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SophieRainbow

SophieRainbow
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Member since: 20.07.2009

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      28.02.2011 22:54
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      Nice place to eat in town

      G&D's are a familiar site to the residents of Oxford, selling great quality hot drinks, bagels, panini's and homemade ice-cream from 8am-12am every day of the week. Distinctive because of their cow logo, friendly signature and differing names depending on whether you go to the St Aldate's, Little Clarendon Street or Cowley Road, G&D's is never hard to spot, and is always buzzing no matter what time of day. Their prices are not too unreasonable for Oxford, with bagels at around £4 and ice-cream for £3, and everything is great quality. Even the choice of drinks, with a huge range of specialist teas, as well as all the favourite coffees and hot chocolate. The ice-cream flavours are regularly changed, and include their version of Ferrero Roche, and Daim bar crunch as well as old favourites like strawberry, and come in a cup or cone. The atmosphere is lovely, with people working on laptops, perusing the newspaper, or students chatting and couples on dates, the staff are friendly and receptive and the music choice is varied and interesting. A great little place to grab food, whether you have time to sit and enjoy the atmosphere or not, though you have too play a little more than some places for the privelege.

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        07.12.2009 23:52
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        An enjoyable album, good to bung in the glove box

        Radio 1 Established 1967 is a 2-disc collection of cover tracks of songs from each year between 1967 and 2007 recorded by modern artists to celebrate 40 years of radio 1. *Track listing* The tracks are presented in chronolgical order as follows: Disc: 1 1. Flowers In The Rain - Kaiser Chiefs, 2. All Along The Watchtower - The Fratellis 3. Cupid - Amy Winehouse 4. Lola - Robbie Williams 5. Your Song - The Streets 6. Betcha By Golly, Wow - Sugababes 7. You're So Vain - The Feeling 8. Band On The Run - Foo Fighters 9. Love Is The Drug - Kylie Minogue 10. Let's Stick Together - KT Tunstall 11. Sound And Vision - Franz Ferdinand 12. Teenage Kicks - The Raconteurs 13. I Can't Stand Losing You - Armand Van Helden, MIKA 14. Too Much Too Young - Kasabian 15. Under Pressure - Keane 16. Town Called Malice - McFly 17. Come Back And Stay - James Morrison 18. Careless Whisper - Gossip 19. The Power Of Love - The Pigeon Detectives 20. Don't Get Me Wrong - Lily Allen Disc: 2 1. You Sexy Thing - Stereophonics 2. Fast Car - Mutya Buena 3. Lullaby - Editors 4. Englishman In New York - Razorlight 5. Crazy For You - Groove Armada 6. It Must Be Love - Paolo Nutini 7. All That She Wants - The Kooks 8. All I Need - Mark Ronson 9. Stillness In Time - Calvin Harris 10. No Diggity - Klaxons 11. Lovefool - Just Jack 12. Ray Of Light - Natasha Bedingfield 13. Drinking in L.A. - The Twang 14. The Great Beyond - The Fray 15. Teenage Dirtbag - Girls Aloud 16. Like I Love You - Maximo Park 17. Don't Look Back Into The Sun - The View 18. Toxic - Hard-Fi 19. Father & Son - Enemy 20. Steady As She Goes - Corinne Bailey Rae *Highlights and notable tracks* There are lots of strong tracks on this album. All Along the Watch Tower was a risky track for The Fratellis, a fledgling band, to take on, but they pull it off well as it fits with their uncoiling rock n roll style, though fans of the original would probably dislike it on principal. Keane's cover of Queen's Under Pressure is one of my favourites, simply because it is a good song, and lead singer Tom Chaplin's voice is good at imitating Freddie Mercury's: a good track, though not an original take on the classic song. Mika and Arman Van Helden's take on the Police track Can't Stand Losing You is one of my least favourite tracks but certainly notable. Recorded in a house music style wit aggressive synths and underwater warped vocals, I find it quite painful to my ears, but it is certainly more original than many of the other very good tracks on the first CD, such as Kylie's Love is the Drug, Robbie Williams' Lola and Pigeon Detectives' Power of Love, which are all copycat variations on the same theme as the orginals. Stereophonics' You Sexy Thing is a pretty cool song which sounds different when played on the band's more rock-oriented guitars and bass. Clavin Harris took on Stillness in Time, a track I hadn't heard before I got this album and is jazzed up with his synthesized vocals and funky, edgy rhythms. An original take. Klaxon's No Diggity is a great song as they put their distinctive vocals and style over the track. Lovefool covered by Just Jack is a chilled out version of the original, with a bit of a sneaky sound to it and some electriccy sounds and brass chucked in. Madonna's track Ray of Light is made more contemporary by Natascha Bedingfield, though the high notes make her voice sound a bit harsh at times. I enjoy all the songs from The Great Beyond onwards: perhaps it is because they are more modern tracks which subconsciouly are more comforting, I'm not sure. The Fray introduced me to this REM track and it is chilled out and nice. Girl's Aloud's Teenage Dirtbag sounds just like you would expect Teenage Dirtbag to sound like if Girl's Aloud sang it! Maximo Park do an interesting dark take on JT's Like I Love You, The View play a sunshiney Dont Look Back into the Sun, Hard-Fi rev it up with Toxic, The Enemy sound uncharacteristically gentle in Father and Son and to end it all, the pretty girl on the bicycle Corinne Bailey Ray blasts a little Steady As She Goes. *The album as a whole* Though there are some duff tracks, (The Twang's Drinking in LA is pretty dull), there are lots of star ones, too. The album flows well from older to newer tracks, and no doubt the older generation will enjoy CD1 while the younger will probably prefer CD2. *Artwork* The artwork is similar to the Live Lounge album artworks, with understated white backgrounds, a red neon 1 sign and radios and wires trailing about the place. The back of the CD tells you the original performer of each track which is handy. *Conclusion* I imagine anyone who has bought Radio 1's live lounge albums would enjoy this as an addition to their collection of quirky and accurate takes on good songs. It is a CD to bring together older and younger generations, as though you would never catch my parents listening to Razorlight, they do enjoy their take on The Police's Englishman in New York. There is something for everyone here. It is also a music history lesson for the younger generation like myself!

