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The film is based on a short story called Button, Button by Richard Matheson, he of I Am Legend fame. The advertised premise of The Box is a moral choice, the recipient must choose to press the button in the box, for this they will receive 1 million dollars but someone, that they don't know, will die.
Cameron Diaz plays the role of Norma Lewis, a teacher in 1976, living with husband Arthur (James Marsden) and their young son. After an introduction which illustrates their financial troubles they are presented with the box by the elegant Arlington Steward, a disfigured and highly mysterious character who gives them 24 hours to make their decision.
It's interesting the follow the thoughts and discussions of the couple as they puzzle through the moral maze. As they point out "It could be a murderer." But in contrast "It could be someone's baby."
Later, the decision made, the film becomes somewhat disjointed, some scenes don't follow logically from the earlier story, it seems a little random, like the work of a lousy editor or that too much was being crammed in so explanatory scenes were missing.
The film becomes a stranger and more complex plot as each moment passes, this is somewhat amplified by the timeframe. In 1976, as my Mum says, the world was brown. Sure enough the lurid designs fashionable of the time are magnified on the big screen, browns leeching into oranges in graduated circles and rectangles. The clothes are spot on, I remember the cuts and shapes of the clothes. Somehow this seems right for the film, like it was made in 1976 and edited under some zoned out editors incoherent view. It weighs in so genuinely.
The screening I was in was somewhat unfortunate, my friend and I were surrounded by ill educated Neanderthals, horsing around during the film and laughing out loud at some of the stranger scenes. There's a concept that people are temporarily taken over by a higher power, serving a need during periods of observation and during that period they appear vacant and slack jawed. It's uncomfortable but far from comedy. Sadly the Neanderthals took this as high comedy. Later when larger groups of people are, absently but frighteningly, herding Arthur and Norma into specific places it is significant and creepy but the Neanderthals are amused yet again.
Expect the unexpected and stick with it, the overall story arc is really interesting and the consequences of each action are seen, echoed terrifyingly, through the later scenes.
Whilst we're there, what would you do?
When I first saw some of these reviews I was wondering how much could be said and when I reflected on it I realised I know something which might be of use.
We all know that toothpaste is supposed to have fluoride in because it prevent decay and can even reverse the effects and we know that most water companies put fluoride in the water. Right! But we moved house a couple of years ago into an area where fluoride is very different. We were advised, at the very least for the sake of the kids, to make sure all toothpaste we buy has at least 1000ppm, which is 1000 parts per million.
It was news to me so I was looking to see what we had and what we should get.
Smile is the brand given out by dentists, health visitors and others in our area and it has the required ppm but my kids aren't best impressed with it. They like the loony stuff in glittery purples sold at Superdrug. However, Colgate and Sainsburys both have gels with glittery and other silly bits in with the right fluoride levels so my kids still get to indulge in the silly kiddie toothpastes without danger to their teeth.
I've always like Macleans Blue Gel Whitening, I like the flavour but it's around £2.95 a tube so I always stocked up when on offer in Tesco at 2 for 1. Then I missed a single appointment and didn't see my dentist for a year, in the first 18 months after moving and lo and behold he was worried about my teeth. There were tiny shadows over my teeth on the xray he did, showing a distinct reduction in my toothcare.
So, my dentist has prescribed me Duraphat. It sounds like some sort of permanent cooking oil to me, such a bizarre name, however with 2800 ppm there's a good chance it's really helping me now. There's also a tube at 5000 ppm. You may be able to buy it over the counter at your dentist at around £6 but I know some places are selling it at around £9. I was scouting around for it. However, it's cheaper getting six months worth on prescription so I get mine at Boots.
My dentist recommends I use this as a person usually does but with less rinsing. He wants there to be a residue left on my teeth, especially at night. This helps prevent decay and helps to rebuild the enamel slightly.
I've also read of other dentists who recommend brushing with it as usual but then using a dry toothbrush to put a thin coat of it over your teeth before you go to bed.
Having used Duraphat for 4 months my dentist reckons we've halted the damage but we can't be sure yet. I'll be back there in another 8 weeks for another check to see if I need more help or if we've really stopped the decay in its tracks.
Another dentist recommended tip I've picked up is not to brush your teeth within 30 minutes of eating. Apparently the acids from your saliva and the food are still attacking the enamel at that stage. If you brush your teeth in that time you are actually brushing away the softer enamel. It needs time to solidify again before you brush.
Finally, after such rigorous brushing I'm now suffering sensitive teeth so, I decide to try a sensitive toothpaste and add an extra brushing into my day to help with it. Having seen the advertisement for Colgate Pro Relief on tv I gave it a go.
Colgate Pro Relief claims it will help reduce the sensitivity if not completely counteract it from the very first brushing. Knock me down with a feather - it's actually true! I brushed once and went straight for a glass of cold water which would usually set me twanging with nerve sensitivity and nothing happened. Apparently one of the ingredients fills in the channels which lead to the nerves and which react to hot, cold or sweet things.
As I write this review, that particular toothpaste is on offer in Morrison's.
So, there you have it, a bizarre insight into my water, my dentist, my dental hygiene and my shopping habits. Hopefully you'll be able to make use of that information to protect your own and your families teeth better and prevent decay and enamel problems which lead to pain and expensive dental treatments
How many ppm do you have?
When the twins were tiny but the novelty for visitors had worn off I got pretty sick of seeing the same four walls and health visitor so I sought out a baby and toddler group.
I lived in a pretty awful area, out of sheer desperation for space once the twins were conceived and as it was local the group was filled with the people who lived in the area. I didn't like it and I hated how cliquey it was, despite the bizarre lack of standards (stereotype Coke in a bottle scenario), how everyone would scoot off at a rate of knots when it was time to tidy up and the distinct lack of toys.
