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Any gadget or appliance that reduces the amount of time I spend in the kitchen appeals to my lazy nature where cooking is concerned. The Deluxe Apple peeler and corer ticked that box beautifully.
I love stewed apples, but find peeling and coring them very tedious, then I saw in our local stores the Deluxe apple peeler and corer, priced £7.37 reduced from £11.99... How could I resist? The prices do vary on Amazon from about £9 for similar models, made of aluminium to £15 for steel models.
My peeler is constructed of steel, coated in a metallic grey paint; length: 30cm, height: 5cm, weight: 489g.
A long, screw-rod with a handle at one end, and three prongs at the other, is attached to a round base, which has a rubber suction pad; akin to those found on windscreen Sat Nav holders. Before use, the base is slightly moistened and with the aid of a side lever, it is fixed firmly onto a worktop.
Two, adjustable blades are positioned at the end of the peeler; one at the side which removes the peel, and a circular blade which slices the apple into thin rings as it is wound forward. Once the whole apple has passed through the circular blade, all that is left on the prongs, is the core.
A spring loaded release mechanism, allows the rod to be pulled back, rather than having to rewind it in order to receive the next apple to be peeled.
The thickness of the peel is determined by the position of the side blade; a wing nut at the top loosens the blade so it can then be pushed nearer the apple for a thick peel, or pulled backwards for a thinner peel. This blade is also on a stiffly sprung rod, so that it moves along the contours of the apple as it passes by.
The peeled and sliced apple then has the structure of a spring when pulled apart and is easily and quickly sliced ready for cooking.
In order to estimate how much time this gadget was actually saving me, I peeled, cored and finely sliced one apple, without the aid of the peeler. This took me about one and a half minutes. I then took a similar sized apple and peeled, cored and sliced it using the Deluxe peeler, this took me around three quarters of a minute; a saving of approximately three quarters of a minute per apple. In other words, the peeler cut my apple preparation time in half.... Perfect.
The apple core girth is the same as the circumference of the circular blade(22mm) which is slightly thicker than an ordinary apple corer would remove from an apple.
By loosening another wing-nut and swinging the circular end blade to one side, an apple or potato can be peeled without removing the middle of the fruit or vegetable.
The whole unit is very easy to clean; only the prongs and blades needed cleaning with a wet cloth to remove any juice. A plastic cap is supplied to cover the prongs when not in use.
The only con, I can think of, is that although not very wide, the unit is a foot long and does take up a lot of cupboard space. However, it is a necessary inconvenience, so I will still give it the full five stars it deserves for its efficiency and reduction of time preparing the fruit.
Intro: My reason for purchasing the Neostar
A few decades ago, an Esso petrol tanker jacknifed, slewed across the road and collided head-on with my car. Now I have no memories of the actual impact, and in this case, there was no real need for witnesses as it was plain to all the sequence of events and the where the blame lay.
However, there are accidents where most insurance companies, because of lack of witnesses or obvious evidence, will classify it as a knock for knock, and no-claims bonuses are lost by both parties involved no matter who was at fault.
This is where a spy in the cabin can be very handy, where it records events leading up to the accident and can, more often than not absolve one driver from blame. It is shocking what some drivers will do and say to protect their reputation and no-claims bonus when involved in an accident and they are to blame.
The roads are becoming increasingly dangerous and so, I thought it high time I carried my own witness around in my car, one that can tell all, accurately and unemotionally should I see, or become involved in any more collisions.
I spotted, on SmartBuy.com, an advert for the NeoStar Driving recorder, which is a lightweight camcorder that can be mounted on the windscreen of a vehicle to record the journey. The cost was £49.99 plus p&p. I have since seen, what looks like the same driving recorder on Amazon for £14.99, whether it is a cheap copy, I do not know, but if not it is a bargain at that price.
What was in the box:
The Neostar Driving recorder.
An Av cable, to connect to a TV.
A powerful, suction cup mount, for vehicle windscreen.
A small manual.
A USB lead to connect to computer.
A USB. 12Volt lead , in car connection.
A long-life, 3.7V Lithium ion, rechargeable battery.
An SD memory card is required but not supplied.
The Neostar Driving recorder looks rather like a Sci-fi space craft. The camera lens is centrally placed at the front. Each side of the lens are three high quality, auto-on infra red night vision lights for night time driving.
On the upper surface are the battery compartment and slot which attaches to the screw in the windscreen mount.
At the lower surface is a drop down, 2.5-inch LCD screen, complete with set up and control buttons. The power button and OK buttons are at the rear of the unit, opposite the lens.
The USB port is situated on the right and the AV out port and memory card hold are on the left.
The device, battery and card included, weighs only 115g, measures, 10.5cm length, 6.2cm width, and 2cm depth.
The working temperature is from 0 -40 degrees Centigrade, so if the car cabin temp is below zero then it may not work until cabin is warm.
The car, windscreen mount has a powerful suction cup and holds the camera securely in place; it has a couple of screw-clamps to hold the camera firmly in the required position.
What is it capable of recording?
The camera can be set to record sound and vision together, as and when required or just when the vehicle is moving. It can also be used to take still photographs. Time and date is added to all recordings.
A fully charged battery will record for up to three hours before needing to be recharged but for longer journeys, it would be better to use the 12V USB car lead.
I believe the recorder can also be used, when connected to a computer, as an indoor security camera.
Video and picture recording capacity.
When setting up the recorder, initially, there is a choice of three resolutions, namely 1280*720 (HD), 720*480 (D1) and 640*480(VGA)
It is the capacity of the SD card and chosen resolution, which determines the number of minutes of recording to fill the card. For example:
A 16G SD card will allow 240 minutes of (HD) recording and 260 minutes of VGA recording.
A 1G card will allow 15 minutes (HD) and 30 minutes (VGA)
Once the card is full, it will start recording over the initial recordings.
The set up is minimal, just need to select the appropriate language from the choices, English, Chinese, Japanese and Russian, then choose the resolution and add time and date to the unit, after which there will be no need to repeat set up each time it is in use.
I found the manual, which is an elongated card 43cm long and 3.5cm wide and folded concertina style, most confusing at first because the instructions were written on both sides, so eventually I copied the set up and operating instructions onto a separate sheet, in logical steps , that I could follow more easily.
But not before finding I had skipped a stage and had somehow managed to set the language to Russian.
Fortunately, there is a contactable helpline. The 0845.... phone number given at the back of the manual, which I called and spoke to a pleasant chap at the other end, who did not know how to reset the language, but arranged to call me back, rather than have me hanging on until he found the solution. Five minutes later a lady phoned and gave me clear instructions and continued to guide me through the rest of the set-up procedure.
So, despite my misgivings at first, I can safely say that the set up is simple, if you follow instructions logically, but I would recommend writing them out first.
I have a 4G card and the recorder set at VGA resolution. The picture quality is excellent even at this, the lowest, resolution.
The battery life, when fully charged lasts three hours in use, and slowly discharges over three or four days when not in use. It is recommended that after three recharges that the device be put on charge for twelve hours, to activate the battery to its full capacity.
When the battery is low and the unit powered on, the device does give the warning on the screen, in large, red letters.
I placed my suction cup mount on the window behind the rear view mirror, attached the recorder and positioned it so that the view on the LCD screen was similar to that of my own, through the windscreen. When driving the screen should be closed to prevent any distractions. I found that by positioning the camera behind the rear view mirror, none of my vision was obscured. The camera did not wobble and stayed as stable as the mirror, so images were blur-free.
Any recordings can be viewed on the device screen, on a computer via the USB lead or on a TV screen, using the AV cable. Copies of any recordings can be made on disc.
My only gripe is there is no quick release system to detach the unit from the mount when leaving the vehicle and it is very tempting to leave it in place, even knowing that to do so is to invite passing thieves to help themselves.
It is not a device to make one feel safe when driving, but it does serve, as a silent witness to any bad driving experiences, and on a more pleasant note, can be instrumental in recording a memorable, scenic journey.
It is unlikely that I would have considered purchasing the latest KitSound sound stand, even had I heard of it in the first place. Normally, I listen to music using a CD player or radio, neither of which is conveniently portable; listening to music on my smart phone with earphones irritate me, not only that, they tend to block out or muffle other sounds such as the door bell or telephone.
Even though it is possible to listen to some music without earphones, the sound quality for the classics was one dimensional and not very special, so there was no other option for me.
No other option that is, until I was fortunate enough to win and receive a Kitsound, sound stand, generously donated by Phones4U.
