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Toonie
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Member since: 08.08.2008

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      03.01.2011 15:51
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      A fantastic external hard drive

      Although I know a fair bit about computers and technology in general, I would by no means say I am an expert. What I can say though is I know good quality essential items when I see them. I think most people with computers more than three years old need extra storage and an external hard disk is a great way of getting extra storage, without having to open up your PC and fiddle around with putting new drives in.

      The Western Digital Elements 1TB is massive...but not in the amount of space in takes up on your desk at 18 x 11.5 x 3.5cm. The storage space is equivalent to 1000GB which is plenty of room, even if using it for storing large image files (I use it for storing my digital photos as well as music). The drive itself plugs into a USB port and runs off mains electricity. Both of these cables come supplied within the box and plug in at the back of the drive next to the power light. The drive itself is almost silent and does not really get warm, which considering there is no fan on-board is quite amazing.

      The drive comes formatted for use with Windows, but can easily be formatted for use with Macs as well as other systems. It is a very nice looking piece of kit, with rubberised feet and a textured top and glossy, sleek sides. The only minor niggle is there is no power switch and so needs to be unplugged, but this is really that big an issue.

      When transferring files the speeds are fairly good with most files being moved at 1GB/minute. I find this drive excellent to use, simple to set up (plug and play) and excellent value for money. I would certainly recommend this drive to anyone who needs to back up their data or have extra storage space. At present this drive is under £50 on Amazon, a fantastic price for such a large drive.

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        02.01.2011 19:14
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        These are absolutely fantastic binoculars and I'd give the same review if they cost double.

        7 Day Shop 10 x 25 DCF Binoculars

        I bought these the last time I ordered batteries from 7DayShop.com as I miss having a pair of binoculars when I'm out walking. I was impressed by the many reviews on the website and also by the guarantee that 7DayShop.com offer (if not completely satisfied you can send them back for a full refund). They cost £3.99 when I bought them and at the moment are on offer for £3.49 (including delivery).

        The binoculars themselves are very compact, folding up into the small case provided and quite easily slip into a pocket of my camera bag and, because of the weight, (175g) would not be too heavy in a coat pocket. The 10x magnification is excellent for the size and price. The optics are very sharp and give a fairly good colour range. The rubber body is excellent and protects them against any accidental drops (something I've done a few times). They have a central wheel for focusing and the right eye has a dioptre adjustment so that you can compensate for any differences between your eyes. I used these last year at a few air shows I attended and they were fantastic for spotting the aeroplanes in the distance. They were equally useful for when I go on nature walks with the children I take care of. They each have turns at using the binoculars and find it east to adjust them for their own eyesight.

        These binoculars are absolutely fantastic and I have recommended them to all my friends and to my Dad who was so impressed when he bought a pair that he has just bought some for his Grandsons (my nephews) who love going for nature walks.

        At the price they really can not be faulted and I would have paid more than double for binoculars of this standard.

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        02.01.2011 16:06
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        A fantastic book for the pudding chef

        Making puddings and sweet treats goes back generations in my family. Tucked away inside cookbooks are hand written recipes and individual preferences for all sorts of lovely food. These are fantastic bits of family history, which will be mine one day. For now though, James Martin's cookbook to accompany his series Sweet Baby James has become my favourite puddings book. I've also started using it to tuck my handwritten recipes into and due to my general clumsiness in the kitchen smells of flour and vanilla, the way every pudding cookbook should smell in my opinion.

        This book contains fantastic, amazing puddings as well as simple, everyday ideas. I defy anyone to not be able to make a Victoria sponge following Martin's instructions. There is a great section at the beginning on basics including pastry, ganache, spun sugar (extremely messy, but great for decorations) and basic cake recipes. The chapters that follow contain enough recipes to keep you going for a long time, whether you want something hot, cold or baked. Also included are ice creams and a few very fancy cakes and bakes for the more adventurous (the fire and ice cake is one to try for a special occasion).

        My pick of the recipes include the Spicy Plum Crumble which I increased in quantity to feed 20 people at New Year and everyone loved. The chocolate ganache recipe is very good, as is the Lemon Curd Syllabub. This book is fantastic to have as the recipes are clearly written, most have pictures, and many of the ingredients are ones that most pudding fans will have in the cupboard and if not, they are not difficult to obtain. The introductions to the recipes make it plain why dishes are included and are nice to read.

