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Milliebert

Milliebert
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Member since: 03.01.2010

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      19.02.2010 13:41
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      Very good place to stay for sightseeing

      I stayed in this hotel in July 2008 with my partner and daughter. We needed a few days away and wanted somewhere cheap and with easy access to the City centre. So we booked through Laterooms.com, an easy process and paid £65 per night for the room, for four nights. I think we got the last night free, if we booked three nights as a minimum. Anyway,moving swiftly on!

      Located in Docklands the hotel was easy to reach from the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). Situated between and Royal Albert stations, the hotel is a five minute walk from each. We actually preferred use Royal Albert, as the earlier stop meant walking through a quite dark area at night. The hotel is also convenient for the Excel.

      On arrival at the hotel we were very quickly attended to by the receptionist. We left our bags in the entrance and hall and were directed, but not taken to our room. The room was fine for the price we paid, very clean, with an ensuite shower room, with a huge shower, which was very powerful. Cleanliness in the bathroom was excellent. In the room itself, which wasn't large, but not tiny, there was a double wardrobe with shelving, a chest of drawers, desk with power points, and a double bed and a double sofa bed, which had already been made up for my daughter. The bedding was crisp and clean.

      The bed was very comfortable and my daughter says her sofa bed was too. The one problem with the room, and it wasn't such for as as the weather was quite cool, was the air-conditioning, which was incredibly noisy. The irony was that the room had a full glass exterior wall which was triple glazed due to the proximity to London City Airport, but the air-con was the thing that kept us awake! In the end we turned it off, as each room has an individual control.

      The hotel was very quiet other than that, and was very busy. No corridor noise, no noisy cleaners in the mornings, althought they were working from 7am. Breakfast is served in an enormous dining room downstairs, which is curved in shape. There is a vast buffet to choose from with everything from fresh croissants and breads, to cereals, to a cooked full English followed by fruits. You can go as much as you like and the food is very fresh, which you would expect for a £16.95 price tag! If booked the night before, the breakfast was £9.95, I have no idea why! And some people seemed to have booked rooms including the breakfast. There were some arguments at the desk in the mornings as people paid their bills and realised they'd been charged for breakfasts they thought were included. And they have a funny guy who is in charge of the dining room, I say funny, my daughter nicknamed him "breakfast police" as he made sure no-one got past him who hadn't pre-booked! My partner doesn't eat breakfast so came down for a coffee and was watched the whole time in case he went and ate food!

      There is a bar, which although typically expensive for a London hotel, was very relaxed and the staff were lovely. I only went to it once, and it closed about 3am.

      The hotel offers the usual facilities, such as dry cleaning, laundry, wake up calls, 24 hour room service and all of these are excellent, although pricey. But if you're having a few days in London, you have to accept that!

      On the last day, we had to check out before 12, but the hotel were great and kept our bags until we left London. It did mean we had to go from the centre of London back to the hotel to collect the, but on an all day London Travelcard that was cheaper than taking them to the train station and putting them in Left Luggage, which would have cost £6.50 a bag. It is about 17 minutes to Tower Gateway, which is just such a brilliant place to start sightseeing. Also, the DLR journey takes you through Docklands and Canary Wharf, past the Millenium Dome and airport, so there is lots to look at! We also found it really convenient to go to Canary Wharf shopping centre for Sushi!

      In would definitely recommend this hotel again, and I would stay there anytime I had to go to London.

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      • More +
        16.02.2010 15:59
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        A great guide to vegan cooking for newbies and pros!

        When giving up meat, dairy and animal products, I knew going without cake was something I couldn't do! So I looked for a recipe book which might help, and found Vegan With A Vengeance, which I purchased on Amazon.co.uk for the bargain price of £5.67.

        Why was it a bargain? Well because from the very first few pages, I don't feel like I'm weird for my lifestyle choice, and add to that the amzing Muffin recipes, it's a winner for me!

        The author is Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a Brooklyn'er. She makes it clear that of you're buying the book, you're already aware of what veganism is all about, so leaves out all the detail, and gets straight on with the business of food. And there is a lot of food crammed into it's 240 pages.

        The pages are dull and boring, which is a shame because all the recipes I've tried so far are far from dull and boring. There are no diagrams, and no pictures. Apparently being a vegan cook takes a lot of imagination! But maybe the fact that so many of the ingredients are rich in colour and the food so tasty compensates for the missing pictures. II have to say the more I use it, the less I miss the visual aids. And as I now use it almost daily, it has a ripped page that got stuck to another as a result of some low flying muffin mix, so I'm really glad it wasn't a £20 glossy cookbook!

