Category Archives: Reviews

6 Seasonal Drinks To Try

Party Season is in full swing and as we near the end of the year I decided to end my blog this year with a fun & frivolous post to toast the old year along with welcoming the New Year!  So here is my round up of 6 seasonal drinks to try this year – with a couple of non alcoholic alternatives too!

1. PROSECCO 

Prosecco is perhaps the most popular sparkling wine in the UK at the moment.  It is an Italian wine, having the subtle flavouring of white peaches,  is made in the Venetian region, from Glera grapes (aka Prosecco grapes) – occasionally other grapes are added.  The controlled designation of origin can be spumante, frizzante or tranquilla.

If you are an animal lover that would like to celebrate the season with your pet, then why not get your cat or dog a bottle of Pawsecco!  Yes, it is virtually prosecco for your pet! I say it is “virtually” prosecco – that is because it is not made with grapes, thus making it safe for dogs to drink.  And it is still rather than sparkling.  And it is non alcoholic.  However, for novelty value Pawsecco is definitely up near the top slot – not having tasted it, I cannot vouch whether it tastes of Prosecco  – nor, can I guarantee your cat or dog will join you in toasting in the New Year!

2.  GIN

Gin  – a  popular drink in the summertime – and in 2017, gin is one of, if not the top, spirit drink bought in the UK.  In bars up and down the UK,  gin tastings and gin based cocktails are very popular.  It is lower in calories than a glass of wine or a pint of beer – so for those who are looking for an alcohol drink that is a bit more accommodating when dieting, you can’t go wrong with gin.  In the 19th century, gin was drank as a straight drink.  Today, gin & tonic is the normal pairing.  I remember in years gone by, elderly relatives drinking gin with bitter lemon or with ginger ale.  Why not try mixing gin with your favourite fruit juice combinations, such as grapefruit & orange; or, cranberry & grape.

Alternatively, why not try Seedlip?  Seedlip is distilled in the same way as gin, is clear like gin and is best served with tonic water. However, Seedlip is alcohol free, sugar free, calorie free and sweetener free.  It is a great alternative for drivers, pregnant ladies, teetotallers & dieters.  It is made with spices, herbs and the predominant flavour is clove.  As a base for non alcoholic cocktails requiring a gin substitute – Seedlip is your friend.  It is expensive but it does make a refreshing change from cola/lemonade/lime & soda ….

3. SPARKLING PERRY

Babycham was the original party drink, launched in the UK in 1953. Invented by Francis Showering, a brewer in Shelton Mallet, in Somerset, England.  The sweet and not overly  alcoholic drink was particularly popular during the 1960s and 1970s.  I remember Babycham being served in a Martini/cocktail glass with a glacé cherry on a cocktail stick.  It felt very glamorous at the time!  With the 1970s/1980s vibe being very popular at the moment, Babycham is trying to make inroads into the party market again.

Currently dominating the British commercial perry market is Lambrini, a light & fruity perry made from the finest quality pears.  Lambrini is manufactured in Liverpool by Halewood International and was first created in 1994.  Like Babycham, it is low in alcohol and      low in cost.  It is the butt of many jokes – mainly because of its low cost – but it is a refreshing alternative to wine, and less likely to produce a hangover after a couple of glasses!

4. MULLED WINE

There are many recipes for mulled wine and many supermarkets stock bottles of ready made mulled wine. “Mulled” simply means heated & spiced.  We usually associate “mulled” with wine, but in fact many liquids can be mulled, including cider.  Traditional English Mulled Wine is made with brandy; in Ireland it is made with Irish whiskey; in the USA, with a touch of bourbon.

How about trying the Scandinavian version – known as glogg.  It is a cherry- scented mulled style wine, traditionally containing other fruit and almonds too.  In Sweden, glogg is an essential part of the lead up to Christmas with glogg parties held throughout Advent.  I found many recipes on Pinterest on how to make glogg – but I have found a ready made bottle by Marks & Spencer which does the trick admirably too.

For a family and driver friendly version of mulled wine,  replace the alcohol in the recipes with red grape juice instead.  It is just as delicious – although just as calorie laden, I’m afraid.

5. VODKA

Last Christmas I spotted in Asda supermarket, peppermint vodka.  This year, I spotted in the delectable chocolate shop, Hotel Chocolat,     an English vodka infused with salted caramel & cocoa.  The Salted Caramel Vodka is not too sweet and in each bottle floats a whole cocoa bean.  Only available in small bottles, and more expensive than the normal supermarket vodkas, however this vodka is a real treat for the vodka connoisseur and worth every penny.

I’ve not really got a low calorie alternative, but if you happen to visit a Hotel Chocolat store with a cafe attached, then try their speciality hot chocolates whilst savouring the aroma of chocolate in the air.  Get  punch drunk on chocolate fumes rather than alcohol.  Chocoholics heaven on earth indeed.

6. Irish Cream

Every Christmas bar needs a bottle of Baileys or an equivalent Irish Cream.  I prefer the original version with no ice… some prefer their Irish Cream with ice or dashed into their coffee. My daughter likes to experiment with the seasonal flavours on offer … last year salted caramel, this year spiced pumpkin flavour.

What will be your seasonal tipple this year?  Will you try something new or will you stick to your favourites?  Whatever you decide to do, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Healthy & Prosperous New Year.

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

 

 

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Destination Rocamadour

Set in a gorge above the River Alzou, a tributary of the River Dordogne, in the Lot Department of South West France, lies the small cliff top village of Rocamadour.  Rocamadour attracts pilgrims from all over the world and has done for centuries – famous pilgrims from history include Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II of England; Kings Louis IX, Louis XI & Charles IV of France. In summer, this little village in the middle of nowhere, is jammed packed with visitors.  Apart from its stunning location, Rocamadour is known for its Cite Religieuse complex of religious buildings, accessed via the Grand Escalier Staircase. The complex includes the Chapelle Notre Dame, with its Black Madonna statue and the Romanesque – Gothic Basilica of St Sauveur.

