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Lynda_Mck

Lynda_Mck
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Member since: 05.05.2010

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    • More +
      23.07.2010 16:25
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      A neat little gadget for your kitchen.

      Whilst I don't use the Kenwood mini chopper at home, I am probably better acquainted with it than a lot of people who do, because I use the Kenwood mini chopper on an almost-daily basis. In my job as an assistant scientific officer I work mainly with food products, and I have at some time in the past used one of these to blitz up all manners of weird and wonderful things that I won't go into; it is almost dinnertime after all. The only differences between you using it and me using it is:

      1) YOU can eat what you make in it, and
      2) We call it a homogeniser, but then we're scientists. We're paid to use long words.

      Because of the fact that I only use this in my job, I can't rate the chopper on its ability to chop breadcrumbs or herbs, but if you want to know what it can do to pretty much ANY type of meat (that's no exaggeration) and a large selection of vegetables I can help you.

      The mini chopper is designed for chopping small amounts, not the feeding of the five thousand. It would be perfect for couples, or people who just wanted to experiment with making their own sauces etc, without having to go to the expense of buying a large food processor. It's also rated as a Delia Cheat! (apparently that exclamation mark has to go in there) Gadget, so it must be good.

      Specifications
      -----------------

      * 300w Power. This isn't big compared to some blenders etc, but it's more than sufficient for the job.
      * The capacity of the bowl is 350ml and the box states that it has a 150g chopping capacity. This means that you can basically half-fill the bowl and the mini chopper will be able to deal with it. I know for a fact that you can exceed that amount, though it can result in some of the food not being properly blended up, the result being that you will have lumps in whatever you're making. This can mean blending your food in a couple of steps, which isn't really any extra work.
      * Dishwasher Safe.
      * The unit comes in two mains parts: the clear plastic bowl (consists of lid, bowl and detachable blade) and the main unit which is brilliantly sealed to prevent damage by leaks.
      * One touch control. There is one large button that only depresses when the bowl is safely locked in place. There are two speed settings which are controlled by pressing the button half in for the lower speed setting or fully in for full power.


      Pros
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      The best thing about the mini chopper is its size. Its dimension are 19cmx 11.8cm x 145cm, which you must agree is pretty dinky for a food processor. Other than a hand-held blender, you'd be hard pushed to find something as small that does the job so well. Plus the mini chopper has the advantage above a handheld blender for the simple reason that it has a lid.

      The blade consists of a plastic cylinder with a slightly curved blade on either side. This simply lifts out when the lid is off, making cleaning easy... to a certain extent, which I'll come back to in a second. The bowl, the lid and the blade are all dishwasher safe, allowing you to save time and effort.

      The mini chopper will only work if the lid is safely locked into place, which is a great feature, meaning that your fingers stay away from the blades. This is a clever safety device, and would be particularly important if you had children in the kitchen with you.

      As for the cost, the mini chopper is online at Amazon for £13.90. If you want it today however, Tesco's is currently selling them for just under £19.

      Cons
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      The reason that I said that cleaning is easy "to a certain extent" is often food has a way of sneaking up inside the blade cylinder, or around the seam where the blade comes out of the plastic cylinder. What's more, when you use the mini chopper its imperative to wash it right away. Woe betide you should you leave food to dry on.

      The blender has two speeds: fast and very fast. This is grand for us because all we need is the higher speed, but if you wanted something which was capable of going a bit slower, then you might have to get something else. What's more, it's actually not the easiest to get the lower speed, you have to push the button in just right otherwise it stops, or goes too fast.

      The mini chopper can be really noisy, but this happens with a lot of blenders I suppose. Fortunately it's so quick that the noise is soon over.

      Getting the lid to lock in properly can be quite tough at first, which is a little annoying as the mini chopper won't work unless it's locked in perfectly. It is a safety feature however, so I don't mind too much and you do get the hang of it eventually.

      Finally, and I know it might sound very obvious but, be careful what you use to clean the mini chopper. If you hand wash it, use a soft sponge. We have about 3 of these mini choppers in work and two of them are scratched to pieces because they used a scrubbing brush of some description, and now it's scratched to pieces. Now the bowl looks bad, and you can't see what's happening inside it either.

      Summary
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      The Kenwood mini-chopper is compact, but clever. If you want a food processor, but don't have a lot of room, this is probably the best solution for you. Like I said, we have three of them in our lab, and there are two more in the lab next door, so that shows that we like them and keep buying them. We use them in the lab practically every day, and I've never yet had a problem with one of them... other than the last person not cleaning it properly. I must say that I love this product, and if I didn't already own a blender that I really love, I would buy one of these for my house as well.

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    • Philips HR2000 / Blender / 30 Readings / 28 Ratings
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      20.07.2010 14:46
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      Good all-round performer

      Having had (and loved) my old blender, I was upset, but not surprised when 5 months ago it finally gave up the ghost after 4 years of hard work. I make a lot of soups- especially in the winter- as well as hummus, smoothies and sauces, for which the use of a blender is invaluable. My old blender was a Philips one too, so I knew that I it was a company that I could trust.

      When I found the Philips HR2000 I was very pleased with the price, if a little wary. I don't mind spending a little more on household items because often they will last longer. However, I decided that it was worth a shot, it did have a 2 year guarantee after all, which was more than most of the competition.

      Specifications
      ------------------

      The bowl of the blender is made of plastic and is dishwasher safe which is handy for cleaning up after cooking. Also, it means it doesn't break if dropped, (trust me, I know from experience. I also learned at the same time that pesto is hard to get out of the kitchen curtains).

      The capacity of the blender is 1.5l, which isn't huge, but it's more than enough for most things that you'll want to be making. I find I can make enough soup in it to last about 4 lunches, so it's plenty for me.

