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dogleggedhat

dogleggedhat
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Member since: 01.01.2009

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    • ebay.co.uk / Auction / 27 Readings / 25 Ratings
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      12.12.2009 16:01
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      recomended, but do use with caution

      Ebay is an internet auction site which began in America but now has sites in around thirty other countries, including the UK (www.ebay.co.uk). It's a place where people can buy and sell millions of different types of items,mainly through auction, but also through the use of 'Buy it Now' where sellers have put a set price on the item and the buyer can 'buy it now' for that price, without having to enter into an auction.

      You can browse on ebay without having an account set up, and you can save items as a guest in 'my ebay' if you want to watch them and see how much they sell for. If you want to buy or sell anything, you will need to set up an account, which is simple enough to do if you have an email address.

      when you go on the website, there are options at the top of the screen for places you can go to. Clicking 'buy' will take you to a search engine where you can type in the item you are looking for. Clicking 'sell' will take you to a page where you can enter information about an item you want to sell, including pictures, a description and the postage rate, which will then appear on a list when someone searches for that item. Clicking 'my ebay' will take you to your account page, where you can see a list of items you're watching, and you can also keep track of items you're selling, have bought, and any outstanding actions you need to do(for example, posting items, leaving feedback, paying for items). Clicking 'community' will take you to a page where you can enter forums or discussion groups on ebay. Clicking 'help' takes you to a page with various help links, depending on what you need help with.

      I have used ebay for around 5 years, mainly as a buyer but also as a seller, so I will be commenting on both sides of the story.

      BUYING
      I really love buying things on ebay, I always get a buzz from getting a bargain!(maybe that's a bit sad?!) Buying things on ebay is pretty easy-you simply search for your item in the toolbad, and a list of items suiting that description will appear. You can narrow the category down using the options on the side (eg if you typed in 'jumper' you would get options on the side such as mens,ladies,kids, small, medium, large, woollen, cotton etc) These options will differ depending on the item, but its handy because it means you don't need to trawl through endless irrelevant item. Its good to put as much detail as possible when you're searching, as it means you will have less items to look through.

      when the list of items appear on the screen, you get to see a short description of them, the current price, the delivery charge and the time left of the auction. There are options to order the items in terms of price (high to low or low to high) and time left. You can also choose to look at all the items for sale, or just auctions, or just 'buy it now' items. When you see an item of interest, you just need to click on it then you can got to the item listing which will give you more information on the item. If you want to enter the auction, you can put in bid for it. This is where everyone has their own techniques. Some people will watch the item and wait until near the end to bid, some people will enter a first bid and wait for it to be exceeded before putting in more bids. Alternatively, you can put in your maximum bid and just hope for the best. I personally watch the items then wait until near the end, then put in my maximum bid, because I found that sometimes the urge to win the item means you're more likely to spend more than you wanted to, just so you can win the item, which isn't really sensible. Ebay also has a 'sniper' which you can set up to put in your bid during the crucial final moments, but I have never used this, so can't really comment.

      If you win an item, you will receive an invoice stating how much you owe, and then you can pay for your item. Sellers have to offer Paypal as a choice of payment, as it gives the customer some reassurance that if anything goes wrong, they can get their money back. If you want to pay by paypal you will need to set up a paypal account, but this is simple, and makes paying for ebay items very easy-it links to your bank account to transfer money, meaning sellers don't need to know any of your bank details. Some sellers will accept postal orders or cheque, but you need to read the listing to be sure.

      when you've received your item, it's a good idea to give the seller feedback on your experience, as it allows other customers to get an idea of the sellers reputation before they buy something(I always look at sellers feedback before buying, and if it is below 99% i personally won't buy anything, unless I read through and see that the negative feedback wasn't warranted). You will get feedback too as a buyer, and it helps to build your own reputation as an ebayer. I really recomend being completely honest in your feedback, because if you had a bad experience, and say that you didn't, then others will trust the seller and they may end up having bad experiences too). As far as I'm aware, sellers can't give negative feedback to buyers(which is good for buyers, as they dont need to worry about revenge ratings, but I don't think its a good idea, although I will go into this later).

      Ebay has such a vast amount of items for sale, that for me, it's one of the first places I go when I'm looking for an item and want it a bit cheaper. Most of the items are second hand or used, but you can also get a lot of brand new items too. I love using it to buy clothes, because even though they are second hand, they're generally still in excellent condition, and I save lots of money compared to if I bought them first hand in the shop.

      The majority of items are sold by sellers in the UK, but there are some sold from America and Hong Kong. Personally, I avoid these, because I've been scammed before, and I'm scared of having to pay excess charges, but I know people have bought items from these places and had very good experiences.

      Generally my experience as an ebay buyer has been very good, but I would warn people to be careful of scams, as there are a lot of them, mainly people claiming to sell genuine items when they're actually fake(for example Uggs and other designer goods). There are guides on the site as to how to spot scams, but some scams are so clever that it would be easy to get sucked in, so I would say that if it seems to good to be true, it probably is!

      SELLING
      Since I've been a member of ebay, I've sold some items, because it's handy if you want to make a few pennies, or just have a bit of a clear out! Selling is pretty simple, although it can be quite a monotonous process if you have a lot of items to sell(there is a turbo lister option to make this easier, but I couldn't really get to grips with it-I'm not very good with change!)

      When you click the 'sell' button, you will be taken to a page where you firstly give a short description of the item you wish to sell. This is what will appear when people search for items. Its best to be as concise here as possible, and only provide relevant information. for example, if you wanted to sell a superdry jumper, it would be good to have your description as 'Blue Ladies Superdry Jumper, Size 10' as opposed to 'L@@K, Gorgeous Superdry Jumper!!!!!!!' I don't know why people list items like this, because not many people are going to include things like that when they're searching, so it might get missed. Be careful with spelling, because if you haven't spelt the word right, it might not appear when people search for it, and you could have lost an opportunity to get a good price for your item.

      You are then able to put pictures in of your item, which is definitely recomended, as I personally wouldn't bother looking at an item if there isn't a picture. Make sure pictures are of good quality, and show key information (eg if the item is a brand name, take a picture of the name, or the size on the label). If the item has any flaws you should take pictures of them(eg holes/stains etc) because you can refer to them in your listing. People aren't automatically put off by flaws, but if you havent pointed them out and people find them when you post the item to them, they will be annoyed and you will be more likely to get neutral or negative feedback. This can be avoided if you are completely honest in your listing. Your listing should give details of the item you wish to sell, including its condition (new or used), size or dimension, colour, flaws etc. You can also use this to state whether or not you accept returns, what postage you use and any other information.

