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      07.06.2012 14:45
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      A very clever story, full of surprising turns, which keeps you reading from beginning to end.

      Catching Fire is the second book of the trilogy The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I have not read the first; I have just watched the film and could not wait for the next film to be released to find out the continuation of the story. So I rushed to our local Asda store and, for £3.89, I purchased the second book.

      Of course, if you are reading this review, you have quite certainly read the first book or watched the film The Hunger Games, and wants to know what the future holds for the heroine Katniss Everdeen, for Peeta,..., and for the districts.

      Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are now back in District 12. Life goes on almost as normal, apart from the fact that money is not an issue anymore; as the Victors of The Hunger Games, their families and they now live in very good houses and have more money than they need; but the biggest change is that they are not anonymous anymore, especially Katniss; Katniss is now the centre of President Snow's attention and concerns. By defying the Capitol in the games and getting them to keep Peeta and her alive, she has become a problem, a stone in Snow's shoes. Nobody defies the Capitol; that is not good for President Snow as she might have started something; she might have, unintentionally, planted the seed of rebellion in the hearts of the districts' inhabitants; and he is not going to leave her act unpunished.

      As the Capitol's Victory Tour approaches, Peeta and Katniss prepare themselves to visit the twelve districts and they know there is lots at stake; they need to convince the world they are still in love and that is the reason why they have defied the Capitol, to keep them both alive in the game. LOVE! Nothing else. President Snow himself makes sure to let Katniss know how paramount this is to her future, to the safety of her loved ones and herself, and to the safety of the districts.

      Katniss is a character that has so much to offer; as you read the book, you learn more about her; she is trying to make sense of the world after the games and trying to understand what her actions in the games might have generated; she tries to figure out her feelings for Peeta, but at the same time, she tries to keep a bit of her past life, her habits, her friendship with Gale. She is a character in development and we go through that process with her. Because the book is written in first person we see things from her perspective; we experience things with her as they happen.


      = = Characters = =

      Katniss is a dynamic character. While her chore beliefs and values remain the same, she is more adaptable and knows better how to behave in different situations, especially to protect her loved ones. She is the honest and strong girl she has always been. I like the fact that she still keeps a connection with her history. She is still willing to do whatever it takes to protect the ones she loves. She can be strong when it is needed. She is resourceful and finds ways to do what she believes is right, in spite of President Snow's close watch.

      I really came to like Peeta more and more in this book. Peeta's character is now a more round character; he is not only the good-hearted boy, who is in love with the protagonist. He is willing to do anything to protect the heroin, but he has a life of his own and he decides how he lives it. Peeta has his talent, something he excels at. He stands out on his own; not only by interacting with Katniss. He knows what he wants and where he stands; he uses words and actions to make his point. He is also a foil to Katniss; when she is with him she reveals another side of her personality, allowing herself to be vulnerable, to be cared for. Katniss trusts Peeta and he trusts her.


      = = A surprise on every corner = =

      Suzanne Collins succeeded again. She managed to create a heart-stopping and exciting continuation for the story of The Hunger Games on the second book of her trilogy.

      The story is full of surprises and it keeps you trying to guess what is going to happen next. From beginning to end, it is full of clever turns. You experience all sorts of feelings while reading this book: outrage, thrill, sympathy, confusion, relief,.... It is a breathtaking story, which makes you feel outraged at times; sympathise with Katniss and Peeta; and make up possible outcomes in your mind.

      Every character plays a relevant role in this journey; they are all important to the puzzle. I had read other Adventure/Science Fiction books, where many characters were present just to fill in pages. Not in this book. Every character and every situation is part of something bigger.

      It is interesting to see how each situation has different resonances to different characters; as the story develops they start having a better view of the broader picture.


      = = A love/friendship story = =

      I really enjoy following Peeta and Katniss' relationship; they do not label their relationship; it is still not clear whether they are just friends or whether there is something else going on. Now that the games are over, they are friends, more than that, they share this experience that has really marked their lives; they have seen sides of each other that other people have not.

      I like Peeta's genuine love. He is not afraid of showing his love for Katniss, but he does not expect the same in return. He loves her and respects her feelings and limits. With their lives still at risk, he focus on what needs to be done. As an avid reader and one that roots for this duo, I can just hope they end up together, but who knows what the future holds for them?

      I find it difficult spotting anything that I do not like about this story. It is a very clever story; a great piece of writing, very well put together. In very few occasions I have found it difficult to imagine objects described in the book, but that has not made the story any less interesting; on the contrary, it has made it different.

      This is an unmissable book and I totally recommend it. I am already reading the third book of the trilogy and, when I finish it, I intend to read the first one; even if I have watched the film based on the first book, I want to read it to check the differences. I am giving the book Catching Fire 5 out of 5 stars.

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        01.06.2012 14:14
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        A good quality keyboard cleaning brush that does its job and does not scratch your equipment.

        This is a keyboard cleaning brush. It is used to clean computer/ laptop keyboards to remove dirt and dust. It has a sturdy, yet light, plastic like handle and the bristles are made of nylon. There is even a cavity in the handle, which makes me think you can hang the brush somewhere near your PC or wherever you keep your cleaning tools.

        I have used it twice so far and it has cleaned every single space between the keys and every corner of the laptop keyboard, really getting rid of all the dust. You can also try using it to clean the screen, but it is not ideal as there are cloths made especially for that. If you wait too long to clean your keyboard, the dust gets mixed with damp (moist from the air, I mean) and that makes it a bit more difficult for the brush to clean it, which is totally understandable.

        This brush is beautiful. It is by Mercury. It is quite a nice brush; it is very well made. It is easy to hold and handle. It cleans fast and easily. I can see its quality is very good. The bristles do not fall as you use it. It looks and feels better than some kitchen and makeup brushes I have seen. It does not scratch your equipment surfaces. There are no scratches at all on my laptop, at least, none I can see or feel.

        The brush is easy to clean; I just have to knock the dust off the bristles with my hand and it is ready to use again.

        I suppose this brush could have come with a cap to protect its bristles, but that is not essential.

        I bought it from Amazon. This item cost £2.43 (including Postage and Packing) at the time. It is today £3.67 on Amazon and it seems you can have free UK delivery. You can find some positive reviews about this product on their website as well.

        Not cleaning your equipment can not only affect its performance, but it can also damage your gadget. So I consider this item essential. It is very good value for money; it is good quality; and it does a very good job. I recommend this to anyone who has a computer or laptop. It is 5 out of 5 stars for me.

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          21.05.2012 19:08
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          A hotel where you can rest and renew your energy.

          This year my husband and I spent some weeks in Porto Alegre, South of Brazil. Porto Alegre is not very well known by tourists and most hotels in the city are more used to receiving business guests. This does not affect the quality of service given in their hotels in the slightest though.

          After checking online reviews and different hotel websites we decided to go for Ibis Moinhos de Vento Hotel, which is considered the second best hotel in the city. Why haven't we chosen THE BEST? Price. To be honest, I can not see why the other hotel is so much more expensive; maybe one day I will give it a go and find out.

          But the star today is Ibis. We booked the hotel online and the process was easy and smooth. At the time, the double room was about 179 reais (local currency) per night if it was a weekday and 169 reais if it was a weekend. The breakfast was extra and it cost about 14 reais per day. I did call the hotel to have a feel of what their service was like before we confirmed our purchase; their staff was polite and helpful, which gave me extra confidence.

          Ibis is a 3-star hotel located in a calm, charming and beautiful part of the city. The hotel is in an area where it is easy to get to from Porto Alegre International Airport. There are always taxi drivers available outside the airport so you do not have to wait a minute. We did not get a taxi on our arrival day as a friend picked us up, but we did get a taxi from the hotel to the airport on our departure day. The ride cost 15 reais (local currency), which is a bit more than £5, and it took about 15 minutes.

          The hotel is located in a very green area, where you can have some nice walks. The place is safe and you can stay out until it is dark. It is close to many amenities such as pharmacies, supermarkets, coffee shops, fast food outlets and restaurants. Diverse sorts of public transport are 5 minute walk away from the hotel. If you need a taxi, there are usually some outside the hotel or you can ask the hotel staff to call one for you.


          BUT WHAT ABOUT THE HOTEL ITSELF AND MY EXPERIENCE?