      The blade is a 5-pointed star with serrated edges which is great for dealing with most things. Also it's detachable which makes cleaning it and the blender much easier and to a degree safer. I've wrecked countless tea-towels drying the blade on my old blender, having a detachable blade is a million times easier. N.B. once you remove the blade, you must ensure that it's reattached properly before use; otherwise the contents of your blender can leak into the blender base and cause havoc. The blade itself is dishwasher safe too.

      The blender has two speeds, plus a pulse button, which I only really use when I'm rinsing it. Admittedly, two speeds are less than some other blenders have, but in reality, the two speeds are more than enough for everything that I've ever made.

      My experience
      -------------------

      Pros
      ------
      When I came to use the Philips HR2000, I was very pleased with what I found. The blades in the blender are very sharp, and can whizz up a smoothie in no time. When dry, it's also pretty good at chopping up herbs and nuts, which are great for salads and garnishes.

      The blender is very sturdy whilst not being heavy, and is great for carrying out all manner of jobs, but it's still light enough that I can pack it away on top of my shelf when I'm done with it.

      The two speed settings are great for blending things of different consistencies, and more than sufficient for pretty much anything that you might choose to blitz up. I was also quite pleased with the fact that the blender is pretty quiet, unless I'm blending something that might be a little tougher to deal with than normal.

      The lid has a central bit which can be removed to add ingredients more easily, and during blending. This is great if you're making a recipe that requires things to be added in stages.

      Finally, most importantly the price. I bought this blender for just under £20, which is very reasonable for a blender.

      Cons
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      It does, however, have some problems functioning properly if you only put in a small amount of material to be blended, but this is an issue with a lot of blenders.

      The one thing that does disappoint me about this blender is that it has a bit of a problem dealing with ice cubes. It can be very noisy and doesn't crunch them up the same way that my old blender did. I can still use it for breaking up ice for drink, but frankly my Bailey's over ice doesn't look as good as it used to.

      If the blade isn't reattached properly after washing, the contents of the jug can leak from the base of the jug. When this happened to me, I fortunately realised before I switched it on, otherwise I'm sure I could have damaged the workings of the blender.

      My opinion
      --------------

      All in all I am very pleased with this little blender. It does (almost) everything that I ask of it with minimal fuss. It's pretty quiet and looks good, plus the price is right up my street. I like the fact that it's so easy to clean, particularly the fact that the blade comes out so easily. I've used it probably every other day since I got it, and I haven't had any problems with it. I would definitely recommend to a friend.

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      • Fossil Big Tic Ladies AM3778 / Watch / 23 Readings / 21 Ratings
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        16.07.2010 18:07
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        A really nice wrist accessory, a quality item

        I'm not exactly sure what it is about Fossil watches I love so much. I already own one- plus some of their jewellery- and every time I walk past the Fossil shop in Victoria Square (Belfast), I have to go inside. It's either that or standing at the window drooling.

        Some women go for petite, modest little watches. For me, I like my watches to do more than simply tell the time. If they don't also look good, I don't really see the point. I like my watches to be nice and chunky, which is precisely what this one is.

        Case: The case is a rounded rectangle in shape about 3cm in diameter, and silver in colour (stainless steel), with the numbers 15, 30 and 40 engraved in a nice modern font. The 5 minute intervals are also marked out, and a small triangle or downwards arrow marks the top of the hour.

        Face: On the dial of the watch the numbers 12, 3, 6 and 9 are enclosed within a narrow black band, once again with the 5-minute intervals shown. On the face of the watch the hands are relatively short, but it suits the look of the watch. My favourite feature, however, is that the watch face will change colour at the touch of a button between a sleek-looking silver, to a fun midnight blue. You can set this to alternate between colours, but I tend to keep it on the blue setting because I think it looks best.

        Strap: Sorry, but this isn't suitable for vegetarians. The strap is a dark brown leather strap that sits on top of another inner leather strap, giving it a two-layer effect. The stitching on the watch is pale- not quite white- and the thread contrasts nicely with the dark leather. Because its leather it doesn't really get that sweaty feeling that can sometimes happen if you're wearing a plastic watch, and it's insanely comfortable to wear.

        Water resistance: The watch is water resistant to 100 Meters, but I would suggest that you avoided getting it wet, I don't think it's very good for leather.

        Anything else: The watch come in a nifty Fossil tin with all the papers of authenticity.

        Price: Umm... It's Fossil, which means that it isn't cheap, but you are really paying for a very good quality watch, so you would be expected to pay a bit more. Shop around, I found this one online for £85 (plus p&p), but I've seen it on sale for as much as £120.

        Summary
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        I love this watch. I tend to wear a lot of chunky watches and wrist straps, so this watch suits me down to the ground. It's great looking, and I've been complemented on it a number of times. I know it's a little pricey, but it's a really nice, good quality watch from a good company, and it comes with a two-year guarantee. Brilliant.

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      • More +
        15.07.2010 15:56
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        Would recommend this

        Headphones are all well and good when you want to listen to music by yourself, but when you want to be able to play music aloud you're going to need a different bit of kit. I'm going on my summer holidays in a few weeks and wanted travel speakers for my ipod that gave me a good sound quality, would be powerful enough to play in noisy situations such as at the beach. They also had to look good and couldn't cost too much. I'm not too demanding, am I?

        Appearance
        ---------------

        When I saw this online I really wanted them. The speakers are shaped to look like a big Lego block, and if you're anything like I was, you probably loved playing with Lego as a kid. The iblock is 2.9 x 5.2 x 3.9 cm and has 16 studs in two rows, with the actual speakers positioned at either end in the centre of the 4 outer studs. Two of the little studs in the centre control the volume, the left one to decrease the volume, the right one to increase it- child's play.

        In weight the iblock is only 10g, which really is nothing and is very handy if you're trying to keep down the weight of a well packed suitcase. Well, the inner child in me loved this product, and fortunately, the outer adult (that's a phrase, right?) was pleasantly surprised by the price.

