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hypno06

hypno06
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    • Caleys Plain Chocolate / Chocolate / 93 Readings / 91 Ratings
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      24.08.2009 20:11
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      Give it a try!

      Everyone has heard of Cadburys, I'm sure.....but have you heard of Caleys? Well, put your bar of dairy milk to one side for a little while and try a bar of this instead.

      Caleys were a family firm producing chocolate in Norwich from 1883. They produced chocolate for the Troops during the First World War - aptly named as "Marching Chocolate", as well as a range of confectionary for enjoying at home. Royal Warrants were granted for many of their products, so that indicates how good they were.

      Caleys, like many family firms, was sold out, and the factory in Norwich became the Mackintosh factory, to be taken over by Rowntrees, and then by Nestle. So the smell of chocolate was lingering over Norwich for over 100 years, with many families enjoying employment for several generations. Everyone seemed to either work at Mackintosh's or knew someone who worked there. In the early 1990s, in order to fund my mortgage payments which were at 16% APR, I worked an evening shift on the production line - 5 nights a week, after my day job, and I can still say with honesty that it was one of the best companies ever to have worked for.

      In the mid 1990s, the factory closed down, and we all thought that Norwich had lost its connection with chocolate making for ever. A shopping centre was built on the old factory site, and everyone moved on.

      But.....some of the redundant employees decided to get together, pool their redundancy money, and buy some of the equipment from the factory, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Caleys was reborn.

      Caleys offer a range of milk and dark chocolate bars, using fair-trade ingredients. They can be found in many local shops in and around Norwich, but also in Waitrose and Sainsbury.

      At the moment, Caleys have named their milk and dark chocolate "Heroes", and are giving 5p for every bar sold to the Help the Heroes charity - a nice touch from their "Marching Chocolate" roots.

      So, onto the actual bar of chocolate. This is a 55g bar of dark chocolate, with 70% cocoa solids. No vegetable fat is used in the production of this bar, so the quality is very good indeed. As I mentioned above, the cocoa is Fairtrade, as are 99.5% of the entire products, so you can feel good about what you are eating as well as simply enjoying it.

      The bar is divided into small squares, so you can break off a bit at a time and enjoy its richness. For a high-cocoa content chocolate, this is very smooth. In my opinion, this is every bit as good as some of the more famous dark chocolate products such as Green & Blacks, or Lindt. It smells delicious - and for those of us that live in Norwich, it is an instant journey down memory lane as soon as the wrapper is torn - the scent that used to waft over the City, is wafting right up towards my nostrils!

      This has a firm texture, and if you put it in the fridge, you will need to make sure your dentures are in place before you bite into it. For me, this is good - I dislike "woolly" chocolate, which coats the roof of my mouth, and this just feels good quality as I eat it.

      Nutritionwise, a bar provides you with 277 calories and 10.2 grams of saturated fat. This may seem high, but for good quality chocolate it is worth every single calorie, and of course, because it is dark chocolate, some will only want a square or two at a time. I, however, find it difficult NOT to eat a whole bar in one go - but that's me!

      It might be difficult to find, but if you are a chocolate lover, I would certainly recommend that you hunt this brand out.

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      • More +
        19.08.2009 21:33
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        Be Drink Aware.

        Alco-pops came onto the scene a few years ago - the likes of WKD and Bacardi Breezer giving teens and early twenty-somethings, an altenative to vodka and coke, and lager.

        They have been openly criticised for appealing too much to underage drinkers - being more like soft drinks than anything we have seen before, and at the same time being "pocket money prices", thereby tempting youngsters to indulge (and over-indulge) when perhaps they shouldn't be.

        A bottle of bacardi breezer is typically 4% volume - whilst not huge, this is the same as many lagers, and you can get drunk on these just as you could be a little the worse for wear after several bottles of Bud.

        The difference between bottles of breezers, and bottles of beer however, is that you really can't taste the alcohol in the breezers - so you have little awareness of the cumulative effect, until it is too late, you are snogging the ugly guy, singing drunken karaoke, and baring your breasts as you stagger down the road declaring "I really really love you" to every random passer by or homeless person.

        Yes, these really do give the impression that they are just fizzy drinks. And that can be quite a dangerous thing if you are not "drink aware".......and the advertising campaigns over the years has addressed that somewhat, with the "drink aware" logo in the ads.....for those who want to take any notice of it.

        I don't normally drink alco-pops, preferring a nice glass of decent wine instead, but I was given a selection of bottles recently, and with the hot weather, they have been quite nice to drink instead of my usual vino when I finally get to sit down in the evening. Occasionally, when I have been to a pub where the choice of wine is incredibly limited, looking as though it has been won in a raffle at the local fete, I have opted for a breezer as the safe option, when I have not wanted a short drink such as a spirit.

        Breezers come in a variety of fruit based flavours, from lemon and orange flavours, through to watermelon and cranberry flavours - with a good choice normally available in clubs, bars and supermarkets the country over. I would guess that I have sampled most flavours over the years, and there is not one that I dislike, although I suppose I like the watermelon one best.

        As their name suggests, they are made with Bacardi Rum, which is then mixed with fruit flavours and sparkling water to make a long drink. It is best served chilled.

        They are refreshing, and lovely to have on a hot summers day, like those we are experiencing at the moment, but they really don't have that alcoholic "kick" that you get from other drinks.

        I am currently sitting here with a bottle of the orange flavoured one, and to be honest, I could be sitting here with a bottle of the orangina that I reviewed earlier today - other than the label on the bottle there is nothing in the taste to distinguish between soft drink and alcoholic drink.

        This is, I think, particularly dangerous, not just for those who are under age, but for those who may drink these on a hot day, then forget that they have had two or three, and who get in their car to drive home. Each bottle is equivalent to 1.1 units of alcohol, so you don't need much to be over the limit, and even with just one bottle, there will likely be an effect to some extent on your reactions.

        So, all in all, like the drink, I am mixed.......Breezers are nice, and refreshing, tasty and cheap, reliable when faced with dodgy wine as an alternative, perfect for a summer's day........but deceptive.

