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There have been fitness DVDs for years, helping people to lose weight, tone up and improve co-ordination in the comfort of their own home. Then, there have been fitness games for consoles in the past - ones that have relied on you being honest, knowing what you're doing, and doing the right exercises without advanced feedback. Wii games trust you to be working hard when all they can read is the Wii remote in your hand, DS games require you to be honest about the steps you've done in a day, or how many truly effective sit-ups you've done. Kinect breaks all those boundaries, all of those limitations, and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved is the result.
From the moment I switched on the 'game', I could tell it was more serious about what it offered. A bit of background to me, first. I'm obese. I have been for quite some time, but I'm currently thirty-seven days into a new, healthier lifestyle. Each evening, I've been spending an hour on the cross-trainer, burning upwards of 600 calories and exhausting myself. My weight loss is going well, I'm eating healthy, and I thought I'd found the one type of exercise I really enjoyed doing that could truly benefit me. For toning, I've been using a Flabelos machine at a local salon, paying £15 a month for the privilege.
Your Shape introduced itself to me, then made me stand around whilst it took my measurements. Afterwards, I underwent a basic fitness test, told it about my weight, and went through a short process of telling it what my goals were (to lose weight and look better physically). There were plenty of options, from 'I want to be able to walk up the stairs without getting breathless', to goals for the far more active. My fitness test gave me results that I expected - it considered me 'trained' in cardio exercises (I'd have hoped so, the amount of time I spend on that cross-trainer), but told me I was a beginner in toning (no kidding!). Then, it created me a personal, tailored workout with approximately 20 exercise programmes to choose from and to complete at my level, to help with my goals. Great.
Your Shape offers three main features.
Personal Training - The personal programme of exercise classes you receive to help you meet your own goals at your own level.
Gym Classes - Zen classes to improve relaxation and co-ordination, and cardio boxing classes. These come in 'easy', 'medium' and 'hard', and are the same for everyone, unlocked one by one.
Games - fun exercises that burn under 10 calories at a time for the most part, including brick-smashing games, balancing games and stepping games.
I got started straight away, opting for a toning class since that was my weak spot. By the end, I was exhausted and my muscles were really feeling the exercise. Still, I was convinced that I could burn 600 calories to make up what I usually burn on the cross-trainer, so I carried on. After a few more fitness classes, some gym classes and a few games, I'd burned 235 and had to give up. My whole body felt exhausted, both on a cardio and a muscle basis, and I knew the game had worked incredibly.
How? Because it maps points all over your body. You're given explanations of how to do the gym moves required of you, (e.g. squats), and being so well mapped it knows when you're not doing them quite right. If you're out of pace, it knows. If your legs aren't quite far enough apart, it knows. If your squats aren't quite low enough, it knows. As long as you don't ignore what the game's telling you, you'll find yourself receiving a great workout, even if, like me, you don't have great co-ordination to start with.
I've chosen Your Shape over my cross-trainer, now. I burn a third of the calories when I exercise with your shape, but the lasting aches and pains in my body, and the way it gets my heart racing and truly leaves me exhausted, will easily outweigh that piece of gym equipment that I thought would be a lifetime staple. The toning classes have also ensured that I'll be letting my Flabelos membership run out, and not renewing.
This game? It works.
Released in 1992, the Mega Drive game Road Rash II is perhaps one of my favourites on the console - and that's saying a lot, considering.
The box proudly proclaims of the game's "spectacular new crashes including 'face plants' and 'air swims'", and that's exactly what the game is about: motorbike racing, with a level of violence and pain that all ages can enjoy.
There's no gore, no horror, just good, old-fashioned fun. So, what's the deal?
You place as a racer, a "Rasher", taking part in illegal races in the US. Well, in five US states. It's your job to be first, to win the best cash prizes and to upgrade your motorbike, and it's up to you to get there however you can. Punch and kick your fellow racers, steal their weapons (chains and whatnot), and out-run the law when the officers come to call. As you go up to the next level, by coming in third or better, your course will get longer, your prizes bigger, and your fines for breaking the law...well, they increase too.
