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Eilidh70

Eilidh70
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Member since: 30.06.2010

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    • Cath Kidston Box Bag / Handbag / 11 Readings / 11 Ratings
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      05.05.2014 21:57
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      • Long-lasting
      • "Easy to clean"
      • Spacious

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      • "Lack of pockets may put some people off"

      Pretty, practical bags from Cath Kidston.

      As a vegetarian who avoids buying leather, it can be hard to find a handbag that's durable and made of non-animal materials. Non-leather handbags are often the ones that fall apart within five minutes. I was delighted to find these Cath Kidston box bags, which are made of cotton coated in PVC and are very tough, and am lucky enough to own two of these bags now - one has a white background and red flowers, and the other is a dark navy bag with pink flowers. The patterns of the box bags vary from time to time, and you can currently get polka dots, several floral designs or one that's covered in London landmarks. Cath Kidston's style isn't for everyone, but I think these bags are very pretty. The box bag has a zip-shut design and my two each have an inner pocket for small items such as mobile phones, although I believe the newer bags have a zipped pocket on the outside of the bag. Apart from this one pocket, the bag is plain on the inside - not one for those who love lots of compartments. I can handle having everything in the one space and rummaging through my bag when I want something, but this bag may get on your nerves if you're an organiser! I find that the design of these bags means I can carry quite a lot in a bag that's not overly large. The fabric of the bags means they are very easy to maintain - the label states the bag shouldn't be washed, but I give mine a wipe from time to time and they have stayed in good condition. I also like the fact that these bags have small handles and are definitely for carrying in your hands, not being a fan of shoulder bags. (This is a shortened version of the intended review).

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      04.05.2014 11:29
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      • "Lovely fragrance"
      • "Natural ingredients"

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      • "Difficult to open"

      Fresh, natural shower gel from Organic Surge.

      I've been a fan of Organic Surge products for a while. The range includes products made with high-quality ingredients which I find to be genuinely good for my skin, and doesn't contain any parabens, artificial perfumes or chemical nasties. It's also suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Tropical Bergamot Shower Gel is one of my favourites as I love fresh, citrus scents. (it won't post the whole review, sorry!)

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        09.04.2014 10:29
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        • " engrossing if melancholy read"
        • Well-written

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        • "Some of the characters were not well-developed"

        A melancholy tale of a life full of disappointments - well-written but rather bleak.

        I became interested in reading 'Stoner' when it was hailed as a 'lost classic' last year. The novel tells the life story of William Stoner, who comes from a poor farming background and goes off to university. His parents want him to learn about the latest farming methods to try to improve their lot, but Stoner falls in love with English literature instead and goes on to become a Professor in the English faculty. A life well-lived, you might think, except that Stoner's experiences are mainly sad ones that fail to live up to his hopes. He marries a woman, Edith, who it's clear from the outset is going to be unable to reciprocate his feelings, and his work life is marred by a career-long feud with his senior, Lomax. Stoner's tale is an engrossing one, with an almost unbearable sense of melancholy at times - not one to read if you are looking for something uplifting! One major problem I had with the novel is that a couple of the characters are almost caricatures and not well-developed enough. Stoner's wife, Edith, is painted at times as a cartoon version of a difficult woman, and I think the early scenes from their marriage would have been more powerful if she had been presented as a more well-rounded character, rather than just a device for letting us see how miserable Stoner becomes. Similarly, the feud between Stoner and Lomax begins with a disagreement over the potential of a student, Walker, with Lomax believing Walker is an excellent student and Stoner believing Walker to be incapable of independent study. Walker is painted in a very black-and-white way, almost as if he has been dropped into the novel just to antagonise Stoner, and once the feud has been ignited, we don't get to hear what happens to Walker, which disappointed me. Stoner's life does have one happy period, in which he finally finds love, and we get to see a different side to his character in this part of the book. It's a pity there isn't just a little more light and shade throughout the novel (for example, as English is his great passion, there could have been some happier passages concerning his work at the university). I think if anything, the sadness of the story would have been more powerful had his life not been one disappointment after another. 'Stoner' is an involving story, if you can stick with the fact that there aren't many happy moments in it. I'm not completely convinced that it deserves to be called a 'classic', but it's certainly a good read and I'm glad it has had some attention.

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      • Russell Hobbs 19160 / Toaster / 35 Readings / 33 Ratings
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        08.03.2014 21:25
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        A well-made, classy-looking toaster.

