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Goldfever
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Member since: 04.08.2011

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    • Tesco Quality Tea Tea Bags / Tea / 16 Readings / 16 Ratings
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      20.08.2011 12:57
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      Decent.

      I tried this tea at my girlfriend's house and was pleased with it so have been drinking it myself at home. Usually I just buy a big pack of a 'premium' tea when my current box is running out & the premium stuff is on sale, but I thought I'd give this one a try - 2p per teabag is a good deal even for the 80 bag box which I bought to try this tea every day.

      Price

      First off, in terms of availability this Tesco own brand tea is available in boxes of 40,80,160,240 and 480 bag boxes online. In-store, fewer of the different sizes are probably available. The prices online are £0.78, £1.57, £2.47, £3.46 and £5.99 respectively. Per bag, this works out at 2p per bag for the two smallest boxes, and progressively less above that.

      Packaging

      The packaging is fairly simple; a noticeable red cardboard box with some basic information on the sides. On the back are instructions for making the 'perfect cup of tea' - nothing new, just use new water & a new bag for each cup, and brew for 2-3 minutes. The box is widely recyclable. On the front, the box shows that the tea is 'medium strength' and this is a 2 out of 3 by their measurements. I'd agree with this, explained below.

      The tea itself is packaged within separate foil bags of 40 within the box - this keeps one half of the bags fresh while you work through the first half. I find this to be a useful addition to the packaging of teas; I can't really taste a difference if I'm honest but I only buy smallish boxes of tea - if you bought the 480-bag box you'd want this more than I would. I like it just for the smell when you open the foil bags...

      The bags themselves are round, white teabags - not PG pyramids or Twinings squares, nor Clipper beigeness, just a standard white, round bag. Works well enough!

      Flavour

      I like this as a standard, everyday breakfast tea. I do like green tea, darjeeling etc but I also love a good everyday cuppa. The flavour is nothing special, but it isn't weak on the first brew. It is suitable for dark tea drinkers, or those who like a splash of milk. I also enjoyed it with a smidge of sugar, just because there are some days when I need it. Basically, this is a decent cup of tea.

      There is little to no scum from this tea which I like, it makes the cups easier to clean. However, I do like to get two cups from a teabag in the interests of thrift - this doesn't work well with Tesco own-brand tea unfortunately - it just isn't strong enough. If this is something you do as well, the medium-strength tea just isn't a strong enough blend for using a bag twice.

      Overall

      This is a good tea to have in the cupboard - it tastes as good as any other and is very cheap compared to other brands, such as PG Tips (which I would've paid an extra 61p for on the 80-bag box). I just wish I was able to sneak two cups out of every bag. For that reason I'll go back to Clipper & Twinings.

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    • Lavazza Qualita Rossa / Coffee / 13 Readings / 13 Ratings
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      14.08.2011 18:35
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      I'm not sure if I want a different coffee, ever.

      Earlier today I bought a packet of Lavazza Rossa ground coffee and immediately thought to review it, as soon as I'd drunk one espresso. I'll start off by saying that it is without question the best ground beans I've tried - and in the last month I've had Monmouth coffee at home, as well as fresh-ground coffee from As Nature Intended.

      Lavazza is, according to the packaging, Italy's Favourite Coffee - whether this is by quality, quantity or survey I don't know but I wouldn't be surprised if it was all 3. This coffee is suitable for all types of coffee makers - cafetieres, drips, stove-tops, or espresso machines. I use a machine. As in the Dooyoo picture, the packaging is a distinct red and is a vacuum-packed foil bag. I got the 250g (~9oz) bag to try out, and I wouldn't recommend getting a larger single bag as ground coffee loses its quality after a couple of weeks after opening. There are apparently dual packs of 250g bags available with a slight bulk discount, though. I paid £2.89 in Waitrose which I'm assured is the same as in Tesco.

      This coffee is a medium roast according to the packet, though like another reviewer found I wouldn't really want to find out what a dark roast is according to Lavazza! This coffee is very intense and rich - for me it's just right. Lavazza have a small chart on the back of its coffee bags to show the strength of aroma, body & intensity of each type of coffee. Qualita Rossa has 4 'beans' for aroma and body, and 5 for intensity. I'm not much of a coffee buff but I agree with Lavazza with that - the aroma and body are excellent but the taste is on another level.

      The bag being vacuum-packed for freshness, it takes some careful & skilled wielding of a pair of scissors to open the bag to tip the coffee out - I hate spilling ground coffee, its a pain to clear up - but once you do you're hit with a simply gorgeous smell of the coffee within. First reaction - OH MY GOD switch on the espresso machine I MUST TRY THIS NOW. It really does smell good. If you think a new jar of Gold Blend smells good then just get a whiff of this!

