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Lunaria

Lunaria
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Member since: 05.02.2012

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      29.07.2012 16:43
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      A traditional strong and sturdy wheelbarrow.

      With a very large garden to look after we own two wheelbarrows and both are frequently in use. The larger of the two is a County Coaster galvanised wheelbarrow, it has an 85 litre tray, a traditional look about it and is my favourite by far. We bought it a few years ago shortly before we embarked on a landscaping project where we needed to move a great deal of soil in order to create French drains (stone filled channels under the ground) as well as re-shape and level a large part of our garden. The Coaster wheelbarrow served us well throughout this project and since then has been an excellent wheelbarrow for all kinds of general use in the garden and around the home.

      It measures approximately 57 inches in length, 26 inches wide and 26 inches high. It has a steel tray and one piece chassis which means it is much stronger and sturdier than our other wheelbarrow with a polypropylene tray and sectioned framework. The steel is galvanised so this helps to prevent against rusting. We store our wheelbarrows in a garden shed so they are rarely left out in the garden, despite this though the frequent wet and damp weather here in Wales will still take its toll on garden equipment stored in the shed and items will tend towards rust quite easily, especially during the winter. Our Coaster wheelbarrow, quite impressively, shows hardly any signs of rust.

      The wheels have double ball bearings ensuring they run freely and are good and stable. There is a tipping bar across the front of the wheel so this makes for easy and balanced tipping by preventing the wheel from turning once the wheelbarrow is lifted. Whilst transporting much soil and stone during our landscaping project the wheelbarrow felt easy to handle and there were no concerns over its lack of strength for the task, it was steady and balanced throughout. There is a polypropylene spacer which provides additional support under the tray. The tray has remained in good shape which proves the strength of this wheelbarrow although there are a few scuffs, scratches and minor dents. As far as I'm concerned this kind of wear and tear is all part of a wheelbarrow and also far better than the split along one side of the polypropylene tray of our other wheelbarrow which means we will need to replace it at some point soon.

      The tubed 4 ply tire is straight forward to repair if a puncture occurs. We haven't encountered a puncture despite the vigorous use and wheeling the wheelbarrow over very stony ground, so I think the tire must be pretty tough. However if you were to use this wheelbarrow for construction and home renovation projects where various very sharp materials may be littered around, the easy to repair tire is good to know.

      I consider the Coaster as my trusty wheelbarrow as it suits the size of my garden, is reliable and sturdy as well as smooth and easy to use. I use it for hedge trimmings, branches, compost, soil, carrying plants in pots, weeds and plant cuttings. I would say it is ideally suited for the more heavy duty tasks in the garden and around the home so if you are looking for a strong and durable wheelbarrow, the County Coaster galvanised wheelbarrow is a good choice.
      I have found it currently available at Amazon for £59.99 plus £4.95 delivery and although unsure of the price we paid for it a few years ago I would happily pay this price for it today. I confidently give it 5/5.

      Thanks for reading :)
      © Lunaria 2012

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        24.07.2012 22:14
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        Warm and fruity essential oil with calming properties.

        I make an order for a small group of essential oils each year and with my recent order for ylang ylang, peppermint, sandalwood and cinnamon I received a free 5ml bottle of sweet orange. I had not ever used sweet orange essential oil before so thought it would be interesting to try it out. Essential oils contain concentrated quantities of the properties of the plant, fruit, bark or seed from which the oil is extracted. The properties of the different essential oils vary widely and are valued for actions such as anti-inflammatory, astringent, expectorant or sedative.

        It is believed the beneficial properties of essential oils are absorbed through inhalation or the skin and enter the the circulatory system and blood stream. In aromatherapy a few drops of essential oil are added to water and then heated in order to produce a vapour. For massage essential oils are blended with a base (carrier) oil such as sweet almond oil or grape seed oil. The essential oil content in a blend is usually between 1-3%. I like to use essential oils in burners for the aromatherapy effect and love the way you can choose a refreshing, calming or uplifting aroma to fill a room in the home. Certain essential oils, such as ylang ylang, I will add to base lotions along with nourishing oils to create luxurious and wonderfully scented lotions ideally suitable to my skin. I have very sensitive skin and suffer from eczema so have to be extremely careful in terms of skin care products, often finding I have to avoid perfumed creams and lotions.

        Apparently it takes 50 oranges to produce 1oz of sweet orange essential oil. In aromatherapy sweet orange is reputed to have uplifting and soothing qualities, it is said to benefit the nervous system and relieve stress bringing a sense of warmth and happiness. In massage and skin creams sweet orange essential is believed to improve the condition of dull and oily skin as well as help ease nervous tension.

        Sweet orange oil has yellowy, light orange colour and a gentle rich fruity aroma. The consistency is an oily, slightly syrupy liquid. I felt the scent was uplifting in a comforting kind of way, nothing at all like freshly squeezed oranges, more a mellow and warming orange scent.

        I added 5 or 6 drops to approximately 2 tablespoons of water in an oil burner and lit the tea light candle. As the liquid warmed there was a lovely orange, fruity aroma which was yes quite calming and uplifting at the same time, but only in a very mild way. As the heat increased the aroma lessened and unlike the other essential oils I use in the oil burner, the scent of sweet orange did not gradually fill the room. I have blended the sweet orange with sandalwood and found this more successful, the orange gave a light and uplifting element to the sandalwood and I found lasted or carried better in the air. With cinnamon as a blend I could hardly detect the orange and as I only have a little 5ml bottle didn't wish to be too extravagant with it.

        My next experiment was to add a few drops to a small amount of base lotion and apply to the skin. The white lotion was tinted by the yellow/orange oil immediately and turned into a rich butter-cream colour. The sweet orange aroma remained in the cream for the few days the mixture lasted and I could detect it on my skin after applying the cream. However as I tend towards dry skin rather than oily skin which sweet orange is reputed to benefit this isn't an essential oil I will regularly use in this way. It was gentle on my very sensitive skin and did not irritate in any way.

        In conclusion, I found sweet orange essential oil to be a warming and uplifting oil in aroma but only mildly effective when used independently in an oil burner and possibly best blended with other oils. It was suitable for my sensitive skin and mixed well with a base lotion. This is not an essential oil I would purchase but still give it 4/5 stars.