        Overall I think this is a fantastic cookbook, not least because I love puddings, but because anyone who reads it would be tempted to have a go.

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          21.03.2010 19:46
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          An introduction to the next novel but stands alone in it's own rights

          Sharpe's Triumph by Bernard Cornwell
          ISBN 10: 0006510302
          ISBN 13: 978-0006510307
          Paperback published 5 July 1999

          So following on from my reread of Sharpe's Tiger, we have Sharpe's Triumph. Subtitled "Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Assaye, September 1803" Triumph sees Sharpe as Sergeant to Major John Stokes, engineer and officer in charge of the armoury in Seringapatam.

          The novel starts with Sharpe witness to a massacre at Chasalgaon. The massacre is carried out under the orders of William Dodd, a new enemy for Sharpe. Sharpe feels guilt for the murders of his comrades and when Colonel McCandless offers him a chance to help capture Dodd, Sharpe jumps at the chance to seek his revenge.

          This quest to bring Dodd to justice leads Sharpe and McCandless through Ahmednuggur, an encounter with a French woman, a chance to see the enemy up close, including Anthony Pohlmann the one time Sergeant in the East India Company but now Colonel of the Mahratta armies and the planting on an aspiration in Sharpe's head which spurs him on. This aspiration has a chance to be realised at Assaye, where Sir Arthur Wellesley with his small army against the Mahratta massed armies.

          As you may have gathered, this gives us all the necessary ingredients for the master of formulaic historical storytelling. As with Sharpe's Tiger, Cornwell knows how to tell an interesting story. We get sucked into the fortunes of Sharpe and McCandless and also to the determination of Obadiah Hakeswill who returns to try and get his revenge on Sharpe. Cornwell is great at writing fictional characters and giving historical characters a more human face.

          I could hardly put this book down; I was really swept along on the story and the simple style of storytelling that Cornwell uses. As always Cornwell's vivid prose is fantastic. His descriptions of the battles really do make you feel that you are there. You get told of the sights and sounds in battles as well as getting every stroke of individual battles explained in detail. This is a trait that Cornwell uses to a great extent and to great success.

          Triumph develops Sharpe's character further by explaining how he began on his upward ladder in the Army. This was a detail which had never truly been explained in the original set of novels though was often mentioned. To finally have this piece of information shows how Wellesley personally knew of Sharpe's ferocity in battle. Though still a relative beginner at battle, Sharpe shows his natural abilities and we get to see Sharpe's first sword fight, something he improves with again over the coming books.

          The arc of the India trilogy continues with Sharpe's Fortress which is next on my list to read and Triumph does feel a little like an introduction at some points as several stories are not resolved at the end of the book. Perhaps it would be kinder to say this is simply part two of a three part story.

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            12.03.2010 13:40
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            A great bar of chocolate

            Sainsbury Basics White Chocolate

            I buy this chocolate quite often, though I had never actually eaten it as a chocolate bar until last night. Ordinarily I use it as an ingredient for making chocolate chunk cookies as I find it tastes lovely in them.

            Last night I really fancied some chocolate but had nothing in the flat. I was contemplating baking a chocolate cake or at least making some cookie dough to eat when I stumbled across my stash of cookie making chocolate. I decided eating a bit of that was far easier than making cookie dough and I would get my sugar fix a lot quicker.

            The packaging is very simple, being a basics product, and comes in the usual white and orange wrappings we expect. It also contains the usual style of slogan, telling you it's the same but just simpler ("no fancy packaging, just a good bar of chocolate"). We also have the familiar health wheel on the front with four of the five wedges being red (well really, would you expect it to be anything different?) We are also told that the bar is suitable for vegetarians.

            The chocolate was lovely. Really creamy and tasting far nicer than Cadburys white chocolate (which I find overly sweet and sugary). It certainly reminds me of the taste of Nestle, who I try not to buy from because of their overseas policies. I also surprised myself that I managed to not eat the entire bar in one sitting, which is what I have done with Milky Bars in the past, perhaps because after just a few squares I actually felt my sugary craving had been satiated.

