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helenmay80

helenmay80
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Member since: 23.08.2005

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    • Why (not) travel? / Discussion / 73 Readings / 66 Ratings
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      25.11.2005 13:24
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      Malu's holiday challenge...

      It's a cold, snowy day over here in Sweden, so I thought I'd cheer myself up by completing this holiday challenge set by MALU.

      Q: How many times a year do you travel?

      I'm living in Sweden at the moment, so we seem to have lots of little holidays to places in Sweden, or in the nearby Scandinavian countries. We also pop back to England quite a lot to see family and friends, but I'm not sure if that is so much of a holiday as we spend our time rushing round trying to catch up with everyone! Before moving here we probably had 2 holidays a year - one abroad and one in the UK.

      Q: For how long do you go away?

      Either a week or two weeks if we're lucky enough to have some money to splash out with!

      Q: Do you stay in your home country or do you go abroad?

      Since living in Sweden we've had quite a few weekends away exploring the surrounding areas. We've been to Gothenburg and Stockholm several times and did a big road trip in the summer along the South Coast which was brilliant (you can read my Southern Sweden holiday and Gothenburg reviews if you're interested!), plus a few trips to the North of Sweden to go snowboarding.

      We’ve not been abroad much since living here, as it’s nice to explore what’s on our doorstep but I’ve got lots of great foreign holiday memories, with some of the best from Egypt. I've got great memories of us clambering down the steep steps to reach the inside of the pyramids and also diving in Egypt and seeing dolphins, manta rays and turtles - amazing! Another happy memory was when we were invited to lunch with a local family in Gambia - we ate rice and fish with our hands in their little, corrugated tin house and we treated like royalty.

      Q: Do you organise your holidays yourself or do you go to a travel agency?

      It depends where we’re going really. For holidays in Sweden we’ve organised it ourselves, either booking hotels through the internet or just waiting until we get to our chosen destination. In terms of holidays abroad it’s ranged from self booked holidays to super cheap last minute package deals.

      Q: Do you prepare your holidays in advance by reading guide books and studying maps?

      I’m quite anal about reading guide books and writing lists of places I want to go and see, and then spend the holiday reeling off useless facts saying ‘according to the book its says…!’ But then at other times it’s nice just to wait and see what happens when you get there and let the mood take you.

      Q: Do you travel alone/with family or friends/with an organised group?

      Usually it's just me and my boyfriend, but we've had a few weekends away with friends here in Sweden, and we've had 2 trips to Spain with my boyfriend's family.

      Q: Do you prefer the sea / mountains / plains / cities as destinations?

      I like all types of holidays but I think the sea is my favourite. It’s great just to lie on the beach for a few days at the beginning of a holiday and unwind.

      I’ve recently started snowboarding, so I’d also choose a mountain holiday now too. Whilst we were in Egypt we had a bit of a ‘mountain experience’ - I decided it would be really nice to climb Mount Sinai (where they say Moses received the 10 commandments) and watch the sun-rise from the top. We booked our hike up the mountain and were told it would be cold and to wrap up. Seeing as we were on a hot summer holiday to Egypt we didn't really have any warm clothes, so just put on lots of layers of whatever we had. The climb up the mountain was relatively easy, with lots of hot chocolate and Mars bar breaks. For the last half an hour of the climb our guide left us and said he would meet us again after we had watched the sunrise at the top. We clambered up the last part of the mountain in howling winds, thinking we'd get blown off the mountain and never seen again! We reached the very top and it was absolutely freezing - I have never been soooooo cold in all of my life! We rented some blankets to keep us warm, but the blankets were made of camel fur and stunk!! We had to wait about 20 minutes before the sun came up and all of this time my boyfriend was scowling at me and asking 'whose bright idea was it to do this!' We've got some beautiful photos of the sun rising over the mountains, but I don't think I'll ever be forgiven for dragging my boyfriend up the mountain!

      Q: Do you mainly relax or are you an active holidayer?

      I like doing a bit of both. It’s nice to have a day on the beach and then a day out an about exploring. I’ve got my BSAC scuba diving qualification so I really enjoy getting the chance to go diving whilst on holiday too. We’ve taken our bikes with us each time we’ve gone away in Sweden and its been a great way to explore.

      Q: If you go abroad do you learn at least some words of the foreign language?

      In Sweden I can get by fairly well speaking to Swedes, but during our trip along the south coast I really struggled as they have a thick accent that sounds like they’re talking with a mouthful of porridge! In other countries I normally try and learn a few phrases, and at the very least ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. During a holiday to Tunisia I also learnt how to write my name in Arabic.

      Q: Are you interested in the cuisine of a foreign country?

      The food on holiday is all part of the holiday experience for me. I love trying new things and finding out about the local cuisine. I hate it when people go on holiday and moan about the ‘foreign food’ and just stick to fish and chips!

      Q: Which means of transportation do you prefer?

      I don’t really mind so long as I get to the destination in one piece. I enjoy flying if it’s a foreign destination, or being in the car and seeing the scenery if it’s a destination in driving distance.

      Q: Do you send picture postcards to your family and friends?

      I always send loads of postcards to friends and family and try my hardest to write something different to everyone, but it’s not always possible!

      Thanks for reading and hope you all have happy holidays!!

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      • Spinning in General / Discussion / 49 Readings / 45 Ratings
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        25.11.2005 10:47
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        The most popular group indoor cycling class in the world!

        You may have seen ‘Spinning’ advertised on your timetable at the gym and wondered what it was - this review is meant to explain the mysteries of Spinning to you.

        **What is it?**

        Well it’s not as it sounds - standing in the middle of a field and spinning around, but is infact a cycling class on static bikes. By static bikes I mean bikes similar to a standard exercise bike, but slightly heavier and more solid so that you can stand up and cycle on them. Spinning bikes also have a small dial on the crossbar which you can turn up or down to change the resistance against which you are pedalling. For example you can turn the dial up to a high resistance and have to pedal very hard and slowly against it, as if you are cycling up a steep hill, or you could have a lower resistance and cycle quickly as if you were cycling along a long, flat road.

        A Spinning class would normally take place in an aerobic studio with all of the spinning bikes facing forwards towards the instructors bike, so that the instructor can see the class and call out what you need to do. Depending on the size of the studio, there will be between 15 and 25 other ‘cyclists’. The class normally lasts between 30 minutes and an hour and would be accompanied by music. A Spinning class is suitable for all fitness abilities as you can turn the resistance dial up or down depending on your own abilities. For example, a beginner may need to only turn the dial a small amount before the resistance against the pedals makes it hard to pedal, while an experienced cyclist could turn the resistance up to a much higher level, but everyone can participate in the same class.

        **Who started it?**

        Spinning was invented in 1986 by an American ultra-endurance athlete called Johnny Goldberg. Today it is the most popular indoor group cycling class in the world.

        **What happens in a spinning class?**

        At the beginning of a Spinning class go in and find an available bike. You will need to make sure the saddle and handle bars are at the correct height for you. The height is adjusted by a small handle, which you pull up before you adjust the height and then push back down to lock the saddle/handlebars into position. The saddle should be in line with the top of your hip and your knee should be slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal stroke. If you are beginner, start with the handlebars fairly high, and then reduce the height of them as you become more familiar with Spinning until they are the same height at the saddle.

        Once you have adjusted your saddle and handlebars get onto the bike. On the pedals there are straps to hold your feet tightly against the pedals. Put your feet into these straps and pull the end of the strap to tighten it. On the other side of the pedal there are step in attachments for those of you with proper cycling shoes. Start cycling gentle to warm up before the class starts. If you’re new to Spinning make sure you tell the instructor so that he/her can give you some extra guidance throughout the class.

        The class will obviously differ depending on each instructor, but each class will follow the same format. The class will be accompanied by music with each song lasting roughly 3 minutes. The class will start with slower songs which you will cycle along to at a slow, low resistance pace, and perform some warm up stretches with your arms and shoulders. Each song will gradually get faster and the instructor will ask you to turn the resistance dial up. During some of the songs you will be asked to stand up out of the saddle and cycle standing up. This is much easier than it is on a normal bike, as Spinning bikes are built with a very heavy frame which keeps the bike upright and stops it from wobbling! As you are cycling the instructor will describe the route which you are cycling along, so that you can visualise yourself cycling uphill before peddling fast downhill on the other side.

        There are racing style handle bars on the Spinning bikes, which mean that the handle bars curve up at the end and 3 different hand positions which the instructor will call out to you. The first hand position is with your hands positioned centrally on the handle bars. The second position is with your hands positioned just before the curve on the handle bars and the third position in with your hands holding on right to the top edge of the handle bars.

        Towards the end of the class, the music will reach its peak and you will be asked to cycle at the toughest possible resistance you can manage. You may be asked to cycle for 4 counts sitting down in hand position one and then stand up and cycle for 4 counts in hand position 3, and then carry this on for the rest of the song, reducing it each time to 3 counts, 2 counts, to 1 count before sitting down towards the end of the song and peddling as fast as you possibly can!! Don’t worry about not knowing what to do as the instructor will call everything out as you are going along, and it is always easy to copy everyone else on the bikes around you.

        The songs will the gradually slowdown, as will your cycling, enabling you to cool down and bring your pulse back down to normal. The class will finish with more arm stretches while seated on the bike, plus leg stretches standing on the floor beside your bike. After the class you will probably have to wipe down you bike with water and towels which will be provided.

        It is worth noting that there are no breaks on a spinning bike, so make sure you slow your pedalling down to a stop before you get off the bike.

        **What should I wear?**

        Wear whatever you feel comfortable in to do exercise, for example, a t-shirt or vest and jogging bottoms or shorts. If you wear long jogging bottoms you may need to tuck them into your socks so that they do not catch in the bike chain, so cropped trousers or shorts may be more suitable. You may want to invest in padded cycling shorts to make the saddle slightly more comfortable, or a gel filled seat cover but it is not a necessity. You get quite hot and sweaty in a Spinning class so make sure that if you are wearing lots of layers you can take them off as the class progresses. On your feet you should wear normal gym trainers or specialist cycling shoes that you can clip onto the pedals.

