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Thony

Thony
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Member since: 10.06.2011

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    • More +
      01.02.2013 15:00
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      Great scales, reasonable price.

      I bought this set of scales for my other half for Christmas. We both enjoy baking and our old set of Argos value scales was beyond useless - time to go digital. I'd used Salter scales in the past and had good results so I chose these from a local kitchenware shop. They cost me about £20 but are likely cheaper online.

      The scales are rectangular; glass topped and allows you to choose between metric or imperial. The weight is displayed on an LCD display on the front.

      Unlike other scales I've used this one has a touch sensitive section on the top rather than a physical, pressable button. This, presumably, is a feature aimed at improved hygiene. Repeatedly pressing a reset button with dirty hands will make gunk gather in the cracks, a problem that's avoided here. To tare the scales you touch the button and once the weight has settled it resets to zero. If you touch it while it's on zero it turns off. Simple.

      In practice it isn't always as responsive as I'd like. Sometimes you have to paw at it several times before it'll register the touch and reset. If I'm honest I'd prefer a traditional tactile button. The phrase 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' comes to mind.

      The scales are a good size. With the small round scales Salter make I've found in the past that if you're using a big bowl the display is obscured. The large platform on these eliminates this problem and I've used it with big bowls and baking trays no problem.

      The glass top is great when baking because it wipes clean so easily. I'm forever spilling flour all over the place so this is a small blessing for me. Because there are no nooks or crannies on the surface there's nowhere for the food to gather. If you spill greasy ingredients it's prone to smearing and can be a little tricky to get off, but nothing a damp cloth won't solve.

      The resolution of these is good. They weigh to the nearest gram and, as far as I can tell, are pretty accurate. They're useful for weighing small quantities of ingredients like yeast as you can be confident you have the amount the recipe asks for rather than using teaspoons and hope. When weighing, for example, salt there is a noticeable gap between 10g & 11g; however I can cope with being half a gram out.

      The maximum weight is 5kg. As of yet I've come nowhere near this limit despite making big batches of bread dough. If you use heavy porcelain mixing bowls this may become more of an issue but for everyday baking you should be fine.

      I've been using this regularly for a month or so now and I'm perfectly happy with it. I find myself weighing things that I never considered before. I can now tell you with confidence that I have 275g of milk on my cereal in the morning. Useless a fact as this sounds, it means I can optimise my weekly milk purchase. How cool am I? In the past I'd never have bothered because the old scales would probably spilt milk all over the place.

      I'd happily recommend these scales to anyone!

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    • More +
      01.01.2013 18:42
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      • "Ease of use"

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      Adequate kettle, but I wouldn't choose one over a cheaper value range model

      I was recently given this kettle by the in-laws because they thought our old kettle was dangerous. Something to do with the melted plastic and metal pin which had welded itself into the wrong place leading to a dodgy connection. Some people eh?

      In the past I've always bought supermarket value range kettles and have never been able to understand why people would pay more for such a simple appliance. Will I be going back to the value range with this kettle eventually breaks? Yes. Read on to find out why.

      The design
      ======
      It's a pretty standard kettle design, nothing to write home about. It's brushed stainless steel with a pop up lid on top and a power switch below the handle which lights up when in operation. It connects to a circular multi-directional base and holds 1.7L of water.

      Good things
      =======
      I will (grudgingly) admit that the brushed steel looks better than the white plastic of my old kettle and wipes down easily when it gets covered in dirt. I'm a messy cook (just ask my other half) so this is handy, plus, as it's steel, it doesn't stain and doesn't look too grubby after being picked up with dirty hands.

      It boils quickly enough even when full to the maximum mark so I'm not waiting around groggily (a.k.a grumpily) for my morning coffee.

      As mentioned above it contains 1.7L of water which is more than enough for a few cups of tea and enough for a big pan of pasta for two people. If you have a larger family (or a larger appetite) it might take a couple of fillings for enough water for a pasta meal.

      As the base is multi-directional it requires slightly less thought that other kettles to replace after use. It's not something I've ever struggled too much with on other kettles so isn't really a selling point.

      Gripes
      ====
      So, why am I going back to value range kettles when this breaks? I've found I have a few niggling issues with this kettle that my previous didn't have.

      There is no window on the side of the kettle so you can't see how full it is without opening. There's a maximum fill mark on the inside but its small and when combined with the small top opening it is hard to see. The means you boil more water than you need.

      The element covers the entire base of the kettle rather than a coil. This probably speeds up boil time and means there's no minimum fill but the increased surface area means it builds up limescale quickly. I live in a hard water area so you quickly start finding lumps in your tea and have to get the de-scaler out.

      When filled to the maximum mark the water will sometimes bubble out the spout when it comes to the boil. This not only presents a risk of scalding but also an electrical hazard.

      It's not a gripe specific to this kettle, rather all metal kettles, but I think that metal is a poor choice of material for the main body. When the kettle has boiled, and for a while after, the body is very hot and it would be very easy to burn yourself. It's too hot for me to touch with my asbestos fingers so would pose a serious risk to a curious child or even a sleepy adult. Also, and I'm happy to be corrected on this, as the body conducts more heat than a more insulating material, more heat will be lost to the surroundings making the kettle less efficient and wasting electricity.