        Isa starts with a brief introduction about herself, which is fun to read, then moves swiftly on to equipment. What's great about this is that when you buy a glossy cook book, you're usually advised to buy this expensive zester, and that top of the range paring knife. Isa's approach to equipment is different, baasically buy decent knives but charity shop for everything else. Why pay a retro store ten times as much for something you can buy cheaply in Age Concern? So there is nothing precious about this book.

        The book is divided into sections as follows:

        *Brunch
        *Muffins and Scones
        *Soups
        *Little Meals, Sandwiches and Finger Foods (Great for kids to help)
        *Sides
        *Pizzas and Pastas
        *The Main Act
        *Cookies and Bars
        *Desserts

        Although Isa presumes one knows veganism, she doesn't assume you know vegan cooking, so everyting is explained in detail. If you've never bought, used or frozen tofu before, that's ok, the book explains it all. Never made Sietan? Again, explained in detail. But my favourite part has to be the pizza dough making. I had used a packet before, but never made my own, and what a great thing to do! My kids made them and the I got my partner in there kneading the dough too. It was great! Every step of making the perfect dough is right there.

        Some of my favourite recipes from the book are:

        Carrot-raisin Muffins
        Pancakes
        Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins
        Curried Split-Pea Soup
        Horseradish and Coriander Crusted Tofu
        Green Goddess Garlic Pizza
        Chickpea and Spinach Curry
        Moroccan Tagine with Spring Vegetables
        Chocolate Pudding

        This is a great book for anyone venturing into the world of Veganism, but I think it's equally welcome in anybody's kitchen. If you're not vegan, have no intention of being vegan, this book can give you great ideas for having one of one or two days of healthy eating.

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      • Sound Bites Derby / Supermarket / 14 Readings / 12 Ratings
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        16.02.2010 15:20
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        The best store for stocking up on vegan produce

        Making a radical change in one's lifestyle can be very daunting. How it'll be perceived by others, how to cope, will there be enough support, will I meet like-minded people, are all considerations which can be enough to deter people from what they believe is "the right thing to do". This is how I felt making the transition from omnivore to veganism. I'd been putting it off for a long time. I had stopped enjoying meat products, but couldn't for the life of me figure out how I would feed a family without it.

        Then I discovered the joy of Sound Bites, a not for profit workers' co-operative. This tiny little shop on Derby's Morledge, right opposite the County Court and a minutes walk to the new bus station, is a gem for anybody, vegan or not, who wants to adopt a healthier diet and lifestyle. But don't be fooled into thinking this is just a health food shop. It's more than that. It's an ethical shop, and the only one I know if in Derby City.

        When you walk in the door, there is a notice board with notices for everything from concerts to lectures, activism to shopping. You turn in to another door immediately to the right and are confronted by an earthy, wholefood aroma. Directly in front is the vegetable stand, full of organic fresh vegetables and fruits. Large bulbs of garlic are my favourite, at 40p they are a few pence more expensive than the non-organic at the supermarket but the difference in flavour and size is worth the extra pennies. I've been using whole bulbs in dishes before buying from Sound Bites, but the strength of these means I can go back to using 1 or 2 cloves, like the recipes ask for! The vegetables are dirty, fresh from the ground, and that preserves them far better than the chemicals that are pumped into our mass produced supermarket alternatives. The celeriac is beautful and creamy when cooked, with none ot the bitterness I'm used to.

        Next to the vegetables is the fridge, with tofu, tempeh, yofu, cakes, chocolate truffles, vegan cheeses and drinks. In all the supermarkets there is commercial Tofu, but Sound Bites stock Paul's Tofu, a firmer, superior product, in packs of approximately 220g for approx £1.45. Alongside plain tofu there is also Basil, Olive, Smoked and Marinated varieties.

        Moving down the shop, there are dried foods, with any grain and pulse needed packed in convenient bags. Wholemeal flours, chickpea flour, bread flours are all available in different sized packages. The beans and pulses are fabulous, everything from chickpeas to black eyed beans, and my favourite new seed, quinoa (a tasty alternative to rice when cooked). Spices are on sale from 50p. These are much cheaper than the supermarket own brands, and there is no problem disposing of the glass jars afterwards as they are packed in little packets.

        There is a vegan wine and beer selection, with some fantastic wines. I'm not a beer fan, but my partner assures me his bottle of vegan beer was second to none! I paid £7.65 for a Sicilian wine yesterday and it was worth every penny.

        There is a toiletries and household section which covers everything needed. Everything is eco-friendly and animal product free, so it may be a surprise not to find certain products which you'd think were good for the environment there. But everything is chescked for it's veganicity, so buying with confidence is easy here.

