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chrisandmark

chrisandmark
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Member since: 18.08.2003

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    • Nurofen Tablets / Pain Relief / 14 Readings / 14 Ratings
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      06.09.2014 22:32
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      Advantages

      • "Works on a variety of pains"
      • "Long lasting pain relief"
      • "Fast acting"

      Disadvantages

      • "Expensive compared to generic ibuprofen"

      It's Nurofen For Me!

      I suffer with headaches, not pleasant but as time had gone by I've learned to control my pain without always reaching for the painkillers. Sometimes however I need something 'medical' and I've learned to recognise when a particularly nasty headache is going to develop and for those times I keep a box of Nurofen in the medicine cabinet.

      Nurofen have been going for years and the reason for this is the fact that the tablets work quickly and the painkilling aspect lasts for noticeably longer than generic ibuprofen tablets. The recommended dose is two tablets taken every four hours, with no more than eight to be taken in a 24 hour period. Personally the four hour period is fine for the kind of headaches I get as I find the relief provided from popping two Nurofen lasts longer than this anyway, a guesstimate (on a 'normal' headache day) is that two Nurofen will keep me completely headache free for a good four hours but even for an hour or so after that the pain is greatly reduced to a level I can easily manage without necessarily having to take more pills.

      Nurofen tablets are small so ridiculously easy to swallow, even my partner who usually makes a big face-pulling deal about taking tablets can swallow them easily and with no complaints about them being stuck in his throat - which in itself is reasonably impressive considering he's such a brat when he's ill...

      I've never encountered any side effects from taking Nurofen and have had nothing but positive experiences with them. It's worth mentioning that you should eat before taking them due to the fact that ibuprofen can cause stomach upsets if taken on an empty stomach, there is also the risk of internal bleeding if you were to take them without food so do remember to have something to 'line' your stomach with even if it's just half a slice of toast or a biscuit.

      I know you can buy non-branded ibuprofen for a quarter of the price of Nurofen but personally I feel these work so much quicker and the effects last for so much longer than I don't feel that I want to scrimp on a couple of quid really - Nurofen work on all sorts of aches and pains and the relief is much quicker than generic so I'd rather pay more and be able to get back to my daily (pain free) business.

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      20.08.2014 13:50
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      Advantages

      • "An oral sex scene between Anne of Cleeves and Catherine Howard - never did I ever think such a thing...! "
      • "An escape from the usually dry Tudor novels"
      • "A fun look at the Tudors"

      Disadvantages

      • "Stop saying 'verily'!!!"
      • "Bizarre moments which are sometimes TOO bizarre"

      An Entertaining Look At Lady Rochford

      The Tudor Wife is the English title for an American book called Vengeance is Mine, I had read reviews about Vengeance is Mine which made me curious to read it but couldn't find a reasonably priced copy - I read The Tudor Wife quite by accident as I didn't know it had been renamed, and didn't even realise it was the original book I wanted to read until the scene where Anne of Cleves gave oral sex to young Queen Catherine Howard. Yes, you read that right and yes, it's that kind of book.

      The Tudor Wife is the story of Lady Rochford, Anne Boleyn's poisonous sister-in-law who was arguably one of the main reasons the Queen was beheaded and her 'favourites' executed including Lady Rochford's own husband, George Boleyn. I don't know much of Jane Boleyn other than the fact she gave (probably false) evidence and had her husband and the Queen of England executed, and followed them to the scaffold a few years later for facilitating the adultery of Catherine Howard. This book is written from the Tower of London, where Jane is awaiting her own execution - it gives her a voice as she isn't writing her story, she's telling it to you as if you were face-to-face.

      It's written in a crazily quaint way, annoying really as I'm sure not everyone in Henry VIII times started every sentence with 'forsooth' or 'verily' - a few American spellings creep in across the pages which makes the whole thing look rather silly at times. It's a good job the story is so riveting (in a car crash kinda way) otherwise I would have put the book down just a few pages in.

      There are gratuitous sex scenes which are so, so funny - the one I mentioned with Anne and Catherine is absolutely the most hysterical sex scene I've ever read, the hog-faced Anne of Cleeves is actually a beauty (according to this author) who deliberately made herself as unappealing as possible to King Henry as he was no great catch by that point himself. She is also a voracious lesbian apparently and Queen Catherine was happy to have the, ummm, honey applied to her nether-bits by this previous Queen and have it licked off in full view of her ladies in waiting. Bizarre, utterly bizarre.

      As a historical novel it has no merit at all, it's a work of fiction and the fiction has been embellished to completely mental proportions. As a light read in a time period I have an interest in though I thought it was fantastic - totally step away from reality and what you know of these historical folks and you'll probably enjoy the bodice ripping moments of The Tudor Wife, the history isn't gratingly bad anyway as the author has stuck to (most of) the facts and just embroidered!

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      19.08.2014 23:29
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      3 Comments

      Advantages

      • "Easy to swallow"

      Disadvantages

      • "Expensive for something that does nothing!"
      • "Faint aftertaste if dry swallowed"
      • "Didn't speed up my weight loss"

      I'll Say Adios To These!!!

      I tried Adios Max Strength after a friend reported a good weight loss since she started taking them, I thought they were quite expensive at £11 a box - true you get 100 tablets but you have to take three every day so that still doesn't work out at terribly good value. Worth it if they work, but really I want to lose weight without relying on stuff like this that usually just gets you spending money but ultimately is pretty useless. Like Adios Max.

