Friday, 31 May 2013

May’s Blog Review

Finally spring arrived, blossom filled the trees, flowers bloomed in the garden and the sun made a welcome (if sporadic) appearance. For me personally, May proved to be a busy month, with the birth of my grandson (first grandchild) for which I was present, even cutting the cord, being the highlight.

On the downside, the Hypermobility class that I attend at my local physiotherapy department is being reduced from weekly to monthly sessions, which will affect so many of us suffering from the condition (for information on Hypermobility Syndrome click here)

On my blog I once again looked at a diverse range of products and services, highlighting the good and bad and making a few recommendations.

I was disappointed with the change of packaging for some Boots No7 products, which I believe has meant less content in some cases, and inferior packaging in others, making it hard to use a measured amount of product, thus causing wastage. Next month, I will be suggesting alternatives to two of the No7 products that I was most disappointed with – the Stay Perfect Smoothing and Brightening Eye Base and the Beautiful Skin Eye Make-Up Remover.

Some of the more serious issues I touched on were visiting the dentist and health screening. It was lovely to hear from JR of the Mohali Dentist Clinic who commented ‘The Dreaded Dentist’ was an ‘impressive post’ with ‘minute details mentioned and clearly expressed’.

I also pointed out that you do not have to pay to get an EHIC card for your holiday. If you find a website trying to charge for this service, ignore it, be sure to visit where you just complete a simple form to receive your card – no fee involved.

Thank you to you all for visiting my blog. There’ll be lots more going on next month, so keep reading!

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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Dickens Festival, Rochester

Twice a year, Rochester in Kent is transformed into a little snapshot of Dickensian England, with characters straight from the pages of his much-acclaimed stories parading the High Street.

For those of you who fancy soaking up this traditional atmosphere, the summer version of this Dickensian extravaganza is about to take place.

From 31st May to 2nd June, you can experience the sights and sounds and meet the characters portrayed in Dickens’ novels. Rochester’s High Street, Castle Gardens and surrounding areas become filled with stalls and entertainers, with a full programme of events available.

As a Kentish lass, I have often visited the Dickens Festival, and even dressed up and participated in it in my youth. Aged 17 I was working at a local Day Centre for the Elderly, which decided to run a stall in the High Street, with us all dressed for the part. I had a great day, sporting a costume made for me by my eldest sister, and was amazed at how many times visitors stopped me in the street to take my photograph.

The photo here was taken by a lovely American tourist, who then gave me a copy (it was the days of the Polaroid camera, instant photos and all that) and it brings back happy memories of a thoroughly enjoyable day.

So why not visit Rochester’s Dickens Festival this weekend?

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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Ready-Made Lasagne

Although most of the time I prepare meals from scratch, I sometimes buy the odd ready meal for an occasional treat, perhaps as a night off from cooking at the weekend or whilst away on a self-catering break.

However, following the horsemeat scandal, like many shoppers I have become more wary about buying certain ready meals, as you can’t always easily identify the source of origin of key ingredients. Even if you study the ingredients list on these meals carefully, there is not always a country of origin named, though you may find loose terms in use such as ‘produced in the EU’ or ‘packaged in the UK’.

This is why when I spotted Tesco Italian Classics (chilled) Beef Lasagne sporting a Union Jack symbol, accompanied by the words ‘100% British Beef’ emblazoned on the front of the packaging, I homed in on it. (It also helped that it was on half price offer, well, you know me).

At last, a ready meal that clearly states its country of origin, instead of hiding an ambiguous phrase on the back. The lasagne itself is tasty too, with a rich beefy flavour, creamy sauce and pasta that is neither too soft nor too firm. A good, filling ready meal with the assurance of British Beef.

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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Haunting by Alan Titchmarsh

I’m an avid reader and am always on the lookout for different, interesting titles and authors to read. On a recent trip to The Works bookshop I was attracted to a book entitled ‘The Haunting’ and decided to take a closer look.

I was surprised to discover that it was written by Alan Titchmarsh, someone whose books I had never considered reading, wrongly believing that he wrote the type of book that would be of no interest to me whatsoever. However, when I read the ‘blurb’ on the back, I realised that it fell into a category of book that I really enjoy – that where two stories, one past and one present, link together in some way.

I love reading books such as ‘The House at Riverton’ and ‘The Forgotten Garden’ by Kate Morton and ‘Sepulchre’ by Kate Mosse, so was keen to get started on ‘The Haunting’, where stories from 1816 and 2010 come together.

