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Well where do I start with this one?! There's so much to see and do you could have a week long holiday without ever leaving the MGM Mirage hotel. For full details visit Mirage.com
The hotel is located right in the middle of the main street in Las Vegas, known as "The Strip", and as such is ideally located for everything. It's an imposing building coloured in gold and red colours, one of the iconic modern hotels in Vegas. It's a three pronged hotel, i.e. has a central section which three long sides of the hotel emerge in different directions, which seems to be a popular design in Vegas with a few other hotels in the vicinity adopting it.
Next door is Caesars Palace; star of many a film, most notably the Hangover 1 and 3. The other side is Treasure Island, and a free train is provided between the two, which in the heat of the desert is a welcome treat! Across the road is Harrah's and Casino Royale, another pair of popular and somewhat cheaper hotels.
During the week most hotels in Vegas are fairly reasonably priced, and there are hotels to suit every budget. I would describe the Mirage as a mid-range priced hotel, and you'd be looking at around £50 per night during the week, rising to £150 or more at weekends. The prices vary massively from weekend to weekend depending on what events are on either at the hotel, or nearby hotels that week. If you're looking for a bargain, check out if there are any major conferences (Consumer Electronics Show for example), or any major boxing matches planned for the times you're looking to travel.
One thing that won't show as part of your "Total Cost" on most hotel booking sites is the resort fee, and its one not to forget. Most of the mainstream hotels charge this fee and at the Mirage its $25 per room per night. This covers free WiFi, use of the pool and other similar benefits you might expect for free in another hotel.
I arrived at a fortunate time as there were no check in queues when I got there. I did walk past reception a number of times during my stay and saw some queues, but not excessive as I noticed at other hotels.
The person on reception was very polite, courteous and explained everything clearly. Everything was handled efficiently and she made sure we knew exactly where to go. Due to the layout of the hotel, we had to walk through the casino with our luggage to get to the guest elevators, while not ideal, it wasn't really an issue.
This is Vegas, everything is big! Even the standard, lowest rate rooms offer comfortable, spacious surroundings and because of the layout of the hotel, you can get great views wherever your room is. All rooms are fully air conditioned, have additional comfortable seating as well as a bed which comes in all sorts of sizes. Flat screen TV's are standard, with a wide range of available channels, including the hotels own channel advertising their own and sister hotel shows and events.
The bathrooms are clean and well presented, again quite spacious compared to hotels I'm used to.
One thing to watch out for in the room though, the mini bar and pressure sensitive display! On top of the desk in each room is a tray containing nuts, crisps, and other snacks. These are balanced on pressure sensitive pads and if you touch or move the products they'll be charged directly to your room. The mini bar has similar functionality, and all can be extremely expensive.
The casino is just like you see in the movies, rows and rows of slot machines, video games, and of course the tables. Even the bars have built in games so you can play video poker while ordering your drinks.
This is a modern casino and the machines reflect that, most being touch screen, or at least all button controlled, long gone are the days of needing to pull the arm on the side of the machine. Having said that, some of even the most modern machines still have the arms, some just for show, but some do work alongside the new buttons. All machines take notes rather than coins, and provide your winnings (if you're lucky enough!) on a printed voucher which you can cash in at one of the many cash machines on site. The vouchers can also be used on other slot machines.
The traditional table based games are all available, from beginners tables to a special section for high rollers. They also offer some lessons in how to play these games during the day. There's always plenty of available tables at literally any time of the day. The tables tend to be quite quiet during the week, but there's nothing quite like the atmosphere of the casino on a Friday or Saturday night, where its absolutely buzzing!
All the mainstream hotels have various shows, and a number of them have residencies of Cirque du Soleil, the Mirage is no exception. The Cirque show here is called Love and is a show based on the popular band The Beatles. Also resident is a ventriloquist, Terry Fator, and the 80's boy band Boyz II Men.
There are 2 main pools at the mirage, the main pool and the nude pool. The main pool is a fairly decent size, and attracts a lot of people. There's always plenty room in the pool, but unfortunately it does struggle around the pool with the number of available sun loungers. All the loungers are extremely close together which can sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable.
The nude pool is advertised as European style bathing and is simply a place where you can go topless. It's in a secluded part of the complex so you don't need to worry about anyone peeking!
Waitress service is available, and you can charge expenses directly to your room. There's also a few bars around the pool areas and a couple of additional temporary bars appear on busy days/weekends.
The main attractions at the Mirage are the volcano and the animal sanctuary.
The volcano is located out the front of the hotel in the middle of the small lake between the hotel and the strip. The volcano has water gushing out during the day creating a pleasant water feature. At night, every hour from 6pm there is a volcano show, where the volcano "erupts". The main eruption is a mix of water and orange/red lights which look great at night, supplemented by flamethrower devices on the sides of the volcano and across the lake. It's an impressive sight, all set to music and definitely one to see.
The animal sanctuary is open daily and is within the site of the hotel. There are 2 large pools with dolphins and an underground viewing platform where you can see them swimming under water. In the 2 pools there are regular "training sessions" (not shows!), where the dolphins perform all manner of tricks and dives demonstrating what clever and amazing animals they really are.
Behind the dolphin pools is a small area containing Lions, tigers, leopards and pumas. I have to say I was a bit disappointed with this feature, as some of the enclosures were absolutely tiny, particularly the leopards.
