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LittleEJ

LittleEJ
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Member since: 22.07.2005

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    • Aloe Vera / Homeopathic Remedies / 62 Readings / 55 Ratings
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      28.09.2006 14:08
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      Tremendous benefits when processed correctly but avoid the rough stuff.

      Aloe vera and health products containing aloe extracts are becoming increasing common. The gel of the plant is particularly useful for treating many skin conditions including minor burns, cuts, grazes and frostbite. Cosmetic products often feature aloe vera too. Shampoo, soap, sun protection lotion and moisturizers. Aloe vera is used in such products because of its useful moisturizing, soothing and protecting properties.

      The Plant

      The aloe vera plant is a perennial evergreen. It originates from the Arabian peninsula and northern Africa but now grows in southern Texas and along the Venezuela coast. The plant is stem-less but remarkably related to the lily family. Its structure is up to 20 dense fleshy leaves packed tightly together in a rosette formation. The leaves are a dark green with white flecks grow to an average of 18cm in length. Closer to the centre of the rosette, the white flecks form rows of pale short spikes. When the leaves are split open the inside contains a juicy jelly like gel.

      Despite their like for warm climates, it is possible to grow your own aloe vera plant. Usually they are bought as an established plant. But can be sown from seed in the spring and germinate between 1 and 6 months - I couldn't be that patient! They prefer to be kept above 70 degrees Celsius and should never be colder than 16 degrees Celsius. Room temperature is 21 degrees Celsius so keeping them inside or in a green house is preferable. They require lots of light but can scorch in full summer sun. I'm particularly good at growing my aloe vera plant because I am terrible at remembering to water plants. As a rule if the soil is damp the plant has been over watered. I only water mine once a fortnight (if I remember) and even then it's a light sprinkling or water. The seem to thrive on this harsh treatment. I also used boiled water because I live in an area of lime scale. I have fed my plant ordinary plant food twice in the 5 years I have had it and I haven't noticed much difference after feeding. As plants go it is very low maintenance.

      Healing Properties

      There is a vast amount of published research into numerous aspects of aloe vera properties and the mechanisms underlying these properties. There are countless scientific papers but I prefer to give an over-view here.

      Recent studies have shown that aloe vera gel aids wound healing and allows new skin to regenerate where damaged skin exists. The gel also decreases redness and swelling associated with minor burns where the skin is unbroken or lightly blistered.

      The gel also prevents skin damage resulting from exposure to ultraviolet radiation associated with direct sunlight. Applying aloe gel several times a day reduced redness and completely abolished it within a day or two without the skin peeling. In addition, a cream containing aloe gel has been found to be effective in treating frostbite injury. The gel from the inner core of the leaf is rich in glucomannans and other polysaccharides (long chain-like molecules) which are thought to aid repair and promote new skin to form under the outer layers. Applying to the skin also prevents the loss of moisture which prevented peeling. Although aloe vera should not be relied on to prevent the long term damage of sunburn and exposure to harmful ultraviolet sun rays should be limited or avoided.
      Wound healing can also be sped up. In a study where participants applied aloe vera cream to the skin three times a day for four weeks psoriasis patients had a significant improvement in the appearance and soreness of their skin lesions. Further research suggests that aloe vera gel may also provide mild pain relief and reduce inflammation for people with psoriasis and eczema. Currently there are no known side effects following the application of aloe gel or cream. As with all products applied to the skin some people can suffer reactions but the reactions observed in the published studies could be attributed to other ingredients in the cream or lotion.
      Aloe vera juice has been used widely as an alternative treatment for inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease and Ulcerative colitis. A study where participants ate aloe vera gel proved that it enhanced the absorption of vitamins C and E, both or which are known to be important for regeneration of skin and tissue including that lining the intestines and bowels.

      Fresh Leaves or a Purchased Preparation

      While I'm a big fan of home remedies, I am often worried about the overuse of herbal treatments. Often the synthetic manufactured drugs can be safer due to more stringent safety tests and drug licensing. While the extracted herbal type remedies can be contaminated with un-removed products and are hardly tested for safety or actual effectiveness known as pharmaceutical efficacy. However, anything that you can make at home safely is always of benefit both health wise and financially.
      I often use my plant to treat eczema or small burns. Slices can be cut from the leaves or leaved broken off. It is recommended to cut near the base of the leaves on the outermost of the plant as these contain more active chemicals although this has not been proven. I usually slice the leaf across and squeeze to exude some of the gel. I then apply this externally to the skin either with my fingers or with some cotton wool. If the leaf appears to dry up you can score in another direction and more gel will come out. Home grown aloe vera should not be used internally. Firstly there is no proof that it can treat coughs, allergies or stomach ulcers. Secondly, only processed extracts should be consumed as the raw leaves can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. So if you were reaching for your juicer… stop!

      Processed aloe products have various ingredients and only a small amount of aloe is present in them. Much of the aloe vera on the market has been powdered first then re-diluted. You will know if this is present in a product as by law it should state either "from powder" or "stabilized extract." The activity of some of these processed products has not been tested so while it may contain a form of aloe vera the manufacturers have not tested to confirm the benefits of incorporating it. Additionally the shelf-life of processed aloe gel in terms of how long the active ingredients work has not been investigated. Also the taste changed when it is powdered first. I like the taste of aloe vera juice but the powdered aloe vera that you dilute yourself is very bitter and unpleasant.

      Aloe gel should not be confused with the drug aloe. The drug aloe is a laxative used to relieve constipation. It is made from the outer leaf and forms a bitter yellow juice usually sold as a powder. This product is harmful to pregnant women or young children and should not be taken by patients with inflamed intestinal diseases like Crohn's or ulcerative colitis. Furthermore, less-toxic herbal laxatives Cascara and Senna are much safer and are over-taking aloe drug in use.

      Personal Experience

      I have had my plant for five years now. It cost me £10 and has remained in its 15cm diameter pot the whole time. It is a little taller than when I bought it and is about 50cm. It produces new leaves slowly but you can get a lot of gel out of just a small slice of leaf and it doesn't seem to mind having chunks removed.
      I apply the gel to areas of eczema once a day when it is bad and I get relief from the redness and itching. In terms of healing I don't think it heals any faster than it would if I could stop scratching which without it I can't! I don't use it at all when my skin is fine. Recently I used it when I burnt my finger picking up a baking tray that was fresh out of the oven - silly move! It soothed the pain and the burnt area didn't dry out until new skin had regenerated underneath. I have never experienced any adverse reactions by applying fresh aloe vera gel to my skin.
      I'm also a regular drinker of aloe vera juice. The variety I drink is from an oriental shop and is 99p for a liter. Unfortunately I can't give you the name as the only English on the packaging are the ingredients! It contains aloe vera gel bits, like orange juice with bits. These are small cubes and much less noticeable and more smooth compared to orange bits. The taste of the juice is similar to very sweet white grape juice and can be a little too sweet if too much is consumed in one go. It lasts for a few days opened in the fridge though. I have drunk this when my eczema has been mild or when I've noticed a patch of eczema forming. It seems to slow the establishment of an outbreak of eczema and also prevents it from getting really bad. Not just that, I quite like the taste too.

      Summary

      Aloe vera can but used to treat and relieve many minor skin conditions. The gel exuded from the centre of the fleshy leaves of the aloe vera plant has healing properties. These have been proven scientifically and from personal experience I have found benefits from applying home grown aloe vera gel and by drinking processed aloe vera juice. As with all remedies they should be used with caution to avoid adverse reactions with other drugs and to minimize side-effects. Aloe vera gel should not be confused with the outer of the leaf drug aloe.

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      • Swiftcover.com / Car Insurance / 40 Readings / 37 Ratings
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        21.09.2006 17:31
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        Extremely convenient and flexible not to mention environmentally friendly.

        You've probably seen the adverts on TV "Click click don't cluck cluck" … well even if you haven't they're worth getting a quote from. The main criteria I use when looking for car insurance is getting the best value deal. Notice I said value not price! For me that means comprehensive cover without ridiculous excess and the ability to make my own choices. With my postgraduate student status opposing my 100% perfect driving conviction record and zero claims I found myself struggling with this.


        Swift Push

        My battle began with my previous insurance company Kwik-Fit. Their renewal price was more than the previous year. When I rang them up to see if this was an error and if they could knock this down for me they not only refused but also would not give me a quote for a new home I would be moving to only a week after the policy would be renewed. In my situation it was little use knowing the quote for my soon to be old address when the majority of the year would be at a new address. I pointed this out to them adding that if I rang up posing as a new customer they'd give me a quote for that address!

        So I began looking elsewhere, mainly using search sites like confused.com and moneysupermarket.com. I used these handy sites to identify my 4 lowest online quotes and rang round those companies to get the best deal. Or so I tried…

        Swiftcover don't have a call centre since they are exclusively online. I thought this was great. No waiting on the phone to talk to someone, no begging for a better deal, just free internet use and one answer. Their quote system is simple and fast. There are many options for example voluntary excess, legal cover and breakdown over so that you can create your own flexible policy. Not only that you can play around with different combinations to whittle your quote down but the online system also allows you to save your quote and return to it later.

        As a postgraduate student I was often backed into a corner - other companies viewed me as an irresponsible member of society due to my student status. I've already done my first degree; I'm through with those carefree, happy-go-stupid years. A postgraduate degree is a serious undertaking not just a natural progression from school research PhD students often work 60 hour weeks leaving very little time to be irresponsible in! And to add insult to injury they also wanted to include in my quote daily commuting. Well excuse me, if I'm a student, I don't have a job and therefore I don't commute! Swiftcover differentiate between postgraduate students and undergraduate students, they also allow you to lose the commuting option too.

        Joy of joy… a tailored quote and the cheapest I could find to boot. Plus Swiftcover's ability to impress me didn't stop there.


        Care and Care Alike

        Swiftcover donate £1 to the NSPCC for every new member. Maybe £1 doesn't sound so generous but it's a pound more than other insurance companies!

        They pride themselves as being completely online. This means that you receive your policy details via email. If you wish to print them out that is up to you but as a company they are striving to save paper and energy by doing business this way. I think this is very commendable and definitly something I'm proud to be part of.


        Human Contact - Swift by name Swift by nature.

        Swiftcover are openly available via email. I have had two experiences of contacting them.

        The first was to prove my no claims discount: They asked for this to be either scanned into the computer and emailed to them or sent by post. I mentioned my previous insurance company was useless right? They refused to post my proof of no claims discount to my new address because my old address was on their system. When I asked if they could change it to my new one I was informed that I'd have to pay an administration fee despite the fact I was no longer a customer as my policy had expired!

        Completely frustrated with Kwik-fit, I emailed Swiftcover explaining my dilemma. They were very helpful and I received their reply email only an hour after emailing them. They offered to contact Kwik-Fit on my behalf and were willing to accept verbal confirmation of my no claims discount from Kwik-fit over the telephone. This itself proved complicated as Kwik-fit claimed to not have record of my policy. Eventually we got to the bottom of the problem. Swiftcover emailed to confirm that they have received proof of my no claims discount and to confirm that my policy was legal. Furthermore they actually thanked me for my patience during the procedure. I think it should be them that should have been thanked and a good slapping issued to Kwik-fit!

        The second time I made email contact I was trying to obtain a price for adding a driver to my policy for the weekend so that I could compare it to the quote for adding me to their policy. Again they quickly responded to my email and provided the information I needed including a step by step quide to how I could obtain this information by myself using their online system. If that wasn't good enough it turned out to be the cheaper option… doesn't get much better than that!

        You can amend details online whenever you like but for a reply to an email their hours of business are as follows:

        Monday - Friday 8am - 8pm
        Saturdays 9am - 5pm
        Sundays and Bank Holidays 10am - 4pm

        Personally I believe these hours are more than acceptable considering the majority of enquires you might have can be answered or conducted online. Upon emailing them you receive a confirmation email telling you they have received yours and reply emails are always quick, polite and specific to the question asked.

        The Website

        The design is simple and very user friendly. The white background makes the black text easily readable. There are no fancy illustrations or layout so the pages load quickly and reliably. The clickable buttons are either grey or purple and the overall navigation is effortless.

        Once you have your policy with Swiftcover, they provide you with a "My Swift Space". This is a convenient online account that holds your personal details and the policy details. From here you can check your policy at any time using your username and password which are both selected by you when you register. This is important to me as I don't want a complicated username or password issued to me, I want something I choose that I will remember without having to write it down or compromise the security of my details.

