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Posts from the ‘Home Time’ Category

10
Oct

Must Have for Christmas List No:1 Baileys Chocolat Luxe

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 18.21.15Just a sniff of the bottle was enough to get a wild response! This drink is something else, a perfect blend of Belgian chocolate and Irish whiskey.

Oh My God, just doesn’t sum it up! It’s deadly for anyone on a diet we think. Perhaps a thimbleful at a time would be best! (That’s once a day mind, make it last!) In fact 100 ml adds up to 371 calories (16g of fat, 27g carbs, 3.5g protein) … you can work a daily dose out for yourself!

The result of a three year project this is a chocoholic’s dream. Anthony Wilson is the son of the man who led the team behind Baileys Original Irish Cream some 30 years ago. So you can expect this chocolate offering to be in the same league of lusciousness.Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 18.21.29

This chocolate indulgence makes it impossible to envisage ice cream without it. We are putting together a list of other luscious items that would take a good dribbling – how about chocolate eclairs, meringues, jam doughnuts, shortbread and strawberries, cooked pears … the list could go on and on. Must stop fantasising, work to be done. Husband has hidden the bottle … but I will soon find it!

There is a video on the Baileys website link

Baileys Chocolat Luxe is available from October with an RRP of £16.99 for 50 cl. More info at www.baileys.com.

Val Reynolds, Editor

8
Sep

In Our Shopping Basket This Week

lady marmalade roseSometimes a plant comes on the market with a unique universal appeal, one many of us would love in our gardens. 

Lady Marmalade, a rose, falls into this category. Soft, sweet scent, beautiful colour, classic flower shape, with modern disease resistance and repeat flowering throughout the summer. What’s not to like! To cap it all it has just received the RHS award of Rose of the Year 2014.

We’re pretty sure it’s going to be a real winner and if you love the look of it as much as we do we really think you should order it straight away!

Here’s a link to the Thompson and Morgan web page giving full details

Just so you know, we do not receive any kind of remuneration for any of the products we recommend in our magazine. Every product reference is made purely based on what appeals to us and in almost all cases, from our own experience.

We are very attracted to this rose and thought our gardening readers would like to know about it as soon as possible and before supplies sell out!

lady-marmaladeWe notice The Telegraph is selling the same plant in a 4 litre pot for £17.99 whereas Thompson & Morgan are offering a bare root plant for £14.99. Full details for planting and aftercare are on their web page.

This beautiful floribunda rose would be an ideal plant as a gift … Especially to a rose lover – what a lovely surprise!

Elizabeth Gunn, Gardening journalist

17
Aug

Create a Mouthwatering Colour Combination in your garden

Alliums were all the rage a few years ago and they still haven’t lost their attraction. From time to time I’ve seen them dotted around gardens, in masses in borders, even marching along straight borders at Wimpole Hall – they looked exceptionally good.

I was reminded of them having just seen an offer on the Thompson & Morgan website – 100 allium bulbs for £5. The 100 bulbs is made up of different quantities of four different varieties: Screen Shot 2013-08-17 at 20.19.52 16 bulbs of Allium aflatuenese, 24 bulbs of Allium sphaerocephalon, 50 bulbs of Allium caeruleum and 10 bulbs of Allium Purple Sensation. All flower in early summer. See details on: http://www.thompson-morgan.com/taf147

We are planning on planting them in front of a lovely Cumbrian wall, interspersed with either creeping jenny and/or Alchemilla mollis.  

On the BBC plant finder page It suggests campanula portenschlagiana and geranium Philippe Vapelle would work well with them.  They comment that for all gardens, large or small, the campanula is an indispensable alpine. Hardy, vigorous and persistent, it’s easily grown on the rockery, on walls, in front of borders or even in pots, forming generous, dense mats of small ivy-like leaves which become hidden beneath the mass of small purple bells in summer.

So that’s sorted. I might even buy a David Austin rambling pink rose to give a beautiful contrast which has a strong scent too – Mary Rose fits the bill. I’d like to add in some lavender to give another purple burst in late summer, when the roses are still flowering.

Purple, pink and yellow … A great combination. Can’t wait for summer!