There are plenty shops within the hotel, and an even bigger shopping centre just next door in Caesars.
There are lots of restaurants on site, catering for all the most common food tastes. This includes amongst others, the classic American burger joint, New York style deli, Brazilian steakhouse, Japanese, and if that's not enough, there's an all you can eat buffet which has around 15 nationalities within it.
The all you can eat restaurant is also open for breakfast where for around $18 you can eat as much as you can manage. Careful not to go beyond 10.30am for breakfast as after then it's all you can each brunch which is around $25 per person.
One things for sure, you'll never go hungry!
* Quality 4/5
* Location 5/5
* Attractions/Entertainment 4/5
* Overall 4/5
The hotel is an amazing spectacle and one which I'd definitely recommend. The staff were friendly and helpful, everything was clearly signed, and the room was spacious, comfortable and clean.
The location of the hotel is ideal, very easy to access everything. A short walk to the other main hotels on the strip, a 20 minute taxi from the airport, a similar time to "old Vegas"/Freemont street area.
If you've not been to Vegas, everything will have the wow factor and the MGM Mirage hotel will be no different. If you're a seasoned traveller to Vegas and looking for a wow factor, you may be better off at one of the newer hotels such as the Wynn or Encore...but be prepared to pay substantially more.
I've recently started using these daily lenses after spending more than 10 years in monthly disposables, and I'm never going back!
I have quite a strong prescription and hate wearing my thick lensed glasses but I got conjunctivitis in one of my eyes I had no choice but to wear them. Monthly contact lenses were no longer suitable as they were too hard and irritated the eye causing the conjunctivitis to get worse, so daily lenses were the only option.
I dont know why I didnt think of using them before...having spent 10 years not travelling anywhere without a contact lens case and a handy travel size bottle of solution, its great that these lenses give so much more freedom. I keep a pack at home, a pack in the car, and a pack in the suitcase for when I'm travelling, and thats all I need! No more faffing around rinsing and cleaning the lenses every day, just take them out and throw them away.
As you can probably tell, convenience is the number one reason I like these lenses, but comfort is a close second. I can't feel these lenses in my eyes at all, you really notice the difference in how soft they are vs monthly lenses, and they're just as easy to put in/take out.
To balance the review I have to look at the downsides, the most obvious one being the price, they are far more expensive than my monthly disposables, roughly twice the cost per month. The other downside is the length of time you can wear them, around 10-11 hours maximum my optician advised due to letting less oxygen through to the eye than other types. Both of these are major downsides, but for me the convenience of it all is more that worth it.
I can't compare to other brands of daily disposables, but I would highly recommend these ones to anyone thinking of giving these a go!
I started using my Dell Latitude E6430 in January of this year, and its taken a battering so far!
How I use it
* My machine is a business machine
* I travel every week
* I install all sorts of random applications on it
* It gets knocked, bumped, and things spilled on it a LOT!
The spec is pretty standard for most laptops these days, around 450GB of hard drive space, 8GB RAM, a 2.6GHz Intel core processor, I'm running a Windows 7 64 bit operating system.
* An integrated webcam, of excellent quality - frequently used to Skype business contacts
* 3 USB ports (1 standard, one plus [extra power], one super speed)
* eSATA port - a handy addition, but one I've never used!
* An expansion slot - again something I've never had cause to use yet
* A rewriteable DVD drive - I've used this a lot for burning files/videos/presentations etc, perfectly reliable so far so good! Fairly speedy too, but just what you'd expect of a modern drive
* VGA port - standard, nothing much more to to say on that
* HDMI - again a standard port, used several times with no issues
* Ethernet - well located on the back left corner of the device, again a standard feature, not much to compare!
* Headphone jack - does what it says on the tin, no issues, good connection
* Touchpad - not as accurate as I would like, end up using the pointing stick embedded in the keyboard
* Mouse tracking "pointing stick" - very accurate, strange shape though, sort of indented rather than being rounded like most, causes any crumb or dust on your fingers to get stuck in it.
* SD card reader - a subtly places SD reader with a plastic insert for when not in use to stop things getting stuck in there.
All standard stuff really, nothing to shout about.
The laptop is great, its a solid, reliable piece of kit. Its not going to win any design awards, its certainly no Vaoi or iMac, but it does what its there to do. Its a reasonably priced, sturdy, business machine. I've knocked it about, spilled coffee on it, pushed it through airport security 50+ times, even dropped it once (yes I know I should be more careful!) and still it starts up first time.
Its start up times are still sub 30 seconds to the login page, and even with all the applications I've installed, its ready to be useful within a minute. Thats extremely valuable to me as I've worked with a lot of business machines that arent useful until they've been running 5-10 minutes.
Battery life is excellent, you can install up to 3 batteries, but easily get 3-4 hours out of one depending on your usage/power settings etc.
It is a bit heavy, particular if you travel with it regularly, and does feel a bit "clunky", but I'm happy to put up with that for the reliability and the quick startup times.
I had my first trip to Matalan today, and thought i'd share my views on my first impressions of the store. Matalan seems to be pitching itself as an out of town, discount type store offering homeware, clothing, party goods, and other random products.