          As soon as we entered the hotel, my husband said: 'That is what a real 3-star hotel looks like!' It was beautiful, light and well decorated indeed. It was clean and organised. On the right side, there was the restaurant; on the left, some seats and the guest computer. Straight ahead we could see the reception, which we walked towards. As soon as we stood in front of the reception a member of staff welcomed us and started the process to check us in. She asked us for our passports, confirmed our personal information and booking details. She then charged us for one night; the rest would be paid when we checked out. We were given our card key and headed towards the lifts. Our room was on the 7th floor and it was a very nice room.

          It was a well sized room. Wooden floors and big windows made the space look clean and light. The bed had white, crispy clean bed linen on, giving me a relaxing feeling. The room had an air-conditioning, a flat screen TV (with access to cable TV), a fridge and a safe.

          There were lots of electrical sockets in case we needed to charge our mobiles, for instance. There was a built in, modern designed table and storage space by the window, which was accompanied by a chair (perfect for those who have laptops and need a firm surface to work on).

          The room had a telephone in case we wanted to contact the reception or make outside calls as well. Handy!

          Our private bathroom was really nice. It was clean and light. The shower cubicle was not huge and there was not much soap and shampoo provided, but there was a power shower installed, which was perfect for a warm and relaxing shower. A hair drier was installed, which was especially handy if you needed to wash your hair late and had no time to let it dry naturally.

          Our nights in the hotel were completely peaceful. The hotel is in a quiet place and it was the best sleep I had in Porto Alegre during our trip. The restaurant was open until late and we could get teas and cold drinks from the bar whenever we felt like it.


          START YOUR DAY WELL!

          Breakfast time! The most important meal for me, especially when I am abroad (on holiday or not) and have long and busy days ahead of me. At Ibis they make it a special time. The breakfast is served in the restaurant on the ground floor. Next to the wall there is a buffet of cold and hot dishes. To start with, you can choose from two kinds of juice. Then there is a variety of fruit and cereal. There is lots of different kinds of bread (wholemeal or white) and you can have them with butter, jam or honey. In the buffet, there is also cold meat and varied cheeses. If you miss the typical English breakfast, I suggest that you try their scrambled eggs with some delicious sliced local sausage.

          One of my favourite breakfast moments was when I sat down with a cup of tea and watched the outside of the hotel. I enjoyed just sitting there and chatting with my husband without having to worry about the past or the future.


          OVERALL...

          Overall, my experience has been pretty good. My husband and I have had a wonderful time at Ibis; the staff has been polite and helpful at all times. The hotel is clean, light and airy. The breakfast is delicious. I have had restful and invigorating sleep nights every night.

          I can say I am a happy customer. I felt safe while at Ibis. I could rest and enjoy some nice food. The staff was polite and helpful at all times and provided us with good service. It is 4 out of 5 stars for me just because there was not enough soap and shampoo in our private bathroom.

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            16.05.2012 12:32
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            Cheap raised bed, but screws provided were too short and assembly 'instructions' were useless.

            My husband and I spent the whole Winter looking forward to when the shops would start selling garden raised beds again so we could finally buy them. Our previous vegetable patch had been made of some old soil mixed with some new compost, surrounded by falling pieces of wood. We could not really call that a raised bed, but that was left by the previous house owners and, because we had already spent enough money on the house, the dream of nice and neat raised beds was delayed.

            This March we finally got our raised beds!. After searching online, on diverse websites, we decided we would go for the B&Q Rustic Raised Bed. We had previously measured the space we had on the garden and decided to buy three packs of the Rustic Raised Bed, whose measurements were: width of 1m, depth of 1m and height of 0.15m (each). I could see how beautiful they would look...three strong and perfectly square raised beds.

            The raised beds would have to be assembled, but I assumed the process would be quite simple. How difficult is it to stick together four pieces of wood, four spikes and some screws?

            Each raised bed cost us £14.98, which looked like a bargain. I already guessed that the wood would not be of the best quality for that price but, as long as the wood was reasonably strong, I was happy with it. From the picture on the website, I was also happy with the wood colour, which looked like a sand like colour. The website says the colour is pale green though. On B&Q website, it was also written that the wood was timber and that it was pressure treated, which was a plus since the raised beds would have to withstand all sorts of weather. According to the website, the beds were 'easy to fit'. Great! I could not wait.

            We reserved our raised beds online for free and chose to collect them from our local store. The reservation process was smooth and easy. It was good not to have to pay for anything online (I would just pay on the time of collection). As soon as I finished my reservation, I was given a code and the date of collection. The items would be available for collection the next day. B&Q not only sent me a reservation confirmation to my mobile, but they also sent me an email. So far so good.

            On the day of collection, my husband and I went to the store and got our raised beds. I could not wait to open the first box and get started.


            = = The assembly = =

            When opening the first box we found four pieces of wood (each being 1m long and 0.15 high) which would make the perfect square once put together. There were also four wooden spikes, which should be attached to the rest of the raised bed and which would, in theory, keep the raised bed firm on the ground. OK! How are we going to put all these pieces together? No worries, also inside the box, there were screws. That is when things started getting weird. There we were, out on the patio, pieces of wood placed on the ground, ready to be screwed together. The drill was in hand and the item even came with assembly instructions. Wait a minute! The assembly instructions made no sense at all! We thought we would give it a try anyway. We would have our raised beds!

            We started trying to screw two pieces of wood together, but the screws included in the box were too short (too small); those screws would never keep those pieces of wood together. What!? Really!? Come on, how could they give us such small screws? If the item included screws, they should have been the right size. A deep breath...At that moment we could have returned to the store and requested our money back, but we could not be bothered. We had dreamt of those raised beds; by the end of that day we would have them assembled.

            Since we had no bigger screws we decided to use nails. The drill was out and there came the hammer. We used six nails on each corner to put the sides together and then to attach the spikes to the rest of the raised bed. All looking great; all we needed to do was to take the raised bed to the garden and place it on the ground, right? Wrong! As soon as we lifted the raised bed, it became all wobbly; those nails were not going to keep that raised bed together. Another deep breath...

            OK, maybe nails were not the best option, but it was not only the nails that did not help. The wood was not bad, but it was not great, either. It had different densities; some parts held the nails better than others. Anyway, we had to think of a solution...CORNER BRACES! If we could, at least, keep the four sides of the raised bed together, it would already be some progress. We no longer could avoid going back to the store; if we wanted to have, at least, one raised bed assembled by the end of that day, we would need to buy those braces. And there we went...

            Back home with the best braces we were able to find, we were ready for the battle. They were relatively strong and came with screws. From that point on things became much easier. We should have thought of that at the beginning. NO, actually B&Q should have thought of that! Anyway, the braces worked perfectly; the sides of the raised bed were firmly put together. After that, keeping the spikes attached to the raised bed was easier; we managed to do that just with the nails.

            FINALLY! We had our first assembled raised bed, but what a journey. When I think back it sounds so crazy that it is funny. If I knew we would have to go through all that trouble, I would have purchased raised beds from another store, even if they were a bit more expensive. We ended up having to buy the braces anyway, which added another £4.18 to the price of each raised bed.


            = = Final Thoughts = =

            Unless you are up for an adventure, I do not recommend this raised bed. If you do buy them, I suggest that you purchase the braces and screws in advance. I give this product 2 out of 5 stars.

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            • The Hunger Games (DVD) / DVD / 40 Readings / 38 Ratings
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              15.05.2012 13:32
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              A clever story that comes to life brilliantly on the screen. Unmissable!

              = = Short Description = =

              In a totalitarian regime, to protect her younger sister, a teenage girl called Katniss Everdeen has no choice, but to volunteer to take part in 'the hunger games', an unconventional reality show where just one participant can survive. A game kids and teenagers are randomly selected to join and can not say 'no' to. She will have to fight the other participants, the forces of 'nature', and the odds in a game where the rules change and learning how to play it is what separates the dead from the survivor.


              ============ ============ ============


              = = My thoughts on the film = =

              What a clever story. This is a fantasy/science fiction /action film by director Gary Ross. It is a film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' young adult novel, which has the same name. During more than two hours the audience is immersed into this fantastic, yet so familiar world. I have not read the book which this film is based on, but this is definitely a film worth watching.