      The coffee is ground very, very fine - I suppose to make it suitable for all methods of brewing coffee, though its the finest I've used in a while. This is good though as it generates a better espresso out of an espresso machine, as far as my experience goes. As soon as it started to dispense through the filter, I could see how thick my espresso was going to be, and how lovely the crema would be as well. I was delighted, really really delighted (could you not tell already?) by the smell and the taste of a fresh espresso made with this Qualita Rossa coffee. The coffee is much more thick than many, and is both rich and just a generally lovely flavour.

      Since, I've made a latté with it as well, and was equally impressed by that - some coffees can get lost in a cups-worth of hot milk but this was a better coffee flavoured latté than most.

      So in my view, this coffee is excellent and the best I've tried. Next time I may try an alternative Lavazza coffee type, though I wouldn't be surprised if I stick to this in future. Mmm. Also, it is excellent value as ground coffee goes. I can't see any reason for me to go to a Starbucks etc, this is simply better, even with my cheapo home espresso machine. Great, great product.

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      14.08.2011 00:43
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      A great coffee table cookbook to flick through, not a challenger to Delia's Bible though!

      As a new graduate I'm still finding my feet in the kitchen, but really enjoy cooking and trying new things so like to take the odd punt on cookbooks to widen my idea of what tomorrow's dinner might look like. This drove me to choose Great British Pub Food by Gordon Ramsay (and Mark Sargeant, his assistant), as part of a special offer on an online bookstore, driving the price paid right down from the average available price of £16 (I'm unable to find the RRP online unfortunately, but this is the price on amazon and waterstones.

      First impressions were excellent. The book is an A4 hardback, like many cookbooks, and was clearly a high-quality physical book. The contents page reveals an order of:
      -Bar food
      -Savouries with toast
      -Soups and broths
      -Starters
      -Catch of the day
      -Pies and savoury tarts
      -Comfort food
      -Grills and sautés
      -Weekend roasts
      -Puddings
      -Basics
      -Index

      The contents page gives a good indication of the sort of recipes within the book - high standard, homely pub food from years gone by. Moving on from this, I was very pleased to see the page-big pictures throughout the book - not only do the pictures of the recipes' end products look great, but for me I can't enjoy a cookbook without some pictures to dribble over, or to give me some idea of what I'm cooking should look like! So the inclusion of these big pictures is great in my opinion.

      The content of the book is a mixed bag for me. In some ways, I'm salivating as I go back over the book, reliving some of the gorgeous things I've managed to cook to Ramsay's instructions (toad-in-the-hole, asparagus and spring onion tart, chicken & bacon pie, treacle tart...). On the other hand, there are some recipes that I'd rather just leave to my local bar (pan haggerty, potted hough, wild boar sausage rolls). I usually find in cookbooks that some proportion of recipes appeal to me, and some just don't. With Pub Food, the content is more polarised as the recipes I have made have been fantastic, but there are more that I just have no interest in making for myself. I'm entirely prepared to admit fault on this and not claim its the book's problem, but its worth mentioning that some of the recipes are excellent and some really are pub grub.

      On the other hand, all of the puddings look excellent, and the few that I've tried (only few because I try to limit the amount of puddings I cook :( ) have been fab and remarkably easy. On that note it is worth mentioning that there can be an extensive list of ingredients for some recipes in this cookbook, and often not the cheapest and most cheerful ones either! For example a braised red cabbage apparently needs 11 ingredients, and there are 20 listed for the steak and kidney pie.

      One thing I have noticed about Ramsay is that there is some lack of flexibility in the recipes and style of cooking used, relative to other chefs. For instance, I (like many (if not all?) cooks) use Delia's Bible as a basis for many recipes but don't follow all her instructions word-for-word; or Jamie Oliver has a sort of mish-mash DIY philosophy. What I've found with this recipe book by Gordon Ramsay is that I can't stray too far from the recipe or experiment. Maybe its just that the recipes are perfect or something, but I just don't feel like there's much allowance for adding your own spin on things, which is one thing I really like to do normally.

      Having said that, one of the best uses for this book, I've found, is taking the recipes for parts of a dish and applying it somewhere else. For example, I'm not sold on the Sausages with mustard mash and sweet and sour peppers as a meal, however I use the mustard mash with a Toad-in-the-hole and a red onion gravy. As a result of this, I do really like the section at the end of the book called Basics - which includes recipes for things like mayonnaise, roasties, hollandaise sauce and such. This for me is an excellent inclusion, it means I can have a quality foundation or side sauce for many dishes.

      On that note, I think I've exhausted all I can say about Pub Food. Some of the recipes, and the book itself, are excellent, but some are too complex or simply unappealing. Overall, its worth a flick through to see for yourself if the good outweighs the bad - for me they do.

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        13.08.2011 12:24
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        I'm stuck with it and its fine for me.

