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To peel, or not to peel? That is the very question I would ask myself when presented with the opportunity to eat an orange. I would weigh up the benefits of nutrition and satisfaction with the costs of orange fingernails and citrus juice down my front. More often than not, the costs would win out and I would say nay to the orange and opt for something much less problematic instead. But no more! For the answer we all seek is here, and if you head on down to your local Lakeland today, you too can purchase yourself The Orange Peeler.
The Orange Peeler is plastic and is about 5-6cm in length. It's a fairly basic implement yet its unassuming and perhaps baffling appearance belies how bloody marvellous a gadget it actually is.
To use it you just put your index finger through the ring and face the curved bit away from you. To peel an orange, you simply score the skin by running the curved section across the orange from pole to pole (let's imagine for a moment that an orange has poles). There is a sharp point on the inside of the curved section which cuts into the skin easily without attacking the orange beneath. I usually score my oranges into four or five sections as I find that this is enough. But hey, you can do what you like. Once the orange has been scored you use the front end of the peeler to get under the edge of each section of scored peel and gently prise it upwards and away from the orange.
It's very simple to do and is a heck of a lot less messy than using your fingers. The peeler easily gets under the skin of the orange once it has been scored preventing your fingernails from smelling of orange for the rest of the day. Another bonus is that the usual splatter of citrus into the eye is avoided as the peeler provides a sufficient barrier between the orange and your face.
It's not just oranges that the peeler comes in handy for. It's also useful if you struggle to peel clementines, satsumas and tangerines. Because of the small size of such fruit I find that I can dispense with the scoring ritual altogether here and just gouge my way into the skin with the peeler (again preventing the orange-under-the-fingernail problem) and then peel back an edge to work with. The skin usually holds together so that it can be peeled in one go or at least enough so that you can then work the rest free with your fingers.
Leaving fruit to one side for a moment, the peeler also does a good job at removing the shell from hard boiled eggs, although obviously there is no need to score the egg first (unless you want to, of course).
Once used, the orange peeler is easy to wash. A simple rinse or swish in the bowl will suffice before drying and putting away until next time. They are very small and it can be easy to lose them in cluttered surroundings so I keep mine amongst the teaspoons in the cutlery drawer for safe keeping. A couple of years after first purchasing, both peelers are still perfectly effective and have shown no signs of wear or disappearance.
Life is much simpler now I have my orange peelers. I can approach an orange without fear and peel it within seconds without the usual frustration that comes with using my bare hands. It's much easy than using your fingers and requires a lot less effort and strength, as well as avoiding the usual pitfalls of citrus juice in the eye and orange rind behind the fingernail. Eating an orange is definitely a much more satisfying experience and I now consume more oranges as a result of owning the orange peelers.
Should you wish to change your life in the same way, you can get yourself a pack of two peelers from Lakeland for £1.29. They are available in either orange or green, although I would certainly recommend that you buy the green ones to lessen the chances of throwing them out with the peel. If you go for the orange-coloured ones, you're just asking for trouble.
Several years ago, as a good environmentally-conscious citizen, I went about replacing all the light bulbs in the house with energy-saving bulbs. These are, as the name suggests, great for saving energy and thus reducing bills and saving the world and all that. They are, however, no good whatsoever when it comes to doing anything that requires light. So to provide additional light for my computer desk I required a lamp. For three years now this lamp has been sat on my desk, after I originally bought it from Argos for the grand sum of £7.99.
Usually, I do a lot of research before buying anything but on this occasion I didn't have too many requirements. Firstly, it had to give off light, and secondly, it had to be cheap. One of the quirky design features of this particular lamp is an ultra-bendy neck allowing the head of the lamp, and ultimately the light, to be directed at your chosen angle. Although not enough to cause me a great deal of excitement at the time, I thought this might be a mildly useful addition and at worst something which could be ignored altogether.
== In the Box ==
The lamp emerges from the box like a contortionist (I say this because I have been unable to fit it back into the box since) with absolutely no assembly required. After removing the plastic cable tie and plug socket cover (both of which I can never bring myself to discard, convinced they will be of some use in the future) it's just a case of putting it where you want and plugging it in. The lead is quite long (about 1.5m) so it reaches from the monitor shelf on my desk to the extension lead on the floor with ease.
== Design ==
The lamp is predominantly black with the only exception being a silver metal rod protruding down from the lamp's head (to enable you to move the head without directly touching it). The whole thing is made of a rather cheap-feeling matte plastic with a scratchy feel to it. For the price you don't expect the finest materials, but I still think it is a decent-looking lamp. It certainly doesn't look out of place on my oak computer desk and alongside my flat-screen PC monitor. The slightly streamlined and sleek design makes it look a little more expensive than some other budget lamps and so it's not something that you will necessarily have to hide in the cupboard when entertaining high-class guests. Not that I get any of those.
When in a standard lamp position, similar to that shown in the dooyoo picture, its height is approximately 27cm tall and the base measures roughly 13cm x 13cm. If I'm being picky then I think that the base is a little on the large size and could have done with being a bit narrower. I only say this because space is at a premium on my computer desk, but it's not a major problem by any means.
The base of the lamp itself is solid and quite heavy, which along with the rubber feet ensures that it doesn't slip about when positioned on a flat surface.
== In Use ==
The lamp's light source is provided by a single halogen bulb encased in the lamp's head behind a transparent piece of plastic. When turned on using the easily-accessible switch on the base, the bulb immediately illuminates to full strength ("You hear that, energy-saving bulbs!") throwing out a good amount of light onto my desk. I am very pleased with the amount and quality of the light cast out by this lamp. My experience of cheap standard-bulb lamps is that they are nowhere near as bright as this and also tend to produce a yellowish light - the light here appears to be much 'whiter', which makes things much clearer and easier to read. Halogen bulbs tend to be brighter (although possibly a bit too bright for a bedside light) and also have the added benefit of lasting much longer than a standard light bulb.
The improved light and brightness comes at a cost though, as halogen bulbs get significantly hotter. The plastic shield in front of the bulb gets remarkably hot very quickly when in use and can cause a nasty burn if touched directly. I once got a blister from touching it with my thumb (send your sympathy via private message). The surrounding lamp head also gets quite hot, but not to a dangerous degree. Although it is still best to use the rod provided to position the lamp how you want it.
The neck of the lamp is partly flexible, hence the name gooseneck, and does come in quite handy at times. Only the top part of the neck is bendable - the bottom, vertical part is rigid - but it's enough to be able to position the lamp however I want. You could have it pointing directly the ceiling or at the wall behind the lamp as well as having it positioned to either side, whilst the base remains unmoved. The neck is easy to bend with hardly any effort and yet is still strong enough to hold whatever position you put it in. It is sometimes necessary to manipulate the neck by hand rather than relying entirely on the metal rod, but since the neck doesn't become hot this is no problem at all.
I find this feature very useful on my computer desk because it means that I can fine-tune the position of the lamp to have the light directed precisely where I want it; such as at my keyboard, desk, printer etc.
== Problems ==
Unfortunately, for all the benefits of this lamp I did experience one issue with it. I first bought one of these lamps about four years ago, but that one only lasted just over a year before the lower part of the neck became a little lose and the lamp stopped working; possibly as a result of some wiring coming lose inside the base. I felt confident enough to buy the same lamp as a replacement though and this one, which I have had for about three years now, is still working well and hasn't suffered a similar fate as yet. The bulb has also not yet needed replacing and has maintained its brightness.
Another potential issue with this lamp is the difficult in replacing the halogen bulb should the need arise. The bulbs can be difficult to source (the exact type is printed on the lamp - 20W G4) and are a bit difficult to change. To access the bulb you first need to unscrew two small metal plates that hold the plastic shield in place and then ensure that you do not directly touch the new halogen bulb as you fit it (hold the bulb with some kitchen roll or a cloth). The oil from human fingers can create 'hotspots' on the surface of the bulb which could lead to the bulb exploding once it heats up. You'll want to avoid this.
So halogen bulbs have their benefits (brighter, whiter light) but they are nowhere near as simple to replace as regular light bulbs. Thankfully halogen bulbs do also last a long time, mine is still working after three years or moderate usage, so it's possible that you may never need to change the bulb during the lamp's lifetime. I have a different halogen lamp on my bedside table which has lasted over six years with the original bulb.
== Summary ==
In summary I have been more than happy with this lamp over the years. The quality of light provided by the long-lasting halogen bulb is much brighter and clearer than a standard lamp and the gooseneck design makes it very practical and versatile. The main downside is that it does get very hot, especially the light-emitting part of the head, and therefore may not be suitable for everyone, in particular young children. On the whole though this is a very effective, great-value desk lamp and is well worth the price.
That price is currently £6.39 from Argos, and is available in either clear or black.
Thanks for reading :)
There are numerous times in my life where I find myself thwarted by a lack of light. Either I'm scrambling around on my hands and knees trying to recover the latest object to have inexplicably bounced and rolled under the settee, or I'm peering into the inky abyss down the back of the cooker where yet another kitchen utensil has absconded. Then there are the times when I'm taking the rubbish out on a night only for someone, in passing, to decide to conserve energy by turning the kitchen light off - thus extinguishing my sole source of illumination when I'm in the back yard - leaving me to gingerly navigate my way back through the darkness towards the hazy outline of the back door. Hoping that I don't step on any slugs (or worse) in the process.
What I wouldn't give to have a torch handy when such situations arise. However, carrying a regular-sized torch around at all times is not a very practical solution. On the other hand, a mini LED keyring torch costing just £3.86 is the ideal solution.
== Design and Size
The Energizer LED Keyring is a chrome metal device with a black rubberised 'on' button at the top and the word 'Energizer' engraved into the metal just above it. A single LED light protrudes slightly from the front, but this is very sturdy and I have no fears of it breaking whilst being carried around in my pocket. The keyring attachment is fixed through a generous semi-circular hole at the back end of the device.
I wanted something small so that I could carry it around in my pocket wherever I go. Measuring in at approximately 50 x 24 x 10 mm, the Energizer LED torch is very compact and is about as wide as my front door 'Yale' key (and a bit shorter) and no thicker than my memory pen which is also attached to my keys. The increased bulk that this torch adds to my pocket is not significant enough to cause any problems so I can carry it around on my keyring comfortably. The only issue could be the extra weight; weighing about the same as three £1 coins. This doesn't make much difference to me but is worth considering.
The main reason for buying any torch is to illuminate the darkness around you and this device belies its small size by giving off a strong bright light and doing just that. I was initially surprise how bright one LED could be. I've had multi-LED torches in the past that haven't been as bright as this single-LED torch. It easily has the strength to light up the space underneath the settee and is equally effective at revealing the murky bottom of the space behind the cooker, although in hindsight it might have been better off left unseen. The beam of bright white light is also strong enough to shine up to several feet in front of the operator, this makes it ideal for navigating my way through the darkness of the back yard on a night. It also comes in handy for finding my way through the loft in the dark - the main light of which expired many moons ago and has yet to be replaced (but I'll get round to it one day).
