Blogmas day 13 – warming winter food

On Monday a box arrived from Amazon and inside was my new pressure cooker!

The reason I’m telling you this is that I used it last night to make one of my favourite winter meals – a quick and easy winter stew!

I used to have this as a child too, although my Nan didn’t use a pressure cooker. I could smell the stew as it was cooking and I knew there would be a tasty warm meal with dumplings.

Actually I didn’t make any dumplings, because I didn’t have much time yesterday, but it’s a hearty and pretty healthy meal because all I used was fresh vegetables and some meat, though of course you could do it without the meat.

I won’t write down a recipe because my stew is different every time. Yesterday I used pork, potatoes, mushrooms, a tomato, an aubergine, and a couple of onions. I covered the meat and vegetables with gravy and whatever herbs and spices I felt like chucking in! I tasted the gravy mixture to make sure the spices were right before I poured it over the meat and veg that were already in the pressure cooker.

If you like it spicy, you can add chillis. I added two because we like our meals to have a bit of heat, but you don’t need to do this if you don’t like spicy food.

I like to make stews in the pressure cooker for two reasons – it’s super quick – after I’d prepared everything and the pressure cooker started steaming, it took about 25 minutes for the meal to be cooked. Then you just need to wait for the pressure to go down so it’s safe to open the lid. The second thing is how it makes the potatoes all soft and fluffy!

You can tell when it’s ready, because even if you can’t see the steam, it starts to hiss like a big snake, which is when you need to start timing.

I will admit that I’m slightly scared of the pressure cooker because I’ve heard stories of bad things happening, and I know that there is a lot of pressure building up inside it, but I have also heard that they are safer now than they used to be, so it doesn’t put me off from using it.

I do have a slow cooker too, and I sometimes cook casseroles in there, but sometimes I don’t feel the meat tastes quite as good as when you do it in the pressure cooker.

Making this kind of meal is a good way to use up any vegetables you have left over. We do sometimes have an excess of veg because of our vegetable box, and as I don’t like waste, I’ve been making winter soups. Having some hearty winter stews as well will be a good way to mix things up a bit!

How about you? What do you like to cook when it’s cold and grim outside?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

The calendars

So, what was behind your door no. 13?

L’Occitane – I thought it was another soap, but no! It was a sugar bath cube! I haven’t tried one of those before, so it will be interesting to see what they’re like, and as it’s a sugar one, it shouldn’t be too messy because sugar is soluble.

M&S – today I got a fragrance – blood orange from Shay and Blue. I know it’s a risky business putting a fragrance in an advent calendar, and you won’t please everyone, but I really like this. I’m glad they went for a citrus one rather than a really floral one. You get 10ml, so enough to really try it out (I can’t see the point of those little 2ml ones!), and it’s something I would consider buying full size.

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Blogmas day 6 – what do people from other parts of Europe think about Christmas in the UK?

Find out what some friends from other parts of Europe think about Christmas in the UK – what’s the same and what new traditions have they discovered?

I’ve interviewed a number of people from other parts of Europe who have lived, or who are now living in the UK. I wanted to know when they usually celebrated Christmas, whether they had discovered any new traditions, whether the food in England was different to the food that they usually ate, and whether there is anything that they miss from their home country. This is what they told me.

Andrea

Andrea is from Germany and she has spent some time living in England. You can find out more about Andrea on her blog.

The important day is Christmas Eve (“Heiligabend”), the 24th December. While this is in fact a normal working day (only the 25th and 26th of December are official holidays), most shops close at 2pm and most families attend church service in the late afternoon and then it’s time for the presents.

I was used to the Christmas tree being brought into the house on the morning of the 24th December, and then we would all help with the decorations, then have lunch and then the room would be locked until the evening.

In England, my housemates bought a Christmas tree at the beginning of December and started decorating it, and also already putting presents there. Also, there’s the tradition of hanging up Christmas cards on the wall above the chimney which my Mum has since picked up, so this has become part of our own tradition now.

In Germany, we also don’t have Christmas crackers. One year, I brought them home for my family, but they were not too impressed 😉

Germans love their Christmas cookies and gingerbread. This is a very big thing here and I didn’t get quite the same impression in England. However, bringing the whole family together for Christmas and having a real feast (turkey in England, goose in Germany) is something that is rather similar.