        In your swift space you can cancel or change your policy. You can also get a new quote and save it within your policy. This would be handy if you had a second car or were considering buying a new car. What I particularly like about the "My Swift Space" feature is that what ever changes you are about to make you can see immediately see the cost of these either you paying them or them refunding you! Also it's available 24 hours a day via the internet so there's no sneaking about at work on hold to a call centre. Also I can pose the question then get on with my business, without having one hand holding the telephone to my ear on the off chance I might get taken off hold!

        Summary Cluck

        I've have no problems with Swiftcover at all. In fact they've cleared a fair few problems up for me! Their online status is extremely convenient and flexible not to mention environmentally friendly and if that wasn't good enough they are cheaper than the leading competitive insurance companies.

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        • thelolly.com / Internet Site / 64 Readings / 61 Ratings
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          21.08.2006 16:56
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          Show Me the Money

          Dollar, Lolly, Coin, Mullah? What's you're favourite slang term for money?

          Usually I'm just going to the "Drink Link" for "Beer Tokens" but otherwise I prefer "dollar", "coin", "spends" or "mullah". Another popular term is "Lolly". No prises for guessing what you can get at TheLolly.com then.

          The Lolly (dot com) is an "internet shopping tool" but I like to think of it more as an internet cash back site. You can get cash from shopping online, referring friends and signing up to a whole host of betting and redemption sites.

          Site Design

          The site itself is a hideous orange, lemon and white ensemble. The layout is basic making the navigation exceptionally easy. Permanently on display down the left hand side are categories, FAQ and help. The middle displays what you've selected to view from the left panel and the right hand side are adverts and links that The Lolly seem particularly proud of!

          Signing Up

          When you sign up you are automatically rewarded £5 for doing so. This is handy and gets you on your way to that all important £25 redemption point! To register, you will have to provide your name, address and date of birth. You can choose to opt out of receiving The Lolly newsletter and they only email you when you have a completed reward.

          Quick Money

          One of my favourite places on the site. It's pennies really, mostly between 10p and £1.50. These are easy and as the area titles would suggest, quick. They usually involve joining survey, competition and dating sites. You'll find Ebay in the section too… at the moment it's £1.50 for registering and having an active Ebay account plus 35p for a "buy it now" item but it the reward was slightly different when I first registered with The Lolly.

          While The Lolly themselves don't send you spam, companies that you sign up for via The Lolly often do. If having an inbox full of rubbish bothers you, an alternative email address should be used.

          Speculate To Accumulate

          There's a whole host of categories to choose from or you can browse the companies advertising alphabetically. Some of my biggest rewards have come from the 'Entertainment' category and 'Film' sub-category. Here I've taken two free trials with different online DVD rental companies. I made sure that I cancelled my subscription before the end of the free trials so didn't pay a penny for the DVD's but got up to £6 reward for the privilege. I would advise you to check each companies individual terms and conditions for their free trials thought as it'd be easy to get caught out.

          I also like the 'Health and Beauty' and 'Fashion' categories that have some well known companies. These include 5% cash back on anything you spend online with Avon, 6% for Ann Summers, 2% for Boots and 1.5% for Marks and Spencer.

          Of course, you have to be logged on to The Lolly and click through to the company via The Lolly web site to reap the rewards. As a rule I wait till I'm going to buy something online then check to see if that company is registered with The Lolly or if I can get a similar item from another company on there. This avoids the paradox of spending just to build my Lolly reward up!

          The largest rewards come from signing up for insurance, taking out a loan and opening up bank accounts. I recently renewed my car insurance and my cheapest quote was a company that was advertised on The Lolly… a mighty £30 pocketed for buying online through The Lolly site.

          Referrals

          As with all good reward sites, referrals are good for both The Lolly and you. Once your referred person reaches their £25, you get £2. You can refer people by putting their email address into the site and The Lolly generates an email to send. Alternatively, your account page states your unique sign up internet address. This is a URL that can be copied and pasted to friends who wish to join. If I've temped you to sign up after reading my review, leave me a comment and I'll be happy to give you my sign up address. Yes it's cheeky but you wouldn't have heard about The Lolly if it wasn't for me…right?!

          Show Me the Money

          You can view your account, how many advert clicks you've done and your reward statistics on the site. Rewards come up as pending first and when the money is added to your total, the reward is complete. This can be frustratingly slow. Naturally the companies giving the money away need to transfer the money to The Lolly, and The Lolly then transfer it to your account. As with the adverts, the site is rather slow in being updated so this can take months. Back in the summer, 18 Jul 2005 at 10:32PM to be precise (the information is on the account page!) I registered with Snapfish. This £1.25 reward appeared as pending early August and remained Pending until May 2006! My cash back from buying Avon products through The Lolly has been the fastest and only took 4 days to become completed. While this is frustrating, I don't feel I can complain, it's free money, they give you £5 to get you started and the money arrives eventually. Their customer service department are also pretty swift. They chased up my Snapfish payment and as promised via email it changed from pending to complete in 2 weeks.

          Pay Back Time

          You can choose bank transfer or Amazon vouchers to claim the full amount of your money once you've reached £25. Alternatively you can lose £1.50 of your rewards to admin fees and choose the Personal Cheque option. I had my first payment recently and the bank transfer option worked perfectly.

          Conclusion

          Very slow at times but some good cashback percentages for purchasing and reasonable rewards for signing up to free sites. Payment process works and the customer services are friendly and helpful.

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          • Mary Poppins (DVD) / DVD / 46 Readings / 42 Ratings
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            18.04.2006 16:03
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            Practically Perfect In Every Way

            It was in the first of a series of books that the character of Mary Poppins arrived, carried by the east wind, at Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane. This book was published in 1934 but after that the books "Mary Poppins Comes Back", "Mary Poppins Opens the Door" and Mary Poppins In The Park" were also printed. The author of the books P.L. Travers was unconvinced that a film would do the books and the characters justice but eventually she relented and in 1964, 'Mary Poppins' the film was released. It took Disney just over two years to complete and throughout there was conflict between Disney and Travers. Despite this, the film still captured a magical, timeless story.

            To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the film, Disney released a digitally re-mastered DVD in 2004. This is the one I have and it has updated my home-recorded video version that was lovingly over-played during my childhood.

            The film is a musical and although Travers wanted classical songs that tied in with the Edwardian period in which the movie was set, Disney added their own more modern touch, modern that is for the 60s when it was made.


            *** Characters ***

            The main character is of course Mary Poppins, practically perfect in everyway… or so the words next to her height on the tape measure would have you believe. Slightly vain and abrasive she is a no nonsense nanny. Although this straight-laced side seems to be more applicable to Mr Banks who hires her. Mary Poppins is played by Julie Andrews who is perfect for the role; flawless just like the character.

            Mr and Mrs Banks live at Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane with their children Jane and Michael. In the books there are also baby twins John and Barbara but they were omitted from the film. Cherry Tree Lane homes other interesting and curious residents too. George Banks works quite appropriately at a Bank in the City of London. He is hard working and wants the best for his children but it takes Mary Poppins' to tune him in to what his children really need. Mrs Banks is a slightly ditzy suffragette and feminist but a loving mother and dutiful wife.

            Bert, played by Dick Van Dyke, is an old friend of Mary Poppins' but in terms of personality, they are quite different. Mary is well spoken and can communicate with Andrew the dog. Bert is a true cockney (although Dick Van Dyke's cockney accent is a little wonky). He can turn his hand to any job; chimney sweeping, busking and chalk pavement drawing. Quite the jack-of-all-trades. He also plays somewhat of a narrative role.


            *** Storyline***

            Bert starts by introducing the audience to the Banks family. Their latest nanny, Katie-Nanna has just quit her job at the family household citing the children's bad behaviour as the cause of her resignation. With Mrs Banks occupied by "votes for women" and Mr Banks working, there is no one to look after the children. Mr Banks dictates a letter while Mrs Banks writes stating, quite precisely, what he is looking for in an authoritarian nanny. Jane and Michael also draft an advertisement for their preferred nanny. Mr. Banks is quick to reject their proposal ripping their letter and tossing it into the fireplace. Here the magic starts, the letter floats up the fireplace chimney and reforms in the hands of Mary Poppins. She is sat on a cloud with her trusty carpet bag and talking umbrella.

            In her own special way, Mary Poppins deters the other candidates for the nanny post. Rather confused as to how she has managed to answer the childrens’ advertisement and not his own, Mr Banks is struck dumb meanwhile Mary Poppins interviews and hires herself. Mary quickly strikes the children dumb too by sliding up the stairs banister, rummaging in her bottomless carpet bag and making tidying the nursery fun!
            Mary and the children have a handful of small mini-adventures. They enter a mixed animated and live-action world by jumping into one of Bert's chalk pavement drawings. They even visit Uncle Albert who has an uncontrollable laughing disorder. Then when Bert is hired to sweep the Banks' chimney, the children disappear up the chimney too and explore the roof tops of London.

            Mr. Banks grows increasingly concerned and confused by the stories the children tell of their adventures with Mary. She suggests that Mr Banks take the children for a day out. However he takes them to the only place he knows, the Bank where he works. This visit doesn't go to plan and Michael causes chaos in the bank before running away. Frightened and afraid he bumps into Bert who returns him safely to his home. After being called for disciplinary action at the bank, Mr Banks finally realises that while making a living will provide for his children, it is his precious time with them that means so much more to the children and to him. He takes his lead from Mary Poppins.
            Just as soon as Mary has left her mark on the family it is time for her to up and leave. The final scene sees Mary watch the family take a kite to the park for some quality and fun time together. In true fairy-tale style, Mr Banks gets his job back at the bank and Mary Poppins leaves via the same method she arrived.


            *** Soundtrack***

            This film boasts a memorable soundtrack that rivals The Sound of Music in popularity. Most of the songs you will have heard and know the words to. Many of the songs were written by the Sherman Brothers.

            "Let's go fly a Kite" was a favourite at our local club at kicking out time, nothing quite like finishing the night singing loudly to that.
            "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" is perhaps the most popular song in the film. The word was created by the Sherman Brothers when they were at summer camp and made into a song for the film some years later. It translates as follows: super- "above," cali- "beauty," fragilistic- "delicate," expiali- "to atone," and docious- "educable," the sum meaning roughly "Atoning for extreme and delicate beauty while still being highly educable." The song describes how this 34-lettered word can be used to talk yourself out of a difficult situation when words fail you.


            *** Production & Casting ***

            The film is multiple Academy Award winning and possibly Disney's best classic film. Julie Andrews' acting debut is flawless and paved the way to her very successful career even if it did contribute to her typecasting in future roles. Dick van Dyke's sparkling personality compliments Julie Andrews as the key supporting role. Even the man himself admits his British cockney accent is a poor attempt and has received ridicule since the film was released.


            *** Moral Story ***

            There are several opinions on the possible subliminal messages the film is portraying. However, as a children's story it was meant to highlight women’s suffrage and class status in Edwardian London before the first World War. Overall there is a conservative, possibly idealistic view of a family unit. Modern day analysis of the film seems to quash the strong messages that were addressed when the film was first released and now it simply appears as a heart-warming story.

            All films have continuity errors and trivial hiccups. Mary Poppins is no exception. Apparently the Robin that duets with Mary during "A Spoon Full Of Sugar" is in fact an American Robin and not the European species that would be found in London. Furthermore there are two male Robins building the nest during the song, clearly this film was way ahead of it's time by highlighting 'votes for women' and increasing gay awareness alongside each other!


            *** DVD Special Features ***

            Sing-Along

            If you know the words to the songs, and the script like I do, then you probably won't be able to stop yourself singing along. But, if you need the words to the tunes, this special feature will give you Mary Poppins Karaoke style! The words are white but turn yellow as the characters sing them.

            Hollywood Goes To A Premiere

            This is a short film on the premiere of the film. There are many celebrities and film stars of the 60s. There are also live interviews with Dick Van Dyke, Walt Disney and Julie Andrews as they arrive at the premiere although the interviewer is quite wooden and blatantly reading the questions from a prompter!

            The Movie magic of Mary Poppins

            This short film reveals the magic behind the film. If you have ever wanted to know how Mary slides up the banister, talks to her brolly, sings with the Robin and sings to herself in the mirror, this short documentary shows how it was done.

            "I Love To Laugh" Game

            Using your DVD player controls, the aim of the game is to help Uncle Albert come down from the ceiling following a laughing fit. Mary Poppins' umbrella asks you questions and you select an item from Uncle Albert's room that answers the question. It is quite easy and interesting to see how much attention you paid when watching. When you get an answer right Uncle Albert comes down a bit but if you get one wrong he moves towards the ceiling. I imagine children would enjoy doing it after watching the film. The variety of questions is small but as bonus material, its lots of fun and unique to the usual bonus stuff on DVDs.