        There is a little food bar at the back of the store, which serves drinks and soups with sandwiches and cakes. There is only one table, but the staff are so happy to bring out an extra chair or folding table when necessary.

        Sound Bites take care of seasonal gifts too, with Christmas gifts and food packages on display on the centre table. Vegan books and literature are also for sale. There are vegan chocolates, ice-cream and cakes available and the best baguettes for a quick vegan lunch at £2.50 are a real bargain!

        Not only do Sound Bites have a great little shop, but they also offer a delivery service for vegetable boxes. These vary in price and can be mixed with a small fruit box too. Delivery by pedal bike is available in the city centre, or for further afield by a van powered on recycled vegetable oil! Other groceries can be delivered with the vegetable box.

        As a new vegan, I know I can walk into Sound Bites and buy anything with absolute confidence. I know they've done more research than I do into what I eat or use. Due to it's great and easy to find location, it's the perfect place to pick up a sandwich when shopping with my omnivorous family, and I often pick up a piece of gorgeous banana and walnut cake too! The staff are very friendly and helpful with any questions about food preparation, diet and product advice. There are numerous websites for vegans to buy produce, but nothing beats the personal touch. All in all, Sound Bites makes being vegan easy!

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      • AA The Driving School / Transport / 37 Readings / 36 Ratings
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        06.02.2010 16:21
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        The instructors are better than the school

        After six - yes, six - failed driving tests, I really thought it was time to give up. So for about six years I did. Then my idiot of a partner, bless him, got himself banned from driving. I know - don't ask! The ban was three years (I reiterate, he's an idiot) and so we had a car sitting on the drive unused. So I was talked into getting driving lessons again. I didn't hold out much hope.

        I called the AA as I was in a new area and didn't have the luxury of a "word of mouth" recommendation. They said they would contact the driver local to me and I should await his call. I waited about four weeks and nothing. I rang back the AA who said they didn't have my details, so I went through it all again. They did eventually pass my details on, and eventually I got a call. I had a chat on the phone with my potential instructor, and he said he would come round, we'd go for one lesson, he would assess if he could teach me and I could assess if I wanted him to. He explained that personalities are very important when learning to drive as I needed to trust him, and he needed to trust me that I wouldn't kill him in his car!

        We arranged an appointment. The going rate at the time (Jan 2008) was £24.95 per hour, with discounts for block bookings. I didn't do a block booking - like I said, I didn't hold out any hope. I could drive, I just went to pieces on the tests - one examiner had to fail me for panicking, and almost begged me to carry on trying as she had never felt so safe with a learner other than the major error! So I wasn't looking forward to my lessons, at all.

        He turned up in a shiny Ford Focus, bigger than any car I'd driven before. I was very apprehensive. However, we had a lesson, I did about five minutes of driving in that hour, which I was ok with as I needed a lot of reassurance. During the lesson, he did not stop talking. But unlike any other instructor I'd had, he talked constantly about driving and safety. I liked that.

        We arranged another lesson. Turns out he thought we had tutor/student compatibility. I paid him, but he said if I booked direct with him, he'd charge me £20 an hour. I was happy with that, too. Not once did he let me down by not turning up for a lesson, and he only rearranged me once when another pupil had booked their test without asking him for his available dates.

        During the lessons I felt safe and confident to drive. I already knew how to do all the manoeuvres, but we would spend a whole lesson on each one, getting more and more difficult, until i felt I could turn the car on a sixpence! I could reverse round any corner, sharp bend, sloping bend, uphill bend... I had it sussed! after about six lessons we applied for the theory test. I passed, so that was good.

        Not once did we ever pick up the next student, or have to stop so he could take calls. For that hour (sometimes 70 mins) he devoted himself to teaching me to drive.

        Then came the driving test proper. He helped me with booking the test and made me aware of the dates that suited him best, although he was pretty flexible. Nerves doesn't even begin to say how I felt about taking it again. I drove up to Buxton and took the test. I was well prepared, had plenty of practise in the two weeks building up to it, took our car out with a friend, and thought - this is it! I know I can do this. My instructor was nothing but supportive through the whole process.

        I passed! I'm now a driver, and it is all thanks to that instructor. I was so confident about his ability that my daughter now uses him. I will point out though, that he was disillusioned with the AA for reasons he wouldn't go into, and left. He now works on his own.

        The AA still contact me, despite me telling them I have passed. I get phonecalls, mailouts, and text messages. I cannot tell you how many times i have told them I can now drive and don't need their calls or sales pitch. I have even received a reminder that my theory test certificate is going to run out. Well, I know that! But it is irrelevant.

        Would I recommend my instructor? You bet!
        Would I recommend the AA? No.