      The idea is they give your metabolism a boost, you take a tablet at mealtimes and then follow your low-calorie/low-fat diet as usual - Adios Max promise to get your metabolism going fast enough that you can lose extra pounds each week.

      They didn't do much for me to be honest, I lose weight at a fairly steady pace once I've got into my dieting stride and average 2lbs a week loss - while taking Adios Max I continued to average 2lbs a week, although one week I inexplicably lost 4lbs (which I don't credit to Adios Max as I had already been taking the tablets for three weeks religiously by that point). My friend later admitted she had drastically cut her calories while taking Adios Max which was why her results were so impressive - a bit daft really as she could have saved herself eleven quid by starving herself without the tablets...

      The tablets themselves are small and very easy to swallow, I can dry swallow them no problem but usually have a small glass of water as without liquid to wash them down with I've noticed a faint herbal aftertaste which 'repeats on me' (ahem, mother-speak) for a good while after swallowing the tablets. I've never had any side effects while taking Adios Max but the packaging does give the warning that you should maintain a good level of fluid intake while you are taking these tablets.

      Personally I think they're a waste of money and wouldn't recommend them at all, a healthy diet and regular exercise will do you much more good than taking these tablets every day - if you even just lose a pound a week it's weight off and in the dieting business slow and steady really does win the race.

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      • Asus K53E SX1585V / Laptop / 14 Readings / 14 Ratings
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        12.08.2014 12:26
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        Advantages

        • "Easy to keep clean"
        • "Easy to use"
        • "Runs well"

        Disadvantages

        • "Microsoft Office problems"
        • "A weirdly placed mouse pad"

        A Good Budget Laptop

        I've had my Asus laptop for around two years now, in that time it has been the family laptop and used by six people (including a rather heavy handed three year old who uses it to watch videos of children playing with Thomas trains). It has performed brilliantly really, over the past few weeks the laptop has slowed down and crashes sometimes but to be honest if it died tomorrow I'd still think I made a good purchase decision as it really has been overused by us all.



        The Asus is supplied with Windows 7 and has all the usual functions and virtual gadgets, the mouse pad is a bit of a pain as it's located in a strange off-centre position which sometimes I accidentally catch with the bottom of my hand as I'm typing - and then sometimes (horrifically) accidentally highlight and delete text, which is a complete pain in the rear end!



        Quite early on in it's life I had problems with the Microsoft Office programmes, I could have had this fixed but as we rarely use Office I never bothered and we use a much better alternative which my daughter came across as part of her college course in IT. This would certainly be a disadvantage for some so if you decide to buy this laptop I'd recommend doing further research to ensure that bug has been ironed out. Everything else has worked absolutely perfectly for the whole time we've had the laptop and I have no complaints.



        The speed of the laptop obviously depends on what you're doing on it - it's fine for Netflix and You Tube but very slow on a certain bingo site for some reason (I don't play online bingo, I had a free credit which I ended up not using because it made the laptop so glitchy). It also had issues buffering from one of the film sites used by my daughter, but I suspect that was due to the popularity of this site and maybe the fact that it wasn't particularly legit.



        The keyboard is nicely laid out, I touch type and don't need to look at where my fingers are any more than usual. The 'F' buttons and sticky keys all work as they should and the keyboard itself has been amazingly easy to keep clean using a piece of special keyboard putty, again provided by my daughter from college.



        This laptop comes recommended by me as maybe not being a top of the range option but as a laptop that can withstand so much use (and from so many different people) without dying a twitchy crashing death - I'll be sad to replace it.

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      • Korres White Tea Cleanser / Skin Care / 10 Readings / 8 Ratings
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        12.08.2014 11:22
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        (Rating)

        Advantages

        • "Cleanses my skin well"
        • "Smells nice"

        Disadvantages

        • "A rather drying product"
        • "Didn't help my daughter's problem skin"

        Cleansing But Not Pampering

        When my teenagers skin started playing up I purchased her a selection of Korres skincare products which were developed to be kind and gentle to problem skin, including this White Tea Facial Fluid Gel Cleanser. It’s designed to be used on a sponge or face cloth and is a thin gel cleanser styled mainly for people with skin issues that require a gentler than normal product.



        It has a very fresh fragrance, it’s not exactly fragrance free but has no synthetic smell of perfume to brighten it up. It actually smells quite dull and isn’t the sort of thing that I’d want to use as a pampering product, although it’s an effective cleanser so the lack of any ‘interest factor’ isn’t something that’s really an issue. You only need a very small amount of the cleanser each time so it’s fairly economical despite the fact that initially it’s quite expensive, a bottle will last for around four weeks when using it twice daily.



        This cleanser hardly produces any foam, and what is created is very thin and watery. This is how it should be but just reinforces the fact to me that it’s not really a pampering product, more something that is to be used as a preventative measure. The gel is extremely cool on my skin during normal use, it’s not the kind of cooling sensation that would feel particularly refreshing on a hot day but is nice enough on a day to day basis - incidentally the gel isn’t sticky at all and has a very soft feel as I massage it into my skin. It rinses off easily with warm or cool water and leaves no residue, my skin feels soft after use and smooth enough that I am confident there’s no skin-dulling residue left after rinsing.