            The back of the packaging gives us the ingredients list and the fuller list of nutritional information. Costing just 27p this really is a great value bar of chocolate. As already mentioned, this isn't exactly a healthy snack, but it definitely is a nice treat to have and also is great for baking with. I will certainly be buying this again, whether it is to use for baking or just for eating!

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            07.03.2010 15:58
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            Great book to introduce subtraction

            Ten Terrible Dinosaurs by Paul Stickland

            ISBN-10 1857142128
            ISBN-13 978-1857142129
            Paperback published 2007

            One of my little charges (aged 3) got this book recently and was so excited to show me it. He is a clever little boy who has already grasped the basics of reading so wanted to read the book to me. I was struck by the front cover straight away, its very eye catching and features the ten dinosaurs from the story. The title is in big, bold letters, making it easy to read. The pictures throughout the book are colourful and fun and can be used afterwards to engage the children in other activities (finding colours, counting legs and eyes etc).

            The story (such as it is) is about subtraction much in a similar vein to "10 Green Bottles" or "Five Little Monkeys" and is a good way for children to be introduced to the subject. The advantage with the book is that the children reading it can count (with assistance as needed) how many dinosaurs on each page, thus giving them the number association with subtraction.

            The story involves the dinosaurs having fun on each page, but as each set of pages is turned one of the dinosaurs leaves (he may end up tied in a knot, or flies away or his Mum comes to collect him etc) until there is only one dinosaur left. All ten make a noisy finale which children really enjoy, especially after getting used to the book they then join in the end with the dinosaurs.

            This was easily read by my three year old, the words are simple and the text scans easily. The rhyming nature of the tale is lost slightly when he reads it because he doesn't understand rhythm in that context, but when I read it back to him, he enjoyed it and tapped his hand in line with the beats.

            This is a simple book which helps to introduce your child to subtraction using words and pictures. It is well written and illustrated and my charges (even the six-year-old) enjoy it a lot.

            Definitely recommended.

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              06.03.2010 17:58
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              I certainly won't be buying this again

              My hair is somewhat of a nightmare. It is thick and wavy and sometimes quite curly and goes below my shoulder. I also have very sensitive skin, so hair products can be a bit of a nightmare, but in an effort to look good for a friends wedding I decided to check out some products to help give me nice curls or at the very least less crazy hair.

              My older sister has very, very curly hair and uses Frizz-Ease a lot so I thought I'd give it a go. I bought this from my local Superdrug where it was on special offer at £3.50, normal price £4.79. Even the £3.50 I spent is far more than I usually spend on hair products, so I thought it had better do a good job on my hair.

              The bottle is 200ml in size and comes in an opaque bottle with a lilac lid. The front states "transforms wilted waves and curls into sexy salon-inspired spirals". This sounded perfect for me. So I tried it out. It suggests that you use other Frizz-Ease products first for "best results" however I always feel uncomfortable with this as products should be stand alone and not dependent on you using other things. So, I washed my hair as normal, towel dried and then as suggested sprayed liberally. The first thing I noticed was the quite chemically smell on the spray. It's not really that pleasant, so I tried to keep it as far away from my face as possible. I scrunched my hair and left it to dry naturally, as this is what I normally do.

              I was very disappointed with this product. It didn't make my hair any less frizzy or give me sexy spirals, what it did do was to make my hair crispy and flat. This was not what I wanted at all. I thought maybe I had used too much, so next time I washed my hair I again used the spray and didn't use as much, but this time I didn't even get flat hair, it just looked exactly the same. This is not what I paid £3.50 for and I'm quite glad I didn't pay full price.

              In a ridiculous turn of events, I have bought a hair dryer recently and on one particularly cold morning I dried my hair with it. Now I'm quite aware that heat dries out hair, so wondered what I could do to help it and I remembered the Frizz-Ease stuff has heat shield. So, I sprayed some on, worked it into my hair and then dried my hair. I was really surprised to find I had frizz free and rather straight hair. So, as a consequence of this, I've used it whenever I use my hair dryer but will not buy another bottle when this has finished.

