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Randal

Randal
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Member since: 26.07.2010

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    • ELC Foam Tennis Balls / Outdoor Toy / 61 Readings / 59 Ratings
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      11.07.2013 22:30
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      Endless opportunities for fun in the agrden or in the home.

      We planned to have a few friends round for a BBQ recently and we were looking around for some garden type games to keep the kids happy (and possibly the adults later on as the booze flows!!) Having seen how popular tennis has been in the past with the kids at such events (and then having experienced the broken window issue with an over zealous power strike of tennis ball) I wondered if I could possibly get some foam tennis balls. So wandering through town, I called into ELC and came across a set of 3 of these foam tennis balls for £2.00.

      What you get for the price is 3 foam tennis balls in red, yellow and blue, that are the same size as a conventional tennis ball. The age range quoted on the packaging is from 36 months upwards, and the foam itself appears to be an ideal balance between hard and soft - hard enough so that you can hit it and get a fairly straight flight path on it, but soft enough to ensure that it won't hurt anyone if it hits them. Best of all, they are soft enough to ensure that they wouldn't break any windows if someone gets carried away with an over zealous power strike!!

      Another good point with the foam is that it seems to be quite good quality and fairly durable. I suppose if you give these to a young child to play with, they may have a tendency to try and bite them, possibly taking a chunk out of it. I didn't try myself, and I didn't really trust letting the dog try, but the general feel in trying to pinch the foam is that it is reasonably tough and should withstand a child's bite.

      In use playing tennis in the garden, they seem to be absolutely perfect. If you hit them hard, they're not going to travel too far over the fence into the next garden. Likewise, you can relax because they are not going to cause any tears from someone getting hit by one. When the adults did eventually venture around to playing tennis later on the evening, they did create some competitiveness between players - such was the realism that the balls gave to the game.

      Going back to the durable bit mentioned earlier, after quite a few sessions of knocking these around the garden and bouncing them off of various surfaces, walls and fences, they still look like almost new. There are no real signs of damage on the foam apart from some minor scuff discoloration from the grass where someone stood on it trying to hit back a shot.

      In summary, although these are primarily aimed at the younger end of the market, they also proved to be entertaining for older children and adults alike, and for the price, they were an absolute bargain. Hence, highly recommended.

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        10.07.2013 21:59
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        For price and fucntionality, you can't go wrong

        When I bought a new Oral B rechargeable toothbrush for the family, there seemed to be a whole range of brush heads available for it. Looking on Amazon, the 4 main head variants available were 3D Whitening, Floss Action, Sensitive and Precision. But which one was the best? Each head had different benefits and uses, but what I really wanted was something that would clean my teeth very well, and after a lot of research, I came down to the decision that these Floss Action ones were the ones to choose. With over 200 five star ratings on Amazon, I thought that the general public couldn't be wrong.

        The first thing you note with this brush is that it seems to be a combination of brushes in the one head. It does look the business, having 'micro-pulse bristles that are designed to penetrate deep between teeth for a floss-like clean and maximum freshness', meaning that it has a number of brush elements which are each designed to do different things, but all combined onto the one brush head. Combine it with the oscillation and rotation motion caused by the Oral B rechargeable unit and you could probably understand why they claim that this brush head removes twice as much plaque as an ordinary brush.

        In use, it perhaps feels a little more 'gritty' than an ordinary brush in that when you've used it, you mouth feels really clean afterwards, and it feels like your teeth have had a really good scrub. Not too abrasive, but enough to make you feel that you have really cleaned your teeth. Another useful feature is that they have a wear indicator built in, where the blue colouring in the end bristles gradually fades to clear through use. When they do go clear, that is the time to change your brush head, and this fading colour normally gives you about 3 months use between head changes.

        Now the 4 pack is particularly good value. Whereas my old Sonicare brush head used to cost me about £20 for 2 heads, these Oral B Floss Action ones cost around £10 to £12 for 4, depending on what Amazon are offering at the time. They come individually packed, which are all then wrapped up in one of those 'nuclear proof' plastic packaging affairs that normally needs a chain saw to get in to.

        In summary, I used these for a few years now, and I have never had one fail on me or fall apart. So for the price and functionality you get, you can't go wrong with these brush heads if you are after something to really clean your teeth thoroughly. Highly recommended.

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        • Tesco Play Sand / Outdoor Toy / 46 Readings / 46 Ratings
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          09.07.2013 22:40
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          Good play sand and Clubcard points as well.

          Buying a bag of sand along with your groceries is perhaps a novel concept for your weekly shop. But that is just what I did a while back when I needed a small bag of sand at home. In terms of what you get, it is a 10kg bag of fine sand for the princely sum of £2.50. The plastic bag itself is quite tough with a carry handle at the top, so I didn't have any concerns or issues putting it into my trolley with everything else.

          The label of 'Play Sand' gives you a clue that it is ideally meant to be used in a kiddies play sand pit or tray, and for that purpose, it is ideal because it is a very fine dry sand, much finer than you would find on a beach or the sort you would get from a builders yard. So it's not really going to do that much damage to little kiddy hands playing with it. Tesco also claim that the sand is non-toxic and non-staining, which is a good thing for kiddies because they are bound to get it everywhere possible - including their mouths, hair, clothes, eyes and anywhere else that you would never possibly imagine. Of note, they quote the age range as 1-2yrs, but I could imagine slightly older kids having just as much fun with it.