On arriving at the store, I found a decent size car park, which was mostly empty, so easy to get to! I do wonder how they survive as a business given that I arrived in the middle of a working day and the car park was empty, but I guess everyone is suffering in this economy.
The front of the store was mainly glass, with red trims, and a very old looking Matalan sign. Quite an unappealing, cheap look.
The store was a high ceiling outlet store with racks and rails all over the place. The store is sectioned into Menswear, Womanswear, Homeware, and then a party section. The clothes tend to be of a fair quality, at a reasonable price, although I didnt buy any to be able to tell you how long they last. I do know a lot of people who buy most of their clothes there and love it though so they cant be too bad!
Matalan seem to make a big focus on their party section which includes fancy dress outfits, balloons, decorations, and basically anything you need for a party. Everything seems quite reasonably priced.
The tills are a bank of about 12 cashiers and have a roped section to cope with the queues. As I metioned before, the store wasnt particularly busy and so that wasnt needed today, but maybe at the weekends its busier?
I had picked up what I wanted from the store, and got served pretty quickly. The cashier scanner my items, which came to £9.50 so I handed over my cash. This is where it all went wrong for me. After I'd handed over my cash, the lady asked me for my matalan card, something I didnt have, having never been there before. Having told her I didnt have one, I was told I couldnt buy anything without one! And to get one I had to fill out an application form, giving them all my details. I really dont understand this business model, surely as a business getting money in the till is the #1 priority? Only taking money from registered cardholders seems a bit like limiting the market to me.
Anyway, I told the lady I didnt want Matalan having all my personal information, but she insisted on me having a card. Instead, I took back my cash and told her I'd take my money to morrisons next door and get the same thing there. Ended up being cheaper too..fantastic!
Store looks cheap, products look ok, staff were friendly, however the whole Matalan card thing seems crazy to me. Is my money not good enough?? Wouldnt recommend.
I've never been a big fan of breakfasts, I would rather have the extra half hour in bed and get something on the way to work. This is my current favourite at the moment.
They're made by Quaker Oats, the giant in the world of all things Oaty/Breakfasty, having been producing since 1899 as i've just learned from the packet. They are essentially just Oats, bound together with golden syrup. Having just written that it doesnt sound too tasty, but I promise you they are!
They can be bought as individual 38 gram snack bars, or in multipacks or 5 bars. Both the individual wrappers, and the boxes in the case of the multipacks come with a very similar design, featuring the famous and instantly recognisable Quaker Oats logo. The packaging also displays a farmers field on a beautiful blue sky day where you can see a combine harvester processing the oats. On the back of the back theres some nuggets of information about how good oats are for you, and who Quaker oats are.
When you unwrap the bar, you can instantly smell the sweet golden syrup. Biting into the bar, you can really taste the oats, and the combination of the oats and syrup make for a chewy affair. They're a fairly plain and simple taste, given the 2 main ingredients, and I find them surprisingly filling - after finishing i'm ready to start my working day!
On the box they're advertised as "Natures way to lower cholesterol", well I dont know if thats true, but heres the facts and figures on what you're putting into your body per bar:
24.5g Carbohydrate (6.3g of which sugars)
3.6g Fat (1.0g of which is saturated)
At most supermarkets expect to pay around a pound for a five bar multipack, which I dont think is too bad compared to some other breakfast bars such as Aplen or Go-ahead bars. Supermarkets often have these boxes on 2 for £1.50 too so even better value! I've seen individual bars on sale around the 35p mark.
All in all a simple yet effective addition to the breakfast bar market. A way to fill yourself with good healthy oats while not compromising on taste. I have these almost every morning now and sometimes also as a snack when i'm feeling a little hungry. I'd definately recommend potential buyers give them a go!
Around 12 months ago I was coming to the end of my mobile phone contract and looking around for an upgrade. The iPhone was, and still it seems, the most popular gadget at the time, but to me it was a bit too bulky, and very expensive for the amount I use my mobile. I searched around a few places, particularly looking at the touch screen range of phones, and came across this neat piece of kit.
The phone has a very straight forward, simple, look and design. It's around 4.5 inches long, about 2 inches wide, and maybe half an inch thick. The front of the phone has a 3 inch touch screen window, a small front facing camera, and 3 physical buttons. On the back of the phone, there is the main camera, 8 Megapixels no less, with flash. Around the sides of the phone you have slots for a micro SD card, a single slot for both headphones and power, volume control buttons, a button to lock the phone, and finally the button to take camera pictures. The back of the phone is a shiny but dark grey colour, and the rest is a shiny black. It's a good solid phone, which isn't as big as many of its touch screen peers, and fits snugly in your pocket without causing any unsightly bulges.
I have heard complaints from my friends about previous LG touch phones, such as the LG cookie having an unresponsive touch screen, but I've got no complaints about this one. It comes with a screen protector which is designed to fit this model, and even through that the screen is as touch sensitive as anything I've used before. I've had the phone around a year now, and the protector is still perfectly attached, with no bubbles or visible signs that it is there, and there is not a scratch on the phone.
