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After waiting for what seems like forever it was finally time to upgrade my mobile phone so off I went on a search for the perfect upgrade at an affordable price. I was specifically looking for a touch screen Smart Phone which offered a decent camera, mobile internet, a music player and preferably a radio and after some research I plumped for the new Nokia N8.
Released in October 2010 it is fresh to the UK market and is available in a choice of 5 colours - Silver, dark grey, orange, Blue and Green.
I opted for the Dark Grey and received this from Vodafone, the phone was free with a £35 a month contract over 18 months. I have had a look around though and you can purchase the phone (sim free) from Nokia for £429.00 however I note that Tesco's Direct are currently selling the sim free Dark Grey N8 for a bargain £319.07 plus over 600 Clubcard points.
** Phone Specifications **
There are such a vast quantity of specification information for the Nokia N8 that I will never be able to cover them all and lets face it some of these specs mean nothing to the average user so instead I am going to stick to what I feel are the most important features and the bits I use most.
** The Battery & Software Platform **
The Battery supplied is a BL-4D 1200 mAh Li-Ion battery which on this Nokia phone is completely encapsulated within the case and is therefore not accessible unless you are prepared to unscrew the back cover. It promises a maximum talk time stats of:-
GSM 720 mins
WCDMA 350 mins
And Standby time (maximum) of:
GSM 390 h
WCDMA 400 h These figures mean very little to me however I have found that as long as I do not use the phone too heavily (but I do use around an hour and a half of music playback per day) the phone needs to be charged every other day. For heavier use I have had to charge daily and if playing games the battery is depleted within an hour or so.
As for the software platform the Nokia N8 uses the new Symbian ^3 for Nokia which is an updated version of its previous platform.
Having used the Nokia N96 which was horribly buggy particularly when multitasking I was concerned that the N8 may suffer the same issues however the new software platform is far superior and as yet (1 week in) I have not had any crashing issues, what a relief!
** Connectivity **
The phone can be connected to PC's, Radios, other mobiles and TV's via its built in:- ** Bluetooth 3.0
** Micro USB connector
** USB 2.0
** FM Transmitter
The Bluetooth connection made transferring information from my old Nokia phone a very simple process and I managed to send over all my calendar entries, notes, contacts and some music (although there were more options to send information between Nokia Mobiles than I utilised and I am pretty sure if you had the time and patience you could get almost everything from one phone to another without the need of a cable). I also really like that the phone charges whilst attached to a PC via the USB connector which means I am able to give my phones battery a little boost of energy whilst I am uploading photos to my PC. The USB connections is great for transferring pictures, videos and music between my mobile and PC.
** The Screen **
The phone has a 3.5" touch screen with the resolution of 16:9 nHD. I must admit these specs also don't mean much to me however having used the phone for a good week I can confirm that it has a nice large (for a mobile phone) touch screen that displays images and videos beautifully. There are also apparently 16.7 million colours which is most likely the cause of the clear picture displayed which I admit has impressed me no end.
The touch screen itself is not bad although it can be a little unresponsive and there have been occasions where I have needed to press the screen a couple of times before it acknowledges my request. I believe this may be because the phone is in the process of thinking about something rather than the screen itself not registering my press however it can be frustrating.
There is an option of using an onscreen keyboard if you turn the phone to landscape or you can use the more traditional number keypad (on screen) with predictive text if the phone is in portrait. Depending on the direction you are holding the phone in the screen and keyboard changes automatically however I do find the keyboard keys quite small and as I have fairly small hands this may be an issue for people with larger fingers. Having viewed the demo movies supplied with the phone I have been very impressed by how clear and detailed the screen is.
** Dimensions **
The Dimensions of the phone are 113.5 x 59 x 12.9mm and it weights 135g with the battery. It is fairly large in size but as smart phones go it is very similar to others in the field (including the Iphone) and it is also pretty slim. The camera on the back of the phone is slightly raised out of the case which does make it look a little fatter when laid on a desk but I like that it tilts the phone slightly towards you. The phone looks very stylish.
** Home Screens **
There are 3 customizable home screens on the phone each of which allows you to add up to 4 "widgets" (Widgets are basically shortcuts to programmes or functions on the phone). However it has taken me 3 days and a lot of searching on the internet to work out how to put different applications than those listed as standard within the widgets section onto my homepage and in case you also find yourself in this situation I am including a step by step guide (as information on the internet is limited in this area at present):-
Hold down on the screen for a few seconds on the home screen you wish to edit (which takes you into the edit home screen mode).
Click on one of the free pluses on the screen and pick the "shortcuts" widget from the menu.
Whilst still editing the home screen touch the "shortcuts" and chose "settings".
From the settings screen you can pick which of the 4 shortcuts shown you would like to change to a different program. When you click on one of the 4 options you will be able to choose from a longer list of applications or bookmarks. You can do this for shortcuts on each of the 3 home screens including different shortcuts to gain access to more programmes.
I did not find this was easy to work out and am a little disappointed that Nokia didn't work to make this a more user friendly process however I did eventually work it out for myself. The phone does not come with a manual and I did try to find this information within the help on the phone however I could not find the instructions for this on the phone.
Now that it is done I am happy with the access I now have to my favourite programmes without having to go through the menus constantly.
** The Camera **
The Nokia N8 sports a 12 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics. The phone has a built in Xenon flash for use in darker conditions. The camera in my opinion is the best feature of this phone. It is accessed by pressing a camera button on the right side of the telephone and the quality of the pictures is excellent. There is face recognition built in as well as the standard autofocus.
Again after researching I understand that this phone is not only 12megapixels in size but it also has a more sensitive sensor than other phones cameras meaning that the pictures come out clearer and more lifelike than any mobile I have used before. The pictures are definately better when taken in daylight however this phone copes better with darker conditions than the Nokia N96 did. There is also a 2x digital zoom for still images to get that little bit closer if you need to. Having had a play with this the photos in bright daylight come out beautifully and are of a decent enough quality to print them out and place in a photo album. For indoors the flash does its job and the photographs in darker conditions also come out very well with good colours and detail. I quite like the face recognition feature as once it has locked on it makes sure that faces are not blurred.
The phone also has a secondary camera for video calls which is of a lower specification (but then who wants to be seen in High Definition on a video call anyway?).
** The Video Camera **
Another fantastic feature of the Nokia N8 is the powerful little video camera (well for a mobile phone anyway). The 12 megapixel camera shoots videos in HD quality (720p resolution to be precise). This means that you are able to record high definition videos quickly and easily whenever you like. This does however mean that the video files can be quite large due to the improved quality. Having played around with this a little I was a bit disappointed that when viewed on the larger screen on my PC it was not as sharp as I had hoped however it is a vast improvement on the videos my old Nokia N96 used to produce and the sound is also nice and clear. I don't suppose you can expect too much from a mobile phone video camera however it is far better quality than any of the previous Nokia phones I have used and my expectations were probably overly optimistic as it is billed as videoing in High Definition.
You can also play your HD videos straight to your TV with use of an HDMI cable (the adapters for this was included in my mobile phone box but not an HDMI cable).
The phone also comes complete with the cables you would need to upload the videos and pictures to your PC and as an experienced Nokia user I find this process simple through the use of windows explorer.
** The Music Player **
Another lovely feature of the Nokia N8 is its music player. Music can be added to your phone either by using Nokia Avi Music on your PC, connecting the phone to your PC, pick the music you want and drag it to the mobile phone Icon in the software (on the left). You can also download music direct to your phone via the internet.
As the phone has 16GB of internal memory you can store a lot of music on your phone and there is also the option of adding up to 32GB extra via a Micro SD memory card (not supplied). However as you can store around 4000 on 16GB unless you are going to fill the phone up with Videos or games it is unlikely you will need to expand the memory.
Once the music has been added to your phone you can create your own playlists within the music player which is a necessity once you have a few hundred tunes. You can also activate "shuffle" on a playlist if you prefer to be surprised! Reordering the playlists is also a simple process within the settings and I have already used this feature successfully several times.
The phone comes with a good quality pair of in-ear head phones which have a clip on section containing a microphone (for phone calls) and back, forward, play and volume buttons which is also a fantastic addition. The quality of sound on the headphones is very clear and surprisingly for a Nokia accessory these headphones are as good as a pair of in-ear headphones I purchased for £20 earlier this year. They connect to the phone via an ordinary headphone socket therefore if you wished to replace these with your favourite headphones you can. The phone also goes up to a decent level and is plenty loud enough for me (I usually play these a few bars below maximum level).
** The Radio **
There is also built into the phone a stereo FM Radio ( 87.5-108 MHz) which can be used as long as you have headphones attached (as these are effectively your aerial). The radio is not particularly powerful and as the headphones become your aerial reception can be hit and miss, particularly when travelling however few phones still offer an onboard radio and I am very pleased that this was not removed from the Nokia N8 as it has always been a feature I have used on previous mobiles I've owned.
It also comes complete with an FM Transmitter which allows you to transmit audio from your phone to your nearest radio which is a fun little gadget (although I am not sure actually how useful it is?).
** Navigation **
The Nokia N8 has GPS as well as Ovi Maps that contains free navigation for cars & walkers. I have not yet used the GPS properly yet however the Maps have already come in handy when I have got myself lost around town (I have terrible direction skills!).
** Internet & Games **
The phone promises to allow full web browsing of real web pages and also contains Flash Lite 4 which means you are able to display the majority of Flash content. I have indeed tried browsing the internet on my phone on sites that were not specifically designed for mobile phone access and have yet to find one that does not work correctly and several that I could not access on my old phone now work (thanks to the Flash lite I believe). It is obviously a slower process than using a PC but comes in handy when you are on the move. I have noticed that I can end up using quite a lot of my internet allowance however as some web pages are quite large so it is best to keep an eye on this if like me your internet usage is limited to a certain amount free per month.
There are some demo games included on the phone however game play is limited on a Demo therefore I have downloaded The Sims 3 for a small charge and have been having a good play (for purely review purposes of course). As always playing games on your mobile eats through the battery and I have found the touch screen quite difficult with this game in particular. Having said that the game is very enjoyable and runs nicely on the N8 and so far it hasn't crashed on me.
** My Opinion **
I love a new gadget to play with so was so excited when my Nokia N8 arrived. and was even more pleased to find that the phone comes with a nice selection of accessories to play with (various leads and a headset). After my initial issues with customizing my home screens I now find the phone pretty simple to use and it looks very smart and modern.
The phones camera was a major factor in my purchase descision so I am pleased to report that the photo's that I have taken are excellent quality for a mobile phone and the new larger megapixel camera is not at all disappointing. Video's also come out at a decent quality and are easy to produce. As the mother of a young child it is invaluable to have a camera at all times to capture those magic moments as they grow and the 12 megapixel camera provides good quality snaps - I just love the camera and camcorder and would recommend the phone for this alone.
