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ian22

ian22
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      21.10.2007 19:19
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      I have just come back from a few days away in Jersey. While I was there, I thought I'd take a look at the duty free fragrances at a perfumerie shop in St. Helier. Initially, the choice seemed truly mind-boggling and I didn't know where to start, but with the help of a kind shop assistant, I eventually found some fragrances I liked. One of these was Black XS Eau de Toilette by Paco Rabanne. It came in a box also containing a tube of Black XS shower gel and was very modestly priced at just £21.00 (UK price approx. £38.00). This seemed like an absolute bargain and although I am not a regular buyer of such products, I was very keen to try the fragrances for myself.

      Today I shall be reviewing Black XS Eau de Toilette spray (shown above), which, incidentally, is available in for women as well as men. You can buy it in two sizes - 50ml or 100ml - although mine was the smaller 50ml container.

      THE CONTAINER

      In terms of looks, the container is quite stark, with a black background and gothic-like white script for the name. I can't say Black XS appeals to me hugely in terms of appearance, but then as the saying goes, you can't tell a book by its cover.

      The bottle is, however, chicly designed and incorporates a clever flip lid which opens to reveal the trigger spray within... Okay, so it's hardly a feat of ergonomics, but it's a good design all the same!

      THE FRAGRANCE

      The fragrance is what attracted me to Black XS in the first place. It is a sweet, sensual scent with citrus overtones of what seems like grapefruit and lemon. The actual ingredients are not listed on the bottle, so I have done a bit of searching on the Internet to find out more. To my surprise, Black XS is made from a complex concoction of fruity, spicy, woody scents:

      Calabrian lemon - I was right about the citrus smell, then!;
      Kalamanzi - a citrus fruit, with a sour flavour said to resemble a cross between mandarin and lime;
      Tagete - an Indian oil;
      Sage, cinnamon, tolu balm, black cardamom and praline; and a range of woody scents -
      Palissandre wood, patchouli and ebony wood.
      Incredibly, the ingredients all complement one another. After the initial citrus aromas, the woody scents come through, although these are much subtler. Black XS is undoubtedly a very refreshing eau de toilette spray, with a seductive scent. I think it would appeal to men across the age spectrum, although is perhaps aimed at younger men more.

      WHEN TO WEAR?

      Black XS strikes me as being most suitable for wearing on casual nights out. However, it is a versatile fragrance, so can probably be worn on almost any occasion.

      STAYING POWER

      One of the most important questions is always 'how long will it keep me smelling nice and refreshed?' and I consider that Black XS performs very well in this category. Because of the sweet, citrus aromas, it is quite a potent eau de toilette and therefore lasts for many hours after application.

      VERDICT....

      I definitely recommend Paco Rabanne Black XS and will buy it again. I cannot profess to being an expert on men's fragrances, but this one certainly appeals to me a lot. Some men may, however, find it a little on the overpowering side. It's all a question of personal preference.

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      • Pentax Optio E30 / Digital Camera / 26 Readings / 25 Ratings
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        09.09.2007 23:45
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        I have always been keen on photography and quite proud of the photos that I've managed to take. However, using a standard automatic camera has its limitations and so I finally thought it was time to invest in a decent digital camera. Price was a big factor in deciding which make to buy. Although I didn't want a really cheap digital camera, I didn't want to pay the earth for one either! Searching the Internet, I came across the Pentax Optio E30. It seemed to fit the bill well in terms of price (just under £100) and had many of the features that I was looking for, such as video recording with sound.

        I ordered the camera through Tesco Direct because I had a £5 money off coupon to use, and received the camera in the post a couple of days later.

        THE CAMERA

        The Pentax Optio E30 offers a 2.4 inch LCD and 7.1 megapixels, providing high resolution photography. It also offers 11MB of built-in memory and a 3 x optical zoom, allowing you to zoom in on the detail you want.

        WHAT YOU GET

        The Pentax Optio E30 camera comes in a box with two AA batteries, a USB/AV Cable, dock insert and a convenient camera strap. You also get a basic User Manual and two CDs - one for installing software and the other, an Operating Manual. You will, however, need to buy a SD Memory Card separately, as this is not included with the camera. SD (Secure Digital) cards are sophisticated memory cards which link a whole range of digital equipment and allow you to send photos to a PC or direct to a printer. As well as images, they are capable of storing music, movies, downloaded application or even games. Depending on storage capacity, these can range in price but normally cost between £5 and £10.

        SETTING UP

        I found the camera remarkably easy to set up. The manual provides clear instructions and pictures showing you exactly how to get the camera working. Once the batteries and SD card are installed, simply press the Power On switch and the camera is up and running. Pressing the same button will turn the camera off.

        The next stage is to set the correct language, date and time, but this should only take a few minutes.

        CAMERA FUNCTIONS

        * Shooting Modes

        The camera offers a wide range of shooting modes. The basic picture-taking mode is called 'Program', but some of the others include 'Night Scene', 'Landscape', 'Flower', 'Portrait', 'Sport', 'Pet', 'Fireworks', 'Food' and 'Sunset'. Each one is slightly different so as to provide the best possible results. For example, the 'Sport' mode allows you to take fast-moving action shots and the 'Food' mode gives subjects a bright, vivid finish. As I have only recently bought the camera, I haven't a lot of experience of using the different shooting modes. However, I find that the basic 'Program' mode suffices for most subjects, although I will probably use the 'Landscape' mode frequently, as I enjoy taking photos of land and seascapes.

        * Picture and Movie Playback/Editing

        The great advantage of using a digital camera over a conventional one is that you can view and edit images and movies as you go. The Pentax Optio E30 allows you see all photos you've taken in an album or as a slideshow. You can then decide to keep, format or delete them. You can also change the size and view layout at a click of a button. My only advice would to be careful when deleting images or movies. If you accidentally select format and delete, you will lose all data stored on the SD card. There is a particular way of deleting individual images or movies, as I learnt to my cost.

        IMAGE AND SOUND QUALITY

        Since buying the camera, I have taken many photos and the vast majority have been bright and sharply focused. However, I have found that uploading them onto my PC and printing them out myself provides grainier photographs than if I get them developed in a shop. However, this is also probably more to do with my printer than anything else! It may also be because of the pixel settings. You can select the exact pixel setting to suit what sized image you want printed, although I haven’t properly experimented with this myself. There are seven settings in total. The larger the recorded pixels, the sharper the printed image will look once printed. For standard postcard sized prints, it is recommended that you use around 1600 x 1200 recorded pixels.

        One feature of this camera which has impressed me immensely is the 'Movie' and 'Voice' mode. The camera picks up background sound with exactitude, and the quality also remains high when movie clips are uploaded onto the PC. You can record in either full colour, black and white or sepia.

        * Optical Zoom Facility

        Another feature I like is the Optical Zoom mode. This allows you to zoom in on your chosen subject and get a sharper picture image. A zoom bar appears on the LCD to show the precise level of magnification. This feature is particularly useful if you’re taking pictures of landscapes.

        USB/AV CONNECTIVITY

        As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, the Optio E30 comes with an all-important USB/AV cable. The USB cable allows you to link the camera to your PC and thereby send and retrieve images/movies. The AV cable can connect straight to your video, which is ideal if your want to see your own home made movies.