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          07.12.2009 23:15
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          A pretty cool gadget

          My brother bought me this as a Christmas present from an online gadget shop, and I thought it was a pretty funky idea. *How it works* The jar contains a slot like the usual money box but with a spring loaded plastic part inside it which, when a coin is pushed past it, moves a certain distance which must register inside it to tell you how much you are putting into the jar (it comes up on the display, 5p, £2, or whatever). It recognises all current British coins, but would obviously be confused by foreign currency, or, in the future if those scary Euros creep over the englsih channel. When you unscrew the jar's lid, the display changes allowing you to input the amount that you may be removing from the jar with 2 arrows, one for pounds and one for pence. If you go to far you have to start all over again. You can take the lid off without telling the thing how much you took out but that would be cheating of course!! It does beep at you in an irritated monotone to try to remind you if you leave the lid of for too long! You can cheat the machine in order to put in notes and include them in the total, or just to cheat! You just have to get a pound coin and push it into the spring mechanism 5, 10 times or whatever without dropping it into teh money jar. Simples. *How it looks* The jar is hexagonal, plastic and see-through allowing you to see the coins inside which I find quickly stack up to £20 even though I can barely see any pound coins. The lid is quite thick, grey plastic with a small lcd screen, 3 black buttons (2 arrows and mode), the black slot for your cash and some "vault" style fake plastic screws on the top. The lid is quite heavy because of the batteries inside it. It looks pretty funky because its clear. The jar measures 14cm high and 9.5cm in diametre at the bottom. *Other info* The jar uses 2AA batteries, and so far mine have lasted it a whole year without being replaced. The jar has a clock in it which you can switch between on the display, and is pretty easy to set using the little instruction book. *My verdict* For less than £5, this is a pretty cool present, and actually does make it fun to save money! Obviously though it requires honesty.

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          • justgiving.co.uk / Internet Site / 10 Readings / 10 Ratings
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            07.12.2009 18:12
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            Useful for fundraisers

            Justgiving.com is a website for charities and fundraisers to enable them to accept online donations and publish their fundraising efforts online. *Layout and navigation* The website is very simply laid out. The homepage contains a changing array of people's photos and the amount they have raised through justgiving. You can use the search bars to search for a friend who is being sponsored, or search for a charity to donate to (though I would recommend you do this in another way as justgiving do take a cut of the donations). In the top right hand corner is an icon to allow you to sign up to make a fundraising page. Scrolling down there is news about the charities involved with justgiving. *Making an account* Making an account is easy, and simply involves filling out a form with your name, email address and address, plus a password and the charity you want to raise money for, and how long you would like the website to stay online for (standard is 6 months). Most UK registered charities are connected to the justgiving site, and charities can add themselves. You get to choose the address name for your site, which takes the format: www.justgiving.com/example You can have more than one page at once if you like. *Your page* Once you have signed up, you receive a fairly blank webpage with generic images which people can use straight away to donate. You can then customise the site with various tools, writing and formatting a message to tell your sponsors what you are up to, uploading pictures or videos, adding names of team members and inputting the amount of money you have raised offline. *Donating* If you wish to donate using justgiving it is very simple. Search for the charity or individual you want to donate to, click donate, input your card details and leave a message and little icon. It is a secure site (symbolised by the padlock picture). The minimum donation is £2 which is a bit annoying, but you can add gift aid if eligible and people can pay with different currencies though I'm not sure what the conversion rates are like. *Money* One disadvantage is that justgiving take a cut from donations to run their website - this is 5% of your donation or the Gift Aid added to it. If this means that you can get donations you couldn't have got otherwise (e.g. from people outside the UK, or people you rarely see), then this is OK, but it is certainly not great. *Tips for using justgiving* *When asking people to sponsor you, offer donating via justgiving as well as other options (such as cash or cheque) as some people are uncomfortable using their credit cards online. *If you are sending your justgiving address to friends in the hope of them donating, send a personal message to each individual: if you put a general post on Facebook, everyone will expect someone else to do it! *The "raised offline" bar is useful for keeping a personal track of your fundraising if you have money coming from lots of different places! *Charity jealousy* One problem with such a public display of your fundraising is that the amount that you and others have raised is clearly visible, and you are likely to compare your donations to other people's. This can be a downside on justgiving. My advice would be don't get downhearted by people with £100 donations from their friends: this doesn't mean that your mates who give you a fiver don't love you as much! Plus you can feel more satisfied if you have to work a bit more for your donations! *Conclusion* This is a pretty useful website, though not essential, as face-to-face fundraising is often the most effective as well as the most daunting.