      You can then put in your postage charge. Nowadays on ebay, a lot of items, including accessories and a lot of media items, have to have free postage. I personally have an issue with this. A lot of people on ebay used to charge extortionate postage prices, in a bid to try and make more money from the item. I think this is a bad thing, because I feel your postage charge should only reflect the cost to you of posting and packaging the item, not to get more money. Because a lot of people did this, it seems a lot of items have to have free postage now, which I feel isn't fair to sellers, because it means they're losing money because they have to pay for postage and packaging out of their own pocket. Its a shame that this rule has come in, in my opinion.

      You also get to set your starting price. I start all my listings at 99p, as I feel they get more interest this way, but you can set a higher starting price, although this will add money to your listing fee. You can choose to pay extra money to choose the time to start your listing, and you can choose whether you want a 7 or 10 day auction, or whether you want to set it to 'buy it now.' You also get to select your payment preferences, one of which must include paypal. Once you complete your listing, you get the option to preview it, where you can make changes before listing it. Once you have listed it, people can start to bid on it.

      You have to pay to insert items on ebay, although ebay do offers where there are free listing days, or where items from certain categories can be listed for free. You also have to pay paypal fees, which are a percentage of the selling price. I think the fees are a bit excessive, but there is no escaping them, so they are part and parcel of ebay.

      When the listing ends, you can send the buyer an invoice informing them of what they owe you, and once you receive payment, you can post the item. I recomend posting and packaging your item securely, to ensure it arrives with the buyer in one piece. You can leave the buyer feedback once the transaction is complete. Unfortunately, as far as I'm aware, you can no longer leave buyers negative feedback, which I think is definitely wrong, because there are buyers out there who are scammers too, and I feel like ebay doesn't offer as much protection to sellers as they do buyers.

      SUMMARY
      Overall, I feel that ebay is a really good website, which is easy to navigate and offers so many items to buy, and it can be fantastic for getting bargains. For a seller, it is good for selling items for more than you would get at a boot sale or jumble sale, although I definitely feel that ebay is better for buyers than sellers. It does have its flaws, and there are things which I feel could be done differently, but for a website of its size, and with so many people using it, I feel like it isn't doing too badly. As a buyer I find it very addictive, as you can get so many amazing things from it, and I definitely have to make sure when I'm using it that I don't enter a bidding war just for the sake of winning!

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      • Miami Ink / TV Programme / 29 Readings / 29 Ratings
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        12.12.2009 13:46
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        love it!

        Miami Ink is an American reality TV show which looks at the day to day running of a tattoo shop in Miami. The show ran for five seasons and led to spin offs LA Ink and London Ink. Reruns of the programme can be watched on sky channel DMAX (or DMAX+1) or the box sets can be found on amazon.co.uk (currently on sale for £13-£14, down from £35.00, so a bargain!)

        The show looks at a tattoo shop called Love Hate Tattoo(although everyone thinks it is called Miami Ink, but that is just for the show). The shop is owned by tattoo artists Ami James and Chris Nunez, with their friends Darren Brass and Chris Garver working their, alongside Ami's apprentice Yoji Harada. One of the good things about this show is that the guys are all brilliant friends, and the rapport between them makes the show very entertaining, as they are fiercely loyal to each other, even if they do class on occassion. The show has also had guest tattoo artists, when one of the main guys has been away, or the shop has been especially busy. The most popular of these artists was Kat Von D, who came in to replace Darren when he broke is elbow, and ended up becoming one of the team, until she was fired after a clash with Ami.

        All of the guys are fantastically talented and tend to have their own specialities; for example Kat is the person to go to for a black and white portrait, Ami specialises in Japanese flowers and Koi fish, while Darren is from a graffitti background so does really good tattoos in that area. All of the guys who work in the shop are obviously heavily tattooed and ae very passionate about their art, and that comes across, as they always take time to make sure the person is getting the best tattoo they can, and if they know a tattoo isn't going to look good or age well, they will recomend the best way to tackle it. I know that this should be the case for all shops, but unfortunately it isn't.

        The show is on for one hour (approx 42 minutes after ad breaks) and each episode features Ami doing voice over to introduce the show (Chris Nunez does voice over when Ami isn't there). Ami introduces the artists and then runs through what is going to happen on that episode. This bit actually really annoys me, because it tells us about all the clients appearing on that episode, and the tattoos they're going to get and what they look like. I would prefer they didn't do that, as I like to wait until the tattoo is finished for each person before I see it. I feel like showing this at the start spoils the show a little, and considering they summarise the show at the end anyway, it's a little unneccessary in my opinion.

        Each episode shows several clients getting tattoos in the shop. Obviously we don't see the whole tattoo process as it would be long and monotonous, but we are introduced to the client and hear about what tattoo they want and why they want it, and then the show is edited to show snippets of the tattoo, and then the clients final reaction. The clients always have a story to tell, and a reason behind getting their tattoo, and we get to hear a bit about that. The stories can often be sad, for example people getting a tattoo in memory of a friend or loved one, or have been through something terrible such as addiction or cancer. Some of the stories are obviously uplifting as well, and its really nice to hear the reasons why people get the designs they do. For the artists it's very important that there is a reason behind a tattoo, and that people think long and hard before getting one, rather than doing so on a whim. They don't like to tattoo something just picked from their tattoos book, and would prefer to adapt them to suit the individual.

        During the process, we get to see the artists interact with the customers and this can be very entertaining, because all the guys have a great sense of humour. Its also really nice to see the guys cope when the clients story isn't a happy one, as they are all very sensitive and seem to say the right things in those situations. I find it interesting how much people can open up when they are being tattooed, but I guess thats because its a very intimate experience as you could be spending hours in close contact with that person, so it can be quite easy to open up

        Once the tattoo is complete, we get to see the end product, and even though sometimes the tattoos are not to my taste, there is no denying that they are fantastically done. Some tattoos are very simple designs, such as symbols or names, whilst others are very extensive pieces with intricate detail, and I am constantly mesmorised that people can do this using a needle.