        LOOK AND DESIGN

        I personally like the compact, ergonomic design of the camera. It may be bulkier than some newer and more expensive models, but only weighs around 180g, so can hardly be classed as bulky. It also measures a fairly modest 61.5 x 94.5 x 35.4mm. As with similar digital cameras, the Optio E30 comes in a nice silver chrome colour.

        CONCLUSION

        I consider the E30 to be an excellent, user-friendly camera for the amateur photographer. It offers a comprehensive range of features, many of which I have not mentioned here, and produces good quality images and movies. It also works out as good value for money. My only criticism of the camera is it only works with AA Alkaline batteries and these can run down quite quickly. But apart from that, I’m very satisfied with my purchase and hope to carry on using it for many years to come.

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        • Bourbon Biscuits / Snacks / 30 Readings / 28 Ratings
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          19.05.2007 20:49
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          In my opinion, Bourbon biscuits are a much underrated biscuit. They are not the most sophisticated of biscuits, it is true, but they are always delicious and very moreish.

          THE BISCUIT
          ~~~~~~~~

          The Bourbon is a sandwich biscuit consisting of two rectangular shaped chocolate biscuits (see picture above) which are separated by a delicious chocolate fondant filling. In many respects, they are very similar to custard creams.

          HISTORY OF THE BOURBON
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

          The Bourbon was first introduced in 1910 and was originally called a Creola. It was made by the Bermondsey biscuit company, Peek Freans, who also made the famous Garibaldi biscuit. Eventually, the name was changed to 'Bourbon', which was apparently a reference to the House of Bourbon, an aristocratic French and Spanish family.

          AVAILABILITY, PRICE & VALUE FOR MONEY
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

          Shops and supermarkets often sell their own brand makes of Bourbon biscuits, although the biscuits are probably no different wherever you buy them. 200g packets typically cost 41p from the main supermarkets, like Tesco and Sainsbury's, and these packets generally contain about 14 individual biscuits, which works out at just under 3p per biscuit. Compared to some well-known biscuit brands, this is excellent value for money. I bought my most recent packet of Bourbons from Tesco and I shall now describe these in a bit more detail.

          THE EATING EXPERIENCE
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

          The biscuits have a rich chocolatey smell which immediately draws you to them. They smell almost freshly baked.

          As you take a bite, the chocolate flavour is not immediately obvious, but it comes through after a few seconds. As you eat more of the biscuit, the dark chocolate fondant filling adds to the rich chocolatey flavour, but being a dark chocolate filling, there is always the risk that it will taste bitter. Fortunately this is not the case. The biscuit is neither bitter nor too sweet, so it should appeal to most palates.

          As for texture, Bourbons are intrinsically hard and crunchy. This somehow makes them more moreish than ever. I like dunking biscuits in tea, but unfortunately Bourbons are not the ideal biscuit to dunk, because they melt very easily. So unless you are very quick, you end up with a nasty chocolatey deposit at the bottom of your cup!

          NUTRITION INFORMATION
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

          Per 100g (equivalent of 7 biscuits)

          Energy - 482 calories (67 per biscuit)
          Protein - 5.4g
          Carbohydrate - 66.4g
          Fat - 21.6g
          Fibre - 3.4g
          Sodium - 0.1g

          ALLERGY ADVICE
          ~~~~~~~~~~~

          * Contains wheat and gluten;

          * May contain traces of sesame seeds, as the biscuits are made in a factory which uses sesame seeds;

          * Suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

          VERDICT
          ~~~~~~

          I cannot really fault Bourbon biscuits at all. They are tasty, very moreish and cheap to buy too. What more could you want from a biscuit...?!

          Give them a try for yourself!

          Ian :)

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            22.04.2007 17:39
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            It's funny really....As a child, I couldn't stand brown bread and only ate white. But as I've got older, the opposite is true. Nowadays, I eat practically only wholemeal bread, although I am still just as finnicky about which brands I will eat. Warburtons is one of my favourite makes and their Seeded Batch loaf is particularly tasty. However, the strange thing about this loaf is that it is actually classed as a white bread, even though it looks brown. It is what you might call a hybrid loaf: a cross between white and brown bread. Confused? Well let me explain....

            Warburtons Seeded Batch Loaf looks like a wholemeal bread because it contains a special mix of five seeds - namely, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, linseed, millet and poppy seeds. These are what give it a slightly brown appearance. According to the packaging, these seeds constitute 13% of the whole loaf, so represent quite a sizeable proportion. I shan't spend unnecessary time describing the packaging as the photo above shows you exactly what to look out for. All I will say is that the loaf is available in two sizes, 400g and 800g, and costs 78p and £1.34 respectively.

            Typically, whenever I buy bread, I buy it already sliced, as this saves time and prevents getting crumbs everywhere. The great thing about Warburtons Seeded Batch Loaf is that it not only comes already sliced, but the slices themselves are thick and wholesome-looking. As I said at the beginning, the bread has a slightly brown tinge to it and is covered in seeds. There appear to be a lot of sesame seeds around the crusts and more smaller seeds embedded within the actual loaf itself. The bread is soft and therefore perfect for sandwiches. It also has a unique flavour which I like very much.

            It has a malty taste, as you would expect from any bread, but is slightly saltier than most, due to the flavours created by the various seeds. The flavour of the poppy and sesame seeds in particular make the bread tasty and very moreish. It also has a lighter texture than most other breads and retains its freshness for longer. I tend to use it quite a lot for making sandwiches, but it is also ideal for toasting. Some people may think that the seeds are likely to get stuck in your teeth, but I have not encountered this problem. Admittedly, some of the seeds are a bit crunchy, but, in my opionion, this adds to the overall texture of the bread.

            There are 275 calories in 100g of this bread, which is the equivalent of 3 and a half slices. Carbohydrate levels per 100g work out at 38.8g, fat 8.4g, fibre 6.0g and salt 1.23g. It is suitable for vegetarians, but is obviously not suitable for those with allergies to wheat gluten, sesame seeds, barley, soya or milk products, as all of these ingredients are used.

            The advice on storage is the same as for any other bread. The loaf is best stored in a cool, dry place, but should not ideally be refrigerated. It is, however, suitable for home freezing, as long as this takes place on the day of purchase.

            In summary, I recommend Warburtons Seeded Batch Loaf to anyone who likes their bread to have a great flavour and texture. It has to be one of the finest loaves around, and who would surely argue with a company like Warburtons, who have been baking bread since 1876, anyway...?! I shall finish my review with a witty remark made by Jonathan Warburton (see packaging):

            "Can you believe it, my wife bought a competitor's loaf, so to avoid this calamity happening again, we developed this great tasting Seeded Batch which she now claims is her idea!"

            It made me smile! ;)

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              22.04.2007 17:35
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              Credit cards....Love them or loathe them, one thing is sure and that is that they are here to stay. Everybody who has a credit card has his/her own reason for having one - whether it be to get bonus loyalty points or cashback, transfer an existing debt and not pay interest for a set number of months, or simply to boost his/her credit rating. I am personally most attracted to cards which offer points or cashback incentives, but most credit cards nowadays not only offer these kind of benefits, but also excellent 0% deals on purchases and balance transfers, so you can hardly go wrong!

              The Marks & Spencer &More Credit Card is one such card. I decided to apply for one because there is a large Marks and Spencer store near to where I work that I use on a regular basis. It is a great place to buy sandwiches and snacks, and I often pop in after work for things like ready meals (of which they do a superb selection) and wine.