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              07.12.2009 17:33
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              A quirky museum

              The museum of sex is one of the lesser known attractions of New York, located on West 27th street between 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue, and home to two perplexing floors of sex-related exhibits. *Look* The Museum is situated on a corner, surrounded by green marble and inconspicuous except for the banners advertising the new Sex life of Animals exhibit with facts about elephant sperm. You feel a little seedy as you walk in the side entrance (the front was being done up while I was there) into the shop to pay for tickets, but as long as you go in with a light heart and curious smile, you shouldn't be too embarassed. Inside the building is relatively dark with some sexy purple neon lighting. *Exhibits* When I went the exhibitions were as follows: Downstairs: Action: Sex and the Moving image is a small room relaying the history of the porn industry and sex in films, with some pornographic films projected down from the ceiling as well as monitors with comical sexual adverts and sex scenes from old and more modern cinema. This was interesting if a little brief. Upstairs: Spotlight is the permanent central exhibition which explores various sexual themes including sex changes, sex toys, contraception, masturbation, pornography, sex in art and fetishes in a historical context. Some aspects of the exhibition are funny (old books about oral sex), some bizarre (festishes including blowing up balloons until they pop), and some make you cringe (some old-fashioned medicinal sex toys which look more painful than pleasurable), but there is nothing too gross or embarassing, just an interesting perspective on sex, which reminds you that people (including - yikes - your parents) have been doing it for a lot longer than you really thought about... Naked ambition This was my least favourite, an exhibition of photos of people involved in the sex industry, mostly directors of porn and weird and wonderful pornstars. Information about and quotes from them were placed beneath each photo. *Shop* The shop contains books, games, and other items related to sex, including Kama Sutra and Erotic Massage cards, peepshow books, comical magnets, penis-shaped pasta and flavoured condoms. It's pretty well priced and a nice addition to the exhibit. *Visiting Info* Hours: Sunday - Friday: 11:00am - 6:30pm (last ticket sold at 5:45pm) Saturday: 11:00am - 8:00pm (last ticket sold at 7:15pm) Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day Tickets: Adults (18+): $14.50 + tax Students and Seniors (with valid ID): $13.50 + tax Group Visits are also available You can get $3 off at the moment by printing of a voucher from their website. *Conclusion* Though small for its admission price, this quirky museum is fun and contemporary as well as educational and has only a tiny pinch of cringe-factor thrown in.

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                07.12.2009 17:11
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                A must see attraction in NYC