        I received this Russell Hobbs toaster as a gift a few months ago. I'd been wanting a four-slice toaster for a while, and this one has plenty of features to recommend it.

        ***Toaster Controls***
        I like the fact that this toaster has two sets of controls, so you can use just one side of the toaster, or make lighter and darker toast at the same time - you get the idea. Each set of controls also includes a bagel option, which I haven't used yet - apparently this allows you to toast one side only of the bagel. The controls on the toaster are intuitive and easy to operate and get the toast exactly as you want it.

        ***Appearance***
        This Russell Hobbs toaster comes in cream and metallic red versions. Mine is the metallic red. It's a very nice looking toaster with a chunky design, and it looks both contemporary and built-to-last.
        The toaster slots are fairly large and wide, which is ideal in my house as we make our own bread and it's not always cut to the same width. If you're a fan of doorstop-style slices of bread, this toaster will handle them.

        ***Price***
        The toaster retails around £40-50. I think this is a reasonable price; it takes the toaster out of the 'so cheap you don't expect it to last six months' bracket, yet it isn't too expensive either.

        ***Issues***
        I've been happy with this toaster so far, apart from one thing which happened when I'd just got it. I tend to store my toaster in a cupboard when it's not being used. With my old toaster, I would lift it by putting my fingers just inside the toaster slots, and lifting it using the chrome trim. However, as I discovered, the inside of the trim on this toaster has extremely sharp edges. The first time I lifted it, I ended up with blood everywhere! I've learned my lesson and now lift it by putting my hands flat against the outsides of the toaster, but one improvement to the design would be an indent or something to make it a little easier to lift.

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          20.10.2013 11:29
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          Simple-looking fridge freezer that does everything it needs to

          When our Miele fridge freezer stopped working recently, it was time to look for a new one. We'd been happy with the Miele one for over ten years, but as we no longer earn Miele wages, we decided to shop around, and we arrived at the snappily-named Siemens KG36VVW30G.

          ***PRICE***
          We got our Siemens fridge freezer from the John Lewis website, where it was initially priced at £486. There was a discount on offer for trading in an old fridge freezer though, so off went our broken Miele and the whole thing came in at just over £400. Looking around online, it looks like you can buy this Siemens model for about £400 anyway, but we were happy with the price we paid, which included delivery to our top-floor flat and removal of the old fridge freezer.

          ***STORAGE***
          This Siemens model had the storage capacity we were looking for - 94L of freezer space and 215L fridge space. The inside of the fridge freezer is much as you'd expect - three glass shelves in the fridge, veg/salad box at the bottom and the usual bottle and cheese storage bits on the inside of the door. The freezer has three drawers with the middle one being the biggest. One thing I was pleased with was the extra large veg/salad box in the fridge - this is much more capacious than the one we were used to and hopefully might influence our shopping habits in a good way!

          ***APPEARANCE***
          This fridge freezer has a very simple appearance. When the doors are closed, all you see is the Siemens logo on plain white doors. The handles are slots in the sides of the doors (there are slots built into both sides of the doors, so you can ask for the doors to be reversed at the point of ordering if required). The doors are slightly curved, giving the fridge freezer a slightly classier look.
          When you open the fridge door, along the top of the inside there are buttons to press to select the fridge temperature - you can choose from 2,3,4,6 and 8 degrees C. There's also a booster button for when the fridge needs a bit more oomph (for all those balmy days we get in Scotland). There is no corresponding temperature selector in the freezer, which presumably just freezes to a set temperature. We were used to a fridge freezer that had an exact temperature display, but so far so good with this one - the only slight drawback is that it would take a bit longer to notice if things weren't quite right with the temperature.

          ***EFFICIENCY***
          The Siemens KG36VVW30G has an energy rating of A++, which I'm sure is better than our old one - one of the advantages of getting a new model is that these things have improved so much over the years. The fridge freezer is also very quiet, and I haven't been aware of it making any operating noise at all.
          We were also surprised to see that this fridge freezer only needed to stand for an hour before being switched on - gone, it seems, are the days of leaving them for 24 hours for the gases to settle. Because we're quite cautious about these things, we left it for the 6 hours recommended on the John Lewis website.

          So far, we're very happy with our Siemens fridge freezer. Whether it lasts longer than the old one remains to be seen, but it does have a 2-year guarantee and it seems to be a well-built model.