              APPLYING

              Applying for the card online was a very easy process. I simply went to the Marks and Spencer Money homepage, clicked on the link for the &More credit card and filled out the form. The whole application process took no more than about 15 minutes. You need to be prepared to give details on your occupation and existing bank accounts as well as your basic personal details, as the application is subject to credit scoring. This means that you need to be at least 18 years old to apply.

              If you choose not to apply online, you can request an application form by ringing 0800 997 996 and then send it directly to Marks and Spencer Money or post it in store. Lines are open Monday to Friday 8am - 9pm, Saturday 9am - 5pm, Sunday 10am - 4pm.

              If your application is successful, you will receive a letter in the post congratulating you. This is accompanied by a Credit Agreement form which you are asked to sign and return. There is also information on the importance of having credit card repayment cover, which you can choose to take out or not.

              RECEIVING THE CARD

              I received my card through the post about a week after I applied, which is surprisingly quick. Obviously the PIN came separately for security reasons. You then have to ring up to activate your card before it can be used. This too is a quick and easy process which took only a matter of minutes.

              ABOUT THE CARD

              The &More credit card is a Mastercard and is underwritten by HSBC bank. The card itself is black, with the &More logo in the top right hand corner and the Marks and Spencer emblem in the top left. It is a new design and, although quite simple in appearance, looks elegant and stylish....'Simply stunning, yet stunningly simple' as Marks and Spencer put it!

              BENEFITS

              The card offers 0% on purchases until 31st January 2008 and 4.9% p.a. for life on Balance Transfers. The APR thereafter is typically 17.9%. Furthermore, if you transfer a balance from another credit card, you do not pay a balance transfer fee. However, the reason I took the card out was not because of the interest free period or the balance transfer rate, it was because of the reward points that the card offers.

              At first glance, the points system does seem a bit stingy. For every £1 you spend in Marks and Spencer stores (or online), you receive 1 &More reward point, equivalent to 1p, and every time you use the card elsewhere, you earn 1 point for every £2 you spend. However, if you use the card often, it's surprising how quickly the points add up. To help get you started and as a thank you for applying for the card, you receive two vouchers - one for 500 bonus points for spending on clothing (from M & S of course!), the other for 300 points to spend on food. So effectively, you are getting £8.00 for free - not bad eh?!

              When your points total reaches 100 points you earn £1 in reward vouchers to spend on anything you want instore at M & S. Reward vouchers are sent to you four times a year.

              As a &More cardholder, you can also enjoy a range of other benefits, including:

              * 10% off your next holiday with over 150 tour operators to choose from;
              * Fantastic deals on travel money, with preferential exchange rates and no commission on foreign currency and foreign travellers cheques;
              * Commission free buy back of currency;
              * An exclusive 0% interest deal for 2 years when you spend £1000 or more on selected furniture;
              * 250 &More points for getting a quote for home or car insurance;

              and many more.

              PAYING BILLS

              Bills are sent out every month. You can either choose to pay the full balance or the minimum amount. Upon receipt of the bill, you have around three weeks in which to make a payment.

              The statement is very clearly laid out, with a list of all transactions since your previous bill and the dates on which they were done. I like the way there is a box showing your total number of &More points up to the statement date, as it tells you exactly how much you have earned in reward points.

              There are also plenty of ways to pay, which is useful. You can pay at any bank which accepts Giro Credits and also at the post office. Alternatively, you can pay by cheque, direct debit or standing order. The other major advantage is that you can now pay online through the M & S Money website using your debit card. This service wasn't available until recently, but is a quick and convenient way to pay. You can also get account and &More points balances by phoning.

              IMPORTANT CHARGE INFORMATION

              Although there is no annual charge for having the card, there are default charges which can be applied in the event of the credit agreement being breached. These are:

              Late payment - £12
              Exceeding your credit limit - £12
              Cheque returned unpaid for Balance Transfer - £12
              Payment returned unpaid - £12

              Some other services also incur charges, namely:

              Stopping a cheque - £15
              Changing statement date - £5 (except first change)
              Obtaining a duplicate of statement - £5 per statement

              2.5% (minimum £2.50) of the amount of each Cash Advance

              PAYMENT PROTECTION INSURANCE

              As with all credit cards, there is option of taking out Payment Protection Insurance. This covers you if you are unable to make card repayments, for example if you are unable to work due to illness, accident, involuntary unemployment or in the event of death. The cost is a mere 75p per £100 of the outstanding balance, so hardly likely to break the bank!

              CUSTOMER SERVICE

              I have only had to ring M & S Money once for assistance with my credit card, and my experience was generally positive. I got through to a customer adviser very quickly and my enquiry was dealt with efficiently. However, the Indian lady I spoke to did have some difficulty understanding me and I had to keep repeating my question until she could understand! Apart from that, she seemed very polite and showed good customer service skills.

              CONCLUSION

              So overall, would I recommend the M & S &More credit card? You can probably guess that my answer is a resounding 'yes'! The &More card ticks all the boxes for me and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a credit card which allows them to earn reward points. Okay, you could say that I am a bit of a sucker for what is essentially a loyalty card, but receiving money off vouchers is a major incentive for me choosing this card over other reward cards.


              Thanks for reading. :)

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                22.04.2007 17:30
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                I love a nice roast dinner, but somehow a roast just wouldn't be the same without the gravy. So I thought I'd review one of the most famous gravy brands of all: Bisto.

                BACKGROUND

                One of the things which has always intrigued me is how the Bisto name come about in the first place. So I set about doing some research and this is I found. Bisto was originally invented in 1908 by Messrs Roberts & Patterson. It was a meat flavoured gravy powder and was named "Bisto" because it "Browns, Seasons and Thickens in One"! Over the years, the Bisto brand became ever more dominant, and in 2005 it was estimated that Bisto had a market share of well over 70%.

                FLAVOURS

                If you were to ask most people what flavour they most associate with the Bisto brand, they would most likely say 'beef'. The synonymous red container has become somewhat of a shopper's 'favourite' and by far the most popular flavour of gravy. But let's not forget that Bisto do a range of other flavours too, including 'chicken', 'turkey', 'lamb' and a few other meat varieties. Today, I shall be reviewing my favourite flavour of Bisto gravy - yep, you've guessed it, it's 'beef'!

                SUITABILITY FOR VEGETARIANS ETC...

                The great thing about the beef variety is that it no longer contains beef (unlike in the past), therefore making it suitable for vegetarians. However, the gravy also contains celery, soya and wheat, so watch out if you are allegic to any of these ingredients.

                THE GRAVY ITSELF

                Making gravy is, in my experience, an art in itself. It can so easily become too thick or too thin, or worse still, lumpy. I absolutely abhore lumpy gravy! However, thanks to the makers of Bisto, we can now all enjoy gravy without the lumps with their new 'gravy granules'. The great thing about granules is that they do not go lumpy, like the original gravy powders many of us are more used to. This means that you should be able to make the perfect gravy every time.

                THE GRANULES

                The granules themselves are strangely very similar in appearance to chocolate 'hundreds and thousands', although of course do not smell in the slightest bit of chocolate! Instead, they exude a strong aroma, which is a combination of beef and a potent smell of onion.