      The power switch on the body of the kettle seems a little flimsy. I can easily imagine it snapping if pressed too hard by a caffeine deprived individual or a heavy pan accidentally knocked it. Other than this switch the build quality is good.

      Conclusions
      =======
      I've made some complaints about this kettle but some are just me being picky whilst others I think are valid safety concerns. Still, this is a perfectly good kettle and I'm sure will offer me a good few years of service. I didn't buy it myself but its currently going for £17 on amazon which is a reasonable price for a metal bodied kettle.

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    • Bread - Daniel Stevens / Cookbook / 33 Readings / 33 Ratings
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      31.12.2012 14:46
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      A must have guide to baking bread. My favourite cookery book.

      I bought this book about 6 months ago on recommendation from a friend at the same time as embarking on 'The Bread Challenge'; making all your own bread for a given period of time. I can in thoroughly recommend both the book and the challenge to anyone with an interest in baking as you'll be rewarded with the most satisfying and delicious bread you can imagine.

      The premise
      ========
      This book is a complete introduction to bread making, suiting both those with some experience and complete novices. The first third of the book (give or take) is dedicated to ingredients, techniques, science, hints and tips.

      It walks you through the different types of flours and yeast to choose from as well as other things you can add to improve your breads then moves on to mixing, kneading, proving, shaping and cooking. These are skills which underlie all bread making whether you're dreaming of crusty French baguettes, soft white sandwich loaves, sticky Chelsea buns or dark aromatic sour dough. They're covered in good detail in this book, helping you understand both how and why you're doing these things.

      The recipes
      =======
      The recipes in this book are in four broad categories: Basic loaves, sourdough, yeastless breads, and buns, biscuits and batters.

      The basic loaves are variations on a white loaf with various different seeds. These recipes are great for ideas; however once you've mastered the basic loaf I prefer thinking up my own combinations than following recipes exactly. This section also covers other types of bread like ciabatta, focaccia and pizza. The basic recipe makes a great loaf (I cook mine in a big loaf tin and have it sliced thickly in sandwiches) and the pizza recipe is good, but a bit faffy.

      Sourdough uses wild yeast to leaven the bread (rather than packaged) which means it's a little more luck based, takes a bit of experience and patience to get right but the long fermenting means that flavours are top class. First you make a sourdough starter (full instructions provided) which is left to ferment and then 'fed' periodically. Some of the starter is then added to your mixture to make loaves and the rest kept for another day. It's not unusual for sourdough starters to last for many years with proper feeding.

      I'm ashamed to say that my forays into the sourdough world have, so far been limited and unsucessful. I failed to bring life into my starter and ended up with a goo filled tub. This is, however, probably my fault rather than the books.

      Just yesterday I made my first loaf of soda bread, an incredibly quick (no kneading), easy and delicious yeast free loaf. I've also made wraps from this section and have my eye on crumpets. Some of these recipes are a bit of a faff (wraps take forever to individually cook) but are usually worth the effort and it's good to have a quicker alternative to kneading and proving a loaf when you're pushed for time.

      The buns, biscuits and batters section felt, in places, like it was a bit of an afterthought and included in the book more to bulk up the page count than because the recipes were applicable to the topic. This seems to be the case in several bread books so I can't complain too much.

      Equipment & ingredients
      ==================
      The great thing about baking bread is that you don't need any specialised equipment to get started, just a bowl, a work surface and an oven tray. There are a couple of bits which can be useful which this book covers such as scrapers (try Wilkos paint scrapers), a spray bottle (gardening store) and, depending on what sort of loaf you want to make, some tins. I reckon you could get yourself well kitted out for less than £20. This really is a very approachable field of baking.

      The ingredients for a basic loaf (flour, yeast, salt, water) are all very cheap and even seeds to top the bread aren't expensive. A 1.5kg bag of bread flour will set you back less than £1 and will make three big loaves. Unlike other forms of baking you won't be spending a fortune on fancy, hard to find ingredients.

      Clay ovens
      =======
      The last section of the book takes you through step-by-step how to build a wood fired clay oven in your garden. Living in rented accommodation, this section of the book is of no use to me, and I suspect that it's a small minority of readers who will have the space and inclination to build such an oven in their garden. The chapter is detailed so would probably tell you everything you needed to know but for me this chapter didn't add anything to the book.

      Conclusions
      =======
      To conclude I would like to emphasize how good a book this is. The hardback edition is a nicely bound A5 sized volume and tells you everything you need to know to start making your own bread or to improve your current loaves. At present it costs around £8-9 on Amazon and I would happily pay double that.

      Bread is and always will be a time consuming endeavour, there are no short cuts to kneading and proving, but personally I find it the most satisfying form of baking and a truly life enriching endeavour. I genuinely hope that this review will encourage others to give it a try and this book to the perfect tool to guide you on your journey. Try making all your own bread for a month; I guarantee you'll be hooked.

      Happy baking

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      • More +
        15.07.2012 18:44
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        A great book if you're looking for a sweet little something

        My other half and I know each other too well. Without discussing it in advance, and with no knowledge of what the other was planning, we both bought each other a cupcake recipe book for Christmas. Thankfully we didn't both buy the same book.

        My offering to her was this book, The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days.