          Now my kids are slightly (much?) older than the age range for this sand and perhaps a little beyond the idea of a sand pit - although I did suggest it, which they baulked at!. My daughter did suggest that I could create a little cat litter spot in the garden for all the cats in the neighbourhood to use, which I baulked at.

          The real reason I bought this sand was to put it in the bottom of our fire pit. I have a large metal bowl type affair in the garden which we burn things in, and it makes a great focal point to sit around in the evening when we have friends round to have a drink or 2. But to save the fire burning directly on the metal base, I always put a bag of sand in the bottom, and then burn the fire on that. In the past, I have used a bag of sand from a DIY store, but it was always too much and a bit of a pain to have the spare sand sat around in the shed.

          So this 10kg bag of Tesco Play Sand was ideal for my needs in terms of size and price. As a bonus, you also get couple of Clubcard points (every little helps etc).

          In summary, I suppose you could say that this sand is very versatile with many uses beyond making a simple kiddies sand pit.

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          09.07.2013 12:38
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          Cost a little more, but after a while, you can undertand why it's worth it.

          I play a bit of tennis in my spare time, and occasionally have been known to actually hit the ball over the net (and on occasions clean over the big fence surrounding the court - much to the amusement of the other players!!) I don't think Wimbledon has anything to worry about just yet, but with my extraordinary hitting talents, I occasionally lose my tennis balls. Hence, when I was in the market for some new ones, I came across these on Amazon for around £8 for 4 delivered. They seemed to have highly rated reviews, so I thought they must be good (and perhaps may improve my game!).

          Slazenger is a well known brand in the field of tennis and they have a history of making good products, where these balls seem to follow that trend. They are delivered in a tube, which is handy to store them in. Interestingly, underneath the plastic cap on the tube, the tube is sealed with a ring pull lid opening, which I haven't seen before when purchasing tennis balls, probably because I've always tended towards the cheaper ones.

          Taking the ball out, the first thing you notice is the brightness (hence the name Ultra VIS) which makes the ball very visible during play. The ball is also packed with some hidden features. From the website, it says that the molecular compound has been improved to give a consistent performance. It also claims to have extra durability and responsiveness, and utilises a hydrograde technology to allow 70% higher water repellency. They are also approved by the International Tennis Federation which does carry a lot of creditability for these balls.

          OK, so the manufacturer makes a lot of claims with this ball, but how is it in reality when you actually play tennis with it? In the hand, it certainly feels like a quality ball, which is difficult to describe, but you just know when you hold it, it is something special. It's a little like looking at a sports car - it doesn't have to do anything, but you just know that it is good. When you play a match with these balls, they do seem to fly straight and bounce well. Bounce it on the ground and it does appear to be quite springy with a sort of 'no nonsense' bounce back. As an experiment, I did pour water on it and it does repel it very well.

          But after using these balls for about 3 months now, the main thing that I have noticed is the durability. Playing on both grass and concrete surfaces, I've often found that my older tennis balls wore out very quickly. They would lose their yellowness and start to get all sorts of scuff marks on them. But these Slazenger ones haven't suffered that fate. They are still very bright - which is very useful for me to help me find them again after I have hit them over the back fence!! With use on the different surfaces, they show little sign of scuffing, and after quite a lot of use, they still retain that quality feel in your hand, with that same 'means business' bounce back when you bounce it on the ground.

          In summary, these are perhaps slightly more expensive that most sets of tennis balls. But after having used them for a while, I can see how that little extra cost makes a big difference in terms of quality, performance and most notably, durability. Hence, I can highly recommend these to any budding or regular tennis player.

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          • Velbon CX Mini / Tripod / 47 Readings / 46 Ratings
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            08.07.2013 22:28
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            Very versatile and well made - a must for camera buffs.

            I always like to take my camera with me when I'm on holiday, or out and about hiking and walking with the dogs. In truth, I suppose I'm a bit of a camera buff and like to try and get some good shots, especially wildlife. To get these sorts of shots close in to wildlife, you first need some sort of remote control (got that for my Nikon D80), and a steady base to put your camera on to get it pointing in the right place. This is where a tripod comes in very handy, and this Velbon CX Mini fits in to that category perfectly for me. £25 from Amazon and it was mine.

            The first good point about this tripod is that it is compact when folded, measuring 30cm tall and weighing in at just over 750 grammes. So it is small enough and light enough to carry in a rucksack, making it ideal for my needs. As a little bit of extra protection and a little more versatility, its also comes with its own carry case with a shoulder strap. So you can sling it over your shoulder to carry it that way if required.

            Extended out it goes to 64 cm max, which basically means that it is a mini version of a full size tripod. The leg sections are all aluminium, making it quite tough and able to take a few knocks. Each of the legs are fully adjustable via 2 sections with grip locks, and braced around the middle, allowing you to set your camera level on the most uneven of grounds. The centre section is also height adjustable, and the head itself is adjustable in pivot and tilt through 3 ways via a simple locking long handle at the back. Your camera is fitted to the head of the tripod via a quick release connector.

