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ELDG77
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Member since: 27.12.2012

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      05.01.2013 19:27
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      Lovely to start with but a disappointing shelf life

      I received this bath and shower gel for Christmas a couple of years ago in a gift box that also contained a lavender soap bar. I felt like I had reached a certain age, as Crabtree & Evelyn is a brand I would generally associate with a more mature woman. In addition, the packaging of the product I received was quite 'traditional' looking. I love lavender, though, so was pleased with the gift.

      ~ Look and Smell ~

      My bottle was clear plastic with a white plastic screw cap. It is a very traditional-looking shaped bottle, which to me suggested it was a classic product. You could see the gel in the bottle, which was a pale purple colour. Before writing this review, I did a bit of internet research and noticed that Crabtree & Evelyn now sell the gel in a taller, more modern-looking bottle, in an opaque white plastic bottle. I actually think the updated bottle makes the product look less exclusive than the traditional bottle.

      ~ Price ~

      I do not know the price of my gift, but you can buy the updated product for £15 for 250ml. The price makes it a 'special occasion' product, one to use in the bath when you want to treat yourself, and I would not use this as an everyday shower gel.

      ~ In Use: Initially ~

      The gel itself poured out of the bottle fairly well, although I would describe the gel as being a little bit on the thick side and therefore slow to pour. Having said that, I did not need to use a lot. I would estimate that around a teaspoon full was sufficient to generate a sufficient amount of bubbles and leave the water slightly lavender-scented. The smell was not strong, although did last on my skin for an hour or so after bathing.

      ~ In Use: After a While ~

      As I mentioned before, to me this is an occasional use product, and that is how I used it. I have a range of these types of product, so I select which one I am going to use depending on my mood. I would say that, on average, I have around one bath a week (for the avoidance of doubt, I shower every day!), so bath gel/bubble bath lasts quite some time for me. Unfortunately, this product did not last. After about 2 months, the pale purple gel turned a sort of pale yellow colour, and the lavender smell became weak to non-existent.

      It was as if it had gone off, and it did occur to me that perhaps I should have kept it in a drawer instead of on a shelf in the bathroom.

      ~ Would I Buy It Again ~

      I do not think I would buy this product for £15, but if I saw it on sale, then I would, as it is a nice bath gel with a much less over-powering lavender smell than other lavender products. I think also that the new opaque bottle would help the product to last longer - maybe that is why Crabtree & Evelyn changed the bottle.

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      • Zanussi ZWD 12270 W1 / Washer Dryer / 27 Readings / 27 Ratings
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        04.01.2013 20:24
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        I would probably not rush out and buy this

        Washing machines...a must-have for a busy home, but unless you have a separate utility room, or can afford a nifty built-in 'washing-machine-in-a-cupboard', they are, quite frankly, an eyesore, in my view! So I was quite pleasantly surprised with the look of this Zanussi washer dryer. There is nothing flashy about it, it is just a clean-looking, tidy, fairly compact thing, that curves outwards slightly at the front.

        ~ Price and Availability ~

        We replaced our previous non-drying washer with this one about a year ago simply because our old one had become too noisy and was going to be too expensive to fix. We actually were not looking for a washer-dryer, but this one was in a sale and was cheaper than the washer we had been looking at buying. I recall paying around £250 for it, and I believe you can pick one up now for around £350-400. I couldn't find a whole lot of Internet sites selling this model, but did note a few second-hand retailers selling them for around £100.

        ~ Description ~

        This is a front loading washer dryer. The door is quite attractive as the glass doesn't quite sit centrally (the door rim is larger towards the bottom). Along the top front of the machine are the powder/softener tray (top left), the main programme selection knob (centre), and three 'fine-tuning' buttons that allow you to refine the programme options (right). Also at the top right is an alarm-clock style display, the timer control for the dryer and the start/pause button.

        ~ Operation ~

        The machine is operated by first selecting the programme by turning the knob to the required point. It has a host of washing settings:
        - Cottons at 90, 60, and 40 degrees, plus 60 and 40 degrees 'Eco' (apparently, lower temperature but take an hour longer)
        - Synthetics at 50 and 40 degrees, plus 40 degrees 'easy iron' (hmmm, as far as I can tell this just takes 35 minutes longer)
        - Delicates at 40 and 30 degrees
        - Wool at 40 and 30 degrees
        - Hand wash at 30 degrees or cold
        - A 'mini 30' wash (which takes 30 minutes and is great if you just want to freshen up a small amount of clothes)
        - Silk at 30 degrees
        - Cotton/synthetic drying only (for when you just need to dry something)

        Once you have chosen your programme, you can use the fine tuning buttons to specify the spin speed (1200, 900, 700, no spin), and whether you want a prewash, intensive wash, super quick wash or extra rinse.