On the main screen you can customise a background, or use a picture from your phone memory as a wallpaper. Along the bottom of the screen there is 4 buttons, one to bring up a number keypad for dialling, one for bringing up your contact list, one for messages (email, text, MMS), and finally one for the main menu. Along the top of the screen is a thin status bar showing your signal level, battery level, the time, and other indicators such as "Silent mode", or unread message. If you press this bar, it brings up a more detailed status screen, showing the timezone you are in, the network, your phone memory usage, the profile mode you're using (silent, loud, general, etc). Also on this screen are 3 buttons to quickly turn on or off the Bluetooth, wireless, or mp3 player.
Returning to the main screen you have the option to add customised "Widgets" from a list of pre-installed gadgets. These can be quick links to web pages, or a larger clock, or a weather forecast application, or a notes function. You can move them an position them wherever you want on the main screen.
Making calls is very easy. From the front screen you can either press the first button, which brings up the number keypad for you to dial, or you can press the second button to scroll through your list of contacts. The contact list can be browsed simply by scrolling through the list, swiping your finger down the screen to drag the list down. It also has a search box to enter peoples names, if you have a large address book this is useful! One you've entered your number or found your contact you can either press the large call button on the touch screen, or press the green physical button on the front of the unit.
In the messages menu, you will see all the usual folders you'd expect, inbox, drafts, sent, email, etc. All of which are again touchable. Creating and replying to messages is simple enough, again using the touch screen a keypad comes up to allow you to type your message. Using a phone the standard way shows the typical phone keypad layout, with 3 or 4 letters per key. You can us standard input, or predictive text, where as you're typing a number of words automatically come up which match the letters you've used so far, and you can just touch the word you want. If you turn the phone to the side, a full "Qwerty" style keyboard appears. If you're feeling really adventurous, you could even try the handwriting mode. This is where you use an object, be it your finger or the wrong end of a pen, to "write" on the screen. The phone tries to recognise the characters you are writing and interpret them as words in your message. I have to say this isn't the easiest thing to use and takes a bit of getting used to, odd characters often appear as you're writing!
This is the best bit of the phone for me. I used to have a separate camera, which of course I never had with me whenever I wanted to take a picture. With my previous phones, a 1 or 2 megapixel camera took a decent picture, but as soon as you enlarged it bigger than a phone screen it started to get a bit blocky, or pixelated. This one is a huge 8 Megapixels which is fantastic for a phone, and it takes some great pictures. The lens is protected by a shutter which you have to open before you can take pictures, and as a nice feature, when you open the shutter the phone automatically goes to camera mode for you.
The flash works brilliantly and so you can get great pictures, even in the darker situations, at a party or in a bar for example. It has an auto focus when you half press the "take picture" button, then when you're focussed, press the button all the way and it takes your picture. Scrolling through the gallery is easy, again just swipe your finger across the screen to scroll through the pictures. The phone will automatically rotate pictures when you rotate the phone using its inbuilt motion sensors.
When you're in the gallery, you can easily add a picture to a picture message with a couple of key presses and send it to friends using MMS. You can also send via Bluetooth.
The phone also comes with video capture, which again is of good quality of both picture and playback. The only caveat here, is you need good light, as the flash obviously doesn't stay on while you're filming.
Transferring your videos and pictures is easy using the supplied software on the CD with the phone. You can connect to your PC using either Bluetooth or a cable. Unfortunately the cable is not supplied and transferring fairly large picture files (due to the quality) can take some time.
As I mentioned earlier on the front of the phone there is another small camera for taking self portrait shots or for holding video calls. This camera is of lower quality than the back camera and doesn't have a flash.
On the main menu there are four sub menus:
* Communicate - this menu are includes links to your contact list, your call history, messaging, and speed dials
* Entertainment - Links to your gallery, activate the video or photo camera, access your music files, an FM radio, and a Games and Apps section. You can download hundreds of games for this model phone, most of which you have to pay for. The basic pre-installed games demonstrate the motion sensor functionality of the phone, but do little to entertain you. There is also a basic editing for photo's and a "Muvee" studio to put pictures and videos together into little clips.
* Utilities - the utilities menu links to the web browser, allows you to set alarms, write memos, voice record, or use the tools sub menu. The tools sub menu has a calculator, stopwatch, world clock, and currency/weight converting tools
* Settings - as per many other phones you can customise ringtones, message tones, the colours of your phone screen, and much more. You can also turn Bluetooth and wireless on or off here. You can block certain callers, or forward calls to different numbers in this section.
==The Three buttons==
As mentioned in the description of the phone, there are 3 physical buttons on the front of the unit. The first is a green call button for dialling people, or bringing up the redial list. The third one is a red hang up button for ending calls, or for backing out of menus quickly. Finally the middle button is a quick links button. When you press this a set of 9 options appears on the screen including links to you tube, Google search, Google mail, alarms, camera and new message.
I find this phone great for web browsing. Due to its large screen the web pages can be viewed easily and clicking on links is simple just by touching them with your finger. The phone comes preinstalled with MSN messenger, Skype, and links to popular networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo. Entering web addresses, and updating your Facebook status is easy, using the same input methods as the messaging functionality above.
All in all a great purchase I feel. It's not an iPhone, and therefore doesn't have as many applications available for it, but essentially a lot of the functionality is the same. I can still access the web just as easily, and since the camera and flash is of such high quality, for me this is better than an iPhone. Battery life is good, lasting 3-4 days with a couple of calls and few texts each day. I'd definitely recommend this phone to anyone who likes the idea of an iPhone but doesn't want the expense of one.