At that stage the twins were 6 months old and I stuck with it for a while for theirs and my sake but it wasn't pleasant. Eventually, after a long discussion with a friend of a friend, we decided to set our own up.
We found funding, set up in a central building to appeal to everyone, spent £3,000 on toys, got insured, bought books, big rugs and beanbags, lots of tea and coffee and then advertised relentlessly.
We provided changing mats, breast feeding cushions, endless drinks, toys from birth to 5 ish and even a selection for older siblings during school holidays. We brought the 5 a Day team in to do cook and eat sessions, we've had Avon, Virgin Vie, mobile hairdressers, mobile photographers, baby massage sessions, breast feeding advisors and a million and one other useful people and information and we've done our best to make it a supportive and comfortable place for everyone.
We run the group several times a week to increase opportunity for those who work part time, or parent on different days and we encourage them to bring their lunch in so they don't have to suffer the slings and arrows of snippy customers in public cafes etc.
For me it was crucial to see other adults and to find time to talk to people about something other than coochie coo and I love you! I wanted to be able to discuss the best nappies and the appropriety of when to wean and so on but not exclusively. Sometimes I'd prefer to talk about how hot Johnny Depp looks in his latest film or to drool a little over the guys in True Blood or Twilight (with someone who doesn't roll their eyes).
As a result I've met hundreds of women and men and their charges and children. I've encountered many, many different nationalities and learned what parent and child social provision is like in other countries. I've helped others to make friends and I've made friends myself. Reducing social isolation across the city and helping many of them to find new opportunities and new relationships.
We've filled a gap, bridging the time between birth and the return to work or school age. They've all met other people across the city, developed all manner of friendships, found work and babysitters through one another, found volunteer or training opportunities and sometimes simply shared a cup of tea and a whinge about lacking sleep.
Now, as my twins are approaching school age I wonder what I'll do without it? The group made all the difference to me, having a safe and huge space with novelty toys to play with, many other adults and children to mingle with and some treasured friendships.
It'll leave a huge gaping hole.
Having read and clicked someone else's wishlist my imagination was caught and here I am. Christmas is just a sneeze away, 20 days and it's not long until dreams can be reality.
Reality is good books, nice body products, a little bit of fan merchandise and a fab day with my kids but I'm going for the ultimate indulgence, what would I reallllly like? Just me? No Miss World ' Ah would like world peace' statements, no sweeping statements about all my loved ones, just me?
10. A Teasmaid. Now I realise I sound old and possibly sad but I drink tea like it's going out of fashion and honestly it's just too late in the day if it takes more than 3 seconds after I wake up (and that never happens). Some days I don't even have time before I leave the house so being woken with piping hot tea sounds like my idea of heaven. Pass the Twinings Everyday please!
9. My cat back. I had the most fabulous cat, Sisko and he moved out when my twins were born 4 years ago. I miss having him around. He was half Siamese, black and chock full of personality. He would keep me company washing up or fold himself silently over my feet whilst I read a book. Comfortable companionship.
8. A day of total indulgence, massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. I've got a vile cold at the moment and such a day sounds blissful, but then I've worked really hard for months on end now so a whole day of doing what I want is something incredible. My last day off was swallowed up by my tax return!
7. A Ford Cougar. It's not pretty, it's not girlie but damn it's a smooth ride and I love the overall comfort mixed with a slightly older and sophisticated sex appeal. It's just a lurvely car.
6. Show tickets. I haven't been to see a West End show this year and it's something I strive to do each year if I can. It took me way too long to begin my big show trips and I don't want to stop them now. It's a long way to London from here, no small feat.
5 . A recliner sofa. I sit in the most peculiar positions in order to get comfy, which does my back no good at all and I really think a recliner sofa would be just the thing with which to enjoy my....
4. Home cinema. I love watching films and I could really easily live with a good 42 inches of high quality visual entertainment on the wall. I know 42 inches doesn't seem so big but then the wall is kinda close, so maybe I need a....
3. Bigger house. I have a lovely house but I have these romanticised ideas about old houses with endlessly huge rooms where furniture doesn't have to be rammed against walls and where windows have gothic arches and the doors are studded, my own personal castle but on a smaller scale. But oh! the heating bills, maybe I should consider...
2. A place in Egypt. If I'm going to have a great house I might as well have two. I love Egypt and I'd love to spend much more time there so a home from home seems like the ideal answer really. But that costs a lot of money so maybe...
1. Well, in going for gold, all my materials wants would be solved with a single piece of paper, a lottery ticket with any figure over £150,000 would pretty much solve the immediate concerns. Any figure bigger than that would start solving the list 2-10.
Ahhhh if only!
Ghosts; the subject of much controversy, money spent, millions of hours of camera time, photographs and a several lifetimes of discussions.
I have a theory, one I'd like to talk you through.
We are made, partly from carbon. In fact, the elemental composition says we're more than 50% oxygen, 20% carbon and then there's many more elements like hydrogen and nitrogen which drop much lower.
Let's stick with oxygen and carbon.
If a persona dies their body begins to decay, releasing gases and the cell decay begins too, breaking down to our basic elemental parts.
So, our last breath leaves the body and with that some of our elemental cells.
The body is cremated or buried and we're eventually reduced further to those elements, especially carbon. Carbon is like a base unit for much of what we see around us and carbon is reused.