The Nichia* white LED claims to last up to 8000 hours (a claim I have no desire to test out) and is powered by a single Energizer 2032 lithium battery. The product fails to specify how long the battery will last, but I would hazard a cynical guess that it won't last 8000 hours. There are 4 small screws on the bottom of the torch perhaps suggesting that changing the battery is possible, but you will need one of those impossibly small screwdrivers to do so - the type you get in one of those sets out of a Christmas cracker and keep for this exact purpose but inevitably lose long before you need it.
There is one issue I have found with this torch and that is the requirement to keep one's thumb pressed firmly on the 'on' button to emit the light. For the purposes of pocket transportation, this button design is favourable to an alternative on/off switch, which might result in you unintentionally leaking away those precious 8000 hours by activating it in your pocket. However, with this design I find that I need to press very firmly with my thumb to keep the light on. I've found it all too easy to release pressure on the button whilst going about my endeavours, with the light going off as I do so. Not only is this quite frustrating but I could also be unsuspectingly sending Morse code messages to my neighbours as I take out the trash. Bending my thumb 90 degrees and pressing down with my thumb nail seems to fare a bit better but I wish the button was a little more sensitive so that it didn't require a thumb-war-esque technique.
== Quality and Summary
In terms of build quality this little torch is very impressive. The metal design and rubberised button give the device a high-quality feel and the LED torch is not short of brightness. Compared to the other keyring torches I have acquired in the past, usually as some free give-away advertising something or another, the Energizer stands head and shoulders above the rest in all departments. It's a shame that the 'on' button isn't a little more user-friendly but if you want a quality, compact and bright torch to carry with you wherever you go then this device would be a very useful acquisition. It's certainly made my life easier.
£3.86 from amazon.co.uk (sold by Fast Batteries UK)
Thanks for reading :)
* Nichia, for those who are interested, is a Japanese company specialising in the manufacture of LEDs.
Shaving is one of those perpetual nuisances in my life. I am generally a lazy person but there are some things that just need to be done with regular monotony. Some people suit a beard. I don't. Therefore I maintain a clean-shaven appearance 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Whilst a beard may be a grey area in terms of appeal, nasal hair is not. Nobody suits nasal hair. If you think you do, then you've been lied to. Probably by yourself.
So, to keep myself on the correct side of social decorum I use a nasal hair trimmer to keep such hairs at bay. Many years ago I would just use a pair of tweezers and pluck such hairs from existence, but this method is both tedious and eye-wateringly painful, not to mention time-consuming. It would also raise serious questions concerning my activities in the bathroom, from which intermittent cries of pain and bad language could be heard around the house.
When my previous trimmer finally conked out after over 5 years of trusty service I saw the Panasonic trimmer on amazon and thought that it would be a good replacement. My only requirement was that the device cuts hairs without pulling them, so with this exact claim in the product description backed up by dozens of approving customers, I was happy to put forward £10 of my money.
=== Set-Up and Design ===
In the box you get the trimmer; an AA battery (no need to pilfer one from the TV remote); a protective plastic cap for the trimmer head; a small cleaning brush and a miniature textbook of instructions - but the English section is thankfully thin and brief. The bottom half of the trimmer removes with an effortless twist to hold the supplied single AA battery. That's the extent of the set-up. It's pretty much ready to use straight from the box, although I would advise a quick rinse of the trimmer head under the cold tap first.
Once extricated from the packaging, the first thing that struck me was the weight of the device, or lack thereof. It is very light but thanks to the stylish and smooth design it doesn't feel cheaply made at all. Once the battery is inserted it does have a more reassuring weight to it, which makes it very feel comfortable to hold and operate.
The slightly curved design of the trimmer fits easily in my hand and is comfortable to hold and direct whilst operating. The size is also ideal to maintain a firm, controlled grip on the device when in use. The large on/off switch on the front of the device is also easy to use and something I really like - more so that my previous trimmer, which required a calculated and fiddly twist of the trimmer's body to power it on.
Another plus point is that the trimmer will happily stand up on any flat surface without fear of it falling over, with the wide base allowing it to stand firmly balanced. This is ideal for any potentially narrow bathroom surfaces such as a shaving cabinet or the edge of a sink.
=== So far, so good. How about its effectiveness? ===
Unfortunately, the trimmer falls at the final and most important hurdle. The idea is to gently insert the head of the trimmer into you nostril (not too far in!) and gently move the trimmer head around your nose in slow circular movements as it cuts the hairs.
I'm not sure what apparently makes me different from the many satisfied customers on amazon - perhaps I have a different type of nose hair - but rather than gently cutting my nasal hairs free, the trimmer will pull hairs from my nose with an uncaring ruthlessness. It's almost as though I'm the last 'patient' of the day, and the trimmer has to get home for its tea. It does cut some hairs as designed, without uprooting them first, but every few seconds one gets caught in the trimmer and is pulled viscously with a clunky jarring sound to accommodate it. This is not just a one off, but a regular part of the trimming routine, rendering an already unpleasant experience even more unpleasant.
The trimmer head houses a sharp double-edged blade which spins around at great speed and cuts hairs as they are swept into the notches of the head. I'm not a great fan of this design because I think it's ineffective and slow. By its own admission, the Panasonic trimmer is not suitable for cutting hairs below 0.5mm, ergo it will not cut hairs all the way down, instead leaving you with a stubble effect inside your nostril. My former trimmer had a trimming head similar to a (head) hair trimmer - the type used to straighten out sideburns - which I found left me with a much closer shave.
The other downside to the spinning blade design of the Panasonic is that it takes a lot longer to clear my nose of unwanted hair, because it relies on hairs entering the head of the trimmer for them to be cut. After several minutes, the job is still not complete and there is always a rogue hair or two that have somehow evaded the psychotic trimming blade despite it doing 50 laps of my nostril. My old trimmer would only take about 30 seconds per nostril to do a good job, and it would have attacked every hair without fail - and without pulling a single one.
The device is reasonably quiet though when turned on; certainly not as loud as, say, an electric toothbrush. However, with the blade spinning round very fast, the gentle whirring noise takes on an ominous tone and adds to the terror as you wait for the next hair to be violently whipped from your nasal cavity.
Not just a one trick pony, the Panasonic trimmer can also be used on eyebrows and 'beard shaping', although I haven't used either of these functions. I would again draw attention to the fact that it cannot cut hairs below 0.5mm so it won't be as effective as a wet shave razor blade at removing the odd unwanted hair from your face.
=== Cleaning ===
Cleaning the trimmer is thankfully a simple affair and the design of the Panasonic is to be applauded here. With it being fully waterproof, you simply immerse the head in water (under the tap, or in a sink if you are so inclined) and switch it on. Remember to twist the grooved blue band open just below the trimmer's head first, to ensure that the water from the tap can flow around the inside of the trimmer head and remove any bits of hair as it flows. Alternatively, you can use the small brush included in the box to flick the hair from the blade. I would advise the water method though. It's far more thorough and just as quick.
=== Summing Up ===
Overall, I am very disappointed with the trimmer because it didn't deliver what it had promised. Not only does it make the already tedious routine of nasal hair excavation a painful experience, but it also takes a long time to do an effective job due to the flawed trimming design. I persisted with it for over a month until I finally threw it to the back of the cupboard in disgust and reordered another trimmer - an identical replacement of my former Philips NT9110, which I now appreciate much more.
The Panasonic trimmer is currently priced at £12.99 on amazon and available for free delivery. Whilst the price isn't painful, the trimmer most certainly is and therefore this is not a product that I can recommend. Except, maybe, to someone I don't like.
Thanks for reading :)
Mark Twain once said: "Golf is a good walk spoiled".
However, what he in fact meant to say was: 'Golf is a good walk spoiled by having to carry your own clubs over your shoulder and continually having to put them down and pick them up again between every shot'... He was just cut off mid-sentence.*
If only he had come across the affordable and back-saving Golf Locker Lightweight Racer Golf Trolley pictured above, then he might have enjoyed his strolls around the golf course a great deal more.
When I took up golf I initially carried my clubs over my shoulder as I zigzagged my way around the golf course. Although this was the cheap solution it certainly wasn't the friendliest on my back. By the time I'd finished a round it was evidently clear to me that a bag containing several metal clubs and a copious amount of spare golf balls amounted to something that is quite heavy. So, after my initial reluctance I consequently decided upon this golf trolley to make my excursions a little less painful.
== Features ==
> Lightweight stainless steel frame
> Adjustable straps to fit all sizes of golf bags
> Compact foldable design
> Detachable all-weather wheels
> Scorecard holder with accompanying tee and ball holders
> Dimensions (when erected): Height: 102cm, Width: 68cm, Diagonal length: 144cm
> Folded Dimensions: Height: 87cm, Width: 47cm, Depth: 36cm
> Price: £28 delivered
=== Set up ===
Straight from the box the trolley is incredibly straightforward to set up. All I needed to do was unfold the frame (in one motion) and attach the two wheels, which just push and click into place. It's as simple as that. No screws to tighten, no instructions to decipher and no fiddly connections.
Unfortunately there's also no real packaging of any kind. The trolley comes in a cardboard box, which, whilst attractive, provides little to no protection. The trolley is therefore very susceptible to damage during transit and to highlight this mine arrived with one of the plastic golf ball holders cracked. For me this was a minor issue and like most problems was solved with a little duct tape. This very issue did crop up a few times in the product reviews I read beforehand though so it seems that these are a weak point of the trolley. Hopefully the manufacturer will eventually listen and improve the packaging.
=== Attaching a golf bag ===
A golf bag rests onto the trolley's two bag supports and is secured using the adjustable snapping clasp straps. It's designed to fit all golf bags big and small. My golf bag is a 'stand bag' with pop-out legs but still fits onto the trolley fairly comfortably. The bottom of my bag has a protruding base which prevents the bag from sitting snugly on the lower support and to compensate for this I have to get the straps very tight to hold my bag firmly in place and stop it from rotating during motion. The straps are not the thickest and they do feel a little flimsy but so far they have worked well.
The bag supports are quite shallow (the top support in particular) so that they can fit most golf bags. This being the case, I find that there is an overreliance on the straps to keep my smaller stand bag securely in place. When going over the more uneven terrain, the rocky movement tends to upset the positioning of my bag and I occasionally have to realign it so that it sits perfectly straight on the trolley. This isn't a huge issue but some anti-slip supports would have helped.
Despite being very top heavy when uninhabited and liable to fall over if you're not careful, with a bag attached the trolley is very stable. Tipping it up would take a purposeful effort. I was worried that for the price the frame wouldn't be very strong but I am very impressed with the quality. The construction feels very well-built and sturdy and I have no fears of it suddenly collapsing or buckling with use. It is stainless steel after all.