        If you want the dryer to come on immediately after the wash, you use the 'drying time' button to set the time in 5 minute increments. The display screen tells how long the whole wash/dry will take, and you then just hit the play button and away it goes.

        ~ My Views ~

        Starting at the top, I really quite like the ease with which the powder/softener tray glides in and out, and how clean it keeps itself. Not sure how, but it looks as good as new after a year of very heavy use.

        The dryer is a condensing dryer, so there is no need to vent externally, and you can set it to dry straight after the wash. It also tells you how long is left on a cycle.

        I really like the variety of programmes available. I find that a 'super quick' 40 degree wash is sufficient for typically soiled washing, and this takes 40 minutes (washing only), so is quick enough to do a wash in the morning to hang up before going to work. The hand wash setting is very delicate indeed, and I have never had a problem with any of my delicates being damaged during a wash. The wool settings I find are quite lengthy. It has a child lock function.

        Another good feature is the ability to pause the cycle at any point. You might wonder why this would be necessary, but I find it handy if someone comes to the door or you are on the phone, or you just want a bit of piece and quiet for 5 minutes.

        Which brings me nicely on to the negatives. The noise!! When we first bought this, it seemed really quite compared to our old one, but after hearing other people's machines, I'm afraid that this washing machine is booming by comparison. It also has a rather persistent beep to let you know a cycle has finished, which continues for about a minute or so. I would suggest deactivating this by pressing and holding down the two left-hand 'fine tuning' buttons, otherwise it will drive you mad.

        Then there is the energy rating, which is a C, and the water consumption, which is about 60 litres per wash. Not one to buy if you are looking for Eco features

        ~ Summary ~

        Washes really well and has a good selection of programmes. Also really good for when you need to put a wash on before going to work but need it dry by the time you get home. But noisy, not energy efficient, and not water efficient. I wouldn't recommend this.

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        • Kitchenaid 5KSB555BAC / Blender / 31 Readings / 29 Ratings
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          03.01.2013 20:32
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          A really whizzy blender, highly recommended!

          Last summer, I went to visit with my dad in Bournemouth. I remember it being a beautifully warm weekend, and we sat outside on Saturday morning in his little garden to have breakfast. It was a pretty typical breakfast of cereal and toast, tea and coffee. And then he brought me a glass of his super fruity super smoothie! He had chosen mixed fresh berries, bananas, a secret blend of spices, ice, and a splash of double cream! Ok, so perhaps this would never fall into the health drink category, but it was smoothie heaven. Over the course of the weekend, he let me experiment with his KitchenAid Artisan Blender, and from then on I was converted to the world of smoothies.

          As soon as I got home, I went straight onto the Internet to source my very own blender, and given the demonstration I'd had at dad's, I quickly chose the KitchenAid Artisan, in cream.

          ~ Price ~

          This blender is a little on the pricey side (I bought mine for around £100 from Amazon, which included a discount, and they are anywhere up to £150 depending on the colour you choose), but when you unpackage this product, you can instantly tell that this is a well-made, sturdy bit of kit that will stand the test of time.

          ~ Set Up ~

          The standard set up is in three parts:

          1) The base. This weighs in at an amazing 4.5kg (measured on my kitchen scales). Yes it is pretty heavy, but the effect of this is that the blender is extremely stable when it is running, so you do not have to stand there watching over it or holding onto it!

          2) The blade unit. The housing is made from very thick plastic (3mm or so), and the blade sits within it. The blade itself is not too sharp to the touch, but you would definitely not want to put your fingers anywhere near to it when it is on. But KitchenAid have thought of that. The blade unit does not fit onto the base unless you have screwed in the third piece (the jug), which means you can't accidentally switch it on with the blade exposed. I guess you could get your hand inside in the jug if the lid wasn't on, but why would you?

          3) The jug(s). The blender comes with two jugs. The first is thick clear plastic, approximately 750ml capacity, with graduated measurements in ml, cups, and oz. It has a black plastic lid with a removable clear plastic centre piece so you can drop/pour ingredients in while the blender is on (the hole is not big enough to get your hands in). The second jug is glass with a 1.5l capacity, again with graduated measurements. This jug has a handle, and a cream-coloured flexible plastic lid. Again, the lid has a hole in the centre, in which is a removable clear centre piece. This piece is actually a mini-measuring cup holding 60ml.