        Price
        --------

        The speakers vary in price between websites, but on amazon they are available in black, blue, red, green and white. Price ranges from £6.49 for the black one to around £9.00 for most of the rest of them. They are sold by outside companies, however, and sometimes will charge a shipping fee. I decided to opt for one in fire engine red which set me back by the reasonable sum of £8.90.

        I have since seen that it is possible to also get a yellow iblock on ebay for about £10.

        The low price of the iblock makes it one of the cheapest travel ipod docks, which was one of the reasons I was tempted by these.

        Performance
        ----------------
        I was a little worried about how good the speakers would be because they are, like I said, at the lower end of the price range, so when they arrived, I unwrapped them and gave them a go. The iblock doesn't have batteries. It plugs straight into your ipod and runs off the power from it. This was handy, because it meant that I didn't have to charge the iblock, I just plugged it straight into my ipod, it also means that you only need an ipod charger, and don't need to worry about buying batteries. However, on the down side, this will use up your ipod charge a little faster as a speaker is a little harder to power than headphones.

        For all of the size of them the iblock does actually pack quite a punch in the volume department. I can leave it playing downstairs in my kitchen and still hear my music when I'm upstairs in my bedroom. I'm not saying that you could use it if you wanted to throw a big party, but it's definitely powerful enough for you and a group of friends at a picnic or lying on the beach.

        Sound quality is good, not amazing. At lower decibels the speakers perform really well, but the louder you turn it up, the poorer that the speakers perform, with the highest levels going a little tinny. The speakers even manage a little base, which is impressive for all the size of them.

        The speakers can't do much, except control volume to a certain extent, so any commands will need to be carried out on the ipod itself. However, the speakers do the job that I bought them for, so this hardly matters.

        Considering the cost of the speakers, I feel that they perform really well.

        Compatibility
        -----------------
        The iblock is compatible with the iPhone 3G 3G S, ,iPod Touch, Touch, Nano, Classic, Video 5G, Photo 4G Color, Mini. I personally use it with my ipod nano and it works really well. Please note, however, that it is not compatible with some iphones, though I'm not sure which.

        Summary
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        All in all, I'm very pleased with my purchase. For such a small piece of equipment and such a small price I'm very impressed with what it can do. After giving the iblock a road test I'm sure that it will be perfect for taking away with me on my holidays, because it's small, stylish, and, because of the price, I won't be too upset if I get it full of sand and it stops working.

        If you want a piece of high performance sound equipment for your ipod, buy a proper ipod dock. If you're looking for something cute and inexpensive, buy this.

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        • Philips SHS3200 / Headphones / 18 Readings / 17 Ratings
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          14.07.2010 17:45
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          Good headphones, but they may not suit everyone

          Having bought myself an ipod shuffle for running and cycling (see my other review), I realised very quickly that the head phones it came with- whilst nice- were not going to be any good for me. I don't know if it's down to the shape of my ears (which stick out), the way I run (badly), or that the headphones simply weren't designed for running, but the earpieces wouldn't stay in my ears. I was getting plenty of exercise, but only in my arms because I was constantly having to replace the earphones in my ears.

          I decided that I would need to get myself some of the type of earphones that clipped on over the ear, as these would have to stay on, right? Shopping around I found the Philips Shs3200/00 Ear Hook Headphones on Amazon for just over £25. Shopping around a bit more I found them on ebay for £11.50. Seeing this was such a brilliant price difference for a good quality product I had to snap them up. NB. Philips also have a similiar pair of cheaper headphones Shs3200/10. If you decide to buy, make sure you're getting the right ones.

          Appearance and comfort

          When they first arrived in the post, I was really pleased with the headphones. They looked sleek and stylish without being too noticeable. I can't get away with the bigger sort of over-the-head headphones, so these ones are perfect for me. The flexible clips felt light and surprisingly comfortable, being perfectly shaped for my ears they grip tightly without causing discomfort.

          The speakers are 1.5cm in diameter which is about normal I think, and they fitted very snugly inside my ears. When I'm out on my bike if the weather is cold I will sometimes get earache caused by the cold air rushing past and in my ears. Because the speakers fit my ears so well, I have found that I do not suffer from earache whilst on my bike anymore. Bonus! However, I could understand that if your ears are any bigger or smaller than mine you won't find them as comfortable as I did.

          I went for a run and was pleasantly surprised by how well the headphones stayed on. I had no need at all to replace the speakers in my ears once I left the house. This was brilliant, as it meant that I could concentrate on running, rather than fiddling around with my mp3 player.

          I have since tried them whilst wearing a pair of sunglasses however, and I'm afraid that these headphones are not anywhere near as comfortable to wear once you have two sets of things balancing on your ears. If you are a glasses wearer, you may not be able to use these.

          Sound quality

          The Frequency response is these earphones is: 20 - 20,000 Hz, if that means anything to you. To the rest of us, I was really pleased by the clarity and quality of the sound. Philips is a good company, and I would have been disappointed if they'd let me down. Fortunately that wasn't the case. The music sounded crisp and clear- I had to try really hard to stop from singing along.

          Cable

          The cable that for the headphones is nice and long (1.2m) which means that it gives you plenty of flexibility during running. In some ways though it's too much cable, and I found that I had to double the wire over to stop it getting in my way. I'm about 5ft 10, and I found the cable a bit long, so if you are shorter than me, it's likely that it might annoy you too.

          I also find that the hooks of the ear clips have a tendency to get tangled quite easily, so I always have to take care to wrap the cable around my ipod. If I ever forget and simply throw them into the bottom of my gym bag I find that I will have to spend a few minutes untangling them which can be really annoying if you are raring to go, or if you have a friend standing by getting impatient because they have to wait for you.

          Performance

          I must say that these headphones have taken a battering. They've been up mountains and in mud. They've been stood on, sat on and chewed by my two-year-old niece. They've been rained on and sweated on and they still have the same great quality of sound that they did when I first got them.