I didn’t really miss anything since my Mum made sure that I received a parcel with gingerbread and “Stollen” (a kind of fruitcake). I invited the neighbour’s kids round for several cookie baking sessions, so this was covered, too. With all the decorations and new traditions to discover, I never had the feeling that something was missing.

Madleen

Madleen is also from Germany and she is now living in England. This is what Madleen has to say about Christmas in the UK:

Whilst in England Xmas is celebrated on 25th with a main meal and Christmas pudding and family get togethers, In Germany we actually celebrate Xmas on 24th, Xmas eve and 25th Xmas Day.

We get together with family and friends on 24th sit around the Christmas tree with loads of cake *the traditional Xmas Stollen* and home made cookies and ginger bread men to celebrate Xmas eve.

Some people attend Christmas church services and come home a bit later to share out the gifts “bescheerung”

Santa Clause will make an appearance For the young ones in the family, and if it snows he might come in a sledge pulled by horses of course with his huge sack of gifts and in the Santa costume.
The children have to recite a poem or sing a song before they receive their gifts. All gifts will remain unopened until everyone has had their share and then the big “unpacking” will begin.

Afterwards platters of fruit and sweets will be put on the table accompanied by wine and drinks.

A traditional Christmas eve dinner is potato salad with German Sausages *Wiener wuerstchen or Bockwurst*

I will never even begin to understand the rush and excitement of Boxing day sales.

For me, Xmas is all about creating a peaceful home, eating good food *even there we differ, more about this later, But here in England many people run out to pubs with their friends, and Xmas is not such a “stay at home affair” as in Germany.

On 26th people hit the stores to grab a good Xmas bargain in the boxing day sales whilst in Germany all shops remain shut for 3 4 days at the least.

Also we don’t hang up stockings for Santa to fill, And we don’t give a mince pie and milk to Santa on 24th in the evening and no carrots for the reindeer, however this is a custom I make my daughters do at all times every year!

Yes, although as the years go by, everything is changing a bit. We in Germany would eat Goose, or Duck, and in England its mainly turkey. In Germany our festive food is mainly accompanied by red cabbage and here we have all sorts of vegetables.

In Germany we bake Xmas cakes *the festive Christmas stollen with or without marzipan and currents and sugar icing* But in England we eat Xmas pudding also the biscuits are different.

I miss stollen, I can buy them here, but I like them home baked so I go to bake my Stollen every year with a really good friend in Leipzig! 😉 We bake 20 Kilos in one sitting *it takes usually 1 day* and we prepare the dough for the same in a huge baby bath tub!

I miss Domino Steine *a sweet, fruity, jammy filling surrounded by marzipan and chocolate.
Lebkuchen *ginger bread men*

But I miss the traditionally prepared Xmas duck only my mum and grandma know how to prepare with a plumb and apple filling, and red cabbage to go with it accompanied by potatoes or traditional dumplings 😉

I learned to cope without it, if I’m here and mix my Christmas meal. I cook a turkey crown with red cabbage and potatoes and bake the Christmas cookies that my children enjoy decorating. So I bring Germany that little closer to our home in England.

One thing I miss over here though is everything we’d buy at a German Xmas market/advent market. Gebrannte Mandeln *sugar coated roasted almonds* or cashew nuts and Mutzen and hot waffles / wafers are just a few to name here.

I believe the German markets bring the atmosphere we all need to get into the Christmas spirit.

But if we miss it too much, maybe we can all go to “winter wonderland!” or to the traditional mini German markets all over the country another good tip is: http://www.germandeli.co.uk ” a German supermarket where we can order our German food online.

Salomi

Salomi moved from Greece to the UK. This is what Salomi had to say:

In Greece, Christmas Day is celebrated on 25th December.

I’ve thought about this question for a while now, but no, not really, there’s nothing new I’ve discovered in the UK.

There are no big differences in terms of food. The meat is the same, roast turkey and potatoes, we don’t have Brussel sprouts in Greece and we don’t have pigs in blankets either.

I can’t think of anything that I miss from Greece at Christmas time.

Angelika

Angelika is a German teacher who lives in England. You can find out more about Angelika on her her website.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day are Bank Holidays just like in the UK, but the Christmas celebration starts on Christmas Eve, where the shops and most companies finish around lunchtime. Many people go to church and they also open their presents on Christmas Eve.

