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This kettle was shown on the gadget show a few years ago. It was priced at around £60 RRP then, but I managed to get one at around £48. I think the price has remained much the same.
The main body is black with a stainless steel top & the water tank is see through clear plastic. There is a red on/off button on at the top & at the bottom is a water dispenser.
It holds around 3 jugs of water that's approx 1.5 litres. My family seem to lift the tank from the machine & take it to the tap, while I prefer to leave it in situ & fill it from a water jug.
At first I didn't like the idea of 'stale' water that had been sitting around & not freshly drawn from the tap, but in reality I do find that I have to re-fill it several times a day so it is fresh enough. I don't think in that respect it's any different from filling a traditional kettle, as most of us don't empty it out before topping it up (unless there is a serious lime scale problem).
The fact that it only boils as much water as you need may save on electricity but it still uses quite a lot.
It also would function as a water filter jug, (Claris filtration) but you have to buy the cartridges which are quite expensive (around £7 for the Clarins). As I live in a very soft water area I am lucky enough that all my appliances work well without any furring up, so I have not looked into using this as a water filter.
It claims to take 3 seconds to heat up. It doesn't actually claim to reach boiling point, but I have always found it near enough not to notice the difference.
It is easy to wipe down & keep clean.
It does drip a little after use so I put a little sponge cleaning cloth under the outlet as I move the mug away, to soak up any drips. This is not really much of a problem though & I am the only one who bothers to do this.
~What I like~
It does make life a little different, in that we are all used to 'putting the kettle on' then doing something else while we wait for it to boil. That's usually the first thing I do when I come into the house.
With this kettle, you put your cup under the water dispenser with it's tea bag, coffee or whatever already in, then press the red button & hey presto, water is pumped through & instantly comes out steaming & boiling into the cup. If you use a small mug or cup you will need to stop the flow, but if you have a large 1/2pint mug or other container it will automatically stop before reaching the top.
It's wonderful for instant drinks & I have always found it to be hot enough.
Also for adding to cooking as you don't have to wait for the kettle to boil.
~ What I don't like ~
is the noise - it's horrendous! You have to halt any conversation while it does its job, & if you live in an apartment I would think all the neighbours always know when you are using it.
The other thing I don't like is that when you have the boiling water in your cup with the tea bag, it does not look clear & clean but looks cloudy - not sure if it is little bubbles that give this appearance.
It's great for a cup on your own, but once you are making for more than two it gets tedious, & getting the old kettle out would be a better bet.
All in all, a useful gadget, but does not totally take the place of a traditional kettle.
Cookworks Slow Cooker
Model 420/7490(D) from Argos
3.5 litre capacity
2 heat & warm settings
Removable ceramic crock pot
Neon power indicator
230-240 volts - 50 Hz 200W
This is not as illustrated but has the same model number & is the one on sale now (2010/2011).
I purchased the above slow cooker from Argos at a very good sale price to give slow cooking a try.
* The RRP is £19.99. I bought it last week for £7.99. It is now at £9.99. For some strange reason, Argos seem to be for ever putting their sale prices up & down then up again.
I had to ask at the counter as it is shown online & can be reserved for in store collection but is not in the Argos catalogue in store. They went behind the scenes & produced it for me but didn't seem to know why it's not in the catalogue but is online, if it is old stock because it's always on sale price or if it is a new line not yet in the current catalogue!
* Note - the much smaller & inferior Argos Value Range Argos
Value Range MD-YHJ20 is priced at around £13.99. so worth looking out for this reviewed one when at lowest sale price if you want a low priced slow cooker.
I fancied trying a slow cooker but wasn't entirely sure which type to go for. After spending hours reading reviews, phoning Morphy Richards & looking up prices & deals I decided to try this cheap version to see if I really needed the more expensive type with digital timer & auto cook & keep warm functions etc.
This Cookworks label is said to be exclusive to Argos, although I think Homebase use the label as well & I seem to remember seeing it in Woolworths when they were around. A couple of marketplace sellers on Amazon also have them but at a much higher price.
Slow cookers come in about 3 sizes. They are not always clearly labelled. You need to look carefully at the description as the model size usually refers to the total filled to the brim with liquid capacity & has an actual cooking capacity of much less as should only be filled to about 2/3rd. This cooking capacity varies with different brands.
The model being reviewed - Cookworks labelled 3.5 litre capacity. It is described on the Argos site as 8 cups capacity but has no mention in the accompanying instruction manual or on the box of actual working capacity. It is actually a working capacity of 2 litres. This model/size is only realistically suitable for 2/3 small portions, not the 4 person capacity you would expect it to be.
Most 6.5 litre models have a working capacity of 4 litres
Majority of slow cookers are stainless steel/chrome exterior with black inner bowl & glass lid & are oval shaped which allows for cooking a joint of meat or a whole small chicken. This particular one has the glass lid but is all white both exterior & ceramic inner bowl & is round & taller. It is very neat looking & takes up less work space than the oval models & is easier to wipe clean.
Suitable for 2/3 small portions.
Manual states that things like noodles, rice or pasta should only be added during last 30 minutes, or that yoghurt or milk should be added during last two hours.
I have not tried roasting chicken or joints of meat but I am dubious as to whether they would brown or just be boiled, although they would be tender.
More expensive models can cook puddings in individual basins etc., but there is no mention of that in this manual although there are a couple of simple sweet recipes.
~Now to my experience of this model~
As slow cookers are renowned for making cheaper cuts of meat beautifully tender & went for the cheapest I could find for the dish I was preparing. I used a pack of Irish diced beef from the Sainsbury's Basics range - described as old favourite cuts of beef ideal for slow cooking - cost £2.75 for 440g.
I prepared my veg in the morning - I large onion, 1 large green pepper, 1 large carrot, 1 sweet potato, garlic cloves, 1 green chilli - all chopped up. I fried the meat lightly until just browning on outside, then added onion for a few mins. I then added the rest of chopped veg & a beef stock cube & 1 ¼ pint of boiling water, pinch salt, black pepper, pinch dried ginger, shake of worcester sauce.
I found this amount if ingredients was just right for the working capacity of this cooker.
As the instructions state that the ceramic inner bowl is liable to crack with different temperatures & liquid must be boiling when put in, I was very careful. As outside temperatures are sub-zero at the moment I brought the new cooker out from the car the night before to make sure it acclimatised to the indoor temperature ready to use. I brought ingredients all up to boiling in deep frying pan before pouring into the ceramic bowl which I had sprayed with Frylight.
I then lowered the ceramic bowl into the metal cooker, put the lid on top, plugged in & switched onto high for half an hour, then changed to low & left for 7 hours. (a more expensive slow cooker with auto setting would have changed from high to low at the appropriate time & shut off when cooked to the keep warm setting).
There is a red light when turned on which gives a re-assuring neon glow throughout cooking.
You can see the contents through the glass lid but can't tell if it is boiling dry or needs thickening. Apparently lifting the lid of slow cookers during use will mean you need to add a further 20 minutes to the cooking time as it breaks the seal (but this particular model fails to seal anyway).
I had read a few reviews on this particular model & most said that the lid rattles on high setting. This didn't happen during my cooking time, although it did seem very loose. However, about 20 mins before the expected end of time I lifted the lid to see if it needed any adjusting. It was very thin so I added instant mash powder to thicken ( a Slimming World trick) & put the lid back on. It was still cooking on low but the lid started to rattle. I gave it a little nudge & moved it slightly which cured the rattle, but this proved that the lid makes no seal which all other reports & slow cooker books mention is a necessary part of the slow cooker procedure.
After about 25 mins I decided it should be well cooked & turned it off. The glass lid & ceramic bowl are easily breakable & everything gets extremely hot so oven gloves & great care are needed.
The inner ceramic bowl is heavy, so great care needed not to drop it!
I positioned it near to a socket, although there was plenty more usable lead.
I used it at the back of the work surface & so it was underneath cupboards, but there was enough clearance to safely lift out the hot ceramic bowl complete with contents.
It didn't seem to be slippery at all so I presume the feet must be non-slip.
After a few minutes of turning off cooker, I used a big ladle to fill a serving bowl with cooked casserole. It was still extremely hot & thin/watery. The meat was beautifully tender but not completely evenly cooked.
When contents had all been taken out & the bowl cooled down a bit, I filled with hot water & washing up liquid & left to soak in the sink (manual states must not be immersed in cold water) I made sure I washed both the bowl & the lid that evening & both were very easy to clean. The outer metal exterior of the cooker didn't need any wiping as I had been very careful, but I believe that the white would be much easier to keep clean than stainless steel which shows up every mark & finger print.
A very neat & space saving appliance.
Pleasing on the eye & easy to clean although no parts are dishwasher safe.
Nice to see the neon light on all the time.
Selector switch very positive & easy to use.
I think we could get this one on the Trades Description Act in that the description on the Argos site states that is has Auto Shut off when in fact it does not have anything like that. You can ask questions on the Argos site product page & the answers to that one state that 'No' it does not have Auto Shut Off!
It also has no proper keep warm facility although it states that it does. The warm setting can be used after the cooking time has been completed, but it will not really do the job that you hope it will, & can not be used for cooking on a medium setting.