        Thanks for reading :)
        © Lunaria 2012

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        • Root Ginger / Plant / 71 Readings / 69 Ratings
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          21.07.2012 21:16
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          A natural remedy for reducing muscle inflammation and nausea.

          Root ginger contains powerful anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-nausea properties. It is a traditional remedy for muscle tension, coughs, stomach cramps, headaches, nausea, indigestion and colic. Known as a spice, it is available dried in powder form or as capsules, as a tea, crystallised and fresh.

          My husband loves the warming flavour of ginger in sweet food so gingerbread is a favourite in our house along with home-made ginger jam. A few years ago I started taking ginger supplements after reading about its natural powerful anti-inflammatory action. Both myself and my husband are occasionally troubled with back muscle tension and pain. We both lead very active lives so really don't like not being able to move about freely when muscles are tight and restrictive but neither of us are very keen on dosing ourselves up with anti-inflammatory medication. I was a little sceptical as to whether ginger supplements would actually work but thought as they are totally natural it would be worth trying out.

          At first I took the ginger supplements each day during a spell of back pain and felt there was an improvement in terms of less muscle stiffness and severity of pain. Usually after a day of working out in the garden, however careful I may be regards bending and lifting, my back will ache by the evening and at times become quite painful. As it seemed the ginger did ease muscle inflammation, I decided to take ginger supplements on the days I would be working in the garden as a kind of preventative measure and I honestly feel it has contributed towards less muscle ache and tension.

          My husband now also takes ginger supplements although he is usually very reluctant to take any kind of medication and especially anything in tablet form. He hasn't spoken about the benefits of taking ginger but nevertheless will go to the cupboard for a ginger supplement at the times when his back muscles are sore and tense.

          Another area where the ginger has become useful is when travelling. When not driving and travelling in the car as a passenger I often tend to feel slightly nauseous. As a young child I used to suffer terribly with car sickness. So I take an extra ginger supplement one hour before a long journey to help ward off travel sickness and have felt quite surprised and delighted by the results. The ginger certainly helps to keep those waves of nausea at bay.

          Ginger may not be as effective for everyone but if you like to stick to natural remedies as far as possible it is certainly worth trying. I take a 1000 mg ginger supplement each day during times of back pain and also when I could be at risk of back trouble. I wouldn't say root ginger cures back pain, it eases it and I believe, for myself, reduces the risk of inflammation occurring. For travel sickness I have found it works wonders and highly recommend.

          The advised maximum daily dose is 2000 mg and it is best apparently to take ginger capsules with food. Ginger in supplement form is not to be given to children under 2 years old and there is a warning that ginger may slow blood clotting so caution is needed if already taking medications that slow clotting.


          Thanks for reading :)
          © Lunaria 2012

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          • Cetraben Emollient Cream / Medicine / 68 Readings / 67 Ratings
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            19.07.2012 12:44
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            An effective emollient for those with extra sensitive skin or skin conditions such as eczema.

            Cetraben emollient is primarily a cream for eczema sufferers, it can be bought over the counter or prescribed by a GP. I use Cetraben regularly because I suffer from atopic eczema, there are different forms of eczema but this is the most common.

            Atopic eczema is a condition which is said to affect around 10% of the population. Unfortunately for us eczema suffers there is not a cure so it is a matter of learning how to manage the symptoms which can be different from person to person and also vary in severity. The oily barrier of the skin (the lipid) is impaired in those with eczema which results in an increase of moisture loss so this means there is a constant issue with dry skin along with a tendency towards inflammation flare ups. Stress can play a part in causing a flare up of eczema as well as substances which aggravate the skin and become a trigger such as certain chemical ingredients in toiletry, cosmetic or cleaning products.

            The advice I was given by a dermatologist was to keep the skin moisturised in order to help prevent dryness and the risk of inflammation, to identify and avoid triggers (these can be different for each of us), to moisturise continually during a flare up and moisturise again afterwards to help restore and heal the skin. This means an awful lot of moisturising! I was prescribed Cetraben along with a similar emollient Diprobase. The steroid creams were not effective for my eczema so I rely entirely upon the emollients and loyally follow the dermatologist's advice. I have found the regular moisturising is very effective in keeping eczema flare ups much more at bay and then when they do arise they are less extreme and long lasting.

            Cetraben is a white, very basic cream containing light liquid paraffin, white soft paraffin and natural glycerine. I would say its consistency is like a thick lotion, it is lighter than Diprobase so I find it ideal for use during the summer months. Cetraben is unfragranced, there is simply a very subtle clean and fresh scent to it. I find it absorbs into the skin very quickly without being sticky, greasy or watery in any way. Cetraben leaves my skin softened and protected. I apply it quite liberally after a shower or bath and use it regularly as a hand cream throughout the day. Occasionally I will add a little sweet almond or jojoba oil as I have discovered oils blend easily and this can create a more luxurious and nourishing moisturiser when needed.

            During an eczema flare up I find applying Cetraben emollient helps to reduce that dreaded desire to scratch and it also provides a cooling and calming action. I can feel confident that however sore my skin may be at times, it will never irritate. There are many straightforward and dermatologically tested emollients on the market such as E45 but I find most still manage to aggravate my skin to some extent because they are either too greasy, watery or it may be to do with certain additives.

            Cetraben is available in a variety of sizes. The largest is a 1050g pump dispenser which would be useful in the bathroom. It dispenses 10g of emollient into your hand. The 500g pump dispenser, which is the size I have, is ideal for convenient use around the the home, it dispenses 4g. I love the pump dispenser action because it is quick and efficient, the emollient is always clean and there isn't the need for replacing caps or lids. There are two smaller pump dispensers, 150g and 50g, both dispense 1g and are handy sizes for handbags or school bags.

            Everyone's skin is different, but I recommend trying Cetraben if you suffer from eczema, dermatitis or have sensitive skin. I find it to be a gentle and reliable moisturiser. It isn't too heavy so can be used as a body lotion but is also rich enough to soften and soothe the skin during an eczema flare up. The pump dispenser containers are practical and convenient. I give Cetraben 5/5.

            Thanks for reading :)
            © Lunaria 2012

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              04.07.2012 21:52
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              Durable, well designed food processor and main use attachments.

              This review is for the Kenwood Multipro FP920 food processor.