=== On the Course ===
Being a 2-wheeled trolley it is designed primarily for pulling behind you as you walk, rather than pushing like a 3-wheeled trolley. It can still be pushed but if you're not careful you risk digging the wheel-less leading end of the trolley into the ground and tipping your clubs all over. This should raise a laugh or two if witnessed but is not really what you want.
I prefer to pull mine anyway as I find it easier and I can see where I'm going better - so there's less chance of me wheeling my clubs unwittingly into a bunker. The handle is solid and comfortable but its height is not adjustable. If you are quite tall then you may have to stoop slightly to pull the trolley behind you, which could prove uncomfortable. It's about right for me (I'm 5'11") but if I were much taller then I would find it a little awkward.
I find the trolley exceptionally easy to manoeuvre around the course. Despite the weight of my bag and all its contents the trolley requires very little effort to pull, even uphill, due to its lightweight and balanced design. The trolley travels smoothly across fairways without clunking around and the wheels provide good traction on both the fairways and in the rough (the latter has been rigorously tested). The wide wheels deal with uneven ground reasonably well and they don't sink into the boggy patches of the course - beside the lake for example, as I optimistically search the reeds for my golf ball.
=== Scorecard Holder ===
Attached below the handle of the trolley is a scorecard holder which also has three tee holders, a pencil holder and 2 ball holders (which may or may not be cracked on arrival). The whole scorecard holder is adequate but nothing spectacular and sadly the quality here lets the rest of the trolley down.
The scorecard part is basic but adequate. I need to fold my scorecards in half before sliding them into the plastic clip because they are otherwise too wide for the holder and too thin to stay securely in place. The plastic flip-up scorecard guard is handy when it's raining but I had to rearrange the clubs in my bag so that this actually flips up unobstructed. The guard should also click when closed but mine is slightly warped and only rests over my card. But overall it holds my scorecard so that I know where it is and that's all I require from it.
The tee holders are very handy for my plastic graduated tees but can be a little stiff. The good news is that they don't fall out, but the bad news is that you might have a little trouble getting the things out when you actually need them - potentially pricking your fingers in the process (plastic tees can be sharp!)
The ball holders when not broken are a little tight and getting a ball in and out requires a little force. In fact I find the cracked ball holder (duct taped to keep it together) easier to use because getting a ball in and out requires less force. It's a shame about the quality because they are undoubtedly a handy addition and I find them useful to ensure that I always have a spare ball or two on hand for when I send my first tee off shot out of bounds or into the nearest lake.
The pencil holder is less useful. It's very weak and broke at some point during its first outing - resulting in the loss of a perfectly good Ikea pencil in the process.
=== Folding away ===
I am a man of little patience. So little in fact, that my presence on a golf course is an enigma itself. It's a good job then that, come the end of my round, the process of putting my golfing paraphernalia into the car boot and driving away is not protracted by faffing about with the trolley.
The trolley in question folds down with minimal effort thanks to the simple design which only has a quick one-step folding process. The hinge behind the top bag support unfastens quickly and the top half of the trolley folds backwards drawing in the legs. The end result is very compact and fits in my boot without having to make any particular space for it first. It's also small enough to fit in the foot well behind one of the front seats (providing no one is sat there to protest).
The wheels also remove with the simple click of a button to make the trolley even more compact - this is also handy if they are particularly caked in mud and grass, as they can be stored separately in a carrier bag. The lack of ridges or grooves on the wheels makes them easy to clean when you get home. Not that I can usually be bothered - they're only going to get muddy again, I say.
=== Summary ===
Overall, this is a very good quality product and its excellent design makes it very practical both on and off the golf course. The scorecard holder could definitely be better and the packaging needs to be improved to protect the delicate ball holders in transit but my opinion of the trolley is still very high despite these minor issues. It does exactly what I want it to do on the course with smooth and effortless manoeuvrability and is quick and simple to set up and put away again. For under £30 this is a great value trolley and well worth buying to save your back during those long enjoyable walks around the golf course. Highly recommended.
=== Price/Availability ===
£24.99 + £2.99 delivery from Amazon Marketplace (sold by Direct-Golf)
£24.99 + £2.99 delivery from www.direct-golf.co.uk
Thanks for reading :)
* this bit may not be true.
There are some things in life that I just tend to acquire without having any recollection of ever buying. This triple clothes brush is one of them. But despite its mysterious inception it has gone on to prove itself as a handy gadget on many occasions.
It's difficult to get excited about a clothes brush, but I'm going to try...
Firstly, you may be wondering why this brush is described as a triple clothes brush. No? Well I'll tell you anyway. Unlike a lot of clothes brushes that just have the brush part, this one also has a velour pad (the red bit) and an outer Velcro strip. These three separate parts result in a multifunctional brush which should remove any unwanted addition from your clothing. In theory.
=== The Brush ===
This is the 'general purpose' part of this triple-function tool. This is ideal for dusting down jackets that haven't been worn for months (or adequately stored) and also for removing hairs and other bits from most types of material.
The bristles are soft but dense and therefore ideal for sweeping the dust from the shoulders of my 'Occasion Suit Jacket'. With its few and far between excursions to the world outside the wardrobe this particular item of clothing is often dusty when required. The brush is very effective here and I can eradicate dust from my shoulders within seconds. It's also extremely useful for removing dust and other light marks from trousers and other black clothes. Perhaps as part of the same poorly stored suit.
Another good use of the bristles is for removing the tissue from my jeans pocket after they've been through the wash - an unfortunate but sadly frequent event. The bits of disintegrated tissue are then fairly easy to pick out of the brush bristles and dispose of.
I also use the brush on my coat which after not being warn for a while will often need a good spruce up. The brush is very versatile and can also be used on most soft and hard fabrics, not just clothing. I use it to dust my computer chair and sofa cushions from time to time.
=== The Velour Pad ===
What is the velour pad? Apart from being the only time I've seen the word 'velour' used in a sentence, this is the bit chiefly designed to remove fluff and other soft fibres from garments and other fabrics.
I mostly use this for removing blanket fluff from bed sheets. My offending blanket sheds so much fluff on a continual basis that I'm surprised there's still anything of it left. Rather than buy a new blanket, which would be far too rational a solution, I partake in a regular de-fluffing routine - which is not the tedious chore that it sounds thanks to the efficacious velour pad.
This red pad on the reverse side of the brush, when brushed from right to left, will pick up any such soft loose fibres very effectively. I can de-fluff a heavily fluffed duvet cover in less time than it takes to change a pillowcase. The only consideration here is that the pad needs cleaning regularly for it to maintain its effectiveness. The fluff that is picked up by the one-way fibres of the pad can be removed easily by brushing a finger or thumb along the velour in the opposite direction and then pulling off the fluff as it gathers at one side. A moist digit will work better here, or alternatively you can use a damp cloth.
A word of warning though. Be sure to brush in the direction of the arrow printed on the brush's handle. Otherwise you risk depositing whatever is currently being held in the fabrics of the velour onto the very thing you're trying to clean. Also, this bit is not suitable for a suit jacket. I have tried and for some reason I only succeeded in applying an even thicker layer of dust to my jacket. And yes, I was brushing the right way. Serves me right for being adventurous I suppose. Back to the trusty brush bit it is.
=== The Velcro ===
In my opinion this is the most useless part of the brush. This Velcro strip wraps around the outside edge of the brush head (this is the bristly coarse half of Velcro and not the soft fluffy half). The purpose of this bit is to remove unwanted knots and bobbles from clothing.
Unfortunately, I don't find it very effective. The Velcro is just too harsh and does more harm than good by pulling on the fibres of my clothes whilst failing to remove most bobbles. Those bobbles that are captured then prove very difficult to remove from the Velcro's fibres, to the detriment of the brush's appearance. To display even more incompetence, the Velcro strip has also started to peel off from my brush, obviously wanting to disassociate itself with such a mundane existence and move onto bigger and better things.
In a way, the Velcro would be better off somewhere else because it also has a tendency to catch on whatever fabric I'm brushing with the velour pad. I would have liked the velour surface to be raised up slightly from the brush to avoid this issue.
There was one occasion however when the Velcro actually had a use, and even did a good job of it. This was removing dried mud from the bottom of my jeans before I put them in the washing machine. The course fibres of the Velcro removed a good amount of the mud leaving only the more ground-in particles for the washing machine to tackle. The mud even managed to come out of the Velcro, with a few encouraging whacks against the outside wall. The brush incidentally held up fine to this treatment - obviously a sturdy build.
This was a rare show of competence from the Velcro though. It's just an unwelcome nuisance for the most part.
=== Price/Availability ===
£5.49 - Amazon.co.uk (FREE Super Saver delivery)
=== Summary ===
If you need a clothes brush then you could do a lot worse than this one. The brush part is very effective and has a host of practical uses thanks to its thick non-damaging bristles. The velour pad is a nice extra and although the Velcro strip lets the brush down somewhat, this is an overall useful product which I've used a lot more than I would have initially imagined.
Besides the absconding Velcro strip the rest of the brush is well made and has stood the test of time. Its poor performance with regards to removing bobbles from clothes loses it one star but at little over a fiver it's still a worthy purchase. Albeit, not a terribly exciting one.
Thanks for reading :)
I've never been one to shy away from a novelty purchase or two. One day I was browsing the novelty range on amazon (as I often do) when I came across this water bottle imitating a fire extinguisher. Now usually when I see something I really like I try to justify to myself why I should buy it, regardless of how weak such justifications usually end up being, but on this occasion I already had a very good reason. I don't drink enough water. I've known this for some time but I've always been too lazy to do anything about it. My main source of water in the average day is from cups of tea and whilst that still counts I know I should be drinking more water in its purest from. So I thought a water bottle, situated on my desk at work and within arm's reach when I'm at home, would encourage me to drink more often. My justification finalised, I clicked purchase.
=== Design ===
The cylindrical bottle is made from stainless steel and comes in a bright red colour with white print designed to imitate a fire extinguisher (albeit a small one). Phrases such as 'Thirst Extinguisher' and 'Hydro Relief' are printed on the bottle as well as a tongue-in-cheek set of visual directions for use. There's also a somewhat needless reminder, perhaps to those in possession of an under-hydrated brain, that this is in fact NOT a real fire extinguisher.
I really like the design. It's quirky and fun and will certainly stand out on a desk. As such, it has attracted a fair bit of attention and intrigue wherever I take it. Using it is very fun and the eye-catching design ensures that it doesn't blend into the surroundings and get forgotten about like a glass of water, so I am prompted to drink more regularly and I therefore stay hydrated throughout the day. It's an odd logic but it works.