The lid does not make the necessary seal. Therefore the food bubbles along gently for the amount of hours you choose, but is not really cooking in the sealed way that electric slow cookers are supposed to perform & therefore doesn't have quite the desired results.
The meat was very tender although not completely evenly so. The veg seemed over cooked.
The sauce/gravy was not very tasty, was very thin & not creamy at all.
(I wondered if to throw the rest away as it was so disappointing but I put in a Tupperware in the fridge overnight & looked at it the next day & it had thickened up & looked much better. I added some curry powder & warmed it up in a saucepan & when served with rice for two of us it was OK.
There was just enough left for one more helping, so it made exactly 4 very small servings. Probably not enough for more than 2 of you.
I would say that this model is ideal in size for 1 - 3 people. Just right for 2/3 very small servings, with a bit left over maybe for one persons lunch the next day. (this is assuming rice or potatoes or something is served with whatever is cooked in the slow cooker) but for a full main meal for average appetites would only serve 2 people.
The inner ceramic bowl is tall & round & quite utilitarian looking so you wouldn't want to have it on your table, better to serve on individual plates or in a more attractive serving bowl.
Models/makes of slow cookers not only look different, cook different amounts, have different functions, are different in ease of use etc., but will give different results, so don't think they all cook the same & make exactly the same gravy/sauce etc. They will vary in the thickness & creaminess of the sauce/gravy produced, the taste, & the even-ness of the cooked meat, also how they fare in keeping food warm ie if it dried out sauce or made meat dry on the outside, overcooked etc.
This one comes with very poor ultra basic manual & recipe leaflet.
You would need to purchase a slow cooker book with not only recipes but tips & instructions on how to use a slow cooker, adapt recipes for slow cooking etc which will cost you an extra approx £5 to £10 on top of the price you have already paid out.
Argos also suggests on their product page Q&A facility that you can purchase a simple plug in timer from Argos to use with it - yet more extra expense.
To use this slow cooker I have reviewed, you will ideally need to be at home with it most of the time - you may think what's the point in using a slow cooker if you are at home all the time but to get the same tenderness of meat you would need the main oven & fan if applicable going for many hours, which apart from the expense, the noise of a fan oven might get on your nerves.
It is best to start the slow cooker off at high temperature for at least ½ hour then turn down to low. If the lid rattles you will need to nudge it into position again. When cooking is completed it will not shut off automatically but will need you to do that & to turn the control to warm setting if you want to keep it serving temperature for a while, although this may dry the meat out and/or cause unwanted thickening to the sauce/ gravy as it's not a proper Keep Warm setting.
Although it can bubble away on it's own for the majority of hours, you will need to be there to turn it down after first ½ to 1 hour & I do not think I would feel happy to leave it totally unattended all day with the loose lid & especially if I was delayed in getting home unless a timer was used with it.
This cheap slow cooker does not produce the succulent results that more expensive auto & well sealed models do.
I think I would prefer to have a digital slow cooker with a programmable timer, auto shut off, keep warm facility, and able to use ceramic inner bowl in oven, on hob or in microwave & able to wash parts in dishwasher.
Unfortunately no one cooker seems to have all the required things, but choosing the functions that are important to you would be better than this one if you can afford the higher price (but take into account better manual & recipe book & tips/instructions & not having to buy a separate timer).
To cut a long story short - this slow cooker sort of does the job, but doesn't seal everything in & cook as slow cookers should. Basic functions only & small usable capacity. You get what you pay for!
Satellite HD Digital Television Recorder
~~Why did I buy it?~~
I have had various recording devices, including videos, a DVD player/recorder, & a freeview with hard drive & DVD recorder which was excellent when it was working but was so unreliable it went back within the first year & was considered unrepairable.
As my area was changed to Digital in May 2009 & my TV then was analogue I struggled with a small freeview box for a few months then decided to buy something worthwhile for all jobs required.
One of the reasons for choosing Satellite was that I thought the reception would be better when not having to come through an aerial. Actually now we have Freeview HD TV, I realise that the Freeview reception is perfect (our aerial is in the loft so not affected by wind etc), whereas the satellite signal often comes up with a banner saying 'no or bad signal' & the picture breaks up a bit briefly when it is windy or snowy.
I chose the FreeSat mainly as at the time it was the only way to record & receive in HD.
As I didn't have an HD ready TV, this put me in the unusual position of being able to receive HD but not to view it! Mostly people have an HD ready TV and no way of receiving HD unless they have Sky+HD box.
Now there is a Freeview HD Box, but not as yet an HDR.
I have since purchased a new TV which is actually HD reception through Freeview, not just HD ready, so I now have everything as we are in the area to be able to receive HD Freeview.
There are not a lot of channels broadcasting on HD at the moment but we can now receive channel 4 HD as well as ITV & BBC.
Only drawback to that is I can now see everyones wrinkles & spots etc! Every little blemish shows up! But on the plus side of that, you can even see the blades of grass on the HD picture!
~~Where did I buy it?~~
I purchased it from Richer Sounds, as that is our retailer of choice for these kinds of things. They have one price in the shop & another on their website. If you arrive at the shop & quote the price you have seen on their website they will match it. They also claim to match any price you have seen on any other website as long as the item is in stock etc. Also, Richer Sounds insurance is an exceptional one in that it is cheaper than everyone else is plus if at the end of 5 years you have made no claims on it, then you apply for a full refund.
The cost of this Humax model now is £229.95 from Richer Sounds
Or £266.99 from Amazon
~Description, setting up & appearance~
The box is white background with blue pink & various bits of other colour & tells us it contains
Humax Easy Digital
HD digital TV recorder
Satellite HD Digital Television Recorder
Twin Tuner HD Recorder
Freesat HD and SD channel recording
Simultaneous viewing of one channel whilst recording another channel
Ability to pause and rewind live TV
Massive 320GB HDD
One touch recording
DOLBY digital plus
DV3 (Digital Video Broadcasting)
Digital mark approved product
Lots of other things down the sides of the box which I will describe as we go along.
The picture on the box shows the appliance as having a swathe of blue across it, but in actual fact it hasn't got this. I got the impression from reading reviews in different places, that the front is either blue or lights up with a lot of blue light. Disappointingly this is not the case - as I have a thing about blue lights!
The Humax box is attractive. Smaller than I expected (Actual size 38cms wide a 5cms high) in black, with a blue light about 2 inches long (not round) for when the appliance is turned on & a red light which takes the place of the blue one when it is turned off (this is actually in standby so that it receives the TV guide & any software).
The appliance is well protected inside the cardboard box with polystyrene packing & polythene bag etc. You will find quite a few leads, instruction book, warranty, remote control etc.
HDMI lead is included, but you will need various satellite cables & connectors & of course a satellite dish if you do not already have one. If you have previously had SKY you will already have most of what you need, otherwise dishes & cables etc can be bought very reasonably on eBay. It's a very easy job to install the dish & cables etc if you or anyone in your household is fairly handy.
We previously had SKY about ten years ago but not SKY+. This means that we had a single cable set up. After going up the ladder to look at the old Sky dish, my son deemed it still in working condition although a bit rusty! He then set about connecting the leads that came into the house with the new leads & connectors & into the back of the box & so to the TV.
The instruction booklet tells you that you will need twin cables as this has a twin tuner. As this would necessitate buying a new dish & double or quad LNB in my case, we just wanted to get it fixed up quickly the same night we had brought it home from the shop, as a temporary measure. Instructions are shown of how to set up a loop through system with a bit of extra cable, so that you can use just one cable from the dish set up which is what we did. I fully intended to buy the necessary extra equipment to do the job properly, but as my son never seemed to find the time to either order the stuff or to come & do it for me, I continued to use the loop system (more on that later).
~~Experience of use~~
The booklet tells you how to do the first installation, basic operation, etc.
You can set at various resolutions. When we had the old analogue TV we just had the Humax set at 576i but now we have the big LED HD TV we have changed the Humax to 1080i which gives really great results.
There are two ways of channel detection/tuning
We tried the one which found over 400 channels! Most of these however were channels we would never be interested in.
Also, we found there are various things you cannot do if you have manually downloaded the channels, mainly to do with recording the easy way using the programme guide. I can't remember as it was a long time ago, but I think they may not have appeared on the programme guide either.
We then scrapped all of those channels & started again using the postcode method which is very simple & self explanatory. You put your Postcode in when it tells you & it automatically finds the channels for you. These will be the most popular that it seems able to find & is much better than the manual method. Unfortunately there are lots of channels which I would like to have & that I can find on Freeview, but they are not available on this satellite system which means you can watch them if you have Freeview TV, but are not able to record them unless you have additional means of recording.
You can do software updates by pressing the menu button. There are auto software updates & I also receive emails from Humax telling me about new updates. Occasionally when you switch the box on you will see a pop-up message inviting you to add new channels or delete old ones.
There is a media list of things you can do such as Video, Radio, Music, and Photo.
You can record of course, even record radio, and store your music and photos.
I tried a Thomson box a couple of years ago & it was so noisy I couldn't live with it. Everyone that came into the room remarked on it. It was just the same in standby & could only be quietened by turning off at the wall so of course the programme guide couldn't load. It went back to the shop for a refund & they were not surprised!