I'm a big fan of Jelly but i'm too impatient to make myself a bowl, leave it in the fridge to set for a while and so on. I also find, on the rare occasion I do make a full bowl myself, that I eat a small amount, and then leave the rest in the fridge for a few days where it then goes funny. Such a waste!
So, on discovering these snack sized pots, I now find I have the best of both worlds...I dont need to make it myself, and they're too small to leave any behind so theres no waste!
These snack pots contain 115g of jelly, and are available in Orange and Strawberry flavour. For me, its strawberry ever time, but dont let that deter you from the Orange flavour which is tasty, it just I prefer Strawberry.
The pots can be stored in the cupboard, so theres no need to clutter up the fridge if you've bought a few pots and you're limited for space. I do think the Jelly does taste better if its cold though.
The pots themselves are made of a clear plastic so you can see the strong red or orange colour of the jelly from the outside. The pots have sticky labels covering some of the transparent plastic, and these labels are brightly coloured matching the jelly. Sealing the pots is a foil lid which again is coloured to match the jelly.
When you open the pot, a strong aroma of strawberry or orange is instantly present, making it more tempting. If the jelly isnt cold enough theres sometimes a thin watery layer on the top of the pot so be careful not to spill on yourself! The jelly itself is as jelly should be, full of flavour, smooth, wobbly!! Make sure you're careful not to lose any from you're spoon as i've literally just done right now while writing this, making a mess of my white shirt :( The pot is well designed with no awkward corners to get jelly stuck in, so you can clear the lot!
Each pot is under 10 calories so a good snack for those on a diet, and it contains no artificial colours or flavours. I buy the no added sugar versions which are made with sweetners and therefore typically (according to the tub) contains 0g sugar. This makes me feel much better when I go back for my second pot.
Overall I'd recommend these to shoppers, these are a great random snack, or lunchbox filler!
Are they a biscuit, are they a sweet? I dont know which it is but they are a great snack at any time of the day!
Iced Gems are made by Jacobs and have been a favourite of mine since I was a child. They havent changed much in that time, and are still a regular purchase in my house.
Each iced gem is made up of a biscuit base, topped off with a squirt of hardened icing. The biscuit is somewhere in between a five pence and a ten pence piece in size and is a fairly hard, crunchy, rich tea type biscuit. The icing is pretty much pure sugar and flavourings, and within the pack you'll find around 5 different colours of icing. The icing has been piped onto the biscuit base so it appears as a pointy swirl. The colours represent the different fruity flavours which range from lemon to blackcurrant. My personal favourite is the purple coloured blackcurrant flavour gems.
The packaging is an icy cool blue colour featuring a polar bear to keep in with the arctic theme of the snack. The pack i've just eaten has the polar bear riding a skateboard, which doesnt quite fit the theme, but I guess its aimed at younger children trying to be "cool". I buy the multipacks which cost around £1 a pack and contains 6 smaller packs, each with around 20 or so gems in. On the back of each individual pack theres a little game, such as a wordsearch to try and get the kids playing as well as eating.
As you'd imagine, the biggest ingredient is sugar, so they're not too healthy for the teeth. However at only 98 calories per bag, they're not too bad as "bad snacks" go, especially with only 0.8g of fat per pack.
These remain a regular on my supermarket shop, and I think provide a sweeter alternative to a dry biscuit to have with a cup of tea. A classic snack which I'd definately recommend!
Gillette Soccer Special is a popular TV show on Sky sports 1 and Sky sports news. Its on whenever there is a significant number of football matches on, typically on a Saturday afternoon when its known as "Soccer Saturday", but is often also on on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening for midweek games.
On a Saturday its hosted by Jeff Stelling, who has in the last year or so taken over as main host of countdown on Channel 4. His sharp wit and "embarassing dad" type jokes have become legendary and keep you entertained throughout the course of football matches. During the week the show is normally hosted by Ed Chamberlin.
The premise of the show is to be a "one stop shop" for all the latest football scores. On a Saturday it starts at around 12pm and Jeff is joined by 4 studio guests, all of which are former professional footballers. These sometimes change from week to week but the usual suspects on a Saturday tend to be:
From 12pm until kick off at 3pm, Jeff and the panel review the key upcoming games, showing interviews with managers and players, discussing form, and each of the panel get to predict the results of the match. When 3pm comes each of the panel watch a different game and provide regular updates, screams, and shouts as goals and incidents happen at each match. Sky also have a network of remote presenters watching particular matches around the country including the likes of Tony Cottee and Chris Kamara.
The screen is split into 4 areas to enable you to get all the information you need as quickly as possible. At the bottom of the screen is a vidiprinter which prints out the latest scores as they happen showing goalscorer and goal time. Above that is a ticket tape scrolling through the scores in key games, listing all of the goal scorers. On the right hand section of the screen, all the scores from a particular division are shown at once, with the division shown changing every 5-10 seconds. In the main section of the screen is Jeff and the team.
I find this show strangely addictive. While you dont get to see any of the goals during the matches due to contractual reasons, its a great way of keeping up to date with the scores around the country. The BBC have a similar offering on their red button channel, but I have to say I much prefer the Sky version, as its much more fun. The panel and Jeff often have some great banter and you find youself laughing away with them. Jeff is a big Hartlepool united fan and its great to see him getting excited when they score, and see the panel taunt him when they concede, just like you would with your mates in the pub.