=== Functionality ===
The bottle has a 600ml capacity and stands at 26.5cm tall with a diameter of 7cm, so it is larger than your average store-bought water bottle (500ml) but also thinner than many plastic sports bottles. I find this ideal for taking with me when playing golf because it fits neatly into the pouch on the side of my bag where a larger bottle would not.
To fill the bottle, the lid simply unscrews and removes along with the straw which attaches to the inside of the lid. The top of the bottle is wide enough to fill easily from a tap or water filter without any wastage (and ensuring you leave a little gap between the waterline and the neck so that it doesn't overflow when you replace the lid). The lid can sometimes be a little stubborn to undo again so it's best not to tighten it too much after filling.
The bottle top is a twist flip lid where a hard mouthpiece flips out and enables you to drink from the internal plastic straw. This sports-type lid means that you can drink without having to tilt your head back which I really like, partly because I'm a lazy individual but mostly because it's handy to use on the move - again ideal for the golf course but also handy when watching television or reading. The lid is well designed and I find it very easy to use - even the straw is designed to reach to the very depths of the bottle so you can drink almost every drop.
A word of warning: It is essential that the mouthpiece is extended fully when drinking from the bottle otherwise there will not be a complete seal with the internal straw. The result is akin to drinking from a straw with a small hole in it - like most of the fruit juice pouches I buy. Similarly, when done you need to ensure that the mouthpiece is fully closed by pressing the mouthpiece back down until it clicks. Otherwise the bottle will not be watertight.
If you don't like the idea of using the internal straw then it can easily be removed allowing you to tip the bottle up to drink instead. Whilst this is perfectly acceptable and works well I prefer to keep the straw in place and suck rather than pour my water. I wouldn't want to crick my neck.
Another thing I like about this bottle is that because it's made from stainless steel I find that it keeps my water cooler for longer. I always find that a plastic bottle left at room temperature will become warm very quickly in summer and a glass of water is even worse. With this bottle, cold tap/filter water will stay cool for a couple of hours by which time the bottle is often ready to be refilled.
Due to the stainless steel construction the bottle is slightly heavier than a plastic drinks bottle but in my opinion not enough to count as a disadvantage. In fact I find that when there is only a small amount of water remaining inside, the bottle will still stand steady on a surface due to this additional weight. There have been a few occasions where I've knocked it but it has refused to be felled.
=== Cleaning and Durability ===
Throughout the day I simply rinse the inside of the bottle and the mouthpiece briefly under the tap before refilling. This is sufficient because I find that the stainless steel doesn't trap stagnant water as much as a plastic bottle. Every day or couple of days I will wash the bottle and lid in warm soapy water to keep it clean - removing the straw from the lid beforehand. The inside of the mouthpiece can be a bit tricky to clean because it's small and therefore hard to get at but I find that a wet cotton bud does this job well.
As far as durability is concerned I expect the bottle to perform strongly for a long time. After a couple of months the exterior design is still in perfect condition and the bottle hasn't suffered any dints, marks or wear - I have taken good care of mine though. The mouthpiece is still working efficiently and without issue and I'm very impressed with the overall quality of the product. I'll be the first to tell you that not all novelty items work as well as they are supposed to but this one definitely does. I love it.
=== Price ===
£8.18 - Amazon.co.uk including FREE Super Saver Delivery
At this price I think it's an absolute bargain and I would have been happy to pay a lot more for mine because of the excellent look, feel and quality. At this price it would also make a great gift; both a humorous and a useful one.
=== Summary ===
Overall I am really happy with this bottle and it comes highly recommended from me. I'm definitely drinking more water since I bought this and that can only be a good thing. The strong functionality of the bottle ensures that it isn't simply a novelty product that loses its appeal after a while and I have no doubts that I will be using this daily for the foreseeable future. What's more, 50p from the purchase of every bottle is donated to Water Aid so you can feel good about yourself as you sip away.
Just remember though: it's not a real fire extinguisher.
Thanks for reading :)
I bought my very first electric toothbrush many years ago after experiencing and succumbing to all the hype affirming the many benefits and general superiority they have over a manual brush. I never really got the hang of it though. I was constantly forgetting to keep it charged up and found replacing the brush head a frequently expensive chore. So, naturally I packed it in and went back to the good old-fashioned manual brush; tried and tested and unlikely to refuse to work at 8.30 in the morning.
Wind forward a few years and I'm back where I started; considering an electric model to replace my manual brush and improve what I suspect to be an inferior brushing routine. The 'electric hype', interestingly, hasn't gone away. Maybe it is all true?
So why the U-turn? It was a simple matter of oral health. In my quest for clean teeth I've always had a somewhat over-thorough and heavy-handed brushing technique which comes at a cost to my sensitive gums. I regularly suffered from sore and bleeding gums and in turn had my fair share of mouth ulcers, which my dentist collectively attributed to my tendency to brush too hard. That seemed to make sense so after trying a soft bristled toothbrush for a while without improvement I decided to look again at my stance regarding an electric toothbrush. Such devices are proven to help eliminate human error during brushing and therefore reduce the chance of developing gum problems. In short, I no longer trusted myself to brush my own teeth.
=== Why this Particular Model? ===
The Braun Oral-B Professional Care 1000 appealed to me for a number of reasons. I didn't want anything fancy with multiple brushing modes and on-board computers so this one-mode, no nonsense model seemed ideal for my basic needs. It also features a pressure sensor to prevent excessively hard brushing - the very issue which I decided to switch from a manual brush - and comes highly approved by the British Dental Health Foundation. The fact that it cost me £30 when I was expecting to have to pay much more was also a bonus.
=== Features ===
- One brushing mode: Daily clean
- 3D Cleaning which pulsates, oscillates and rotates for more effective plaque removal
- 2-minute timing mode which pulsates every 30 seconds for consistent cleaning
- Light-up pressure sensor which tells you when you are pressing too hard
- Oral B Precision Clean replaceable brush head included
- Gold Award recommendation by the British Dental Health Foundation
=== Setting Up ===
Straight out of the box, the simplicity is obvious. You get the main toothbrush with one brush head and a charging unit. This unit consists of a small base to stand the brush on and a cord with a 2-pin plug on the end - so you will need to purchase a 3-pin adapter plug separately if you do not already have one. The instruction booklet was characteristically thick, but thankfully consisted mostly of languages which I couldn't read. The English bit, when found, was brief but a little obvious with the usual dos and don'ts; wash brush head before use, do not stick in ear etc.
The information that was relevant specified a full 24-hour charge before first using so I duly plonked it into charging mode and retrieved my manual brush from the bin for another day.
== Getting to grips ==
It took me a few days to get used to using the toothbrush after been so accustomed to operating a manual brush for many years. The biggest challenge was trying to resist the urge to use it like a manual brush and start thrashing it about my teeth. Instead, holding the brush at a 45 degree angle to your mouth the idea is to gently move the rotating head from tooth to tooth applying small circular movements - remembering to brush all tooth surfaces as well as the interdental areas.
I didn't find the included instructions very clear on the correct brushing technique and although it sounds a bit daft I did have to look up a video online to see the correct technique to make sure I was doing it right (definitely one of the less entertaining videos I have ever watched on YouTube).
The handle is also much larger than a manual brush and takes a bit of adjusting to. That's not to say that it's unwieldy though - the front of the handle has a rubberised grip which I like and I find it easy to hold and control without any issue. Overall, I actually find it much easier to brush my teeth than with a manual brush because there is no need to do the brushing motion - I only have to guide the brush head as it does most of the work.
== Timing is everything ==
Like most electric toothbrushes on the market, this one has an in-built timer which pulsates briefly every 30 seconds and for a couple of seconds every 2 minutes. The idea is to ensure you brush your teeth consistently by separating your mouth into 4 quadrants, spending 30 seconds on each area and 2 minutes overall.
I have to say, I did struggle with this at first and still do to some extent. Half a minute just seems too quick for each quadrant and I feel that I'm rushing and not doing a thorough enough job if I stick rigidly to the timer. Instead, I often take around 3 minutes to brush my entire mouth which renders the timer a bit pointless in my case. It is useful to maintain my concentration though so that I don't end up over-brushing my teeth (and damaging my gums) if I were to slip into one of my usual early-morning catatonic-like states but other than that I find it a bit of an inconvenience.
== Under pressure ==
Unlike the timer, I've found the pressure sensor to be a very useful feature. When you apply too much pressure to your teeth the brush head will flex triggering an LED light on the back of the handle to glow red and the brush will also sound differently as it stops pulsating, but continues to oscillate. It is almost impossible to miss this when it happens and the combined visual and audible warning immediately alerts my attention so that I know to stop pressing so hard. Initially, I found it all too easy to press too firmly with the brush and so the red light used to go off a lot for me. It took me a while to break the habit but now I only trigger it every once in a while, often when trying to reach those tricky back molars. I think it's fair to say that this feature alone has trained me to brush better and has reduced a lot of potential damage to my gums.
=== The Results ===
After using the Braun Oral-B Professional Care 1000 for several months now I am very impressed with the results in terms of cleaning power and my all-round oral health. Immediately after brushing, my teeth feel incredibly clean and smooth all over, especially around the gumline and between teeth, suggesting that residual plaque is not an issue. To be honest, my teeth always felt clean after using a manual brush but the real difference I have noticed concerns my gums. Since I began using this brush I have suffered from very few instances of sore/bleeding gums and I can't remember the last time I had a mouth ulcer. The pressure sensor function has certainly helped here and I definitely brush more gently now and rely on the rotation of the brush head to do the cleaning instead. It took some adjusting to but I now feel as though I have a more gum-friendly brushing routine which still provides a complete clean.
Another point worth mentioning briefly is the noise that it makes. Obviously I was expecting it to be louder than a manual brush but I was a little taken aback to begin with. I would liken the sound to a distant power drill, and by 'distant' I mean just outside. It's so loud that on occasion I have had to brush my teeth in the kitchen on a morning to avoid waking up those who don't have to be up as early as me (I'm too considerate sometimes). Again, the noise is something I've become accustomed to over time but it's still an assault on the ears the first thing in the morning.
=== Battery Life and Charging ===
When the battery is low a red indicator will flash on the handle for a few seconds after you switch the unit off, letting you know that it's time to plug it in. Whilst charging, a separate green light will flash on the handle and will turn off when the battery has charged. The battery claims to last 7 days when used twice daily for 2 minutes each time. However, my tendency to use the brush for more than 2 minutes at a time obviously increases the frequency of which I have to charge it, so I find myself changing it every 4-5 days. The weak battery life is definitely a drawback and remembering to charge it every few days is a bit of an inconvenience. You can of course put it to charge after every use so that it's always fully charged when you need it but this requires you to keep plugging the docking unit into the mains. If you prefer to do this then you will need to ensure you let the battery run down every couple of months to prolong the battery's performance.