I quickly became engrossed in this book, eager to find out the fates of 19th century Anne Flint and 21st century Harry as their stories gradually unfolded in the same places but at different times. The book includes tragedy, romance and the sad effects of dementia on the young and old, all coming together in a very well written, intriguing tale.

OK, maybe part of the ending was a bit predictable, but it didn’t ruin my overall enjoyment of the story.

I really enjoyed reading ‘The Haunting’ and am now eager to try some more of Mr Titchmarsh’s offerings.

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Monday, 27 May 2013

Another Bank Holiday

Here we are again, another Bank Holiday, another long weekend – what are you doing with your ‘extra’ time?

I’m currently relaxing in my much-loved coastal retreat, aka my static caravan by the sea. I love to come here to enjoy the peace, the walks by the sea, the chance to lounge by the pool and to generally take time out form day-to-day life.

Maybe you’ve been spending time in your ‘happy’ place this Bank Holiday Weekend, be it your garden, your shed, your hobby room, your favourite holiday destination, a quiet part of the countryside or wherever.

When it comes to places to visit I have my particular favourites that I love to return to from time to time, and which I highly recommend. Audley End in Essex is a stunning stately home set in beautiful grounds, where I love to wander. Run by English Heritage it is free for members to visit, or costs £13.40 for adults and £8 for children over five and is a really lovely setting for a family outing.

I also love to stroll round the grounds of Hever Castle in Kent, where the gardens are lovely and we can all revert to being big kids, by trying to dodge the water jets in the fun water maze. A ‘gardens only’ ticket costs £12.50 for adults and £8.00 for children, but you can use your Tesco Clubcard Reward Vouchers (exchanged for Days Out vouchers) to gain admission.

But I have to say, one of my all-time passions is for clocks. I love the sound of them ticking and chiming and just love being surrounded by them. (I’m not weird, honestly) So somewhere that I love is Belmont House, Faversham, Kent, (adults £8, children £5) where there is a very impressive collection of clocks to view as part of a guided tour. If you love clocks, you’ll love Belmont.

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Friday, 24 May 2013

Change For The Worse

Change is inevitable and can sometimes bring improvement, but certain changes definitely mean a turn for the worse.

Sometimes changes to goods and services are promoted as being ‘new and improved’ or ‘updated to improve customer satisfaction’, when what is actually meant is increased costs, reduced availability or poorer service.

Unfortunately, I’ve recently become aware of some quite negative changes, which have left me feeling rather annoyed.

NatWest Bank has recently announced changes to account charges to take effect in July. Whereas many customers with arranged overdrafts were previously not charged for the first £100 ‘borrowed’, with interest charges only applied to amounts above this sum, they will now only be given a £10 interest-free amount, not only paying interest on any sum borrowed beyond this, but being charged a flat £6 fee for using their pre-arranged credit zone. I consider this rather a cheek, whilst banks continue to pay overblown salaries and bonuses to high-ranking managers etc, instead of keeping costs to customers at a minimum.

I'm glad for changes in how we dress however
Meanwhile, my local physiotherapy department, to whom I have been extremely grateful in the past six months or so, have decided to reduce the hypermobility (for information on Hypermobility Syndrome click here) class that I attend on a weekly basis, to monthly sessions. This class has not only taught me exercises to minimise the risk of dislocation and other injuries to my joints, but has provided me with ongoing support, checking my joints are really in place when I’m not sure (being unaware of joint position is part of the condition) and helping to get joints in place when they are ‘out’. I’ve been told two different reasons for this change. Firstly budget cuts (the version I believe) and secondly to improve patient care and get more patients seen. None of these arguments work with me, as in an hourly class, one trained physio can see up to 10 patients (or sometimes more), instead of just the usual one per 15 to 30 minutes, therefore being cost-effective whilst providing physio to high patient numbers.

Finally, on a lighter note, but still frustrating, my local Tesco has once again been having a bit of a change round, swapping some of the aisles with each other. Their plan may be to get customers to notice things that they don’t normally buy, whilst looking for the things that they do, but this doesn’t work with me. I’m more likely to give up searching and go somewhere that I can actually find what I want!

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Thursday, 23 May 2013

Tinted Moisturisers

Although I use a foundation that offers good coverage during the winter months, once we get into late spring and summer I often swap to a tinted moisturiser, as hopefully my skin improves somewhat with the arrival of sunshine.