        About Hummingbird Bakery
        -------------------------------
        The Hummingbird Bakery started out on London's Portobello Road in 2004 when Tarek Malouf, the owner, saw a gap in the market for American styles cupcakes and whoopie pies. They have since expanded to four different London locations as well as a festival van and two cook books. These guys know cupcakes!

        The book
        ----------
        The book itself is is a hardback volume with the covers made partly of coarse pink material and part shiny paper. It's a little smaller than A4 and has about 256 pages. It currently costs about £10 on amazon, and I believe I paid £8 when I bought it in November.

        The Layout
        ------------
        Most recipe books are organised by the type of thing you're making; a section for cakes, a section for frosting and a section for cheese cake for example. This book takes a different approach and has organised it by celebrations, ranging from Valentines day to Easter, to Summer afternoon tea and, of course, Christmas.

        I cannot say that I'm taken by this way of organising the book as the recipes don't lend themselves to a specific holiday. For example you'll find espresso cupcakes under Mother's and Father's day, whilst the Hummingbird Bakery consider Mocha cupcakes to be far more suited to Valentines day. The only thing linking several cupcakes the their category are the accessories in the background of the photos, like a plastic spider sitting next to a cake in the Halloween section. I could forgive them if they used seasonal ingredients but, alas, no.

        The individual recipes are nicely laid out, with ingredients down the side of the page listed separately for the cake and for the frosting. Recipes don't usually take up more than one side and every single one has a full colour photo of the finished product. Overall, a very pretty book.

        The Recipes
        -------------
        All the recipes are easy to follow, although it's worth reading the whole thing before you start. Unlike some books, especially American oriented ones, there aren't lots of impossible-to-find ingredients. You'll be able to find practically everything in this book in your local Tesco. The most outlandish ingredient I've spotted is Marshmellow fluff but they've included a suppliers list at the back to help you track this sort of thing down.

        You'll be getting through a lot of icing sugar and butter with this book, as these the primary ingredients for a lot of the frostings.

        This book has a lot of cupcakes but there are also recipes for whoopie pies (think cake sandwich), cheesecakes, muffins, slices and tarts; more than enough to keep you going.

        You also don't require any specialist equipment to make most of these recipes. A piping bag might come in handy and you'll want some oven tins and an electric mixer but it doesn't go much beyond that.

        Unlike other American books this book uses grams and ounces to measure ingredients rather than cups. The use of cups in recipes is a pet hate of mine as it's not a clearly defined unit of measurment so I'm glad they've done the sensible thing and done it by weight.

        The results
        ------------
        I've tried a number of recipes and on the whole the results have been pretty good. I highly recommend the chocolate orange cupcakes. The cake is rich and moist and, oh my, the frosting! It's smooth, rich and chocolately. It's the stuff dreams are made of.

        The cardoman loaf also came out very well. This one is far more subtly flavoured than the chocolate orange but delicious none the less and perfect when you want something a little lighter. This isn't to say it's healthy, it's a still a cake after all!

        A few of the cakes I've made have come out a little on a dense side and I would have been happier if they'd been a little lighter and fluffier but I'm sure it was an error on my part.

        Conclusion
        ------------
        Overall I'm pretty happy with this book. The recipes are good and varied and the ingredients easy to come by. Personally I'd prefer it ordered by the type of thing you're making rather than by season but it's a small point. There are plenty of recipes I still want to try! I'm not sure my waist line is so keen though!

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        • Nokia C1-01 / Mobile Phone / 30 Readings / 27 Ratings
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          05.06.2012 23:01
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          Good if you want a phone that you don't mind using, poor for everything else

          I got this phone as an "upgrade" from me previous handset, a Samsung Solid Extreme B2100, as my contract had come to an end. I'm now on an incredibly cheap contract (about £5 a month) and have an incredibly cheap phone to match.

          Boxing, build quality and overall appearance
          ===========================
          This phone comes in a pretty standard box, with all the usual accessories; a charger, battery and a headset that doubles as a hands free kit and an aerial for the radio. Nothing complicated, nothing fancy.

          The build quality of this phone is pretty flimsy. It feels plastically and like it'll break if you look at it too hard. The back is fastened on using friction alone. No clips or fasteners. The keypad is reasonable, although I don't know how it would hold up to intensive use.

          There's nothing revolutionary about the design of this phone. It's designer won't be getting knighted any time soon. Its silver plastic on the front and a darker gray plastic on the rear.

          Features
          =====
          In addition the normal calling and texting this phone features a handful of games, a radio (if you attach the included headset as an antennae), a camera and email and web services. It will also play music.

          Call quality
          ======
          I'm not a heavy user when it comes to calls, however I'll call the missus a few times a week and the mandatory Sunday afternoon call to my mother. The call quality (both of speaker and microphone) was an important factor in my decision to get a new phone. The poor microphone on my old phone meant that nobody could hear a thing I said and I got frustrated by this. This phone is a vast improvement, in that nobody has complained they can't hear my so far. Unfortunately the sound quality of the speaker isn't great. I sometimes struggle to hear what my other half says as it's distorted and often incomprehensible. Overall I was disappointed with the sound quality.

          Texting
          ====
          I'm more of a texter than a caller so I was pleased with the keypad which was responsive and easy enough to use. The space and punctuation menu buttons are in different places to my old phone, however I'm sure I'll get used to it sooner or later. I believe it to be a standard Nokia layout so anyone that's used a Nokia before will be perfectly comfortable.