          I've had these headphones for about five months now, and whilst I am still very pleased with the quality of the sound, I am much less impressed by the performance of the ear clips. When they were brand new the clips were flexible yes, but they did hold their shape. Now, whilst they are still flexible, they do not grip anywhere near as well as they used to. It's not so bad that I'll need to replace them just yet, but it's still very annoying, particularly when I was so pleased with them to start with.

          When I do get around to replacing these, it will come down to price. If I can get them again for a similar amount to what I originally paid I would be tempted to buy another pair the same.

          I've looked at some of the other reviews for these headphones, (here and elsewhere), and I've seen these headphones receiving pretty mixed reviews when it comes down to comfort. All I can say is that I thought that they were comfortable, so I suppose it must come down to personal preference and the size and shape of your ears. If you do decide to buy them, hopefully they fit you as well as they did me.

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          • More +
            14.07.2010 15:14
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            A great little piece of kit for a gym bag

            When I bought my first ever mp3 player it held 35 songs, had battery power of about 2 hours and was an ugly little square brick imported from Japan. Every now and again it would randomly resort to its native Japanese, and it would take me days to figure out how to get it back to English. At the time I though it, and I, were the bees knees, because I was one of very few people to own an mp3 player. How times have changed. Now everyone has one, and there are hundreds of them on the market.

            When I recently took up running, I realized that my ipod nano really wasn't that nano after all. It suddenly seemed to transform from a small handy little mp3 player that I could keep in my pocket to a huge annoying brick that got in the way when I ran. I tried to keep it in an arm strap, but I didn't care for this as it pinched and irritated me. It was time to get sometime else.

            I'd heard of the shuffle, of course, but a small part of me rebelled against giving more of my money to Apple. Surely there was some other equally deserving manufacturer who I could give my business to? I shopped around, and discovered that, really there wasn't. Ipod simply seem to have sewn up the market very well, with a small (about 2.5cm by 4cm), clipable mp3 player that looks good and doesn't get in the way.

            I used to have problems with my ipod nano slipping out of my pocket when I was on my bike, but with the shuffle, the little clip works brilliantly, staying attached wherever you put it. I clip it onto the back of my running shorts, and all but forget about it being there. Frankly, though it is more expensive than most other brands, it is doing exactly the job I want it to do.

            Now I know that a shuffle doesn't display the song it's playing. This can be annoying, particularly if you've uploaded a song and you can't for the life of you remember who sang it or what it's called, or if there is a specific song that you fancy listening to. Frankly, if this is what you want from your mp3 player, you're looking at the wrong piece of equipment. The ipod shuffle is simply for supplying music to your ears without getting in the way of what you're doing. I for one don't stop every three minutes when I'm running to decide what I'm going to listen to next. That's why the shuffle is perfect for sports or any activities where you may not be constantly able to adjust the song. That said, if you don't like the song it's chosen for you, you can use the keys to skip through until you find a song that you do like, or using the button at the top of the ipod (the shuffle switch) you can tell it to play the songs in the order that you put them on in itunes.

            The ipod shuffle takes about four hours to charge and should last about 10 hours. It claims to have 12 hours of battery power, but I find that it's a little less than that. A light on the top of the ipod will turn red to warn you if your battery is low, which is handy because nobody wants to be halfway through their run when they run out of music.

            Now I have a little bit of a problem with the earphones that are supplied with the shuffle. I would suggest that a large part of the demographic who buy the shuffle do so to wear whilst doing sport. This makes the iconic earphones a bit pointless, as, if you're like me, these will fall out of your ears the second you start to move faster than a walk. Perhaps if, along with colour choices (I went for the blue one), they could give you a choice of headphones, such as the ones that I had to buy separately with earclips.

            The ipod shuffle comes in a range of capacities. I opted for the 1GB version, as I felt that as that equates to about 240 songs, I probably didn't need any more. If I get bored of these songs it's easy for me to change them. If however you don't want to have to change your songs that often, then by all means the 2GB might be a better option for you.

            All in all, the ipod shuffle is a handy little piece of equipment, which is perfect for what I use it for. If, however, I'm doing a different activity, or if I simply want to be able to know what it is that I'm listening to, I take its older brother, the ipod nano with me instead.

            Sayounara

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          • Natural Yogurt in General / Recipe / 22 Readings / 17 Ratings
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            14.07.2010 00:54
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            Add a little natural yogurt to your diet for a range of health benefits

            When I first saw that natural yogurts was listed under health foods I was a little surprised, but then when I thought about it, it did make perfect sense. Natural yogurt is, after all, a superfood, containing plenty of potassium, calcium, protein and B vitamins, including B-12, as well as friendly bacteria. If you buy the right one that is. If you're going to buy natural yogurt make sure you buy those that contain live cultures, otherwise you won't be getting all of the available benefits. This might mean spending a wee bit more, but then again, you're paying for what you get.

            Thanks to the recent popularity of such products as Yakult, we've all become more familiar with the concept of friendly bacteria. Natural yogurt contains, amongst others, the bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillu bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus, and bifidobacteria. These bacteria help keep the digestive system healthy, maximizes nutrients you can absorb into your body, and keeps the immune system running properly. It's especially good for the gut. Irritable bowl syndrome runs in my family, so my family eats it constantly, and they all attest to how much better they feel since they started eating it on a daily basis. I ensure that I eat it often to ensure a healthily balanced diet, and hopefully so that I won't suffer from IBS in the future. We can but hope.

            The benefits of natural yogurt are thought to include:

            -boosting immune response
            -fighting bad breath
            -reducing occurrence of urinary infections
            -preventing cancer
            -Lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, Rasing HDL (good) cholesterol
            -boosts fat burning

            Natural yogurt also helps with the absorption of vitamins and minerals, which will also help to keep you healthy.