        I have suffered from cripplingly bad (ok slight exaggeration) hayfever for nearly 10 years straight and from the start have tried countless different tablet medicines available over the counter. For me, Piriton is the only tablet that actually works and I don't suffer from any side-effect.

        For me hay fever is the perfect alarm clock as I have to lunge for a tablet the moment I wake up, or I'm sneezing for the best part of an hour and can barely see for my runny eyes. This gives you an idea of how badly I suffer from hay fever!

        Piriton contains 4mg of chlorphenamine maleate per tablet, which are small & easy to swallow - which is great because during that awkward moment when it doesn't go down first time, if you don't react quickly they taste disgusting! I find that Piriteze, which as far as I can tell is Piriton's little sister with less medication, is not strong enough.

        Piriton is advertised for the 'fast relief' from the symptoms of hayfever & other allerges, nettle rash, hives, dermatitis, prickly heat, reactions to food or additives, medicines, insect bites, and chickenpox. I have read in places that it does not seem to take effect for up to an hour - for me this is not a problem as a hayfever medication as it seems to prevent symptoms straight away, though this may be a problem for other ailments - I simply don't know I'm afraid.

        When I purchase Piriton over-the-counter at Boots I am warned of the main side-effect - drowsiness, and the standard 'Do not operate heavy machinery' warnings are given with the product. I don't suffer from this, but again this may be a personal thing. The label also says to avoid alcohol while using this medication - being a student I have been known to take a Piriton with a swig of beer or somesuch and there are no adverse effects (as far as I can tell), though I do seem to become 'influenced' quicker. Basically I don't recommend or encourage consuming alcohol while using Piriton medication, but as the hayfever season runs for months & months I have repeatedly found no health issue with doing so.

        The dosage is 1 tablet every 4-6 hours for those over 12 years of age, up to a maximum of 6 every 24 hours. I find that 1 every 6 hours is about right. At one point, 2-4 years ago I needed a tablet every 3 hours - so well over the recommended maximum - and was fine, though again this isn't recommended or encouraged.

        I have found, thanks to my thrift-expert grandmother, that it is possible to purchase big bottles of up to 300 piriton tablets on prescription. This is much, much cheaper per tablet and highly recommended, though it seems it is an unpopular method of prescription due to the quantity of drugs being given out.

        Currently, Piriton is available in a pack of 30 at £3.50 from Boots, or for a pack of 60 at £6.60, though there are almost certainly better deals elsewhere online.

        Overall, Piriton is the only tablet that provides hayfever relief for me, and I don't suffer from any side-effects. On that basis it is worth a try if you are suffering from an allergy and your medication isn't working for you at the moment. If you find it works then there are low-cost bulk options available.

        I'm going to give it 4* because it could be cheaper per tablet, and it seems to be decreasingly popular as a hay fever medication which, I'm told, means it may not be on the shelves in the future.

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        06.08.2011 22:18
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        Extreme is deservedly worn often by me.

        I've been a fan of Paul Smith clothing for some time and I have an increasingly expensive habit of getting new colognes before I need them. In this case my excuses were a good looking bottle and offer price in Boots! I like it as a sunny weather fragrance.

        Firstly, I think the bottle is a good-looking one as it is a simple glass cuboid with screw-top lid and spray. One side of the cube has the trademark stripe pattern, which I think makes the bottle overall look good but not too brash - I now have a mental image of the whole bottle being striped, and its not a nice thought.

        The fragrance is very light & citrusy - a very summer-y smell which borders on metrosexual. Its not for hard folk at all, this, but for most of us it is a very nice, laid back sort of fragrance. I would wear it to a garden party or on any sunny day. Because it is so light it wouldn't really suit the depths of winter or evenings.

        The scent is quite subtle - not weak, but not strong enough to be very noticeable after a few hours. This is a slight downside because it smells so fresh. Then again if I'm on a day trip I sneak it into the girlfriend's handbag as the 50ml bottle has a small footprint and it smells good enough to be worth an afternoon top-up.

        I really like this fragrance and I'm glad I bought it. Its subtle, summery and light, just ever so slightly too subtle, even for an eau de toilette. I would buy it again though.

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        06.08.2011 22:00
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        One of my favourite books, I'd happily read it again tomorrow.

        Like the previous reviewer, I am a great fan of Armstrong - as a sportsman myself I can't help but be amazed by all he's achieved - and all of it on the back of a 80% likelihood of losing his fight against testicular cancer.

        This is the 2nd of his autobiographies, following 'Its Not About the Bike' and he recounts his personal and cycling lives from after his first Tour de France victory in 1999 through to his fifth in 2003 following a break-up with his wife, Kik. In the book he talks strongly and powerfully about the effects of his journey with cancer and the community he feels part of as a result, as well as anti-doping allegations, his private life with his wife & children and home in Girona, faith, and the cycling.