        As well as seeing clients come in and out of the shop and getting tattoos done, we also get to see the guys out together, socialising, and dealing with problems in their own lives. We get to see that running your own business isn't always easy, even when you're doing something you're passionate about, and that juggling a job with no set hours and trying to have a life as well can be quite hard.

        I have never had an interest in tattoos, and stumbled across the show by accident, but I have to admit, its really addictive, and seeing the artists passion about the art of tattooing, I can definitely see the appeal of them, and why having them done can be very addictive. If done correctly, tattoos can look fantastic. I really recomend watching this show because its interesting, entertaining and can provoke all sorts of emotions that you wouldn't expect from a show about a bunch of guys giving people tattoos. All the artists have their own personalities so its easy to have your favourite. As well as this, the clients stories can be very inspiring, and the frienship between all the guys is so nice to watch, that this show is about much more than ink.

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        • Property Ladder / TV Programme / 31 Readings / 29 Ratings
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          09.12.2009 21:57
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          the best house related programme on tv!

          Property Ladder is a television show which follows wannabe property developers on their quest to make massive profits by renovating houses they have bought. The show began in 2001 in Britain but now also has versions in the United States, New Zealand and Australia. This review will be looking at the U.K. (and original) version of Property Ladder. This version has had a number of series on Channel 4, with each episode airing for an hour(lasting approximately 45 minutes, once the breaks have been taken out). The presenter of this version is British property developer Sarah Beeny (who, in my humble opinion, is a complete legend and the show definitely wouldn't be the same without her).

          Originally the show would look at one development project, but in 2005 the format changed and now looks at 2 development projects, and chops and changes between the two throughout the show. I personally prefer this format because it adds a bit of a variety to the show, and generally if the people involved in one development are annoying, the people in the other development make a nice change! Sarah meets with the people doing the development at the start of the project, just after they've purchased their chosen property. Generally there are 2 people on each development, often a couple, but sometimes relatives, friends, or even work colleagues. The odd episode will have just the one developer doing a project, or 3 or 4 people working together(which is enjoyable, as the more people involved, the more room there is for opinion clashes, which of course makes great television!)

          Once Sarah meets the developers, she is shown around the property they wish to develop. The great thing about the show is that the projects people undertake vary greatly in how complex they are. Some may choose to start relatively easily, by perhaps knocking a wall through and redecorating the whole house and improving the garden, right through to the much more daring(or should that be crazy?) who want to take a practically delapidated building and turn it into a block of luxury apartments! You really will see all sorts on the show, which is what is so refreshing about it-it doesn't get boring because people will always want to try something new, or more complex or outrageous.

          The developers tell Sarah what they plan to do, and their ideas get transferred into a 3D model for the viewer to see, which is really good, because its quite hard to grasp their ideas, or how the house should look, when you are only getting a limited view of it on the TV. I like this part, because more often than not, Sarah disagrees with their plans, and we get to see her 3D model of what would be more practical and profitable. As soon as you see her idea, you know she's right, but when she puts her ideas to the people doing the project, more often than not they shoot her down, determined to go their own way, regardless of how much Sarah labours the point that it just won't work well. the good thing about Sarah is that she really knows her stuff, and is saying all these things to help the people get the most money they can, and she isn't afraid to say what she thinks, and to be honest about how she feels about their ideas. She is very assertive, and can be cheeky to the people involved, but never in a nasty way, its always in a jokey way, and she's not condescending or pushy-but the woman is ALWAYS right! When I'm watching the show I am nearly always shouting at the people because they don't listen to the Beeney, and its usually to their own detriment.

          Once plans have been discussed, the people talk about the money they have to spend on the property, how long it will take them to do it, and how much they expect to get for it at the end. There is generally a trend here-most of the time people budget far too little, have way too short a timeline, and expect to sell for way too much. Sarah doesn't hold back here when she thinks they're being ridiculously presumptious or optimistic, and 99% of the time she tells them that their budget is way too low, but of course the people insist that they have enough money to do what they need to do.

          Once all this has been discussed, the project begins, and we get to follow the two developments from start to finish(or not finished, as the case sometimes is, when money runs out, or the timeline runs so far over schedule that the show can't film any longer. During this part of the show we get to see the people go through their developments, from choosing the type of windows they want, right through to picking the furniture and accessories. Along the way we see all of their trials and tribulations, which can range from anything from collapsing roofs, floors and walls and arguements with the builders, to not measuring things properly(resulting in a house full of windows that don't fit!) and weather conditions knocking the deadline off course. Practically every episode has traumas of some sort, and its very entertaining to see how people cope in these circumstances, as sometimes they are really calm and logical, and other times they start to get a bit crazy! Sarah tries to offer advice throughout the project, but sometimes there isn't much she can do if it has already got too out of hand.

          Once the development has finished, Sarah goes back to see the final product, where the compliments the good, and points out areas that are lacking, or could have been done better(if they'd listened to her!) She talks to the developers about their journey, which is interesting as some people really get the developing bug and are desparate to go and find their next property, whilst others are determined to never do it again. All of them agree that property developing is definitely not as easy as they originally thought it was. Sarah then asks them how much they spent altogether, so it can be compared with the original budget(though some people won't admit to how much they have spent, which I hate!) and then ask how much they hope to sell for. We then see 3 valuers look at the propertys and give valuations-some of which delight the developers, others which greatly disappoint them.

          At the end of the show, Sarah gives a brief summary of what we've seen, and how things can turn out in different circumstances, and throughout the show she gives little hints and tips to anyone wishing to develop, which I really like. I love this show and it really does give a realistic insight into property developing. I feel like everyone wants to buy a property to renovate and sell on for profit(or at least they did when house prices were sky high), but this show gives such an eye opener as to how difficult it can be, and that it doesn't necessarily lead to a good outcome, regardless of how much work and money you invest into it. I love seeing how different people cope in situations (and I secretly love when the really smug peoples plans crumble down round them-if they'd listened to Sarah it wouldn't have happened!)

          I would recomend this show to anyone interested in property developing, or even just people who enjoy property in general, as you do get to see some fantastic transformations, and it really does give food for thought, as well as some fantastic tips for styling your own home.