        The gel leaves my skin feeling incredibly clean after use, running my fingers across my skin I can tell it is squeaky clean with a healthy pink glow which lasts literally for hours after cleansing. It can be quite drying so I usually have to use a reasonably heavy moisturiser after cleansing, which isn’t all that unusual for me but I’ve noticed I’m not feeling so confident in my light facial milk moisturisers after using the Korres gel.



        My daughter wasn’t impressed as it didn’t really help with her spotty and irritated skin, she needs something a little more medicated than this as we’ve noticed her skin does improve fairly drastically when she uses a ’stronger’ product than this one from Korres.

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      • More +
        03.08.2014 01:42
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        1 Comment

        Advantages

        • "Cleans hair beautifully"
        • "Smells lovely"

        Disadvantages

        • "Leaves the kids' eyes slightly red"

        Johnson's Baby Shampoo With A Difference

        I have always been a fan of Johnsons shampoo when my children are very young, they make several varieties now and as I find they are all generally very effective I like to try any new ones I see. Their Chamomile shampoo is a new addition to the range, or at least I’ve never noticed it before while shopping for the children’s toiletries, and is designed to be used on light coloured or blonde hair - the chamomile being an ingredient that will make this hair type appear brighter and healthier. I bought a bottle as my youngest two children are both very blonde, and have found it to be an excellent shampoo and one I definitely intend to buy again.


        It lathers up beautifully and you really don’t need to use a lot at all to cleanse the average childs hair. Obviously with my seven year old being a girl she has longer hair than her little brother so I need to use a little more, but it literally is just a slightly larger blob of shampoo and there really is no need to go overboard with the application.


        After rinsing my daughters hair can become a bit knotted after I’ve used this shampoo, it’s not very conditioning at all so I tend to use a separate conditioner on her hair after shampooing - this isn’t necessary for my son however as his hair is completely knot free after rinsing and drying! Odd! Both of their hair dries to a beautiful sheen, I’ve used it exclusively for over two months now and I swear the blonde shades in both of the children’s hair is brighter - it not only looks clean in the short term but the extra shine is apparent for days, at least until the next time I wash their hair. I’ve noticed I can leave longer periods between hair washing sessions when I’m using this Johnsons Chamomile Shampoo as their hair stays fresh looking for longer - very useful when we’re in a rush and simply haven’t got time for a strict regular bath time.


        The No Tears formula isn’t as good as when I use the more traditional Johnsons Baby Shampoo, neither of my children experience pain if the shampoo gets in their eyes but both emerge from the bath with slightly red eyes which to me is an indication of at least a small amount of irritation. Neither of them suffer like this with other Johnsons Baby shampoos so I suspect it must be the chamomile addition.


        I really like this shampoo (red eyes aside!) and will carry on using it over the summer so that the chamomile will continue to work its magic alongside the summer sun to really enhance the beautiful colour of my children’s hair. Recommended to any of you blessed with a child with the hair of the angels, who want to keep it looking angelic!

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        • L'Oréal Feria P78 / Hair Care / 8 Readings / 8 Ratings
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          03.08.2014 01:31
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          (Rating)

          Advantages

          • "Kind to my hair"
          • "Excellent results"
          • "Easy to use and work with"
          • "Fantastic bright colour"

          Disadvantages

          • "Absorbs very easily into the hair"

          It's Mango For Me!!!

          I have been colouring my hair using Feria for a few months and have had such excellent results that I thought I’d tell you all about it. The Feria range comprises bright and unusual shades - the full spectrum of colours is there but they’ve all got a twist; the blonde is platinum and the black has hints of blue, for the past few weeks I’ve been ‘Mango’ which is described as Intense Copper and posed by a model with bright ginger hair.



          Application is good, I find it easier to squirt small blobs of the hair colorant into my hand rather than try to direct the nozzle towards my roots as recommended in the Feria leaflet - using my hands and fingertips I can spread the colorant better and I seem to be able to work quicker. At the moment I have just below shoulder length hair and one box of Feria is sufficient, up until last month my hair was six inches longer and then I needed two boxes to ensure full coverage - I’m not sure what it is about this particular colorant but my hair seems to absorb it really quickly, I have to work quickly to move the wet mixture around in order to coat my hair before it all absorbs. There’s a knack to using this product, but once you’ve got it you’ll find you can get the most out of the bottle without too much panic towards the end.



          Considering it develops into a bright orange ‘wetness’ on my hair, the dye is surprisingly easy to rinse out. I find the total rinsing time is only around five or six minutes and find that really impressive considering the length of my hair and the brightness of the colour. Be careful as you rinse as this particular shade is a nightmare for staining the shower curtain, this has happened to me numerous times as however much I try to avoid it I always end up with telltale splashes on the fabric.



          I adore how my hair looks after it’s been rinsed and dried. The condition is fabulous, after using the conditioner included in the box there’s not so much as a single knot in my hair when I comb through after rinsing and while drying. The strength of colour is quickly apparent as my hair dries, with the orange/ginger tones coming through beautifully and pretty much immediately. It’s never been patchy or uneven in colour, even at the roots which are always much darker than the colour I’m dying over - it provides impressive coverage and I’m happy that the colour doesn’t fade too much over time. I guess I get at least four weeks of vibrant colour each time I colour my hair using Feria and even then I only tend to re-colour it because my hair grows quickly and the roots show through.

