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ImVeryNice
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Member since: 25.05.2008

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    • Bodum Filtre Belgique / Cafetiere / 66 Readings / 66 Ratings
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      05.11.2011 20:38
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      A bit disappointing, particularly if you pay the full price.

      I was originally inspired to buy this product by another review on dooyoo, which just goes to show that dooyoo does work as intended! Initially I tried to buy from Amazon but although they apparently had it in stock for pre-order for a reasonable £7 or so, the site wouldn't allow me to add it to my basket for some unknown reason, and next time I checked the price had gone over £10. This seemed too much in my opinion. All was not lost though as a trawl through Google Product Search revealed Sainsburys online had it in stock for just £5.25, good enough for me I thought especially as I could avoid a delivery charge by picking it up from my nearest Sainsbury Local, which I drive past quite regularly.

      Picking up the "Filtre Bélgique" was a bit of a chore as it turned out: I had to provide proof of name and address - fortunately I had this on me - even though the email confirmation from Sainsburys online simply stated I would need to have the same card with me that I used to pay online. There then followed a very long wait while the member of staff went to look for my order (just how many online orders do they get!). All told, I had the feeling that I was bothering them with my custom and they would rather have done without it.

      Getting home with my purchase - securely packed by the way - I was keen to try it out as soon as possible. The main packaging is a printed cardboard box that is both illustrated with the product and displays the instructions for using it in pictorial form. There are no written instructions inside the box so it is just as well it is quite easy to use. Opening up revealed a glass beaker held in a dark brown plastic holder and the three-part filter itself. The three parts are the main filter body with its integrated metal gauze filter, an inner plastic section with small perforations in the base and a clip-on plastic lid. The correct way to use is to place the filter body on top of the beaker, add the coffee (around two dessert spoons) place the inner section inside then add the water (presumably just off the boil but you can't tell this from just pictures) and put the lid on. Gravity will see that the water goes down through the coffee so no power supply or moving parts involved!

      After a precautionary wash in the kitchen sink (of the Filtre Bélgique that is, not me!) I was ready to go following the instructions on the box. Or rather not following them as my first attempt went wrong - I really do prefer to read instructions rather than try to follow pictures, but that could just be me. So at the second attempt I was able to make myself a fresh cup of coffee. I would like to report it was a great success but unfortunately I found the result weak and lacking in depth of flavour, and also slightly cold. An initial difficulty is that there is no level marking on the inside of the filter and it is possible to overfill and make a mess. It is important to get the lid on quickly as this serves to make a seal slowing down the rate of filtration - which could otherwise be too fast - and reduces heat loss by convection.

      Refining my technique over the next couple of weeks I found I could get an acceptable cup of coffee only if used around 2½ dessert spoons of ground coffee and preheated the beaker first with boiling water and added hot rather than cold milk. Less coffee and the result was insipid while adding more seemed to block the filter and it could take a very long time to filter through. Even so the results were not great and I almost threw out a bag of coffee beans given to me by a friend who had been to Costa Rica thinking they had lost their flavour.

      By the time I had had the filter about three weeks the beaker had become a loose fit in the holder and the inevitable happened: it slipped out while being washed and ended up with a crack on the edge. All was not lost however since the plastic filter also fitted in my usual coffee mug. The only downside was that not being glass I couldn't see when the filter process had completed. Neither could I tell if I had overfilled it and this led to some mess at times.

      By now other family members had impressed on me that a one-cup coffee maker is a bit antisocial and I was persuaded to buy an eight-cup Cafetière from Marks and Spencer for a very reasonable £7.50. Using this I immediately found my coffee has much better flavour and depth - including those beans from Costa Rica - stays hotter and does not require as much coffee to be used. I am also in charge of the brewing time rather than leaving it to the slightly uncertain effects of gravity. On the other hand it is more of a fuss to use for just one person and a bit more difficult to clean generally. It is telling though that since getting the Cafetière I have not used the Filtre Bélgique again.

      Really I could only recommend this if you like your coffee very mild as even using a full strength roast produces a light coffee flavour. A benefit is that you get no no bitterness or after-taste though.

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      • What's In Your Bag? / Discussion / 60 Readings / 58 Ratings
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        20.09.2011 11:34
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        Doth the bag maketh the man?

        OK this is not the most serious review or discussion on dooyoo but it does seem to have built up a little bit of a cult following.

        First the bag. As a man I use a bum bag rather than a handbag though this seems a misnomer as the bag part sits below my belly not on my behind - that would be a bit impractical I think.

        The bag in question is a Gabol brand bought in Spain about three years ago and getting a bit the worse for wear. The zips tend to gape open unless carefully pulled shut but luckily I have never lost anything (yet). I recently put the bag through the washing machine which smartened it up and made it less smelly.

        What lies within?
        ~~~~~~~~~~~

        Main compartment is where I normally carry my mobile phone (Nokia E63). At the moment I have a couple of glasses cloths in there, some folded up leaflets picked up from the Job Centre and what looks like a sheet of my budget calculations (unlikely to add up). There is also a blue biro. A zip compartment inside the main compartment is where I sometimes shove loose change or shopping receipts. I have had a recent clear out so nothing there at the moment. At the back - still inside the main compartment - is a tiny elasticated pocket. When I was getting the bag ready to wash it I found my camera's memory card which had been "lost" for over a year in there.

        Rear of the bag (nearest to me when wearing it) is another zip compartment where I keep my house keys and car keys. Despite this I still lose them from time to time.