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          • moonpig.com / Online Shop / 53 Readings / 49 Ratings
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            04.04.2009 15:15
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            definitely my first port of call now if I want a card for someone special, the service is great!

            Moonpig.com is a website where you can buy personalised greeting cards. The site covers a wide range of occasions, from anniversarys and brithdays, to new home/job/baby to sympathy and thank you cards. The site itself is very easy to navigate and it would be very difficult to go wrong.

            To buy a card on moonpig.com you need to register to be a user(which is very simple), but if you are just browsing you don't need to sign up.

            Firstly, you chose the occasion you want a card for, from the list on the left of the page, or you can choose a style of card from the pictures on the site (for example, humour, me to you, etc). Once you choose the option you want, you look through the cards in that section and select the one which you want. Here you will be shown a picture of the card, and the text on it. The text which is in bold is the text which can be personalised. Also in this section you can choose the size of your card, and it tells you how much they cost (small card- 4 for £6.00, standard- £2.99, large- £5.99)

            From here you move onto the next step which allows you to edit the text on the front of the card(there is also a spell checker which is handy). The next step from here allows you to personalise the inside of the card with whatever text you like. You can change the font, colour, size and position of the text. When you click on the next step you will get to see a preview of how your card looks on the front, inside and back(this is just like the back of a card you would get in a shop).

            Once you have seen your preview, you can decide whether you want to send the card back to yourself, to give the person face to face, or whether you want to address it directly to the person. If you get it mailed to yourself, it comes in a brown envelope with the card and envelope inside.

            Following on from this you put in your card details and you are sent a confirmation email, which also allows you to make changes to the card(though you need to be very quick as they get sent to the printers quite fast).

            I have used moonpig twice and have been so impressed with their service. The cards I ordered arrived within 2 days(this was especially impressive as one of the cards I ordered was a Mothers Day card which I ordered 4 days before!) I was also very impressed with the postage charge because I think that it would be very easy for them to overcharge here, but they do not make any money from the postage as they charge the same price as you would pay for a stamp if you were posting if yourself. The people I gave the cards to were so impressed and the fact you can personalise the cards makes them all the more special, especially because you can do it for the same price as you would pay for a generic card in a shop.

            The range of cards they have on offer is somewhat limited, but I do believe that they are constantly expanding on this, and even though there wasn't a massive choice, there was enough to be able to choose a lovely card.

            I really recommend this site if you want to give someone a card with a little more meaning, without having to spend more money.

            The only disadvantage I can think of is the really annoying advert on tv for this website. the singing in it really irritates me, but that is me seriously nitpicking because apart from that the website is great!

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            • Weight Watchers / Other Service / 28 Readings / 25 Ratings
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              04.04.2009 14:42
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              highly recommended!

              Before I write this review I would just like to point out that I have not attended weight watcher meetings or paid to follow the plan online, so I can't comment on what goes on in meetings or how the online plan works, but I can discuss my own personal experience of weight watchers, as I followed the plan by myself. Also, weight watchers offer a few different plans, and I chose to follow the points plan, so this is what my review will be based on.

              Weight watchers is an international company which offers lots of different products and services to people who are trying to lose weight. The weight watchers plan can be followed in a variety of different ways as there are meetings which people can attend (these involve paying an initial payment and then a payment each week for weigh in). People can also follow weight watchers online, if they don't have time to attend meetings, and there are also lots of people who just follow the plan alone.

              I fall into the latter group. A good few years ago my granny decided to join weight watchers, but got bored after a few weeks and sent me the book she had been given when she attended. This handbook explained the concept of weight watchers and was all I really needed to start the plan.

              There are different plans which can be followed on weight watchers, and I'm vaguely aware that the names of the plans change from time to time, but the two that were in play when I started the plan were the Points Plan, and No Points plan. With no points, you are allocated a certain number of points which can be used throughout the week. Points are calculated based on a foods calories and saturated fats, meaning that low calorie/low sat fat foods will have less points than high calorie/high sat fat foods. On top of this weekly point allocation, there is a list of 'no point' foods which can be eaten, so you simply choose foods from the no point list to eat, and any that aren't on the list come from the weekly point allocation.

              Like I said before, I followed the points plan, and so I have a bit more knowledge of this. On this plan, the person is allocated a daily amount of points (which is calculated based on their sex, age group, weight, height and activity level). Once you know how many points you are entitled to, you eat foods and ensure that you don't go over this allocation. This is where you can get some shocks when it comes to food. Certain things you may have eaten before, thinking they were quite healthy, can actually have a lot of fat and/or calories in them, meaning that they need to be eaten in moderation.

              Weight watchers encourages people to think about the food they are eating, and eating to get the most value out of their points. You can eat whatever you want, there are no restrictions place on you, which is great, and a refreshing change from a lot of other diet plans(although weight watchers are keen to encourage the idea that it is a lifestyle change and not a diet). However, if you eat lots of food that is high in fat or calories, then you will quickly run out of points, meaning that you will either go way over your daily points allowance, or you will be very hungry for the rest of the day!

              I am currently on 19 points per day. If I were, for example, to eat 3 chocolate bars, I would pretty much have used all my points for the day. Obviously this isn't ideal and means I would be very hungry for the rest of the day, so it means you really do need to think about what you are eating, and how you can make the most substantial meals with the points you are allow. Most fruits and vegetables are pretty low points, so it's a good idea to stock up on those with meals(particularly veg, as not all fruit are low points because of their sugar content).

              I started weight watchers a few years ago (I have sort of done it off and on since then) and I was quite impressed at how easy it was to follow, and how quickly I was losing weight. I understand that the idea of having to calculate the points of everything can be very confusing/off putting for someone, but once you get into the swing of things it becomes very easy to calculate points, and you start to remember the points of certain foods. Also, some shops have the point contents of some of their foods which is really handy, and you can buy a points calculator to help you out. As well as this, there are loads of books available(check out ebay) which list lots of food items and the points in them, which is very useful.

              Within 4 months of starting the plan I had lost 2 and a half stone, and this was without any serious exercise. If you are doing exercise, you can earn yourself bonus points (which you can save for a treat, or not use and speed up weight loss). The bonus points depend on the intensity of the activity and the length of time it is done for. This can be a nice incentive to do some exercise as you know you can have a treat at the weekend for example, and you will have the points to cover it.