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            • Penguin - Polly Dunbar / Junior Book / 38 Readings / 38 Ratings
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              05.03.2010 13:27
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              An enjoyable book but maybe one to borrow from the library.

              Penguin by Polly Dunbar
              ISBN-10: 1406312460
              ISBN-13: 978-1406312461
              Published 3 March 2007

              Ben gets a penguin as a present but the penguin is on the quiet side. Nothing Ben does have any effect on the Penguin, not even the wandering Lion (who doesn't fancy a Penguin snack). What could make Penguin talk? You'll have to get to the end of the book to find out!

              This book was bought on the weekend by one of my little charges (aged 6). She really enjoyed reading the book with her Mum and wanted to read it to me as soon as I got to work in the morning, however she had to wait until after school as we didn't have any time.

              I hadn't heard of Polly Dunbar before, but according to the blurb, she has been writing and illustrating books since she was 16. She has written lots of children's books and Penguin is the most critically successful to date, winning several awards in 2007, including the Booktrust Early Years Award in the Pre School category.

              Whilst aimed at younger children, I think that this makes a good book for those children who are just beginning to read, as there are a lot of repetitive words, including "Penguin said nothing" which gives children the ability to latch on to the look of those words. My six year old charge easily read this book, but still found enjoyable, especially the illustrations, which I thought were delightful. Pictorial storytelling is put to great use here, with every attempt Ben makes to get Penguin to talk having it's own illustration, thus enabling those children who are reading it themselves to take a guess at what's happening. It also assists those younger children who are telling the story from just the pictures, as under-threes are apt to do.

              Overall an enjoyable book, but one thing to note is that the children have not picked up the book again (I wrote this review two weeks ago but have only just found the piece of paper I wrote the review on). They have instead gone back to the Julia Donaldson books that they already know well. Whilst the illustrations are lovely, I can't help but wonder if the lack of an in-depth story has made it less appealing. We shall see if this becomes consigned to the bookshelf or if it makes it to the hallowed place at the bottom of the bed with the other bedtime favourites.

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              28.02.2010 14:33
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              Sharpe's first adventure and it's a cracking one!

              Sharpe's Tiger by Bernard Cornwell
              ISBN 10: 0006490352
              ISBN 13: 978-0721400020
              Paperback published 1 June 1998

              I have recently decided to re-read the Sharpe books and am doing so chronologically so I can get a greater appreciation of the story arc and how the character changes. I am expecting a few plot holes and changes, but that's what you get when you deal with a series of stories that have been revisited since the original books were written.

              Private Richard Sharpe, 22 (or thereabouts), bored and constantly needled by a malevolent Sergeant, thinks it's time to run. He is part of the British force to expel the Tippoo Sultan and his French allies as the British wish to make their claim all in the name of trade.

              Whilst contemplating running, Sharpe is provoked by Sergeant Hakeswill commits a flogging offence and is sentenced to 2000 lashes, an effectual death sentence. The punishment is repealed part way through after Sharpe is selected to go on a mission to rescue an exploring officer or at the very least to find out what he knows so the British army can attack Seringapatam, the Tippoo's island fortress. To do so, Sharpe and Lieutenant Lawford must pretend to be deserters and gain the trust of the enemy.

              This is Richard Sharpe's first adventure (chronologically) and details his first experience of battle along with the introductions of some interesting characters who go on to have an effect on Sharpe's career.

              Anyone already familiar with Cornwell's writing will feel already familiar with the book and this is no bad thing. You can easily get enthralled with the pace of the story and the futures of all the characters as Cornwell makes even the secondary characters interesting enough to care about.

              Although Cornwell's Sharpe books are quite formulaic it is his depth of research and writing skills which make them stand out. His grasp of history is fantastic and makes the eras so accessible, even to someone who may not have thought about history since secondary school. Cornwell proves that history, told in the right medium can be fascinating and as Cornwell himself states one of the joys of reading historical fiction, you become more inclined to read non fiction. As such Cornwell provides further reading information both in the historical notes at the end of his book and also on his website.