        Front zip pocket. Not much here either, just a black biro and and old M&S receipt with a friend's address written on it for easy reference! I usually keep another pen here too but it seems to have gone missing.

        Two pennies found rubbing together!
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        There is another pocket/pouch on the front of the zip pocket with a quick velcro fastening. I tend to stuff shopping receipts and odd bits of loose change here too rather than try awkwardly to slot them into my wallet while I am holding up the queue behind me at the supermarket till. Must have cleared this out recently as all I find is two penny coins, a Hong Kong 20 cent piece, my Tesco Clubcard keyring - too naff to actually put on a keyring in my view - and a note of the order number I need to collect from Sainsburys. Worst thing I have kept in here were some pins for a cork board. Several sore fingers later I took them out and put them back where they belonged.

        It's not much of a bag but I'd be lost without it. Come to think of it I do tend to lose it round the house on a regular basis. Next time I might get a different colour; black is hard to see when it's on the floor behind a pile of dirty clothes I find.

        And that's all folks,

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        • More +
          16.09.2011 12:07
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          The best kitchen scales I have used

          I have used a variety of kitchen scales over the years, from the classic retro-style with sets of brass weights - expensive, bulky and a pain to keep clean - various spring balances which all suffered from a sticky action requiring you to tap them several times to get anything like an accurate weighing. I have also used the method of cups and measuring spoons which is accurate but not many recipes use this system outside of the USA. You can also guarantee that the cup or measure you need is the one that's gone AWOL! Finally then I decided to look for a set of digital scales, overcoming my latent suspicion of hi-tech gadgetry in the kitchen. A secondary consideration is that I am an occasional eBayer and they would come in useful for calculating postage.

          Checking online at Amazon.co.uk the Russell Hobbs digital scales seemed to offer a good balance of price, function, looks and user satisfaction. Price-checking got me a better deal elsewhere though (at OneClickPharmacy). I paid about £16 - including p&p - compared to the recommended retail price of around £25.

          The scales come packed in a sturdy cardboard box illustrated with a picture of the contents. Opening up I find the contents are well protected and include the scales, a set of batteries, the instructions and guarantee information. The guarantee is for one year only.

          The instruction booklet is clearly written and illustrated and quite short at just eight A5 pages. It is all in English with a good-sized readable font and includes a small number of simple recipes too. Following the instructions I soon had the batteries inserted and confirmed the scales were working correctly.

          The top platform of the scales is a formed by a simple flat piece similar to frosted glass in appearance but in fact plastic. The digital readout is near the front of this and uses a back-lit blue display with large readable digits (although the display for the units in use -kg, g, oz or lb - is quite small). There is no bowl but this is unnecessary since you can weigh directly in a mixing bowl using the tare function. The platform seems small but the scales remain accurate even if the object being weighed is not centred. The maximum weight limit is 5 kg.

          There are just two buttons to use. The right-hand one turns the scales on and also functions as a tare button, zeroing the display allowing you to weigh the next ingredient without removing the previous one or doing any calculations in your head. It also functions as an off button if held pressed for several seconds. If you forget to do this, the scales will turn off automatically after about two minutes in order to save the batteries. The left-hand button selects the weighing units (kg, g, oz or lb as mentioned above). Repeated presses cycle you through the available units.

          In use the display stabilises quite quickly provided there are no strong air currents or vibrations around. Particularly using the grams setting the scales are sensitive enough to be affected by these. To save energy the display automatically darkens after several seconds but despite appearances the scales have not turned off. Tapping them or adding another ingredient to be weighed will quickly restore the display to normal. For me I would prefer a longer delay before dimming but then I am quite a slow and methodical cook. After use the scales wipe clean easily and are small and light enough to store in a small cupboard space.

          The only near disaster I have had was when using the scales after another family member. I always weigh in grams but they had last been used in ounces, which the scales remembered but I didn't notice at first thanks to a combination of the small display and my middle-aged eyesight.

          The scales are available in white as well as the black finish shown. They take two CR2032 3 volt batteries. The original set is still going strong after six months' regular use. A replacement set can be had for less than £1 from Amazon at the time of writing (September 2011).

          The Russell Hobbs website is at russellhobbs.co.uk where you can also download a copy of the instructions for reference.

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            12.09.2011 22:09
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            Fair enough at the reduced price but I wouldn't pay the full price for these

            With the kids due home from school any minute, a quick trip to the Coop was needed to get the little darlings (and me) something quick to go with a cup of tea or glass of milk before tea proper was ready. As always, everyone would be "starving". As a rule of thumb I try to get under the £1 barrier so headed for the clearance and bargain shelves where there is usually something to meet our needs. On this occasion I spotted the Mr Kipling Chocolate Chip Cake Bars reduced to a reasonable 80p for a box of six. I hadn't tried them before so was genuinely interested in finding out what they were like.

            Looking at the dooyoo illustration it is clear that these cakes have been repackaged since that was made. The box is now in purple tones, there are six cake bars in the pack and not five and their shape has changed; they are now flat-topped rather than with the domed appearance shown. I suspect that they are also smaller; they really are very small. They remain individually wrapped; a bonus for keeping fresh once the box has been opened and more practical for use in lunchboxes too. For us it is ideal having six in a box (we are six altogether in our family). This avoids the dilemma posed by packs of four or five: do I buy two packs or take a chance that someone will be happy to share or won't like it anyway? This is a delicate path to tread!