The music player & Radio does exactly what I want it to (but there again how far wrong could you go with a music player). The In Ear headset supplied is very good quality and I love the addition of the music control buttons on a clip with a microphone within (meaning that they are perfect to use for both phone calls and listening to tunes).
The internet is easy to use and views just like a (very) mini laptop. Being flash compatible means that I can browse most sites on my mobile phone without any difficulties although I am concerned that I could easily use up my monthly internet allowance without noticing..
Battery life isn't massive but it is no worse than I am used to with modern day phones. Game play is good too although it eats through the battery.
You can telephone out with no issue (there are no aerial problems on the N8) and texting is pretty easy as well. The N8 also gives you the option of seeing your texts by conversation rather than as the standard list in order which is a nice feature that enables you to keep track of your text discussions with friends.
There is a button on the side of the phone which you use to lock and unlock the screen however it is worth noting that the volume buttons on the side of the phone still work even when the screen is locked which is very useful when you are using the phone to listen to music. You can set several alarms and choice your own alarm tone which is also a great feature (I haven't owned an alarm clock for years thanks to mobile phone alarms!).
Having had a previously bug ridden Nokia phone I was concerned the N8 would have the same faults but have been pleasantly surprised at how stable the phone is. It handles multi tasking far better than the N96 which is great for me as I love to have far too many applications open at one time!
The phone is about average size for a smart phone and is not too heavy although as I only have small hands it can feel a little difficult to grip (I am worried it may slip from my hand when in use although this hasn't happened yet so I may be being a little over protective.
There are not many games installed on my phone however more games and applications can be downloaded from the Avi store and having had a brief browse there did seem to be plenty of free applications available (although not as plentyful as for the Iphone).
My main gripes would be that the phone can take a few seconds to load applications, sometimes it does not register my touch (although this is not often) and the onscreen keyboard is a little small but for everything else I absolutely love this phone.
** In Conclusion **
I'm very pleased with my Nokia N8. It does exactly what I wanted it to do & more and is considerably cheaper on contract than the new IPhone (which is what swayed me to go for this phone over the Iphone and I am now very glad that I did). The camera is far better than I had expected with very nice quality pictures produced very easily.
I would not hesitate to recommend this to friends and for value, style and functionality I give this a 4/5 (only missing out on the 5th because the initial set up was hard work and the touch screen can be a bit tricky).
I have been eagerly awaiting the new Take That Album, Progress and finally on 15th November 2010 the day had arrived.. With the return of Robbie Williams to complete the line up I must admit I had high hopes for this album and was a little nervous that it would disappoint.
The CD arrived and I set about loading the songs on my phone, put in my earphones and blasted it as loud as I could. My little ears were in for quite an awakening first thing in the morning when I was greeted not with the standard Ballads of Take That's fame and instead were met with glorious storming electro Rock (I must also admit I didn't realise I would like this style but was to be amazed and surprised).
The album has been produced by Stuart Price (also responsible for Madonna's 'Confessions on a Dancefloor') and is a marked departure from Take That's previous albums, which is indicated by the title 'Progress'.
As an established band with a large fan base it would be easy to sit back producing the same music album after album but Take That as a five piece decided to throw aside their usual style and head into unknown waters. This was a real risk for the boys but in my opinion a risk that has paid off. I think this really is Progress for the 5 from Manchester and releasing to critical aclaim it is likely to provide them a few more followers.
== The Album (A Ballad Free Zone) ==
The album can currently be purchased in CD format for as little as £7.99 or if you don't mind not owning a physical product it can be downloaded from Amazon Downloads for £3.99.
There are 10 tracks on the CD plus a bonus track which can be found at the end of the last song. As I understand it Gary had already prepared some of the music for the newly reformed 5 pieces writing experience and was instrumental in the change of style for 'Progress'.
The album itself flows very well starting with, the closest to their usual style, 'The Flood' which was also their lead single. With Robbie Williams & Gary Barlow on lead vocals this is an epic song, big and commanding, that slowly edges the listener into the new style (a hint of the new direction whilst merging with the usual format). I really don't think this is the best song on the album but I can see why they would want to edge their core fan base into the new album. The lyrics are strong though and I would give this a 8/10
Next comes 'SOS' which I believe is one of the best on the album (it would be a travesty if this one doesn't get released as a single!). It is an electro tune with a heavy beat that wouldn't feel out of place in a club setting. Mark gets the lead vocals on this with Robbie in support and the two voices work very well together. I love the lyrics and you can really feel Robbie's writing influence, I just can't picture Gary penning "We'll get a five minute warning for divine intervention, with the satellites falling prepare for ascension". I find that I can't stop myself from dancing along to this which is a little embarrassing when I'm listening on the bus and I have been playing it to death. A spark of genius from the band and wonderfully produced (if you hear no more on the album I strongly recommend you get this one) 10/10
'Wait' is another Robbie Williams lead tune. It begins slow and soft with strings and a piano (fooling me temporarily into the belief that SOS was going to be the only standout and experimental track on the album) before dramatically kicking into a strong electro beat. Although Robbie gets the verses the chorus is sung by the full band nicely blended together. This is also a very strong song but due to the calibre of this album is not one of the best offerings. I find the harmonies on the chorus beautiful and again a very well produced song 9/10
From here on in I was heavily immersed into the new Electro Rock style and enjoying every moment of it.
The next track 'Kidz' is another where Mark is given the Lead with Robbie in support. A marching beat and once again heavy on the electro the lyrics are fabulous. I also can't sit still to this and I am desperately trying to learn the words so that I can sing along (although the words do come with the CD or Itunes download its hard to keep up). The stomping beat is really rousing and it is a very strong track. It is also one of my favourites, a stroke of genius and a brillant departure from the Take That I am used to! Would be another great contender as a single 10/10
By now I couldn't keep the grin from my face or my feet still, it appears even at the grand old age of 33 given a great tune with a strong beat you still can't stop me dancing round the house!
'Pretty Things' has a joint lead with Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams and sports an upbeat tempo. The lyrics on this feel heavily influenced by Robbie again. I did not enjoy this one much on first listen however I have found it is a bit of a grower after a few listens but it is a song that wouldn't sound out of place on one of Robbies solo albums. 8/10
The next song in the lineup is 'Happy Now' with Gary Barlow & Robbie Williams taking joint lead again. Another up tempo song this one had a bit of a disco feel to me on the chorus but it is still clearly in line with the rest of the album. Another brilliantly written tune and this time (for the chorus at least) easy to sing along with. The chorus is very melodic and is a little more pop like than the rest on the CD. I love this song, it is beautiful and I can't rate it any less than 10/10
'Underground Machine' sung by Robbie and lyrically again feels heavily influenced by him this song seemed quite odd to me on first listening. Again it is Electro Rock and has a real marching beat before kicking into quite a dance feel that wouldn't be out of place in a nightclub. After waking up singing "when the boy meets girl, and the girl meets boy, and the boy thinks the girls all right" I realised this one had really nestled itself inside my head and now I love it. This would make a great dance track and is very quirky 10/10
'What Do You Want From Me' sung by Mark is for me the weakest song on the album (although I think would be the strongest song had it appeared on the circus). Still keeping inline with the rest of the album but it just seems to miss the mark for me. It is a little slower and this one wouldn't feel out of place on a Mark Owen solo album. I can't get excited over the lyrics on this but the song itself is still above average 7/10
At this point I was a little worried that the album was going to take a turn for the worst as I had been so spoiled by fantastic tunes in the first half.
Thankfully 'Affirmation' which sees Howard on the lead for a change, was straight back up to the quality of the start of the Album. The song begins with a really strong beat and piano melody and once again the lyrics are impressive. This one is quite quirky and another tune that i found difficult to stop myself from moving to. Howard's voice works perfectly for this and it is very well produced. 10/10
'Eight Letter' gives Gary his only solo lead and (as seen in the ITV documentary) the lyrics were written by Robbie. This is a little slower than the other tracks but could still not be described as a typical Take That ballad. It is however a beautiful song that suits Gary perfectly and still fits within the Electro style of the rest of the album. The words throughout are well written 10/10
'Flowerbed' is the bonus track and is sung by Jason. Starting slow this song is quite synthesized but again the lyrics are beautiful and as bonus tracks go it is very beautiful. Although Jason doesn't sing often for the band his voice is quite soothing and provides an added element to the album. 9/10
This is a compitent album from the 5 guys from Manchester which is a giant departure from the last two albums. Almost all of the tracks would stand up well if released as singles and you can feel the effort they have put in to create the album. The lyrics are strong throughout and the album as a whole I find uplifting and do not miss the standard ballads usually produced.
== In Conclusion ==
Any fears I had that Robbie rejoining the band might be a bad idea have been blown out of the water by this fantastic album. His lyrical influence is evident throughout with the underlying musical direction of Gary Barlow, although he does get more lead vocals than Gary on this album Mark also features more heavily than usual. They seem to be enjoying making music together again and I have very much enjoyed listening myself.
Having read great review after great review in the press I have to agree with them that this album was a risk for Take That but it has really paid off. The addition of Robbie's Lyrics to Gary music writing makes for an exciting and entertaining album that doesn't disapoint. A brave new stle for Take That but a very enjoyable listen. I much prefer this album to the previous 2 they have released since their comeback.
Who would have thought that Take That could successfully pull off Electro Rock but the album is a refreshing change, is lyrically brilliant in places and has me dancing round the house. Several tracks sound quite experimental but they all work brilliantly and the only criticism I would have is that there are not enough tracks.
The album is very well produced with consistent, high quality tracks that flow perfectly.
In my opinion this album is a vast improvement on the previous, The Circus, and sees the boys reinvent themselves successfully. Progress has a fresh new feel and it is likely to win them some new fans but possibly at the cost of some of its older fanbase.
The album has also achieved the most first day sales of the decade so it appears I am in good company in my love for it and is set to be one of the biggest selling albums of all time in the UK.
Definitely the best Album I have bought in years with not a filler in sight, I cannot recommend this enough. However if you are expecting ballads in the style of Greatest Day or Patience then you will be disappointed as there isn't a ballad in sight. I think Take That are in danger of being a little bit cool with this one.
A brilliant change of direction Album from a good band that has kept a smile on my face for 3 days this Album has to receive 5/5
Before the reformation of Take That the 4 piece band and the now 5 piece band Sony BMG produced the documentary "Take That, For The Record" to mark 10 years since the band split up. It was shown on ITV on 17th November 2005 and aired to six million viewers (not bad viewing figures for a band that had been away for a decade).
The DVD contains one disk which includes the documentary as well as some extended footage not shown on the TV documentary.