For the last couple of years I’ve used Boots No7 (Triple Protection) Tinted Moisturiser but due to the changes to some of the products in the range, which to my mind have been for the worse, this year I thought I’d try something new.

My latest make-up buy is Olay Complete Care Touch of Foundation, which offers the benefits of an Olay moisturiser, with the addition of Max Factor foundation, to enhance your complexion rather than smother it.

I really like this product; it’s light, easily absorbed and leaves my skin looking and feeling smooth and fresh. A great product for the summer, but unfortunately sunshine isn’t included.

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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Health Screening

Last week I went for a routine mammogram. I’m fortunate in that I live in an area where this kind of screening is performed from around the age of 47, meaning I’ve had two mammograms before some people have even been offered one.

I’m a huge advocate of health screening and firmly believe that you should seize the opportunity to accept any screening that is offered. For years I have also attended regular smear test appointments, which whilst not necessarily pleasant, are vitally important.

There are those who actually condemn health screening, citing false results leading to unnecessary treatments as a reason not to attend such appointments. However, proportionally these ‘false results’ are rare and are often discovered by a single re-test. Yes, it can be scary being told that you may have a serious disease, only to be informed it was a mistake, but surely not as scary as being told that you have incurable cancer that may have been treatable had it been detected early by screening.

My support of health screening stems from my time spent as a former nurse, and has been strengthened by the experience of two cancer deaths in the family in recent years (two of my lovely sisters). Early detection of many health problems is key, hopefully making a potentially incurable condition treatable.

I know that there will still be those who will refuse any form of screening on the basis that Auntie So-and-So was given a false result in the dim and distant past. Whilst my heart goes out to those who have suffered in this way, I’d hate too many people to be deterred from taking part in the excellent screening programmes available.

So back to last week. We all sat tentatively in the waiting room (in the mobile unit at my local shopping centre car park), anticipating the momentary discomfort caused by the ‘squeezing’ action of the x-ray machine. It was the general agreement that our visit to the screening unit merited a scrummy cream cake or extra chocolate bar as a ‘reward’. But of course, our real reward is hopefully receiving the ‘all clear’ for another three years, or at least getting early detection of a problem that will prove treatable.

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

May’s Random Thoughts

Why is it that even if you park in a completely empty car park, you can guarantee that when you return to your vehicle, you’ll find that someone has parked right against your door?

Many of our local bus stops have recently had electronic timetable screens installed, which have now been ‘enhanced’ with spoken messages. These are great for people with poor eyesight (or the rest of us in the sunshine) who can’t read the screens, but I wish the messages were a little less irritating. “The next service is predicted to arrive in two minutes”. Predicted? That’s what they do with horoscopes and look how wrong they are!

I do enjoy the occasional McDonald’s hot apple pie as a treat, and who knows, one day I may even manage to master the art of eating one without losing half of the filling?

Random thoughts are best accompanied by random picture
I wish I could wear a pashmina with style, instead of looking like an overgrown child who has raided the dressing-up box.

Did I miss some new rules about the latest series of The Apprentice? Like contestants need to be even more of a poser, twice as dappy and bear a resemblance to a former contestant. Is it just me, or does Francesca look remarkably like the ill-fated Stella English?

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Monday, 20 May 2013

Eco-friendly Cleaning Products

When some of the more environmentally friendly cleaning products first came on the market, many seemed (to me anyway) to be somewhat less effective than their harsher, more traditional counterparts. However, as time has passed, eco-friendly products seem to have become much more effective at tackling those necessary household tasks.

I’ve recently discovered the Naturally Powered range at Tesco. The first product I tried was the concentrated lemon washing up liquid, which lathers really well, has a pleasant scent and does the job just as efficiently as many other major brands. It’s made from plant-derived ingredients and sold in a 100% recycled bottle, so whilst it may not make you feel better about doing the washing up, at least you can feel good about the reduced impact on the environment.

The range includes a number of cleaning and laundry products, the next on my list to try is the anti-bacterial multi-surface spray.

Another major eco-friendly range is Ecover. I really like the concentrated fabric conditioner in the ‘under the sun’ fragrance. Not only is this a pleasant-smelling, long-lasting product it’s kind to the skin, not tested on animals, and fully biodegradable with no petrochemical ingredients.

What eco-friendly cleaning products do you recommend?