In August, Rocamadour’s campsites (of which there are many), are invaded also by music lovers – the Festival de Rocamadour include chamber music, orchestral music and soloists.

Interesting though the village is, for families with children, the prospect of climbing the steep stone stairways viewing ancient buildings in the August heat isn’t really appealing.  BUT, Rocamadour to me and my family isn’t really the village – we head to the north east corner of the village to a magical place we first discovered in 2006. This place is La Foret de Singes (Monkey Forest), a park where around 150 Barbary Macaques (aka Magots) live and roam free in a forest environment. 

The Barbary Macaques are an endangered species, originating from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The idea of the park is to provide the apes with natural living conditions as close to their native conditions as possible in order to preserve the species and once numbers increase and they are no longer endangered, they will be ultimately reintroduced into the Atlas Mountains. 

Raising public awareness about threats to the species is another aim.  Entering the park there are strict regulations for visitors – both for the safety of the visitor and the apes.  The park is well secured… there are gates to enter in and out of the forest itself .. but other than that, no other zoo like feature exists.  Regulations include not going too close the apes, especially the babies as the parents could consider the visitors as a threat; the young apes are prone to taking food out of people’s pockets/bags and hats off heads  – the young ones are braver and will approach you to take food off your outstretched hands.  You can get bags of popcorn at the entrance so you can feed the apes you come across as you follow the paths through the forest – and there are also set feeding time  areas where the rangers feed the apes whilst explaining (mostly in French) their work, the apes and the conservation aims.

Wandering through the forest, some places reminded me of scenes from Disney’s Lion King – I was expecting Simba the lion to appear on a rock and roar! 

The highlight of the day for us all was being able to feed the apes, although on our first trip my eldest son was very wary and was too scared to participate – but the others were a lot braver and enjoyed the experience.  Outside the gated area is a shop with the inevitable shelves lined with soft cuddly Barbary Apes; and a cafe where you can get a well deserved ice cream – or have a picnic indulging in freshly made baguettes with the local goats milk cheese, “Rocamadour”, which was awarded AOC status in 1996! 

As a family, we’ve always visited in the height of the season in August – the roads to get into Rocamadour are often congested but away from the centre, as you head to the forest the traffic is fairly light and the park itself, although busy, does not feel crowded even at lunchtime.  If you get a chance, just along the road is the Dinosaur Park – a cleverly laid out park winding down a hillside featuring some fabulous dinosaur statues – very pushchair/wheelchair friendly and wasn’t crowded whenever we’ve visited, either. 

The La Foret de Singes was opened in 1974  – it has other parklands in the “group” in Europe where you can experience the work of the Barbary Macaques conservation associations.  These are: La Montagne des Singes (France); Affenberg Salem  (Germany); Trentham Monkey Forest (England).

If you wish to visit the forest, it is open March – November. 

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden. 

 

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Back To The 80s

During the summer I received an invite from my friend Tracy inviting my husband and I to her 50th birthday party.  It was to be a “Back to the 80s” fancy dress party, to boot.  Normally, I’m not a big fan of dressing up but it sounded really fun to relive memories of being a teenager in the 1980s.  In 1981, I was 16 and pretty shy but by 1984 I had embraced the 1980s with fervour – I loved the big hair, the bright colours and the sexiness of the decade – and then by 1988, I swapped my blonde spiky big hair for a brunette perm and shiny tracksuits … (that part was a blip!) Make up was just as bright – and plenty of black eyeliner!  I needed to get some ideas on what to wear for the party. First of all I looked at Amazon – the fancy dress outfits were mainly leg warmers, leotards and from the Flashdance film era; with a splattering of early Madonna outfits. They were very nice but wasn’t what I had once worn, so I decided to look back at some old photos to see if I could recreate my old looks.

1981 – My old bus pass aged 16!  I was wearing a long black leather coat (my first purchase with my first wage packet!) and a black & gold glitter jumper.

1982 –  I used to wear a lot of red and matched my outfits with red lipstick, red earrings, red handbag & red shoes! My hair was in the style of Lady Diana.

1984 –  This was me aged 19 on a night out.  The shirt was one of my favourites.  I was wearing a faux black leather pencil knee length  skirt.

1989 – perm!  I kept this style until 1997 when I then had my hair cut short.

I remembered I used to love the strapless peplum dresses on a night out; my denim jacket used to take pride of place alongside my leather jacket; and if I was going to the local disco – my shiny black satin tight trousers with a yellow lace body and a yellow & black kimono style shirt; a winter’s date in the pub – fuchsia pink knitted dress with fishnets and high leg boots; or a rib knit purple maxi skirt with matching cardigan teamed with a fuchsia pink satin blouse…. 

In my wardrobe, I found my original denim jacket and a black string vest …. 

 

Looking in my Bon Prix catalogue, I realised that a lot of the 1980s style were making a comeback – I found white slouchy boots, sling back shoes…

I found stirrup pants (used to be known then as ski pants); jeans with piping down the sides (I used to have a khaki pair with red piping); fishnets (haven’t really faded from the fashion scene); tight satin disco trousers and black faux leather skirts. 

It was harder to recreate the make up but, not impossible.  Having a pale matt foundation was no problem but I had to forego the subtle contouring or hint of blush that I favour today – in the 1980s blush was loud and proud!  In 2017 I like a pale or nude lip gloss; me in 1984 favoured red or burgundy – it was really strange to wear such a bright colour.  Even more embarrassing was that I found at the bottom of my make up drawer my original Charlie red lipstick….

When it came to my husband – he said he used to wear a rock band t shirt and jeans… not much different to today’s attire.  He decided to join in the fun and become an iconic favourite of his in the 1980s – Axl Rose of Guns n Roses.  He managed to get hold of a kilt, wig and bandana from Amazon.

In the end I got my outfit: blonde rockers wig (from Amazon); denim jacket; 80s red/black/white strapless satin dress from Envy Boutique; black fishnet faux stockings; black slingback shoes from Bon Prix.