Connecting it to the dock is a simple matter of standing it gently onto the dock pad (I've made this name up because I have no idea what else to call it). The brush stands uprights securely in the dock pad which itself has a non-slip base. It is also very compact - only a little wider than the brush handle - and is ideal for placing wherever there is space (i.e. on a narrow sink). I keep mine on my bedside table because I have no plug socket, 2-pin or otherwise, in the bathroom.
The charging time does seem very excessive considering the brush's maximum battery life. From the low battery state I find that the brush can take up to 24 hours to fully charge. Consequently, it's often charging overnight so if you're likely to be disturbed by the flashing green light - which is quite bright in a darkened room - then you might wish to charge it in another room. Or you can take it off charge for the night providing there will be sufficient power for the morning.
=== Brush Heads ===
A pack of 4 replacement Precision Clean brush heads are currently priced at £8.15 on Amazon. This initially sounded expensive to me but works out at roughly £2 per head which is cheaper than most manual toothbrushes which should be replaced with the same regularity - every 3-4 months.
These particular heads feature two areas of blue bristles which will gradually fade and turn white with use, giving you an indication of when they need changing. This is a useful feature for anyone likely to forget how long they have been using the same brush head.
This model is also compatible with all other head types in the Braun Oral-B range (except for the Pulsonic and Sonic types) which you can fit and use interchangeably if you wish. I find the Precision Clean head ideal for me and the bristles are firm enough to provide a thorough clean but not too firm to cause any damage to my sensitive gums.
=== Recommendation and Price ===
I can definitely recommend the Braun Oral-B Professional Care 1000 to anyone considering an electric toothbrush. It's simple and easy to use and gives a brilliant clean without the unnecessary price-inflating extras. The pressure sensor is a great feature if you are prone to heavy-handed brushing like me and this has definitely helped me achieve a healthier brushing routine. Although the battery life lets it down somewhat and the operating noise is excessive, these are minor points compared to the exceptional cleaning quality and simplicity it provides.
You can buy the Braun Oral-B Professional Care from amazon.co.uk for £29.99 which I think is an excellent price. It would have been nice if it came with a carry case for travel purposes but as a budget electric toothbrush I am incredibly pleased with it.
Thanks for reading :)
We don't have a dishwasher in our house so we have to do the washing up the old fashioned way; by hand. Not only is this more tiresome, as I keep being told by dishwasher owners, but it also requires a separate draining area, usually in the form of a draining rack.
Before any confusion arises let me say that I have always referred to such a product simply as a 'drainer' or sometimes, when feeling suitably sophisticated, a 'draining rack'. The word dishrack just doesn't sit right with me so I will be using the word 'drainer' for the purposes of this review. Drainer is also easier to type. (Try it!)
I got this drainer from Lakeland to replace our old and less swanky-looking draining board (there's another name). This drainer appealed as the ideal replacement because it looked like it would hold more items and also bring a modicum of order and neatness to an area that is usually little more than a shambolic pile of drying crockery and cutlery.
For the price of around £20 at the time it came with a Lakeland lifetime guarantee.
=== Design ===
Dimensions: 17 x 37 x 33 cm (H/W/D) *Height is measured from the worktop to the top of the drainer, which includes a 5cm gap underneath.
Interior drainage space (at the base): 9.5 x 31 x 27 cm (the sides taper outwards slightly at the top)
As is visible from the picture above, the drainer is predominantly white with silver metal legs and a removable silver metal rack inside. These are the only metal parts (stainless steel), with the rest being made from a smooth glossy plastic entailing the main body of the drainer and the cutlery compartment in the corner. There is also a handle on either side if you ever need to move the drainer. Underneath is a plastic spout which directs the water from the drainer to wherever the spout may be pointed - hopefully into the sink and not onto your worktop (yes, this had happened a few times).
The drainer looks quite nice when sat next to the sink in our kitchen and the modern-looking white/silver colour combination fits in well with our white cupboards and surfaces. I also like the high-sided design of the drainer and although it is quite bulky it is also compact and makes the area look neater when stacked with plates, bowls etc. than our previous draining board did. It does a good job at hiding the mass of drying crockery, in other words.
The good thing about the glossy white colour is that it looks nice and clean (when it is actually clean). The downside is that it doesn't stay that way for very long so it does often need a wipe down with a damp cloth to restore its pristine whiteness. The colour is either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your stance when it comes to things that 'look' clean and things that 'are' clean.
The spout underneath the drainer sticks out by about 4cm and can be swivelled around to point into your sink. Unlike our old board, this drainer doesn't need to be aligned precisely with the sink and so provides some flexibility. We have ours positioned at a jaunty angle, because we're cool. The downside to this design is that it still needs to be placed very close to your sink so please take note of this before buying.
When it comes to draining, water and soap suds slide easily through the drainage holes and into the sink via the spout. If you've produced a large amount of suds it can take a while for them to disperse from the bottom of the drainer but the gap between the base and the draining rack keeps any excess suds away from the drying crockery.
=== How does it stack up? ===
Compared to our old drainer, which was essentially a large plastic board, this one is far superior when it comes to the washing up. As is often the case in our house, the stack of dirty dishes tends to pile up long before anyone has the enthusiasm to wash them up. When someone finally cracks or runs out of excuses there tends to be a lot of items to wash up at once. This is where a large capacity drainer comes in very handy. The interior depth of the drainer is about 9.5cm (12cm without the rack) which allows for a fair amount of stacking to take place. Using the high sides as support it becomes very easy to balance a mug on top of another mug for example, or stack four or five bowls on top of each other. This makes it possible to complete the washing up in one go without having to break off and clear some more drying space (which really is a sad experience). To give an example, the latest episode of washing up as performed by myself amounted to the following:
3 large dinner plates, 3 bowls, 1 dish, 5 mugs, 1 large glass, 2 medium glasses, a milk jug, 18 items of cutlery and 2 large knives.
All of this was easily accommodated for without the need for any serious Jenga/Tetris skills. The large plates slotted upright into the draining rack and the cutlery fit easily into the cutlery holder. Most of the other items fit onto the base of the drainer except the odd mug and glass which stacked on top, held secure by the sides. There is still plenty of room for a lot more items to be added...which they inevitably will.
I find the cutlery holder very handy since it keeps utensils separate from the rest of the washing up making them easier to access when putting them away. Knives can also be placed blade-down in the holder reducing the risk of accidentally cutting yourself when removing them. However, the compartment is a little too shallow for longer knives, which can be a bit top-heavy and may not be supported that well. I have this problem with a few of my bread knives so I sometimes put these in the main drainer. I also find it best to rest any plates against the side of the drainer rather than try to stand them perfectly upright because the plate groves in the rack (of which there are 12) are a little on the small side to hold them upright securely. On the other hand this does make the rack more versatile for storing dishes and mugs etc.
The deep drying area is another plus in our house. Our washing machine is (very conveniently) fitted directly under the drainer and when on one of its psychotic fast spin modes it has the tendency to rattle the worktop. Many a poorly stacked piece of crockery has lost its life this way but now the high-sided drainer prevents any unwanted destruction as long as the stacking doesn't exceed the sides. This is a big bonus because things often take a while to get put away in our house.
However, a slight downside to the drainer is the noise it can make. Before you start to think I've gone mad, I'm referring to the interior metal rack which clanks every time something is placed onto it so heavy-handed washer-uppers will make quite a bit of noise. This may seem a bit pernickety but if you like to listen to the radio whilst washing up or enjoy the moment of quite solitude to reflect on life then this might not be the best drainer.
=== Cleaning ===
Besides the occasional wipe down with a damp cloth, the drainer doesn't really need much cleaning. When it does need scrubbing the interior rack can be removed (and washed separately) as can the cutlery holder which clips effortlessly onto the corner. The base of the drainer is sloped towards a central hole where the water flows away but residue does build up on the inside and an orangey sheen can manifest after a while. This cleans off easily with a standard kitchen cleaning spray and scouring sponge and it can then be rinsed under the tap. The handles come in... err handy for this bit but it's still a little awkward to manoeuvre due to its size.
The spout can also be removed from the underside of the drainer with a screwdriver - be careful not to lose the screw and washer when doing so - to be washed separately. This is necessary every month or so to keep it clean because an unpleasant black gunk forms where the spout meets the draining holes. This is the same type of gunk that can be found in a washing machine drawer after a while so is definitely not something you want hanging around.
=== Recommendation ===
If like me you are not blessed with a dishwasher and you are in need of a draining rack for your kitchen then I can definitely recommend this SimpleHuman drainer. Not only does it look very smart and modern but it is also extremely practical. It boasts a large drying capacity due to its high sides and has an efficient draining design with the swivelling spout. Despite being a little bulky it's still quite compact and easy to position around a sink due to the flexible spout. The steep price might be a little off-putting but it's definitely a drainer that's built to last and I can't see any reason why it wouldn't provide several years of reliable service. The main problem with it is that it does such a good job at hiding the dishes when they're drying that they rarely get put away afterwards.
=== Price/Availability ===
Amazon.co.uk - £24.99 (Free super saver delivery)
Lakeland.co.uk - £28.99 (£2.99 delivery charge, free on orders over £30 or free click and collect in store service)
Thanks for reading :)
When I first took up golf it was the middle of autumn and the weather was already taking a turn for the worse (I've always had an uncanny sense of timing you see). Rain was becoming frequent, and also more cunning; waiting until Friday to soak the course just in time for my weekend outings, so I rarely had the pleasure of playing on a dry course. I quickly realised that I needed to dispense with the cheapo pair of golf shoes that I had been lent (previously unworn I hasten to add) and invest in a pair of waterproof shoes of my own.
As I am flying the flag for the economy golfer I decided to pitch in at the low end of the market, not wanting to spend too much on a pair of shoes that only have one purpose. I eventually decided on the Woodworm Golf Shoes priced at £39.99, which at the time were among the cheapest waterproof shoes available. They come with a reassuring 1-year waterproof guarantee and are available in either a red/white or black/white colour design. I bought the black and white design purely because they looked smarter and less conspicuous - a must for avoiding any unnecessary attention when playing golf badly.
=== Appearance/Comfort ===
My first Impressions were generally good. Having seen a picture of what I was ordering I knew what to expect but the shoes did look very nice when I removed them from the box. I hesitate to use the word 'stylish' where golf is concerned but the black/white colour combination is certainly smart looking.
There were however a few minor issues regarding the quality of finish. I noticed a few instances of shoddy thread work with loose ends sticking out every once in a while as well as quite a bit of residual glue visible around where the uppers have been attached to the soles. I wasn't too disappointed with this but I felt that it was just a little sloppy considering how good the rest of the shoes looked.
I ordered a size 10.5 knowing that they would most likely be a good fit for me. That is the joy of golf shoes and their half sizes - with me having a very awkward shoe size somewhere between sizes 10 and 11. Indeed, they did turn out to fit very well and had plenty of room at the sides and toe end whilst still providing a snug and secure fit. There is sufficient padding around the heel and sides and a nice springy insole which makes them feel very comfortable to walk in.