        My rating, therefore, has to be three stars - I like them, but I do worry about the ease at which they can be consumed without people thinking that they are actually "drinking".

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        • Orangina / Soft Drink / 64 Readings / 62 Ratings
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          19.08.2009 09:14
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          C'est Formidable!

          When I was 12 I went to France on a school trip (this is in the very early 1980s), long before Orangina had made its way to our shores. At that time, Orangina formed a regular part of our French lessons at school, so the ability to ask for the real thing in Normandy was fab! Je voudrais un Orangina s'il vous plait!

          As a result, 30 English kids, aged 11 and 12 spent a whole week bouncing off the walls.......

          I have rarely tasted Orangina since, but it is available in 500ml "individual" bottles, and 2 litre bottles, from most big supermarkets, and occasional newsagents.

          Yesterday I was parched. It was hot, and I wanted something refreshing to drink whilst at work. We have a water cooler here but I was wanting something more, and a trip to the newsagent opposite the office brought me to re-kindle my aquaintance with Orangina. I bought a 500ml bottle for 89p - not the best value I am sure, but it was what I fancied so as an occasional treat it was worth it.

          Orangina is, as the name indicates, an orange flavoured drink. The reason it is so different to any other orange flavoured fizzy drink that I have had before, is because it contains real "bits" or orange, and you need to gently tip the bottle (not shake it, because then you really are asking for trouble!) to allow the "bits" to mix in before you drink it.

          It is a paler orange colour than many of its counterparts (tango for example) and I put this down to the fact that they use no artificial colours.

          12% of this fizzy drink is made from orange and other citrus juices, with a further 2% from orange pulp, so you can see why this really does taste of orange rather than just be orange flavoured.

          It is fizzy, but not highly so - this means that you can drink it without getting that bloated gassy feeling in your tum afterwards (and also means the boys in the office next door to me can't have "belching competitions" when they have consumed a bottle.....!

          If it is bought straight out of a fridge, as mine was, there is absolutely no need to add ice. If you are serving it from room temperature, ice would make it more refreshing, but personally speaking, I would prefer this without ice as I do not want the flavour diluted.

          So.....a refreshing orange drink, that is easy to drink and actually contains real orange bits. What could there possibly be for me to dislike about it?

          Well, the reason we had all those hyper 12 year olds on the school trip many years ago is because of the sugar content in this product. Each 500ml bottle contains a whopping 51g of sugar, which is almost three quarters of your adult daily guidelines! That is shocking! It would not be difficult to consume a couple of bottles of this, say on a picnic, and you would be taking in a huge number of calories from sugar.

          Ah well, for me it is an occasional treat, so I won't beat myself up over the sugar content, but if you are a regular fizzy drink drinker, then you should be aware of this, as you should if you are giving it to your children.

          Way back in the day, these were in beautiful glass bottles. Sadly that has been replaced by plastic ones, but as I was drinking it, I was temporarily back in Normandy..........just for a moment!

          Nutritional info - no artificial colours, flavours or sweetners. No fat, no salt, but a lot of sugar!

          For more info, visit www.orangina.eu

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          • More +
            16.08.2009 08:24
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            A good standby item for unexpected teenage guests!

            I would say that we have pizza for dinner in our house at least once a week. If forms the basis of a cheap, filling meal that is flexible - and one that my children have always been happy to wolf down, without any argument..

            For example, you can serve a pizza whole as it is, with nothing to accompany it - just run the pizza cutter through, and plonk it on the plate. You can divide it into two or into quarters, and serve with some chips and your teenagers will love you. If you have unexpected friends brought home with your teenagers, cut into smaller wedges, add a few extra chips and a tin of beans and your pizza will go further still, and if the unexpected friends are adults, then you can substitute the chips and beans for pasta and salad leaves, and you can always be able to produce an impromptu meal!

            So, a pizza or two always finds its way into my shopping trolley each week. There are lots of offers on in the supermarkets for branded pizzas at the moment, so most of the time I simply pick up whichever BOGOF offer is about, meaning that I have very little pizza loyalty.

            However, when there is no BOGOF offer or if it I am having a real "budget shop" week, then I revert to the pizza that I believe really does live up to its name - Tesco Value pizza.

            Value pizzas come in two sizes in my store - packs of four "individual" pizzas that are about 6 inches across, and the large pizza that is at least 12 inches in diameter. I tend to buy the large pizza - it is found in the chiller cabinets, not the freezers, and costs a whole 99p.......

            The picture above shows this pizza in a box, but the ones in my store are not boxed, but wrapped in plastic film, with a polystyrene base to keep the pizza rigid while you are transporting it.

            They do come in two flavours - cheese and tomato, and pepperoni. The pepperoni one is still "value" but priced at more than the plain one, as you might expect, but it is several months since I have seen this variety in my local stores, so I couldn't comment on it any more.

            So, by default, the good old cheese and tomato pizza is on the meal plan for the week. The amount of cheese topping on these pizzas varies, so the one at the top of the pile may have a skimpy sprinkling of cheese on it. Rummage through the leaning tower of Pizza though, and you will be likely to find one that has more cheese on it - grab it and lay claim to it before another bargain hunting pizza loving stressed mum of two finds it.....!

            Cooking this pizza is easy - simply take it out of the plastic/polystyrene wrapping, and put it straight on the oven shelf. Cook at about 200 degrees (it is not an exact science with this pizza, we've cooked them at all sorts of temperatures!), for about 18 minutes, then slice and serve. Simple!

            Because this pizza is cheap and is plain, it makes a wonderful pizza base - if you want to get your children involved in the kitchen, why not get them to make additional toppings for their pizzas? Tuna, olives, ham, peanut butter.....you could have an unusual variation on the Four Seasons.....or just sprinkle a bit of extra grated chese on the top, with a few extra herbs or some cracked black pepper, if you want to go for "understated".

            If you cook this right, the base is excellent - not too doughy and not too hard. Leave it in the oven too long, or leave it to cool for cold pizza, and you will find the base is tough and hard. You will soon discover your own optimum cooking time based on your own oven.

