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