Sunday, 23 September 2018

Strictly Come Dancing 2018 - Week One

 Yes, we are back in the Ballroom as Strictly Come Dancing finally begins properly.  two weeks ago, we had the launch show and our fifteen celebs were partnered up with the pro dancer who will be teaching them the steps and turns to get them through from little or no dance experience through to impressing Crag Revel-Horwood. An impossible task it may seem at this stage, but it can happen.  I've heard he even smiles sometimes.

So it's down to business as usual with all celebs taking to the floor for their very first dance.  As always, the first dance is deemed safe.  With no elimination threat, it gives the dancers time to teach their celebs some basics and see what they may be capable of, knowing they will still be returning next week to dance again.  However, the routines are still judged the same and this weeks score will carry over to next week when determining the leaderboard results.

Opening the show then, we have Danny John Jules, my personal favourite and the one I'm backing this year.  After seeing his debut, I'm glad he didn't let me down.  He was suffering earlier this week with an injury to his toes but it didn't show and certainly didn't hold him back.  One of my favourite routines of the evening, he and Amy danced the Foxtrot to the theme from Top Cat.  Given the role of The Cat on Red Dwarf is his most notable role to date, I was wondering how they would tie that in and it was a brilliant and stylish routine.

Next up was Kate Silverton.  From the launch show, I had a feeling she was going to be cheeky and a lot of fun.  She danced the Cha Cha Cha with her partner Alijaz.  It was a reasonable effort for week one and enjoyable to watch, as was the following Waltz from Lauren Steadman.   It was charming, sweet and elegant and AJ brought out all her good points beautifully. Oh, and she had been able to train very little having been in Australia competing in the ITU World Championships where she won a gold medal.  Well done that girl!

The next three dances were nothing great. Seann Walsh did a wooden Tango with Katya (she's not going to retain that trophy this year), although I think Shirley Ballas was out of line telling him to tidy himself up.  She might not like his long hair but what does that have to do with his dancing? Cheeky mare!  Next up was a disappointment for me in Vick Hope.  I was hoping she would do well as she looked pretty good in the group dance at the launch and she has the dishy new dancer Graziano to teach her, but sadly their Jive was flat and it was all about Graziano.  I know he's new and wants to impress (shadows of Nadiya last year) but the way to impress is to showcase your partner.  The pros get to shine in the pro numbers but the main dances should be about the celebs.  Vick didn't appear to do much other than point at Graziano leaping around.  I hope he calms down and they improve, it worked for Nadiya last year.  Davood really came on once she focussed on him and not herself.  Finally, in the appalling section, we had Suzannah Constantine doing the Samba.  In all honesty, my living room wall has more rhythm than she does and I think Anton knows it (she totally deserved that 1 from Craig).  I feel sorry for him, he never has a chance so he makes sure his routines are remembered.  Sadly, it's not for the dancing but for their flamboyance and downright campness.  You have to admire a man prepared to wear tangerine trousers in front of millions of viewers.

Then, at last, we had some decent dances once again.  Charles Venn danced a smouldering Cha Cha Cha with Karen although again Shirley taking a dig at the pro for making it too disco.  As Bruno rightly stated, what's wrong with disco?  Then Ashley Roberts and her partner Pascha danced a beautiful Viennese Waltz although I expect her to go far, she has the most dance experience out of them all.  Although to be fair, this dance is nothing like the burlesque stuff she's used to, it was still pretty amazing.

Ooooooh next we had the Pocket Rockets, Dr Ranj and Janette.  They were also dancing the Cha Cha Cha (time for another Shirley dig at previous Cha Cha Cha thanking Janette for putting lots of Cha Cha content in) but it was pretty good, I think Dr Ranj could be one to watch as well.  And god love him did he not only put in loads of hours training but also worked night shifts at his hospital, still did his slots on this morning and was even a birthing partner for someone until the early hours of the morning.  He's certainly not afraid of hard work.

Next was a disappointing performance from Katie Piper.  She was also dancing the waltz but her nerves clearly got the better of her.  She was very hesitant and almost clinging to her partner Gorka at times.  Something she needs to work on because I think she can do quite well if she combats those nerves.

Next up was a big surprise for me.  Graeme Swann, as wooden as the cricket bats he's used to in the launch dance, but he was also doing the Samba and whilst it was nowhere near technically perfect, he showed he can be quite flexible and certainly got his hips moving.  Kudos for Oti there, she had a lot of work and she delivered on the night.  Bonus points for dancing to the BBC Cricket theme tune too.

After them came Stacey Dooley and partner Kevin.  They were dancing the Quickstep which not only is a very hard dance apparently, and very fast, it's also the first time it has ever been done in Week One in the history of Strictly, for the very reason it is very hard.  But boy, did Stacey nail it, that girl has got a lot of potential and Kevin is one of the best pros to help it along.

Lee Ryan and Nadiya danced a nice but nothing special Waltz, I honestly didn't see where he slipped but eagle-eyed Shirley did.  At least they didn't deduct points for it as it was deemed not Lee's fault because some debris from the previous routine hadn't been cleared away and they were impressed he didn't let it affect him.