The show is also the main content to a drinking game which you can find the rules to on facebook. The idea being whenever Jeff or the team say particular catchphrases you have to perform some sort of task often involving downing your drinks. An example is whenever Chris Kamara says the words "Unbelievable Jeff" everyone must finish their drinks...its amazing how often that one comes up in one afternoon!
After the matches finish theres a review of the key games, and interviews with the managers. For non premier league games, the goals can be shown too.
Overall its a great program to have on in the background if you're doing something else, or if you've got your mates round...and an even better one if you're in the pub!
I very rarely eat breakfast, as I'm normally in such a rush to get into work in time in the morning, and so I end up trying to survive on so called "breakfast bars".
I often find that the "baked" type varieties (nutra-grain etc) tend to leave a funny taste in my mouth afterwards and so will normally stick to a more biscuit type product.
Out of all of these types of products, I always find myself going towards the Go-Ahead range of biscuits which I find very tasty, and surprisingly filling, given the size of packs.
This particular type of Go-ahead typically comes in a twin pack which easily fits in your pocket for a snack on the go. When you open the wrapper there is a noticeable and pleasing aroma from the pack that makes you want to eat them. The biscuit itself is quite firm, and reminds me of a Garibaldi biscuit in terms of its texture and rectangular appearance. The biscuit has fruit filling of sultanas and currants, and further fruit in the form of a paste of redcurrants, blackberries, and raspberries. On top of the biscuit is a coating of flavoured, and hardened yoghurt which gives a tasty and smooth addition versus the rest of the Go-Ahead range.
The packaging is a colourful foil wrap with a picture of the biscuit, and some other pictures of some fruit, making it look all healthy. Each biscuit slice is 74 calories with 1.4g fat so not too bad for you when compared to similar snacks. The packs as mentioned contain 2 biscuits (or "slices") in each 30 gram pack, and you can buy Multipacks of these with 6 packs in each.
As I said earlier, this and the other members of the Go-Ahead range are my snack of choice in the mornings, and I'd definitely recommend them to buyers.
I've never been one for games consoles, but as soon as the Nintendo Wii was released, and I saw the adverts, it was one of those "I want one of those" moments. Unfortunately at the time they were incredibly difficult to get hold of and so I had to wait a while until I could get my hands on one.
Once I had it though, I couldn't get off it. It wasn't just a novelty thing either, a few years on and I'm still regularly hooked on the thing.
The clever thing as i'm sure you'll know about the Wii, is that the controllers are motion sensitive. What this means is that its more about how you move the controller, than what buttons you press when compared with a classic console controller. The controls themselves have sensors in them which can determine which way up you're holding it, how fast you're holding it, and in which direction you're moving it. There are of course a few buttons on it too which are used for some games.
With the console you get the Wii Sports game which is probably the most well known of all of the games on this console. It consists of 5 main games:
1) Tennis - you play a game of doubles in a single game, best of 3, or best of 5. If you're playing as a single player, you play as both members of your team vs a computer. You hold the Wii controller just like you'd hold a tennis racket. Incidentally, you can also buy attachments for the Wii controller to make it look like a tennis racket. To serve you lift the controller as if you're throwing up a ball, and then swing the controller as if it was a racket. Usual rules apply as per normal tennis, you have to return the ball within the boundaries otherwise its out and your opponent gets the point. As the ball is returned, you need to swing the controller like a racket to hit the ball back. Sounds easy? Not so...as you progress through the levels you play better players who return the ball faster and with spin. You need to master the art of returning the ball to the specific place you want by hitting the ball at different times. If the ball is coming towards you on your right side, the earlier you hit it, the further to the left it goes, and vice versa. If you also twist the controller you can add spin. It takes a while to get used to it but its great fun trying. If you're playing multiplayer, the screen will be split into sections for each player.
2) Bowling - up to four players can play this game, again with standard bowling rules. You get 10 sets of 10 pins to throw at (up to 12 if you get strikes on the 10th and 11th go) and you get 2 balls at each set. If you knock all 10 down with one ball it's a strike and the next player takes their turn. If you get all 10 with two balls it's a spare. You get 1 point per pin knocked down, and then bonus points for strikes and spares. As you take your turn you can move your player left or right along the lane. You press the button on the bottom of the Wii controller to get the ball ready, swing your arm as if you were bowling a real ball, and release the button when you want to release the ball. The faster you swing the faster the ball travels, and vice versa. You can even twist the controller as you release the ball to add a spin to the ball to curve it in either direction. The player with the most points at the end is the winner.