            Taking a bite of a cake bar I am impressed with the freshness of the sponge and its natural taste, nearly home-made. It is quite light and goes down easily. However, there are not too many chocolate chips but at least they are smooth in texture and chocolatey, not hard and sugary. The overall effect is quite bland and unexciting though. The opinion of my children is similar: nice if a bit ordinary and very small. They ask me to get something different next time.

            The nutritional information provided is quite clearly marked on the front of the pack and no artificial flavours or colours are used. Even the eggs used are free range (though dried) and no hydrogenated fats are used either. So Mr Kipling is trying to make this product a little healthier for us too.

            Nutrition (per bar).
            ~Kcal: 108
            ~Sugar: 10g
            ~Fat: 5g (of which 2g saturates)
            ~Salt 0.1g

            Perhaps it's just as well they are small!

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            • Tunnock's Teacakes / Snacks / 46 Readings / 42 Ratings
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              07.09.2011 14:59
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              Traditional and best chocolate teacake - much nicer than the plain chocolate version

              What could be more traditional for tea than a Tunnock's Tea Cake! (especially if you are either from Scotland or part of the wider Scottish diaspora - which I am though about four generations down the line). Certainly, they have been a teatime favourite of mine since boyhood. There are alternatives, mostly cheaper and some with jam in them but- apart from M&S's- I don't think they come close for quality and flavour. And where I live the nearest M&S is a £5 bus ride away.

              The tea cakes come in a box of six resplendent in the Tunnock's colours of deep yellow and red with red lettering and complete with a depiction of a lion rampant holding a Tunnock's banner with the words "Est. 1890 still a family business". Heavens! They've been around longer than I have (a lot longer). The cakes come individually wrapped in silver and red foil so keep fresh even when the box is opened.

              Unwrapping one releases a sweetish chocolatey aroma and on tasting it I find the chocolate covering to be firm but thin enough to break into easily; the taste is sweet but definitely chocolate. Immediately under the chocolate is the marshmallow centre, which is soft, sweet and creamy with a distinct taste of white of egg. Finally the biscuit base, though a bit overwhelmed by the marshmallow and chocolate covering, is pleasantly crunchy perhaps a bit like a digestive though with a finer texture. The overall combination certainly hits the yummy button for me. At just under an ounce (24g) they are quite small though not tiny. I try to make one do but since not everyone in the family likes them (!) I often get a second or even a third, which is enough to give me a sugar rush and consequent headache, something I'm prone to.

              I was interested to see that the ingredients information on the back is in two languages, English and Arabic. I don't know why they should be popular in the Middle East but presumably they are. Using my rudimentary knowledge of the language I looked in vain for the word "Halal" - indicating they would be lawful for Muslims to eat - though they are marked as suitable for vegetarians (in English). Deciphering a bit further I could make out the name "Thomas Tunnock" in Arabic script but most of the rest was too small for me to read.

              That nutritional information:

              Kcal: 106
              Sugars: 8.6g
              Fat: 4.6g (2.5 g saturates)
              Salt: 0.12g

              The saturated fat content is particularly high. Eight of these and you've had your daily allowance for adults. You have been warned!

              Tunnock's are based in Uddingston, Lanarkshire which is now effectively a Glasgow dormitory town about 15 minutes by train from Glasgow Central. I understand visits can be arranged if you are interested.

              Website at www.tunnock.co.uk

              Buying tip. These are usually 89p in Aldi.

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              06.09.2011 19:11
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              A superb treat for the sweeter tooth

              Thorntons mini caramel shortbread is normally quite expensive in my local Coop food store at around £1.80 so I was interested to see a large stack of them in the clearance corner at just 89 pence, which is more like what I am prepared to pay. They were still a day within date so I didn't expect any quality problems despite the lower price. A treat was in order anyway since my youngest had just come home from his first day at secondary school; a happy one too by the sound of it.

              The attractive and traditionally styled packaging contains twelve tiny squares of what I would call millionaire's shortbread in a moulded plastic tray. From previous attempts in the kitchen I know this is quite hard to make - the caramel never sets properly for me - and the ingredients are quite expensive to buy so all the more reason to buy ready-made, and with Thorntons the taste should be close to home made, if not the portions!

              In our family of six, twelve is a good number as we get two pieces each - if quick enough - and that is probably enough for most people. Although tiny at about the size on a man's upper thumb joint they are extraordinarily sweet. Nice though, with a good thick creamy caramel and quite a rich milk chocolate topping. The shortbread does tend to get a bit overwhelmed and you sense little more than a residual crunch. However, by trying a piece before going for the topping I found it has a (sweet) buttery taste with a hint of salt. It is of the hard type of shortbread rather than the soft, which I would normally prefer, but in conjunction with the gooey topping it works well.

              Given that these are so small and tempting it is unlikely you will keep them very long but if you do you will need your own container since the packet can't really be resealed.

              Nutrition is probably the wrong word for it but this is what you get (per shortcake piece):

              * Kcal: 86
              * Carbohydrates: 8.1g
              * Fat: 5.6g (saturates 2.0g)

              Overall I would rate these very highly for quality but recommend them as no more than an occasional treat given the high levels of fat and sugar.

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              • Nissan Juke in General / Discussion / 45 Readings / 38 Ratings
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                05.09.2011 15:53
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                Distinctively styled small crossover that seems to appeal particularly to women drivers

                Dooyoo tell me that this "in general" type of review is treated as a discussion rather than a product review, so I will try to follow that format.