            The tomato sauce is as good as any other I have tasted - sweet and beautifully coloured. No complaints here!

            The cheese - well, apart from it being a little sparse on some pizzas, is fine. It melts, it goes a bit stringy, it tastes cheesy......sounds like it is doing the job to me!

            All in all, this is a value pizza - you cannot expect restaurant quality for 99p, but in my experience, you can make this 99p item into a most acceptable family meal that everyone will enjoy...and the grocery budget lives to fight another day.

            These are in the chiller cabinet, but can be frozen at home. If you cook it from frozen, remember the cooking time will be slightly more than 18 minutes!

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            • Maxwell House Cappuccino / Coffee / 73 Readings / 70 Ratings
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              15.08.2009 09:22
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              It's not a cappuccino as we know it......!

              In my never ending (or so it seems) quest to reach that compromise between spending out on a daily visit to Starbucks and Costa Coffee when I am at work, and having the standard cups of coffee that are provided in the office (which are made by our tea lady aged 86, who has questionable levels of hygeine, but making our coffees gives her a purpose in life, so we can't sack her.....), I have been buying sachets of instant cappuccino for about a year now.

              The aged tea lady (think of Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques, and you are getting there) doesn't do "newfangled coffee", so is happy to leave the making of my cup to me.......and over the last year I have tried numerous shops own brands, and the Nescafe mocha, latte and cappuccino....with varying results.

              Out of these, the Nescafe has always come out tops, and for many months seemed to be on multibuy offer in the supermarkets, making it an attractive, and cost effective compromise in the "trendy coffee" department. But recently there have been no such offers that I have seen. So when I saw Maxwell House selling a box of 10 cappuccino sachest sachets for £1.69, I thought that was worth a try - after all, this means a cup of coffee for less than 17p......a fraction of the cost of a medium cap from Costa.

              These are available in original (which is sweetened) and unsweetened. Even with the sweetened versions, because I have a sweet tooth, I end up adding more sugar or sweetener, so I tend to buy the unsweetened version.

              The idea behind these sachets is simple - pour the contents of the sachet into a mug, pour in water that is just off the boil, and stir to a creamy froth.

              Then sit back and imagine you are in Starbucks/Pret/Costa/insert coffee shop of your choice here.

              But of course, the "idea" does not always resemble the reality.....

              Indeed, these are easy to make - I can't fault that. But the end result is quite unlike any other cappuccino I have tried.

              If I go into a coffee shop and ask for a cappuccino, I expect a nice frothy top to my drink......a cappuccino, in my experience, is strong coffee, hot milk and a frothy, creamy head on which chocolate sprinkles are added.

              Someone ought to tell Maxwell House this, because I think they are aiming for something quite different.

              The mixture of coffee and milk powder looks just like that - a cup of instant coffee made with Marvel or Coffee Mate. It has a very thin layer of what could loosely be termed as froth, and on a bad day could be described as "scum"....and there is no provision made for chocolate sprinkles.

              I did think that perhaps I had just gotten unlucky with my box - after all, the picture on the front of the box (as above) does show chocolate sprinkles on top of the mug quite clearly - so I thought I had just picked up a random box which had missing choccy......but closer readng of the box shows that they never intended putting the chocolate in the first place! It is not on the instruction, and it is not on the ingredients. I therefore think the box and this product is misleading. Bah.

              The taste was ok but uninspiring - it really is just like instant coffee with dried milk/coffee mate. It tastes like Maxwell House with Marvel. Nothing more, nothing less. There were no lumpy powdery bits left in the bottom of the mug, so that gets it an extra star.

              As an "ordinary" cup of coffee, it passes the test (and is still preferable to the aged tea lady's version), but as a cappuccino it really doesn't succeed.

              This reminds me very much of some of the coffee you can get out of vending machines......and on that basis, I would guess that 17p a cup is cheaper than the extortionate prices you pay from a vending machine......but that really is about as good a recommendation as I can come up with.

              I wouldn't buy this again, unless there really was no alternative. I feel that the Nescafe version is much better.

              Nutritionwise, each mug has 59 calories and 1.7grams of saturated fat, which from memory is less than the Nescafe version, and is suitable for vegetarians.

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                14.08.2009 14:36
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                I wouldn't recommend these to anyone.

                Having just had a fortnight off work, those nasty little germs have seen me drop my guard just a little, and have seized the opportunity to enter my system. As a result, on my first day back in the office, I came down with a typical "summer cold".

                It is not too bad, as these things go - mainly nose, throat and head. It certainly couldn't be categorised as flu.....It really is "just a cold".

                I do, however, want something that will just help take the edge off the "fuzziness" that I have that typically accompanies a cold like this. My nose hurts, and my throat hurts, and I want to be able to get through my days at work without people taking one look at me and saying "ooh, it's not swine flu, is it?".

                So, Boots were shut, and I therefore had to buy the best that was on offer at the supermarket, which seemed to be Beechams Flu Plus caplets. These are not cheap - costing almost £5 for 24 tablets, but as the packet says that they privide rapid and effective relief from the major cold and flu symptoms, I thought that it would be £5 well spent.

                Adults and children over 12 can take 2 caplets ever four to six hours, but should ensure that they do not take more than 8 in a 24 hour period. For children aged 6-12yrs, one caplet can be given every four to six hours, and children under 6 should not take these at all.

                They contain Paracetamol, Phenylephrine Hydrochlorine and Caffeine. The Paracetamol is to ease the aches and pains and keep a fever down, the Pheylwhatsit is to sort out the decongestant, and the caffeine is to stop you falling asleep at your desk, and therefore makes these unsuitable for taking just before bedtime.

                These are "caplets" which is just a fancy word for "tablets". They are easy to swallow, and I don't even find I need water with them as they slip down easily enough. They are not sugar coated, though, so for anyone who has difficulty swallowing pills, have a glass of water to hand, so they do not get stuck in your throat, because they will taste foul!