The party was a big success… there were Baywatch star lookalikes, early Madonnas, Flashdancers, and even Slash from Guns n Roses too. We drank pimped up prosecco but I somehow thought babycham would have been great if it was still around…. then guess what I found on my supermarket shelf the other day….

What would you wear to an 80s party?  Can you remember any favourite outfits from that era? Do share your stories … 

Linda x

For pinning

All photographs are by Linda Hobden 

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Under The Spotlight: Maybelline Superstay Lipstick

My friend, Kat, and I talk about many things when we get together or when we message each other over the years.  We both like the same sort of music, we like the same style of clothing, we share the same tastes in footwear, but one thing we adore (and talk about a lot!) is make up by Maybelline. Mainly their mascaras and lipsticks. Especially Maybelline’s Superstay Lipstick.

Maybelline Superstay Lipsticks have been a feature in our make up bags for a while – I think it was Kat who first told me about its virtues.  For those who don’t know, the lipstick has fantastic staying power and the range of colours suit everybody’s tastes.   I prefer the pinks and nudes of the colour spectrum; whereas Kat is a big fan of the reds and burgundies.

Me, at Gatwick Airport at 4am, wearing my Superstay lipstick ….

In September/October, Maybelline had a range change and had repackaged and reformulated some of its make up items – including our favourite lippy! Being a  Superstay Lipstick guru, Kat had concerns about whether the lipstick is still as good as it used to be – so she decided to give the new look Superstay Lipstick a try and here’s her review …..

I’ve been a big fan of Maybelline Superstay lipstick for some time now, as its the only one I’ve found that actually does what it says on the tin. I have three shades that I use regularly and since moving to a Scottish island earlier in the year, have been stockpiling these so that I don’t run out. Especially as, much to my horror, I was advised a year or two ago that there were plans to discontinue the range and replace it with something else.

Earlier in the year, I found a range that was labelled Superstay and tried them, but without success, and had therefore stepped-up my stockpiling efforts. In the meantime, I have also found what I believe to be new shades in what I have come to think of as the ‘traditional’ Superstay 24 range (see photo), and have now added a fourth shade to my favourites. So maybe there is hope that this traditional range is not for imminent demise.

Whatever the truth of that assumption may be, you may also have seen the recent TV advertising campaign showing us a new Maybelline Superstay Matte Ink lipstick range: as you may imagine, I’ve been quite excited to try it out. Earlier in the week, I found a range of these lipsticks in the Orpington Boots Maybelline concession. How could I possibly resist!

I bought their shade No.45 Escapist (a very dark purple – again, see photo) and yesterday, I wore it all day.

 

I first applied it at around 8am. Out of the tube, the applicator seemed quite clogged, but it was easy to wipe off the excess on the top of the tube, and very easy to apply. At first, without the lip balm that came with the traditional Superstay lipstick, it felt quite cloying and dry on my lips, much like the traditional one does when it’s almost ready to apply the balm – not quite as bad, but bad enough to persuade me to open my traditional lipstick and apply the balm section. After that, fine and comfy.

I took the first photo immediately after eating breakfast. There was no residue on the spoon or my tea mug. My lips still felt perfectly comfortable. So far, so promising.

Without taking either the lipstick or the stick of balm (or indeed, any balm), out with me, I then left the house for the day.

The second photo was taken shortly after lunch – at around 1.30pm (or 5-6 hours after application). Again, there was no staining on my cutlery or my wine glass. However, I was beginning to be conscious of the lipstick on my lips, and I believe you can see a very small amount of colour fade, at the inner edge of my bottom lip.

The third photograph was taken around 7pm (11 hours after application). At this stage, I had drunk a further cup of tea (still no staining) and had not applied any further balm since first application that morning. As you can see, the colour fade has intensified slightly – and I was slightly more conscious of wearing the lipstick.

The fourth photograph was take around 9pm, after having eaten dinner, and drunk a further glass of wine (purely in the interests of research you understand). Again, no staining on my cutlery, but a very slight smudge and a speck of lipstick on my glass. I feel this is reflected in a further fade visible in the photograph.

By this time, my lips were feeling dry enough that I bit off the merest flake from the surface, so I applied more lip balm, this time Nivea Pearly Shine (which is supposed to give a slight sheen to naked lips. It does, but I find the ‘slight’ is further towards the ‘vague’ end of the spectrum). Normally, the traditional lipstick does not fare well when used with a different balm – and as I so rarely find I need to use one, I try not to.

The last photograph of the day was then taken, after also having drunk a cup of hot chocolate (oh how I have suffered in the interests of being thorough). No staining on the cup and only a little further colour fade, which did surprise me slightly, given my comments above.

Before I took to my bed for the night, I again applied the balm from the traditional Superstay lipstick, instead of wiping the lipstick off, so that I could take a final photograph when I woke up. I won’t tell you what time I took the photo this morning, but it had definitely been on for over 24 hours at this point! As I think is clear, it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely still there.

I used to find that the traditional lipstick did not always last as applied for the whole 24 hours, but easily lasted all day out and about, and more than easily coped with a night out, without fading at all. It did occasionally require an extra application of balm, but this did not always help with the staying power of the colour however (especially, as noted, if I used a different one than supplied with the lipstick). My husband also has a full beard and moustache, which can be a bit of a wire brush on lipstick, so am quite happy that it does last overnight, if only in the style of old-fashioned lip liner by the time I wake up! People have stopped me in the street, or over lunch and/or drinks and complimented me on my lipstick and its staying power, and I’ve been happy to recommend the traditional Superstay range.

This new range seems on this evidence to be very close. There was slight colour fade during the day, but this was not obvious until after 11 hours after first application, and though I was conscious of it after 6 hours, it was not noticed by my companions sitting across the table from me. I would also note that the shade I was wearing was very dark, so any fade would be much more noticeable. On any normal day this would be perfectly acceptable, and more than acceptable for a night out. I would prefer however that the lip balm had not been dispensed with.

