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Today I am writing about my experience of a recipe, rather than writing my version of a recipe.  I was hoping to find a recipe for Nice Biscuits (i.e. the rectangular, golden coloured biscuits flavoured with coconut with scalloped edges, usually stamped with “NICE” on the top), or at least a reasonable facsimile which could be made at home. Unfortunately, Googling “nice biscuit recipe” came up with biscuit recipes which were nice (as in delicious) rather than recipes for the actual biscuit. Googling “nice biscuit recipe coconut” wasn’t very helpful either – that simply yielded random coconut biscuit recipes which taste nice.

Eventually, I found Hartley and Palmer’s 1904 factory recipe for Nice biscuits. Huntley and Palmer’s was an extremely successful biscuit company headquartered in Reading, which operated from 1822 till the early 1990s. I was warned that this biscuit might be “not be as sweet as a modern chocolate biscuit” and “probably somewhat better for your teeth”, but was intrigued anyway. I made the recipe as recommended, using a heart shaped biscuit cutter (as I didn’t have one which looked like the original Nice biscuits).

At first bite, I’d definitely say my modern palate found the lack of sugar rather strange (despite my attempt to dust them with additional sugar). Also, the biscuits were not crumbly like usual shop-bought biscuits – although I thought this might be partly due to the very low levels of fat in it relative to modern biscuits. That having been said, after having had a few biscuits I became acclimatised to the sweetness level. It has made me think as to whether or not the high levels of sugar we are used to these days are really necessary.

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As a student of psychology, I’ve become increasingly wary of animal testing. Experiments where animals are given selective brain lesions or bred to be specially susceptible to Alzheimer’s don’t sit too well with my stomach. I suppose this is more of a difficult question with regard to potentially life-saving applications, but need animals suffer for the sake of our own vanity?

This prompted me to look up information about which cosmetics/toileteries companies test on animals/don’t test on animals. Sadly, it seems that many of the big brand names (e.g. Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Reckitt Benkiser, Estée Lauder, L’Oreal, Olay) do test on animals, or buy from suppliers who do test on animals. So, here are some helpful directories of companies that do/don’t test their products/ingredients on animals to aid those who are interested in making the cruelty-free switch:

Note on China and animal testing as of June 2014:

Comments on this post also suggest that Nivea products are marketed in China. Previously, all cosmetics sold in China were legally required to be tested on animals. As of June 2014, companies manufacturing “ordinary cosmetics” in China are no longer required to test on animals – they have the option of providing their own product risk assessment so long as deemed scientifically valid by the EU. Note that the definition of “ordinary” excludes items such as “hair dyes, antiperspirants, sunscreens or skin-whitening products”. Anyway, to me this demonstrates that China is taking a small step away from mandatory animal testing which is potentially good news.

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Then, I put my own personal cosmetic products to the test:

Nivea – I used to use their Daily Essentials Light Moisturising Cream, which has a lovely light texture, fresh scent and is non-comedogenic. I also have some deodorant from them. However, closer inspection of the Nivea animal testing policy reveals that while they don’t test their products on animals, it is unclear as to whether or not they source their supplies from suppliers that do test on animals.

Lacura (Aldi) – I currently source my toothpaste and home cleaning products from Aldi. Thumbs up on the animal-testing front, as Aldi have not tested their products or ingredients on animals since 1992. Their Aqua Moisture Cream (facial moisturiser) is also quite nice.

When not near Aldi, I have also sourced toothpaste and home cleaning products from Tesco’s own brand, whose non-food products are “not tested on animals by us or our supplies, not on our behalf”. Sounds good to me. Check out the Tesco animal testing policy for yourself.

Cien (Lidl) – I have a large tub of body butter from them. Unfortunately, it looks like Lidl tests on animals so I’ll be switching to Aldi’s own brands.

L’Oreal – My mum bought me some L’Oreal sunscreen which I have yet to finish. Unfortunately – as mentioned above – L’Oreal has a poor animal testing record.

Sally Hansen – I have a bottle of their nail polish, and it appears that Sally Hansen’s animal testing policy states that ” we do not test our finished products or ingredients on animals, nor do we commission any third party to do so.” However, it is quite unclear as to whether their parent company Coty actually does test on animals – it looks like they do according to the Coty animal testing policy. However, I just obtained a bottle of Nubar nail polish which applies well, cruelty free and vegan.

Superdrug – as of October 2012, I have started using Superdrug’s own store brand conditioner (Extra Shine, Pro-V). I’m quite fussy about hair products, but in my opinion this is great stuff and works well on my long hair. Not only that, but it’s also only £1.99 for 400ml (at the time of writing this post). Win-win situation! And yes, Superdrug does not test any of their store brand products or ingredients on animals (Superdrug animal testing policy). I look forward to switching to their shampoo when my existing stuff runs out, too.

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I first discovered “The Pink Giraffe” Chinese restaurant while exploring the Cowley area of Oxford. You might think this is an unusual name for a Chinese restaurant. Well, according to one of the staff, the owner of the restaurant really likes pink, and as the restaurant started off being a vegetarian restaurant, the giraffe was arbitrarily chosen being a herbivore.

I really recommend the “mock meat” dishes at this restaurant. My previous experiences of mock meat involved unappetising bits of flour obviously artificially coloured and flavoured with sugar. I liked the texture of the mock chicken, the texture was really nice (although thankfully I could still tell it was soya) and the flavour delicious. The mock beef looked eerily like the real thing too. I liked the mild basil-flavoured sauce (“Pink Giraffe” sauce) the dish was served in. I also tried out the tofu in yellow bean sauce and liked it immensely.

Vegans may appreciate the fact that dishes safe for vegans are labelled on the menu as are the vegetarian dishes.

43b St. Clements Street
Oxford OX4 1AG
01865 202 787

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I love polite people

According to Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island, one of the things he loves about the British is their sense of politeness, for example how they say “sorry” when you stub their toes (not that trying this out on purpose is recommended!). Although I myself am used to the hellos, excuse mes and thank yous, I was pleasantly surprised today.

I was tending my garden and sneezed, when I heard a “bless you” from over the hedge. Now, I had no idea who this person was (apart from that it sounded like a young boy, perhaps 12 years old or so) or even what he looked like. Therefore it was highly likely that he couldn’t see me either. It was highly unnecessary and we would never know if we were ever to meet again. But all the same, he had the courtesy to say something when I sneezed.

Bless polite people like this.

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‘Allo ‘Allo!

“Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once.” ~ Michelle of the Resistance

I’ve been watching Series 1 of ‘Allo ‘Allo for the first time and really loving it. Set in Nazi-occupied France, we witness the happenings at Café Renée run by M. René, his wife Edith and the 2 waitresses Yvette and Maria. All M. René really wants is to run his nice café, have affairs with Yvette and Maria and be civil to his customers (which naturally includes Nazi officers Colonel Von Strohm and his sidekick Lietenant Hans Geering), however problems start when Michelle “of the Resistance” makes René hide British airmen in his café. Von Strohm finds out, but is forced to keep quiet as he has asked René to hide the painting of “The Fallen Madonna (with the big boobies)” (which he wants to keep for himself as his pension when he retires) in his café too.

Exaggerated cultural stereotypes, farce + splash of innuendo = fantastic fun.

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The farmer and the donkey

Got this from a forwarded email:

One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey. He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement, he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well, and was astonished at what he saw. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off!

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up!

And of course, later the donkey gave the farmer a huge kick for his cruel intentions 🙂

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A Midsummer’s evening

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