                The Juke is Nissan's smaller crossover model following on from the amazing success of their larger Qashqai crossover model (Nissan's first top ten best seller for more than 20 years). It is probably worth expanding a bit on what a crossover model is, particularly as it is now a rapidly expanding area of the market. The main characteristic of crossovers is that they more or less resemble 4X4s or SUVs while mechanically they are closely based on a conventional hatchback: in the case of the Qashqai it is related to the Renault Mégane (Renault and Nissan formed an alliance in 1999) while the Juke shares its platform with the latest Nissan Micra and Note. The benefit of this approach is that that crossovers generally drive like a regular hatchback while purchase and running costs are much lower than a typical 4X4, if not quite so keen as for a standard hatchback.

                Most Juke models use a simple front wheel drive layout though a four wheel drive model is available but only in combination with a turbocharged 1.6 litre petrol engine and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). It is therefore the most expensive model at around £20K. A popular choice is the 1.5 diesel engine (courtesy of Renault). Developing 110 PS in this installation and combined with a 6 speed gearbox this is enough for lively performance while returning very good fuel consumption (55 mpg on the combined cycle). The basic 1.6 petrol is the cheapest option if a bit tiring on the motorway thanks to lowish overall gearing and only five gears. Official fuel consumption is a reasonable if not exceptional 44 mpg.

                There's no doubt that the most striking thing about the Juke is its appearance. Allegedly meant to resemble a motorcycle helmet in its glass-line, the Juke rides high on its over-sized wheels projecting a cutely ugly frog-like "face". The waistline is high too while the roofline drops in coupé fashion at the rear. The interior also has a motorcycle theme with the centre console shaped and coloured to look like a motorcycle tank. This is all a little odd to me as motorcycles and motorcyclists continue to have a reputation for being dangerous and antisocial yet the image of the Juke seems aimed particularly at women. At least most of those I have seen on the road have been driven by women of, shall we say, a certain age.

                So does this produce a good car you may wonder? The tried and tested mechanical components shared with other small Nissan and Renault models should make for reliability - and keep costs down - while the distinctive styling is winning sales. On the road you have the benefits of a raised driving position giving better forward visibility at least though the styling makes rear visibility quite poor. The rear seats also lack headroom and knee room and feel claustrophobic on a long journey thanks to the very high waistline. There is also less boot space than in the conventionally styled Nissan Note. The hard bottom-numbing seats are a typical Nissan failing. It drives well enough in most respects - though I thought it a little noisy in the back especially it was no worse than most small hatchbacks. The gimmicky centre console with its G-force meters and other gadgets may give the salesman something to talk about but will you ever need to use them?

                In summary then I would echo the general opinion that Nissan's bold and distinctive styling is to be congratulated (how few stylish Nissan models there have been over the years!) while basing the mechanicals on a mainstream hatchback model makes economic and practical sense. The only fly in the ointment is what Nissan might do when the styling starts to date (look what Fiat has done to its original Multipla and Dobló models). And in these hard times many buyers might do the sums and work out they will be better off with a standard hatchback model costing that little bit less to buy and run. But then the Juke's role may turn out to be getting the buyers to come into the showroom in the first place...

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                • Nokia 1800 / Mobile Phone / 64 Readings / 63 Ratings
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                  21.07.2011 17:17
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                  For me the best bargain ever in a mobile phone but not for keeps

                  Would you look a gift horse in the mouth? If not exactly a gift horse for just 1 p (and £10 for a Vodafone Pay-As-You-Go SIM) from e2save and a £7.50 cash back deal from Quidco, this was pretty close.

                  The phone was meant as a replacement for my wife's mobile (Her last cheap mobile had suffered at the teeth of our dog who took it outside to play with in the garden. Amazingly it still worked but half the screen was unreadable and what was left was slowly disappearing). Experience has taught me never to buy her an expensive phone; there's no telling what will happen to it!

                  The phone arrived by signed-for delivery within a couple of days of ordering it. Opening the wrapper revealed an unusually small box that appeared to be made of recycled material judging by the grey-white colour. No matter at this price. Opening up revealed the phone, rear cover, battery, charger and a pair of headphones. The instruction leaflet was very basic and printed on thin, greyish paper.

                  Setting the phone up ready to use is quite easy, particularly if you have had a few phones before. Fitting the SIM card can be a little tricky though since there is no holder as such; you simply slide it into a slot over a small plastic notch which then holds it in place. You have to check which way round you put it as it is possible to get it the wrong way. Getting it out again is definitely tricky, particularly if you have short nails. With the SIM in place the battery fits easily and the back sort of clips and squashes on. Like a number of recent Nokias the back is made of a thin, flexible plastic and is sometimes hard to clip into place and a lot trickier to get off than the older more classic Nokia designs.

                  Charging up is quick through the small pin Nokia charger supplied though my phone had about 50% battery in it already so could be tested immediately. Switching on you get the customary Nokia welcome tone (polyphonic) and the Nokia "Hands" on the good-sized colour screen. I have had a number of Nokia models so found the menus intuitive and easy to use. The on-screen icons are large and clear enough for my middle-aged eyesight (my wife's too). A disappointment was the keyboard, which has abandoned the stylish look of most Nokias made up until a few years ago. It also makes an irritating clicking sound when you press the keys and for me the feel wasn't quite right either. A mere quibble at the price I agree.

                  The phone features a simple calendar and personal organiser, predictive texting as well as an FM radio. I found the call quality to be good both ends and the predictive text easy to use. The organiser and calendar are straightforward too. However, since there are no external ports or Bluetooth fitted it is impossible to share data with any other devices. Neither is there any slot for a memory card; you have to make do with the phone's internal memory only. I had hoped the FM radio would enable me to listen to my favourite programmes on the bus or train but frankly the quality of reception proved to be very poor and the tuner needed constant adjusting. There is no camera on this model.

