The Cookiepedia by Stacy Adimando
Available from: Bookshops or Amazon
Initial Reaction: The Cookiepedia is very stylish. The cover and pages have a heavy, matt feel, with a large ring binder which means it stays open with ease as you bake. The primary colour scheme and silhouette illustrations have a vintage feel without being twee or flowery; it’s a fresh, modern look that’s a world away from baking classics such as Mary Berry and Delia. Each section features a spread of photos at the start so it’s easy to browse and choose something to make.
Pros: The Cookiepedia is very comprehensive. (I was about to say “there must be over 100 cookie recipes”, but a check of the blurb reveals there are 50. It certainly feels like more!) There’s probably a recipe here for every sort of cookie (or biscuit!) you can think of. Lots of recipes have ideas for variations at the end, which I loved, especially as I’m kind of a ‘chuck in whatever’s to hand’ kind of cook.
There are lots of classics (macarons, amaretti biscuits, brownies, oatmeal cookies) as well as some inventive new ideas. There’s even a recipe for real homemade fig rolls, which we haven’t tried yet, but I’d like to.
This is a book with loads of personality. My favourite cooking writers are Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater, because their enthusiasm and love of food jumps right off the page. Stacy Adimando is clearly passionate about cookies. I can see her baking these cookies in her New York loft apartment, sharing them with her hipster, geek-chic pals. A bit like Nigella and Nigel, the effusive affection for the subject could be very irritating in real life, but makes for a great reading experience.
Cons: This book is American, without any modifications for the British market. Measurements are mostly in cups (which it’s difficult to convert to UK measurements, as obviously a cup of flour, butter and sugar will all have different weights). We managed ok as I have a set of measuring cups, but as I’m unused to baking this way I wasn't sure whether tablespoons should be heaped or even, or how much you’re supposed to pack and smooth butter into a cup. I think this might have contributed to our Dried-Fruit Cookies turning out not quite right – the dough seemed way too sticky, although it firmed up enough in the fridge to roll into balls and the cookies came out ok with a bit more cooking time.
Some of the American recipes are also a bit much for my taste: pretzels or crushed up Cool Ranch Doritos in a cookie? No thanks.
The recipes are arranged by category (buttery, chocolaty, fancy, fruity…) and there are easier and more complex cookies in each category. It would have been easier for me to choose where to start if the book moved from simple to complicated throughout – but I can definitely see the logic of the way it’s arranged. We attempted the Chocolate Sprtiz Cookies, which went great until we tried to pipe them out – it became apparent that my piping nozzle was way too narrow to do biscuits (either that or we’d made the dough too thick). There’s an explanation of equipment at the start of the book, but it didn’t mention different sizes of piping nozzle – maybe if I was a more experienced baker I’d have figured this out. But we rolled the dough into circular biscuits instead and they came out fine.
Value for money? Yes, I think The Cookiepedia is good value for money. There are loads of recipes and variations, and it’s a lovely quality book that would make a great gift.
Overall Reaction: I’d say this is a grown-up cookie book. Some of the recipes are great for kids (Animal Cookies, Gingerbread Men, Thumbprints) but there are lots of more sophisticated and complicated biscuits too.
There are plenty of recipes for the girl who wants to spend a leisurely weekend afternoon in the kitchen, then turn up to a party with a plate of perfect biscuits, saying “What, these old things? They took me five minutes to rustle up” with a self-deprecating giggle. I really liked this book, and I think it’ll get a lot of use in this house.
Price: £10 for 7.5ml
Available From: Liberty, Space NK, Fortnum and Masons and various Spas country wide
- Hangs on your Christmas tree.
- Very cute packaging for a gift.
- Smells lovely.
- One drop goes a long way in a bath.
- Luxurious feeling.
- Very relaxing and definitely made me feel ready for bed and smelling lovely.
Value for Money: Good as makes a very nice gift and packaging looks expensive.
Overall reaction: This is a very cute gift or treat for yourself. The packaging is good quality and the fact you can hang it on your tree is a lovely idea. The oil itself smells gorgeous and a very small amount goes a long way to helping you relax and feel luxurious in your bath. I would definitely give this as a gift and also would love to try the other range from Aromatherapy Associates.
It's one luxury I think all busy Mums should treat themselves to in the busy festive season.
Tea light Holder
Make Up Set
Available from: Poundland
Initial Reaction: After we got over the excitement of Christmas decorations we were impressed at the range.
