Monday, 13 August 2018

Good Looking and Lightweight–the Next Generation Portable Chargers

If the thought of walking around town with a heavy black portable charger lurking somewhere in the bottom of your handbag has stopped you up until now from being able to charge up on the go then take a look at these.  Good looking and lightweight (depending on the amount of power you want your power-bank to pack) this is the next generation of hi-tech portable chargers so really there’s no longer any excuse.
Bonai 5200 mAh portable chargerBelkin Pocket Power Portable Charger 5mAh - 10 and 15 availableKnomo Portable Powerbank 10000 mAhTribe Mickey Mouse 4000 mAh PowerbankRavpower Portable ChargerKnomo Drop Go Wireless PowerbankBelkin Valet Charger for Apple Watch and iPhoneRichmond and Finch Lipstick 2000 mAh Powerbank
I am happily a collector of these excellent devices which, provided you don’t forget to charge them up first, will never permit you to let your phone battery disappear to that little red line just when you need it the most.

Three occasions lately, first when I was driving a friend to hospital, second when my puppy birth minder – work that one out – had no battery at all and thirdly when sitting on a long haul flight and the man next to me couldn’t listen to his music because there was no way to charge his phone, I loaned – or gave in the second instance – one of my many power-banks to enable them to power back up.  Running out of battery is no fun at all.  I am admittedly an obsessive in this endeavour so I usually have two chargers with me on long journeys.

Be aware that the more punch you want your charger to have the heavier it will be.  I find that 5000mAh to 6700mAh will do excellently for a day out and I particularly like Ravpower’s hot pink charger (with the matching hot pink cable, of course) and Bonai’s lipstick red portable charger.  They’re easy to spot in the most cavernous of bags.

So if you’re one of those who hasn’t gone out and invested up until now please do, and don’t look to me to save the day, I’m running out of chargers.  Honestly……..

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Linguini with Home Made Pesto and Chateau Musar Red Wine from Lebanon - Dinner in a Flash



Pesto is one of those things you can just pick up in the supermarket, but I suggest you don't.  With a very little effort you can make your own and it is so sumptuously and aromatically delicious once you make it you won't think of doing anything else.

This pesto recipe is from the BBC Good Food Network.  I’ve now made it, on request, several times, and it’s so much better than shop bought pesto, taking about 20 minutes, that I suggest you give it a try.

Pesto works with so many things (if you can hold back from eating it by the spoonful or scraping out the bowl), with pasta, with chicken, with courgetti (more about that in a moment).  Turning simple quick meals into feasts.  Last night it was Pesto with Linguini and tiny tomatoes.


A couple of things about pesto:
Keep it well sealed with a little olive oil on top and it will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.
Pesto will freeze but don’t leave it in the freezer for more than a month.

Here’s what you’ll need for one pot.
80g basil (I buy Majestic basil leaves from Waitrose)
50g pine nuts
50g parmesan (I use Essential Grated Parmesan from Waitrose)
2 cloves of garlic (or more - some people toast the garlic as well – I haven’t tried that yet)
150ml best olive oil
Salt to taste

Strip the basil leaves from the stems – the 80g is without stems

Take the skins off the garlic

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.  It’s at this stage you’ll want to start tasting – just warning you.  And you’re done.

All you need to do to create a superb supper is cook some dried linguini, drain it then mix in your pesto in the pot adding a little extra olive oil if you want to.


Top this for extra flavour with some deliciously sweet cherry tomatoes and accompany with your wine of choice - a particular favourite is Chateau Musar, a deep and intense red wine from Gaston Hochar in Lebanon which you can find here.

That's it, dinner done in a flash.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Dr Sebagh Instant Fix Eye Gel – Lift and Tighten Instantly

Dr Sebagh Instant Fix Eye Lift Gel
Having spoken to the people at Dr Sebagh this morning I was relieved to find out that their Instant Fix Eye Lift Gel is the same product as their excellent Eye Primer Lift – just re-packaged.  I will say that it would have been helpful if this had been made clearer on most beauty websites rather than saying the original was ‘out of stock’ or ‘unavailable’, this can’t have been helping them much either.

Anyway moving on, I’ve used this essential beauty product for several years and I absolutely wouldn’t be without it.  Unquestionably what it says on the ‘tin’ is true.  This is a lightweight gel that’s instantly absorbed, can be worn under makeup, and offers an instant solution for refreshing your eye contour at any time – use it every day, after a night out or just when you need an instant uplift.  Thankfully a little goes a long way.  With the long term benefits of reducing wrinkles and dark circles this is a beauty booster you’re bound to become addicted to.

You notice the minute you apply it that your eye contours feel tighter and more refreshed.