Depth: 4cm (with the 4cm long wings folded)
Supplied with stereo cable with 3.5mm jack to fit most smart phones, iPods, iPads and tablets.
USB cable for recharging inbuilt battery.
Output power: 1.5W x 2
The elongated body of the unit, rounded at both ends, is of a matt black plastic, with a smooth, velvety finish. The unit contains two special, Neodymium speakers with SRS technology, this I will endeavour to explain later. The speakers are protected by a thin plastic cover perforated with hundreds of minute holes about the size of a pinhole. In the centre of the perforated grid is an LED light, which is blue when unit is in use. It is red when unit needs charging and on charge, changing to blue when charge complete.
At the top of the unit are two pairs of rectangular, padded plates, one pair at each end, one of each pair is larger and thicker than the other, both of which go to support and hold a smart phone, tablet or iPod securely in place.
At the back of each of the larger support plates, is a black knob about the diameter of a 1p coin, this seems to be some sort of adjustment for the holder, in that there appears to be a moveable, rubberised square pad inset into the larger rectangle. When the knob is turned in one direction the pad is locked into position.
I popped into our local Phones4U shop to enquire about these knobs, but have, as yet, been unsuccessful in finding out if I am correct or not in thinking they are adjusters, to lock the phone or tablet in place, or whether they may be something to do with the tone produced. I have twiddled the knobs, whilst music was being played, but did not hear any discernible difference in sound quality or effects.
At the back of the unit are the jack and USB ports, and the three positioned, sliding power switch. On, Off and SRS position. (Will explain later) Below the ports and switch are two, hinged wings, which stabilizes the whole unit on a desk or table when in use, these can be folded back into a recess when not in use.
Since this was given me, the only price I can find is £28.75 on Amazon.
What is so special about this KitSound Sound system?
Intrigued I Google the term and one official definition of SRS technology (Sound Retrieval System) is that it is a system invented by Arnold Klayman in the early 1980s producing an ' Immersive 3D sound-field using only two speakers.' These speakers being Neo magnetic rather than ceramic. It is claimed that Neo magnetic speakers reduces distortion and improves efficiency.
A brief explanation of sound dimensions as I understand them:
When I think of dimensions, I automatically think of solid objects. Yet sound also has dimensions. Music from a radio (unless it is stereo) is one dimensional, music from a stereo is two dimensional, music from surround systems is claimed to be three dimensional.
It simply means that when listening to music on this lightweight, portable system, you can actually hear and pick out the positions of instruments being played, rather like, but slightly better, than stereo. ..you get a 3 dimensional sound quality, which one normally gets from four speakers, rather than a 2 dimensional sound as from stereo . Although having said that, I do not think it would be fair to compare this little unit with top-notch quality surround systems.
My thoughts, experience and opinion.
Fortunately I did have a few of pieces of music on my phone that I could listen to using the KitSound system and so was able to compare the results with listening to the same music from my phone speaker only, the phone using stereo earphones and finally from the KitSound system.
One piece of music had been recorded in stereo and the other mono.
The battery life is longer than the 4 hours claimed on the box, I have used it without recharging for at least 5-hours. Recharge time is 2-hours.
When I listened to both recordings using only the phone speaker, the music was, as expected, mono, in that all the instruments were in one place.
When I listened to the stereo recorded music with the earphones, I found, the quality of sound equal to that of the KitSound system, in that I was able to pick out different instruments and the harmony's, accompanying to the solo instrument.
However, when listening to the mono recordings, I found my stereo earphones were no match for the KitSound Surround system, which came out on top, where I found the crisp, clarity of sound was almost equal to that of any stereo recording. I could distinguish and follow the harmonies as well as the solo.
One further note; when I switched from SRS to On, by that I mean switched off the SRS mode from the KitSound unit, and used it as an ordinary twin speaker set up, there was a discernible difference in sound quality the music lost its clarity; a clear demonstration that the SRS mode does add another dimension to music.
I firmly believe that each and every hobby, whether it be gardening, baking, knitting, philately, making music, or working with paints, clay, wood or soil, is very relaxing and therapeutic, giving an overall feeling of well being.
One of my fair-weather hobbies is using wood, more often than not discarded wood, to construct something useful. That in itself is so satisfying, knowing that the timber has been saved the wasteful fate of destruction by fire.
For example; not so long ago some roofers were working on several houses in our area and throwing huge amounts of wood off-cuts into the skips. Some were as short as 2-feet, others as long as 7 to 8-feet. I loathe waste at the best of times, so with the permission of the roofers, I salvaged most of the usable wood and plastics they had discarded. Some of which I used to construct a simple gate to replace my rickety old one which, had I bought the wood from a merchants, would have cost me in the region of £20.
I have learned through observation, trial and error that a set of good tools is essential when being creative. They will save time, energy, and frayed tempers.
This was one reason why I invested in the Powerfix 46 piece Drill Bit Set. The few drills I had inherited were ancient, well used and frankly blunt, making drilling into soft wood feel like I was drilling for oil through granite.
As usual, Lidls have frequent special offers on Powerfix tools, so I did not have long to wait before a drill kit was again among the many weekly offers.
For £11.99 I purchased the 46-piece drill set, neatly held in an organised manner in a strong, black plastic case.
Grey plastic, hinged holders for the drill bits, swing out to allow the selection of an appropriate drill bit. (Those are the bits used to drill holes in wood, concrete or metal.
A small picture of the type of material on which the drill-bit may be used, is printed in black on the hinged holders, along with the sizes of each drill-bit
The two rows of driver-bits, which are short metal pieces used to fix screws or other fittings into the wood, are held securely in a black rubber-like casing. On the side of each casing, an image of the shape of the driver-bit head is printed in white.
A countersink and Bit holder (for the driver-bits) sit in separate recesses.
Details and list of contents
The case and contents weighs: 976g
Measures 22cm x 18cm x 5.5cm.
The lid contains three sets of drill-bits; the base holds one set of drill-bits, the driver-bits, countersink and bit-holder.
Cost at Lidls £11.99.
Five silver coloured brick/concrete drill-bits. 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, 8mm and 10mm.
Three gold coloured wood-milling drill-bits. 16mm, 22mm and 32mm ... These are the spade shaped drill-bits for drilling large holes.
Five black coloured wood drill-bits. 4mm, 5mm,6mm,8mm and 10mm.
Thirteen gold coloured, metal drill-bits. 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 3.5mm, 4mm,4.5mm, 5mm, 5.5mm, 6mm,6.5mm,7mm,7.5mm and 8mm.
Two rows of 9 driver-bits (18 in total)
One driver-bit holder.
What I like about this set is that all the drills and bits are so well organised in the case. Each piece has its own position where no other will fit; it is easy and quick to select the appropriate sized drill-bit and driver-bit without having to remove them from the case first to check the feint markings on the drill-bit shafts or shape of the driver-bit heads. Not only that, of course, if there is a need to replace any of the bits, they will fit exactly into the slot of the lost or discarded bit.
I was particularly pleased to see the 32mm size wood-milling drill-bit, important for making the correct diameter holes for sparrow nest boxes, my present project.
I have not used the metal drill-bits yet, but the others have bored holes easily and efficiently in the materials for which they were designed.
I cannot express an opinion of the quality of the bits, but it is recommended that they be protected with anti-rust oil. However, for the DIY(er) I would certainly recommend this kit.
Late spring and summertime is when I like to fling wide my doors, let the fresh air flow freely around the house, and allow my dogs to run in and out as they please.
However, open doors seem to be open invitations to wasps, flies and other winged creatures to make my home their playground for the day. Much to the delight of my collie cross, of course, who thinks it great fun to give chase and catch them as they zip hither and thither from room to room; with me in hot pursuit trying to capture the fly before he eats it.
My dog is a first class flycatcher but, unfortunately, one he caught and swallowed a few years ago made him seriously ill. Since then I have searched for something that would allow me to keep the doors open, yet keep the insects out. Nothing, up until my recent discovery ever worked particularly efficiently.
Enter the JML Snap Screen.
The snap screen comes in two equally sized, fine meshed panels with the appearance of net curtains, but of a slightly more robust material. Down one side of each panel is a series of nine, equally spaced magnets, which snap together, closing the screen to prevent flying insects entering the house. It is available in black or white and guaranteed for one year against 'defects of workmanship and materials.'
Supplied with the screen is a well-illustrated instruction booklet, a box of twenty, white securing pins, like drawing pins and twelve fibre-fix strips.
The fix-strips are in fact two Velcro pieces attached to each other, each with a sticky backing, one side of which is stuck to the screen and the other eventually, to the doorframe.