              I bought the Multipro FP920 approximately four years ago to replace an older, more basic Kenwood food processor. At the time it was on sale for a very good price compared to other current models and I liked the overall stylish simplicity of design.

              ~ Description ~
              The processor base has a brushed stainless steel finish, is squarish in shape and stands 13cm high, 22 cm by 22cm, it is of a good weight (3.3kg) and feels very solid without being too heavy. Suction pads at the base ensure it remains absolutely steady at all times. At the front is a large circular control dial for power on /off, speed settings and pulse. In my mind the design of this unit is sleek, straightforward and easy to keep clean. The main bowl and lid with feed tube are made from a tough transparent plastic with a slight violet tinge, the large sturdy side handle has a grey rubber soft grip non slip coating. The width of the bowl and handle measures 27cm. The processor stands in the corner of an extra deep surface area in my kitchen so I can comfortably use the surface in front of it at all times but when I decide to use the processor I have to pull it forward due to wall cabinets. The total height of the base and bowl with feed tube is 39 cm. The cable is a good length of 110cm and can be stored neatly within the base.
              The Kenwood multipro has a powerful 1000w motor and it comes with a whole host of attachments:

              1.5 litre glass liquidiser jug
              Grinding mill
              Flexible spatula (clear plastic)
              Stainless steel blades and covers
              Dough tool (white plastic)
              Twin geared metal whisk
              Citrus press (white plastic)
              Centrifugal juicer (white plastic)
              Mini bowl with mini stainless steel blades
              Stainless steel coarse slice/shred disc
              Stainless steel fine slice/shred disc
              Stainless steel julienne disc
              Stainless steel rasping/parmesan disc
              Maxi-blend canopy cover (white plastic)

              Altogether the various parts for all the attachments can take up quite a considerable amount of space, in my kitchen it meant the entire top shelf of a base cabinet. Over the years unused accessories have eventually ended up in the recycling bin. The centrifugal juicer appeared to me to look rather useless and the plastic juicer looked oversized and cheaply made. I simply wasn't using these attachments or ever feeling inclined towards using them. I found the dough tool a waste of time as the blades work equally well for mixing bread dough. During the first few months of use I religiously used the canopy cover when blending soups but soon found it unnecessary and use the processor for blending liquids perfectly well without it. The items I have kept and use are listed and detailed below.

              ~Use and Efficiency ~
              A tiny red light on the control dial illuminates when you plug into a socket. To fit the bowl you have to position the bowl with the handle at the back and then turn clockwise until it locks into place. The lid can then be fitted in the same way until it clips into position at the top of the bowl handle. As a safety feature the machine will not operate unless the bowl and lid are correctly positioned.

              I regularly use the processor for gluten free cake mixture as blending at such a high speed creates a wonderfully creamy and light mixture. For blending the stainless steel blades are attached to a central shaft fitted into the base unit. The blades are extremely sharp so care is required and after use they can be stored in the little protective covers. The machine is not unreasonably loud, it sounds powerful and smooth in operation. Cake mixture is whipped within minutes. The flexible spatula is an ideal tool for scooping every last bit of mixture neatly out of the bowl and into a cake tin.
              I mainly use the processor simply like this with the blades and adjusting speed to suit different tasks. It will quickly turn pastry mixture into a breadcrumb consistency and then if you add water through the feed tube, a soft ball of pastry dough. It will whip egg whites to stiff peak consistency and almost purée soft fruit.
              I find the pulser is excellent to use for finely chopping nuts, dried fruit, onions and turning slices of bread into breadcrumbs.

              Glass Jug, 1.5 litre.
              I love this liquidiser jug, it is made out of thick glass, feels quite heavy and definitely in my mind a quality item. It is 25cm tall and 18 wide including the glass handle and it comes with a rubberised white plastic lid. Easy to attach to the processor base and positions very securely. The metal whisks fit and detach easily.

              Grinding Mill.
              Useful for very fine grinding of small amounts of seeds and nuts. I use this occasionally and again it fits easily and securely straight onto the processor base.

              Flexible spatula.
              A very useful thin and pliable spatula, extremely effective for scrapping any bowl or vessel almost completely clean of mixture. It is strong enough to manipulate easily and will bend just as you need it to.

              Four stainless steel discs.
              I use the fine shredding disc mostly as I find this ideal for grating carrot and hard cheese. The coarse shredding disc produces a very thick shred which can be useful for grating foods such as softer cheeses or cucumbers. I occasionally use the fine slice for vegetables but haven't ever used the rather chunky looking coarse slice and julienne disc.


              ~ Cleaning ~
              Unfortunately apart from the spatula, discs and blades none of the processor attachments are suitable for the dishwasher. I find the washing up aspect can become a nuisance when attempting to save time, it isn't any quicker for me to whip egg whites by using a hand whisk and then bundle equipment into the dishwasher than to set up the processor, whip whites, wash and dry up.
              The unit base due to its simple design is very easy to keep clean by wiping over with a damp cloth.

              ~ Conclusion ~
              A well designed and powerful food processor with an array of attachments, some of which are not necessarily so well designed or useful. After approximately four years of use the motor is still running strongly and smoothly. The plastic main bowl has lasted very well, no cracks or scratches and only a slight dulling of the transparency, the condition of the glass liquidiser jug is as good as new and the blades have remained sharp and efficient. Generally I've been very pleased with the Kenwood FP920 but would have liked to have paid a little less and omitted the centrifugal juicer and citrus press at the very least. This model is currently available at Amazon for £93.99. Although I do recommend the FP920 I have to be honest and say I wouldn't pay this much money for it today.
              4/5 stars.


              Thank you for reading this review x
              © Lunaria 2012

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                26.06.2012 19:28
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                Well designed, comfortable, efficient and durable bypass secateurs.

                I'm very fortunate to have a very large garden as I love growing all types of plants, shrubs and trees but of course there is a considerable amount of maintenance work involved. I own a small collection of secateurs however one of my two pairs of bypass secateurs has become corroded over recent years and almost useless despite my efforts to restore and sharpen. My daughter gave me these Draper expert bypass secateurs as a birthday present last Autumn and it was the ideal time of the year to test them out with the usual abundance of pruning and trimming at the end of growing season.