I must admit that in November 2005 this was the film I had been waiting for, for 10 years without even realising it and I had extremely high expectations. I hoped that this could give me an insight into the band that I had been so crazy about as a teen and see how they got to where they were, what went wrong and what they were up to now. Thankfully I was not to be disapointed
== A Bit about the Band ==
If you don't already know Take That consisted of Robbie Williams, Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, Jason Orange & Howard Donald. They formed in Manchester in 1990 and where managed by Nigel Martin Smith.
After a few top 40 hits they finally broke the Top Ten with a cover version of could it be magic and finally gained their first number one with Prey. They went on to have 7 more number 1 singles up to 1996 (including Babe and Back for Good) and released 3 albums selling more than 25 million records in the five years 1991 - 1996. They received several Brit awards and had successfully broke the UK pop market.
After losing Robbie WIlliams in 1995 they finally split in 1996. An event that was so upsetting for some teens that helplines were set up to help.
They have since successfully reformed however this occurred after the Documentory was filmed and therefore I will not touch upon their achievements to date (even though I really would like to!).
== The Film ==
The Documentary promised that Take That Members would break their silence and reveal the truth about their time as members of Take That (tell me what more could a former fan ask for).
Featuring all five members as well as their former manager the documentary sports frank interviews with the boys and plenty of footage from their own archives of their original time in the lime light.
Reliving some mischievous stories of the band as boys and recollections of the madness surrounding their fame I found the documentary both informative and extremely interesting. From stories of their time on the tour bus to hints at what really went on with lulu the documentary is a compelling tale of success and heartbreak and with a running time of 70 minutes it never drags.
The story begins with recollections from each of the members about how they came to be in the band interspersed with video clips to compliment throughout.
** Quote From Robbie: "I think that my mum heard about it on a radio station one morning and sent my CV off. Which, of course, was extensive - my work at the rep. And... "Have you seen my Dodger? I was fantastic!" And she sent the CV off, and then I got a call, I believe, from Nigel Martin Smith to go up and be interviewed."**
**Quote from Mark: "I worked in a bank at that time. It was a way to break out of that mould, you know. And I just thought, Oh yeah, You know why not?"**
This is a section of the interview I found particularly interesting as I had limited knowledge of where the came from and how they started out. A good strong start for a good strong video.
It then moves on to the early days in the band and the preparation involved to ready themselves for their stint at fame.
**Quote From Howard: " We had this choreographer who was a nice guy, but Nigel had ordered him to make us do press-ups every morning as soon as we got in there."**
**Quote from Jason: "Nigel had the idea that we needed to be quite controversial. We should dress ludicrously. When I look back now it was ludicrous. Bondage gear and chains and Lycra and all sorts of stuff."**
Some of the videos in this part are particularly entertaining and I can't believe I didn't realise they were being aimed at the Gay market when they started considering some of the early outfits (oh to be that young and naive again!).
There are lovely stories from the boys of their first glimpse that their hard work was paying off.
**Quote from Robbie: "I think probably the best time, Promises had just gone in at number 39, we were in our hotel in London, and we all jumped up and down on my bed and we broke it. That's the most excited I've ever been about a chart entry... of Take That or me solo."**
The story then moves on to the fans and how crazy life had become for the boys including interviews with some fans of the former band.
**Quote From Fan: They were the new Beatles. And people will start to respect them in the same way, I think.**
Not sure everyone will agree about the new Beatles reference but everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
Next footage and interviews covering the split of Robbie and eventually the bands break up.
**Quote from Robbie: " I was so depressed, so depressed and I was going back to my hotel in Manchester... and I'd just drink myself into oblivion. I could just remember, you know, wailing like a banshee, uncontrollable, in my room by myself, downing a bottle of neat vodka. You know, and I was 19, 20."**
This section is interesting and the different views between the members in this area become clear with some very interesting revelations (but I don't want to give it all away!).
Well documented is Robbie & Nigel Martin Smith fueds and this is also covered with the two still trading insults.
**Quote from Nigel: "I gave him his career as far as I'm concerned"**
**Quote from Robbie: I only wanted him to love me. You know, that's the sad, really sad thing. You know, I only wanted him to love me. And he never did.**
The next section of the documentary covers where the members are in 2005 and what they have been up to since the band split up.
**Quote From Jason: "Since the break up nearly 10 years ago, I've gone back to college, did some college courses. Did some backpacking, travelled the world. I've sat around a lot, pondering a lot. Chilled out a lot. Yeah, so now I'm 35, I'm just starting now to feel like I would like to go back and do something. But I'm not sure... I'm not sure what yet."**
This again is another interesting part to see how life had changed for the 5 members over the years and is very enjoyable viewing.
And finally the video ends with the reunion of the band after 10 years (well most of the band anyway!).
== My Opinion ==
As a take that fan for 20 years (and Robbie since the split) I very much enjoyed this documentary when it aired in 2005 and bought the both the Digipack & the Amaray version (the only difference being the case the DVD is contained in) . I must have seen this at least 5 times over the past 5 years so my investment has not been a waste of money for me.
I find the footage of the band when they were starting makes for entertaining viewing and it really bring back memories to see the boys in all their leather outfits and vests. You forget how different they all looked when they first started out and there are lots of lovely videos from the early days however I find that it is the interviews with each member that is the real beauty of this story. There are some honest recollections of their naughtier past that never made the headlines at the time and some touching stories of their time together.
**Quote from Mark: "Drugs and sex and the pop-and-roll. I suppose that's what we were. I think we all had our fair share of fun and sex and frolics."**
It was also interesting to see where the boys ended up (well not Robbie Williams, obviously we all know what he had been up to) and what they were doing in 2005.
Even though they speak quite frankly about their past this documentary is not uncomfortable viewing but it does help you see the world through their side of the Lens and I believe it is a must for any fan.
Obviously since this documentary was made and released due to the overwhelming demand the band reformed as a 4 piece and their story has moved on however this documentary is a wonderful insight into the lives of the 5 guys as young men and also a glimpse into how different the celebrity lifestyle really is. There will be a new episode documenting the reformation of the 5 piece band in November 2010 and I would recommend viewing this instalment first if you didn't catch it first time around.
You can pick this up now for £4.99 from Amazon and which is an absolute bargain for a lovely keepsake on a popular British Band.
I find myself grinning from ear to ear whilst watching them all reminisce about their younger years and appreciate that thanks to this documentary they are back lighting up the charts once more (I realise this is subjective but I missed the gap they left after they split).
Every time the conclusion leaves me with a lump in my throat and feeling fulfilled after my viewing pleasure - this is truly a lovely documentary.
The interviews with the 5 band members are informative and pretty frank, giving both good and bad insight into their years with the band the first time around. The private footage supplied by the boys adds to the story and overall experience and is nicely slotted in to relate to the interviews being shown and information revealed. Even some of the videos of the boys misbehaving a little and its strange to see a crowd of screaming girls from the view the band members would have had.
The 70 minutes running time flies by before you even notice and my one complaint would be that this documentary is not long enough! (you know you are enjoying something if it finishes before it feels like it has really started).
== In Conclusion ==
This is a fantastic documentary which will please any Take That fan but is also likely to capture the interest of most that watch.
It is refreshing to see a documentary about celebrities that does not focus purely on the good things and that delves a little deeper than your standard interview. I was extremely pleased to find that even the seedier side of this previously considered clean cut band featured in the film.
The DVD has a lovely flow and the combination of interviews with old unseen footage makes it a pleasure to watch having been very well compiled.
I do not regret purchasing this DVD and pop it back in the machine now and again to relive the moments. When I first watched this I had high expectations and am pleased to say upon viewing these were not spoiled and in fact it managed to live up nicely.
I believe this is a fantastic film with a little place in pride of place in my heart (it definately helped me relive the old days once ahain). Looking forward to the second installment coming soon.
I would rate this 5/5 and is an excellent use of a spare hour and ten minutes.
After searching the house for my Flash drive and getting nowhere my boyfriend was promptly ushered out the door and down PC World to buy a cheap replacement.
He returned with one each, a blue Integral Splash Drive for him and a pink one for me both costing him £7.99. As we purchased as an emergency I've had a look around online and it seems this price is similar all around.
== The Flash Drive ==
The drives are shock and water resistant (that's resistant not waterproof so don't bathe with them) thanks to their brightly coloured rubberised casing. They are available in blue, yellow, Pink, Green and black and can also be purchased in sizes from 1GB to 32GB. We bought the 2GB version.
The job at hand was to transfer some music files from my PC to a laptop and the 2GB size meant that I could load around 250 songs onto the drive before filling it up. It didn't however take many video files to get the drive to capacity but as the 4GB appears to retail for closer to £20 I can live with this inconvenience (and as most of the files I wanted to move were much smaller than video files).
The drives are also USB 2.0 for hi-speed data transfer, although it did seem that the transfer speed was not particularly fast for the video files however some of these were quite large and it could just be due to my lack of patience rather than the drive being particularly slow. It claims to have a Read speed of up to 12MB per second (80x) and a write speed of up to 3MB per second (20x). If you do not also have a USB 2.0 socket on your laptop PC you will obviously not achieve these speeds however unless your computer is very old you are likely to have the faster style socket.
They also come complete with a chain which you can attach to the end and allows the lid to be stored on a tab at the end whilst in use so that nothing gets lost (which is an excellent idea as I am forever losing the lids). The chain can be attached to your keys so that you never need lose your flash drive again.
It claims to be ReadyBoost compatible for enhanced performance with Windows Vista however as my PC still runs XP I do not know if this is the case. I can however report that the drive works perfectly with Windows XP.
The packaging states the drive is compatible with windows ME, 2000, XP, Vista and Apple Mac 8.6+, 9.0+ and OS X. I do also note that the Integral website states that it is also windows 7 compatible and having used this on a windows 7 laptop I can confirm that I had no problems with this.
To use this requires no drivers as it is a plug and play device (however I have never used a flash drive that isn't also plug & play).
The drive is also supplied with a 2 year warranty however there is not yet any sign of us needing to fall back on this as our 2 flash pens are working excellently.
The Drive also has a free security & compression software for windows within which you can move off and install if you like with a manual to help you work it. However as windows usually comes with Winzip I am not sure that this is actually going to be required by anyone?
It is PC & Mac compatible and sports an LED read/write light so that you can see when the drive is in use.
The instructions also warn you to disconnect the device correctly to ensure there is no data loss and never disconnect whilst the LED is flashing.
== What is USB 2 & ReadyBoost? ==
USB stands for Universal Serial Bus and is used to connect two devices auch as computer, mice, keyboard, flash drive etc. It was invented by an intel employee called Ajay Bhatt USB 2.0 was released in 2000 and sports a maximum bandwidth of 480 mb per second and is some 40 times faster then its predecessor USB 1.1
As I had never heard of ReadyBoot before I have done a little research and found that it is a feature of Windows Vista & Windows 7 that adds memory to a system using a compatable flash drive. The system will use the flash drive as an additional memory cache and as this is usually quicker than accessing the internal memory it claims to speed up the performance of your computer.