            *** Tuppence A Bag? ***

            It's currently available from Amazon for £11.95. Play.com (free P&P) are selling the 40th Anniversary Edition for £15.99 - not as cheap as films as old as this but still reasonable and well worth it.


            *** Summary ***

            I really like this film and have done since I was a little girl. I still enjoy watching it now especially when I need something light-hearted. I like the fact that the sets look like a Broadway musical and deliberately unrealistic. The film is timeless and has some good songs to sing along to. The special effects were ahead of their time using auto-animatronics and animation with live-action. This has aged a little but doesn't detract from the film. Unlike some childrens' films, it isn't dull or predictable and that's why I still enjoy it. A great one for all the family and the bonus features are varied and different from the normal DVD bonus material.

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            • Kiwi Fresh Ins / Leg & Foot Care / 53 Readings / 52 Ratings
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              18.03.2006 16:55
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              Thin, freshening, anti-slip, moisture depleting shoe liners then these are perfect.

              Made by Kiwi and patent-pending shoe liners… don’t think draw liners in scents your grandma might like… they’re more thin inner-soles that smell fresh.

              Insoles with a Difference

              These are ultra-thin, only 1mm each and are designed with multi-functions. They come in a resealable packet which handily keeps the spare insoles fresh and neat. They’re made by Kiwi, the company owned by Sara-Lee who I thought made cakes!

              The shoe liners themselves are composed of layers. When I first bought the packet I thought I’d been diddled as there was an odd number. It turns out that you have to separate each in two to give a left and a right. The 5 different layers have an individual function.

              1. The top layer is smooth to the touch with tiny pores. This surface helps to draw moisture and allows its passage to deeper layers. It’s not spongy like other insoles so it doesn’t flatten after a few hours of being walked on. It also doesn’t discolour with wear, an unsightly problem with inner-soles and potentially embarrassing if you take your shoes off in public.

              2. The second layer contains micro-encapsulated fragrance. This is jargon of tiny packets of deodoriser that means the smell isn’t over-powering to start with and lasts longer as the packets release fragrance slowly.

              3. The third layer is the working part. It contains a super absorbent material and sucks up moisture from feet. I originally thought this might mean that I’d be wringing the liners out by the end of the first day but surprisingly they still felt dry. When I came to wearing the same shoes the next day the liners still felt dry. I don’t know where the moisture goes but they don’t seem to be exhaustible!

              4. The fourth layer is light blue and claims to provide firmness. I’ve used these liners in 3 pairs of my shoes and they have remained fold and crumple free.

              5. The final fifth layer is a brighter blue. It feels like a smooth flexible plastic with lots of little diamonds on it. This part goes face down in your shoe and is anti-slip. I’m on my feet a lot at work and do a fair bit of walking during the day but they manage to stay put. They do not move about while walking or when putting on or taking off shoes or boots. Again, I have experienced this problem previously with normal insoles and find it highly frustrating for the soul not to mention uncomfortable for the sole.

              Goodbye Gorgonzola

              I’ve always thought I have clammy feet, more than I imagine other people to have. I’ve never been aware or had any complaints about smell though. Some one my older shoes or pump style ones that you can’t wear socks with that they have a faint eau-du-chedder after a while. These smell fresh, spring-like and slightly fruity particularly citrus fruit. They’re not over powering and the smell lasts a long time. Because they draw moisture away from feet, bacteria don’t get the chance to work on foot sweat to create a pong. Hence the liners do not need to cover or eradicate odour, instead they provide a light fresh and pleasant unisex fragrance.

              Where & How Much & How Long?

              I bought mine from Morrison’s supermarket and it was quite a big branch. They are currently patent pending but I imagine that when the patent comes through for the design, they will be more widely available.

              I paid £1.99 for a pack of 5 pairs. I originally thought I’d been conned as I could only count 5 pieces in the packet but you have to take one out and separate it into two as they are manufactured back to back. This works out as 40p per pair. That’s a bargain in my book.

              The instructions on the back of the packet state that you should change them every 5 days of wear. However, I’ve had nearly two weeks of wear out of one pair and they’re still smell fresh. The integrity, smell, and anti-slip properties have not been compromised so I’ve kept them in my shoes and haven’t replaced them with a new pair. If you did follow the guidelines then they’d work out at 8p per day. Being a bit penny pinching mine are now down to 2p per day! I think cost per wear is an important factor and at 2p a go that’s fine by me… if only shoes worked out that cheap!

              I have also spotted them on eBay for £2.95 and free postage and packaging. The packet doesn’t look the same though so I would be suspicious of buying them especially when they are cheaper in store.

              Pied Performance

              I have a pair in all of my pump style shoes. This is why I really bought them. I was sick of my feet slipping around in pumps (made for fashion not comfort) and I’d even experienced cramp in the muscles of my feet from gripping the shoe with my toes. Something my chiropodist aunty would frown at! The liners are thin enough so that they don’t make shoes feel too small but they’re particularly effective at preventing slipping and the subsequent blisters as well as end-of-day pong.

              Big Foot & The Hendersons

              They come in the following sizes UK4-5, 6-7 and 8-9. I am a size 3 ½ to 4 and the size 4-5s fit perfectly in my shoes. I can’t imagine using them for size 5 shoes though as there would be a rim round the outside of the innersole that wouldn’t go up to the edge of the shoe inner and this would feel a bit weird underfoot. Again maybe this is a pre-patent thing and once the patent has been confirmed they might consider making a pair for each size. Currently if you’re an even sized shoe then you’ll be fine. Alternatively you could try buying a size larger and cutting them down yourself.

              Kinky Boots or Blue Suede Shoes

              I have also used Fresh’ins shoe-liners in boots, pointy shoes, trainers and wedge heels and I’ve been equally pleased with their performance in all of these shoe styles. They are incredibly dry, sucking moisture away from feet but they don’t feel soggy at the end of the day.

              In summary for thin, freshening, anti-slip, moisture depleting shoe liners then these are perfect. Kiwi Fresh’ins are affordable, reliable and distinctly different to similar items currently available.

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              • More +
                14.03.2006 18:20
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                From 2002 Perrier Award nominee to 5 million viewers for "8 Out of 10 Cats"!

                Santa was good to me this year, he couldn’t get me Brad Pitt but did bring me my second choice, Jimmy Carr’s second DVD “Stand Up”. Strangely after typing that and considering whether I can strictly compare Mr Pitt and Mr Carr I do fancy Jimmy for his lovable geek qualities.

                Even though I’ve seen this show live, watch the DVD did not disappoint. Well apart from the fact I can’t spot myself in the audience, gutted!

                From 2002 Perrier Award nominee to 5 million viewers for “8 Out of 10 Cats” Jimmy’s career has continued to rocket to great heights. He’s all set to appear at the 2006 International Comedy Arts Festival this year.

                Just like his first DVD, the menu page features Jimmy talking sarcastically about each of the features. In particular he promotes the subtitles saying that’s where most of the money went! I passed this off as one of his sardonic comments but on later inspection I was glad I checked them out. The sections are “Scene Select” so that you can watch the show in any order you like or pick up where you left off, “subtitles” Jimmy’s clear favourite and the “bonus material.”

                *The Show*

                The show is split into 16 topics according to the theme of his jokes. I can’t imagine why people would think “ooo I fancy some religion jokes” and skip to that scene but the opportunity is there.

                The warm up act is a video projection. Essentially it is a power point presentation with jokes written in words and a rather well timed, “are you ready/I can’t hear you” audience response. There’s also the usual warning of “if you are easily offended or gay or epileptic, don’t watch the show… there aren’t flashing lights just lots of jokes about your condition.”

                The stage designer should be shot. Who’s idea was it to have Jimmy’s Gran’s rug covering the stage, a single black leather chair and a black box thing that looks a bit ominous? I realise that the focus should be on Jimmy and that is doesn’t really matter what the set looks like but the rug is thoroughly distracting for me. No wait there are actually two identical rugs only one is smaller and on a lower stage. Now I’m even more irritated by twice the bad rug-ness.

                Jimmy enters and looking a little nervous states why the opening applause makes him concerned as all he’s done is manage to walk to the middle and hasn’t said anything yet. He then almost immediately starts picking on a woman in the audience despite her wanting him to move onto someone or something…. actually anything else!

                Following this weak beginning Jimmy finally gets on with the show and this is where the comedy picks up for me. He discusses bigger boned women, although from other shows I’ve seen Jimmy do, he’s never met a big boned skeleton. I think he touches on this subject well, nothing personal and no audience participation.

                Before moving on he controversially asks an American Audience member if he knows the difference between an Iraqi soldier and a British soldier.

                Gypsies are the next target. Myself and Jimmy have something in common in that we both have a small amount of Romany blood and we’re quite proud of it. Despite this, he uses the common stereotypes to raise a few laughs. He’s clearly not looked into his origins.

                Religion and John Merrick are the next topics he tackles.

                My favourite section is “All About Me.” Previously Jimmy has been slated for having good writers and auto-queue. This is proof enough that he is genuinely funny and can whip up a line quickly. He has some banter with the audience regarding his and their age. Proving that he’s not all bad and his audience should fear him, he compliments one young chap’s t-shirt. One thing he does well is talk about himself. He starts off by boasting the he went to Cambridge University but quickly adds that he’s not smug or up himself he just got good A-levels because didn’t have a girlfriend. Timing is everything, adding that we shouldn’t be intimidated by clever people, they’re just not good with the poontang so have more time on their hands to study. He chats about meeting Prince Charles and being on Count Down especially Carol Vorderman.

                Another one of his lasting themes are charity. He always finds the funny side of charity events, picking apart the celebrity clicking finger advert, leukaemia fund-raising events and The Big Issue. Mainly he reads further into what these charities are trying to achieve and that without meaning to, organisers can often be way off the mark. To rectify this he proposes two ideas for charities he’d like to launch, they are not at all politically correct but have me rolling with laughter each time I hear them.

                Just like the banter with the American and the advert, he discusses the Michael Jackson trial. Even though his show was touring last year and the DVD released before Christmas, this material is a little dated now and will continue to age. This is somewhat of a shame.

                After I slated the décor, Carr moves on to describe the last moments of his Nan’s life. Maybe the dodgy rug and lampshade are a tribute to her. Although he is not too sentimental, often wondering “if she was alone in the house and fell… would she make a noise?”

                I can’t discuss the other topics on the show without either ruining the jokes or thinking really hard for ‘ciao-safe’ synonyms. Jimmy finished on a crescendo topic of ménage-a-trois.

                The encore, just a little bit more of what Jimmy Carr does best.

                “Men won’t stop to ask for directions… well maybe if women learnt to map-read?!”

                *Bonus Suitcase*

                This DVD is oozing with bonus material and its not just guff that the producers have stuck in there to make it worth the money.

                Comedy Idol
                This wasn’t well promoted on TV but is quite good. It’s comedy’s answer to Pop/American Idol. You see the hopefuls, the hopeless (completely cringe-worthy) and follow the best of Britains budding comics to the final show down. This section could have been a DVD in itself.

                Comedy Central Special
                A 30 minute stand up performance of Jimmy. He recycled most of his usual and in my opinion best jokes into a short act.

                Top Gear Interview
                Mr Carr is interviewed by Mr Clarkson then Jimmy trying to beat the previous guests’ times round the race track in “a reasonably priced car.”

                XFM Highlights
                Commentary on the show with Ian Morris, Jimmy’s producer.

                Subtitles
                Although not strictly in the bonus material, it might as well be. You can choose to read the subtitles in the Queen’s English, Cockney, Yorkshire and Scottish. It’s like 5 versions of the show for the price of one. Being a Yorkshire lass I can relate to the Yorkshire subtitles the most.

                As an example Jimmy says “I said to my girlfriend, you shouldn’t eat before you go swimming, she said why and I said, you…look… fat.” and the Yorkshire subtitle reads “Ah sez to arr lass Yer shun’t eat bifaar yer go swimming, she sed Why?.. Ah sed Coss yer look fat.”

                Watch the show without the subtitles first (hearing permitting) then with them… it really is an extra giggle.

                *Lets Talk Money*
                Jimmy’s first DVD sold over 150, 000 copies… the proof really is in the sales. Currently this DVD new is £7.97 on Amazon it’s a total bargain.