After this experience I made enquiries of everything I looked at as to whether it was quiet or not.
I am delighted that this Humax box is as near to silent as it's possible to get.
There are so many settings, parental controls, ethernet port, subtitles, auto turn on & off, as well many more and varied functions & I would be here all day describing them & you reading them, but if you are seriously interested you can find most if you look up the model online. I have outlined the most important features & my experience of using this Humax box which will give you a good idea & I think you will find useful if you are thinking of buying one.
The ON/OFF button shows as red when not in use. By not in use, I mean you are not watching anything. If you are recording, it will still show as red unless you are watching as well.
It is easy to watch TV through this box. In fact I rarely watch straight from the TV, as with this Humax box you can pause & rewind.
You are able to use two channels. i.e. you can watch one & record another, or you can record two at the same time. There is also the ability to watch a programme you have recorded while recording another two.
I thought I would not be able to do any of this while using the loop through method but I was wrong. At first I found there were certain channels which would not work while another was in use, thus I could only watch or record one channel. After trying out various things I made a great discovery. Now this is a bit technical & I'm afraid I can't remember the terminology, but basically, various channels run on the same or different wavelength or some such thing. This is how I discovered you have to be a bit selective in order to achieve certain things if you have not got the twin tuner double cable & LNB set up.
I found that if I had set recording for example on ITV1 West Country, it would not allow me to record or watch BBC 1 West Country at the same time. But with trial & error I discovered that if I set the BBC programme to BBC1 Scotland which doesn't make any difference if you are watching Eastenders (but may do if you want to watch the local news of course) I could record both ITV & BBC at the same time! Or you can record BBC1 West Country & watch or record ITV1 London at the same time. Clever eh?
This means that even with my single cable loop through, I can watch or record nearly everything I choose by fiddling around with either HD or the different regions. There have been very few occasions when I have wanted channels where this has not worked & in those cases I have looked up when one of the programmes will be shown next (easy to do) & set the recorder for that time. If there are two programmes you are recording & you want to record Eastenders as well, you can record it at 10pm on BBC Three for example. If you want to watch a third programme while you are recording two other programmes you can always use the Freeview on the TV at the same time & leave the Humax box to do its own thing with recording the other two programmes.
I have now decided there is little point in buying & fixing all the extra equipment as I may be moving anyway.
This also means that if you live in a block of apartments where you can plug in satellite/Sky into a fixed wall socket (most were built & set up/put into the walls of the building before the advent of SKY+ so won't be twin cables) it is unlikely you will be able to have twin tuner set up to the older communal dish, but you will be able to manage by the means I have described.
There is a display box on the front which lights up & shows symbols for various things. While recording is taking place but you are not watching anything, the display box will show the time & a symbol which shows you it is recording. If you turn the box on to watch a programme live, it will display the channel you are watching. If you are watching a recorded programme it will display the name of the programme. Both very useful & something you don't get with Sky+.
When everything is off, the lighted display is off. You can also set it to a low power consumption, which uses less than 1W when in standby.
There is time shift facility. Curiously in the index it calls it Time shifted recording & playback. I find this a bit confusing. I know that in order to be able to time shift, pause & rewind, it has to record all the time on a buffer, but you are not able to record the time shifted section. If you try to start a recording from the place you are watching, if it has been time shifted a pop up message will come up to tell you there is a choice of either continuing to watch from that point or moving to real time to record.
The programme guide covers eight days & you can press the info button to see all about any programme you may be interested in. Just press the record button if you would like to record any programme during that 8 days.
One of the most useful features is the Series Link. This means that when you find a programme you either regularly watch or want to record the series of say 6 documentaries or dramas, when you press record it will ask if you want to record one programme or record the whole series. So if you like Casualty say, you set it to record the whole series, it then will record every episode of Casualty for you. If you are out & have forgotten it's on, then you will come home to find it's recorded for you. It is also very clever in that it knows if the programme has been moved. So if there is a sporting event on & Casualty is on later or if that week Casualty is on Saturday & Sunday for a double story, it will record both episodes as & when they are broadcast.
All series link programmes are automatically put into a file labelled with the name of the programme. So if you have not got around to watching Casualty for a few weeks, you just go to the file named Casualty & you will find all episodes. You can sort your recorded programmes using several different options. There is Time, date, or channel number. The whole list of recorded programmes is listed in alphabetical order then the files with series linked programmes come into this alphabetical order but you click into the file & the programmes will be sorted according to your choice i.e. if there are 6 programmes in the file, I will have chosen that they be displayed in date recorded order. Under all of these series link files is a list of one off recordings.
Incidentally I have never missed the start or ending of a recorded programme. But you can select start & end times if you wish.
The remote control is in piano black, glossy & smart. Some people have complained that this shows all the finger marks but I have not found that it does. I think the remote control could be improved by having a lit up facility as my TV does, as often I am trying to find the right buttons before I have turned the lamp on in the room. It does everything else that's necessary and is easy to use.
Most functions are self explanatory using the remote control, but a few are not easy to work out & the instruction book leaves a lot to be desired with some things. In fact there are things I have only found out how to do by looking up reviews & comments left by users on Humax & other sites. I have printed out some of these & keep with the book so if I need to do something that I haven't done for a long time I can look it up easily.
One of these things concerns File Manager. You can move recorded programmes around in & out of different files & you can create new files. The book doesn't tell you how to do this but someone has worked it out & posted it on the Amazon site which makes it very clear. I won't put it here as it's of no interest unless you have the box & are trying to do it!
Humax do have a good Customer Service team. If you phone or email them with something you can't find in the instruction book they will answer & tell you how to do it.
The volume control has also been criticised by some & I can see why, although it is OK most of the time. It doesn't seem to work with the TV volume as you would expect. Some programmes you feel you would like to be a bit louder yet you are on the maximum volume. If you turn up the TV volume sometimes it works, but it's not easy getting the two to work in unison to give the desired effect! If you have an HD channel on or have recorded one, it is much louder than the other channels so you end up turning it down, but that's not the fault of Humax. I do have a surround sound system which I believe works really well with HD, but have not managed to set it up properly yet with the box.
There is a mute button on the remote control which I find handy if I am on the phone.
You can look up a list to show which programmes are scheduled to record. If some are on series link it will only show the next actual episode to be broadcast, but after that one has recorded it then shows the next & so on.
While on that page, you can press the blue button which will enable you to 'find' different showings of certain programmes, either repeats or the next episode. This can be very useful if you have missed a programme or want to set the recorder for the next one.
I recently had the first bit of trouble I have encountered since owning the box from last Christmas. Things were not always recording & a few other things were not quite right.
I phoned Humax Customer Services who will send someone out to you if there is a fault that needs fixing so that you don't have to parcel it up & send it to them. I think that's a good service. Anyway, I told them what was wrong & they suggested I do a factory reset. It tells you how to do this in the book. It was even easy enough for me to do without calling on my son! It did the trick & all was well afterwards. I shall remember to try that in future before I phone for assistance if anything goes wrong.
If you record films (or any programme) that you may want to keep & store, you can plug a USB pen into the front of the Humax & transfer to this, then onto your computer, then onto a blank DVD.
There is an advertisement campaign on TV at the moment for Freesat. My comments on it would be as follows:
Yes it is free once you have bought the box, & works exactly the same as SKY plus which can run away with you in monthly costs.
BUT although they say it receives hundreds of channels, which it does if you manually search, they are mostly foreign or adult ones, but it does not record the easy way if you have done this, as I have already mentioned.
If you auto search/tune the channels using the Postcode method, you will find there are quite a lot of popular channels missing that you would get on Freeview. Off hand I can think of Sky Three, Yesterday, Dave, Virgin 1, Fiver, and Sky News. There are quite a few others that you might regularly watch on Freeview or Sky that can't be got on free Satellite. You do get a few foreign & adult channels but not nearly as many as with manual search. With radio stations, you can't get the local ones unless they are BBC.
The picture quality is superb, razor sharp outlines & excellent colour, when used with an excellent new TV of course, although it wasn't bad with our old analogue TV.
I would thoroughly recommend it.
Update 19/3/2012 - I have now moved into an apartment & the communal dish & wiring is only set up for Sky pre Sky plus, so only one cable again. I am still finding I can manage by jiggling which region I am watching to a certain extent. Although not perfect I manage with this.
I am finding that it's supposed to start automatically when a programme starts & ends, but recently this is not happening if a programme starts late for example, it cuts off the end. I have set the end time to always be one minute longer but the beginning alwats starts early as well. I think I need to reset the factory setting which usually sorts out most faults.
Would still thoroughly recommend this, but for my own circumstances I would buy the same make Humax but a Freeview+ model next time. Would also go for 500GB rather than 320GB which I find not quite big enough.
SAMSUNG Digimax Industrial Rechargeable 750 mAh AAA x 2 batteries
I was having a problem with my cordless DECT phone. The first sign of a problem was that I couldn't hear people as clearly as on the other phones in the set. This continued for a while then seemed to be better. However more signs were to come - the next sign was that I would lift the phone from the charger to dial a number and before it connected the line went dead & the screen blank. All seemed OK when I replaced on the charger but of course it was connected to the electricity then, the problem was when I lifted it off & needed battery power. Suddenly out of the blue the time came when as soon as I lifted the phone from the cradle/charger it went completely dead.