3) Baseball - this game is a one or two player game, where the one player game is versus the computer. You take turns at being the pitcher (person throwing the ball) or the striker (person trying to hit the ball with the bat) and you get three turns at each - three innings. When you're the pitcher you simply throw your controller (without actually letting go of it!) as if it were a ball. You can press the top button (A) or the bottom button (B) or even both together to add varying degrees and directions of spin on the ball. The idea is to try and make it difficult for your opponent to hit the ball, preferably making them miss it so the field behind the striker can catch the ball (known as a strike). The striker has to hit the ball within the boundaries or else it counts against the strikes total. Three strikes and you're out, three players and you're out and you and your opponent change roles. If the striker gets a clean hit on the ball and its not caught, he can run to one of 4 bases. He can stop and be safe at any of the bases, but if he doesn't make it to the next base before the ball is returned there he's out. If the player makes it to the base he remains there until the next player hits the ball, at which point he has the chance to run to the next base. If he makes it to the 4th base, or "home", he scored one point for the team. If the ball is caught directly from the hit, the striker is out. If the ball is hit into the crowd its known as a home run, and the player runs past all bases and "home" and scores one point. If one team is way ahead of the other at the end of an innings (5 or more points ahead I think), then the mercy rule is invoked so it doesn't get too embarrassing, and the team in the lead wins. The team in the lead after 33 innings wins
4) Boxing - for boxing you need an additional attachment to the Wii controller, called the nunchuk. This is basically a smaller controller on a wire which plugs into the main controller. Again this game is for one or two players, with the one player option playing against the computer. You hold the main controller in one hand and the nunchuk in the other and this allows the console to recognise which arm you're punching with, in which direction, and at what speed. There's and energy bar shown for each player as you have a fight, and as each punch hits, the energy bar reduces. When the energy runs out the player is knocked to the ground, and is either knocked out and loses, or is dazed and returns with a lower energy amount.
5) Golf - you can play with up to 4 players and again take it in turns. Each player tees off by holding the controller like a golf club and swinging in the same manner.
Each of the games above have training modes so you can perfect your skills. For example, the tennis game has a game where balls are fired at you, and you have to return them to hit a specific target - this is designed to help you learn how to return the ball.
This is the first game most people will have played on the Wii and one of the best still in my opinion.
There are hundreds of games available for the Wii now, some completely new, and some revamped versions of previous classics, each trying to utilise the new way of console interaction using the motion sensor.
The Wii itself is a small, self contained device which doesn't intrude into the living room like large consoles. It can be placed flat or on its side depending on how you prefer, and now comes in black as well as white. It has a motion sensor receiver bar which needs to be above or below your TV screen to work correctly. It's about a centimetre thick by around 30 centimetres long and black, and fades into the background in such a way you wouldn't notice it was there if you didn't know it was. Its very easy to setup first time, and the instructions are clear. The console can be paired with up to 4 Wii controllers, although you can play most games with one or two.
When you setup your Wii you get the opportunity to set up a character, or "Mii", to represent yourself. This character can be used in many of the games and can be customised to look just like you! When you play using your Mii, your playing history is saved on the console. Alternatively you can play as a guest.
The console comes with an Ethernet port and a built in wireless card and so can be easily connected to your home network and the internet. This internet connection allows some great functionality, such as online game playing so you can play internet enabled games versus people on the other side of the world, or your friends round the corner.
You can also connect to the Wii shop and download add-ons (also known as Wii channels), such as the internet channel, or the weather channel. These do exactly as they sound - allow you access to view internet sites through your Wii, or view the local weather forecast. The internet add on has its drawbacks when trying to enter web addresses using the Wii controller, its quite difficult to select the right characters using this. A separate Wii keyboard is available if you use this feature a lot.
Some of the more recent channels, are the youtube channel - allowing you to watch youtube clips through your console, and the BBC iPlayer channel. This channel allows you to watch any BBC program shown in the last 7 days, through your Wii and on your TV, taking away the need to use a PC or laptop. This is surprisingly good quality for effectively web TV.
New games are being released all the time for the Wii, and you'll find many reviewed on this site. Its great all round family fun. The base console retails at around £179 and comes with Wii Sports and a controller. Later releases come with Wii Sports Resort which has more than the 5 base games above. There are quite a few bundle packages available at the moment with additional controllers and/or additional games for an additional cost which sometimes works out cheaper that buying them separately.
Overall I think this has been a brilliant purchase, and has provided me and my family and friends with hours of entertainment. It's very easy to use and setup and just keeps on evolving. Some of the new games are just amazing. I'd definitely recommend to buyers.
One of many similar products from HP, which seem to go under different numbers but offer very similar functionality.
For me, a great little printer, producing reliable, quick printouts. The cartridges are less expensive than for some other models at around £10 for black, but they are smaller cartridges that normal, so you go through more!
I have to say i'm a big fan of HP printers, myself and my family all have HP printers and they are far more reliable than the clunky old epson my partner used to own.
This model is very good for standard printouts and even decent quality photos. If you're a pro photographer steer clear as you'll notice the difference, for us novices, this printer range is more than adequate and certainly does the job.
The Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software that comes bundled with it needs a bit more work but i've seen worse. OCR is for scanning text into the PC, and having the computer automatically recognise the characters and put into a Word document for editing for example.
The only other downside is the amount of time it takes to install the software for scanning etc, come on HP you can do better than a 45 min install from disk surely :-) I think there is a way to load the drivers only, but only if you dig them out of the CD folder maze, or download from the website - that should speed things up but havent tried that yet. But of course if you only download the drivers, you wont be able to use the scanning software which is a major drawback.
Worth the wait though when you need it, the software is easy to use and comes with useful functions like red eye removal and all the standard brightness/colour changing clever stuff.