                Did they work? No, not at all. I was very disappointed because I got no relief whatsoever. It was as though I had taken a placebo! And to make things worse, because I had already taken something, I couldn't take anything else until 4 hours or so had passed. So not only was I fuzzy and sore.....but I was also increasingly bad tempered!

                I am just glad that I only have "just a cold" and not full blown flu - if these caplets are not man enough for "just a cold", I cannot see how they would help anyone suffering with more serious symptoms.

                Personally, I would not buy these again, and was disappointed that they did not provide any relief. However, perhaps I shouldn't have expected too much - after all, they are available to buy without even asking a Pharmacist, so can't be the best on the market.

                For a fraction of the price, I could have bought some generic paracetamol, some Vicks and a packet of lockets, and would probably have had far better results.

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                • Heinz Beanz Snap Pots / Ready Meals / 44 Readings / 41 Ratings
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                  13.08.2009 22:08
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                  Ok when on offer - expensive when not......

                  I will be the first to admit that where there is a suitable "value" or own brand product available, I will use it in order to keep my shopping budget down as much as possible. As part of this way of shopping, I believe I have already written about how wonderfully good value Tesco own brand tins of baked beans are.

                  But at the moment, Tesco own brand beans have been relegated to second best, as I am buying Heinz Snap Pots.

                  Basically, these are individual microwave portion of Heinz baked beans, sold in batches of four. Each pot is contains 200g of beans, so the same as one of the small tins of beans you can buy, or half a full size tin.

                  To cook, you simply snap a pot from its adjoining buddies, take off the lid, and pop in the microwave on full power for just one minute. Voila, you have baked beans ready to pour on your toast in the time it has taken for the toast to pop up in the toaster.

                  I'm not going to talk about how good these tastes - I think everyone will already be well aware that these are the leading brand of baked beans, and as such, taste as good as, or better, than anything else in its peer group.

                  I'm not going to talk about whether they have the ideal ratio of bean to sauce either.......as everyone seems to have their own ideas about what is the perfect mix.

                  So, why am I loving this product at the moment? Well, the reason is not that they are Heinz - remember, I think that Tesco version is just as good - and it is not even because they are easy to cook....it is not exactly difficult to heat some tinned beans on the hob, or transfer them into a dish and microwave them.......

                  No, the reason is because in the same way as I do not like to waste money, I also do not like to waste food.

                  Sometimes, we all have beans with our dinner - fishfingers, chips and beans for example, one of my favourite "comfort" foods. A tin of beans is nicely divided between three or four of us. No waste.

                  But very often, only one person wants beans - perhaps if someone is having beans on toast at lunchtime. Or perhaps we are all having our regular "disjointed" mealtimes as everyone has to be in different places at the same time, and only one person reaches for the tin of beans. This often means that a part finished tin of beans finds its way shoved into the fridge.

                  Sometimes, that part eaten tin of beans goes un-noticed next time someone else wants beans on toast......and we end up with multiple half full, quarter full, almost empty (!) tins of beans in the fridge........and they don't take long before they develop a fur coat.....what an absolute waste......it makes a false economy of having bought cheaper beans in the first place!

                  That is where these snap pots come into their own - they are an ideal size for beans on toast, with no need to put the other half of the tin away for later!

                  However, there has to be a point where convenience/waste/cost reaches its equilirium, and for me, unfortunately, the normal price of these snap pots is not at that balancing point.......£1.76 in Tesco, for four pots - that is more expensive than four full price tins of own brand beans, and considerably more than four tins of value beans.

                  But, at the moment, a pack of 4 snap pots is on offer at £1 in Tesco - so at just 25p for a pot that is enough for one person as a "beans on toast" meal, and is plenty for two people as an addition to fishfingers and chips, for example, this has become the ideal size and price to keep my budget and my kitchen bin (and my fridge) in perfect harmony.

                  So, while these are on offer, I will stock up and happily avoid wastage. Sadly, when they are full price, I will be continuing to nag my children into looking in the fridge before they open yet another tin......

                  I do have one gripe (apart from the full price), and for this they will lose a star....

                  My empty tins can be recycled entirely. The plastic pots can only be recycled "where facilities exist" which means that many will find their way into landfill. It seems that my efforts to reduce waste are not as good as I initially thought.......

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                  • Cadbury's Freddo Frog / Chocolate / 49 Readings / 48 Ratings
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                    13.08.2009 14:33
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                    What else could you do with 15p that satisfies you as much as this does?

                    I would like to take this opportunity to thank Harry Melbourne, the person who came up with the idea at Cadburys for Freddo Frog bars way back in 1930. He should truly be showered with praises, awards and perhaps even Sainthood.

                    For those of you that have never come across Freddo Frogs, or have dismissed them as fit only for children, I would like to provide you with this introduction....

                    Made by Cadburys these are available in plain milk chocolate, or caramel versions. This review is about the plain version only.

                    It is, to all intents and purposes, a small bar of dairy milk chocolate, yet unlike any other "snack size", "treat size" or "mini" version of Dairy Milk, it somehow manages to take on tardis-like properties and feels so much more!

                    The chocolate is a chunky piece of yumminess, fashioned into the shape of a frog, who is, unsurprisingly named Freddo. The bar is only about 3 inches long and an inch and a half wide, but it is quite thick, and therefore when you bite into it, you really have to bite. This is in comparison to some "small" versions of dairy milk, that are so thin, they seem to fall apart before you even introduce them to your lips, yet alone let your teeth get a look in.

                    These bars are just 15p each, making them perfect for when you find a bit of money at the bottom of your handbag on the day before payday when you otherwise thought you were skint.....and of course at that price, you don't mind treating the kids occasionally (if they have been good, of course and done all the chores you have set them.......washing up, making beds, cleaning chimneys - that sort of thing).

                    And the best bit, is that these are diet friendly - a Freddo Frog contains just 95 calories. YES, just 95 calories! That is less than any diet cardboard cereal bar......so you can eat one of these and still be on the right side of the Fat Fighters Club leader.......Freddo has been my saviour on many a diet, as I can eat one without feeling guilty. This is one of the few "small" bars of chocolate that actually satisfies, and although I wouldn't say no to a second, or third, it provides me with enough while counting points, or syns, or whatever I am doing at the time, to give me a treat without piling on the lbs in the process.