            In use, it is very quick to set up, and then once positioned, it is very stable, aided in holding its position via the rubber feet on the ends of the legs. I've used my Nikon D80 on it with no problems and no worries about it collapsing at the wrong moment.

            Overall, the build quality is really good. When you go to set it up, it feels solid in your hands, and as you pull the legs out, they feel like a close fit sliding together between the locks. At full extension, the legs are braced and it doesn't feel like it will easily twist around or be flimsy.

            In summary, whilst this isn't a full size tripod, it is still incredibly versatile, and I find that I use this more than my full size version. Well made, fully adjustable and as a bonus, comes with its own carry case and shoulder strap - all for £25, you can't go wrong with this. A must for your camera kit and highly recommended.

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              08.07.2013 21:22
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              Well made and easily set up anywhere.

              I actually saw this in a recent car boot sale for £10, and I've always had this idea about getting a cheap complete cricket set to set up in the back garden for the kids to use. Better still, I wanted something that would use only lite weight balls so that I didn't end up with an expensive bill if my kids decided to go for a big hit - straight through one of the windows on the house (We've already had the practise with a football!) From research at the time, it was retailing on Amazon for just under £20, so £10 in a car boot sale in good condition was a bargain.

              The first good thing you notice is that the set comes with its own branded bag with a long central zip and a carry handle. I always try to buy these sorts of things with a bag of some sort because for most of the year (winter, raining, windy - typical British weather), the set will probably be stored in the shed, and if it wasn't in a bag, the bits would get lost and then the set becomes unusable.

              Inside the bag, you have a bat, ball, stumps, a stand for the stumps and a set of bails. All of these items are made out of plastic, with the bat being made from a solid plastic. The bat itself was a size 6, which is perhaps a bit small for an adult, but ideal for kids. However, if you are an adult and don't take this game too seriously, you can easily have fun with this bat.

              Setting it up is easy enough because the stumps have their own base, meaning you can pretty much set it up anywhere. The ball is weighty enough not to fly off in the wind, but also heavy enough to allow you to have some direction on it when you throw it.

              The only minor issue I could make with this set is that there is only one ball. Not too much of an issue because you can use a tennis ball since the bat is strong enough to take it. But it would be nice to have had a spare plastic ball with the set.

              In summary, the set is perhaps a little more expensive than other plastic cricket sets, but it is fairly good quality, well made and it comes with its own bag to keep everything together. Thus far, we have had this for a few years now and we still use it every summer when the days are good. So highly recommended.

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                25.08.2012 19:16
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                Graet to get the maximum benefit from your exercise and training sessions.

                I like to keep myself fit through doing regular exercise, but on occasions, my time in gym may be limited due to other commitments. Hence, when I do use the gym, I like to get the maximum benefit from any exercise that I do, and one way to do this is to monitor my heart rate, which is a good way to measure how hard your body is working. Hence I recently bought this Polar FT1 Heart Rate Monitor for £32 from Amazon to assist me with that measurement.

                Initially it is best to understand why it is useful to measure your heart rate during exercise. There is a wealth of information on the internet about it, but the idea is simply to calculate your maximum heart rate, which is the result of 220 minus your age. You then calculate percentages of that figure to create 'zones', and the idea then is that when you exercise, you keep your heart rate in these zones to gain maximum benefit from the exercise. So the 50-60% zone of your maximum heart rate is Moderate Activity, 60-70% is Fat Burning, and 70-80% is the Aerobic Cardio zone for endurance training etc. So keeping the rate during training in say the 70-80% zone will ensure that you get the maximum benefit from the exercise for endurance training, the 60-70% zone for fat burning etc.

                So now that we understand a little of the heart rate training zones ideology, let's look at this Polar FT1. This heart rate monitor consists of 2 parts - a watch (called a Training Computer) and a transmitter (to measure your heart rate). The watch has a rubberised strap and is water resistant to 30m, and also has a large easy to read display. The transmitter is effectively a belt/sensor in the form of a stiff bit of rubber with embedded sensors that sits across the front of your chest, which is then held in place by an elasticated strap that hooks on either end and passes around your back.

                The watch bit also has a number of functions available. Initially, it will give you the time and date so that it can be used as an ordinary watch. You then have a large button on the front which, when pressed, allows you to step through the functions. Pressing once gives you the EXE (or exercise) function, press again gives you the FILE function to detail and record your training progress thus far, and pressing again gives you the ZONE function which is where you set up the training zones that you want to work within that I described before. The idea is that you go to the ZONE function and set your zonal heart rate boundaries. So if you want to train in the Aerobic Cardio zone of 70-80%, work out what your 70 and 80% heart rate figures are from that maximum heart rate figure calculated earlier, and set these in the ZONE function and you are ready to go. Once you go through this set-up process, it remembers everything you set and hence, you don't need to set it all up again unless you want to change your heart rate zone.

                With the transmitter fitted in position around your chest, select the watch to the EXE (or exercise) function and start your exercise. The watch will then start to display your heart rate. To assist you there are 2 assist functions with this watch. Firstly, it displays a heart beat symbol to indicate when your heart rate is below your set zone, in it or above it. Additionally, you also have an audible beep, which again indicates when you are outside of your set heart rate zone. So if you are running along, the beeps will allow you to keep a track of if your heart is working in the training zone selected without having to look at the watch.