The penultimate dance was Joe Sugg and he was also doing a Jive.  As I said in my last post, I don't want to like him but I can't help but like him.  It was a really good Jive, he can move, he can keep up the pace and he knew the steps.  Again, he has great potential and there really is something very likeable about him, he seems a really nice lad. (No I'm not going to be one of the millions subscribing to his channel though)

The final dance was from Faye Tozer who also did the Cha Cha Cha.  It was clean, sharp and sassy and straight to the top of the leaderboard, and I really loved the Steps 'steps' in there.  Another one to watch, I'm not seeing any clear front-runners here, the field is too wide open at the moment and for Week One we saw some brilliant performances.

So this is how the official Leaderboard looks after Week One

Faye & Giovanni29
Ashley & Pasha29
Danny & Amy27
Joe & Dianne27
Dr Ranj & Janette27
Lauren & AJ25
Charles & Karen25
Stacey & Kevin24
Lee & Nadiya22
Graeme & Oti22
Kate & Alijaz20
Seann & Katya18
Vick & Graziano18
Katie & Gorka17
Suzannah & Anton12

So all the points will be carried over to next week where we will lose our first celeb.  My money is on Suzannah but stranger things have happened (Ed Balls, Ruth Langsford etc)

Until then everyone, keep dancing

Sunday, 9 September 2018

The Strictly Class of 2018

The glitter ball is back, shinier and sparklier than ever.  Well, maybe not but it's definitely back. The Joe McFaddens and Debbie McGees are forgotten as fifteen new celebrities sign their names on the dotted line and give up their normal routines for ones filled with Tangos, Foxtrots and Rumbas as they shimmy and sashay their way through til Christmas.  The sequins are sparkling and the hair is bouncy and that's just the men.  We have many weeks ahead of pretty dresses, high heels and wiggling hips and I for one cannot wait.  Welcome to Strictly Come Dancing 2018.  As ever, I will be watching each week and passing my personal, non-professional opinion on the latest batch of wannabe champions as they compete for that shiny trophy.

So what's new and what's not.  Well, first of all, the hosts are the same as always.  Wooden Tess Daly and Madcap Claudia Winkleman return to run the proceedings and tell really bad jokes.  Also, no changes to the judges line up this year with Nasty Craig, Nice Darcy, Sassy Shirley and OTT Bruno.

There has been a small change to the professional dancers, however.  Brendan Cole has not been asked to return this year (possibly due to his feud with Shirley last year but that is pure speculation). Three new dancers have joined the show, two of them are just backups to help out in the Pro Dances and when extra dancers are required such as Blackpool or Musical Weeks.  They are Luba  Mushtuk and Johannes Radebe.  But we have a new dancer who will get partnered with a lucky celeb and he is the gorgeous Graziano Di Prima. He is definitely an Italian Stallion.

So who are the latest celebrities (and in some cases, I use the term loosely) who have exchanged their sneakers for stilettos and their tracksuits for tuxedos?  Here they are in all their splendour and who they have been partnered with.

 Ashley Roberts - Singer and member of the pop group The Pussycat Dolls.  She's been partnered with Pascha Kovalev.
 Charles Venn - an Actor, currently starring in Casualty as Jacob Masters and previously in Eastenders as Ray Dixon. He has been partnered with Karen Clifton. (I want him to do well as he definitely has an Idris Elba vibe about him)
 Danny John-Jules - Actor from both stage and screen, most notably his role in Red Dwarf as The Cat.  For this reason alone, because I am a HUGE fan of Red Dwarf, I will be backing Danny to win.  He has been partnered with Amy Dowden.
 Faye Tozer - Singer and member of the pop groups STEPS.  She has been partnered with Giovanni Pernice.
 Graeme Swann - Ex-England cricketer and broadcaster.  He has been partnered with Oti Mabuse, which is a shame because I love Oti's choreography but I don't think she'll be able to do much with Graeme.
 Joe Sugg - Social media star (YouTube vlogger).  I'm sure his millions of followers will come at me with shaking fists when I say his sister Zoella is more well known but anyway.  I want to dislike him because I don't consider him a celebrity, however, there is something rather likeable about him.  He has been partnered with Dianne Buswell.
 Kate Silverton - Journalist for the BBC, she has presented news programmes and reported live from both Iran and Afghanistan frontlines.  She has been paired with Alijaz Skorjanec.  I'm really looking forward to this pairing as she seems like a lot of fun and I really adore Alijaz after last year when he partnered Gemma Atkinson.
 Katie Piper - Now a presenter, author and charity founder, Katie was an aspiring model until a vicious attack by a former boyfriend who threw acid in her face and left her badly scarred and partially blind.  She has been partnered with Gorka Marquez and I really hope she does well as she is an inspiration to all young girls.
 Lauren Steadman - Paralympian Lauren was born without a complete right arm.  She started out as a swimmer and competed in two Paralympic Games before switching to be a Triathlete and won silver at her third games in 2016. She has been paired up with AJ Pritchard.
 Lee Ryan - Singer and member of boy band Blue.  Lee is the second member of Blue to join Strictly, his bandmate Simon Webbe competed in Strictly back in 2014 and made it to the final so no pressure there Lee! He has been partnered with Nadiya Bychkova.
 Dr Ranj Singh - yes he is a real doctor, he is an NHS paediatrician.  However, he has appeared on TV featuring on kids channel CBeebies show Get Well Soon and has also appeared on current affairs morning show This Morning.  Being only 5'6, it was obvious he was going to get a small partner, and there is no-one smaller than his partner, Janette Manrara.  Instantly dubbed the 'Pocket Rockets', they have been cited as ones to watch but can he dance?
 Seann Walsh - London born comedian.  I want to like him, he seems very likeable and funny (being a comedian one would hope so) but he's a QPR fan.  I'm a Spurs fan, they are not compatible.  He has been partnered with last years winner Katya Jones.
 Stacey Dooley - Investigative reporter, famed for her fly on the wall documentaries which don't shy away from the hard and shocking stories (child labour, people smuggling, domestic violence etc).  She has been paired with Kevin Clifton.
 Susannah Constantine - TV presenter is best known for the fashion show What Not To Wear which she co-hosted with Trinny Woodall.  She was pretty harsh with her criticisms on that show so let's hope she's ready to take some now as judging by the opening dance, she has three left feet.  Hardly any surprise to see she was paired up with Anton DuBeke. (Seriously Strictly, what do you have against Anton?)
Vick Hope - Television and radio presenter, currently presenting the early morning Breakfast Show on Capital Radio.  She has been partnered up with Graziano Di Prima (seriously I growl whenever I say his name - grrrrr).  This pairing is all about the big hair, the big hair and, yep you've guessed it, the big hair.