            Sure, natural yogurt may not be the tastiest thing in the world, but if I want a little bit of flavour I add a spoonful of strawberry jam. Hey presto, I've got all of the benefits of natural yogurt, and it tastes nice too. When I do this I also like to mix in some milled seeds, such as flaxseed or pumpkin seeds. The resulting mixture might not look the nicest nice, but it's one of the easiest ways to take them and get your omegas 3 and 6. In fact, if it's the taste that's putting you off natural yogurt, why not try adding all sorts of things? Honey, marmalade, chocolate sauce, raisins etc, or make yourself some fruit smoothies full of natural yogurty goodness. I also use natural yogurt for making salad dressings and marinades. Tasty and healthy.

            There are loads of natural yogurts on the market, and I suggest shopping around until you find one that you like. I generally opt for the low fat options as I like the taste of these, and if I'm eating them for the health benefits anyway, I might as well try and avoid those extra calories. I personally like Yeo Valley Organic Fat Free Natural Bio Live Yogurt which costs 35p for a 150g pot- perfect for a small snack.

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          • More +
            12.07.2010 23:44
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            Wouldn't go on holidays without a bottle of this stuff.

            When you think of holiday essentials, your first thought might not be of insect repellent, but I must say that it is probably the first thing I would pack. Whether it's my blood type or my diet or something else, I'm unfortunately one of those people who biting creatures of every size and shape seem to adore. I wouldn't mind if they just drunk my blood and left it at that, but it's the nasty welts that they leave on your skin that I can live without.

            I've tried all sorts of insect repellents before at home and abroad, and I can honestly say that there is nothing on the market that works as well as this stuff. It lasts about 8 hours (give or take for humidity and sweating), but if you're going to be in the sea or the pool, you will have to reapply more often. Although the repellent is strong enough to keep away all of the nasty mossies, it's mild enough to put on your face. Just keep it away from cuts, eyes, and especially your lips, it is- like any insect repellent- harmful if ingested. Remember to wash your hands after use too.

            For those of you who only get the odd insect bite, a dash of this behind the knees, down the arms and round your neck should be enough to keep the bugs away. If, however you're like me, you might need to apply more thoroughly; even add a little dab to the top of your head if you like. After all brushing your hair if there's a bite in there it's not fun. The formula of the repellent is not sticky, so having it in your hair will not affect your coiffure.

            There's a bit of a smell to Jungle Formula, it must be admitted, and whilst it is a little chemically, it's not bad and it fades away once the liquid has dried on your skin. In some ways I now associate the smell with holidays, so if anything I now quite like the smell.

            One note of caution. Jungle formula contains solvents that can damage clothing and polished surfaces. I'm speaking from experience. Because its a liquid take care when and applying. Also, if the bottle has been opened pack it within a container or plastic bag if you're taking it in a suitcase, otherwise you might get a nasty surprise when you reopen it. Stick to this and you shouldn't have any problems.

            If I could I would give Jungle formula more than five stars. Not only has it saved my skin from mosquitoes in foreign climes, it's kept the midges and horseflies away in the UK. Take it from someone who biting insects love, there is no better insect repellent available. So, whether you are a staycation or a vacation this year, don't forget your suntan lotion, and definately get a bottle of this.

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          • Kalms Sleep / Health Product / 25 Readings / 24 Ratings
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            10.07.2010 14:25
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            They simply didn't work for me, but might be worth a try anyway

            I'm afraid that I'm one of those unlucky people who often goes through bouts of insomnia, whether it's stress from work, not being able to get comfortable in bed because it's too hot, cold or lumpy, or simply because I cannot get my busy brain to switch off. That's the reason that I'm currently writing this review at 3am. Lack of sleep always leaves me feeling stressed, exhausted, and unable to concentrate, plus more likely to suffer from colds and the flu. Not fun at all.

            I've tried a number of sleeping aids, and whether or not my body is just determined to stop me sleeping, but I find that very few of them have any effect on me, and for those that do, they don't last for very long. Kalms is aimed for those who suffer from transient insomnia like me, rather than those who suffer from long-term insomnia, so I gave it a try. I'm sorry to say though, that it simply didn't work for me.

            What's in it

            Kalms Sleep Tablets are a made from traditional herbal, and contain a blend of pure plant ingredients with sedative properties, rather than any nasty chemicals, and they claim to help promote natural sleep, rather than just knocking you out cold. By promoting natural sleep, the aim is to help you establish a natural sleeping pattern. They aren't addictive, and shouldn't leave you feeling drowsy the next day.

            Kalms contains Vervain powder, Valerian powdered extract, Hops powder, Wild lettuce powdered extract and Passiflora powdered extract.

            · Vervain is a herb that has been used for years in complementary medicine, and amongst its uses it is known to promote sleeping. According to Wikipedia it was once thought to protect people from vampires, so you might sleep easier knowing that.

            · Valerian has long been used as a sedative, anti-convulsant, migraine treatment and pain reliever, so it's little wonder this is included.

            · Hops, which are better known for brewing, have sedative, and soporific effects.

            · Wild Lettuce, whilst not being an opiate, apparently has many similar effects to opium, including calming and sedative properties.

            · Finally, Passiflora, or Passion flower, was used by the Native American for treating insomnia, hysteria, and epilepsy, and is also valued for its analgesic properties.

            Tablets:

            The pills are grey in colour and about the size of a normal round paracetamol, so they aren't difficult to swallow with a glass of water. They are sugar coated, so they don't taste too bad, as long as you swallow them quickly, which I didn't the first time I used them- yeuck!

            The dosage is 3-4 tablets an hour before you go to bed. I must say that I think this is a lot, but as there are 84 tablets in the box that means at least 12 nights of sleep if the tablets work for you. Put another way, with the box of 84 tablets costing £4.79, that's just under 23p per night, which isn't a bad price for a good night's sleep. If it's successful.

            Kalms are made by:

            Kalms are made by GR Lanes, who also make such alternative products as Olbus oil and Biofreeze, so they are a reputable company, who specialise in homeopathic and alternative medicines. All of their products are natural, and can be bought at a pharmacy without prescription.