Apart from the Queen and some Germans (and possibly other foreign nationals), English people open their presents on Christmas Day and not Christmas Eve. Also it seems that only churches have an Advent wreath but unlike German Advent wreaths which have four candles for the 4 Advent Sundays, the churches have a fifth one for Christmas Day.

One big difference in terms of food is that the English Christmas dinner is turkey where as in Germany it varies. Also I had never heard of mince pies and Christmas pudding until I came to England.

My first Christmas in England in 1982 was the only time I was ever homesick. I was used to opening presents and going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve but in England I got taken to the pub before church. That just didn’t seem right to me.

During the first few years I couldn’t get any typical German sweets, so my parents used to send me ‘red cross’ parcels. In return I used to send them some mince pies … until I found out nobody actually liked them 🙂

Thanks to shops like LIDL and ALDI, nowadays I can get almost all the German Christmas sweets I like so much. Now I only need red cross parcels with Marzipankatoffeln, those little marzipan balls that look like potatoes. I wish I could get them here!
This is Angelika’s website about learning German.

Carmen

Carmen is from France and she spent a number of years living in England.

In France, the main celebrations are on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Some people go to mass on Xmas Eve. The Christmas Eve meal starts around 8:30 pm and lasts until Santa comes at midnight.

Boxing Day, Xmas crackers, minced pies, and The Queen’s speech were all new to me.

There are more shellfish in France, such as oysters; the main dessert in France is the Christmas Yule log. In France we also eat goose liver paté and boudin blanc (white meat with port or truffle in a sausage skin) at Xmas time. These are the things that I missed when I celebrated Christmas in the UK.

H3> Nic

Nic moved from Germany to the UK. You can find out more about her on her her website.

The main celebration is on 24th December. Shops are open until mid-day but then preparations get underway for the evening (cooking, decorating the tree, putting everyone’s presents underneath), as that’s when we have our actual Christmas dinner. The 25th and 26th, both public holidays in Germany, are usually reserved for visiting family, having even more food and exchanging gifts.

Christmas crackers were new for me! And wearing the hat that comes with them. And Christmas jumper days at work, which I love. Also eating Christmas pudding, which we don’t have in Germany.

Duck or fish might be more prevalent in Germany but turkey is definitely popular. No Christmas pudding but some sort of festive dessert or the home-made Christmas biscuits: some similar to shortbread but thinner, lots of “lebkuchen” (which you can get in more and more UK supermarkets, it’s a dark dough, similar to gingerbread but less gingery), cinnamon stars with icing…

Foodwise, I definitely miss the cinnamon stars, but I also miss the romantic, promising festivity that comes with having the actual Christmas in the evening, rather than the morning.
Christmas markets are missing, although I haven’t tried the ones that the UK has to offer yet.

Honza

Honza is from the Czech Republic and he now lives in the UK.

The main date for Christmas celebrations in the Czech republic is 24th December

Opening presents in the morning is a new custom for me. We open them in the evening plus the day before the British do.

Carp is the typical christmas meal. Quite often you would buy it while its still alive and have it as a “pet” in the bath before it gets served on a plate on christmas day.

Christmas is not that much of a big deal for me and I don’t celebrate it much since I am never home for it so all it is to me is just a busy period at work so I’d say I miss being on holiday during christmas as a child.

This post was first published on English with Kirsty.

Christmas tree in Stockholm

The calendars

Are you opening an advent calendar this year? If so, what’s behind door number six?

L’Occitane – today I got some conditioner. I have tried this before and wasn’t mad about the smell, but it’s still a good product and I’ll use it!

M&S: today I got a liquid lipstick – Stila stay all day in perla. I got this calendar because I knew there was a lot of skincare in there, but it was nice to see some make-up too. I usually prefer satin creamy lipsticks because I find liquid lipsticks can be a bit drying on the lips. However, this one isn’t sticky (I had a bad first experience!) and I’m happy to have it in my collection for when I feel like a change.

Question for the day

So today’s question is – Christmas jumpers, yes or no? And if yes, what’s your favourite?

I tend to wear more Christmas jewellery than jumpers because I don’t like wool against my skin. If the jumper’s made of something else, I’m fine, but I don’t like woolly things next to my arms or neck! Maybe I should get a Christmas fleece or hoodie!

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My organic fruit and vegetable subscription box

What I got in my first three fruit and vegetable subscription boxes, and what I thought of the products!