                ~ Draper Tools Ltd ~
                Originating in 1919 Draper Tools is a British company and I was impressed to discover the business has remained family run to the present day. Draper Tools prides itself in producing quality tools at reasonable prices along with following high ethical and environmental standards of practice.

                ~ Bypass Secateurs ~
                There are three main types of secateurs; anvil, parrot-beak and bypass. The two cutting blades of bypass secateurs work like a pair of heavy duty scissors. Bypass secateurs are probably the most widely used secateurs in the garden as they are ideal for fine to medium plant stem pruning and cutting.

                ~ Initial thoughts ~
                Being fussy about colour, I liked the green painted finish and black plastic and rubber colouring of these secateurs, but more importantly I thought they looked well made in design and material, giving an overall immediate impression of quality. They feel solid without being too heavy. I have quite small hands so can tend to find secateurs cumbersome and awkward to hold and operate, these secateurs feel comfortable to grasp, open and close.

                ~ Description ~
                The secateurs are 22cm long and 6.5cm at the widest part. I would say they are perfectly suitable for those with small to medium size hands and with or without gardening gloves. The metal handles are designed in such a way to provide a comfortable and sure grip. The lower handle is curved downwards at the end to prevent your fingers from sliding off the handle as you work. The higher handle is made with a wide black rubberised and textured strip to provide user comfort and prevent slipping. In my view this is especially good design because often when pruning your hands can become wet due to recent rain, dew or watering on the plants or shrubs. On more than one occasion when using secateurs I have found my hand slip as I've began to cut a branch which has resulted in a bad angled cut or the secateurs falling out of my hand altogether. The handles are spring-loaded for ease of use.

                The blades are Teflon coated to prevent corrosion, another good design feature as secateurs stored outside throughout year in a shed (or on occasion accidentally left out in the garden) do need to be durable. Surprisingly quite a few of my garden tools have become rusty and corroded to some extent over time.

                A black plastic thumb lever lock releases the blades. I found this needed quite a bit of force to shift at first but after a few weeks of use this eased and has since been easy to push across with my thumb yet provides a strong secure lock when closed. It would be a simple matter of tightening a screw if in the future the lever lock becomes too loose.

                There is a little black plastic slider button for three blade opening positions marked by dots. The narrowest allows the blades to open only at 2.5cm, central position is 3cm and the widest is to 4cm. At first I thought it a little disappointing the blades did not open wider than 4cm, but quite honestly in use I have never found this to be a problem or hindrance in any way at all.

                ~ Ease and Efficiency of Use ~
                I have been using the Draper secateurs for 9 months as my main pair of secateurs, they were used extensively during the Autumn clear up in my garden and for a couple of large pruning projects in early Spring. They are comfortable and reliable to work with, both for small projects and large. My hands have never ached or slipped whilst using these secateurs. The secateurs will cut cleanly through woody stems, smartly through soft pliable stems and also neatly trim delicate fine stems. They will easily and efficiently cut a blade of grass. I have used these secateurs to prune large shrubs such as rhododendron and hydrangea, prune back wild rose and honeysuckle and also cut thin branches of trees such as willow, laurel and hazel. They are presently in regular use for trimming herbs, tomato and cucumber plants and even collecting flowers for vases indoors. In my experience so far they have proved to be excellent general use secateurs. They have become rather muddy at times, also on a couple of occasions left out in the garden during rain and along with a considerable amount of use I can say they are operating as well as they did when new. For a relatively inexpensive pair of secateurs, I'm thoroughly impressed.

                ~ Availability and Price ~
                Draper Expert 45312 225 mm Bypass-Pattern Secateurs are currently available from Amazon priced £9.72 and from Tooled-Up.com for £11.99. In my mind these secateurs are very good value for money, a few of my more expensive secateurs just do not compare in terms of good overall design.
                5 stars without hesitation.

                Thank you for reading this review :)
                © Lunaria 2012

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                  01.06.2012 15:28
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                  A basic mini MP3 player, convenient and easy to use.

                  This mini Technika MP229 2GB MP3 player was an 'out of the blue' gift from my husband (yes I know, if I wrote a review on my husband he would get 5 stars!) His idea was that I could listen to music whilst gardening or out walking and found it in Tesco priced £9.97.
                  I have not owned anything like this before and only use my mobile for minimal calls and messages, so there I was presented with a packet containing a tiny player the size of a large postage stamp, a USB cable and a set of headphones. I was unsure quite what to do at first as the package did not contain an instruction leaflet and there were no directions on the cardboard backing slip. I connected the USB cable to the little player and my computer, installation was immediate on windows 7 and there on my screen was a straightforward and easy to understand user guide and list of guidelines for the safe operation and care of the player.

                  The player measures 4.5cm by 3.5cm, it has a shiny black plastic finish on the front with a white body and hinged clip on the back. The clip is approximately 3cm by 3.7cm and has a strong little spring hinged mechanism. The depth of this mini player with clip is merely 1.5cm and its weight is a hardly noticeable 25g. On the right edge of the player is the USB port with an attached miniature soft plastic cover and this I've found to be slightly a fiddle to reposition once removed, next to this is a reset light the size of a pencil dot. On the left side of the player is the headphone port. The headphones are made in white plastic, the soft cable measures a good length of 114cm, the ear pieces are marked for left and right and I've felt surprised at just how comfortably and securely they sit in my ears. The Tecknika MP3 player runs on a rechargeable lithium -ion battery and battery life lasts for 9 hours.

                  Music tracks are quickly and easily transferred to the player by the drag and drop method. The 2GB memory allows a storage capacity for 600 tracks. I doubt I will ever want this many tracks on the player as although you can delete individual tracks it is not possible to rearrange the order. On the front of the player is a black rubber cross shaped control circle. Here there are very simple operations only; play and pause, forward and backward, increase or decrease of volume. A blue light flashes intermittently whilst tracks are playing and remains on fully when on pause.

                  Sound quality is quite impressive in my opinion for such a basic little device, vocals especially sound good clear and true. I find the length of cable ideal for clipping the player into a jacket or back pocket without tautness and restriction of cable and allowing free movement whilst I'm gardening also without the worry of excess cable to hanging too loosely and possibly becoming caught up on something.