The other two phones in the set were fine so why had these batteries gone in this handset?
I thought back to my usage & realised why this was. On quite a lot of occasions over the last four or five years of ownership it had been left 'off the hook'. Very often I would go out or fall asleep & it would be the middle of the night or even morning before I realised it was still showing 'in use'. Of course years ago when the phone was only connected to the mains no harm was done by leaving it off the hook, but the misuse I had put my lovely DECT phone through had totally killed the batteries.
I needed to replace the batteries & looked at Google lists but as usual ended up with Amazon. They had quite a few different makes but most came in packs of four or more & I only needed two. After scrolling down the Amazon selection looking at price & amount in pack. I decided on these
Digimax Industrial Rechargeable 750 mAh AAA x 2 batteries after reading the product description. They matched all the criteria written on the original phone manufacturers batteries & are apparently suitable for DECT phones as well as other things such as digital cameras, CD players, torches, radios & MP3 players to name but a few. Although they are called 'industrial' in their title which concerned me a little, the product description does say for both consumer & industrial use. They do them in different packs depending on how many you need. They were about the only make that I could by in a two pack & the cost was a sale price reduced from £3.49 to £2.49 a saving of 29%. Plus it was a free post service even though they came from a market place trader (Q.D.) & not direct from Amazon. The final thing which decided me to have trust in these batteries was the name of Samsung which I did not at first notice as it is only shown in small letters underneath the Amazon heading of Digimax.
I placed my order at 14.10 & subsequently received an email to say they had been dispatched. The following morning they plopped through my letterbox. I think that's pretty amazing service!
The batteries come in a plain see through wrapper which I think is good as I didn't have to pay for fancy plastic bubble & cardboard with big manufacturer's logo in big letters on extra highly coloured cardboard at the top above the actual battery packaging. These Samsung Digimax batteries are a sort of silvery white background with black writing telling us the make, size, type 750 mAh, rechargeable etc. Otherwise they look the same as any other similar batteries with the usual connection points.
I replaced the old batteries with these new ones & the phone immediately sprung into life with a beep & the complete display on the screen & pad with dialing buttons lit up as it should. I replaced it on the cradle/charger & left it. The phone rang an hour or so later & without thinking to go for a different phone I used this one. The voice at the other end came through crystal clear & the caller had no problems either. It was completely charged & working brilliantly.
I have learnt my lesson after killing the original batteries & will be more careful in future.
There is not a lot to say about batteries really. These work well doing all that is required of them. Should I need this type of battery in the future I won't hesitate to buy the same ones again from the same supplier. I would definitely recommend especially at this price & with free post.
update - 18/3/2012.
I needed more batteries as the other handset went dead. I had no hesitation in buying the same batteries from the same Amazon marketplace seller as before & still at the same price.
Sainsbury's 3 green in-cistern blocks
I bought these the other day while perusing the aisles in Sainsbury's. I usually use lime scale remover & bleach for my toilets. I feel the cost of the blocks that sit in their own little holder under the rim of the loo & all those other similar kinds are too expensive.
These were £1.39 for a pack of three which I thought was reasonable.
I expect most of us have used the blue in-cistern blocks made famous by Jeyes & called Bloo. They colour the water bright blue.
These green ones come in a pack of three.
They are packed in a blister pack one under the other on a cardboard backing.
To help you locate them,
The top of the pack is blue & labelled
Sainsbury's 3 green in-cistern blocks
It tells us that they help clean & freshen with every flush.
On the back there are the usual reminders about being an irritant.
There is also a warning about not using in cracked or damaged cisterns
Also that Sainsbury's are against animal testing & fund research into alternatives.
The product is suitable for use by vegetarians & vegans. Obviously not for eating!
~~To start using ~~
I started by cleaning the toilet with crème cleaner & a good old fashioned loo brush.
I then poured in limescale remover & bleach to soak. Someone we used to know years ago who was a cleaner told us this trick. Although you are warned against it, the combination of the two does really work & as long as you put the seat down & don't inhale the vapours, there is no harm done. Although the in-cistern blocks have a mild cleaning effect, I wanted to have a good clean start.
Once the toilet was beautifully clean I put one of the in-cistern blocks in.
To do this, you first open the blister pack & remove it, taking care not to damage the individual wrapper round the block. This is a water soluble wrapper & must be left in place while in use. You need to remove the lid of the cistern & put it to one side, and then the block needs to be dropped into the water. The instructions tell us to drop it alongside the ball float & away from the water inlet, but as I have a 'Hippo' water bag provided by South West Water in my cistern to help save metered water, there is not much room left to pick & choose which area to drop the block! I just dropped it in anywhere, somewhere near the middle & it seems to be OK there.
I'm not sure if they can be used in some modern cisterns where there isn't an old-fashioned lid to lift.
You need to leave for at least five minutes to settle before you flush for the first time.
I expected it to smell of pine being green. It doesn't claim to however, & it doesn't! It does have a mildly fresh sort of smell.
The first flush is not all that exciting, but as it settles more, the colour becomes more intense & the whole of the toilet becomes full of bubbles almost up to the toilet lid! I find this looks a refreshing sight & something that never happened with the Jeyes Bloo ones. After about an hour the bubbles die down to leave enough foam to cover the top of the water.
~~ Opinion ~~
The block contains a mild cleaning detergent which foams inside the toilet bowl every time the toilet is flushed, & as the bubbles die down you are left with clean green water. The toilet does keep clean & fresh if used for 'light' use, but it doesn't tackle 'skid marks'. As long as the person using the loo cleans round with the brush after using, it would be kept clean, but with all the bubbling foam, you can't see if anything is left behind. Only the next person to the bathroom would be able to see, after the foam has died down.
The colouring of the water lasts a few weeks, depending on the amount of times flushed. If you are a family that's out all day or one person on your own, then it will last longer than if in use all day long by hoards of people!
I live in a very soft water area, so I'm not sure if this affects the product & its cleaning efficiency. Certainly we don't have a limescale problem here.
One day I might get round to replacing my bathroom suite with a lovely shiny white set, but as things stand I have still got a retro green bathroom suite, (apparently tipped for a come-back this year so I might be in fashion again!) so the green water combined with the bubbles, makes a very pleasing co-ordinating sight!
I would buy again but it might be a novelty that wears off!
Would I recommend this product? Yes.
Update 19/3/2012 - Have since moved house & now have two white toilets, but I still find this product preferable to the blue ones.
My little Grandson was amazed & called everyone to look at the green water!
ELNETT SATIN HAIRSPRAY
FROM L'OREAL, PARIS
The one I use is Extra Strength Shine Protection for Coloured Hair
It comes in a gold spray canister with a red bar top & bottom, with a brown coloured sketch of a woman with a swept up hairdo (presumably held perfectly in place by Elnett Satin!). The name of the product (as above) at the top & the particulars of which kind it is (eg coloured hair) at the bottom.
The words 'disappears at the stroke of a brush' are right at the bottom of the can.
Turn the can round & the words
'Our finest hairspray used by the finest stylists
Elnett's long lasting hold and satin touch has been specially adapted to the needs of coloured hair.
Elnett UV filter protects the beautiful shine of your colour
The unique micro-diffuser sprays ultra fine & disappears at the stroke of a brush
Protects your style against the effects of humidity'
I would agree with everything it claims on the can
It is also supposed to be used by the finest stylists and enriched with nutri-ceramide which helps to protect dry or damaged hair while offering your hairstyle long-lasting hold with a brilliant shine
To start, you first remove the security tab & shake the can. There is a large white spray plastic top which incorporates the spray nozzle. After removing tab, you push the piece which it was securing & hey presto - a lovely smelling fine misty spray comes out - spray in short bursts from about 30cm away
My tip - I personally bend forward & from side to side as I am spraying - this then sets the hair in a more bouncy fashion. If you just spray directly on, hairsprays have the effect of flattening the style you have just created if you spray too close or too heavily. Fortunately this is a very light spray so it doesn't tend to do that, maybe it's just my hair, but I get better results from the afore mentioned technique!
I find my hairstyle will last all day if necessary but in a soft way. It doesn't hold it quite as secure as the cheaper makes (remember the days of the first hair lacquer? You wouldn't if you were not around in the 1960's in the days of the beehive! It used to make your hair stiff as a board & nothing would move it!) but the whole idea of the Elnett Satin is that it is soft & light & appearance wise is not noticeable on your hair - in other words, nobody is supposed to detect you are wearing hairspray.
It's a very pleasant smell, not too heavy.
At this stage I have to hurry from the bathroom as I am asthmatic & the spray starts to get to me if I'm not quick! In fact it probably doesn't do much good for anyone to inhale it even if they have a fine pair of lungs.
This applies to all makes of course; I'm not blaming this one in particular
This is of course a solvent & solvent abuse can kill instantly!
It's also highly flammable
So a few things to beware of there.