          The jug fits into the blade unit with a simple twist-and-lock feature, and then these two parts just sit neatly on top of the base. And then you are good to go!

          ~ Features ~

          This is a blender and has all the typical functions you would expect, essentially various different speeds and configurations for blending depending on the ingredients you have put in it. It additionally has a pulse function, and an ice crusher function. This last function is excellent - you can easily produce your own (healthier) version of the Slush Puppy (maybe one that isn't blue...). You control the blender by selecting the function (a little red light comes on next to the selected function) and then pressing the bigger start button.

          ~ In Use and After Use ~

          In use it is quite noisy, but then I tend to use frozen fruit in it on the ice crusher setting first, and then add milk or sparkling water to make a smoothie. It can also take hot ingredients, and I have made some pretty delicious soups too (most recently, Christmas dinner soup from the leftovers of Christmas lunch...highly recommended).

          A key feature for me is how easy it is to clean after use. This is really easy. You just take the jug/blade off the base, shove it in the sink, et voila, clean for the next use. I use red fruits in it a lot and neither the glass nor the plastic elements seem to be stained at all. According to the manual, the jugs are dishwasher safe, but I can't comment on this as I don't have a dishwasher.

          ~ My Favourite Recipe ~

          As well as the Christmas dinner soup, my favourite soup recipe is prawn and sweet corn (basically heat up some frozen sweet corn and frozen prawns in chicken stock for a bit with an onion, then add some milk and butter and blend...yum).

          My staple smoothie is a handful of frozen mixed berries, a banana and milk. I occasionally have a high-protein smoothie, which I make by adding a scoop of oats and whey vanilla protein powder to whatever fruit smoothie I have made. I would recommend smoothieweb.com for inspiration on weird and wonderful recipes.

          ~ Summary ~

          For me, this is a faultless blender, which I guess is not unexpected given the price. But I am certainly getting my money's worth out of it, and upping my daily fruit and veg intake too!

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        • HTC 7 Trophy / Smartphone / 30 Readings / 30 Ratings
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          02.01.2013 22:08
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          Has lots of good features, but the phone functions could be better!

          ~ Why I Own an HTC Trophy ~

          I thought it was useful from a 'scene setting' perspective to explain briefly why I have an HTC 7 Trophy. Through my work, my employer likes to squeeze as much work out of us as possible, and ensure it can contact people out of hours. I was therefore provided with an old Nokia phone. Sadly, this one broke about the same time that my employer decided it would be much better if staff could also check emails in their own time. So my replacement phone was the HTC 7 Trophy I am currently using. Although I didn't choose or purchase this phone myself, it is the only phone that I use, for both personal and work purposes, and I have had it now for about 18 months.

          I would describe myself as a 'basic' user, in that I doubt whether I am using all of the available features to their fullest extent, but I do make very good use of certain features, so will focus on these in my review.

          ~ Features ~

          There is quite a lot of information on the phone's features in the 'Technical Details' tab above, so I don't want to repeat too much of that information. In summary, it makes and receives telephone calls and text messages, has a 5MP camera with a flash, runs Windows Mobile, has email/Internet access, Microsoft OneNote and readers for Excel, Word and PowerPoint, can play music and videos (which you sync to your PC using Zune), Bing maps (with GPS location), plus you can download a bunch of other apps via the 'Market Place' and the 'HTC Hub'.

          It is black, with a nice sleek screen. The power button is on the top left, volume button is on the top of the left-hand side, camera button is on the bottom of the right-hand side, micro USB port/charging point is on the bottom of the left-hand side, and the camera/flash is on the rear.

          ~ Price ~

          Doing a bit of an Internet search, it seems this phone is around £350 if you buy it SIM-free/no contract but there are some contract deals available, and a second-hand market (around £100 SIM-free on Amazon).

          ~ Set Up ~

          I am no technology whiz but I found this remarkably easy to set up. SIM went in, I charged it for the requisite time, turned it on, followed the instructions to set up Facebook and my various email accounts (hotmail, Yahoo!, and work Outlook account), and that was it. I would say that within about 20 minutes, I had a fully-functioning phone. Lovely.