So there they are, just as Craig Revel-Horwood noted, like lambs to the slaughter.  Now they are all paired up, they head off to the dance studio for two weeks and Strictly will be back then for the celebs to wow us all with their first dance.  Safe from elimination in the first week, they have nothing to lose.

Until then, start dancing!

All images except my signature courtesy of BBC

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Ratatouille Pasta Melt

  • 1 onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 150ml chicken stock
  • 1 aubergine
  • 1 courgette
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes with garlic
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 150g dried wholemeal pasta, cooked in advance
  • 200g mozzarella cheese, grated
  1. Peel and chop the onion, deseed and chop the pepper, place in a pan with the stock, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Trim and dice the aubergine and courgette, add to the pan with the tomatoes, herbs and seasoning, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in the boiled pasta and 110g mozzarella cheese. Pile into a shallow ovenproof dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Place under a preheated hot grill for 3-4 minutes until the cheese has melted. Serve sprinkled with black pepper.
Tip: Add 6 Syns on all choices if not using mozzarella cheese as a Healthy Extra

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Firmoo review

I was approached by the company Firmoo, an online eyewear site and asked if I would review their products.

I was happy to so they sent me a code which I could redeem on the website from a large selection of glasses.  The pair I could select had to be from the Bloggers Collection but they have many more frames available than just these.

The ordering process is extremely simple.  You choose your frame first and they have a marvellous app to check what the frame looks like if you upload a photograph of yourself to your account so this gives you a good idea what the frames may look like on you.

Once you've chosen your frames, you then input your prescription.  Any optician should provide your prescription for you following a sight test.  You will also need your PD measurement.  I asked my optician to include it on my prescription as it isn't included as standard.  However, the website at Firmoo does show you how to take it if you trust a friend or relative to do this.

Once you've input your prescription (you can also upload it to the website so you know Firmoo have the correct figures), you then need to select what type of lenses you require.  These can be tinted, photochromic (change from light to dark), polarized to reduce glare, blue light blocking or just plain clear.  Then you can choose on lens thickness, depending on your prescription and how thick your lenses are.  Finally, you can choose a coating, so if you want anti-reflective, water resistant or fingerprint-resistant then here is the place to do it.

Once you've checked out, you get regular email updates on the status of your order so you know exactly what's going on with it.  Mine took just 10 days from ordering to receiving, bearing in mind they are an American company I thought this was an excellent timescale for delivery.

The glasses come in a hard sturdy case, complete with cleaning cloth and also I received a small repair kit as well, always handy if you have a screw loose ;)

Overall I was extremely pleased with the service and would recommend this company to anyone looking for stylish affordable eyewear.

I was sent a code to redeem against a pair of glasses in exchange for an honest review, I just had to pay the shipping costs.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Sticky Pork Stir-Fry (SW Friendly)


500g lean pork cut into strips
1 tin of water chestnuts
1 tin of bamboo shoots
8 spring onions, each cut into 3 pieces
200ml boiling vegetable stock
4 level tablespoons of teriyaki sauce

Fry the pork in batches until all is cooked through.

Stir fry the bamboo shoots and water chestnuts for 3 minutes then add the spring onion for a remaining 1 minute.

Return the pork to the pan and add the stock and bubble until reduced by half.  Stir in the teriyaki sauce and heat through.

Serves 4