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            14.10.2013 20:49
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            Great wireless printer that won't break the bank.

            When I bought my first all-in-one printer, copier and scanner, it was very exciting to be able to do things like photocopying from my own home, and the machine cost over £100. Times have moved on, and all-in-one printers have become much more commonplace and much cheaper over the years, so when my old Hewlett-Packard machine finally gave up the ghost a few months ago, it was time to see what the newer printers had to offer.

            The Canon Pixma MG3250 retails for around £40 from places like PC World, a price that would have concerned me had I not shopped around, read reviews and realised that printer prices have indeed come down as far as this. What's more, the MG3250 has the added advantage of wireless printing over my old machine. As both my partner and I use laptops, this seemed like a useful function to have.

            This Canon printer was easy to install on both our laptops, using the installation CD provided (this seemed a little old-fashioned - I'm used to 'plug and play' devices now where the computer just finds the necessary files online). My partner's laptop is a MacBook, and I had read that some people experienced difficulties when trying to get wireless printers to 'talk' to these, but I found that the installation was just as easy as it was on my Acer laptop.

            Having used the print, scan and copy functions on my printer, I'm very happy with the results from all three. The print resolution goes up to 4800x1200 dpi and the print quality is very good for both colour and black and white printing. I initially found the scan option slightly confusing, as you have to select a scan type from your computer; for example, document scan or picture scan. Each type of scan has a file type associated with it, so I had to mess around and scan my documents a couple of times using the different scan settings before I got them to save as the file types I was looking for. This is something I'll get used to in time, though.

            The wireless printing option is handy (the printer is also supplied with a USB cable, if you prefer wired printing). However, if like me you tend to switch all gadgets and broadband connection off at night, the wireless function needs to be re-established each time you want to use the printer. This is simple enough, but it does involve going through a sequence of button presses, so keep hold of the quick guide to using the printer! I can remember the sequence easily enough now, but you may need to look at it a few times to start with.

            The MG3250 installation disk does also put a lot of photo printing software on your desktop. While some of this has proved necessary (for example, the interface that allows you to specify a scan type), some of it is stuff I haven't used yet and it opens up on my desktop every time I start up the laptop, so I'll probably remove some of it in time.

            Overall, this Canon all-in-one printer does a very good job for a low price, and it also came with black and colour ink cartridges. The ink would normally cost around £25-£30, so I'm assuming that it's with the ink cartridges that the company actually makes its money. As I'm a relatively light user of printers, I don't imagine I'll be breaking the bank on the ink, but it is something to be factored into the overall cost if you print documents regularly.

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            14.09.2013 11:36
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            A delicious alternative to herbal peppermint tea.

            I've suffered on and off with IBS for many years, and this has recently been made worse by working constant night shifts (a job I've now left, thankfully). Just about every working night involved me having abdominal bloating, cramps, upset stomachs and a very gurgly digestive system that kept my colleagues entertained throughout the night.

            I've long been a fan of peppermint products to ease some of the symptoms of IBS. Years ago, when I was first diagnosed with IBS, the GP prescribed me peppermint capsules, which I wouldn't take as I'm vegetarian and avoid gelatin products, but I got the idea that peppermint was a good thing to include in my diet. Whenever IBS strikes these days, I fight back with a variety of products including peppermint oil tablets and peppermint teas.

            My partner recently bought me some Clipper Organic White Tea with Peppermint to try. These teabags are different to herbal peppermint teas, in that they contain organic white tea infused with peppermint. White tea is a Chinese tea that isn't white as the name suggests, but is a paler colour than black or red tea (and in my experience, doesn't suffer from the 'stewed' taste you sometimes get if you leave a teabag in the water for too long). From reading online, it appears that white tea does contain some caffeine, so if you're avoiding caffeine it would be better to stick to a herbal tea. White tea's also high in antioxidants, which have protective health benefits.

            Although these Clipper teabags are a different twist on peppermint tea, they've quickly become a favourite of mine. The white tea with peppermint has a lovely refreshing taste and I found that I didn't need to add anything to the tea, but then I drink unsweetened tea anyway; those with sweeter tastes may want to add sugar or a sweetener. One disadvantage I've found with herbal peppermint teas is that they can have a strong diuretic effect, meaning that I have to balance the benefits of the tea with the hours of running to the loo afterwards, but I didn't experience that problem with these Clipper teabags. This is somewhat surprising given that white tea isn't caffeine free, but perhaps it is peppermint itself that's the diuretic. In any case, I found that I could drink this Clipper tea without the unfortunate frequent toilet trips afterwards!