          Camera
          =====
          This phone does have a camera, although it may as well not bother. The picture quality is pathetic at the best of times. If you zoom in then it becomes unrecognizable. I can't help but think that Nokia added the camera so the phone would show up when people searched for camera phones. They certainly haven't made it at all usable or an asset to the phone.

          The screen
          =======
          The screen is clear and bright and I haven't had difficulties with it in direct sunlight. It's also reasonably big. It would probably display pictures reasonably well if the camera was capable of taking any.

          Connectivity
          ========
          This is a basic phone, yet it does come with Bluetooth. There's no wifi.

          Battery
          =====
          The battery life of this phone is actually quite good, although I don't use it a huge amount. It will last several days on a single charge and when it does come to charging it will go from empty to full quite quickly. My only gripe is that when the battery is nearly empty you don't get much warning between it starting to run low and the phone cutting out completely. A little more notice would be nice.

          Other features
          =========
          I've played a couple of the games on this phone and overall they're not too bad. I certainly enjoyed the pinball simulator. Compared with modern smart phones the games aren't up to much. If only it came with Angry Birds!

          Whilst this phone does allow you to access the internet and email I haven't tried to use the service. I can't image it being a particularly pleasurable experience.

          Conclusion
          ======
          This is phone is the cheapest of the cheap. If you're looking for something cheap and practical that you don't mind losing then this should do the job. If you want something that has games, internet or, dare I say it, apps then there's a certain smart phone on the market that might be more up your street.

          I bought this phone as a replacement for my old one which was hard to be heard on. Despite this I'm still considering switching back to it because this is not one of Nokia's best offerings.

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        • Indesit WIDL126 / Washer Dryer / 18 Readings / 18 Ratings
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          05.06.2012 16:44
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          This machine is in no way special, and there are probably better ones out there

          In my eyes washing machines should be functional items. They should wash clothes quickly and efficiently and, in the case of this machine, dry them too. How well does this machine perform against these fairly loose criteria? Not too badly, but it's not great.

          Programs
          =====
          There are a choice of 16 different programs on this machine covering the washing and drying functions and rinse, spin and drain. There is the normal selection of different washes covered temperatures ranging from 30 to 90 degrees, depending on how dirty your clothes are. There are also delicate washing cycles and wool settings.

          For those on the go who wish to save time there are 3 time saver cycles which take 30, 45 and 65 minutes respectively depending on the garments being washed.

          There is a dial for selecting the wash temperature if you don't like the preprogrammed temperature of a given cycle. I usually have this at 30.

          I am yet to find a garment which this machine hasn't got a suitable cycle for. It even does shoes.

          Washing
          =====
          The machine seems to wash reasonable well, however recently I have noticed that it doesn't seem to effectively rinse all the washing powder off clothes. This can be frustrating when clothes have to be washed twice.

          This is my only gripe with the wash quality of this machine, as most of the time things come out clean. In addition the cycles (especially the time saver cycles) don't take too long and you can get many loads out the way in one day.

          Drying
          ====
          This machine is a washer/dryer model which is useful, but equally frustrating. According to both the instruction manual and the experience you can only dry half a load of clothes at once. This is frustrating as it means you can't set a load to wash and automatically dry.

          Even with a half load this machine doesn't dry very well. We usually use it for underwear and socks and even after the longest drying cycle it offers (150 minutes) they often come out damp. It's useful in winter when we don't have space to hang things out but not very good for intensive us.

          Ease of use
          =======
          When I first used this machine I had to read the instruction manual to figure out the difference drying options. This, in my opinion, means it's not easy to use. Once I'd read the manual I got on OK with it, with only occasional issues with the delay timer.

          As a washer dryer I think a level of additional complexity is expected and there are more settings to choose from. Overall I wouldn't say that it's particularly hard to use.

          Capacity
          =====
          It seems to swallow a fair amount of clothes on each wash, but far fewer when drying. There are two adults in my household and our laundry basket is often full and the machine often running which makes me think that this machine wouldn't be suitable to families. If you want to dry all your clothes as well as washing them then you'll be hard pushed to keep up with the every growing laundry pile.

          Noise
          ===
          This machine is quite loud when washing, spinning and drying. I have an open plan kitchen and living room and when this machine is running it makes it hard to hear the TV or radio. We often leave it to run overnight when the electricity is cheaper and it's not so loud that it disturbs my sleep in the the next room. If you had a separate kitchen and living room then this machine would be plenty quiet enough.

          Conclusion
          =======
          The drying capabilities of this machine are poor. If you're buying it for washing then you should be quite happy but this is no substitute for a proper tumble drier or a washing line on a warm sunny day.

          Would I buy another one? Probably not.

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        • Cotswold Outdoors / Sports Store / 10 Readings / 10 Ratings
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          05.06.2012 15:51
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          An absolute must if you're shopping for walking boots!

          After many years of loyal service my walking boots have finally reached the end of their life which meant I needed to go shoe shopping. With a vast array of different walking boots on the market it's a daunting task finding the correct pair. Fortunately the great staff at the Cotswold store in Reading make the process not only easy, but also enjoyable.

          I went in to the store with very little idea of what I wanted and was greeted by a huge array of different boots to choose from, probably about 30-40 different models in total. I was quickly offered help as I probably looked about as clueless as I felt.