So, imagine the body is buried in a graveyard. Over time the elements of the body are absorbed in the earth and the various creatures within it. A worm which has consumed some of the carbon comes to the surface, gets picked up and eaten by a pigeon and the pigeon is later attacked and partially consumed by a cat. Minute parts of the original carbon matter are now within the cat. The cat sits in your lap, purring and sharing the air around and you both breathe and now you breathe in the same molecules that the cat exhales. Does that mean you now contain some of that original carbon matter?
It has been surmised that cells have memory, so, if the original carbon has a memory of being within the human and is now part of the cat, what happens to the memory?
Perhaps this might explain something about our cycle of experience? About how transplant patients take on aspects of the donators personality? Maybe how we believe in reincarnation.
And if we can see the connection there, surely the idea of cellular memory needs little stretch to composite a ghost? A visual representation of the memory?
Imagine if you like, the world of Phillip Pullman (His Dark Materials) where such a thing as 'dust' exists. Now basically his work connects with particle and quantum physics, with the likes of the string theory and again a sort of cellular memory.
String theory basically suggests that if you were to take a piece of string, label one end 'the beginning of time' and the other end 'the end of time' and then imagine each moment in time marked along the length. Now roll up the string and see how 1960 touches 1822 and 2065 and 809 and many others. If the barrier between those times is thin, or is damaged or is somehow compromised, could we perhaps see into it, just a glimpse, or a shadow? Could we in 2009, see Mary Queen of Scots execution in 1587, because those moments touched?
This might, for example, explain cluster sightings, where Lady Grey is seen many times for a while and then not again for years. If summer 1997 happened to touch the time of her death in the string theory then it could be expected to see many sightings and then none for an extended period.
So, maybe we are not seeing ghosts but a simple window through time?
Perhaps it's not a ghost but a cellular memory? A recycled experience?
I've seen no end of things I cannot explain, a picture launching itself 9 feet across a room, a tv which turned itself back on, a person on a security camera who couldn't exist, a voice waking me when no one was around, footsteps coming up the stairs every night but no one ever being there. My experiences are many and varied but I actually don't believe in ghosts. I don't think that cellular memory nor quantum physics explain it either but it's the nearest I can get to a logical and possible reality.
I'd love to know what you think!
I was a regular visitor in Whittards when there was one in the great big hulking monstrosity of a shopping centre known as Meadowhall. Since they often have taste opportunities for their own brand of fruit teas I've tasted most and bought many of them too.
Whittards sell many of their own teas and coffees and this particular range is reasonably unique in my experience, much like the crystallised Turkish teas, made primarily of sugar and fruit flavourings.
Dreamtime tea was one of the free tasters one day and it really tickled my tastebuds, evoking bizarrely romanticised ideas of flickering firelight and cosy pyjamas. Naturally that's not quite what you get but it is pretty good.
So, what you do get is a cylindrical cardboard tub with the attractive and distinctive images which separate this from the other flavours sold at Whittards. The top has a plastic lid which hides a foil seal.
It was quite an experience opening the tub for the first time, I ripped off the foil, quite easily but with it came a small, very fine, pinkish coloured cloud of tea dust. It was like a momentous event with a huge finale. You could see it, smell it and taste it, it was a full multi sensory tea experience and one which I'd recommend in a somewhat peculiar and laughable way!
Once it's open you can see the tub is foil lined, all the better for maintaining freshness. You'll see 500ml of a pinkish beige granulated product. Much like a funny coloured sugar and that's hardly surprising as the primary ingredient is raw cane sugar. Following that you'll find citric acid, black tea extract and natural flavouring, which I'm guessing would be where the camomile, honey, apricot and vanilla come in.
Those fruity and smooth flavours are liquid nectar. Sublime, sweetness on the tongue and perfect for a winters night.
So, the making of the tea. We use mugs in our house, great big blistering vessels in which to make large drinks, so we use three reasonably heaped teaspoons of Dreamtime to a mug of hot water and stir vigorously.
You can make all of Whittards fruit teas as chilled drinks and they are fabulously refreshing in summer with ice. However, the experience is quite different and emphasis is placed on different flavours. If you mix the tea only with cold water you'll find more of the fruit flavour seems apparent and you'll be left with undissolved granules at the bottom of the glass. However if you mix it with just a little boiling water and then add ice and top up with cold water, the whole product has chance to dissolve and the full blend of flavours is experienced.
I prefer it hot and I really do find myself melting into the chair if I sit and relax with a cup of dream tea.
It's £5 per tub or 3 for £13 and you can mix and match your favoured flavours if you'd like to, there's a good list of choices;
Strawberry & Blueberry, Summer Fruits, Mandarin & Pomegranate and Apple & White Cranberry which are all green teas.
Dreamtime, Pear & Guava, Blackcurrant & Elderflower, Cranberry & Raspberry, English Fruits, Turkish Apple, Piña Colada, Pink Grapefruit, Lemon & Lime, Mango & Passion Fruit, Mulled Wine, Pink Lemonade and
All can be consumed hot or cold but according to taste you'll find your own preferences. I'm less keen on the green teas but even they have their own special yummyness.
I'd strongly recommend Dreamtime and at just 40 calories per 100ml it won't be too much an indulgence.
It's cold, it's winter and I'm off for a cup now!
Following the hugely successful Baby Einstein Little Einsteins have come to provide that next educational entertainment step for your little ones.
The gruesome twosome (my twins) have just come in from nursery and in the lunch making interim they're having a quiet few minutes in front of the tv. Sure enough Little Einsteins is on, which prompts my review.
It began in 2005 with some of the same people from The Baby Einstein Company and those who made Dora The Explorer, another hugely successful edutoon (my phrase!).
I'd say it's appropriate for children from around 18- 24 months up to age 5 ish but by that age it's unlikely to be a challenge.
