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Finding a suitable rat bedding is quite difficult. Rat bedding needs to be soft and warm enough to sleep / nest in, easy to dig and forage in as well as low in dust and absorbent. I have tried many commercial beddings over the years, as well as homemade shredded paper bedding and fleece. I have found most of these to have problems with dust, absorbency or both and even found mites in one bag of commercial bedding. This leads me onto reviewing my favourite bedding which is not universally available but I feel that the benefits outweigh this. Finacard cardboard rat and small animal bedding is available in a number of pack sizes / bundles. A large 17kg bag can be purchased for £13.99 on Finacard's own website. Pack sizes and prices will be further detailed at the end of the review. Finacard bedding is a finely chopped, cardboard bedding. The pieces are quite small (stated as 5mm by 25mm on the website) compared to other cardboard bedding. The production process is described as unused cardboard been finely shredded whilst been dust extracted simultaneously. This is particularly important when considering using this bedding for rats as they have very sensitive respiratory systems. Finacard bedding arrives in a clear plastic bag which allows you to examine the pack carefully for dust. Sometimes when you empty a bag of bedding, you will find some dust collected at the bottom of the bag but I haven't found this with Finacard. When using the bedding, I have always filled the base of the cage with enough Finacard for the rats to be able to burrow and dig in. I also use enough to keep them warm and comfortable. When you hold the bedding, it is surprisingly soft and springy for a material that I would traditionally describe as hard and tough. Hiding food amongst the bedding for the rats to find is always a fun game and the bedding itself is safe for them to chew on. My rats have always been litter trained so use a tray in the corner of the cage with litter in it. However, I find Finacard absorbent enough to deal with any 'stray' toileting and it seems to mask the odour well. When cage cleaning time arrives, I find the Finacard easy to clean out unlike paper type substrates that I have noticed sometimes stay stuck to the cage etc. It says on the website that Finacard is easy to compost - I haven't tried this yet but may do in the future. My main reason for using Finacard is that I feel it gives me peace of mind. I know it is safe for my rats and am confident that the rats enjoy foraging and digging it. I also feel it is good value as you can buy in bulk. I give Finacard a 5/5 because it is currently the bedding that I have found most suitable so far. Currently you can only purchase from Finacard online or over the phone. You can purchase from the following options: Finacard Maxibale (17kg) £13.99 Small sample bags of Finacard Bundles containing Finacard, Papelit Pellets litter and nesting material. You can also call them for information on purchasing bulk orders.
I am afraid that as objective as I shall try to make this review, I am absolutely infactuated with the Chatsworth estate. This is due to my life and Chatsworth interlinking throughout the years through different events/happenings. First of all, the Chatsworth estate is not far from where I live, probably about 20 minutes in the car which has meant that I have visited many times from my childhood trips with school to my more recent visits. (If you don't want to read about my personal love for Chatsworth please skip to paragraph 4 :-)). Although I have many good memories of my visits to Chatsworth, a fairly recent event, rekindled my love affair with the estate. I was playing an extra in the film the 'Duchess' which was filmed in the grounds in front of the house and I suddenly had a brainwave which was to write my dissertation on the life of the character I was playing (a tenant) during the time that the film was set. This was a great relief as I had been struggling with coming up with a dissertation title for quite a while. This gave me the opportunity to study and research in some great places including the Chatsworth archives (which are as fantastic and awe inspiring as the house and grounds) and to pore over some very interesting documents. In the end, I got a first for my dissertation and I really don't think I could have achieved this if it had been on a different subject. I now own a vast collection of books on Chatsworth- both rare and not so rare and am really just a bit of a fan. Anyway enough about me...... I will split my review into the different parts of the estate which may be of interest to people: Chatsworth House: The house itself can only be described as stunning. My favourite time to view the exterior is at night when the house is lit up in an etherial blue colour. Of course, the only time to view the inside is during the day (apart from select evening openings) and in my opinion, it does not disappoint. There are often special displays on in the house so you need to check the website on a regular basis to see what is on when. Generally, you are greeted by beautifully dressed rooms, adorned with hundreds of pieces of artwork which have been collected by the Devonshires over the centuries. If you wish to learn more about the items that you are seeing in the house, you can buy an audio guide, guide book or go on one of the tours. I haven't personally done any of these but I think if you are likely to have a lot of questions then getting booked on one of the tours would not be a bad idea. The house is open to the public until the 23rd of December this year although I believe it is closed on the 31st October. I think that the house deserves a 4.5/5. It usually very much depends on what is on display at the time that you visit. The Gardens: The gardens at Chatsworth are not only breathtaking but they are also varied, fairytale like and fun. There are ornamental, formal, very pruned sections of the garden. There are also numerous sculptures- some which are very traditional and others which are not only modern but innovative and unexpected. There are beautiful waterfalls including one which looks like it is from the set of an Indiana Jones movie. A recently discovered coal tunnel is also now open to the public which is delightful. There is also the fairly large and intricate maze which is a favourite with children and which I can never find the centre of. You feel like you are always discovering something new and exciting in the gardens and there are 105 acres to explore. I give the gardens 4.5/5 Farmyard and adventure playground: Although I haven't been here for quite a while, I do remember that it was incredibly good fun playing in the adventure playground. It had fantastic zipwires and rope bridges and I think I fell over a few times and then sprang straight back up in excitement to go on the swirly slide. As far as the farm yard goes, I loved animals