                DIRECTIONS

                Making gravy is so easy now with these new gravy granules. Simpy put 4 heaped tablespoons of Bisto granules into a measuring jug, add 1/2 pint of boiling water and then keep stirring until the gravy is of the preferred consistency. This provides enough gravy for about 3 or 4 people. Alternatively, add the granules to a saucepan of cold water first and then simmer the gently on the hob. Either way, the gravy should only take a few minutes to thicken, and depending on how you like it, you can either add more granules to make it thicker or add water or juices from the roast to dilute the gravy mixture.

                THE END RESULT

                Since using Bisto's new gravy granules, I have not once been unsuccessful in making the perfect gravy. The end result is invariably lump-free and just the right consistency. If you wish to thicken the gravy, it is possible to add further granules, even as the gravy is simmering, whereas in the days of gravy powder, the end result would have been a thick, lumpy gel, barely akin to gravy.

                Tastewise, the gravy is quite beefy, but not overpoweringly strong. In fact, it is actually pleasantly subtle, so can quite easily accompany any meat, not just beef. In my opinion, Bisto gravy granules make the perfect gravy and it tastes just as good as it always has.

                PRICE

                300g containers of Bisto Gravy Granules cost £1.40 and 170g containers cost around 82p in the major supermarkets, which, incidentally, is the same price as a packet of Bisto Original Gravy Powder (227g). All of these prices have gone up recently, but still represent good value for money. If you can, though, I'd recommend you look out for any special offers. For example, Tesco are currently selling the 300g containers on a 'buy one, get one free' offer, which obviously works out as a considerable saving.

                CONCLUSION

                Overall, I am very impressed by Bisto Gravy Granules and recommend you them, as they not only make a smoother gravy, but are also a lot easier to work with compared to traditional gravy powders, which have an annoying propensity to make thick and lumpy gravy.

                A five star gravy!

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                • Bassett's Mint Creams / Sweets / 24 Readings / 22 Ratings
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                  28.01.2007 16:00
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                  Near to where I live, there is a sweet shop, but not just any sweet shop...This particular shop is one of those quaint, old-fashioned confectioners with jars of sweets in the window and a range that no supermarket could ever match! You will find a plethora of toffees, chocolates, mints, boiled sweets and many more of the sweets you enjoyed as a kid. One particular sweet I would definitely recommend is the Clarnico Mint Cream. Although this wasn't a known sweet from my childhood, my Dad insisted that we buy some, as he remembered them from his youth. I am very pleased we did as they are very nice.

                  Clarnico Mint Creams are probably best described as fondants. They are round, white sweets, approximately 3cm in diameter and 1cm in thickness. Each one is individually wrapped in white and pale green wrappers, with the Clarnico emblem and 'Mint Cream' written on the front and back. I can only describe them individually as we did not buy them in a packet.

                  The strange thing about Clarnico Mints is that they feel hard on the outside, but become soft and chewy once you pop them in your mouth. Most mint cream fondants are soft all the way through and do not have hard exteriors.

                  As you bite into the mint, there is a slight crunch and this is swiftly followed by a smooth, minty fondant centre. This centre has a melt-in-the-mouth texture which is very pleasant and makes a nice change from the hard Trebor Extra Strong Mints I normally buy. The minty flavour is just right - not too sweet and not too strong, and because of this will most likely appeal to both children and adults alike. The generous size of the mint also means that you can make one last for quite a while by biting off small chunks at a time.

                  Nowadays, Clarnico Mints are made by Trebor Bassett, part of the Cadbury group. However, they were originally founded 135 years ago in 1872 by business partners Clarke, Nickolls and Coombes, hence the name Clar-ni-co!

                  The sad thing about these mints is that despite their long history, they are not widely available, and you are only likely to find them in traditional sweet shops like the one I visited. A bag of about ten individual mints cost me about a pound which is quite good value really.

                  Overall, I definitely recommend Clarnico Mints. They may be difficult to locate in shops, but if you are lucky enough to find some, your discovery will be well worth it!

                  ** Suitable for vegetarians **

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                  • More +
                    02.11.2006 23:43
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                    In recent months, I have been experiencing quite a lot of pain in my neck. I am not talking about a small twinge here and there, but quite severe muscular pain, which lasts for hours on end. Now it doesn't really help having a long neck either because every slightest movement exacerbates the pain. It all started a few months ago when I suddenly felt my neck seize up at work. I could barely move - it was that painful!

                    The second occasion was the other day, travelling home on the bus. I was sat awkwardly and had to twist to look out of the window. I could feel my neck becoming more and more tense, and by the time I got home, I was in agony. Previously, I would have taken a couple of Nurofen and waited for the pain to subside, but on this occasion, I really didn't think pain killers would be effective. I wanted something to target the source of pain straight away, so opted for Nurofen 5% Gel. This is an alternative to conventional gels like Deep Heat, which are good, but have a tendency to stink the house out!

                    Nurofen 5% Gel is designed to relieve muscular pain and inflammation. The 5% in the name refers to the fact that the gel contains ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which can be used in the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism. The gel comes in a 35g tube which, in turn, is packaged inside a box, as shown by the picture above.

                    Being a gel, it has to be applied directly to the skin. Simply squeeze 4-10cm of gel onto the affected area and gently rub it in until it is fully absorbed...or get a loved one to do so if you want! A dose of this size typically represents 50-125mg of the pain killing drug, ibuprofen. Because of the power of ibuprofen, you should not use any more than necessary. Indeed, the tube clearly states that you should not reapply more gel within 4 hours of the initial application, and certainly not more than 4 times in a 24 hour period. The gel is also designed for adults and children over the age of 14 years only.

                    So what do I think of Nurofen Pain Relief Gel...? Well I have to say that my experience has been very positive. The gel gets to work rapidly - usually within minutes of being applied to the affected area. After applying the gel, I could feel the pain killing agent working on the muscles in my neck. It desensitised the muscular pain I had felt and made my neck feel a lot more supple. However, I must admit that it took a good couple of hours for me to regain full movement in my neck.

                    For me, another advantage is the fact that the gel does not smell unpleasant. In fact, it is almost completely odourless, so you needn't worry about opening every window in the house to get rid of the smell!

                    Overall, I am very impressed by Nurofen Pain Relief Gel and recommend it very highly. In my opinion, it works more quickly and is more effective than taking tablets to relieve the pain. I have found that I only need to apply one dose and the pain and muscular discomfort is gone for good. The main disadvantage I find with taking tablets is that their pain killing ingredients eventually wear off and you are forced to take more. Because the gel targets the source of pain, you are unlikely to need to apply subsequent doses. However, the tube does warn that you should seek medical advice if the pain worsens or does not improve after 2 weeks of treatment.

                    Ultimately, the only real disadvantages are that the gel is not suitable for children under the age of 14, or for people who are sensitive to any of the ingredients or any other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It is therefore imperative that you read the ingredients carefully first before applying the gel, especially if you have suffered from sensitive skin or allergies in the past.

                    Price: £2.98 (Tesco, Sainsbury), £2.99 (Boots)


                    Licence Holder: Goldshield Pharmaceuticals, Croydon, Surrey. CR0 0XT, UK.

                    Distributed by: Crookes Healthcare Ltd, Nottingham. NG2 3AA, UK.

                    Thanks for reading!!