== How I Used the Drive ==
Having used several flash drives before I did not need to consult a manual however I have noted that there is very little information on the packaging that would help you to transfer files if you are a complete novice and there is no manual giving step by step instructions.
The process of transferring files was a simple and painless process thanks to this being a plug and play device. I was using this with Windows XP and only needed to put the pen drive into a spare USB drive and wait a few seconds for the device to be recognised.
I then opened windows explorer, picked the file I wanted to write to the drive, right clicked the file and chose "send to" and picked the flash drive (which shows in windows explorer as an additional drive on your system).
When I needed to move the files I once again placed the drive into the USB socket on the laptop and waited for the device to be recognised. I then opened windows explorer, went to the flash drive, copied the files and then pasted them into the location I wanted to store them on the laptop. Once they had copied correctly I deleted the files off of the flash drive to free up the space again.
There is a light on the end of the drive that flashes to show you that the drive is still in use (you should not remove the drive until it has finished working so the light is invaluable).
To disconnect the drive I clicked the "unplug or safely remove Hardware" in the lower right of my system tray and clicked remove. Once the pop up appears to confirm the device is removed you can then physically remove it. It is always advisable to disconnect the device correctly to ensure that there is no data loss.
This is not the only way to add or remove files to a flash drive but it is the method I personally find easiest.
== My Opinions ==
I have to say I have been very impressed by my other half's choice on this occassion as the drives are very flashy looking in their bright rubber jackets. They claim to be splash proof, I have not tested this but they are well encased inside the rubber and as long as the lid is in place they do look like they would hold up well to a little liquid splashing.
They do however bounce well as I have dropped several times with no adverse reactions and therefore the claims that these are shock resistant have been true in my experience. My three year old son has also given them a bit of a bashing yet they continue to function perfectly.
Supplied in a choice of bright colours they are a trendy looking product and I suspect these would go down well with younger users not only for their appearance but also for their reliable use. The rubber outer also makes them quite resilient and easier to grip which is again ideal for smaller hands.
The drives are quite thin and compact and are therefore easy to use with my partner's laptop and would be a fine choice if your USB slot is a little difficult to access. Although the rubber outter does make the item a little bulkier in width it is very pliable and therefore is not obstructive.
At 2GB these are not the largest drives on the market but at a cost of only £7.99 they are very good value especially for the quality of build. If you are not looking to move large files or video files then this size is adequate and copes very well with picture, music and word files. If you do need a larger capacity these drives are available in larger sizes up to 32GB.
The addition of the keychain which can also hold the lid is a perfect extra for anyone like me who is forever losing these little devices. It will save me a fortune in replacement drives as long as I don't lose my keys!
Although the drive did feel a little slow to me at writing video files to the pen the speed to transfer music was fine and I managed to write around 50 songs to the drive then pull them off onto the laptop within a few of minutes. It is worth pointing out however that the drive did not seem slower than any other flash drive I have used before and I might be a particularly impatient user!
As I already use Winzip for my file compression needs I have not removed the free security & compression software from the pen therefore I cannot tell you how good this programme is however there is a manual for this software also included on the flash drive.
== In Conclusion ==
These drives look and feel very nice and are of an excellent quality for the price. The rubber is firm enough to last well but without being too stiff to make it pliable for getting into more awkward spots.
I have had no problems with transferring data to or from them and have not found them to be any slower than other drives I have used. Their performance is as good as a drive I purchased for twice the price ( with the same storage capacity).
The addition of the keychain which also stores the lid whilst in use is perfect for me and the fact that it is a very resilient device is also prefect for my household. It has held its own well whilst being assaulted on by my three year old.
I would have no hesitation in recommending these to friends.
For ease of use and style I am giving this a rating of 5/5
Always on the quest to soften my badly cared for feet I bought the Boots Intensive Foot softener when it was on by 2 get 1 free at Boots (I am just more inclined to buy when they are incentivising me to!).
It currently costs £3.49 for 75ml and you will also receive 12 Boots advantage points with your purchase.
== The Cream ==
The cream is produced by Boots and as an own label product it is a cheaper alternative to branded creams. When the price is compared with premium brands its value is clear:-
Compeed Dry & Cracked skin cream 75ml £4.99
Scholl cracked heel repair cream £5.99 60ml
The cream claims to contain AHA, which after a little reasearch I have discovered stands for Alpha Hydroxy Acids which are usually derived from fruit based plants, in this case it is lactic acid.
The theory is that the AHA's cause cell regeneration by removing the top layer of skin cells (although I suspect the concentration of acid within this cream must be fairly low hence you are required to apply regularly to start). AHA's themselves are quite drying and their purpose is to remove dead skin cells allowing your body to replace them with new healthier skin from below.
After looking through the ingredients I also note that it contains Urea (which if I am not mistaken is a prominent component of Urine, yuck). A bit of research in this area has also informed me that Urea is a Hydrator which allegedly helps to increase moisture the upper layers of the skin. So I can at least console myself with the fact that it is there for a reason.
According to the instructions on the pack the cream should be applied twice a day to clean and dry feet until the skin becomes smooth and then application should be reduced to once a day. It also claims that the Deep penetrating formula is easily absorbed and helps to soften dry skin and cracked heels.
The tubes contain 75ml of cream and is nicely packaged in a plastic squeezable tube.
== My Observations ==
Upon first application I found the cream to be very thick and slightly waxy in feel. You do not need to use a lot of cream as it is so thick and as a bit of a drawback I do find it takes quite a bit of rubbing in. The consistency actually makes for quite a nice feeling and the cream is cool so is refreshing for tired feet. Unforuntately I do find it leaves your hands quite greasy after aplication so I keep a cloth nearby.
The cream is not heavily scented and mostly smells waxy to me which does not exactly excite, however the aroma is not unpleasant.
I have found that it takes a while to soak in to the skin, not quickly absorbed as implied on the tube. Because of this I think it is best applied and then left to dry for 5 minutes before you attempt your first step, so as not to leave greasy footprints in your wake.
As you do not need to use much of the cream for each application the 75ml tube has lasted me 3 months already and is still more than half full (although its worth bearing in mind I only have small feet which may affect the usage).
== The Results ==
As instructed I have applied this cream twice daily and I must confess it has its work cut out to soften my poorly taken care of tootsies however there is a noticable improvement in the quality and softness of the skin. Straight after applying my feet feel softer and silkier and with daily applications this tends to last.
I only had slightly cracked heels and it has sorted this problem with ease (as I mostly wear high heels it is the ball of my feet that is in the worst repair). On the ball of my feet the feel of the skin has improved but this cream alone is not enough to sort out a build up of hard skin.
When used in conjuction with a pumice stone (or any other skin scrubbing device) the reduction of hard skin is vastly improved and I have found this to be a good complimentary action in the repairing process.
Having used more expensive branded creams I believe this works equally as well and therefore I would never again shell out on the pricier alternatives as I have not found any noticable benefits coming with the higher price tag.
I would actually prefer a slightly more scented product to improve the pampering element of massaging the cream in but I am willing to sacrifice this bit of luxury for a cream that helps the skin.
With continued use it has helped maintain softer healthier skin on my feet stopping the build up of dry damaged skin in the first place (oh how I wish I had done this years ago - it would have saved me alot of work I am having to do now to repair the damage I have already created).
== In Conclusion ==
A lovely product at a reasonable price. Great for pampering and definately improved the quality of the skin on my feet. Used regularly it has helped maintain softer skin on my feet and is all around a lovely experience to use.
Although it is cheaper than premium brand alternatives I would class this as a little bit of luxury for your feet so don't let the price put you off.
I would not hesitate to recommend this to friends who fancy giving their feet a treat and i give it 4 stars (only missing out on the 5th because I would have liked a nicer smelling product)!
When this runs out I will definatley invest again.
My greatest bit of advice to any reading would be moisturise your feet regularly before you get lumbered with having to repair the dry/damaged skin in the first place (hindsight is a wonderful thing!).
Being a bit of a baked bean snob but with the credit crunch biting I decided to attempt a switch over from my much loved (and tried and tested) Heinz baked beans and give Tesco's Value Baked Beans a go.
My fears of course being that at a cost of 29p for 420g I would receive a severely compromised Baked Bean experience. Especially when in comparison Heinz Baked Beans cost a whopping 64p for 415g. I mean we all know the saying "you get what you pay for" and with such a dramatic difference between value and premium this was bound to be the case here, right?
I set out to find out!
== A bit about Tesco's ==
Founded by Jack Cohen in 1919 Tesco's is the UK's largest supermarket chain and the third largest in the world based on revenues. As of February 2010 there were 455 Tesco superstores located in the UK with a further 1130 Tesco express stores (not bad from a store that began life as a stall to sell surplus groceries at Well Street Market, in London).
Tesco's have also diversified into other commercial markets including garden centres, banking, Telecoms and the stocking of their own label products within their superstores and express shops.
The sheer size of Tesco's as a buyer, combined with the lack of need to market and promote its own label products, will mean that they are able to produce and sell similar quality merchandise at a reduced price to other manufacturers. Theoretically with Tesco's being one of the largest food product purchasers you would think their value beans would be cheaper than other supermarkets however having had a look around they are all very similarly priced (suggesting that these may indeed still be a bit of a loss leader product).
I asked myself could this be the cause of the price difference for their value beans or is it purely a matter of quality reduction?
== The Value Beans ==
The packaging for the beans is plain and simple as you would expect for the price. Clearly marked in the Tesco Value style of blue white and red colouring the tin does not sport the more luxurious feature of a ring pull to enable opening without the use of an opener. Slightly frustrating (as I have nothing but difficulties with Can Openers) however for the price this was to be expected.
These Baked Beans (like all others) are based around the premise of cooked Haricot beans in a somewhat sweet tomato sauce and are used as an accompaniment for meals or as ingredients within a recipe.
The Ingredients are listed as:-
Haricot Beans (44%), Tomato Purée (26%) ,Water ,Sugar ,Modified Maize Starch ,Glucose ,Salt ,Fructose ,Flavouring ,Onion Powder ,Paprika ,Vegetable Oil.
The Beans Vital Statistics are:-
Typical Values per 100g contains-
Energy = 305kJ (75kcal)
Protein = 3.7g
Carbohydrate = 13.2g
Sugars = 3.7g
And the Nutritional information states (per 100g) :-
Fat = 0.4g
Saturates = trace
Sodium* = 0.3g
*Salt Equivalent 0.8g
Although the salt levels are fairly high there is not a large difference when compared to the Heinz beans (Value beans being 1.7g for half a can compared to Heinz 1.5g per half can). This does equate to 28% of your guideline daily amount of salt intake though. As well all know by now Salt is bad for your health due to its effect on your heart and blood pressure and there are now Baked Bean varieties available with reduced salt content. When feeding young children this should be a serious consideration in your choice however for occasional use this is less of a factor.