                The MoMA is one of the most famous galleries in the world and contains modern art from all areas of the arts, including painting, sculpture, design, music, video and architecture. *Location* The Museum of Modern Art is located in Midtown Manhattan, and is very easy to find with a map (it is marked on most street maps of New York) especially as Manhattan streets are mostly completely straight and numbered! This is a busy area of New York, between the Rockefeller Centre and Central Park, and not far from Times Square, the Theatre District and all the other major NY attractions. *Layout* The gallery has a large lobby with a reception desk, a sculpture garden outside on the first floor, and 4 further floors with open areas leading to gallery rooms. Free maps in several languages are available downstairs which are easy to follow once you have orientated yourself. The exhibition rooms lead into further rooms and it can be a bit confusing to follow the exhibitions around in order to make sure you don't miss anything! They are very large. *Contents* This is the best art gallery I have been to with a huge collection of both famous classic painters and more obscure modern art, and there is something for everyone in all of the exhibition rooms. The upper two floors are mostly dedicated to classic famous artists like Warhol, Matisse, Miro, Kandinsky, Picasso, with many famous paintings such as Monet's Water Lily's, Van Gogh's Starry Night, Paul Cezanne's The Bather, and Frida Khalo's Self-portrait with Cropped Hair. Other exhibitions included a history of design exhibit which included lego and the slinky amongst cutting-edge designs for mass produced products; an exhibit of book illustrations; a fascinating room dedicated to the small 60s Fluxus art movement; and an extensive collection of modern "drawings" (drawings, paintings, sculptures and collages). There were also video art exhibitions, which in the future are set to include a Tim Burton exhibition. Though the exhibitions are constantly changing, I'm sure that my visit was probably reprsentative of the high quality of all of their exhibitions as they are such a large and valued institution. I would recommend looking up the exhibitions online before you go so that when you you get there you have an idea of your priorities - there is too much to see it all in one visit! *Visting information* Opening hours: 10.30am to 5.30pm Mon, Weds, Thurs, Sat, Sun 10.30am to 8pm Fri Closed Tues Admission prices: Adults (12+) $20 Children under 12 free Over 65 $16 Students $12 Admission is free Friday nights 4-8pm. Notes: the museum is quite busy at all times and all year round, especially on Friday nights when admission is free. You can get free entry by purchasing a CityPass for $79 for adults which gets you into 6 attractions (Empire State Building Observatory, American Museum of Natural History & Rose Center, Guggenheim Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises OR Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island as well as the MoMA). Though we used the passes, I think $20 is still worth it for this unique and extensive attraction. I would suggest leaving aside 2 hours to go to the museum if you are a fast mover in galleries, or anywhere up to whole day if you are a slow mover. There are cafes inside to keep you fed! *Conclusion* If in New York, you have to go to this gallery. There really is something for everyone and it is a great attraction for introducing children to art that will inspire them, rather than stuffy paintings.

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              • RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 (PC) / PC Game / 4 Readings / 4 Ratings
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                07.12.2009 16:14
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                Not quite as good as RCT1, but still essentially the same game!

                I bought this game after playing for years on the original after it became incompatible with my computer. This version is pretty good, though it has some downsides compared to the first RollerCoaster Tycoon. *The aim of the game* The aim of rollercoaster tycoon is to build theme parks which are, hopefully, succesful in completing missions, such as to earn a certain amount of money, achieve a park rating or admit a certain number of guests by a date. Involved in making the themepark, you can erect rides and stalls, design your own tracks for rollercoasters, mazes, log flumes etc., create themes and make gardens. *Features* Features of the game include: *Ability to customise the price, colour, name, music etc. of rides. *Build your own rollercoasters and other rides, or choose from preset tracks. *Scenery and theming allows you to create a themed park, and includes pirate, candyland, medieval and winter wonderland themes, as well as deal with the basics like paths, bins and benches. *Employ staff, see what customers are thinking, get loans and advertising and manage all other aspects of the theme park to achieve your goals. *Quite realistic sound effects of ride lifts, music, ducks, vandalism, crowds which change in volume depending on the closeness to them and number of guests in the park. *Rides and stalls* There is a greater selection of rides and stalls in this game than the first. These include: about 20 types of rollercoasters including Wild Mouse and Inverted Loop coasters, pizza, T-Shirt, medical and hotdog stands, log flumes, mazes, bumper cars, the haunted house, merry-go-round, inverted swinging ship, a twister, crazy golf, mini cars, topspin, monorail, slide and lots more. The rollercoasters are the most exciting because of their infinite possibilities. *Scenarios* The opening menu holds a number of scenarios for you to build your park in. You may begin with an empty park, or with a real life Six Flags theme park for you to improve. There aren't many empty parks, which I feel lets this game down compared to the original, because I hate building stuff over a park which someone has already started and laid out in a weird way or filled with annoying gardens that have to be bulldozed! *Difficulty level* This is a challenging strategic game which gets easier with practice. The goals set by the game (such as to achieve a park rating of 200 by June year 2) are generally realistic yet challenging, and do not impose to much on the game - if you just fancy playing for fun you can ignore the missions! Other notes on difficulty: *Big loans make it easy to start making your park before funds come in *Research into new rides is needed to obtain the full range of rollercoasters etc., making the game a little more tricky! * It is hard to build rollercoasters that customers will like (they need to be exciting but not too nausea-inducing or intense), which can be frustrating! *Some of the pre-designed parks are very elaborately designed around a theme or otherwise, with gardens and rides neatly fitting together, and it is frustrating trying to imitate their professional designs. *Longevity* This games has many hours of gameplay because of its infinite possibilities and inability to be "completed" entirely. *Graphics* If graphics are your thing, Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 or 4 may be more your thing, but I personally like the simple, colourful style of the graphics in this game. Have a look at some screenshots before you buy (there are some on the back of the game itself) because the front cover is not representative of the game content. It is more Sims than Sims 2, but I find this helps to concentrate on the sometimes difficult task of manoevring a rollercoaster track around another ride or path. *Compatability* The game is compatible with Windows 98, XP and Vista and requires a 300 MHz CPU and 120 MB free space on the hard disk. *Price* Now at just £3.96 from Amazon, this game is a steal and compared to PC games that you can find in shops for this price, it is a very enjoyable game with a lot of possibilites.