So, I mentioned in my subscriptions post that we’d just started getting a vegetable box from Able and Cole.

I thought I’d give it a couple of weeks and then tell you about what we’ve been getting.

I chose the medium-size box which gives us 3 types of fruit and six types of vegetables each week. The food comes on a set day every week, and you can choose not to have certain things if you don’t like them. So for example I don’t like sweetcorn, so I put that on my “never send me” list, and they just give you something else. You don’t know what it’s going to be, but hey, you don’t get the thing you don’t want!

You can also add other things from the store to your box – I couldn’t resist a little chocolate owl, but there are other, healthier options too. You just have to add the additional items to your basket and check it out two days before delivery.

You get a free cookery book with your first order – not useful for me because it’s in standard print and I can’t read it, but I think S will look through it and see if there is anything good in there. You also get your first and fourth boxes half-price if you’re a new customer.

If you don’t want a box one week, you just amend your order in your account settings, so there are no problems if you’re going away or if you have too much veg left over.

Week 1

In week 1 we got:

  • Bananas
  • Tangerines
  • Pears
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • onions

Ok so that was a good selection! I’d never cooked with kale before. I found a tasty recipe, but we both agreed that it would have been better without the kale, so I added that to our “don’t send” list. Still, it was good to try something new!

I usually buy bananas, onions, potatoes and mushrooms anyway, and it is good to get organic ones.
The pears made a nice change – I don’t usually pick them up, but I enjoyed them. The tomatoes and bananas were good quality as well, but the tangerines were a bit sour – not a fan of those, but I think it was just that particular batch!

Week 2

Week two we got:

  • Potatoes – but a different kind
  • Peppery salad
  • Sweet potatoes – because I didn’t want sweetcorn
  • Onions
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • bananas
  • Mandarins
  • Apples

Yum yum, I’m glad I said no to the sweetcorn and got the sweet potatoes! One went in a soup and the others went into some mash!

I think potatoes and onions are a staple in every box, and that’s fine with me. I was less happy about the carrots though – there are quite a few of them and I don’t use them all the time. This may become a problem if they’re in every box! Also, you don’t get a huge amount of potatoes, which isn’t a big deal for us because we also eat a lot of rice, noodles, and pasta, but if you have potatoes more than once or twice, you’ll run out.

The mandarins were better, the bananas were fine, and it was good to get some apples. I think these are smaller than the ones I usually get from the supermarket, but I don’t want to support an industry that throws away food because it’s not perfect or an exact size. I think too much perfectly good food gets slung out, and that makes me sad – so I don’t mind the odd wonky carrot or small apple!

The mixed leaf salad was good too, although I didn’t finish it all before the next box came. We use a lot of tomatoes, so the cherry tomatoes were a nice alternative to the full-size ones.

Week 3

This week we got:

  • More carrots!
  • Apples
  • Red onions
  • Clementines
  • Potatoes
  • Aubergine – instead of pepper
  • Spinach – instead of kale
  • Peppery salad
  • Bananas

So more bananas, potatoes and onions, but this time a different kind of onion. Fine for us because they will get used up, although I am getting behind on bananas!

I was very happy with my substitutes – I buy both aubergines and spinach, and I think they are nicer than the things we would have got! So yay for substitutes!

The carrots may be a problem if they continue to be in every box – I’m going to look for “interesting things to do with carrots so they don’t just taste like boring carrots” – any ideas welcome! I wish it were mushrooms every week because we use them so much more than carrots!

Apples and oranges again, but that’s fine – I haven’t tasted the tangerines but the fruit was in good condition and you get about 5 of each thing.

More salad – I think similar to last time. I probably would use it up – the only reason I didn’t was because we made a load of pumpkin soup.

We’re getting through most of the fruit and vegetables and I do think it’s a good way to try new things that you wouldn’t pick up. I did need to buy more mushrooms last week, but apart from that we haven’t had to stock up with extra fruit and veg from the supermarket – well apart from to feed my mango obsession!

For now I’m really happy to keep the subscription going, though if I see carrots in the next box, I may have to stop them!

There are also a lot of recipe ideas on the site, and you can get the newsletter, which gives you three new recipes each week, although these are not specific to one box. You can also get different boxes – smaller ones, ones for only fruit, ones for the slow cooker etc. Oh and I’ve just noticed a cheese club mmmm!