The bottom of the shoes have 7 chunky cleats (grips) which feel strong and look like they will stand up to a fair bit of usage before breaking or needing replacing (as all cleats eventually do). I found the grip to be very good on grass and have no issues with slipping or mis-balancing when swinging - the likes of which certainly dent your golfing credibility.
The shoes are also designed with a flex-ridge on the bottom underneath the toe area which allows for the shoe to bend and flex naturally with the foot during play. This is important because the last thing you want is a pair of stiff shoes hampering your movement.
=== The Problems ===
Unfortunately, that is where the good points end though. The first time I wore these on the course, it was quite damp and soft underfoot - a good opportunity to test out their reputed waterproofness. Alas, they did not fare well. When I say the course was damp, I mean just that - wet grass but not sodden and with no standing water. I was then very surprised to find after only 5 or 6 holes my feet were beginning to feel wet and the insides of the shoes were a bit squelchy - a delightful feeling it was too. I persevered through the rest of my 9-hole round with wet and increasingly cold feet before taking them off (the shoes, not my feet) to inspect the damage. My socks were entirely wet through from the toe to mid-foot area so it was obvious that water had leaked in around the toes. The shoe's uppers also felt very damp and I suspected that not only had water seeped through the join between the uppers and the sole, but also permeated through the supposedly waterproof material.
When I was looking for golf shoes I paid special attention to the terms 'waterproof' and 'water-resistant'. Water-resistant sounded less promising and waterproof was surely the one to go for - as I did. Obviously this didn't work out so well so I contacted the company I bought them from through amazon.co.uk and they promptly and apologetically sent me a replacement pair for which I was very grateful. The reasoning being that I had received a faulty pair.
A week later, I took to the same course in my new shoes under very similar conditions (thanks a lot Friday rain!) but with more trepidation this time. At around the same point into the round I noticed a dreaded coolness around my toes and then a few minutes later the squelching sound. Again, persevering through my round (in hindsight, taking a change of socks would have been a good idea) I found exactly the same wet sock pattern and soaked uppers.
I sent another e-mail describing the situation and recurrent problem. The company was again very apologetic and helpful and this time offered me a refund which I gladly accepted. I was less pleased with the explanation that I had received "another faulty pair" though. I expect faulty goods to be a small percentage of their overall stock so to receive two pairs with the same defect seemed unlikely. I suspect that the shoes are just poorly designed and/or manufactured.
=== Cleaning ===
Putting the lack of waterproofing aside for a moment, cleaning golf shoes is always an unpleasant task and these shoes are no exception. Unfortunately, they also try their best to make matters much worse than they need to be with their myriad of ridges, gaps and sticky-out bits on the bottom. I could spend the best part of an hour sat with a toothbrush and a bucket of water trying to dislodge all traces of mud and grass but as I don't find such a task particularly stimulating I just get the worst of the mud off and let them be - it's not like I'll be walking through the house in them - I wouldn't dare. The cleats however can be removed with a cleat wrench (not included) and cleaned separately before putting back.
=== (Non-)Recommendation ===
Needless to say that I am not a great fan of these shoes and I cannot recommend them if you are looking for a pair of waterproof golf shoes for use in wet conditions. It is a great shame because I did like the shoes and they would have been great value if they had done what they claimed. Although they do look quite smart and are indeed very comfortable to wear I cannot award these Woodworm Golf Shoes any more than 1 star because they fail spectacularly to deliver their waterproof promise. They didn't even last an hour, let alone a year.
=== Price/Availability ===
Available from The Sports HQ through www.amazon.co.uk or direct from www.thesportshq.com.
£39.99, Sizes 6-12 (available in red/white or black/white)
Standard delivery rate of £4.99 applies when ordering via either website but free delivery is available on all orders over £50.
Thank you for reading :)
Over the last couple of months the opportunity for me to play golf has been severely limited. With all of the local courses thoroughly sodden or under several inches of snow and my lack of a back garden, the only available playing arena has been my front room. Obviously, when playing golf indoors certain adjustments have to be made. If ornaments are to remain intact and windows are to remain draught-free then the options are limited to practicing putting. So to help me see through the winter months I splashed out £3.99 on the Masters Putting Cup, as seen above.
The metallic putting cup is designed to imitate the hole on a green with the idea being to putt a golf ball into the cup using a putter (balls and putter not included). By doing so you can practice your putting technique and consistency indoors without needing to find a dry golf course.
The design of the cup means that when a golf ball is directed straight at the cup it will roll over the hinged plates around the side and stop in the centre of the cup. The one-way hinged plates at the opposite side will stay up and prevent the ball from rolling back out again - as though putting into a hole. Eight hinged plates surround the circumference of the cup so that you can putt towards it from any angle much like an actual golf hole. This nifty hinge design means that you can have a realistic putting experience in your living room without having to bore holes in the floor. Everybody wins!
To increase the realism, the putting cup is 18 cm wide and is designed to simulate the width of a standard golf hole giving accurate feedback on your putts. Similarly, if a putt is aimed well but too fast then the ball will bobble and roll over the cup and disappear into the distance (or the skirting board). Only putts that are 1) aimed close to the centre and 2) hit at the correct speed, will be successful - much like a real putting green.
I have found a slight downside to the design when a ball is putt along the edge of the cup though. With a real golf hole, the slower the ball is travelling the better the chance one of these putts has of still rolling in. However, with this cup, the ball will simply not have enough momentum to roll over the hinges and will instead roll off to the side with disheartening consequences. This isn't a huge issue, as you should be trying to aim at the middle anyway but the realism is limited by this, although somewhat unavoidably.
I have found the putting cup to be very effective for practice as well as very fun to use. You need to have a carpeted room to benefit from this cup though because putting over a hard floor will not only be very difficult but also completely unrealistic and of no practical benefit. A standard floor carpet is fairly accurate for putting practice as it imitates the surface of a green quite well.
As far as alternatives go, I also have an indoor putting mat which is effectively a felt mat with a ramp/hole at the end of it, on a sort of raised up plateau. This also has a ball return system which uses gravity to roll the ball back down the side towards the person putting.
However, there are several advantages to the putting cup over this putting mat/ramp; the obvious one being the lack of having to putt up a ramp which is unrealistic. Another is that you can putt from anywhere around the cup. With the mat, you can only putt from one direction which limits the variety of practice drills you can do whereas with the cup there is no need to position it in any particular way and you can move around the room putting from different distances and angles. I find this helps strengthen my putting ability more than the ramp because it can get a bit too familiar putting from the same spot over and over again. Moving around helps me to focus on my putting set-up and improve my technique and consistency.
Another advantage is storage. The putting mat takes up quite a bit of room and is a little unsightly if left out in the middle of the floor. The putting cup on the other hand is small and discrete and can easily be stored away quickly and brought back out again in no time. A favourite storage spot in our room is under the settee. The ramp has since been retired to the loft where it will now gather dust for the next 10 years.
One disadvantage is the lack of a ball return though. I have a bucket full of golf balls so I am not short of balls to putt towards the cup but once you have got a ball in the cup this can obstruct following putts. The cup will only accommodate three balls at most so you will have to traverse the room to remove them periodically. The ramp design never had this problem as all balls that were putted in would simply return down the side and be out of the way. (Un)Fortunately, filling the putting cup with balls doesn't happen too often for me so I only find it a token inconvenience but it's still worth mentioning.
So, has my putting improved as a result of using the putting cup? I'd like to think so. I am putting more consistently and the ability of the cup to mimic real playing conditions allows me to focus solely on my technique. The proof as they say will be in the pudding when I finally get out onto a golf course. What is clear though is that I enjoy using the putting cup much more than my putting mat and I only wish I had bought this sooner.
Regarding the value for money, I think £3.99 is a good price. You can't get much for under a fiver in the world of golfing accessories - as my wallet will vouch for - and the putting cup does look very nice for that £4. The green baize/felt finish on the topside of the putting cup is a very nice touch and adds to the indoor golfing experience. The hinged plates are fixed securely to the base plate and so far I have had no issues with them misbehaving and everything still looks as good as it did when new. With very little to go wrong, the masters putting cup is something that I expect to last for many years if treated well. The biggest danger to its well-being is the threat of someone planting a shoe-clad foot on top of it - especially as it is semi-camouflaged on our green patterned carpet.
Overall, I am very happy to recommend this product to anyone who wishes to practice their putting indoors. It's very handy for the bad weather months when you can't get onto a golf course without a boat and it's also very useful for having a quick 5 minutes of practice every now and then. Just remember to pick up any stray balls when you've finished. Standing on a golf ball barefoot is not quite as bad as standing on an upturned plug but it's still quite unpleasant.
=== Price/availability ===
Amazon.co.uk £3.99 - free delivery.
Also available from many independent local golf shops for around the same price.
Thank you for reading :-)
When I saw this Ear Shaped Cable Tidy on amazon not only did it look like a fantastic novelty but it also appeared to be a very useful solution to a very serious problem. The problem... tangled earphone cables.
Earphone cables have an innate and sneaky tendency to tangle themselves up whenever the opportunity arises. No matter how much time and effort I take to carefully and neatly place my earphones on my desk, in a drawer or in my pocket, the next time I come to use them the cable will have manifested itself into an impossibly complicated network of knots and twists. By the time I've finally managed to untangle the chaos (which almost always results in me managing to make matters worse first) I have either lost the will to live or at least the will to use the earphones for my initial intention.
I have a spectacularly short fuse when it comes to technology so although cable tangling may be a trivial matter for some, such instances are usually met with irate gestures and liberal cursing from myself. Neither seem to help but both are simply my default setting with matters such as these.
You can then imagine my delight when I saw this cable tidy on amazon.co.uk, promising tangle free cables from now on. Despite the fairly high price tag of £7.99 I decided that life was simply too short not to buy it and immediately found myself imagining a life without knotted cables. Reverie over, I also realised I had some amazon vouchers remaining so felt even less guilty about buying what is essentially a pair of silicone ears.
The Ear shaped cable tidy measures approximately 6.5 x 4 x 4 cm. I'm not sure what the average ear size is but they look fairly life-sized to me. The cable tidy is made from skin-coloured silicone rubber which has a very smooth feel to it and is also quite flexible allowing them to feel a little like real ears. Genuine ears tend to be a bit more pliable though but the overall shape and mould of the ears is satisfyingly accurate. I'm not going to lie, you will be able to tell them apart from real ears but they do look quite realistic and I am certainly not disappointed with their appearance.
To keep your earphones neatly stored and tangle free you simply wind the cable of your earphones around the central part (between the ears) starting with the input jack. Once wound, you then push each earbud into the corresponding silicone ear.