                    Suitable for vegetarians too, this little bar lets itself down very very slightly as it may contain traces of nuts.

                    All in all, I would suggest that if you have bypassed Freddo Frog bars on the basis that they are for children only, or if you have never even seen them, look out for them in the newsagents and pick up one or two. For 15p you really really can't go wrong!

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                    • More +
                      12.08.2009 21:31
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                      Perhaps it's just me..........

                      I've been a member of dooyoo for 8 or 9 months now, and have given out over 11000 rates.......several of which have been for lush bath bombs of various types.

                      I have never tried a lush bath bomb, the only time I have been into the shop is to buy things for other people as gifts. To be honest, the though of spending £3 plus on a bath terrifies me, as I think of all the other things I should be spending that money on.....

                      But recently, I decided that I did, indeed, fancy a little bit of bathtime luxury.....but instead of buying a lush product, I opted for the "recession busting" version, being the Boots Mango & Papaya bath fizzer, that I could buy using my advantage points - no cash need be parted with, yet I could experience something similar to my lush-obsessed dooyoo friends!

                      Looking forward to being able to write a review explaining how my whole upstairs had the tropical scent of mango and papaya drifting into every room, how my water was noticeably softer, and how my skin felt and smelt wonderful for many hours later, letting me drift into a deep sleep dreaming of clear blue seas and white sands......I started running the taps. At the appointed time, I unwrapped my bath fizzer, and dropped it into the bath, expecting an underwater firework display as my bath bomb whizzed its way around my tub.........

                      There, I had my first disappointment - my bath bomb melted, rather than fizzed. There was no fizzing as it dissolved. I was hoping to see my bath bomb whizz around the bath leaving a trail of fizziness in its wake. Sadly, I saw nothing of the sort.

                      Ah well, perhaps it is because we live in a hard water area.......

                      So, I shut my bathroom door, and left the room while I busied myself getting undressed.....expecting to open my door to be greeted by the wonderful tropical scent of exotic fruits......a scent that would then work its way across my landing and into the other rooms upstairs.....

                      So, disappointment number two. I opened the bathroom door, and was greeted by.......nothing. No scent whatsoever. What is going on here!? If I can't smell it in my bathroom, how am I going to smell it through my landing in a couple of hours' time?

                      I look over to my bath, and it is indeed orange - as I would expect. But it instantly reminds me of "chemical orange" - you know, that sort of iron-ore or sulphar coloured water that you get in puddles near to industrial areas.....I try and make myself feel better by thinking of something less industrial that it might remind me of. But the best I can think of is a bathful of Irn-Bru!

                      But...all is not lost - once I get into the bath, I can soak back into my tropical luxury as the soft fruity water leaves my skin feeling soft and refreshed, with a lingering scent to take to bed with me.....

                      and yes, you've guessed it I am disappointed once more. I can honestly not give you any benefit of my Irn-Bru coloured water. I can't smell it, I can't inhale wonderful vapours, I can't feel my skin soften and relax.......and to be honest, I can't wait to get out and pull out the bath plug.

                      Which is exactly what I do. With a big sad sigh, I haul myself out of the bath, and reach for the towel.....leaving my tango-bath behind me, and watching the water go down the plug.

                      Of course, you will have gathered that there is no lingering scent on my skin, I don't have a hint of the tropics rubbing off onto my bedsheets, and mango and papaya is not drifting through my home sending me off into dreams of far flung places.

                      My only consolation is that I didn't pay "real" cash for this experience. But I am still annoyed that I could have bought a full sized bottle of radox for the same price as this £1.99 bath bomb - in fact, at Boots at the moment, full sized bottles of radox are BOGOF, so I could have got several baths worth, for the price of one Irn-Bru dip.

                      This is not something I will be buying again - whether I ever get as far as trying a Lush version, is now debateable.....perhaps I will just have to hope that someone buys me one as a gift to try instead.......

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                      • Tesco Bleach / Household Product / 70 Readings / 62 Ratings
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                        11.08.2009 20:24
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                        Definitely "as good as......."

                        Most people at this time are finding it increasingly difficult to make the housekeeping budget stretch - regardless of what the official inflation figures say, it feels as though the cost of our "shopping list" increases week by week.

                        So, we have two choices.....buy less, or spend less. By "spend less", I mean be savvy in your spending - buy things only when they are on BOGOF or other multibuy offer, scour the reduced bins for dented tins or short shelf life produce, use coupons at the till that appear in magazines and newspapers, for 20p off your butter etc, and perhaps the most valuable thing of all.......drop a brand, or two.

                        The difference in cost between the premium brands and own brands, and value brands, is often quite significant, so if you can drop a brand or two for the majority of your shopping, you can make a big saving in your shopping bill.

                        Of course, sometimes, you have to compromise on quality. This is a compromise that you may or may not be prepared to make, and everyone is different in what they are prepared to do to save money.

                        With some products, in my experience, I have discovered that the quality of the "value" version is as good as the branded version, at a fraction of the cost, and over the years have tried most value versions in my quest to reach that optimum value/quality balance for my grocery budget.

                        Tesco value thin bleach is one of those products that passes the "as good as" test, and one that I will continue to use.

                        At just 28p for 2 litres, this is significantly cheaper than even the own brand version of bleach and incredibly cheap when compared with branded products - Domestos, for example, is £2.67 for 2 litres at Tesco......!!!

                        Yet, bleach is bleach, is bleach! I am not looking for something that tastes nice, or looks nice.....I am not worried about packaging and presentation. When I buy bleach, I buy it because I want it to clean, and to kill germs, and the value version does this just as well as the leading brand.

                        This bleach is thin - there is no pretending that it is going to cling to the sides of the loo in the same way as thick bleach does. But it says "thin" in the description, so you would expect "thin", wouldn't you?