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        • Animal Free Shopper / Cookbook / 23 Readings / 23 Ratings
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          05.02.2010 16:03
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          Very useful guide to all things vegan.

          As a new vegan this book was kindly recommended to me by someone on a vegan forum. Now that I have it, I couldn't be without it, and not just because of the food listings. Veganism is not about food, it's about not using or supporting the use of animal products in any walk of life.

          Published by The Vegan Society and now in it's 8th edition, this little book is invaluable as a guide to knowing what is in your food. It measure 5.75" x 4.25" and is almost .75" thick, making it easily carried in a backpack or handbag (or my coat pocket!) Of course, to vegans, we want to know that our produce and consumables are animal product free, but actually, anyone with an interest in what they are eating should have a look at it. My own partner has had a complete rethink about what he buys as a result of seeing this book.

          So what's in it? The book itself is divided into sections. There is a chapter called "A Little Bit About The Vegan Society" which kind of speaks for itself, followed by an explanation of The Vegan Society Trademark and who is allowed to use it to endorse their products. But after that is the "Why Animal Free" section, which covers the production of animal products in this country. From the production of chicken, pork, lamb and beef to eggs, dairy and honey, the book explains why vegans refuse to be a part of those industries. For example, in two short paragraphs you learn that the glaze that goes on fruit in the supermarkets to make it look shiny is "shellac", and 300 000 lac insects are killed to produce 1 kg of it. Global production of Shellac is currently 20 000 tonnes per year. Although a synthetic version is available (yuk) production is on the rise as a result of the demand for all things natural.

          Once the explanations are over, there is a section on additives, and those additives which are specifically derived from animals, such as bone char, used in refining sugar.

          There are then lots of listings for animal welfare organizations, vegan business, vegan clothing and shoes, cookbooks, websites etc before the listings for foods. These are done by type of food, in alphabetical order - so biscuits, bread, breakfast foods, etc. If a food is there, it's vegan. However, it is very important to remember to check the ingredients on the item as they do change. The book is updated and the website has more up to date information to double check. There is no substitute for looking and checking yourself, but the book is a handy guide.

          After listing by food, there is a listing by supermarket and this includes the supermarkets' own brands. Morrison's is not there at all, as they have declined to give a list of their vegan products, and as they are my local store, I can fully understand why, as I have real trouble finding anything with their own label on that could be called vegan. Even their fresh carrot and coriander soup doesn't qualify! However I did learn that The Co-op has an extensive range of vegan foods, so that was very useful.

          There is a llong list of food manufacturers in the back of the book. This is a great resource for anyone who needs to know what they consume, making it easy to contact any food supplier. Everyone form Budweiser to Red Bull, Asda to Waitrose is listed there.

          With listings for everything from bread to wine, and toothpaste to copier paper, the book does a great job of steering you in the right direction to find vegan products, and makes being a 21st century vegan quite easy.

          Would I recommend this book to other vegans? Absolutely.

          Would I recommend this book to everyone else? Absolutely.

          Available at Amazon for £4.93!

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          • WD-40 / Household Cleaning / 27 Readings / 26 Ratings
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            05.02.2010 15:06
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            The handiest tool in any DIY kit.

            It would be wonderful if I could take a photo of my desk right now. I have my laptop, my mobile, my landline, my glasses, spare batteries for the camera, the camera and a myriad of stationery. But right there, on the right hand side, is my can of wonder, the WD-40, taking pride of place with my most treasured possessions!

            See, I have an aversion to squeaks. I hate them. And my computer chair develops one all the time. So I keep it here to spray the swivel mechanism. I don't need to do it very often, maybe once every couple of months, but the WD-40 stays here as I always seem to remember where to find it that way! I also keep a can in the car, and that ahs been a life saver on occasion!

            So what is it? I think it's a lubricant, as that is it's major use around here. It's some kind of oily compund in a bright yellow and blue spray can. It's called WD-40 because it was the 40th attempt by it's inventors to develop a Water Displacement product. Being a girl, I don't care what's in it, as long as it doesn't kill me and makes my life easier! It does as it says on the can:

            *Stops Squeaks

            *Drives Out Moisture

            *Cleans and Protects

            *Loosens Rusted Parts

            *Frees Sticky Mechanisms

            Obviously squeaks being top of the list, they must annoy more people than I thought! I've used it to loosen bolts which are too tight for me to open, I've used it on my son's bike chain when the bike has been really wet from the rain, to drive out all the water and protect the chain. My washing machine wasn't working and made a grinding noise - I don't knw what casued it, but I took the top off, had a look inside and couldn't figure it out, so I sprayed the whole of the mechanism with a light spray of WD-40 and have so far had an extra two years out of a machine I would otherwise have replaced. I've used it on door hinges, the car battery when it got wet and wouldn't start, the wheel nuts on the car, the locks that froze in our recent cold spell, the lock on the front door, my dressmaking scissors that were getting harder and harder to open, my son's metal bed that squeaks all night, our Wahl hair trimmer, drawers that won't open and best of all, the roller on a computer desk that was jammed and I was given the desk for free as it was "knackered"! Not with WD-40 though, it's now fully functional again! It's also brilliant for padlocks when the key doesn't appear to want to turn - Our shed one got a bit rusty and a quick blast of WD-40 stopped us from having to saw it off and buy a new one!

            It has thousand's of uses, and I wouldn't be without it. It's ok for you people who are great at DIY, and I'm not bad, but I have found this does the job very quickly and it has saved me 100's of pounds in callout fees and replacement items.

            It also comes with a little red straw like tube which attaches to the nozzle for more direct spraying in hard to reach places. I have taped mine to the side of the can so I don't lose it!

            For more details about WD-40's vast array of uses, go to www.wd-40.co.uk. I paid £4.95 for a 440ml can and I have had it for about three years. My 200ml can in the car was about £2.50, and worth it's weight in gold.

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            • Chess / Discussion / 33 Readings / 32 Ratings
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              03.02.2010 12:21
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              The best way for kids to develop skills for life in the big wide world.

              I'm sure at some point we've all imagined a chess club. It's the one in school where the geeks go, right? No one who is good at football, or rugby, or gymnastics, or anything else physical goes to chess, right? Well, no, actually! I could spend hours and hours now telling you how to play the game, but there are some great reviews of that and any search for "chess rules" on the internet will tell you what you need to know. Be warned though, if you Google it, there are 13, 300, 000 results, and that's nothing compared to the infinite number of combinations possible across the board!


              So I thought you might like to know what is fascinating about chess. Although it's played on a board, by two seated opponents, with what look like passive pieces of wood or plastic, is actually a bloody thirsty and cut throat war. Good players no longer see 64 squares, they see pathways and patterns which are to be exploited to capture, or "mate", their enemy's King. Knights attack Bishops, Rooks eat up Pawns, Bishops join forces to develop two pronged attacks on the King and the Queen dominates the board. Even the pawns, which are so humble in the Opening, end up charging a path to the opponent's back rank for the End Game and are promoted to a better piece, usually a Queen but very effective mates can occur when the pawn is promoted to a Knight. Great players don't lose - they learn from the mistake but talk about suffering "crushing defeats", and the winners blow their opponents off the board, squeezing the life from them and totally squeeze the life from them.

              For those kids in school who aren't interested in some of the other clubs, chess gives them an opportunity to develop the ability to think outside the box, to develop lateral thinking and to learn how to outwit their opponent. These skills are essential for our youngsters as they grow and get into careers with massive competition. Are chess players wussie? Er, no! Having been to a number of tournaments I can tesify to the tantrums, bad manners and sore losers that I have witnessed. Winners who jump in the air in a self congratulatory manner, after being embroiled in mind games against the opponent, are common place. As are the tears, especially among jumiors. No one likes to lose at chess...

              There have been some very interesting top flight players, such as the genius that was Bobby Fischer, US champion at 14 and later world champion. Not just better than the rest, but he was head and shoulders above the rest. (If you don't know of him I would highly recommend reading his story).

              But for me, here's the most fascinating thing about the game. If you want to replay every kick and movement from a football match from 1884, you can't. Only in your imagination. But chess games have been recorded for centuries, and any game can be replayed. Great chess players have spent years playing the games of their idols. There are thousands, and I mean literally thousands, of chess books, all with some fantastic games. All you need is a board and pieces and off you go. You can follow the mind of a genius as he/she works out the best way to anihilate the opponent, to come crashing down on their King. In reading and playing through those games your own skills develop and respect for those great players strengthens with every move.

              There are so many chess computers now as well, that it is easy to practise even if you don't have a real life opponent. The ICC, Internet Chess Club, is a vast resource for chess, with thousands of games stored to study, tutorials, grandmaster members who regularly play and you can observe them live. There are even downloads for the mobile phone, such as the nifty Kasparov Chess game, which is very easy to use.

              Overall chess is a game that should be taught more in schools, and after school clubs. There is currently an initiative from the English Chess Federation to provide free sets to all schools in England and get them playing, so if you get the chance, get your kids involved or volunteer to help!