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Friday, 17 May 2013

Preparing For Your Holiday

This time of year your thoughts may well be turning to your holiday. Maybe you’ve already booked a break away, counting down the months, weeks or even days until you go, or perhaps you’re still hunting for that great bargain deal.

Whatever your plans for this year, it’s a good idea to make sure that you’re well prepared.

Renew that passport! Don’t wait until the last minute to check the expiry date on your passport. It’s so easy to forget how long it is since you last renewed it, so double check to be sure. Whether renewing your passport or applying for your first one, I recommend that you use the Post Office Check & Send service. For a fee of £8.75, your form will be checked for omissions and errors, relevant accompanying documents verified and your photo confirmed as passport standard. This prevents your form from being returned to you due to errors, avoiding delays, and includes special delivery of your passport, to further speed up the process. I recently renewed my son’s passport using this service and received his new one within just 10 days.

Ensure you have a valid EHIC – European Health Insurance Card. This is enables you to receive free/reduced cost medical treatment on the same basis as local residents in the countries that it covers (those in the European union plus a few others). But beware! When applying for/renewing your card, take care to avoid the dodgy websites out there that charge a fee for application. When we entered EHIC into the search engine, the first site that came up tried to charge us £29! Remember, the EHIC cards are FREE! Apply for your card using the NHS Choices website, where you just complete a simple form to receive your card – no fee involved.

Prepare to pack. Now is the time to start assembling some of the fiddly toiletry/cosmetic items that you may want to take away. Save sample sachets of face creams etc that you find on the pages of the odd magazine, to pack as opposed to big pots for a short break. Travel sized versions of many toiletries are available to buy, but often cost almost as much as their full-sized counterparts, so either refill any existing mini bottles that your may have, or buy small, empty bottles designed for this purpose from shops such as Superdrug (refillable jar 99p. bottles from £1.59).

Now is the time to get prepared!

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Thursday, 16 May 2013

I-Spy Books

As a child I had a large collection of I-Spy books – 'Birds', 'Trees', 'Flowers', ‘In The Street’ etc, and no journey or outing was complete without taking along at least one or two of them.

There was a lot of pleasure to be had identifying and ‘ticking off’ species of wildlife, unusual objects or lesser-seen road signs. For years I treasured these little books, until I moved on to what I considered to be more ‘grown-up’ pastimes.

The original books were published first by Charles Warrell, then by the Daily Mail, but I was thrilled when I realised that Michelin had revived these little books, including many of the original titles, as well as introducing a few new ones to the collection. Eager to recapture the fun with my son, we’ve invested in ‘Birds’ and ‘At The Seaside’ and will no doubt acquire more – personally though I’m not particularly attracted to ‘Car Badges’.

Of course, like everything else, I-Spy books have had to move with the times. Amongst things to find at the seaside, for example, are ‘Alcohol Free Zone’ signs, ‘Hip Hop Drop’ rides and skateboard kites.

These handy little books provide plenty of fun for the whole family on outings and journeys, with editions aimed at specific locations now available – for example, Oxford, Edinburgh and Paris.

If you’ve never tried an I-Spy book, what are you waiting for? Go and buy one today, and have fun!

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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Dreaded Dentist

I absolutely hate going to the dentist – I’m actually a complete coward when it comes to taking my place in the dentist’s chair.

When an appointment is looming, I start to worry and get filled with dread. It’s not so much the thought of any procedure being painful (even though I don’t respond well to local anaesthetic and sometimes need a double dose); it’s more the feeling of not being in control of the situation.

It didn’t seem as bad in the days when dentists used more upright chairs, but as I have had to start taking up a more horizontal position, I’ve had the increasing sensation of being ‘helpless’.

Add to this the amount of instruments that may be placed in my mouth at any one time, the dental nurse getting a tad overzealous with the suction catheter (oops, there go my tongue and half my cheek), my horrendously sensitive gagging reflex (OK, too much information) and the sweltering light aimed at my face, as if I’m about to undergo interrogation, I can safely say a trip to the dentist is my most hated experience!

Don’t get me wrong; my dentist is a lovely man, patient with me despite my more shaky moments, and very good at his job. But let’s face it; we should all be really grateful to have dentists at all, rather than have to endure our teeth rotting painfully away.

Throughout the Middle Ages and right up to and including the 19th Century, there were no official dentists. Barbers and general physicians pulled out teeth, without the use of pain relief or anaesthetic, and oral hygiene was dire. There certainly weren’t any toothpastes available, so people just chewed on herbs or even ‘cleaned’ their teeth with sugar!