                  After 3 weeks of using this mini player whilst working out in the garden I have not experienced any problems with the earpieces becoming aggravating or loose in my ears, the controls are simple and clear to use and the player with clip has remained securely fastened in position.

                  In my view this is an excellent little simple and straightforward MP3 player, very affordable, discreet and comfortable to wear, easy to use and I would recommend as ideal for music on the move.

                  Thank you for reading this review x
                  © Lunaria 2012

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                  • Morso Squirrel Stove / Heater / 116 Readings / 114 Ratings
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                    29.05.2012 12:07
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                    Well designed, durable and efficient cast iron stove.

                    Morso has remained a leading stove manufacturer since 1853 and is known for well designed quality stoves. The Morso Squirrel has been in production for many years and is one of the most popular cast iron stoves in Britain. It suits small to medium sized rooms and has a traditional look about it but it is the excellent design and durability of this stove which has lead to it becoming almost iconic.

                    ~ Description ~
                    The Morso Squirrel 1430 is a solid cast iron multi-fuel stove with a matt black heat proof painted finish. Multi-fuel means wood or anthracite. It measures 546mm in height, 388mm width and 438mm depth. A large glass panel in the main door is designed to stay clean during use to provide a good view of the fire and this works very well in my opinion. Below the main door is a small door to access the ash pan. Both doors are hinged from the right hand side and have easy to use catches with black heat proof handles. There are two air supply controls, one is a cast iron turning wheel (spinner) on the front of the ash pan door, the other a sliding lever located under the narrow platform (hearth plate) at the base of the stove. It has a riddling grate for use when burning anthracite.
                    There are the options of having the side panels left plain or with an added vertical pattern or a squirrel motif which is cast into the panel and fills it almost entirely. I chose the squirrel motif because it is a classic design and in my opinion very attractive.

                    ~ Installation ~
                    The summer months can be a good time to have a stove fitted, our Morso Squirrel was fitted during August 4 years ago. The stove arrived on a wooden pallet covered securely with strong card and plastic sheeting. Within a day our chimney was lined and the Morso squirrel installed. I strongly recommend the installation to be carried out by a HETAS registered engineer because not only is this now required by law but it is important to ensure there is adequate ventilation and an efficiently sealed chimney.

                    ~ Using the Stove ~
                    The door opens smoothly and widely allowing good clear access for loading the fire chamber with the usual materials; newspaper, kindling and dry logs. I find both air controls are very easy to access and open. The lighted fire is quick to establish and at once the atmosphere in our room becomes inviting and cosy. Within 15-20 minutes warmth fills the room and by adjusting the air controls you can moderate the heat generated from the stove. A black heat proof glove was included with the stove which is useful for when the stove is running at full temperature and you need to alter the air controls or add logs to fire.

                    ~ My thoughts & feelings ~
                    A stove isn't like any other appliance, it becomes more a part of the home and an important focal point. I'm so pleased with the Morso Squirrel 1430, it is robust and has a feel of quality to everything about it. There is such a character and charm to this friendly little stove. By the end of the Summer I begin to look forward to when we can light the stove and enjoy the comfort of the warmth while relaxing and watching the dancing flames or listening to the crackling of fire.


                    There are many online stove suppliers selling stoves at discount prices, but as the number of stories of substandard or copied stoves and problems due to inadequate advice increases the tendency is now to return to local suppliers. A local supplier will usually come out to check your chimney and ventilation, room size and listen to your requirements. This way you will be sure to be advised of an appropriate stove.
                    The Morso Squirrel has a high efficiency rate of 71% and a nominal heat output of 4.6 kW. Prices range from £750 to £900 and it has a 10 year warranty. I can highly recommend this stove as an efficient, extremely well designed little cast iron stove which is also full of character.

                    It is recommended by the chimney association and HETAS that chimneys should be swept after the heating season and a stove should be serviced.

                    This review is exclusive to dooyoo
                    © Lunaria 2012

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                      09.05.2012 20:56
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                      An excellent choice for evenly ground dry spices.

                      I decided to look for an electric grinder when I began buying whole spices and found my little stoneware pestle and mortar a little too time consuming. This review is therefore about the grinding of whole spices rather than coffee beans.

                      I first purchased a James Martin by Whal mini grinder as it was advertised as being suitable for coffee beans, dry spices and nuts. It turned out to be almost useless for grinding dry spices, despite many various attempts with different seeds the result was always a very disappointing combined gritty and dusty mixture. I found the machine awkward to use and the plastic 'viewing' window at the top of the lid nothing more than a tiny peep hole. My next choice was the Krups Coffee mill as I noticed on the Krups website, under specifications, it is stated for use with dry spices.

                      ~ Description ~
                      I really liked the straightforward oval cylinder shape of this mill with its black plastic shiny finish and slanted clear plastic lid with a black rectangular switch at the side. The unit stands 17cm high and is approximately 10cm wide. The very robust clear plastic lid lifts off and locates back onto the grinder base smoothly and securely. Inside is a stainless steel lined grinding chamber and a sturdy 6cm stainless steel double blade. The overall feel is of a quality product designed to do its task rather than an emphasis on looking flashy or fashionable in the kitchen. 'Krups' is written in grey on the front at the base and directly behind this at the back is where the 70cm cable is connected. The mill runs at 180 watts.

                      ~ Whole spices ~
                      Whole spices are of course dried seeds. I had read somewhere that many spices can lose a certain amount of flavour as well as nutritional or medicinal properties if stored in a ground form for long periods of time. Until this point I had usually bought spices ready ground. I experimented with dried dill and coriander seeds collected from our vegetable garden and ground a few with my pestle and mortar, then used within a few days either in baking or cooking. I was so impressed by the richer and fresher flavours of these spices, I've since then bought most of the spices I like to use in whole form or made sure I have plenty of seed produced in the garden to dry and then store in airtight jars.

                      ~ Use and Efficiency ~
                      I have been using the Krups mill for nearly a year and am thoroughly impressed with its performance in terms of finely grinding the dried seeds of dill, fennel, cardamom, coriander, cumin, cloves and caraway. Also peppercorns, mustard seeds, cinnamon sticks (broken into pieces), dried thyme and sea salt. I usually place a heaped tablespoon of seeds into the mill, slide the lid into position and then simply press down on the black switch, the grinder will not operate unless the lid is located fully, a good safety feature. With a combination of pressing the switch down for two and four second periods the spices are quickly ground to either an evenly coarse or a very fine texture depending on which you require. The motor after over 11 months of fairly regular use still sounds as strong and powerful as it did when new.