The Allium offer ends midnight on 20 August 2013 …

Yours in health

Val Reynolds, Editor

10
Aug

News Flash!!! Bargain Plug Plants for 24p

A quick note to all those who follow my Front Garden on the web http://ourfrontgarden.com/2012/02/15/2012-month-by-month/

Wedding Bells - Penstemons

Wedding Bells – Penstemons

We thought those readers who enjoy gardening, and there are many of you we know! would want to hear about the latest Thompson & Morgan bargain plug plant offer:

24 plug plants of the self same penstemons – Wedding Bells Mixed – that attracted so much attention from passersby at our front garden in Welwyn Garden City

T&M are adding 24 plugs for 24p that’s only 1p a plug! to any orders made between 9-15 August 2013

This really is value for money.

The blooms are striking, bloomed for ages, are perennial and came up well for more than 5 years and showed every sign of long term growth. They look really good in a border, or a pot.

I bet T&M run out of stock fairly quickly so if you want some, and we certainly do!, it would probably be best to order some asap.

OFFER ORDER CODE: TAF146ZURL: www.thompson-morgan.com/taf146zTerms: Limited to one pack per order.This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or with promotional vouchers.

Keep in touch!

Val Reynolds, Editor

29
Mar

Life and Death: Pompeii and Herculaneum

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Herculaneum, Bay of Naples, Italy, 2012 Copyright Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei / Trustees of the British Museum

It’s a well known fact that these two Roman towns were buried under mountains of ash, lava and rubble from Versuvius, with the horrifying result of wiping out both populations, grim indeed.  However, the latest exhibition at The British Museum, though set in the context of the disaster, is focussed on people’s everyday lives and their possessions. The things people commissioned, talked about, bought, loved, were proud of, sometimes broke, sometimes threw away, nevertheless things owned by real people.  It’s a new take and a welcome one, as the unusual circumstances of Mount Vesuvius’s eruption leave a unique opportunity of glimpsing the civilisation that was the Roman Empire.  And although Herculaneum is often seen as the smaller sister of Pompeii, it’s given almost equal billing here.

The exhibition revolves around the home, its interior, its gardens, its kitchen and also the streets and shops.  The artefacts are clearly explained with Latin inscriptions helpfully translated.  One fresco that particularly strikes a modern chord is of drinkers gearing up for a brawl;  indeed, you felt yourself thinking on many occasions, that life hasn’t really changed that much since AD79!

The pyroclastic flow that hit Herculaneum was so much hotter than the ash and rocks. People were instantly knocked to the ground, their bones broken, their bodies burned to the bone. Items were crisped and carbonised, so amazingly we’re able for instance to see a loaf of bread from Herculaneum, and even the stamp of the baker on a loaf of bread.  His  name, Celer, means speedy. Speedy was obviously proud of his ability to turn out loaves of bread. The child’s wooden cradle that still rocks serves as a poignant example of everyday life.

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Wall painting of the baker Terentius Neo and his wife. From the House of Terentius Neo, Pompeii. AD 50 to 79. Copyright Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei / Trustees of the British Museum

From the artefacts it’s clear that many slaves became freed men and women and integrated more fully into everyday life in both towns.  Also highlighted is the important role of women which throws into the air our ideas that they were generally considered to be second class citizens.  One of the most beautiful and telling exhibits is a beautiful fresco, showing a man, and his wife, standing side by side, he holding a scroll, she a wax tablet, on which she kept domestic and business accounts; so who was wearing the toga in that household?  Women may not have been able to vote or be elected to public life but they seem to have had equal say in everyday life.

You are encouraged to enter the lovely home and garden with its wonderful frescos of birds and flowers, to make yourselves at home and  view the wonderful items of Roman life  many of which have never been seen in public before.  And as you enter the final rooms of the exhibition, you can also see a few of the famous casts of bodies from Pompeii, a reminder of the tragedy that struck but still telling you that these are real people.

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Gold bracelet in the form of a coiled snake, 1st Century AD, Roman, Pompeii. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum

Look out for the dormouse fattening up pot! The gold jewellery  is fascinating, you can buy a replica of a beautiful snake bracelet for £120 in the inevitable shop at the exit.

Jeannette Nelson Arts Critic   A bit of a culture vulture, Jeannette enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.

23
Mar

Preparing to Move House

deposit letter IMG_0636 - Version 2Moving house is a traumatic event, or at least it has been for us, and we haven’t even moved yet!

First stage was to have the house assessed by a surveyor of our choice. He reassured us our concerns were nothing to worry about and gave us advice about what he thought we could do to make the most of the best features of the house. So all those little things we kept putting off like settlement cracks were dug out and filled, the chimney was repointed, the conservatory roof cleaned, plasterwork repaired, decorating throughout, carpet cleaning and, best of all … an oven clean! Yes, I recommend it to anyone who has let their oven become an overwhelming task. I only wish I had had it done earlier, the new house owner will benefit from it more than me.