Have you tried these boxes? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Also, if you’re interested in trying out one of the boxes, they do a recommendation scheme. If you send me your email address, I can invite you, which means you get £20 off your first order and I get £20 credit too! Even if you get your first box half-price, you can still fill up your order to make sure you get the full value for your £20 – just remember to check out the basket (I didn’t the first time, so I only got my box and not the extra things I’d added).

Update

I’ve since realised that there is no need for any unwanted carrots. If you go into your account, then click on the subscription box, you will then see what is going to be in your next box. I think this works two or three days before the box is sent out. Rather than adding the carrots to the never send list, I can click on them and see some alternatives, one of which is extra potatoes, so if you are finding that you don’t get enough of them, you can add in extra.This is also a way to select what you want instead of a mystery veg option if there would normally be something from your “never send me” list.

Click here if you’d like to find out about our other subscriptions.

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We tried out some Japanese chocolate and snacks

So, this is the part where S gets roped into helping on the blog – by eating chocolate! Good deal, isn’t it?!

I decided that I wanted to try out some Japanese sweets and snacks, so to make it a tiny bit more objective, I bought up a bunch of stuff from Amazon and we had a taste test together – although not all at once! I was pleased to say that there were only a couple of things that I really didn’t like, and I enjoyed having the chance to munch on some new and unfamiliar snacks.

I was first introduced to Japanese food when a Japanese student, who soon became my friend, came to study at my school for 9 months when I was in year 12. She brought different things for us to try, such as seaweed and some cute little biscuit bears with chocolate in the middle!

So I was keen to see what else was available online – Amazon makes all things possible!

I bought two packs – one which was just different types of Japanese KitKat, and the other one was snacks. Actually I just thought they were sweets, but when it arrived, there was a mixture of sweet and savoury stuff in there. You don’t have to choose exactly what you want because you are given a random mixture each time, though no two things were the same.

There was no English on the packets, so it really was a lucky dip, unless you find the same picture on the internet with English descriptions – S did manage this for a couple of things, and he recognised some of the words. However, if you have an allergy and are used to checking ingredient lists before you eat things, this won’t be a good idea for you. It did concern me a bit, but my allergies aren’t life-threatening so I just did it at home with S so I could be comfortable if I didn’t feel great. I was fine, but I wouldn’t recommend that people with allergies do this!

KitKats

We got a pack of 14 Japanese KitKats. I didn’t measure them, but they’re minis, so you get two little fingers in each pack, or one of them just had one, like a mini KitKat chunky.

My favourites had to be the green tea ones. I’d never thought of chocolate and green tea before, but they went well together! I would buy those again. The sake (a type of alcoholic drink made with rice) KitKat with white chocolate was good too.

The only one I didn’t really like was made with some kind of nuts, and I’m not a fan of any kind of nutty chocolate, so that was to be expected. Still, I was happy that only one of the bars had nuts in it.

There were a couple that tasted like the KitKats you can buy here – a milk one and a plain one. They weren’t quite the same though, so as well as the packaging being different, there must be different ingredients in the chocolate too. The wafer in the plain one tasted less sweet than the ones you can buy in the UK. There was also a white chocolate one that must have had something else mixed in with it – I like white chocolate, but this one was very sweet.

There was also a mint one – yum yum! I do like a good bit of mint chocolate!

Another interesting taste was the ginger chocolate – I do wish we could have more experimental flavours in the UK. Ok you can find them if you know where to look, but you don’t get things like that in standard chocolate bars.

Finally I need to mention the strawberry one, because I’m a fan of fruity chocolate!

Snacks

So these were the snacks that I originally thought were just sweets – but they were actually a mixture of 20 sweet and savoury snacks. Here are some of the highlights although in some cases, I can’t tell you exactly what they were!

There was a packet with small, square snacks like rice crackers. I like the rice cracker idea, but I found these a bit salty. In fact, I’d say that about a lot of the savoury things, but then I’m not a fan of salty snacks in general.

There were a number of Umaibo – like long, thin, crunchy rolls made of puffed corn, which come in a variety of flavours:

Tonkatsu sauce – this was sweet and zingy – I could taste the vinegar!
Mentai – marinated roe of Pollock. I would eat these at a party or something, but not being a massive fish lover, I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy them!
Pizza – I could definitely taste the pepperoni or barbecue sauce
Peperoni
Green salad – this really tasted like slightly spicy whatsits!