                  Taking the phone into town I was disappointed to find that no one was able to unlock it for me; apparently the cable needed for it wasn't available yet (it may be by now). That was a disappointment since it meant I would be stuck with Vodafone's tariff for the foreseeable future.

                  After having the phone for just a couple of months my wife received a literal gift phone in the form of my son's old model (he has upgraded). The smart Sony Ericsson slide phone complete with Bluetooth and camera obviously outclassed the little Nokia so the question was what to do with it. The answer turned out to be sending it to Fonebank for recycling and collect another £6 in the process. We still have the charger and credit on the SIM yet are over £3 in profit on the deal!

                  Summary:

                  Well worth it if the price is right and all you need are the basics.

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                  • More +
                    20.07.2011 16:39
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                    Vintage toothpaste offering that does a great job

                    I have fond memories of my grandparents' bathroom: the big old sink and bath with their crazed enamel, the stiff old taps worn through to the brass and the seemingly miles of pipe-work covered in layer upon layer of paint. But above all this was the strong antiseptic smell of their Euthymol toothpaste which seemed to always linger there. At the time I never tried it (I would probably have hated it) but more recently Euthymol has become my regular toothpaste and I plan to stick with it.

                    The tubes of Euthymol you can buy today look very much like the ones I remember from the 1960s. The design of the box is quite simple, white with looping dark green borders and the name Euthymol in red block letters again bordered in dark green. It looks a period piece of packaging, which it is. The design of the tube too is similar, white and dark green with the Euthymol name in the same style as on the box and a sturdy looking red cap. To open the tube you need to remove the cap, turn it over so that a pointed part is pressed into the metal seal on the tube and screw the cap back on again in the inverted position. This forces the point through the seal making a neat hole. The cap is refitted in the normal way. All this takes about two seconds in practice.

                    Squeezing the toothpaste out onto your brush there are two things immediately noticeable: the pink colour and the strong, aromatic almost medical smell. It looks a bit like Germolene ointment and smells like it too or perhaps eucalyptus. I can't say how Germolene tastes but Euthymol is certainly strong but not at all minty or sweet tasting. It slightly resembles Dentyl pH clove flavour mouthwash, which also happens to be a personal favourite. Both contain essential oils, which may explain the similarity. In use I find the toothpaste makes a thickish foam that once worked around and into my teeth with a toothbrush gets them clean and leaves my mouth feeling fresh for some time after brushing. It is not claimed to be a whitening toothpaste but I find the results are as good as most of the so-called whitening toothpastes I have tried. Having a large red screw-on cap helps to avoid this getting lost or forgotten - at least with me being the only Euthymol user in the family.

                    It is worth mentioning the two things that are not in Euthymol: triclosan and fluoride, both nearly universally found in more popular brands. First up triclosan is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent that is meant to reduce tooth decay. Sounds good though its effectiveness has been challenged. But more seriously it has been found to have contaminated the aquatic environment where it is toxic to fish causing among other things hormonal imbalances. Its long-term effect on humans must be unknown given its recent introduction in toothpastes and hand washes but it has already been linked to a number of health scares as possibly causing cancer or inducing allergies. I prefer to avoid it.

                    What could be wrong with fluoride, after all it has been added to our tap water for decades? Well it remains controversial even though there is good evidence that fluoride reduces the rate of tooth decay - without entirely preventing it. Many countries (including Germany, the Scandanavian countries, China and Japan) have either banned it or never allowed it mainly on public health grounds. The fluoride in our tap water is already at concentrations close to those that could be toxic so why take in more? Consider too that the fluoride added to our tap water comes from the industrial waste of the aluminium extraction industry and also contains many other contaminating impurities. The fluoride we take in is largely stored in our bones and teeth and is there for life whether we like it or not. Too much will cause skeletal damage and some even suspect a link to Alzheimers. I don't claim to be an expert on the matter but prefer to err on the side of caution. After all if fluoride and triclosan where so good for our teeth, people in the UK and US would have the best teeth in the world. This is clearly not the case while people in many third world countries do have excellent teeth without the need for either. The reason is a diet much lower in refined sugars, simple as that.

                    I normally buy Euthymol from Asda where it is sometimes on offer. Otherwise expect to pay around £1.50 for a 75 ml tube.

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                    • Paladone Henry Face Mug / Crockery / 30 Readings / 29 Ratings
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                      20.07.2011 00:22
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                      Favourite mug

                      It's generally accepted you should never have a favourite child but it's OK to have a favourite mug. One of the problems I have with my own children is that any time I give a little treat or spend some quality time with one of them (there are four) I am likely to be accused of having a favourite. That's a tough accusation coming from a petulant touchy teenager so to try and deflect the flak I have taken to declaring that only Henry will ever be my favourite. (Henry is our vacuum cleaner: the one with the smiley face.) I thought the kids didn't really believe me until I received a fathers' day gift of the Henry Mug. Obviously, this has to be my favourite mug now!