I’ve read that in some cases it may be possible to replace the use of drills in dentistry with lasers. In addition to lasers only being suitable for certain treatments, the equipment involved would prove very costly, so it’s probably not something the average NHS dentist is likely to use any time soon.

I dream of the day when a trip to the dentist will purely involve waving an implement resembling the sonic screwdriver from the set of Dr Who in front of my face, instantly solving any dental problems that I have. How lovely that would be!

Who knows? If much of the anxiety about using the dentist was removed, we may actually talk to each other in the waiting room!

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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Azera Coffee

I find those adverts for Azera coffee really annoying. You know, the ones where a woman flutters her eyelashes at her partner telling him that ‘he knows what she wants’, resulting in said, (very good-natured, I must say) partner climbing out of bed on his quest.

He then feigns leaving the house by opening and shutting the front door, before going to the kitchen to make a cup of Azera. Why she doesn’t hear him clattering around the kitchen making the damn coffee, I don’t know. Coffee-making complete, the guy sticks his head out of the door to wet it from the rain, for that authentic ‘I’ve just been out’ look, before presenting the coffee in her ‘favourite mug’.

Yes, I do find these ads annoying, but yes, I have been tempted to buy the Azera cappuccino and latte varieties, helped by the fact that Tesco have had both of these on ‘half price offer’.

The oval boxes for these contain six sachets apiece, and normally sell for about £2.99. Just make up the sachets with hot water, adding a little milk for that ‘barista authenticity’.

There is a lovely aroma when you make these, and there is a good coffee taste without it being overpowering. The latte was not as creamy as the Nescafé Café Menu Latte, which has a milder coffee taste and costs the same price for eight sachets as opposed to six. After trying the latte, I sampled the cappuccino, but really couldn't tell that much difference between the two. The cappuccino had a slightly stronger coffee taste, but certainly wasn't as frothy as I'd expected - in fact the latte seemed to froth more.

Azera coffee isn’t bad, though not as good as I'd hoped and a bit pricey for my liking.

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Monday, 13 May 2013

This May I’m Loving…

Wilko Scented Candles (in jars) from Wilkinson. I love these neat little candles in jars that cost just £1.50 each, available in a range of fragrances including orange grove, sandalwood, red berry and apple orchard varieties. They very much resemble Yankee Jar candles, which sell for about £7.99 in gift and card shops!

Bayliss and Harding Wild Rose and Raspberry Leaf Hand Wash, which smells absolutely gorgeous, it makes washing hands a real treat!

Pantene 24h Lite Nourishment Leave-in Conditioner (for fine hair). Although I like to condition my hair every time that I wash it, I find some conditioners a little too sticky or heavy. This leave-in conditioner from Pantene comes in a handy pump dispenser for putting just the required amount of mousse-like conditioner in your hand, which you then just work through your hair from roots to tips. No need to rinse, just comb and style as usual for soft hair that doesn’t feel ‘weighed down’.

Iceland Cheese and Ham Chicken Kievs, just £1 for two. These are lovely as they have a good amount of filling that, unlike many other Kievs I've tried, doesn’t leak out during cooking. These make a quick, easy, reasonably priced meal that’s really tasty.

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Friday, 10 May 2013

Good Old-Fashioned Fun

I do love a good, old-fashioned slot machine at a seaside arcade.

When I was a child, each school summer holiday my mother would buy us a week’s runabout train ticket (allowing us to travel anywhere in our region). Every morning she’d ask, “Where shall we go today?” to which I’d reply, “Margate”, and off we went.

I loved Dreamland, a proper old fun fair with rides and games, and all the arcades with their (literally) penny machines. The fun you could have with just a few pennies – or better still the 1/2p machines on Margate’s Sun Pier (long gone). These may have been the most annoying little coins ever, but you could have an awful lot of goes on the machines with them for very little money.

I still believe that seaside arcades are a good source of family fun, even though the cheapest machines you find these days are 2p – happily you can find quite a few of these. We sometimes visit one as part of a weekend outing, sharing a couple of pounds worth of 2p pieces, which we eagerly feed into the slots. Many of these machines now contain small prizes, adding the extra challenge of trying to win one of these, in addition to the hoped-for shower of coins. A recent trip yielded a set of little wind-up teeth, which provided a great source of amusement for my son.