Little Einsteins features four small children, two girls, June and Annie. Two boys Leo and Quincy and the teams friendly and intelligent transport pal Rocket, who is every mode of transport they could ever need. He also seems to be the sort of responsible one who keeps the kids out of trouble.
Each episode is a mission, themed by a famous painting, the details of the artist and enhanced by a piece of famous music and it's composer.
In every episode the team will have to travel, often to any far flung country, to rescue something or someone, to find a part of a puzzle, to help someone in some way or another.
It might be that the landscape is the painting and the music helps to illustrate a moment of tension as the Little Einsteins navigate through a tricky situation and in that way it is especially clever. The viewer absorbs the music, it's style and tempo without being spoonfed tedious information which will pass right over their little heads. Instead they'll be led by the musical Leo to pat the rhythm on their knees and he uses the technical terms for the music, encouraging them to learn and take part in a fun way. They'll often increase the 'pat, pat' speed to get Rocket to go faster or to rise higher and my two certainly get involved in that.
Further to each mission each team member has a talent which they can often use to help solve the problems or identify with other characters.
Leo has a baton and he's often leading or problem solving, June loves ballet and she uses the correct references to describe movement, Quincy loves musical instruments and Annie sings, often describing beats and melodies with her voice.
Each episode ends with the 'curtain call which reviews the images, the music and their respective artistic creators, then there's usually a slightly random comedy moment, like a burger drops on the stage. I don't really know why though!
Sometimes episodes have relatable content, like The Three Little Pigs which kids would remember from the traditional stories heard and read all over. Sometimes all the characters are new and unique to Little Einsteins and yet they'll all relate to children's real life experiences. One character is afraid of the dark, another doubts them self at times, humanistic traits the viewer will recognise.
My kids are still entranced by it, the know the character names, we have some of the figurines and books and they're still learning whilst having fun and interacting.
It's easy to approve of this fab kids programme.
True Blood, well as the title for a TV series it could mean many things but it relates to the new HBO series about vampires.
Now, I'm a bit of a sucker (hah!) for vampires anyway so I gave this series a go based on the recommendations of a friend who has the same 'taste' (oh the vamp gags could go on in a similar vein for a while).
I watched the first one after recording it to Sky+ but I was really disinterested, it seemed crass and ill prepared. Sookie, played by Anna Paquin, seemed just too plaintive and passive to be a character of any worth and her brother Jason, Ryan Kwanten, is a lewd womaniser who raised my disapproving eyebrows with disgust.
So, done and dusted I merrily deleted the show and went back to my usual tv thirsts.
But my friend kept mentioning it and how hooked she was. I was bewildered, how could she like this flimsy affectation of television?
A few weeks and many mentions later I realised I hadn't cancelled the series link on Sky+ so the series had been recording all along. So, whilst half engaged on my pc I let another two episodes drone away in the the background and eventually my interest began to pique. You might even say I began to bite!
Set in Bon Temps in Lousiana, the Deep South it's a fictional reality where vampires and humans live in an uneasy truce, overseen by each species' law enforcement and by the constant negotiations of politicians and sympathisers. In their small town the everyday existence of vampires is a scandal and Sookie, the local diner waitress, is somewhat more tactful than most.
Tru Blood is the bottled synthetic blood sold behind bars for vampires and humans if they feel they want to indulge, however, there's a market for real human blood and conversely for vampire blood which is a hugely powerful and unusually dangerous drug to humans, known as V.
Sookie meets Bill Compton, played by Essex boy Stephen Moyer, a young vampire in the grand scheme of things, who is quite the southern gent. Through Sookie and Bill the viewer learns a lot about this fictional world, its politics and limitations and we are introduced to Sookie's revolting brother who sleeps with everything that moves, pretty much with or without a pulse and keep in mind that vampires don't. We also meet Sookie's best friend Tara, Tara's unusual brother, Sookie's grandma, the bar owner and the other staff who work there, all of whom become intrinsic parts of the first seasons story arc.
There are elements of the whole thing which remain from the first episode, crass and somewhat eye opening. Jason's perpetual sexual exploits are somewhat graphically detailed at times and the whole seduction routines stereotypical of gothic vampires creep in, peppered with some 'truly bloody' gore scenes.
Those, in the programme who sleep with vampires are called fangbangers. It's a gritty but pretty nasty name and this is far from the least of what's shown in the series.
Despite all that it really did lure me in. I began to enjoy the characters. I feel Anna Paquin delivers a somewhat wishy washy Sookie who barely seems convinced of her owns beliefs. Stephen Moyer is surprising as Bill, he's not stereotypically gorgeous and older than I would have thought best suited, though nonetheless attractive, but he manages to pull off some sort of presence which gives him much more appeal than I suspect he usually would. He does dark and brooding pretty well and frankly vampires wouldn't be half as interesting if they were all sweetness and light. It's that draw of a dangerous bad boy, but with out actually having to explain to your mother!
It's funny in places, ironic and draws parallels to the dangers of our own living, perhaps if we replaced the idea of politician with vampires we'd be drawing quite similar ideas. However, above and beyond clever comparative critique it has to be said that it isn't academic, it is rather risque at times and there is nothing of social value to be learned, there's no genius commentary on modern living and no illusions about the complete indulgence that it is. It's pure visual chewing gum.
It's been quite a scandal in the media, those in the news branding it pornographic for 10pm and the church deeming it vacuous and morally inappropriate. But then this is the same church who have issues with Harry Potter and the same people who made the watershed 9pm and True Blood is shown at 10pm.
The uproar gives you an idea of propriety. If Twilight is about as much as you can handle, give True Blood a miss. If Anne Rice is more your style, try Lestat on Viagra on then you're heading the right direction!