                      The Henry Mug comes in a sturdy cardboard box illustrated with a Henry "face" on two sides and illustrations of the mug itself on the other two sides and the lid. The slogans "Take a break with Henry" and "Once you're all done and dusted, sit down and have a cuppa with Henry" also appear. All very good humoured and appropriate for a dedicated Henry user (great little vacuum cleaner by the way). The mug itself is quite substantial, holding about half a pint of tea, is white inside and underneath but with a Henry face on the front and back and the Henry name on a black background above this, similar to the "Bowler hat" top of the vacuum cleaner. The design of the eyes and mouth on the mug appear to be identical to those on the cleaner while the nose is just where the hose would exit. The font used for the Henry name also appears to be identical (the mug is made under a licence from Numatic, the makers of the Henry cleaner so probably we should expect this authenticity). On the other hand the colour is quite a poor match. That on the mug is a pillar box red while the cleaner is a slightly lighter and more orangey red. Unfortunately, side by side they clash noticeably.

                      The mug is dishwasher and microwave safe and so far mine has survived well with no chips or fine cracks in the glaze, which is a problem I have had with some cheaper mugs. The handle is very large - I can get three fingers through it - which helps provide good support when the mug is full (and heavy). It does get hot but not enough to burn you, at least in my experience. With this kind of material (glazed pottery) there is obviously no affect on taste and unlikely to be any contamination from leaching of chemicals into your hot drink so I would rate it as safe to use too.

                      The box is recyclable cardboard (though you may wish to keep it). On the other hand the mug has been made in China so most of the cost you pay will be for transport and distribution. The carbon footprint may also be higher than for a locally produced item.

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                        03.04.2011 02:00
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                        Indispensable for good mouth hygiene

                        Flossing for me has always been a bit of a nightmare. Having very close-set teeth I have great difficulty getting floss between them without the floss jamming, breaking or shredding itself. Then there is the fear of the floss suddenly slipping into my gum and cutting it. Usually I end up with my fingers so tightly wrapped in floss that the circulation is practically cut off. Hopeless! In fact I had given up on flossing until I noticed my gums were bleeding regularly after brushing my teeth and they also seemed to be receding slightly, both ominous signs of gum disease.

                        The Plackers Micro Mint Suoer Tuffloss had been sitting in my toilet bag literally for years and the pack was still nearly full but with the prospect of my teeth dropping out I decided I had to give them a go. At first it was difficult, my gums bled quite a bit, a lot of saliva ran messily down my forearm and it took me a while to learn the right angle to slide the floss into the gaps. This is far more difficult with back teeth as even with a fairly wide mouth I found it difficult at first to angle the flosser correctly. Persisting and with the advice that the bleeding should stop within a week I kept up the routine flossing diligently night and morning. By now it doesn't take much more than five minutes (nearly an hour the first few times).

                        The Plackers hold up quite well even sawing their way through the tight gaps in my teeth. I can complete all teeth with just two of them (one will inevitably break if I try to do all my teeth with it). The floss runs really smoothly - at least until it is nearly about to break -and releases a slight taste of fresh mint, which is quite agreeable. The "bow" holding the strand of floss is larger than other flossers of this type I have tried and this allows me to use more back and forth motion to clean and even get the strand (just) under the gum margin next to the tooth, which I understand is particularly important.

                        The handle of the flosser has a gum stick moulded into it too, that you can break off and give your gum a massage with, should you have time. I find a bit too hard for this purpose though and prefer wooden ones.

                        The bleeding gums did stop in rather less than a week and I can now floss confidently and effectively. I really notice a difference to the freshness and health of my mouth too. The first pack of Plackers is finished and I had no hesitation in buying another.

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                          03.04.2011 00:52
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                          Doesn't beat home made but it's a good second

                          Aunt Bessie's Bramley Apple Pie has become our favourite "shop" apple pie recently. After many disappointments with chilled apple pies from the local Coop I had almost given up until I saw the Aunt Bessie's in the freezer on clearance at half price. Very tempting since that made it about a third of the price I was used to paying.

                          An obvious advantage of buying frozen is that you can safely stock up. In a three star freezer these pies will last at least a month in perfect condition. For some reason, frozen food has become associated with lower quality food in the popular imagination. I think this pie calls that assumption into question, to say the least.

                          Preparation is relatively simple, 50-55 minutes on a baking tray in the centre of the oven at 160°, but you do have an opportunity to influence the final result. Before placing in the oven you are advised to brush the top of the pie - which is a plain pastry - with milk or beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. This does make quite a difference as the result is a lovely golden pastry crust with a correctly judged sweetness. I prefer my apple pie on the tart side and I find I can achieve this with just a light dusting of sugar. Sweeter teeth than mine should be able get the sweetness they crave with a more liberal helping of sugar. The Coop (chilled) pies had generally disappointed by being too sweet with an indifferent pastry.

                          Below and within the pastry lies the apple filling of course. This is a "full" pie with pastry base, sides and top yet the apple filling is generous too. In appearance it is a little unnatural as all the pieces are approximately the same size and cubic shape; if you made a pie yourself with fresh apple the result would be different. On the other hand the flavour is good, plenty of apple and not too much sugar, and there is a decent texture: something to bite into. The only thing missing is the cloves but for that you would have to make it yourself. But at the price I paid you wouldn't be able to.

                          The Aunt Bessie's website (www.auntbessies.co.uk) has detailed nutritional information as well as a fun activity in which you can "Aunt" yourself by uploading a photo into an Aunt Bessie cut-out.

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                          • Russell Hobbs 18152 Kettle / Kettle / 65 Readings / 62 Ratings
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                            19.03.2011 13:42
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                            • "Ease of use"

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                            A smart and efficient cordless automatic jug kettle

                            There's not much I require from an electric kettle. Firstly, it has to boil water quickly and efficiently; secondly it should be easy to fill and pour; thirdly it should be safe and reliable. Apart from that, looks don't concern me a lot although price does. Handy features I look for include a fill-level indicator and an on/off light, although I consider these as desirable rather than essential. I initially preferred plastic as less likely to burn hands but my children are old enough now to understand not to touch hot surfaces.