        The book ranges naturally from describing mountain climbs in Tour's, to cancer sufferers, to Girona, and back to training, and so on. It is remarkable how well the book flows and how well its written - top marks to Armstrong as a writer. I found it very easy to get lost in the text and lift my head up an hour and 20+ pages later!
        This book is inspiring and powerful in numerous ways. Armstrong delivers powerful messages through his story about competing, about training & commitment, about serious illnesses & living past it, and about living every day with gratitude and action as if its your first and your last. Despite this, Armstrong comes across as remarkably humble and thankful for all the opportunities available to him - even that on its own is a valuable lesson.

        What I always ask after reading a biography is 'What can I take away from this?'. From this autobiography there is so much that can inspire and strenghten the wills of anyone. Personally, I found his stories about his training - "you can't get to the top of the Alp because of an avalanche" "what if I keep going" "you cant" "who says?" - and his home life in Europe most valuable, though I have learned a bit more about faith and actually living every day.
        In all this is a fantastic, powerful read, both a great story and an inspiring series of messages about life & (near) death. I dare anyone to read it and not come out of it inspired to do more, to work harder, and to see the real beauty in things. I just wish it was a longer book as I finished it and Its Not About the Bike in less than 3 days total - that's how good they are. Bravo Lance Armstrong!

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        • Canon Pixma iP3600 / Inkjet Printer / 12 Readings / 12 Ratings
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          06.08.2011 11:50
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          A solid standard printer but don't regret not having a scanner later on

          The Canon ip3600 is my first printer and by and large I'm very pleased with it. It is a budget option without the bells and whistles that more expensive models have - eg. wireless connectivity or a screen - and without additional functions like scanning or photocopying. However it is good at churning out colour and B&W sheets for most at-home users.

          Plus Points
          This printer was cheap when I got it 2 years ago and must be even less expensive now. Some printers still use single or dual cartridge systems, where if one colour runs out, more than one needs replacing. This Canon printer uses an individual cartridge for each colour it uses - I don't quite understand why there are two blacks but there we go - so there is little waste of money or ink. Additionally, the ink is fairly regularly on special offers at WHSmith and other retailers, such as BOGOF.
          This being a simple, wire-connected, mains-operated printer with an on button and a reset button and little else, it is very easy to operate and to replace the paper. So it is suitable for all users really. When not in use the paper output tray folds up and away and helps it look more at home.
          The quality of the printed paper is remarkably good for the price - images are clear and full of colour, especially when photo paper is used. This I suppose is to be expected from Canon over other brands, but is impressive nonetheless at the price. Having said that, online services like photobox are so cheap and easy that my Canon is very rarely used for good-looking photos.


          Moot Points
          Like many printers, this Canon likes to claim that its cartridges are running out of ink well, well before it is actually true. When printing off lecture notes last year in B&W, it claimed it was running low on black ink. I ignored it and it was fine for so long I've lost count - either it was 230 more sheets of paper or 230 more lecture slides at 6pp (so 40 pages), and I do strongly think it was the former.... the point is that it is well worth ignoring its warnings about running out of ink, until it does actually start to fade.
          The Canon can also be frustratingly slow to get going after you turn it on - it's not a joyful printer for printing off the odd page or two when you're half out of the front door. Another frustration is that I can find it hard to replace the cartridges as the unit doesn't seem to readily present itself within easy reach. The chances are I'm being a man and a berk and just not doing something right, so maybe its just me.
          When I bought the printer, I chose it because it was so cheap and I didn't need or want a scanner or copier. Looking back, if I had the money to afford a higher-end product I would have chosen a model that included these functions. Although used rarely, these are useful functions that I often wish I had available under my desk.

          Overall, this is a perfectly good entry-level printer from a reliable and quality brand, but has few bells & whistles that need consideration if you're thinking about purchasing the Canon iP3600 - otherwise you may just kick yourself a few months down the line.

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        • More +
          06.08.2011 11:45
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          Only way to improve it is to improve the content of mags, papers and blogs. Perfect ebook reader.

          Although I was very interested in ebook readers from their introduction, I didn't plan on searching for one to buy until they got below £100 so was pleased with a Boxing Day deal from John Lewis - I got my Kindle for under £80. I'm not sure that a 3G Kindle at £152 is good value but £111 is on the precipice of being worth it. Here's why.

          The main benefit of a Kindle is that it carries so many books in such a small unit. The kindle has the same footprint as a standard paperback but is very thin and extremely light to hold - no problem over several hours at the park or the beach. It carries up to 3,500 books which, needless to say, is more than anyone will read over its life, which means you could also have audiobooks or some music on it. I can't describe what a joy it is to take on holiday - it's so liberating to have limitless numbers of books all in my back pocket, rather than 3 or 4 squeezed into my carry-on bag on a plane!