What makes Road Rash II so brilliant is that you're not racing on a track, but on the streets of the US. Dodge cars that change lanes unexpectedly, and slicks of sand and oil on the road. If you crash, you'll be thrown off your bike and will have to run back to it. Crash too much, and you'll wreck your bike completely. Buy new bikes and upgrades from the shop to stay in with a chance of winning each race, and you could be the best Rasher in town, but don't spend all of your money because you never know how much those repairs will cost!
If you're lucky enough to get a boxed game, with manual, you'll be pleased to know that you'll receive a bit of a story about each of your potential players, and of course your enemies. An extract, for your entertainment:
"Public Enemy No. 1: She saw her first punk show at five years old. At thirteen she was tattooed black from the waist down. By her eighteenth birthday she had 143 piercings."
Those are the kind of people you're dealing with. Those and the cops, of course, like Marshall:
"An orphan raised in Los Angeles. All he talks about is his gun".
You get the idea.
Road Rash II is a fantastic game for one player, but also offers two-player split screen and alternating games. And, despite the fact that you can't save many Mega Drive games (including this one), you at least get passwords to start where you left off.
This is an older review of mine on another site. I have noticed that this company aren't on DooYoo, so have pasted this review from elsewhere as I think it's valuable. Be aware that this review is from July 2010:
"Recommended eCar Insurance to people in the past. Looking back, never again - I escaped last night and couldn't be more pleased that I did.
Took out my policy in November 2009, after passing my test. They offered PAYG monthly insurance with accelerated 8-month NCB, which for me was far cheaper than any other quote I've been given, and sounded ideal (at £120 a month).
A month later, after a minor bump with another car in a service station car park (my fault, I was driving on exhaustion after a work night out where other colleagues had kept me awake all night when drunk), I contacted them to let them know I needed to make a claim. I never heard anything again, but on my monthly policy renewals from Jan onwards it stated 'Accident - Fault - Costs Not Recovered By Insurer', and I assumed things had been dealt with thoroughly and that my work towards my NCB would begin again. At this stage, my costs went up from £120 a month to £140 a month - completely fair, I thought.
Last month, without explanation, my monthly cost increased to £160 a month. The only way I found out about this was through an e-mail from RBSWorldPay, regarding my direct debit. I e-mailed to ask why (phoning is near-impossible) and was sent a vague reply saying that it might have something to do with my claim. I was upset and suspicious, but they still were offering the cheapest insurance I could get.
Five days ago, I received another e-mail from RBSWorldPay, stating that my insurance costs had increased to £230 a month, again with no explanation from eCar. This time, I've not given them a chance to explain. I've cancelled my policy, cancelled my payments, and moved to Diamond for £170 a month. I was due my first year of NCB within the coming weeks, but have had to surrender it to escape elsewhere before I end up paying ridiculous amounts for insurance.
eCar seemed like they offered a great deal for me when I first started driving, but be aware that they'll rip you off in the long-term, and that you can't get explanations as to why"
I write this review quite some time after leaving First Direct. I've given time for the dust to settle, and I've decided that the bank were not worth my custom.
I joined First Direct at 18 years old. I'd been with HSBC before then, but chose to move to 'the online bank' as I felt that it would be easier to do everything online at a time when very few banks offered such features so readily. The joining process was easy - a few forms, a bit of posting, and I was a First Direct banker.
I didn't need to deal much with customer services at the time, and I was happy with that, so when the time came to start university I passed up the opportunity to get a student account from another bank and I stuck with First Direct (who didn't offer student benefits). For two years of my course, my FD account served me well, then the charges started. With a small overdraft facility, and with First Direct suddenly deciding to charge a monthly fee just for the privilege of owning an account with them, I soon found myself in the red. Of course, being in the red meant that I ended up further in the red, and so the charges continued. I spoke to FD about my annoyance at being charged for the service, and was told that to avoid the charges I could take out another banking service with them. I took out a savings account, and for a while the charges stopped, giving me a chance to deal with the debt they'd put me in.
Then, the charges started again. Angry, I moved to Natwest and kept my FD accounts open as I began to pay them off. Not long later, I received a message from FD asking me to pay off my outstanding debt with them, and when I got in touch to complain I received a rude initial response.
Making a call to FD not long later, I was able to set up a plan to pay off the charges I owed and to close my account. Since then, I've been happy with Natwest who (fingers crossed) have not suddenly decided to charge me without warning for owning an account that I've had for quite some time.