                            Our old Morphy Richards Filtermaster was obviously on its way out. It took ages to heat the water and it never seemed to quite get to the boil. Worse, the immersed element had turned black and pieces of it were coming off and getting into the water. The filter wasn't doing its job very well and cups of tea often had black specks at the bottom. Yuk! Time for a new one.

                            First port of call Amazon UK backed up by a report I have from Which? Curiously though, the Which? Best Buys got quite mixed reviews from Amazon customers, with most complaints being about reliability. The commonest faults seemed to be leaks, lid mechanisms jamming or breaking and the plastic body or lining of the kettle affecting the taste of the water. Further investigation revealed that limescale was the main culprit with lid mechanisms failing and that glass and steel bodied kettles had fewer problems with tainting the taste of the water. Leaks seemed to be more common with Philips kettles while Russell Hobbs had more problems with the lid mechanism. My conclusion was that I should probably look for a glass or steel bodied Russell Hobbs kettle; the problem with limescale shouldn't arise since we live in a soft water area. My working budget was £20-£25, which ruled out the glass kettles.

                            Having completed my research I remembered that I had seen a Russell Hobbs kettle on offer at my local Co-op supermarket at £19.99. Checking the model number, this turned out to be the 18152 and the price lower than Amazon or any other on-line offer I could find for this model. Better still I could have a proper look at it, get it straight away and get my Co-op membership points. Which is exactly what I did.

                            The kettle comes in a sturdy cardboard box with a slightly misleading picture of the kettle on it. What appears to be thick vertical black line on the side of the kettle is in fact a poor representation of a reflection from its polished stainless steel body. Inside the kettle was well-packed protected by a plastic bag and more cardboard. The instructions come in an 8-page A5 size booklet which has a clear legible typeface and line drawings as illustrations. It is all in English too. The instructions are clear and well written covering safety, normal use, regular maintenance and advice to prolong the life of the kettle. One thing I learned is that I should descale my kettle even in a soft water area; I won't get limescale but I will get phosphate scale, and this can be invisible apparently. There is also some information on disposal and recycling. Because it is a cordless kettle there is a separate base with the cord and pre-fitted moulded plug attached.

                            Following the instructions (and common sense!) I didn't fill it with water and make a cup of tea straight away. No, the first thing to do is fill, boil and empty three times to remove any dust or other residues from manufacture and packing. Filling is easy I found either through the spout or the lid, which opens to almost 90° with a light press of a button at the top of the handle. The lid clicks shut easily too, and this is important or the cut-off mechanism may not function and the kettle boil dry.

                            Sitting the kettle on its base, plugging in and switching on by pressing down the illuminated toggle switch at the base of the kettle produced an immediate powerful-sounding noise like a steam boiler - which is what it is I suppose. I was quite surprised how loud it was although with time and use the sound has reduced a little (I understand this phenomenon of noisy boiling occurs when there are no nuclei for steam bubbles to form on, which would be the case with a brand new polished stainless steel kettle). The concealed element is 3kW and justifies its claim to be "rapid boil".

                            Once ready to make its first cup of tea I refilled with fresh water viewing the level through the transparent indicator in line with the open-style handle. There is no coloured float but the indicator is quite large and easy to read in both daylight and artificial light. Unfortunately, this kettle can't do a one-cup boil; the minimum is two cups (0.6 litres). The maximum is 1.7 litres or enough for six good sized cups or medium mugs. Boiling up for this first cup of tea was again quick and rather noisy. The water reaches a vigorous boil for four or five seconds before automatically switching off. The kettle pours well without drips or splashes unless you try to pour very fast (not a good idea with boiling water). The open handle is comfortable to hold and the kettle feels balanced in your hand although quite heavy if filled to the maximum level. The verdict on its first cup of tea was a definite thumbs-up: properly hot tea with a good fresh taste (no trace of a taint).

                            Having used the kettle for a while now, I can confirm that it has continued to perform well. The only criticisms I have noticed is that the polished steel does pick up scratches easily, presumably from the kettle contacting the tap or the side of the sink when filling. (I'm talking here about fine scratches that you can only see close up, but noticeable all the same. Russell Hobbs advise not to use any abrasive or solvent on the kettle which seems to rule out metal polishes, otherwise I'd be tempted to have a go with some Solvol Autosol.) You also need to give it a wipe over regularly with a damp cloth to keep it shiny and clean. The style looks quite elegant with the mirror finish being set off by the black base, handle and lid. It looks good in my kitchen, which is mainly white with oak effect worktops. The base has good rubber feet that don't slip and the whole thing feels stable despite a much smaller footprint than our old kettle. The cord length can be adjusted by winding it around once inside the underneath of the base. However, it was still a bit too long - my kettle sits very close to the plug socket - and I have used a cable tie to shorten it further.

                            The filter works well and I never see bits in my tea now. It is easy to get at with the lid open and can be removed and refitted by hand without difficulty, unlike the Morphy Richards which needed a flat knife to lever the filter out.

                            Considering Russell Hobbs' strong brand reputation I was a little disappointed that the guarantee is only for one year. Past experience with this brand suggest that it should last for many years but only time will tell!