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        • Adidas AdiStar Ladies / Watch / 10 Readings / 9 Ratings
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          01.08.2014 09:28
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          (Rating)

          Advantages

          • "A smart looking watch"
          • "Keeps good time"

          Disadvantages

          • None

          A Good Looking Watch That Keeps Good Time

          I bought this watch for my daughter for Christmas and it's been a hit so far, in the months that have passed it's been worn every day pretty much and keeps fantastic time. It's a battery watch but we haven't had to replace the battery yet, I did notice yesterday that it lost a couple of minutes during the time my daughter was out of the house so maybe that's an indicator that the battery is going to need changing soon.





          The face of the watch is easy to read and on the odd occasion I've worn it myself I've always been impressed with the ease at which I can read the time, it's quite a busy face with different shades of pink but still surprisingly easy to focus on even in bright light.





          The strap is very comfortable, it has small holes around the whole strap which is presumably to allow the air to circulate if you're exercising while wearing the watch (as people are wont to do while wearing the Adidas brand). This doesn't look like a sports watch and doesn't have any sporty functions, but this was ideal for my daughter when we bought it as she's not the most active teenager on the planet these days! The watch is easy to fasten thanks to a decent size responsive buckle, my daughter has never had a problem in doing it up - and neither have I even if I do have very little experience of wearing and fastening a watch strap.





          I can't fault this watch and am more than happy with it. I paid in the region of £80 for it as my daughter has had cheaper watches in the past and I thought it was time we got her something a little more expensive so she could maybe learn the difference between cheap and cheerful and a quality item.

          It makes a super gift as it was packaged in a smart looking Adidas box when it was new, the box is so attractive that Alice took the insert out and now uses it to keep her earrings in as it's the perfect size.


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        • More +
          18.06.2014 11:18
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          (Rating)

          Advantages

          • "Decent coverage (although not high coverage"
          • "Lasts well"
          • "Easy to apply and blend"

          Disadvantages

          • "Not so good on my 30s skin "

          A Super Foundation That I'm Going To Miss

          I''ve been using Miracle Touch foundation by Max Factor for about six years now and have always been nothing but impressed with it, until recently. The foundation is in solid form in a small compact and you use the supplied make-up sponge (or your own if you prefer) to apply it. The Natural shade is a bog standard skin colour which suits me perfectly but there are a good selection of other shades to choose from to suit a fair few skin tones.

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        • Panasonic SC-HC20DBEB / Hifi System / 19 Readings / 16 Ratings
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          13.06.2014 12:34
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          (Rating)

          Advantages

          • "Easy to use"
          • "Good sound"

          Disadvantages

          • "Takes forever to charge an iPhone!"

          A Great Little iPod Dock

          We've had this iPod dock from Panasonic for a couple of years and while it's not without problems (niggles really) I think it's a fantastic gadget to replace a bulkier stereo system.
          You can play CD's through the dock and also stand your iPhone/iPod in the recess to play the music you have stored on those devices. Both ways work well and it's welcome news that we haven't had to get rid of our CD collection as when we were looking at docks a lot of the ones we saw didn't have the capacity to play a CD.
          The sound quality is fantastic, sharp and clear with no wobbles at all. The dock can be operated using the buttons on the top or through the remote, personally I tend to use the buttons as the remote has an awful lot of options for such a small device and I get confused very easily with things like that!
          The only issue I have with it really is that the dock claims to be able to charge an iPod or iPhone, and while it does charge it up this takes a heck of a long time even if the dock isn't being used to listen to music at the same time. Even an overnight charge isn't long enough to fully charge my partners iPhone 3GS all the way up, and that's pretty poor considering when it's plugged into the electric socket the phone is charged within a couple of hours.
          You can listen to DAB radio through this dock and that's something my partner does more than me, we've programmed in our favourite radio stations (both FM and DAB) and it's really easy to find them now. The scan function is pretty slow on the dock so it can be a nuisance if we want a particular station in a hurry but the same is true of a lot of DAB radios so I can't fault this dock in that case really.
          I'm more than happy with my Panasonic dock, it's used by everyone in the family as we all love our music and no one has ever complained about any aspect of it. For around 100 quid you can't go wrong if you decide to purchase - it's a respected brand which works brilliantly and is perfect for a busy family home such as ours.

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        • More +
          12.06.2014 19:24
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          6 Comments

          Advantages

          • "Very cheaply priced"
          • "Bright and colourful"
          • "Looks super"

          Disadvantages

          A Good Booster Seat - If A Little Uncomfortable!