          One thing I do highly rate on this phone is that the back cover comes off with very little effort to reveal the battery and SIM card, but is cleverly secure enough not to feel loose while it is in place. This is probably because the back cover is made of quite thin plastic, which sounds like it would be a problem in terms of durability, but having dropped the phone on quite a few occasions I can say that it is quite a sturdy piece of thin plastic - not a crack or dent in sight!

          ~ In Use ~

          When I turn the phone on, I have to enter a password (work requirement), which is easily done after sliding up with your finger from the bottom of the screen. This is a touch screen phone, by the way! The main screen is fully customisable by using the 'Pin to Start' function, and I have mine set up so that shortcuts to Outlook, Internet Explorer, messaging, calendar, contacts, and call history are visible. You move from the main screen to the sub-menu (where shortcuts to all the other apps are present) by either flicking the screen left or using the little arrow on the screen in the top right corner. The main menu is laid out as square tabs (like apps on an IPhone), whereas the sub-menu is a list. To open an app you just click on it.

          Once in an app, you close it either by pressing the back arrow located on the bottom left of the phone, or by pressing the home button located in the bottom centre of the screen. I found this really good until I started using an iPad, and since then I seem to default to pinching on the screen!! IPhone users beware!

          Just picking out a few of the features that I love and hate (otherwise this review would become a bit lengthy).

          Making a call is simple if you have recently called someone or they have called you as you just go to call history and click on their name, then click on 'call mobile' or 'call home'. However, if this does not apply then it is a bit of a faff in my view. To get the keypad up, you have to go through the call history. And to go through the contacts menu is also a bit laborious as if someone is not a recent contact or you have stacks of numbers in your contacts, you have to search etc. Perhaps I am showing my age, here, but essentially this is a phone, and for me the phone function should be the easiest thing to use! I also think the sound quality is a bit poor and the volume is never quite loud enough. Again, this is quite poor for a phone!

          The phone has an integrated Facebook capability in the contacts menu, which shows recent status updates, and you can post updates yourself very easily. You can also get a separate Facebook app from the Market Place, which has all the Facebook functions you get using Facebook on the Internet. I actually prefer this version.

          The Outlook app is excellent in my view. There are screens to view all, unread, flagged or urgent emails, you can see all email folders, and you can search all folders using the spy glass button on the bottom right-hand of the phone. This button can actually be used from a range of applications to perform a search, and from the main menu to take you to the Bing search screen.

          The camera is pretty good, not wonderful, but easy enough to use and picture quality is good enough for posting on the Internet. A neat feature is the ability to take photos without turning on the phone just by holding the camera button down, great for quick snaps. Video is dreadful, so I wouldn't bother with that!

          Messaging is easy, and for each person you message the received and sent messages are listed as a conversation, which is really useful if you do not reply immediately (or if, like me, you forget what you sent).

          I also think the Microsoft Office viewers are pretty good given the size of the screen, although I would not want to read a long document or complex spreadsheet on them.

          I like the screen rotate function, as in landscape mode the keypad is bigger, although I have small fingers so for me the keys are ok to use in portrait mode.

          When you are on a call, the screen goes black, which saves battery life and also prevents 'hot ear syndrome'. In this respect, it is a good feature. But to get the screen back on again, you have to hold the phone flat, and it takes a couple of seconds to light up so you can end the call. I find this quite annoying, mainly because it means you are on the call for a few more seconds, giving the phone company a bit more money!

          But the battery. Typically, the battery life is pretty poor, and no where near the advertised hours. I charge mine every day and I do not think I am a heavy user. It has always been this way, so I do not think it is a function of the age of the phone. If anyone has a phone with excellent battery life, I would love to hear about it.

          The other slightly irritating feature is the weight distribution, which means you always seem to pick it up back-to-front and upside down. A minor niggle!

          ~ Summary ~

          I hope this gives a flavour of the phone's good and bad features, but please feel free to comment or ask a question if I have not covered everything that you need.

          For me, this phone has some really good features but is let down by the rather poor 'telephone' functions, which in my view are the most important features of a mobile telephone!! I really want to give this 3.5 out of 5 as it is overall better than a 3 but not as good as a 4. As I'm feeling generous, I'll round it up on this occasion.

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          • Rangemaster Classic / Cooker Hood / 37 Readings / 37 Ratings
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            01.01.2013 19:23
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            5/5 for looks, 2/5 for performance

            This is a review of the 90cm wide Rangemaster Classic Cooker Hood, which we bought soon after we bought our Rangemaster 90 Electric Range Cooker. I have also reviewed that item, if you want to take a look.