          Amazon really do mean it when they say 'think of a book and read it within 60 seconds' - you can use a built-in web browser (admittedly kinda slow) on the Kindle itself, or browse online and order through your Amazon account on your computer, and any books you choose to buy will automatically download next time your Kindle is on & connected to the web. Books download quickly and without fuss, even on the wi-fi only model. For me, 3G is a waste of money as I prefer to explore Amazon with my laptop than on the Kindle's browser, and it is very easy to send books to the Kindle on my home wi-fi network. I would rather buy £40 of books than have 3G!

          The Kindle has an 'e-ink' screen, which does not emit light or use electricity when viewing a page - only when the screen is changed (i.e. turn a page or navigate through menus). This has two benefits. Firstly, the screen does look remarkably like a paper book - its amazing how easy it is on the eyes. You can read for hours & hours without getting tired or sore eyes (or thumbs). Secondly, the battery life is fantastic - a Kindle's battery will easily last for a whole month or more. You could go on holiday for 3 weeks or more and not bother to take a charger with you.

          I'd say that the main disadvantage of a Kindle is that the reading experience is a little frigid compared to reading a paperback - you don't realise how nostalgic just turning over a paper page or dog-earing is until you stop doing it with a Kindle - but all the other benefits generally outweigh this, and you get the joy of reading so many great books for low cost.

          The keyboard on the Kindle is useful for writing notes and such, but I don't use it very often at all - maybe I would if I used it more for practical articles or dissertation journal articles (yes you can read pdfs on a kindle, so this is GREAT for uni students & dissertations!). Another good feature is the ability to easily change the size of the font on screen - great if you have less than perfect eyesight, or if you want to share an article or page of a book with someone with poor eyesight.

          The range of books available on Amazon is nearly exhaustive - I've only once not found a book I've searched for - and the prices are quite reasonable. Some books are free, lots a couple of £ or less. Most in-demand books are a similar price to the paperback - some say this is too much, but I disagree and remember all the benefits of a Kindle ebook over a paperback. Anyway there are more great books for less than £3 than you could read. If you did want to explore more free or cheap books elsewhere on the web, the online service Calibre helps you convert ebooks into the Kindle filetype (ePub) which is required to read a book on the kindle. There are also newspapers and magazines available to download automatically, though the only good one I've found is the FT.

          Overall, ebook readers are great and the Kindle is the best one with its quality, keyboard, Amazon bookstore and online services like Lendle (borrowing books for free) and Calibre (buy ebooks from other sources than Amazon). I wholeheartedly recommend one for people who travel regularly, commuters, students and even for people who don't read much at the moment - you'll be surprised by how much more you read after a month or two. It's well worth picking up and trying in a shop, but don't waste your cash on 3G - wi-fi is well good enough & you could download 50 books with the savings.

          p.s. Don't buy an official cover, they're a rip-off, get an alternative one.

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          • More +
            06.08.2011 11:27
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            Worth trying on a sunny afternoon

            As a Balham local I often walked past this bustling little café on a street corner on the high road before I decided to poke my nose in and take a look. The banners outside that show the cafe has won 'best independent coffee shop in London' gold & silver awards were another pull factor.

            The café is very popular as an afternoon spot for mums and young children, but also is popular with individuals who fancy reading their book with a cold or a hot drink on one of the deckchairs outside. For the record, I'm one of the latter. Although at certain times of the day (And all day Saturdays) the mums-with-children thing can be too much, it is no worse than any other coffee shop in the area. It really depends on the children and your tolerances.

            They sell a range of cakes & muffins, sandwiches & toasties, and hot & cold drinks. I've found the hot drinks to be high quality with tasty teas and good-quality coffee at a reasonable price for an independent café. I rate it higher than Caffé Nero over the road. The cold fruit smoothies are also excellent, though the choice is limited by two of them (Raspberry Detox in particular) being appealing and the others less so.

            The food is good - I love their BBLT (BLT with brie) and turkey, brie & cranberry - especially the toasties. Though bear in mind that I am obsessed with brie. I find that there's a bit too much salad in the paninis. The sandwiches are fairly pricey as sandwiches go, but for a small, cheap lunch in the area it can't be beaten. The cakes are apparently home-made by local people and all are excellent - as a great fan of it, I can report the carrot cake is fantastic.

            I'm not sure how crazy I am about the atmosphere in the café - it can be a bit difficult to relax because it is a very small café and quite loud due to the kitchen machinery inside and the traffic from the high street outside. I really like the décor, especially the pictures high on the walls and two copper sheets on the bottom of the bar. One of the highlights is the 'tables' inside and out - instead of boring little tables they've recycled old school desks that even have the lifting lid - so full of character and original! Also the deckchairs outside are a really nice touch, as is the stationary pretend car for children. Its just a bit loud and a bit crowded for me.