I will not be ditching my stockpile yet, and very much hope that this is not a replacement for the traditional Superstay range, but merely an addition to the Maybelline offering (they do, after all, offer an almost bewildering range of mascara too, all of which are also great). On the other hand, if this were their only Superstay offering, I would definitely stick with it. But perhaps I would also be keeping the unused balm sections from the traditional range, to use in conjunction”.

Thanks for the review Kat!  It’s a pity about the balm not being incorporated anymore …but I am looking forward to checking out the new range for myself very soon.

Do you use Maybelline’s Superstay range?  Do you have a particular favourite? Do share your thoughts, I’d love to know!

Linda x

Photo Credits:

Review photos – Kat Sparshott;  Pin & other photo – Linda Hobden

 

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Destination Boa Vista

I have had Cape Verde hovering around the top of my bucket list for a quite a few years.  I was wooed not by photographs, as at the time I hadn’t seen any.  I only knew two people who had been there – both said it was very windy and not much there apart from sand. Neither showed much enthusiasm.  No, I was fascinated by these islands because of their location and they were “new” to the travel scene, fascinated as only a geography/travel/map geek could be.  Over the last couple of years, Cape Verde has crept into those holiday brochures – pictures of exotic pools with swim up bars, palm trees …. and I was sold. Sort of. What I didn’t realise was that Cape Verde was made up of 10 islands and the main “tourist” island was an island called Sal.  However, just south of Sal is the island of Boa Vista – just opening up to tourism – and that was the island I was lucky enough to be visit  in August this year.

Cape Verde lies midway between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, approximately 300 miles off the coast of Senegal in West Africa. The island of Boa Vista, nearest island to the African mainland, is the 3rd largest island, but it is still tiny, taking just under one hour driving from end to end  – roughly 240 square miles … the size of the city of Chicago, in fact.  The population of the entire island, according to the official Cape Verde website, in 2010 was just 8,564. In fact it is the least populated of all the islands – the capital of Cape Verde, Praia, is on the island of Santiago.  Most people on Boa Vista live in the capital, Sal Rei … in fact my hotel located in the extreme south of the island, the biggest Rui hotel in the world, was bigger than the villages and towns! 

Diego Gomes, a Portuguese explorer, discovered the Cape Verde Islands, way back in 1456 – they were all totally uninhabited. By 1587, Cape Verde became a Portuguese colony.  The Portuguese used the archipelago as a stopover for slave traffic between Africa and America. From 1620, slaves were employed in the salt mines – processing the salt in the mountainous areas, hidden from pirate attacks.  The salt pans are still here, although more common on the island of Sal, but the industry has dried up due to the technical advances in the industry in other parts of the world. Cape Verde declared independence in 1975. Today, the population is mostly a mixture of Creole, African & Portuguese … with small pockets of Italians, Spanish & Chinese. The signs are all in Portuguese but the people speak a Creole language – the atmosphere is pretty laidback and has a Caribbean vibe in Boa Vista;the other islands have a more European feel.  

“Inside” the airport’s departure lounge

Most people on Boa Vista work in tourism in some way – either in the hotels, as tour guides or souvenir sellers.  Date-farming too. The airport, the grandly named Aristides Pereira International Airport, was opened in 2007.  The International Airport on Sal has navigational runway aids (runway lights) and looks like an airport – whereas the airport on Boa Vista is on the edge of the desert, is open air and has no runway lights.  The flight time from the UK is just over 6 hours – the plane is not large as the airport is too small to accept the modern Dreamliner jets.  There are only 3 or 4 planes landing a day so long queues rarely exist! Expansion plans are already being made.  As Boa Vista is hot and dry all year round, having an open air airport isn’t really a problem apart from the fact that it is hot and shade is limited plus at the end of August/September is Boa Vista’s “rainy” season (short sharp showers about 4 days a year!) so if it does rain, you’ll get wet! The airport is located in Rabil, the 2nd largest town and former capital. Rabil is known for its pottery and the longest river in Cape Verde, the Ribeira do Rabil, flows through it. Well, it should on the map look as though it should flow, but in reality it was a puddle with some trees around it (planted in the 1990s).

My sons sand boarding in the Viana Desert

Boa Vista is known for the sand dunes and moonlike volcanic landscapes of the Viana Desert.  The desert was formed by the accumulation of wandering sand grains from the Sahara.  The sand dunes in this desert are vast. One morning we travelled to the Viana Club Restaurant for an early breakfast of “catchupa” – the national dish, a sort of corn stew, served with fried egg and spicy sausage – and a refreshing glass of iced hibiscus tea. We then hit the dunes for a sand boarding session. It was hot, it was sunny and it was lots of fun!

Me, on Santa Monica beach

Boa Vista has a stunning coastline – it’s most coveted beach is the Santa Monica beach (named after the Californian beach) which extends 18km from the island’s westernmost point to the southernmost point. It is said to be one of the top 20 best beaches in the world.  Currently, the beach is devoid of hotels but not for long as a large hotel resort/spa  is being built – due to finish in the next 5/10 years.  In a decade, Boa Vista will be unrecognisable – I’m not sure whether that is a good thing or not – on the one hand more tourism will help to raise living standards but on the other hand, Boa Vista will lose its uniqueness.

Launderette in Sal Rei

Cape Verde has only just been upgraded from Third World category to Second World category – it is still pretty poor.  When visiting the capital, Sal Rei, the “launderette” was a row of concrete slabs where women scrubbed their clothes as they have done for centuries.  My guide said that the Chinese have recently introduced washing machines  but they are not widespread as yet. Next to the washing area was the water station. Water is scarce on the island so people come to the water stations with their wheelbarrows to collect their daily water tanks. The richer people can afford to have their water delivered. Our hotel had its own water desalination plant for its needs.

Santa Maria

Another nice beach was in the far north of the island, renamed Santa Maria, after the MS Cabo Santa Maria, a ship that ran aground there in 1968. The ship was carrying gifts from the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco on its way to Brazil and Argentina – the gifts apparently included sports cars! Thankfully, the crew escaped unhurt and the goods were salvaged. The wreck is still there, just a rusty shell now, slowly crumbling away after years being battered by the wind and constant waves.