Inside each silicone ear is a small recess/nook which allows the majority of earphone buds to fit in. My main pair of earphones are the 'in-ear' type - those which have a moulded ear bud to help them stay in your ears - so the nook helps to accommodate these. I've also tried them with my 'in-ear canal' earphones (which stick out a little more) and they also fit in with no problems. Unfortunately, I no longer own any of the 'over-the-ear' style earphones (the ones that clip over and behind your ear) so I cannot say for certain whether they will fix securely to the cable tidy. I suspect that the buds themselves will fit in no problem but the over-ear clips will not clip over the ears like they would on a normal ear (the absence of a head is the issue here). Obviously, headphones won't fit on either but you can still use it to keep the cable neat and tangle-free.
I was initially sceptical about how well the earbuds would stay in the silicone ears given that they are less flexible than their organic counterparts, but once in - which requires a moderate push for some earbuds - I have so far found that they stay in place very well whilst still being easy to remove when needed. I have carried the cable tidy around in my bag and in my coat pocket without them coming free so the design can withstand transportation without everything unravelling.
Obviously, the cable tidy does take up more space than a pair of earphones on their own so putting it in your pocket can be a little bulky. My main purpose was to store my earphones in the house though so this isn't a huge issue for me but if you do need to carry them around then the advantage of having a tangle free cable when required is worth the excess baggage in my opinion. If I ever dared to put my earphones in my pocket before, it was a cast-iron certainty that the cable would come out with more knots than an old tree. It would then take me several minutes of intense concentration to sort things out, the time in which some people could have solved a Rubik's cube (and with noticeably less swearing).
The skin coloured cable tidy also makes it very difficult to misplace your earphones and makes it easy to find them when you need them. A pair silicone ears tends to stand out on a desk or in a bag.
Winding up a pair of earphones doesn't sound like it takes a lot of thought but sometimes I find that I get to the end and I don't have enough loose wire left for the earbuds to reach the ears. This means unwinding a bit which then leaves me with a redundant loop of cable sticking out, which looks untidy. For those of you who are less sad than myself this probably won't ruin your day, but as I have a little OCD (Opposed to Cable Disorder?) when it comes to these matters, I of course have to start over.
Another potential issue is that some earphones have a long plastic connecting bit from each earbud to the main cable. Depending how the cable is wound up these may stick out at the bottom preventing the ears from standing upright on a table. Swivelling the buds around can solve this though and there is always the option of laying the ears on their side - they will still look like ears.
I would definitely recommend this cable tidy as a solution to the woes of earphone entanglement. It does a great job at keeping the cable neat and tidy so that it is ready to use when needed. The novelty design is a bonus and would appeal to anyone who likes things like this. I am aware of other cheaper and less interesting cable tidies that serve the same purpose but they don't appeal to me as much as this design. If you want something different, fun and above all effective then this is one product I am happy to recommend. It would also make a great and unusual gift for someone and would not only raise a smile but also prove to be very useful, as long as the recipient doesn't have some kind of ear phobia (if such a thing exists).
=== Price/availability ===
amazon.co.uk: £7.99 (Free delivery)
IWOOT.com £7.99 (Free delivery)
menkind.co.uk £5.99 + £3.25 delivery charge (free delivery on orders over £25)
Thank you for reading :)
I loved the Mr Men series of books as a child and have very fond memories of reading about the adventures of the various strangely shaped characters all with names befitting their personal qualities. Created in 1971 by Roger Hargreaves the charming and often moralised stories of the Mr Men and Little Miss characters have been delighting children for decades. By far my favourite character/story was that of Mr Bump - a blue oval-shaped chap with white bandages around his head and torso (I use the words head and torso loosely here).
I obviously loved Mr Bump so much that I have subconsciously acquired many of his personal qualities. I am what many would (and do) call accident-prone, and whilst I don't go around wrapped in bandages and falling down holes, I do have a natural tendency to walk into things, trip over objects and generally injure myself on a fairly regular basis. Obviously I was doing such a good impression of my beloved childhood character because last Christmas I received this Mr Bump mug, alongside some other less character-scathing presents.
Once the laughter at my expense had subsided I was actually quite pleased with my gift because I needed a new mug (I had recently broken one or two) and as I have already made clear, I am very fond of Mr Bump - "I'll just pretend it was chosen for me for these reasons", I told myself consolingly.
The mug is porcelain, as most mugs have a tendency to be, and is a slightly off-white colour which looks very nice in my opinion; much better than the plain and cheap-looking white mugs I have. On the front (with the handle on the right hand side) is a large colourful picture of Mr Bump walking with a smile on his face. His name, and that of his creator - Roger Hargreaves, is printed above him in black text. The quality of the image is very good. Mr Bump's blue body is nice and bright and the black text is nice and clear, with the whole mug having an expensive-looking glossy finish. A lot of novelty mugs often have poor-quality transfers printed onto them so I was very pleased that a more professional job had been done here.
That's not all though, turning the mug round reveals another image and some text. Here is a smaller image of Mr Bump standing next to a broken green vase and the resulting puddle of water. His buoyant smile has been replaced by a startled expression of 'oops'. Above this tragic scene of apparent butterfingers reads the text:
"The trouble was, Mr Bump just couldn't help having little accidents..."
It's just as well the broken vase is there to accompany the puddle of water, otherwise I might have misinterpreted the meaning of the words "little accidents" and probably taken offence at my gift. After all, that was years ago.
I think both the designs printed on the mug are excellent. Not only are they amusing and charming, they are high quality too. I have used and washed this mug at least once a day since (for almost a year) and the designs haven't faded in the slightest.
Another thing I like about the mug is the size. It claims to hold 300ml and whilst I haven't measured this claim I would say that it is a fairly standard sized mug. I know a small cup of coffee when I drink one and this mug doesn't short-change me on that front. Nor is it too big to warrant having to add any more than my usual two spoonfuls of Kenco. The mug is a little shorter than the rest of the mugs in my cupboard and is wider as a result. It measures approx. 8.5cm tall and is 9cm wide at the rim; the mug also tapers inwards slightly towards the base. This extra wide rim makes it ideal for dunking biscuits. The often troublesome chocolate digestive will fit in no problem at all and without the need to bite the end off first. It's the little things in life...
Another plus point is the handle, which being nice and wide I find easy to grasp comfortably and firmly in one hand. I dislike mugs with small handles because I sometimes end up getting my fingers stuck which can lead to me slopping tea all over the table. It's slightly ironic that this isn't the case with the Mr Bump mug.
How about the durability? One would assume that a Mr Bump mug would be used by people who tend to be a little on the clumsy side, so it should be built to withstand moderate mistreatment. My area of expertise lies in personal injury so I don't tend to drop things quite as much as Mr Bump (the odd mug notwithstanding) and I have so far managed to refrain from episodes of butterfingers with this mug. The mug has however survived being bashed around in the washing up bowl and clunked against other mugs in the cupboard. The handle is also still firmly attached and so far doesn't show any of those ominous hairline cracks around the joins.
The mug is also dishwasher safe for those lucky enough to own one but doesn't specify whether or not it is also microwave or freezer safe. I have erred on the side of caution and haven't subjected Mr Bump to either appliance.
Overall I am very happy with this mug and despite the obvious intended slander it is my favourite mug in the cupboard and the first one I reach for when it isn't already in the washing-up pile. The happy smiling face of Mr Bump always cheers me up and reminds me of simpler times, when dropping a vase was considered as 'having a bad day'.
You can buy the Mr Bump mug from www.amazon.co.uk for £5.56 which I think is great value for a mug that has lasted me almost a year without any signs of physical wear. I think it would also make a great gift for Christmases or birthdays - the mug comes is a nice cardboard presentation box with a colourful Mr Men design which is a nice touch. The price is also low enough for it to fall into (or slightly over) the price bracket for the ever-popular annual 'Secret Santa'.
There are also many other characters available in the range of mugs by the 'Wild and Wolf' brand including Mr Tickle, Mr Happy, Mr Messy, Mr Grumpy and Mr Lazy so there is plenty of choice to insult a loved one this Christmas. My dad received a Mr Grumpy mug from myself for his Birthday and he has been very chuffed with the quality of it (or at least as chuffed as you can expect someone to be with a Mr Grumpy mug). For female recipients, there are also several 'Little Miss' characters available - for example, Little Miss Sunshine, Little Miss Princess, Little Miss Naughty and - for the slightly braver gift giver - Little Miss Scatterbrain and Little Miss Chatterbox.
I would whole-heartedly recommend the Mr Bump mug. It makes a great light-hearted addition to any cupboard and you need not necessarily be a clumsy oaf to enjoy it.
Thanks for reading :-)
When I started learning to play the piano/keyboard about a year and a half ago I initially had difficulty with my dexterity and getting my fingers to do what I wanted them to do and when. My lack of finger flexibility meant that I would sometimes hit the wrong key by mistake or often hit several at the same time. My ring finger and my little finger were next to useless and couldn't be trusted to join in with the rest of the more competent fingers when playing so my early musical exploits were somewhat limited. There's only so many times one can play 'Chopsticks' though so I knew I had to find a solution to my cack-handedness. After all, good piano fingering is one of the most important facets of learning to play the piano.
A few days later, I happened to stumble across the GripMaster Finger Exerciser on amazon and thought it looked ideal for my keyboard/dexterity problem. The product description and reviews told me what I wanted to hear - "Ideal for any musician wanting to develop hand strength". Perfect! I could now develop strength and agility in my fingers and what's more, I could do it from the comfort of my sofa.
== Weight for it
After discovering the GripMaster range of finger exercisers I spent some time studying the various reviews on amazon.co.uk before deciding which weight version was the right one for me. Thankfully, there were some helpful comments which stated that the light version (5lb) would be ideal for budding pianists but also some recommending the X-Light tension. I decided to take a bit of a gamble and go for the light version and hope it didn't turn out to be too much. It turns out that this was the right decision; I found the device provided the ideal tension for what I wanted to achieve.
However, for your information (and reading pleasure) here is the full range of GripMaster exercisers available:
3lb - X-Light (yellow)
5lb - Light (blue)
7lb - Medium (red)
9lb - Heavy (black)
11lb - X-Heavy (grey)
The heavier tension exercisers are more suited to those looking to build serious hand strength for purposes such as weight training, sports and delivering bone-crushing handshakes. The lighter versions are more suited to those simply looking to improve finger/hand strength whilst focussing more on finger flexibility and agility - ideal for musicians. If you have particularly poor hand strength and weak fingers to begin with then the X-Light version might be more appropriate because the Light tension is still quite resistant and may be too difficult for some.
== Hold on
The GripMaster is designed to be used like any other hand strengthener; you squeeze it together in the palm of one hand - with coiled springs providing the resistance. The difference here is that each finger can also be exercised individually by using the four spring-loaded pistons. The piston heads are curved to match the natural curvature of your fingertips and they have a rough surface to provide grip. The grip has proved useful for when my fingers have become a little clammy during use.