              I personally think that weight watchers is great, and its global success can't just be a coincidence. It's an easy way to lose weight and more importantly, keep it off, as the plan encourages you to change your lifestyle and make healthier food choices, so you should be losing 1-2 pounds per week. In addition, because it doesn't restrict any food items, it means you don't need to constantly eat rabbit food.

              Despite my praise for it, I should probably also mention some problems I have with the diet. Because you are on a limited amount of points, it does quite often mean that you need to cook your own meals, and this can involve weighing stuff out, using alternative food items etc. This can be enjoyable because you can find new healthy meals to eat which will add variety, but it is difficult for me to find something substantial to have at lunchtime at work because there is no microwave or anything, so I tend to take lots of little 'bits' with me, which can sometimes add up to a lot of points without necessarily being amazingly filling. Obviously this is partly my problem as I should perhaps make more effort to make food the night before etc, but it isn't always feasible.

              Also, there are foods which would be seen as being healthy and good for you(eg all the nuts and seeds etc which they sell in Holland and Barrett and the likes) but these end up being pretty high in points, meaning you may end up eating something lower in points, but having something which isn't necessarily nutritionally good for you(eg low fat crisps).

              Overall though, I do feel that weight watchers is a really worthwhile plan to follow, as I have lost 4 stone so far with it, over the past 3 years(please note that I wasn't always strictly following the plan, and I stopped totally for months at a time, so many people could achieve faster weight loss than this). Once you get into the swing of things it really does become a way of life, and with lots of recipe books and equipment etc available on ebay, as well as lots of support forums across the net, it's easy to get motivation when you're feeling like giving up.

              In addition, weight watchers sell their own range of goods which covers dinners, crisps, yoghurts and cakes. You can sometimes pick these up on offer, but at the same time some of them can be quite overpriced, and you don't need to eat these to follow the plan, as meals you make yourself can be much more filling and tasty!

              I would recommend weight watchers to anyone who wants to lost weight and keep it off, without totally giving up on all their favourite foods. However, obviously following plans like this should be done with the approval of a doctor if you are significantly overweight or have any health problems etc

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              • My Favourite Cereals / Breakfast / 34 Readings / 34 Ratings
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                28.03.2009 15:00
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                cereal is amazing!

                I'm a real cereal fan; It's so handy to make, filling, sweet, refreshing and depending on what cereal you are eating, reasonably healthy. I have a real sweet tooth and often when I get home from work, I can't stomach something savoury, so I have a big bowl of cereal and it's great. Some people will just think I have lazy, but I really enjoy it.

                I always have loads of cereals in the house, because theres nothing worse than taking a real notion for a certain type of cereal and then going to the cupboard and its not there! Below are some of my favourites, not in any particular order:-

                Weetos- ok, I know these aren't the most health of cereals to be eating, but they taste so good and let me embrace my inner child for a while! They're chocolate flavours hoops which make the milk taste chocolatey after a while (I love this!). I tend to heat mine in the microwave for 30 seconds so that the weetos aren't too hard (I don't like cereal to be too crunchy).These are also great to just eat straight out of the box if you have the munchies!

                Crunchy Nut Cornflakes- these are so delicious. They are just like Cornflakes expect they have little bits of nuts among them and are coated in honey. I find them really refreshing when covered with cold milk and they are sweet enough to be really tasty, but not so sweet that it gets sickening or makes you feel like you are being really unhealthy.

                Special K-this is my choice whenever I am feeling healthy. They are little toasted flakes, and taste really delicious. I only like the plain ones though as I think the varietys with chococolate, fruit etc are really not nice. I do however, sprinkle some Holland and Barrett Cranberry Sprinkle over the tip of mine (dried cranberries with a variety of cashews, peanuts and seeds). Special K is so delicious, and very filling indeed-I really enjoy it on a really sunny day when I'm feeling motivated to eat slightly healthier. the cereal bars are pretty tasty too, but not as filling as a bowl of cereal obviously.

                Shreddies-this is my option whenever its really miserable outside and I'm feeling cold and rotten. I get some shreddies and heat them up and mush them all around-delicious! I'm not really into porridge that much, so shreddies is my own little alternative and it really sets me up for the day when the weathers bad.

                Granola-I eat granola as a nice treat from time to time with plain yoghurt over the top of it. I find it really tasty and refreshing, although its incredibly filling for me so I can never eat too much of it. It's still nice to enjoy from time to time.

                Ceral is just so handy and versatile and with so many different varieties out there, I find it so weird that some people just don't enjoy it!

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                • Lidl / Highstreet Shopping / 22 Readings / 21 Ratings
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                  28.03.2009 14:40
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                  great for odds and ends

                  Lidl is a grocery store which started life in Germany but has since become very popular in the UK as it sells products cheaply, which is great for people to save a few pennies, especially with the current economic climate.

                  Don't go into Lidl expecting it to be as big as the likes of Tesco or Asda, because it isn't. However, don't let this put you off because they do sell some great food and have great offers which could save you some money.

                  They sell a whole host of foods, including bread, cakes, biscuits, sweets, chocolate, snacks, fruit, veg, meats, fish, fridge snacks, frozen food etc. As well as this they sell some toiletries and cleaning products. On top of this, they tend to sell random things for a limited period of time, and you can really get some great offers on these items. They change all the time, and the store has leaflets which show which items they will have for sale and from which dates. Examples of these products are toolkits, welly boots, sports coats, walking boots, gardening equipment and office equipment. These offers change all the time so it's handy to look in every so often because you don't know what you would pick up for a good price.

                  I wouldn't really think many people could do a full shop in Lidl because they don't sell everything people need from week to week, and the bigger supermarkets probably have better deals on certain goods. However, I personally think that if you go round and get a few odds and ends you could save money.

                  Lidl is also my first port of call when I want sweets/chocolate/cakes, because the choice is amazing and the prices are great. They sell so many lovely bars of chocolate at really cheap prices (compared with the likes of cadbury etc) and the chocolate is much nicer than the likes of Tesco or Asdas owns brands) They also sell lots of lovely buns etc, which are much cheaper than their competitors.