So now we have an exceptionally clean, bright, and rather attractive house to sell. Ah, but what about clearing out all that stuff we have accumulated over the years – there are even boxes of stuff we brought with us that have never been opened since we moved in and there are some from previous houses! That’s where I found some 70’s clothes I couldn’t bring myself to throw away.

deposit letter IMG_2521We heard of an organisation called Freegle. We just announced on the website items we would like to give away, chose whoever we thought would benefit best from them. The items were collected and lo and behold our garage, loft and cupboards were cleared in just a few weeks. So all is now neat, clean and tidy … a bit of a job to keep it that way.

I did hold back some stuff I thought might sell on eBay. Being an eBay virgin it took me time to get into what seemed to be endless pages of How to Instructions.

I gradually eased my way in … by buying rather a lot of stuff! Oh well, I’ve now successfully sold a perfectly functioning camera, a kitchen shredder and some clothes. The clothes seem to go for peanuts, but the camera and shredder sold for decent amounts.

We’ll be writing more about eBay experiences in the near future.

In the meantime we’re off again to view more houses. Having had two refusals of our offers we are a bit sensitive to rejection, but ever travelling hopefully we will continue to offer what we think each house is worth to us.

Next step, sell our house.

Val Reynolds, Editor

18
Dec

Protect Skin from Winter Cold with Creams

verveine

Verveine (Lippia citriodora)

One of my most enduring memories of a year long stay in France, as an au pair, was a hot drink made from verveine, a plant we refer to as lemon verbena. It was wonderfully comforting, had a familiar lemony aroma and sugar really enhanced its flavour. So when I heard about a hand cream with that wonderful scent I just had to try it out.

Winter time is one when my cuticles have a tendency to crack, resulting in that really long period of pain. The lemon verbena hand cream has a 20% shea butter base. It’s creamy texture is easily absorbed, leaving hands soft and supple and I find especially effective when rubbed round the fingernail.

IMG_6709On my desk at the moment are the final contestants in my Strictly Skincare  hand cream choice. I started with about 20 different products. The five are, in no particular order of preference – they are all used regularly:

Energizing Verbena Hand Cream – Panier des Sens, en Provence that comes with very pretty packaging

Morrisons Unscented Hand Cream, Concentrated – a glycerine based cream it is useful when you don’t want to wear a second scent that might conflict. It is very creamy, softening  dry skin and useful to add before you start to work in the garden.

Q10 by Pharma Nord is another hand cream that conditions and protects at the same time. It contains ginkgo Biloba, Pycnogenol and Vitamin E. All ingredients considered highly beneficial by skincare aficionados.

Lotil Original is specifically designed for cold weather and I always check there is a small tube in my handbag at this time of year.

On a recent visit to The Dales I took my tube of English Weather Cream. I always use this in cold weather because my face dries out in cold windy weather and this cream works absolutely fantastically. However, it has been recently discontinued …  Made by Lotil it is no longer available – such a shame. I’m looking for a replacement product and will let you know if I find one.

Wearing silk lined gloves helps to keep my hands warm and in conjunction with any one of these handcreams I’m able to keep them in good condition, safe from damaging cold weather.

All are available online but of course in store is always a good place to try them out!

Kate Campbell, Health Editor

Kate has worked with editor Val Reynolds since 1996 and they are constantly looking for top quality, effective skincare products. Do you have a favourite? Do let us know and we will pass on your recommendations.

17
Nov

Top Ten Christmas Gifts for 2012 – Personal Favourites

Every year we put together a list of the products we have tried and loved over the year and include them in our Christmas List. 2012 has been a memorable year for visits, tastings and tests.

These are our favourites:

Orange_Bouquet

Orange_Bouquet

Chocolate bouquet – can’t think of anything more tempting than this astonishingly beautiful chocolate bouquet – we’re sending it as a family gift to five families who live far and wide who will be meeting up for Christmas in a country house in the Midlands. A smaller bouquet and individual flowers are also available. Utterly charming, seems a shame to eat them.

Last year we were impressed by and ordered several items from the Thompson & Morgan catalogue of bouquets and other floral gifts. This year they have added to the items on offer. All details on their website.