          I bought this booster seat for my son from Halfords, he's only three and a half but is very tall for his age and was really cramped in even the largest 'baby car seat' - he had been sitting on his sister's Disney Princess booster seat which is an identical design, but in a not very boyish pink so I decided to look out for one of his own. It is a moulded plastic booster seat with hooks for the seat belt to hook around, this is a good idea if you're putting a little one on the booster seat as it prevents the nuisance of the seat belt chaffing their neck and becoming irritating for them. There is no padding, the Disney Cars decoration is on a fabric sheet which attaches to the booster seat with a strong velcro - this means it can be uncomfortable on longish journeys but is absolutely fine for David's little bottom on short runs round to the shop or for the school/nursery run. It doesn't slide around on the car seat and when David is strapped in with the seat belt I'm confident he's going to stay in one spot, the seat belt fits him perfectly despite his young age and if we were ever unlucky enough to be in a car accident I trust this seat to keep him as safe as possible. David loves the colours and design of the booster seat and I've never had a problem getting him to sit still in the car - unlike when he used to sit in his proper car seat and would wriggle his way out of the straps as quickly as possible due to being so uncomfortable! I paid less than 10 GBP for this booster seat when Halfords had their sale on and have been nothing but pleased with it. Obviously this is a Cars design but there are several others to choose from for girls and boys, all of the booster seats in this range are the same size with the same attributes - just the colour and characters are different so there's something for just about everyone!

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          • Dualit 89200 Mini Oven / Oven / 45 Readings / 41 Ratings
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            23.02.2014 01:17
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            9 Comments

            Advantages

            • Reliability

            Disadvantages

            A fantastic little oven that transformed our camping trips

            ~x~x~x~ Not Just For Home Use! ~x~x~x~

            A couple of years ago my partner converted an old van into a camper van as the kids had expressed an interest in going camping that summer - we planned to have it re-registered with DVLA as a motorhome to save on insurance and for that the van was required to fit a list of criteria, one of which was it must have adequate cooking facilities which needed to be arranged in a similar way to a home kitchen. The problem we had was the fact that when he had installed all the work surfaces he hadn't allowed room for the storage of a gas bottle, which we would obviously need if we were going down the route of traditional camping cookers - at the time our two youngest children were aged around eighteen months and four years so we knew we couldn't rely on a hob-top cooker as they needed to eat 'proper' meals as opposed to living off sausage sandwiches and fried food (which I'm not a fan of myself either). I saved the day personally when I saw this Dualit Mini Oven in John Lewis a couple of days before my partner was due to send in his re-registration application to DVLA - at (then) £150 the words on my mind were 'it had better be worth it', the oven has since reduced in price to £130 (or cheaper online) and I can confirm it certainly is worth the money.

            It came in possibly the biggest box known to man and when packaged was bizarrely heavy, luckily I'd parked the car very close to the store where I purchased it but my poor son who had only just learned to walk had to get out of his pushchair so I could use that to transport the boxed oven while he toddled along next to me - not that this bothered him, but at just over a year old it was slow going getting back to the car! When I got it home and unpacked it I realised why it needed to be in such a large box, usually I'll complain about too many packaging materials being used but in this instance it was necessary as there are several parts which could be damaged with careless transportation so the wads of cardboard and plastic inside the box were more than needed - all the packaging was recyclable so everything was good in the end (other than me having a fuller than usual recycling box that week!).

            ~x~x~x~ For Once In My Life I'm Not Cooking On Gas! ~x~x~x~

            I prefer a gas oven it has to be said and I wasn't really sure how well I'd get on with this small electric oven, for starters I work by 'Gas Mark' and have no idea how temperatures correspond to these numbers - I made sure I checked these details out online before we went camping the first time and wrote myself out a list of temperatures just in case the campsite we'd chosen (in the valleys of Wales) was out of signal range for my iPhone (it was). The temperature range of the oven is 100°C - 230°C with a couple of markings in between, you can set the oven to a temperature that isn't marked but the dial is relatively small so unless you're choosing to cook at one of the marked temperatures it can be a little hit and miss - this is fine for most cooking jobs, but personally I wouldn't fancy cooking anything in here which needed a precise heat for decent results. As we were only using ours for meals and dinners this wasn't an issue, baking I suspect could be a little tricky to begin with until you sussed out where on the dial your required temperature is located - but then again this would be easily worked out after a few uses so not necessarily something that should put you off.

            It's very quick to heat up, not as fast as it says on the promotional blurb on the John Lewis website but fast enough. Most of our cooking in this oven has been done at around 180°C and to get to this temperature would take somewhere in the region of seven minutes, which really isn't that much slower than my main gas oven at home. There's a green light which comes on when the oven has reached the temperature you require so you don't have to sit and guess when is the best time to put the food in, it's a fairly bright light but not brilliantly effective in sunlight so using it in the camper van was a bit awkward sometimes as I found myself having to get up close to the oven and cupping my hand around the light to check whether it had come on or if the shine was just the sun reflecting off the green light cover!

            Inside the oven there is just one shelf which can be moved through two positions, the shelf is very easy to move and you simply need to slide it in and out at a slight angle to ensure it goes in smoothly. You really can't go wrong with the positioning of the shelf as if you try to put it in at an incorrect angle the metal shelf will grind to a halt before it's even halfway in and just won't budge any further. The same isn't true of the grill pan (included with the oven) which slides in effortlessly and can be placed at a very slight angle which is useful when you're toasting bread you've cut yourself if (like me) you're rubbish at cutting it and always end up with one end much thicker than the other!

            ~x~x~x~ Familiarise Yourself With The Knobs ~x~x~x~

            There are three knobs on the front of the oven - one is the temperature dial which I've already discussed, the other is to set the oven to whatever function you need and the third is a timer. All rotate freely and comfortably with no sticking whatsoever, the detail of each knob is printed in white against a black background so you can't really go wrong - after a lot of use I can report that none of these markings have faded or rubbed off so I'm pretty sure that however long we keep the oven for we'll never have any problems with distinguishing which setting we're choosing. My one minor gripe is the fact that the temperature knob has always seemed the 'wrong way round' to me with the higher temperature being located on the left whereas I'd expect this side to have the lower temperature so that setting it would be done in a clockwise motion rather than it being a cack-handed anticlockwise dial. Odd really.