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                    • More +
                      22.10.2006 19:00
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                      Colgate is undoubtedly one of the most established brands of toothpaste in the UK and indeed worldwide. But did you know the company is 200 years old? No neither did I - just take a look at their website if you don't believe me! When it comes to toothpaste, I am loyal to two main brands - Aquafresh and Colgate. I tend to buy several tubes of whichever one happens to be on offer when I go shopping. My latest purchase was two tubes of Colgate Oxygen for £3 from Tesco - a saving of 88p. I had not bought this particular variety before, but was intrigued to find out how well it fared compared to my usual Aquafresh toothpaste.

                      Colgate Oxygen toothpaste comes in a standard sized box, with the Colgate logo embossed across the front. To the right of this are the words 'Oxygen Pure Freshness' and in the background are lots of small blue bubbles. The toothpaste even has its own slogan: 'For a clean, fresh mouth...Like a breath of fresh air!'

                      The toothpaste makes three bold claims. It promises a 'sensation of pure freshness', 'long lasting fresh breath' and 'care and protection for your teeth and gums'. Call me a sceptic, but don't all toothpastes say the same?! So what makes this one any different? Well according to the the box, the toothpaste releases fine bubbles of pure oxygen which lift away impurities like plaque, leaving your mouth feeling fresh and clean. This all sounds good in theory, but the proof is in the pudding, as they say!

                      When I first squirted the toothpaste onto my tooth brush, I was pleasantly surprised to see a nice blue gel with a strange translucent tint. When I looked more closely, I could just about make out lots of tiny, dark blue specks within the toothpaste itself. These are the fine oxygen bubbles which Colgate claim will get rid of impurities and freshen breath.

                      As I went to clean my teeth, I was hit by an intense burst of mintiness. It is a strong minty flavour - much stronger than the minty flavour you get with Aquafresh - but a refreshing one nonetheless. After the initial burst of mintiness comes a strange but pleasant sensation. You can actually feel the oxygen bubbles exploding and getting to work in your mouth. I have never felt this with any other toothpaste I have bought in the past. Now I know what Colgate mean by a 'sensation of pure freshness'! But the crucial question is, does this freshness last?

                      In my experience, it does, although only for around 30 minutes after brushing. Most other toothpastes I have used provide a similar level of freshness for about the same length of time, although Colgate Oxygen may have a slight edge over the others. I would say that it does quite well in the freshness stakes, but not exceptionally well. Despite this, your teeth are left feeling very clean and refreshed for several hours after brushing, so the oxygen bubbles certainly do their stuff!

                      When I bought Colgate Oxygen, I didn't expect anything special. The idea of adding oxygen bubbles to the toothpaste seemed like nothing more than a gimmick to get you to buy the toothpaste. But I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised. Yes, it is obviously still a gimmick, but there is more to this toothpaste than that...Colgate Oxygen is an excellent toothpaste because of its ability to provide an intense minty freshness and unique cleaning sensation.

                      HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

                      Available in 100ml tubes and costs around £1.94.

                      (Manufactured by Colgate-Palmolive, Guildford. GU2 8JZ.)
                      www.colgate.com

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                      • Tesco All Butter Croissants / Snacks / 21 Readings / 20 Ratings
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                        02.10.2006 17:30
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                        A few weeks ago I popped into Tesco after work and came across a packet of croissants. But not just any old packet of croissants...No! The packet in question contained four 'Toasting Croissants'. Never heard of them? Well neither had I, but then again, they are a new line, recently introduced into larger Tesco stores.

                        The whole concept of toasting croissants appealed to me straight away. You can pop bread in the toaster so why not croissants..? Of course, traditional croissants would not fit in a standard toaster, but Tesco have come up with the ingenious idea of making them square-shaped to fit precisely this purpose. I always find that croissants are best served warm, but warming them in the oven can be time-consuming and I do not have time for this first thing in the morning. But 'Toasting Croissants' are not only quick to prepare, but also incredibly tasty.

                        I am not going to waste time describing the packaging because you can see what it looks like from the picture above. However, I will quickly tell you a bit about the packet's contents. Inside, you'll find four square-shaped croissants of around 8cm in length. Like ordinary croissants, they are soft, flaky and a nice golden brown colour. However, because of their shape, these are flat and not as intricately designed as real croissants.

                        According to the back of the packet, there are two ways to toast the croissants. You can either grill them on a medium heat for two minutes, turning once, or pop them in a toaster and toast on a low heat. Please note that they burn very easily in a toaster, so make sure you use a low setting. The croissants are not suitable for microwave cooking, however. I always choose to toast the croissants using the toaster as this is much quicker and produces croissants which are hot and crunchy. All you need then is a dollop of jam and a nice cup of tea or coffee!

                        I usually eat these croissants for breakfast. I love the mouthwatering buttery aroma which wafts up after toasting. It is a comforting, pleasant smell which instantly makes you feel hungry.

                        Because of their flaky exterior, the croissants become nice and crispy on the outside after toasting. They seem more delicate than normal croissants as a result. Inside, the pastry-like interior is pleasantly moist and almost spongey in texture - not at all soggy like some croissants can be. The inside has a pleasant buttery flavour, which when combined with the toasted/slightly burnt exterior and sweetness of the jam, makes for a wonderfully diverse taste experience.

                        The nutritional values are clearly displayed on the front of the packet. Each croissant contains 10.6g of fat, 190 calories and a mere 0.5g of salt. They are also suitable for vegetarians, as shown by the V on the front. On the back, a bright pink strip draws your attention to the 'allergy advice'. This tells us that the croissants contain milk, wheat, gluten and egg.

                        Toasting Croissants currently sell for 79p and are available in Tesco Extra stores. I have not seen them in smaller stores yet though. 79p seems like quite a good price for four individual croissants, although this is still more than a packet of four ordinary all butter croissants, which cost 54p.

                        Overall, I am very impressed by these croissants and I can honestly say that I am a convert, as they are nicer and easier to prepare than normal croissants.

                        If you like croissants, give these a try sometime.

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                        • halifax.co.uk / Investment Fund / 29 Readings / 24 Ratings
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                          28.08.2006 20:07
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                          The stock market has interested me for many years, but until recently, I was reluctant to get involved in share dealing for real, partly because of the costs involved but also because of the risks. However, a few months ago, I discovered Sharebuilder. Launched in 2003, Sharebuilder is a unique share dealing account, which is operated by Halifax PLC. As far as I know, it is the only one of its kind in the UK.

                          Sharebuilder is great not only for newbies, like myself, but also for more experienced dealers who want to buy and sell shares on the UK stock market. It is important to note that you can only deal in the UK market, not the US or other world markets, but there are literally hundreds of shares to choose from!

                          REGISTRATION

                          Registering for the service is done through the Halifax website and is very straightforward, but can take a few weeks to complete because of the various anti-fraud/ID verification checks involved. Before you apply, you need your sort code and account number of your bank account, your National Insurance Number and your address details for the last three years. After a few days, you will be sent some forms to sign and return, and once these have been received, you will get confirmation of your new account and a Personal Registration Number (PRN).