                In use, it is comfortable to wear and easy to use. Set-up can be a bit tricky with the calculations, but once done and set, everything is automatic as it picks up your heart rate and records your training session. So top marks for ease of use. In addition, you'll also find that many of the exercise machines in a gym that have the facility to monitor your heart rate will pick up the signals from the transmitter of this system. So at times, you can get away with just using the transmitter when you are training in a gym.

                Negative points? The only minor grumble I have is to do with the instructions. The Polar FT1 comes in a nice box, together with a manual of around 70 pages in multiple languages, where only the first 11 pages are English, and only 4 are actual set-up and use instructions. The problem is that the instructions are sometimes a little vague, and they advise you to go to the Polar website to download the full user manual, which is a lot more comprehensive and useful. Ideally, it would have been nice if the full user manual was supplied with the system, but that is only a minor point.

                In summary, this Polar FT1 has been designed well and is easy to use. It can be a little tricky to set up with all the calculations of zone ranges etc, but once done, it starts to work straight away. Whilst the lack of full user manual may be an issue to some, to me it is only a very minor issue, and doesn't taint what is a very effective and well designed heart rate monitor to ensure that you get the maximum benefit from your training session. Hence, a 5 star recommendation.

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                  10.08.2012 20:04
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                  Quirky styling means you will want to put this on display in your kitchen.

                  I suppose pretty much every kitchen will have to have a set of scales of some sort, and when we were recently redecorating our kitchen, we decided to go for a red theme with the small appliances, and sort fell in love with the quirkiness and styling of these Typhoon Retro Scales in red. At a cost of £20.50 on Amazon, we soon took delivery and set them up in the corner of the counter top.

                  To look at them, they do seem to stand out. They are basically what I would call an 'old world' style weighing scales (hence the Retro name) where you have a stainless steel bowl balanced on top of a solid casing with a big clear dial on the front to give the weight. Everything is mechanical, so there is no need for any batteries. Measuring 25.5cm tall by 20cm wide by 21cm deep, the casing is more of a deep red colour (called a buick red) rather than a bright and shiny red, so not too 'in your face' colouring in the kitchen, and the chrome rim around the dial on the front sets the whole ensemble off nicely.

                  The dial on the front is slightly angled upwards so that you can easily read it when you are stood at the counter, and it has a very clear scale on the front which is covered by a clear Perspex cover. In terms of measuring ability, it will measure imperial or metric, covering all your needs up to a total weight of 8lbs or 4kg, in all units of ounces, pounds, grams and kilograms, and the scale details are large, very clear and easy read.

                  In use, I can't really fault them. For a start, the base has 4 little rubber feet underneath to ensure that it won't move around your counter top when you use them. The bowl on the top is a nice size and can easily cope with about a kg of loose cake mix with ease. In addition, the bowl is totally removable, which has a double benefit. Initially, making it removable means that it can be put separately into the dishwasher to clean (since the scales themselves are not dishwasher proof). But secondly, you can just put your ingredients or whatever into the bowl to measure the weight, and then remove the bowl to pour them into, say, a mixing bowl, and then measure the next lot of ingredients. This is a really useful feature for us because in the past, we had a flat digital scales, and we always had to go through this setting up procedure of putting a bowl on the scales, then zeroing the display, then weighing etc, which we found a bit of a pain to do at times. Should it be required, there is a small adjustment knob on the scales that can be used to zero the scale on the dial, but we have never had to use this because we've found that the scales stay quite accurate, and stay set nicely at zero when not in use.

                  When weighing something by pouring whatever into the bowl on the top of the scales, they remain steady on the countertop because the mechanical weighing spring mechanism operates straight up and down. The needle on the scale will jump around a bit as you increase the quantity of ingredients in the bowl, but once you stop adding, the needle on the scale will hold steady to give you the overall weight.

                  When you've finished, you can simply put the bowl in the dishwasher and then wipe down the scales themselves with a damp cloth - as easy as that to clean. With the retro styling, these scales are not something that you are going to want to bury in a cupboard because the quirkiness is quite eye catching, and hence they can add a sense of character to your kitchen when you put them out on display.

                  In summary, for a relatively inexpensive cost, these scales are a quirky, eye-catching addition to your kitchen. The mechanical weighing mechanism means that you'll never have flat batteries, meaning that they will always be ready for use. They are sturdy to use with a very clear, easy to read scale. Hence, an easy 5 star recommendation.

                  Review also on Ciao under Randal1.

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                    07.08.2012 21:46
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                    It's only a simple canvas bag, but with so much appeal.

                    When these first came out in 2007 as limited edition bag from Anya Hindmarch, I don't think anyone anticipated the euphoria that was about to follow as this became the most hotly sought after bag of the year. At the time, they were being sold in very limited quantities for £5 a bag in selected Sainsbury's stores, and due to the desire to own one, people would queue in the early hours of the morning waiting for their arrival in stores to snatch up the latest 'must have' bag. They even made various appearances on eBay with selling prices of £50+, such was the demand.