I was mesmerised by the waves – the Atlantic breakers were very powerful and during my stay the red flag was constantly flying. Managing to paddle, the water was as warm as bath water – around 28 degrees centigrade.  I expected the sea to be colder. That is not the only thing that surprised me about the temperature.  The climate is warm all year round – August to October are the hottest (and wettest months) and the temperature hovers around 32/33 degrees during the day falling to around 27/28 degrees at night – what surprised me was that it was such a humid heat – I had thought it was more a “dry” heat like I’ve experienced in the Mediterranean. The humidity was often around 80% which meant that the constant breeze was a cooling blessing indeed although it was a false blessing as the island’s location meant that the sun’s strength was equatorial, and Factor 50 liberally applied was needed.  Tropical island – but I didn’t see any mosquitos but I did see plenty of wandering goats and the odd cow! Sea turtles are known to nest on the shores, while the coastal waters are a route for migrating humpback whales.  

Boa Vista has a few mountains, the highest being Mount Estancia at 1,270 feet.  Cape Verde does have an active volcano – on Fogo – which last erupted in 2014.  On the slopes of the volcano Fogo coffee is grown …absolutely delicious! 

Route 66

The roads.  The road from the airport to the capital and the roads in the towns/villages are mostly cobbled. There is a small patch of tarmac, south of the island, which was built by the Rui hotel chain to try and establish a good route from the south to the airport and Sal Rei. However, it is not finished and quickly goes from tarmac to unmade road. Some routes are not signposted but are tiny tracks meandering through the desert, naked to my eye.  Drivers drive on the right but, to be honest, it really depends on which side has the least potholes. I didn’t see one private car – I did see a police car, a couple of motorbikes, quad bikes, tour guide jeeps, tour buses, buses and the odd truck and taxi.  Boa Vista has another American equivalent – they have a Route 66 too – the cobbled road doesn’t lend itself to smooth riding on a Harley Davidson though! 

Estoril Beach

Food & Drink.  The RUI hotel I was staying in imports all its food and drink from the Canary Islands.  This is quite a sensible idea because the island doesn’t produce enough to cater for the number of tourists staying at the hotels. However, it does mean that those people staying put only in the hotel miss out on discovering the island’s cuisine.  The national dishes are quite hearty – stew features a variety of meat and fish – I tried the octopus stew which was very tasty.  

Lobster at Morabeza Beach Restaurant

At the Morabeza Beach Bar Restaurant  we ate freshly caught lobster served with exquisitely cooked vegetables …and drank Coconut ponche and Cape Verdian white wine.  It is the first restaurant I’ve been to where you can eat with your shoes off, the floor is the beach, and reggae music is playing in the background. It was here we watched fire eaters do their thing and my sons had impromptu African drumming lessons!

Guest House Migrante
Library Guest House Migrante

Apart from the big Rui hotels, the island has a couple of smaller hotels, apartments and guesthouses – mainly on the beaches around Sal Rei. I stopped off at the Guest House Migrante – a delightful guesthouse with a distinctly European flavour with a bar/cafe attached. It is the grandest looking building in Sal Rei and they serve the most delightful coffee (from Fogo) and grog (Cape Verdean rum).   The guesthouse had a gorgeous library area and an inner courtyard.  In Boa Vista I found that when it came to food and drink, you should never judge a bar/restaurant by its outside look – inside these places are clean and the food is out of this world – ask the locals for restaurant recommendations too.

Like any place in the world, people’s viewpoints on the same place differ vastly, and not everybody is going to fall in love with a place.  Boa Vista attracted me and is now engraved in my heart because of its ruggedness, its beautiful desert scenery and the people are so smiley.  Where else would you high five the airport officers as you board your plane home? Where else would you see brightly coloured birds tweeting in the passport control area as you land?  Where else would you see miles of untouched white sand beaches not lined with hotels? The hotel was gorgeous and clean but to be perfectly honest, being by the pool, you could be anywhere hot and sunny in the world. What made the holiday was the chance to explore outside of the hotel.  Boa Vista is not like the Canary Islands, despite the glossy holiday brochure pictures – but perhaps in 10 years it will be. 

If you enjoy self catering, then Boa Vista isn’t the place for you yet.  In Sal Rei, there is a small working fish market and a small fruit/vegetable market & a couple of shops where essentials can be found.  

Street Life

If you enjoy walking from your hotel to restaurants/bars, pick a hotel close to Rabil or Sal Rei where you can walk along the beaches to beach bars.  The RUI Tuareg at the south of the island is in a fab spot but it is only surrounded by desert scrubland.  The hotel has plenty of bars though! Alternatively, look at the neighbouring island of Sal, which is more geared towards tourism.

If you can afford it, splash out on the trips either operated by your tour operator or by Giggling Geckos ( a tour company on the island)    and see the island away from the hotels.  Quad bike tours have been highly recommended too. 

And try the local grog … apparently after four shots you end up talking fluent Creole …..

Linda x

All photos by Linda Hobden

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Spotlight on Golden Lady

The Golden Lady Company is a hosiery company that was founded in 1967 in Castiglione Della Stiviere, Italy. The company boasts 12 production sites  located in Italy, USA and Serbia with an overall production of 400 million tights per year, distributed in 70 countries worldwide. The Golden Lady Company is, not surprisingly, the market leader in Italian hosiery with a share of 35% (according to their website) and a key player in all the major European markets including France, Germany, Spain, and England, through its subsidiaries and sales agencies.  That’s an awful lot of tights!

It’s not just tights that they specialise in – although their classic styles are well made and pretty ladder resistant – they also do a range of knee highs, socks and footlets.  Their range of opaque tights is amazing – you can choose from various deniers ranging from 60 to 200 – and last winter, there was “warmy” tights which were a thicker denier and polar fleeced tights which had a thin fleece lining inside.  I bought some of the latter for my husband’s gran for the winter months – she was delighted because they certainly kept her snug and warm, without looking bulky!  Fashion tights have ranged in the past from polka dots, sparkly silver & gold, ribbed, to lacy – ideal to wear under ripped jeans. I’m looking forward to seeing what the new season range will bring.