The securing pins are for use on wooden doorframes, but not plastic frames.
Although the snap screens are produced in one size, they can be fixed to doorframes of widths ranging from about 72cm to 100cm. For doors smaller than 100cm, the non-magnetic side of each panel needs to be folded back to fit the frame before sticking one side of the Velcro strips to the screen.
The very first thing to do is to clean and de-grease the doorframe to which the screen is to be attached. It is more important to do this to plastic doorframes because the only thing holding the screen to the frame will be the fibre-fix strips. For wooden frames, the securing pins may be used as well... a belt and braces job.
It is also important to ensure that the screen is fixed to the outer side of a frame where the door opens inwards or the inner side of a frame where the door opens outwards. Either way, the magnets should be facing inwards.
Once cleaned, the width of the frame is measured and the centre marked with a small dot or line to indicate where the magnetic side of the panels are to be positioned.
Fold, if necessary, the non-magnetic side of the screens to fit one-half of the door opening and stick three fibre-fix-strips to the tops and three, to the non-magnetic sides of each screen.
Remove the backing to the fix-strips and stick one panel to the doorframe then line up the second panel so that the magnets click together, side by side, then stick the second panel to the doorframe exerting some pressure on the fix-strips to ensure they stay firmly stuck to the frame. For wooden frames, the pins may be used to help secure the screen to the frame.
The screens are washable, but only by hand, using a clean cloth and warm, soapy water. To remove them from the frame, if you want to store them away over the winter period, just pull the Velcro fastenings apart, leaving one set still attached to the doorframe, and the other to the screen, which can be re-fastened the following Summer .
I bought one of these for myself, and one for my sister and brother-in-law in the factory shop for £9.99 each. When I put mine up, I learned the hard way that the frames needed to be pristine clean and more importantly grease free, because the fix-strips seemed not to want to stay in place. Eventually, problem solved, using a dab of UHU, and lesson learned I found it much less trouble fixing the screen for my sister's frame without having to resort to using more glue.
The whole process , from removing screen from its box, to completing the job took about 20 minutes, give or take a minute or five.
I also found that a tape measure was essential to measure the width of the panel when folding down one side to fit the frame and using some clear sellotape at the top and bottom of each fold to keep the width the same throughout the length of the screen. Only then could the fix-strips be placed accurately, down the side of the panels equidistant from the magnet side.
Once happy with the panels, it did not take long to secure them to the doorframe. They worked perfectly and stayed securely in place. Each time I walked through, the screen snapped shut behind me with a clatter of magnets as each connected to its opposite. It was time then to test my Collie's intelligence and ability work out that he could push his own way through without my help.
At first he stayed behind the screen, giving me that dewy-eyed, "Aren't you going to let me through then?" expression, expecting me to part the screens for him, when on cue, a neighbour's dog barked, and my dog, forgetting completely that a barrier stood between him and the outside world, barged through without giving it a second thought. From then on, he walks through the screens without my help.
I am pleased to say that my house, since putting up the screen, has been completely free from any irritating flying critters for the first time ever, throughout busiest season for pest invasions.
I am even more pleased that I no longer have to chase the dog that chases the flies to get to the pest and swat it before it is consumed by him.
I have not tried cleaning it just yet, but will update when I do.
Why I chose the Blackberry Torch:
My very first smart phone was a Blackberry Bold, which I naively thought, could not be improved upon for a very long time; until that is; it was time for an upgrade.
Because I was so impressed with my Blackberry, I upgraded to the then recently marketed Blackberry Torch 9800, albeit with mixed feelings; excited at getting a brand new hand set yet sceptical at first of the change from track-pad scrolling to touch screen technology.
However, not being one to shy away from change, even though wishing it did not occur quite so frequently, I was happy to see that the new Blackberry Torch incorporated both methods so that I could find and select any particular app by using the track-pad or touch screen. Likewise, I could type using the touch-screen QWERTY keyboard or the slide down, solid QWERTY keyboard. The best of both worlds in one phone.
For me this made the transition, from solid keyboard and track-pad, to touch-screen technology much less worrisome.
The phone measurements and weight, according to my tape and scales are:
Maximum height when keyboard extended: 14cm
Screen size: 3.25-inches.
Storage capacity 4GB.
I was not offered any other colour option for this phone, but have since discovered other available colours are red and white. They come with a headphone set, a selection of ear-buds, a 1300mAh Lithium ion battery and charger with USB lead.
A micro SD card, already inserted, is purported to extend its memory to 32GB
The phone is made of a non-ferrous metal and has a good solid feel about it. The rear casing is covered in an anti-slip, matt black, ribbed rubbery material with a 2cm gap at the top where the 5 Megapixel camera and flash are located and protected by a thin covering of clear glass; below which is the chrome Blackberry logo.
On the right-hand side of the casing are three keys, two of which are the volume controls and the third can be customised to suit user's own convenience. I used mine to select the camera, instead of my having to scroll through the apps to find it.
At the top is the headset jack port and on the opposite, left hand side is the USB port.
The top edge has two silver icons, which indicate the areas to press keys to mute calls and lock the screen.
The touch -screen is 3.25-inches, measured diagonally from top to bottom, with a 480x360-pixel colour display.
Swiping the screen sideways reveals five separate, sub-headed pages. (1) 'All' where all the apps available are displayed, (2) 'Frequent' shows the apps one uses frequently, this changes automatically when different apps are chosen more frequently. (3) 'Favourites' where a few of user favourites are displayed. (4)'Media' where one can select apps such as music, voice notes and recorder (5) 'Downloads' this displays all the apps downloaded, such as Amazon MP3, Evernote and renko. Any of these apps may find their way to the 'Frequent' page if used frequently.
The selection of any apps can be done by tapping the screen or alternatively, using the track-pad to highlight the app then pressing the pad.
The whole screen is positioned over the sliding, solid Qwerty keyboard which has white lettering on small, raised, black keys.
The 5 megapixel camera features auto-focus and auto-flash it can also be used as a video recorder. The camera has twelve scene modes from which to choose, for example to select Auto, this is ideal for capturing a wide range of scenes and subjects under most conditions. Select Sports and it is superb for capturing pictures of fast moving objects.
By selecting Options, you can select the image size from large, 2592 x 1944pixels to small, 640 x 480pixels.
The screen also offers the pinch and zoom feature when viewing photographs.
Useful Features I had not seen before
Apart from the many usual smart phone applications such as contacts, pictures, messages, memo-pad, calendar, email, YouTube, camera and so on, I discovered that this phone also featured a One-Touch- Flashlight which when the icon is selected , a fairly powerful light shines from the camera at the back of the phone.
Perhaps this is why this model is named Blackberry Torch.
The other application I think is particularly useful is the Emergency I.C.E, the icon is a white square with a central red cross and the words Emergency information in black.
Whenever the emergency services are called out to an accident, or any emergency situation and they see a mobile phone, the first thing they search for is the Emergency I.C.E icon, where all info an emergency team would need to know, such as contact numbers, allergies, medication, and blood group etc can be found very quickly.
How frequently the battery will need charging depends on usage. The only way to compare with other batteries is to look at their standby times and talk times. For fully charged Blackberry torch battery...
Standby time: Up to 17-days (408 hours)
Talk Time: Up to 5.5 hours (330 minutes)
When I got this phone, about two and a half years ago, I was told, that to purchase a contract-free, pay -as-you-go Blackberry Torch, it would cost in the region of £500. I see them now on eBay from about £59 to £200, some second hand, some new. On other sites new sets are still for sale for about £400, prices do vary.
I got mine free, on a two-year contract from Vodafone, who offer a choice of tariffs to suit individual requirements.
I was paying £35 per month for unlimited internet access, free texts and calls and GPS sat navigation.
My only grouch, and bear in mind I am the sort of person who gets irritated if a bus is two minutes late, is that browsing through websites with my Blackberries was, to me, painfully slow.
For this reason I rarely browsed, but used my handset, to keep records of contacts, appointments, to text and email friends. I also took many excellent quality photographs and shot a couple of short videos. All of which was transferred to the next handset when I upgraded.
The two most important uses for me was that I got email alerts very quickly, in fact more often than not, my emails reached my phone several minutes before reaching my computer and it would remind me when birthdays, dental or any other appointments were due.
I also found the voice recorder and voice notes apps very useful, when I wanted to make note of something quickly and not have to type it into the memo pad. For example, if I was wanting to make a note of a friend's new address or telephone number. I would just go to the Media page, select Voice Notes recorder and speak into the phone, the message would then be saved in the Voice Notes application.
