Review: 31DOVER.com & Willem Barentsz Premium Gin

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Anyone who knows me will probably know that I am quite partial to a gin or three, so when I was asked to review a recent addition to the 31DOVER,com website I was hardly going to say no!

Who are 31DOVER.com? Only the UK’s leading online drinks vendor. They stock the best drinks (and there are some really excellent brands stocked) at the best prices and deliver them right to your doorstep the next day.

The offer of free gin (even the words make me happy…) actually came at exactly the right time as I had run clean out of gin. I know! How does such a thing happen? Clearly a massive oversight on my part but never mind, because 31Dover provided me with a lovely bottle of Willem Barentsz Premium Gin which I have to also add was beautifully presented in an uber stylish matt black gift box.

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Now this isn’t my first experience with Willem Barentsz but lets not let that get in the way of some much needed gin-tasting shall we?  First up, lets hear a bit more about Willem Barentsz gin, which is named after the Dutch Artic explorer of the same name.

Willem Barentsz London Gin apparently boasts an exotic but delicate balance of botanicals sourced from the far ends of the world, enhanced with the signature botanical of jasmine flower and combined with a classic mix of juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, orange peel, almond, liquorice, cassia bark and orris root.

I decided to try this gin with my favourite mixer, Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic (which incidentally is also stocked at 31DOVER.com though I picked it up at my local Co-op). Honestly, I have turned into such a gin and tonic snob, it’s untrue. I used to believe that all gins and all tonics were created equally. Then I discovered craft gin and premium tonic and I have never looked back. This Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic just transforms your G’n’T.

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This gin has a really smooth flavour, that was something Mr M commented on and he’s hardly a gin aficionado, but it really has, and with the elderflower tonic and a garnish of pink grapefruit it is nothing short of divine. I imagine, of course, you could use this in all manner of cocktails but I honestly feel like a good gin is wasted in a cocktail – enjoy it simply over ice or with premium tonic and you’re onto a winner!

We absolutely adored this gin and at £32.95 for a 70cl bottle I’d say it was a mid-range price for a premium gin.  Would I buy it? Yes I would. Would I buy from 31DOVER.com in the future? Again, yes I would – especially for a present as I was totally won over by the presentation of the gift!

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Review: Treating myself with Dartington Crystal!

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I was contacted recently to ask if I’d like to collaborate with Dartington Crystal. As part of this collaboration I was given the opportunity to select anything I liked (to a certain value!) from their website.

I’m sure a brand like Dartington Crystal needs no introduction but just in case let me tell you a little bit more about them.

Dartington Crystal started out life when in 1967 a group of Swedish glassmakers brought their hand-making skills to rural North Devon and with that, started a very different glass company. Today, they continue to provide elegant, simple designs in crystal and glass and much of their range continues to be handcrafted in Devon. Did you know that Dartington is now the only crystal brand still producing in the UK? I didn’t!

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Now the problem is when you’re given SO much choice it can be really hard to make a decision but I decided rather than choose something I needed why not choose something totally frivolous and beautiful – so that’s what I did! It’s not often we mums get to splash the cash on ourselves so it was a nice treat to be able to select something just for the fun of it!

So once I decided that was the way forward, I decided what I needed was a vase. In my opinion, you can never have too many vases, even if your husband should be the type that absolutely never ever ever (ever) buys you flowers. Actually, scratch that, he did send me flowers on our wedding day but honestly outside of that I am hard-pushed to recall another occasion! Never mind, I don’t hold it against me, he treats me in other ways (thanks for the Apple TV Mr M!) and I just settle on buying my own flowers. At least that way I get what I want and they are colour coordinated.

I opted for one of their flower bottle vases – which are a distinctive Dartington design with a choice of colours and shapes. I plumped for the Daisy Flower Bottle which is made with a gorgeous cool turquoise glass and finished with a beautiful daisy illustration.

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It really is a gorgeous piece and as the Dartington Crystal website states, it is just as eye-catching without flowers (which is lucky really, huh!) and it really brightens up my kitchen. It’s currently residing on my bookshelves in the kitchen just waiting to fulfil it’s flower-filled destiny. I’d normally always choose a clear glass for a vase but I am totally in love with the colour and shape of this vase, which retails at £47. If you’re buying it as a gift you can also have it engraved and it comes neatly boxed.

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I was really impressed with this product, everyone who has come round and seen it in my kitchen has asked me about it – and I think that’s in part down to the gorgeous colour. The only issue I have now is that I want more! There’s a very special purple anemone bottle calling my name…

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Review: Jamie Oliver Super Food Family Classics

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You know I love a cookbook, and I am also a bit of a Jamie Oliver fan so it’s stands to reason that I own each and every one of his books. I actually have an entire shelf dedicated to him in the kitchen.  I enjoy cooking his recipes so I was every excited to get my hands on a copy of one of his latest books.

Super Food Family Classics is the healthy-eating companion book to the hugely popular series “Jamie’s Super Food” which was shown on Channel 4 back in the summer. In this new book Jamie shows you how to freshen up your family favourites and expand your recipe repertoire to make your weekly menu something to shout about. There are ways to sneak in extra veg and ideas for no-arguments and no-fuss family dinners as well as some freezer-friendly ideas.

Every recipe is tried and tested, has clear and easy-to-understand nutritional information on the page, including the number of veg and fruit portions in each dish, plus there’s a bumper back-section packed with valuable advice on everything from cooking with kids and tackling fussy eaters, to good gut health, the importance of fibre, budgeting and of course, getting more of the good stuff into your family’s diet.