The can I buy for the bathroom (of course you may be a sit at the dressing table in the bedroom person) is a large one holding 400ml but you can also get very small ones ideal for when you are on the move. I have several of these & keep one in my overnight bag & others in handbags.
The small one is 75ml & retails @ £1.99 from Boots
The next size up is 200ml & retails @ £3.50 from Boots
I can't see the 400 ml size on the Boots website.
Superdrug price is £4.29
I usually buy it from the supermarkets.
Don't forget if you buy from Boots you will get Boots Advantage points as well plus they occasionally give you a voucher to spend on something else next time you buy from them.
A quality product well worth the price
A tip for any hairspray use is for removing labels like brand or price labels that are stuck onto things you buy. Just a quick spray on the label & it will rub off easily. Of course you only need the cheapest supermarket basic one for this job, but it's very useful on those stuck on labels that just won't come off however hard you try!
Also can be used if you have an accident with paint & got it on your clothes. A spray of hairspray & a toothbrush to give it a scrub & it gets rid of paint that has dried on clothes.
Update 19/3/2012 - I have recently treated myself to a few much more expensive makes as I had weddings to attend, but I still find I go back to the Elnett as being as good as any other!
LG 42LED/LCD HD FREEVIEW TV
~~Why did I buy it?~~
I have had my old SONY TV for 16 years. It was one of the first Home Cinema Dolby Digital Sound TV's & the biggest TV I had ever owned. It was however a bit outdated, the colours were not so good & the Dolby sound had long since deteriorated to the point where I had to purchase a sound system. It did well though & I only ever needed one repair. I will try to find it a good home as I'm sure it will do someone a good service for years to come.
My partner had been trying to persuade me to buy a new & bigger TV for over 2 years & I suddenly decided on Saturday to do so. He still keeps saying he can't believe I actually bought one, as I am so cautious about buying new things & feel I have to justify everything, while he is the opposite. I decided I could justify the big outlay as at the moment I live alone & my partner is mainly only here at weekends & holidays. I watch quite a bit of TV on my own so everyone felt I deserved to treat myself. My partner is a telly addict, so when he is here he will get enjoyment from it as well.
My son looked up all the various sets for me, as I rely on my sons to sort out the technological things. I wanted to be sure of what the various sets had to offer. I had set my heart on a 42" screen & Sony don't do one, so I had to look at others. I wanted everything that was the latest, but not 3D. As my partner & myself both have defective vision in one eye, we are unable to watch 3D anyway, so there was not much point going for that. This TV is a backlit LED not just LCD, which means it is much slimmer-there's no back to it at all, better definition & uses less power.
~~Where did I buy it?~~
I purchased it from Richer Sounds, who are excellent & claim to be the UK's flat panel TV specialists.
They have one price in the shop & another on their website. If you arrive at the shop & quote the price you have seen on their website they will match it. They also claim to match any price you have seen on any other website as long as the item is in stock etc. I have found this to be true on previous purchases with them; however I was in for a shock with this one. They said with TV's over 32" they had to take into account the cost of the 5 year insurance. As the firm that was selling the TV for the cheapest online (£56 cheaper) charged about £200odd for their insurance cover they said that their own total price was already cheaper. Also, Richer Sounds insurance is an exceptional one in that it is cheaper than everyone else is plus if at the end of 5 years you have made no claims on it, then you apply for a full refund. But as with the comparison TV price, anything over 32" wouldn't receive a refund on the insurance even if it hadn't been used. I wasn't a happy bunny, but it was shown to me in their terms & conditions so I had to accept it. When I said I would buy it from the cheaper online company however, they miraculously found they could give a further discount! I'm only telling you all of this as I don't know if the same may apply at other shops or online stores.
They wanted to charge about £40 or £50 each for the necessary cables /leads/ connectors. On the gadget show they did a comparison & came to the conclusion that cheap ones did the same job, as with Digital it is either on or it's off! I suppose it's possible that a miniscule difference may be seen by enthusiasts/professionals, but for the majority of us it is so infinitesimal as to be not worth the extra expense. I got the HDMI lead from Tesco at £5 & the component leads for £1 each! We already had a scart lead, aerial cable & video connector.
Description, setting up & appearance
The box is white & huge as you would imagine. It shows a picture of the TV on it's stand & a football match showing on the screen. The information that the TV has LED plus, Tru Motion 100Hz, Net Cast, & Wireless AV link is written down the left hand side, with a sentence in several languages describing each of these functions.
We got the set home & my son & my partner proceeded to take it out of the box. I would never have managed it on my own. It definitely needs two people. The set was wrapped in soft protective film &further protected from bumps etc whilst in its box, by lots of polystyrene blocks. They had to carefully lay it down & make sure the screen didn't come into contact with anything damaging. The booklet tells you to lay it down on a cushioned surface. Then came the job of assembling the desk type stand with the stand base of the TV using the bolts provided.
Next is to fit the cables/leads with their holders on the back of the TV. You will already have decided what things you want to connect & what cables/leads/components you will need for this.
Decide if you actually want to use the desktop stand to have your TV on a table or unit of some sort, or if you would like to wall mount it. They always used to say that you should look down on a TV. These days they are often wall mounted quite high up. Personally, having spent time at my daughter's house where she has two 37" TV's mounted on the wall in two different rooms, I don't find it comfortable to look up to a TV.
Appearance wise, this LG 1080p set is very attractive very slim only 29.3mm! It also has a slim frame finished in gloss black.
In the box with the TV & stand is CD manual, paper set up & troubleshooting booklet, remote control, 2xAAA batteries, Nero MediaHome 4 essentials CD, cleansing cloth, screws & bolts, power cord.
Having got it securely where you want it, turn it on & start the initializing set up which is clearly described in the owner's manual. Tuning in of all the stations is automatic.
That's as much as the manual tells you, apart from a bit about troubleshooting! Very disappointing as I like to have a manual/booklet I can read on my lap as I am trying different things etc.
A CD is supplied so you have to put that in the computer & look things up from there. As there is so much that this TV does, it's infuriating not to easily be able to see how to do it.
~~Experience of use~~
The ON/OFF button shows as red when not in use. You can either touch it to turn on or use the remote control. It is very modern; you don't even need to press it, not like my old TV which made a loud clunking sound after pressing the ON button. This one you just have to touch your finger on the spot & it turns on! Alternatively it can be done with the remote control. A white light then takes the place of the red, this is fascinating as it lights up as ever increasing circles, then there follows beside it a line of little white lit up symbols which quickly go out, then the circles disappear to leave a single white light.
When you turn the TV off, the opposite happens.
When you first turn it on a large clock appears near the bottom of the page together with the LG logo.
There is a programme guide with all the relevant information. You just click on it to view the current programme of your choice. There is also a facility to help with recording. Click on it & it will ask if you want to record - what it means is that it turns that programme on & off at the appointed time, but you also need to set the video or whatever you are using to record with for the same time..
When you turn the sound up it shows a large circle with the volume shown as a number according to that chosen & a sort of arrow which is a dot followed by a zoom symbol going whichever way up or down, and a loudspeaker symbol.
The sound is excellent on it's own Nicam stereo, but I also have a sound system fitted. To be honest I have not even thought to turn the sound system on as I am happy with the sound from the set.
It has HD Freeview, which is actually proper HD, not just HD ready.
Luckily for me I happen to be in an area which can receive Freeview HD. My son who lives half a mile up the road does not! It will of course get to everyone eventually.
It also has Motion Flow which LG call TruMotion 100Hz. This means you can watch sport or fast action movies - things which are moving very fast with little or no blur.
I have been used to using my FreeSat HD box (same as Sky+) to view as my old TV was analogue & we were switched to Digital in May last year (2009). As my old TV was not able to receive HD, I have never been able to view HD through the FreeSat HD box - I was one of the unusual people who had a HD box but not a HD ready TV! Now I have both - I'm spoilt for choice which way to view it!
The set has 4 HDMI sockets
When you turn the TV on a lot of boxes appear.
Antenna, AV1 component 1 HDMI.1 USB 1 USB 2
AV2 AV3 Component 2 RGB HDMI.2 HDMI.3
The ones you have not connected to anything remain greyed out but visible.
We have the aerial connected, the video (we only have it set up for playback as I don't use it for recording anymore, having the FreeSat box with hard drive, but we do watch old box sets of old TV series such The Thin Blue Line which we have) the sound system which is also my DVD player & The FreeSatHD box. I also have a DVD recorder but I have not worked out connecting that or if to bother with it. It seems obsolete now as I can transfer recordings from the Freest box hard drive to DVD. One day perhaps I will buy a Blue ray player so that will need to connect to something. You may also wish to connect games consoles etc.
The remote control appears to do just that, controls everything.
It comes with batteries you just need to slip in.
Along the top are the buttons for ON/OFF & light - which lights up some of the controls on the remote control, rather like a phone.
Underneath those are Energy Saving, AV mode, Input, TV/Radio
Below that are the numbers to change channels. These are like a phone in that they have the alphabet, 3 letters on each number key. I started to try & change channels by using 101, 102, and 103 etc., but realised that you only need to put in one number, so BBC1 is 1, BBC2 is 2. ITV1 is 3 etc.