Money Saving Expert, what a delight to the frugal?
Martin Lewis, the owner, began the site in a bid to help people keep their money where ever possible, preventing the ridiculous situations which crop up where people get charged extra on a mortgage but there's no reason why, or someone else pays £200 more on the same car with the same personal details for their insurance.
Martin seems to be all about Robin Hood, but there's no stealing from the rich, it's more like giving information to the poor... and the not so poor. It's titled Consumer Revenge and I love it!
So, the two main aspects of the site, the information area which is separated into subtitles, in there you might find titles like Credit Cards or Mortgages, Utilities, Banking and Saving, Shopping and Spending and various others. Each of those has a huge amount of information for every one in the UK. If you're looking to understand mortgages this is the place, in many cases they'll probably have links to useful sites which calculate mortgages, calculate repayment terms or just to find you the best deal. You'll be guided through each and every step and given much of the information you need to make sure you keep as much of your money as possible.
The same applies to utility providers, you might be looking for ways to cut down, or to reduce payments or maybe even to switch and there will be lots of information about that too.
The information you can garner on the site is colossal.
You can even sign up for a weekly email which gives you a run down of the best offers and frequently links to print vouchers or to get more details about an offer.
The second area is the Forums, this like any other forum but with a money saving twist, all the sections are divided in a similar manner, for people to discuss their problems with bank charges for example, or to ask if anyone knows of any codes for a particular store.
You can really approach the forums in a few ways.
It's an information resource, worthwhile to learn.
It's a place to share your experiences and expertise.
It's a quick way to find out about any savings you might be able to make.
It's a bit like a review site, you can be sure that any company who burnt a customer will be named and shamed in some way on those forums.
It helps you make informed decisions about every penny you spend.
Personally I've used the forums to best decide how to deal with a company who weren't delivering the goods ( a helicopter flight) that I'd paid for two years previously. I've discovered endless voucher codes for my purchases, like a whole 30% off with Littlewoods (now Very) which bought me a branded washer dryer for a mere £266.
I've found out about many of the little glitches in the Boots system which allow the customer a few little extra perks and I've known about sales before they've begun.
I've been best educated in which stores accept coupons on groceries and their store policies about that. I've known which restaurants are giving discounts so my nights out are also reduced.
Some of the information will be of no use, with time and familiarity you'll find an area which is useful to you. Even by reading this I know you have access to a pc so you might find out how to save money on your internet connection, or how to get a free phone line tied in with your contract. You might need a new pc and someone on MSE will be able to inform you of the best current offers.
If there are no answers for your concerns or queries you can post a question and there's even a chat area to give you chance to ask any questions you'd like some feedback on. People are invariably helpful, fighting the good fight as consumer warriors together!
The site is free to join and asks for very few personal details, the usual forum rules apply, no swearing and trouble causing and in return you'll be rewarded with a wealth of information which could save you a lot of money!
Be careful, the site is there to save you money, sometimes the offers are so tempting so be aware that you could be spending rather than saving if you give in!
Hello, I'm Happyjaw and I'm a Boots addict....
My addiction began with the advent of the Boots Advantage card, the rest, as they say, is history.
Speaking of history, it was John Boot who founded Boots in 1849, but Jesse Boot, John's son, is the driving force which made that company into the huge chain it is now.
Further to that, it was Jesse's wife Florence who, described as "one of the most remarkable women of her day", was responsible for beginning the beauty aspect of the chain, a leading part of the Boots revenue 160 years later.
So, given it's such a major part of the business it's no surprise that you'll most likely encounter beauty counters in most of the larger stores from the second you walk in the door. Each branch has a slightly different layout but you'll find they all have a staple stock and grow from there in size and variety.
My favourite store is one of the flagships at Meadowhall, it's enormous. From the front door you'll find the major beauty counters, including the likes of Chanel, Yves St Laurent, Clarins and Boots own No.7 counter. Each of which will offer their range of products, testers, make overs and occasionally samples.
You'll then find smaller concessions for the mid range brands like Rimmel, L'Oreal, Maybelline, Boots lower cost range called 17 and various others depending on the size of the store. You might also find Naturals, another of Boots own, then there's the slightly higher line brands like Urban Decay and Too Faced.
In most stores you'll find a large range of scents, through the lower cost products like the inimitable Brut but right through fashion brands like Britney Spears and into the high brow labels like Chanel again. I've had some amazing deals on Davidoff products via Boots when they give out £5 off fragrance vouchers and I've just this week seen a good deal on Ghost Sweetheart.
In pretty much every Boots store you'll find the dispensing chemist, each usually has two areas, there's the 'over the counter' purchases, like cough medicine and other safer medicinal preparations. Then there's the prescriptions only area which works the same as any other chemist. You'll often find an area with plasters and first aid, basic painkillers, decongestants and so on which you can just take off the shelf.
Many stores now have photo services with developing, writing to disk, scanning and copying. There's often a range of machines which you can use to select, edit and electronically submit your images to be printed from your digital camera or memory card.
Nearby you'll usually find photo albums, memory cards, camera film, CDs and DVDs, PC flash drive sticks, photo frames and a few novelty items like kits to make your own postcards out of photos or miniature digital photo frames.
Boots hold range of clothing for babies and children, the primary range is called Mini Mode and goes from 'premature baby' right up to age 6. There's recently a new range called Molly and Jack, the sort of high street Boden with a lot of retro fabrics and styles.
One of the best parts of the Boots clothing ranges is the mix and match options, you can often find around 4 tops and 4 trousers, skirts and dresses in a colour or design group. A recent example is 'Birdcage'. It had a simplistic design of a little bird in a cage and some flowers and in that range I found 2 tops, 2 different pairs of trousers and a skirt which I like and which my twins can wear and mix and match. Which in theory means Daddy can't go far wrong when he dresses them.