              I really enjoyed reading Sharpe's Tiger. I haven't read it for at least five years and so to come to it again was a nice refreshing read. The earliest adventure of Sharpe sees him learning his trade, making friends and enemies and developing the ruthless personality that will serve him well and the occasional kindness which sets him apart from others he encounters. At one point Sharpe says you fight for you friends and to prove that you are better than the enemy and that is essentially what the Sharpe books are about.

              I look forward to reading Sharpe's Triumph to see how his character develops.

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            • Cakes / Recipe / 80 Readings / 75 Ratings
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              16.02.2010 22:44
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              A great cake that you can add simple touches to to make it extra special

              My Dad loves chocolate cake. Really. A lot. Whenever he hears someone is going to be baking, he always wants to know if it's chocolate cake and if you don't save him some, you're in trouble. So, this is my basic recipe that I use to make him a cake when he wants one.

              4oz margarine
              4oz sugar
              3oz self raising flour
              1 oz cocoa
              2 eggs

              Pre-heat the oven to 180c and grease and line the base of a 7 inch tin.

              Cream the margarine and sugar until very pale, add in the eggs one at a time and continue beating until well mixed then add the next. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together and gently mix with a spoon (gently so you don't knock the air out).

              Spoon the mixture into your ready prepped tin and bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. The top will bounce back if you press it lightly with your finger. Allow to cool for five minutes in the tin and then transfer onto a cooling rack.

              -*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

              My Dad likes this best with butter icing and he likes the butter icing on the sweet side, so I beat around 1oz of margarine until it's really soft and then add in icing sugar until it tastes right. It's just one of those things that's hard to measure.

              A friend of mine likes chocolate cake with orange icing, so then I just squeeze an orange and add icing sugar to it until the icing coats the back of the spoon.

              Personally, I'll eat it either way and it really does make a nice simple chocolate cake.

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                14.02.2010 13:05
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                Great addition to the series

                The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
                ISBN-10: 0340825936
                ISBN-13: 978-0340825938
                Paperback publication 2004

                This book was optimised with Ultraword TM
                The ultimate reading experience

                We are once again in the Nextian universe, though this time Thursday Next has swapped Swindon, Wessex for Caversham Heights, "an unpublished book of dubious quality". Utilising the Character Exchange Programme, Thursday has got away from Goliath for the moment so she can go through her pregnancy in peace...well relative peace anyway.

                In return for living in the Bookworld, Thursday has to continue with her Jurisfiction training, including a multiple choice exam and a practical test (fixing a plot hole in Enid Blyton's "Shadow The Sheepdog") plus sitting in on rage counselling sessions in "Wuthering Heights" as well as taking on the role of Mary in Caversham Heights whenever the story calls for it. This leads her to helping out Jack Spratt, the resident loner detective of the book.

                With Goliath in the real world, it's time for some new baddies to show up. We have the return of Aornis, though this time as a mindworm, destroying Thursday's memories piece by piece. Enemies also come from within the Bookworld, via the new operating system which seems to be too perfect. After the deaths of some Jurisfiction agents, Thursday has to do some investigating into what is really going on. So much for a quiet life!

                If this has made no sense I would hazard a guess that you are unfamiliar with Fforde's work and would suggest you catch up by reading The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book. These books are meant to be read as a series, as stated by Fforde himself on his website (which is fantastic). The Well of Lost Plots takes place immediately after the previous book and unlike the previous two, take place primarily within the Bookworld and only feature a few brief forays into the Outland (what the Bookworld characters call Thursday's home).

                The parallel world that Fforde has created now takes on new depths. We learn how books come into being. The Well of the title is in fact where books are created with plot smiths, narrative devices, shady pubs and characters, plus people selling heads in bags! We learn of generics, blank humans that have to go to college for character training. In fact two of them are billeted with Thursday and when we first meet them they have no personality, but they learn very quickly.

                Once again Fforde's use of characters, his own and those borrowed from classic fiction, is amazing. He clearly puts a lot of research into using these characters, as none of them feel out of place, or do anything you wouldn't expect to read about them doing in their own book. This attention to detail is what Fforde is really good at and I can only imagine what his own bookshelves are like.