Tinned Baked beans are a convenience food useful when making quick meals therefore the revelation that they are pretty high in salt levels is not a great surprise for me but the high salt levels do lay heavy on my mind when I dish them up for my Son and therefore I do try to limit his intake.
For any food allergy sufferers Tesco state that no nuts are used within the recipe however they do not guarantee that it does not contain nuts and is therefore not suitable for anyone with a severe nut allergy.
These value beans used to be sold as a loss leader for the supermarkets to get you through their doors however I am unsure whether this is still the case. One thing is for sure when you consider that in 2005 these same beans sold for 13p per 420g the prices have increased by an impressive 223% making these Value Beans are less Value than they used to be! (Heinz having only increased in price by 157% over the same period).
== My Opinion ==
I decided that Tesco's Value Baked Beans would make the perfect accompaniment to my yummy (but decidedly unhealthy) meal of Sausage, Chips and Beans.
After negotiating the removal of the lid with my temperamental can opener I poured the beans into a saucepan and heated for around 4 minutes, without bringing to the boil as per the instructions (do we really need instructions to heat beans? Just in case Tesco's do have heating instructions listed on the tin for both pan and microwave methods).
My first observation was that the juice was not as thick or rich in colour as I am used to but I was impressed by the quantity of beans within. I must admit I had assumed that there would be substantially more juice than beans but was pleased to be proved wrong. Although thinner than expected the colour of the source is orange as you would come to expect with tinned beans.
The sauce smelt sweet and tomatoey and cooking was quick and easy, which would also be a minimum requirement for the product in hand.
As for the taste I was pleasantly surprised. Not as rich as Heinz and the tomato sauce was considerably thinner however there is a good quantity of beans which are soft but not overly so. The thinner sauce also (as I feared) made for a less rich and flavoursome tomato taste however this was not as dramatic of a difference as I had thought it would be. As per the initial aroma the flavour was quite sweet, tomato (if a little watery) with a salty hint within.
The flavours do not bounce around your mouth setting your taste buds alight and the tomato is not particularly strong (which I guess you would expect as only 26% of the recipe is tomatoe puree). The high quantities of salt within the product do not make the sauce too overpoweringly salty but I suspect they are intengral in keeping these particular beans edible! They are not unpleasant however and as an accompaniment for fuller flavoured meals or as part of a cooking ingredient these beans are more than up to the job. More expensive tins of beans definately have a stronger - more tomato flavoured sauce and this one does taste a little watered down and therefore more bland.
After polishing off the whole meal I admitted to myself that although they were not as luxurious as I was used to they were of good enough taste and quality to keep my unhealthy meal an enjoyable experience (sausages after all have plenty enough flavour to carry the meal so on this occassion the beans stopped it from being too dry). I cannot pretend that these tasted as good as the pricier alternatives as the tomato sauce is definitely weaker and sweeter than I prefer however they were at the very least adequate and not unpleasant. After the first successful experiment with Value Beans I decided to continue on and see if these could be utilised in other combinations.
My next Bean adventure saw me trying these with Jacket Potatoes and cheese and I realised that the thinner juice meant that butter wasn't needed as it would easily stop the meal being dry without the need for the additional fat (which handily makes this a healthier meal for the caloury counters out there). I will not fool you, it was not as tasty as a jacket covered in lashings of butter and rich sauced beans but with the addition of cheese on the top it made a fine meal that kept me satisfied.
I also tried these cold and once again discovered that although they are not as deep in flavour as I am used to they are not unpleasant and are most definitely edible, the juice does taste a bit too watery though particularly when cold.
My next experiment involved the great English classic of Beans on toast and this time the value beans did fall down for me. The juice soaks into the toast far too quickly leaving a meal that disintegrates before your eyes. Also the reduced flavour of really shows through when they are such an integral part of the recipe and the whole thing tastes far too sweet and not enough of tomato. For beans on Toast I really think you need a better quality product and for these occassions I usually switch back to Heinz. When mixed in with all the other flavoursome ingredients of a classic fry up however the beans hold their own well enough.
I would be lying if I was to say there was no difference between these and my former baked beans as the Value beans are most definitely blander and less exciting on the palette. However when considering the difference in price I believe the drop in quality is acceptable (and perfectly edible). My other half and son did not notice the change in product when these were served up to them (best to do this discreetly though to keep the switchover as seamless as possible!).
Of course it is the monetary saving that makes these a draw but when you consider that they represent a 45% saving on the Heinz alternative their appeal becomes more apparent. This saving is particularly noticeable when you are feeding a hungry family and any little savings can make a difference in the current financial climate.
Other than this I have successfully utilised Value Beans as a budget conscious alternative to add to Shepherds pies, hotpots and chille's with no noticeable difference in taste within the final recipe, in fact the thinner sauce can actually help when cooking within a meal. I now always use the Value Beans for these recipes.
The Haricot beans themselves are of a size and texture you would expect for tinned Baked beans and the quality of these seem no different to any other I have tried, there are plenty contained within each tin.
As a positive for these beans over others I have found that the saucepan is easier to clean (if you have been a little lazy and left it to stand for a while before cleaning) which I presume is due to the thinner sauce not cementing itself so well to the pans? I'm not sure this fact alone is enough to affect my purchasing decisions though (although if anyone can invent porridge that doesn't set hard to utensils I would be very tempted to buy it no matter its taste!).
== In Conclusion ==
Overall I would give these Value Baked Beans a rating of 3/5.
Ideally I still prefer a pricier tin of beans as the richer, thicker and more flavoursome sauce is a draw however when cooking on a budget these are a viable alternative and the reduction in quality and taste is not as great as you would expect considering the price difference. They will not "Wow" your taste buds but they won't put your off your meal either.
The high salt content is concerning but no worse than other standard Baked Beans tins and as with all convenience food it is wise to use these sparingly as part of a balanced diet.
If you can get over the stigma of buying from the value range these are a good buy so don't write these cheap beans off as I feel they definitely have a place in the store room (I always have a few tins in the cupboard for emergencies!).
I would definitely recommend anyone to give them a try and at the very minimal these can be used in recipes without any noticeable reduction in the quality of the final meal but they are probably not of a good enough quality to carry a meal on their own.
And their biggest appeal? Why it is that they are Cheap Cheap Cheap!
Supernatural is an American Horror series created by Eric Kripke, which first aired in the US on 13th September 2005. It was apparently 10 years in the making as Eric gathered the information he needed to cover the genre to his satisfaction.
So far 5 Series have been aired and a further 6th series is in the making.
The Season 2 boxset was released on 29/10/07 and contains 6 disks with 22 episodes.
== A brief introduction to Supernatural ==
The show is based around the relationship between Sam Winchester (Jared Padeleki) and his older brother Dean (Jensen Ackles). Their mother was killed when Dean was very young by a yellow eyed Demon which began their fathers crusade to kill all Demon's and other paranormal beings. Dean followed in his fathers footsteps but Sam was reluctant, went to college and tried to carve out a "normal" life for himself.
After the loss of his College Girlfriend in the same manner as his mothers demise Sam was also eventually forced to join the family business. Known as Hunters Dean, Sam and their father search the States in hunt of evil beings protecting the innocent on their way.
Season 2 leads straight on from the dramatic ending of Season 1 which saw the family involved in a car crash after their fellow hunter, and Friend (Bobby) who has been possessed ploughs a large lorry into the side of their much loved vehicle.
== The Episodes ==
=== 1. In My Time of Dying ===
In the first episode of Season two John, Dean & Sam Winchester are taken to Hospital after the car crash. Sam and their father John survive with only minor injuries but Dean is critically injured and on the edge of death.
Dean begins an out of body experience that features around his interaction with Reaper who is trying to take his soul. Meanwhile Sam tries desperately to save his brother with no success.
John (the father) eventually takes control of the situation by summoning the Demon Azazel who offers him a deal to save his son.
** My Rating - Excellent and Tense 9/10 **
=== 2. Everybody Loves A Clown ===
The episode begins with the boys cremating their father (a method that ensures he cannot return to haunt as a vengeful spirit) and head squarely into denial.
Instead of dealing with the events they head back to work and end up in a bar frequented by fellow hunters. They meet Ellen (an old friend of their fathers), her daughter Jo and a genius drunk named Ash. These 3 become fairly regular characters in this series of Supernatural so expect to see them again.
The baddy in this episode is Rakshasa who is a demon that takes the form of a clown at a carnival and convinces children that visit to invite him into their home. He then proceeds to eat the parents (what a naughty demon!). The boys are left to set this right, and kill the demon.
** My Rating - not as strong as the first episode but still Good 8/10 **
=== 3. Bloodlust ===
Cow mutilations and beheadings take the boys interest and they find themselves In Montanta only to find one of the victims was in fact a vampire. They meet a fellow hunter named Gordon Walker.
This episode revolves around the premise that there are a sect of Vampires who have reformed their ways and feed only on Cattle. How will Sam & Dean deal with this situation? The Vampires are still supernatural and blood lust is in their soul however they have done no wrong.
** My Rating - Clever and gets you thinking about your beliefs on right and wrong 9/10 **
=== 4. Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things ===
After discovering a grave surrounded by dead plants the brothers discover that a recently dead young Woman named Angela Mason has been resurrected as a Zombie.
In life the woman had been wronged by her boyfriend and roommate and in death she sets out to extract her revenge. Dean & Sam try to save the day again (Zombies are always scary!)
** My Rating - How can you not be scared by Angry Zombies? 7/10 **
=== 5. Simon Said===
The episode begins with Sam seeing a vision of a man committing a terrible crime and then suicide. Confused by his new found visions and with the help of Ash the brothers track down another guy whose mother died in the same manner as theirs (Andy Gallagher).
After working on stopping Sams vision coming true they discover that Andy also has a strange ability and is able to control people with his mind. They suspect that he was forcing people to kill with the power of his mind and set out to prove it.
** My Rating - New found powers thrown into the mix makes for an excellent episode 10/10 **
=== 6. No Exit ===
Back at the Bar and Ellen refuses to let her daughter Jo go out hunting so Dean and Sam take up the reigns to investigate why blond women are disappearing in a building in Philadelphia.
After finding ectoplasm in one of the apartments they know that a ghost is behind the disappearances but the arrival of Jo (who followed them) does not help the investigation - especially as she is a blond woman herself.
** My Rating - Another scary watch 8/10 **
=== 7. The Usual Suspects ===
Whilst investigating a murder the brothers end up arrested, as Dean already has a criminal record. This episodes revolves around a murdered woman who comes back as a spirit and leads Dean to conclude that the spirit is in fact a Death Oman warning the female detective of her impending danger.