            The cooker hood is 90cm wide, 49cm deep and is height adjustable (between 70cm and 100cm). I am sure these are fairly standard measurements for a 90cm wide cooker hood, and clearly a cooker hood for a single-oven cooker would look rather odd over a double-oven cooker, but my first thought on seeing this product after it arrived was that it was huge! However, once in place above our cooker, it does actually look quite wonderful.

            The hood is the same matt black with silver trimmings as our Rangemaster cooker, and is designed (I think) to match the style of the Rangemaster cooker. I do wonder whether any other make/style of cooker hood would have looked as good, to be honest. It arrives in quite a few pieces that need assembly, which I was a little surprised about, but the instructions are fairly good provided you work through them methodically! Once constructed, the main part of the hood (with the lights and fan elements in it) is quite sturdy. The chimney part is surprisingly flimsy, although is metal like the main part of the hood. However, as this part is really only there to cover the vent pipe (if you are venting externally), it probably does not need to be very strong, and once it is in place on the wall, it does not look bad at all. The hood can be set up to either vent externally or recirculate air with no need for an external vent. This was an essential factor for us as venting externally was not an option (drilling a big hole in our foot thick stone walls was not considered for even a second)!

            Once constructed, the next challenge is getting it on the wall. This is a two-person job as the hood is quite big, but apart from that, it was surprisingly easy to fit. It comes with two small wall brackets that you secure to the wall using appropriate screws/plugs, and then you basically just hang the hood from the brackets. I was amazed, actually, that the brackets could secure it so well, but they do. After the main part of the hood is secured, you clip in the chimney, adjusting the height as needed by raising or lowering a second chimney piece that sits inside the first. For us, we have quite low ceilings, so our chimney actually only uses the one piece of the chimney, and we had to hang it slightly lower than the recommended height above the hob. If you have standard-height rooms, I think it will fit fine.

            In use, the hood performs averagely. It is quite noisy at even the lowest setting, and at the highest setting (there are three settings in total), you do have to talk quite loudly to be heard over it. The light is very handy and perhaps even essential depending on where your overhead kitchen lights are located. This is because the hood sticks out so much so blocks any light coming from the ceiling. I do not think it is that effective a drawing in odours or steam, but I am uncertain whether this is because we are operating it in the 'recirculating' mode rather than the 'external venting' mode.

            In summary, I would say that this cooker hood looks better than it performs. It matches the Rangemaster 90 cooker that we have, and if we ever had another cooker style in the future, I probably would not buy this cooker hood.

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          • More +
            31.12.2012 00:31
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            An excellent camera, that does clever stuff without being overcomplicated to use. Highly recommend!

            ~ Intro ~

            Although being a satisfied owner of its predecessor, the 5D Mk II is a quantum leap in terms of camera. Both are full frame sensor cameras, but I was attracted to the Mk II due to the almost doubling of megapixels to 21.1. In my view, the difference in picture quality between the original 5D and the Mk II is huge.

            When I bought my Mk II, the Mk III had just been released, so the price of the Mk II fell to something I could think about buying!

            ~ Canon's Description ~

            Canon describes the Mk II as follows: "The full frame EOS 5D Mark II combines outstanding resolution with up to 3.9 fps shooting and superlative high ISO performance. The addition of Full HD movie recording expands the boundaries of photography." Canon's website records the main technical features as follows:

            - 21.1MP full frame CMOS sensor
            - DIGIC 4 processor
            - ISO range expandable to 25600
            - Full HD (1080, 30 frames per second) movie recording
            - High-res 3.0" VGA LCD with Live View
            - Up to 3.9 frame per second JPEG shooting up to card capacity
            - 9-point AF + 6 Assist AF points
            - Magnesium alloy body

            ~ Cost ~

            Not cheap, but if you are looking for a full frame camera I guess you are not expecting to find it for sale for a few quid. New, this camera will set you back in the region of £1000, body only. But shop around, as there are some good deals on kits (i.e. body plus lens).