                      ~ Cleaning and storage ~
                      I use a little wooden spoon to remove the ground spices out of the mill so as not to get the mill scratched. The lid can be washed with warm soapy water and the grinding chamber carefully wiped clean with a damp cloth. At times it can be a little tricky to clean around and under the blade but this I would imagine is no different to other similar grinders. I have found it easier to clean than the Whal grinder, this is due to the oval shape which allows easier access with a cloth. The plastic lid has lost its transparency and become slightly opaque over the months of use and this does seem to be the case when spices are ground, an effect on the plastic from the oil vapours in the spices I would guess. This however I don't mind at all as the whole lid still provides an adequate view of the spices whilst grinding.

                      The 70cm cable is in my opinion a sensible length for use on a kitchen surface, too much cable could be a nuisance whilst using the grinder and also cumbersome to store away. I tend to wind the cable around the base of the grinder but find due to the shiny plastic base, the cable slips and I need two hands to hold the base, cable and plug altogether as I put it away in a cupboard. A clip for the plug to attach to the cable would make this much easier, especially for those of us without large hands (my husband can deftly hold it all in one hand).

                      ~ Conclusion ~
                      An efficient, well designed grinder for use with spices. I feel confident that after nearly a year of use this grinder will continue to perform well for a long time yet. Currently available at Amazon for £19.99 which I believe is excellent value for money.


                      Thank you for reading this review x
                      © Lunaria 2012

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                      • Sorrel / Plant / 117 Readings / 116 Ratings
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                        04.05.2012 14:45
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                        A good alternative to spinach, tangy addition to salads. Easy to grow.

                        Common or garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is a herb that can be used as a salad leaf or cooked in the same way as spinach. Wild common sorrel grows in large swathes on the boundary banks around our garden and in a few places it overflows into perennial borders. Throughout Britain and most of Europe wild common sorrel can be found growing in hedges, woodland and pasture land where the ground is free from chemical weedkillers and fertilisers. It tends to grow more abundantly in areas where the soil is rich in iron, as it is where I live here in Wales.

                        The leaves of sorrel are long stalked and dark green with a wide arrow shape, approximately 11cm in length at full size. Sorrel has a quite distinctive gentle tangy taste which may not appeal to everyone. It is popular in French cooking, a quick internet search results in recipes for 'French sorrel soup', 'Salmon with Sorrel and Asparagus en Papillote' and 'French sorrel pesto'. My favourite way to eat sorrel is simply as a salad leaf as I think it adds a little zest and interest to salads as well as sandwiches.

                        The wild sorrel in our garden comes into leaf during April and it doesn't require any tending or attention throughout the year. I pick the young tender leaves for adding to salads, the older larger leaves I will use for lightly boiling as a side vegetable (and like spinach the leaves reduce greatly in size with cooking) or for adding to pasta dishes. Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recommends sorrel as a perfect accompaniment to eggs and this I've found to be true, a favourite very quick dish loved by my family is pasta tossed with sorrel leaves served with poached eggs and grated cheese. I have also added sorrel to quiches as you would spinach and this I've found works very well indeed.

                        Cultivated sorrel usually has larger leaves. One year I grew a variety called red veined sorrel. The leaves are dark green with beetroot red veins and stems, the taste is slightly tart and lemony. It was surprisingly easy and quick to grow. The plants at full size were roughly 30cm wide and 30cm high. I sowed the seed in early March directly into shallow drills in a plot of fine, stone-free soil and 3 weeks later thinned the seedlings to approximately 25cm apart. Within 6 weeks I was able to start picking leaves as 'pick and come again', there was a continual supply for two months but after this the leaves became bitter so I pulled up the plants to free the plot for another crop. Although I have only grown sorrel from seed on the one occasion I would do so again. The wild perennial sorrel is in leaf during early spring but cultivated varieties can be sown to produce leaf for later times in the year and during winter months. I would say a small row of five or six plants would provide a fresh supply of leaves suitable for harvesting three or four times a week for use in cooking or adding to salads. The plants could also be grown singularly in containers.

                        Early herbalists were full of praise for sorrel, it was used to help treat scurvy and various inflammatory conditions. Sorrel is a good source of vitamin C, iron and magnesium and also has diuretic properties. It contains oxalic acid (as does black tea, spinach and beetroot but also in very amounts rhubarb leaves) so it is advised children should not consume large quantities of sorrel at any one time.

                        If you are fortunate enough, like myself, to find and identify common sorrel growing nearby, I would say it is great for picking as 'free food'. As a vegetable plant to grow, I recommend it as easy, quick and versatile. Packets of red veined sorrel seed are available from garden centres and specialists and cost in the region of £1.30 for 500 seeds.

                        Thanks for reading x
                        © Lunaria 2012

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                        • Broad Beans / Plant / 91 Readings / 90 Ratings
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                          02.05.2012 21:24
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                          Well worth a little patience, effort and the cost of a packet of seeds.

                          Broad beans are an excellent source of antioxidants, protein, iron, copper, vitamin B6 and manganese and fibre. Young, fresh broad beans are delicious in my opinion, a valuable addition to a vegetarian diet and relatively easy to grow.

                          Broad beans can be sown in November or February depending where you live in the country and the severity of winter weather. Even though I live in Wales I can sow during November as I grow the beans in a polytunnel. If growing outdoors a cloche or fleece covering could be used to protect early sown plants from harsh frosts and wind. An Autumn sowing will produce a harvest for Spring and a February sowing, a harvest for early Summer.

                          Broad bean plants like a rich soil so I prepare the plot by digging in a good amount of well rotted manure (leaf mould or compost would be equally as good) and add a few handfuls of potash as this is recommended to help protect plants against a fungal infection called chocolate spot. Spacing for sowing depends slightly on the variety of seed chosen but I usually sow 5cm deep and 20cm apart in rows at a distance of 45 cm. It is important not to plant too closely so there will be adequate airflow between the plants as this helps prevent disease. I have so far always found germination rate very successful and within a couple of weeks little seedlings appear, it is then a matter of regular watering and occasional weeding of the plot.