                *EJ on JC*
                Jimmy has a distinctive style and is a multi award-winning comedian. This, his second DVD is fantastic and well worth the money. Some of the material might age quickly but the essence is still there. He’s been careful not to recycle old jokes, something that myself as an avid fan has noticed previously in his work. This time round he has played down his ‘play on words’ jokes but thankfully didn’t resort to writing quips on t-shirts to pad the show. He still does what he is best at, pushing the audiences boundaries to the point where you just have to laugh at the politically incorrectness of what he is suggesting. There is lots of good bonus material, approximately 90 minutes worth so not a waste of a CD. His new material is humorous and he hasn’t lost his impeccable timing. He has increased his audience interaction likely a retort to the response to his previous work. The critics are nit picking though as his one-liners are most likely to induce deep belly laughs from me.

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                • Mint / Plant / 41 Readings / 39 Ratings
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                  07.03.2006 11:28
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                  Discussing the medicinal benefits of Mint.

                  It goes without saying that I struggle to write reviews that don't include some medicinal information. From mint imperials to peppermint tea, mint is a highly versatile medicinal herb. It has a unique, refreshing taste and is one of my favourite flavours.

                  Historically Speaking

                  The medicinal uses for mint can be traced back to medieval Europe. The earliest written description of the plant was way back in 1669. However its Latin name Mentha palustris, Peper-Mint was noted down in 1704 and its healing properties described in 1705 by the pharmaceutical author Dale.

                  We Are Family

                  Now plant biology was never my strong point but I do know that spearmint, just like Peppermint and Pennyroyal belong to the same species family. All have the first Latin name Mentha, followed by either viridis, piperita or pulegium respectively. Spearmint is mainly used for culinary purposes and is weaker medicinally in comparison to peppermint.

                  Growing it, I am assured it easy. Stopping it is something else. It will take over your garden and it happy to grow pretty much anywhere so it is best to keep it in a pot or for an even more tamed version buy one of those kitchen window sil pots which retail at about £1.50.

                  Mint Condition

                  Both the herb and the extracted oil of mint can be used medicinally. Mint oil is extracted from the whole plant or just the leaves using a number of different techniques, mainly steam distillation and solvent extraction. The United States are by far the main world producer of mint oils while peppermint oil is the most extensively used of all the volatile oils, both medicinally and commercially.

                  Unlike many other natural remedies, mint has actually been laboratory tested and proven to have significant benefits particularly for gastro-intestinal problems. The most recent research is uncovering how peppermint oil is effective in relieving irritable bowel syndrome with promising early results.

                  Mighty Mint

                  The reason mint is so effective at relieving abdominal cramp is that it exerts an anti-spasmodic action. The pain comes from spasms of the intestine or stomach and mint calms these spasms. Mint oil is more effective as it is concentrated but fresh leaves of the plant can also be chewed to provide relief.

                  Both peppermint tea and mint leaves can be beneficial for dyspepsia, flatulence and colic. Mint effectively soothes some of the symptoms of cholera and diarrhoea too. However, for such conditions, mint is often combined with other medicines that tackle the cause of the problem. Here mint has a dual role in relieving the symptoms and masking the unpalatable taste of these co-drugs.

                  Peppermint oil can be mixed with water or the leaves soaked in hot or cold water to provide a palatable, drinkable homemade treatment for the above mentioned problems as well a flatulent colic. Indeed, peppermint Water is an official preparation of the British Pharmacopoeia - an Encycolpedia Britanica of the Pharmacology world!

                  An infusion using fresh or dried mint leaves in milk is traditionally given for mild colds. Elder flowers are often added to this mint herb infusion. It was initially thought that mint raised internal body heat, inducing a pseudo-fever to kill off a cold bug early. There is some debate over this in the research world since the strength of mint to raise body heat is short lived and probably not enough to make a significant difference to quash the beginnings of a cold.

                  I'd Rather Have a Polo

                  I've only tried this once but thought it was worth a mention - home made toothpaste. The only benefits I see are that you know what's going into it but personally I think it tastes a bit strange and contains no fluoride. The toothpaste consists of three parts baking soda to one part table salt (probably why I don't like the taste!), three teaspoons of glycerine, a few drops of peppermint oil and enough water to make a thick paste. I can't recommend using it but it is quite a fun experience making it.


                  Mental Menthol

                  I really like peppermint tea or a few mint leaves in hot water just for the calming effect. In comparison to Camomile tea, peppermint tea is just as soothing on my mental state but doesn't induce sleepiness. It's quite refreshing and after a cup I'm no longer wound-up and completely ready to face the next challenge.

                  I had a stomach bug over the New Year period and spent three days either in bed or on the bathroom floor. Drinking peppermint tea was a bit too much for me to handle but I took a tea spoon of sugar with a few drops of peppermint oil on. This quickly calmed my twisted, knotty stomach and reduced the stomach pains I was suffering with. When I eventually started eating again, some five days later, I had indigestion but found that a few fresh leaves in hot water and chewing the leaves afterwards stopped this and helped me get back my healthy appetite!

                  Contraindications

                  As with all botanic cures and synthetic drugs, there are circumstances where the use of mint is not recommended. These include chronic heartburn, liver damage, gallbladder inflammation, bile duct obstruction and pregnancy.

                  The oil should never be applied to the face and the neat oil should not come into contact with mucus membranes such as the inner nose or the mouth. In some people, peppermint oil may cause burning or an upset stomach.

                  Children should be supervised when taking mint in any form as the strong menthol taste can induce choking. Most infusions can be sweetened to aid this problem. Previously, mint was used to treat infant colic but it is not recommended today, camomile is suggested as an alternative.

                  What time is it?

                  While my review has mainly focused on the medicinal uses of mint, it wouldn't be complete without a mention of my favourite use. Mint is the icing on the cake in a Pimms and lemonade! Here's my recipe for a perfect refreshing drink:

                  Two parts lemonade to one part Pimms (yes I'm generous!), plenty of ice, a sprig or two of mint, sliced lemon, cucumber, strawberries and apples. Best served chilled and in the garden with some sunshine!

                  In Conclusion

                  Mint as a fresh leaf, dried herb or oil is highly versatile. It provides anti-spasmodic actions on the gut, mental soothing, and abdominal pain relief. It is not just a home remedy with little more than a placebo effect, many of its uses have been proven and the mechanisms uncovered scientifically. It's quite safe to use and, while excessive amounts are not recommended, overdose is unlikely to be severely harmful.

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                  • Zedge / Internet Site / 49 Readings / 47 Ratings
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                    10.02.2006 13:37
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                    Free free free!

                    Everyone loves freebies, right? On Zedge.co.uk you can have free wallpapers, ringtones, themes, videos, games and applications… all you pay for is the in internet browsing time on your computer and download time on your mobile.

                    Refusing to pay for wallpapers, pictures, ringtones and themes for my mobile phone never used to be a problem. That is until Santa brought me a new mobile for Christmas '05. It had rubbish themes and no wallpapers, the themes were boring and the less said about the games the better. Is it me or are mobile manufactures in cohorts with these pay-for-wallpaper companies? I guess everyone is out to make money these days.

                    Fellow reviewer welshgal17, who I affectionately call Welshie, swears by a website called Zedge. Here's my take on it:

                    What's the site like?

                    If you typed zedge.co.uk (or .net if you want to) you'll see that the design is dark red highlights on a white background with black type. The Zedge site is fairly inoffensive and headache free, but hardly design-ilishous. The left panel has an extensive menu of site areas and the right panel advertising. The central region boasts the current number of registered members (145554 as I type but it increases quickly) and the number who have registered today (470... it's still early!). Navigation is very easy and once you know what each area does it's a breeze.

                    What to do?

                    Firstly you'll need to register. If you browse before registering, you may fall in love with a theme, wallpaper or ringtone only to find that it's not available for your mobile phone make and model. Registering is simple, you are asked to provide a username, a valid email address, your country, mobile operator and phone make/model. The list of makes and models is extensive, my mobile is relatively new on the market and it is already up there. I did a quick check and my older mobiles were all listed too. Your password is sent to your email address and the email was received quickly. After that, all you need to log in is your username and password.

                    You can log in on the left panel underneath the menu. From here you can access the free stuff. You select your phone type, a category to browse through and also what order to view things in. The latter feature is particularly useful as you can browse from newest first, as a regular visitor to the site this makes things quicker.

                    If you're really not sure where to start after registering you could look up your mobile make and model in the Phones Database which will tell you some useless information like the weight of your phone and some useful information such as what ringtone types are compatible with your phone. This area can also be used to compare mobiles if you're thinking of purchasing a new one.

                    Free Please?

                    Wallpaper categories; humour, sport, abstract, animals and technology to name a few are well stocked. You can also search through them for a specific word; I managed to find some good pictures of Brad Pitt looking particularly handsome. Alternatively you can choose to view all the categories at the same time. As a user friendly feature, the "babes" category does not appear in the browse all list, although there are some less offensive but still revealing images that manage to appear, a warning for the prude amongst us. Themes are divided into the same categories as the wallpapers and again some, well actually quite a few include scantily clad women.

                    If your mobile can handle 3GP videos there are a growing number of sports, bloopers, motors and animal clips for you to download.

                    The ringtones section hosts polyphonic, MP3 and WAVE types. Whilst you won't find the latest chart music for free, there are some good ones still to be had.

                    The free MMS pictures are a bit tacky. If you really wanted to download picture messages like "sexy by nature" or "treat me like the princes I am" or "you're a true friend" this is the place.

                    My favourite area is the free games section. My most recent download was Sudoko and it's kept me amused for hours. They also have the classics like pong, word-search and a Rubix-like cube plus some newer ones all neatly categorised as puzzle, arcade, action, adventure or sport. Most of the games are Java. Currently there is only one Symbian series 60 game type. Which leads me nicely to…

                    Downloading?

                    So you've found a free item you like, what next? You select it, and add it to your account. Next you visit your account area from the main menu. Remove yourself from your computer and take out your mobile. Access the web via your mobile then either use the WAP site address and log in using your details as you would on a computer. Or, alternatively you can use your unique WAP URL that logs you in directly and takes you to the WAP download area. Both of these can be found on your Zedge Account page. Here will be listed themes, wallpapers etc that you have already selected to download. Highlight them individually to download to your mobile. There is no download charge from Zedge but your mobile phone operator will charge you for the WAP time if applicable to your tariff or contract type.

                    Uploading?

                    The site allows user uploads. As a result the content of even the free sections rapidly change making the "list by newest first" even more useful than ever. The best feature about z-uploader, Zedge's fandangled area is that you can upload your own personal wallpaper from your computer's hard drive… still free I might add. As an alternative there's also "The Upload Shack" that allows you to store images and retrieve them later for your mobile - handy eh? Well it would have been for my previous mobile phone that had the memory of a goldfish.

                    Premium Products

                    These are ringtones and games sent to your mobile via SMS at a cost to you. To do this you firstly click on your chosen download, select your provider and mobile make/model (again!). Then you will see you have choices: You can call them at a rate of £1.50/minute or you can text them and pay £1.50 per message received (apparently you receive 3). The premium products include ringtones and games received by SMS, animate your own images and Name Tones. The Name Tones area is basically a search to see if your name is listed then a ringtone that says "This is a call for….." Hmm not that good, certainly not at a price! The premium products are pricier than other companies, but why pay when there are plenty of free things to choose from.

                    Other Features

                    There's extensive affiliate and partner links should you wish to surf. There's also the ever handy tell a friend and forgotten password pages too. The active forum is not something I use often, but should you wish to, there are a number of "Forum Kings" that rule this department. In here you'll see unlocking tips, the latest opinions on new models and general mobile phone chit chat. Photo Blog is not what it sounds like. There's no logic to it but a bunch of random mobile photos that people send in with no explanation. You can vote on them if you like but there's no gain from doing so.

                    Zedge and EJ Get Along Nicely

                    Zedge have never sent me any spam emails and because they didn't ask for my mobile phone number, they won't be sending me any junk texts either.

                    I've downloaded a few things to my mobile phone from Zedge and all have met my expectations. The ringtone sounded exactly like it did online, you can't always be sure of this with pay products. The wallpapers were also pleasing, especially Brad Pitt! As I mentioned previously the Sudoko game is pretty good and finally I have a lively pink theme that's been commented on. All of these were free from Zedge and cost much less to download than paying for them to be sent to me. I'll probably never pay for an item from Zedge as they charge more that other companies but they have to make money some how. Zedge isn't a site that I'd check out daily but from time-to-time when it's time for a change on the mobile phone front it's most definitely worth a look.