            The service is decent and extremely friendly, sometimes I wish it was a bit quicker but its good to know its not rushed & that everything is honest and not out of a cardboard box. Overall, Bertie and Boo is reasonably priced for the area and I take a bit of joy in sitting in one of their original deckchairs, sipping a good independent coffee, while looking at the streams of people going into Nero and paying over-the-odds for a fairly regular cup of coffee from a boring chain. For a coffee shop it also has a good, ranging selection of sandwiches and cakes - much more interesting and tasty than at Starbucks or Nero nearby. B&B is well worth a try.

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            05.08.2011 10:46
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            You should have one.

            After the recent flu outbreaks and health scares that we all read about, a number of different hand hygiene gels came to shops promising to cleanse our hands and kill bacteria. I've used a couple of them and can't really attest to how well they perform in bacteria-killing, but in terms of price, fragrance, usability etc a review is worth a read.

            Its both easy to be slightly paranoid about hygiene and germs, and to be too crass about it and reluctant to treat it as a problem. For instance, we don't wash our hands in the kitchen nearly as much as we should, but we all wash up in public loos - is it because people are watching? - but then grab a door handle which is almost certainly as clean as a nugget of poop.

            These little hygiene gel bottles make having clean hands so much easier - a quick squeeze and rub of the hands and your paws are clean (allegedly) and there's no clean up or drying or rinsing needed. It is really simple and worthwhile if you've just been somewhere manky or you're about to eat. I've not experienced any irritation or any reaction to the Cuticura gel (not that I often get any skin irritations, but worth mentioning).

            The Cuticura gel isn't sticky or overly smelly and doesn't leave any residue or stickiness in the hands. One slight issue with the gel itself is that it does make the hands quite dry after use, though many of us use moisturiser daily so I can't see it being much of a problem with normal use. Another slight disadvantage to the Cuticura gel is that both the cucumber one and the citrus gel smell quite strong when you flip open the bottle - for me it is slightly too strong but it does smell fresh for some time afterwards, so a bit of a trade-off there.

            As a rower I often have blisters and the odd cut on my hands & knuckles - may I PERSONALLY recommend you don't use this (or any similar) gel on open wounds!!! OW! It really does sting.

            These gels are really easy to use on-the-go and in the small bottles (up to 100ml) they fit easily into any small bag, and of course would be very, very useful when travelling by airplane as they fit in cabin liquid restrictions and airports can be pretty dirty. I'm not sure whether I prefer the comparitively big Cuticura bottle to others that tend to be smaller - it fits in my pocket or bag less well but lasts longer before I need a new one, and is better value.

            Given the small expense of these bottles and the potential benefits offered, I think everyone should have one for those moments when you really want to wash your hands. The bottles last surprisingly long and seem very beneficial to general health.

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            • More +
              05.08.2011 10:14
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              Perfect entry-level toothbrush for converts

              I started using an electric toothbrush earlier this year because of a much-reduced sale price online. I've wanted to use one for a while and thought there isn't a better time than when its 1/3 of the usual price!

              Generally speaking, I'm very impressed both with brushing my teeth with an electric toothbrush, the Braun Oral-B 500, and with the price I paid for it. You really can tell the results of using an electric tootbrush, even a more basic model like this one, over a manual stick. It is easy to see that my teeth are whiter, my gums are more healthy and apparently there's less plaque build-up too according to my dentist. Given that my dental health has improved that alone is a good enough reason to recommend it to others regardless of cost! This is with the use of just the most basic type of toothbrush heads - other types are available including a 'flossing' one which is actually in the pack as well, but I haven't used as I already had a big pack of floss in my bathroom. I suppose this would advance your dental health even further if you chose to use the more encompassing types of toothbrush head.

              The toothbrush itself is a solid starter model in my opinion. I started with it because of the low price (less to lose if I didn't like it or if I wasn't satisfied), the trustworthy brand and the few features it has. This model rotates 7600/m and pulsates up to 20000/m if you hold it correctly (I'm not being Steve Jobs here, but if you press too hard on your teeth it slows the head significantly and damages the brush). If you press really too hard, the brush stops until you behave yourself - this is both beneficial to your teeth & gums and to the brush head as it minimises damage. The number of rotations and pulsations per minute is ample for anyone, as far as I can attest.

              A really good feature is that it vibrates(!) every 30s to let you know when to move onto another quadrant of your mouth, and vibrates a lot after 2min to tell you you're done (but you can continue if you haven't finished the whole of your mouth). Personally, I was under the impression that there are 6 'sections' of teeth, but I trust Oral-B to know more about dental hygiene than a teenager so there we go.

              Obviously the brush is entirely waterproof for general use which helps with keeping it clean - after brushing all that's needed is the head to be detached and rinsed under the tap, and then the metal pulsating & rotating part on the main unit to also be rinsed - easy! Many people already notice this but heads are provided with little colour rings to attach to the bottom, which is needed to distinguish between different people's toothbrush heads - I don't know where we'd be without these coloured rings! Its a little thing but very useful.