In my opinion, First Direct did not treat me well until I finally decided enough was enough. They were all to happy to help me close my account - if only they'd been so kind earlier.
I went for style over substance when I bought the Nexons mouse, and it gave me exactly what I asked for. Unfortunately, that shouldn't really have been what I wanted.
I built my PC from recycled parts. Not from scratch, but I got an old PC tower from a university ready to throw them out, I received a broken monitor from work, a free PC mouse and a free keyboard, both from different places. For that reason, this little PC, though it's lasting me well, has never been a top quality computer. For that reason, when my ancient PC mouse broke, and I decided to make my first actual purchase, I wasn't looking for anything top of the range.
The Nexons USB mouse was cheap. A very reasonable price, in fact, and I knew it would be plug and play so I was happy with it from the start. It sold itself to me, though, with the lights. Red and blue LEDs promised a bit of colour to my junkyard PC, and I wasn't going to say no.
As expected, the mouse worked straight from the box. A small mouse, probably more suited to laptops than to PCs, it felt comfortable to hold, and moulded well to my palm with flat sides for an overall good feel. It didn't feel like a top quality build, but I hadn't expected that.
What I had expected, though, was for the mouse to last more than a few months. It might not have been expensive, but I was extremely careful with it, so when it started malfunctioning after just over a month, I was disappointed. After malfunctioning for a while, it gave up completely. The LEDs (which, I'll admit, were just as cool as I'd hoped) still flicker on and off, more quickly than they used to, but though occasionally my cursor will flick around the screen a little, the mouse is to be rendered completely incapable.
I've now taken to a Logitech mouse, given to me by a friend, and it works fine. My junkyard PC doesn't need cheap - it gets on perfectly well with free - and the mouse wasn't worth the money.
I first put my Shape-Ups on in early May this year. I've barely taken them off, since.
I can't say that I pay much attention to the shoes other people wear, but no matter where I go I'm always being stopped by people who ask me two questions:
"Are those...those shoes?"
"Do they work?"
My answer is always the same. They do, but that's not why I bought them. I have a back condition, lordosis. Since my early teenage years, walking for more than twenty minutes has been painful. After a week or so in Florida, I had more money spare than I'd expected, and the Skechers shop looked enticing. I went in, and pulled a sand-coloured pair of Shape-Ups from the shelf. They look like ordinary trainers, for the most part, stylish and bulky - the way I like my shoes to be. They have one giveaway, though - a large, wedge-like sole, cushioned - the reason people notice them as I walk down the street.
Pulling on the shoes in that Florida store, I was struck by their comfort. I'd never spent the equivalent of £80 on a pair of shoes before, but as I bounced my way around the shoe store I realised I couldn't resist. That was just it - they were bouncy, soft and comfortable. No pain, but no feeling of working muscles, either.
Now, I've been wearing my Skechers for just under half a year, and I've not felt my back hurt once. These shoes are perfect for comfort, but perhaps more importantly (given the name) they do tone your legs. I first felt that happen after four days, and though the results are mild the general overall toning of my legs has improved.
Skechers come in a range of styles, but I'd presume that they all share the comfort that has given me one real problem. I'm never going back to other shoes until the day Shape-Ups are no longer made - I'm destined to spend £80 on shoes, but luckily these ones look like they'll last a while!
I've always been a gadget girl. Owning the best gadgets with the newest features has always been important to me, and I've gone through life thus far buying the latest and the best with little concern to genuine value for money.
All that is changing. With the economic climate as it is, it was time for me to face facts, owning a £40 per month Blackberry with SmartPhone features was not going to continue working for me. I threw out old habits and paid for a Nokia 5230 contract on TalkMobile - £12 a month for more calls and texts than I could ever use, and unlimited internet access. The deal sounded great, and I couldn't wait to save £30 a month on my mobile phone - but was I expecting great things from the handset itself? Not a chance.
I'd not owned a Nokia since the 3210 days, back when Snake was the latest craze and the Nokia was the phone to have. Slowly but surely, other phones had added better features, and been in nicer styles, and I'd given up on Nokia completely.