I never experienced any trouble hearing any conversations carried out over the phone, even when I switched to hands-free mode.
Even though I have since upgraded to another handset, I am still keeping and using my Blackberry Torch. I cannot make or receive any calls (except SOS calls), text or receive emails through it, but whenever I leave the house, this phone comes with me, for several reasons. The I.C.E application is on it so should I be involved in an accident the emergency teams will have my details; I can use it to phone emergency services and many of the apps are still usable, Voice Notes included and finally, I can still take photographs, should I find a situation where it might be necessary.
Up until recently, I had taken Wi-Fi for granted, just like electricity or radio reception, always available at the press of a button or flick of a switch. However, when I took my laptop or smart phone into one of my rooms, furthest from the router, I lost Wi-Fi connection and therefore could not use either for internet access whilst in that particular room. Most inconvenient but had to resign myself to the fact that the room was off limits where the internet was concerned.
Then a few weeks ago I discovered that there were devices that would overcome the problem of thick walls and, or weak Wi-Fi signals, naturally, I chose the cheapest and what promised to be the simplest to set up.. the Huawai Repeater, a device that when plugged into the mains and pared wirelessly to the router, would extend the signal... but it was not at all simple and eventually I gave up and sent it back, having found that others were also suffering the same problems with it as myself.
Rather than mess around and add to my list of failures, I visited my local computer store and sought their advice.
They introduced me to the TP-Link Extender systems of which there are several. I explained that I required a wireless set up that would not tax my brain to the limit of its ability. So into my life came the TP-Link AV200 Wireless N Powerline Extender Starter Kit... to give it its full name. Not to be confused with Powerline only, extender kits these require wired connections to a computer or laptop, as well as the router, via their Ethernet ports.
What was in the box?
The 300 Mbps AV200 Starter kit adapters TL-WPA281 and TL-PA211
2 x RJ-45 120cm length Ethernet cables
The Quick installation guide
A small resource CD.
At my local shop it cost me £78, but can be bought at Asda for around £67 and Amazon for a little less. It is worth shopping around if you are tech-savvy but if, like myself, you struggle with computers and the like when it comes to setting up, it may be worth your while buying it from your local computer dealers who can guide you through every step.
The two plastic adapters are slightly different in size. The smaller of the two, TL-PA211 to be connected to the router measures: Ht: 9cm, Width: 6cm, Depth: 3cm. The mains plug is at the top of the back of the unit, which has a glossy white top and front and black sides and base. On the front of this unit there are three icons lit by green LED bulbs when powered. On the base is the Ethernet port, a pair button and reset button.
The larger adapter TL-WPA281 measures Ht: 10cm, Width: 6cm Depth: 4cm.This plugs into the mains in the room where there is no Wi-Fi signal and the computing device is to be used. It looks the same as the smaller one, but has an extra icon/button on the front, the WiFi/WPS button
How does this kit work?
In some houses where the inner walls are solid or the room is too far away from the router, the Wi-Fi signal cannot reach the laptop or Smartphone therein and internet access is lost.
When set up, the TP-Link extenders, extends the internet access to every room in the house, wirelessly through the household mains circuit, where only the router is connected to one of the adapters with an Ethernet cable and the adapter is plugged into the mains. The second adapter is just plugged into the mains in the room you require to use your laptop etc. No Ethernet connection to this second adapter is necessary for the wireless set up.
It does not boost the Wi-Fi signal, but extends it through the mains circuit. Rather like opening a new path for the signal to travel along.
However, if there is no wireless router, the same extenders can be used in the same way except that both router and the laptop/net book, or computer will need to be connected to the respective adapters by Ethernet cables provided.
Hence, this starter kit is not only a Wireless Wi-Fi extender, but also a Powerline Wi-Fi extender. Compatible with Widows 7, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 8 although the set up procedures listed are for W7,WXP and WVista.
The wireless Frequency is 2.4Ghz which, incidentally is the same as a microwave.
The data transfer rates along a 985-feet line, for the wireless set up, is 300 Mbps and for the powerline set up, a slightly slower rate of 200 Mbps, so if a longer distance link is required then another single adapter can be installed to extend the Wi-Fi up to a further 985-feet.
According to the literature, the system "can be connected to all network compatible devices and gives a smooth, skip free multiple HD video streaming."
Wireless set up:
I was reliably informed that although the system came with a 128-bit encryption for data protection and network security. It was less secure than the router network security and it was suggested that for a more secure system, it would be better to use the same network security as the router; in other words change the encryption in the adapter to that of the one in the router.
Oer, I was beginning to think this was going to be more complicated than I first thought and seeing my hesitation, the sales person offered to set it up for me if I brought the router down to the shop. I am not one to pass up on such an offer and dutifully popped home to fetch my router.
However, let me assure you that the well-illustrated, step-by-step instructions that came with the kit makes the process easy to follow and complete. All it involved was connecting the adapter to the router via the Ethernet port , inserting the CD into the CD-ROM drive and clicking on an icon that appears at the bottom of the desktop then following the instructions inserting the router network key into the adapter.
The Powerline Set up looks much simpler. The small TL-PA211 adapter is connected to the router by the Ethernet cable. The larger TL-WPA281 unit is plugged into the mains in whichever room is to be used, and press the pair buttons on each of them in turn within 2 minutes of each other to link them up and open the Wi-Fi pathway.
If for whatever reason, my network was changed, then the adapters can be reset using the reset button on the base (using a pin or paper clip) and set up again in the new system.
It took about five minutes for the adapter to be encrypted with the same network security key as my router and about the same length of time to re-connect router to my computer.
I plugged the small, adapter into the mains and connected it with the Ethernet cable to my router. Plugged the other adapter into the distant room, switched on at the mains, pressed the front WiFi/WPS button and hey presto within a few seconds I had a Wi-Fi signal in the room for the first time ever. This was indicated by my smart phone, informing me it had connected.
I would advise any technophobes when purchasing this from their local computer stores, to ask if they will help with wireless the set up and changing the security of the adapter to that of your own router, if you take your router down. It does save a lot of time and effort, because sometimes when panic mode kicks in, mistakes are made.
I do not keep it switched on all the time, it seems pointless when I am not using that particular room, even though when not used it automatically switches to power-saving mode and energy consumption is reduced by up to 85%.
The Ethernet cables are just over a meter in length, so for me it was too far away from the mains supply to enable me to connect it to the router without using a short extension lead into which the adapter was plugged.
I mention this because the instructions have a couple of smileys, one of which is set into a frown on a diagram with the adapter plugged into an extension lead. I had a horrible feeling that it would not work if I used one, but that proved not to be the case. I suspect it is because that by adding more wire to the mains, lengthens the distance the Wi-Fi has to travel but for my system I had not added much length and the distance between one adapter and the next is still less than 985 feet.
Does it work? Yes, it does. Would I recommend this system? Most certainly if you have thick internal walls and areas in your home where you cannot receive Wi-Fi connections.
It was 40 years ago, in March 1973 that the concept of mobile phones was born, the first models were the size of house- bricks, and their bases even larger, not the sort one could carry around in their pockets. It was not until the early nineties that pocketsize versions became popular; the time lapse for improvement was 20 years. These days' new versions arrive in the shops every year.
Smart phones appeared about 20 years ago, I was so impressed with my first Blackberry, that I thought there was little or no room for improvement... how wrong I was. Each time upgrades were due, I have been loyal to Blackberry, but this year I decided to change to the seemingly popular Samsung Galaxy S3 19033 model.
What was in the box?
USB cable to transfer files directly from phone to PC or to charge battery.
Mains Battery charger cable.
Ear phones plus a variety of ear bud sizes.
A screen saver.
Specifications of the Galaxy S3:
Android 4.1 Jelly bean ..... see below for explanation of the term Jelly bean
4.8 inch HD Super AMOLED touch screen ..... explanation below.
Duel camera 8 megapixel forward landscape camera with LED flash and 1.9 megapixel self portrait camera
1.4 GHz Quad core processor.
4G ready ..... explanation below.
For those who, like myself , wonder whether or not they should be impressed when faced with new or unfamiliar terminology such as 'Jelly Bean' , 'AMOLED' or '4G Ready.' I Googled and found what all three meant and here is what I learned.
When I first heard it was Jelly Bean, I had visions of the phone being rubbery; of course, my vision was inaccurate.
The real explanation is that each time an Android smart phone is updated with new features, those features are given a code name; the code names are themed, apparently on desserts. Jelly bean therefore, is the code name for the latest version of the android operating systems, one of which is 'Better text prediction, learned from personal typing habits.'