              The place where the story is set is divided in two different 'worlds'. One is the world of districts, twelve of them in total. The districts are located in rural areas, where people live a simple and hard life, and where food is rare and deprivation is everywhere. The other world is the metropolis; the metropolis is futuristic and it is ruled by the rich and powerful; there abundance and ostentation are the norm.

              The metropolis controls the districts; they are the owners of the district inhabitants' destiny. They have the power of deciding how the district inhabitants live and who lives. Every year two youngsters of each district are randomly selected to be sent to a place away from their homes to take part in 'the hunger games'; it is a reality show; the participants are chosen via a kind of lottery and can not refuse to go. Twenty-four go, but just ONE can survive; just one can be the champion. The heroine Katniss is from district 12.

              This totalitarian regime reminds me of the Nazi Germany. I could not help thinking of Nazi concentration camps where people were treated like animals whose lives had no value. In the 'world' portrayed in this film those who have the control turn cruelty and power in a spectacle for the powerful.

              In the districts, people use plain clothes and neutral colours, similar to the ones used by farmers from Victorian times. In the metropolis, people dress in an exaggerated way, where everything is over the top, very colourful and full of accessories. The over the top dress code added to those people's hysterical and unnatural behaviour reminded me of a creepy clown film I watched when I was a kid, which made me realise that smiles and laughs did not always mean friendly and sane.

              For the twenty-four participants of the hunger games, it is about fighting for their survival. For the metropolis inhabitants it is entertainment. Some viewers are excited; others are compassionate. It certainly makes me think of reality shows and their popularity; when you watch this film you might recognize the diverse personalities usually put together in reality shows. Many might be familiar with the strategies, the surprises, the politics behind them.


              = = A special cast = =

              The main characters Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (played by Josh Hutcherson), from district 12, are both charismatic. Katniss is fit to be a heroine. The character had to learn, from a young age, how to take care of herself and her family; Lawrence is convincing as the caring and responsible sister. Katniss has noble feelings and attitude. She is clever and brave. She can make us cry with her and root for her.

              It is nice to watch how much Katniss grows as the story develops. She is this good-hearted, honest and strong girl who, as she faces the challenges that are put on her way and learns how to play the game, becomes an even stronger heroine. I believe that, as Katniss decides to volunteer to take part in the hunger games to save her sister, it is clear to us, the audience, that she is special, but it is as her journey develops that the people in the districts seem to start recognising her as their heroine.

              As for Josh Hutcherson, he does well in the role of Peeta, but I think he stands out more in scenes when he is interacting with Lawrence's character.

              A performance that stands out is Isabelle Fuhrman's, who plays the main character in the mystery/thriller film Orphan. See if you can spot her! She plays Clove in The Hunger Games. Either in a big or small role, she makes sure her performance is one to remember.


              =========== =========== ============


              This film has impressed me. It has an intelligent story, which comes to life brilliantly on the screen. It is a story about love, fight and hope. It is emotional, breathtaking and thought-provoking. It kept me watching it from beginning to end.

              The visual effects are not as advanced as I have seen in other Sci-Fi films. It is the clever story alongside some great performances that make this film so engaging.

              It is now on my list of best films watched in the last couple of years. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

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                08.05.2012 01:52
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                A great 3-star hotel, which is worth visiting again if they keep their quality of service.

                For our honeymoon few years ago (in September), my husband and I decided we were going to Portugal and that we would stay in Lisbon. I always wanted to visit it and my husband had never done it, either. So after reading about what the place had to offer we thought Lisbon was the best option.

                We were so excited about it and started our preparation well in advance to make sure everything would go perfect. Choice of dates, airline and hotel were some of our priorities. I usually rely on review websites to choose hotels and, on this occasion, it has not been different. After reading reviews and checking the information given on the hotel websites, we shortlisted a few of them. America Diamonds Hotel Lisbon was among those shortlisted.

                America Diamonds had very good reviews and ratings, but my husband and I explored their website thoroughly as well. I remember having a map on one hand and the website open on the PC screen. We first wanted to make sure that the hotel was easy to get to from the airport, which it was. Actually, there is an airport bus that stops near the main Lisbon hotels and the price is quite good. According to our map, the hotel was well located in the centre of Lisbon and it was close to the metro (M). More boxes checked!

                The hotel looked nice from the outside; set in a restored historical building, it contrasted with its modern interior. The pictures of the rooms, restaurant, reception,...also impressed us; the rooms looked spacious and tidy; the restaurant looked bright and inviting; the reception looked like what we would expect from a 3-star hotel reception.

                Very important things to us were that all rooms were non-smoking; they all had private bathrooms; they all had air conditioning; and they were all equipped with TV, fridge and safe. The free wi-fi was not really relevant at that time since we were not taking our laptop with us, but I am sure that would be a plus for many people. We also liked their breakfast description; we did not expect to have a luxurious breakfast, but still expected to have a nice tasty one.

                After considering all the hotel had to offer us, we made our decision: we were going to stay at the America Diamonds Hotel. We booked our room online, on their website, which was easy and straightforward. We just needed to wait for our trip day.

                Important!: The price for a double room, including breakfast, is now around 60 Euros. If you book the same room for September, it is about 85 Euros.


                = = But was the hotel as good as it looked? = =

                Well...I am happy to tell you: YES! We got there around 10pm; we were welcomed by the reception staff and checked in fast. We received a card/key and the number of our room. I do not remember anyone taking our luggage for us, but I think they have offered to do so. We got the lift up to the 7th floor if I remember well and, when we entered our room, we were pleasantly surprised. It was a spacious, light and beautiful room. It had great views of the main streets, yet it was silent and peaceful due to its location and to the double glass on the windows. Even if we opened the window to have some fresh air, it was not bad.

                The room was nicely decorated; it looked a bit business like, with clean lines and furniture. There was cable TV, which was great because we could watch some of our favourite attractions in English. The room also had a fridge, where we stored some bottles of water for our daily walks. There was an air conditioning, which was quite powerful; we did not need it on all the time.

                One of my biggest concerns when I stay in hotels is cleanliness, especially when it comes to bathrooms and bed linen. Cleanliness is paramount! Their bathroom was clean and tidy; they had clean towels and a nice offer of soap and shampoo; there was a hair drier installed, which was handy. The bed linen was clean as well. It was as I would expect a 3-star room to be.


                = = The Breakfast = =

                The day after our arrival we woke up for our first breakfast in the hotel. The breakfast room is located on the top floor if I remember well. It is light and has views of the city. They have a good number of tables available, but I think the room needs to be bigger to host the huge number of guests they usually have. Sometimes it is hard to find tables. They also need more staff to keep the room organised and to keep the buffet full. They have a cold and a warm buffet. You can have some fruit salad or cereal to start your day. They also have a variety of local bread and pastry options, which can be accompanied by some butter, jam or honey. There is a platter with cold meat and cheese, which is fresh and tasty. You can also choose from two kinds of juices, a variety of teas or coffee. The warm buffet is not that good; it is OK, but after trying the typical British breakfast in a B&B in Wales my standards have increased. I think warm breakfasts are a British thing, but the Portuguese certainly master the art of baking. The bread and pastries in the hotel are good, but they are not the best of Portugal.


                = = Room Service = =

                Our room was cleaned daily and everyday we went back, after a busy day out, our room looked almost as if we had just arrived. I was definitely happy with that. They managed to clean and organise the room without messing with our things.


                = = The Reception = =

                The staff in the reception spoke English well; they were truly prepared to receive guests from all over the world; I could see they were experienced and comfortable doing their job. They were polite and prepared to answer questions about the city, transport and others.


                = = Second time around, was it the same? = =

                We went back to the hotel in 2011 (around September/October). This time it was a shorter stay. We needed a rest, a break. Staying in the same hotel looked like the best option; I just did not want to have to search for a different hotel and take the risk of ending up in a place that was not that nice. So there we went. When we arrived the staff in the reception realised we had already stayed in the hotel. I do not know if that made any difference, but we were then sent to a room on the first floor. Hum...A bit disappointed, I confess. I expected the beautiful views and, instead, our room had the views of a wall. I tried remaining positive and thinking that we were there to rest and that we would not be looking through the window a lot. I do wonder if the fact that they knew it was our second visit reduced the quality of service. Some hotels are good at impressing first time, but they fail to keep the same quality once the guests become regulars. I understand that there are good and not so good rooms in every hotel, but considering that we always book hotel rooms well in advance, I doubt they do not have better rooms to offer.