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                    • Jimmy Carr - Live (DVD) / DVD / 67 Readings / 62 Ratings
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                      24.12.2005 10:50
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                      "A dog is for life not just for Christmas... so be careful at the next office Christmas party."

                      I first came across Jimmy Carr as a Perrier 2002 Award nominee and I tuned in especially to watch his Royal Variety Performance. What a blinder of a performance it was… hilarious from start to finish. Stood there in his purple velour suit which as he claims is "not a fashion statement so much as a cry for help" he won the audience over. Since that point his career has rocketed. You may recognise him from the successful television shows as "Your face of mine", "The Friday Night Project" and "Distraction." The latter of which recently burst onto US TV with Jimmy hosting the 12 part series over there too. Meanwhile in the UK his latest show "8 out of 10 cats" is a prime-time prime-comedy based quiz show and is proving to be just as successful as his previous offerings. His live stand-up shows include "Bare Faced Ambition" "Charm Offensive" and "Jamaica" so titled because if you say Jimmy Carr fast enough it sounds like Jamaica. All were hits with many sell-outs too. As a true fan (and being a student in Edinburgh home of the festival and some great comedy venues too) I've had the pleasure of seeing them all live. So it seemed only right that I should own his first DVD too. And how fantastic is it… I can almost recite the whole thing now and I'm still not bored of watching.

                      More About Jimmy Carr

                      Jimmy isn't just a stand-up comedian. As I mentioned previously he had presented numerous shows as well as one offs like "The Big Fat End of Year Quiz" and "Comedian's Comedian." Alongside this he has written for Lily Savage, Ricky Gervais, Frank Skinner and Bo Selecta. Add to that a bit of radio presenting for 104.9XFM and you get one very talented man. It always shocks me that most people aren't aware of the many strings to his bow. However in a nice way that means he doesn't brag and while he's clearly put the hard work in he's not desperate to have all the fame that comes with it.

                      Jimmy was born in 1973 in Slough, Berkshire to Nora Carr - ok that makes me sound like a stalker. My point to mentioning it was that he's is from the Home Counties. Thus he doesn't have an accent but boasts that "it's just how words sound when they're pronounced properly". This particularly tickles me as I have a mixed up accent myself and I'm very aware of local dialects. He attended Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge where he gained a first in Social and Political Sciences before going on to work for the Oil company Shell. He has an older brother Colin and a younger brother Patrick who gets a mention on the DVD too. Another person he refers to frequently is his girlfriend of about 3 years, Karoline… who I also admire for putting up with the things he says about their relationship in his shows!



                      Jimmy Car Live DVD

                      The Show

                      The show itself is filmed live at The Bloomsbury Theatre. It is split into 10 scenes and of course has the obligatory scene selection. This adds up to a total of 75 minutes but there's endless features to keep you amused after that time. On the menu page Jimmy suggests that you might like to use scene selection if you think you have a better order to the show than him. In fact each sub-menu has a voiceover of him making remarks about you the viewer of the DVD. I see this as an added bonus feature in itself as there's more of his usual sarcasm.

                      1. Stand Up -an introduction to the show and to him, where he's from and his views on how people see him.
                      2. On the Couch - his stage isn't just the usual bare stage of comedians. On the left there's a brown, rather bachelor-esque sofa and to the right a desk and chair. In this section he sits on the sofa. He discusses his show "Your Face Or Mine." I do wonder why he accepted the offer to present that show as he rips it to pieces.
                      3. Small Ads - Over sat behind his desk he proclaims that he's placed adverts in local papers complete with real phone lines. These newspaper clippings appear on a large screen for the audience but he reads them out as well. Just to wet your appetite for these without ruining the whole section here's just two:
                      In a business opportunity section, he placed "Small minority wanted to ruin it for the rest of us. There's always one, is it you?"
                      In the lost and found section "Lost virginity, yes get in!"

                      4. More Stand Up - yes more.
                      5. Letters - similar to the small ads section, Jimmy talks about prank letters he's sent. The validity of these stories is uncertain but they're amusing nonetheless. There's also a rather nice anecdote about a prank letter that backfired on Jimmy when the correspondent replied with a phone call and rather generous offer.
                      6. Even More Stand Up - yes even more. He focuses on his girlfriend, his childhood and a little on his family in this section. In addition he dabbles in religion but not too much and not in an all out offensive way either.
                      7. Interview - next he invites a member of the audience up to sit with him on his sofa. He gives them question to ask him. For me this is the low point of the whole DVD. The questions are predefined so as you can imagine he replies with preconditioned answers… each raising a giggle from the audience. This is where his normal chatty way of delivering one-liners falls apart. The comedy in this section comes more from the audience member and they way in which they handle sitting next to him and trying to ask him things without laughing through their words.
                      8. Stand Up Again - and again more wit.
                      9. T-shirts - the comedy t-shirt rail comes out. Again a prop to display his witty one-liners. These mainly have normal comments on the front with a counter comment or addition on the back. For example "Love Hurts" and on the reverse "try lubrication."
                      10. Encore - first he complains about how in his work being kept behind at the end of a day's work isn't uncommon. Then he asks the audience how many encore jokes they'd like. A brave man requests 10 and true to form Jimmy counts them down with the help of the audience.

                      Bonus Material

                      Bonus Audience Interviews - I mentioned previously that he has an audience member interview him on a leather sofa on stage. Well a number of shows were filmed and they had to decide on just one interview but there's a selection of equally funny ones grouped here in a montage.
                      Royal Variety Performance - helps me relive our first encounter and it's just as funny the second, third, fourth… times round.
                      Backstage - quite literally meet his make-up lady who paints him orange, see his dressing room and watch him walk on stage at the start of a show from backstage.
                      Karaoke Comedy - Hmm not sure about this but it's basically subtitles in white text that turns pink as Jimmy says each word. A cross between karaoke and comedy you see but the point to it being on the DVD is wasted on me.
                      Commentary - yes comedy over comedy, doesn't get much better than that eh? It's worth watching but not immediately after watching The Show.
                      T-Shirts - just as in the show the selection of double liner t-shirts.
                      Posters - from his previous shows and performances complete with commentary.
                      Small Ads - adverts he allegedly placed just as in the show.


                      Recommendation

                      I like his work so much because it's drought dry and razor sharp. He, like most other comedians he is making a living out of stating the obvious. However Jimmy does it in his own unique different way. What he says is funny because it's true, right up to the point of making an indignant observation. But unlike others he also likes playing with words. If there is a trace of ambiguity in a phrase, he'll find it, tease it out and have my sides hurting with laughter. He uses many puns too and these seem to roll off his tongue so quick that if you don't listen carefully you'll miss them.

                      "Boxers don't have sex before a fight, do you know why that is? They don't fancy each other."

                      His timing is also spot on. Not just from his one-liners "Throwing acid is wrong, in some people's eyes" but also the timing and structure of his whole performance. It's laced with peaks and troughs, but the troughs aren't that low they're merely a chance to catch your breath before the next bout of laughter.

                      Indeed he has been criticised for being crude and insensitive. He opens his show with "I better warn you that in my act there is a certain amount of bad language. And I'm not talking split infinitives, there will be some swearing and there is material of a sexual nature. So if you are easily offended, don't be a c*nt about it." Later there's reference to a charity gig he did for leukaemia patients and he points out that the "baldies on the front row were enjoying it". Often there can be heard a sucking noise through pursed lips from the audience at stand-up shows I've been to. This shock factor of course isn't to everyone's taste but commendably he doesn't attempt to get away with it by playing up a cheeky chap role. Furthermore his aloof persona, middle class guise and snobbish air apply a delay to the warming of an audience to him but positively add to the supreme sharpness of his delivery. I am unsure as to what is true and what's a tall story… if that goes anyway to justifying why you're laughing at what he's just said. In any case he does interlace the more shocking comments with light-hearted quips that will appeal to everyone.

                      I would recommend this DVD if you have ever seen him live or would like to see more of his personality coming through after enjoying his TV shows. It's currently priced around £14.99 (play.com) with cheaper used versions available on Amazon and Ebay. I can't wait to see his new live show "Off the Telly" which is in full swing at the moment… more details on this and other performances can be found on his official website (www.jimmycarr.com).

                      "A dog is for life not just for Christmas… so be careful at the next office Christmas party."

                      Please, please Santa bring me his next DVD tomorrow!

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                      • Co-codamol tablets / Pain Relief / 54 Readings / 48 Ratings
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                        21.12.2005 15:41
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                        Co-codamol takes the form of a combination of paracetamol and codeine.

                        After some light relief, I'm back to reviewing what I know and like. Drugs, medicinal science and research.

                        Co-codamol takes the form of a combination of paracetamol and codeine. While paracetamol belongs to the group of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), codeine is quite different. Codeine belongs to the opioid class of drugs, of which morphine is also a member. Both codeine and morphine are chemically similar and act much the same as endorphins. Endorphins are pain reducing substances present naturally in humans (and other animals).

                        Paracetamol acts at the site of pain to reduce swelling, redness, fever and pain sensation. More recent research suggests that paracetamol can also act within the brain to prevent a pain signal from being perceived, although this theory is controversial and in disagreement with other research. Despite the divide on this alternative action of paracetamol, codeine most certainly acts within the brain. By combining these two drugs, relief from mild to moderate pain can be achieved, a drug therapy technique known as "drug synergy". In fact codeine is also available in combination with aspirin and known as, surprise, surprise… co-codaprin.

                        The codeine present in co-codamol can take different forms. Both codeine phosphate and codeine sulphate are equally as effective. The addition merely aids the dissolving of codeine tablets.


                        Dosing and Mode of Action

                        Currently all co-codamol tablets contain 500mg (half a gram) of paracetamol. Codeine is present at 8mg, 15mg or 30mg. The 8mg codeine co-codamol tablets are available over the counter at pharmacies but the higher doses are prescription only.

                        Codeine is similar to the addictive drug morphine. Both drugs should be used in a controlled way, which is achieved by making it available only by prescription at higher doses. In fact, codeine is made by chemically altering morphine. What's more, codeine is converted within the liver to morphine but less than 10% of the codeine is converted so it is less likely to lead to dependence. To put things in perspective: About 200mg of codeine would give the same pain relief as 30mg of morphine. Since the maximum dose of codeine is 30mg, of which only 3mg will be converted to morphine, the risk is very low.

                        Endorphins are released during exercise and elation. These naturally present chemicals are the body's own mechanism of reducing pain. Thus explaining how sportsmen (or women!) can carry on playing despite injuries. Codeine mimics endorphins by binding the same opioid receptors, boosting the ability of the brain to over-ride pain perception. Codeine also has different desirable effects to paracetamol. It provides pain relief, is antitussive (suppresses coughing) and antidiarrheal (relieves diahorrea). Hence, Co-codamol is also available in liquid form as a cough medicine and to treat diahorrea.

                        Adverse reactions include nausea and vomiting, dry mouth, hypotension (low blood pressure), urinary retention (difficulty peeing) and constipation. These are mainly due to the action of paracetamol and codeine on different receptors. Respiratory depression where breathing becomes slowed and the body lacks oxygen is a more serious side-effects and are enhanced in combination with alcohol. This symptom required immediate medical attention.

                        Contraindications

                        Co-codamol should no be used if you are suffering from alcoholism, liver disease, a head injury, enlarged prostate gland, Crohn's Disease, inflammatory bowel disease or kidney disease. Additionally it is not recommended for long term use.
                        It is also not advisable to take Co-codamol while pregnant. Although little research has be done in this area, it is likely that codeine and morphine can be present in breast-milk.

                        I recently overheard someone suggest to their friend that they take a paracetamol and a Co-codamol tablet at the same time to cure a headache. Firstly, neither will cure a headache but merely mask the pain until it passes. Secondly and most worryingly, since Co-codamol contains paracetamol, it is not necessary and potentially harmful to take both at the same time.

                        Co-codamol can affect other medicines. The drug cholestyramine, used for diarrhoea in Crohn's Disease, after removal of part of the intestine and for high blood cholesterol, reduces the ability of the body to take paracetamol from the gut into the blood stream. The anti-vomiting drug metaclopramide on the other hand enhances the effects of paracetamol in Co-codamol. While blood-thinning warfarin can be used with paracetamol, regular coagulation monitoring should be performed.

                        Equally alcohol, sleeping tablets, antidepressants and antihistamines can enhance Co-codamol's sedative and drowsy effects.