        **What do I need to take with me?**

        Make sure you take a bottle of water with you. You can put the bottle in the clip on the bike beneath the handle bars and the instructor will pause in-between songs to allow you to have a drink of water. When you pause to drink, make sure you keep cycling, even if it only at a slow pace, as it will make it easier to start again! You could also take a towel to wipe your face and hands if they get sweaty, but again it is up to you. I’ve also seen quite a few people bringing an extra towel to sit on to make the saddle a bit more comfortable.

        **What is it good for?**

        Spinning is good for giving you a heart-pounding, yet low impact workout while maintaining the ability to go at your own pace. In a 40 minute class you will burn off an average of 500 calories and you gradually find yourself developing a leaner, stronger body. The high resistance cycling will help build up strength in your legs and bottom, which means you not only get shapelier legs but also increase your metabolism since muscle needs more calories to sustain themselves than fat does.

        **Can anyone do a Spinning class?**

        Yes - because you can go at your own pace by controlling the resistance on your Spinning bike, anyone of any fitness level can take Spinning classes as a way of getting fit. There are no complicated moves to learn and regardless of how fit, flexible or coordinated you are, you'll get a great workout. If you are recovering from an injury make sure you speak to the instructor or your doctor before starting a Spinning class though.

        Unlike traditional aerobic classes such as Step, there is usually an equal mix of female and male ‘cyclists’ taking part, plus people from all age groups.

        **Where can I do it?**

        Spinning is taught in over 100 countries at over 5000 gyms, so there is bound to be a class close by. Most gyms and health clubs offer Spinning classes so check in your local Yellow Pages to find your closest gym ‘Spinning’ is a trade name so the class may be called something slightly different, for example, Cycle Reebok or Pedal X.

        **Price**

        The price for a Spinning class will vary depending on your gym. Most gyms include Spinning classes in their monthly or annual gym membership, while others will charge between £3-£4 for each class.

        **What I think**

        I have been taking Spinning classes for a couple of years and thoroughly enjoy them. I get bored by just going to the gym and cycling on a normal exercise bike, but Spinning allows me to cycle in a fun environment to great music, and to receive encouragement from an instructor the whole time. Seeing the people around me pushing themselves makes me want to push myself harder and cycle at a higher resistance. It is an ideal class for those who enjoy cycling, but do not want to go out on their bikes on cold, rainy days. There is often low lighting in the Spinning studio, so there is no reason to feel self conscious and think that other people are looking at you. In truth you will be working tooo hard to notice those around you anyway! Since taking Spinning classes I have noticed that my legs have become stronger and leaner, and I find outdoor cycling on a ‘real’ bike much easier and can cycle for longer periods of time.

        **Warning**

        If you begin to feel faint or dizzy, slowly stop pedalling, carefully dismount from the bike and inform your instructor immediately.

        *More information**

        For more information contact your local gym, health centre or go to www.spinning.com

        Thanks for reading and happy Spinning! Helen

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        • More +
          17.11.2005 13:02
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          Easy to use, efficient stain removers for household stains.

          I am very clumsy and am constantly spilling things on my clothes or sitting in chewing gum! My greatest disaster so far was when I shook a pot of Tip-Ex at work and managed to cover myself and by brand new jeans and wool jumper with sticky white correction fluid!! Apart from feeling stupid, I knew not to worry about getting the stain out, as I knew help was at hand at home in the shape of a little bottle of Stain Devils.

          **What are they?**

          Stain Devil Specifics are small yellow bottles of stain removing solution. As every stain is different Stain Devils have created a unique system of individually formulated stain removers to effectively remove 100% of household stains. There are 8 Stain Devils available, with each one catering for a different sort of stain.

          Stain Devil no.1 removes ballpoint pen, felt tip and crayon etc
          Stain Devil no.2 removes blood, milk, cream and yoghurt etc
          Stain Devil no.3 removes chewing gum, glue and correction fluid etc
          Stain Devil no.4 removes coffee, tea, cola, and ink etc
          Stain Devil no.5 removes fat, grease, oil and curry etc
          Stain Devil no.6 removes fruit, red wine, baby food and mildew etc
          Stain Devil no.7 removes rust and iron mould
          Stain Devil no.8 removes tar, wax, paint and wax polish etc

          Stain Devils are formulated to be kind to fabric, hell on stains and suitable for use on most colourfast and washable fabrics. They are not suitable however for use on leather or suede.

          **The bottle**

          Each Stain Devil is sold in a small yellow 50ml bottle. They have a push down screw top lid, similar to those on a medicine or bleach bottle. The label on the front of the bottle outlines which stains the product can be used on, and the label on the back gives the directions for use.

          **How do I use them?**

          Aim to use the Stain Devils as quickly as possible, as the fresher the stain the easier it will be to remove it. However if it is a stain like correction fluid or wax, let it dry and then pick off as much as possible from the fabric before using the Stain Devil.

          If it is a small stain apply the Stain Devil liquid to a clean cloth and dab the stain, whilst also having a clean cloth below the stained fabric. Be careful to only dab and not rub, as rubbing can grind the stain further into the fabric. Reposition the clean cloth under the fabric frequently until the stain is removed. When the stain is fully removed rinse the treated area in warm water, or wash the whole garment according to its washing instructions.

          If it is a large stain (as it was with my Tip-ex accident!) pour the Stain Devil solution into a shallow bowl or saucer. Then immerse the stained area into the liquid and let it soak in for a few minutes, making sure you don’t let the solution dry on the fabric. Gently scrape away any residue using a blunt tool, or dab off the stain using a clean cloth. Again when the stain is fully removed rinse the treated area in warm water, or wash the whole garment according to its washing instructions.

          Always make sure you test the Stain Devil liquid on a hidden area of the fabric first, to check that it does not remove any dye or damage the fabric. The Tip-Ex I covered myself with also stained my dark coloured denim jeans, but the solution was gentle enough not to remove any of the dye.

          **Tips for removing stains**

          The Stain Devil website gives a number of tips for removing stains which include:
          - Be very wary of using hot water on a stain, as heat can often set stains rather than remove them.
          - Soak very soiled items for a few hours overnight before washing. Automatic washers with pre-wash cycles are ideal for soaking. Making sure powder detergents are dissolved completely before soaking and always note the garment care instructions.
          - Never soak garments made of wool or silk in an attempt to remove a stain.
          - If you are not certain of the type of fabric or finish of the garment, do not attempt to treat it immediately. In this case, take the garment to a dry cleaning specialist.

          **My Opinion**

          I have several different bottles of Stain Devils for each of my many stain disasters (I must learn to stop eating curry while wearing a white top!) and each different type of stain remover has worked brilliantly. They are incredible quick and easy to use and have not harmed any of the fabrics I have used them on, including a pure wool jumper and a silk top. Each of the stains have been removed my simply dabbing with a cloth covered in the solution, and only once (with the Tip-Ex) have I had to leave the solution to soak through the stain. The bottles are only small so they are easy to keep in a cupboard for emergencies.

          I would recommend Stain Devil Specifics to anyone who is a bit clumsy like me or with children. Each bottle cost £1.99 and a tiny bit of the solution goes a long way.

          **Warnings**

          Stain Devil solutions are extremely strong so make sure the bottle is kept tightly closed and out of the reach of children. Some of the solutions contain irritants so make sure you wear rubber gloves while using them and use them in a well ventilated area.

          **Where can I buy Stain Devils?**

          Stain Devils can be bought in most supermarkets, Wilkinsons, Marks and Spencer and other hardware shops. They can also be bought for £1.99 from the Stain Devil Website (www.acdoco.co.uk)

          **Further Information**

          If you are unsure as to how to treat a stain or require any further information, the bottle labels states that you can contact Helen Why at Acdodo Customer Service Department, Bolton BL1 8PP, or email her at Helen-why@acdo.co.uk

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          • HP Deskjet 3845 / Inkjet Printer / 47 Readings / 44 Ratings
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            15.11.2005 09:27
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            Compact value for money home printer

            I've been looking for a new job recently and my boyfriend was getting fed up trying to sneak my CV through his printer at work, so we decided it was time to buy our own. We've only got a little flat so wanted a compact, relatively cheap printer, which was easy to use. Although we don't have a digital camera yet (it's next on the wish list!) we wanted a printer which would be able to print good quality photos too.

            We decided upon a Hewlett Packard 3845 as it fulfilled each of these requirements. We paid £51.99 for this printer on PC Worlds website (its slightly more expensive if you buy in store).

            **Specifications**

            This is a colour ink-jet personal printer which prints up to 4800 x 1200dpi resolutions, using a single black ink cartridge (10ml) and a separate 3 colour cartridge (8ml). It can print up to 18 pages per minute in black and 14 pages in colour. The auto-load paper tray holds up to 100 plain A4 sheets of paper and envelopes, transparencies, labels, iron-on transfers, photo paper, cards and stickers can also be used. The printer automatically senses which type of paper is being used and adjusts its print settings accordingly. A CD with photo software is also included, enabling you to easily create reprints, enlargements, photo layouts and albums. You can create 4x6" borderless photos, or up to 8.5x11 with white borders. The printer is Windows and Mac compatible and uses a 4 pin USB type B connection (which is included with the printer). The printer weighs 2.3kg.

            **Pros**

            This is probably the easiest printer I've ever used both in terms of set up and printing. The first time you use the printer you simply plug in the USB cable and then the computer picks up that you have a printer attached and runs you through a quick set of instructions to install the printer. To print you just put in the paper and then press print - hey presto there it is, no paper jams or aligning paper! It prints really quickly (18 pages in black per minute and 14 in colour) and even faster if you only need a draft copy. To cancel the print job you just have to press the cancel button on the printer. There is an onscreen ink indicator which shows you how much ink you have left, and when the ink has run out it allows you to link to the internet to order more cartridges from HP.

            The print quality is really good on written text and photos have a very rich, deep colour to them. It prints the last page first, so when the printing is finished your top page is on the top, so you don't have to re-sort the pages into order which is rather handy.

            The wide range of paper types that you can print on is also great, and you don't need to adjust the settings each time as the printer recognises what type of paper you're printing on - very handy when you're switching between printing on normal paper and envelope stickers.