On our trips we always restrict ourselves to the 2p play machines (with the occasional exception of a ‘prize every time’ crane) and limit the amount we spend to just a couple of pounds. This gives us a lot of fun for a little cost, and means we don’t get too compulsive in our play.

Even more fun are some of the ‘old penny’ machines, dating back to the days before decimal currency and computerized games. At arcades containing these machines you can ‘buy’ a bag of old pennies to try your luck at the machines of yesteryear, some of which are much more fun than their modern counterparts. We particularly love the two-player games, where you each turn a handle at top speed to be the first to complete a cycle race/horse race or drain a baby’s bottle and my son simply adores the ones where you guide a ball through a maze.

Do you enjoy a good seaside amusement arcade?

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Thursday, 9 May 2013

Latest Bathroom Cleaning Buys

Like most people I love to have a clean, fresh, shiny bathroom, but I don’t want to spend ages scrubbing it to get it that way. That’s where shopping for my latest bathroom buys comes in.

For swift yet effective cleaning of the bath, shower, basin and tiles I’ve started using Flash Bathroom Trigger Spray with ‘shine protect formula’. Just spray on surfaces, leave for a few minutes then wipe down. It has a fresh smell, removes soap scum and leaves the bathroom looking clean and bright.

I always like to use a toilet rim block freshener, but I don’t like to fiddle too much with refillable cages, which is why I had been using Harpic cageless rim blocks. However, on my last trip to buy more I spotted Bloo Zingy Lime Easy-Load Cage rim blocks, which were somewhat cheaper (and the fragrance appealed to me). Although these blocks do come with a cage, you don’t actually have to open it or even touch it to insert the refills. Just drop a new block into the open front of the cage whilst in situ. They’re easy to use and have a fresh, fruity scent.

I previously recommended Parazone Wipes Plus for quick and easy cleaning of the toilet seat and bowl. I still use these but have found an additional use for them – cleaning the shower curtain. Just wipe one over the curtain to effortlessly remove soap scum, mildew etc – they work a treat!

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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Pot Desserts

Although we enjoy a little something to finish a meal, we’re not big on puddings in our house, except for the occasional weekend treat of apple crumble or lemon meringue pie.

Normally, if we fancy a dessert, we just have a yogurt or a small pot dessert (or fruit if we’re being really good). There’s a great choice of yogurts and pot desserts available on the supermarket shelves, but they can work out a bit pricey if you have a big family to cater for. That’s why I’ve been impressed with the Tesco Value range of desserts.

My favourites from the range are the strawberry cheesecakes and strawberry trifles (available individually or in packs of three for 90p), and crème caramels (available in packs of six for 68p).

It’s actually a wonder that I can even face crème caramels at all, due to the fact that as a child I was taken on a family holiday to Spain, where the hotel we stayed in served crème caramel every single evening. For some considerable time afterwards, we all groaned if someone dared to even mention the confounded dessert.

Anyway, I digress. The pot desserts from the Tesco Everyday Value range are creamy, very tasty and great value for money, so I recommend that you give them a go.

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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Changing Product Packaging

I’m always a bit sceptical when I notice that a product’s packaging has been drastically changed. Is the product inside the same, or has that been changed too, either for the better or worse? Has the size of the product sneakily been reduced? Or has the packaging been made to look more stylish in order to justify a price increase?

I was formerly a big fan of Boots No7 Stay Perfect Smoothing and Brightening Eye Base, but when I went to buy a new pot, I found it came in a smaller compact. The smaller packaging means that there is no longer room to include the handy little applicator that used to be provided. OK, so this wasn’t the greatest of applicators, but it was useful to remove all of the product from the edges of the pot. It’s true; it’s actually easier to blend the creamy base over the eyelid with a finger, but the reduced pot size, means smaller surface area of the product (sorry if I’m getting a bit technical), which in turn means I can’t get a good ‘sweep’ at the eye base to apply it.

The real question is, however, am I actually getting less of the product, or does the smaller packaging just create this illusion? I can’t really answer that, as unlike many other make-up brands, No7 doesn’t state the weight on the packaging.

I’m also disappointed with the new bottle for No7 Beautiful Skin Eye Make Up Remover as the old version used to come with a pump dispenser, but now it’s just in an ordinary bottle. The dispenser allowed me to get just the right amount of remover on a cotton wool pad, but with the new version I invariably end up with too much. Is this just a ploy to make me use the remover more quickly, so that I have to buy it more often? Well, it won’t work. I’m off to find a new brand – I’ll let you know how I get on.

