Monthly Archives: June 2010

UV Tent

UV tents are a great idea in principle, you pop them up and they instantly protect everyone in them from the sun. Except they’re not all equal. If your tent is too small, or doesn’t allow for adequate ventilation, what you end up with is a UV shelter, but one that is so unbearably hot you can’t sit in it.

I like the idea of personal shelters on the beach/in the park/in my own front room if need be. But then I am half hermit and I like to have somewhere to retreat to. I like the idea of my own little zone. But UV tents are also a great idea in the garden, in this weather. And children love them because I guess it taps into some primal response of having a ‘nest’ (you only have to watch children play to see how they love making hidey holes).

A few years ago, when I was writing the Personal Shopper column in the Guardian, I came across the UV Protector by Shelta. It’s this one here. My one hasn’t got any garish yellow, it’s all blue, which is much more chic but the yellow probably serves a purpose.

Anyway,  it’s an excellent tent – think very hard before buying an inferior one and here’s why.

It’s big, but folds up small. The base is nearly 2m squared and when assembled it’s 135cm high or thereabouts. Small children can easily walk around in it.

It’s got poles in the design, but there’s no having to thread them through. To assemble it is a synch (although there is a rider, which I’ll tell you about in a moment), you just pull on two cords and up it goes. I struggle a bit as I’m only 5’2″ and so I’m at arm’s reach doing the initial pulling bit. But I just get someone to help me or stand on a chair. Taller people won’t struggle at all and you don’t need brute strength.

It’s also very easy to take down, takes seconds.

The carry bag it comes with is compact, but roomy. By that I mean it’s not one of those products that looks great when you first buy it, but to ever get it back in its carry case is impossible. You’ll have no problem getting the folded up tent back in.

It’s light and easy to carry and doesn’t take up much room in a boot.

You can vary the ventilation quite a lot, so you can have it open on both sides, or variations thereof. Plus cos it’s bigger than the average UV tent, it’s not so claustrophobic.

You can fill it up with blankets and pillows and be very comfortable. Although that yellow…

Chambord

About three years after our eldest was born, I bought my boyfyhusband a cocktail shaker. I searched very high, and very low for one that looked good and would last and finally found it at Alessi, that Italian design emporium that produces some truly wonderful, but also truly awful, designs.

alessi-cocktail-shaker
 This the 870/50 Alessi cocktail shaker in 18/10 matt stainless steel which at the time of writing costs £63. It’s worth it.
 

Thus Friday nights became cocktail nights.  At the end of every week, when our daughter had gone to sleep and I was reasonably sure she wouldn’t want a feed til morning, I’d indulge in some beautiful, hard liquor.

Now my favourite cocktail has always been a vodka Martini, straight up, with three olives. (No idea if shaken or stirred since I never make my own, I just say “my usual” and it’s made for me.)

I love Martinis so much that I wrote it into my birth plan that immediately after the birth of our second daughter, and whilst I was waiting for placental transfusion to stop (the cord to stop pulsating) I was to be offered a vodka Martini. And indeed, I was.

But with a cocktail shaker comes the need for a proper cocktail book. Again, here is a field that is saturated with offerings but I went into a proper old fashioned book shop (okay, the Selfridges book department) to select. I ended up choosing Drink.ol.o.gy, which is a neat little tome with no pictures but lots of smart writing and a very comprehensive list of recipes. It’s the cocktail book I’d recommend still.

What has any of this to do with Chambord? Very little directly. Except when you get into making cocktails you do need to start thinking about having something very grown up: a well stocked drinks’ cabinet. And in that cabinet appeared a very ornate bottle of ‘black raspberry liqueur’ aka Chambord.

The Chambord bottle is hideous, all plastic, gold coloured ornateness topped with a crown. The sort of thing the Pope would drink, if he drank, and he should if he doesn’t. I’ve heard that people feel the bottle is so ‘special’ they don’t know what to do with it when it’s empty. So instead of putting it in the recycling bin, they donate it to charity. Chambord made a feature of its bottle last year, releasing a very limited edition of one jewel encrusted version for $2million.

The world’s most expensive bottle of booze.
 
 
 
Chambord is an excellent liqueur. You can make all sorts of complicated cocktails with it (the website tells you how) but I like it best splashed into the bottom of a glass of fizz. It can turn even a humble Cava into something rather tasty and lovely. It’s very easy to drink and of course you’ll get drunk quickly. But it’s raspberries so it’s one of your five a day.