                          HOW IT WORKS

                          Sharebuilder is a very flexible sharedealing service because it allows you to choose how you want to deal. For example, some people like to invest in a variety of companies to spread the risks of the stock market, whereas others prefer to take the risk and invest in one or two companies only. However, the great thing about Sharebuilder is that you also get to choose how much you want to invest. You can make small, regular investments or one-off lump sums and hold shares in lots of different companies like your favourite brands. The only condition is that you pay in a minimum of £20 a month (by direct debit) to fund the account. Additional one-off payments can also be made, but these are not mandatory by any means.

                          BUYING SHARES

                          When you register, you will be asked to select which day of the month you want to invest on. If I remember rightly, there are four days to choose from, spread across the month. On this date shares are purchased in the relevant companies/brands that you have chosen and all it costs in commission is a mere £1.50! The minimum price you can place on any company is £5 and this works out at £3.48 in shares, once stamp duty and commission are deducted. Obviously, the more money you invest, the more stamp duty you pay, but rest assured that the commission remains fixed at £1.50.

                          Buying shares can be done in real-time as well as on a fixed date. This means that if you want to take advantage of a particular share price, you can purchase them during trading hours. Once you select the 'buy' option, you are given 15 seconds in which to buy the shares. If this time elapses, the deal is suspended, but if you want, you can wait a few minutes and try again at perhaps a more favourable share price. There are no guarantees, though, of a better quote and it is important to bear in mind that you only have a certain number of attempts to buy/sell in a day!

                          As long as you keep your shares, you will paid a dividend - normally once or twice a year. Dividends are payments which are made by a company to its shareholders. These can either be paid directly into your Sharebuilder deposit account for you to then withdraw, or be used to purchase further shares within the company. The choice is yours! I haven't had my shares long enough to get any dividends yet, but I look forward to receiving them soon.

                          SELLING SHARES

                          You can sell shares at any time during trading hours and the funds will be transferred directly to your holding account. Selling shares works in the same way as buying. The website gives you the latest market price for a share and you are given 15 seconds in which to agree or cancel the deal. Of course, there are charges for selling as there are for buying. As a guide, I have summarised the main charges below:

                          Deals under £250 = £5 (real-time online sales), £15 (telephone purchases and sales)
                          Deals over £250 = £11.95 (real-time online sales), £15 (telephone purchases and sales)
                          Deals between £2500 and £5000 = £11.95 (real-time online sales), £30 (telephone purchases and sales)

                          In my opinion, these charges are reasonable, but it obviously doesn't make sense to buy and sell on too regular a basis, as the charges will quickly eat into any profit you may have made.

                          THE WEBSITE

                          The Sharebuilder website is very impressive. It is detailed and generally easy to navigate, although some of the functions take a bit of getting used to. You will find excellent, up-to-date information on all companies on the UK stock market, including charts and graphs, monitoring shares and comparing them with the shares performance of companies within the same sector. You will not be offered advice on which shares to choose, but are given plenty of information, allowing you to make an informed choice about which shares to invest in. I would strongly recommend you do some research first before investing in any company, because this will give you an invaluable insight into how the company has performed in the past and how it is likely to perform in the future.

                          Of all the main sections on the website, the 'Statements & Valuation' section is probably the most important and one which I use all the time. It tells you how well - or badly! - your shares are performing and is constantly refreshed throughout trading hours to provide you with an accurate valuation.

                          MY OWN EXPERIENCE

                          Since opening Halifax Sharebuilder, I have learnt so much about share dealing and although I haven't been wholly successful in the deals that I have made, I am gaining in knowledge all the time. If anything, my biggest mistake has been to buy shares and sell them too quickly. Although I am not investing huge sums of money, you can still lose quite a bit of money if you're not careful. It is important to understand that shares can go down as well as up, so don't expect to become rich overnight! Shares in companies have historically produced higher returns over the longer term, so this something to bear in mind. However, this is a generalisation and is not applicable in every case.

                          Overall, I have found the Sharebuilder website very helpful - if a little technical at times. There is a lot of help available for novices and even courses that you can take to improve your knowledge. There is also a section, called Live Assistance, which allows you to contact a member of the Customer Service Team if you have any queries. I haven't used this personally, but it is reassuring knowing that it is there if I get stuck!

                          If you're interested in shares, I highly recommend Sharebuilder as a way to build up your knowledge of the stock market, and hopefully, boost your bank balance too! Why not give it a go?

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                          • Other Ciders / Beer / Cider / 21 Readings / 21 Ratings
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                            26.08.2006 18:01
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                            I am not a big drinker of alcoholic beverages but do like the occasional bottle of cider. A colleague at work recommended Magners Irish Cider. Although I had heard of Magners, it was not a brand which I was used to drinking because I tend to buy brands like Strongbow and Woodpecker. However, on a recent shopping trip, I spotted bottles of Magners on the shelf so thought I'd opt for one of these instead.

                            PACKAGING

                            You can buy Magners in bottle or can format. I chose to buy a 568ml bottle from Tesco which cost me £1.99. The bottle is very traditional-looking. It is tall and made from brown glass, with an eye-catching green and yellow label on the front bearing the Magners name and company's logo. Magners is more than just a cider; it is an original vintage cider, as proudly stated on the front of the bottle.

                            WHAT MAKES MAGNERS DIFFERENT?

                            As you would expect from a vintage cider, a lot of time and effort has been put into making Magners taste great. But it's not just about time. Magners Irish Cider is one of the few ciders which can boast a unique blend of seventeen varieties of apples which are all harvested in the company's very own orchards. This clearly shows that they take the cider making process very seriously indeed, and are determined to stave off the competition from rival companies.

                            THE CIDER MAKING PROCESS

                            Before I give you my own opinions, let me give you a brief overview of the cider making process.

                            Before the fermentation process can begin, Magners select and grade the apples. Only the highest quality apples are used and these are then sent for pressing, where they are reduced to pulp and their juices extracted. Incredibly, the same presses used 50 years ago are still used today to make Magners! This shows the company's determination to keep the heritage and traditions of cider making alive.

                            After the pressing and extraction process, the juices are left to ferment for about eight weeks. They are then transferred to airtight vats where they stay for several months. Finally, the cider is blended for consistency, chilled and carbonated, before being sent out for distribution.

                            STRENGTH

                            Compared to other well-known makes of cider, Magners is not particularly strong at 4.5% vol. (many ciders are over 5%). But don't let this fool you. A few glasses can still affect you pretty quickly, so don't get too complacent when drinking this stuff...Believe me..I talk from experience!

                            MY OPINION

                            Magners Irish Cider is definitely one of the finest ciders I have ever tasted. In terms of appearance, it looks like any other cider at first glance. It is a deep gold colour with a slight cloudiness. However, if you look more closely, you will notice an uncharacteristic but charming pink tinge.

                            As you would expect from any cider, it has a distinct appley smell which wafts quite seductively from the bottle, but that's not all. There is also a natural, earthy aroma about the cider. I suppose this has come through during the fermentation process, but it gives the cider a nice unique character.

                            As for the taste..well this is definitely worth waiting for. It is a deliciously pure flavour with a crisp, refreshing taste. It is not as bitter and tart as other ciders I have tried, but still has a pleasant yeasty, oaky flavour which comes through in the aftertaste. According to the bottle, sulphites are used to preserve the freshness.

                            In my opinion, Magners is the perfect drink for a Summer's day and is best served chilled because this helps bring out the full flavour. I like it served with ice and a lot of pubs and bars will serve it this way.