The female detective becoming a useful ally.
** My Rating - A clever episode 9/10 **
=== 8. Crossroad Blues ===
Sam and Dean investigate a mysterious death which involve sightings or a black dog and find that the man had previously worked at a bar and then mysteriously became a brilliant architect overnight. They realise the black dog is in fact a Hell Hound (which also features a few times over the Supernatural series) and they discover that he made a pact with a demon. Unfortunately the demon stuck around and convinced other unsuspecting people to also make pacts so that 10 years down the line he could claim their soul.
Dean struggles with the concept of saving people that made pacts with the devil which really hits home when they stumble across a man that only wished for his dying wife to be saved. This brings back issues Dean has with his dead father who he believes made a similar pact to save his life.
** My Rating - Excellent and again gets you thinking 10/10 **
=== 9. Croatoan ===
After another mysterious vision from Sam this time involving his brother killing a seemingly innocent man the brothers end up in Oregon. When they arrive they notice "Croatoan" carved in the city and it is quickly apparent that the place has been isolated trapping the inhabitants in the town. They discover an illness has been infecting people turning ordinary people into crazed killers. The boys are left to fight for their lives and those of the townspeople that have not already been infected.
** My Rating - Tense and thrilling - a superb episode 10/10 **
=== 10. Haunted ===
Starting with a revelation from Dean that their Dad told him to try to save Sam but if he couldn't he must kill him this episode begins tense. Because of this they set about to find more children with special powers. The Hunter Gorsan Walker reappears in this episode but this time he wants to kill Sam.
Dean must save his brother from a fellow hunter.
** My Rating - Another tense and thought provoking episode 10/10 **
=== 11. Playthings===
More unexplained deaths this time for a family living in an Inn. An old lady lives in the attic but has been left unable to do anything since a stroke. Initially Sam & Dean believe her practice of Hoodoo is the cause of the problems however after further investigation it is clear that a vengeful spirit is the actual cause.
With a creepy dolls house and a scary old lady this is a tense episode.
** My Rating - Hide behind your cushion scary 8/10 **
=== 12. Nightshifter ===
This time a shapeshifter is the cause of trouble in Milwaukee and the boys set around to find and neutralise the threat. Shapeshifters being notoriously difficult to find the boys find themselves inside a bank trapped with the shapeshifter, a bunch of innocent bystanders and the FBI.
An agent (Victor) appears in this episode and also reappears in later instalments - get ready to hate him!
** My Rating - Clever and entertaining 9/10 **
=== 13. Houses of the Holy ===
This episode is based around a church and involves people claiming to have killed as demanded to do so by an angel.
Sam being a believer in God is convinced this is the case but Dean is not so sure. The Angel visits Sam and asks him to kill another bad person and he sets off to do this. Meanwhile Deans disbelief in this theory instead believes a vengeful spirit of a priest is to blame.
** My Rating - Clever and a good showing for the differences between the brothers 7/10 **
=== 14. Born under a bad sign ===
The episode begins with Dean finding Sam who has been missing for a week. It appears that Sam has murdered a hunter but he has no recollection of the incident. Sam begs Dean to kill him believing his father prophesy is coming true but Dean refuses and instead sets out to find out what is going on . Refusing to give up on his brother and with the help of Bobby they find out what has been going on.
** My Rating - Episodes revolving around the brothers relationship are always excellent viewing 9/10 **
=== 15. Tall Tales ===
Picture college life with Urban Legends actually coming true. Dean & Sam move in to investigate and find that a Trickster is behind the problems.
The boys must find who is the Trickster and then save the day.
** My Rating - The trickster episodes are always great - you never know what's around the corner 9/10 **
=== 16. Roadkill ===
A vengeful ghost causing cars to Crash on a highway take the boys attention. A woman and her husband are run off the road and crash trying to avoid a man that appeared in their path from nowhere.
The lady wakes to find the man gone and she manages to flag down Sam & Dean. After taking on and tackling the vengeful ghost this episode has a nice little twist. I won't say what as I wouldn't want to spoil it for you!
** My Rating - A gripping episode with a good little twist 9/10 **
=== 17. Heart ===
Werewolves are the lead in this episode and the boys are left to protect Madison from her werewolf boyfriend Kurt. Sam is charged with protecting Madison but things begin to go wrong when she turns into a werewolf and escapes to track down Kurt.
Sam had become close to Madison and the story ends with a difficult decision for him - very dramatic and heart wrenching.
** My Rating - Another episode to get you thinking and feeling for the boys plight 9/10 **
=== 18. Hollywood Babylon ===
Thinking that there had been a death on a horror film set the boys head off to investigate but soon discover it was staged for publicity. However this was not a wasted journey as soon after someone does die and the boys are left to investigate.
A vengeful spirit is the cause of the death however this is not the full story and a strange latin script leads the boys to investigate further.
** My Rating - An entertaining watch with scary moments 7/10 **
=== 19. Folsom Prison Blues ===
A fellow hunter who is in prison enlists Sam and deans help after several murders within the prison. He has lost his edge and needs the boys to save him and the other inmates
A vengeful spirit is again the centre of this tense and scary episode and with the boys imprisoned they are forced to fight with limited weaponry.
** My Rating - Not the best episode in the series but still entertaining viewing 7/10 **
=== 20. What Is and What Should Never Be ===
This time the evil entitiy is a Djinn that causes Dean to transport to an alternative world where his mother never died and they never became hunters.
Dean discovers in this version of events he and Sam are no longer close as their lives took very different paths. A young woman begins haunting Dean and he sets off to work out what is going on. Convincing Sam to help they discover that the Djinn is actually to blame.
A more dramatic story line that gets to the heart Deans good spirit.
** My Rating - Great episode highlighting the good within the boys 8/10 **
=== 1. 21. & 22. All Hell Breaks Loose (1) & 2 ===
The demon Azazel makes a dramatic comeback and sends Sam to an empty town. Here Sam finds other children with Special powers and the demon explains they must fight to the death until only one remains. He informs Sam that his visions and power are caused by the Demon blood he fed to him as a baby before killing his mother.
Dean enlists the help of Bobby and sets off once again to save his brother. The episode ends in tragedy for Sam.
The second part begins with Sam alive and well. Dean has sold his soul to the demons to bring his brother back.
The episode revolves around killing the demon Azazel once and for all and features a brief appearance from John (their dead father) who helps the boys again.
This 2 parter is tense, dramatic and full of action. A great finale for the series which grips from start to end.
** My Rating - A thrilling conclusion to the series shown over 2 parts 10/10 **
== My Opinion ==
Series 2 of Supernatural is a fantastic watch and with 22 episodes you get a lot for your money. I must admit to loving this series from my first viewing. After catching one on TV I bought the first box set, then the second etc etc until within 5 months I had caught up on every episode ever made.
I think this is a testament to the quality of this series. As a mother who also works full time you can gather that to complete 5 series in 5 months I watched these at every opportunity.
Some episodes are Scary (as you would expect from a Horror series) but they also regularly delve into the relationship between the boys and their unusual upbringing which brings a lot more depth to the experience.
The special effects are outstanding for a TV show - which is needed considering the subject matter at hand.
As a lady I have to mention that the two lead characters are beautiful and just add to the viewing experience. However the paranormal story lines ensure that men also enjoy this series.
The two lead characters are very believable in their roles this was clever casting of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padeleki. The storylines are always well written and combine a mixture of horror, suspense and humour to create an excellent show.
This is one of the few Television shows that both me and my boyfriend enjoy watching together and I would highly recommend not only this season but all 5 that have been produced so far.
You can pick this series up for as little as £9.49 from Play.com which is a massive bargain for what you get.
Overall I would rate this series a 9.5/10
Always on the quest for as pain free as possible hair removal and fed up with shaving/waxing/epilating I decided to try out a laser hair removal device.
I first purchased the Rio Salon 60x Scanning laser hair removal which was slow work and I cannot say I saw any results.
Never one to learn my lesson I then purchased the Boots Smooth Skin IPL laser after reading some good reviews about the results. The laser is currently on sale at Boots for £274.99 which is a reduction from the full price of £324.99. This is obviously expensive however is a lot cheaper than paying for Salons to complete the treatment.
== The Product ==
The laser itself is purple and white and mains run. It comes in a lovely large white presentation box and comes complete with:-
Intense Pulsed light hair reduction unit
The handset is rounded and easy to hold and has a square glass panel at the bottom which is the treatment area. The size of this is around 3cm by 3cm (which is a fairly good size for a home laser treatment and is considerably bigger than the Rio I had purchased previously).
It uses Light Pulse Wavelengths limited to between: 530 - 1100 nm & the handset has fan assisted cooling (so is a little noisy).
There are 3 intesity settings to choose from (Pale/Med/Dark) and features a 6 second repitition rate to ensure the unit does not get too hot.
== How the laser works ==
According to Boots the laser gives permanent hair reduction in just 6-12 weeks, is easy to use and is for use on the body and face.
IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light which is the method the laser uses to reduce or eliminate hair. The system works by firing a short pulse of filtered light onto the skin.
The light is then absorbed by the pigments in and around the hair which damages the hair follicle. Because of this the hair must be darker than the surrounding skin therefore this machine is not suitable for those with very dark skin, if you currently have a tan or if you are trying to treat grey hairs (as grey hairs do not contain the necessary pigment to be affected by the laser).
The hair must be in the growth phase therefore it is recommended that this product is used over several months and at least one treatment per month (no more than one a week). Apparently approximately 85% of hairs are in the growing phase at any one time but this leaves 15% in the transitional or resting phase (this phase takes around 5-9 weeks to complete on average). However I have not found that 85 % of the treatment area shows results after use therefore I suspect that the laser does not always manage to damage the hair folical on each treatment session.
Upon researching this I was surprised to find out that the growth phase can last between 2-7 years! Although hair on different parts of the body have different cycles and you should not expect your eyebrows to be growing for up to 7 years at a time.
== How to Use the Unit ==
Before using Boots IPL it recommends testing on a small area to ensure you have no adverse reactions.
** The possible adverse reactions listed are:-
** Strong pain in the area being treated
** Itching of the Treatment area
** Heat and redness of the skin which continues
** Blistering or burning of the skin
** Swelling, fragile skin, bruising
** Changes to the pigmentation (colour)
For this reason following the instructions of testing the product first is advisable although I did not suffer any adverse reactions and I suffer from sensitive skin and severe reactions are rare.
You then need to decide what setting to have the machine on. The instructions come with a skin tone chart to enable you to decide which of the 3 settings to use (Fair, Med or Dark).