- Nice selection
- Plenty look more expensive that they are
- Some products may not last long
Overall Reaction: I have always loved shopping at my local Poundland and I love the products in their Christmas range. Other than some lovely tinsel and tree decorations (which included some pretty purple bobbles which looked and felt like a much more expensive product) there was a cute singing Santa tie , make your own crackers for the children , tea light holders , pretty scarf, make up , room decorations and more.... The make your own cracker set was the only product i felt looked cheap and I doubt I would of been able to tell any of it came from the poundshop.
I think everyone should look at their local shop and be prepared to pick up many Christmas bargains.
Dairy Diary Gift Set 2012
Available from: DairyDiary.co.uk
Initial Reaction: I remember my mum having a Dairy Diary when I was younger so was intrigued to see how they had updated this.
- The large diary is full of information such as general first aid, useful phone numbers and dates, metric conversions etc the list goes on!
- Some utterly yummy recipes, one on each page so a new one to try each week.
- Hard backed pretty cover that looks more like a book than a diary.
- Useful pocket diary so you can check important dates in your handbag when you are out and about.
- Handy notebook with little post it notes and sticky tabs so you can mark any important dates in the diary or recipes you have found to try.
- Comes complete with matching pen, this set really comes with everything and is such great value.
- Would make a great Christmas present for a mum, sister or daughter.
- This isn’t so much a con more of an observation by my husband, he say’s I have my phone for this sort of thing but to be honest I still enjoy having a diary and writing dates in it! Call me old fashioned but I like it!
Overall Reaction: I love this because it is useful and looks fab not just because it makes me all nostalgic, you get so much for your money too and I would be more than happy to receive this as a gift. The mountain of useful information, hints and tips makes this different from a normal diary and I love it!
Available from: With Andrew Johnson
Initial impression: I suffer with bouts of insomnia so it will be interesting to see if this works You listen to the CD or recording every night for at least 3 weeks and the recording is 30 minutes long.
- Very relaxing
- Andrew has a soft, soothing voice
- Helped me drop off sooner that I normally would
- Available in the app store and as a mp3 download
- It didn’t always work for me but then my insomnia can be tough
- I had the CD version which wasn't easy for me to listen to as the CD player is OH’s side so I had to use my laptop. The app would be a better option
Overall reaction: I enjoyed listening to the CD and felt more relaxed. Unfortunately it didn’t always work for me but I would recommend it to other. Andrew has large selection of recordings including two free apps.
Price: Socks £7, Tights £8
Available from: Sock Shop
Initial impression: The socks looked nice and warm and felt really soft. I couldn’t wait to try them and the tights out.
- Really warm
- Fluffy on the inside
- 2.3 tog rating
- Soft on the inside
- Comfortable to wear
- Too thick to wear with normal shoes
- Quite tight when you initially put on
Overall reaction: Both were really nice to wear and kept me really warm. The socks are a little bit for normally shoes but I wear them as slippers. The tights are great but need a little stretching before you put them on. The socks would make a great stocking filler.
Available from: The Bluebeards Revenge Shop
Initial impression: Having not used a shaving cream like this before I was interested to try it out.
Bluebeards revenge claims to reduce hair growth.
- Great lather
- Makes shaving smooth
- Only needs a small amounts
- Comes with a shaving brush
- Unisex though aimed at men
- Good on sensitive skin
- No shaving rash after use
- Lasted 2 months and was used by me and my other half
- Smells nice
- Brush is not great quality. You can buy a better one on their shop.
Overall reaction: Initially this was supposed to be tested by OH but I stole it so we decided to share. It lathered up really well and you only need a small amount. I found that shaving my legs was a lot smoother using this and they felt really soft afterwards. I noticed that hair on my legs and under my arms took a little longer to grow back.
OH has sensitive skin and found that this didn’t dry his skin and he liked shaving with it. (Man of few words)
Scotch Tape Stiletto Tape Dispenser
Available from: Amazon, Staples, Tesco’s
Initial impression: Slightly tacky but in a good way.
- Comes with a roll of tape
- Looks cute
- Ideal for stationary geeks like me
- Easy to use
- Tape is good quality
- You have to hold the dispenser when getting the tape, I would like to see a sucker on the bottom to stop it moving.
Overall reaction: I really do love this; I like novelty items and this appeals to me. It would make the ideal stocking filler.