                    So how did we come to own one? We actually managed to get hold of one by a real stroke of luck more than anything. At the time, we weren't really after one, but decided if we did see one, we would buy it, because for £5, it looked to be a good bag. So one day when were shopping early in our local Sainsbury store, we noticed a couple of people at the tills with these bags, but when we went looking, they had already sold out. However, when we looked around the Clothing Section for something else, I noticed one of these bags carefully hidden under a pair of jeans. Not sure why it was there, or who had put it there, but it went into our shopping trolley and £5 later, it was ours.

                    The ideology behind the bag was simple, stating the 'obvious' that it wasn't a plastic bag, which made a statement about the environmental impact the use of plastic bags was having, and hence, the idea was that you bought this bag, and it was reusable, thus saving the environment.

                    The bag itself is made from unbleached cream/beige cotton canvas type material, with a contrasting brown seam and tan lettering on the front. The letters are stitched on with a sort of shabby stitching style to leave rough edges around the edges of the letters, which makes them a little quirky. The handles are thick set and made from a sort of woven cotton thread banding that has then been patch worked together to form the handle, one on either side of the bag opening at the top. The bottom of the bag measures 32cm x 20cm, and the height, minus the handles is 32cm, 49cm with the handles included. To establish the authenticity of the bag, on the inner lip of one side at the top it has 'Anya Hindmarch, London' printed on to the fabric on one side and 'we are what we do' printed on the other inner side of the bag. That's about it. There is no additional internal pocket, and there is no zip or closure on the top of the bag. It's just a very quirky bag with loads of character that makes an environmental statement.

                    Being made of a cotton material (and not a plastic bag), makes it reusable and that in some way became the appeal of it. That and the fact that it was a designer bag from the notable fashion designer, Anya Hindmarch, who normally charges considerably more that £5 for her other designer bags.

                    Why am I reviewing a bag that is over 5 years old? Well, of all the supermarket fabric and plastic canvas carrier bags and freezer bags etc that we have had over the years to carry our shopping home in, this is the one bag that is still going strong, so much so that after 4 years, my daughter decided to start using it as a school bag, and it has become a favorite item amongst her friends. It seems that the more this bag gets used, and scuffed and frayed, the more appeal it has. When we used it as a shopping bag, we could get quite a lot in it in terms of shopping etc, and there is no real fear of it failing because the material is strong, along with the handles, and the handles attachments to the bag have been reinforced with a metal ring. So it is a strong bag overall. And now my daughter gives it a regular strength test by loading all her books and computer in to it on a regular basis.

                    In summary, we were really lucky to get this bag when we did, and years later, it still seems to have that quirky appeal that generated so much interest back in 2007. It still looks good and is as strong as ever. There have been many imitations over the years, but none have quite matched the appeal of this original 'I'm not a plastic bag' bag. Hence, a 5 star recommendation.

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                    • AF Screen-Clene / Output Accessory / 63 Readings / 61 Ratings
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                      06.08.2012 18:50
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                      A great screen cleaner with added benefits, but a tad expensive for what it is.

                      This is another one of those computer related products that I've had lying around in my office drawer for ages, using it from time to time, but pretty much taking for granted how useful it is. Very often (for those of you who work with computers) you will find that your screen will get very dirty over time - either through finger marks, coffee spills (if you are really careless!!), or just from plain dust and dirt that gets generated around the office. This dust attraction is often generated by static, which builds up on your screen through normal use, and acts like a magnet for attracting dust.

                      Now you can use a damp cloth to clean the screen, but you will probably find that whilst it cleans well, it will just leave smears all across your screen. Which is where this AF Screen Clene comes in.

                      It comes in a simple grey and blue 250ml bottle at a cost of around £4, and has a manual pump spray mechanism on the top. The fluid itself is effectively a glorified window cleaning solution that you use to clean your computer screen with. However, it does have added benefits in that it also claims to kill 99.9% of the bacteria, and also has anti-static properties when used, meaning that it will neutralize that static build up on your screen, thereby preventing it from attracting dirt and dust.

                      To use it, the idea is that you either spray it on to a cloth and then wipe the cloth across the screen to clean it, or spray it directly on to the screen and then use the cloth, where I normally find that 2 squirts is sufficient to give a 19" screen a really good clean. The spray does have a very faint chemical smell to it when used, but nothing so strong that you are going to be overcome with fumes whilst sat at your desk.

                      For best results, it is better to use what is known as a link free cloth to ensure that it doesn't leave any dust or bits across the screen as you wipe. This sort of cloth is not supplied, but is the sort of cloth that you normally find in your glasses case and used to clean your glasses with, although I have used ordinary kitchen roll with this spray and achieved equally good results.

                      Either way, a 'top tip' that I can give is to use a certain technique when wiping the screen with a cloth. Often, people will just wipe a screen round and round, which is great, but will often just redistribute any dirt and dust. The best way I have found is to wipe the screen horizontally from side to side. In this way, any dirt that the cloth doesn't pick up is left at the sides of the screen. If you then give a quick wipe vertically down the left and right hand edges of the screen, you will often find that that process will then leave you with a spotlessly clean screen.

                      The end result on your screen after a clean is good and smear free, and the fluid sprayed on does dry very quickly. I've also found that the screen tends to stay that way slightly longer than normal, probably because those anti-static properties are doing their job well.