You’ll Dr Sebagh Instant Fix Eye Lift Gel at Net-a-Porter, Selfridges and if you’re off somewhere soon, Heathrow Duty Free. 

Read Tatler’s Feature ‘The Best Ever Eye Creams’ if you want to know more.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

3 Favourite Mexican Restaurants in Dallas, Texas

You really can’t visit Texas and not eat Mexican food, the food is inevitably part of the culture, but as with anything there are good and not so good Mexican restaurants.  These are my three favourites that I’ve visited many times and where I’ve always had an excellent meal.

Javier’s Gourmet Mexican

Javiers MexicanJaviers 3Javiers 4

Javier’s is an extremely popular traditional style Mexican restaurant serving authentic Mexican cuisine.  There’s nothing of the Tex-Mex vibe going on here, just seriously good dishes including ceviche, tortilla soup, nachos and fajitas and on to red snapper, chargrilled quail (my favourite) and chicken with mole sauce – a dark, chocolatey looking sauce which includes, yes, chocolate, but also chilies, tomatoes, onions and garlic. 

Unlike most restaurants here you can’t order your dinner ‘to go’.  And the sides at Javiers are usually guacamole, black beans and rice.  They’re always extremely helpful if there’s anything you don’t eat.

The service is excellent and very quick, so take your time when ordering.  You can only book by phone, and then only after 5pm.  You have been warned.  Javier’s is a big restaurant with many different rooms and seating areas and I have never been there when it wasn’t full.  And noisy.

Javier’s Mexican Restaurant
4912 Cole Ave, Dallas, TX 75205
(214) 521-4211


El Bolero Mexican Restaurant

El Bolero 1El Bolero 2El Bolero 3

El Bolero is about as different from Javier’s as it could be.  No table cloths here and no formally dressed waiters, just great food, great service and a noisy casual atmosphere.  Don’t forget to book as otherwise you’ll probably have to wait.

Try the gazpacho or the ceviche to start then move on to the Wagyu beef tacos, chicken with mole sauce (again) or lobster tail fajitas.  Everything is good here.  A specialty are their cocktails, and it’s worth trying their Michelada Verde, which is beer with tomatillo, celery, yellow peppers, garlic, cucumber and onion. 
El Bolero 1201 Oak Lawn Ave #160
Dallas, TX 75207

214.741.1986


Mesero Mexican Restaurant

Mesero 4Mesero Restaurant Dallas 2Mesero 3

Mesero is another extremely busy bustling Mexican restaurant which is hugely popular, so make sure you book.  If you go early or late or on a quiet night (for Dallas) you may get straight in, but if you hit the main crowd be prepared to wait a little for your table.  There are five branches of this Tex-Mex chain but the one on Inwood is the one I have visited.

If you can cope with the noise, and the kids (if you go early) this is an excellent place to come to if you like high quality reasonably priced Mexican food.  As with all Mexican restaurants you’ll be served with tortilla chips and dips, and the ones here are the best of the three.  Be aware that these dips can be extremely spicy – there’s no holding back where chilies are concerned. 

You’ll find all the usual dishes, ceviche, nachos, guacamole and tortilla (or tomatillo) soup, then a choice of modern style salads featuring quinoa and kale amongst other ingredients.  You can order an American style burger here or traditional style tacos and meat dishes – there’s a wide choice and something for everyone.  This is real Tex Mex at its best.
Mesero
5330 W Lovers Ln #112b, Dallas, TX 75209
(214) 654-0185

I wouldn’t advise coming to any of these restaurants without booking first, if you want a sophisticated meal come to Javier’s, if you want Tex-Mex then it’s Mesero, but if you just want high quality Mexican food in a casual atmosphere it has to be El Bolero.  Take your pick……

Sunday, 5 August 2018

From Budget Beauty to Premium Brands–20 of the Best Face Serums for Brightening and Hydrating

Most people have skincare concerns, whether it’s fine lines, dark spots, dry skin or a combination, and the point of a face serum is that it provides a much more concentrated remedial layer than a moisturiser does. A serum will sink into properly cleansed skin faster and should offer greater benefits. One good thing is that you need very little product and so a small vial costing what seems to be a fortune can last a very long time.

To a large extent you’re going to be getting higher quality ingredients in a more expensive serum than you will in a cheaper brand, however there are some brands offering serums at far lower prices than the premium brands that contain excellent ingredients, so if you don’t want to shell out consider trying one of the budget brand serums below.  I particularly like Buffet, by The Ordinary, and NIOD’s Hyaluronic Complex serum.

So it’s established that a serum will benefit your face and you can’t start too early to use a serum.   You can either choose a face serum which promises to ‘do it all’, or you can go by specific action such as brightening, or hydrating.