This I have found to be very useful, a vast improvement on the older system whereby when texting or typing, the older versions autocorrected, often erroneously. With this version, a narrow bar between the text and letters display three possible words you may want to write.
For example if I wanted to write the word 'filled,' By the time I have typed 'fil..' the three words displayed will most likely be file, filed, fill, then when I write fill ..., the three words to appear will be fill, filled and filling; I can then choose the correct word. It makes texting and writing quicker, with fewer mistakes than the autocorrecting system.
Not only that, it will remember names and email addresses that have been used previously, when just one or two letters have been typed, giving the options before typing the whole name or address.
This is what is meant when they say the Samsung is intuitive... I did wonder, and now I know.
This is the smart phone screen type and stands for Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode. The screens with these diodes incorporated within, are thinner than those of LCD screens and unlike LCD screens do not require back lighting. How it works is far too complex for me to understand. Super AMOLED is a supposedly improved version of the AMOLED screen, though I believe the jury is still out on that one.
Apparently, 4G networks are five times faster at internet downloading than 3G. Being 4G-ready, means that when contracted to O2, Vodafone or 3, later this year there will be an upgrade to a 4G from the present 3G network.
The EE network, formerly Orange, is already 4G
The phone measures 3.5cm x 7cm. With a screen size of 4.8cm it is available in four colours, Marble white, navy, red or black, I believe Carphone warehouse is the only place a red set can be purchased or contracted.
The forward facing camera is an excellent 8 megapixels and the self-portrait camera is 1.9 megapixels. HD Videos can also be recorded using the forward, landscape camera.
My phone has about 58 apps including Google, Google chrome and the local weather and forecasts for the week, this can be updated at will as often as you like.. Often many of the apps are updated automatically.
Other interesting and useful pre-installed apps are, Flipboard which is updated daily; Radio, Game hub, Navigation, using GPS, and Books, where you can browse and buy books, some are free to download.
Google maps is also an app I've not seen on my previous smart phone nor the very useful one called Local, which when opened gives an enormous list of restaurants, cafes, pubs and attractions in and around the area. Included in the lists are brief, up to date reviews about the places whether it is about the cafe, food or location.
The S Voice app is great fun. By tapping on the S Voice microphone, it asks what you would like the phone to do. If I want to phone someone, I just tell it to ring the person, giving the name, a voice then will repeat my request, before going ahead with the task. If I want to find a destination I ask it to find maps, and it takes me to the Maps app.
Of course the Galaxy S3 has the usual facebook app, Contact list and mini-diary. Interestingly, when logging into facebook for the first time, it automatically downloaded the list of my friends and family along with their photographs into my list of contacts. It also downloaded all the pictures I had posted on facebook.
Sharing files, photos and videos
I like that any photos I want to share can be sent directly from the phone to Dropbox, Bluetooth, chatON, email facebook or flipboard.
There are several methods of transferring files etc to PC, or another phone, as with other smart phones, via a USB cable or email. However, files, songs and videos can be transferred directly to another Galaxy 3 phone via Samsung's unique S-Beam by standing each phone back to back, or wirelessly to laptop, PC or phone, by using the pre-installed app, Kies air.
The battery life per day depends largely on the amount of usage, I find I need to charge it once a day. Fortunately, the battery has no memory, so it is perfectly safe to charge it at any time and does not need to be completely discharged before re-charging as is the requirement for batteries with memories.
There are several ways to save energy consumption, by reducing the screen lighting, turning off GPS and Wi-Fi when not required, turning down the volume and turning on the power saving mode.
I am not sure of the price to purchase as a pay as you go phone, but think it is around the £300 mark. I believe there is a choice of different tariffs. I am with Vodafone. For the first three months, I had free unlimited use, contracted at £33 per month, in other words, I could make as many UK phone calls or texts and have unlimited internet access for free. After which, I still get unlimited UK texts and UK calls. My free internet access would be limited to 1024MB, however, at this moment in time, I do not know whether the allowance is per month or per year or for the length of the contract. According to my account I have used 13MB of my allowance in three months. My Vodafone app, allows me to access my account to monitor my usage.
When I chose this phone, Vodafone set it up for me and talked me through all the apps and options, then set up a Gmail address, which apparently was mandatory before I could add my normal email address. They transferred all saved data, addresses etc and photos from my old phone so all I had to do was go home and explore the contents of my new toy.
So far, I have not dropped my phone and am reluctant, even for the purpose of this review, to test its ability to withstand a potentially damaging encounter with the ground or water.
I have since bought a case for it, which certainly gives protection from hard knocks and prevents accidental damage to the screen.
I also purchased a well illustrated and comprehensive book by Steve Schwartz called My Samsung Galaxy S 111, which has helped immensely my understanding, and use some of the pre-installed apps and saved me traipsing down to Vodafone shop for more lessons.
I find it a very easy phone to use and handle, the cameras provide excellent quality photos and videos; the radio can only be used when the earphones are plugged in.
Texting is quick and simplified with the new intuitive system and not hampered by the old auto-correct system.
All in all I am pleased that I upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy S 3.
It's a pocket sized combi - phone, clock, diary, address book, directory, Photo album, weather forecaster, news paper, library, book shop, postie, video-recorder and computer.
If there is one thing that sends shivers down my spine, it is the sight of a dog being thrown a thin stick, or running with one poking out of its mouth like one of Winston Churchill's cigars.
Dogs love chasing or carrying things, but there have been many, many reported cases of dogs being horrendously injured when one they caught or carried became lodged in its throat, or worse still skewered the throat and exited through the neck or speared the stomach.
Some while back, friends of mine, who had never owned a dog before, bought a beautiful , very energetic Cocker spaniel puppy and we all met up in the fields where the dogs tumbled around like circus clowns together chasing each other in turn. One Sunday I saw the husband throwing sticks and the pup retrieving them, often running back, full-pelt with the stick protruding from its mouth like one of Kojack's lollies. All I could do was hope he would not stumble like puppies often do.
Realising that they were obviously unaware of the hazards, I warned them of the possible consequences should the dog fall when carrying the stick, but the husband continued, much to his wife's dismay, throwing sticks. Apparently, he had Aspergers syndrome so often would not take on board all that was said.
The following Saturday, I looked in our local pet shop to see if there was anything more suitable, than tennis or rubber balls, which the dog would chase but then sit and chew, rather than bring it back.
I then saw exactly the right toy. The Dogsaver Stick It looked like a coloured rubber stick... Perfect, I thought and bought two, straight away, one for Moses, my Collie Cross and one for Otto, the lively spaniel pup.
The Dogsaver Stick.
The Dogsaver sticks are hollow cylinders made of a flexible, synthetic rubber, available in a range of different colours, mine were orange, they come in two sizes, small, approximately 20cm in length and large which is the size I bought, these are about 29.5cms in length and 4cm diameter.
One very good feature of this stick is that it floats on water, so ideal when playing near water; it will not sink before the dog can retrieve it.
The smaller stick is more suitable for small breeds such as Yorkies, although they could wrap their mouths round the bigger stick, they probably would not be able to catch one.
Another pleasing aspect about this toy is that it is gentle on a dog's mouth, particularly their teeth, when playing catch. Some harder, more solid rubber toys tend to give teeth or nose a hard knock when thrown in games of catch.
Although they are made of a strong material, if a dog enjoys dismantling its toys, the Dogsaver stick is not as tough as Kongs are. A determined pooch can, with some effort, bite off chunks, so really, this toy should only be used to play fetch or catch and not left in the pet's toy box for it to chew at leisure.
My experience and thoughts.
Moses, my Collie Cross, loves all toys, soft or otherwise. His collection of toys matches any spoiled child's.
Always, on my return from the shops he eagerly anticipates treats in the form of edibles or toys.
I threw him the Dogsaver stick, which he caught, sniffed and squeezed, hoping it would squeak. Having discovered it to be a silent toy, brought it to me to play one of our games, catch, fetch or tug-o-war.
We played catch and tug-o-war with it without leaving any teeth marks, so I knew that this was just what Otto, would enjoy retrieving and at the same time, be safe from injury. Next day, I took one of the rubber sticks to give to Otto. It was a joy to watch him running after the pretend stick. In fact, it took some persuading him to let go of it when he brought it back. He had not quite got the hang of dropping it so that it could be thrown again.
I am happy to say that from that day on Otto was never thrown another wooden stick. He did, in true puppy style test it for taste and at the end of play, settled in the grass to nibble the end, since then, the only time he was allowed the stick was in the fields under supervision. There he would, when tired of chasing, just carry it around, only dropping it to sniff a molehill or mound of grass, picking it up again to carry home... Cocker spaniel fashion.