I had a selection of handsets to choose from. All of which, I presumed, would seem like budget rubbish coming from my Blackberry handset. The Nokia 5230 sold itself to me on the following:
- a touch screen. I'd never had one before, and really wanted to try out a life without buttons.
- internet access. Being a web-worker by trade, and a lover of all things internet, this was a key feature for me. Again, I suppose I was picturing old-fashioned WAP internet, slow and difficult to use, in comparison to my Blackberry with full Opera browser.
- integrated social networking. As above.
The phone arrived. In my box came all the expected basics: the handset, the charger, my SIM card...
I switched the phone on, and almost instantly fell in love with it. Out with the old, in with the new.
The phone's not the easiest to use at first - it took me three or four days to get used to the touch screen, with relatively small buttons - but the handset offers a way around this. Turn the phone on its side, and the screen flips too. You can then use the phone horizontally, and the buttons become larger for ease of use - a full QWERTY keyboard as opposed to a traditional phone one. I have, however, re-discovered my love for predictive messaging with the Nokia 5230. It seemed so primitive before I got my Blackberry, with the QWERTY keyboard as the only option, but again now I realise how handy the feature really is.
Those really concerned about touch-screen buttons (though with a bit of practice I doubt anyone could struggle) can consider buying a Nintendo DS stylus to carry around with them. These work perfectly with the phone, and I carry one around with me just in case I feel the need to play the one specific game I find difficult without it.
Speaking of games, the Nokia 5230 is jam-packed with apps. It comes with all the essentials - an in-built browser, Facebook, basic office programmes - but I've downloaded plenty of other free apps using the Ovi Store (also in-built) and customised my phone for free. I can now chat on MSN and Facebook chat with Nimbuzz, play Sonic, Worms or Bloons on the go, scan barcodes for product information in the shops, record TV shows with Sky Mobile and track my long walks with Endomondo Sports Tracker. I've also got my much loved Opera browser on the phone, providing full web functionality. The Nokia 5230 offers so much, but though I love these apps none are my absolute favourite.
My favourite app is one I never thought I'd even consider using. I had no trust for it, perhaps, and no real need. Nokia Maps. I've had a TomTom Sat Nav for quite some time. It lost its voice a long time ago, and was still usable, but I had to keep an eye on it at all times. I tried out Nokia Maps in my car one day, and was pleasantly surprised. It offers a reliable and up-to-date Sat Nav system, with a surprisingly easy-going voice, and additional features that make it far better than I ever considered my TomTom to be. With Nokia Maps, I'm shown exactly which lane I need to be in at major motorway junctions, I'm given access to information about local points of interest, and I'm given clear and detailed instructions wherever I go. The system has never yet let me down.
But what of the key features?
My Nokia 5230 offers crystal clear phone calls and easy text messaging. With no or few apps running, it can easily manage five days without charging, and with the GPS going (a real battery-drainer), it still gets a good five or six hours. I've got an in-car charger for mine, perfect for those longer journeys, and the system also comes with a dashboard stand as well.
The phone is a traditional candybar design, not so thin and small that you could lose it without noticing, but not big and bulky either. It's got an in-built camera that, though not amazing, takes some good quality photographs, and it's got additional media features that I've not had a need to try, such as a music player (though the in-built radio is very good!).
With access to the Ovi Store, it's easy to download new apps to the hand-set, and it comes in a selection of colours, too. Personally, I've gone for bright pink so I can find it in my handbag!
I've been stuck in a weight-loss rut for a good month or two, at least. Not being a fan of exercise, and being of the philosophy that a happy life is better than a thin one, I'd always worked my diets before by calorie-counting with little change to my overall lifestyle. A few months ago, with a limited amount of weight loss to be proud of, my body decided enough was enough, and I began hovering around one weight, and occasionally drifting back up again.
I've now discovered My Health Coach. I've not been using it for long, I admit, but the results so far have been brilliant, and I'm sure that if I can just keep myself motivated (I'm doing a good job of it so far), it'll continue to benefit me.
Not being a fan of exercise, I'm also not a fan of weight loss fads. I'd never use pills to help me lose weight, I don't believe in fad diets, and I might not have trusted a game to help me at all in the past, but hey, it was free with my DooYoo reward Amazon voucher, and what better way to take a risk than with a freebie?