            Clipper Organic White Tea with Peppermint did appear to have a soothing effect on my IBS symptoms, and sipping a cup of this tea at the start of my night shifts appeared to be more beneficial than any other dietary measure I took to control my symptoms. I felt as if this tea was doing me good, and it was certainly a pleasure to drink it.

            Clipper Organic White Tea with Peppermint costs just under £2 for a box of 26 teabags. The Organic White Tea range is available in several different natural flavours and I may work may way through the others as well, but I'll certainly be buying more of the peppermint variety. Whether you're looking for a tea with specific health benefits or just a refreshing alternative to generic black tea, this makes a delicious cuppa and is one I'll be drinking for enjoyment now the dreaded night shifts are finished.

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            • Sanctuary Creme Souffle / Skin Care / 49 Readings / 48 Ratings
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              01.09.2013 10:48
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              More perfume than moisture.

              I recently received a pot of Sanctuary Crème Souffle free when I purchased another Sanctuary product in Boots - Sanctuary quite often run these promotions with full or trial sized products being given away when you make a purchase. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of Sanctuary's 'orange lid' range, which tends to be overly perfumed in comparison to their other ranges, but I'm also nosey enough about trying new products that I wanted to give this a try.

              Sanctuary Crème Souffle is a body moisturiser which, although it comes in a large tub like body butters, has a completely different texture. As suggested by the name, Crème Souffle has a whipped texture and contains air bubbles, so when you scoop some out it is a bit like scooping chocolate mousse. The novelty of the texture is something I like, and the crème goes deceptively far when applied to the skin - I've been caught out applying a bit too much of it a couple of times because it has such a light texture.

              So....the smell. As anyone who uses Sanctuary products will know, the range with the orange lid is their main range and it has a signature scent. I think it must be a 'love or hate' scent, because my mum and sister are both fans, but I find it overpowering and unpleasant. I like fragrances that are natural or evocative, but this one just hammers me over the head and yells 'PERFUME!!!' at me. It is a formal, stuffy, old-fashioned, strong floral perfume if you ask me. However, the Sanctuary range is very popular, so I may be in a minority here. It is disappointing for me that this product contains extract of mango and jojoba and yet has such an overpowering smell.

              Is it a good moisturiser? I would say yes and no. The crème does go a long way and is deceptively rich. However, after it's had time to soak into the skin, I can't detect any of the luxuriously soft feeling that you get with a really good shea butter or cocoa butter cream. My skin just feels back to normal - not dry, but not like it has been treated either. Although Sanctuary have avoided using parabens in this product, it does contain a lot of chemicals, including the aforementioned parfum and some colours.

              Sanctuary Crème Souffle retails at just over £10 for a 475ml pot. This is a large tub of crème so, for anyone who particularly likes the product, it's not a bad buy and lasts for ages. It is always worth looking out for Sanctuary's offers in Boots, too. I personally won't be buying the crème for myself, as the most positive thing about it for me was the novelty texture, while it's just an average moisturiser and too highly scented. If I received a freebie again, I'd pass it on to Mum or Sis next time, as at least they'd enjoy the smell!

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              08.08.2013 06:06
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              Good quality wipes with not too many nasty ingredients.

              I'm a fan of facial wipes for cleansing my face quickly when I've just finished a 12-hour shift. Wipes are certainly not the most environmentally-friendly products, but they are ideal for doing a quick clean-up job when you're short of time (or in my case, in post-night shift zombie mode).

              I've been using the Good Things brand of facial products on and off for a couple of years now, after discovering the brand in Boots. You can sometimes also find the Good Things range in branches of Superdrug, but my favourite place to buy these now is Sainsburys, where the range seems to be almost permanently on a half-price offer. The RRP for this pack of 25 wipes is £3.49, which would place them outside of my budget for facial wipes, but at half price I tend to choose these above other brands.

              The selling point of the Good Things range is that the products are free from certain 'nasties', such as parabens, animal ingredients and SLS. Although these are not perfect in terms of ingredients (for example, they contain 'parfum', an ingredient that always baffles me in products that are functional rather than there to provide a fragrance), they are certainly an improvement on many of the products to be found in mainstream stores.