                To be fair, apart from the location of the room and the bathroom extractor fan (that would never go off and it was a bit noisy), the experience second time around was good. After we checked out, we had a whole day in the city and no place to leave the luggage, but the reception staff was happy to keep our luggage for the day in a room behind the reception, where there were actually other pieces of luggage.


                = = Would I recommend it? = =

                Definitely. This hotel is one of the best hotels I have stayed in. I am certainly staying there again next time I go to Lisbon. However, if the quality of service falls, I will not hesitate to choose another place. It is 4 out of 5 stars for me.

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                21.03.2012 13:52
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                It gives some good instant and long term results, but it does not meet all its promises.

                I have been using this moisturiser for about seven weeks now and it has checked ALMOST all the boxes.


                = = Packaging = =

                The product comes in a bottle with a pump, which I find quite good. The pump is quite smooth; when you press it the product comes out in small amounts and slowly, I mean, it is easy to control the amount of product I want to release. The bottle has a beautiful pearl like colour and the pump is black, giving this container an elegant look. On the top of the pump there is a see through cap, which prevents the pump from being pressed unintentionally. On the front of the container, there is the wording 'Olay Total Effects 7 in One' and 'Moisturiser + sensitive protection SPF15'.

                The bottle comes in a black box; the picture of the bottle is on the front of the box (including the product's main properties) and, on the other sides of the box, there is information about the use, ingredients, and other pieces of relevant information.


                = = The Product's Claims = =

                This is a daily moisturiser for sensitive skin. What makes it different from other Olay moisturisers is that it promises to fight 7 signs of ageing as well as helping to strengthen the skin's moisture barrier. It promises to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles; to reduce the appearance of redness; to improve skin firmness; to moisturise; to give you more even skin tone and texture;and give the skin a healthy and radiant look.

                Moreover, the product has SPF 15, which protects your complexion from UVA and UVB rays, reducing the damage to your skin and reducing the dangers of skin cancer.


                = = Some of the active ingredients = =

                This moisturiser contains vitamins E and C, Sea Buckthom and white tea, which are supposed to protect the skin's barrier from attack by the environment. It has Glycerine, Cocoa Butter and soothing Allantoin, which have calming effects. Finally, this product promises to strengthen the complexion with its concentrated levels of Pro-Vitamin B5.


                = = The product and my experience with it = =

                This moisturiser is white in colour; it has a rich, yet light, creamy texture. It is perfume free. As you apply it, you can feel how smooth it is . It absorbs into the skin as soon as you start applying it. You can feel the product feeding the skin with all its nutrients. It makes your skin feel immediately softer and smoother.

                You do not need a huge amount of this product for good coverage, but you should apply it liberally to your face and neck to benefit more from it.

                The first time I used it my skin got a bit red and itchy, but that disappeared before the second use. Although the product is supposed to be suitable for people with sensitive skin, I do believe it is likely to cause some skin reaction to be able to meet all its promises.

                I have been using it for about four weeks now and here are the advantages and disadvantages of this product:


                Advantages:

                1- Light texture and easy to apply

                2- Your skin feels smoother and softer after the first application.

                3- After using it for some days, my skin tone is more even, and my skin looks and feels healthier and more hydrated.

                4- Skin looks more radiant.


                Disadvantages:

                1- My skin got red and itchy after the first use.

                2- I have developed some red spots after some weeks of use (they do not stand out so much, but it is a downside of the product, which might be due to the richness of the product).

                3- I have not noticed any reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, on the opposite, when I wake up those are more evident. I believe that the product might exfoliate the skin slightly, which makes it thinner and more delicate, making, especially, some fine lines look more evident.

                4- The fourth downside is definitely the price. The recommended retail product for this moisturiser is £19.29 (for a 50ml bottle) and £13.29 (for a 30ml bottle). I have got mine as a sample and would not buy it unless it was on sale or I wanted to treat myself.


                = = All in all = =

                It is a good moisturiser, which gives you instant results. It does not meet all the promises it makes though. In the long term, your skin feels and looks better hydrated, and the skin tone becomes more even. However, the product can initially cause some skin redness and itchiness. I have not noticed any reduction in fine lines and wrinkles, either.

                I think you should have a go and decide for yourself because different people react differently to the same products.

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                • More +
                  14.03.2012 16:17
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                  It gives you water that looks and tastes better than water that comes straight from the tap.

                  When both my husband and I had a belly bug I started wondering about what might have caused it. I thought it was too much coincidence that we both fell sick around the same time. Since hygiene was certainly not an issue I turned the attention to our tap water. I remembered drinking water some days before I fell ill and thinking that it tasted weird. Just a minute... water is not supposed to taste of anything, but water. Alarm bells started to ring!

                  I instantly stopped drinking water from the tap and ordered a Watersafe test kit from the internet to check the condition of our water. Even if the results were negative I decided I was not going to drink water straight from the tap anymore, unless it was boiled, like when we use it to make tea, for instance. I decided to look for a water filter jug.

                  The Watersafe results came back negative. The only issue raised was that we had very hard water in our house, which we already knew. So apparently that was not the cause of the bug. Anyway, along with other changes, I was still firm on my decision to have a water filter. When we filled a glass with water we could see some white particles in the water. Even if the results were negative, the looks of it was not pleasant.

                  I did some research online, checked some reviews and ended up with two contenders: Brita Elemaris Meter and Aqua Optima Water Filter Fridge jug. These two brands had good reviews online; I just had to decide which one would suit us better. Both designs seemed good. Both filter jugs seemed to be easy to put together and apart when the filter cartridge needed replacing. I also liked the fact that, as long as the fridge was a good size, the jugs would fit in the fridge door, meaning we could keep our water chilled.

                  After reading the reviews where words like 'crisp', 'clear' and 'clean' were used and where the reviewers emphasised the positive differences they noticed in the water that had been filtered, I was happy to purchase any of the filters above. The deal breaker was the price. Aqua Optima was considerably cheaper than Brita Elemaris Meter so I decided to go with it.

                  I got the Aqua Optima filter jug for £5.50 at Wilkinson's, which included a 30 day filter cartridge. It had 2L total capacity and 1.3L filtered water capacity. It did not sound like much, but I wanted to be able to fit the jug in our fridge door. It meant I just had to remember to refill it once the filtered water level was getting low. You can buy other Aqua Optima filter jugs that have higher water capacity though.

                  This filter comes with a 30 day filter cartridge and an instructions booklet. The instructions booklet is quite clear and it shows you the steps to prepare the filter for use and how to change the cartridge.

                  This filter accepts either the 30 day filter cartridge or the 60 day filter cartridge. At Wilkinson's the box with three 30 day cartridges is £5 and the one with four 60 day cartridges is £14, which I consider quite reasonable, especially when I think of how much I would spend on bottled water. They are also cheaper than the Brita cartridges.

                  As mentioned above, this filter jug is easy to put together. The only misleading and confusing statement is that the filter jug has a cartridge life indicator. It made me think that the jug had an indicator that showed how much the cartridge had been used; a kind of line that would reduce until it disappeared and then I would know the cartridge needed to be changed.

                  Today I contacted the Aqua Optima team to check that. I told them there was just a plastic 'wheel' on the top of the jug lid that had numbers from 1 to 12 on it and asked them how it worked. They answered that the numbers represented the months of the year (January would be 1, February 2,...) and that, if I started using the filter in March (number 3), I had to set the wheel to number 4 (April) to remind me that I would have to replace the cartridge in April. On the day we started using the filter, we marked the day on our calendar so I could not be bothered to use their ' cartridge life indicator'.

                  The filter does its job fast and the water looks cleaner. I have noticed it tastes fresher, but there is still a bit of that weird taste left. I guess I will notice the benefits in the long term, at least, I hope so. This filter is supposed to reduce the amount of impurities in the water as well as help prevent limescale. It also promises to reduce the level of herbicides, pesticides and chlorine. So I believe I should feel the benefits in the long term.

                  I will keep on using this water filter jug. It is easy to fill; the filtered water is totally separated from the non filtered water (as it should be); the jug is sturdy and the handle is comfortable to hold; the lid is well fitted and does not fall when you are pouring yourself some water; and the water looks cleaner and tastes fresher.