                  Whilst I think that some really good offers can be found at Lidl, I find the store itself rather unpleasant. And it isn't just my local Lidl, because they all look the same. I find them to have quite an eerie feel to them and I feel like I have walked through a time machine when I go in there because it has a very dated feel to it. This doesn't necessarily take away from the shopping experience for everyone, but it does put me off, because I like supermarkets to be bright, light and airy, and Lidl feels quite dull and dreary, which doesn't make shopping in it so enjoyable.

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                  • Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles / Sweets / 16 Readings / 14 Ratings
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                    28.03.2009 14:19
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                    great for a sugary treat

                    Rowntrees fruit pastilles are a round chewy sweet covered in sugar, which are sold in tubes of foil with a green paper label. You can also buy them in multipacks or in large 'share' bags (although anyone attempting to share mind promptly get a swipe on the hand...).

                    Fruit Pastilles (I just call them Pastilles) have 5 different colours/flavours:- yellow(lemon), green(lime), red(strawberry), purple/black (blackcurrant) and orange (err..orange). I think you could also get a bag which just had the blackcurrant and strawberry sweets in it, as these were seen as the most popular flavours, although this may have been a limited edition thing.

                    Pastilles are now made with 25% real fruit juice and no artificial colours or flavourings. Personally I preferred them the way they were before, as they taste a lot like big jelly tots now, which just isn't the same as they used to be.

                    I do thoroughly enjoy pastilles though, they are full of flavour and even though they are covered in sugar, they aren't as sweet as they look, although obviously too many of them won't be great for the teeth! I think part of the reason I like them so much is because they remind me of when I was younger because I used to get them all the time. I also tend to put mine in the fridge for a while so that they go hard, because they tend to taste a lot better to me when they're cold and hard than when they are warm and chewier-I just find them more flavoursome that way.

                    A big thing that comes with fruit pastilles is the notion that you *have* to chew them, and you can't just suck them until they disappear. I definitely think this is true-you can suck them for a while, but then temptation creeps in and you just have to chew. I managed to do quite well one day and sucked one until it was tiny, but I got bored waiting for the whole thing to dissolve so I ended up chewing it-they taste way better that way anyway!

                    Overall, I think fruit pastilles are a really tasty sugary treat. They're nice and juicy and give you a sugar hit when you need one. However, like I mentioned before, I liked them better before they changed to real fruit juice and no artificial flavourings/colours, but that could just be me. Also, I find that they can leave me feeling really thirsty if I eat too many of them, so don't go overboard with them!

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                    • Schuh / Highstreet Shopping / 14 Readings / 13 Ratings
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                      28.03.2009 13:56
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                      highly recommended!

                      Schuh first opened in 1981 in Scotland and since then has become a fast growing and very successful shoe shop, selling shoes for both men and women, as well as some kids shoes. They are well known for offering something different from the usual generic shoes you can find on the high street, so if you are looking for something a little bit quirkier then its a great place to try.

                      They sell shoes from a whole host of different brands, including Rocket Dog, Kickers, Adidas, Nike, Puma, Converse, DCs, Irregular Choice, Fly. Doc Martin, Timberland and many more, including the shops own Schuh range.

                      They sell trainers, flats, boots, low heels, medium heels, skyscraper heels, uggs, sandals and all sorts, so it really does cater for a wide variety of people. In my nearest schuh store in Belfast they have the womens shoes on the ground floor and mens shoes on the top floor. the store isn't the biggest, and can get easily packed out, but the shoes are always arranged very clearly in little groups, sorted by their brand name, so if you want to see Irregular Choice shoes for example, they will be grouped together, rather than by shoe style (eg boots on one side of the shop, heels on the other, etc). Although they do try to keep similar styles of shoes together, so all the trainers will be together, and then separated into the individual brands. All the sections have their brand name above them, which I think is really handy because if you don't know the store well, you can just look for the name of the brand you're looking for, instead of looking at all the individual shoes.

                      I'm really impressed with the range of shoes that Schuh have to offer, although it is pretty expensive. Not necessarily more expensive than other stores selling similar shoes, its just that their stock is largely brand names, which would explain the higher price. They have good sales too, where a lot of the shoes in the sale are half price, so its often good to wait for those to get a bit of a bargain.

                      As well as offering a great selection of footwear for both men and women, the customer service here is great in my opinion. There are always staff around to ask for help, although often you won't need to ask, as they will come to you and offer assistance (although not in a really annoying way like other shops). I've gone in many times and been a complete pain in the neck and wanted to try on lots of different pairs, and any assistant I have had have been more than happy to go and find my size.

                      Once you have decided on the shoes you want, the assistant will leave them behind the till for you until you are ready to pay. I think that this is a really handy idea because it means if you are buying lots of pairs, you don't need to wander around with lots of boxes, so you can browse very easily.

                      Also, if they do not have your size in stock, they will order a pair in for you and you can pick them up instore, or they will deliver them to your house. My boyfriend has had to do this twice for me and he said that the service was excellent and the shoes arrived very quickly.

                      Schuh offer a student discount which is always handy (I think its ten percent, but it may be fifteen). As well as this they often do promotions where you can get £x amount of money off a pair of shoes before a certain date. In addition they sell gift vouchers, and whilst people are reluctant to purchase these in the current economic climate, they are a great gift idea for anyone mad on shoes.

                      You can also shop online at schuhstore.co.uk

                      Overall, I have to admit that I love Schuh. They always have lots of shoes I want and the store is nicely laid out and pretty cool. The service in my experience has always been great, and I know that even if the shoes are expensive, they are of high quality and will last for a long time.

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                      • TK Maxx / Highstreet Shopping / 27 Readings / 27 Ratings
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                        14.03.2009 16:47
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                        can be good if you know what you're looking for

                        TK Maxx is a large store which sells brand labels at a fraction of the price. The shop sells a variety of different things-clothes, shoes, accessories, bags, purses, fragrances, homeware etc and caters for men, women and children.

                        It's not just like an ordinary shop where theres lots of each product on display-clothes and shoes etc are categorised according to size and the clothes are hung on continuous rails throughout the store, but quite often there are only one or 2 of each item, which I don't like because I hate having to hoke through everything to find something nice, although I do appreciate that this is the jou of TK Maxx for a lot of people because they enjoy looking through everything for a bargain.

                        I think that some of the clothes and shoes on offer look quite bizarre-almost as though they are some kind of foreign fashion, and quite often things come in really obscure sizes, which is great if you are a less common size, but not so great if you aren't.