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                            • More +
                              07.03.2011 17:49
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                              Good quality, strong and soft paper hankies

                              There was a time, not so long ago, when no one would have considered paying a couple of pounds for a box of paper hankies that would be used up and thrown away in a couple of days if you're lucky. No, almost everyone would have a cotton, or possibly linen, handkerchief which would go in the boil wash once a week by which time it would be stiff and discoloured with sn*t. At least that is how it was when I was a child (No, not in the nineteenth century; I'm talking about the 1960s or early 1970s).

                              Nowadays of course all that has changed and the supermarket shelves are packed with a bewildering variety of more and more exotic paper hankies, some costing as much as a couple of litres of petrol. And they're not all called Kleenex either. Which is why I was interested when I saw my local Co-op had the range of Classic Velvet tissues at half price. All the more interested since I already had a couple of 50p off coupons for these tissues. Net cost to me at the till 51p a box, compared to the full price of £2.01. And inside the lid of each box was another 50p coupon! So I was able to repeat my purchase and stock up.

                              As boxes of tissues go, these are reasonably attractive. The main box colour is white but overlaid with swirly floral patterns in either pink, blue or purple with blue butterflies depicted flying among the flowers. The main label reads "Classic... (Velvet softsoftsoft) ...and Beautifully Soft" so I think the message is clear that these are a "classic" paper hankie and exceptionally soft. The classic part probably refers to the fact that the tissues are plain white - whatever colour the box is the tissues are white - and not impregnated with any lotions or balsams. There is also a green label printed on the box which the message "for every tree we use we replant 3". This presumably indicates eco-awareness on the part of the manufactures, SCA Hygiene Products. Of course, the three that are replanted will take some years to grow to maturity - and not all may survive - but as a strategy it sounds reasonable.

                              To open it you tear off an oval insert on the top of the box (provided with a thoughtful thumb hole) and, if you're lucky, this will have a 50p coupon printed on the back. The next barrier is a plastic film with the words Velvet and softsoftsoft on it. Pressing this it will split along a central perforation to release the tissues within. At last your mucus can meet its match.

                              The tissues are three-ply and to my touch and feel pleasantly soft. Of course there is no scent. Absorbency seems good and can contain the usual effects of blowing one's nose or sneezing without tearing or rupturing, the three plies hold together and don't separate easily, while the surface of the tissue has a finely stippled appearance. Three sizes are available, standard (200mm x 210mm) which comes in a box of 80; large (275mm x 225mm) in boxes of 50; dressing-table size - a smaller cube-shaped box of 50. All are the same price, in the Co-op at least, so it's a question of which one suits you best.

                              I happen to prefer these to the Kleenex Balsam tissues my wife normally buys. For softness and strength there's really nothing in it. It's just a question of whether you like or need a balsam pre-applied to your tissues. Plain tissues have the advantage that they can also be used to wipe your eyes or mouth and are safe for sensitive skins. If you need a balsam then a drop of Olbas oil works well I find. It also comes down to price and the offer available at the time.

                              At the price I paid the only other option would be a "value" tissue, which I have also tried. However they are only two-ply so tear easily, feel rough to the touch and are smaller too. Acceptable in an emergency only I would say.

                              The cardboard box is recyclable as is the plastic film (made from LDPE by the looks of it). For the small amount of film it may not be worth the effort of separating it though. The paper used is from renewable resources and the box carries a FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certificate. SCA clearly want to give the message that they are being environmentally responsible, even though paper making is inherently damaging to the environment through its use of resources (trees and huge amounts of water mainly) and the harmful chemicals employed.

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                              • More +
                                01.03.2011 01:10
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                                Bargain price shower gel

                                Shopping for shower gel in Asda I was drawn to the usual displays of half-price, BOGOF and "Roll Back" priced main brands starting at £1 a go for the customary 250ml container. (Thinks "Why is it that these products are nearly always on promotion? Could it be that they are seriously over-priced in the first place?") Sadly, on looking in my purse I found only pennies and not pounds and I have had to retire my credit cards after flogging them half to death. So it looked like I would have to borrow the wife's floral scented gel and hope she wouldn't notice. But then I saw lurking on the bottom shelf and almost out of sight the Asda Smart Price shower gel. And - looking twice to make sure - I confirmed the price at just eight pence.

                                Mind made up in a trice, I took two, went straight to the self-service checkout and left with my purchases and change from 20p. What did I have to lose!

                                The design of the bottle is minimalist, a single moulding in white plastic incorporating a hook to hang it in the shower. The label is in the Asda signature green and doesn't over-promise telling you simply that this is Asda Smart Price Shower Gel. And I would have to agree with the description.

                                In the shower (no peeking). Notice that the bottle stays in place on its hook in the shower and doesn't fall off and break like some others I have tried. That's a definite plus. Having the hook moulded into the bottle is a good idea. With some brands (Radox I think is one) the hook is separate and clips onto the bottle. With my family these hooks often get unclipped and broken leaving the bottle lying in the shower spilling their contents. With the water on now I open the cap at the bottom and squeeze a little into my hand. It's a yellowish green, runnier than Radox certainly but applied with my usual technique it produces a reasonable lather. The smell is sweetish and reminds me of the sachets of shower gel you get in many cheaper hotels. Three squeezes and I'm done.

                                The afterbath. Drying myself, I feel clean and fresh with just a slight perfume lingering. Quite acceptable for all the family in this respect. The next morning I repeat the experience with similar results. I can now say I am completely converted to Asda Smart Price Shower Gel and don't intend to buy anything else. The savings can go towards rescuing my poor, sick credit cards.

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