                  I am giving the Aqua Optima water filter jug 4 out of 5 stars because of that remaining weird water taste.

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                  • More +
                    07.03.2012 15:48
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                    Tullett Landscapes is a company that is professional and does a very good job.

                    When my husband and I moved into our new house we realised that one of our side fences on the back garden was not in good condition. It looked more like pieces of wood put together. The fence was falling apart in places. It was about a meter high and it did not provide us any privacy at all.

                    We were responsible for that fence and decided we were going to have it replaced and set clear boundaries.

                    We let the neighbour know about the work that would be done and started our search for a fence installer.

                    We searched for professionals in some of those 'trade standards' websites, where professionals have to provide proof that they are up to the standards to join.

                    After checking some companies and online reviews, we ended up with two installers on our shortlist. One of them was Tullett Landscapes. Both companies provided us with written quotes. We then checked the references provided.

                    When contacting the references provided by this company the customers (their previous clients) said they were happy with the work done by Tullett Landscapes; they said the quality of their work was very good.

                    There were two things that worried me though:

                    1- One previous customer told us that the work done in their residence was not related to fence installation. I was expecting the company to give me references for fence work.

                    2- The person who came to our house, gave us the quote and was going to do the work was James Tullett. Although one of his references confirmed that Tullett Landscapes did fence work for them, they emphasised that James was just helping his father on that occasion. That worried me because I did not know whether James had the experience to do the work needed on his own.


                    = = OUR DECISION = =

                    We decided to go with Tullett Landscapes because every reference we contacted told us that their work was well done and that they were happy with it. Moreover, their previous customers emphasised how professional they were.

                    Another fact that influenced our decision was that Tullett Landscapes accepted different payment methods and did not ask for a deposit; we would just have to make the payment after the work was completed..


                    ================ ===================


                    = = A SUCCESSFUL CHOICE = =

                    The work took two days to be done and was performed by James and another professional.

                    On both days, they were punctual and prepared to start work.

                    On the first day, they removed the old fence and placed it in their van so they could later dispose of it. That was done in a quite fast and organised way. Of course, with fence work there is noise and breakage of wood, but it is all part of having the fence replaced.

                    They were both polite and professional; they did not waste time and got to the work that needed to be done straight away.

                    They started installing the new fence still on the first day, which I was pleased to see; it was nice to be able to see the progress of the work and the new fence being built. Although, we did not stay outside so they would not feel watched all the time, we had very good communication. James listened to our (my husband's and my) requests and questions; he kept us updated on the work and talked to us first any time an important decision had to be made.

                    The fence was all installed by the end of the second day and they made sure they cleaned up after they finished the work.

                    They did a very good job. The fence was well installed; it looked strong and straight; they were very careful when doing the measurements and had attention to detail. It looked and, around 6 months later, it still looks beautiful.

                    Tullett Landscapes was not either the cheapest or the most expensive company we have checked, but they have done a very good job and we are happy with it.

                    James understood what we wanted and was professional, as already mentioned, when carrying the work. He made sure the fence was installed to the highest standard and that we were happy with the results.

                    We would be happy to use their service again. I give this company 5 out of 5 stars.

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                  • More +
                    06.03.2012 22:05
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                    A town not to be missed when you are in Denmark.

                    It gives me so much pleasure to write about this town, which was for a brief, yet unforgettable time, my home.

                    I have beautiful memories of Helsingor, a place I had never heard of until a teacher of mine suggested it during one of my language classes.

                    She said it was a small stunning and fantastic town in Denmark, where people were welcoming and curious about different cultures; she added there was a school there where the spoken language was English and people from all over the world could study all sorts of interesting subjects, broaden their cultural awareness and views of the world.

                    A place not to miss! And I did not. Years after I first heard about Helsingor, I decided to have a break from many years of non-stop work as an EFL teacher and an active life as a university student; I enrolled in that same school my language teacher had mentioned, which was called 'The International People's College', packed my bags and there I went.

                    Helsingor is about 50min away from Copenhagen and about 1 hour away from the international airport Kastrup. From Kastrup you can fly to all major cities in Europe, including London.
                     
                    You can get  return tickets from London to Copenhagen (Kastrup airport) for less than £60 (including taxes) and the flight takes about 2h50min.

                    Once in the airport, you can buy a single train ticket to Helsingor or a train card, which gives you ten train passes if I remember well; since you are in Denmark you might want to visit Copenhagen and/or other places so a train card is a good investment and it saves you money.

                    Their native language is Danish, but most Danish people speak very good English.

                    Their currency is the Danish Krone. You might find some places that accept Euro, but it is advisable that you have some Danish Krone with you as well as at all times.


                    = = My arrival = =

                    "Hi, I have arrived. I am writing from the computer room; it is free of charge for all students" were, I believe, my first words on an email I sent back home some hours after I had arrived in the school, where I was going to live as well as be a full time student for many months.

                    = = = = = = = = = = = =

                    I arrived in Helsingor in January 2003 around 5pm and it was totally dark, as you would expect from a Winter day. I remember the station as if it were today. Everything was closed by then and I seemed to be the only one on the platform. I managed to find a taxi; there was one parked straight outside the train station and I was relieved; after many hours travelling (I did not fly from London), initially getting the wrong train, which would not end in Helsingor, and carrying two quite heavy suitcases, I managed to get to my destination.

                    I got on the taxi and, in about 7min, was in the school. It was so good to be there!; someone came to the door to welcome me and show me my room and I could finally breath. When I look back I see part of what I was feeling was due to the jet lag and the fear of the unknown.


                    = = Where to stay = =

                    I was a resident in Helsingor, so I never tried any of their hotels, but I have checked some places for a future visit with my husband and there seem to be very nice hotels in town, which have got very good reviews online.

                    There is a 3 star hotel called Hotel Sleep2Night, which is quite affordable for Danish standards, I mean, Denmark is quite an expensive country and Helsingor is no exception. The double room for 2 people is about £75 per night.

                    There are more expensive hotels in Helsingor and they offer you all sorts of facilities: en-suite, non-smoking rooms (of course), breakfast included, wi-fi, rooms with sea view, beauty treatments, bicycle rental,...

                    = = = = = = = = = = = =

                    Helsingor is a charming little town, with beautiful places to visit and an interesting history.

                    It is a quiet and peaceful place, where you can enjoy relaxing walks and cycle through a diverse landscape. There are woods to explore; the sea side to contemplate; and their 'perfect for cyclists' streets. Helsingor has cycle paths and traffic lights for those riding their bikes; it is pleasant, safe and stress free to explore the town by bike. I always enjoyed walking and riding my bike around town to explore the place, do my shopping, go to the local swimming pool,...

                    It is a place where you can breath in some fresh air and renew your energy; with very few cars on the streets and a very clean air, after some days, my lungs seemed to work better and I was ready to start enjoying my time in that wonderful place.

                    If you are a fan of golf, there are some golf courses in town, where you can practice this sport.


                    = = And the places you can not miss to visit = =

                    Kronborg Castle is definitely the one on the top of my list; it overlooks the narrow straight between Denmark and Sweden; from its grounds you can contemplate the sea and relax. This castle is famous for being the location for Shakespeare's Hamlet. It gives you stunning views of the town of Helsingor.

                    Another unmissable place is St. Mary's Church. Its medieval features are striking and so is its organ, which is difficult not to stare at. The architecture of Danish churches is beautiful; I have not got enough words to describe them; you need to see them for yourself. One thing I can say, you will not regret visiting them.

                    Another nice thing to do is to get a ferry from Helsingor to Helsinborg in Sweden; it takes just 20 minutes. I really enjoyed my ferry trips to Sweden; the views of the sea are beautiful, but enjoying some shopping and a drink inside the ferry is quite pleasant as well. I could not help getting some chocolate on one of my trips...sweet temptation....

                    ======== ========= =========

                    I could write more about Helsingor, but it would become boring and unnecessary.

                    Helsingor is definitely a town not to be missed when you are in Denmark. Whether you visit it on a day trip or decide to stay in one of their cosy and welcoming hotels, it is certainly worth visiting.

                    I am giving Helsingor 4 out of 5 stars because it is an expensive town (so is the whole of Denmark); some of its prices can be compared to London prices or are a bit more expensive.