          Before you even look at the boots the staff measure your feet, recording the length, width and point at which your toes bend on both feet while standing and sitting. From this they make recommendations of boots.

          From the measuring of my feet it turns out that I have long narrow feet. It also showed that my left foot expands more than normal when stood compared with sitting. Impressively, the member of staff that helped me instantly knew that this might lead to blisters and sore hips and knees.

          Once the measuring was complete I was recommended a few pairs of boots, and also had explained to me the differences between leather and synthetic boots. They also lend you a pair of hiking socks of your choice to wear while trying on shoes.

          The shop assistant had an impressive knowledge of their range of boots, pointing me towards the narrower models. He seemed to know the fit of all the types of boots very well and also how the sizes of the shoes compare. The boots I eventually bought are apparently large for their size. For example if your feet are size 12 then you'll probably need a size 11.5 boot in this particular brand.

          He talked to me about the different insoles that they have on offer, and for each model of boot I tried was more than happy for me to try with insole and without. They have a deal where if you buy a pair of insoles and after two months you don't like them you can return them for a full refund, regardless of if they've been used and abused. They also offer volume reducing insole for free when you buy boots.

          I probably spent about 2 hours, maybe more, trying shoes before eventually making my decision. During that time the shop assistant didn't look bored, impatient or try and hurry me along. He was nothing but helpful, polite and informative.

          Conclusion
          =======
          I genuinely cannot recommend the boot fitting service highly enough. I took up a large amount of their time but was at no point pressured into buying. The staff were friendly, knowledgeable and patient. If you're thinking of buying a new pair of boots then take the time to do it properly.

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        • Berghaus Freeflow 35L / Rucksack / 14 Readings / 14 Ratings
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          05.06.2012 15:12
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          You won't regret buying one!

          A comfortable rucksack that can hold everything you need for a day out in the hills is absolutely essential as any outdoor enthusiast will know. It can make the difference between a great day and a downright dreadful one. I'm please to say that this bag has accompanied me on many great days out over the past couple of years and should be joining me on many more.

          I bought this bag in the sale about three years ago. Since then it has accompanied me everywhere from romping around the mountains of North Wales, on the daily walk to university stuffed full of books, folders and sandwiches, and the weekly shopping trip to Morrisons stuffed full of milk, beans and carrots.

          After all this abuse (and trust me, I abuse my gear) it still looks pretty much as good as new, with minimal wear and tear, and no rips, splits or holes. This is a very sturdy bag.

          Size and features
          ==========
          This is a reasonable sized day pack, however for anything more than a day you'll find yourself struggling for space. This bag looks like it will hold more than it does as a result of the Freeflow back system (more on this later) and I have sometimes found myself wishing for a little more space. It makes you think a little more carefully about what you take with you. Do you really need that extra jumper? The Freeflow system also means it's quite bulky and cumbersome as it sits further away from your back than a traditional rucksack.

          In terms of other features it has loops for ice axes or walking poles, additional pockets on the sides and inside and outside of the lid to store smaller things in. It also features a hip belt, chest strap and the all important Freeflow back panel. Stashed away in the lid is a rain cover for when the inevitable happens.

          Comfort
          =====
          This rucksack features Berhaus's Freeflow system which means that the main body of the bag is held slightly away from you, with a mesh screen coming into contact with your back. This means air can circulate around your back and stops you getting sweaty. It also means that if you pack your bag badly with hard, pointy things at the back you don't have to spend the whole day writing in pain as a shoe digs itself deeper and deeper into your spine. The straps are soft and also ventilated, adding to the comfort.

          The problems I have with the fit of the bag are twofold. Firstly, I find that it's too short for me. At about 6 foot 4 tall, the hip belt hangs above my hips meaning that it doesn't take weight as effectively as it should. I have found this with many different rucksacks I've owned so it's not a problem unique to this rucksack.

          The other issue, which to an extent goes hand in hand with the previous one, is the tightening of the hip belt. It's easy to adjust, but being quite skinny I find that I can't quite tighten it enough to sit snugly. If it hip belt was on my hips this would be less of an issue.

          Durability
          ======
          As I have mentioned above, this bag have suffered several years of regular abuse. I spend about 6 months working in North Wales and this bag went out in the hills with me practically every day and has been thrown onto rocks, sat on and used to support my bouldering mat on very rough rocks. It was also the bag I used for university and the weekly shop, so it's been very well used. There's little visible wear and tear however, and I envisage it will carry on performing for years to come.

          Price
          ===
          This bag costs around £50, perhaps a little less. This is perhaps a little pricier than other similar sized bags available however having had several year of use I would happily pay this price again. You're paying for bomb proof materials and study constructions. Other cheaper bags (anything by Karrimor for example) are prone to the stitching coming apart and material ripping. You buy cheap, you buy twice.


          In conclusion I would say that this is a great bag for the hills and town alike, and so long as you're not too tall it is comfortable to wear. I would recommend trying it with some weight in the shop and check all the straps fit you properly. By buying one of these bags you're buying a product that will last for many years and won't need replacing every couple of months. Highly recommended!

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        • Grigri 2 / Sports Equipment / 21 Readings / 17 Ratings
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          26.04.2012 15:00
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          There's a good reason why these things are so widely used; they're awesome!