              The blurb on the Good Things packaging also mentions that the range was developed with 'young skin' in mind, but I can report that the range is suitable for 43-year-old skin in my case, so I wouldn't be too put off by the age reference! In fact, I think the marketers may have done this range a disservice by suggesting it's for a particular age group.

              Good Things Total Wipe Out wipes are noticeably stronger, thicker and sturdier than other facial wipes I've used. They feel rather like reinforced facial tissues, rather than the thin material-like texture of some wipes. Because these are so thick, I do feel a little guilty that they're disposable wipes. They are, however, biodegradable. These are also very moist, and appear to contain more cleanser than other brands I've used. I nearly always end up using two facial wipes, but I can get away with using one of these. You don't always get what you pay for, but Good Things wipes certainly feel like they're of a better quality than cheaper wipes.

              Despite containing extracts of raspberry, cranberry and aloe vera, the scent of the wipes smells more appley to me - I suppose that is where the dreaded 'parfum' comes in. Honestly, I'd rather these smelled of nothing, or vaguely of the fruit extracts used, but I suppose there are plenty of consumers who want a definite fragrance to every product.

              Despite my grumbles about artificial fragrance, I am going to give these wipes 5 stars, as they are the most efficient facial wipes I've found, they leave my skin feeling properly cleaned and refreshed, and they're much better in terms of ingredients than many other facial ranges. I couldn't afford to buy these every week at full-price, but the on-going Sainsburys offer means these are my new first choice for facial wipes.

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              06.08.2013 02:12
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              Serious design flaw makes these earphones a letdown.

              I bought a pair of Skullcandy Dubs when my original iPod earphones gave up the ghost after many years of use. I chose the Skullcandy brand as I'd had previous good experience of this brand in the form of solid headphones. I bought these in HMV and I'm not sure if they can currently be purchased there after the recent relaunch of HMV's stores, but the earphones can still be bought in places like Amazon for around £10.

              I'll start with the good points about Skullcandy Dubs. They have a lovely clear sound with plenty of bass, which I enjoy - sometimes inexpensive earphones have a shrill, tinny sound but that's not the case with these. The lead for connecting to your device is a reasonable 1.3 metres long and seems well enough made, and the earphones came with three sets of silicone tips in different sizes, which I thought meant I'd safely find the right size to fit my ears.

              However, here begins and ends the major flaw with these earphones. Despite trying all three sizes of silicone tips, I just can't get these earphones to stay in place in my ears. I tend to use my iPod when walking to work, and with these I find that I'm having to reposition the earphones every few steps. Firstly, the sound begins to lose its bass notes and sound tinny, which lets me know the earphones are working their way out of my ears. A few seconds later, one or both will pop out of my ears completely and I'll be left flapping around trying to catch them, which is neither a good look nor a satisfactory listening experience.

              I'm not sure if my problem with these is down to the size of the earphones or the design. When I've previously used in-ear earphones, they've had more of a flat, disc-like shape sitting in the outer part of the ear. I can't help feeling that the bud shape of these contributes to making them more unstable in my ears. I've tried pushing them further into my ears, but this doesn't help them stay in place and it just feels sore. I've dug out the silicone tips from my old earphones, thinking this might solve the problem, but no luck.

              I struggled with how to give these earphones a score out of five. I can see that, if they fit and stayed in place properly, I'd be giving them four or five stars. The problem with them not staying in place might just be me, although I've never had this problem with other earphones. Because these are essentially unuseable for me, I don't feel I can give them an even average rating, so I'm giving them two stars.

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              31.07.2013 02:59
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              Distance learning is challenging but worth it.

              I started studying with the Open University in 2005, and completed my Masters in July 2013. This review will cover my experiences as a student with the OU, organised into sections which I hope will be helpful to anyone considering signing up as a student.

              ***Website and course search***
              There are several ways of using the OU website to find suitable courses. You can browse the online prospectus for undergraduate or postgraduate study, can click on quick links to fields of study (eg social sciences, arts and humanities) from the main page or, for those who know what they want to study, can perform a direct search for a topic. The OU provides many different undergraduate and postgraduate courses; for example, I've just finished a Masters in Psychological Research Methods and my partner has just signed up for one in improving healthcare practice. Unfortunately, with recent budget cuts, some social science Masters have been withdrawn (including the one I've just completed), but there is still a huge range of courses on offer.