            It is also compact so ideal for small spaces (width 43cm, depth 20.5cm, height 14.3cm) and the paper tray can be folded back when it's not in use making the printer even smaller. It's quite nice looking too - bluey grey and grey plastic with a lighter grey paper tray. There are only 2 buttons on it - 'on' and 'cancel' so its quite sleek looking.

            **Cons**

            It's quite loud when it's printing, but for the price and speed of the printer I don't think this is a huge issue to put up with. When printing on photo paper you need to leave the photo to dry for a bit as the ink is still wet when it finishes printing, but I have found this is often the case when printing pictures, so isn't really a problem.

            **Ink cartridges**

            I have had this printer for 10 months now and have done a fair amount of printing, and the ink indicator shows that the cartridges are still half full ('half full' - ever the eternal optimist!!) which I think is quite good value. The cost of new cartridges is £16.99 for both black and colour from PC World, which is quite expensive but I'm sure they can be found cheaper on the internet.

            **Overall**

            Overall I would highly recommend this printer - for the price I don't think you could get a much better, quicker, smaller printer for day to day personal printing

            Note - I have not used the CD software which allows you to create photo reprints, enlargements, photo layouts and albums, but as soon as I buy a digital camera I will try it out and report back.

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            • More +
              02.11.2005 09:40
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              A thought prevoking, but horrific read.

              David comes from a happy home where his mother takes pride in her 3 sons and treats them to days at the park, family camping trips and amazing Christmases with masses of presents and beautiful decorations. However, everything changes one day and David’s mother decides that he should be banished to the basement away from the family and forced to live as he family slave. David’s beatings get worse the more his Mother drinks and his only means of obtaining food is to perform his chores within a set time, but even doing this does not guarantee that he will eat. Between the ages of four and twelve David suffers unimaginable abuse at the hands of his mother, with his father simply looking on so as to not make the situation any worse.

              ‘A Child Called It’ follows David Pelzer’s early years as he relives his story, and his struggles to fight against his mother. His school finally realise what is happening and he is taken away from his mother which is where the tale finishes. I say ‘tale’ but this is a true story which took place during the 1970’s in California. It was one of the 3 worst cases of child abuse in Californian history.

              This book is the first in a trilogy in which David Pelzer writes about his life. The second book ‘The Lost Boy’ follows David’s life after being taken away from his mother and the third book ‘A Man named Dave’ follows David’s adult life to the present day. David Pelzer is now a retired United States Air Force crew member who served during Operations Just Cause, Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He has also worked tirelessly as a volunteer to promote child abuse awareness and prevention, and in 1994 was the only American to be selected as one of the Outstanding Young Persons of the World. He now lives with his wife and son in California, close to the area where he spent once happy childhood holidays.

              This book tells a horrific story and is extremely upsetting to read. It is told in the words of a child through David’s eyes as he tries to figure out what he did wrong in order to receive such punishment. I read the book in a few hours, not so much because I wanted to read on and see what happened, but more because I wanted to get it over with as the story is so horrendous. I had to put the book down on a number of occasions as I felt physically ill by what David was put through by his mother. I felt shell-shocked, dazed and most of all appalled after reading this book as I could not believe that anyone could treat their own son this way.

              You may wonder why I read this book, and I am not sure myself. I think it is only because it is made clear at the beginning that David manages to overcome his abuse and triumph against everything that I was able to keep reading. I will now continue to read the following two books which conclude David’s story. I would not recommend to read, or not read this book, as I feel the decision is very much a personal one. The subject matter could be very close to home for a lot of people, and the descriptions given in the book are very graphic, which is why I have been vague in this review. On the other hand it might give people the strength to overcome whatever struggles they are facing, or make you wonder a little bit more about what is taking place behind closed doors around you. It was thought provoking read, but not at all pleasant.



              ‘A Child Called It’ is published by BCA and retails at £5.95, or is available as part of the trilogy called ‘My Story’ for £7.69.

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              • Girl2go Eye Gel Patches / Eye Care / 66 Readings / 58 Ratings
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                25.10.2005 08:37
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                Cooling, refreshing eye patches for tired or hung over eyes.

                My boyfriend went to the cinema with his friends last night so I thought I'd make the most of a night in by myself and do a little bit of pampering! With a bottle of wine and Desperate Housewives on the TV I settled back to try Girl 2 Go 'Bright Eyed Girl'.

                **What are they?**
                Bright Eyed Girl are cooling and soothing hydro-gel eye patches, which they recommend for tired or hung over eyes. Each pack contains 1 pair of eye patches. They are made by Girl 2 Go Pocket Beauty who specialise in products you can use on the go. Each of their products are pocket sized, making them suitable to pop in your handbag, briefcase, office drawer etc.

                **Packaging**
                The eye patches come in a small pink foil pouch, similar in size to a face pack. The packaging features a cool, stylised picture of a girl sitting with her bag and an aeroplane in the background - so presumably she's got tired eyes from travelling. It states 'Revital Eyes' in swirly joined up writing. The back of the packet has direction instruction in 5 languages.

                Tearing the foil packet open, you pull out a thin plastic sheet with the eye patches attached. The eye patches are white and have a soft fleecy backing, with the soothing gel side stuck to the plastic. The patches look like oversized comedy eye brows due to their crescent shape, but they are curved like this to fit neatly under your eye. They are about 10cm long and 3cm wide.

                **Directions**
                The directions for use on the packet are quite brief. It simply says 'peel the patches from the backing card and place below your eyes. Leave for 10 to 15 minutes and dispose after use.'

                **What I found**
                I peeled the eye patches off easily from the plastic sheet one by one and stuck them to the area below my eyes. They are quite sticky, but not so sticky that you can't reposition them if you've not got them close enough to your lower lashes. The patches go from below my bottom eyelashes down to about my cheekbones, and then stretch from my inner eye, under my eye to about 1cm past the base of my eyebrow. Basically the whole under eye area which can be dark and baggy!

                The patches felt nice and cooling as I placed them under my eyes which was very refreshing. I settled back on the sofa and left them to do their revitalising work! I left the patches on for the required 15 minutes and during this time I noticed that the patches tightened up a little bit, although this was not uncomfortable. When the time was up, I gently peeled off the patches, which came off very easily and with no discomfort, and left no sticky residue.

                **Results**
                After removing the patches the area under my eyes felt softer, smoother and cooler to the touch. The patches don't claim to reduce wrinkles or under eye bags, but rather to cool and soothe tired eyes, which is what I felt they did, although looking in the mirror the skin under my eyes looked tighter too.

                **Where are they sold?**
                Bright Eyed Girl Eye Patches are sold in Boots for 99p for a pair of patches. I felt this was quite expensive for what you get, and I would have preferred to buy a few pairs for this price as you can only use each patch once. I have therefore knocked a star off because of the price.

                **Overall**
                The feeling of these patches is extremely refreshing, and I would recommend them to anyone who has tired eyes in need of a pick me up. For example, if you've been working in front of a computer all day, travelling, have hay fever etc. The packet recommends the patches for hung over eyes, which I think would be very nice! The patches felt cool when you placed them under the eye initially, but this cool feeling left after about 5 minutes, so I think placing the patches in the fridge before use would be even more refreshing.

                I also liked the fact that you didn't place these patches over your whole eye. Just placing them under my eye meant that I could relax and still manage to watch Desperate Housewives and drink my wine! However, due to the fact that you look a bit stupid wearing these it's probably best to use them when you're alone!

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                  24.10.2005 08:40
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                  £3.99 for a bottle of Irish cream.

                  I love Baileys Irish cream but object to paying around £15 for a little bottle (mainly because I drink it so fast and then have to buy another one so soon!), so when I saw 'Irish Meadow, Original Irish Blend' in Tescos for £3.99 I thought I would give it a go, and pleasantly surprised I was too.

                  In the name of research I think I should drink some now to ensure that you receive my most honest opinion, so I'll just go and fetch a glass and some ice cubes...

                  Ok, I have just poured myself a glass now, however please excuse me if I drink so much that I can't type and I have to give up on this! First mouthful (mmmm!) here we go…

                  **The bottle**

                  The bottle looks very similar to a Baileys bottle - a black glass bottle which narrows at the top, with a screw top lid. There is a shamrock in a circle embossed onto the neck and below a cream, green and gold label, featuring a picture of a field and the words 'Original Irish Blend' and 'Fresh cream with white wine and Irish whiskey'. I think if the label was removed you'd be hard pushed to know it wasn't Baileys. The bottle is 70cl.

                  **Drinking Instructions**

                  The back of the label has the following very simple drinking instructions - 'Enjoy it straight or on the rocks. Once opened keep refrigerated'. It also states that it contains 14.5% alcohol, but the there is no unit or calorie information.

                  **Halewood International Beverages**

                  Irish Meadow is made by Halewood International Beverages in Dublin, who are also famous for bringing us everyone's favourite - Lambrini!! They also make Red Square, Side Kick Party Shot and Caribbean Twist. According to their website, Irish Meadow is the leading wine based cream liqueur in the UK market with a 10% market share. It is second only to Baileys. They also make miniature bottles of Irish Meadow, which are called Tots (they look the same as the Baileys mini bottles), which sell at around £2.99 as a 4 pack of 70ml bottles.

                  **Taste test**

                  Going back to when I poured my glass - it doesn't have quite the same thick consistency as Baileys, so doesn't make that nice 'glug, glug, glug' noise when you pour it. It is a creamy, light toffee coloured drink, the aroma has a hint of whiskey, and a sweet coffee/choclately sort of smell. The taste is lovely - smooth and creamy, and reminds me of chocolate milkshakes. The taste is very similar to Baileys, although maybe not so sweet (which means you can drink several more glasses before starting to feel sick!). I am not a whiskey fan, but can drink loads of this and not associate with the disgusting whiskies my boyfriend drinks. It has a nice warming effect as you drink it - perfect for an evening tipple before bed.

                  **Cocktail suggestions**

                  On the Rocks - the classic way to drink Irish cream, simply add a few ice cubes.

                  Creamy Kiss - shot of Irish cream, ½ shot of Archers, ½ shot of Amaretto. Mix up everything in a cocktail shaker and served in a chilled glass. Top with cocoa powder. Mmmmm!