          The GriGri has been the go-to belay device for thousands of climbers for many years. In the spring of 2011, some 20 years after the release of the original GriGri, Petzl have make an improved version, creatively named the GriGri 2.

          A GriGri is an assisted braking belay device for climbing indoors and outdoors. This means that it aids the user when arresting a fall. What it is not, and never has been, is an auto-locking belay device. Before using this device you must make sure you have suitable experience and knowledge of how to use it safely and effectively.

          The fundamental principles of how the GriGri 2 works haven't changed in the new model. It uses a cam to pinch the rope when a sudden load is placed on it, and the load can then be released using a lever to control the descent.

          I will in this review use various climbing terminology without fully explaining what this means. I apologise to anyone who find it difficult to read because of this.

          Features
          =====
          The GriGri 2 offers a number of improvements over the original device. Firstly, it's smaller and lighter, weighing in at 185g compared with 225g of the original. As it's smaller it fits more nicely in the hand and gives precious extra space in your bag.

          It also accepts a wider range of rope widths. The original GriGri was rated for use with rope diameters of 10-11mm, although many people used skinnier ropes with some success. The latest model has increased this range to 8.9-11mm, which covers the majority of sport climbing ropes. This is probably the most significant improvement for many climbers.

          With this release Petzl have included what they call a progressive control descent system, which means you can use the level to control how fast or slowly you lower the climber. The official documentation for the original GriGri stated that you should hold the lever completed open and control the descent using your hold on the rope. This improvement makes lowering climbers easier and safer, especially when the climber is significantly heavier than their belayer.

          GriGri vs. standard belay plate
          ===================
          A GriGri 2 is undeniably a more specialised piece of equipment than a normal belay device, and if therefore more limited. It does what it's designed for very well, however.

          Pros:
          - Assists in arresting a fall, increasing the safety and therefore climber confidence
          - When a climber is resting on a route holding their weight for long periods of time is a breeze, as the GriGri 2 does most of the work for you.
          - Good when used as an abseil device for pre-inspecting or cleaning routes

          Cons:
          - It's more expensive than a standard belay device, costing around £60.
          - It only accepts one rope, making it incompatible with the majority of UK trad climbing where two ropes are used.
          - It catches the rope sharply, which can in turn exert more forces on the anchors. This is not so much of an issue for sport climbing, however when falling on trad gear it could be the difference between the piece holding or popping out.

          Safety
          ====
          A device is only as safe as the person using it, so before buying and using a GriGri 2 make sure you know how to use it. Always remember it's an assistive breaking device, not an auto breaking device.

          When used correctly the GriGri 2 is a very safe device to use. There was a manufacturing fault with early models, however this has been rectified and the high standards you'd expect from Petzl have been maintained.

          Personal experience of the GriGri 2
          =========================
          I have used the GriGri 2 for several months, both indoors and outdoors.

          I usually climb with my other half, who spends a lot of time sat on the rope. When she's taking a (well earned?) break the locking action of the device makes holding her weight a doddle compared with a traditional belay device, making climbing more pleasurable.

          It has also helped my confidence when leading as I am significantly heavier than her, and using a traditional plate she has sometimes struggled to hold a fall. The assistive breaking means there's one less worry in my mind. This doesn't, unfortunately stop my legs turning to jelly the second I get above an anchor, but I can't really blame the belay plate on this.

          If the GriGri broke tomorrow (which it won't!) I wouldn't hesitate to go out and buy another one. It's been a very welcome addition to my rack, and I hope I'll get many years of climbing out of it.

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          • More +
            09.11.2011 22:20
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            Buy one if you want a drier home!

            My other half and I decided to buy a dehumidifer after finding our furniture and walls were going mouldy because of the damp in our flat. It's a new flat, but well sealed so everyday moisture can't get out, accumulates and leads to mould. We chose the argos value model because it was cheap and had good reviews.

            The price
            -----------
            At £95 it doesn't come cheap, but in the world of dehumidifiers this is actually a very good price. Other branded models started at around £130.

            Packaging
            ------------
            It comes securely packed in a cardboard box with polystyrene and some simple instructions. It's worth reading the instructions to pick up useful bits of information. For example you should leave it running continuously for 24 hours on the first use.

            Ease of use
            --------------
            The dehumidifier is very simple to use. There's an on/off switch, an LED to tell you it's switched on and another to tell you the bucket is full. The only difficulty I have found is, when replacing the bucket after emptying it doesn't always immediately recognise it's there. A little bit of wiggling sorts this out though.

            Noise
            -------
            Some dehumidifiers can be quite noisy but this one isn't too bad. It's not silent by any means but the noise is comparable to a bathroom or kitchen extractor fan. Not something you'd want running in the bedroom overnight but fine to have in the background during the day.

            Moisture extraction
            -----------------------
            It seems to work very well. When we first used it it would happily pull a couple of buckets of water out the air every day, working out to around 3 litres. It takes out more when there's washing hanging to dry and after showers, basically whenever there's extra moisture in the air.

            Where as we used to wake up every morning to windows dripping with condensation, we now no longer find this a problem. It makes the flat feel warmer due to there being less moisture in the air and clothes dry far quicker when the unit is running.