Although ideal for games of fetch and tug-o-war, these pretend sticks can be chewed, so it is safer just to keep them to play whilst under supervision.
My little Yorkie Mollie, now in her thirteenth year, enjoys a leisurely stroll around fields and parks; yet to get there for her little legs; it is a long, tiring walk.
Although I have purchased several items to carry Mollie to the parks, all were only suitable for reasonably short journeys, taking about 10 to 15minutes to reach the desired destination.
She was quite happy to sit in her present carrier in the upright, doggy begging position for that length of time, after which she would become restless. This became evident, when I stopped on the way home for a natter with a neighbour, sitting on her tail for longer periods made her fidgety. It was this observation that prompted me to search for something better for her.
Our local pet shop had nothing suitable, so off to the internet I went to find a carrier more suited to her needs; one in which she would be able to stand on all four feet, sit or lie comfortably. There are plenty of such carriers on the market, but I have not found one that is kind to my shoulders or arms. Most have short handles and even the ones with longer handles or shoulder straps, are a strain for weaklings like myself to carry very far with a 5-kilogram dog aboard.
A few years ago I purchased a large pet stroller when my collie cross was very ill and it was far too hot to take him to the vets in my car, but it is too big for Mollie. I was looking for something similar, but smaller.
It was on Amazon that I found the Go-Pet, a small animal transport system, a lightweight pet stroller costing £59.99 and a hefty £16 delivery, even so, a small price to pay to ensure both pet and owner are safe and comfy.
They are slightly cheaper at www.paw-things.com A Welsh based firm selling them for £54.50, though I am not sure of their postage costs. The link to their Go-Pet page is http://buy1or2.com/go%2Ddog/
If you already have a carrier and just want the frame, this can be purchased separately for £29.50
Weight of the whole stroller: 3.5 Kilograms, just a little under 8lbs
Stroller frame height from ground to handle: 38-inches.
Carrier height: 16-inches
Can carry dogs weighing up to : 14Kgs, 30lbs
The Go-Pet stroller is available in two, two-toned colours; Midnight blue and magnolia or Dusky rose and magnolia. It comes with the frame folded and the carrier, also folded, enclosed in a strong denim storage case and an A4 size sheet of easy, systematic instructions on how to construct the stroller.
It arrived, well packaged in ready to assemble parts, two sets of double wheels, the back wheels one, fixed to the axel, one free, the frame, a plastic tray, and the carrier, which was folded and enclosed in a denim type case.
The frame is made of rust-resistant tubular steel, I thought at first it was aluminium because it was so light, but a test with a magnet confirmed it to be steel. The six wheel tyres are made of solid rubber; the four front wheels swivel, making the whole unit much easier to steer than fixed-wheeled strollers. At the rear are two footbrakes, one for each wheel. The handle was nicely padded with a soft, spongy, rubbery material.
Midway down each side of the frame is a large, black plastic, quick release fixture, enabling the frame to be folded down when not in use.
A strong, black plastic storage unit, clipped onto the frame handle has two cup-holders one on each side of a lidded storage area, very useful for keeping doggy bags, or other small objects safe.
At the base of the frame is a canvas sling onto which the carrier is attached with the four clips on the bottom of the carrier.
The carrier is described as being made of '600 Denier, water-resistant fabric,' and oblong in shape with a convex roof. Both ends are double zipped so that they can be opened in order to fold the carrier flat for storage or make the exit larger for bigger dogs. When closed the rear has a small, fixed mesh windows and a sun-blind-like flap that can be folded up and held open by Velcro strips.; the front has a large, zipped, mesh door which, when folded back opens the exit area wide enough for most pets to be released from the carrier. Each side has fixed mesh windows with foldable sun-blind-like flaps and long storage pockets.
On the roof of the carrier is a strong fabric carrying handle and the floor of the carrier is padded with a removable, washable fleece lining. A short restraining leash is sewn to the front, but I found this be unsuitable for Mollie because it was long enough to allow her to dangle from the front of the carriage, should she decide to try jumping out.
My experience and opinion.
I found the assembly instructions easy to follow and it took me about ten minutes to construct the unit and attach the carrier.
Eager to try it out, I popped Mollie into the carrier, clipped her lead onto her harness, fed the end through an opening in the rear end of the carrier, where I had eased back one of the zips, then tied it to the handle and set off down the road, stopping briefly on the way to greet a friend.
After a short conversation, we then continued our journey to the fields, but unbeknownst to me Mollie, while the stroller was stationary, had jumped out of the open flap and was toddling on in front, that is until she took a left turn into the wheels, acting as a brake. I had forgotten to shorten the lead and there was enough left to allow her to leap free and explore whilst I was chatting.
I found the whole unit so light, requiring very little effort to push up and down hills, on gravel or over fields, providing the grass was not too long, of course. I believe that because it is so light, that it would also travel well over sandy areas. The steering was a joy. The pivoted front wheels made it delightfully manoeuvrable.
Molly is very comfortable in the carrier, the fact that she runs to the stroller when the word 'walkies 'is mentioned, seems to confirm that she feels safe and at ease in her new mode of transport, which I now refer to as Mollie's trolley.'
I think it is an ideal way to transport small animals, especially ones that are poorly, or are unable to walk far, but still love to be out in the fresh air.
I know a man, a wonderful animal lover, who used to put his ailing dog in a wheel chair to take it to a safe place for a short walk on grass. The dog loved his trips to the countryside.
Pets are not allowed in shops, but in one of these, I am sure, there would be no complaints. I was thinking particularly of puppies. I remember when Mollie was a pup, too young to walk far and too young to be left on her own for long; I used to take her shopping in a rucksack with just her head peeking out of the top, having asked permission from shopkeepers first naturally. Most allowed me in with her, but was not the ideal way to shop with a dog in tow, so to speak.
For many years, I had used a flex guide attached to my ironing board to keep the iron cord out of harm's way when ironing. As time passed, it eventually gave up the ghost and I resumed battling with the cord, which would either snag on the edge of the ironing board or curl up on the iron stand at the end. The cord began to fray and looks a little worse for wear, but even then, I did nothing to find a replacement.
It was my laptop mouse-cable's irritating habit of sweeping everything in its path off the table onto the floor, or becoming tangled around sturdier objects it could not dislodge, that prompted me to hunt for a solution to this problem. I needed something to keep the cable off the table.... simple, but what? My hunt for a flex holder began.
My 'eureka' moment came when I happened across the Brabantia foldable flex guide in our local stores. At first, I did not recognize it as a flex guide for it was much taller and nothing like the old one I had used previously on my ironing board, even though it served the same purpose.
I bought one for £5.59, which, crazy as it may seem; I use to hold the mouse lead off the table. However, for the purpose of this review, I also used it a few times whilst ironing, but since I use my mouse more frequently than my iron, it has become almost permanently attached to the table. I fully intend to purchase another one from my local store, for my iron having rediscovered the enormous benefits of keeping the cord out of harm's way.
Specifications and Description
Total height, when clamped to the board: 60cm.
Fits ironing tables up to 3.5cm thick.
Unsuitable for Steam Control ironing tables
2 year guarantee.
£5.59. Price can vary; the cheapest online price I found was £6.95 on Amazon.
The strong plastic G-clamp, so called because it resembles a G with a straight, rather than curved back, holds a 52cm, flexible aluminium rod fixed into a hinged 4.5cm rectangular piece of thick plastic, which in turn is slotted into a deep recess inside the back of the clamp when in use.
The top of the rod ends with the flex holding device made of the same material. The only metal bits are the screw and rod. The clamp is 2.4cm wide, with a large, knurled screw to clamp it to the ironing board, or in my case, the table. A thin disc of rubber on the clamp protects whatever it is fixed too from damage when the screw is tightened.
At the top of the G-clamp is a 0.5cm depth recess, where the hinged, lower end of the rod can lie flat, flush with the top of the clamp and surface of the ironing board when not in use. This is achieved by pulling the rod up from the back recess and folding it flat into the top recess of the clamp, where it clips into place.
The flex holding device at the top, shaped rather like a bishop's mitre, has a generous 1cm width, 5.5cm depth slot into which the cord is placed. A couple of small ridges inside the device grips the cord and prevents it pulling through when using the iron.
Fix the clamp to the iron stand and plug the cord into a socket. Then with the iron near the far end of the table, push the cord into the flex guide, to form one side of a triangle with the table and rod, where it will stay firmly in place and above the table out of the way of the iron.