I've also used this for printing onto T-shirt transfers to iron onto blank T-shirts and it worked very well and to a decent quality level. For photograph printing onto photo paper the results can be extremely good for day to day use, its never going to print high quality glossy images, but then its not marketed as a printer that can do that.
You can also use this without a PC as a black and white, or colour copier with very good quality copying.
This and its peers in the same range can be picked up quite cheaply, as HP tend to sell printers at a loss anyway, as they make most of their printer revenue from ink cartridges, HP papers, etc. You could probably pick up a much higher spec unit these days with LCD screen, memory card reader etc, probably even wireless network connectivity just by spending 10 or 20 pounds more...worth considering before you buy this one.
Overall, cheap but quality and reliable, ideal for home users, students, and non pro photographers!
I've never been a fan of so called "healthy option" versions of popular products, I like to eat the stuff I like, but just keep it balanced and in moderation. I've always found that reduced calorie versions tend to mean reduced taste so think whats the point? So when my wife bought these baked crisps which are supposedly better for you, I was a bit dubious, however I was pleasantly surprised.
They are ridged crisps as apose to the typical flat walkers crisp and are baked instead of fried to reduce the fat content and in turn the calories - advertised at 70% less fat than ordinary walkers crisps. The texture is still "crispy" but in a different way to normal walkers, if that makes sense! I think the taste is different to typical ready salted walkers, but in a good way.
The pack size is small at 25g, so I guess you're eating less calories because you're eating less crisps, but it is tempting to have a second packet since they're so small - so maybe defeating the point.
Each pack is 98 calories with 2g fat (0.3g saturates) which is pretty good compared to 133 calories and 8.5g fat in a normal pack
They come in a range of flavours from ready salted, to salt and vinegar, cheese and onion, and some more exotic flavours such as Bacon and Cheddar, or Mango Chilli. Sour cream and chives completes the line up.
Overall a great snack, all the flavour but without the additional calories - I like the ridged crisp more than the flat version too.
I bought 2 sets of these drawers when moving into my first house as I didnt have any drawers for storage and I needed something reasonably priced, which could store a lot of clothes, blankets, etc.
Having lived with these for almost 3 years now, I can have no complaints. They are part of a large range of products called Malm, which includes other sized drawers, storage units, tables and more. They come in oak veneer as pictured above, and other colours including black, white, beech, brown, and even pink!
As with pretty much all other IKEA furniture, it comes flat packed for home/self assembly. Having built flat packed furniture from other retailers in the past, I found the IKEA instructions and diagrams a lot easier to follow in comparison. I had these constructed in under half an hour with no mess.
The drawers themselves are very spacious and can fit a lot in. The have a solid feel to them, and feel very sturdy. Having said that, to look at they're plain and nothing special - they're more the "do what it says on the tin" style, but thats exactly what I was looking for. There are a few sharp edges so maybe not the best if you have a toddler running around.
After 3 years the oak veneer is still looking good, and the drawers still run smoothly on their rails. It looks exactly how it did when I originally put it together, despite being moved in a removals van when we moved house. The instructions tell you to attach it to the wall, but I've found its more that sturdy enough to stand alone without being attached.
Its size is advertised as:
Width: 80 cm
Depth: 48 cm
Height: 78 cm
It also comes in a 4 drawer version with the same dimensions as above other than a height increase to 100cm. Also available is matching bed side drawers.
The 3 drawer version can be picked up for £55, and you'll pay an extra £10 for a 4 drawer version.
Overall, for the price in comparison to other furniture retailers these are good value for money. They've done us well and I dont see us needing to replace them any time soon.
I first got Sky plus about 2 and a half years ago now. This was around the time they were still charging quite high fees for the box and installation, and it was a big decision to spend so much money on a box. Looking back now, it was a great decision and I couldnt imagine not having it there now!
If you dont already know its advantages, then here are some of the key highlights:
* Pause, or rewind live TV - if you're sitting watching Eastenders and the phone rings, simply press pause, when you're finished with your call, press play and it starts from where you left off
* Record a different channel to the one you're watching - all recordings are onto the inbuild hard drive of the unit so theres no messing with tapes or other recording devices. You can also be watching a different channel to the one you're recording as the box takes 2 signals from your sky dish
* Series link - set the unit up to record one episode of a series, press the green button, and it will record all episodes of that series - you'll never miss the end of a cliffhanger again!
These are the key advantages for me. I find the fact I can record all my favourite programmes, means that I can watch them whenever I like in my own time. I'm no longer fitting my life aroung TV schedules. I also like the "Rewind live tv" functionality useful too...if you just catch the end of a sentence that someone says on TV, you can easily rewind it to the start and watch again.
Another useful feature is Sky Anytime which is available on the box. This is a collection of programmes selected by Sky that have been broadcast over the previos 7 days and can be watched any time you like.
New customers can get a free sky plus box, but still need to pay installation (around £30), but theres no additional monthly fee for sky plus like there is with Sky HD...you just need to pay your normal monthly sky subscription for the channel package you are on. There are also some good bundles on Sky broadband and phone calls available at the moment too.
I've also set up remote record on my box which means that if i'm out and I remember theres something I wanted to record or watch on TV, I can set my box to record using my mobile phone!
Its so easy to use and navigate I couldn't imagine not having it now. Would definately recommend!