We had a bag of some kind of cereal balls with something like tomato or prawn cocktail flavouring – a bit like skip-flavoured whatsits!

The only thing I couldn’t finish was the squid, but I really don’t like most seafood and some fish. Still, I gave it a go!

The other thing that I wasn’t particularly fond of but which I did manage to finish was the dried fish sticks. They tasted a bit like cardboard until you started to chew, and very fishy!

The first sweet thing I tried was the Daifuku – this was good, but we only got one, so I tried to tear it in half! It’s like a cross between a jelly sweet and a marshmellow, with a strawberry filling inside. I could definitely eat more of those!

There was a tasty star shaped chocolate infused wafer.

My favourites were some tasty, sweet cracker things, softer than rice cakes and a bit thicker than crisps. They were slightly sweet and tasted a bit like waffles!

There was one salty dried plumb – dried plum = good, salty dried plum = not good!

There was something like a boiled strawberry sweet – nice enough, but only one in a packet? It wasn’t very big!

Who remembers flumps? There was something that looked like a larger one of those, as well as a bag of teeny tiny marsh mellows!

There was a card with some chocolate-filled sweets that looked a bit like smarties, but you had to push them out of the plastic in the same way that you would headache tablets! Interesting packaging, but the sweets were good!

How about you?

Have you tried any of these things? If so, what did you think of them? Have you had any taste testing boxes from other countries? Let me know in the comments!

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Feel good teas for September – detox. Energise. Sleep. Repeat!

My review of the three new feel-good teas from teapigs!

I’m from a family of tea lovers, but as a child, I always told everyone that I thought tea was disgusting. If we’re talking about the standard, milky tea that my family drinks, I still think it’s disgusting, but fortunately I’ve now discovered herbal and fruit teas. For example, I had a pot of jasmin tea with the Chinese food I had at lunch time, and I love anything that has mango, lychee or pineapple in it. I’ve recently discovered the health benefits of turmeric tea as well – I didn’t even know that was a thing!

This month, teapigs has brought out a selection of “feel good” teas, which are designed to make you feel good for different reasons and at different times of the day.

Upbeat

There are three teas in the range. Let’s start with my favourite, Upbeat!

I like this because its strongest flavour is ginger. It also contains hibiscus, green tea and beetroot. I was a bit worried about the beetroot, but I can’t really say that you can taste it! I don’t know what hibiscus tastes like, but apparently both it and the beetroot are good for stamina.

I don’t hear the fridge calling my name in the middle of the afternoon like some people who work from home, but there is a chocolate stash in my office, and if I’m not careful, I can find myself reaching for it after lunch has worn off. I’m going to be honest – there are some days when only the chocolate will do, but I do appreciate having another source for energy, and I like the fact that as well as being good for you, these teas do actually taste good.

Also, by the time it gets to mid-afternoon, I’ve usually consumed a lot of coffee, so it’s good to space out the coffees with another kind of hot drink.

Clean n green

The Clean n green tea is intended for first thing in the morning. If anyone tries to come between me and my coffee first thing in the morning, things don’t go well for them! I’m one of those people who doesn’t function properly until the 2nd or 3rd cup of coffee, so I’m not going to pretend that I started my day with these. However, when I don’t have any early meetings in the morning, I usually go for a run first, and I found that the Clean n green tea was a refreshing change after my run.

It contains green tea, lemongrass, ginger, coconut and dandelion leaves. As someone who can’t see, I pay particular attention to how things smell. It’s no good if something tastes delicious and smells strange, which is one of the reasons I was a bit concerned about how some of the ingredients that I hadn’t come across would smell. After all, I know what dandelions smell like, and I don’t want to smell like one too! However I needn’t have worried! This tea smelled predominantly fruity, and when I drank it, I found that the lemongrass was the main thing that I tasted, although perhaps not as sharp as lemon tea because of the other ingredients.

Both of these teas contain ginger, which has been used for hundreds of years in cooking and for medicinal purposes. It’s thought to help reduce nausea, pain and inflammation. I sometimes feel unwell as a result of food allergies, and I find that ginger teas can help me to feel better, so I like to keep a supply in. Both of these teas tick that box too because they both contain ginger.