There is a List button which shows up a panel on the right of the screen with channels listed.
There is an up & down volume, an up & down programme/channel changer - these are in blue like little panels for some reason.
Between these blue panels are favourite's button, ratio button, & mute button
Then there is the usual square with arrows up, down & side to side with OK in the middle.
Around this are 6 more buttons. Menu, NetCast, Q.menu, Back, Guide, Exit.
I find it a bit fiddly pressing any of these buttons as it's easy to press the arrows instead.
The bottom set of buttons are for Text, T.OPT, subtitles, Info, AD, & App/* & (s)implink. Various arrows & stop play & pause button in between.
Another novelty thing for me is with this big clear screen I can actually see things I didn't know were there before. For example, when getting the recorded programmes list up on the Sat box there is a little blue symbol beside the ones that have not been watched yet - I have now discovered that on that blue symbol it says NEW!
My old set was a square screen. Although it could be changed to widescreen, it made it a much smaller picture so I kept it on square. Now I can see whole words that used to be cut in half on the square screen!
Everything looks bigger & better! In fact watching Coronation Street the first night, it was like watching a different programme.
Only drawback to that is I can now see everyones wrinkles & spots etc! Every little blemish shows up! But on the plus side of that, you can even see the blades of grass on the HD picture with this LED set.
The price - Richer Sounds £789.95 plus insurance at £78.99
A tried & tested company with good after sales & customer service
We also found it at various online stores for £733.52 or less.
But personally I don't really trust these little known online companies for such a big purchase & their insurance cover was a lot more, thus bringing it to the same total price as Richer Sounds.
The picture quality is superb, razor sharp outlines & excellent colour.
I like the screen saver, which is the LG logo inside a spinning cube that resembles an ice cube.
Always like to have a screensaver on everything to save the screen - as the name would imply!
Apart from the clicking noise on the middle arrows, the remote control covers everything & is easy to use. There is in fact little need for a manual as it is very straightforward with the remote control to do everything.
I am thrilled with this new toy. It does everything I wanted, the picture quality is superb, it uses less power & it looks attractive.
I would thoroughly recommend it.
The remote control makes quite a loud clicking noise when the arrows are pressed. It's OK if on your own, but I should imagine it would get annoying if someone else in the room was using it.
When you press the input button to choose one of the boxes, the backlight does not stay on for long enough so you have to start all over again. Maybe it's me that is not quick enough; I expect I will get used to it.
No instruction manual. There is a CD but sadly I have not succeeded in getting that to work on the computer so far. I need the men in the family to do that for me - they like to feel needed!
PS I still keep finding new things about this TV!
Have just discovered that it has a disability function menu.
You can set it to turn on subtitles for hard of hearing.
You can set it so that if you are watching a drama or film say, there is an extra voice which speaks (not at the same time & over the actors of course but in between their speech) & tells you that so & so is leaving the room, or picking up a gun etc. This must be so useful for the visually impaired.
I heard on the grapevine about a shop called the 99p store. I gathered that it sold a variety of goods of all kinds & was worth a visit.
I had never heard of it before but it sounded interesting so I Googled it to see if there was a branch near to me. To my surprise there was one at Paignton & we happened to be heading that way the next day anyway. I made a note of the address & planned to call in there & see what it was all about. Other Half is always keen for a bargain so he didn't take any persuading.
So at the weekend we drove over there, & after a couple of trips round the block to find a parking space we set off on foot in search of the 99p stores, but couldn't find it! Just as we were about to give up, I nipped into a charity shop & asked if anybody knew of it. As soon as we mentioned it everybody said Oh yes it's just round the corner where Woolworth's used to be. I have since heard that lots of old branches of Woolworths have now become 99p stores.
~~About the store~~
We went in & of course it was quite big. We started off with a basket on wheels, but although everyone else was merrily wheeling their baskets around, ours of course had the pull handle missing so we had to carry it! I let Other Half carry that one & I got a smaller carry basket for my toiletries. (No sense keeping a dog & barking yourself my Gran used to say).
As we had not been there before, we decided the best thing would be to walk up & down each aisle looking at everything. There was certainly an assortment of items.
First off we came to the toiletries. Other half picked up a spray deodorant & said how much is that? I said think about it, could it be 99p? I must admit I was caught out in the same way in Poundland when shopping with my eldest son & I asked him how much something was & got the same re-action! I think when you first walk into these kinds of shops, without thinking, you look for price tickets. Anyway, moving along a bit I was surprised to see the Femfresh range of feminine hygiene products. I looked them over & they seemed like the real thing. I popped three different products from the range into my basket - Femfresh Feminine Wipes, Femfresh Soap free Wash & Femfresh Body Wash. I had just paid roughly £3.00 each for the same in Boots a few days before & these were - you've guessed it - 99p each.
We also bought toothpaste, anti-perspirant, shampoo & soap in that section.
We wandered on passing lots of toys. The children in the store gravitated towards these & it seemed most of them were allowed to have one. At 99p it was a cheap way of keeping them quiet - sorry I meant amused.
We saw lots of paper things like toilet rolls & kitchen rolls. They looked like real bargains, great packs of rolls for 99p. Also with these things were oddments of kitchen wear like disposable plates, aluminium pie dishes, foil, cling film, mugs, saucepans, J Cloths, scouring pads & other bits & pieces.
Following this was all the cleaning items like washing up liquid, floor cleaner, loo blocks, washing powder etc. I felt we needed to be careful or we could get carried away buying lots of rubbish items.
There was an aisle full of pet food & everything that Fido & Kitty would like to wear round their necks, play with, eat & drink, eat & drink out of, & sleep on, bless 'em! There was even a hoody for dogs to wear! The wild birds in the garden were not forgotten either - bags of nuts & seed in abundance together with hanging feeders. Also everything for the wee furry things like Hamsters & Gerbils. In other words, all your pet needs were catered for.
There were numerous end shelves with boxes of cereals of all kinds, put there to grab your attention as a bargain presumably, though I'm not quite sure why they would need to when everything is the same price! Well nearly, there were some things that were two for 99p & some were actually lower like 75p each.
There was homeware like tea towels & pillowslips etc. Candles, ornaments, sprays & blocks to make the room smell nice & all sorts.
An aisle of stationery had most things usually found in that department.
Other Half was of course drawn to the sweets & chocolate, but a quick reminder that he didn't really need those & he said "oh well, that's another avenue of pleasure closed!"
We moved on to the groceries where we found things like Heinz Tomato Ketchup in large bottles - a bargain at 99p. We bought tins of things, biscuits, dried pasta, bottled fizzy drinks, tea bags & coffee - most everything you can think of really in the food section. We were careful to select branded goods as we were not sure about some of the items. We did however take a risk on a few boxes of unknown brand cereals as the kids get through so much of them & they like the chocolate coated ones & the sugar coated ones - in other words the most expensive usually.
They do sell chilled items such as butter spread, ham etc. I don't re-call seeing frozen items.
I'm sure there were lots more things in the store that I have not remembered, but that's enough to be going on with.
So we made our way to the tills, Other Half carrying the basket with no handle that should have been pulled along - which was full to the brim with heavy tins, bottles & cleaning items & me with the little basket full of all of three toiletries products! Well we are the weaker sex!
We joined the long queue & I suddenly had a thought that in Poundland they only take cash & would it be the same here? We only had a £20 note between us . Eagle eyed Other Half spotted the card machines by the tills though, so we were not going to be embarrassed!
Of course as you queue you have to stand beside sweets, drinks, ice creams, toys, Rizla Roll-Up Papers, newspapers, batteries, - all the usual things they think may catch your eye & you will pick them up & pop them into your baskets.
We were asked to put our baskets beside the till & the lady took the items out from there to ring them up. She packed them nicely in carrier bags for us & we paid by debit card. We had spent just under £25 & we walked out with six carrier bags of goodies! Not bad eh?
~~My experience & opinion~~ (& that of Other Half of course!)
First impressions are that it's very similar to Poundland in the variety of goods & the way they are set out. I think however, that the 99p Store has more items for sale, although I think Poundland is more pleasant to walk around.
Out of interest I have just dug out the Boots receipt for the Femfresh items I bought there & looked at the items; I can tell you that they came to nearly £9.00 instead of £2.97 in 99P stores. That's not the end of the story though. On closer inspection at home of the items, I saw that the Femfresh items from Boots had a sort of tulip logo on the front while the 99p store ones had three blue leaves. On the back the Boots ones are made by the same company Church & Dwight, with an address in Kent, while the 99p stores ones have an address for the same company in Australia as well as in Kent. The bottles from 99P store were also quite a bit larger with more content. Interesting!
If you look carefully & are selective, you can find branded goods, but the vast majority are ones we've never heard of & are an unknown quantity.
I don't know about other branches I suppose it depends on their position in the Town, but we found that it was not possible to get anywhere near with the car as this store was in a shopping precinct for pedestrians only. If you went shopping there on your own without Other Half to do the carrying, you couldn't manage to lug too much back to the car or the bus.
