my brain down. This means during the day when normal human beings get everything they need to do done I am feeling worse than ever or sleeping and I don't think my neighbours want to hear a vacuum at two in the morning. 

My anxiety scared me really badly in 2015. In particular when Neil was away visiting his children in the states and I was at my mums I had a really bad anxiety attack. I haven't had one like that for about five years and now I just live in total fear of depression coming back which to me ever since I had depression has been my biggest fear. 

Other issues I currently have are money/job related because I suffer from chronic fatigue I don't feel at this present point I would be of any value to any employer. Hence why I haven't gone out and looked for a job. I really need to sort out my sleep pattern at least before I try that. As I am out of work and off sick I tried to claim some benefit, even if it was just £10 a week, just to help me out a little but sadly I am not entitled to a penny even though I have put in over the years I worked whereas some people get every benefit under the sun. I wrote a post about this before which you can read here as to why I'm not entitled. So I have to rely on Neil and bless him he is fine with this. He knows I am not like a lot of girls who go out on big spending sprees etc. In fact I haven't had my hair cut in a year and a half because I can't justify spending Neil's money on it. I am so thankful to Neil for helping me with my few bills I have. To have absolutely no money of your own is totally demoralising though. I feel worthless and constantly stressed and worried about things cropping up for example needing to go to the dentist or paying for the next prescription of inhalers and anti-depressants. 

Gosh this is sounding I said in the beginning the only good things that I feel I have going in my life is Neil and my family back in Somerset. So this brings me to my constant battle in my head about having a baby. It's so hard sometimes especially when you get to a certain age and you see everyone around you having beautiful babies and knowing you probably won't be having kids ever. I always thought I would be a mum but right now it's like having two little people whispering in my is saying "you want a kid, you won't feel complete if you never have a kid" and the other is saying "Neil can't have kids and do you really want a kid when you find it hard to cope with looking after yourself?". And so it goes on. Neil has kids already and after having his kid he made the decision to not have any more. I knew about it when we met but at the time we both fell madly in the love and we kind of said we would work it out in the future as there are some options. Now it's getting more and more unlikely that we will work it out or if we do in time (biological clock and all that). Sometimes it's quite hard for me listening to him chatting to his girls and laughing away and not really knowing them well either and feeling a little like he has this separate life away from me. I would never ever begrudge him the time he has to spend with his kids chatting or visiting them. It's not the way I am. I know how important they are to him and I just want him to be happy and I would like to one day meet them and hope that they would like me.

And so I bring it back to my self confidence issues. Sometimes I stand in front of the mirror and think "gosh look at yourself girl...when you was that skinny girl I bet you didn't think you would be like this....huge, broken and useless." In the last year I feel I have gone backwards to the stage where I feel like Neil is doing more and more and that I am not really good enough for him. I feel guilty that I am not giving enough all the time. I'm just surviving and I'm not living! 

I know some people would think I am being hard on myself and may even see this post as attention seeking but that isn't my intention. I find writing things down helps get it off my chest and I want to document this so that in the future I can look back on it and see how I have hopefully changed my view of myself. 

The Future

So I am sat here now writing this post and thinking that I need to make some BIG changes this year so that I can get out of this rut. So here are my goals for 2016. Some will be harder to achieve than others but I am going to give it a good go. 

1. Lose some weight - ultimately half my health problems aren't helped by me being overweight. So my first and ongoing goal will be to get back on my diet and lose the weight I have put back on. To get back off the diet Pepsi because I am convinced the sweeteners in them doesn't help at all and have read reports that people have suffered from MS type symptoms because of the sweeteners. So I will be going back to the formula that worked the last time I tried to lose weight of calorie counting so that I am not over eating. I will make sure that I walk the dog more often too (the last few weeks Neil has been off work for Christmas and doing a lot of the walks alone). I will make sure I drink plenty of water too and maybe try and go swimming once a month or so. 

2. Sort out my sleep - I am going to do my up best to try and sort out my body clock so that I am going to bed at a decent time and getting up at a good time in the morning. I know that it will be hard to battle the fatigue and that it will be a slow process making the changes but in the long run I am hoping that it will help me. Also as advised at a fatigue session not taking too many long naps. 

3. Work on my anxiety - I am going to try and work on my anxiety problems. The whole feeling sick in certain situations has been going on since I was 11 years old which is a long time so I know this might take a bit of work. I think I might talk to the doctor about getting some professional help. Maybe CBT would be a good idea for me. I am also going to make sure that I keep going to bingo each week despite the fact that I get anxiety every time I go. I think it does me good and I really enjoy going. It's a good evening out and in a way it challenges me with the anxiety issues. Maybe confronting the problems will help more than avoiding them.

4. Work on my self confidence - Like I said before, I have never thought highly of myself for one reason or another. The saying is that no one can love you unless you love yourself. Feeling negative about myself all the time isn't going to help me. I think I need to try to be a little less hard on myself with regards to being a failure. I need to try and work on my positives which is that I am a nice, caring and kind person. I have a lot of love to give to the people around me that I care about, even if that is all I feel I have right now. Maybe when I sort my sleep pattern out I might try and find a little volunteer job in a charity shop for a few hours a week which might help build my confidence. 

5. Make more of an effort - I know that because of my fatigue I don't get things done. I need to start making more of an effort to do the little things to help out. Even if it's just the washing up or something like that. I do these things now but only when I feel well enough to so I feel it's unfair on Neil. I want to give back even if it's just the little things. I do feel a lot of the time that he could do so much better than me but he always reassures me that he loves me and wants to be with  me. I know I am extremely lucky to have him and he is so patient and understanding. I am not the type of person who likes relying on other people all the time. I feel extremely guilty when I can't do certain things because of my fatigue. So whilst working on my fatigue I want to work on making sure I do more of the things that need doing around the house. 

I am sure there is more to add to my list. I need to stop worrying about life so much and enjoy it. You only live once and I don't want to hit 40 years of age and still feel like I am in a rut. I have been unlucky that I have been struck with chronic fatigue but it's not the end of my life. I need to learn to live with it and control it and not let it control me. I'm going to do this. I am going to take control of my life again and work through the problems and become the person I want to be and the person I know I am deep down!