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Friday, 3 May 2013

Putting The Care Into Nursing

I’ve been very interested to hear about the latest proposals for introducing more care experience into the nurse training process, not just from a patient’s point of view, but also because I’m an ex-nurse.

I trained as a registered nurse back in the 80s when it was all a much more ‘hands on’ experience. I initially spent six weeks in the nursing school (attached to the hospital in which I was to gain experience) learning basic theory, taking the blood pressures of my fellow students, resuscitating a floppy dummy and yes, injecting oranges.

Following this I had my first taste of working on the wards, completing two 8-week placements, one surgical, one medical, before returning to the school for the first of the fortnight-long modules that we were to study throughout our 3-year course.

Throughout my training, I worked for a few months on the wards, returning to the school at regular intervals to study more theory. Practical learning was centred on the wards, supervised by clinical tutors and ward staff – and I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

On my first ward I learnt a lot of basic care, from bed-bathing to assisting patients with feeding and mobility, as well as giving my first injection. As time went on I continued with the general care, but also learnt an increasing amount of skills and procedures, such as performing dressings, removing sutures, catheterisation, administering medication and so on.

I loved the fact that I was working and learning at the same time, and contrary to what opponents of that system would have you believe, I never felt I was ‘cheap labour’. It’s true the wages weren’t great, but I was learning through paid employment, whilst working towards a valuable qualification.

Another great thing about this system of nurse training was that it ‘weeded out’ at quite an early stage, those who were not really suited to the profession. Some students left as they turned out to be somewhat squeamish or found that the job just wasn’t what they’d expected, whilst others were asked to leave as they lacked ‘bedside manner’ or did not fulfil certain criteria or pass assessments.

To me, this was the type of training that made most sense. We started in our roles as Staff Nurses with realistic expectations and a wealth of experience behind us. I have never understood the logic of replacing this system with a university-based course.

So if the government wants to know how to improve nurse training, then the answer is simple. Revert to the ‘hands on’ system, with hospital-based nursing schools and the emphasis on practical learning.

What do you think?

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Cleansing Wipes

I’m very particular with skincare, always removing all traces of make-up in the evening, with a proper cleansing and toning routine, and washing my face with a mild, foaming face wash in the mornings.

However, when it comes to a break away from home, I often travel light, swapping the various bottles of lotions and potions for effective cleansing wipes.

Boots No7 Beautiful Skin Quick Thinking Wipes are a good choice as they have a really handy, solid plastic lid that clips shut, preventing the wipes from drying out. Too many other brands only have a  ‘resealable’ sticky section, which invariably becomes unstuck. The wipes are hypoallergenic, and are effective for removing all kinds of make-up including waterproof mascara, leaving skin feeling clean and soft.

In place of a face wash I pack Olay Essentials Daily Facial Cloths, textured sheets that you simply moisten to release a moisturising cleanser to gently lather over your face. I find these really refreshing, cleansing my skin without drying it out.

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Wednesday, 1 May 2013

This May Why Not…?

Enjoy some May Day fun. In 1978 the May Day Bank Holiday was instigated in the UK, allowing us to enjoy a 3-day weekend in the spring sunshine (fingers crossed). There will be many events across the country so be sure to check out what’s going on in your area. We often attend the Sweeps Festival at nearby Rochester (Kent), where you can be entertained by a host of Morris dancers and mummer groups. Stalls and displays line the High Street and fill the Castle Gardens, including a fun fair, arts and crafts stalls and refreshment stands. This year the festival is from 4th to 6th May, so go along if you have the chance – it’s really good fun!

See Britain in Bloom. I love this time of year with blossom on the trees and so many lovely flowers coming into bloom and I enjoy visiting some of the wonderful gardens that are open to the public. Some historical buildings have beautiful gardens and grounds that you can visit independently of the actual buildings, including Penshurst Place and Hever Castle, both in Kent. Penshurst has 11 acres of walled gardens as well as a great play area for the kids to let off steam, whilst Hever has well-tended lawns and plants, a large lake and a fun water maze which can be enjoyed by all. Both these attractions offer ‘gardens only’ admission rates, but for a bit extra you can explore the buildings too.

Ditch the bread. If you regularly have a packed lunch or like to make up a family picnic, you may, like me get very fed up of bread. So why not fill some mini pitta breads or flour tortillas with your choice of fillings instead. They make a welcome change and are a more ‘summery’ option too.

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