                        Drug Abuse

                        Unfortunately codeine is used as a recreational drug due to it's addictive, habit-forming and tolerance building properties. It's similarity to morphine cause people to use it to achieve the same euphoric effects particularly since it is available legally over the counter. Doses higher than those recommended can cause liver damage, kidney problems, stomach pain and hemorrhage. These effects are largely dependent on what codeine is in combination with. Thus both the quantity and timing of the recommended dosing should be followed strictly.

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                        • fatfingers.co.uk / Internet Site / 66 Readings / 58 Ratings
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                          13.12.2005 18:21
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                          It is free and fast so definitely worth a try, a nice idea but nothing revolutionary.

                          ***Fatfingers.com***

                          What's that I hear you cry… well it's not a collection of photos of people with chubby digits to amuse the general surf community.

                          Actually fatfingers.com and their slogan "other people's typos save you money" is a natty invention. You type the correct spelling of an item you are looking to purchase over the internet and fat fingers searches your chosen site for all the possible misspellings of your item.

                          ***Theory***

                          Thousands and thousands of items are listed on ebay every day and you'd be surprised how many people don't spell check before they list. If you've ever done a category search you may have come across miss spelt listing titles. As a result these listings receive fewer bids and are likely to sell for less than if they were spelt correctly. Using fat fingers to search for all the spelling mistakes for you might just nab you a bargain.

                          On the website fat fingers very proudly states that it is the winner of an innovative website award from www.moneySavingExpert.com


                          ***Site Design & Use***

                          So simple a monkey could use it! Nice purple and white design with a large fat fingers logo in case you forgot where you were.

                          Below the logo are clickable options for the following:
                          Spelling Mistakes
                          Problems & Feedback
                          Chat
                          Add this search to your site
                          Download.

                          If you are fluent in Dutch, Norwegian, Italian or Spanish you can choose these language preferences for the site.

                          In the centre is "Search for" then a box for you to type your desired item. To the right a choice of twelve ebay sites, QXL, ebid and google. Finally a "find" button which starts the search.

                          Your selected site and spelling mistake listings appear as a pop up if you have them enabled. If pop ups are disabled, a link appears on the fat fingers page that will take you to your search listings.

                          The advanced search area provides the following options for your search:
                          Include correct spelling
                          Just 'Buy It Now' Auctions (ebay only)
                          Just auctions that use PayPal (ebay only)
                          These few but defined options help you to taylor your search to your specific requirements.

                          Problems and feedback is pretty self explanatory. They offer an alternative page for searching if you are having trouble using the normal one. The also ask for any positive, negative, improvement suggestions and problems to be emailed to them. You might decide you'd like to see another option added to the advanced search area… and they might decide it's not necessary!

                          The chat button opens up a page from moneysavingexpert.com. I have not used this chat area and since it is from a different site I feel it is inappropriate to include it in this review.

                          You can include the fat fingers search on your own site with the possibility of earning commission if you have a commission junction account. Instructions are simple and for the purposes of this review I tested it out. I copied and pasted the HTML and sure enough a fully functional fat fingers search appeared. It completely clashed with my colour scheme and was removed as easily as it had been added.

                          Finally you can install (for free) fat fingers search on your computer that can be enabled for any site search. Alternatively there is a mini version known as the fat fingers widget - canny and cute too. I've had this on my computer in the past and it is easy to use. I wouldn't recommend downloading it unless you do a lot of buying and selling with ebay.

                          ***Usefulness***

                          I guess it could be classified as one of those useful but not completely necessary gadgets home catalogues try to sell you.

                          Regular buyers and sellers would benefit from getting into the habit of using it to search or may consider downloading fat fingers.

                          It has saved me money in the past for example someone listed "sequned shoes" on ebay and luckily for me they were my size! I bought them for about half the price of similar sequined shoes listed presumably because less people located that listing. Other finds have included Louis Vuitton spelling mistakes which seemed to be free of bidding wars (I did not purchase). On the downside fat fingers has also revealed many search listings that are different to what I am looking for or unhelpful. Recently I searched for Barbie and fat fingers found me Beanie Babies, J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Red Dwarf's Chris Barrie memorabilia but no Barbie bargains.

                          It is free and fast so definitely worth a try, a nice idea but nothing revolutionary thus I award it an average rating.

                          And finally to avoid embarrassment I must spell check my review thoroughly!

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                            11.11.2005 13:37
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                            10 of my best, 8 are a bit rude.

                            Welcome to my top 10 most embarrassing moments (...that I'm prepared to reveal here!) Starting at number 10, count them down with me in all their embarrassing glory:

                            ***10. Drunken Gymnastics***

                            With friends I've known since school, I'd spent the best part of the afternoon in the pub and hadn't bothered to move until last orders that evening. We were all in good spirits, and I believe it was the spirits that drove us to be messing about as we wobbled, meandered and slavered towards the club. I'd just been fireman's lifted, squealed and got put down. Someone had cart wheeled and someone else was running about like a loon too. I decided I was going to show off by doing a high kick - something I was perfectly fine at doing sober and usually managed to get my ankle somewhere round my ear with a straight leg. This time however I got my kicking leg up to the top but the standing leg decided to follow it. In cartoon fashion I left the pavement, suspended in mid air till I realised I wasn't standing on anything then hit the ground with a thud.

                            Now you know you've done some damage when the pain is horrendous despite being intoxicated. It took me nearly 5 minutes to stand up and another ten to hobble to the club. The next day the size and colour of the bruise was delightful, and I don't bruise easily!

                            Embarrassment Factor: 5/10 - more painful than embarrassing bbut I am still reminded about it when we're down the pub.


                            *** 9. Confused Interviewer ***

                            This summer I was working in the office of a steel stockholders - not the average summer job I know. This is how I got the job. I was sat in the pub (I'm not an alcoholic honestly) moaning about how I'd been turned down my local supermarket who employ even the simplest of local folk, yet me with a degree couldn't get a job there. My mate Mike says he knows of someone who's looking for a summer temp. So he passes the number on to me saying to ring it the next day and say how I'd heard about the job. I knew it wasn't Mike who knew the boss of the company directly so when I called I said it was his girlfriend that had passed the message on. Now his girlfriend (despite Mike being my age) has only recently been allowed to drink in pubs legally so I've only met her once and don't recall that incident as I was alcoholed-up (ok I am an alcoholic).

                            The interview went something like this:

                            Boss: "So how do you know Sophie"
                            EJ: "I don't, I know her boyfriend as I went to school with him."
                            Boss: "So how old are you then? You look a lot younger than him"
                            EJ: "22 same as Mike"
                            Boss: "Who's Mike?"
                            EJ: "Sophie's boyfriend…"
                            Boss: "No Sophie's boyfriend is called Justin."
                            EJ: "…………….. Er…………"

                            I got the job but had to play along for the whole summer that I knew Sophie… who I've since found out is a friend of my Mike's but to make matters worse, Sophie's boyfriend Justin has a best friend called Mike… so you can see how easily I could have started a rumour!

                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                            Before I continue with the count down; if you're a bit of a prude or easily offended then 8 to 1 are a little more risqué. Warning over, let number 8 commence:
                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


                            ***8. Wendy's Knockers ***

                            I'm an avid ice skater and every year until I was 18 I skated in our ice rink's amateur On Ice Pantomime. This particular year I had the part of Wendy in Peter Pan. However all the main characters were also in the chorus line. This meant that quick costume changes were a regular thing and not that easy with ice boots on. My quick change that year was so fast that I didn't have time to go to the changing rooms and was informed that I'd have to change behind the scenes. I even had my very own costume lady to help me and the first three nights went without a problem, me making it onto the ice fully clothed and in time. The fourth night however, my costume lady was poorly and my mum stepped in! Now why is it that mum's have a no shame approach to nakedness? When I came off the ice from the last scene she wasn't where she should have been waiting for me so I had to run a little further round the side of the rink behind the scenery. My previous costume was a Velcro (it saves so much time!) boob tube and I'd just been putting my Wendy dress over the top of it then waiting till the interval to remove it. My mum decides to strip me… COMPLETELY, rips off the boob tube using the handy time saving Velcro and flashing my assets to the skate hire lads.

                            Embarrassment Factor: 8/10 - mortified as the lads were both quite cute and I had to face them every day that I trained at the rink after the incident. Not quite a 9 though as luckily the audience of 400 didn't see.


                            ***7. Frilly ***

                            I happen to be the proud owner of a pair of baby blue shorts style knickers with two rows of baby pink frills that go from hip to hip across the bum. I only wear them for bed for two reasons: my boyfriend loves them and the frills worn under clothes take VPL to new extremes! I've recently moved into a house that I'm sharing with two males, we don't yet have a washing machine and I haven't managed to make it to the laundrette yet. I ran out of clean pj bottoms so decided that even though my man is really far away in Thailand, I'd wear the frilly pants to bed. Next morning I was the first up and straight into the shower. We have a bit of a shower curtain/floor puddle problem at the moment so I tend to hang things on the hook on the back of the bathroom door.

                            I got back from a long day at work and didn't need the toilet till bed time. Sat on the loo I looked up only to see my frilly pants still hanging there right where I'd left them some 12 hours earlier!

                            Embarrassment Factor: 7/10 - Nothing has been said but I know both of them will have seen them. All I can say is, at least they weren't grey grotty ones!


                            *** 6. Never Fall Asleep On The Job. ***

                            For ice skating training I'd often have to be at the rink for 6am on a weekend morning and stayed there till the middle of the afternoon. As a result I was tired most of the weekend and couldn't get a part time job for extra cash. I made some money babysitting in my village. One particular night I'd been writing an essay for school and had MTV on for background noise. I must have fallen asleep on the sofa as the next thing I remember was hearing the parents of the children I was sitting for coming in. I woke up with a start and immediately noticed that there was now "Top 40 Erotic Music Videos" on the TV.

                            Could I find the TV remote to change it? No… Did I manage to leg it across the room to turn the TV off before they came into the living room? No… Did I get asked to baby sit there again? NO!


                            Embarrassment Factor: 7.5/10 - especially because it was completely innocent.


                            *** 5. The Danger Run ***

                            My first flat in Edinburgh where I did my undergrad degree was a lovely huge five bedroomed place. All of us had boyfriends and as a consequence there could be anything between 1 and 10 people sleeping there on a given night. I'm a middle of the night pee-er, that is I usually wake up in the night and take a trip to the bathroom. You know what it's like when you're sleepy and desperate to go. I did a quick naked run across the hallway, into the safe haven of the bathroom. My eyes got used to the light in there and I finished up. Much more relieved I sauntered back to my room. Only to be met half way across the hallway by another human, or rather a just as naked flatmate's boyfriend!

                            Embarrassment Factor: 6.5/10 - he was starkers too but that was little consolation at the time.


                            *** 4. Legs Eleven ***

                            Anyone who's ever lived north of the border will know that it can get pretty cold. I'll even admit that I could go most of the winter months without shaving my legs in an effort to keep just that little bit warmer in Scotland. Having a girls night in and I'd actually got round to shaving my gorilla legs. My flatmate then suggested we try out her new fake tan, if it goes wrong we can always wear trousers. It did go wrong, horribly in my case and I looked patchier than army issue camouflage.

                            That aside, the next day I was sat in the doctors room asking for another box of contraceptive pills, trying to calm myself down about having to have my blood pressure measured - give me an injection any day but as soon as I know I'm having my BP done I'm a wreck! If that wasn't bad enough she decided that I wasn't allowed anymore until I'd had a smear test and much to her convenience she could do it now for me. So I strip off my lower half and climb onto the bed assuming THE position - as if that didn't strip me of my dignity, I'd also reviled the nightmare that was patchy half orange half white legs!

                            Embarrassment Factor: 8/10 - she even commented that she'd never seen it go that wrong!


                            *** 3. The Quickie ***

                            I recently told a friend this story and she said I had to include it in my top 10...

                            The title refers both to the duration of act preceding the embarrassing incident and to the length of time it will take me to tell you about it. How many people have done "IT" in the bath? I have tried once and will never again. He slipped, I lost my balance and whacked my forehead on the side of the bath. The lump and bruise was very difficult to explain and it was on display for everyone to see!

                            Embarrassment Factor: 8/10 - the factor has increased now that I'm admiting it to you the reader.