Before starting treatment you should apply a thick covering of the activator gel to the area you wish to start treating (for added comfort the gel can be refrigerated before hand to help numb the area slightly before starting). You should not start with too large an area otherwise the gel dries out and is wasted. I have found strips around 6 inches by 4 inces works well to minimise gel wastage.
The Gel can get a little messy though so a spare towel to mop up any excess is also usefull.
Next place the glass square side of the hand held unit against your skin, ensuring that the contact points are in contact with your skin, and press the button on the top. There will be a quick flash of light and the treatment is complete. You continue this process until you have treated the area required (clearing the hand held unit of gel between treatments with a cloth).
The instructions say the unit is suitable for Men & Women and can be used on the face and body. However I have found that because the hand unit is not very small it can be tricky to use in small spaces (such as your top lip) however with perserverence it is not impossible! Keeping the two contact points against your skin can also be tricky in curved areas but a bit of manouvering of the hand unit usually makes areas treateble.
After each use the unit should be cleaned. To do this ensure it is disconnected from the mains supply and seperate its parts. Using a damp (not wet) cloth wipe down the outside of the hand held and base unit and dry.
After using on the underarm it is not recommended to use deodoratnt for 24 hours or to use hot baths or saunas for 24 hours.
== My Experience ==
I started by using this unit on my underarms and bikini line, as these are fairly small areas to treat and my intention is to build up to the bigger areas.
I decided to go for the medium setting and followed the instructions above. I found that sometimes I did get a sensation like being snapped with an elastic band against my skin however in general the treatment is fairly pain free (definitely less painful than waxing and epilating). The Gel helps to sooth any ping pains and seems to have an unnerving ability to be exceedingly cold even without being refrigerated first (expect to gasp a few times from the chill!).
As the treatment area is 3cmx3cm it did not take very long to complete both underarms and the bikini area (around 10 minutes for the underarms and 15 for the bikini area) which was a pleasant surprise. Using the laser is also very simple and compared with the previous Laser I had used this one is a vast improvement for ease and speed of use. I would estimate to complete a leg would take around 20-30 minutes (although I guess it may take longer if you are taller than my miniture 5 foot 1 stature).
I treated the same areas once a week for 3 weeks then as always happens life gets in the way and didn't do any further treatments for a period of 3 weeks. I then used this laser again twice a month for 2 months.
The glass area does get a little warm if you do too many treatments too close together but it only takes around 10 seconds for this to cool back down (and is never so hot it would burn). Applying more gel also helps keep your skin cool.
Refrigerating the Gel helps dull any pain you do feel from the flashes and as you need to apply this fairly regularly I would recommend buying plenty of spare tubes (you wouldn't believe how quickly you can get through these!). They can also be purchased from Boots and cost £2.99 per tube.
The lead on the hand unit is long enough to enable use without having to contort your body to get closer to the base unit.
== The Results - 1 month In ==
It is a little disheartening to start with as you see no difference after the initial treatment. In fact I found it took 2-3 weeks before any of the hairs started to fall out however was extremely pleased to find that patches I had treated did indeed end up hair free (although not the whole area). Having seen no hair reduction with the previous laser unit I had purchased I must admit I was sceptical they would have any affect and was therefore pleasantly surprised.
This result obviously spurred me on and I continued to treat the areas over the next 2 months (every couple of weeks)
== The Results - 3 Months In ==
I have been using this unit for 3 months now and although I have not found that the whole treatment area has had hair reduction there are now large patches that are hair free.
As the process only treats actively growing hairs it must be used over a fairly long time therefore I plan to continue to use this throughout the winter and to report back within this review as to the long term results (I will also move on to treating my legs and see how that goes).
As it has only been a few months of use I do not know whether the hair loss is permanent or whether this will grow back through (hopefully lighter and thinner as the instructions claim) but I have been pleased with the results to date. Some areas seem to work better than others for me so far (the bikini line has reacted particularly well to the treatment) however the instructions do say that you may need to use different settings in different areas so this may be the reason for this.
== In Conclusion ==
Having experimented with every hair removal device ever made (or at least it feels like I have) I was thrilled with Boots IPL for actually managing to remove hair where so many other devices have promised but failed. The addition of the quality, sturdy case is also a nice touch.
If you are looking for 100% hair removal with minimal effort then this product is probably not for you however having previously purchased another Laser and an electrolysis machine this is the only one I have come across so far which has actually removed hair.
I have not yet been using the IPL long enough to know whether the hair reduction is permanent therefore I am unable to comment upon this yet however I will update this review once I have "tested" the product further.
In the areas I have treated the process is fairly pain free, not too time consuming and although the unit is quite expensive I would still have to recommend this to anyone looking for laser hair removal without the Salon price tag.
So far I have been extremely pleased with this purchase.
I must admit to being a bit of an expensive perfume fan and if I had more expendable cash I suspect my perfume shelf would be further brimming with Designer brands, I do find you tend to get what you pay for in the frangrance market.
So imagine my excitement when my fella bought me Burberry Brit for my Birthday last year. Having never tried this particular brand fragrance before I was intrigued to see what it was like and must admit to being a little disappointed (but please don't tell my other half!)
** Burberry the Brand **
Burberry is a British fashion design label that specialise in clothing, handbags and perfume.
They have a distinctive trademarked Tartan pattern theme running through their designs.
Thomas Burberry founded the company in 1856 opening a store in Basingstoke, Hampshire specialising in outdoor wear. Its current headquarters are in London and Burberry now have over 70 stores worldwide as well as online stores which provide product purchase facilities in the UK, USA & the EU.
The Burberry Classic Check Tartan was first used as a lining for the Burberry trench coat in 1924 but it was not until 1967 that the design was widely used within the brand. Since then the Burberry Classic Check has become the defining feature of Burberry's lines (it is however a little unfortunate that Buberry became synonymous with Chav fashion in recent years).
Burberry is now a globally recognised British Brand and has itself well established with the the fashion industry.
** The Perfume **
Burberry Brit won the FIFI award in the Luxe category in 2004, this is an annual event in which the Fragrance Foundation provides awards for achievements and creative excellence in the Fragrance industry. The Luxe award is for the Womans fragrance of the year.
Released in 2003 the Perfume is described by Buberry as "an intriguing green oriental frangrance that features a surprising mix of sugars and spices". According to their website this perfume is sold from in 50ml size for £40 and 100ml size for £50 (which clearly makes the 100ml version far better value). Bought in either size it is fairly expensive and holding out to find it on special offer is probably advisable. You can currently purchase a 30ml bottle from Boots for £25.34
The perfume comes in a squared shaped bottle and is covered in the easily recognisable Burberry Tartan pattern in white against a heavy glass bottle. Not a bad looking bottle, feeling well made and easily identifiable as Burberry however not the prettiest design I have seen.
The packaging claims that this frangrance contains scents including Pear, Green & sugared Almond vanilla beans, lime and mahogony wood. Thankfully I have to say when wearing this perfume which claims to have two types of Almond scents I did not smell like a lump of Marzipan (not that I don't like Marzipan, I just wouldn't want to smell like it!).
** My Opinion **
The perfume itself has quite a distinctive smell however I am not sure I would consider it as "green oriental" (although if I am honest I am not entirely sure what "Green Oriental" is meant to imply?). I would describe the scent as slightly vanilla, quite spicy and sweet and extremely strong when first sprayed. There are also hints of citrus thrown in to the mix to make this quite an interesting and unique aroma although it may not be to everyones taste.
I do find this quite an overpowering perfume at first and having learnt my lesson the hard way (almost suffocating myself with the strong aromas on a crowded bus) I tend to apply this sparingly. This does mean that a 100ml lasts well and I still have plenty left having owned this for over a year.
The sweet perfume does die down fairly quickly and becomes quite a pleasant odour where the vanilla aromas shine through with a hint of spice. Having said that it does seem to have quite good lasting power and I do not need to reapply this regularly once on.
I do not find this perfume particularly feminine (probably because it is lacking the floral ingredients that so many womens perfumes contain) however this can make a refreshing change once in a while. I do like the vanilla undertone and the spicy hint stops you smelling too much like an icecream.
I do not wear this for special occasions but rather use this occasionally for more standard purposes (as an occasional change to my everyday perfume just to mix things up a little). I do not think the impact of the perfume is good enough to be saved for special events.
I personally am not very keen on the simplistic design of the bottle and think a little more creativity could have been utilised in the making of this, especially considering the retail price of the perfume. However I expect the clean and simple design will appeal to some and the Tartan pattern makes it easily identifiable as a Burberry product.
My other half claims that this is his favourite of all of my perfumes, although whether this is just because he spent so much money on it as a gift to me I can not be sure? As alot of my other perfumes are floral scented when changing to this one it is easily identifiable.
When wearing this I do not receive many compliments on the way I smell which I think says a lot about its lack of impact in general of this perfume however no one has ever said they do not like the smell either.
** In Conclusion **
Not a terrible perfume although I tend to prefer something a little more feminine and flowery. Although initially quite overpowering the perfume does settle down leaving a spicy vanilla scent which is quite pleasant.
The scent is distinctive and unique however this means it will probably not be to everyone's taste therefore if you are considering this as a gift it might not be the safest choice.
Considering the retail price it is not something I would consider purchasing again unless I found it at a bargain price during my shopping endeavours. The bottle has lasted me a long time but that is mainly because I do not wear it very often and only apply sparingly.
I would not go out of my way to recommend this to friends but it can add a little variety to your perfume collection.
As my hair tends to have a bit of a kink (due to too much time pulled back) I decided I needed to purchase some hair straighteners but having long thick hair and being a little lazy I set about trying to find some bigger than usual.
Whilst in Boots I saw these Mark Hill Smooth & Shine Wide Ceramic Straighteners and at £49.99 they looked like a good investment. These appear to retail online for between £70 and £145 so shopping around is definately a good idea.
The heating plates are Ceramic and 2" wide and are good for curly or thick hair.
The Plate are bright prink and are marketed as having T-Nano Ceramic plates and a 3m cord.
They have Variable heat settings from 120-220°C and an auto switch off feature.
They claim to be able to not only Straighten but you can also wave and flick your hair with these (although not being particularly talented at styling I haven't tried to with these).
The straighteners come with a lovely black bag that unzips to double as a heat resistant pad.
Not being particularly talented at hair styling I was looking for something quick and easy to straighten the slight waves that can sneak into my hair and these are perfect for the task.
The straighteners look and feel a high quality and the 3m cord gives plenty of length for manouvering whilst in use.
The variable temperature settings are a good feature and I have generally found that 180°C works well for me (straightens without too much sizzle).
The straigheners do not take long to heat up (I would guess around a minute to warm to my preferred temperature).
You can easily straightener larger quantities of hair with the wide ceramic plates making the process a quicker and less laborious process than previous straighteners I have used.
They are provided with a manual and a guide to styling with Mark Hill products which is a lovely extra.