and still do so I pretty much loved seeing the sheep and cows- although I think I liked the chickens the best. Going from my childhood memories and not forgetting that it has most likely changed since then, I give the playground etc another 4.5/5. Events: There are many events on throughout the year at Chatsworth including the famous Chatsworth country fair but my favourite is the 'Bonfire and fieworks' event. I loved it so much last year that I have been eagerly waiting for tickets to be on sale for this year (which they are now). The whole event was fantastic, great food and atmosphere. The house looked amazing lit up and the fireworks were stunning. They lasted for a good ten minutes at least and were set off in time to classical music. I give the Chatsworth events in general: 5/5 Farm Shop: The Chatsworth farm shop is just around the corner from the entrance to the grounds and is well worth a visit. They sell some lovely, fresh local produce including fruit and veg, pies and baked goods such as cakes and bread. If you are not a vegetarian, I can highly recommend the good quality venison sausages. I like the farm shop very much but think it is a little overpriced. Since it is so close to the grounds, I think it would be worth just having a browse if you haven't been in before. I will not score the farm shop seperately as it is not an official Chatsworth attraction. Prices (at time of writing): House and garden- Adult £11.50, Child (under 3 free) £6.75, Concessions £10.75 Family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children)£30-£35 depending on season. Garden only - Adult £7.50, Child £5.25 (under 3 free), Concessions £6 Family ticket £21 Farmyard and adventure playground - Adult £5, Child £5.25 (under 2 free), Concessions £4, Family ticket £19.50 You can also purchase season tickets, please check website for up to date prices. If you book your visit online, you can save 10% on the price of admission although this is usually subject to a booking fee of £1. I'm sure by now that you all know my feelings about Chatsworth, so if you haven't already been, think about visiting as in my opinion it is one of Britain's best historic houses. Since there isn't a 4.5 option, I am being generous and giving it 5 :-)
As a runner who finds running magazines a little boring and samey, I have long been searching for a health and fitness magazine that isn't just about diets and which has interesting, original articles. 'Zest' appears to be that magazine. At a price of £3.30, it doesn't come cheap in comparison to other womens magazines but is on par with most other 'fitness' publications. A very healthy looking, smiley model often greets me when first approaching this magazine, usually accompanied by some very enticing headlines. Once opened, I'm not confronted by extortionate amounts of adverts which is always reassuring after parting with more than a couple of pounds for a magazine. What is good, is that inside there are interviews with professional athletes as well as ordinary women who are trying to get fit. There are numerous exercise plans- from running to cycling to toning up. Intelligent, informed articles on such topics as superfoods, dangers of certain prescription drugs and the latest research, findings in health breakthroughs. There are numerous real life stories which are both inspiring and informative. The rest of the magazine consists of an 'ask the experts' section, relationship advice, product reviews, buying guides, tips and the latest fitness news/trends and healthy recipes. I now buy 'Zest' almost every month (it is a monthly magazine) and I genuinely enjoy reading it and unlike most magazines, I actually read it all- cover to cover. I have followed plenty of the tips from the magazine and have also purchased several products that were reviewed and recommended in 'Zest'. I will go as far as to say, for me 'Zest' is the best health and fitness magazine out there.
I first tried these due to my sister raving about them. I am a big savoury snack fan and after hearing such good things, couldn't resist giving them a try when I spotted them in my local supermarket. First impressions of the packaging were good. The front of the packaging is very attractive and contains elements of the 'natural goodness' persona which is quite prominent on the back of the packet. The words 'nature' and 'natural' are mentioned on the packaging at least seven times overall. It is also made apparent on the reverse of the packet that 'Red sky' will commit to buy and protect 10 square feet of rainforest if you purchase a large 150g packet of their crisps- another bonus for nature lovers. As it turns out, the ingredients are pretty 'natural' compared to other crisps: British potatoes, natural sunflower oil, sea salt, natural flavouring (whatever that means), dried bacon, dried cream cheese, dried yoghurt, milk whey powder, cane sugar, colour (paprika extract). So how do they taste? Pretty near perfect to me. As a life long crisp connoisseur, I find very little not to like about these crisps. There is an almost equal distribution of both the cheese and bacon flavour and they complement each other perfectly. These crisps have just enough flavour and are fairly thick and crunchy and most importantly- not greasy. I personally love them and on that note, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the cupboard to go and munch some.
The Jenny cage is a very satisfactory starter cage at a not too extortionate price. It is fairly large (can comfortably house 5 pet rats at the most) and comes with some good quality accessories. The shelves are very durable and easy to move around as are the tubes which are a must for any rodent cage. The food dishes are very decent, chrome bowls with holders which fit easily onto the bars. I do feel that the water bottle provided is too large for rats but may be suitable for rabbits or ferrets. I never used my water bottles on either of my Jenny cages, I just bought my own smaller ones and dotted them around the cage. The problems with this cage become apparent rather quickly. The bars on the cage become rusty very quickly and if you are wishing to buy this cage, I recommend that you coat the bars before use with japlac or similar so that the rusting process is slowed down. The main problem with this cage is that it is very inaccessible and a nightmare to clean. The doors are all very small which makes it very difficult to perform spot cleaning on the shelves and also means that it could take you quite a while to be able to coax out any nervous ratties as you are very limited in terms of how far you can reach in to the cage. However, I am aware that you can now purchase larger doors separately which from what I have heard, work very well. Overall, the Jenny is a good starter cage and is reasonably good value but can be quite problematic to the point where it can get very frustrating. I wouldn't personally recommend this cage in its current form.