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                07.12.2009 15:36
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                I like the funky colours and would definitely buy again!

                I bought this nail polish as a gamble having never tried the brand suspecting that, as it was cheaper than others, it wouldn't be as good, and I was completely wrong! *Packaging and range* Miss Sporty Clubbing Colours comes in 7ml bulbous little bottles with elegant white lids, and in a range of funky colours. These include: Pop fiction (an off-bright blue) Hip pop (a hot pink-purple) Taxi (a fiendishly bright yellow) Dazzle (pearlescent pale pink) Pop corn (a salmon-orange shade) I bought Pop fiction as it was a unique shade. *Application* The nail polish was quite thick and creamy, as it should be, and not sticky or runny. It applied evenly after a good shake, and the first nail dried almost by the time I painted the last on my left hand (though I have to admit I didn't count the seconds to test the 1 minute drying claim, but it was fast enough!) *Look* The polish was a matt colour, with a tiny hint of healthy shine too it but not metallic, which is what I wanted. It lasted OK, for less than a day with no chipping, but depends of course on whether you nibble your nails or not! Pop fiction was a very sexy and unusual colour which mostly clashed with my colourful clothes which I like! As it is an odd shade of blue, it most certainly doesn't match with denims, so deserves to be put under Clubbing Colours aka Crazy Colours. *Price* At £1.90 for a 7ml bottle, it sounds pretty cheap, though you have to bear in mind that some bottles of polish are 10ml. This works out at £2.70/10ml which is an average to good price for nail polish. Definitely value for money. *Conclusion* Pretty good polish.

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              • Barry M Nail Paint / Make Up / 8 Readings / 7 Ratings
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                07.12.2009 15:18
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                Disappointing

                I immediately loved the colours in the Barry M nail paint range, but overall they were a bit dissapointing. *Packaging and range* The Nail paint comes in little square-shaped 10ml bottles (larger than some 7ml nail polish bottles) with black lids. The range of colours is brilliant, from fluorescent shades like Acid Yellow and Coral, to brights like Bright Purple and Tangerine, pastels like Mint Green and Marshmallow Pink, and darks like Navy and Racing Green. The full range of colours can be found at http://www.barrym.com/products/product.asp?id=86. I personally bought 3 bright shades, Yellow, Bright Red and a disgusting bright green colour (!) which they don't appear to sell anymore. I think the name "Nail Paint" is quite clever, though only subtly different to polish, as it suggests something artistic and fun which fits with their funky range of colours. *Application and look* After shaking the bottle, I applied the first coat of Bright Red for the first time to discover that the polish was shiny, and thick but quite runny. The red stuck OK though and once applied and dried (it took about 2 minutes to dry, so not as fast as some), it was a strong enough colour and had enough sheen to use only one coat and wore pretty well without chipping for a couple of days. However, with the Yellow and bright green shades, I found the paint was even more runny and not as thick. The paint slid down my nail towards finger, leaving a more translucent layer on most of my nail and an opaque lump at the cuticle. I removed and tried again, but the only way I found to overcome this difficulty was to dab blobs of the nail polish on to thinner areas and let them merge together. However this formed a thick, unattractive layer of opaque yellow and green which took a long time to dry (over 15 minutes), meaning that any tiny disruption to the polish I made as I pottered around waiting and trying not to touch stuff made little scratch marks in the soft polish. I put it down to the shades of the polish - opaque, bright colours are probably more likely to do this than the glossy shades, but be very wary! *Value for money* I have always thought that with nail polish, the more expensive the better, but now I realise that this is completely wrong! These cost around £3 a bottle, and in my experience with bright colours, a better bottle can be bought for £1.90 in the form of the Miss Sporty range.

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              • Wilkinsons / Highstreet Shopping / 14 Readings / 13 Ratings
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                07.12.2009 13:35
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                Awesome