            The instruction book claims that in optimal conditions the dehumidifier extracts 6 litres of water a day. A lot of more expensive branded units claim to remove 10 litres a day, however I haven't found I need the extra extraction. I only empty it in the morning and evening so taking out more water would just leave it sitting full for longer during the day.

            Bucket size
            -------------
            I haven't found it to be too small, having only found it full a handful of times after leaving it running over night and while I'm at work. If you're around in the mornings and evenings to empty it then you shouldn't have any problems.

            Portability
            ------------
            There's a carry handle on the top to move it from room to room, although it is quite heavy. It is not unmanageable but care should be taken when moving it up and down stairs.

            Power
            --------
            The unit has a power rating of about 250W. This is a little lower than other units. I cannot comment further on running costs as I haven't kept a close eye on how this power rating translates to real life.

            Final thoughts
            ------------------
            So long as you don't want a large amount of choice like humidity control then you can't go far wrong with this dehumidifiers. It does a good job and is a competitive price.

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            • Colgate 360? / Oral Care / 19 Readings / 18 Ratings
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              09.11.2011 21:49
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              Buy it while it's cheap!

              I've always been firmly of the belief that all toothbrushes are pretty much the same. All the marketing about flexible heads, flossing bristles and who knows what else has always gone right over my head. This was until I bought the Colgate 360.

              Packaging & Price
              ----------------------
              The toothbrush is covered in the normal array of claims that it will improve your life in every possible way. It also had a sample of the tongue scrubber on the front which is always a nice touch. It would normally cost about £3 but when I bought it there was a 50% off deal, plus I had a voucher so I only paid 50p.

              Does it clean teeth?
              -------------------------
              After using the toothbrush for a few weeks now I can confirm that it does an excellent job of cleaning both my teeth and tongue. I feel like it gets in between my teeth more than a normal toothbrush and leaves my mouth fresh. The tongue scrubber is particularly good, removing an alarming amount of gunk on a daily basis.

              How does it compare to other toothbrushes?
              --------------------------------------------------------
              I recently used a normal, bog standard toothbrush and was surprised at how much of a difference I felt. The brush itself didn't feel like it got everywhere in my mouth and was less comfortable to use on my gums. The tongue scrubber didn't do anywhere near as good a job as the 360.

              Would I buy it again?
              --------------------------
              If it's on offer again then I wouldn't hesitate to buy it. At full price it could cost up to £4.50 for a single brush which for me is too much.

              To conclude I'd say that I would recommend this brush if you can get it while it's on offer but at normal price it just doesn't do enough for me to part with my cash. The price is the only thing stopping me from giving this brush 5 stars.

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            • More +
              10.09.2011 20:51
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              Nice enough, but not ground breaking

              I recently visited the Longbridge Mill on a Friday evening with my partner. Being a Friday night we booked in advance thinking it would be very busy.

              The Longbridge mill is located on the Reading Road. It took us about 15 minutes to drive there from the centre of Basingstoke although the traffic was quiet. The pub itself is set back from the road and accessed by a long driveway. The driveway wasn't very wide so we may have encountered difficulty if another car had come the other way.

              The car park was large and not very busy so we found a space very easily. There were plenty of disabled spaces and easy access into and around the pub for those in wheelchairs. The setting of the pub is very nice with plenty of countryside and green areas to look around at. There was seating outside as well as a play area but it was cold so we didn't use these.

              We were shown to our booked table but were told that if we didn't like it we could choose somewhere else. Despite it being 7pm on a Friday the place was only about half full. Our drinks arrived quickly and our waiter was very polite and friendly.

              The menu was quite standard for a pub with a couple of more interesting looking options, venison being an example. We opted for a mezze platter to share for starters and mixed grill and fish and chips for our main course.

              Our food arrived quite quickly. The mezze was of a reasonable size and the contents were good but it wasn't anything too spectacular. We definitely enjoyed it though.

              Once we'd cleared our plates our mains followed soon after. They were both piping hot and well cooked. The food was good, but again nothing to write home about. The best thing on my plate were the chunky chips. I would give my mixed grill 7/10 and my partner gave her fish and chips 7/10 as well. Her criticism was that the mushy peas didn't have mint in them and were quite runny.

              We didn't have desert so I can't comment on these, although from the brief glance I gave the menu they did look tempting. Out total bill came to about £30 which is reasonable value. We had excellent service throughout with our waiter being polite and friendly, if a little nervous.

              Overall I would say that this is a good place to eat and would be great on a nice day when you could sit outside and admire the view. I wouldn't travel from far and wide to get there but if you live nearby it's definitely worth the trip. You can even buy bags of stone ground flour from the mill on the site.

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            • Thud Juggling Balls / Novelty Toy / 29 Readings / 29 Ratings
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              11.08.2011 16:33
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              A great juggling ball regardless of ability.

              I have been juggling with Thuds for years now. They are for many jugglers the staple prop in their arsenal, right beside the flaming torches and razor sharp knives.

              The Balls
              *******
              Thuds are made of 4 coloured panels of vinyl covered material, containing about 120g of seed. The material is elastic so they squash nicely in your hand making them easy to catch and control. They come in a variety of sizes from tiny to huge 1kg monsters, but the standard size is a little smaller than a tennis ball. Young children may find them a little large so the smaller version may be more appropriate. They generally cost around £2-3 each depending on where you buy them.