You can buy the basics too, socks, vests, pyjamas, knickers and pants, dressing gowns and so on.
There are seasonal ranges, swimsuits and trunks, sun hats and glasses and an excellent range of sunsuits with UV protection. In Winter fleecey sleep suits, slipper socks, mittens, gloves, scarves, hats and even thick winter coats.
Usually beside that you'll find baby items like an endless range of nappies of the usual brand names and Boots own which are usually slightly more competitively price. Then there are dummies, bottles, formula milk tins and handy cartons, baby foods and drinks, spoons and dishes, teats, teething products and nappy change products like the fabulous Metanium which cured many a sore bottom in our house.
You'll also find a huge selection of baby bathing products including the Little Me range which is brilliant, in addition to the standard Johnsons, E45 and other brand names.
Finally there's a smaller but pleasant range of maternity products for during pregnancy and the inevitable stuff a woman usually needs post pregnancy like disposable knickers, maternity pads and breast pads.
In larger stores you'll find electrical items like breast pumps, baby monitors and cot sensor pads. You might also find cots, pushchairs, bedding, highchairs and stairgates.
If your local store doesn't have them then the online store will certainly deliver.
It's worth keeping in mind that most branches have a baby changing room and often the facilities to feed your baby, including breast feeding. They usually provide free nappies, wipes and nappy bags for that change in store.
The bigger stores have various electrical items, from digital cameras through to GHD hair straighteners and a million and one other items in between. If you want your hair straight, curly, frizzy, crimped or none at all there are electrical for each. You might want your nails painted and dried, nails cut, lashes curled, face steamed, feet bathed, chin shaved or legs electrolycised and they have items for all of that too. One of my best purchases was their own brand range of lit mirrors. The No.7 make up mirror retails at £39.99 but is on the occasional offer bringing it down to around £19.99,though one particular year No.7 was one 3 for 2 and there was a money off coupon and all electrical were half price. I bought 3 mirrors for £9.97, Santa was generous!
There's usually a huge area devoted to hair products, from shampoo and conditioner through to dyes, frizz calmers, gels, mousses and sprays and more specialist ranges. You'll find no end of named brands like Umberto Giannini, Mark Hill and Charles Worthington but you'll also find all the common supermarket brands like Herbal Essences, Head & Shoulders and inevitably Boots own brands.
Skincare is another major concern and there's no end of items to suit every aspect of cleaning, calming, soothing or smoothing your body. You can find vast ranges, through Boots Natural which are delicious fruity smells, Badedas, the expensive spa ranges, Soap and Glory which is another yummy range and many, many more. This range is extended with gift packs at Christmas. The gift ranges are vast and always on 3 for 2 so it can be a great place for gifts.
Men get their own products section with all shaving equipment and all the brand names and own brands aimed at the male market. Anti perspirants, body sprays, shower gels, shampoos, pre and post shaving balms and other concoctions which men can apply to their skin in one place or another.
For women there are personal hygiene items again starting with Boots own brand and going through ranges like Always and Tampax. You can also find protection for weak bladders in some stores.
There are a million and one other bits you'll find dotted around. Boxes of tissues, hand gels, hand soaps and wipes. You name it, there's a fair chance they'll have it.
Some of the flagships carry a card concession, meaning you can buy gifts and cards all in one shop.
There's a year round toy selection of varying sizes but come Christmas time around a quarter of any store can be handed over to gift merchandise and toys are a major part of that. Boots seemto sample from many of the major brands of toys, Barbie in Mattel, Megablocks, Lego, and lots of tv character products. The ranges are enormous and it can be worth keeping in mind that there's always a 3 for 2 range on gifts.
Finally, Boots have food, there's a constant lunch offer which gives you either a sandwich or pasta or sushi with a drink and a snack. The variety should suit even the fussiest eaters and you get all that for £2.99 and Boots Advantage cards points besides. Sometimes there are offers which get you a free lunch if you buy 5 in a month.
The Advantage card is brilliant, 4 points given from each pound spent and often with extra points on certain items. Each point equals 1p which sounds low but it soon adds up. AT Christmas there are incentive points of around £12 in every £50 which reduces your obvious outgoings to £38 and £12 credit on your card. I've just recently bought a hugely expensive toothbrush as a gift which came with £20 in points plus the usual transaction points. I save all my points to treat myself in the January sale in Boots when all those lovely gift sets are reduced dramatically and make great gifts for yourself or others through the year.
All in all Boots sells an enormous range of products and I really like the selections and diversity.
I've just received a large delivery from Yankee Candles after the occasional purchase over the years and then a recent sniffing session in a shop recently. I'd vetoed candles for a long time after the twins came along, after all if they aren't in the house they can't be lit and if they can't be lit there can't be a fire.
I have always used an electric burner with real oils, far safer and physically useful in terms of aromatherapy.
Yankee have changed all that, that sniffing session turned into an overwhelming urge and I bought a candle scent burner and two small stubby candles.
The prices are slightly eye opening, such stumpy candles cost me around £1.70 each though the burning time was pretty decent and did us through two evenings. Further more, the remaining wax went into the electric burner for use as a wax tablet and remains scenting the hallway with delicious wafts of apple. I've yet to open the vanilla, I just keep eyeing the wrapped candle and sniffing it in passing.