                For those who don't know, Wilkinson's is best described as like a supermarket/departments store without all the food! It sells a large range of branded and own brand toiletries, stationery, toys, pet accessories, furniture, kitchenware, hardware, sweets and chocolate at the lowest prices of any shop I know. *Look* Wilkinson's stores look quite similar to an uncramped Iceland, with a red and orange colour scheme, large windows around and tiled white floors. They are usually on a single floor, but are quite large, meaning that they are not particularly airy and have to be lit with horrible fluorescent lights, but this is typical of many shops. *Products and prices* Wilkinson's own brand is cheaper than any supermarket brand I have ever come across. Some items in particular have been very good value: 75ml Toothpaste 19p Single toothbrush 27p Set of 15 artists' brushes (all different sizes and styles) 99p Small plastic chopping board 79p Block of 5 kitchen knives and scissors £3.50 They also sell name brand goods at quite reasonable prices, though you have to be careful with these to compare with cheaper supermarkets like Tesco or Asda first. Wilkinson's, along with WHSmith, are one of the only high street stores to sell pic n mix after the collapse of Woolworth's but have been doing so for a long time at the price of 69p per 100g, very good, and in my experience offer a greater variety of sweets than other stores. Much of your Christmas shopping could easily be done in Wilkinson's who sell wrapping paper, decorations, cards, selotape, toys and games, sweets, home accessories like candles, some electrical kitchen appliances, craft items like artists' paints, canvases and stickers. In my experience, they do not seem to sell: CDs or DVDs, many electrical appliances. Because of the range of goods, they do not have as many products in each category as specialist stores like Partners for example, but it is a good "all under one roof" place to go first before looking elsewhere for anything you couldn't find! *Value for money* I have only begun going to Wilkinson's regularly again recently, but I can hazard a guess that some of their products may not have the longevity of more expensive versions, for example a cheap chopping board will not last as long as a thick wooden one or more substantial plastic version. However, for disposable items (e.g. toothpaste) this is irrelevant, branded items will last equally long wherever they are bought, and I think many shops such as Partners are able to charge more for the sake of their name and the tidiness of their shops rather than the quality of their products, and they all probably come from the same factory anyway. *Service* The people on the tills are a good middle between disinterested and over keen. They generally are well trained and deal with problems well, though they don't ask whether you would like a plastic bag, which bothers me because I prefer to use the ones I already have! Though the aisles aren't big enough for trolleys, they have clever shopping baskets to use which can be carried normally or wheeled with a long handle across the floor, which is useful considering the amount of stuff that you inevitably end up buying in there. *Conclusion* A very good value shop for many household items and gifts.

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                  07.12.2009 13:00
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                  A good gift for kids aged 11-14

                  This cook book uses a by-a-teen, for-teens formula to introduce the basics of cooking to young people. *Contents* The book includes a huge range of recipes from a very basic skill level to a moderately advanced one, organised as follows: Sam's Introduction Brilliants Breakfasts Cool, quick lunches... School recovery Evening chill out Impress the girls... Mates aroung Weekend family meals Puddings... Party, party, party Exam survival Essential extras Top tips Index *Look and layout* The book is laid out in sections relating to meals or occaisions rather than typical "Fish", "Bread" sections, which is fitting for young people who cook for a reason rather than cooking dinner every day. The pages are laid out in a linear scrapbook sort of style with pastel coloured backgrounds, photos of the food, and (quite annoying ones of) Sam cooking with his family and friends and tips added in dotted-line boxes. There is a good variation in text font and size which makes the recipes easy to follow. You can examine the layout in a bit more detail on Amazon.co.uk using the "Look Inside" feature. *Recipes* The range of recipes includes: drop scones, garlic bread, eton mess, Welsh rarebit, burgers, spaghetti carbonara, roast lamb, chips, pesto, shortbread, gazpacho and moules marinere. It covers the basics such as making porridge and dressing salads, with the handy "Essential extras" section detailing how to make basics like white sauce, and pizza dough, up to a full roast leg of lamb. The recipes are clear and accurate: I discovered how to make pancake batter without having to beat loads of lumps out of it for the first time using this book. They include an ingredient list, serving size, method, serving suggestion and tips for alternative similar dishes. *Top tips* The Top Tips section is a quite useful aside to the cooking aspect of the book. It suggests how to prepare for exams, which are a prevalent aspect of the lives of the target audience, through suggesting brain boosting foods, to timing for revision, and a recipe for a night before treat of hot chocolate. *Writing* The book is written in a teeny style, with slightly patronising in words like 'cool' and 'well-fast' thrown in every now and again, which will mean that the book dates. His voice is highly accessible to kids, but the mentions of his mum and dad and other 'uncool' family related stuff lowers the age of the audience for this book to early teens. The recipes are very clearly written, and quite nicely casual, a bit Jamie Oliver, with Sam "chucking" stuff in the pan etc. *Price* With a £9.99 RRP this is a pretty good price for a quite large cookbook and is available for £5.71 from Amazon. *Conclusion* I would highly recommend this book for kids aged 11-14 as an introduction to the basics of cooking. It's about time that more parents returned to introduccing their kids to an oven before they get to university, and I think even reluctant kids would find Stern's easy passion for cooking infectious. The book is certainly useable by older people (I am 18 and still use it occaisonally), but the style and format is definitely aimed at young teens.

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                  • Planet Rock / Music Radio Station / 14 Readings / 12 Ratings
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                    07.12.2009 12:28
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                    For people who are stuck in their ways!