I’m not going to say that the clean n green tea turned me into a morning person overnight, because I don’t think anything will manage that, but I like a fresh, detoxing lemon drink to set me up for the day!

Snooze

Finally, there is the Snooze tea for last thing at night.

The Snooze tea is a blend of chamomile, apple and lavender. Lavender is well-known for its soothing properties that help send you off to sleep. I often use products that contain lavender oil just before I go to bed. This tea smells wonderful, but I think I would prefer the taste more if the apple were a bit stronger to overpower the lavender taste! Maybe that’s because I’m a bit biased – I loved the apple tea when I went to Turkey!

Overall thoughts

This is the first time that I’ve tasted a blend of teas containing a number of ingredients and which were put together with a focus on the benefits that the individual ingredients can give you. Looking at the ingredients in these helped me to understand what benefits certain ingredients have, rather than focussing entirely on the taste.

Overall I enjoyed the teas and I’d definitely buy two out of the three again.

How about you? Have you tried any of these teas? If so, what did you think of them? If not, what do you drink just before you go to bed to give you a good night’s sleep?

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This post contains PR samples, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Don’t forget my giveaway is still open

My September giveaway is still open, so if you’d like to be in with a chance to win some skincare goodies from brands such as the Body Shop and Sanctuary Spa, this is where you can enter.

May favourites – fragrance, sushi, and lots of mangos!

The food, fragrance, and skin care products that I have been enjoying this month!

Hi and welcome to my May favourites! At the beginning of May, I spent some time in Amsterdam, and some of the favourites, including the chocolate in the picture, come from there.

Food and drink

We make a habit of trying out new chocolate when we go on business travel or city breaks, and Amsterdam was no exception. We tried some Dutch milk and white chocolate, and it was really good. I also came back with a mouse heaven supply of cheese in my suitcase – pesto cheese, cumin cheese, truffle cheese, and three of the Reypenaer cheeses. WE didn’t do the cheese tasting tour again, but we stocked up on some more cheese!

I also discovered, to my surprise, that I actually like sushi. I don’t usually like fish. The sushi restaurant had been chosen by one of my partner’s colleagues, so I went along with the idea that I’d just try it, and get something from the Turkish restaurant near our hotel if I really didn’t like the sushi. But I did like the sushi. I’d only had it once, but not in a proper restaurant, and I think that if done properly, it can taste really good! I even suggested going back the next day on our own because we don’t have any sushi bars near where we live!

On another note, I know it’s a bit lazy not making your own mango lassi, but I discovered two in the supermarket. If you’ve never tried it, it’s a kind of fruity yoghurt drink, sometimes with spices. The first one is Nomadic mango lassi from Morrisons. A bit less sweet than you might get in a restaurant, but I guess that’s a good thing! The one from Pakeeza is sweeter and more like the traditional lassi. I like them both!

Fragrance

I discovered the Hugo Boss deep red perfume for women last year. I sprayed it in a department store, but ended up buying it on Amazon because it was on sale. Although this perfume does have some floral notes, it also contains orange and blackcurrant, so it’s great for people who like a more fruity scent, as I do. This isn’t a new fragrance for me, but I’ve been wearing it a lot this month, which is why I have included it.

Skin care

After trying out the Yes to Cucumber mask last month, I also discovered that they do make-up wipes named after different fruit and vegetables. I’m not so sure that I’d recommend the mask now that the second one irritated my skin quite badly, but the make-up wipes are good.

I know some people are totally against make-up wipes, and I don’t use them all the time, but I think they do have their place, and I think that some of the people who say they would never, ever use them, just to be cool, have a secret stash of them somewhere.

Anyway, I got the cucumber ones and the grapefruit ones – because grapefruit, but then I actually realised that they are for different kinds of skin. The cucumber ones are gentle and for sensitive skin. I don’t have sensitive skin, but I never mind buying these products because I think they will be soothing and gentle on the skin. I have tried the grapefruit ones too, but they are really for pore perfection and even skin tone, which isn’t my main concern. So I’ll use them up, but in future I’ll stick to the cucumber ones, or the ones that are probably best suited to my skin – the coconut ones which are moisturising too. I haven’t tried those out yet, but I’ll be reporting back later when I have.

I like to mix up my body lotions and shower gels. I use a lot of Body Shop products, but this month I’ve gone back to this favourite Victoria’s Secret mango body lotion because I love the juicy mango scent. It’s the only range I’ve tried from this brand – I just got it because of the mango, but it also does a good job at hydrating the skin and making the room smell delicious!