In the UK, you can buy the range from Asda supermarkets and  online from Golden Lady UK website. Golden Lady’s American brands are No-Nonsense and Hue – available from Wal-Mart stores. I have also discovered Golden Lady products online on Tights UK website and on Amazon.

Golden Lady UK was established in 1989 with its Head Office and Distribution Centre based in Nottingham.  Golden Lady UK are currently celebrating the launch of their new online service and are offering a free pair of socks with your first order. 

I have worn Golden Lady tights – opaques in winter – for a number of years and have found them long lasting, good range of shades, well fitting and the cost is reasonable too.  I’ve got my free socks… are you going to give them a try?

Websites:

UK:  http://goldenlady.org.uk

Rest of the World:  http://www.goldenlady.com

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden.  

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5 Beauty Products For A Summer Glow

Summer is well and truly here …the sun is shining and temperatures are hovering around the 30 degree centigrade mark (late 80s Fahrenheit) – my make up is dripping off my face through perspiration … in fact it isn’t because I have found some great beauty products that give out a great summer glow.  Oh yes, you can go “au naturel” in summer but there are a couple of things that I’ve discovered now that I have reached the ripe old age of 50 +.

The main thing is that my skin is very dry, I am prone to eczema especially around my eyes, and although I was acne free as a teenager I have an occasional spot or two cropping up when I least expect it.  My skin is fair and in the sun I go red before turning a pale golden tan colour.  In winter, my Leichner moisturiser with a hint of colour is a brilliant cover up but in summer I find foundation too heavy. In summer, if I do wear make up, especially for evenings out, having no foundation base I find that the make up just slides off or goes patchy – I have found an illuminator/primer that is just perfect. Over the last two summers, I have found some products that really do work and I’m going to share my summer saviours with you.

1.  Garnier Moisturiser.  Actually, any moisturiser is a must.  I happen to go a bundle on Garnier Moisture Plus – this tube featured in the picture is actually for normal/combination/dull skin and I personally prefer this one than the equivalent moisturiser for dry skin.  It is a lighter lotion that illuminates and really gives my skin the “drink” it needs, as well as having a sun factor of SPF20.

2. Avon Glow Illuminator.  I have lost count of the number of different primers I have tried over the years, most have been “OK” but not great.  This summer I have “fallen in love” with Avon’s latest make up range, Glow, and especially its primer/illuminator.  First thing, this primer isn’t clear and it is  a cream rather than a gel base. It has a light brown/gold tint to it that blends to your natural colour (whatever shade that may be) once applied to your skin.

The beauty of the illuminator is that you could just use it as a highlighter (think contouring) or apply it all over your face as a primer under foundation or apply it all over your face as an extra moisturiser.

3. L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Fabulous Elixir Self Tanning.  If you like the idea of a tanned face on holiday but you end up like me, with a face red like a beetroot, then why not invest in this elixir.  It says on the bottle that it is for face and body – but I haven’t used it on my body so I cannot vouch for that.  The idea is that you apply the elixir onto your face when moisturising for a few days in a row then you’ll get a gradual tanned face that lasts for at least 2 weeks and the colour intensity depends on how often you use it.  The pros to this is that when you are on holiday, the self tan wears off and not washes off, however many times you jump in the pool; no streaks; no “self tanning” smell.

4. Rimmel Sun Shimmer.   Similar idea to the L’Oreal’s Elixir but this is a “wash off” formula.  I find the sun shimmer great for those days where you’ve got a patch of red sunburn on your shoulders or a red face. It acts like a soothing after sun cream; instant colour so you can see where you are applying it to; leaves your angry red patches looking more bronzed – although  beware of white clothes/sheets/towels, it does rub off – hence I generally use it on my face or bare shoulders if I’m wearing an off the shoulder or strapless outfit.

5. Avon Skin So Soft Enhance & Glow 7 in 1 Body Lotion.  This is a body lotion that you can apply to your legs and depending on how often you apply the lotion, you get a gradual tan developing. This body lotion colour does come off in the bath/ shower/pool. However, this is a lovely body lotion in its own right for lovely soft legs; the colour doesn’t come off onto clothes/sheets; and to just take the tinge off of milk bottle white legs until your legs get used to the open air, this lotion is a godsend.

All the above products are purchases that I have made over the past few months and that I have enjoyed using – none are samples, gifts etc. Have you discovered any beauty products that have piqued your interest this summer? Do share – I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos by Linda Hobden (apart from my pic which was taken by my son Jack)

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Take 4 ingredients – Frozen Chocolate Bites

I enjoy cooking. I enjoy cooking meals for my large family. Over Christmas and other family occasions I normally cater from around 15 family members.  I love cooking main meals … but when it comes to desserts my repertoire is limited.  I can make apple pie, rhubarb pie, summer fruit pudding and… erm… banana and walnut cake.  Year after year, I churn out the same puddings! Looking at a copy of the Slimming World Magazine I came across a recipe for Gold Bullion Bites. These frozen chocolate-toffee treats looked easy enough to make, so I decided to have a dry run to see if they turn out alright and if they do, I thought that I’d make them for the next family do.

I bought all the ingredients, made the bites and all turned out well. So I decided to experiment a bit more with the recipe, and lo and behold I found a new dessert/snack to add to my repertoire – and the best thing is that you need only 4 ingredients!

So here is my version of the recipe…

Makes 14

Ingredients

  • 45g bar  Dairy Milk Chocolate (I used  Cadburys Dairy Milk), broken into pieces
  • 175g pot of SMOOTH yogurt (I used MullerLight Smooth Toffee, Mullerlight Raspberry & Cranberry, Strawberry)
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • Edible gold glitter/ gold cooking spray to decorate
  • Ice Cube trays ( flexible plastic ones that pop out ice cubes easily)

Method

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Once melted, remove from the heat, stir until smooth and leave to cool for a minute.