                    "PLANET ROCK - The UK's Classic Rock Station" as they constantly repeat on the channel, in a gravelly, American hard-rock voice, is a DAB radio station (called PLNTROCK on the radio) playing rock music from about the 1960s-1990. I am not a classic rock fan, but the chefs at the pub where I work are and insist on listening to it, so this is my perspective on the station. *Image* Planet Rock comes across as a station aimed at men: all of the presenters and voice overs I have ever heard are male, they have a sarcastic sense of humour and play, what is usually but not exclusively deemed as "manly", classic rock music. They are also aimed at an older generation than the Kerrang radio audience and stay truer to the pure rock only ethic than such stations who have tended towards more "popular" forms of music like pop-rock in order to pull in listeners of late. They present themselves to have a strong following, which I'm sure they do. *Music* The station plays a variety of rock bands from the past, but do not delve into modern attempts by such bands or others in the rock genre. Typical bands played include AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Guns n Roses, Queen and Iron Maiden, with occaisional blast of Nirvana "Smells like teen spirit" and Jimi Hendrix. Twice (in approximately 144 hours of listening) I have heard them play Foo Fighters, but this is the only post 1990 music I have heard on the station. The sum result of their playlist is that it becomes repetitive. Though the same could be said of many popular stations who play certain songs 5 times in one day, with these stations there is always an at least gradual progression towards newer tracks which replace older ones. This station is stuck in a phase of the past, and so I have heard some tracks hundreds of times on their station. Though in some ways this is inevitable for a "classic rock" station, the station would be better if it played a greater variety of songs by metal bands, but unfortunately it seems to stick mostly to the same tracks as well as the same artists. Their "favourites" include: Lynyrd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Alabama Iron Maiden - Bring your daughter... to the slaughter AC/DC - Welcome to the jungle Warren Zevon - Werewolves of London Pink Floyd - Comfortably numb *Shows and features* The general format of shows on Planet Rock is 75% music and 25% talking, though this varies as some shows involve lengthy, narcissistic drawls by the presenters who often used to be in rock bands where they name drop and recount their experiences in the industry. There are not too many adverts compared to some commercial stations. Features include "Planet Rock Years" in which they explore the music and events of one year. I don't mind this feature for its historical content, but the songs chosen to represent the years often fit predictably with the usual playlist. The "Rockblock" appears to be a feature in which one listener chooses a set of songs to play. A couple of shows during the week are presented by quite famous members of famous bands: these include Alice Cooper's Breakfast with Alice, and Joe Bonomassa on Tuesday evenings. In these shows the presenters play songs while speaking casually at intervals about when they worked with Jimi Hendrix. The shows aren't accessible to a general musical audience like myself, and thus appear boring to me but I'm sure fans of historic metal bands will enjoy the insights and topics discussed in the shows. The only joke that I have ever enjoyed was one of the presenters saying that something with the name Neon Nights shouldn't be mistaken with the Dannii Minogue album of the same name. *Conclusion* I would imagine that this station would be enjoyable at intervals for people who like classic heavy metal music, but even they would like to crack out their albums for some variety the rest of the time. For people who are forced to listen to it in the background, it offers very little entertainment or solace, unlike milder stations who play a mixture of genres, like Radio 1 or Absolute radio. This is a station for people who like classic rock but, unlike many rock-Dads who will embarrassingly singalong to the odd Arctic Monkeys track, and are too stubborn to accept that there may be some merit in modern music or other genres.

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                    • More +
                      07.12.2009 11:43
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                      They're OK

                      At university my boyfriend is always looking for cheap and easy meals to make for himself, and a littl while ago we tried these. As always, Sainsbury's Basics offer basic quality food free from the premium cost of brands, and is easily recognisable from its simple orange-and-white packaging and (annoying) slogans like "Cleans, but no more promises", stating the simple nature of basics products. We found these in the frozen fish counter for 98p. *Contents* The cardboard box contains 4 x 100g frozen, battered fish portions that are each uniformly about 11cm by 6cm in size. *Looking and cooking* They dont look too appealing before cooking, little beige frozen squares that dont in any way resemble a fish and look like they've been stamped out exactly the same. However, they are still frozen so we have to give them a chance! Stick them on a baking tray in an oven at gas mark 7 (220 degrees C) for about 20 minutes, turning them halfway through until they are crispy out the outside and piping hot all the way through *Taste* The fish portion is coated in a thick layer of batter which is crisp and brown on the outside, but soft and paler by the time you get to the centre. This leaves a thin little square of white, homogenized fish (the fish makes up just 52% of the portion) in the centre. It tastes good to me, because I like batter more than fish! The batter is tasty, with a good amount of saltiness to it. The fish is mediocre quality, slightly dry and less fish-looking than a fish finger which at least has flakes and the occaisional grey bit, and so lets it down, but this is to be expected at such cheap prices. The fish portions are very filling because of the large amount of batter so 2 is plenty per person with some vegetables and a small amount of potatoes. *Sustainability* The only fish used in the fish portions is MSC Certified Alaskan Pollock, which means that the Marine Stewardship Council have certified their source of fish as sustainable (i.e. unlike sources of cod in the past, the pollock is fished at a pace which prevents numbers from declining). This is good news! Especially as ethical food usually costs a premium. *Nutrition information* Per fish portion Calories: 172 Protein: 12.0g Carbohydrate: 16.2g Fat (saturates): 6.6g (0.6g) Salt: 0.71g As with many pre-prepared meals, these portions are quite high in salt (a serving of 2 fish portions contains 24% of the maximum salt recommended in a day). The fat content is not as bad as some, though it is always tempting to eat fish with chips... but there is a fair bit of protein in there which is good. *Value for money* At 98p, these fish portions aren't as good value for a quick meal as some alternatives, such as readymeals like lasagne, spag bol and curries which can be bought at 3 for £2, which provide the whole meal and taste better. For fish they are very cheap, but the quality is just not very good and I would rather pay more and eat fish more occaisionally. *Conclusion* These are a cheapish meal which will probably do for children and university students! We thought they were an OK meal, but my boyfriend hasn't bought them since.