                  Bumble bee - shot of Irish cream and shot of sambuca. Add the Irish cream first and then the sambuca poured over the back of a spoon so that it settles in a stripe. Can get very messy after a few of these!

                  In coffee - add Irish cream to your coffee instead of milk. The perfect alternative to a traditional Irish coffee.

                  **Conclusion**

                  In conclusion, it is not quite as thick, creamy and morish as Baileys, but for £3.99 for a bottle I don't think you can really argue with the taste. And when its only £3.99 you don't feel guilty for drinking it all, and then by that point you don't care what it tastes like!! Even though it doesn't state the calorie content on the bottle, I'm guessing with all that cream it must be full of calories, so maybe limit yourself to just the one glass if you're watching your weight.

                  I bought my bottle in Tescos, but I'd imagine that if this brand is second only to Baileys in terms of sales, it's probably available in most supermarkets and off licences.

                  Just off to have another little glass now to double check that my review is correct!!

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                    21.10.2005 15:46
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                    Easy to use, comfortable daily contact lenses.

                    I have been wearing Ciba Focus Dailies for the last 3 years and would be lost without them. My eyesight isn't particularly bad, but it's bad enough to need to wear glasses for driving and watching TV. I've never really got on with wearing my glasses - I don't like the way that it's blurry around the outside of the lenses, as it makes me feel like I'm living in a bubble. My glasses also pinch the sides of my nose, so are not that comfortable to wear. After seeing an advert in the newspaper for a month free supply of contact lenses I thought I'd give it a try and I've been wearing them ever since.

                    **What are they?**

                    Ciba Focus Dailies are daily disposable contact lenses. You can wear them for up to 12 hours and then after that you simply throw them away and replace them with a fresh pair the following day. They have a unique ultra-thin edge design that is designed to make them comfortable throughout the day.

                    Daily Disposable contact lenses were first introduced by Johnson & Johnson in 1987 and were a revolution in how consumers wore contact lenses. Disposable contact lenses are now the most commonly prescribed contact lens.

                    **Packaging**

                    Each individual contact lens is packaged in a small plastic container with a foil lid, which you peel back to remove the lens. The plastic containers come in strips of 5 but can be broken up into separate lenses by tearing along the perforations. Each lens is enclosed in a small amount of saline solution to keep it clean. The lenses are sold in boxes of 30, i.e. a months worth, so you will need a box for each eye.

                    **Putting in/taking out the lenses**

                    I received a lesson at the opticians about how to put in and take out the lenses and was amazed at how easy it is. To put in the lens you simply peel back the foil on the packaging and then with your middle finger scoop out the lenses. Being very careful to not break it, turn the lens over so that it is the correct way up. Then using your first finger and thumb of the other hand pull open your eye slightly and place the lens gently on the eye. Blink a little bit and that's it.

                    To take the lens out it's much the same but in reverse - hold your eye open with you first finger and thumb and then pinch the lens out with your other hand. Then just pop the lens in the bin.

                    Always make sure you wash your hands before putting in or taking out the lenses to make sure no bacteria is transferred to your eye. I usually put my lenses in before applying makeup as I find the saline around the lens sometimes drips down my check. So in applying makeup afterwards I avoid having mascara running down my face.

                    **Pros**

                    I wear these contact lenses pretty much all day, everyday and find them very comfortable, even in smoky or dry atmospheres. There is also no cleaning, disinfecting and protein removing with these lenses and you simply throw them away at the end of the day and start with a fresh pair the next time you wear them. As you do not wear them overnight there is also less risk of eye problems and infections. In wearing a fresh pair each time, the lenses are always in the best possible condition they can be, meaning you will always have sharp, clear vision.

                    I also find these lenses more suitable for everyday life than my glasses, for example I do not need special prescription sunglasses during the summer, as I can wear my lenses plus my normal sunglasses. I have also worn my lenses under a mask while scuba diving, and under gogles while snowboarding which I would not have been able to do with glasses.

                    The packaging allows you to tear the containers into separate lenses which also makes them very easy to pop in a make up bag for an overnight stay, without the normal hassle of regular lenses where you'd have to pack big bottles of cleaning solutions.

                    **Cons**

                    As the lenses are very thin it is quite easy to tear them when taking them out of the packet. But over time I have got used to this fact and handle the lenses more carefully now.

                    They can also be quite expensive - I pay £25 for a months supply of lenses, but as this works out at about 40p for each eye per day its not so much. It is also a great deal cheaper than regular lenses and cleaning fluids.

                    **Can anyone wear them?**

                    Ciba Focus Dailies come in a wide variety of strengths to suit most prescriptions. They are also suitable for those with a low level of astigmatism, or if you usually wear bifocals - check with your optician first though. They also come in different colours if you fancy changing your eye colour for a bit.

                    Make sure you visit your optician for a contact lense check every 2 years, or more frequently if so advised.

                    **Cost**

                    I pay £25 for a months supply from my local optician, and buy them in a bulk of 3 months worth of lenses. A quick look on the internet has them at much the same price and they can also be delivered through the post by many online opticians.

                    **Other makes**

                    Other similar makes include Johnson & Johnson 1 day Acuvue, Bausch and Lomb 1 day Soflens, Daysoft UV and Biomedics 1 Day.

                    **Overall**

                    As I said before I would be lost without my contact lenses, and these are so easy and comfortable to use, so come highly recommended. If you're thinking of trying lenses but are a bit squeamish about touching your eye don't put off. They are the easiest things in the world to get used to. I've knocked 1 star off as I do feel they could be a little bit cheaper.

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                    • Baking / Recipe / 33 Readings / 25 Ratings
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                      21.10.2005 14:43
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                      Delicious, moist banana bread

                      I always seem to end up with a couple of over-ripe brown bananas in the fruit bowl, so I make banana bread with them!

                      This banana bread is delicious and moist and so easy to make. Although it is called bread, it has more of a cake texture, although it is not as sweet as cake. The measurements are given in cups, which makes it even easier to make as you do not have to be super accurate with your measuring. As it's so easy to make it's also ideal for children to make.

                      Group 1 ingredients:
                      2 tablespoons melted butter
                      1 tablespoon milk
                      2 over-ripe bananas, mashed
                      1 egg
                      Handful of cropped walnuts (optional)

                      Group 2 ingredients
                      1½ cup plain flour
                      ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
                      ¼ teaspoon baking powder
                      ½ cup sugar
                      ¼ teaspoon salt

                      - Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and grease a medium sized bread tin.
                      - Mix group 1 ingredients together in a bowl
                      - Add group 2 ingredients to group 1 and mix well
                      - Pour the mixture into the bread tin – I told you it was easy!
                      - Cook for 25-30 minutes
                      - Remove the banana bread from the oven and put on a wire rack to cool
                      - Cut into slices and enjoy!!

                      You can also put the mixture into small individual cake cases and cook them for about 10-12 minutes – perfect for lunch boxes!

                      Happy baking! Helen

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                        20.10.2005 13:04
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                        With the proper fit, snowboard boots will keep your feet warm, comfortable, and supported.

                        When I moved to Sweden last year one of the things I was most excited about was the thought of snow and learning to snowboard. The first snow arrived last November so off I set with my boyfriend for my first snowboarding experience. I hired snowboarding boots the first couple of times I went snowboarding; mainly I didn’t want to invest in boots until I was sure I enjoyed my new hobby. Once I was sure that snowboarding was for me I wanted to buy my own boots rather than continue using the smelly, badly fitting boots I had hired.

                        Aside from a snowboard, snowboarding boots are the second biggest expense when buying snowboarding equipment, so it pays to buy the right boot. The boots are your link to the board, and ill-fitting boots will make it extremely difficult to steer. It is better to buy your boots before you buy your board as then you can ensure that the bindings on your board fit the size/shape of your boots.

                        Below is a guide to the different types of boots available and tips on how to ensure you have the correct fit.

                        There are 3 main points to take into consideration when buying snowboarding boots which are; the type of riding you will do, soft or stiff boots and then the overall fit.

                        **Type of riding**

                        To begin with you need to decide which type of riding you do most often. Riding styles can vary between freestyle, freeride and all mountain.

                        Freestyle means that you will be performing tricks in a snowboard park or on snow pipes. For this type of riding you will need a more flexible boot to enable you to move your ankles easily.

                        If you are a freerider you will be cruising at high speeds on steep runs and hitting new powder when you venture off-piste. For this you will need a boot that is supportive and less flexible around your foot.

                        All mountain riding is when you are riding the mountain but not going off-piste or doing tricks. For this you will need boots which are not too flexible but not too stiff either, and are also slightly taller for extra support. This is the type of boot I chose and probably the most popular type of boot for a beginner.

                        **Soft or stiff boots**

                        Once you have determined which type of rider you are it is easier to know which stiffness of boots you will need. Freestylers usually need softer boots to perform tricks, while freeriders need boots with more support.

                        Soft boots are made up of a non-rigid waterproof outer boot, a padded liner and a deep treaded sole. Many of them have two sets of laces, one on the inner part of the boot and another on the outer. Having two sets of laces ensures a more precise and adjustable fit. The padded liner also has the added benefit of being removable if you need to dry it. Soft boots have rounded toes to ensure that your toes do not catch the snow while you are snowboarding or performing tricks. They also come in varying degrees of softness, and provide comport and control.

                        Hard boots look quite similar to ski boots but have a greater degree of movement around the ankle. They are made up of a plastic outer shell with a padded liner and a deep treaded sole. They are fastened with buckles and clips in the same way as ski boots. Stiff boots hold you foot, ankle and lower leg firmly which makes them best for racing snowboarding on hard snow.

                        **Overall fit**

                        Once you’ve decided which type of boot you need, make sure you concentrate on the fit of the boots. Try as many pairs on as possible to get a feel for the different fits and lacing styles on the boots. Make sure your try the boots on wearing thick ski socks so that you buy the correct size. Try to avoid wearing socks with a thick seam at the toe as I found that it rubbed blisters along my toes after a days snowboarding!

