.....counting down the minutes until school finishes today.
And then....it's Christmas :)
The last posting date, for parcels at least has now passed.
If, like me, you have a package that you need guaranteed to arrive for Christmas, a great idea is to consider using a courier service. I had very large package that I needed delivered within the London area, I knew mailing it would be tricky (I needed to guarantee it would arrive intact) & possibly expensive - and the queues at my local post office are totally ridiculous this time of year.
I considered driving my large box to its destination but didn't really have time just before Christmas.
A friend mentioned using a courier service, something I'd never even considered before.
www.anyvan.com/courier-services provides precisely this kind of service and could not be easier to use. You literally type in your postcode & the delivery postcode & it gives you a range of quotes - for my package, the given range of prices were all cheaper than if I booked a taxi to take me there - I was really impressed.
Transport companies basically compete for your booking so it makes sense for them to give you a reasonable quote - if you can be flexible about your delivery date, you tend to get more quotes. For my package to be delivered on a specific date, I received 6 quotes.
I accepted the cheapest quote and was extremely pleased with the service.
It worked out brilliantly and was absolutely economically viable.
You don't have to have an account or send parcels regularly....definitely worth checking out.
Sometimes you get an invitation that you cannot refuse....
and when the lovely people at Ferrero Rocher recently asked me if I would like to take part in a chocolate & wine tasting, that was one such invitation!
Five fabulous boxes of different Ferrero Rocher chocolates arrived, accompanied by three different alcoholic drinks - plus some fantastically thorough notes & recommendations from the London Wine Academy.
Add four girlfriends and you have a very fun evening :)
We tasted :
*Classic Ferrero Rocher : milk chocolate, creamy filling, crispy wafer + a whole hazelnut in the centre
*Raffaello by Ferrero : light coconut wafer, creamy interior, toasted almond centre
*Ferrero Rond Noir : dark chocolate layers of wafer + chocolate cream + a whole almond in the centre
The drinks recommended by the London Wine Academy were:
*Sparkling wine, Martini Asti NV (Piedmont, Italy)
*After dinner treat, Dows Finest Reserve Port (Duero, Portugal)
We had a wonderful time trying out different drinks with the various chocolates....
we did however come to the conclusion that those recommended by the experts were, not surprisingly, the best choices.
Some interesting facts about "the art of food & wine matching"....
* wine should ideally be as sweet as the food for a good match ie, a sweet or demi-sec champagne goes well with a dessert
* weight (meaning strength of flavour) is crucial to successful food & wine pairing ie, your food and wine should be of similar weight - light sushi needs a light wine, white chocolate a light, creamy wine, dark chocolate needs a red wine
*chocolate is a difficult food to match because it clings to your taste-buds.
Wines that match well with chocolate are often fortified, as the extra power helps to cut through the chocolate. Sweet sparkling wines are also a great match as the bubbles help refresh your taste-buds
*pair chocolate & wine according to the darkness of the chocolate - the darker the chocolate, the darker the wine should be. Dark chocolate will display more tannin on the palate and so needs to be matched with a wine with higher tannins, such as port. The sweetness in the port balances the bitter tannins perfectly.
To find out more about Ferrero Rocher chocolates, see here ....
they have a great range available for Christmas and I would happily recommend the wines I have mentioned above.
Thank you so much to Ferrero Rocher for providing all of the above.
Last month I challenged myself to cook "30 Dishes in 30 Days"...
30 dishes that I'd never cooked before.
Part of my challenge was also healthy eating....
cooking in a healthy way, finding ways to incorporate new foods into my diet, eating more vegetables & finding healthy snacks.
For the last three weeks, I have snacked daily on almonds....23 almonds to be exact.
I enjoy eating nuts so it wasn't hard....the biggest challenge was remembering to eat them each day!
I seem to be out & about, away from home & not always eating at regular times, increasingly these days. I really needed to find a snack that was both healthy & convenient....
my mother has long been extolling the benefits of nuts to me, so it seemed ideal.
Well, the benefits are many....
they are rich in vitamin E, magnesium & healthy mono-unsaturated fat.
they are the nut highest in protein, fibre, vitamin E, calcium, riboflavin & niacin
they are a natural source of protein
23 almonds = 30g protein, the ideal portion size to stop cravings & give you an energy boost
almonds are rich in nutrients & are cholesterol-free
they provide several essential key nutrients that help support a healthy heart
I either ate my almonds at home or when I was out I kept them stored in a small tin which I prepared each day - easy!
I initially thought I would trial this for three weeks but actually I've really enjoyed the almonds and will continue with them....
I often find that I forget to take my daily multi-vitamin but I rarely never forget to snack.
I felt much better knowing that my snack was a healthy one.
I snacked on the almonds every day....
mostly I ate them plain but I also tried them with natural yogurt, with raisins & I even roasted them.
I felt healthier simply by having a routine & a "go-to" snack which was ready to eat.
I found eating by eating them mid-afternoon & very early evening, I avoided an energy slump.
It also meant that I kept away from the biscuit tin - those particular times being the times I was most likely to head for it.
Disclaimer: California Almonds has asked me to take part in the Snack Happy Challenge. They have provided me with all I need to complete the challenge. For more information about healthy snacking please visit www.AlmondBoard.co.uk