                      In summary, whilst this is a very good screen cleaner, personally I think the cost at £4 is a little high. OK, it is a brilliant cleaner, and you get the added benefits of 99.9% of bacteria being killed and the additional anti-static properties, and for those properties alone, I think it is worth 5 stars. But balancing the price aspect in, I think it just taints it slightly, and hence only a 4 star recommendation.

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                      • Tesco JK27 / Kettle / 68 Readings / 66 Ratings
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                        04.08.2012 20:18
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                        • "Ease of use"

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                        It will boil water .... eventually!!

                        A while back, our trusted office kettle sprung a leak in the base, and we decided that it was time to get a new one rather than trying to do a dodgy repair on it (never good with electrical items holding water!!). So when one of the girls went out to do some shopping for the office milk, coffee, sugar etc, she noticed this Tesco JK27 cordless kettle and bought it, primarily because it cost less than £10 (£9.97 to be exact), which wasn't really going to break the Bank of the Office Tea Bar. We've had previous experience of Tesco's small electrical items in the office (a Tesco toaster and a microwave) and generally have found that for the price, the general quality of Tesco own brand electrical products is rather good, and hence, we had every faith that this kettle would follow that same belief.

                        The kettle itself is fairly basic. It has a polished steel outer surface, complimented by a large black thick plastic handle on one side, and a black plastic base and lid. So in itself, it looks fairly stylish. Cordless, it holds 1.7 litres of water, has a concealed 2.2kW element inside and a little lime scale filter that slots inside just in front of the spout. Externally, there is a red light in the base to indicate when it is boiling water, the process of which is started via the big paddle type on/off switch located at the base of the handle. So pretty much like any other basic kettle, and probably what I would expect for £9.97. Of note, it doesn't have a water level indicator on the side, which some in the office did complain about. Personally, I don't see the point in paying a few more pounds for a water level indicator feature when all you need to do is open the lid and look inside to see how much water is in the kettle. But that's just me.

                        The real crux with any product like this is how well does it work. Well it does what it is meant to - it boils water - job done. HOWEVER ................... there is a slight flaw with this simplicity because it is worthwhile noting a few points on how it boils the water. Firstly, it is very slow, which is surprising. It is a basic kettle, so it doesn't have any rapid boil features. But with a 2.2kW element, it sits about mid-range in terms of the hierarchy of kettle boiling power. Hence, why I was surprised that it seemed to be fairly slow at boiling a kettle full of water, and perhaps one of the slowest kettles that I have ever used. It is not ridiculously slow - not 'switch it on and go and have a cup of tea while you are waiting' slow, but it is slow and worth pointing out.

                        The second point worth noting is that it is surprisingly noisy, so much so that we can hear when it is boiling across our open plan office. Now in the normal hustle and bustle of an open plan office, it is unusual to be able to hear a kettle across the room, but it is something that we have got used to. But in your kitchen, which will be a smaller room, it may become an issue when you are trying to listen to the radio or watch TV. The amount of noise you can tolerate is always a matter of personal preference, but to me, I do find it a little noisier than other kettles that I have used. Others in the office say that it is terribly noisy. Either way, it is something that you need to be aware of.

                        In summary, whilst this is a cheap, basic, no frills kettle from Tesco, that does boil water, it does have a couple of flaws in terms of speed (or lack of it) and the noise it makes when boiling. These issues don't really affect the end result (a kettle full of boiling water), but they can become an annoyance over time if you like things quickly and quietly first thing in the morning. So from me, overall a 4 star recommendation.

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                          25.06.2012 10:24
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                          A novel concept for BBQ charcoals.

                          With the brief spell of good weather that we had recently, on our way home from a shopping trip, we decided to have a BBQ when we got home, and then remembered that we were a bit low on BBQ charcoals. So stopping at a garden centre on the way home, the only charcoals that we could find were these Big K Instant Lighting Charcoals for £4.50 a bag, and I purchased 2 x 2kg bags.

                          When I got the bags home, I sort of assumed that they would just be a bag full of loose BBQ charcoals that you just put on the BBQ. But when I opened one bag up it contained 2 brown paper packets of charcoals inside. I was just on the verge of ripping open one of the packets in order to dump the charcoals out on to the BBQ when my wife noticed mention on the packet about putting the whole packet as is on the BBQ (perhaps I should have read the instructions beforehand!!). It seems that you just needed to place a packet of these charcoals in your BBQ and light it rather than opening it up and dumping the coals out. Each packet contained 1kg of lumpwood charcoal, where the brown paper of the packet had been impregnated with a sort of lighter fluid/aid. So apparently no need for any fire lighters etc to get the BBQ going.

                          Admittedly, I was a little sceptical at first as to how this would all work, but I placed the packet in my BBQ, lit 2 corners of the packet and let it burn. The instructions state that the charcoals should be hot enough to cook with in about 15 minutes. So ideally, from previous experience, what I need to look for are grey charcoals with no flames to ensure that they were hot enough and ready to cook with.