              The charge that the unit holds is good for at least 7 days of individual use - i.e. 7 days of 2x2minutes. This isn't just what's claimed on the box, I always achieve at least a week's charge. This is perhaps not groundbreaking but quite useful as it means I just charge it every Sunday night for convenience.

              If there is one downside to this unit, it is that it takes an age to charge - 8 hours or so - which seems like an awfully long time for such a small appliance. It's more difficult considering that the cable attached to the dock unit is really quite short. Braun really didn't think this through as most 'shavers only' plugs are up at mirror-height or at least above the sink in many households - I have to stack up my toilet roll to get the dock close enough to the plug.

              Overall, I'm sold on electric toothbrushes - once you have the unit it is no more expensive than a manual toothbrush these days, and significantly improves dental health. The fact that Braun models are significantly discounted online is just another reason to go forth and try it for yourself.

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              • nakedwines.com / Internet Site / 7 Readings / 7 Ratings
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                05.08.2011 01:23
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                Great for exploring your way through quality wines at low cost per bottle

                I recently joined Naked Wines as I don't know all that much about wine types or quality, and found a significant money-off voucher online or somewhere. I signed up but ended up not purchasing the discounted offered case as it was a set case and included red wines, which I'm not a fan of. Several weeks later I received a slightly cheeky email from Naked, saying that they noticed I'd signed up but not made an order or anything, so here's an even better offer. I got a half-case of assorted wines for the cost of tax & delivery - £19. At £3 a bottle, it's gotta be worth a try, right?

                So I took them up on it and ordered the wine at 2:30pm for the following day. I have to say that the fact it was delivered at 9:00am on the dot was mightily impressive and very appreciated - so I avoided the otherwise crippling and annoyingly common day-long-fruitless-wait. The wine was excellent - other than the reds which I haven't yet tried - so I was very pleased with my purchase. I took one bottle to a barbeque (bit risky) and I didn't get more than half a glass out of it, it was so popular.

                Since then I ordered a full case of whites & rosés, which came with a complementary 3 bottles of a white for free (obviously, just wanted to be clear ;)) as part of that month's 'Angels' offer (more on that below). My girlfriend and I are steadily working our way through that and haven't been disappointed yet. This also came at 9am if not just before.

                So I really like the range of wines that we've so far tried, and find the deals good-value and annoyingly tempting. Another benefit is that 'Angels' receive 1/3 cashback on purchases - the benefit being that, say, I have £20 cashback from one order, the next order will only cost £40 - this for a full case of wine.

                I do like the ethos behind the website as well - Angels make monthly payments (now £20+) in order to support small wine-growers and vineyards, which is an investment repaid well. As the wine-growers receive the investment they grow some fantastic quality wines at very low prices - hence the monthly deals as rewards for the regular payments. Although I think overall I will lose a couple of £ by this method, as I don't plan on ordering a full case per month, I don't mind as the wine is high quality for my taste (as a young twenty-something) and damned cheap too.

                Finally, the offers keep on rolling in - in two orders, we've benefited from: a half-case at £3/bottle; 15 bottles for £60 and free delivery; and a £50 voucher to give to a friend.

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              • Blackberry Bold 9700 / Smartphone / 2 Readings / 2 Ratings
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                05.08.2011 00:59
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                Solid but not special

                Like many, the 9700 is the first smartphone I've owned. I've had it for nearly 2 years so my time with it is almost up. In some ways I love my phone, in other ways I wish it was an iPhone or Android. Other times I just yearn for a 3310...

                Where this phone performs well, at least compared to every other phone I've owned, is call quality, 'push' emails, the physical QWERTY keyboard, and lastly (in my case) durability. It is less good at apps, processor speed and browsing the web.

                Compared to my previous mobile, the call clarity and strength is leaps and bounds ahead and really good for listening to an important call loud & clear. I was delighted when I made my first call. One of the main reasons why I chose a Blackberry was because I became captain of a sports team which involved up to 2000 texts a month and countless daily emails needing replies on-the-go. Having emails arrive almost instantly is a fantastic feature that Blackberry champions and I don't know where I'd be without it - in some ways, it means that emails take up more of your time and your life whether you're working or not (which may be seen as a disadvantage) but in my case it was perfect for late-evening or mid-lecture emails. Similarly useful is the keyboard for sending out texts and emails - it is very comfortable and easy to use compared to the usual '3-tap' phone keypads.

                One other benefit of the Blackberry I have is that the memory seems to be endless as far as my emails, texts, messages & contacts go - unlike with previous phones I've never had to clear my inbox or outbox or anything to free up memory. Having said that, the contact book has a weird habit of creating up to (no jokes) 9 entries for identical contacts - frustrating if anything because I can't tell sometimes if one entry is the right one or not.