                          When the young plants reach approximately 10cm in height I place stakes at the corners of each plot, quite closely to the plants, these I then use to secure a string support around the plants when they become taller during March. Individual stakes could be placed near each plant at this point but leaving this until the plants are fully grown could result in root damage.

                          In April my broad bean plants are covered with flowers and these produce a surprisingly wonderful fragrance. I would be tempted to grow broad beans just for the benefit of this lovely scent (similar to sweet peas) whilst weeding and tending plants in my polytunnel at this time of year. As recommended in gardening books I pinch off the tops of the plants at this stage to encourage the pods to form. As the little pods grow extra watering is often required as well as a careful watch for aphids or black fly. If these pests are found I spray immediately with organic insecticide or water with a little washing up liquid and this quickly solves the problem.

                          When the beans in the pods are clearly visible they can be ready to harvest. I like to pick whilst still young for tender sweet tasting beans. I pick from the base of the plants upwards and will then harvest regularly. It can be quite time consuming to remove beans from the pods but well worth the effort in my view. Cooked lightly and served with a little butter they are truly delicious. I find freshly picked broad beans can store in the fridge for up to 5 days and they also maintain flavour well when blanched and frozen. As an added bonus the plants after use are a good addition to the compost heap as they are high in nitrogen.

                          Broad beans seed packets are available from most garden centres and specialists, they can be priced anywhere from £0.95 for 60 seeds to £ 3.20 for 45 seeds depending on variety and retailer.
                          All in all, I highly recommend growing broad beans if you are considering to do so and have the space.


                          Thanks for reading this review :)
                          © Lunaria 2012

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                            29.04.2012 16:51
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                            Well designed, quality indoor watering can.

                            I bought a 0.7 litre plastic Haws indoor watering can just over a year ago when ordering from an online gardening site and noticed they were offered at a reduced price. I already owned an indoor watering can but found it quite bulky and the short pouring spout rather awkward at times when trying to water around the base of large leafy plants. I ordered a Haws watering can in the deep red colour and it came with a little brass face rose.

                            On first inspection I was delighted with the quality of this watering can, the plastic is very thick and robust and there is a high standard of moulding, no rough seams or highly apparent lines etc. The overall design is well balanced in my view. I find the handle positioned perfectly to hold both whilst filling the can with water from the tap and when tipping forward into plant pots. The curved shape of the handle and width of 2cm extremely comfortable. Although the plastic is heavy duty the watering can is very light, when filled with water it weighs 800g.

                            A Haws logo embossed on the front of the can adds a rather nice touch I think. The brass face rose fits simply and securely onto the tip of the spout and waters beautifully but I hardly use this and it remains clipped into the storage position on the spout support bar. The length of the narrow pouring spout is 17cm which I have discovered is ideal for carefully and accurately pouring into pots of all sizes around the home. Water flows excellently and can be controlled easily.

                            I feel confident this watering can will last for a very long time. On the Haws website this watering can is given a life expectancy figure of 10 years. It is possible if stored in direct sunlight the plastic may discolour over time but I have found no evidence of this as yet.

                            Colours available are navy, cerise, black, green, yellow, lilac, pink, deep red, silver and pale blue.
                            I've been so impressed, I bought a yellow one as a gift for my Mum who has a home brimming with house plants and she has been equally pleased with the performance of this little watering can.

                            Available from the Haws website at £4.99. Well worth the price in my view and highly recommended.

                            Thanks for reading x
                            © Lunaria 2012

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                            • Tunturi Neoprene Dumbbells / Fitness / 86 Readings / 85 Ratings
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                              27.04.2012 20:12
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                              Comfortable and well designed dumbbells.

                              My teenage daughter is a very outdoor, sporty kind of person and especially loves anything to do with dance and exercise. She owns a pair of these 2kg Tunturi Neoprene Dumbbells in the lime green colour. There are different weight options available in the following colours:

                              1kg ~ purple
                              2kg ~ green
                              3kg ~ red
                              4kg ~ blue
                              5kg ~ black

                              Although looking after a large garden and walking in the countryside helps to keep me fit, I like to occasionally borrow the dumbbells for toning and strengthening exercises. In my teens I used to be a bit of an aerobics fan but now prefer gentler low aerobic exercise and for extra weight I find these dumbbells ideal.

                              They are extremely comfortable to hold, firstly due to being a compact size and secondly the neoprene covering, this is a rubber like fabric which is soft and slightly textured. The dumbbells never feel cold when you first hold them and if your hands become warm and sweaty with exercising the dumbbells do not become slippery. This is why I prefer these to other weights my daughter owns, they provide a good sure grip and I couldn't imagine ever ending up with sore hands or blisters after exercising with them. The vivid green colour is also cheery and fun.

                              I would say the 2kg dumbbells provide gentle but substantial extra intensity for home workouts or for the gym. My daughter enjoys running with them and will also dance with one in each hand and although I would not recommend the latter, it goes to show how comfortable they are to hold whilst moving and suitable the 2kg size can be for aerobic exercise.

                              The neoprene covering is surprisingly strong and durable, my daughter has often used the dumbbells outside in the garden and after over a year of use they remain in almost perfect condition. If necessary they can be wiped clean with a damp cloth. I feel confident these dumbbells will last for a good few years.

                              Another aspect to the dumbbells that I like is how the weight ends are not evenly circular, they are oval shaped so that when placing down onto a surface or floor they will not roll away, even if slightly knocked. A good idea for dumbbells I think which have the potential to cause damage to more fragile items close by.

                              The Tunturi neoprene dumbbells carry a one year guarantee, the 2kg green set is currently priced at £19.99 from Amazon where the other sizes are also available.

                              I can recommend as an effective, well designed and comfortable to hold set of dumbbells suitable for both aerobic and gentle toning exercises.

                              Thanks for reading!
                              © Lunaria 2012

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                                23.04.2012 20:51
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                                A classic cooker hood, designed to a high standard for efficiency and ease of use.

                                When choosing the cooker hood for our Rangemaster Classic 90 Cooker I remember feeling somewhat frustrated with the limited information available online. A cooker hood is a fairly basic item but I almost felt I was buying blind and pretty much had to wait and see what the Rangemaster LEIHDC90BC cooker hood was all about when it arrived. I will endeavour in this review to provide as much description as possible.