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                    • Dulux Bathroom Paint / Homeware / 36 Readings / 29 Ratings
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                      29.02.2012 00:16
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                      It is a very good quality paint that protects your bathroom surfaces from steam, moisture and mould.

                      When my husband and I decided we were going to remove the wallpaper that was on our bathroom walls, plaster the walls and then paint them ourselves, we agreed that we were going for a good quality paint even if it meant we were going to spend a bit more on it.

                      Our brand of choice was Dulux. We decided to purchase some paint specially made for bathrooms; the colour was Atmosphere Blue and the type was soft sheen. It was a calming blue and it felt right as a colour choice. It looked like a nice bathroom colour.

                      We purchased our paint from B&Q. Initially, we got just one tin, but had to go back to the shop to get a second one. We were able to give the bathroom walls two coats and still had some paint left.

                      Before getting the big tin of paint, we purchased some 50ml Dulux paint samples and applied them on small areas of our bathroom walls; that helped us make a decision about which colour to get. You can get samples for less than £2 at both B&Q and/or Homebase. If I remember well, the containers come with small brushes, which is quite handy.


                      = = Tin capacity, drying time and other relevant pieces of information = =

                      A tin contains 2.5L of paint (we have not found smaller tins of this paint anywhere), which covers about 35m2 ). The drying time is of about 6 hours, meaning you could give the walls two coats in one day; my husband and I chose to wait 24 hours for each coat to dry though; we wanted to be on the safe side. We did not have much experience in painting bathrooms and wanted to make sure we just needed to do it once. After plastering and sanding, we gave the walls a coat of primer, waited for 24 hours, and then gave them the first coat of paint; 24 hours later we gave the walls the second coat of paint.

                      The 2.5L tin is £23.98 at B&Q now. Sometimes, B&Q has Dulux paints on promotion, usually on the 'Buy one, Get the second one Half Price' deal. Homebase is selling it for £25.99 now. Homebase seems to have a promotion going on right now that applies to all paints; if you buy three tins of paint, the cheapest one is free.


                      = = The Dulux Bathroom Paint and what is special about it = =

                      This Dulux paint is made for use in bathrooms, being steam and moisture resistant. It claims to protect your painted walls from mould for 5 years.

                      It is washable, which is really important for us as keeping the walls clean also reduces the chance of them absorbing water or getting damaged in the long term. I usually clean the walls with a damp cloth, no soap or detergents on it.

                      The paint is waterproof and it does not absorb any water; we have had no problems with paint blisters; after we shower, the there are some drops on some surfaces because we have got no fan in the bathroom, but those drops stay just on the outer part of the painted surfaces, evaporating after having the window open for a while.


                      = = Before Painting = =

                      We had to remove our wallpaper first with a steamer and wallpaper scraper. Then we cleaned the walls with the steamer and dried them with an all purpose cloth. After that, we had to eliminate any remaining pieces of wallpaper left and then clean the walls with sugar soap, rinse the walls and let them to dry for 24 hours before applying the primer.

                      It is all a lot easier if you just want to paint a surface that has no wallpaper on it. You just need to clean the surface to be painted and make sure the surface is dry and free from dirt, grease and shiny areas. If you have any mould issue, treat the surface affected with a suitable fungicidal wash. If the surface has just been plastered, you can seal it with Dulux Sealer for Plaster. We have used a primer (I do not remember which one right now), which I believe has the same effect the Dulux Sealer does. The primer helps the paint stick to the surface better.

                      Preparation is very important when doing any work around the house and, when it comes to painting, it is no different. Preparing the room for painting, protecting surfaces, having all the tools in hand beforehand, and having warm water to clean rollers and brushes afterwards makes the paint work simpler and faster. I remember taking less than an hour to give the walls one coat of paint.

                      Don't forget to cover the floor of the room and other surfaces with dust sheets before starting the work. Windows should be open to let the air flow.

                      Almost forgot the masking tape! Before you start painting, it is important that you put masking tape around the edges of the surfaces you do not want painted. You should also put some masking tape around doors and window frames, light fittings,..., around any area you do not want to, accidentally, paint over.


                      = = Painting and how happy we are with this paint = =

                      The paint is easy to mix; you just need a stick and you can then stir the paint while still in the tin; then you can pour a small amount of paint on a painting tray (we always put the tray inside a bag so we just need to get rid of the bag after the work is done and the tray remains clean).

                      We have always used clean and dry rollers and brushes; for our bathroom walls we just needed one roller for big areas and one brush for corners and small areas such as around light fittings and electrical outlets. We always have some extras rollers and paint brushes in case we need more clean and dry ones.

                      I usually put just enough amount of paint on the roller so it does not drip everywhere when I am painting. I start from the top left hand corner of a wall so I can paint over any paint that might run down, giving it a smoother and more even finish.

                      The Dulux Bathroom paint is easy to apply and it sticks to the surfaces well; it is also easy to smooth out. Once the painted surfaces dry, the intensity of the colour changes a bit (like with any other paint), but it just looks a bit lighter. What brings me to the importance of trying paint samples on small areas of your bathroom surfaces beforehand to help you choose the best colour.

                      This paint dries quite fast and the finish looks beautiful. The surfaces feel smoother to the touch and the colour looks really even all over.

                      About 6 months on and the painted surfaces are easy to clean and the colour has not faded. Moreover, this paint really prevents the moisture from being absorbed; there are no bubbles or blisters. The surfaces look the same way they did when we painted them about 6 months ago.

                      As for the amount of paint needed, we used more than we had initially expected because we gave the surfaces two coats. Had we given them just one coat, one tin would have been enough. I think you should always give surfaces two coats though so you achieve perfect results.

                      This paint is more expensive than B&Q own brand one, for instance, but I think that, when it comes to paints, you get what you pay for. I would rather spend a bit more and do the work only once than paying less and having to do the work all over again.

                      I totally recommend this paint and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

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                    • More +
                      19.02.2012 18:27
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                      A good and effcient heater, whose little noise does not make you deaf.

                      We got our DeLonghi fan heater (model: Delo HTE332-3) in the Winter of 2010 while our boiler was broken and we were waiting for it to be fixed. It was getting pretty chilly and, although we did not need the heater on all the time, we did need some help to warm up the rooms during the evenings.

                      I decided to walk to our local Comet shop and check what they had available. Once in the shop I took a look around and spotted the DeLonghi HTE332-3 horizontal fan heater. I liked the fact that it had a safety thermostat and place for cord storage underneath it (I am not sure that is meant to be a cord storage place, but it works for me). It had a 3000W heat output, which sounded ideal for our needs. The price was also a plus; for £19.95 and light enough that I could take it home myself, it was a no brainer.


                      = = Packaging and product details = =

                      This is an horizontal fan heater. The product weighs 1.6kg and it has a 3000W heat output. It comes inside a bag with its fitted plug, which is inside a strong cardboard box. In the box you also find an instruction manual, which contains safety warnings, information on how to use the product and some other piece of relevant information.

                      The product is compact in size and off-white in colour; it has a cool curved design, which resembles a mini robot; and it looks and feels quite strong. The knobs are dark grey and so is the grille.

                      The heater has a thermostat to control temperature and a cool air facility.


                      = = First time use = =

                      You should operate the heater for at least 15 minutes with the thermostat at maximum to eliminate the ''new'' smell, according to the instruction manual.


                      = = Use in general = =

                      This heater can heat quite big rooms, but it should not be used in rooms measuring less than 4m2.

                      The heater should be 50cm away from furniture or other objects.

                      Using this heater is pretty straight forward: you plug the appliance in an electrical outlet, switch it on and you are ready to select the thermostat and the function settings you want.

                      This heater has two knobs. One knob is the thermostat, which is used to control temperature( if you turn the knob to '*', the appliance switches off; the other settings range from '1' to '6'); the other is the functions knob, which is used to control...erm...the functions, that is, you turn the knob to '1' if you want the heating at reduced power or to '2' if you want the heat at full power. If you want the summer ventilation function (ventilation only), you turn the functions knob to the setting represented by a symbol that looks like a fan. To turn the heater off turn the functions knob to setting '0'.

                      Before choosing the functions setting you must turn the thermostat knob clockwise until it reaches the maximum setting. That is '6'. Nothing will happen until you turn the functions knob to one of its settings. Once the heater is working, either to warm up the room or just for ventilation, you can turn the appliance off by turning the functions knob to '0' or the by turning the thermostat to '*'. I usually turn both off just to be on the safe side.