Booja Booja chocolate truffles are oh so yum! Organic and made by hand, we have to restrict ourselves to one each a day until the box is empty. Delicious flavours include raspberry – our absolute favourite is the Champagne Truffle … so irresistible they should be banned! Ingredients for chocolate aficionados: Dark chocolate (cocoa solids 55%, cane sugar, emulsifier, soya lecithin, vanilla, coconut oil, champagne 8%, Agave, Cocoa powder.

Organic Champagne Truffles

Organic Champagne Truffles

Cooking in someone else’s kitchen is always interesting and on our return from a two month stay in France we immediately bought a hand blender – there are lots on the market but we plumped for the Sainsbury 200K version. At the surprising price of £4.13 it does the job quite well and is good enough for soups, blending cooked fruit and vegetables. We love the flexibility of blending direct in the saucepan. Much less washing up. For slicing, chopping and making small quantities of sauce our Magimix is indispensable – it has considerably more power with well designed cutting discs.

We love our Russell Hobbs Brita Filter Kettle. Living in a hard water and limescale area, dark rings on cups and a film on coffee and tea is really noticeable and slightly unpleasant. All that disappears using this filter kettle and your tea and coffee tastes so much better too. Of course you have the ongoing expense of the filters, but we prefer that to the unpleasant effects of scale. We use the filtered water for cooking as well.

Spoon Rest

Spoon Rest

Another useful device in the French kitchen was a simple Spoon Rest. I could only search out one, in John Lewis, the Playnation Ceramic Rest costs £8. It’s big enough to hold more than one wooden spoon, it gives me less cleaning to do of food marks on the worktop. Just throw it in the dishwasher, well best not to throw … Definitely the most useful piece of kitchen kit I have come across in years.

Digital scales As I am on a calorie restricted food programme (called a diet by everyone else!) an accurate, easy to clean, set of scales is essential. Again John Lewis came up trumps and I was pleased the nicest one I found, Salter 1036 Electronic Disc Kitchen Scale, 5kg, Black only cost £12.80. It has a lot of positive reviews.

I was lucky enough to interview Stanley Kubrick’s widow, Christiane, a month or so ago to talk about her, painting, work methods and style. The feature will  appear in the New Year.

Christiane was kind enough to sign a copy of the Taschen Book: The Stanley Kubrick Archives for us to offer to In Balance readers. This giveaway will appear on this website early in 2013.

The book is the first to explore Kubrick’s archives and the most comprehensive study of the filmmaker to date. It would be a must for any film buff. Reviews on the Taschen website are enlightening.

Another book we came across is Uniquely British, A Year in the Life of The Household Cavalry, written by serving officers and soldiers. The book covers events that took place during 2011 and 2012 and gives a unique insight into the background activities of a 350 year old organisation. Published to fund the launch of the Household Cavalry Foundation, a new charity to support serving soldiers, operational casualties, veterans or even their horses. Uniquely British is available direct from the publishers Tricorn Books, who presumably pay their British taxes which is more than be said about that huge organisation that sends most of its UK profits home to the US whose name begins with a capital A and from whom we assume you wouldn’t order this book. Sorry, our prejudices are showing.

OTHER Favourites to Give you Inspiration

For those who find listening to book a lifeline when driving long distance, or doing any repetitive activity like gym work, talking books might be an appropriate gift. Our recent feature gives details

George Foreman Grill – Absolutely besotted with this easy to make sandwich grill that cooks steaks to a T! Our feature gives details

Rose Oil is our absolute favourite product for facial care. From Living Nature we would never be without it!

Belleville Rendezvous – If you haven’t seen this do have a look at our feature – it’s a cartoon which is so funny and whacky yet charming and engaging.

Insect House – This is a fascinating item to attracts insects that will stay in your garden to help pollinate your fruit and vegetables. Young children love it. Our recent feature gives details.

Relaxing by the pool

And FINALLY, we’ve left the best until last! We spent an overnight spa stay at Whittlebury Hall. We so enjoyed this. A world class hydrotherapy centre, offering a vast range of treatments, beautiful decor, spacious accommodation, wonderful food … seriously large swimming pool, golf course, beautiful grounds to explore … You might just like to book up one of the special deals on offer up to Christmas! I took my husband who loved it … now that’s a recommendation!

Phew, I hope you find something of interest to choose as a thoughtful gift.

Good luck and the compliments of the season!