                        It doesn't have a directional squirty cap, so you cannot direct it around the toilet bowl as you would be able to do with toilet duck or something specialist. But again, you would not be able to do that if you bought the 2litre bottle of domestos either, as that doesn't have a directional cap either.....so you are not being short changed with this product.

                        It is excellent for adding to cold water to keep your kitchen sinks clean and germ free, and it is perfect for pouring down drains to get rid of horrid smells. Used carefully, so as not to splash your clothes, it is good to use diluted to wipe down work surfaces, tiles and floors - cleaning and killing germs in the process. It is as good as any other in its effectiveness.

                        Although it doesn't "cling" to the sides of the loo as it cleans, you can pour some of this into the toilet bowl and it will wend its way through the plumbing, eliminating any nasty niffs along the way.

                        A small amount in the washing machine when washing whites will keep your socks presentable - especially the sports socks of teenage boys, that can do with some extra help in the "dirt and whiff" department!

                        All in all, this value thin bleach, in my humble experience, is as good as any other - it does what it needs to do and I cannot see the point of paying more than 28p just for a name!

                        Even when I am well off and we are out of recession, I will stick with the value products that have worked well......and this is one of them!

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                        • M&M's Peanut / Chocolate / 60 Readings / 59 Ratings
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                          11.08.2009 09:27
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                          Enjoy!

                          I'm not a great "peanut" fan. By that, I mean that I wouldn't choose to buy a packet of dry roasted at the bar, and when everyone goes "nut mad" over the Christmas period, I find it very easy to abstain from the packet of monkey nuts that seems to have become obligatory on the Christmas grocery shopping list!

                          But I do love peanut butter - so the new kitkat chunky, and the Reese's products are high on my list of preferred confectionary.......as are Peanut M&Ms. In fact, I would go as far as to say I would prefer the peanut version to any of the other M&M versions available.

                          M&Ms are an American invention - so if you have been holidaying in the States over the past few decades, or if like me you had a dad who was an expat working for a US oil company, you may well have been familiar with M&Ms for a very long time.

                          For everyone else, they are still a relatively new product in the UK, but having said that, they have been around for several years. However, we seem to still only offer the choice of standard M&Ms or the peanut version, whereas the full repatoire is somewhat wider.

                          M&Ms are available in most newsagents, garage forecourts and supermarkets, so are easily accessible. Prices will vary, but are fairly standard when compared with other confectionary on the market.

                          Basically, these are whole peanuts covered in a chocolate coating, which in turn is then coated in a crispy outer sugar shell. So, if you have never had these before, imagine a smartie, but a smartie that contains a whole peanut inside!

                          Although you would think that the main ingredient is the whole peanuts, they only account for 23% of the overall weight, with milk chocolate providing a delightful 48%. (The sugar shell and other usual "agents" make up the rest.)

                          The shells are brightly coloured - typically red, orange, yellow, blue and green, but this does not have any bearing on the flavour - they are all the same. So don't spend time trying to work out if the orange one really does taste of orange! In this product, it is simply a colouring.....

                          Tastewise, as you would expect, these are nutty. Well, they contain a whole peanut, so you would perhaps worry if they didn't taste nutty! For me, the peanut is the dominant flavour, despite being half the weight of the chocolate element, but the two work really well together, as the layer of chocolate is thick enough for it to be effective and noticable.

                          Nutritionwise, these contain 232 calories and 12.1 grams of fat in a standard individual 45g packet. You can buy these in larger packs too, but that is just way too tempting for me, as I can't seem to stop at the right moment in time.

                          What I did find interesting, many years ago, is that a pack of peanut M&Ms was allowed as part of a low GI diet that I did. Of course, for me that meant I could justify a packet each and every day......perhaps that is one reason I never lost weight on that particular diet!

                          Obviously, these do contain nuts, so are not suitable for anyone with a nut allergy. They do not appear to have anything that would stop vegetarians enjoying them from first glance at the ingredients, but it does not mention how the "colourings" are obtained, so any veggies might want to investigate further if they are very strict.

                          There is more information about M&Ms in general on www.mms.com.

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                          • More +
                            10.08.2009 21:00
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                            For what we needed, it worked perfectly well.

                            We have had cats for many years - only one at a time....and always "outdoor cats" (with the exception of one pampered pedigree many years ago). Our cats like to climb trees and scratch at fence posts, and to go off exploring, which suits me because it saves my furniture from becoming scratched, or my curtains becoming plucked as kitty scales the fabric looking for adventure.

                            Toileting for our cats is therefore easy - they go outside. Most of the cats we have had have been either rescue cats or adopted from people we knew who were moving house, so they were already housetrained.

                            Last spring, however, we got a kitten who was only 6 weeks old. Her mother had taught her very well how to use a litter tray, but of course, at that age, she was too small to be allowed out for several more weeks. We therefore had to get a litter tray and litter - something that was new to us, despite having been cat owners for 20 years or so.

                            We initally bought branded litter - Catsan, for example, but at £4.97 a pack it was quite expensive. It did what it needed to do, but because the litter tray was cleaned out every day or so anyway, it just seemed to be an expensive way of providing somewhere for our kitten to do its business.

                            Over the next few weeks we tried a few other brands, and supermarket own brands - all doing the required job. We tried paper based, natural clay, lightweight litter, premium litter......at the end of the day, they provided an area for a cat to use as a toilet - and we were spending more on the cat than we were on toilet roll for a family of 5 each week. Things were getting ridiculous.

                            Then one day we were brave and tried the Tesco Value lightweight cat litter, at £1.16 for the same size bag as we were previously paying almost £5 for! Surely it was worth a try? Absolutely! And once we had started using it, we never went back.......

                            OK, this is not the most beautiful of products - it is grey bits of claylike stuff....but, if we are being honest, why do we need anything to look lovely? The cat doesn't seem to mind - it doesn't put her off doing her stuff.

                            It might not claim to be "anti-clumping" or "super fresh smelling" or "self cleaning" (ok, maybe that one is just wishful thinking) but if you are cleaning out your litter tray regularly, you are getting rid of the odours anyway!