                            ***2. My Rude Dissertation ***

                            As most of you know I graduated earlier this year with a degree in Pharmacology but the road to it was long and troublesome. My honours dissertation title was "The Signalling and Regulation of Thromboxane A2 on Seminal Plasma in Endometrial Tissue." In simpler terms I was assessing the effect of semen on the female uterus. My dissertation was lovingly referred to as "The Spunk Project" by myself and my friends. After the writing up and handing in, we were required to present our projects to our 30 fellow pharmacology final years, the head of pharmacology at the university and all our project supervisors. This included an account of the methods that we used. I stood proudly infront of a lecture theatre of 60+ people (students and academics) and announced that "Semen was collected from healthy male volunteers via masturbation." Smirks and giggles from my fellow students all round while I had to keep my cool and continue with the presentation.

                            Then came question time. A legend of a lecturer started questioning if I'd repeated the studies and I said that due to limited supplies I had only managed 3 repeats. I was referring to endometrial tissue (a layer of the uterus that is collected from women under anaesthetic so limited volunteers!) but he started to say "you should have come up to my lab I would have given you some…." No, no please no… don't say what myself and everyone in the audience thinks you're about to say. Thankfully he didn't but my fellow students were convinced he was going to!


                            ***1. Sack That Waitress ***

                            I got myself a summer job working in a family run pub and restaurant in the quaint tourist town of Knaresborough. I enjoyed my job and they were starting to bar train me too something I thought would be a useful skill to have at university. I was the only waitress for the restaurant Monday to Friday but at the weekend the lad from the pot wash would help me out if we got busy. Also the tables in the restaurant were numbered but the outside terrace tables weren't. People sitting there had to order at the bar. As a result when food was ready for the terrace we just had to walk out and yell the order and see who claimed it.
                            Out I waltz showing off with 4 plates balanced skilfully. I get to almost the middle of the terrace and draw a breath to announce the order of….
                            "Four Skins?"
                            Yes that's right, four plates of our speciality spicy potato skins! There wasn't a straight face or dry eye on the whole terrace and what's more, the pot wash guy was clearing a table so heard me and promptly informed the other staff, the landlord and the landlady of the pub.

                            He did however make the same mistake as me by not thinking before he opened his mouth a few weeks later. A barman had called in sick and the pot wash guy was helping out on the bar. I was in the kitchen preparing knickerblockerglories for a booked office party that evening. My friend came into the pub and asked pot wash guy if I was about to which he replied "She's in the kitchen creaming her knickers."

                            Embarrassment Factor: 9/10 - I wanted the paving on the terrace to eat me up.

                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                            So there you have it, my top 10 most embarrassing moments... that I'm prepared to reveal on dooyoo.

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                              23.09.2005 15:31
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                              Soda Crystals: Cheap and Chips and still going strong after over 150 years of use!

                              Soda Crystals: Cheap and Chips and still going strong after over 150 years of use!


                              It's nearing the anniversary of my grandma's death. She was a wonderful lady, strong and even though grandparents shouldn't have favourites, she made it quite clear to everyone that I was hers. Sadly she died from cancer after a long battle. It is in her memory that I'd like to review soda crystals. A bizarre thing to dedicate to her but I know she'd appreciate it. If I learnt anything practical or domestic from her it's that crystals (not diamonds) are a girl's best friend. This does not, in any way, excuse the male of the species from cleaning though!


                              ~~~What did Grandma Do?~~~

                              Soda crystals have been in use for just over 150 years and they're still going strong. While not as popular as newer household cleaning products, they are just as effective. These newer products containing detergent, bleach or enzymes have taken over but soda crystals are still used by farmers, commerce and industry despite their popularity for the home dwindling. At the beginning of the 20th century there was much less choice in terms of domestic cleaning aids, just soap, soap flakes of soda crystals. My grandma used to boast that she used them for cleaning, laundry and even cooking, but she was a little potty.


                              ~~~Cleaning Power~~~

                              With no detergent, bleach, enzymes or phosphates, how exactly do soda crystals clean? When dissolved in water they produce an alkaline solution (opposite to acid on the pH scale). This alkaline solution is particularly effective at dissolving grease, combating acidity and shifting dirt. It also softens water in areas of hard water.


                              ~~~Product Range~~~

                              The original product comes in crystal form and looks a bit like salt. It is also available in tablet form, pre-dissolved liquid form and premixed with anti-bacterial agents or orange oil. Personally I prefer the loose crystals so that I can dilute it to the strength required for a particular job and because I resent paying a bit extra for it to be dissolved in water for me. These products are produced by Dri-Pak, as far as I'm aware this is the only company that produces soda crystals within the UK.


                              ~~~Environmentally Friendly~~~

                              Since the original soda crystals contain no phosphates, enzymes or bleach, they are entirely biodegradable. This can not always be said for the more harsh cleaning products that line supermarket shelves.

                              The manufacturer recommends that if you are submerging your hands in a soda crystal solution for a long time, it is advisable to wear rubber gloves - especially if you have sensitive skin. I have eczema that is triggered by foods, some skincare toiletries, biological washing powders/liquids and even well diluted bleach. However I've been known (naughty I know) to spend a day cleaning with soda crystal solution when I've moved homes, without rubber gloves and the skin on my hands and arms were fine.

                              It doesn't smell strongly and won't leave you choking. If anything it has a very mild soap smell but only if you get up close to a solution. The smell doesn't last but surprisingly it can remove odours that result from stale stains or spills.


                              ~~~Dilution~~~

                              Before I tell you of the many household problems that can be cleaned up with soda crystals, here's a guide to diluting the crystals. It doesn't need to be exact and I admit I usually guess.

                              Mild Solution: 1 tablespoon into 1 pint of water
                              Medium Solution: ½ cup into 1 pint of water
                              Strong Solution: 1 cup into 1 pint of water


                              ~~~One Product - Many Uses~~~

                              There's hardly a place around the home where they can't be used. It's no wonder people complain of lack of storage space these days with a different product for each different task. There's no need for so many products, which can react badly when they come into contact with each other, leave the user gasping for breath and often don't live up to their claims. I use soda crystals for the following tasks but the uses are endless. Soda Crystals can not be used on aluminium surfaces but this is the only exception.

                              KITCHEN

                              A strong solution and a washing brush or scour will remove stubborn burnt-on food from pots, pans and grill pans. If it doesn't remove it immediately then usually after a 15 minute soak it'll be much easier. Remember not to use it on aluminium pans though, Borax is better for them but that's a whole different review!

                              How often have you choked on ammonia containing products when cleaning a cooker and wire trays or shelves from the cooker. A soaking in a strong soda crystal solution for anything from an hour to over night will dissolve the grease and with a bit of a scrub with a metal scour those pesky black spots will be gone. Kitchen grease that collects on cooker hoods can also be wiped off in the same way.

                              Many other things that can also be soaked in soda crystal solutions. Tannin in tea is what produces unsightly stained teapots and teacups but can be removed in a medium strength solution for about an hour. My flatmates thought I'd bought new mugs! Boil the kettle with a tablespoon of crystals in and it will be descaled immediately. This is much quicker than the leave over night products but remember to check that your kettle doesn't contain aluminium components. A quick rinse out and other than having a sparkling kettle you won't notice any difference in taste.

                              A mild solution is also great for wiping worktops and washing the front of kitchen cupboards. From experience these areas are overlooked. I was shocked at the state of a flat I moved into, it had been vacant for over a month and the dust has clung to the grease on cupboard doors. Soda crystals cut through the grease really easily and left a sparkling kitchen, even the landlord was impressed.

                              This is the one time that you can use soda crystals with aluminium. Line a bowl with aluminium foil then soak silverware in a hot water, strong soda crystal solution. The chemical reaction the soda crystals have with aluminium actually removed the dirt and tarnishing from the silverware. After soaking for 15 minutes they can be buffed up to a satisfying sheen with a dry cloth. I've used this on jewellery too and was pleased with the results.

                              LAUNDRY

                              I mentioned earlier that I can't use many washing powders and particularly biological laundry wash products aggravate my eczema. While I've found a product I can use in the machine, I was struggling with getting something to use on hand wash clothes. In cold water soda crystals make my woollen jumpers clean and fluffy. I recently managed to spill food down a new silk top at a restaurant. By the time I got home the grease had spread on the top and I was gutted. I'd never tried soda crystals on silk before but as the top was ruined anyway I couldn't make it much worse. I used a medium solution (by accident poured more than intended in) and I rescued a top that was destined for the bin!

                              Stains like blood, ink, tea and coffee can be removed by pouring a strong solution over the stain before washing. My dad is an engineer on a ship… thankfully they get their boiler suits washed for them. When he's home he loves nothing more than tinkering with classic motorbikes, there's not an item of clothing that hasn't been soaked in a strong solution to get the dirt and greasy oil out!

                              In hard water areas, half a cup softens the water and means you can use less of your usual detergent and it'll descale your washing machine's pipes in the process.

                              BATHROOM

                              I've been absolutely disgusted at the state of toilets of even privately rented student properties I've lived in. That brown stuff that lurks beneath the water line that's due to lime scale and other crud (less mentioned the better). I get a bit enthusiastic with soda crystals on toilets, tipping a generous cupful down the pan and leaving it to soak over night. In the morning a tickle with a loo brush, flush and observe a lav to be proud of. I keep it that way by doing this once a month.

                              Just like the kitchen, the bathroom can be attacked in a safe way with soda crystals too. Tiles, flooring, lime scale taps, the bath, the skin and even shower curtains can be fixed up with a medium to strong solution.

                              … AND MORE

                              Elsewhere in the house, all paintwork can be washed down, blinds spruced up, windows cleaned, mirrors polished and swilling out waste bins all with mild solution. Spills on upholstery will be removed with a very mild solution and I managed to impress my very house proud friend when her bundle of joy spilt milk on her sofa… the sour smell was horrible and the stain driving her mad. A well rung out cloth dabbed over the stain brought a smile back to her face and a box of chocolates to me - cheaper than a new sofa for her!

                              So you've gone round the whole house cleaning a wide variety of things and you tip the used solution down the sink. The soda crystals are still working at dissolving grease and grime in the pipes. For more of an industrial approach I pour the dry crystals into the plug hole then add on top the contents of a just boiled kettle.

                              OUTSIDE

                              In the garden and outside the house I've been known to use soda crystal solutions on outside drains, patios with moss and slimy leaves and also to get the flies off window screens and number plates but I avoided the paint work as I wasn't sure how safe it would be. Just like my cooker, my barbeque gets the strong solution soak treatment at the end of every summer too.


                              ~~~Availability~~~

                              I've found the availability of soda crystals to be variable. In Yorkshire they're available in most supermarkets in the laundry or cleaning aisles. In other areas they're only available in larger supermarkets. Soda crystals can also be found in bargain shops, particularly those specialising in toiletries and cleaning products.

                              A big bag of 300g costs 99p and that's the same price that I've seen everywhere.

                              In terms of value for money it's not just cheaper than a single product for cleaning but because it is so versatile it works out as a huge saving. Maybe I should have included it in my penny pinching review!


                              ~~~Final Push~~~

                              I feel like I've written a sales pitch but I've tried to include as much personal experience as I could. I've only included uses that I do myself so all of the ones mentioned come with my seal of approval. It's a totally versatile product and I'm an enthusiastic user. Aluminium is the only thing that doesn't get on well with this product but for cleaning silverware this can actually be exploited! Using just one product all round the house not only saves money but also saves space in terms of storage. It's gentle on my eczema and lungs, biodegradable and better for the environment. Availability is good and a constant, reasonable price keeps me happy too. Never mind diamonds, crystal are a girl's best friend - thanks grandma!

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                                17.09.2005 18:31
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                                Paracetamol should wear a cape and fly!

                                Whether you pronounce it para-see-tamol or para-set-amol, it'll always be acetaminophen to me. As a pharmacology graduate there are some drugs that you can not avoid learning about at university and analgesics (pain killers) fall within this group. Although I can't complain as I've always found pain pathways fascinating.


                                ~What is Pain?~

                                It's when it hurts, we all know that but the cause has baffled and will continue to baffle even the greatest scientific researchers. A doctor will often ask 'where' it hurts and what 'type' of pain it is but rarely do they, or us, give a thought to why.

                                We currently know that pain is perceived as a physical sensation. The immediate pain felt from physical contact or pinching the skin results from activation of sensory neurons called nociceptors (no-see-sep-tors). These detect the stimuli and signal to the brain via nerves. Within the brain it is thought that the brain region called the thalamus is primarily involved in pain perception.

                                Prolonged pain such as back ache or pain from a swollen joint occurs when damaged cells release a cocktail of chemical substances. These substances act together to cause swelling, redness, inflammation and pain. Amongst this mix of substances are the prostaglandins which are known to potentate the pain of inflammation. Prostaglandins are made by cyclo-oxygenase enzyme (COX for short - us biology types have a sense of humour too y'know!).