            The middle knob to set the function of the oven is self explanatory, I didn't need to check the (pretty useless) instruction manual to know that the settings were to activate the grill, whole oven function, fan oven setting or 'from frozen' option. I've used all of the settings and can honestly say I've never had a problem with any of them, the least used option was the fan oven but that was simply because I have no experience with cooking using this function so I've never been confident enough to try it out too many times - the only difference I've seen on the odd occasion that I have selected this is that it cooks the food ever so slightly quicker, not quickly enough that it's a great help to me as an occasional user of this oven but I suspect the function would be helpful to others.

            The timer dial goes up in thirty minute increments up to 120 minutes and a dinging buzzer goes off when the timer has wound down, it's not the loudest or longest buzzer I've ever experienced so I'd suggest you stay near to the oven when you're using the timer function. The oven switches off when the timer has elapsed but it stays very hot inside for quite a while afterwards with the residual heat being enough to spoil a meal if you're cooking relatively delicate foods, as I found when I cooked a frozen pizza in there one evening and left it in the oven for a few minutes after the timer had gone off - to the untrained eye the pizza came out looking perfect but the extra few minutes of heat made the crust and base go rock hard and turned it completely inedible. Not good.

            ~x~x~x~ Caring For Your Dualit (And Also For Yourself) ~x~x~x~

            This oven is surprisingly easy to keep clean, looking at mine now I can report that it still looks pretty damned good which is amazing considering when you're camping you're at the mercy of the hot water provided by the campside (not usually very hot) to get everything clean again after use. The glass door has a few stubborn grease splatters but those will be dealt with before we use it again and a quick scrub with a scouring pad on a small area has shown me this morning that the glass will definitely come up shiny clean again once we put the effort in. The inside is spotless with even the corners being free of food dirt and grease, all we did after cooking our meals was wipe it over with a specialised cloth designed for use while camping and that seems to be all it needs. It helps that the inside is nice and shiny rather than being that slightly textured metal usually found inside an oven as that made the job of wiping so much easier - I was in charge of the cleaning during our most recent camping holiday and can honestly say it was a dream to clean, why can't they make normal sized household ovens so simple?!

            The exterior of this oven gets extremely hot while in use, and it takes a long time to cool down after you've cooked your meal too. A good example is the fact that I cooked a small chicken in there one day and after dishing up the meal, eating it and washing our plates I went back to the oven and it was still scalding hot on the side panels. This can't be helped as it gets so hot inside whilst cooking but is definitely something to bear in mind if you're using it while children (or dense people...) are about - you could easily burn yourself on the outside of this oven so do take care while using it, and also afterwards.

            The door is a pull down type (even the handle gets surprisingly warm) but don't be tempted to use it as a shelf when it's open even though it looks ideal for that purpose. While the oven is extremely stable thanks to large non-slip feet, weight on the open door could be enough to topple it over which would be extremely dangerous not only in terms of possible burns but I also suspect you'd end up with two broken feet should this fall and land on them. Incidentally the door doesn't lock into a closed position while the oven is in use, I'm not sure why but I was surprised to find I could open the door unhindered while the food was cooking - I'd prefer some kind of locking mechanism even if it were a simple push button jobbie to ensure the door couldn't accidentally be pulled open while the inside was at cooking temperature.

            ~x~x~x~ Useful? ~x~x~x~

            Hell, yes! When I first bought the oven my partner wasn't too impressed with it as he'd had his heart set on a swanky camping oven which needed to be built into the interior of the van but after using this for our first trip he stated we just didn't need anything else as this kept us all fed so well. It has an 18 litre capacity (according to the back of the oven) which in real terms meant we could cook a dinner for four easily and six with a little extra organisation. Obviously there's no hob on the oven but we have several camping stoves which we used to cook anything which needed to go in a pan, it was a learning curve getting everything ready at the same time for the first few uses but once we got into the routine of using the different appliances it was plain sailing and we've had very few disasters.

            Off the top of my head the things I've cooked in it include a whole chicken using the excellent quality roasting tin which comes with the oven, a baked frittata style dish to use up some eggs and cooked meats that my partner was disinclined to transport home after our holiday and several ready meals or bits such as 'nibble' supermarket selections. The only problems I've had was when the pizza base went hard as I mentioned above, plus one time the oven didn't seem to heat up as hot as it should and a piece of braising steak cooked much slower than it should have done - there was no harm done there as the slower the better really with that cut of meat but it did concern me that the oven had malfunctioned like that. My partner suspects it was a combination of very cold nights and the oven sitting under an area of the van which decided to quietly leak one day - obviously with this being an electrical appliance that's not an ideal situation but it couldn't be helped as we were out camping at the time (the oven is stored in the house when not in use), but by the time we plugged it in next a few months later it had obviously dried out (it was hardly wet at all other than a tiny puddle on the top) because it worked fine then.