However, I saw an unbeatable offer on Money Saving Expert.com for a mini pack from the UK Yankee website, a selection of the stubby candles (£1.70 ish each), a couple of scented tea lights, a couple of wax tablets (£1.50 ish each) and a candle Jar (£7.00 ish each), a large burner (£9 ish each), two tea light holders (approx £1.50 each), two votive holders (£3.00 each) and a candle plate (£3.00). The Yankee sales on eBay with the same package total this selection at between £21 and £35 each.
The package was really well wrapped and arrived in just 3 days and was accurately tracked online. Excellent service.
So, having received my delivery I'm currently melting a fizzy lemon wax tablet which has been deliciously drowning me in sherbet lemon scent for around 3 hours and I simply cannot complain. The smell is accumulative, every time I leave the room and readjust then return the smell is enormous though I am fairly constantly aware of it during the evening.
I like some scents better than others, the mistletoe candle is less inspiring that the tangerine by far, but maybe I just like the sweeter smells.
I'm sorely tempted to buy more whilst there's such a great offer available.
Stephenie Meyer really couldn't have known what she was about to unleash on the world when she had the dream which sparked the whole Twilight Saga.
Now in 2009 with the second instalment of the film now released, having secured the biggest box office success in its initial twenty four hours, seconded by the Batman films and with five novels in print and several more film deals to come, Meyer could consider herself a major success.
The second in the Twilight Saga is New Moon, based on the book of the same name and second in the four book story arc. Compared to Catherine Hardwicke the director Chris Weisz had a much easier job in one respect, the Twilight books were a growing concern, the fanaticism was only multiplying and the studio had given him a much larger budget than the predecessor director Catherine Hardwicke. However, the enormous challenge presented to him was following in Hardwicke's footsteps, or rather, not doing so. She, with a smaller budget by far and blessed with less of a fan base had interpreted the novel in her own way, a far more unique manner and it did not receive the acclaim she would have liked. Weisz needed to be sure that his work was loyal to the book and to the fans who would scrutinise every second.
Even in the opening title scene, the iconic image of a new moon and the words are presented well, beginning as we hope the film will go on.
Bella is the emotional teen, Edward is her 'vegetarian' vampire boyfriend and Jacob the American Indian childhood friend. Any one smell a love triangle here?
More of the secondary characters are explored this time, Jacobs friends and a new 'family' within the vampire world, adding further layers to the story arcs and possible outcomes.
Edward is 17 but in real terms 109 and Bella is about to turn 18, usually a good thing in most peoples book but for Bella the moment is a sadness and she grows older then Edward. She worries about being old whilst he remains youthful , following the story of the first film Bella wants to be made immortal.
As the storyline develops Edward leaves Bella, convince this is for the best for her and he goes and mopes around Europe whilst Bella remains in Forks and eventually grows closer to Jacob. He loves her and she loves him but not in the same way because she is still smouldering for Edward.
The film does follow the book closely but it would be near impossible to transfer each word into a visual sense on the screen. The character of Bella, the female centre of the story, spends a lot of time thinking. She ponders on peoples actions, the passage of time peppered with a teens insecurities. She is overwhelmed by emotion, so strong is her passion for Edward. To interpret thought in film can be difficult and tedious, generally to be avoided as an esoteric mistake. Weisz seems to have found an appropriate balance.
One of the particular moments I had wondered about was how Weisz would deal with the passage of time. Bella spends 3 months where we know nothing except that she is devastated. Weisz uses a clever visual shot, a single camera shot, or so we would believe, seeing Bella sat in a chair facing a window. The camera pans around her 3 times in a full circle and we see not only the room she sits within and it's continuity and hers as she indulges in her sorrow, but also the passage of time outside, the change of seasons, contrasting with her evident lack of change in her emotional state.
Bella is emotionally wounded, destroyed by Edward's departure earlier in the story. She disengages with life, becoming an automaton until, during a thrill seeking moment she realises she can conjure up images of Edward, at least in her mind. She lives amongst those fleeting glimpses and slowly begins to redevelop her friendship with Jacob, a friend since childhood. All the time Bella is still being pursued by Victoria, her newly made nemesis of the first story.
During one of Bella's thrill seeking moments she is seen by Alice, Edward's pre-sentient sister. Alice has a vision that Bella has committed suicide and everything gets out of hand, causing the Cullen vampires to meet the Volturi, the Italian faction of vampires who govern all others, imposing rules as they have for centuries.
The tale continues as everyone returns to the damp and greenery of Forks but not all problems are solved.
The novel is handled sensitively, according to the way it was written and the film is by far more accessible for those who haven't read the book, unlike Hardwicke's Twilight.
Performances differ too, Robert Pattinson is involved in this part of the saga far less than before and after. His interpretation of Edward is a little more sparse but still achingly emotional, perhaps in a strange way. It's easy to see the deep heartache in the first third of the film and again later before he faces the Volturi but at other times he seems almost neutral but even that is possibly part of Edward's nature at times.
Kristen Stewart, who was disappointingly wooden in Twilight, finally develops some ability to project Bella as a character, demonstrating what looks almost like genuine interpretation of emotion in response to Edward.
An added twist to the tale is the reappearance of werewolves within the Quileute tribe, a defence mechanism within their genes, protecting their people from 'the cold ones'. Vampires versus werewolves is a theme often explored and with great variation and frequent success. Of course, werewolves and change meant special effects and for a while it's disappointing, the first full wolf face we see is no better than An American Werewolf In London or The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase, both somewhat dated. Special effects have moved on tremendously and although both were good in their own time it's unexpected in such a new release. The magnitude of the special effects in Avatar, the next big release, should indicate the nut New Moon initially falls short.
Later, the morph ability and the violent fights and snarling improves and there's even a shot where a camera is knocked over by CGI werewolves which gives a brilliant shot which grounds the scene in a suggested reality.