                          As the packet started to burn away, there was a fair amount of smoke, similar to that that you would normally get from using a fire lighter. But as the packet burns away, the level of smoke actually subsides to leave you with a layer of burning charcoals in your BBQ. And sure enough, after about 15 minutes, these were the charcoals going grey with no flames, clearly showing that the BBQ was now hot enough to cook with. So the instructions were fairly accurate in terms of timing. Of note and to be fair, there are very comprehensive instructions on the bag to ensure that you do everything correctly if you follow them. So if you are a total novice to BBQ'ing, just follow the instructions and you can't go wrong.

                          In terms of the quantity of charcoals provided, I actually found that one 1kg packet did provide enough charcoals to cook a BBQ for a family of 4 with ease. They provided plenty of heat and lasted well, but I imagine if you were cooking for a party of people, 2 packets of charcoals should suffice.

                          In summary, I suppose I sort of bought these by mistake, not realising exactly what they were. But they are so 'idiot proof' to use, that you would be hard pushed to fail to get your BBQ lit. They are easy lit and burn well, and initially coming in a brown paper packet, there is no mess when you are initially getting your BBQ set up. All you need is a match to get them going. So a 5 star recommendation overall for these Big K Instant Lighting Charcoals.

                          Review also on Ciao under Randal1.

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                            24.06.2012 19:54
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                            Fully featured and durable that is designed to last.

                            Whenever you get a group of people together at a BBQ or a family gathering, and a rugby ball is obtained, you will always get people passing it back and forth in a sort of catch game between everyone. Hence, when we had a recent BBQ coming up at home, I bought this Gilbert Zenon Rugby Ball on the spur of a moment to provide some gaming fun, mainly on account that out last rugby ball was finally damaged by one of the dogs. At the time, they were only £4.99 in JJB Sports, reduced from £14.99. So for that price, and for what I wanted it for, it was a bargain.

                            The Gilbert Zenon Rugby Training Ball comes in 3 sizes, designated Size 3, Size 4 and Size 5. Size 3 (the one I got) is the smaller of the 3 and is more for children/teens. Size 4 is slightly larger, where Size 5 is the largest and is a full size version more suited for adults. I got the Size 3 version because it would also allow my kids to play with it as well as the adults.

                            The ball itself is made from a special combination of materials to give it toughness, waterproofness and durability - all good qualities that are required for a good rugby ball, where it is made up of a number of panels that have been stitched together. It is also very lightweight (as you would expect for a training ball for kids/teens age groups) meaning that it easy to throw and catch.

                            The outside of the ball has what can be best described as a rubberised pimpled grip, meaning that the surface of the ball is covered in small pimples. This aids the gripping of the ball when you catch or throw it, especially when it is wet. We've done some long range kicks with this ball when it was wet, and when you catch it at the other end, it just stops in your hands with that rubber pimpled grip, and doesn't just slip through.

                            Another good point is that when you do throw it, it also seems to hold its path well through the air, and doesn't seem to get too deviated by any wind, which is surprising given its light weight, but may also be that when you throw it right (a pointed end first like a missile with a spin on) the aerodynamics take effect with that pimpled skin, and give it a good flight path. Either way, it does feel good in your hands and during play.

                            In summary, for my needs, this was an ideal rugby ball, and my kids still get enjoyment from it now, bashing it around the garden. It is fully featured, tough and durable, and although I got it for the sale price of £4.99, I would have been happy to pay a full £14.99 for it. So a 5 star recommendation from me.

                            Review also on Ciao under Randal1.

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                          • Samba Fun Goal / Ball Sport / 64 Readings / 59 Ratings
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                            23.06.2012 19:51
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                            For £50 you get a good looking, easy assemble goal to provide the family with hours of fun.

                            I bought this for the family a while back because we enjoy playing the odd garden football game together when the weather is nice on those rare occasions. From what I could see at the time, there were a variety of sizes available, from a full size 16' x 7', through more manageable sizes of 8' x 6', and down to 5' x 4', which I thought would be a more manageable for moving around the garden as required, and hence, was the one I went for for £50 from Amazon.

                            For the price, what you get is a PVC tubing frame that is made up from white 67mm diameter hollow tubing that interlocks together to form the goal frame. The frame has everything you need to support the net, in that it has a front, sides and base so that it can remain free standing wherever you put it. The goal also comes with a net which you then clip to the back of the frame with the supplied net clips, and for additional security, the goal is also supplied with a couple of ground pegs to hold the goal in position.

                            Once assembled, it is quite lightweight, meaning that it can be easily moved around the garden as required, normally I find, when the grass gets worn out in the goal mouth area and you want to give the area a rest for the grass to recover. You can normally do it with one person, but size wise, you are probably better off with 2. As mentioned, you do have the option to peg it down to the ground with the supplied pegs, but I've never really done that because it seems to stand ok on its own, and only occasionally has fallen over after someone has really blasted a shot into the net.

                            Durability wise it seems to weather well and is quite tough. We have had it out in all weathers, even when there has been an overnight frost and snow, and after about 18 months of use thus far, it still looks good. None of the PVC framework is damaged or cracked, and the net has held well with no fraying or holes. The tubes have also taken a few knocks over time, but nothing has appeared to damage them in any way.
                            One of the really good things about this goal is that you can quickly assemble and disassemble it, meaning that you can quickly set it up for an afternoon game perhaps if you suddenly get a good spot of weather. Overall, the manufactures claim that you should be able to assemble the goal in about 5 minutes, and I can pretty much vouch for that claim to be true because my son manages to assemble it in under that time. Similarly, you can take it apart just as quick, which means that you can then easily store it away again when not in use.