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              • More +
                31.01.2010 16:48
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                A great compliment to the shampoo bars from Lush

                Do you remember the days before everyone wanted everything done quickly? Do you remember when "I'm washing my hair" was something that took an evening? Well, in some ways using Lush product is a bit like that. It means taking a little more time to do things, which in this busy and hectic "NOW" world is actually a joy. So using Veganese is not something that can be rushed. It is to be savoured, like a good wine, not guzzled like a soft drink.

                I bought Veganese to compliment Seanik shampoo bar, bought at the same time. Veganese is Lush's only vegan liquid conditioner, which is why I was attracted to it. I bought the medium sized bottle, 250g for £6.95. Now that is a lot of money for a conditioner, but I used to pay that for a brand when I was younger, so I thought as a one off, I'd treat myself.

                The conditioner itself is creamy in the hand, and whipped to be almost mousse like in consistency. Packaged in a plastic bottle with a flip-top squirty cap, it is easy to use. About the size of a 50p is all that's needed on my hair, which is just past my shoulders with very dry ends from dying.

                Once my hair was shampooed I squeezed out the excess water and applied Veganese. It went on really nicely, not all thick and slimey like a lot of conditioners but actually felt like it was being absorbed into my hair. Now, the first time I used it, I washed it off almost immediately, and the results were good. But the next time I was immersed in a Ceridwyn's Cauldron bath (Lush Bath Melt) and forgot to wash it off for about fifteen minutes. What was the result? The sleekest hair I've had in years! I'm growing out a dye at the moment and the ends of my hair are frizzy and dry. But after using Veganese, I was impressed! I am now hooked and don't think I'll use another conditioner. I think it'll last quite a while as well, as you really do only need a small amount.

                The smell is very pleasant. It's not overpowering and actually I can still smell Seanik shampoo on my hair despite using the conditioner afterwards. It's a slightly citrussy, floral smell which has a dreamy effect on me!

                All in all it's a great conditioner and it is environmentally friendly, carries the Vegan Society logo and is great for sensitive skin. I love it.

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                • Lush Seanik / Hair Care / 14 Readings / 14 Ratings
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                  31.01.2010 16:27
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                  A little bar that goes a long, long way!

                  I've been buying Lush products for a few years, since my little one has eczema and couldn't use anything in the bath until we discovered the joys of their products. But for some reason the whole shampoo bar novelty bypassed me, and I thought it was actually too much trouble. That was until I made the decision to be vegan, and then the need for a vegan shampoo was essential, so I thought I'd start with Lush.

                  Along I trot to the local shop and as usual was greeted witht the bright and bubbly smiles of a sales assistant. I explained I needed a shampoo bar, we discussed my hair type, oily at the top and dry at the ends, and she recommended Seanik, a bright blue fresh sea smelling bar. So I bought it. I did think Woah, that's a little expensive at £4.50 for 55g, but we'll give it a go. I also bought Veganese conditioner to go with it.

                  The sales assistant demonstrated how to use it. Get it wet, rub it quite hard in the palms of your hands, put it down and lather up what's in your hands and apply to hair. Wash as usual. It did seem a bit more complicated than the usual "flip cap, squirt, lather-rinse-repeat" method I've used for the last *Ahem* years, but once you get the hang of it it really isn't. Actually, in the "Wash'n'Go" society we live in, where everyone wants everything yesterday and is in a rush to get everywhere, it makes a nice change to spend time pampering your hair!

                  So I gave it a go. And I have to say I'm really glad I did! The bar is small, round and compact and smells really lovely. It actually reminded me of being on the sea on the Gulf of Mexico. There are little green bits of seaweed in it but these presented no problem at all.

                  I lathered it up on my hair and rinsed and my hair was lovely! Shiny, clean, grease free. I didn't use the conditioner the first time. As a test, I left my hair to see how many days it would go before getting greasy. Five. Five whole days! That has never happened to me before. My hair was tangle free every day (a little past shoulder length) and easy to brush.

                  The next time I used it I tried the Veganese conditioner with it and the results were still fab, but a little more shine and more sleek hair. I'm growing out a dye at the moment and the ends are quite frizzy but with these two products the sleekness was back.

                  I haven't purchased a tin yet, as I wanted to test the product before buying one. I will do though, as I will be definitely trying more shampoo bars. I am keeping mine in a small plastic container at the moment. I don't know how long it will last but it doesn't look used at the moment and it's been used about seven times since I bought it at the beginning of this month.

                  What I particularly like is there is no packaging to throw away. It's environmentally friendly, not tested on animals and carries the Vegan Society logo.

                  All in all I would recommend it if you have combination hair. My partner commented on how nice the smell was when he came home, but it definitely isn't an overpowering one. Makes a change to having him sitting next to me smelling my hair!