                We also get our first introduction to Nursery characters, including Humpty Dumpty, who later go on to get their own series (Nursery Crimes, of which The Big Over Easy is the first story). This fits in very neatly with the end of The Well of Lost Plots and the beginning of The Big Over Easy, which was originally written before any of the Thursday Next books.

                This book is a fantastic addition to the series, Fforde's use of intelligent satire makes for a really interesting read. I'm going to start reading Something Rotten as soon as it arrives and I look forward to reading about Thursday's further adventures.

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                  12.02.2010 13:15
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                  Definitely take your kids to see this, they'll love it!

                  This afternoon I and another nanny took our children (two girls and one boy, all aged 3) to see The Princess And The Frog. For the boy, it was his first time at a cinema, whereas the girls had been a few times before. At just over an hour and a half the children were very well behaved and sat captivated until the last ten minutes when, although still watching the screen intently, they began to fidget.

                  The film starts with the story of The Frog Princess being told to two little girls, one of whom is the daughter of the woman telling the story. The woman is making a dress for the other little girl (Charlotte). Both girls enjoy the story but have vastly different reactions to the outcome. Charlotte feels all romantic whilst Tiana proclaims her disgust at the thought of kissing a frog.

                  We then see Tiana and her mother going home. As they travel the tram route through New Orleans, it soon becomes apparent that they live in a very different neighbourhood to Charlotte and her father, Big Daddy. We learn more about Tiana's background and also how her father dreams of opening his own restaurant, a dream that becomes Tiana's after her father dies.

                  We then go forward a number of years and see how the girls have changed into young women who have very different goals. Charlotte wants to marry a handsome prince and be swept off her feet, whilst Tiana works two jobs to save the money to buy somewhere for her restaurant. When Prince Naveen comes to town, both the girls' lives change as Tiana gets paid for catering at Charlotte's masquerade ball and so has enough money for the restaurant and Charlotte thinks she has found her prince. The film continues apace with a voodoo doctor, a trumpet playing alligator and a bayou firefly who loves the Evening Star, who he has called Evangeline.

                  As already mentioned the children were captivated from beginning to end, as were my friend and I. It's been a while since I saw a good Disney film, especially one which looks this good. The hand drawn animation was fantastic and really made me feel like I was a child again though this time I was the adult laughing at all the (adult) side jokes. The musical numbers were again fantastic and really helped the story move along at a comfortable pace, in much the way that The Jungle Book utilises songs. The music was well received by the children who were tapping their feet and swaying along. It also helped them to grasp more of the emotions of the characters.

                  I think this film has resurrected a little pride in Disney because of the use of traditional 2-D animation, which at one point was shelved, but thanks to the resolve of Ed Catmull and John Lasseter (Pixar) to reintroduce 2-D animation when Disney acquired Pixar. This film really shows what Disney was (and now is) best at. The wonderful animation, the interesting songs and quirky characters really are what a good Disney film should be about.

                  One word to the wise, some slightly older children may find some of the Voodoo sequences a little scary as they understand a little more, especially the shadow sequences. Though, overall, these aren't dwelt on and the film is light hearted and traditional story telling with a happy ending.

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                    31.01.2010 18:00
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                    This is firmly marked in my favourites

                    Well, as I found Dooyoo through MoneySavingExpert.com I figured I should give a review of the website.

                    I first found the site when I was at university and trying to get my money to stretch as far as possible, I had seen Martin Lewis on a few TV programmes, so checked out his website. Little did I know that I would use it so extensively over the next years. The information I first looked for was found easily, I found ways to reduce my travel costs, saving money on food and also health care.

                    Then I discovered the forums, with a wealth of information on many topics. The forums have increased since I first joined them, but I still head there first to find out information or to get advice on many topics. My favourite forums are the Old Style and the Special Occasions boards. They both have regular topics about things I enjoy (cooking and crafting) and can give you a lot of advice, especially if you find yourself with no money, but lots of presents to buy for birthdays.

                    Another useful aspect of the website is the option to receive a weekly email with tips and information on new guides and financial news which affects us all. Containing links to further information and topics on the forums, this is great if you don't get regular time to check through the website as you can still make the best use of the information it has.