                        If you are into brands then this is a great shop because the prices are a lot cheaper than you could get in a lot of other shops. However, I'm not big on brands so a lot of the stuff can be more expensive than I would be willing to spend.

                        In terms of the homeware section, it's not as difficult to see the items for sale and some great bargains can be had here (for example, a friend bought some nice ornaments for her living room which were a fraction of the price of the likes of Next etc). Again, there aren't lots of the same item available, so it's worthwhile to check back from time to time.

                        One thing that I do really like about TK Maxx is their choice of formal dresses. They are good value for money and also, because they only have one or 2 of each design, it means that you're much less likely to show up wearing the same outfit as someone else-always a bargain!

                        For me personally, TK Maxx isn't somewhere I go into on a regular basis just to look around, but I do think if you're looking for something specific then it's a good place to go and it's likely that you'll find what you're looking for and hopefully get yourself a bargain on the original price. I'm just too lazy/impatient to look through all their stock in the hope of seeing something nice.

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                        • Haribo Star Mix / Sweets / 20 Readings / 19 Ratings
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                          14.03.2009 16:27
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                          cute and tasty sweets from haribo

                          Haribo is a family run company which was set up in 1920 in Germany. They produce a selection of jelly sweets and have the famouse catchphrase 'Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of Haribo.'

                          Haribo sell bags of assorted jellies under different 'themes' and my favourite are the Starmix variety. This contains different shaped jelly sweets; cola bottles, gummy bears and jelly rings as well as foam fried eggs and hearts which are half jelly and half foam.

                          The packet has the disctinct red and whtie haribo writing, and is bright blue with a little boy in a rocket (because they're called starmix). The packet is also half see through, which is really handy, if like me, you want to avoid certain sweets, you can see which packets don't have many of them!

                          I love the sweets in Starmix which are totally jelly (ie the rings, bears and the cola bottles). They're really tasty and not too sweet, although they can become kind of sickening after a while, and if you eat too many you can kind of feel them just sitting in your gut-they're not the most healthy of things!

                          I'm not too keen on the hearts and eggs, because I don't like the foamy texture-its pretty sweet and just feels funny in my mouth, but each to their own (thats why I always look at the packed before I buy,because I don't want to buy a pack with millions of eggs in it!)

                          I think that originally there was a big bag of haribo and a little packet (which is similar to a 10p mix up, and the jellies are all smaller, cuter versions of the big bag). But i've recently found that there is a wide variety of sizes now, and from what I've seen the packets range from 59p to almost £2, depending on what size you get. I personally wouldn't recomend buying a massive bag if you're like me and have no willpower,because I find I scoff away at them and then end up feeling pretty ill! You can also buy the 10p packs in multipacks, either all the one selection or in a variety pack (with eg tanfastics and fantasy mix) and these are pretty handy for kids birthdays etc.

                          So, overall, I really enjoy Starmix-particularly when they're really cold, as they're not as mushy and taste much better. They're nice as a treat but since they have pretty poor nutritional value and don't fill you up, then obviously they wouldn't be great to eat in huge quantities regularly(but what do you expect from jelly sweets?)

                          Nutritional Value (per 100g)
                          kilojoule / kcal 1462/344
                          Protein: 6.6 g
                          Carbohydrate: 79.0 g
                          Fat: 0.2 g
                          Saturated Fat: 0.1 g
                          Fibre: 0.3 g

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                          • More +
                            14.03.2009 15:30
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                            the exposure they receive and circumstances involved in the death can affect us

                            I've always been confused by the way in which celebrity deaths affect me. I have been very fortunate in that I have not lost anyone who I was close to, but when I get upset at someone dying who I didn't even know, it makes me abit nervous about how I would actually feel about someone I genuinely loved dying.

                            We put celebrities on a pedestal, whether we intend to or not, that is what happens. And it is almost as if you don't expect bad things to happen to celebrities as they are in some kind of safe bubble or something, immune from the everyday troubles that us mere mortals have to contend with. Of course this isn't true, but it's very easy to forget that bad things happen to even the most successful and beautiful celebrity.

                            So, I feel that when a celebrity dies, it can sort of hit you with a jolt-the idea that if it can happen to celebrities, it can happen to us.

                            Another big reason that celebrity deaths affect us is that, despite us not knowing them, we are exposed to them day in day out, we know about their highs and their lows, we get to form opinions on them(whether or not they're based on the truth), and we can become genuinely fond of certain celebrities, almost as if we did know them. When they die, it can sometimes feel like someone we know has died, and it can be genuinely upsetting. It can also be very sad when you see how much they contributed to society, whether it be through their influential music, fabulous acting, immense intelligence, or charity work etc. the fact that they no longer are able to offer this can be sad, particularly if, for example, their music got you through a particularly sad time, or reminded you of something amazing, or their charity work inspired you to contribute more yourself etc-it can be very sad to realise that they are no longer around.

                            The circumstances in which celebrities die can also be very sad. For example, Wendy Richards had beaten cancer a few times before and was a fighter, but unfortunately couldn't beat it the final time. When celebrities die suddenly and unexpectedly it can come as a shock and we automatically sympathise with their family as we can understand the pain they must be going through (eg when Heath Ledger died). Celebrities dying young, or dying in very sad ways (eg Jeff Buckley drowning) can make us feel sad because it just seems so cruel.

                            Similarly, when celebrities die through other ways, eg suicide, drug overdose etc it can lead to other emotions-anger, disappointment etc, because it seems like such a waste, and so unfair on their families and friends etc. For me personally, I find it sad when people die, but when I hear it was suicide or something stupid like drugs, then I tend to just be very angry by the selfishness of the act. In fact, the only time I haven't been annoyed at people dying this way was when Mark Speight commited suicide not long after his fiancee died in sinister circumstances-all I felt was sympathy and sadness at how horribly their lives ended up.

                            We can't help be effected by celebrity death because we are exposed to it so much. Its covered in all sorts of media and we are told so much information about the events-more so than we would probably be told about people we actually know dying, so it would probably be quite odd if we weren't affected in some way.