Quickly mix in to the chocolate 1 tablespoon of your chosen yogurt, to loosen, then add the rest of the yogurt. Add the cocoa powder and mix well.

Fill the ice cube trays – allow about 2 teaspoons per cube. Gently tap the trays to level the mixture. Put in the freezer for around 3 hours, until set.

When you are ready to serve as a dessert, turn out the chocolates and arrange on a serving dish, sprinkle with cocoa powder and gold glitter or gold spray.

These were so popular that I made several more batches and once frozen I put the chocolate cubes in plastic bags and stored in the freezer. Whenever anybody fancied an iced chocolate snack, they just helped themselves straight from the freezer.

I am hoping to try the recipe using dark chocolate and some new flavours of yogurt, such as Mullerlight’s After Dinner Mint. If I can find orange yogurt, that might go down well too.  Do let me know if you try the recipe and what chocolate/flavour combination did you use!

Linda x

Photos by Linda Hobden

Inspiration by Slimming World.

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5 Spring Discoveries

Following on from my December 2016 post “6 Discoveries I Made in 2016” (read it HERE) – here are 5 new discoveries I’ve made since the start of 2017. When I say “new”, the discoveries themselves may not be “new” as in “just out in the market new”, but in the sense that I’ve either stumbled across them for the first time or have tried them for the first time.

1. Cauliflower Pizza.

According to the Slimming World magazine, the latest food fad is cauliflower pizza. My first thought was, I admit, “yuck” but thinking about it, I like cauliflower cheese and the ingredients used to make that are essentially the same, just put together differently.  I then came across Tony Lozzi’s blogpost (Fit2Father) talking about cauliflower bread and his yummy recipe gave me hope for the cauliflower pizza.  Here’s the recipe for Cauliflower Pizza (slightly adapted from Slimming World) – serves 2 :

Ingredients:  1 cauliflower, cut into florets; 2 eggs; salt & pepper; 1 teas dried oregano; cooking oil spray (try Frylight’s garlic spray); 3 tab tomato purée; red onion, sliced; yellow pepper, sliced; 4 slices of ham, sliced; grated cheese (optional)

Method: Preheat oven to Gas 5 or 180C.  In a food processor whizz cauliflower florets until very fine. Tip into a microwaveable bowl, cover with cling film and zap in the microwave for 5 minutes. Add beaten eggs, seasoning & oregano. The mixture should be really wet.  Line a large baking tray with nonstick baking paper, spray with cooking oil & pour on the cauliflower mixture.  Shape it using a knife, wooden spoon or your fingers. Bake for 25 minutes, until base has solidified and gone golden. Flip base over & cook for another 10 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven, spread with tomato purée & top with ham and vegetables (and cheese). Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes. Serve sliced.

2. Silvaner Pinot Grigio Wine

No discovery post of mine can be complete without a reference to wine.  The discovery is not actually Pinot Grigio itself – I’ve tasted Pinot Grigio wine from Italy, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa … but not from Germany.  This wine is deliciously light and went well with my chicken dinner tonight.  I will definitely purchase this wine again – thank you mum for the introduction!

3. Italian herb secret

Famous UK cook Mary Berry caused a stir this week when she revealed that she uses an old recipe for making spaghetti bolognese using WHITE wine and double cream (and chicken livers & bacon).  Most people were outraged that she used white and not red wine – some commented on the use of double cream.  Personally, I add red wine if there is any in my kitchen and occasionally Worcestershire sauce. I think I’ll stick to my tried and tested recipe. However, a native Italian pointed out that Italian cooks don’t actually add herbs or garlic at all when making bolognaise….so, now you know….

4. Sheer Knee Highs

OK … knee highs or pop socks are not new.  Despite my day job being a hosiery merchandiser, and knee highs are a mega big seller in the stores where I work,  I actually bought & wore knee highs for the first time ever last week.  Not the sexiest of hosiery items I must say, but it was more comfortable wearing them under my trousers than tights. 

5. Drops Of Youth by Body Shop

When is a face mask peel not a peel? When it is a fantastic liquid peel such as Drops of Youth by Body Shop. This is absolutely fantastic stuff.  My Body Shop At Home gave me a sample to try and I was so impressed that I immediately purchased a bottle. I’m using it instead of a night cream – this stuff works! It not only deep cleans your skin, it works immediately, leaves your face feeling clean, refreshed, moisturised and soft.  It doesn’t irritate my skin either.  To use: after taking off your make up, apply a blob or two into the palm of your hand and rub over your face. The peel immediately gets to work. When finished rubbing, rinse off with warm water and dry.  Add night cream if you wish. My skin gets extremely dry but this stuff does such a good job that my skin is fully hydrated afterwards.  Excellent product.  Give it a whirl.  Apparently use it long enough and your skin takes on a youthful appearance…

That’s all for the moment dear readers! What do you think of my recent discoveries? Do share your thoughts 🙂

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden

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Spotlight On Rivage

My skin is very dry and prone to eczema therefore I am quite fussy and alert when it comes to skincare.  Certain perfumes irritate and some skin creams leave my skin itchy so I really try and stick with face/body products that I know work for me.  I had read an article about the benefits of the mud and minerals of the Dead Sea in Jordan and how it can help alleviate skin complaints such as eczema; so when I was approached by skincare brand Rivage, who use Dead Sea minerals and mud sourced directly from Jordan, to review their products, I jumped at the chance.

Rivage sent me their night cream and eye cream, plus samples of their eye contour gel, facial scrub, hand cream and face masks.  I’m not a fan of face masks so I must admit I haven’t tried them out.  The main thing to report is that I had no adverse reaction to the products  which is a brilliant start.  I was impressed with the packaging of the products – the coral colour is very trendy and they ooze “spa”.  I was extremely impressed with the eye contour gel and the facial exfoliant cream – these are my favourite products.  I am prone to eczema around the eyes, and the gel moisturised the eye area well and left a cooling effect which was really lovely.  The eye cream worked in a similar way to the gel – it is just that I preferred the consistency of the gel rather than the cream version. Both do an excellent job though.  The night cream was slightly “sticky” when first applied but it does quickly absorb into the skin to leave the skin moisturised.  I usually use a heavy hemp based hand cream on my hands twice a day to keep my eczema around my knuckles at bay – I did use the Rivage hand cream, it did leave my hands soft but it is difficult to judge fully as my hands are not sore at the moment and I am not sure how the cream would fare during an eczema flare up.  However, I will say that if your hands are not prone to eczema, this hand cream will keep your hands feeling soft and lovely. So, all in all, I give Rivage the thumbs up. I wanted to know more about Rivage, so dear Bryony agreed to be interviewed! Hi Bryony….