Switching on My Health Coach for the first time, I was asked to give basic information about my sex, age, weight, and lifestyle (in particular, my walking habits). I was then told to drink a large glass of water. I'm not usually a big drinker, either - my boyfriend comments that I drink a few glasses a day maximum when most people have many more - so drinking a large glass of water was tough for me. I took it slowly, but felt quite ill afterwards. Still, this was MHC's first small impact on my life - since that first glass of water, I've been forcing myself to drink more and more each day, and it's getting easier to do so.
That's what MHC is about - making 'little' changes to your lifestyle, rather than making big and unrealistic steps. Speaking of steps, I can't remember the last time I did so many!
MHC analyses your lifestyle. It checks what you eat (you put this information in by feeding a friendly little stick figure the same foods you've consumed - bear in mind that this game is limited in the number of products available, but not so much that you can't adapt), it checks how much you walk (courtesy of a provided pedometer that clicks directly into your Nintendo DS to upload your step count - a little on the bulky side but not annoyingly so), and it checks other types of exercise (again, input these yourself) to give you a series of challenges tailored to suit your needs. You can also play quizzes to unlock an even wider range of challenges.
The challenges are minute-long (generally exercise-related) or 24-hour challenges (long-term changes including 'eat a specific meal tomorrow' or 'go on a two-mile bike ride'). You can opt for up to six a day, and you're given a selection to choose from so that you can find the best challenges to suit your lifestyle. There are also occasional mystery challenges, which you have to accept before seeing - these I've found to be hit and miss, whilst some (check the nutritional values on everything you plan to eat today) are easy to complete, others (I've noticed you currently eat yoghurts. Instead of the same tomorrow, buy a plain yoghurt and add fruit) just aren't practical for someone who might do their shopping in bulk. Essentially, mystery challenges aren't always going to fit your lifestyle.
However, failing challenges, or over-eating on a particular day, needn't be the cause of immense guilt with MHC. Your little stick figure personal-trainer friend isn't judgemental - though it may be stern occasionally, you'll find that a 'failure' more often than not results in a friendly reassurance and a suggestion for improvement than the criticism you might get elsewhere, or even give yourself.
Likewise, eating junk food doesn't always have to equate to failure either. With my past calorie-counting, a slice of pizza or a bar of chocolate was a massive impact, setting me back and causing disappointment - MHC's plan, with tailored exercise and training suited to the individual, allows you to have a little junk food occasionally (or even daily) without destroying all that hard work.
Walking, for me, was the big change. Almost as soon as I'd told MHC about my lifestyle, it labelled me a 'stationary object' (an affectionate term, I'm sure) and set me a target of 6000 steps to reach daily. Now, being a stationary object, I'm not sure if it's only me that feels this way, but I had never before realised how far 6000 steps really was. I estimated that I'd do as much on an average day, but needing a car to get to and from work, and working all day in an office, I soon discovered that I was getting my pedometer to 1000 steps at best, leaving me pacing the house for two hours after work every day just to appease my pixelated pal. Now, she's kindly allowing me to only do 5,500 a day (though I'm not sure on the reason for the decrease). I've also (much to the delight of my colleagues) started going to the canteen five times a day to purchase food for everyone else, just for the 200 extra daily steps it gives me . The staff serving me might think I'm greedy, but it's another helpful technique that MHC has motivated me to employ.
My Health Coach has made a big impact on my life in the short time I've owned it. Days one to three, for example, had me back out of my rut with weight loss of 1.8lbs (though through some clearly terrible rounding 'Twiggy' believed I'd only lost 1lb), and the 'game' records your progress on graphs allowing you to easily see BMI changes and weight loss over time. Though I'm not going to make promises that anyone with self-motivation and a lifestyle that already involves regular exercise can benefit from MHC, those of you who (like me) just 'can't be bothered' will find a new reason to be bothered, and will see real changes in weight and fitness with this product.
Young Carl Fredricksen had a hero. A world famous adventurer, Charles Muntz. Carl dreamt of being like his hero, and so did Ellie, whom he met one day on the way back from a movie about Muntz.