To grip the GripMaster, place it in the palm of your hand with the thinnest part of the black rubber palm cushion placed on the fleshy part of your thumb - the small hooked part on the end goes over the webbing of your thumb. You then place the ends of your four fingers on each of the four pistons at the top with the thumb resting on the side of the device.
I find the GripMaster quite comfortable to hold but I do have a little difficulty placing my fingers perfectly on the pistons because my hands are a little on the large size. It has clearly been designed for the average user so anyone with medium-sized hands will most likely find it easier to hold than I have. That said though, I still find it easy to use just by altering its position in my hand a little.
== One, two, three, four,...
To exercise my fingers, I hold the device in my hand and then push each piston down individually, starting with my index finger and ending with my little finger. The exact technique you use is entirely up to you - there are countless different ways to use the device so you are able to find whatever works for best you. As I am using this to improve my pianist skills, I try to keep my fingers on the pistons as if they were piano keys. By this I mean that I keep my fingers slightly curved without letting the upper knuckle bend backwards. I also try to press each piston without moving any of my other fingers up or down. I will generally continue to use the device repeating each finger exercise for about 10-15 minutes or until I get fed up.
The instructions that come with the device, brief as they are, recommend that it is best to exercise with a low tension and do more repetitions rather than doing fewer repetitions with a stronger device. This helps build up the muscles in your hand and forearms progressively without risking injury or sprains. The fingers themselves do not contain any muscles and are moved by tendons controlled by the muscles in your hand and forearm. So by pressing the pistons down again and again you are strengthening the muscles in your hand and arms rather than the fingers themselves although my fingers do also feel the strain of the exercises.
My index finger and my middle finger found the challenge of fully pressing the pistons down very easy. It wasn't too effortless though and I could still feel the resistance of the springs. My ring ringer being weaker than the rest struggled a bit at first but I could still manage to press the piston all the way down. On the other hand (so to speak) my little finger could only manage at best a ¾ press to begin with - no amount of constipated facial expressions helped the cause.
There are two rows of springs built into the device so it flexes and changes its shape with the exercises you are doing. This allows it to feel more natural and comfortable when exercising each finger as it enables you to press each finger in a direct downwards motion so at no point does it feel awkward to use.
I also use this device to exercise my whole hand from time to time. The only difference here is to squeeze the whole device in the palm of my hand pressing all the pistons down simultaneously as if they were all connected. When doing this, I find it easier to rest the upper knuckle of each finger on the pistons so I have a firmer grip on the device. Both rows of springs contract together to provide the resistance here.
A slight disadvantage I have found with the GripMaster is that it can feel a little uncomfortable after a while. The piston heads are made from plastic and the constant pressure with my fingers causes the ends to become a little sore after several minutes of use. Also, the palm-cushion is a little on the hard side too and although it is softer than the plastic, I feel this too could do with being a little softer. I find that it digs into my palm slightly which can make the exercises uncomfortable after a while. However, these are only small concerns and exercise isn't supposed to be 'comfortable' anyway, is it?
== ...I declare a thumb war!
But wait, I hear you say, what about the poor thumb? Rest assured, the thumb is also able to partake in the exercises as well. To do this, you have to grip the device differently - with the hooked part of the palm cushion resting on the side of the top knuckle of your index finger and the device pointing away from your hand. Then you can place your thumb on the first piston pressing it down repeatedly to exercise it.
If I'm honest, this doesn't really feel like it's doing a lot for my thumb. Although, this might be because my thumb is strong enough already - years of using PlayStation controllers may have something to do with this - and the light tension simply may be too weak for my thumb.
== The Results: Beethoven or Lassie?
The acid test is in the results. Did the GripMaster have any effect on my hand strength and finger agility? Yes. Although I've been using this for several months now, I noticed results after just a week or two. Using the device daily, my fingers feel much stronger and more flexible. All my fingers are now capable of pressing the pistons down fully, even the wimpish little finger.
My keyboard playing has improved significantly as a result of the exercises. My little finger can play notes previously out of reach and my ring finger is able to press notes without the little finger pressing the note alongside it. These two fingers (the idiot fingers as I used to call them) seem to have developed more independence simply through practising pressing the pistons down without moving other fingers at the same time. My left hand has also improved significantly and I can now play competently with two hands - my left hand is still some way behind the right in terms of agility but my left fingers are much less clumsy than they used to be.
My increased flexibility also means that I can master more awkward positions on the keyboard (crude innuendo not intended). I can also play faster than I used to be able to and my range of musical capabilities has increased. I can now play some of the more difficult piano pieces reasonably well, which would not have been possible without my current level of finger speed and flexibility.
My hand grip in general has also improved which I have found useful for when I play golf. I feel I can grip clubs better and have more control when I swing. I can't say the device has increased my chances of accidentally delivering any bone-crushing handshakes though but I now rarely have problems opening jam jars.
The GripMaster Light Tension (5lb) Finger Exerciser is currently available on amazon.co.uk for £7.98. The other tensions/versions range from prices £8-11. Whilst they are typically more expensive than traditional hand strengtheners I think they are great value considering the added ability to exercise individual fingers and for the high build quality of the device, which feels very sturdy and is likely to last a long time.
I would not hesitate to recommend the GripMaster to anyone suffering from a lack of finger agility on the piano (or any other musical instrument). Even if you don't aspire to be the next Mozart then there are still countless reasons why you may want to consider this device. You can use the device to obtain stronger hands in general and also to nurse previously injured or weakened hands back to full health. I have been really impressed with the results that have come from such simple exercises thanks to the design of this device. I also love that I can use it whilst sat watching TV or when reading a book which means I can fit in exercises more often. Exercising is also much more tolerable when you are able to do it from the comfort of your sofa.
Thank you for reading :-)
I've played golf on and off for a few years now but only recently have I begun to take it a little more seriously. Not so seriously that I've started donning silly hats and Rupert the Bear trousers but serious enough to start frittering my money away on accessories I never thought I'd need. One of my recent acquisitions was this Woodworm golf towel which cost me £6.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
The towel is sold by The Sports HQ through the amazon website. Delivery costs £4.99 but if you spend over £50 from this same seller, as I did, you can get it delivered free. You can also buy the towel direct from www.thesportshq.com with the same delivery rates.
== Why do you need a golf towel?
There are several reasons why you would need a golf towel handy during a round. A towel is essential for drying your clubs, cleaning your ball and wiping your hands. Dirty clubs mean a dirty golf bag; a dirty or wet ball will alter the way it travels or rolls; and wet hands might result in you taking out a fellow golfer if you lose your grip on the club mid-swing (which, as I understand, is bad etiquette).
I had previously been using a plain navy blue hand towel which I seized from the kitchen. This worked okay but wasn't the most stylish solution and when I saw the woodworm towel on Amazon I decided it was time to upgrade.
== Woodworm the Brand
Woodworm is a sporting brand most associated with making cricket bats. They once supplied the bats used by England cricketers Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen. More recently though, they have branched out into the golfing market and now supply a range of golf equipment from golf clubs to golf clothing, and of course golf towels. Now trading under the name 'The Sports HQ' their range of goods can be found on-line at www.thesportshq.com and they also sell a lot of their products through Amazon marketplace.
The towel measures roughly 25 x 16 inches (that's approximately 64 x 41cm to you metric aficionados) and is made from soft towelling fabric. The front of the towel, as seen in the dooyoo picture, is black with red lettering for the name 'Woodworm' and accompanying logo (a large red worm). The back of the towel sports the reverse image of the design on the front with the opposite colours - so the background is red and the print/worm is black. The edge of the towel has a neatly stitched border to avoid any premature fraying.
I really like the look of the towel and the distinctive design was the sole reason I decided to purchase it. I've never been tempted by the golf towels I've seen in sports shops because I've always found the designs a little boring and too conservative. The last thing I wanted to become was another walking Callaway or Nike endorsement - there are enough of these people on the course already. No, I wanted something different and unique. This is definitely such a towel.
== Attaching to your bag
The towel will clip onto any golf bag that has an attachment ring - even the cheapest of bags have such a ring - using the large sturdy metal carabiner which is hooked through a metal surrounded hole in the towel. The large carabiner makes it incredibly easy to clip and unclip from your bag with minimal effort and unlike some carabiners, this one has a very smooth mechanism and isn't fiddly at all. Also worth mentioning - the clip is positioned in the middle of the towel which means that the towel doesn't dangle down as much when clipped onto the top of my bag. Therefore when my bag is in its tilted standing position, the towel doesn't drape on the ground and get wet. If anything, it only brushes the top of the grass but this doesn't result in much water transfer. Imagine the disaster if the clip was in the corner of the towel instead.
== Absorbency and cleaning
The two sides of the towel are slightly different in texture; the back of the towel has a thicker coarser feel to it compared to the much shorter and smoother material on the front. I find the back is more absorbent and therefore better for drying golf clubs and balls. Because the fabric is thicker at the back I also find this better for cleaning mud and grass out of the grooves on the head of my golf clubs. Using the back as I do, it does take the brunt of the dirt and moisture which leaves the front of the towel free to use for my hands. I find the smooth soft fabric on the front of the towel very good for these purposes.
The towel's large size also allows me to separate the towel into designated wiping zones (because I'm just that fun). I will try to restrict the mud to one part of the towel so I don't end up transferring it back onto my clubs and ball when drying them. Also, despite the back getting quite soggy after a while, the towel is quite thick and so prevents this moisture working its way through to the front of the towel - leaving it relatively dry for my hands. All of this means that I can get away with using only one towel for all purposes rather than needing several different towels attached to my bag.
== Washing the towel
There are no washing instructions on the towel so it is not clear whether it is designed to be machine washed or not. I would imagine it would be fine washed on a light wash at a low temperature (either a cold wash or 30 degrees) or more suitably, a hand wash cycle. I prefer to wash mine by hand with a bucket of warm soapy water and using a toothbrush (an old one) to clean the mud out of the fabric. I try to minimise the number of times I wash it to preserve the towel and more times than not, I just scrape the largest bits of mud off and leave it to dry after a round of golf. I find that it only needs washing after every two or three uses but this will depend on how dirty it gets during a round, which itself depends on the conditions. Expect to need to wash it more often when playing golf in wet conditions.
On the whole, I am very pleased with this towel and I would thoroughly recommend it to any golfer. Not only does it look great in my opinion but it is also very functional with a practical design and high quality fabric. Its large size and opposing textures make it very versatile for cleaning clubs, balls (golf balls) and hands when out on the course. I am very pleased with my purchase and think it's well worth the £6.99 I paid for it. It looks great attached to my bag and has attracted many positive comments - the same, sadly, cannot be said of my golf.
Thanks for reading :-)