                        To put the boots on, push your foot in the boot and then stamp to make sure your foot is in place. Lace up the inner padded liner as tight as it can go (without cutting off your circulation!) and the same for the outer part of the boot. The boots should be snug when you try them on but not so tight that you can’t feel your toes. Equally, they will give over time and become roomier so don’t buy them too big. Make sure that there are no pressure points that rub on your foot and ankle too. Remember that your feet can swell up to half a size when you are snowboarding so make sure your boots aren’t too tight.

                        Once you have found a pair you are happy with you can carry out a couple of final checks. When you bend your knees, as you would in a normal snowboarding position, your heel should stay in position in the base of the boot and not slip. You should also ensure that while in this position your toes do not rub against the inside of the boot.

                        Before you head out of the slopes make sure you break in your new boots. I wore my boots around the house every evening for a week. Yes, I looked stupid but they were much comfier by the end of the week and I was able to make sure that they were the right boots for me before trying them out in the snow.

                        **Additional features**

                        Along with the features outlined above, many boots also have additional features. Many boots have insoles to provide better arch support and comfort. There are also heated insoles available which you can heat with a hair dryer before putting them in your boots. They then work in conjunction with the heat of your feet to keep your feet warm all day!

                        Instead of traditional laces you can also chose boots with wire fastenings. The wire is laced across the top of the boot and then with a simple turn of a dial the wires tighten around the boot. This is very time saving but also more likely to break than traditional laces.

                        Women’s boots are becoming more popular too and have a narrower heel and wider calf to fit women’s feet.

                        **Price**

                        Snowboarding boots can cost anything from £50 upwards. Set yourself a price range when you go shopping for your boots, but be prepared to spend a bit more money if you find the perfect boot which is slightly more expensive than you had anticipated.

                        **Overall**

                        With the proper fit, snowboard boots will keep your feet warm and comfortable, and provide the right amount of support and flexibility for better performance on the mountain.

                        Thanks for reading and happy snowboarding! Helen

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                        • Sweden / Discussion / 78 Readings / 66 Ratings
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                          09.10.2005 15:43
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                          Why I'm living in Sweden and my likes and dislikes....

                          I am English and have been living in Sweden for just over a year so thought I would share some of my thoughts of what its like to live here. This is not so much advice instructing other people on how to move to Sweden and the rules and regulations here, but rather my experiences and opinions on living abroad. (However if anyone does want to know a bit more about the rules and regulations moving here let me know and I'll try and help)

                          **Where am I?**
                          I live in a small town called Trollhättan, which is about 70km north of Gothenburg. There are about 52,000 inhabitants here and the town lies on either side of a river and canal system, which flows from Gothenburg through the centre of Sweden to Stockholm. Trollhättan's main claim to fame is that the Saab factory is situated here, and it is Saab that generates most of the revenue around here, both in terms of paying wages and bringing in new business. The other main industry in Trollhättan is film. Trollhättan is affectionately known at 'Trollywood' due to the large number of films made here. If anyone has seen Dogville or Dancer in the Dark, then they were made in the studio just up the road from my flat.

                          **Why am I here?**
                          My English boyfriend, Dan, spent a placement year from university in Sweden working as a design engineer for a supplier to Saab. He then moved back to the UK to finish his final year at uni, where we met. After graduating he moved back to Sweden for another year as this was part of his contract. We remained together during this time and probably kept Ryanair in business with our number of flights back and forth every few weeks! He then retuned home and we lived in London for 2 years. Dan continued to work as a design engineer in London but work wasn't looking so great and I was getting fed up commuting to and from work and both of us were generally ready for a change. Just as we were deciding whether to renew the contract on our rented flat or not, or what changes we could make to make life a bit more exciting, the opportunity came up for Dan to go back to Sweden and work for 3 months. We decided it was time to take the plunge and move there for a little while, as we had so many great friends there and we wanted to try something new.

                          Dan went ahead and moved to Sweden, whilst I stayed at home for a bit, handed in my notice at work, packed up the flat, organised furniture removal, residency permits etc etc!! Neither of us had ever had any time off in-between school, uni and work, so we thought that even if we couldn't find work we would treat our time in Sweden as a gap year and then return home. After completing his 3 month contract Dan managed to get a new full time job with a Swedish company designing the car interior in the Saab design department (I can't tell you anymore about what he does as it is all top secret!) Secure in the knowledge that one of us actually had a job I flew out to join him.

                          **When I first got here**
                          I arrived in Sweden in April 2004, just as spring was arriving - the flowers were starting to come out, it was bright and sunny and it felt as though I was on holiday! We were very fortunate in that a friend helped us to find a flat here very quickly. He knew the landlord and put in a good word for us and we jumped straight to the top of the list. Our flat is right next to the canal, and as we're on the top floor we have a great view. It was built during the 1930's and has a very Swedish/Ikea minimalist feel to it - all wooden floors and clean design.

                          Although nearly everyone in Sweden can speak excellent English, I knew that to be in with some sort of chance of finding a job I had to learn the language. I had researched several Swedish courses in my local area on the internet before I moved here so knew quite a lot about what was available. The best course to me (and the course I followed) was a government run course called 'Swedish for Immigrants' or SFI. This course is free as it is funded by the government, but you can only take the course if you are registered with the immigration authority. The course took place every morning for 3 hours Monday to Friday, and covered all the basics you would need to conduct your everyday life in Sweden. I studied this for 6 months up until Christmas and as there was a great deal of homework involved, I didn't have time to work in-between my lessons.

                          **Living here now**
                          I have now been living here for just over a year, and since finishing my SFI course I have started a new Swedish course. This is also paid for by the government and we study more about Swedish culture, history and literature, which is very interesting but a lot of reading and extra work. I was rubbish at languages at school, so have amazed myself that I have been able to learn anything! I can now read the newspaper from cover to cover, follow most of what is being said around me and on TV, and hold a fairly decent conversation!! Although most people here are fluent in English, they are all so impressed when they hear you speak Swedish and will go out of their way to help you with the language.

                          As my new Swedish course was for fewer hours than my last one, I knew I needed to find work. I have a marketing degree and worked as a retail assistant buyer in London previously, so started looking at similar jobs, but the problem was that they were all full time so I wouldn't be able to keep up my Swedish studies. This led me to write to the local schools offering my help as an English language assistant. One of the schools asked me to help and I am now employed there part time, working in between my Swedish lessons. I work with the children aged 12-16, which is great fun. They were quite shy at first but most of them have really opened up and become more confident in their English. They all love to hear about England and if I've met David Beckham/the Queen etc!! It's also been a great help to my Swedish as the other teachers only talk Swedish with me, and the children like questioning me to see how much I know. However, the children have a knack of remembering the words I can't say or mispronounce and then proceed to shout them across the playground at me!!

                          **Good parts of living in Sweden**
                          The people are great here - everyone is so friendly and welcoming. I think people are probably extra friendly because we are English and the novelty factor of speaking to us! When we first moved into our flat each of our neighbours came to introduce themselves and welcome us. Just popping to the shops now takes longer and longer each time as I stop to talk to neighbours, friends and children from school - who are always so excited to introduce me to their parents! Swedes are also incredibly proud of their country and will take every opportunity to show you around, so we have had many invitations to friends and neighbours summerhouses.

                          Sweden has the most amazing landscape, ranging from golden sandy beaches in the South, to amazing snowy mountains in the North, along with huge, clear lakes scattered through out the rest of the country. A 10 minute drive from our flat takes us to a huge lake (the size of the M25 area!) where we can BBQ, swim, sunbathe, fish etc. There is a law in Sweden called 'Allemansrätten' (Everyman's right) which allows you to camp anywhere without asking permission, provided you stay a reasonable distance from other dwellings. This means if we fancy getting away for a bit we can simply pitch our tent wherever we want! With a population of only 9 million people, there is rarely a problem with finding a space to stay.

                          Although Sweden is thought of as a cold country, it is the weather here that I also love. It has a different sort of weather to England and 4 definite seasons. We live in the South of Sweden but still had several feet of snow from November to March, which was fantastic! Temperatures around us dropped to -17, but there isn't the biting cold wind we get in England. Everyone is prepared for the snow, both in terms of winter tyres on the cars, big snow boots and insulated houses, so it doesn't prove to be the same problem that it does in England. It also gave us the opportunity to take up snowboarding. We went away for 3 weekends further North in Sweden and rented a little log cabin at the foot of the mountains which was fantastic. The summer in Sweden is maybe not quite as hot as England, but it is a less sticky, muggy heat, and with all the lakes to go and swim in there is plenty of opportunity to cool off. The west coast near were we live is beautiful and when it's sunny I can honestly say there is no where else I would rather be. With Sweden being as far north as it is, in the summer we have nearly 24 hours of daylight which is very odd when you're trying to get to sleep, but it is beautiful when you are at the coast and can stay outside with friends until the early hours.

                          Sweden celebrates many festivals that we don't have in England, which is great fun. My favourite festival is Midsummer, which is celebrated on the Saturday closest to 24th June. It is celebration of the longest day of the year in terms of daylight, and most people travel to the coast to celebrate with huge outdoor parties, with lots of eating, drinking and singing, plus dancing round a huge flower covered maypole! Christmas here is also very special - lots of snow and pretty fairy lights. Christmas in Sweden seems more of a family celebration and less commercial than home too.

                          Sweden is a very organised, efficient country - transport runs on time, the roads are clean, the hospitals and schools are new, there are lots of local facilities etc, so this also makes it a very easy place to live. Most people are a member of trade union here, and if after working for a year you loose your job, the union will pay 80% of your wage and pay you for attend courses until you find a new job.

                          I also like Sweden as it is not too far from home! A 2 hour flight courtesy of Ryanair and I can be back home seeing friends and family and stocking up on all my favourite goodies - namely good strong cheddar, sausages, bacon, Cadbury's chocolate and all the gossipy magazines I can get my hands on!

                          **Bad parts of living in Sweden**
                          Sweden can be an expensive place to live both in terms of buying things and paying tax. Everyday food shopping is expensive with a loaf of bread costing on average £2.50! Swedish alcohol is renowned for being expensive with a beer or wine costing around £4 - because of this everyone buys their own drinks and no one ever buys a round of drinks! 33% tax on wages is paid to the state, and increases with the more money you earn, but as I mentioned above the roads are clean, schools and hospitals are efficient and transport runs on time, so at least you can see where your hard earned money is being spent!