                            My only advice would be to drink Magners sensibly. Although it is not as strong as other ciders, it still has a higher alcoholic content than some beers and ales, so it's best not to overindulge too much!

                            HOW MUCH..?!

                            Magners obviously varies in price depending on where you buy it, but as a guide, here are the current prices for Tesco and Asda, as taken from their websites:

                            568 ml - £1.99 (Tesco)
                            1 litre - £ 2.69 (Asda)
                            4 x 500 ml cans - £5.44 (Asda)

                            There is no denying that Magners is a little on the pricey side and probably more expensive than some other makes of cider. But who minds paying a bit more for such a premium vintage cider..?

                            CONCLUSION

                            I am very pleased I bought this brand and will definitely do so again. If you like cider but don't like it too strong, then Magners Irish Cider is the drink to try. It goes well with any meal and is a very refreshing drink, especially in the warm weather.

                            OTHER INFORMATION

                            It is produced by Wm Magner in Clonmel, Ireland.

                            For more information, go to:

                            www.magnerscider.com

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                            • Quaker Oats / Snacks / 26 Readings / 25 Ratings
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                              22.08.2006 21:06
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                              I am not usually a fan of breakfast cereals, but do enjoy a nice bowl of porridge every now and then. We normally have a box of Quaker Porridge Oats in our house. A 1kg box will cost you between £1.28 and £1.43 from the main supermarkets, which is superb value for money and cheaper than many other popular breakfast cereals.

                              Let's start with a bit of background about porridge...

                              ** WHAT IS PORRIDGE? **

                              Porridge is a simple dish made by boiling oats in water, milk or a combination of the both. It is traditionally eaten for breakfast, often with the addition of sugar or cream. In Scotland, it is a popular breakfast dish and is traditionally eaten with a sprinkling of salt. I won't be trying this myself!!

                              ** IS IT GOOD FOR YOU? **

                              Porridge is one of the healthiest breakfast cereals. It has the highest protein content of any cereal and is rich in fibre which makes it excellent in preventing heart disease and illnesses like cancer. Oats are a form of 'soluble fibre' which absorb cholesterol directly from the bloodstream, thus reducing cholesterol levels.

                              Porridge is also surprisingly good for those trying to lose weight. It is low in calories but is still quite filling. This is because oats release energy gradually into the bloodstream, which make you less hungry throughout the day and less likely to want to eat mid-morning snacks.

                              Okay...back to the review.

                              ** QUAKER PORRIDGE OATS **

                              Quaker is a well-known brand of porridge oats, which contains 100% rolled oats and no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. It must be one of the few breakfast cereals on the market which are 100% natural.

                              Quaker oats come in a unmistakably colourful box which hasn't changed much over the years. The top half is bright red and the bottom half is dark blue. There is a curvy yellow strip across the middle of the box and on top of this, a red heart, which is surrounded by a white halo effect. 'Quaker Oats' appears in bold white writing across the front and a spoon serving a delicious portion of porridge appears from the top right-hand corner of the box. Although the box looks attractive, its design and functionality are not as impressive.

                              The box is made from cardboard and, in my opinion, is not the best design for keeping the oats fresh for a period of time. There is a lift up flap on the top of the box which is supposed to fit back securely into a slot once you've finished pouring out the oats, but I do not think it does this satisfactorily. The oats are always at risk of escaping from the box and the flap does not ensure that the oats are kept fresh. This is the only criticism I have of the packaging, however, and it is one which is easily remedied by covering the lid with a bit of cling film, for example.

                              ** DIRECTIONS **

                              Making porridge from Quaker Oats couldn't be easier. First of all, you need to place 45g (3/4 cupful) of oats into a microwaveable jug (pyrex) and add 320ml (1 and a half cups) of milk - or milk and water if you prefer. Then put the jug into the microwave for 3 or 4 minutes and cook on full power. Don't forget to handle the jug with care after cooking, as it will be very hot. Give the contents a stir. The porridge should be of the right consistency: not too thin and not too think and lumpy. Finally, pour the contents into a bowl and serve.

                              You can also cook porridge the conventional way by simmering it in a saucepan. This takes a bit longer than using a microwave (about 5 or 6 minutes) and is a nice way to make it as long as you can spare the time. I am always in a rush first thing in the morning getting ready for work and can't be bothered to stand stirring a saucepan!!

                              ** APPEARANCE AND TASTE **

                              A good bowl of porridge should look creamy and similar in consistency to a rice pudding. In some respects, porridge looks a bit like the children's breakfast cereal, Ready Brek, but it is not as smooth and the oats are a lot larger and more visible.

                              As I said at the beginning, there are several ways to enjoy porridge. Some people like to eat it with a dash of milk or cream on top; others like a spoonful of marmalade, a sprinkling of sugar, or even a pinch of salt! I personally like a dash of milk and a bit of sugar just to add a little sweetness.

                              The best thing about porridge is that it has a wonderfully creamy texture and is always a pleasure to eat. It tastes very much like a creamed rice pudding but without the underlying sweetness. It is not salty like some cereals and, as you would expect, has a natural oaty flavour. Porridge is a warm, comforting cereal that you can enjoy at any time, safe in the knowledge that it is doing you good. I never feel hungry after eating a bowl of porridge in the morning, and on the majority of occasions, the hunger pains stay away until at least lunch time.

                              ** NUTRITION INFORMATION **

                              100g of porridge provides you with:

                              Energy = 1500 kJ (356 calories)
                              Protein = 11.0g
                              Carbohydrate = 60.0g
                              Fat = 8.0g
                              Fibre = 9.0g
                              Sodium = Trace

                              A 1kg box contains approximately 22 servings.

                              Although Quaker Oats are made with 100% rolled oats, the box advises you that there may be traces of wheat and barley present too due to farming practices. If you are allergic to either of these, it is recommended that you do not try this product.

                              ** WHAT I THINK **

                              Quaker Oats make the perfect bowl of porridge every time and I am very loyal to this particular brand for this reason. There are cheaper own label brands in the shops, for sure, but I am not always convinced that these are always the same in terms of quality. Quaker Oats are not only good value for money but also provide a quality breakfast cereal.

                              RECOMMENDED
                              ********************

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                              • Specialist Breads / Other Food / 25 Readings / 25 Ratings
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                                18.08.2006 21:36
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                                The supermarket shop can get quite monotonous at the best of times and the worst thing is not knowing what else to buy for a change. How many of us buy the same brands week in week out without giving it a second thought..? I'm sure everyone is guilty of this. I normally buy Morrisons own label wholemeal bread simply because it tastes good and is cheap. However, whilst shopping today, I thought I'd have a change. Instead of my usual bread, I opted for a loaf of 'Burgen Soya and Linseed' bread, mainly because it sounded intriguing and was reduced in price from £1.17 to 87p.

                                Burgen was not a brand I was that familiar with until recently. However, according to the company's website, the Soya and Linseed loaf has been sold in the UK since 1997, so is fairly well established. Since its introduction nine years ago, the Burgen brand has grown in popularity and as consumers have begun to embrace the importance of a healthy lifestyle, the brand has really taken off.

                                WHAT MAKES BURGEN DIFFERENT?