Roll on the years, and Carl and Ellie are in love, then married, then aging. Their childhood dreams of adventure are long gone; the penny jar on the side never containing enough spare cash to make those dreams come true. Late in his life, Carl remembers those dreams, and purchases a ticket to the one place he and Ellie most wanted to visit - Paradise Falls. Unfortunately, moments before he presents them to Ellie, she passes away. Carl is left aged and alone, regretting that Ellie never lived her dreams.
Carl's memories of Ellie are within his house. A house he doesn't want to leave. As builders re-develop the area around Carl's home, he defends it and refuses to leave. Then, they begin to damage his property. An angry, scared Carl lashes out, and is punished by the promise of a place in a retirement home the very next day.
Just before he's due to be taken away, though, Carl reveals a mass of balloons tied to his fireplace, out through the chimney, and his house takes flight. Carl's on his way to Paradise Falls, to live out the dream he's always shared with Ellie. However, a young Wilderness Explorer named Russell is on the porch, and it's not long before Carl and Russell crash land together in the real wilderness. The experience that follows teaches Carl the true meaning of adventure, and what really makes a hero.
A Disney Pixar production lasting 96 minutes, 'Up' stars Ed Asner as Carl and Jordan Nagai of Russell, alongside a host of other well-cast voice artists. It won two Oscars, and deserved them both.
The film is one of the more upsetting animated productions I've seen. With a mostly depressing but finally uplifting story, it appears to be aimed more at adults than at children - unusual for a Disney or Pixar production - but offers light relief in the form of animal characters Kevin the bird and Dug the talking dog (voiced excellently by Bob Peterson).
The film has aspects that both young and old will appreciate. Messages for the adults, and entertaining and amusing characters that children will love. With quality music really works with the movie, and with a slower pace to past Disney Pixar productions including Toy Story and Cars, it seems that they're reaching out to a wider audience than ever before, and they've done so perfectly! Not a traditional, full-of-jokes family film, 'Up' is one that leaves you thinking long after it's ended - something very few films, animated or not, manage.
A colourful film that will have a strong impact on individuals of any age, 'Up' is the Disney Pixar film that really can't be ignored.
As someone who works with children a lot, and as the elder sister of a young boy myself, I consider this version of The Lion King story to be a core product in my childcare collection.
Disney release books to suit almost all of their films. I remember having a whole collection myself as a young child, telling stories including Bambi, Dumbo and Pinocchio. I loved them. Some told the story true to the film, others told new stories relating to favourite characters (one told of Pinocchio taking a trip to a sweet shop and spending Gepetto's bread money on a big bag of sweets), and all were collectibles that stuck in my mind for years.
Fast-forward fifteen years, and Disney are still making these memorable books. Now, they're new and glossy and filled with wonderful pictures in the same style as their movies, and I'm sure as someone who cares for children that they're just as captivating to this 'new generation' as they were to me.
Being a Lion King myself, it's this one that gets my vote.
The book tells a very accurate Lion King story, straight from the movie. With a paragraph per page, it's short enough to keep younger children happy if you're reading it to them, and easy enough for those learning to read to begin to get their head around quite quickly (there are no long words here!). The book has colourful images throughout, taking up full pages, and I've yet to know a child who hasn't asked me to wait on at least one page, mid-story, whilst they admire the animals.
Another benefit to this book, in my opinion, is the dialogue. Not told just as a story, the book incorporates quotes from the film. As a reader, this gives me the opportunity to re-enact character quotes with voices - something that, I find, really entertains young children.
The Disney books, in my opinion, are extremely well designed. The writers appreciate that children of six or seven might want to read these stories alone, and make them accessible, but they also make the series brilliant for those reading them aloud. With a whole range of books in this collection, they're a product that can really be enjoyed by children and parents alike, but, biased as I am, I'd recommend The Lion King as a starter!
Okay, so I'm not your typical girly-girl. At 22 years old, I don't have an elegant little handbag with make-up in, or a big shoulder bag with baby products and credit cards (that can wait!), I have a rucksack. A big, pink and black rucksack.
I like convenience, and I'm a gadget girl. I don't use make-up, and I'm not fussed for carrying a bag around the shops all day with me when it can sit, far less noticed, on my back. Oh, and I don't have to dig around either - with so many pockets, I have everything neatly split. I love my rucksack!