The book is split into several sections including Breakfast, Quick Fixes, Healthy Classics, Salads, Curries & Stews, Traybakes, Pasta & Risotto, Soups and Kitchen Hacks. As always, I like to settle down for a read through and make a list of things I want to try and for your viewing pleasure here it is.

Breakfast –
Pineapple pancake mess with yoghurt, coconut, cashews and lime
English breakfast frittata with bacon, mushrooms, spuds and tomatoes

Quick Fixes –
Sri Lankan prawn curry with tamarind, baby corn and pineapple rice
Creamy chopped salad with grapes, tarragon, chicken and croutons
Sesame butterflied chicken with peanut sauce, asian slaw and rice noodles

Healthy Classics –
Smoky veggie chilli with sweet gem and cheesy jacket spuds
Sweet potato fishcakes with chopped salad, feta and red pepper salsa

Salads –
Tandoori chicken salad with minty yoghurt dressing and poppadoms

Curries and Stews –
Baked tarka daal with cauliflower, split peas and chapatti
Balinese chicken curry with purple kale rice, chilli and lemongrass

Traybakes – 
Mango teriyaki salmon with brown rice and chilli cucumber pickle

Pasta and Risotto – 
Scruffy winter lasagne, savoy cabbage and creamy chicken stew
Garlic mushroom pasta, creamy thyme and truffle sauce
Sausage pasta, broccoli, chilli and sweet tomatoes

Soups –
Super leek and potato soup, herb parmesan and almond toasts

Kitchen Hacks –
Batch mince meat ragu, loadsa veg, beans and sun dried tomatoes

There are lots of lovely things to make in this book though not a lot that my fussy 9 year old will eat, even though it’s a family cookbook. I find that cookbooks don’t often cater to the fact that some children have food issues. Lots of nice ideas, but not always practical for many families. I’ll definitely be trying a few of the things listed though for the other 3/4 of the household!

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Review: Nostalgic Delights by William Curley

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I was recently sent a copy of a book called Nostalgic Delights: Classic Confections and Timeless Treats which is written by William Curley.

In this book William Curley, who is an award-winning chocolatier, aims to recreate childhood memories and times gone, taking classic recipes and modernising them with his own, unique creations.  The idea was to produce a book where the reader can create classics at home and evoke their own nostalgic memories.  William’s ethos centres around using the best ingredients and techniques available, while making his recipes accessible to home cooks – some of the recipes are very simple to make with minimal ingredients.

I don’t often make sweets and desserts but I do love eating them and I am game to give anything a try so was interested to have a flick through this book and see what I might like to make. I’m also very nostalgic about food and I love retro recipes and cooking so it sounded right up my street.

This is a lovely book, jam packed with over 256 pages of recipes complete with stunning photos – step by step photos where necessary which is really helpful.  It’s safe to say this isn’t really a book aimed at complete novices – there are quite a few skills and challenging techniques to master but it’s all part of the fun!

The book is split into several sections as follows: Chocolate Confectionery, Bakery Favourites, Patisserie Modern Classics, Ice Cream and Gateau, Afternoon Treats, Frivolities. Lets take a look at things I might like to attempt (ignoring the fact that some might be way out of my capability!)

Chocolate Confectionery –
Cartwheel
Cinder Toffee
Marzipan Orange Bar

Bakery Favourites –
Fruits of the Forest Tart
Chocolate Cherry Bakewells
Bee Sting

Patisserie Modern Classics – 
Black Forest Gateau
Charlotte Royale
Strawberry Shortcake

Ice Cream and Gateau –
Bounty Ice Cream Bar

Afternoon Treats – 
Rout Biscuits
Viennese Whirls
Arlette Biscuits

Frivolities – 
Cherry Drops

We should probably be straight up here – there’s no chance of me making a Charlotte Royale. I saw them do it on Great British Bake Off a few years ago. It looked way too fiddly, but lets just pretend. I’d like to eat it at the very least!

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Celebrating National #STEAMday with Project Mc2

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Did you know that today (November 8th) marks national STEAM day?

Do you know what national STEAM day is?

STEAM day is meant to inspire children to explore and pursue their interests in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths and due to my work background, this is a cause very close to my heart. We face a huge skills gap in my industry which is so detrimental and one of the biggest challenges we face is attracting more young people, so I fully support these endeavours.

Project Mc2 is an American television series produced by DreamWorks Animation and MGA Entertainment for Netflix and was first launched in 2015. My daughter, aged 10, is a big fan of the programme.  The series is about the adventures of McKeyla and her best friends who work for a highly secretive group of female government operatives who are trying to protect the world.

In order to mark this day, we have become official STEAM day bloggers and were sent a Project Mc2 Spy Bag to review.
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The Ultimate Spy bag contains everything you need to go on NOV8 missions – that’s innovate to you and me!The bag contains an array of spy gear disguised as cosmetics – fingerprinting kit disguised as powder make up, a flashlight disguised as nail polish and a lipstick…no wait that’s a secret message launcher! There’s also beakers and test tubes, essential to any crime scene investigation!

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My daughter loved unpacking all the bits, setting them all up and then testing out the kit – her favourite thing was the message launcher, she had a LOT of fun with that. My favourite thing was that it all packed away neatly into the little case – the perfect toy in my book – as nothing gets lost, it’s all nicely contained.
 You can see the bag in action on YouTube below:

Thanks to Project Mc2 for the chance to be involved and be an official Blogger for STEAM day. We hope that more little girls are inspired to try out science and technology for themselves!

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