                                My husband fitted our cooker hood although an electrician is normally required for the task. It is usually essential before purchase to establish how you require a cooker hood to vent air, whether it be to outside through a wall or recirculated into the kitchen. With this particular model both options are possible as the ducting cover has a vent on either side to allow filtered air back into the kitchen. The ducting cover which can be adjusted to size has a maximum drop of 102 cm.

                                ~ Description ~
                                This cooker hood is made from steel with a satin black finish. The widest edge at the front is 90cm, the depth is 49cm and the height of the hood measures 27cm. The ducting cover is 21cm x 21cm. It has a classic and straightforward hood shape which I think complements the Rangemaster 90 cooker perfectly. As previously mentioned there are two air vents either side of the ducting cover, these are black plastic and blend in well, so much so they are hardly noticeable in our kitchen. We went with the option of a Rangemaster badge for the front of the hood.
                                On the underside of the hood are three aluminium grease cassette filters and at the front there are two oval domed clear plastic light units. Two 28 Watt halogen light bulbs are required for these and were supplied with the hood. The lights are either side of a black plastic bar control panel where there are three slider switches, the first to operate the lights, the second to turn the fan on or off and the third has 3 speed settings for the fan.

                                ~ Our Thoughts and Use ~
                                We were immediately impressed with the general feel of quality to the hood and felt it was in line with the high standard in build and design of our Rangemaster cooker.
                                I switch on the lights almost every time I use the hob as the cooker stands at the darkest end of our kitchen, they create a very clear and useful light over the whole hob as well as an attractive extra warm light in the room.

                                I generally use the highest setting for the fan whilst cooking dinner especially if boiling pasta or using two or three hobs. This maximum sound level is 64 dB. I find this quite loud but my husband tells me it is actually fairly quiet for an extractor fan with a 145 Watt Motor. When using the fan I do not notice any build up of condensation around the kitchen so am very pleased with its performance. On the odd occasion I have forgotten to switch on the fan there is a considerable amount of condensation across our kitchen window and the walls closest to the cooker. The maximum air extraction rate is 450 cubic metres per hour (this is the 'maximum' figure taken from the booklet, figures given online vary and this can be misleading). I use the middle or lowest settings when simmering or cooking with only one saucepan. The lowest setting is also very useful for when the oven or grill is in use as it creates only a gentle sound and removes any steam escaping from the back of the oven as well as strong and long lasting cooking smells from the kitchen. As far as I'm concerned the aroma of baked bread or biscuits can linger throughout the home for ages but not so keen to smell grilled fish or vegetable lasagne for the remainder of an evening and night.

                                The three aluminium filters release from position easily and are washable under a tap with hot soapy water although on occasion they have been placed in the dishwasher on a 40 degree cycle. I tap them at an angle onto a tea towel to remove excess water and then they locate quickly and securely back into position. The hood itself although black doesn't seem to particularly attract or show up dust, it is simple in design without any unnecessary crevices or ridges so again easy to keep clean.

                                ~ Summary ~
                                Overall, we have been very pleased with the quality and efficiency of this cooker hood. It is designed well throughout, straightforward to use and has performed reliably for almost 5 years.
                                Currently available with a free 2 year guarantee from Appliance world at £279.71 or John Lewis at £309.00. I highly recommend.

                                Thanks for reading x
                                This review may also appear on Ciao.
                                © Lunaria 2012

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                                  05.04.2012 11:51
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                                  5/5 The best kitchen scales I have owned.

                                  Almost every day I will go to my kitchen book shelves and usually it is not to choose a cookery book but to reach for my Salter electronic platform kitchen scales. The unit measuring only 2cm in width stores neatly on it's side amongst my books. Not only are these scales slim and easy to store, they are in my view extremely efficient and well designed. I have owned the scales now for around 5 years.

                                  ~ Description ~
                                  The scales have a brushed stainless steel circular weighing area approximately 15cm in diameter. The sturdy base is black plastic with five small rubber non-slip pads placed underneath. At the front there is a shaped control panel 5cm in depth with an LCD screen and two buttons, one for 'on-off-zero' the other for measurement options. The scales have a general feel of quality and are robust yet reasonably lightweight.

                                  ~ Use ~
                                  I find the scales a breeze to use. I simply place the scales on a surface and press the 'on' button, in two seconds zero will appear on the LCD screen. I have selected grams as my main choice of measurement, but by pressing the second button you have the choice of ounces, fluid ounces or millilitres. I then weigh ingredients straight into a bowl, jug, dish or saucepan placed on the circular area. The projected control panel means considerably large bowls can be used with a clear view of the LCD screen. I even use the scales to weigh sugar into my large jam pan of 30cm diameter, by placing it slightly off centre so I can still see the LCD display. The maximum capacity for these scales is 5kg/ 11Ib.

                                  The digits are clear and always shown instantly. With each different ingredient, I press zero and continue weighing. During this process it is easy to switch between metric and imperial or solid to fluid measurements. I have adapted bread maker recipes so I can use the scales to weigh all the ingredients directly into the bread tin. The scales are invaluable in my mind because they save on time and also washing up.

                                  When not operated for longer than 3 minutes the scales will automatically turn off. This is a good safe guard for battery use if the scales have been abandoned for a reason (in my case this would most likely be a phone call). It is straightforward to then resume with weighing as long as zero is the required starting point.

                                  After use, due to the simplicity of design, the scales can be easily cleaned if necessary by wiping over with a damp cloth. After 5 years of very regular use these scales remain in good condition, reliable in performance and accurate in measurement.

                                  ~ Battery ~
                                  Under the base is a slide opening compartment for a lithium CR2032 battery. The first battery was supplied with the scales. I would say battery life is extremely good, with my almost daily use of the scales a battery will last for approximately 6 months. The coin cell batteries are readily available and can be found on Amazon for £0.52 for a pack of two.

                                  ~ Conclusion ~
                                  I'm so pleased and impressed with these scales. Accurate, stylish, easy to store and use, a flexibility of weighing measurements and time saving.
                                  Available from Amazon, currently priced at £18.69 and with a 15 year guarantee.

                                  Thanks for reading this review x
                                  © Lunaria 2012

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