In it are the following items, with detailed descriptions. Lucky you:
My purse - It's a lovely, leather purse, engraved with a 'love you always' personalised message from my younger brother. Aww. Inside that, in case you're really interested, are various cards, including two debit cards (one for my account, and one for a joint account), a library card (I signed up once, took a book out, never bothered reading it, renewed it a few times, then gave up and returned it), a Botany Bay lifelong membership card (see my other reviews for an opinion on this Chorley shopping centre), and a membership card for electronics store CEX (despite trading games with them regularly, I've yet to know what this card is actually for. I just hand it over and accept it back!).
The purse also contains my RAC card (I've written a review on these, too), my driving license, a membership card for Shell petrol stations (supposedly to get me points that I can trade in for goodies - it recorded my first few transactions, then wiped the points and has since stopped adding them), and a blood donor card (I no longer am one, and that still disappoints me).
My hairbrush - it's a Denman, enough said.
My headphones - Wharfdale - and the accompanying MP3 player, a Sony Walkman NWZ-A816.
My SatNav (TomTom One) and my digital camera (Sony Cyber-Shot DSCW90), both of which I've reviewed.
My NatWest card reader (I find it annoying that I have to carry this around, but got tired of having to wait until I got home to make transactions).
A few pens and pencils, and my personalised diary (with photos of my siblings in). To me, a diary has to have its days split by the hour to be useful!
My keys, and my Blackberry (a two year old 8820 that I can't wait to replace, not that it's been unreliable at all, but it's just a bit old), and my Nintendo DS and Games (Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days - I've reviewed, and Lock's Quest and Zelda Phantom Hourglass).
I also tuck in a material shopping bag for those days when impromptu grocery shops won't fit in the rucksack around all my gadgets and gizmos.
I'm fairly certain that my bag has another use, too. If my car battery ever dies, harnessing the power of everything I carry around with me would almost certainly bring it back to life.
I've been a member of PureProfile for some time now. I don't recall exactly how long, but long enough that I've had time to cancel my subscriptions to every other survey site I joined at the same time.
To me, the internet has to be productive. I like filling in surveys, and I like writing reviews, but I have to feel like I'm doing it for a reason - like it will be valuable to others and worth my time, too.
That's why I'm sticking with PureProfile. I've tried a wide range of other survey sites, including the popular Valued Opinions, but found that most rejected me from surveys I'd already committed time to, saying that I was unsuitable to continue - perhaps a ploy to make me give them the information they wanted before avoiding to pay me? PureProfile isn't like that. You create a very detailed profile on sign-up, and I've yet to be rejected from any survey they've given me. That's not to say that I get lots of surveys from them - I've made a mere £3.80 and need at least £25 before I can withdraw cash to my bank account - but that every survey I do get is one I can complete; PureProfile don't want my answers for nothing, and I don't feel ripped off.
The PureProfile profile can be updated at any time. It asks you a huge range of questions to really make sure that the surveys it digs up are suitable for you - everything from your television region to your hobbies and aspirations...oh, and your dress size. Keep it in check (I find this in itself fun!), and you'll be rewarded with enjoyable surveys that you can actually answer. Not only that, but the website is pretty too. It's really easy to use, with a 'Next Button' taking you from one survey to the next, and giving you a full poll when you reach the end of your surveys - the current being "Would you rather be a movie star or a rock star?".
If you use other survey websites and are treated well by them, then PureProfile might not be the big money earner for you, but if you're looking for a reliable survey website that pays you for your work, it is.
Like many other people, I've always considered Cadbury's Mini Eggs a staple of Easter. They're not one large egg that you can't get your teeth around, they're small enough to enjoy and in a bag large enough to share. Brilliant.
We got hold of a 100g bag last night, which boasts that whilst it may contain nuts and soya (for those with allergies), it also contains a not unreasonable 485 calories, 4.6g of protein, 67.8g of carbs, 21.9g of fat (yikes) and 1.3g of fibre. Okay, so it's an Easter treat.
Mini Eggs gave been one of those brilliant childhood memories. They're something you get every year, even if only on top of a nest cake - they always have been Easter.