              ***Prices and funding***
              To put it bluntly, studying with OU is not a cheap option. To give an example, the last part of my Masters, which was a 60-point course, cost around £1400. However, the OU website does give lots of information on funding options including available grants. As there was no funding available in my case, I took out an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA), a payment arrangement that lets you pay in monthly installments. Spreading the cost of my course over a year only added around £30 to the total, so it was worth doing. One obvious benefit of OU study is that you can combine work and study - this was the only way I'd ever have been able to fund my way through a Masters.

              ***Study Materials***
              During my years with OU, I noticed a definite move from printed study materials and physical copies towards online-based materials. During the last year of my course, I received only a basic study guide in paper form, and everything else was available online; this included copies of papers I needed, the OU online library and all the forms I needed to submit my coursework. I'd go as far as to say that it would be extremely challenging now to undertake OU study without having access to a computer and the internet. However, the real beauty of OU study is that everything you need is at your fingertips; there are no library trips and no hunting down important papers - it's all provided. Most courses do have textbooks that you need to purchase, and these can generally be obtained from places like Amazon or eBay.

              ***Tutor support***
              I'd say that the tutor support provided by OU is variable. Some tutors seem to go the extra mile and encourage lots of contact with their students, while others do the bare minimum and take ages to mark assignments. This became an issue during my last course, when the assignments were 6-8 weeks apart and my tutor was taking 4-5 weeks each time on marking (I needed the marked assignment each time to proceed with the next one, so this made for a more stressful study experience than I would have liked). I think OU needs to do some work to standardise the tutor support and turnaround times.

              ***Student life***
              Of course, OU study is fundamentally different from real-life study in the sense that you can't chew the fat over a drink with your fellow students. However, the courses do provide forums for students to discuss relevant issues, and these are generally moderated by course tutors and can be a handy way to get any questions answered. On my last course, some of the students also set up a private Facebook group, which has been a brilliant avenue for socialising and letting off steam, and I have come out of the course with a few interesting new friends.

              ***Career prospects***
              There seem to be two schools of thought regarding OU study. I get the sense that some universities in particular look down their noses at the OU (I was asked at a PhD interview, and not in a very nice way, why I'd chosen to study with OU). Thankfully, I think the majority opinion is actually the opposite - that OU study demonstrates that you're able to keep yourself motivated and organised and work independently. I got a lovely reference from my local OU office emphasizing the challenge I'd taken on in doing a Masters while working. I've read that lots of employers will favour an OU graduate because of the qualities you need to have to succeed at distance learning.

              ***Summary***
              I'm glad I studied with OU, and would recommend it to anyone who's determined to complete a qualification but can't afford to be a full-time student. It is expensive and sadly the sources of support for students are declining, but I found that the OUSBA account helped make the cost just about manageable. Distance learning isn't for everyone and you need to be fairly resilient and self-motivated to keep with it, but the OU is a great resource for making qualifications just that bit more accessible in this challenging time when few of us are able to go off and study full-time.

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              • SBC Lavender Gel / Skin Care / 45 Readings / 44 Ratings
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                23.07.2013 01:52
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                An easily absorbed, soothing moisturiser.

                I was given a gift of eight gels from SBC, having never heard of the company before. Apparently the name stands for Simply Beautiful Collection and the products have featured on the shopping channel QVC - admittedly, this made me a little wary of the gels when I received them, as I tend to associated shopping channels (perhaps unfairly) with overpriced, unheard-of brands.

                A 125ml bottle of Lavender Gel was included in the collection I was given. Also included were gels such as Cucumber, Aloe and a couple I didn't want to try from the offset, Collagen and Propolis Gels. Having done a little research into the company, it seems that the collagen used in their gel is not animal collagen, and they've provided information on how the collection of propolis is not harmful to bees, but as a vegetarian I still found the thought of these gels too 'icky' and avoided trying them.

                SBC gels are designed to be used in a variety of ways, unless otherwise instructed on the bottle. Most of the gels can be used for body or facial moisturising, and the gels can be combined.

                I've used the Lavender Gel for body moisturising purposes, rather than facial. This gel has extracts of lavender and witch hazel, and is reported to reduce itching, irritation and skin redness. A combination of hot weather and working night shift had left me with some red, irritated skin on my legs, so this is mainly where I've been using the gel.