            I'm not sure it would be much use in a home environment but my partner mentioned only the other day that he's considering getting one for his business premises, personally I think it's overkill for reheating pots of stew and cooking a ready meal occasionally but it's up to him - actually I don't know why he doesn't utilise this one instead of forking out for a second oven as he can always bring it home (in clean condition) when we need it for camping!

            Overall this Dualit Mini Oven comes highly recommended by me, and I'm sure the kids bellies are happy for it even if they give no thought to how the food got onto their plates. For our needs it has proved absolutely perfect, right down to the lead being an ideal length for reaching down to the hook up point inside the van and the curved back ensuring we could pop it in the corner reserved for 'the oven' when we realised my partner had royally messed up with his kitchen plans for the DVLA application - the application which was approved finally thanks to my purchase of the Mini Oven... But more than physical properties I'm happy that even when we're camping I can provide the children with a nutritious meal sometimes; obviously when on holiday it's more than acceptable to have a chippy dinner or a toastie in the pub at lunchtime, but really when holidaying with kids I think it's important to get a bit of veg into them if you're away for more than a couple of days - sounds unhumanitarian I know, but a camping holiday is fairly strenuous so the need for a semi-healthy and regular diet is more important than you think!

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              18.02.2014 14:48
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              An OK day-to-day booster seat which wouldn't be comfortable for long journeys

              My daughter has had a couple of Disney Princess booster seats - she regularly travels in my mums car, plus her uncle ferries her around sometimes so in her short life she's had an array of car seats. Her current booster seat is twelves months old and I bought it in Halfords, where a selection of these very basic car seats are stocked. She chose her own, it was a toss up between this one and a Hello Kitty seat but she stayed with tradition and chose to park her bum on the Princesses.

              It's a moulded plastic seat, exactly as you can see in the photo above. There's no padding on the seat whatsoever so it wouldn't be very comfortable for a long journey, but the seat is shaped to provide a reasonably snug place for the bottom to rest if we're just driving to the supermarket or the park. The Princess design is printed on a sheet of fabric, this doesn't provide any padding as although it's quite thick the material has a tough feel - it's useful in that if the seat has been kept in a hot car during the summer your child won't find it too hot to sit on, but really that's the only use and if it was included in the design to make the booster seat more comfortable than it was a bit of a fail in all honesty.

              The hooks at the back of the seat are for positioning the seat belt, and these actually work really well. Hollie is quite small for her age and ensuring the belt is underneath the hooks I can see she's well protected in case we were in an accident, but this also stops the belt rubbing under her chin and keeps it more comfortably across her chest. Her brother is three and we've recently bought him the same car seat with a more laddish design, he's almost as tall as Hollie so we hook his belt too which works equally well - they've traveled on each others boosters seats now they have the same ones and David fits just nicely in the Princess seat so it's definitely a seat you can use for a wide range of ages.

              It sits nicely on the seat and doesn't slide around even when I'm in the car on my own with no kids and the booster seats just left on the back seat, there are no grips and the bottom of the seat is smooth plastic so I assume it's the width of the seat that keeps it so stable. I've asked Hollie and she tells me she can't feel the seat moving as we're driving, I've certainly never seen it slipping or anything and am completely confident it's keeping her safe in the car.

              I'd recommend it, but only if your child does relatively short journeys in the car. Ours is a daily booster seat but when we're traveling any distance we swap it over for plainly designed but much better padded seat which we bought from Kiddicare - the main reason we don't use this more comfortable one on a daily basis is due to the larger size of it, but also due to the fact that I find the seat belt hooks on the Princess one to be so useful. Hollie has never complained of being uncomfortable for the short journeys we do, but as mum I wouldn't particularly want her to undertake the trip from Birmingham to Llandudno on such a hard lump of plastic!

              We paid £10 for this booster seat, but the price fluctuates regularly (and quite wildly) so it's worth shopping around - I've seen it slightly cheaper and much more expensive, I think I paid about the right price considering how basic it is.

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              04.02.2014 12:24
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              I adore vanilla usually, unfortunately I don't like Slim Fasts take on vanilla

              One of my favourite flavours is vanilla, give me anything vanilla flavoured and I'll probably like it - I love the smell too, it's safe to say I'm a big fan of vanilla. That's how Slim Fast pull me in sometimes with their French Vanilla flavoured meal replacement shake, they make it look and sound so delicious on the tin that a confirmed vanilla lover such as myself couldn't fail to like it. Ahem.

              For those of you who don't know, a Slim Fast is a diet plan where you replace your breakfast and lunch with one of their calorie counted shakes and eat a proper home cooked meal for your tea - you're supposed to calorie count your main meal but I don't bother as I make sure I choose the healthy option and a lifetime of dieting has given me a rough idea of the calories and fat content of most foods I eat regularly anyway. To make your shake you mix two scoops of Slim Fast powder into 250ml cold skimmed milk, mix well with a fork or pop it into a blender with some crushed ice for a slightly more substantial feeling drink.

              The French Vanilla flavour is extremely sweet so would probably be ideal for those of you who find dieting a struggle because of having to cut out the sugar - personally I think it's too sweet and while the shake does smell incredibly vanilla-like, for me the intense sweetness detracts from the flavour and stops it really being a true vanilla taste. I also hate that I can taste the milk through this vanilla powder, something that only happens with this specific flavour - and we all know how foul skimmed milk is, a shake flavour that doesn't cover that particular hellish taste is of no use to man nor beast. The taste just isn't robust enough, yes it's sweet but apart from that it doesn't really have any substance or depth of flavour - I'm talking in Slim Fast terms here obviously, none of them are a replacement for the taste of 'real' food but I find this Vanilla flavour particularly weak and uninspired.