                          This is not so much a bad part of living in Sweden as it is a strange part - there is only one type of off licence and it a state run monopoly. It is called 'System Bolaget' and it only opens between 10-6 during the week and for a few hours on Saturday morning. It is shut at all other times and other shops/supermarkets are not licensed to sell alcohol. They are also very strict on age limits and the amount of alcohol bought, and until recently alcohol had to be bought over the counter, in a similar way to receiving a prescription at the chemist!! Due to the high alcohol prices and this strange regulation in buying alcohol Swedes are not very good at handling their drink, so there is lots of pushing and shoving and general drunkenness when you go out!

                          Sweden is probably a few years being England in terms of clothes fashions, which is a big disappoint for me! There seems to be lots of 80's style leggings and batwing jumpers which aren't really my thing, but at least it means I have saved myself some money!! Can't wait for my next weekend at home and my trip to Topshop!!

                          Because so much of Sweden is state run there is a lots of red tape and things can take a long time to be processed. For example my residency permit from the immigrations office took 3 months for them just to stamp my passport! It also seems to me that everyone has a different job role and no one can switch and do someone else's. On several occasions I have had to return to the bank/insurance company because the correct person was not working that day, which can be quite frustrating.

                          **How long will I stay here?**
                          How long we stay here is really reliant on Dan's job - Saab are going through a hard time at the moment so fingers crossed he will be able to keep his job (or 'hold your thumbs' as they say in Sweden!). Ideally I would like to be here for another year or 2, so that I can feel as if I have mastered the language, and hopefully by that time I will have found a job more related to what I used to do. I can't see us living here forever, but I think that is more because I would like to experience somewhere else, rather than me not liking Sweden.

                          **Overall opinion of living abroad**
                          I have my days when I miss my family and friends and wonder what I am doing here, and have I wasted a year by not working, but then I look out of my window and see the beautiful scenery here and realise that I am doing something that many other people can say they have done and realise that I did make the right decision. It has made me more confident and has taught me a lot about myself. We have met a lot of very close friends and have had some wonderful experiences here, and Sweden will always remain a very special place to me.

                          Thank you for reading, Helen

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                          • Beef Recipes / Recipe / 54 Readings / 49 Ratings
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                            03.10.2005 15:27
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                            Hot and tasty curry with delicious peanut rice

                            If you like your curry hot and tasty then this is the recipe for you! It has been cooked over and over again by myself and my boyfriend, and was inherited from an Indian friend my boyfriend used to work with. It involves a little bit of chopping and preparing at the beginning, but once you have all your ingredients ready both the beef madras and the peanut rice are really easy to make.

                            The beef madras is quite hot but has a great depth of flavour and is really tasty. If you prefer your curries a little milder try taking out some of the chillies. The peanut rice is beautiful yellow coloured rice and is extremely mild, so makes a great accompaniment to the beef madras.

                            The beef madras freezes extremely well, so it's probably easier to make a big batch and then freeze some. The peanut rice on the other hand needs to be eaten within 2 days. It is also lovely cold and makes a great snack by itself.

                            **Beef Madras - serves 6**
                            Cooking time 1 1/2 hours
                            Preparation time 20 mins

                            900 grams stewing beef - chopped into large chunks
                            1 tablespoon oil
                            2 onions - finely chopped
                            4 cloves
                            4 cardamon pods
                            2 green chillies - finely chopped
                            2 red chillies - finely chopped
                            2.5cm root of ginger - peeled and grated
                            2 garlic cloves - finely chopped
                            1 tablespoon curry powder
                            2 teaspoons coriander
                            1 teaspoon cumin
                            ½ teaspoon salt
                            ¼ pint beef stock

                            1) Fry the onions, cloves and cardamom pods in the oil in a large frying pan for 5 minutes
                            2) Add the chillies, ginger, garlic and fry for a further 2 minutes
                            3) Add the curry powder and fry for another 2 minutes
                            4) Add the beef, coriander, cumin, salt and stock and fry for 5-8 minutes until the beef is lightly browned
                            5) Cover and simmer for 1-1 1/2 hours
                            6) Bring back to boil before serving to ensure the madras is hot before serving.


                            **Peanut Rice - serves 6**
                            Cooking time 20-25 minutes
                            Prearation time 3 minutes

                            300 grams long grain/jasmine rice
                            1 tablespoon oil
                            large handful of peanuts
                            2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
                            2 teaspoons coriander powder
                            2 teaspoons turmeric
                            1 onion - finely chopped
                            pinch of salt

                            1) Cook the rice according to the instructions on the packet
                            2) 5 minutes before the rice is ready fry the remaining ingredients in the oil in a frying pan
                            3) Add the rice to the fried mix and stir well. Serve.

                            Let me know what you think if you try these recipes! Enjoy!

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                            • Skydiving In General / Discussion / 42 Readings / 39 Ratings
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                              30.09.2005 15:07
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                              Amazing aderenaline buzz!

                              I was working as a Promotions Co-ordinator for a gym about 4 years ago, which involved organising marketing and fundraising events. We were raising money to enable handicapped children to take part in sport and one of the fundraising activities was a sponsored parachute jump.

                              In the process of trying to persuade members of the gym to join in with this event, I inadvertently got myself talked into it too! Apparently I couldn't very well persuade people to do something I wasn't prepared to do myself!!

                              Once we had agreed to take part in the skydive we had to arrange for sponsorship from friends and family. The deal was that we had to raise at least £300, which would cover the cost of the skydive and then leave a minimum of £150 to go to our charity.

                              **Day of the jump**

                              The parachute jump took place at Hinton Skydiving Centre which is based in Brackley, Northants near the Silverstone racetrack, which I drove to along with my mum and sister. We were told to arrive at 9.00am, but were not told what time we would be jumping. From the gym there were about 25 of us doing a sponsored jump. At the skydiving centre there were about another 50 people who were either also doing sponsored jumps or taking part in paid for jumps or training sessions.

                              The weather was beautiful - bright and sunny with no wind, so we were told that unless there were any massive changes to the weather we would all be able to jump that day. British weather being what it is the skydiving centre can never guarantee a jump will be able to take place on the day booked. They advise you to call early on the day of you jump to check the weather conditions. If the weather is poor they will then book you another jump date.

                              We were allocated a jump slot of 3pm, and so the wait began! Hinton skydiving centre is made up of a group of training rooms set inside an airport hanger, along with a large waiting area with comfy sofas, TV's showing parachute videos, pool tables and a well stocked café with hot and cold food. There is also a large marquee type tent where you go to get kitted up.

                              As it was lovely weather and the middle of summer, we were able to make the most of sitting on the picnic benches outside and watching everyone else clambering into the plane and then throwing themselves out!! The more people I watched jumping and being so excited when they landed, the more I couldn't wait to try it myself. One man was trying to set a new record for the number of jumps being done in 24 hours, so was literally getting in the plane, jumping, landing, getting in the plane, jumping, landing etc - which was amazing to watch and spurred us on even more!

                              **Time to jump**

                              After several hours of waiting and watching, my group from the gym was finally called into the kitting up tent. We were split into groups of 6 and these were the people we would be in the same plane with. We were then introduced to the instructor we would be doing our tandem jump with.

                              For anyone who doesn't know, a tandem jump is when you are strapped by a harness to your instructor. It is the easiest form of skydiving as the instructor checks the altitude and when to release the parachute, and no previous knowledge or actual training is required. All you have to do is trust your instructor and just do whatever you're told.

                              My instructors name was Mike Browne, and I was pleased to hear he was also one of the owners of Hinton Skydiving Centre. Mike began skydiving in 1982 in the RAF and had completed over 4500 jumps, which reassured me that he knew what he was doing!! Mike gave me a very attractive purple and green suit to put on, which looked a bit like a clown costume. You wear this over whatever you are wearing, so make sure you have something comfy on underneath - jogging bottoms as opposed to jeans. I was also given an Ali G style pair of yellow tinted goggles and a leather cap with ear protectors. I wear contact lenses and was worried that they might fly out, but was reassured that the goggles would protect them. They also had larger goggles which were designed to fit over glasses. Last of all I put on a harness which strapped between my legs and then came up and strapped over my shoulders. This would later be attached to my instructor's harness. We all had a bit of a giggle at how stupid we looked, but were then told we had to concentrate and be sensible while we had our safety briefing with our instructors.

                              The safety briefing consisted of explaining what would happen during the jump and the positions we should take. To demonstrate the positions I was strapped to my instructor by the clips on my harness at the hips and shoulders. There is small strap between the clips which enabled me to hang beneath my instructor, so as he bent over I was suspended below him! He explained that we would clip together in the plane and then when it came to our turn to jump he would carry me below him to the door while he got into position. While I was hanging beneath him at the door I was told to have my arms crossed in front of me and my feet crossed behind me and try and arch my back. He then said that after we had jumped out of the plane he would tap me on the shoulder and I should bring my arms out in front of me Superman style, but to leave my feet crossed. We practised this a few times in the safety of the tent and then moved onto the landing position. The landing position was very easy - I just had to bring my knees up when we came into land and then gently plant them on the floor and run forwards a bit while the parachute came down.

                              After running through the positions I was then told what would happen in the event that the parachute didn't open - just the thing I didn't want to hear! I was told that my instructor would have 2 parachutes, one of which would be a reserve in-case the first one failed to open. I didn't have a parachute so just had to rely on my harness staying attached to him!

                              We were now set and ready to go…

                              **The actual jump**

                              3.20pm came around and it was time for my group to go and get into the plane to do our jump. I said goodbye to my mum and sister - my Mum was looking rather pale at this point! We set off walking up the runway to board our plane and I kept thinking that the Topgun music should have been playing! I was told that the plane was an old Russian bomber plane, which I'm not sure was true or not but it certainly looked like it had seen better days! It seated the 6 skydivers in my group plus our instructors. We clambered in and sat in a row on either side in the order that we would jump - thankfully I'd managed to talk the others out of making me go first and was lined up to jump in 4th place.