I guarantee that it makes ironing a much easier chore than when having to constantly straighten out garments ruckled by a trailing cord or having to flick excess cord away from the stand every time you want to put the iron down. Needless to say really, but I will; because there is no friction against the ironing board, the cord remains undamaged for a lot longer.
When the ironing is finished, remove the cord, pull the rod up from the rear recess and fold it down flat, parallel with the ironing board surface, before storing.
As I said earlier, I use this flex guide mainly to hold my mouse cable. Fixed to the table, it holds the cable off the work top, not only does it allow me to use the mouse without needing to clear the floor from debris swept there by the cable, it leaves more room on the table for pens, paper and other paraphernalia usually adorning desks. The cable sits nicely between the flex guide device completely out of the way.
As for the ironing experience, although it is not my most favourite of pastimes, it does make it much less stressful and time consuming.
No batteries required for this little beauty, but I still had to rate battery life.
As a rule a person who owns a dozen or so working clocks would not even look at another clock let alone consider purchasing one, or so you would think... however, I am the exception to that rule.
Whilst shopping at Lidls I came across the Auriol photo wall clock. I did not purchase it then and there, but a few days after having my sitting room redecorated for the first time in a decade, I decided that this modern looking clock would just finish off the new look perfectly and so silently promised myself to buy one if still in stock. It was; I did.
Requires one AA size battery...supplied.
Weight with battery in place: 1.178kg
Measures 33cms in height and width and is 4cm deep.
The black numbers are 2cm high on a silver/grey metallic background.
It has 4 internal pockets to hold 10x15cm size images.
Comes with a 3 year warranty and comprehensive instruction booklet in five languages
The casing is made of a sturdy, black plastic; the face and matching surround displaying the numbers, appears to be of a thin metallic veneer. A glass plate covers and protects the hands and photo pockets into which pictures or photographs, each measuring 10cmx15cm, can be inserted.
At the rear, is a plastic plate held in place by large, plastic housing screws, one in each corner, which needs to be turned by hand in a clockwise direction to remove the plate and anticlockwise to fasten it to the main body of the clock. The battery compartment is positioned at the back of the clock in the centre; a gap in the plate allows easy access to battery and buttons.
At the top of the rear plate is a keyhole shaped recess, to hang clock on a suitable wall fixture, screw or picture hook.
Unlike ordinary battery operated clocks and watches, Auriol produce radio controlled systems, which receives time pulses called DCF signals, transmitted by one of the most accurate clocks in the world in Germany. The accuracy is such that it varies by one second in a million years. Fortunately, I will not be around by then to check the truth of that statement.
Because this is a radio controlled clock, the set up is slightly different and more fascinating than setting up an ordinary clock.
Firstly, remove the back plate and slide out the photo holder. This is another plastic insert with well defined, walled cavities into which photographs are placed. The narrow walls prevent the pictures sliding around. Once the back is replaced and secured and battery inserted; the clock will then automatically search for the DFC signal and sets the hands to the correct time. The process takes a couple of minutes to complete. It is fascinating to watch, for if the hands are at say 9 o'clock and the time is 10 o'clock, the minute and hour hands slowly pass the ten and do a complete circuit around the clock before settling on 10 o'clock.
There are three buttons on the battery compartment, namely M.SET, RESET and REC. Which can be used to either start the process or to set the time manually. Starting it manually is useful if for some reason the DCF signal has not been detected. Manual modes are over ridden once the DCF signal is received.
The M.SET button will start the minute hand moving in one-minute steps to allow the correct time to be set manually.
The RESET button is to reset the clock to default settings, so that the process can be re-started should the clock not initially react.
The REC button is to start the searching process for the DCF signal, used when the battery is changed.
After removing it from the box, scrutinising the instructions, placing my pictures into the frame, and adding the battery, the clock began searching for the DCF signal and the hands moved slowly around the clock. They went way past the actual time and continued the circuit until it almost reached the correct time. In fact, it stopped half an hour too soon, so I pressed the REC button and started the process again, once again it stopped half an hour short of real time.
I was beginning to think that Germany had lost half an hour and was almost ready to take the clock back to Lidls, when I thought to try setting the time manually. I pressed the M.SET button and kept it depressed until it reached the correct time, the hands slowly moved forward, one minute at a time. At the hour I released the button and the clock has kept perfect time ever since.
Normally when it is time to set my clocks to Summer time by moving it forward an hour, I would complete this tedious task the night before, but I wanted to see if the Auriol clock would reset the time without my help. Sure enough, by morning, the clock had set itself to British Summer time. I am hoping it will reset itself again, when we have to turn the clocks back an hour.
Auriol produce different designed radio controlled clocks. I chose this one for its modern design and to be able display my favourite photos; I have not been disappointed.
2014: This clock, so far has kept perfect time and changes automatically from British Summer time to winter time and from Winter time back to summer time... Brilliant.
Every year when it was time to prune bushes and tidy up the hydrangeas, I used to sneak small amounts into my wheelie bin for the refuse men to collect. Very naughty of me really, for it goes to land fill, when it could easily be made into a sort of compost. Having said that it takes years for twigs and leaves to rot down to useable compost material, so when I saw in one of our local stores, a garden incinerator, I decided it was the ideal solution to my problem of disposing large amounts of garden clippings without resorting to wasting good potential compost material to land fill sites.
By burning garden waste, it reduces the volume rendering it ready to spread over the ground or mix with compost; either way it is readily absorbed into the soil.
Dimensions and description
The incinerator is made of thin galvanised steel it looks rather like a re-designed dustbin of old, with a chimney in its lid and perforations in the floor and around the lower end. It tapers slightly from top to base and stands on three sturdy, galvanised feet, all of which are supplied with the bin along with the bolt fixtures. There is one handle on each side of the bin and one fixed to the lid. All the metal components are galvanised to prevent them from rusting.
Cost: £24.99 from local stores, but I have seen them on Amazon for about £16 but after adding postage it brings cost up to around £25.
Capacity: 90 litres
Weight: (according to the manufacturers) 8 Kg.
Height, with feet attached: 26-inches: 66cm
Height with feet attached and lid in place: 33-inches: 85cm
Girth at the top: 56-inches: 142.3cm.
Girth at the base: 50-inches: 127cm.
Precautions to be taken when using the incinerator:
Although there were no instructions supplied or any useful information about usage of the incinerator, it is worth mentioning that it is a potentially dangerous piece of equipment to have around, especially where children, the elderly or pets are concerned.
Before use, it should be placed on a flat, even surface, sheltered from high winds and well away from any inflammable liquids or substances, such as the garden fence or bushes. When I use it I place a barrier around it so that my dogs cannot get close enough to be injured.
It should never be used to burn plastic or rubber materials, the fumes from these can be toxic.
It is also more socially acceptable to use it later in the day after neighbours washing has been taken in or they are not out in their gardens sunbathing. There is nothing worse than smoke drifting over the fence when out trying to soak up the sun.
Sod's law will always change the wind direction so that any smoke or aromas go towards the neighbours when my incinerator is in use or towards my garden when they are having a BBQ.
After a while the lid and handle does get hot, so when adding more waste to an already lit incinerator, it is best to wear protective gloves when lifting the lid; and also to let the unit cool down before emptying the contents.
A tray or slab under the incinerator will catch some of the burnt waste as it falls through the perforations in the floor.
Finally, never leave it completely unattended when in use. Fire is dangerous, even when contained in a bin. A can of water nearby might be a useful, additional safety precaution.
I tend to use mine either late evening or during the week when people are at work. I found by trial and error that it is best to place some dry paper or cardboard and twigs at the bottom of the bin and light this first before adding more dry waste.
Packing it too tightly with twigs and leaves is more likely to smother the fire rather than encourage it to burn well. I also found that by storing any garden waste for a couple of days in a refuse sack to allow it to dry out before incinerating; it catches light more quickly and burns better that it would were it freshly cut.
Although it is galvanised, eventually this protection will burn off, so I am told, therefore when not in use the incinerator is best kept under cover.
As for durability, this very much depends on frequency of usage and the weight of materials placed in the container at any one time, keeping in mind the incinerator is made of very thin metal and lobbing in brick-size pieces of wood, might just cause the floor to collapse.
I have only used mine a couple of times, so am unable to predict its life span, but am confident that it is still going to be usable for many pruning seasons to come.
As predicted, constant use, does burn off the galvanisation and it rusts during the winter, but remains usable, nevertheless.