            They are suitable for:

            Adults and the elderly, but they are not recommended for children. Do not take if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, or if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.

            Did they work?

            I must say that as much as everyone recommended Kalms to me, raving about how good they were I was disappointed. I did perhaps feel less stressed after taking them, which I admit did help me relax, but I didn't feel tired after taking them, and would often still be lying in bed a good few hours after taking them, twiddling my thumbs.

            The only time that I could get them to work was if I spent a good bit of time preparing for bed, i.e. taking a long soothing bath, drinking horlicks, listening to calming music, having sleep spray on my pillow etc, which simply isn't possible to do every night, and probably would have sent me to sleep without the tablets anyway.

            Like I said before though, Kalms sleep were recommended to me by a lot of people, so whilst they didn't work for me, they may work for you. If you suffer from sleep problems, you're usually willing to try everything, so this one is worth a shot too. Good luck!

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            • Arnica / Plant / 18 Readings / 18 Ratings
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              09.07.2010 15:26
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              Every house and car some have some

              In my family, if someone mentions arnica, we immediately think of the time when, as children, my two sisters locked themselves in my grandma's bathroom and proceeded to munch their way through about half a bottle of arnica tablets before they were caught. Fortunately it didn't do them any harm, but I'm sure they were incapable of bruising for about a week. I wouldn't advise that you trying it though, as large oral doses can be quite harmful.

              What it is

              Arnica montana, also known as wolf's bane, contains an anti-inflammatory compound called helenalin, which effectively reduces inflammation, soothes muscles and heal wounds. It's also extremely effective at reducing bruising. Arnica has been used since the 1500s, both in Europe and America, and if that wasn't enough my grandma swears by it.

              Arnica is most commonly available in gels or creams, but can also be found in tablet form or can be prepared as a tincture. However, as I've only ever used the gel form, this is what the review below concerns

              My experience of using arnica

              About 5months ago I went on a caving trip with a club that I belong to. There was some mix-up, however, and whilst the majority of the caving kit made it to the caves, the kneepads didn't. You'd be surprised how much of a beating your knees get where you're caving, because you're constantly crawling over pointy rocks and bashing yourself off things. Then to make matters worse I stumbled whilst crossing a subterranean river and smacked my knee off a submerged rock. I think I spent the next few minutes after that inventing new swear words.

              The long and short of that story however, is that my knees went all sorts of interesting colours thanks to the massive amount of bruising, and they were swollen and painful to walk on. For a few days I hobbled around in agony, until my Grandma took one look at my knees and went for the arnica gel, which was applied liberally.

              I was amazed at how quickly that the gel worked. The next day my knees were a much better colour and no longer anywhere near as swollen. After three days they were almost back to normal. I generally heal quite slowly, and I couldn't get over how rapidly that the bruising had disappeared. I used the gel for another two days, but stopped after that for a while because arnica can cause eczema, peeling, blisters, or other skin conditions if used for prolonged periods.

              Other uses

              Since then, I've used arnica gel for all sorts of injuries such as sprains, muscle ache, even insect bites, and every time I have been pleased, if not shocked by how well it works. Arnica can also be used for wound healing, superficial phlebitis, rheumatic pain and swelling due to fractures, but as I've never used it for this treatment I couldn't say how effective it would be.

              Now I tend to carry some with me in my car, as it works really well if you apply it as soon as you hurt yourself, reducing the amount of swelling immediately. I would- and have- recommend it to anyone.

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              • More +
                09.07.2010 13:07
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                Tastes bad, but works wonders on your oral problems

                The first time that I used Corsodyl was a few years ago when I was going through a bout of tonsillitis, and it was actually the doctor who had recommended it to me. If any of you have suffered from tonsillitis you'll know that not only do your tonsils hurt, but you also get a bad taste in your mouth, not nice. So, mouthwash sounded like a good idea, not just to get rid of the taste, but also because it's an oral treatment to kill off bacteria. It is also recommended for the treatment and prevention of gum disease, maintaining mouth hygiene and I've used it since to treat mouth ulcers when it worked wonders. It says on the bottle that it's also good for promoting gum healing after dental surgery or treatment.

                I'd seen Corsodyl advertised and on sale in my dentist's previously, so I felt sure that it was a brand that I could trust. I went to Boots and purchased the original Corsodyl, and have seen it since in most other large pharmacies. In appearance it's a brown bottle with an aqua coloured label, and looks more like a medicine than any of the normal brands of mouthwash. At the minute it's on sale in Boots for £2.99 per 300ml, which is definitely more expensive than most mouthwashes, but as it's doing a different job than most of these, the higher price tag is fair enough.

                The one thing I'll say about Corsodyl is the taste is not nice. At all. I've seen in one of the other reviews for this product that someone has compared the taste to bleach. That's a pretty good assessment. Not only that but it stung my tonsils a bit, but in the words of my mum, 'If it's stinging, it's probably working.' Her motherly wisdom was right, and after I'd used it once or twice I started to notice a difference, particularly in regards to the bad taste in my mouth caused by the tonsillitis, as well as the swelling of my tonsils.

                One other issue with Corsodyl is that it can cause temporary tongue discoloration. I didn't experience this, but I know other people that have. However, the product works so well that you should be prepared to take this risk.

                Since first using Corsodyl for treating my tonsillitis, I've used it for other oral issues, such as mouth ulcers, and every time it does the job. Boots also now stocks a minty version of Corsodyl, which I think I'll try next time, in the hope that the taste is a little nicer.

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                • More +
                  09.07.2010 01:13
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                  Nice smell, might be helping my sleep a little. Worth a shot

                  We all have trouble sleeping sometimes. I know I do, especially if I'm stressed from work, or more often than not, when my brain simply will not switch off when the light does. I remember in particular when I had an exam in school or University I would go a couple of days on very little sleep.