Hi! I’m Bryony. Rivage is a skincare brand that prides itself in its use of all-natural ingredients, including mud, salt and minerals sourced directly from the Dead Sea in Jordan. I am incredibly proud to be a part of the team in the UK!

What was the inspiration behind setting up Rivage?

Rivage began in 1996 when we were inspired by the power and results of the Dead Sea to transform the health of our skin and hair. The Dead Sea is the beginning of natural skin care – a healing and medicinal natural spa that has been celebrated since 3000 BC. Our skincare products are a fusion of the ancient and the modern. The minerals and botanicals that enhance our skincare blends are as old as time, but they are optimised and refined by our laboratories to deliver a remarkable home spa experience. Each product in our range is carefully engineered to work in harmony with your skin’s natural qualities to renew, detoxify and nourish your skin, naturally.

Have you always wanted to be in the skincare industry?

Ever since I was very young, I have always struggled with my skin, from eczema to acne I’ve dealt with problem-prone skin for as long as I can remember so when I was given the brilliant opportunity to be a part of Rivage starting in the UK, I was obviously sceptical of the products but they have proven to be fantastic for my skin and have really helped with my confidence in the products and the company.

What products seem to be most popular with your customers? Have you got a personal favourite?

Our bestsellers definitely seem to be the Bath Crystals, Day and Night Creams and the Mud Masks (particularly the Nourishing Honey Facial Mask). My personal favourites would be the Eye Cream and the Facial Exfoliant Cream as they are both brilliant products that helped with my problem areas in a huge way! 

 

What is so special about the Dead Sea & its minerals?

The Dead Sea is a true wonder of the natural world. As well as being one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, the Dead Sea is located at Earth’s lowest point, 410 meters below sea level. The Dead Sea is so-called because of its hypersaline waters are inhospitable to marine life. In this rare environment, we find mineral-rich salt and mud, hypersaline water, reduced solar radiation and a higher concentration of oxygen. For centuries, the Dead Sea has attracted people looking for relaxation and well-being. The salt, mud and water of the Dead Sea contain 23 minerals, 12 of which do not exist in any other sea in the world. Together these minerals speed up cell metabolism, regulate water balance, relieve and heal skin disorders and stimulate the natural process of repair. Our Ecocert Dead Sea mud offers your skin a unique blend of minerals and compounds. This material, which is world-renowned for its healing and restorative properties, forms the basis of all of our products.

Apart from the Dead Sea Waters & associated minerals, what other natural active ingredients are used & their benefits?

We have many active ingredients in our products apart from mud, salt and minerals from the Dead Sea. Aloe Vera is an ingredient that is included in many of our products as it aids in moisturising as well as its healing properties. It is used in many of our Mud Masks, Skin Correcting Serum, Olive Oil Soap and Facial Moisturizing Cream. Almond is another of our most popular ingredients included in products such as our Body Butter, Foot Cream and Intense Hair Repair Mask. Almond oil is an incredibly effective moisturiser and is effective with nourishing dry skin whilst also aiming to soften your overall complexion and balance your skin tone. A more lesser-known ingredient that we use for its anti-ageing and moisturising properties is the Beech Tree Buds. The Beech Tree can live for up to 250 years, making sense why it is used for slowing down the ageing process. These buds are used in our Eye Cream, Eye Wrinkle Gel and the Revitalising Night Cream. Fruit, such as blueberries, passion fruit, lemon and pineapple, are vital ingredients for ensuring that our products are full of the best vitamins, nutrients and enzymes for the healthiest looking skin possible.

What plans, if any, have you got to extend your range of products? Any new products in the pipeline?

We do actually have plans to extend our product range. We are planning to introduce some products that are available in the retailers in other countries but are not yet in the UK. This includes some more bath products and ‘problem solver’ products so keep an eye out!

All products are proudly environmentally friendly and are not tested on animals. Are the products suitable for all skin types?

Some products are suitable for dry skin and some are suitable for oily or normal skin so it varies depending on certain products but the majority are suitable for all skin types unless stated.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Outside of work, I can be found in a simple t-shirt (nothing too exciting!) and jeans with my favourite Converse, I’m more for comfort than style! If I’m going out, though, I do make an effort and pair a printed dress with black wedges. I like to dress simple and safe!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

New Look and H&M are two of my favourite clothing shops and Amazon just has to be up there at the top for a favourite online store! I just love the amount of random, crazy stuff you can find on there too! The Gift Company is another lovely little store and I adore the things they have in there. Any bookshops too! I’m always open to trying out new stores so if you have any in mind, send them my way!

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I would love more tailored clothes and more dresses. An LBD would be a lovely addition to my wardrobe! More heels are a definite and some cute pumps!

Boots or Shoes? 

Shoes! I find that boots are harder to pair with clothes (maybe that’s just me though) but shoes feel more universe with some outfits so I will definitely be found with shoes more than boots!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Rivage.

Twitter – https://twitter.com/rivage_uk
Instagram – www.instagram.com/rivageuk
Facebook – www.facebook.com/RivageUK
Website – www.rivage.co.uk

Thanks for letting me try your awesome products Bryony! It is so nice to discover new products that don’t irritate my skin.  Eye creams, dear readers, do you prefer creams or gels? I’d love to know your views. 

Linda x

DISCLAIMER:  Although Rivage sent me products to review, all opinions remain 100% mine.

All product photos are by Linda Hobden.  Picture of Bryony published with kind permission of Bryony.

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