            ~ My Review ~

            Nature and sports photographers will delight at the increased auto focus options and increased frames per second shooting rates, but for me the beauty is in its use. The camera itself is beautifully balanced to carry, and its function screens are logical and quick to use. Options such as mirror locking can be undertaken in a couple of clicks from the rear camera buttons. Changes to ISO speed, exposure, and white balance can all be undertaken from the top of the camera while still looking through the camera's viewfinder. And if the looking through the viewfinder becomes a chore, the Live View shooting screen that takes up the entire back of the camera is an option. The Live View does take a few seconds to load up, but having this function makes landscape photography easy as it is possible to see front-of-image to back-of-image sharpness quickly and without the need to guess at hyperfocal distances and other optical wizardry.

            The battery life is fantastic and goes for days without needing to be recharged, even with heavy use, although using Live View shooting does deplete battery life more quickly.

            Another great feature is the automatic sensor cleaning function that works every time the camera is switched off. In 6 months, I have not had to clone-out a single dust spot in the digital darkroom and this is a real joy.

            Oh and you can shoot videos too. I guess that features like live viewer and video functions are available on some very basic point-and-shoot cameras, but I think they are good additions from the design team at Canon, nevertheless.

            On the negatives, I cannot think of many. The remote cable release hotshoe is not very tight and it would be good if it had a minimum ISO below 100. These are very minor criticisms of what is overal an excellent camera.

            ~ Summary ~

            An excellent camera, that does clever stuff without being overcomplicated to use. Highly recommended!

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          • Keen Venice / Shoes / 17 Readings / 16 Ratings
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            30.12.2012 23:19
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            A hiking sandal you can hike in, highly recommended

            I bought my first pair of Keen sandals in a sale at a shop in Skipton just of the canal. I was actually on a canal boat holiday at the time, and rather foolishly thought it would be fine to wear flip-flops. Well, when I tripped in them and nearly ended up in the canal, I knew I needed something slightly more appropriate to wear! Many years later, I still have the same pair, which I walk/hike in extensively each summer. I really want to buy a new pair, but these are the sandals that just keep on giving, and I cannot really justify replacing them until they wear out!

            Price-wise, I would suggest shopping around. They are around £45 for the canvas/fabric variety and around £80 or more for the leather variety, but prices seem to vary considerably.

            Visually, my Keen sandals are sturdy looking, especially around the toe area and the sole, both of which are black rubberised material - very grippy on lots of surface-types including wet rock. The outer upper is brown leather, the inner upper is a neoprene-type material, and the foot bed is (according to the Keen specification) an "AEGIS microbe shield treated hydrophobic mesh". I am not sure what that is really, but it is very comfortable to walk on! I laugh every time I put them on: on one side of the heel is a yellow 'Keen' logo, and on the other side it says 'waterproof'. Bearing in mind that they are sandals, and therefore have holes in them that let in water, I find this a somewhat pointless claim! I guess they are referring to the material from which the sandal is constructed, in which case I can confirm that after a few years of wear they have lost their waterproofing somewhat. Having said that, they dry out remarkably quickly when they do get a good soaking.

            The stitching is excellent and, unlike other walking sandals I have tried, does not rub on the inside anywhere. They do not have laces or Velcro fastening, instead they tighten using a "secure fit lace capture system", which is an elastic lace that you secure through a good quality toggle. The elastic on my sandals has stretched a bit, but is still functional. The main advantage they have over other outdoor sandals is that they have toe-protection.

            I do not really have anything negative to say about this sandal. I use them for practically all summer outdoor activities, including hiking (where you can get away with no ankle support) and at the beach, especially for swimming on rocky beaches. Like I said in the first paragraph, mine are still in excellent condition after a few years of heavy summer use, but if/when they do need to be replaced, I will be getting another pair.

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            • Rangemaster RMS90ECBL/PDC / Cooker / 14 Readings / 13 Ratings
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              30.12.2012 20:14
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              A good-looking double-oven cooker, perfect where space is tight

              Buying a double-oven dual-fuel range cooker was on my list of must-haves, so you can imagine how disappointed I was to discover that I had moved into a house with a dodgy gas supply that meant we could not have a gas hob! I was very reluctant to resort to an electric hob having spent years trying to control hob-heat on the older-style coil or plate-type hobs, but after reading reviews for the Rangemaster 90 electric range cooker, I decided to give it a go.

              This cooker is 90cm wide, which means it gives you the benefits of a double oven but without being the size of two cookers, perfect for a smaller kitchen. It was well packaged when it arrived, and took a fair amount of time to unpack, not helped by its weight - getting it into place is definitely a two-person job! As well as being slim, it is also height adjustable with a winding mechanism at the back - this was essential for our kitchen as we have higher-than-standard workbenches, but it was quite fiddly to operate the mechanism.