                I find that the Lavender Gel does have a soothing effect, and it certainly seems to be a gentle enough product to apply to skin that's a bit irritated. Because it's a water-based gel, it is very pleasant and cooling to use in the summer, and it's quickly absorbed - I find that some moisturisers and body butters just sit on my skin in this weather, but this is much lighter and provides moisture without leaving my skin feeling greasy.

                There is a pleasant, natural lavender smell from the gel, which also makes it ideal to use at bedtime or, in my case, in the morning at the end of a shift. SBC don't use too many chemical nasties in their products, so there are no parabens in here.

                The downside to this product is the price. The 125ml bottle I have, if bought on its own, would cost £11 according to the SBC website, with a 500ml bottle being £34.50. I would say this is over-priced, and it's certainly outside of my budget. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that SBC is one of those companies whose products are often priced highly to begin with and then reduced for 'offers' - the person who bought me the gift set said it was a special offer on QVC. I've also seen these gels on sale on ebay at competitive prices.

                I'm giving this gel four stars, because it is very pleasant and soothing to use. It loses one star for the price tag, but I'd probably buy it again at a more reasonable price, and it doesn't seem too difficult to find it with the price reduced.

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                • More +
                  13.07.2013 10:28
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                  Not the best ladyshave ever.

                  I've had the Philips HP6366 Ladyshave Sensitive for about a year now. I've always used shavers as opposed to other types of hair removal, being something of a wimp, and I was looking specifically for a rechargeable model as I think battery shavers are a bit outdated now and it's always a pain when the batteries run out and you have no spare ones in the house!

                  The Philips HP6366 retails for around £30 and boasts certain features which are supposed to make the shaving experience more effective. It has a double foil, and the head of the shaver is designed to move so that the shaver follows the line of your skin. The shaver can be used in wet or dry conditions. It has an 'aloe vera' strip which is supposed to help moisturise the skin as you shave, although I'm never sure about these features and would rather the shaver came without it. Personally, I tend to shave my legs just before getting into the shower, so the 'aloe vera' is not something I'd get any benefit from, and I always suspect these things are short-lived gimmicks on shavers anyway.

                  The shaver is recharged by connecting it to the plug supplied with the shaver, which has a green indicator light to show that it's charging. I tend to leave mine charging for a good few hours (it can take up to ten hours to charge fully), and the manufacturer's notes say that the Ladyshave gives 40 minutes of shaving after being fully charged - mine only needs charged every couple of weeks, so it's not very demanding as chargeable gadgets go.

                  So, how effective is the Ladyshave Sensitive? Let's be honest - if you're used to hair removal systems like waxing or epilation, this isn't going to cut it. I find that this model isn't so good on tough hairs and tends to skip over problem areas, so I need to keep going over the same bit of skin a few times to get decent results. As I tend to wear long floaty skirts and just shave my legs for comfort, the shaver does an acceptable job, but I can imagine that anyone with legs to show off would be driven mad trying to get good results from this.

                  The shaver head does need a little maintenance with the brush provided, but this is easy enough to do - the foil cover is removable and the little brush can be used to remove hair from the foils, helping the shaver to work more effectively.

                  One slight problem I have encountered with this model is that you get little warning when it needs re-charged. With battery shavers, I could always tell when the sound of the shaver was changing as the batteries started to run out. With this one, I find that it just stops dead. I tend therefore to try and guess when it's due to be charged, rather than leaving it until the last minute.

                  This isn't the best shaver I have ever used, and I'm giving it three stars. It does an adequate job for me, but I'd probably pick a different model when the time comes to renew it, unless this was the only rechargeable one available.

                  ****Pros****
                  Rechargeable
                  Wet and Dry shaving
                  Easy to maintain

                  ****Cons****
                  Misses stubborn hairs
                  Suddenly runs out of charge
                  Relatively expensive

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                • NUS Extra Card / Other Service / 48 Readings / 47 Ratings
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                  11.07.2013 05:05
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                  Not to be missed if you're studying.

                  I've had an NUS Extra card for the last couple of years as I've been completing a Masters with the Open University. Many people don't realise OU study can entitle you to buy one of these cards.

                  The basic NUS Extra card costs £12 per year. For an extra £2.99, it can be enhanced to serve as an ISIC (International Student Identity Card) as well, giving discounts in many locations abroad. My first NUS Extra card came with this enhancement for free, although it wasn't something I needed. There are also a couple of other variations on the NUS Extra card: NUS Apprentice Extra and Graduate Extra, for recent graduates.