I have been using this with the Mark Heat Protection Spray and although I do not regularly use straighteners I have not noticed a deteriation in the health of my hair when these have been used.
They straighten my hair well with the minimum of effort on my part which is exactly what I would like in a hair straightener.
The travel bag that doubles as a heatproof mat is a lovely addition. It is a stylish little accessory that comes in very handy when taking them away with you and also at protecting your surfaces from the hot plates.
And bringing out my girly side I have to say the black outer with the hot pink plates does make these straighteners look very attractive.
Quick and Easy to use although quite expensive if purchased full price (at £49.99 if you can find them though they are amazing value).
I would recommend these to friends as they are excellent quality with all the features you would like from your straightener.
On my quest to find a family fun board game for use with my 3 year old son I stumbled across the Orchard Toys board game range.
After already purchasing "The shopping list game" and receiving as a gift " The Lunch box game" I decided to try out "If you See a Crocodile".
I bought this on holiday in Devon for £19.99 but having now searched around online I have found this can currently be bought for £10.55 from Amazon and therefore I would definately recommend searching around to find the best price.
If you See a Crocodile is a game designed for young children marked as 36 months - 12 years.
The game comes in an attractive box and procides:-
30 x double-sided colour spot cards (5 lots of 6 colours with water splashes or crocodiles on the back)
6 'finish' spot cards,
4 characters with stands
1 game board,
1 boat house, (which you need to assemble)
1 boat, (which you need to assemble)
1 colour spot dice
How to Play:-
After setting up the game board (slots together easily) and assembling the boat house & boat you need to shuffle the colour spot cards and place them in the centre of the board with the colour side up.
After choosing your characted you start by placing them on the white spot on the Jetty.
As with all Orchard Toys games the instructions recommend you start with the youngest player. They need to roll the dice to find out what colour the finish card will be (the "finish" spot card should then be placed in the hole by the boat house to mark the finish colour).
The youngest player then rolls the colour spot dice again and chooses a card from the centre that matches the colour rolled. If the underneath of the card shows a water splash the player moves to the next square on the board of that colour and the card should be discarded into the boat.
If the underneath of the card shows a crocodile the player should scream and their piece remains where they are (also discarding the card to the boat).
If all the colour spot cards of a colour have been used they should be removed from the boat shuffled and placed back in the centre of the board.
The next player continues using the same rules. The winner is the person that makes it onto the finish place whereby they can move their character into the boat house.
This is a very simple board game and although marked for suitable for ages 3-12 years I believe most children will have outgrown this by the age of 7. Having said that it is an excellent game for young children and my 3 year old son loves to play this game.
As he is so young the rules of the game are sometimes lost on him and he seems to particularly enjoy when any of us pick up a crocodile and have to scream. He likes to roll the dice and understands the concept of picking up a corresponding coloured card from the centre however he does not yet quite understand that he can't just keep picking up the cards until he finds one he likes.
As my son is so young he does not always follow the rules but this board game gives us a good opportunity to attempt to instill good sportsmanship and structured playing. Unlike some of the other Orchard Valley Toys games this one does have limited educational purposes but sometimes a bit of sillyness and family game play is all that is required.
We have added the rule that if you get a crocodile card you scream and get a tickle which has livened up the play and is a cause of great delight to my son.
As a family it has been difficult to find games and toys that we can play as a group but this game fits the bill nicely.
This is not a game that a young child can play on their own so expect regular demands to play.
When playing with 3 or 4 players it is clear that there are not enough Spot colour cards and therefore you are required to regularly take the cards out of the boat, shuffle them and place back into the centre of the board which can be a little frustrating.
As an adult this game can be a little dull and repetitive.
Although the gameplay as an adult is not the most entertaining my 3 year old son loves to play this and particularly loves when the whole family joins in. If you are looking for a family activity to entertain your youngster I would recommend this game
Having already reviewed the Orchard Toys Shopping list Game I thought I may as well do this one as well as the two games are very similar (so please expect similar Reviews).
After purchasing the Shopping List Game my sister wanted an idea for a Present for my 3 year old sons birthday so I suggested another in the ORchard Toy range and that is how we ended up with the Lunch Box game.
After a bit of searching i believe it currently costs around £7 from Amazon which is in my opinion excellent value.
The game comprises of 4 carboard lunch boxes with Food and drink items printed on, 4 box cards and 24 Food/drink cards.
To play this game you must first spread the food/drink cards face down in front of you. Each player picks a lunch box with its matching boxes and the game commences with the youngest player turning over a food/drink card.
If the item picked is on their lunch box it goes into one of the 6 boxes. If not the other players get to see the card and it goes back face down. The next player then takes their turn following the same rules.
The winner is the first person to fill their boxes.
The game play is very simple yet fun and is perfect for young children as there are not too many rules to learn.
My 3 year old son loves to play this even if he sometimes has difficulty understanding the turn process when the card is not in his lunch box (a budding cheat my son appears to be). This is of course part of the learning process and is a good way of us to help teach him about playing fair and not always winning (he is already an impressively sore loser).
Whilst playing my son also learns the names and pictures for a variety of common lunch box items and loves to identify each card as he picks it up whether he needs it or not, with encouragement from his mummy & daddy of course.
It can be difficult to find things to play as a family with a young child and this game is an excellent choice to combat this. We have had hours of fun and my family appreciate having something we can all play together.
This is not a game a young child can play on their own so after purchasing expect to be bugged at every opportunity to play!
The 24 food/drink cards are fairly small (around 2 inches x 2 inches) and are therefore easily lost and missing cards make the game impossible to play.
I would recommend this product for parents of children aged 3-6 but I don't believe it would be appreciated by children any older.
It is an enjoyable way to spend time with your young child and this always feels more rewarding when you know they are learning and developing skills at the same time.
If you already own the Shopping List Game by Orchard Toys then I would not recommend this as they are virtually identical. If I had to pick between the two I would recommend the Shopping list game instead as you can buy additional packs to diversify the game a little and keep it fresh.
I have a 3 year old son that is always wanting to play so set about hunting down a game that we could play together.
My journey took me to The shopping list game.
I bought this on holiday in Devon for £14.99 but since having a search around online I can see you can purchase it for closer to £7 from Amazon so shopping around is recommended.
The game comprises of 4 shopping carts, 4 shopping lists and 32 Item cards.
To play the game you spread the item cards face down in front of you. Each player picks a shopping cart and a shopping list and the game commences with the youngest player turning over an item card.
If the item picked is on their shopping list it goes into their cart. If not the other players get to note the card and it goes back face down. The next player then takes their turn following the same rules.
The winner is the first person to fill their cart.
It is possible to buy booster packs to provide new shopping lists and item cards (and should you want to play with more than 4 players this would be a good idea). This is also helpful in diversifying the game and freshening up the experience.
Although the game play is very simple it is perfect for my 3 year old son. I suspect within a couple of years he will have outgrown this game but at present he loves it. It teaches him the names and pictures of everyday shopping items and he loves to try to win (and of course on occassion to cheat if not winning but we are working on that!).
My son loves to pick a card, then check his cart and if its not in there check everyone elses to see who needs the card - he does tend to then give the card to the person that wants it and carries on to pick another card until he finds one he needs. Not exactly the way it is meant to be played but we are working on teaching him the structure of the game which I am sure as he gets older he will understand. Even when not played in the true spirit of the rules my son loves playing this game and enjoys the family element of playing together.
It is an enjoyable way to spend time with your young child and they learn without even realising it. With more than 2 players it also helps to test their memories (if played as outlined in the instructions). You can of course guarantee that you will tire of playing long before your young child.
This is not a game that a young child can play on their own so expect regular demands to play.
The item cards are fairly small (around 2 inches by 2 inches) and are therefore easily lost. If item cards go missing playing the game becomes impossible. We have so far managed to find the only missing card however this is only because we hide this away from my 3 year old when we are not playing.
I would recommend this product for parents of children aged 3-6 but I don't think it would be appreciated by children any older.
This game makes for fun family time and as such I think it is an excellent buy.
Being a bit of a coffee addict I must confess to having tried a large variety of brands before stumbling across Carte Noire (whilst it was on special offer at the supermarket).
I like my coffee strong and full flavoured and Carte Noire does not disapoint.
The square shaped jar is almost completely black with the logo on the front. On that back of the Jar the description describes it as being "Arabica coffee" (although I must confess I have no idea what this means).
It promises "The rich and velvety body of this deeply aromatic blend will seduce your palate". It also claims that "Coffee naturally contains antioxidants, that may support the bodys natural cell defences".
Available in jars of either 100g or 200g and is currently priced at sainsburys at £2.64 for the smaller jar and £5.48 for the larger (for the astute amongst you does indeed make buying 2 lots of 100g cheaper than 1 jar of 200g).
Upon breaking the seal on the jar the strong sent is instantly inviting.
Carte noire is a rich and full flavoured instant coffee. It dissolves easily in hot water and makes for a very pleasurable beverage. A perfect blend for the strong coffee lover (but may not be for everyones taste).
Not as nice as filtered coffee but it is the best strong yet smooth instant coffee I have found. I would highly recommend for coffee lovers.
I racked my brain for the perfect present for my 3 year old and eventually decided the VTech V.Smile motion games console as he is already a lover of technology. To compliment the purchase I also decided on Thomas & Friend Game.
The console itself is similar to the old Megadrive or Nintendo games console and takes cartridge games. It has motion controllers meaning you can chose to play either with the more standard joypad or instead tilt the pad to move. This is particularly good for the younger children.
The console has been designed for 3-7 year olds and there are a large selection of games available aimed at differing age ranges meaning that the console can "grow" with the child.
Graphics for the console are very basic although I doubt this is an issue for the younger children.
Thomas & Friends Motion Game
The Game is aimed at 3-5 year olds and is based around the childrens classic Thomas the Tank Engine. It costs around £14.99 and comes packaged in a plastic outer. The cartridge itself has no box (although the console provides an area to store the cartridges). The costs of the cartridge varies quite alot so shopping around is definately recommended. I managed to pick it up for £6.20 plus postage from Amazon.
It offers to teach the basic skills required by young children such as Colours, numbers and Letters however the game play is very difficult for a 3 year old (in fact there is a part where it asks questions to which you have to press the coloured button to answer but the questions can be vague and hard to follow even as an adult).
There are several different games to play including the main game where you make selections to pick the correct route along the tract and a sing along section. It does indeed attempt to teach children about number letters and colours. Unfortunately though the game play is not good and it lacks any excitement.
The controls are easy to handle but the instructions during game play is not very imaginative. It does look and soung Like Thomas The Tank Engine though so if your child is a Thomas fan it will probably have more appeal.
Not enough to the games on this Cartridge and a little complicated for the younger end of the age rage. Would only recommend for Children that are already fans of Thomas The Tank Engine