              In place, the cooker looks stunning. It is matt black with shiny silver knobs and door handles, and even after two years, they still look as good as new, a function of the ease with which the knobs can be removed for cleaning. A couple of the front plates of the knobs have come loose, but they are easily re-fixed.

              There are two ovens: one full-size fan-assisted with a glass door and light and the other half-sized not fan-assisted. The fan-assisted oven has two shelves and a third that attaches to the door so it swings into the over. This is excellent for things that need frequent turning or basting (it has its own roasting pan). The half-oven has five shelves, all fully height adjustable, and a muffin rack at the bottom. We use this oven for cooking lower temperature things when we have a joint in the main oven. One word of warning is that because the half-oven is half the width of a normal oven, we found that we needed to buy new trays etc., as our old ones were too wide.

              The star of this cooker is the ceramic hob. It heats up almost as quickly as gas, and is very responsive, unlike the older coil/plate electric hobs. It does not cool quite as quickly as gas, but is pretty close. A tip is to clean the hob after each use to keep it as shiny as new. You can buy a special non-scratch cleaner called Hob-Bright that works really well. After use, there are little lights that stay on to let you know which bits of the hob are still hot. The hob has five plates, two of which have dual settings so they can be small or large to fit your pans, which is another good feature.

              There is a separate grill, with three heat settings. To be honest, the grill does let the cooker down a little as it is a bit slow to heat up, but it is fine for a bit of cheese-on-toast, which is what we tend to use it for. There is also a variety of timer settings, but we tend not to use these. They include a standard countdown timer, which is really easy to set up, plus a delayed start timer.

              Yes, it is quite expensive, but if you are thinking of spending this amount of money on a range cooker, you cannot or do not want to have gas, and you need something that fits into a smaller kitchen, then this is a good option.

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              30.12.2012 19:06
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              Perfect mascara for longer lashes

              I have been blessed with quite long and naturally dark eyelashes, which is great from a daytime perspective as my eyes look defined without the need for mascara. However, the problem I had for years was finding mascara that I could wear for dramatic evening eyes that (a) did not make me look like Minnie Mouse or (b) did not make me look like I had hairy spider's legs for eyelashes! I finally discovered Boots No 7 Extreme Length Mascara, and have not touched another mascara since.

              My mascara tube is copper coloured and tapers nicely making it easy to hold while you are applying the mascara. The wand is lime green and plastic with short closely spaced bristles. These I find work really well with my eyelashes, as they do not hold a lot of mascara so you can gradually build up the effect through a couple of applications. Currently, I think Boots are selling this in a black or white tube, for £12.

              This mascara does not seem to be able to create and hold a curl on its own, at least not with my lashes but they are dead straight, so I tend to curl my eyelashes first and then apply a coat of the mascara to the underside of my top lashes only. I find this gives a natural-looking finish. It adds a lot of volume without being too thick, and is not too sticky so I have never had an issue with my eyelashes clumping together. It adds quite a lot of length, a bit too much for my eyelashes actually, so I do not apply it all the way to the ends of my eyelashes otherwise they are too long - for those of you looking for a mascara that adds length, I can tell you that it actually works! The only negative is that I find it takes a little longer to dry after applying it than other mascaras.

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              • Benefit High Beam / Make Up / 10 Readings / 10 Ratings
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                30.12.2012 18:26
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                Excellent for giving tired dull skin a healthy sparkly glow

                I first came across Benefit's High Beam in one of their "Realness of Concealness" mini fake-it kits, a purchase made in an airport after catching a glimpse of my tired dehydrated skin in the mirror! High Beam was definitely the star of the kit - just a tiny dab of it on my cheekbones instantly gave my skin a healthy sparkle. I bought the full size bottle on the return journey!

                High Beam is currently (30 December 2012) selling for around £18.50 (on Boots website or direct from Benefit's own website), so it is not cheap enough to be a whimsical "I'll give it a go" kind of purchase. I do think it is worth the money, though, and would recommend it highly.

                The first thing to say is that the box is a lot bigger than the bottle, so your immediate thought when you open it is that it is even more expensive than you thought. The bottle contains 13ml of product, about the same as a standard-sized bottle of nail polish I think. Unlike nail polish, you genuinely need only a dot of the product to get a good effect, so it lasts ages. I do not use it every day, perhaps one or two days a week when I think my skin is looking a little dull, but my current bottle is not even half empty yet and I have had it for well over six months! That is another one of its good features - up until now, it seems to be lasting in the bottle and has not become thick or claggy.