Yet something's changed. Something's not quite right with these Mini Eggs now, and they're not the only ones I tried to be sure of it. Mini Eggs are softer. Their crisp, sugar shell has been replaced by a less-than-crisp one. When I experienced this with colleagues the other day, a few commented that this was a good development, "I used to cut my mouth on the shells in the past, now I won't", but to me it's an unwelcome change and a slight disappointment. Mini Eggs, in my opinion, are supposed to be crispy.
Fortunately (and yes I have been overloaded with mini eggs this year), I've found a solution. It might not have that same 'every Easter' feeling, but the Smarties Mini Egg is delicious. Yes, it's just a giant Smartie, but it's crisp and it's crunchy and the chocolate is high quality. Oh, and a bag has slightly less fat, so who am I to complain?
A 37 inch corner-hogger, the Hitachi L37VP01 (the TV, from now on) is HD-ready and offers a full 1080p resolution. It's been sitting in, dominating, the corner of my lounge for over a year now, and is a mixed bundle of quality and annoyance that I love and loathe in equal measures.
It spends its time, quite rightly, with a PS3, an XBox 360, and a Master System/Megadrive combination console at its side, and is quite happy to cater to all three with its five scart sockets and its two HDMI ones. This means that all three consoles can be connected at all times, and whilst we don't own a separate DVD player, one of those could too!
Speaking of DVD players, though this television doesn't have one built in, the remote control has full DVD functionality. Essentially, if you're not a PS3 owner, you can program your television remote to also control your DVD player and avoid the need for two remotes.
Another enjoyable feature that the TV offers is a PiP (picture in picture) functionality which allows for the viewing of two things at once (one without sound, of course). Though you can't mix HD visuals with that old-fashioned normal stuff, you can view two HD images or two 'normal' images side-by-side, or have one image in a small box in any corner of the screen whilst the other takes up the rest...and no, viewing two HD images at the same time doesn't mean that you can play your PS3 and XBox at the same time, sadly.
So what lets this TV down? Well, that's simple, the Freeview. I've never before owned a television that, despite the ability to pick up an excellent digital signal and show any television channel in perfect detail, knows not the date, the time, or what it's supposed to be showing. Essentially, the TV guide is a blank blue box that covers your screen with 'no information found' or something similar every second of every day, to the point that www.tvguide.co.uk and I have become good friends...
If that wasn't enough to cause anger, the remote control is also an un-responsive mess. Whether you have to have a certain power, or just extreme strength, I don't know, but I find that even on a good day it takes me a few minutes to change the channel (I push the button, wait, and wait some more), and on a bad day I have to ask my boyfriend to change from channel to channel on my behalf - and I really don't like surrendering my already limited control of the TV back to him!
A good TV once you get it working and are on the channel you want, this TV is certainly worth purchasing if you're on a relatively low budget (it cost £650 in September 2008), but you need patience. Now to get back to the remote control, I hear there's a good programme on next week and I want to make sure I've turned the TV over in time...
I'm a chocolate addict, and I love times of the year set aside for its consumption. However, Easter teaches me one thing that no other time of the year does. I love chocolate for the feeling it gives me, that happy 'I'm eating chocolate' feeling that just isn't anything like the 'I'm eating chips' feeling, but I don't, I realise, often love it for the taste.
Sure, chocolate tastes nice, but it's a short-lived and easily forgotten pleasure (which maybe is why I feel the need for so much of it). The MaltEaster bar takes this realisation, and turns it on its head.
That's right, the MaltEaster is the only chocolate I, as a self-confessed chocolate lover, really (and I mean REALLY) love the taste of.
The 29g bunny, in full 157 calorie glory, is a delicious combination of quality Mars chocolate, a creamy malt filling, and honeycomb pieces. Whilst this combination costs a ridiculous 60p plus, it's worth every penny, and it's suitable for vegetarians. Yes, veggies, you can enjoy eating this bunny!
Other key nutritional information, for those who can resist long enough to care:
2.0g of protein
16.5g of carbs
9.2g of fat
The MaltEaster chocolate bar is a heavenly chocolate experience, and having just had one I'm in a state of daze. I only tried this bar for the first time last Easter, but I'm sure that every year from now on will be spent looking forward to that first bar of the year - if only Easter happened more often!