                I also mentioned durability. Case study: I was cycling to uni when my phone dropped out of my pocket, smashed onto the road and was then run over by the wheel of a car (according to the noise & desperate apologies of the driver (not her fault!)). When I went back to pick it up I expected to have to go to Vodafone for a new mobile, however it was barely damaged - a graze to one corner and one of the metal strips across the keyboard missing was the only damage. Tell me that an iPhone would deal with being run over better than that! I certainly wouldn't come off better...

                However, the phone can struggle with some apps and especially when its multi-tasking. This can be crippling for the phone and frustrating. Similarly, the web browser can be weirdly slow and inconsistent, though it is pretty solid and easy to use. Finally, I do wish it had a better app store, especially considering the offerings available to iPhones and Androids.

                One thing I don't quite understand is why my friends with Blackberrys love BBM (the instant-messaging service). Given that the handset is so expensive, most owners are on high-price tariffs that include at least a thousand texts a month! And alternative apps (eg WhatsApp, Windows Live Messenger) are free to download and use. It seems a bit strange to say but the Blackberry Messenger app isn't really that useful as far as I'm concerned as I can text a contact with the same zero cost.

                After a couple of months of use I began to wish that the 9700 had a touch-screen - the icons seemed perfectly finger-sized and it would make the experience much more enjoyable - so was pleased to see the new phones that are near-identical but quicker and touch-screens. Overall I'm very pleased with the features on my Blackberry phone, but they don't seem like being anything special - when iPhone owners mock my 'brickberry' I can only say that the Bold should be the benchmark for all phones - solid, durable, with emails and a good keyboard & solid call quality - but its no competitor for the luxury of an iPhone or high-end Androids. It is also surprisingly expensive given what is Not on offer compared to an iPhone.

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              • Stuff Magazine / Magazine / Newspaper / 3 Readings / 3 Ratings
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                05.08.2011 00:19
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                Worth a flick through but not for buying decisions

                I like Stuff - I love gadgets and as a 21-year old I'm still dreaming about owning all the expensive, luxury gadgets and tech that the magazine reviews and presents to the reader. As someone still young enough to see a picture of a 3D TV and say 'whoa, cool' it's a good magazine to have about. Reviews are mostly in-depth and broad and cover most points of interest or importance - once you've read a Stuff review of a product, you definitely have a good idea about what the product is really like to use. I guess I'm saying that I trust their reviews as accurate & relevant.

                I do like the Top 10 of Everything section in the back of every issue - updated with new product releases - though it does take a significant chunk of paper to produce when I wouldn't mind having a quick poke online for what I'm actually looking to buy. There are a couple of Opinion articles as well, often about the future of some software or tech company or line of tech.

                However, Stuff does play on the 'that's cool' line a bit too much for my liking - I struggle to find anything in any category that is actually affordable for the masses. Personally I do value quality and am unfortunately a bit of a brand snob, however most featured products are at least slightly priced out of reasonableness - and I do hesitate to wonder whether the people who can afford the prices of many of the gadgets would purchase a magazine like Stuff with a bikini-clad blonde on the front to find out about them.

                Basically, it is a good, quality magazine and worth a flick through to see some cool stuff, but I won't be using it to make many buying decisions any time soon while most of the reviewed products are a little too aspirational in terms of price.

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              • Roots - Alex Haley / Fiction Book / 4 Readings / 4 Ratings
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                04.08.2011 23:26
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                2nd-favourite book (after the sequel)

                ---Just FYI I don't plan to write about the story or plot of the book here if I'm going to recommend someone read the story for themselves after ruining it by reading a review!---

                I have just finished reading the book Roots by Alex Haley, having read the sequel Queen several years ago. I read them the wrong way round (technically speaking) by accident; Queen was on my mum's bookshelf and I picked it up and it was an instant favourite, and I still believe it is the best book I have ever read.

                A few weeks ago I found Roots in a charity shop and had to read it and was not disappointed at all. It is nearly as good, if not as good, as Queen but it couldn't beat the magic feeling I got after finishing Queen first. Both are autobiographical accounts by Alex Haley (Queen was not completed by the man himself due to his passing) where he recounts the lives of his ancestors back 6 full generations. Queen refers to his mother's side; Roots his father's. As Haley was an African-American the story goes back to his ancestor Kunta Kinte in the Gambia and recollects strongly the path of slavery.

                Roots is a fantastic book that has so much depth of emotion, and paints fantastically vivid pictures of the lives of each generation of Haley's father's ancestors. Yes it is a thick old book but you would value that by the end, because you were reading the beautiful and rich story for longer. It really is one of the best books that I have read and I can't recommend enough that you start reading it and make plans to read Queen as well.

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