              Juggleability
              **********
              These are widely used amongst jugglers for a reason. They are a good weight for comfortably juggling anywhere from 3 to 5 balls for extended periods of time without getting worn out. It is possible (with a bit of practise) to juggle 7 of these, although I prefer to use something smaller and lighter when attempting this many. They good for passing between jugglers as well and because they're soft won't cause injury when they hit you/someone else accidentally.

              Durability
              *******
              A set of thuds will last for several years if you treat them nicely. I've had a couple of sets now and whilst I've never had one burst on me the vinyl covering will eventually start to crack and peel. When this happens the ball starts to loose it shape. This can be avoided or at least delayed by not dropping the balls onto concrete. Better still never drop them at all. Having juggled near a swimming pool I'm can confirm that these balls do float, although I'm sure if you leave them in the pool long enough you'll be diving to the bottom of the deep end to get them.

              I would warn everyone that if you give these to teenage boys they will, with complete certainty, end up throwing them at each other.

              You really can't go too far wrong with a set of these. They remove any excuses that other inferior balls might offer, so you won't be able to blame any shortcomings in your juggling skill on the balls!

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              • Homebase / Highstreet Shopping / 19 Readings / 19 Ratings
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                11.08.2011 15:24
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                A great place to get furniture from.

                Having recently moved into our first unfurnished flat my partner and I were in desperate need of a sofa and we needed on quickly. We'd tried all the normal places, Harveys, Ikea, etc but found nothing we liked or were offered delivery times in months rather than days.

                We went into homebase on a whim at the end of the day, not expecting to find anything. How wrong we were. We stumbled across a sofa we both fell in love with and decided we wanted.

                When we first entered the store and started looking at sofas a member of staff offered us help which we refused. She then left us alone and didn't bother us further. We looked round their range and, armed with questions, went and spoke to the girl who'd offered us help.

                She clearly answered all our questions and was very helpful and informative. I truly cannot fault the service she offered us, especially as it was near the end of the day when most staff would try and hurry us out so they could go home.

                She told us about the homebase delivery policy. They charge £8.95 for furniture delivery and their quoted delivery time is 7-28 days. For comparison, when we asked in Harveys, another major furniture store, we were told they charge £50 for delivery and this takes 8-12 weeks! I did not want to be sitting on the floor for that long.

                Filling in all the paperwork was quick and easy. We opted for to purchase the 3 year furniture care which will repair your furniture for any accidental damage. We were given £20 off and free delivery, all because we asked nicely. We also cashed in as well by claiming nectar points on a £500 purchase.

                The service we received in the store was flawless. I cannot fault it at all.

                A week later we received a phone call to arrange a delivery date. At first we were offered Thursday morning. I asked if we'd be able to change it at short notice as I was waiting on an appointment. As an alternative we were offered Saturday morning delivery at no extra cost. Many companies charge £20 extra for this so I was delighted.

                On the day of delivery we got a phone call half an hour before they arrived then once it got here the delivery men moved it into place for us. They were both very polite, friendly, and efficient. Again, I cannot fault it.

                It's worth noting that Homebase and Argos are owned by the same people, so if you find something in Homebase it could be worth checking in Argos to see if it's cheaper, and vice versa. Our sofa was delivered in an Argos branded lorry.

                All in all I have been delighted by the service Homebase offered us. We haven't had to use the protection plan we bought and hopefull we won't have to. If you're looking for furniture then I highly recommend homebase as an alternative to more obvious shops. They have good prices, good staff and excellent delivery rates.

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                • More +
                  11.08.2011 15:00
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                  A good honest yoghurt.

                  I bought these yoghurts for the first time in my weekly shop looking for something cheap and tasty to take to work to snack on. I normally buy branded yoghurts but I thought I'd take the dive and see what the basics range was like.

                  Packaging
                  ********
                  I paid 35p for a pack of four 125g yoghurts, two strawberry flavour, two peach flavour. They come in standard basics packaging, white and orange, with all the information about the product printed on top. They have a shelf life of about 2 weeks so they're good if you're not a frequent yoghurt eater. The pots are recyclable (depending on local facilities) although the film lids are not.

                  Nutrition
                  *******
                  Nutritionally these yoghurts are quite good. All the categories on the 'wheel of health' are green with the exception of total sugar which is orange at 17.3g per pot. Interestingly the label also states that the yoghurts contain Sainsburys probiotic bacteria which may help maintain the natural balance of your digestive system. There are many branded yoghurts claiming to have probiotic bacteria and charging a fortune for the privileged so this is an unexpected bonus for such a cheap product.

                  Ingredients
                  *********
                  You won't be surprised to hear that these don't have the highest fruit content in the world. The peach flavour contains 3% peach puree and 1% peach and the strawberry flavour only contains 2% strawberry puree and 2% strawberry juice. The main ingredient for both flavours is sugar.

                  Taste
                  ****
                  When I first tried the peach yoghurt I was a little apprehensive but I was pleasantly surprised. It tasted smooth and peachy and not as sweet as I was expecting. There were a few small chunks of peach in the yoghurt and the portion was a good size. The strawberry was suitably nice but contain no actual strawberry that I could see.

                  I would recommend these to anyone who wants a good simple yoghurt. They aren't the fruitiest out there or the most exotic selection of flavours but for the price I have absolutely no complaints. Highly recommended.

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