                            When you pour this litter into the tray, the amount of dust you get will vary from bag to bag - this is the chance you take with a value product, but we never had a bag that was "all dust no bits" and in our utility room the dust very soon settled in the litter tray, and I do not consider it to have been a problem. Again, the kitten wasn't bothered by it, and it did not seem to irritate her little nose in any way!

                            Catsan is white, value is grey....am I bothered? Nope.

                            We used this cat litter week after week until we were confident that our, now grown, cat was reliable in her toileting outside. In all that time, we were not let down by the value cat litter. I will admit, though, that we did not leave it for more than a day or so before we cleaned the tray and changed the litter - but we were doing this with the more expensive products too, so it is not a reflection of the litter in that "we had to change it more often" or anything like that. If you don't change your litter as frequently as we did, you might get differing results and offer a different opinion.

                            There have been a couple of times in the last year that we have kept our cat in, and wanted a litter tray as a temporary measure. Once was after she was spayed, and needed to be indoors for a few days, and once when it was fireworks night, and I didn't want her outdoors for fear of being frightened away. Each time, our emergency bag of litter came out and our cat used it without a fuss.

                            So, my conclusion is that this is certainly not a premium product, but then I am not paying premium prices, and for the price that I am paying, I am more than content with the performance.

                            Perhaps if you were using this for more than one adult cat at a time, you might find it a little too "cheap", but for my single kitten/cat it has been absolutely fine!

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                            • Nescafe Gold Blend / Coffee / 53 Readings / 50 Ratings
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                              10.08.2009 07:39
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                              Gold Blend, I still love you.......

                              My name is Hypno and I am a coffe-holic......there, I've said it.

                              However, I won't be enrolling on any 12 step programme to rid myself of my addiction. I like coffee......I can give it up any time I want to......but I just don't want to right now.

                              I like "proper" coffee - but I don't like cleaning the cafetiere. I like frequenting the many coffee shops that have popped up over the last few years - but my budget doesn't like me doing this. I have tried going to the other end of the spectrum and buying "cheap" coffee in order to make my money go further, but I simply don't like it, and would rather go without, than drink something that tastes foul.

                              So, I have reached a compromise - that being, that I will drink "decent instant", and I will reduce my costs elsewhere in the budget to cover it.

                              My current coffee of choice (and it has been so for a couple of years now) is Kenco Really Rich (The blue one). However, it is not always available in shops, and so from time to time I revert to my previous preferred choice, which is Gold Blend.

                              This weekend has just seen me finish a jar of Gold Blend, hence this review, and although I have just bought a new jar of Really Rich, it was only because I had a money off coupon for it, rather than because it was so much better than Gold Blend.....there is not much to choose between these two, and they will have to fight me for my loyalty.

                              So, Gold Blend has been marketed as a "premium" coffee for many years, with a very high profile "will they/won't they" marketing campaign in the 1990s (it might even have gone back as far as the 80s, I'm not sure!). At that time, there was not much competition for "premium" coffee, so Gold Blend was the first choice if you wanted something a bit better than Nescafe or Maxwell House, which were the "standard" coffee granules.

                              However, in the last 10 years or so, we have become a nation of demanding coffee connoisseurs, with many coffee makers bringing out bigger ranges of "premium" coffees - whether you want Brazilian, Peruvian, Colombian, you can get a jar of Freeze Dried coffee granules for quite a reasonable price......yet I don't think I have seen Gold Blend up the ante as far as their advertising is concerned, so I am surprised that they have not fallen right down into obscurity!
                              So, anyway, onto the actual coffee - it is quite a rounded, reasonably strong tasting coffee. It is not bitter, and it is not wishy-washy. I have had some supermarket own version "Gold" standard coffees, and they do not compete in any way whatsoever with Gold Blend. I have also had some true "premium brand" coffee products that leave me feeling that I should have saved my money.

                              I like a good sized teaspoon of coffee, and so with some brands I am at risk of too much bitterness, whereas what I am after is a decent "hit" of coffee that makes me want to sit and enjoy the whole mug rather than just a "shot" of caffeine. Gold blend, with just a slight dash of milk, does this for me.

                              What's more, it smells good too - again, some coffees just smell cheap.....rather like a really poor coffee hut in a lay-by produces.....dishwater which requires tonnes of sugar just to make it palatable. With Gold Blend, I look forward to stabbing the foil lid on a new jar because I know that the smell is just going to be divine!

                              All in all, Gold Blend is a very close second to my current favourite, but having just revisited it for a whole week, my loyalty to Kenco is wavering somewhat, and it will very definitely be a case of which has the best offer in the supermarket for a while......

                              At £2.89 for a 100g jar, this gives a good number of decent sized, decent strength cups of coffee. Prices can vary hugely from store to store, though, so don't get caught out paying over the odds.

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                              • Snacks and Standbys / Recipe / 51 Readings / 49 Ratings
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                                09.08.2009 19:43
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                                A student need never starve, even on a tight budget!

                                Snacks and standbys - here is a review that could be expertly written by my 13 year old son, who is constantly hungry, and pretty independent when it comes to cooking. He makes about half the meals (all cooking from scratch) that we eat at home, and when he gets as far as university, he will never go hungry or be destined to spend 3 years of his life eating baked beans cold out of a tin, or 8p noodles.....

                                Snacks and standbys for some people mean a cupboard full of crisps and bars of chocolates. In my house, the rule is that you can eat as much fruit and yoghurt as you want in between meals, but that if you "need" something proper, you have something proper - it saves you snacking on rubbish later on.

                                Mealtimes in our house are often disjointed - my two do a lot of sport, and so cannot eat too close to training otherwise indigestion sets in. That means, that they may need to have something to eat at 4pm, and again when they finish at 9.30pm. They are using a lot of energy while they train, so I need to ensure that they can make themselves something nutritious and delicious before they train that will keep them going until later on, when again they probably want something small but substantial rather than a large meal due to the time of night at which they will eat.

                                So.....here we have it, my "snacks and standbys" - all easy, storecupboard based, nutritious and delicious snacks that take the absolute minimum of time and effort to make, that cost next to nothing, and that any budding university layabout, I mean student, can do.......