                                ~Why is COX so important?~

                                Since COX enzymes (there are 3 in humans) make prostaglandins and prostaglandins enhance pain… if we can prevent prostaglandins being made then we can prevent pain. This is exactly what paracetamol does. Paracetamol inhibits COX enzymes thereby reducing prostaglandin formation. Other drugs that also inhibit COX are ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen.


                                ~History~

                                In 1893, the chemist Joseph von Mering made paracetamol but it's properties weren't discovered until Brodie and Axelrod began investigating it in 1943. By 1963 paracetamol was available over the counter. Previously the chemical stubstance paracetamol was known as acetaminophen but this name is now only found in pharamcology textbooks!


                                ~Pain - A Universal Disorder~

                                Paracetamol is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory in that it prevents the pain of inflammation and has some temperature reducing (antipyretic) effects that lower temperature when the body is in fever. It has been used as a home medicine for over 30 years to relieve pain and fever in adults and children.

                                As I mentioned earlier there are a whole host of other drugs that work in exactly the same way. However, aspirin is also linked to stomach ulcers since it inhibits the first type of COX enzyme, COX-1. COX-1 has a protective role within the lining of the stomach. Paracetamol is less effective as inhibiting COX-1 but has a good action on COX-2 at the site of pain. Also, more recently paracetamol was proven to inhibit a third COX enzyme, only found in the brain and spinal cord. It is now believed to prevent the transmission of the painful stimuli to the brain region involved in pain perception.

                                Aspirin can also trigger asthma attacks in those predisposed to the condition. Paracetamol does not show this effect. In fact paracetamol when used at the recommended dose has very few side-effects.


                                ~Administration And Use~

                                Paracetamol is generally administered in liquid form for children (over the age of 3) and tablet form for adults. It is deemed safe during pregnancy and for breast feeding mothers but as with all drugs it is wise to seek a doctor's advice prior to use.

                                The recommended adult dose of paracetamol is two 500 mg tablets. This can be taken with four hours between doses and at no more than eight tablets in 24 hours. Child dosing for paracetamol varies with age and weight. Since liquid paracetamol comes in varying strengths it is better that you read the packaging for a particular brand than for me to mislead you with general dosing guidelines.


                                ~Side-Effects~

                                All drugs cause side-effects but those caused by paracetamol are limited in number and severity compared to lists I have seen for other over-the-counter drugs.

                                Rarely skin rashes occur as a result of taking paracetamol. This is more commonly seen in children. Other allergic reactions to paracetamol have been reported but they do not affect the majority of the population.

                                Alcohol should be avoided with paracetamol due to possible liver damage. Also people with liver disease or liver failure are advised not to take paracetamol.


                                ~Overdose~

                                It is a common misconception that paracetamol is a sure-fire way to over-dose and commit suicide. Take it from a pharmacology graduate… it isn't. There is an antidote to paracetamol overdose, methionine, which is highly effective up to 12 hours after the overdose and still satisfactorily effective after 48 hours. For most cases, deliberate overdoses are likely to produce liver damage or failure but are not fatal. Despite this, all medicines are required, legally, to be labelled with the recommended dosage and also the following statements which should be heeded.

                                'Do not exceed the stated dose' and 'Immediate medical advice should be sought in the event of an overdose, even if you feel well'


                                ~Personal Experience~

                                I am myself allergic to aspirin but can take other over-the-counter-painkillers with no problems. I’ve found that the smoother capsules of paracetamol are easier to swallow than tablets but either are equally as effective. I do try to sleep of headaches but that’s not always possible. If caught within the first hour of a headache, I can usually rid myself of it completely after taking a single 250mg dose of paracetamol. This is half the recommended dosing but just as effective.
                                I don’t tend to take it as a hangover cure as mixing with alcohol should be avoided. Plus the headache of a hangover is due to dehydration so it’s much better to glug water like it’s going out of fashion!
                                Paracetamol is also particularly effective in treating period pain. Since prostaglandins also have a role in the menstrual cycle and are known to be the cause of painful periods is seems fitting with the science that paracetamol should work. In my experience it does!
                                ~Should Wear A Cape And Fly~

                                If it's anti-pain and anti-fever properties weren't enough to convince you that paracetamol is a true hero then read on. Recent research suggests that paracetamol may delay heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. Plus preliminary studies indicate that is offers some protection against ovarian cancer. There is still a long way to go to firmly prove both of these claims but evidence so far is promising.


                                ~Parrots-eat-Em'-All~

                                This widely used medicine is a mild but effective painkiller that also reduces the temperature of patients suffering from fever. These properties have made paracetamol particularly useful for both children and adults. Currently there are a whole host of brands and products containing paracetamol. These include medicines containing a mixture of paracetamol and decongestant drugs for colds and flu. British pharmacies have paracetamol available over-the-counter while doctors continue to prescribe it too. Compared to other drugs, paracetamol is relatively safe when taken at the correct dosage.

                                As always extra care should be taken if other drugs are already being take and where patients are pregnant, breast feeding or have complicating illnesses.

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                                  16.09.2005 17:19
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                                  Speed settings range from 1 to 12, plus a turbo switch. Ladies are you still with me?

                                  When we moved into our student flat we were blessed to have a kitchen with a blender but no cheese grater, eight chopping boards but no vegetable peeler. In retrospect I'm glad it was the little things that we had to buy and not the bigger things. While peelers and cheese graters are particularly handy for potato gratin, nothing warms you up like a hearty homemade soup. And, living in Edinburgh for four years it gets damn cold in the winter so hearty meals are just what you need to warm you from the inside out. I became a bit of a whiz (no pun intended) at soups despite the crack in the side of the blender jug that leaked slowly as you blended your soup to smoothness.

                                  When we all graduated and moved out of the flat remembering to take the graters and peelers with us. I decided I wouldn't be able to get through winter 05/06 without a blender of my own and saw it as an investment for future culinary experimentation and postgraduate student survival.

                                  I settled after much deliberation on a Braun Multiquick Miniprimer Professional MR 5500. Sounds extravagant doesn't it?!

                                  ~~~A 6 in 1 kitchen toy!~~~

                                  The basic power part is a hand held "blender shaft" as it's described in the instruction manual - is it just me that finds this mildly amusing? As far as speed settings go you're spoilt for choice with 1 to 12 plus a turbo switch (ladies are you still with me?). Speeds 1 to tubo are generally used for handblending and chopping while the whisk works best between 3 and 9.

                                  To attach a component to the blender shaft you simply clunk click it into place. A component can be removed by a pincer action to side buttons on the blender-shaft that release it. So what are these extra components?

                                  1. Whisk - a bulb shaped balloon whisk that can be used in any bowl or pan. Splattering can be kept to a minimum by using in enough liquid and in a high sided container. This makes great angel delight and rids any lumps from cheese sauce.

                                  2. Chopper - the smaller double blade inserts into a clear small tub with non-slip base. The lid is attached to the blender-shaft and placed over the tub to chop meet, cheese, carrots etc. Most useful of all it finely chops onions and garlic in seconds and saves smelly hands too. It's best to use a lower setting to avoid a puréed mess though. What I particularly like about this is that you only need one hand to operate it. Our previous blender required one hand to cover the opening and one to operate the on/off/speed switch. I've also quickly and finely chopped herbs or nuts (unshelled) too with great efficiency.

                                  3. Purée-er - now I feel a little conned by the 6 in 1 claim. This is just the chopper on a higher speed setting. It's good for making dips, mayonnaise and dressings. My only gripe is that where I used to bung all the mayonnaise ingredients in then turn on the blender and shut the door, this machine requires supervision in order that the button is pressed down to keep it whizzing. In its defence, on turbo it has mayonnaise done in a few minutes which for anyone who's ever tried to make it is extremely fast. The most delicious thing I've made with this component was raspberry fool - yoghurt, honey and fresh raspberries with a teaspoon of icing sugar! Yum!
                                  I've also made marinades using this component. The smaller the bits in the marinade the more the flavours can envelope meats.

                                  4. Ice Crusher - This is the most complicated of all the Multiquick's components. A stainless insert sits in the jug and a serrated ice blade is inserted into this. A larger lid much like the small chopper one attaches to the blender-shaft and away you go! This has been invaluable this summer while entertaining. I bought some very cheep fill your own disposable ice cube bags. So cheep that on filling most of the perforated dividers between each ice cube compartment disintegrate- no I haven't got confused with sandwich bags! My ice comes out of these bags in lumps bigger than the one that sunk the titanic… I give it a quick whack on the work surface and tip it into the ice crusher to give me a nice slush perfect for summer drinks in the garden. Pimms ah hoy!

                                  5. Smoothie Maker - Smoothies have become my winter-soup counter part for the summer months. I have a thing about ripe fruit, even if it's just past ripe I won't entertain it. Now all my slightly soft fruit gets roughly chopped, thrown into the supplied measuring beaker with a bit of juice or yoghurt to thin it down and smoothied like there's no tomorrow. The best thing is, if my eyes have been too big for my belly the beaker has an air-tight lid so I can store in the fridge for later. The smoothie component is the most sinister looking, all stainless steel with the blade enclosed under a domed end to eliminate splashing.

                                  6. Blender/Liquidiser - large jug with measuring lines, large blade and large lid (as per the ice crusher). It's very fast a liquefying a vegetable soup and the wider jug allows room for lumps to circulate and get blended by the blades. Those taller upright blenders tend to leave lumps or require extra zapping and a little jug shaking. This, like the chopper, also has a non-slip base that's fully removable for washing.


                                  ~~~Cleaning~~~

                                  You'd expect with all this time saving gadgetry that there has to be a catch. Maybe cleaning is what devours any saved preparation time? Erm… no actually!

                                  At first I was shocked at the shear number of parts the Multiquick has. Now that I'm au fait with it I'm glad of that. Everything apart from the blender shaft can go in the dishwasher but I've found at a rinse and wipe as soon as I'm finished with it does the trick. There are no nooks and crannies for food to hide in because everything comes apart.

                                  The blender shaft can be wiped with a damp cloth and I've been doing this once a week. Although, due to the lid attachments it does not tend to get dirty anyway.

                                  ~~~ Extras ~~~

                                  Wall Mount - I've not used this yet and don't intend to. It's a bit unsightly and I prefer a clear, uncluttered work surface. I usually store the components in a small fold out plastic box with the blender shaft so that I can select what I need for a specific job from there.

                                  The components are pretty self explanatory but the Multiquick does come with an instruction book. This gives clear concise instructions with pictures to ease any difficulty. There are also speed tips in there and a guide to washing too.

                                  Along with the package I also got a Summer Detox Plan booklet. This is written by Matt Roberts a personal trainer and nutritional expert. It has 10 summery recipes that are uber healthy plus a page of quick-fix summer exercises. If that's not enough to get you started, further inspiration can be drawn from the "A Whiz in the Kitchen" recipe book. This contains an introduction page telling you how great the Multiquick but I suggest you try the recipes and find that out for yourself. The book is split into for each season with correlating seasonal recipes using the Multiquick's various components. My personal favourites are blueberry muffins, rapid raspberry ice cream, chicken satay and Thai fishcakes… but not all at once.

                                  ~~~Availability~~~

                                  John Lewis, Argos, Amazon, supermarkets and department stores. All the stores I looked in retailed this model at £58.99 but check with the store itself how long the guarantee lasts as this is variable. I bought mine from John Lewis and they cover to up to two years from the date of purchase.

                                  Prices are coming down and I've been informed that you can get hold of them for £30-40 without a guarantee.

                                  ~~~EJ Intuition ~~~

                                  On making my choice I couldn't decide between this and the Braun Multiquick Fresh system. Glad I chose this as the ice crusher and large blender jug aren't included in the other package and after all an air tight container is an air tight container.

                                  Other than the smoothie probe, all blades are within a container so it's safe to wield the blender-shaft and attachment about a bit. The lid parts operate blades by a cog system that's completely safe to touch. The removable blades from the jug and chopper container allow processed food to be stored safely too. The large beaker is perfect for making one of two glassfuls of smoothie and the lid for fridge storage is useful. Cleaning is not as much of a chore as you might expect particularly if you do it before food has dried on.

                                  I think this is good value for money and works out at just under £10 per component of the Multiquick. Plus you can't complain at a free recipe book to get you started.

                                  I have to agree that it does Multiple things and it does them Quickly I can but recommend this to potential buyers.

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