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                            • More +
                              07.03.2009 12:46
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                              thoroughly enjoyable

                              I first got into Marian Keyes when one of her books came free with a magazine. I went into it expecting it to be cliched chick-lit, with lots of vomit inducing mushiness, so was very impressed when it turned out to be a book about a dark topic, but with lots of humour and characters that you could at least partially relate to, unlike lots of other similar books, where all the female characters are strong, independant characters, beautiful with lots of money and glamour in their life.

                              The other side of the story is the most recent book by Keyes which I have read (i'm a bit behind with them if I'm honest). It took me a while to get into it as it jumps between 3 different characters and their own situations (forgive me, I can get easily confused!)

                              The book looks into the very different lives of three characters. Firstly there is Gemma Hogan, and events organiser who's best friend 'stole' the love of her life, Anton. And as if things couldn't get worse, her dad walks out on her mother, and Gemma is left to pick up the pieces. She keeps her sanity by writing amusing fictional stories to her friend via email-little does she know that the friend thinks the stories are fabulous, and sends them off to Jojo Harvey, which takes us onto the next character whose life we get an insight into.

                              Jojo is a literary agent-she's sexy but very strong, due the fact she was originally a policewoman in Manhattan. She currently has her eye on a partnership within her company, but the arrival of a rival by the name of Richie Gant, added to the fact she is having an affair with a married co-worker could put this at risk.

                              Lily Wright is a client of Jojo's, and also the former best friend of Gemma, before she 'stole' Anton from her. She wants to be a writer, but her first book had no interest from anyone. Then, following a mugging, she gets pretty depressed and ends up writing a bestseller. Unfortunately, when it comes to the next book, she is seriously struggling.

                              The book looks at the three womens lives as they unfold, for better or worse, and eventually become intertwined with each other.

                              I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as it showed both sides of the story where a heartbreak has occured-rather than thinking of Lily as a complete bitch for 'stealing' Gemmas other half, it's actually very easy to sympathise with her as the guilt she has for merely falling in love with someone, is quite painful, and you tend to feel bad for her and actually want her to succeed. This was pretty refreshing in my opinion, as usually the boyfriend-stealer type characters are usually the villain, so it was nice to see a bit of a change.

                              I also like how even though it seemed that Jojo has everything-looks, success etc, it shows that not everything is as clear cut as this, and even people who seem to lead perfect lives have their own problems to contend with.

                              I thought the writing was great as ever, and that there was plenty of humour involved to stop it getting too dark, which could have happened easily. It's easy to become very interested in the characters and I found myself desparately turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next.

                              Whilst sometimes it was frustrating that just when I was getting somewhere with a character, it suddenly turned to a different one, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it to be a very pleasant read, and made me see that sometimes situations aren't as cut and dry as they first appear.

                              I'd definitely recommend this book.

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                              • Valentine's Day / Discussion / 22 Readings / 22 Ratings
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                                05.03.2009 15:09
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                                a fun and innocent occassion if its done with the right intentions

                                Valentines day seems to cause all sorts of controversy amongst people, and there is a great divide between those who love all the mushy stuff, and the other half who believe that you don't need to spend a fortune on valentines day when you should be showing your love for your other half all year round.

                                I personally enjoy valentines day, but I think thats because me and my boyfriend are very much in love and always do little cute things for each other. This means that we just use Valentines day as an excuse to get in some really tasty food and have a really romantic night in. We set a budget of £20 for which to get each other a little present or card, which I really like because it means you really have to put thought into it and we always end up getting each other something nice and personal, which is much better than spending loads of money on some generic piece of jewellery etc (although I do understand that some people really enjoy that sort of thing).

                                I don't think that I would enjoy Valentines Day the same if it was the only day of the year my other half showed me a bit of interest, I think that would be a little bit depressing. I also don't like how everything gets overpriced-flowers, meals out etc, it's not worth spending money on these things in my opinion. And speaking for people who have been on Valentines Day dinners in restaurants, it sounds far from romantic, as you end up being rushed through your courses-hardly ideal!

                                I also dislike the pressure that some people feel under on Valentines Day. Some people feel that they need to spend an absolute fortune on various gifts in order to impress their other halves. This can definitely put people under extra financial pressure, particularly in the current climate.

                                So, I can understand why some people are very against Valentines Day, but for me, its an excuse to take a break from busy schedules and really enjoy some times with your other half. Good food and good company-what more could you want?

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                                • More +
                                  04.03.2009 18:34
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                                  handy meal for points counters, though you may want to bulk up with veg

                                  Having followed Weight Watchers for a few years, I'd never actually tried any of the meals, because I'm really not a fan of ready meals at all, they tend to be bland and very unappetising. However, now that I'm on 19 points per day, I was starting to struggle with getting decent low point meals, and with my local Iceland selling a variety of these meals for £1 I thought I may as well give it a go.

                                  I personally thoroughly enjoyed the chicken curry meal. The box states that it is tender slices of chicken breast in a mild curry sauce, with white rice, and this is pretty much what you get. However, I wouldn't recomend buying this meal on the basis of the picture on the box-it definitely isn't as chicken filled as that meal! I'd say you get around 6 pieces of chicken in the meal, but for me thats enough, as the rice and sauce fills me up anyway. The rice tastes good, and the sauce is very mild, with a nice sweet taste to it, so I definitely don't have any complaints about the taste as I think its delicious.

                                  However, the meal is very small (you should probably expect this since it only has 4.5 points in it). The meal fills me fine, but my boyfriend laughs when he sees it, as it looks pretty pathetic in my little bowl. For people with a bigger appetite, it would maybe be better to have this on the side of something else to make it a bit more substantial. Like I said though, it's enough for me and I find it pretty filling.

                                  A problem I find with this meal though, is that if bits of the chicken are exposed before cooking, then when its finished, these bits of chicken can taste really dry and hard, which really put me off the rest of it, though could be avoided by perhaps pushing the meat down during cooking, or leaving them out before serving(although that would lead to there being even less chicken than before!)

                                  the meal can be cooked in the microwave (5 and a half to six and a half minutes on full power [depending on your microwave] and then 4 minutes on defrost) or it can cooked for 40-45 minutes in the oven. I cook mine in the microwave and I know a lot of people prefer cooking things in the oven, but I feel that microwaving it is much more convenient and doesn't take away from the taste at all.

                                  So, if you're currently following Weight Watchers, or even if you just want something quick, tasty and pretty satisfying, I'd recomend giving this one a go. There are definitely worse ready meals out there

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