                            Negative points? Nothing specifically with the goal itself, but it would have been nice if it came in some sort of storage bag in which you could store everything to keep all the bits together. We currently store it back in its original box when not in use, but that starting to fray and get damaged a bit. So for perhaps a few pounds more, it would have been nice if the company provided a bag.

                            In summary, you can get cheaper goals than this in markets and on eBay. But when you pay a little more, you get a very durable goal frame that is easy assemble, and lasts well against all the elements that you can throw (or kick) at it to provide the family with hours of fun. Hence, a 5 star recommendation.

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                          • Ray-Ban 3025 Aviator / Sunglasses / 81 Readings / 77 Ratings
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                            17.06.2012 14:39
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                            These are a great investment that will stay iconic and fashionable for decades to come.

                            I bought a pair of these Ray-Ban 3025 Aviators last year during a trip to the USA. For years I'd been wearing the sort of mid-range sunglasses that you buy in the fashion shops in the UK, and on this particular trip, I managed to break my latest pair and needed a replacement pair because I was about to do a fair amount of driving in the country. Hence, looking around in the shops in the New York, I noticed these Ray-Bans Aviators for the equivalent of £70 in a main stream store, and knowing that they are upwards of £100 in the UK, I knew that these were an absolute bargain. Hence, I bought them.

                            Now Ray-Bans are always considered to be the Rolls Royce of fashion styling in terms of sunglasses, with almost iconic status, probably driven by the fact that they originally featured in the 1986 film 'Top Gun' (for those that can remember that far back) with Tom Cruise, and ever since, many people have tried to emulate that Fighter Pilot 'cool' status by wearing them. In fact, they were originally developed by Ray-Ban to be used by US Air Force pilots, and nowadays, you tend to see many of the 'A' list celebrities wearing them at various red carpet events. So they are very sought after fashion items with a unisex styling.

                            But Ray-Bans are more than just a fashion statement because they are actually very good sunglasses. Looking at the styling first, the 3025 range comes in a variety of frame colours, lens shades and colours. Frames can be in either gold, silver or bronze, with lens coming in either black, dark green, brown or grey. Of note, you can also get variations in the amount of tint (or darkness of the lens), as well as different sizes of lens between 55 to 62mm in order to accommodate the shape of your face and head. You can even get prescription lens if required, although I didn't have enough time in the USA for me to take this option.

                            In addition, all the lens offer a high degree of UV protection as standard, which is vitally important when out and about on a bright sunny day. The sun emits UV rays in the form of A and B rays, which can cause permanent damage to the lens and cornea of the eye. Often the damage is slowly caused over time, and hence you don't really notice it until it is too late. One of the problems to be aware of is that in bright light, the pupil of the eye closes down slightly to restrict the amount of light entering it, thereby limiting the damaging UV rays from entering the eye. When you put sunglasses on, the pupil opens slightly to allow you to see through the dark lens. With the cheaper sunglasses, you don't tend to get the UV protection in the lens, and hence, putting the cheaper sunglasses on actually opens the pupil up and allows more damaging UV to enter. UV protection lens, such as these ones in the Ray-Bans, actually block that UV from entering the eye in the first place when you are wearing the sunglasses. Hence, it is important to have lens in your sunglasses that provide UV protection.

                            The Ray-Bans that I bought have a gold metal frame with the 62mm black tint lens. The frame itself is a very thin metal, which almost looks frameless around the lens, leading up to the thin arms which finish off with the ear socks on the ends of the side arms to hold them on to your head. The nose bridge is the classic wire arm either side with a small pad on each arrangement. To finish the sunglasses off, they have also put the Ray-Ban logo on the top outer corner of the right hand lens (as you look through them). In a way, they kind of look like the old 1970s styling of sunglasses, but their status amongst celebrities have ensured that they have carried through the decades to remain bang on styling today.

                            To wear them, they are very comfortable and very lightweight. For longer term wear, they did start to rub a bit either side of my nose when I first go them. But I then took them to an optician to have the nose pieces adjusted slightly and they have been perfect ever since. The sunglasses are fairly flat across the front, with a very slight wrap around of the lens, and I find that the larger lens does help to provide that vital eye protection from the sun. The lenses themselves are quite dark (in my case I got a grade 3 tint of 5 tint levels), but not so dark that you can't safely see through them. In fact, in direct sunlight, they are actually quite clear to see through, much more so than my previous sunglasses that I purchased in a well know fashion store in the UK, and you can easily read a book through the lens if required.

                            When you have spent a lot of money buying the Ray-Ban Aviators, it is wise to look after your investment. Hence, it is worth pointing out that when you buy these, you also get the classic Ray-Ban logo'd stiff leather case to keep them in, which also contains a Ray-Ban monogrammed microfibre cloth to clean them with.

                            In summary, these Ray-ban 3025 Aviators may cost more than your average sunglasses, but what you are getting for your money is classic iconic styling that has endured decades of fickle fashion changes. They look good, are comfortable to wear, and give you that vital UV protection. Hence, easily a 5 star recommendation.

                            Also on Ciao under Randal1.

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