                  Because of this it's little wonder that I have in the past tried other sleeping remedies, such as herbal tablets and Nytol capsules, all of which would work for a little while, but then would lose their effectiveness as I got used to them. When I saw this for sale in Boots, I thought I'd give it a go. After all, I reasoned, it's surely better for you to fall asleep because of a smell, rather than because of something that you have to ingest. I've previously used other scented things to help me sleep, with varying degrees of success, so I thought it was worth a shot.

                  The bottle is eye-catching, particularly with the word 'Sleep' written across it big promising letters. It claimed that 'the calming scent will soothe the senses to help sustain natural sleeping patterns.' Priced at £5.99 for 100ml it seemed a little expensive, but a good night's sleep is hard to put a price on. I forked over my cash (collected my points) and hoped for the best.

                  The bottle is pump action, which actually means that the spray is used quite sparingly, so it will last a good while. I was a little concerned about the spray damaging my bedclothes, but it falls so lightly that I don't think that this would be an issue. It does warn on the bottle that it can damage polished surfaces however, so do be warned.

                  The scent itself is light and fresh, consisting of lavender, basil and orange blossom. I was a little confused by the presence of basil, as I didn't think that it would go well with the other scents, and its not a smell you would expect outside the kitchen, but I was pleasantly surprised. I particularly like lavender, so even if the spray didn't work, I was pleased that my room would have a nice, flowery smell. As directed, I sprayed it around the room, on my bedsheets and especially on my pillow, figuring that I was more likely to enjoy the 'soothing, calming scent' if it was closer to my nose. The first night however, I probably used too much, and the scent was a bit strong at first, but it faded to a nice level after a short time.

                  The first night I used the spray I had mixed success. I tossed and turned for a while before finally dropping off at around 2am. When I did get to sleep I had some unusual dreams. However, when I woke up I felt as though I'd slept quite well, and my hair smelt nice, which is a bonus. The next night I tried the spray again, this time using the bottle much more sparingly, and I dropped off much faster. Granted, I was more tired, but it's rare for me to go to sleep so quickly when I'm going through my phases of sleeping badly.

                  Over the last few weeks I've used the products a number of times. I find that it's results are varied, with good nights and restless nights, but in general I think that my sleeping pattern has improved, if only by a very small amount. I use the spray every other night, as I find that often the smell will linger for a few days, and if anything I sleep better on the second night when the smell is still there, but much milder.

                  It's hard to say precisely how much help the pillow mist has really been, with my sleeping pattern the way it can be, it's hard to pinpoint what the spray is doing, and how much is just me, but I think that, to a limited degree the spray is helping.

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                  • More +
                    08.07.2010 20:30
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                    Nice people, will definitely go see them when I buy a house

                    Needing to move house, I was facing the old question of whether to buy or rent. I popped into a branch of Reeds Rains to see what they had for sale at my end of the market, and how much I could get for my money.

                    I'm one of those sorts of people who likes to figure things out for themselves, so when the sales person asked I needed help, I said no, and continued browsing. He came back later on and asked again if he could help, this time I thought why not? After all I've never bought a house before and know next to nothing about it, I could probably use the help.

                    I'd used those online mortgage calculator things, so I had a rough idea of what I could afford, but he organised a meeting with the mortgage advisor anyway, just so I would know precisely where I stood. I couldn't help but feel I was being slightly pushed into this, but it's their job, and I knew deep down that I needed to do it. They also took my email address so they could add me to their mailing list, which would show me new properties that can unto the market in my price range.

                    I got a phone call reminder the day of my mortgage appointment, just to make sure that I remembered my appointment, which I thought was a nice touch. When I arrived at my appointment, early, they gave me a cup of tea whilst I waited for my time. When I finally did meet the mortgage advisor, you couldn't have asked for a nicer lady. She was really helpful and walked me through everything that I needed to know, what the rates would be, etc. As someone who was completely new to all this stuff she was really patient and helpful, answering all my questions and queries. The one thing that was annoying was that the computers were a bit slow, which made the meeting take longer, but this wasn't her fault and she was really apologetic, so I wasn't too bothered.

                    She was able to tell me how much I could borrow, which I was pleasantly surprised about, and then I had my records updated so that I would be emailed information about houses in the new pricing range, which I thought was a good idea. She also gave me some literature so that I would understand mortgage terms, and what I'd need to do show I decide to buy a house etc.

                    When I was finished I went back into the shop was shown some other houses, and talked to the salesperson about placing offers etc when I found a house I wanted. He was really helpful and wished me luck in finding something I liked.

                    About a week later I got another phone call asking me if I'd decided to buy a house or not. My circumstances had changed somewhat, so I explained that it looked as though I'd be renting for a year. The voice on the other end of the phone sounded a bit miffed. I supposed they were a bit annoyed about doing all that work for nothing, but a house is a sizable investment, I'm going to go into it unless I know I can afford it.

                    Still, that aside, I was very impressed by Reeds Rains, I thought they were very professional and friendly, not to mention helpful. Though I didn't buy a house this year, when I do come to look for a house to buy, they will be one of the first places I look.

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                    08.07.2010 18:01
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                    I love it

                    I graduated from Queen's University Belfast in 2006 (I think), and now, especially because I'm now working in the Big Bad World, I look back on my time spent there as some of the best moments of my life (cheesy, I know).

                    Coming from Northern Ireland, a lot of people will automatically chose QUB as it's a much cheaper option to stay in your home country, commuting at weekends. I must admit that this was a major factor in choosing Queen's, but the fact that they were rated as 'Excellent' in my chosen subject of Archaeology sealed the deal. What's more, QUB is a member of the Russell Group (basically the UK equivalent of the Ivy League) which includes such other Universities as Cambridge and Oxford, so going to a University of that calibre, whilst coming home at weekends to get my laundry done just made sense.