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                  27.01.2010 16:58
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                  This is a great cleanser for twice weekly use.

                  I bought this recently when treating myself to some new vegan products in Lush. I am 41, and have oily skin (great from a no wrinkles point of view, but not a nice feeling!)

                  It is a mixture of charcoal and sugars, and very black and grainy as a result. The idea is you take a small amount, roughly the size of a 5p, and mix a few drops of water into it in the palm of your hand to form a paste. Then apply all over face, targetting the oily zones.

                  It has no overpowering bad smell, or a particularly fragrant one, and goes on easily. I scrubbed mine over the T-zone a little before washing off with warm water.

                  Did I notice a difference? Absolutely! My skin felt so soft and fresh I found it hard to believe! And clear too. The effects last a few days for me before I need to do the cleanse again.

                  I finished off the cleanse with a Lush toner which complemented the cleanser so well.

                  Make sure you wash it off properly! It does leave black streaks if you don't, but I didn't have that problem as my daughter was avidly watching and made sure I didn't miss any.

                  I paid £5.25 for a 100g pot, I've used it four times and you wouldn't know it from the amount left, so I estimate it'll last at least three months. That makes it excellent value for money.

                  Best of all it is vegan and carries the Vegan Society trademark. It's not tested on animals and that makes it a very ethical buy.

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                  27.01.2010 16:20
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                  A great ending to a fabulous series

                  I loved extras as a series and eagerly looked forward to watching this special. I wasn't disappointed at all. This ironic look at ephemeral celebrity and the cheapness of it makes it a very thought provoking watch. It could almost be a documentary called "How to be a celeb and lose friends".

                  As Andy seeks fame he pays the price of sacrificing his friendship with Maggie. She is not being successful as an extra, and has a never ending stream of bad jobs and directors and actors talking down to her. In the end she takes a cleaning job, can't afford her rent and has to move. All of this going on right under Andy's nose and he can't see it. He sacks his dreadfully bad, but loyal, agent in favour of someone more dynamic. But the humiliating job offers get him down.

                  The show is full of irony, such as when Andy invites Maggie to the Ivy, and talks incessantly about himself, he worries about not getting a table as he isn't famous enough anymore, oblivious to the fact Maggie is wondering where her next meal will come from due to the low wage she is on.

                  In a moving and well acted finale, the real Andy Millman is exposed. There is still a lot of comedy but actually I think you notice that more on a second viewing, as the underlying story is so good you are drawn in from the start.

                  I loved this, and would recommend it to anyone who has seen the first two series. And I want Maggie's car!

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                • Rice Dream / Soft Drink / 27 Readings / 27 Ratings
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                  21.01.2010 10:31
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                  A really good and fresh alternative to dairy

                  Having recently made the switch to veganism, I have been buying lots of alternatives to dairy milk. Whilst out shopping with my partner yesterday, I bought yet another brand of soya milk and he, being very supportive of my switch, offered to buy me some rice milk to try. We bought it home and put it in the frisge. It was 99p for 1 litre, making it pretty much the same price as the dairy milk I usually buy.

                  My first taste test for any milk is how it tastes in tea. I made a cup of tea and it was very fresh tasting compared with soya, although a little sweeter than dairy. That's ok for me, as I have sugar in tea, and I just reduced that in my next cup and it was perfect. OH had a glass, I had a sip of it and it is very fresh and clean tasting. OH drank the whole glass. It isn't creamy in colour like dairy, it is a very nice white colour, so visually stimulates your brain to think of it as milk.

                  Later last night, I saw him with another glass of it. My son (9) tasted it and loved it, he described it as sweet and fresh. I went to make a cup of tea at bed time, and there was no rice milk! My loving partner had happily drunk the whole carton! He says he'll never go back to dairy milk - and he's not lactose intolerant, vegetarian or vegan.

                  So, from our house, Rice Dream gets five stars! It is lactose free, I think kids with dairy intolerance would love it and it is vegan friendly. A 200ml glass will give 30% of your recommended daily calcium allowance, and 94kcals. It's also cholesterol free!

                  I'd recommend this drink, and as I experiment with it in cooking in the coming weeks, I'll come back and update the review.

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                  • Cauldron Organic Tofu / Ready Meals / 22 Readings / 21 Ratings
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                    19.01.2010 14:07
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                    A good product easily prepared for quick tasty healthy meals

                    Being very new to the world of vegetarian cookery, I was not sure I wanted to try tofu because I had heard it is a very bland food. However, after various vegetable curries and lasagnes, I thought I'd branch out.

