Food

Sweets Glorious Sweets.

During this summers’s Ashes tournament I was aware that a couple of England cricketers tweeted about and received Curious Candy hampers. A few Tuesdays ago I as watching The Great British Bake Off with no treats to hand I noticed Kevin Pietersen tweeting about these hampers so decided to investigate. Through Twitter they were offering an excellent deal so I decided to indulge my very sweet tooth and treat myself to a Candy Explosion hamper.

They describe it as follows:

You name it, this hamper has it. From hard candy to soft candy, chewy sweets, to fizzy tongue tanglers, old school retro to new world treats. This truly is the hamper for all people and all ages! Hamper measures: 130 x 320 x 220 mm

Content – Aniseed Twists, Fizz Whizz, Candy Necklace (1), Mega Brain Drop (1), Candy Whistle (1), Cola Bottles, Double Candy Lollies, Double Dip Sherbet (1), Drumstick Lollies, Fizzers, Haribo Heart Throbs, Flying Saucers, Foam Bananas, Giant Strawbs, Fried Eggs, Friendship Rings, Fun Gums (1), Jelly Babies, Jelly Beans, Giant Cola Bottles, Haribo Yellow Bellies, Love Heart Rolls, Parma Violets, Pear Drops, Dip Dab (1), Rainbow Drops (1), Rhubarb & Custards, Rainbow Dust Straws (10), Refresher Chews, Strawberry Bon Bons, Teddy Bears, Wine Gums.

Sounded good to me! It arrived a few days later and I snapped a quick pic before exploring it fully.

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To the surprise of everyone who knows me I actually do still have some sweets left in my hamper. It was very tempting to just dive in and eat and eat, but I’ve been restrained and made it last so I’ve had many evenings’ enjoyment out of it. There’s such a brilliant range of sweets included, lots of my favourites including a few I haven’t had in a long, long time. It did take me a couple of dips to realise that most of the stripy bags had two different sweets in them – of course that did mean I had to catch up with those so that I’d got an equal amount of all the loose sweets left so it wasn’t all bad!

It’s well worth keeping an eye on their Twitter account @CuriousCandy1 As they often run promotions. I can’t speak highly enough of their customer service, they were very helpful when I was sorting out my order. I’m definitely a convert and will be a repeat customer.

Days Out · Geek Stuff

Out and About : Cardiff International Comic Expo.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been trying to find my way into the somewhat confusing world of comics, I’ve been reading things that have been made into movies, found a few webcomics I love (though sadly I discovered two of them mere months before they finished for good) and followed recommendations lovely people on Twitter have been giving me. When I heard there was going to be a new comic expo in Cardiff it sounded like a great opportunity for me to go and pick up some new titles and explore a bit more.

Keeping to a budget is hard.
My first walk around the expo left me feeling a bit overwhelmed, there were tables full of colourful books waiting to be bought and I hadn’t heard of most of them. Behind each table sat someone who had a role in creating the books, the idea of speaking to one of them and revealing I knew nothing was more than a little scary. Knowing I had money saved specifically to spend in this room encouraged me to take another walk, and eventually I stopped at the Corvus Press table. They were selling issues #0 and #1 of The Baker Street Irregulars and sat behind the table was inker Patrick O’Connor. He was wonderfully friendly and I ended up walking away with both issues. Buoyed by the fact I’d managed to navigate a conversation I carried on and managed to spend the rest of my budget with relative ease.

In addition to the Baker Street Irregular issues, I bought Hero 9 – 5, Breathe and The Young Sherlock Holmes Adventures from Markosia, Arthur The Legend from Dalen and 10thology a collection of work by all Welsh creators. Expect to see reviews for all of these popping up over the next couple of months.

Whilst wandering around and trying to stretch my budget to its fullest I managed to nearly get run over by a Dalek on three separate occasions. Luckily for me they were in a good mood and didn’t appear keen to exterminate anybody.

Talks, talks and more talks.
In addition to the sales side of the Expo there was a full schedule of talks and panels. This was much more familiar ground to me, they tend to make up half of each day at the sci fi conventions I attend. I got organised before getting to the expo and had a list of the talks I wanted to go to, every one sounded good but I picked the ones I wanted to see the most.

Sidekickcast’s Secrets and Lies Live was the first panel I attended, a news quiz pitting a team of writers against a team of artists and both of them against the audience. It was a great start to the day, I laughed most of the way through it and Paul Cornell lead the writers’ team to a resounding win.

Matt Savage took the stage next, he’s a concept artist who has worked on films including The Dark Knight and X-Men: First Class, and Doctor Who – he was responsible for the redesign of the Daleks for the relaunch in 2005. He was a really interesting person to listen to, having pictures of his art to accompany what he was saying made for a really interesting panel.

Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton’s panel was excellent, fielding questions from the floor for the majority of the time they both proved to be really interesting to listen to. The discussion on how the comics industry is struggling to attract new young readers was of particular interest to me, the points they made have kept me thinking long past the event.

Mike Tucker and Mat Irvine took to the stage to talk about their time working for the BBC Special Effects unit. They have recently released a book chronicling the work the unit did over its lifetime, they talked through some of the photos that made it into the book and some that they’d had to leave out. The allotted 45 minutes flew by on this panel, I would have happily sat through another 45 minutes at least.

Creating Who? was the final panel and the one I’d been looking forward to the most. My ultimate dream would be to write tv tie in novels, particularly for one of the family of Doctor Who programmes. This panel was all about writing for Doctor Who outside of the tv programme and included comics’ writers and artists and Big Finish audio adventures’ authors. Sadly for me the person I was most looking forward to hearing from, Justin Richards who is Creative Director of the BBC Books range, was unable to attend. The panel was interesting, but ultimately a disappointment for me.

Looking forward to 2012.
I had a brilliant time at Cardiff International Comic Expo and I was thrilled to see them already advertising next year’s expo. I’ll definitely be booking my ticket.

Gluten Free

Gluten Free Goodies : Juvela Biscotti Bites.

Juvela have been producing great gluten free food available on prescription for some time. Recently they have decided to branch out and now operate an online shop stocking other gluten free goods. So far they stock a range of breakfast cereals and sweet snacks. They recently ran a promotion where the first 500 to request a sample would receive either Biscotti Bites or Chocolate Brownies. Never one to turn down free food I thought I’d give it a go.

I chose to request Biscotti Bites because I already know I can get good gluten free chocolate brownies from quite a few places. I was curious about how well biscotti would work with a gluten free recipes, most products have a tendency to be quite crumbly so I couldn’t imagine a gluten free biscotti would be suitably firm and teeth breaking.

When the pack arrived I was impressed to see it was a full size 200g pack, rather than a small sample pack. The contents of the pack had held up well against travelling via Royal Mail. I tried one plain first of all, and was pleased to see that Juvela have indeed managed to make their biscotti teeth breakingly hard. They’re a good, crunchy biscuit with plenty of almonds. I also tried having them for breakfast with my morning coffee, and they held up really well to dunking – again something that gluten free biscuits are typically bad at.

I really enjoyed this pack, but at the moment I won’t be placing an order for more. This new range from Juvela is only available from their online shop, the postage costs are fairly high – a packet of biscotti costs £2.79 and delivery costs £2.25 for one packet. On my current budget this means they are a treat I can’t justify, but I would definitely recommend them to anyone who is prepared to pay the delivery costs.

Book Stuff

The Kindle – My First Thoughts.

I, like many people, received a Kindle for Christmas. After reading some really interesting posts by other bloggers about their feelings about their Kindles I thought I would add my voice to the mix.

When the Kindle was first released I was really dubious about the whole concept, mine was one of the many voices bemoaning the fact that an ebook reader couldn’t possibly recreate the experience of reading accurately – the feel would be wrong, the smell would be wrong, the whole thing would just be wrong. I was quite happy to continue breaking my back on every train journey I took to visit friends (most round trips need 3-4 books I find) and using up my luggage weight allowance with books rather than clothes, shoes or other such practical things to take on holiday.

Time has meant that my feelings on the matter have changed a bit. I have realised that it is okay to love books and love gadgets, and that using an ebook reader doesn’t mean I won’t buy any books at all. Throughout 2010 I also began to see the joint problems that have affected my legs for years affecting my arms more and more, including limiting the size and weight of books I could hold to read. After having the opportunity to test drive an ebook reader for a couple of weeks and chatting to friends who had already been converted to Kindle users my mind was made up. It was good of Father Christmas to oblige really!

The things I love about my Kindle are:

  • I can read any book I want for as long as I want pain free.
  • My trip to London for my birthday and new years was much lighter without having to carry multiple books.
  • I can get as engrossed in reading on the Kindle as I do with paper books – I nearly missed my tube stop twice because I was so wrapped up in the book I was reading.
  • The fact that classics are generally free to download is encouraging me to think about reading books I’ve always meant to read but never gotten around to.

Nothing is perfect though, so for balance the things I don’t love about my Kindle are:

  • In the two books I’ve read so far the formatting has had little mistakes here and there; spaces in the wrong place, a single line of text split over two lines within a paragraph. None of these are big problems, but I do find they break my reading flow.

So far that is the only thing I’ve found that frustrates me a little. It’s a minor quibble, and definitely not one that would stop me recommending the Kindle. I am absolutely in love with my Kindle and quite happy to rave about it at length. I am aware that this may just be the wonderful honeymoon period though so I intend to follow Simon’s example and come back to this later in the year with another review once the honeymoon is over.

[picture from here]