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor

 

13
Nov

Top Ten Good Books to Read Again, Again and Again

Favourite books from readers – all of them have been read more than once and they would never ever give them away. Eat your heart out Oxfam!

Heidia heartrending story by Johanna Spyri of such poignancy that it still makes me cry every time I read it even now at 70! J Jarvis

The Rough Guide to Classic Novels this is such a good crib book. It’s used it a lot just to keep me up with those references in the media that crop up from time to time – I’m always up to date! J Gorringe

The Man who Planted Trees a very short but hugely inspiring book – it renews hope and faith in the human psyche. L Alexander

RHS Pruning by Christopher Brickell – I’ve had this book for more than 30 years and it never lets me down. V McDonald

How to Grow Fresh Air  an astonishing book that came out of research for a breathable environment for a lunar habitat. K Colston

Travels with Watercolour – Lucy Willis inspires her readers to be courageous in their painting in new surroundings. S Walling

Mr Thrifty’s How to save money on absolutely everything – a hugely amusing and useful book written by Jane Furnival, now sadly no longer with us. A book to read and read – get a copy! K Gardner

Food in England Dorothy Hartley wrote a series of books based on her travels around the UK in the 1930’s to 1950’s. Her beautiful line drawings are humorous  as well as accurate and her description makes her books essential for anyone interested in social history.  J Marshall

Way of the Peaceful Warrior a lyrical, hauntingly beautiful book that might just change your life! I go back to it regularly. K Campbell

Bob Flowerdew’s Organic Bible, successful gardening the natural way The first book I go to when needing inspiration, reliable and understandable guidance for the garden. V Reynolds

All these books are of course available on Amazon, however rather than support a company that doesn’t want to pay tax on its UK profits perhaps you could find a bookseller who does. We are researching this – if you have any suggestions do get in touch.

If you have some favourites feel free to send an email to editorinbalance@me.com

Do you have any books you use to read in the gym when on the walking machine? Here’s a link to our feature.

7
Nov

Reading on the Gym Treadmill!

Having become rather bored with the MTV screen at the gym I tried reading while on the treadmill. Magazines printed on shiny paper reflected too much light for me to read very much and the type size meant I had to hold it to be able to read it.

Then I hit on the idea of getting large print books from the library. The choice was limited to several hundred in the usual classifications. I read all the biographies I liked the look of – many were excellent but most were not very well written. I went through the fiction fairly quickly too. However, reading as I exercised worked – on one occasion I had set the timer for an hour and I read an Agatha Christie thriller – at one point the machine seemed to judder and looking at the readout I had reached cool down. The hour and a half had passed very very quickly.

I was addicted! But then I ran out of books to read! I hit on the idea of music to listen to which I hoped would keep my speed up and make me smile! So I bought an ipod shuffle. A dinky little thing that I can transfer music from my cds/dvds, via my computer. I was set up with some of my favourite Elton John and Queen. Joy!

Then I discovered talking books. There are hundreds to choose from at the local library! But what to choose? The same problem I had choosing fiction surfaced again. Anyway I chose a book at random – short stories by Walter Mosley. Absolutely fantastic. So good that when I woke up in the middle of the night I continued to listen which sent me to sleep, eventually. The next problem to be solved was extraneous noise – the noise in the gym makes it difficult to hear all the recording, low notes especially so I looked for headphones to cut all that out.

Here are some of the books I found on the Naxos Spoken Word List:

O. Henry

  1. Classic American Short Stories (unabridged)
    More Classic American Short Stories (unabridged)
    Great Ghost Stories (unabridged)

Edward Ferrie
The Clumsy Ghost and Other Spooky Tales (unabridged)
Tales from the Greek Legends (unabridged)
More Tales from the Greek Legends (unabridged)
Tales from the Norse Legends (unabridged)

I’m a fan of Guy de Maupassant and was pleased to see Great Ghost Stories (unabridged) and Normandy Stories (selections)

Sadly there are no recordings of Somerset Maughan’s work, maybe in the near future, I think he is one of the most entertaining short story writers I have ever read.

Audio books are a really good ‘listen’ rather than printed versions, that help pass away that tedious time on the treadmill or other mechanical device in the gym when there is nothing to do but think about your problems, last night’s tv viewing and trying to avoid listening/watching some of the mindless stuff on the gym screens.

To help you choose a recording you can listen to short excerpts on the Naxos Spoken Word List before you buy. All the recordings are available on iTunes.

Peaches Lonsdale Contributing author

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