                    Like many others, I had to search for it in the supermarket. My local Morrison's sell it though, and it is £1.75 for 250g. It comes in a sealed bag surronded by water. I snip the corner off, drain the water out, then cut open the bag and place the tofu between two pieces of kitchen towel. I pat it dry and lightly press it. The dryer it is, the better it absorbs flavours.

                    My favourite thing to do with it is cut it into cubes (I get about 20) and fry it in a small amount of sesame oil in a very hot wok. Once it is golden brown I drain it on kitchen towel and set aside. Then, in the wok, fry some chopped spring onions with crushed garlic, ginger and 2 chopped birds eye chillis, add 2tbsp soy sauce, 2tbsp sugar and 2tbsp white wine vinegar, heat until sugar has melted stirring or tossing all the time. Than add about 3/4 pint of vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Mix 2tbsp cornflour with water to make a paste, and pour into the sauce. Stir until the sauce is slightly thickened and clear. Put the tofu back into the sauce and stir. Serve immediately on noodles or rice with steamed broccoli. It is so gorgeous and is almost like chicken in texture when done like this, but healthier, cleaner and better for you! My kids thought I'd bought a chinese takeaway when I gave it to them. You need to double this and buy two packs for a meal for four.

                    Another way to cook it is to make a marinade of your choice and then toss the cubed tofu in it and leave in the fridge for half an hour before using it in your favourite recipes. There are a lot of vegan and vegetarian websites to give you inspiration for using it. Just search for tofu recipes and you'll be surprised!

                    Tofu is a good source of protein and so easy to cook with. I don't know how long it keeps once it's cooked because honestly, we finish it all off!Give it a try!

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                      19.01.2010 13:29
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                      A good substitute for regular milk.

                      My only other experience with soya milk is Alpro Organic milk, for which I have already written a review. Because the Organic was not nice in tea, I thought I'd try a few different types before having to give up tea altogether!

                      So I found Original soya in my local shop. I had decided not to buy another Alpro product for ethical reasons, but this was the only one available and I needed something! I paid 1.39 for 1 litre - I don't know if that is anywhere near its regular price as I have only bought it locally.

                      The packaging has changed from the picture above, as mentioned by other reviewers. It is now a shorter, wider carton, like a juice carton, witha white flip closure on it. It is easy to open and easy to pour, and beciase the packaging is lower in height, it fits on the shelf of my frisge as well as the door. Which is just as well as all the kids juices go in the door!

                      I approached making my first cup of tea this morning with a little trepidation. But I have to say it made a lovely drink! I was very pleasantly surprised. As the Organic made good other recipes, I'm sure this will too. But to be able to have my cup of tea again first thing in the morning is heavenly!

                      I appreciate what other reviewers have said about the change in the milk and it not being the same. But I think that may be because the palate is used to a product, and no one really likes change! However, if you are coming to it fresh like me, and have no yardstick with which to measure it against, then it is a perfectly nice milk.

                      As is it made from soya, it is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Although if you are an ethical vegan, you may like to know that Alpro has just been bought out by the biggest dairy producer in th US.

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                      • Alpro Soya Organic Milk / Soft Drink / 15 Readings / 14 Ratings
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                        18.01.2010 01:34
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                        A good alternative to milk for those who need dairy free.

                        I bought this product after a recent epiphany which made me decide I needed to be vegetarian, then quickly led to me becoming vegan (we are talking days here!).

                        Obviously a Vegan can't drink cow's milk, or any other animals milk for that matter. So soya was my first choice for an alternative and Alpro is available at my local Morrison's for £1.19. So I tried it.

                        First of all when you open it there is an earthy odour. The milk is colour of evaporated milk but the thickness of regular milk. I decided our first experience of it would be in a good old British cup of tea. I made the drink for myself, and my son (9) and daughter (12).

                        The children drank their tea like there was no tomorrow! They didn't notice a difference. I however, think it tasted dire. But I am a perfectionist with my tea. My eldest daughter who lives away from home drinks Asian tea, which I hate, and this tea tasted just like that.

                        Now I am open minded, and thought well, it doesn't work for me in tea, so I'll try and use it up in different ways. This morning I made porrdige with it, and added dried apled and fresh blueberries. Let me tell you it was the creamiest, most luxurious porridge I have ever eaten. I added no sugar, or other sweetener, and the porridge was divine. My son enjoys his porridge and I was concerned he'd object, but I needn't have worried. He ate it all and really loved it too.

                        The milk is high in protein and is actually a great substitute for those on a dairy free diet. However, if you are vegan for ethical reasons, Alpro Soya was bought out by Deans Foods, a huge dairy company... and as a result it is now being boycotted by some retailers on ethical grounds.

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