                              The engines then started, along with the adrenaline pumping through me and we set off along the runway. As we were picking up speed I noticed the door was still open - I asked my instructor why and was told it was to make it quicker to exit the plane incase of an emergency!! It took us about 10 minute to reach our altitude of 12,000 feet. We spent these last few minutes going through the positions again, and my instructor pointed out his house nearby and Silverstone racetrack.

                              It then came to my turn, my instructor checked I was ready and then we made our way to the door with me hanging between his legs in my 'ready to jump' position. We stood at the doorway for what felt like an eternity, but most have only been a few seconds. Just as I was thinking 'I don't want to do this', we were off!!

                              We fell for about 30 seconds, travelling at 120 mph, which was the most amazing feeling ever! It was so loud with the wind rushing past us, and the fields below looked like a tiny map rushing up towards us! I had taken up the offer of having my jump filmed so there was another instructor who jumped at the same time as us with a video camera on his helmet to capture every moment of my jump. He was waving at me, so I tried to wave back but it was nearly impossible against the strength of the wind. After falling from 12,000 feet to 5,000 feet my instructor then released the parachute, which suddenly wrenched us both upwards. This caused the harness to pull up tightly around my thighs which hurt a bit, but can imagine it's probably a lot worse for a man!

                              We then drifted down for the last 5,000 feet which took about 10 minutes. I was allowed to take my goggles off at this point and truly appreciate the wonderful view below me. It was a patchwork quilt of fields and farms, and below a great big cross on the floor where we should aim to land. I was asked if I wanted to try a few tricks but before I had a chance to answer my instructor had shut down half of the parachute by pulling down on a handle and we were whizzing round in spirals! We tried this is both directions which was fantastic and it speed us up as we descended to the ground.

                              Slowly we came into land; we were travelling so slowly at this point that the landing was very soft. We simply planted our feet down and ran forward a little bit while the parachute came drifting down. It was such an amazing experience that after giving my instructor a huge hug, I was begging to do it again!!

                              **Was I scared?**

                              When I've told people about my jump, most people have said 'but weren't you scared?' I can honestly say I wasn't scared - spending all day watching other people do it had got me really excited and doing it with a group of friends helped and we spurred each other on. Everyone at Hinton Skydiving Centre was great and filled us with confidence and enthusiasm. The only doubt I had was when my body was hanging out of the plane ready to jump but my instructor was still holding on, but by the time I'd thought 'it's a long way down' we were off and I was loving it!! As I'm sure you can guess by reading this, a tandem parachute jump comes highly recommended from me and I would love to do it again!

                              **Can anyone skydive?**

                              Most people can skydive. The weight limit for tandem jumps is 15 stone, which needs to be in proportion to your overall height. You do not need to be in excellent health or fitness to do a tandem jump. It is also possible to take part if you are wheelchair bound. If you are over 40 you will need your doctor's approval and if you are over 16, (minimum age), and under 18, you will require parent/guardian permission. There is no maximum age for tandem skydiving.

                              ***Skydive for Charity**

                              If you are interested in also doing a skydive to raise money for charity I would advise looking it up on the internet as many well-known charities offer this fundraising activity.

                              **Hinton Skydiving Centre**

                              Along with tandem skydiving, they also offer RAPS static line 2 day courses from £120 and Accelerated freefall (AFF) courses from £350. The courses are organised both midweek and weekends and the centre is open from Tuesday to Sunday for all types of jumping.

                              For more information on Hinton Skydiving centre visit - http://www.skydive.co.uk/res_website.asp?supplierCode=HIN100

                              Hinton Airfield,
                              Steane,
                              Brackley, Northants.
                              NN13 5NS
                              Tel: 01295 812300
                              Fax: 01295 812400

                              **Thank you very much for reading, and I hope I've inspired some of you to give this amazing experience a go! Let me know if you do try it! Helen**

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                              • Sweden / Destination International / 37 Readings / 35 Ratings
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                                30.09.2005 15:02
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                                Trip along the Southern coast of Sweden

                                My boyfriend and I currently live in Sweden and for 7 days this summer we decided to head off on an adventure driving and camping along the south coast of Sweden. I have a trusty Rough Guide book of Sweden which has been like a bible whilst living here, as I am constantly referring to it. Before we left for our trip I had a read through to check which places we should visit along the way, but other than that we had no idea of where we would be going and what we would see….

                                So come and join us on our 'Southern Sweden Adventure 2005' as we seemed to keep calling it for some reason!!

                                **Day 1**

                                We were supposed to set off early but after we had hauled all of our bags of camping gear, boxes of food, clothes, deckchairs, BBQ etc down five flights of stairs to the car it was a little later than we had planed! The sun was shining for the first time that summer, so feeling like we might get a whole week of sunshine we set off with high hopes! With the population of Sweden being only nine million in an area twice the size of Britain, there is very little traffic and we zoomed (though not too fast!) along the motorway down to the coast. With only stopping for a quick toilet break, we made it to Arild in about 3 hours.

                                Arild is situated on a small peninsular just north of Helsingborg and is a little, pretty fishing village, made up of a harbour full of boats and then on the hills behind the harbour, beautiful little thatched cottages. We sat by the quayside eating our picnic and admiring the picture postcard scene around us. As it was still sunny we went for a wander around the village, all the time pointing out pretty cottages and saying 'ooh, I'd like that one!' 'no, that one!'

                                Leaving Arild we drove for a few kilometres along the road to Himmelstorp which is an 18th century farmstead. Expecting something amazing we were a bit disappointed to find an old farm house which didn't really look any different to an old farm you'd find in England, but as there are very few old wooden structures still standing in Sweden I guess they thought it was worth making it a tourist attraction! After a homemade ice-cream at the farm we set off in search of Nimis. I had read about Nimis in my guidebook and was intrigued to see what it was. The book said it was 'a living sculpture comprising of a tower and corridors, built out of driftwood and odd items of furniture, which looks as though it could collapse at any moment, yet visitors can clamber inside it.' Setting off following a signpost we entered a dark forest, which then continued to signpost the way by marking large N's on the trees. Gradually the N's vanished and we were wandering along with no idea of which way to head. After several attempts at walking back and attempting to find the N's again and feeling like we were in The Blair Witch Project we gave up and went back to the car!! So we'll never know what this amazing structure looked like! (Though I've added a photo below for those of you who are curious!)

                                After a quick stop at the supermarket we followed a signpost to a camp site. There are over 600 campsites in Sweden, most of which are located along the coast, so the chances of finding a campsite nearby are always fairly high. We didn't book any of our campsites in advance as we only had a tent, but it would probably be worth checking in advance if you had a caravan, as the sites were all quite busy. We were pleased to discover that the campsite we had chosen (Lerbergets Camping) was right on the beach, and if you looked carefully along the horizon you could see Denmark. After pitching the tent we went in search of a drink and found a lovely little bar by the side of the campsite. I had the largest glass of wine I've ever seen in my life - I'm sure it held a whole bottle of wine! With a big smile on my face after all the wine, we returned to the tent for a BBQ and then to bed.

                                **Day 2**

                                We woke up to pouring rain and my boyfriend subsequently decided he didn't like camping, so he spent the whole morning moping around as we packed up our stuff. We were going to carry driving along the coast and visit Malmö but as the weather was so horrible we though we'd keep driving until we found some sunshine. We eventually found some sunshine in Ystad, so headed to the nearest campsite which was once again next to the beach. Leaving Sandskogen Campsite we walked along the coastal path into Ystad town.

                                Ystad is a medieval market town with little cobbled lanes lined with timbered houses. Finding a little café on the beach front we stopped for some lunch. It is at this point that I should probably tell you about the accent spoken in the South of Sweden. The most southerly part of Sweden is called Skåne which until 1678 was a part of Denmark rather than Sweden. Due to this people from Skåne have a more Danish than Swedish accent, which is often described as sounding as though they are speaking with a mouthful of porridge!! My boyfriend and I both speak Swedish but really struggled throughout this holiday to understand anything that was being said to us!! Ystad was a very picturesque town and we enjoyed just having a wander around the shops and along the harbour front. We were also lucky enough to see a Swedish film being made - the Swedish author Henning Mankell has written a number of thrillers about a fictional policeman named Kurt Wallander from Ystad, many of which have been made into films. Having studied one of these books in my Swedish lessons it was great to see the film being made and also to recognise street names and places mentioned in the book.

                                Once back at the campsite we had a lazy evening sitting in our deckchairs reading and deciding where to head to next.

                                **Day 3**

                                Despite a huge thunderstorm during the night, we woke up to find it dry, if a little cloudy. We managed to squeeze in quite a few visits to places on our third day, the first visit being to Ales Stenar. Ales Stenar is Sweden's version of Stonehenge and is believed to have been a Viking meeting place. It consists of 56 stones forming a 67 metre long boat shaped creation set high up on a cliff top. A guided tour was just starting at we reached the stones, so we stayed to listen. From what we could gather through the strange Swedish/Danish accent of our guide the stones act as a giant sundial, with the sun rising and setting behind each stone during the year.

                                From Ales Stenar we followed the coast road to Sandhammaren. This is a beautiful beach which stretches for miles with white sand backed by dunes and lapped by turquoise waters. Except by the time we'd spread out our towels and got comfy the sky and water had turned dark grey and the heavens opened!! We managed to run back to the car without getting too wet, but sadly missed out on a day at what is described as Sweden most glorious beach.

                                After giving up on a day on the beach we drove to Simrishamn for lunch. There wasn't much to this little fishing town other than a few nice cafes along the high street and a 12th century church, but it was very nice none the less. At the café where we ate our lunch, we spied these huge meringue like structures. I say structures as it looked as though someone had dribbled pink and yellow coloured meringue all over a traffic cone, left it to set and then removed the cone!! We asked in the café and were told they were called 'spettkaka' and they were a traditional cake from the region. We bought a little one and sat in the car to try it. Reading the ingredients we were a bit put off before we had already started - the ingredients were 'potato flour, eggs and sugar.' Potato flour in a cake?! Breaking a piece off we both tried it - bluueerghh - it tasted like wallpaper paste that had been left to set!!