                    I could go into the intricacies of my particular degree, but this won't be relevant to most people. If you're interested in doing Archaeology at QUB, leave a comment in the comment section and I'll tell you, but otherwise suffice to say, I loved my degree course; the staff were great, the other students fantastic and the course material was both brilliant and well balanced. Not to mention that I met my future husband whilst I was there.

                    The main part of Queen's, the Lanyon building, is a beautiful red-brick building that was built in 1849 and designed by Sir Charles Lanyon. Unfortunately, this building is mostly administration, as well as housing the gift shop and McNaughton gallery, so you're unlikely to have any classes in it. The building however, does form the centrepiece of the University campus... and also, it's pretty.

                    Across the road from the Lanyon building is the recently revamped student Union, which houses a decent convenience shop, a pharmacy, a bookshop, a very good canteen, but more importantly 3, yes 3 bars, the Speakeasy (Brickie's Bar, the Bunatee, and the other little bar, which I can't remember the name of). The Mandela Hall, which is downstairs in the Union is the venue for a lot of small, but by no means inferior, concerts and comedy events, such as the Halloween ball, which is simply fantastic. They have a bar there too...

                    Out the back of the Union is the Elmwood Teaching Centre (ELTC), which contains two large computer suites (one usually reserved for classes) and on the top floor is a room for group study, perfect for if you need to do a project with a group of people. The Elmwood road, which runs beside the ELTC houses the assorted Chaplaincies, at which most of you can get a square meal. There's a Starbucks there too.

                    Back towards the Lanyon building is the main library, which is all changed since I was there so I won't tell you all about it. Suffice to say that its architecture is great, there are even gargoyles. There's a little café here too. There are two other libraries on campus, The Seamus Heaney Library, and the McClay building, which is brand new. There are other libraries on the other University sites, such as the Science Library at nearby Chlorine gardens, and up the road at Stranmillis. Between all these, you should find what you're looking for, but if not the library has access to a wide e-collection of journals etc, or can carry out an Inter-library loan if you need to request a book from elsewhere.

                    The PEC (physical education centre) has also recently been revamped and offers a very good gym, a decent pool, and an excellent climbing wall. There is a plethora of sports clubs to join here too. I recommend the caving club, and the canoeing club is also meant to be great, the PEC also offers dance, martial arts and spinning classes, to name but a few. Gym membership for students is very good value for money.

                    Accommodation at QUB's in most based up the Malone Road at the Elms. I regret not spending my first year at QUB in halls, because it seemed to be much better craic. I would recommend halls for all first years, as it's one of the easiest ways to make friends, particularly if you don't know too many people at the University. I did crash on my friend's floor a lot though, so maybe I didn't miss out on too much.

                    For entertainment there isn't a huge amount at the university itself. The Queen's Film theatre is a small, but perfectly formed cinema on University Square, the road that faces the side of the Lanyon building. It contains two screens, and shows mostly arthouse and foreign language films, which can be really fantastic. Other than that, you will have to head into the city of Belfast for more entertainment, but the city centre is an easy walk, and offers lots to do and see. Plus many more pubs and bars of course...

                    Belfast itself is a great City, if small in relation to many British cities. It's a very friendly place, with all of the normal amenities, and is a cheaper place to live than many English cities. Shopping is good, with the nearby newly opened Victoria Square housing all sorts of high street and higher end shops. The University itself sits in a sort of self-contained village by itself, with lots of little cafes and pubs an easy walk away, all of which are very important for having a good University experience.

                    Since leaving Queen's I've done a post-graduate degree at another university, and I have to say that the two simply don't compare to each other. Queen's was such a warm friendly place with a great environment for work and relaxation, and the other one simply wasn't.

                    In summary, I loved my time at Queen's, and when I roll into work on Mondays, I often wish I was back there. I made some great friends, had a great time, got a very good degree, and could still pop home at the weekends to see my family. Perfect.

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                  • More +
                    08.07.2010 16:15
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                    If you like Counting Crows, Five For Fighting or the Barenaked Ladies, you'll probably like this.

                    After releasing 'Drops of Jupiter,' you might be forgiven for thinking that Train had fallen off the edge of the world, in the UK the song was basically a one-hit-wonder, and has been one of my favourite songs for a very long time. Whilst the band has enjoyed some commercial success- mostly in America- the albums that followed were never as successful as they could or should have been, even though some of the songs on those albums were excellent. After their last album flopped, the band took a three year break, and I thought that that was probably the end of them.

                    I was overjoyed when I heard that Train were releasing a new album, and even more so when I first heard 'Hey, Soul Sister' on the radio. Not just because it's a great song, but because it might just get Train the recognition that I've always felt they deserved. This album is a complete return to form, and seems set to be their most successful ever.

                    'Hey, Soul Sister,' the leading track from the album is a great, upbeat summer tune, the sort that to be played whilst relaxing on a beach, or driving in your car with the windows down. The chorus is catchy, and you'll find yourself singing it hours later after you hear it. This is the first song to be released off the album in the UK, and what with the fun lyrics and ukulele strumming along throughout it, it's almost guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

                    However, whilst Hey, Soul Sister is a great song, in my opinion, it's not the best song on the album. 'Save me San Francisco,' the title track from the album is simply superb. It's up tempo and fun, with one of the best choruses ever. Patrick Monahan, the lead vocalist has a voice that is just perfect for a song like this. Give it a listen at least once, trust me, it's great.

                    'Marry Me,' the last track on the album is a completely different tune to the rest of the album. A slow ballad, with really beautiful lyrics, if you have a wedding coming up and need a first dance, this one deserves a listen. It's the sort of song that probably won't get released, but that doesn't mean that it's not good.

                    The other songs on this album are all pretty good, with maybe one or two slightly less polished efforts, but all in all, it's definitely worth a listen. This is a great upbeat album that would make a great addition to anyone's summer listening. What's more, once you've listened to the album, I guarantee that you'll be tempted to look up their back catalogue.

                    If you like Counting Crows, Five For Fighting or the Barenaked Ladies, you'll probably like this.

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