5 Serums designed to brighten your skin.
Sunday Riley Brightening SerumCaudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum
5 Hydrating Serums for added moisture


5 Multi Tasking Serums

Trish McEvoy Beauty Booster SerumGuerlain Daily Repair Serum
5 Budget Brand Serums
Niod Multi Molecular Hyaluronic ComplexSuper Facialist Brighten Glow Skin SerumThe Ordinary Buffet SerumSanctuary Spa Revitalising Super SerumFormula Biotech Intense Serum

Essential reading – Popular Active Ingredients in Serums for those who really want to be informed.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

10 of the Best Apps for Travellers - Don't Leave Home Without Them

I’m constantly searching for better apps for travel, from trip building to flight alerts to what’s around me and most of the time I find myself returning over and over again to the same ones because they do such a good job.  They make life so easy that you won't be able to imagine how you did without them in the past.

There are multitudinous travel apps - these are my all time favourites, with No 1, Tripit, being at the top of the list for good reason.

Tripit

Tripit
– I’ve written about Tripit before and wouldn’t go anywhere without it.  Tripit is designed to be your go-to place for all your reservations and places you’re visiting, and is particularly useful if you’re going on a trip that involves many stops, different places to eat and hotels, trains and planes.

Whereas originally you had to do all the information input manually, now you can just forward your confirmation emails from hotels, airlines, places to eat and taxi bookings and they will automatically update your Tripit feed.  Another joy of Tripit is that you can update it from your PC, laptop, tablet or mobile and it’ll sync to all of your devices. 

Be aware that around 80% of my travel emails go straight through, there is still the occasional need to put something in manually.

Tripit also stores past trips so you can look up where you’ve been before, a particularly good restaurant for example, and remind yourself of when you went and where it was.




Microsoft to do is a brilliant list making app.  It too me a while to get used to 'My Day', where you put all the things you want to do today (inevitably) and which you can move to tomorrow's 'My Day' - if that makes sense, if you haven't managed to get something done.

Where packing is concerned for someone who makes regular trips, or if you're packing for others as well as yourself, a packing list is invaluable, and you'll want to remember the essentials on it every time you go somewhere.  Create different packing lists and store them here, it beats writing stuff down any day.  Then use it for any other lists you may want to keep.  And your shopping list.

There's no limit to the number of lists you can create, and you can input reminders as well.


Google Translate

Google Translate – Visiting a country where you don’t know the language?  Google Translate couldn’t be simpler to use.  Just download the app, input what you want translated and select the languages.  You can even use Google Translate when you’re offline by downloading an offline translation file.  Available for both iPhone and Android

Kayak

Kayak – If you have dates in mind and want to check flight prices then Kayak is your next best friend.  Select your destinations and dates, filter by the number of stops and set up price alerts.  Then you can see immediately who’s offering what price.  You can also book hotels and sync trips using Kayak but I tend to use it for flights more than anything else.  Once you’ve found a good deal you can click straight through to book.

Hopper

Hopper – Hopper is an excellent app for predicting flight prices throughout the year as it colour codes the calendar to show you the cheapest times to go.  You can also set up price alerts here and have it watch particular flights for you.  Where flight predictions are concerned I usually use a combination of Kayak and Hopper plus the site for the airline I want to use if I have a favourite.

App in the Air

App in the Air and Flight View Elite – Having tried a couple of flight tracking apps these are the ones I now use all the time.  It’s easy to put in your flights and the flights of friends and family, and get notifications of delays and also to sync flight bookings straight from your emails so you don’t have to enter them individually. 

Flight View

For Flight View Elite there is a small fee for the Elite version which gets you your notifications whereas with App in the Air there’s quite a hefty fee.  I originally said that I was going to decide between these two apps but it's difficult - I like the design of App in the Air, but the functionality of Flight View Elite, with it's lower priced 'Elite' version, is more useful.

Around Me

Around Me – This is a seriously good app which, once it has your location, will take you straight to the nearest ATM, Cinema, Coffee Bar, Hospital, Hotels, Parking and more.  Just make sure you set your Location Services (within Settings-Privacy) to ‘While Using the App’ or it’ll drain your battery faster than you want.

Maps Me

Maps Me – This excellent app gives you detailed worldwide mapping from cities to islands and countries you may have never visited before and all offline.  Just make sure you download the map for the place you’re visiting before you go then you’ll have directions and route planning at your fingertips always.

XE

XE – This essential currency app will give you hourly market rates for your selected currency.  Use this not just for travelling but to compare with the rate you’re offered when you need to buy currency abroad.  You almost certainly won't get the consumer rate, but you can get a good idea of where the rates are going and you can input a rate alert to tell you when you reach your desired rate.  Hopefully.

All these apps are available on the app stores for both iOS and Android and once you've started using them you won't want to be without any of them.....

This post has been updated in July 2018