                                In need of something to wash this horrible taste out of our mouths we headed off to Kivik, which is Sweden's cider making district. There is a large cider factory in Kivik, although sadly you can't go in and sample any, so we settled for having a look round the museum which was called The Apple House. The museum is made up of a series of rooms which tell the story of apples and cider making, with each room also accompanied by an apple smell, for example, apple pie or cider! There wasn't a huge amount to see in the museum but the shop did have lots of nice juices and jams to try.

                                Our last stop of the day was at Nogersunds campsite. We had picked up a leaflet for it earlier in the day and were excited to see there was a heated pool there, but by the time we arrived it was pouring with rain again, so we had to settle for eating dinner in the car and an early night.

                                **Day 4**

                                We woke up to pouring rain, and my boyfriend declaring once again that he didn't like camping! Leaving the campsite we drove to the nearby town of Karlshamn. Karlshamn is fairly industrial with not a lot to see, but luckily the town festival was taking place when we visited, so the high street was lined with market stalls and handcrafts. We bought a few bits and pieces and then noticed the sun was finally coming out, so thought we should make the most of it and do a bit of sunbathing. Along with the numerous signposts to campsites, every swimming spot is also signposted. So we simply followed the first sign we saw and then found ourselves at a beautiful, secluded area by the sea. Making the most of the first bit of really hot sunshine all holiday, we laid out for several hours, reading and dozing off. Bliss.

                                After a few hours lazing around with not another person in sight, yet again the heavens opened and we fled back to the car. When we arrived at our next campsite (Skonstaviks Camping) it was still raining and my boyfriend declared he couldn't face another night in a wet tent. So instead of the tent we booked a little wooden camping cottage. The cottage was small and basic, but actually having our own beds and a little stove of our own was luxury! Plus there was finally a fridge to keep my boyfriends beers cold - another reason why he didn't like camping in tents! After setting up our little cottage we drove to the nearby town of Karlskrona.

                                Karlskrona is a naval town, spread out of several islands and linked by bridges (a bit like a mini Stockholm for anyone who has been). It was founded by King Karl XI in 1680, as it was the only part of the coastline where the water didn't freeze in the winter. It is now home to a large naval base and maritime museum. As it was getting late in the day we didn't have time to visit the museum, but settled instead on a ride round town on a little 'train' pulled round by a tractor! The train drove through the centre of town, along the quayside and the over bridges toward the outer islands. There were some beautiful holiday cottages along the waterside and once again we were pointing them out saying 'I'd have that one!'

                                Back at our camping cottage we dined (I say 'dined' as the cottage felt like luxury after our damp tent!) on spaghetti carbonara prepared on our little one ring stove and drank chilled wine and beer! We were very happy snuggling into our warm bunk beds, hearing the sound of the rain pouring down outside!

                                **Day 5**

                                Leaving our little cottage with a tear in our eye we set off for the tiny town of Kristianopel. There are only 38 inhabitants in Kristianopel, although this number rises to around two thousand in the summer! Kristianopel is surrounded by three kilometres of three metre thick fortification walls. The current walls are a reconstruction, but the original walls were built in 1600 by the Danish King Christian IV to protect the then Danish owned town from Sweden. The walls are about 6 feet high and flat enough to wall on, so after a walk along the walls around the town we were ready for 'fika'. Fika is a Swedish word which means coffee and cake, and it cannot be fika unless you have both the cake and the coffee. So forced to keep with the Swedish way of doing things we ate the most gigantic piece of chocolate cake I've ever seen!! Mmm.

                                We then continued to drive up the coast, which had now tuned from the South Coast to the East Coast. Our next stop was Kalmar, which is also set of a number of small islands. We didn't spend long in Kalmar as we knew we would be returning in a few days. The island of Öland lies just off Kalmar's coast, so we drove over the adjoining 6km long bridge to reach the island.

                                Öland is Sweden's second largest island and is about 200km long but only 10 km wide. Driving in Öland is very easy as there is only one main road which runs through the centre of the island. Having decided that he liked the cottage life better than the camping life, my boyfriend had called ahead and booked a cottage for us. Following the directions we had been given we passed literally hundreds of wooden windmills before finally reaching our destination at Böda Sand. We met the lady who my boyfriend had spoken to on the phone, only to find that the little cottage we though we would be staying in was actually a huge old Victorian school! We were staying in one of the old classrooms, which had now been converted into a holiday cottage, complete with a full kitchen and bathroom, plus an entire school field! Upstairs in the attic was also a billiard table and table tennis table. Amazed at our great fortune in finding this place, we spent several hours just lazing around the cottage and playing billiards. In the evening we braved the miserable weather and sat outside in the school field for a BBQ. In bed that night I'm sure I heard ghostly noises from the old school teacher who used to live in the attic!!

                                **Day 6**

                                Yet another wet day but we braved it by having a brisk walk along the beach and building some sandcastles. The beach stretched for miles in either direction and would have been lovely in the sun, but sadly we only got to experience it in the wind and rain - it was just like an English summer holiday! Saying goodbye to our school we headed to Borgholm, which is Öland's biggest town. Borgholm is centred around a large harbour and made up of lots of seasidy shops and restaurants. Borgholm is also home to the Swedish Royal family's summer residence and a old stone castle which looms over the town from a nearby hill. It was market day in the town, so despite the bad weather it was fairly busy.

                                Unbeknown to me, as a special treat my boyfriend had booked us into a nearby hotel (Guntorps Herrgård), so we headed off there. The surprise was lovely, especially as we had gone from a tent, to a cottage, to a school, to a hotel in the space of a week!! Making the most of the wet weather and the lovely comfy beds we spent the afternoon lazing about watching TV.

                                Later in the evening we took a taxi into Borgholm for a few drinks and a meal - making the most of the fact that we didn't have to cook for ourselves on a little camping stove. Returning back to the hotel after maybe one drink too many we sunk into our comfy beds.

                                **Day 7**

                                Our stay in the hotel included breakfast, so we made the most of this! Swedish breakfast includes just about everything - cereal, bread, cheese, ham, eggs, salad, pastries etc, so we filled up for the day. In the middle of the breakfast room was a huge swimming pool surrounded by stuffed animals, which was very peculiar and probably would have been put to better use just as a swimming pool.

                                On our last day of our holiday we met returned to Kalmar, back over the bridge from Öland. Once in Kalmar we visited the town museum which we were told is home to an exhibition on the sunken warship, Kronan. We had visited the Vasa museum in Stockholm the previous summer (which is restored 17th century ship) so were expecting something similar. We were very disappointed to find out after a 2 hour guided tour in Swedish that they had only recovered relics from the warship, as the actual boat was still underwater!

                                It was now time for us to make our way home. Four hours later we were finally home and it was time to end our Southern Sweden Adventure.

                                **Prices**

                                Sweden is thought to be an expensive country, but I don't think it's any more expensive than London, Manchester or Edinburgh. We camp sites we stayed at were around 150 kronor (£12), the camping cottage was 400 kronor (£30), the converted school was 500 kronor (£38) and the hotel in Borgholm was 900 kronor (£70). Eating and drinking prices are much the same as in England, although alcoholic drinks are slightly more. A beer or glass of wine is about 40 kronor (£3).

                                **Doing the trip yourself**

                                If you fancy following this adventure too, or trying something similar I would recommend flying with Ryanair to Gothenburg and then following the same route as us. You could then either return to Gothenburg, or continue from Kalmar to Stockholm, where Ryanair also fly to. The entire trip was 1506km door to door, which is a long way, but the trip could be split up into smaller chunks and more time could be spent in each of the towns we visited. We saw lots of people on bikes along the coastal roads which would be a lovely holiday if the weather was nice. I haven't mentioned road names, telephone numbers etc, as these would easily be found in a guidebook and often change.

                                **Overall**

                                I'm sure you can gather from reading this that we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and managed to see a great deal of the South of Sweden in a short space of time. Although the weather wasn't fantastic, I think we visited more places because of this as we weren't stuck in one spot lying on the beach. Flights to Sweden with Ryanair can be very cheap so I would highly recommend the South of Sweden as a great holiday for someone who is looking for something a little bit different. Let me know if you decide to visit and I'll come and join you for a 'fika'!

                                Helen

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                                • More +
                                  22.09.2005 16:24
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                                  Visibly cleaner, brighter and smoother skin

                                  I used to work in London and my skin really seemed to suffer from all the pollution. This product stated that it would enable deep down cleaning, so I thought it would do the job drawing out some of the gunk I seemed to attract travelling to and from work. (I think it is initially aimed at oily/spotty skin)

                                  It was £3.74 from Boots and comes in a 75ml tube that stands on its click open lid (also handy as you can squeeze those last little bits out at the end!)

                                  The packaging states that 'its self heating action gently opens pores to enable deep-down cleaning, whilst pure clay absorbs excess sebum and oils. Skin is left feeling pure, soft and cleansed deep down for 7 days'

                                  To use the product you simply wet your face and then apply the mask to the face concentrating on the chin, nose and forehead. You are advised to apply the mask using circular motions as this triggers the self heating action. You then sit back and leave the mask on for 3 minutes before washing off with warm water.

                                  The mask is bluey/grey in colour and has quite a thick, gooey consistency but is easy to apply - just mind those white towels though! It starts to heat up after about 30 seconds which is a strange but pleasant experience. The face mask stays moist rather than setting and making your face itch like a few seem to. I found it easier to wipe the mask off with tissue and then wash my face, as washing it off with water just seemed to rub the facemask around rather than removing it.

                                  After using the mask my skin looked visibly cleaner and brighter, and smoother to the touch. It felt this way for about 4 days. The packaging says skin will stay cleansed for 7 days, so I have been using it once a week and my skin feels cleaner each time I use it. The only downside is it isn't particularly moisturising - I have to apply extra moisturiser to my face after using the mask.

                                  My top tip is to apply it before you get in the bath and then lie back and relax. I do this and although I am probably leaving it on longer than the recommended 3 minutes but it still works just as well.

                                  Although I think this product is great I've only given it 4 stars as I think it is quite expensive compared to some of the other self heating masks out there.

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