I wouldn’t say this is a favourite, but it’s helped me out. Back at the end of last year I got the Tea Tree night lotion from the Body Shop. I put it to the back of the drawer because I don’t like the smell of Tea Tree oil and I realised that it was more for oily skin, which is exactly the opposite of what I have. However, when a couple of stubborn spots appeared, I rubbed some of this on the affected area and they went down really quickly. I wouldn’t use this all over my face, but it came in handy for the spots!

Find more skin care products here!

Hair care

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m going through different hair products – shampoos, conditioners, and hair masks – to find some new products that I like. Something that has really impressed me this month is the Avon Advance Techniques instant repair mask because it smells great, leaves my hair feeling nourished, silky and smooth, and it feels as though these results last a couple of days.

Find more hair care products here

make-up

I never seem to get through my make-up, probably because I buy one-colour eye creams, rather than palates, and it takes for ever to use up a lipstick. Anyway, I try to switch out my lipsticks and at the moment I’ve been getting a lot of use out of my L’Oréal Color Riche Garnet Rose lipstick and my Maybelline Colour Sensational Lipstick – 740 Coffee Craze .

I got a mini sample of the Porefessional face primer from Benefit Cosmetics in my Latest in Beauty box, and I really like it. It’s more expensive than the one I usually use, but you can feel the difference. I wear make-up most days, so I think I’ll keep going with my cheaper one and get this for when I want a special treat.

How about you?

What have you been enjoying this month? Let me know in the comments, and also feel free to drop a favourites link if you’ve written a post about this.

Do you know any more good mango products?

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The Co-Op puts Braille on some of its products to make them accessible to blind customers

“It says chocolate cake!”

It was only when I was tidying up the kitchen and moving empty cake boxes that I noticed it! The Braille on the bottom of a chocolate cake from the co-op.

Braille is a system of patterns of dots that blind people use in order to read. Some blind people label things in Braille, I have sticky labels on my spice rack, but it’s still quite uncommon to find products that have been labelled in Braille by the manufacturer.

Legally, tablets and medicines have to be labelled in Braille (let’s see if we’re as fortunate when the UK leaves the EU). This is nothing new, although I did have to point out to the vet that sticking their own labels over the Braille ones kind of defeated the object of having it in the first place.

Anyway, as long as I keep things in their original cardboard boxes, it’s easy enough to identify what tablets are. But chocolate cake? That was something new.

Of course the discovery meant that we had to buy more chocolate cake in order to get a photo for this blog. See the hardship I went to for you, my readers?!

I contacted the Co-op to find out a bit more about why they had decided to label some of their products in Braille. This is the response I received back from Ian Ferguson, Manager on the Food Policy Team:

“We are the only retailer to carry braille on food and non-food products as we understand how important braille is to help for our visually impaired customers to lead independent lives, and we take very seriously our commitment to our customers to provide excellent products and customer service.”

“The Co-operative Food provides braille on all of its own-brand food and non-food product packaging, where it is technically feasible.

We first introduced braille onto our own-brand medicines in 2001, and then onto all products, where technically possible, from 2002.

Unique braille files and metal printing blocks are created for each of the many thousands of individual products, and are checked before being printed on pack.

For cardboard we would use a unique set of metal printing blocks, for self-adhesive labels we would use silk-screen printing.”

I have to be honest and say that I don’t usually shop at the Co-op. I used to live near one, and it was really handy to have it so close by if I forgot something. But I would like to support what they’re doing, and also to make other blind shoppers aware of it. After all, I only discovered the Braille by accident as I was tidying up.

As I mentioned in my article about Braille products from L’Occitane, having Braille labels on products wouldn’t necessarily help me in the store (I’m not going to pick up every box on the shelf to see whether it’s what I’m looking for), but once in the home, it’s nice not to have to remember what things are or label them myself. Also, if you know that the label is on the bottom of the box, for boxes with no plastic insert, it’s also a good way to know which way up they should go!

The statement doesn’t give further examples of Braille products. I’ve seen it on cakes and pizza bases, but I’d be interested to know what else you’ve come across with Braille on it. Let me know in the comments if you’ve found Braille on other Co-op products too!

So well done to the Co-op!

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