                I use a couple of dots on my cheekbones, and then blend it in with my fingers. There is usually a little trace left on my fingers that I brush over my brow bones and in the inner corners of my eyes. Definitely do not use too much as it looks quite unnatural if you do not blend it in properly. I do not wear foundation, so can only say that directly on moisturised skin, it blends really well. The effect if applied properly is a light sheeny sparkle that I think makes my cheekbones stand out. A dot near the inner eye also works well to brighten up tired eyes.

                The only negative thing I have to say about it is that it does not smell particularly pleasant, but then you use such a small amount of it that you cannot smell it when it is on your skin. I guess if I was being fussy, I do not think that the brush applicator (which exactly likes a nail polish brush) is user-friendly - it would be much easier to apply if the applicator was more of a sponge-type applicator.

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                • Canon Pixma Pro9000 / Inkjet Printer / 9 Readings / 9 Ratings
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                  29.12.2012 17:35
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                  Would recommend as is a good quality multi-purpose home printer that is easy to use

                  We bought our Canon PIXMA Pro9000 a couple of years ago now, after much deliberating and compromise. It needed to be fast for printing documents, capable of printing good quality small (7x5" and 6x4") colour snaps, yet also able to print high quality black & white photographs in sizes up to A3. We settled on the Pro9000.

                  It looks sleek and uncomplicated...when the paper feed trays are closed! However, when they are open, it doubles the size of the space you need to house the printer. I guess you would expect this from an A3 printer, though. The trays themselves feel a little flimsy by comparison to the rest of the printer, which is very solid (and heavy). This is actually quite good when the printer is printing as it does not shudder too much, but it is not particularly portable.

                  Setting it up was easy. The printer drivers are still available to download from Canon's website, which is handy if, like me, the original CD has been mislaid and you need to set up a new computer! The user interface is not particularly intuitive, especially in relation to paper type and size selections, although a bit of trial and error sorted this (I suspect that reading the user guide could have helped here too, but then who does that).

                  The print quality is good for colour and black & white photos, and the colours on screen reproduce on the print quite well when printing from Windows' standard photo viewer. It took a little more effort with colour management software to get a good screen-to-print colour reproduction when printing from Adobe Photoshop as the printer images tended to be a little dark compared to the image on screen. Not a problem if you are just printing documents, but a little irritating if you have just spent a few hours processing photos. If you have experience in colour management, then I do not think this will be a problem for you to set it up - as a novice in such things, it did take us a few hours to sort this out.

                  Printing documents is fairly quick provided you drop the quality to 'fast' in the menu, and it has a neat way to print double-sided if you like to conserve paper.

                  A few negatives: the paper feed seems to churn round and round on occasion, which is annoying and noisy, and like noted in other reviews, it does spend a lot of time cleaning itself, which makes it slow to get going sometimes. It is quite expensive to run as the inks are used up quickly, but saying that I do not really have any experience of the cost of other printers. Some of the colours seem to run out quicker than others, which I imagine is a function of the types of images we tend to print (landscapes and black & whites), but I have never had a problem finding any of the 8 ink colours. A tip: when the software tells you to replace an ink well, remove it and shake it up a little (making sure to cover the tip) then put back, and you can get a few more prints out of it before you need to replace it.

                  Overall, we are pretty happy with this printer and have no intention of replacing it until the end of its useful life.

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                  27.12.2012 19:51
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                  Mint choc chip yummyness for sore chapped lips, the most delicious lip balm I've tried

                  For me, this is a perfect addition to the Palmer's collection of chocolate treats for the body! In its little white lip-gloss like tube, this 'lip butter' is by far the best lip balm I have used. Once the lid has been unscrewed, the simply divine choc chip ice cream smell is so strong you might actually forget this is a lip balm! You need only use a teeny amount of the butter to instantly feel the effects. The peppermint makes your lips tingle ever so slightly, really refreshing, and it is slightly glossy so leaves lips looking, smelling and tasting delicious! For me, the huge advantage that this product has over the traditional 'twist up' lip balms is that it doesn't melt, which means it is equally good to use on cold and hot days, and you can safely keep it in your pocket if you need to without it ending up being a completely unusable mess. It can be a little pricey compared with other lip balms, but in my view it lasts longer and tastes better, so well worth it!

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