                      If you want to keep your heater on, but with a reduced temperature, when the room has reached the temperature you are happy with, you can turn the thermostat knob in an anti-clockwise direction until you reach the point that comes just before the 'off' point (the 'off' point is represented by '*'). the temperature fixed in this way will be automatically regulated and kept at a constant level by the thermostat.

                      This heater also has an antifreeze service. You can turn on just the functions knob to '2' and leave the thermostat knob on '*'. Then the heater will keep the room at a temperature of about 5oC, which reduces the energy expenditure.


                      = = What I like and/or dislike about this heater = =

                      It is compact and light, making it easy for me to move it around the house. Sometimes I am working in a room and just need that room to be warmed up. It is easier and more cost efficient to turn our small heater on for a little while.

                      I like the fact that it heats the room quite fast and that I can regulate its temperature. I have just arrived, the central heating is off and, ten minutes since I have turned on this heater, I can feel the difference in the temperature. The room has warmed up quite fast. I also prefer fan heaters to the ones that do not have fans because it seems that the heat spreads more evenly through a room with a fan heater.

                      It is not noisy, at least it does not disturb me while I am writing, but you might have to raise the volume of your TV in case you want to watch something while the heater is on.

                      The design is also quite stylish. It looks very nice in any room. As it is compact, it does not take much room or storage space.

                      It is easy and straightforward to operate.

                      Important!: It has a safety device; in case of overheating the appliance is turned off.

                      The price is not bad, either. I purchased this heater for 19.95 at Comet in 2010. Comet does not seem to sell this item any more, but you can still find it at Amazon for £31 and free shipping (it has a 12 month guarantee). It is also being sold on ebay for £12.99 (postage is £4.50) and the condition is 'as new'; on ebay it also has a 12 month guarantee.

                      ============= ============== ==============

                      All in all, I think this is a good item. I am still using it and would buy it again. It is a bit noisy, but it does not disturb me. I am giving this item 4 out of 5 stars.

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                      • More +
                        16.02.2012 12:52
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                        A great place to have a pleasant and relaxing time while enjoying a delicious meal.

                        I would say Harvester Pub and Grill is one of our (my husband's and mine) favourite pubs.

                        Our local Harvester is 10min from our house and we can walk there. It does have a good size car park, but we do not need to use it. It is a family pub that offers you a nice atmosphere, a comfortable environment, very tasty food and great prices.

                        For Valentine's we were planning to go to another restaurant and we realized that we would rather have a quiet time together in our local pub than queueing to be served in a very busy restaurant we would have to drive to and would probably need to book a table in advance for.

                        At the Harvester you do not usually need to book a table in advance unless it is a holiday or it is a busy time such as Valentine's Day. We decided to have our Valentine's celebration on the Saturday before the 14Feb so the pub would not be very busy; we just wanted some quiet time together in a place where we could enjoy a nice meal.

                        Before I tell you how our dining experience went I am going to tell you a bit more about Harvester and what it offers. I will base my review on our local Harvester in Bristol, but I believe most of their pubs have a similar system (a way of doing things). I can not tell you about the experience in other Harvester pubs though as that can sometimes vary according to place and staff. Sometimes you might receive great customer service in one pub, for instance, and not such good treatment in another pub of the same chain. I am not sure the word 'chain' is the correct one to use, but I hope you know what I mean.


                        = = Who might like to visit Harvester = =

                        This is a family-friendly restaurant, where you can take your little ones to and have a lovely time together; it is a great place to meet friends and catch up, and an even better place to go to with your partner to have a quiet time and enjoy a delicious meal. It is certainly one of our places of choice when we want to treat ourselves and have a break from cooking at home.


                        = = What happens when you get to Harvester = =

                        Our local Harvester seems to look more like a traditional pub, inside and outside. I have seen the image of one of the Harvester pubs on their website and it looks a bit like one of Pizza Hut restaurants, but with more charm to it.

                        At the entrance there is a place where you queue (there is usually no queue though, but you still need to wait at the entrance to be seated) and wait for a member of staff to come and find you a table. If there is no table available, that person then writes your name down and let you know how much time you might need to wait to get a table; it is like booking a table there and then. You are then directed to the bar, where you can order a drink while you wait; there are some seats around the bar where you can sit while you wait.

                        Once the table is ready for you a member of staff shows you your table, where the menus are already placed and they ask you whether you would like to order a drink; drinks at Harvester are quite good value for money; you can order unlimited refills with 'Pepsi Xtra Cold' for £2.29; there is a station where you can refill your glass as many times as you want.

                        After giving you some time to choose, a member of staff goes back to get your order. While you wait you can help yourself to some free salad from their varied salad counter.


                        = = What the Harvester offers = =

                        This pub provides everyone with free salad, bread and butter, I mean, if you order a meal you can help yourself to salad and bread without any extra charges, which is one of my favourite things about this place; I have not been to any other pubs that offer the same.

                        It has a varied menu with a choice of starters, main meals and desserts, which are mouth watering. Important!: they have dishes for vegetarians and smaller portions are available for kids. Next to the name of some dishes, they show the calories contained in them. You can have a garlic bread as a starter for £1.99, breaded mushrooms for £3.29,... or any other of their delicious starters. Why not to pick a grill as your main meal? You can have lamb steaks with a grilled half tomato and garden peas for £9.99. If you still have any space left (the meals are quite filling) you can indulge yourself with a scrumptious dessert such as Harvester Sundae Best for a very good price.

                        They also have an 'early bird' menu (which you can enjoy if you order your food before 6.30pm, as far as I know and have experienced). The dishes from this menu vary in price from £4.99 for a 'BBQ Chicken and Emmental Wrap' to £7.99 for a 'Harvester Signature Fish and Chips'. My favourite meals from this menu are the pasta with tomato sauce, which is served with rocket salad and garlic bread on the side, and the grilled gammon with chips, peas, half a tomato and either pineapple slices or an egg; actually you can have both the pineapple and the egg with this gammon. Yummy! I feel hungry already.


                        = = My experience with Harvester = =

                        We usually have a very nice time when we go to this pub. It is a quiet (well...sometimes it is a bit more live when there are kids around, but it is usually OK) and comfortable place, with a nice environment and very tasty food.

                        Staff is usually friendly and polite. Once they were quite busy and did not provide us with the good service they usually do; they were a bit distracted and took a bit longer to come around and get our order and, after we finished our meal, we had to wait quite a bit to get our bill, but that was a one-off situation.

                        There is a wide range of meals to choose from as well as drinks, and the prices are very good value for money. Their meals are very well made and taste great. One of my favourite things about the Harvester is their salad counter; I always look forward to their salads; I really like the mixture grated carrots, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, beetroot and raisins, with mustard and honey salad dressing on the top. Their bread rolls and butter always seem to taste better than the ones we buy at the supermarket; fresh and warm rolls...as if they had just been baked.


                        = = My most recent experience = =

                        As I wrote above, mu husband and I had our Valentine's dinner at Harvester on the Saturday before the 14Feb to avoid a very busy pub.

                        We did not book any table and got there about 4:40pm. A member of staff got our names and told us that a table would be available in 15min; that actually happened to be only 5min and we were soon seated. Our table was placed next to a window so we could look at the view and it was placed in a kind of quiet and more private corner of the pub; it just felt like the perfect, romantic Valentine's dinner.

                        The girl that took our order was very friendly and polite. Once our order was taken we were able to get ourselves some free salad; their salad smelled and looked fresh; everything looked very tempting. We helped ourselves to our favourite salad items plus bread and went back to our table. As usual, the salad did not disappoint: crunchy carrot, juicy tomatoes,...,and a very nicely prepared mustard and honey salad dressing. The bread was warm and tasted as if it had just been baked; it tasted perfect with a bit of butter.

                        When our main meals arrived we were both impressed about our dishes; my gammon was lovely grilled and the chips were soft in the middle and crisp on the outside; my husband told me he was impressed about the size of the fish and that it was well cooked.

                        We decided not to have any pudding that day as the meal was very filling. We asked for our bill, which arrived very fast; we paid and left.

                        ========= ========== ===========

                        Needless to say, Harvester still remains one of my favourite pubs; it is a place where we can have a nice and relaxing time while enjoying some very tasty food.