                  The NUS website (www.nus.org.uk) contains lots of information of interest to students, such as welfare and rights information, and campaign updates. I have had some interesting email updates from the NUS since purchasing my card, even though my main motivation in getting it was to save money!

                  So, those student discounts. The NUS Extra card entitles the holder to certain discounts, which vary from year to year. Currently, there are discounts on major chain restaurants (for example, 20% off at Frankie and Benny's and Pizza Hut), shopping websites (5% off certain departments of Amazon), fashion and technology discounts and, of course, discounts on student staples like printer ink and stationery (no, not alcohol and gigs).

                  Admittedly, my favourite discount, and the one I use on a weekly basis, is the 10% off at Superdrug. I am in Superdrug all the time, doing the staff's heads in as they have an unfeasibly complicated procedure for processing the discount, and I am at the stage of being able to talk newer staff through the steps. With this discount alone, my NUS Extra card saves me a lot of money.

                  I've also found on occasion that the NUS Extra card can be used for discounts that aren't listed on the website. For example, local restaurants have offered a vague 'student discount', and I've found that they are happy to accept the NUS card as proof of student status.

                  In previous years, the NUS Extra card ran for an academic year, rather than a calendar year. I didn't understand this the first time I bought one, and ended up with a card that was only valid for a few months, as I'd applied towards the end of an academic year. I see this has been fixed now, and NUS Extra cards now last for a full year from the date of purchase, unless you buy the card directly from your college or university - for some reason these still expire in the autumn.

                  For anyone who meets the criteria for an NUS Extra card (or one of the other NUS cards), it's a good investment and it's very easy to recoup the initial cost of the card. I'm sure I save several times the cost of the card from the Superdrug discount alone, not to mention the times when I'm out for family meals and can get a discount off the total food bill.

                  As I've just been offered a PhD studentship and will be returning to the world of full-time study now I've completed my OU course, I expect to be buying these cards for another few years - oldest student in town!

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                  • Aussie Moist Shampoo / Hair Care / 45 Readings / 44 Ratings
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                    08.07.2013 13:17
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                    No miracles here.

                    Aussie Moist Shampoo, which has recently been rebranded Aussie Miracle Moist Shampoo in line with the company's Miracle range, is aimed at those with dry or damaged hair. It's been a few years since I last used any Aussie products - the company used to be one I looked for in the high street shops, but it's now owned by the mighty Procter and Gamble, so doesn't tick the right ethical boxes for me any more. I picked up this shampoo recently when I had to choose from a limited range in a small shop, and it didn't have the worst ingredients list on the shelf.

                    I tend to be quite horrible to my hair when I've just done a 12-hour night shift. I give it a cursory wash through with shampoo only, for the sake of getting it dried quickly and getting to my bed. As my hair tends towards dryness and frizziness, this treatment can make for unhappy hair, which this shampoo claims to address.

                    Going on appearance, Miracle Moist Shampoo looks like it would do the job. The shampoo is rather thick and creamy in texture, and looks almost like it already contains some conditioner. Unlike some creamier shampoos, it lathers very well, no doubt because the second and third ingredients on the list are the foaming agents Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. These ingredients tend to have a drying effect on my skin, so I need to be careful with this shampoo and remove every trace of it from the back of my neck and ears.

                    The shampoo contains extract of Macadamia Nut. Despite this, it smells strongly of bubblegum to my nose. It's not the most unpleasant scent in the world, but is a slightly odd one for a shampoo. I prefer products that have a more natural smell, and would have preferred the nut extract in this case to be detectable from the scent, rather than just smelling the 'Parfum' the shampoo contains.

                    So, does the miracle moist effect work from using the shampoo alone? Sadly, in my case the answer is no, and this shampoo has been no more beneficial to my hair than the own-brand shampoos I would usually pick up from my local Boots or Superdrug. I did set the shampoo a bit of a challenge, using it on out-of-condition hair and without its Miracle Moist Conditioner counterpart, but I would have hoped for just a little bit less frizz and dryness given the name of this shampoo.

                    Aussie Miracle Moist Shampoo retails for around £4.50 for a 300ml bottle. There are regular promotions available, and for anyone who's tempted to get this, I'd recommend waiting for a multi-buy deal and getting some conditioner as well. The shampoo on its own gets a middle-of-the-road rating from me.

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