                                1) Sardines on toast.
                                Toast one side of the bread, and spread sardines, in tomato sauce, oil or any other dressing on the untoasted side. Place under the grill for a couple of minutes to heat the sardines through. Oily fish such as sardines or mackerel is incredibly good for you and gives you calcium as well as essential vitamins. The combination of protein in the fish, and carbohydrate from the bread is pretty good too!

                                2) Baked Beans on toast.
                                The food of students the world over. A cheap, low fat, filling meal that, again, provides a good source of protein as well as the carbs from the bread. Some will go as far as to count the tomato sauce as one of your 5 a day. I don't, personally, but still reckon this is one of the best lunches you can get for the money!

                                3) Eggs of any sort
                                Parents - please please please teach your children how to boil eggs - I am amazed at how many university students can't make a boiled egg! Scrambled, boiled with dippy soldiers, poached or fried, a couple of eggs are nutritious, filling, and delicious! Hot buttered toast on the side, or with a couple of rashers of bacon.....yum!

                                4) Jacket Potatoes
                                I don't like mine done in the microwave but if you don't mind, then you can have a baked potato in just a few minutes - add butter, a bit of cheese, the rest of the baked beans that you didn't have on beans on toast yesterday, or whatever you have in the fridge, and you have a meal that is full of fibre and goodness! I do mine in the conventional oven, where they take about an hour, but taste oh so good!

                                5) Pancakes
                                Pancake batter is one of the most simple things in the world to do, so why do we save it for Shrove Tuesday!? Flour, milk, water and an egg is all you need to make a load of batter. Fry and toss, add a bit of butter, lemon and sugar, and you have a filling snack that will keep you going until your next big meal, quite nicely!

                                6) Jam fritters
                                With some of the remaining pancake batter, make a jam sandwich, dunk the sandwich in the batter, and then fry it. Wicked, filling, sweet, and not something we need to save for campfires!

                                7 ) Eggy Bread
                                Got a bit of bread that is past its best? Got an egg that you don't know how to boil? Then you can make eggy bread! Beat the egg in a bowl and dunk the bread in it - then fry it in a frying pan. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on it and you have something you will make time and time again!

                                8) Fridge-remains-pasta
                                Look in the fridge at the end of the week, and what do you see - a few mushrooms, half a pepper going a bit wrinkly, a courgette you never knew what to do with, one remaining rasher of bacon and the leftover sausage from earlier in the week. Chop everything up and fry in a little olive oil or butter. Add it to some cooked pasta and if you have either a tin of chopped tomatoes or a bit of philadelphia type soft cheese add that too, and you have a veritable feast that you can serve any unexpected guests!

                                So there you have it - I don't think any of the above are unhealthy if eaten in moderation, most have a good balance of carbs and protein, and all are cheap, easy to make, and not reliant on being a good cook. OK, so they don't include a load of veggies, but grab an apple or banana on your way out and you can offset this!

                                These are not intended to be substitutes for main meals, but if you are having one of "those" days where you don't seem to have time to cook and eat, try one of the above instead, and it will see you through!

                                My teenagers are very good at rummaging through cupboards to make a pre or post training snack, and will excel in student accommodation, I am sure!

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                                • More +
                                  09.08.2009 13:02
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                                  Go on - you know you want one!

                                  Summer sees a glut of birthdays for me to buy for. Not only do I have my own children to buy for, but also a couple of nephews, a godson who is in his 20s but is incredibly autistic, and a friend in his 50s who is just a big kid at heart.....

                                  Struggling for inspiration a couple of years ago, I came across the Airzooka airgun on a "gadgets" type website, and ordered a job lot for everyone......

                                  Priced at around £10, you can get these from sites such as "I want one of those" and Amazon, and also in shops such as Hawkins Bazaar, with similar products available from around £6 if you keep your eyes open.

                                  These are quite big and bulky - about 11 inches by 11 inches by 8 inches - so not something that can be carried about in a handbag or hidden in a corner when not being used, so bear this in mind when you buy it!

                                  They look exactly as the picture above shows and are made out of sturdy plastic.

                                  What you can't see, is that on the "big end" of the airzooka, there is a thick polythene membrane with a nobbly little handle in the middle.

                                  So, you have this odd looking cumbersome thing - so now what? How can this possibly provide endless giggles and sniggers from little boys of all ages?

                                  Well, this is a gun that fires air at a whopping rate - so much so that you can send your birthday cards flying, your sister's neatly straightened hair into a "wind tunnel" style, and if you are feeling particularly mischevious you can "airzooka" the cat (or a neighbour's cat!).........

                                  Because it is only shooting air, it does not do any harm - no ammunition, no flying bits (well, maybe the cat when you have made it jump!) and nothing that can harm anyone.

                                  Basically, you aim the "gun" at your chosen target, be it animal, vegetable or mineral, preferably from the safety of behind the sofa or behind the door, so your intended target cannot see you, thereby ensuring maximum hilarity......then you pull back the plastic membrane as hard as you can, using the little nobbly handle......then ready, aim, FIRE.......as you let go of the membrane, it creates a vortex of air which shoots out of the end and directs itself in a straight line to your target who suddenly becomes a victim of "whoosh"!!!

                                  Simple, fun, and effective, although if you keep aiming it at the same person over and over again, they may find the effects slighly less hilarious than you do!

                                  This is one of those presents that is good for kids of all ages, and by that I mean kids right into their 80s.......if you have difficulty buying something for someone that has everything already, and who has a sense of humour, then this could be just the gift you are looking for, and won't break the bank either. Plus, there are no batteries to buy and replace, and no electric power required, so this is a very cheap gift to maintain!

                                  The main disadvantage is its bulk - when you are not using it, it has to be stored somewhere, so spare cupboard space is required!

                                  Other than this, it may be something that eventually gets in the way or loses its fun.......assuming that you get fed up of seeing your hamster fly through his cage........so you might be able to pick one up from a car boot sale for very little money indeed.

                                  Go on......let the child inside you have some fun!

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