                        I suggest you give it a try and check the place for yourself. I do not think you will regret it.

                        My rating: 4 out of 5 stars because the staff should offer good service even when the pub is busier.

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                          09.02.2012 12:41
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                          It is a good digital box that does what it is supposed to.

                          My husband and I still use our analogue TV, which means that we need a Digital set top box to be able to watch TV.

                          We got the Argos Digital set top box after the image on our TV started becoming distorted; sometimes there was no image at all or the TV would turn off as soon as we turned the digital box on. After some observation we thought that the problem might be our digital box and not our TV. There was the possibility that the problem was the TV, but we decided to first spend £17.99 on a new digital box instead of spending £300 on a new TV.

                          We searched for digital set top boxes on Argos, Comet and Asda websites. Our previous digital box was a Humax Freeview playback Digital TV Recorder; it allowed us to record TV attractions and then view them whenever we felt like it. Buying a similar digital box would be quite expensive though and we decided to go for just a Freeview digital set top box, which would allow us to at least watch TV. The Argos Freview Digital set top box seemed to give us everything we needed and it was great value for money. It also had good ratings on Argos website.

                          So, on a Sunday afternoon (after the past Christmas), my husband and I drove to the closest Argos shop to buy our new box. We purchased our new digital box and installed it as soon as we got back home.


                          = = What comes in the box = =

                          The digital box comes in a very small cardboard box, inside a plastic bag. Actually, there are two plastic bags: one for the digital box and the other for its remote control. This product does not come with the scart cable (to connect the digital box to the TV); you have to buy it separately. Since we were replacing our previous digital box with the Argos one, we already had a scart cable.

                          There is an instruction manual in the box as well, which gives you safety information, installation information, user instructions as well as other pieces of important advice.


                          = = The digital box = =

                          The design of Argos Value Digital Set Top Box has changed a bit, but it is still quite similar to the one on the picture above.

                          The digital box is compact in size. It is very light and easy to carry. Its dimensions are about H3.5 x W25 x D18.5cm. Its weight is about 800g.

                          It provides you access to over 50 television stations and 20 radio channels when connected to a non-digital TV.


                          = = Energy efficiency = =

                          On mode power consumption: 4 watts.

                          Standby power consumption: 1watt.


                          = = Installation = =

                          The set up is easy and fast. You plug a scart cable in the scart socket that is on the back of the digital box and then plug the other end of the cable in one of the scart sockets that are on the back of the TV. Then you plug the coaxial antenna wire (that previously connected your antenna to your TV) in the back of the digital box (where it reads 'ANT IN'); and finally put the box plug in the power socket.

                          Once you turn your TV and digital box on, you might be asked to scan for available channels; do it. After that you are ready to go and enjoy your favourite programmes.

                          Important!: I believe the installation instructions may vary a bit according to the kind of TV you have. So I suggest that you read the installation instructions contained on the manual before starting it.


                          = = The remote control = =

                          It is a small remote control, which is easy to use and has some useful features.

                          The remote control requires 2 x AAA batteries (which are included).

                          The remote control has a red power button to turn the box on as well as a green mute button. It has numbers from 0 to 9, which can be selected to find channels; you can also select the channel you want by using the CH-/CH+ buttons. The volume can be changed by using the VOL-/VOL+ buttons. You can change from TV to Radio channels by selecting the TV/Radio button. The INFO button shows you the channel you are watching as well as the current programme on and the next one on the list. The 'EPG' (electronic programme guide) button lists current ans scheduled programmes that are or will be available on each channel. By using this button you can get some brief information about a programme you are more interested in.


                          = = More about my experience with this digital box = =

                          This digital box is easy to install. The picture is good quality and so is the sound.

                          It is straightforward to use. When you first set it up you might be asked to scan for channels available, but after that you can start enjoying watching TV.

                          It has features such as:

                          1- An electronic programme guide, which allows you to check current attractions and the ones that are coming. I think that is very useful because I can plan my time so I will not miss my favourite programmes.

                          2- It has the feature 'TEXT', which allows you to check the latest news when on BBC1; it is like reading the paper, in my experience. I think it is also a useful feature because I can catch up on important news I might have not heard of.

                          = = = = = = = = = = = =

                          One of the down sides is that this digital box is slower to respond to its remote control commands. When you select 'TEXT', for instance, it takes a while for the text to show. It is not a very long time, but it is not as fast as our previous digital box was. With our previous digital box the response was very fast; it was prompt.

                          Another example is when you change channels; it is a bit slow; you have to be patient and go through each channel slowly until you get to the one you want. You can also dial the channel you want by selecting a number on the 0-9 number list or a combination of those numbers, but sometimes it takes time for you to get it right when you want a combination of numbers, for instance, '28'. You select '2' and, when you select '8', it takes some time for the digital box to register it, which leads to you being taken to channel 2 instead of 28.

                          You can not watch a programme while scrolling through the menu, either.


                          = = Final Thoughts = =

                          As a digital set top box, Argos Freeview Digital Set Top Box is very good. It does everything it claims to do. It is easy to install and straightforward to use. It allows you to watch what you want in a non-digital TV. You can plan your time by checking the electronic menu and catch up on missed news.

                          It will never give you everything a Digital TV Recorder does, but it is not supposed to. It is much cheaper than Digital TV Recorders and it does not take a lot of space in a house.

                          If you do not want to spend a huge amount of money or does not need a box with lots of features, this is a good alternative. I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars because the digital box is slower to respond to its remote control commands.

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                            04.02.2012 17:59
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                            It is good for sensitive skin; it leaves it feeling clean and soft.

                            I had forgotten all the benefits of this facial wash. I have been using it for more than two years and it has never failed me. The last container I was using lost some of its efficiency though, but it was probably because I left it in a warm and damp place, unused for some months. Beauty products also have an expiration date. I binned the old one, got a new one for Christmas and I am now using it.

                            I was just sitting on the couch, watching TV when I touched my complexion and...what a good surprise!; my skin felt so soft and clean. This product is supposed to be a moisturising facial wash, but my skin had never felt so hydrated before. This product had always done my complexion good, but I had never felt the moisturising effect after using it until today. Before I always needed to rush to apply my facial moisturiser as soon as I finished washing my face so my skin would not become dry and dull. I have not used any facial moisturiser today and my skin feels hydrated and soft. One thing I have done differently this time is using a bigger amount of the product; maybe before I was not using enough of it and that is why I was not getting all its benefits.

                            When I use this product my skin feels clean and fresh. I have got sensitive skin and this product is ideal for it. My skin used to feel irritated when I used other facial washes, specially the scented ones. This is one of the reasons why I have chosen Simple moisturising facial wash: this product is not scented. Another reason is that it is very good value for money; it is now £3 at Asda, £3.05 at Superdrugs and £3.59 at Boots, but mine has been bought at Wilkinsons for £2 so keep your eyes open for upcoming promotions; Wilkinsons and supermarkets like Asda sell this product for a reduced price from time to time. Even if I have to pay £3 for this product I will still buy it because its benefits are worth the money.


                            = = The package = =

                            The product comes in a 150ml white bottle and its name is written in green on the front; it reads that the product is 100% soap free, which I find good because soap can make your skin dry sometimes. It also reads that this facial wash has 'vitamin goodness'; it contains two vital vitamins, one 'skin loving nutrient' and no perfume or colour. On the back of the container there is some more information about the product and how to use it as well as the list of ingredients . It has a flip top lid, which the product can stand on.


                            = = More about the facial wash = =

                            When you put a bit of it on your hand you can feel the product is smooth and a bit sticky (like some facial washes are). As Simple claims, it has is no perfume added to it; it does not mean it smells of nothing; it does have a mild pleasant scent, which probably comes from the natural ingredients contained in this product. As for the colour, Simple claims there is none, but I would say it has a pearl like colour.

                            You just need to apply a small amount of this product on wet skin and then spread it, as if massaging your skin, to feel the product is really doing its job. The product lathers well; you will not have as much lather as you do when you use a product with soap, but believe me: it is much better to your skin than products with soap. It is easy to rinse off and you can feel, straight away, that your skin is clean and smoother.

                            Very important!: Simple claims this facial wash contains no animal derived ingredients.

                            I am happy to continue using this facial wash and recommend it to anyone who has sensitive skin.

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