Much more happens in New Moon than Twilight and it seems significantly longer but in fact there's a mere 6 minutes difference.
The reaction is markedly different, Twilight was received by less than 30 people during it's first local screening I attended, this time the same cinema opened five screens exclusively for the first showing. The audience reaction was what we'd associate with American movie theatres, big audible sighs, squealing and screaming and people taking mobile phone photos of one another in the cinema to post to You Tube; showing off to others that they were in the first screening. Bizarre!
It's a big step forward from Twilight and as Weisz had already filmed all of the third film, Eclipse, we should be in good, reliable company for July 2010.
My review may appear in the same or a similar format on other sites but remains my own.
I found the scrub on offer at just £1 in Tesco and as I like most Original Source products I thought I'd give it a go.
This is a 200ml plastic recyclable tube with a peachy coloured content with flecks in, evidently the scrub aspect of the product.
On opening it the smell is delicious, the hit of orange is both sweet and tangy, just like the real deal. Now, not only my nose but my education as well tells me that orange is good for revitalising and giving you a bit of zing in the shower and it does. In aromatherapy orange is used to help the skin renew and repair so it feels like just the right thing to use on your skin.
Then there's the crushed sweet almond. My nose doesn't so readily identify that smell but my skin certainly recognises the minute granules being circulated as I scrub away.
It's a great scrub for smoothing bumpy upper arms or thighs and the circular motions of application are recognised as being good for releasing the blockages in the lymphatic drainage system, therefore helping rid you of cellulite.
It washes off well but leaves little scent residue, which is a bit of shame. I'd be happy to smell like that all day long.
It's smell good enough to eat but you'd be wise to steer clear of comsumption, it contains all the normal cleansing agent ingredients, like Sodium Laureth Sulphate, Sodium Laurel Sulphate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide, the usual parabens to preserve etc etc. Far from a balanced diet.
It's available in most supermarkets and chemists and the most expensive price I've seen associated is £1.99 but with offers you may well do better.
I had to write about this scrumptious and delicious product after using it again this morning and being reminded of just how yummy it is after using alternatives for a few weeks.
Flake Away is the body polish of the Soap & Glory range, currently being sold at Boots. Soap & Glory have hit a bit of a niche market with slightly retro pink packaging and the most fabulous smells making them somewhat unique and ending up with a fairly loyal following if my friends are anything to go by.
I have the mini pot on the go at the moment, from a larger gift set and the pot contains 50ml of a yellowish looking paste with brown and black bits in it.
As soon as you unscrew the lid the smell comes pouring out, a delicious, sweet combination of shea butter, sugar and peach seed. It really tastes edible but obviously it isn't. If you really want to know it tastes really salty, which I'm guessing is added as an exfoliating ingredient.
So, to use it, it's best on wet skin in the shower and best used on your hand rather than on a shower scrunchie. The pink plastic pot suggests applying in circular motions until most of the grains are gone. That's fine, it makes perfect sense, giving the lymph system chance to be massaged, reducing cellulite and rough skin. It isn't necessarily the products achieving any results but the skin surface certainly feels good.
You don't need to use large amounts to get a result although it's very tempting to indulge your entire body in the scent.
It washes away easily in the shower leaving a pleasant to touch skin surface and a delicate sweet perfume on the skin.
It isn't a product recommended for facial exfoliation but having used it anyway (all in the purposes of science, experimentation and reviewing of course) I actually found it to be pretty good.
You can buy larger pots in the region of £6, the smaller pot is around £2.25 and there are often offers which means the products from the range are cheaper with Boots points or buy 2 get one free and so on, no reason not to treat yourself in my opinion.
I'd recommend this as being a yummy product which does what it claims it will.
As Boots are kind enough to give out £5 skincare vouchers every now and then I often feel obliged to make use of them (clever marketing!) and try out new products or save money on ones I'd buy anyway. It gives me an opportunity to try out products outside my normal repertoire.
So with voucher in hand I found the Olay range and found Olay Regenerist is included. This particular product promises to 'regenerate the skins appearance for a beautifully polished texture and vibrancy'. Apparently achieving the look of a mini peel with regular use.
It's a self-heating exfoliating treatment, so, as a product it should help in opening the pores, allowing for dirt to be cleared effectively. The product contains micro crystals which should assist in a fairly gentle exfoliating treatment, ridding the skin of dead cells and helping to clear blocked pores.
The packaging, a sort of huge and wide toothpaste tube, details application as being a pearl sized blob on the fingertips an used in circular motions will achieve the desired effect. In use I've found that a 50p sized blob in my hand is sufficient to give my skin the kind of scrub it needs instead of the namby pamby pearl faff but even then, the thermal effect is pathetic. There's a vague warming sensation.
In anticipation of this review I also tried it in the shower this morning and with the steam and warm environment I found the thermal effect was exacerbated and actually of use, opening the pores and giving a better sense of being cleansed. Although, the exfoliation is still poor compared to other products.
The product is a nice smelling lilac goop with a consistency and appearance much like conditioner. I like the smell and I can still identify it several hours after my shower but without a moisturiser today my skin feels a little too dry. It does recommend using other Olay products like moisturisers after this one but then don't they all. I don't use Olay moisturiser anyway.
There's the usual glut of ingredients, alcohol is in there which is odd in my opinion as it dries the skin. Glycolic acid is in there which is meant to be a good thing for declogging pores. There are two parabens, the much maligned preservatives of products. There's also limonene and linalool which are of note to some.
I'd argue that it doesn't do much of what it says on the packaging, it's not bad as an overall facial wash product but again, I've used better.
On the bright side, when you've only paid 86p instead of £5.86 it's not bad at all.