              It's as filling as any of the other Slim Fast flavours, so does keep my stomach feeling full until the time rolls around for my evening meal - you're allowed a few healthy snacks on the Slim Fast plan but personally I don't eat those when I'm following the plan as the fewer calories you eat the faster you'll lose weight in the short term, although if I was going to be using Slim Fast for longer then I'd have a snack during the day to prevent 'starvation mode' kicking in and my body holding onto its fat stores.

              I personally don't buy the Vanilla flavour very often but occasionally if my partner is doing the shopping he'll pick one up for me as he knows I'm a fan of vanilla in general, I've told him plenty of times that I don't really like this but that just shows how much he listens when I'm talking to him! The cost is the same as any of the other Slim Fast powders, so between £6 and £8 depending on where you shop for it.

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                03.02.2014 13:10
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                Worth a try but sadly they didn't work for us

                Two of my four children have ear problems, but the most severely affected is six year old Hollie who suffers recurring ear infections and has done since she was a baby - I hate to see her in pain and when an earache struck while we were out shopping one day I decided to pop into Holland & Barratt to see if there was anything other than the usual Calpol/Ibuprofen mix I usually dose her up with when she's suffering. They suggested trying Hyland's Earache Tablets, a 100% natural homeopathic remedy which can be used alongside the mainstream painkillers - after hearing this I decided I had nothing to lose and Hollie had everything to gain so I bought a box (this was after I picked myself up when I heard the price).

                The Earache Tablets (loads of thought went into THAT product name!) contain six active ingredients which work together to create a natural medication that will work to soothe pain, calm an anxious child (and who isn't anxious with earache?!), ease the burning sensation of earache, stop the throbbing, ease congestion and lower a high temperature. Pretty impressive claims I thought for such very tiny tablets, reading through the information pamphlet I thought these sounded quite intelligent really as they're suitable for so many different types of earache - I know Hollie has throbbing pain which comes in waves, this is the reason the anxiety relief ingredient would also help as by now she knows when the pain is about to start and gets really upset at this point.

                The dose for everyone is four tablets all taken together three times a day (a total of 12 tablets daily), they're very small so adults are to pop them under their tongue and they're also designed to be dissolved in a teaspoon of water for kids. They dissolve extremely quickly and although Hollie tells me the watery mixture has a nasty taste you use such a small amount of water that it's swigged back and swallowed almost before you can taste it - I licked a last drop off the spoon to see what the big deal was and to be honest I can only assume Hollie's ear infection made her dramatise a little as the worst I can describe the dissolved Earache Tablets as is chalky, which is exactly how the dry ones taste so I wasn't particularly surprised.

                Did they help? Well, I don't think they helped Hollie much to be honest. I used them in conjunction with Calpol and Nurofen but there didn't seem to be any improvement in how she felt or the pain she was in until the antibiotics kicked in. The main reason I bought them in the first place was because I know from experience that her ears start to improve around 48 hours after starting an antibiotics course, and the Earache Tablets are supposedly proven to reduce the symptoms during these first hours - it made sense, but sadly didn't work as well as I'd hoped. Maybe they helped a little, maybe not - she was still in heaps of pain in between doses of paracetamol so unfortunately they weren't the miracle cure I'd wished they were going to be for her. In fact I didn't even bother with them when she had her next ear infection and didn't feel I was making things worse for not giving her these tablets on top of the medical painkillers.

                As some of you know I've had a bad ear for a week or so now, I'm on my second cycle of antibiotics which are finally working - while looking for something (anything!) to help the nasty pain in my ear I came across the Earache Tablets in the medicine cabinet and in desperation took the last few sets of tablets. Each box contains forty tablets, but that's only a four day supply - Hollie had taken them for just over two days which left me with 16 tablets to play with (I know those figures don't add up, any mathematical pedants that are reading, but the lady in Holland & Barratt advised me not to give Hollie the full four tablets with each dose because of her small size). I decided to start off with four tablets and then take them in batches of three - I was actually overdosing on Nurofen (I can see why accidental deaths occur when people are treating themselves for earache) so thought dropping a single Earache Tablet per dose wouldn't really make a lot of difference.

                For me they worked slightly but in a placebo capacity I think, my pain wasn't particularly constant but was a killer when it was there - I felt soothed rather than better after taking these, maybe that's the anti-anxiety ingredient working but even so they didn't make the slightest bit of difference to the pain when it came on. Brandy and Nurofen is a much more effective earache soother, and that combination also works well for anxiety...

                If these had worked for Hollie I would have absolutely bought them again regardless of the cost - but £13 for a four day supply of tablets that don't really do anything is, frankly, a pointless expense. I don't feel I've wasted my initial £13 as it was worth a try, and if it had worked I would have found this a small price to pay - actually I wouldn't completely rule out buying them again if they were priced more cheaply as Hollie's symptoms do change from infection to infection so maybe they'd work better/differently at certain times, being homeopathic you're not going to harm yourself by trying them here and there just to see but I really do think the full RRP is verging on the ridiculous.

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