                                Burgen's Soya and Linseed loaf is no ordinary wholemeal bread. It is packed with natural grains, such as wheat and linseed, and is rich in calcium and high in fibre. However, that, in itself, does not make it remarkably different from any other bread. What makes it really different is that it is a low-GI bread. GI or Glycaemic Index is a measure of how quickly our bodies absorb different carbohydrates. A low-GI bread is therefore one which sustains steady blood sugar levels to help you feel fuller for longer. Much has been said about the health benefits of low-GI foods in recent years by experts and dieticians, and most agree that such foods are highly beneficial to health.

                                As well as being a low-GI food, Burgen Soya and Linseed bread prides itself on being a rich source of plant oestrogens which may prove beneficial to women's health.

                                PACKAGING

                                The packaging has changed from the white and blue wrapper pictured above to a more neutral clear plastic bag with a plethora of grains and seeds scattered over the sides. A dark brown circular stamp, bearing the 'Burgen' name, is embossed across the front and sides of the packaging, and just underneath this are the words 'soya & linseed' in bold, orange writing. I think the packaging looks attractive and has a quality feel about it. It's always nice being able to see the bread inside for yourself, so you can get an idea of what it will be like before buying.

                                APPEARANCE & TASTE

                                When you first see the bread, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was white rather than brown. The bread is a strange colour - a shade somewhere between white and brown. There are lots of differently coloured seeds within the bread itself and it looks very tasty.

                                The bread is ideal for sandwiches or toasting. It tastes like a normal wholemeal bread, but is a lot more grainy and malty in taste. The seeds and grains give it a pleasant texture, although the seeds do tend to get stuck in your teeth, which can be a bit annoying!

                                The bread is light and quite fluffy - not stodgy like some breads can be. This means that you can eat several slices and still not feel full.

                                NUTRITION INFORMATION

                                Per slice:

                                Energy - 110 kcal (calories)
                                Protein - 6.4g
                                Carbohydrate - 11.9g
                                Fat - 4.0g
                                Fibre - 2.7g
                                Sodium - 0.12g
                                Salt - 0.31g
                                Calcium - 106mg (13% of Recommended Daily Allowance)

                                A daily serving is 4 slices.

                                ALLERGY INFORMATION

                                The bread contains wheat, soya and gluten. If you are allergic to any of these, it is best not to eat.

                                STORAGE ADVICE

                                The bag states that the bread should be stored in a cool, dry place, although refrigeration is not advised. The bread can be frozen but should be eaten within 3 months of the date of purchase.

                                PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

                                Burgen bread is very widely available and you will find it in all the main supermarkets, where it retails for £1.17. This is a lot for a loaf of bread, although you will often find it on a special offer, so it pays to make the most of these.

                                VERDICT...

                                I cannot recommend this bread high enough and it is probably one of the nicest breads I have tasted in many years. However, it is expensive - and too expensive, in my opinion. I will definitely buy it again, but will probably wait until I next see it on special offer.

                                OTHER INFO..

                                If you need any more information, write to:

                                Customer Services Manager,
                                Allied Bakeries,
                                Vanwall Road,
                                Maidenhead.
                                SL6 4UF.

                                Customer Helpline: 0800 197 0049
                                www.burgen.co.uk

                                Comments

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                                • More +
                                  06.08.2006 23:57
                                  Very helpful
                                  (Rating)
                                  3 Comments

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                                  I spotted Frü Fruity Puds for the first time in Tesco the other day. They had boxes on a special offer at 2 for £4. Fancying something tasty and summery, I decided to take advantage of the offer and give the puds a try.

                                  WHAT ARE THEY?

                                  Frü Fruity Puds are cheesecakes, made with delicious sicilian lemons. If you like lemons, you will like definitely like these. In a box, you get two individual cheesecake puddings, each served in its own glass ramekin and plastic lid for added freshness.

                                  PACKAGING

                                  Visually, the packaging is very appealing. As the picture shows, half of the box is taken up with an enticing image showing one of the cheesecakes and lots of lovely lemons in the background. The other half is equally striking but in a different way. The 'Frü' name appears in bold black script and is set against a pure white background, which really makes it stand out. In case you haven't guessed, Frü Fruity Puds are made by the same people who make the delicious Gü chocolate puddings. There is a definite poshness about the packaging, but not in an off-putting kind of way.

                                  On the back of the box, you'll find a nice tongue-in-cheek description of the puds. They are described as 'easy peasy lemon cheesy' and 'zingy little beauties' which taste 'multo frü-tissimo' - 'very fruity' to you and me! The people who make Frü puds seem to like this play on words, and you'll find other examples of words where a 'u' has been replaced by a German umlauted 'ü'. Could it be that the 'ü' is meant to resemble a smiling face or is it done just to make the 'u' look posher? Whatever the reason, it is strangely eye-catching but it is a good way of advertising the brand.

                                  ONTO THE PUD...

                                  On removing the cheesecake from the box, you will notice that it is constructed by a series of different layers. As you would expect, the bottom layer is a crumbly biscuit base. Then comes a nice layer of lemon curd and a generous portion of creamy cheesecake, which is finished off with a sprinkling of crushed biscuit pieces over the top. Sitting in the glass ramekin, the cheesecake looks very impressive and almost too good to touch... But then it's not there to be admired - it's there to be eaten, so let's get on with it!

                                  THE EATING EXPERIENCE

                                  Delving my spoon into the cheesecake reveals a firm, creamy-looking cheesecake, with a pleasantly moist texture. It doesn't smell very lemony but has an unmistakable lemon flavour, with a lovely citrusy tang which comes through in the aftertaste. The cheesecake is not as bitter as I expected it to be, but this is probably because the creamy cream cheese quells the tangy lemon flavour.

                                  Next comes the lemon curd layer. I don't normally like lemon curd, but this one is very tasty and has just the right level of sweetness. Overall, it complements the layer of cheesecake very well indeed and, in my opinion, there is just the right amount. Too much would have overpowered the creaminess of the cheesecake, spoiling the whole taste experience.

                                  Finally, there is the biscuit base. For me, this is probably the most disappointing part of the pudding. Although it has a nice, buttery flavour, it is not as crunchy as I would have liked it and, if anything, is too moist.

                                  NUTRITION INFORMATION

                                  Per 100g/ pot:

                                  Energy 353 kcal (calories)
                                  Protein 3.9g
                                  Carbohydrate 26.9g
                                  Fat 25.5g
                                  Fibre 0.6g
                                  Sodium 0.1g

                                  * May contain traces of nuts;
                                  * Contains gluten, milk, eggs, wheat and soya;
                                  * Suitable for vegetarians.

                                  OTHER INFORMATION

                                  The puddings should be kept refrigerated and served chilled. They are not suitable for home freezing.

                                  Because they are made from glass, it is important to handle the ramekins with extreme care. Remember...you can re-use the ramekins if you want.

                                  WHAT I THINK...

                                  Overall, I enjoyed eating these lemon cheesecake puddings and recommend them as a summery treat. However, I cannot help but think that they are somewhat overpriced, costing £2.79 per box. As I said at the outset, I bought two boxes (containing 4 puds) for £4 and even this was a little pricy. But £2.79 for just one box. You must be joking! I would not normally be prepared to pay this - although I expect that the cost of ramekins is the main reason for the high overall price.

                                  Despite this criticism, I have decided to give the cheesecakes a rating of 4 stars out of 5.


                                  www.frupuds.com
                                  Tel.: 0800 695 1660

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