I don't think you could do your whole weekly grocery shop there, there is not enough selection for that, but it's certainly worth an occasional visit to top up with things like the Heinz Tomato Ketchup for example. At 99p for a very large bottle that has to be a bargain. You would pay that or more for a supermarket own brand. There are lots more bargains like this & it's worth looking for them.
I don't think I would want to walk round it too often. It's not that it's dirty or particularly unpleasant, but just not as nice a shopping environment as we are used to. I think the novelty would soon wear off for most people.
For us, I think we will go occasionally, but it's about 17 miles away & we don't go in that direction very often.
Note: Don't feel too sorry for Other Half - Bless him!! He knows I'm only joking albeit at his expense LOL!
I wasn't joking about the trolley that couldn't be pulled along though, it was actually the only one that was broken - trust him to pick that one up!
Update 18/3/2012 - made another visit to the store this week. Bought £20 worth of goods mostly cleaning & toiletries. All would have cost over £2 anywhere else. So I got at least £40 of goods for £20!
Just found out they have opened a new store in Exeter on the old Habitat site. This is much nearer for me & easier for parking, so might well pay visits more often.
ST MICHAEL'S MOUNT CORNWALL
This is a property owned byThe National Trust.
In my opinion it is the most beautiful & remarkable property that they own.
It is located at Marazion, a village near to Penzance which is getting on for the tip of Cornwall.
This is 'must see' - don't miss it if you are in the vicinity. On a sunny day, it can't be bettered for views, history & pure magic!
For information on opening times, tide times - oh yes you will need to know the tide times!
Visit http://www.stmichaelsmount.co.uk. There you will find lots of information about admission fees & how to get there etc.
As you will most likely be approaching from the A30 travelling westwards, follow the A30 past Hayle and towards Penzance, looking out for the signposts to Marazion.
As you are travelling along the A30 & as you drive along the rise near Nancledra, you will be met with the most amazing spectacle - a fairy castle set atop a beautiful island just off the coast! It's a pretty amazing sight & one that never fails to impress & inspire how ever many times you pass it. There is a lay-by or you can just stop & peer over the hedge to take photos. To me it is all part of the magic of the visit.
If you are approaching from any other direction it is worth looking up the directions on their website or putting the postcode TR17 0EF into your Sat Nav. Alternatively give them a ring on 01736 710507 or Email email@example.com
A word of warning about using Sat Nav in Cornwall. Mine is only two years old, but there have been so many road improvements & new roads that I frequently find the Sat Nav suddenly shows a blank screen where it thought roads should have been & some dotted lines. 'Jane' the Sat Nav lady gets thoroughly confused & will send us in different directions! If you know roughly the names of towns & villages you will be traveling through, you can follow signposting & the Sat. Nav. should eventually pick up the route & carry on as requested.
It's very easy to find the car parks, you can't miss them. It's worth giving the first one a miss however & trying for a space in the next one which is actually nearer to the Causeway & the Mount & to the village if you want to stroll there to the pub or shops. Also Bicycle racks are provided in the Slipway car park.
Find yourself a parking space & pay the fee. Unfortunately although The Mount is National Trust owned the car park is not, so members will have to pay. There are no concessions either for disabled badge holders whether or not you are showing a tax exempt disc.
At this point you might like to buy everyone an ice cream or a cuppa from the various kiosks, to tide (sorry for the pun) you over the long walk across the causeway, if it is low tide.
Sorry dog owners but you are not allowed to take your furry friends on to the island.
~~Cross to the island~~
Starting from the Godolphin Arms, you will see the causeway stretched out in front of you. It looks longer & more daunting than you will have thought, when viewed from here.
The causeway is cobbled & can be very slippery if wet, so wear appropriate shoes both for this & for the steep climb up the side of the Mount to the castle. A visit can be misery if you are wearing the wrong shoes!
Although the website tells you the walk is only a few minutes, in actual fact I always find it to be quite a long walk, so if you are not feeling fit enough, might be better to take a boat. You need to time it right, as if the tide is coming in, by the time you are half way across, you could be paddling & running out of time. The water reaches about 5' but the currents are strong & dangerous, apparently mostly as the tide is going out.
Boats are available to take you across if you don't fancy the walk. They leave from about three different landing points, mostly at high tide, and the car park attendant will be able to tell you where to go. I think the fare is only about £1.50.
~~Arriving on the island~~
When you get to the other side & are on the island, you are free to wander past the old cottages, still inhabited by the Island workers (gardeners, boatmen, handymen etc). You can watch the boats in the harbour or visit the gift shop, the cinema or the cafe/restaurants.
Interestingly there is an island cemetery & an underground railway which goes all the way from the harbour up to the Castle but no access is allowed to these. It's all part of the fascinating history of The Mount.
If you are planning to make the climb to the top, this is when you go to the ticket office as you need to pay if you are visitng the castle or the gardens.
The cost of admission is pretty much in keeping with all National Trust properties. £7 for adults or £8.75 for a combined ticket to the Castle & the Gardens. Children's prices about half that.
You may want to consider that if you frequently like to visit National Trust properties, it would be worth signing up now for membership which you can do at the entrance, & this will take you in on the day to the Castle & Gardens & also of course cover you for all National Trust visits for the rest of the year including their car parks. If this sounds good to you, I would think about joining online before you go, as you get 3 months free membership plus a pair of binoculars!
After you have gone through the ticket office & paid your entrance fees, you start the steep ascent to the Castle above. Before you arrive at the Castle entrance you will need to negotiate the pathway which is cobblestone & very steep incline. If you have a pushchair or wheelchair I'm afraid you will need to leave it behind as there is no way you will be able to get it up there & once in the Castle the floors /rooms are not all on the same level. You will definitely want to climb to the roof terrace to enjoy the amazing views & unfortunately this can't be done with wheels.
I am tempted to tell you a lot of history, but I know it does get boring when reading a review to have to wade through all those details if you only wanted to find out an opinion of the visit in general.
It is very easy to find on various websites if you would like to read all the historic details. Just put St Michael's Mount into Google & it will come up with many sites full of historic interest.
The Mount has obviously been through decades of interesting history & ownership. The St Aubyn family is now in residence although I believe they actually reside in accommodation at lower ground level.
So, you wander round the Castle taking in all the magnificent rooms with their furniture, portraits & armour etc & looking out of the windows at the views all around you. If you are into that kind of thing you will enjoy the tour round the Castle -there are various important rooms which you will see. One of them is the Chevy Chase dining room - it seems to be impossible to find out why it was thus called. I have even emailed to enquire but so far have had no reply. Hopefully I can add that bit of information if I hear from them.
As mentioned before, there is a roof terrace which is an absolute must, especially if you are a keen photographer or even if you like to take snapshots for the family album (or hard drive these days, where they will never be seen again!) There are various interesting places to take photos of the kids, like cannons etc. I doubt you are allowed to photograph inside; this is usually a stipulation of the National Trust.
Afterwards you have the long climb again, this time downwards.
If you have paid for the gardens you have more walking to do! A lot more!
Back down by the harbour you have the choice of The Sail loft restaurant for a meal or the café for a cream tea - well earned after all that hard climbing!
If you need to nip to the loo, this is your chance!
There is also the cinema & the gift shop run by the National Trust. The usual things are for sale, china knick-knacks etc plus plants - very nice but overpriced - but it is in a good cause we have to tell ourselves as we hand over our hard earned cash!
Take the causeway or a boat back to the car park area & sit outside at the pub with a nice refreshing drink & reflect on your lovely visit to St Michael's Mount, while you look back at the Island.
~~Other things to note~~
On one of our visits we took a boat trip from the harbour. This went all the way round the island. It was very interesting to see the castle & the Island from the back view & hear the talk on the history from that perspective. I would recommend that trip.
This is a most enjoyable day out but if you are disabled however or have little ones who must be in a pushchair, then it's not for you.
If you look at their website, you can find details about hiring a sand wheelchair which might help you to get across to the island, but of course that would be of no help in climbing to the Castle.
Perhaps go over by boat, then wander round the harbour & shops etc, & maybe take the trip around the island.
Interestingly, there is no other way up to the top. The Family in residence live at a low level & if they need to go further up to the Castle, there is no lift even for them!
Finally, don't forget it's a good idea to phone in advance to check on opening times, tide times & weather conditions etc. Its very situation leaves it open to the elements.
All being well, ENJOY!!
PS I have now received a reply to my email about the Chevy Chase room.
Apparently the room takes it name from 15th century ballads (known as border ballads) which told the story of a battle between two families on the Cheviot Hills who hunted on the hills & Chase. It was a battle between the English & the Scots who came out the winners & 1500 were killed.
The plaster freeze around the room shows various types of hunting & this is where the room gets its name.
The ballad itself has sixty plus verses and would have been told as part of the evening entertainment.
CLAIROL NICE' EASY COLOUR BLEND TECHNOLOGY
I have always coloured my hair since my teenage years. I have tried all sorts. I have spent hours in the bathroom with bleaches & potions & sometimes gone back to the chemist with a scarf over my head to buy yet more as the one I have just spent money & time applying has turned out looking awful! To be honest it's a wonder my hair hasn't all fallen out on more than one occasion!
Later in life I turned to the hairdresser & started having highlights done professionally which I was pleased with generally, sometimes more than others.