I have two wonderful dogs, one is a little Yorkshire terrier the other a collie cross, but thankfully, both enjoy the same brand of complete dry kibble, which I normally mix with meat.
Good brands of kibble are expensive when compared to the cheaper, less healthy varieties. Fortunately bulk buying does tend to bring down the prices to an acceptable level, where feeding the dog is just a tad less expensive than feeding oneself.
However, buying in bulk also brings problems of storage, keeping the food fresh and out of temptations way of any rodents happening by in the vicinity, if stored in garages or outhouse. Those pesky little critters would soon nibble their way through the packaging before tucking in to a hearty meal. This was one of the main reasons for resisting purchasing large quantities of pet food for a long while, and then I discovered there were containers of all shapes and sizes, on the market designed specifically for keeping pet kibble fresh and free from uninvited guests.
The one I decided upon was the Curver Petlife Dog Food Container, costing me £29.99 from Amazon post free.
The container holds 20Kg, 54L of food, ample room for the 15Kg bags of kibble I now purchase.
The Curver Dog Food container:
This narrow, slim line container, standing about knee height, is made of very strong, glossy, white plastic with almost life size portraits of dogs on the sides and front. The front is convex shaped with no corners to hurt or harm passing shins. There are two, inset wheels at the back and two lids at the top, one opens the whole of the top, to make filling from the bags easier, and inset into the large lid is a smaller one, to use when scooping out food for the meals.
A green, plastic scoop is provided, which can be conveniently clipped onto the inside of the smaller lid.
I have a place under the staircase where this container fits perfectly. When I need to top up my smaller container that I keep in the kitchen, all I need do is pull the Curver from under the alcove, lift the lid and scoop out the kibble.
I tend to use the larger of the two container lids, for I found the smaller one rather difficult to open. The scoop, which was provided, I just leave on top of the kibble, simply because again, it is difficult to place the scoop in its slot in the lid. I prefer the easy route into the container and not engage in a battle with the scoop each time I want to use it.
I can just about lift the 15kg bag high enough to transfer the contents into the container without spilling kibble all over the floor, any heavier then I would struggle. Even if the bag were too heavy, it would not take long to scoop some of the contents into the Curver to reduce the weight of the bag before lifting.
To give you some idea of the savings I achieve; instead of purchasing 2kg bags of kibble (Approx £4.25 per kg) which I used to do before buying the Curver pet food container, I now purchase 15Kg bags for £41.90 (£2.79 per Kg.)
My savings, every three to four months, comes to around £21.85, so as you can see, the savings achieved with one purchase has almost covered the cost of the container. The kibble keeps fresh and neither my dogs or me can detect any aroma of the contents. The Curver glides easily on its wheels, so all things considered, and despite my minor niggle with the smaller of the two lids, it has become a valuable addition to my doggy equipment.
Carbon Monoxide monitors have been around for years, but are one of those gadgets that I never gave very much thought too for a very long time. I knew they existed, yet my foolish supposition that the danger is so remote that it wasn't worth bothering about is exactly the same as the thoughts of those who have tragically suffered and died through exposure to high levels of the toxic gas. Although the risks are minimal, they do exist.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide, (CO) is what is commonly known as the silent killer, it is a colourless, odourless gas given off by incomplete combustion of all carbon containing materials; fuels such as natural gas, paraffin, petrol, Calor gas, coal, wood and, would you believe, tobacco. When any of these materials are burnt in enclosed, poorly ventilated places, a build up of CO can occur to levels that could kill if not detected in time, because in high enough concentrations it combines readily with the oxygen-carrying component of blood cells (haemoglobin) depriving vital organs of essential, life-giving oxygen. Often, when the early symptoms of poisoning occurs, the brain, already starved of oxygen, is too confused to alert the potential victim of the danger they are in.
Who are at risk?
Anyone who uses wood burning stoves, are just as much at risk as those who own and use gas boilers for central heating and for heating water, gas hobs, portable gas heaters and oil and coal burning appliances.
Caravanners, campers and boat owners are also at risk when using LPG cooking appliances to heat their rooms, or using any fuel burning devices inside the cabins, without adequate ventilation.
It all sounds very scary, but what it really boils down to is that when flues, chimneys and vents are well maintained and the appliances are not at fault, then there should be no risk whatsoever of a build up of toxic levels of carbon monoxide. But and there is always a but, who can tell when an appliance is malfunctioning, or that a bird's nest has blocked a vent, chimney or flue? In many respects, it can happen to anyone and that is why having eventually woken to that fact, I purchased my Kidde 7DCO carbon monoxide alarm from Amazon at a cost of £15.99, post free.
The Kidde 7DCO Carbon monoxide alarm.
Weight (including batteries) 190g
Three AA batteries are supplied with the alarm, plus a small, comprehensive instruction booklet with advice on where the unit is best placed in boats, caravans and houses.
Noise level of the alarm, at 1 meter is 85Db
This neat little, neutral coloured box of tricks can be wall mounted or left free standing.
Two screws and raw-plugs are supplied which need to be fixed to the wall if the unit is to be wall-mounted.
At the convex shaped front, almost centrally positioned, is the LED screen, where the CO levels are displayed at all times. When the battery is low, 'Lb' is displayed on the screen and the small red LED on the far left of the unit, flashes red, chirping every 60 seconds. If there is a fault, 'Err' is displayed and again, the red LED flashes and gives out a chirp every 30 seconds this time. When the life of the unit expires, approximately ten years after commencement of monitoring, 'End 'is displayed, the red LED flashes and it chirps twice every 30 seconds.
On the left of the screen is a small, oval, green, power LED which flashes every 30 seconds throughout the lifetime of the monitor, this just indicates that the alarm has power.
There is a test button positioned towards the top of the unit, used when setting up, to check the system is functioning correctly. Below this is a Peak Level button which when pressed will display on the LED screen, the most recent CO level detected between 11 and 999ppm. Useful if there is a need to check levels occurring in your absence from the home.
At the rear is the battery compartment, covered by a back-plate with two holes set 7cm apart, through which screw heads are slotted to secure the unit to the wall once the batteries have been inserted.
The beauty of this particular model is that it is also freestanding and therefore portable, should you wish to take it away when camping or staying in hotels or chalets etc. I was thinking that had a young family holidaying in Greece, a few years ago had one of these in their apartment, they might still be alive today.
Installation is a perfectly simple procedure. The back-plate is removed and three AA batteries inserted before replacing the plate; when the batteries are inserted correctly, it gives a short beep. I must admit, I was not expecting that and nearly dropped the whole unit on my dog's head.
The unit is then placed in the appropriated position; either on a wall, or area at least 2 meters from any fuel burning appliance. If on the wall, then place it at eyelevel so that the digital readout can be seen.
Test the alarm by pressing the test button, the alarm sounds for 10 seconds if the system is working correctly. The digital readout on the LED screen initially shows '---'then '888' and finally it settles at '0'
One final check is to see if the green LED flashes every 30 seconds, best seen in the dark or shadowed area.
Dangerous levels of Carbon Monoxide.
Carbon monoxide levels are measured in Parts per million (PPM) which indicates how many molecules of CO are in a total of one million molecules. Up to 30 PPM is considered safe, after which it becomes increasingly dangerous.
The monitor is 'Time weighted,' so that at levels of say 50 PPM the alarm will start 60 -90 minutes after those levels have been reached. At 100 PPM, the alarm will sound within 10 - 40 minutes of those levels being detected, but at 300 PPM, the alarm will sound in less than three minutes.
Levels of CO versus effects on healthy adults.
For young children, pets and the elderly, the effects may occur at lower levels.
At 100 PPM, flu-like symptoms occur, slight headache, fatigue, nausea.
At 200 PPM, the headache becomes more severe and dizziness occurs within 2 to 3 hours of exposure.
At 400 PPM, drowsiness, increased heart rate and confusion, life is very much at risk after 3 hours of exposure to these levels.
At 800 PPM, the headache is more severe, convulsions may occur, and vital organs begin to fail. Death may occur within 2 to 3 hours of exposure to these levels.
Only recently and very tragically, a family were exposed to levels of 10,000 PPM in their home, none survived.
I found the monitor easy to set up and check, I prefer to have it freestanding rather than fixed to a wall. The level remains comfortingly at zero.
Now that I have a monitor, I wonder how I could have been so blasé about the whole issue of carbon monoxide production, exposure and consequences of inhaling toxic levels. I cannot say that I ever felt in danger before purchasing a monitor, but am very much aware now that I am safe, for there will be plenty of warning in the unlikely event of something going wrong with my heating appliance or the flues and vents becoming accidentally blocked.