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                    • More +
                      07.12.2009 11:14
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                      A screamy face wash which can prevent break outs

                      For those like myself who don't usually spend much on lots of skincare products, this wash comes third in my list of essential products after moisturiser and pore scrub. *Claims* The wash claims that "The foaming antibacterial cream formula washes away dirt, oil and spot-causing bacteria. It contains conditioners to soften the skin and prevent over-drying." It claims to give you "Clear, soft skin without over-drying". *Using the face wash* The upside-down squeeze-bottle design makes it easy to squeeze out some of the wash (a pea-sized amount is all you need). It is a toothpaste like white paste with a nice pearlescence to it - which is perhaps not important but it can't hurt to look nice! It then lathers up very easily with some water on your hands in order to rub it all over the face, and has a plain, clean scent. It does sting if you get it in your eyes! Because it is a smooth face wash rather than an exfoliating scrub, I use this product for this function simply by rubbing it harder over rough areas like the pores on your nose or areas where spots are beginning to break out. And like most soaps and face washes it is oily so you have to give it a reasonable scrub with your hands or a flannel to wash it off. *Results* The scrub mostly lives up to its claims. It doesn't dry the face any more than washing with just water, and less than washing with soap, so you still need to moisturise afterwards. Immediately it leaves your skin feeling softer even if you had a few lumps and bumps of upcoming spots before using it. I find its cleaning function does prevent spots in the long-term, and can also lessen the impact of a break out if used when the skin starts to feel rough with a few subterranean spots! While this face wash does what it claims it does not deal with spots once you have them, and is not strong enough for people who have acne or a tendency towards being very "spotty". *Value for money* Because of the brand, the face wash is relatively expensive at around £3/4 for a 150ml bottle, depending on where you buy it from. Depending on how "spotty" you are, the bottle can last anywhere between about 2 months (if you follow their instructions and use it twice a day, though I think this is excessive and may do more damage than good), or a year (if like me you use it once a week)! Thus for lesser-spotted teens, this is a much better value product than those who need a more serious solution to their spots.

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                    • More +
                      21.11.2009 19:59
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                      Buy 2 handfuls of puppets for under £10 and let children's imaginations run free

                      Finger puppets are a classic creative toy, great for getting kids involved in story telling, building confidence and encouraging imaginative play. This is Ikea's typical modern and quirky take on finger puppets. *Contents and packaging* The puppets come squadged together in a little plastic packet with a grey strip across the top with washing instructions and an image of children's hands with finger puppets. As can be seen in the photograph, the Ikea Titta Finger puppet set comes with 10 unique puppet design: green and red striped fish, a blue squid, green octopus, turtle, orange star fish, shark, yellow crab, red sea horse and orange whale. *Look and feel* The puppets look colourful, cute and quirky with a good mix of shapes. The details, such as the shark's felt white teeth, seahorse's mane and whale's red mouth, show some care and craftsmanship, and the puppets feel soft and squishy. The lining is soft and non irritating to the skin. However, the outside of the puppets made from 100% polyester is a bit rough, like felt. The puppets are quite small (the smallest, the starfish, around 5cm tall and the largest, the shark, around 11cm), but the finger holes are a good length and breadth for children (and adults) to get a good grip on them. *Fun factor* These are quite fun to play with, purely because they are puppets, and they make colourful characters in a undersea play. However, their size shape, and material gives them limited movement compared to more upright puppets like human figures with wooden parts and flexible limbs. For the price though these are very satisfactory, kids love animals and the mixture of sea creatures make this a unisex toy. *Price* As is often the case with Ikea products, they take simple designs which are mass made on huge scales, making low prices. These cost £3.99 for 10, good value, and worth getting the other varieties: Titta Jungle Animals (lion, tiger, zebra etc.) Titta Folk (an especially imaginative menagerie of people including a baby, nurse, santa claus and ghost) Titta Djur (mixture of animals including a rabbit, moose, frog, elephant and panda) *Conclusion* A lovely product, with a cute name (Titta means "peep" in Swedish), durable, and quite versatile, especially if bought in combination with other puppets.

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