                    When I left home to live with my boyfriend, I again found a new respect for the site, as it helped me with so much. Guides on getting the best service, products and essentials (TV licence, gas and electricity) were extremely useful and pointed me in the right directions for things I had never had to consider before. The guides on savings accounts have also been invaluable, especially in a world which is full of jargon, MSE gives you straight forwards and easy to access information. I dread to think how much money I would have wasted over the years if I hadn't known about advance tickets for trains, cashback websites, being able to buy glasses online, tricks for supermarket shopping and the wealth of information about utilities.

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                      30.01.2010 14:43
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                      Thursday's continuing adventures are a pleasure to read

                      Lost In A Good Book by Jasper Fforde
                      ISBN-10: 0340733578
                      ISBN-13: 978-0340733578
                      Paperback publication 2002

                      Goliath Book Rating - SFA - Suitable For All
                      Made Up Words 44!

                      Thursday Next, literary detective, newly married and dodo owner is back. All seems well, unless you count the extortionate price of cheese!

                      With Jack Schitt stuck in The Raven, it's up to his half brother, Brik Schitt-Hawse, to be the Goliath sponsored pain in Thursday's backside.

                      So with mammoth migrations, Neanderthals becoming friends, learning to jump inside books and meeting Miss Havisham, Thursday is in for an interesting ride. Couple this with far too many coincidences, the world turning to pink goo on 12 December and a Timeguild strike, it's amazing Thursday can manage it all in 372 pages, but she does.

                      As a sequel to The Eyre Affair (which should be read first) this begins a couple months after the end of the previous book, with Thursday newlywed to Landen and do the public relations tour of duty, but everything goes wrong when Landen is eradicated. Do not expect this to make sense if you haven't read Fforde's work before (see previous parentheses) as he deals in the world of surrealism. While most things seem vaguely familiar, you do have to remember it's a different reality. If you are not one for being able to cope with this, don't bother with this book.

                      I bought this book before I had even finished The Eyre Affair as I just couldn't wait to find out what would happen next to Thursday. She's such an interesting person and the world she inhabits is so full of surprised that immersing yourself in the "Nextian" (Ffordeian) universe is easy. Yes there are lots of puns and literary in-jokes, but that's fine because it's nice to read an intelligently funny book without it lapsing into the stupidly amusing.

                      Fforde's ability to write interesting characters into extraordinary situations is brilliant. Nothing feels wrong and it all seems plausible within that world.

                      "I was the Cheshire Cat", he replied with a slightly aggrieved air. "But they moved the county boundaries, so technically speaking I'm now the 'Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat', but it doesn't have the same ring to it."

                      I'm reading the third book at the moment, so whilst Thursday's journey continues, so will my reviews of Fforde's work.

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                      • bbc.co.uk/cbeebies / Internet Site / 61 Readings / 60 Ratings
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                        17.01.2010 19:52
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                        A once useful website has been poorly redesigned

                        The Cbeebies site is the online content for the Cbeebies channel which is aimed at 6 years and under. The channel has regular programming and many of the favourite programmes have online links which children enjoy exploring.

                        The Cbeebies site has recently undergone a transformation

                        "After months of careful research, development and design the new-look CBeebies website has launched! We hope you agree that the website now offers a more playful and fun experience for children while still providing the best games and interaction with their favourite shows and characters." (Taken from the Grown-ups section on www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies)

                        However what seems to have been overlooked is the age range of children using their site. Many of the pages are now arranged alphabetically and require going through an index of first letters, something which three year olds will not be able to understand, whilst many 6 year olds do not understand the use of the index. The previous incarnation of the site was far simpler and children could be left to explore it and feel grown up by being able to navigate without assistance. From my experience with three to six year olds, they now struggle to find any content beyond the initial pages. They don't understand why they can't find their favourite activities (such as Charlie and Lola) because they don't know they have to first click on "C".

                        They have also taken away many of the older games, which children enjoyed and removed the "full screen" option for games, which seems rather ridiculous, especially for those using smaller monitors (including laptops).

                        To me this does not appear to have been well researched. I used to find the Cbeebies website useful and informative and the children I care for enjoyed its ease of navigation. Hopefully after a while the older children will get used to the new design, though many younger users will still not be able to navigate beyond the first page.

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