However, I then began to realise I had increasing amounts of grey, mostly in the front but dark hair with sprinkling of salt & pepper at the back. The hairdressers had to use about three different colours to blend it all in.
Eventually I was getting to see that with highlights the grey wasn't really getting covered & I was to a large extent wasting my money.
One day I couldn't get to the hairdresser so I popped into the chemist & scanned the line-up of home colourants. Voila! I found Clairol Nice'n easy Colour Blend technology. Now Nice 'n easy wasn't new to me I had used it lots of times in the past along with the bleach etc. I also knew friends who used to use it & it always looked a slightly gingery colour if used on its own, making it obviously a home colour job. This new Colour Blend technology one however, was something new. I gave it a whirl & the results are below - read on.....
I chose natural medium blonde 103A. The writing on the box claimed
Expert blend of subtle tones for multi-tonal colour.
Maintains your natural variation & shine.
100% grey coverage.
Sounded just the job.
I bought it & took it home then read the blurb.
Expert colourists know it takes a perfect blend of tones to create amazingly natural-looking colour results.
That's why nice'n easy creates beautifully blended natural-looking shades for you - in one easy step!
Gives you multi-tones & shine.
Exclusive colour-blend formula. Each shade gives you an expert blend of 3 subtle tones that work together to hold on to your natural variation & shine.
Promises 100% grey coverage, even on the most resistant greys.
Lasts for up to 6 weeks.
The safety warnings say beware of allergic reactions so buy the product 48 hours in advance to give enough time to do skin tests. Apparently tattoos may increase your risk of allergy so tests are even more important if you have them
If your hair is thicker or longer than shoulder length you may need more than one pack.
On the box there is a colour chart showing roughly what to expect if you use that colour on naturally blonde, medium brown or dark brown hair. & a note saying roughly the results to be obtained on grey, white or natural red hair.
So I opened the box & proceeded to read the instruction sheet. If you have used home hair colourant before, it's all pretty much the same.
The box should contain, protective gloves, tube of ColourSeal Gloss conditioner 57ml which will last you at least 6 shampoos. & of course the all important colour formula in a blue bottle & colour activating crème in a white squeezy bottle with applicator cap.
I checked that all was present.
~~ Before you start~~
Use a smock or old towel to protect your clothing.
Personally I virtually empty the bathroom & strip all clothing off as I don't want my bra & panties to have brown blotches on, & spread old towels on the carpet... It can badly stain clothes, carpet, even the walls & shower curtain when it gets splashed around if you are not ultra careful! It seems that whatever colour you choose, it turns brown in use & will stain everything it touches! I know from experience so be warned!
That said, I usually find that I can wipe off any splashes from painted walls etc if done straight away with a wet sponge.
You are advised to do the colour skin test first; they will take no responsibility for anything nasty happening if you have not done the test. Also of course, it makes sense for yourself not to end up going ahead with the full blown treatment only to end up with a bright red sore scalp or even losing your hair! I think that's very unlikely to happen so don't panic, but best to be safe than sorry.
Apply the colour to dry hair free of styling product build-up. Do not shampoo hair at least 24 hours before colouring as your scalp has natural oils that help to protect it during colouring.
If hair is recently permed or relaxed wait 7 days or 2 shampoos & 1 condition before colouring.
If you've used gradual restorative colour or henna or metallic dyes, wait until grown out & cut off before using Nice'n easy.
All being well, put on the gloves - I don't bother with them I'm afraid but you are advised to - as you will gather I tend to do my own thing, but that comes from many years of colouring my own hair & knowing what I can get away with! If you are new to it, best to follow the instructions to the letter.
You pour the content of the blue bottle colour blend formula into the applicator bottle containing the activating crème then shake well until colour has totally blended & the mixture has thickened. Then pull off the tear-tip from the applicator bottle & you are ready to go.
A good tip is to apply moisturise or Vaseline around the hairline to protect skin from the colour. Be careful not to get it over the roots or that bit won't colour.
Part hair into small even sections using the applicator tip, applying first to your roots & stubborn greys. Work through hair from root to tip ensuring full saturation but don't rub into scalp.
Leave on for 25 minutes or time indicated by your strand test.
You can leave on for up to 45 minutes which I always do - I like to get my moneys worth!
You will see that the foaming colour on your hair will gradually turn to a dark colour. This is no indication of the final colour when rinsed off.
After the allotted time add a small amount of warm water & massage into a lather, then rinse until water runs clear. Be careful - at this stage you can easily splash it around & end up with it over the shower curtain & up the tiles & grouting!
Apply the conditioner supplied which claims to lock in the highlights & shine. Leave on for two minutes then rinse thoroughly. You should have plenty of this conditioner left which you can use for the next 6 shampoos to keep optimal colour, shine & softness.
~~Root application for re-growth~~
This once again is where I do my own thing.
I make up half the amount of mixture by using only half of each bottle. But I pour it into a colouring dish & use a colouring brush (both obtainable from Boots). Thus I still have the applicator bottle with it's half of colour activating crème plus the half of the colour formula in the blue bottle. Seal both & put back in the box with instruction sheet for next time.
It's very important not to make up the whole amount & try to keep it for another time. As it will lose it's effectiveness after an hour so you will just have to pour it away & waste it.
So I part my hair a bit at a time & brush on the mixed crèmes down each parting on the roots only, until I have covered the whole head. I leave it on for half the time I would if I was doing a whole head treatment then I push it through the rest of my hair just using my fingers. Then leave again until the whole time has elapsed. After that follow the previous mentioned instructions for rinsing & conditioning.
On the instruction sheet it gives details for root re growth but that uses the whole pack.
I find that with my method I can get away with using just half a pack each session which obviously costs half the amount.
After about six months or even more, when I had left the roots for too long, I decided to do the whole head again properly so I used a whole pack & it turned out beautifully.
You can buy Nice'n easy root touch up packs, but I have read reviews on these & the results seem to leave a lot to be desired including that the colour doesn't match up.
So dry your hair or as I do just comb it & leave it to dry on its own. I scrunch mine up with my fingers every now & again as it dries as it has a bit of a natural wave.
When your hair is dry & you look in the mirror it could well be a lot darker than you thought it would be - mine always is but then I leave it on for the maximum time so it colours more & lasts longer. If I am going out somewhere special I generally do the colouring a few days before to give me time to do a shampoo before the 'do' then it washes to the desired colour.
~~ Observations & tips ~~
If you have long hair you might find a clip handy for holding back sections, but don't use a metal clip.
You will need a clock handy for the timing, otherwise you will be hopping in & out to other rooms to check & may drip colour on the carpets. Mind you, you will not want to sit in the bathroom for 45 minutes while the colour takes effect, so unless you can read a book without glasses, you will have to find some other way of passing the time. I usually go & make a cuppa wearing a towel or old dressing gown & perhaps watch a bit of TV - making sure not to sit on the cream sofa! I sit on a dining room chair which I have covered in a towel!
With some other hair colourants you have to put a plastic bag on your head & secure it with a clip. This is to keep the hair warm & moist. It's most uncomfortable. With this Nice' easy one you don't have to bother with that which is a relief!
I found with professional colouring that the grey hair which had been coloured always faded very quickly. This Nice'n easy colour blend technology doesn't fade in that way at all. As mentioned, the first shampoo after a few days takes the excess out, but after that it seems to stay the same desired colour until you do it again. It says 6 weeks, but I leave it a lot longer than that & it always lasts apart from the root re-growth needing doing obviously.
The cost is £5.40 or 2 for £8.00 from Boots.
I usually buy mine when doing the supermarket shopping & there are often offers to be had.
Of course if you take my tip & use half a pack, it will cost you half the amount! About £2 every 6 weeks or more - can't be bad compared to going to the hairdressers!
I have been exceptionally pleased with this product & since trying it for the first time I have used it on a regular basis & will continue to do so.
NOTE 31/1/2011: Since writing this review, the consistency has been changed & it is now a bit more difficult to share between two usings - but I still manage it with good results!
CACHAREL ANAIS ANAIS
EAU DE TOILETTE
This is one of my favourites. I always have it in my collection.
When my last bottle was running low, my daughter got me a larger replacement from the airport duty free. She paid around £24 for 100ml bottle. I see that you can get it for £32 from Amazon, as usual the cheapest place other than duty free of course.
It comes packaged in a very attractive box covered in plastic film.
The name Anais Anais Eau de Toilette appears at the top front. Beautiful delicate pink lower is in the middle & the words vaporisateur - natural spray
at the bottom
On the back of the box it gives us the usual cautions about being flammable.
Also a list of ingredients which I'm sure would bore you to tears to read on here.
Made in France
Luxury Products New York
& Designer Fragrances Montreal Canada
Parfums Cacherel Paris
The box has an overall background of the palest hint of pink.
The bottle inside the box, which we are itching to get at, is white presumably glass. It has a look of porcelain about it. The label has the same information & decoration as on the box, inside two bands of silver top & bottom.
The top part of the bottle is silver (in colour anyway) & is a dome shape topped with a spray or atomiser. They call it a vaporisateur or natural spray.
You can also get Eau de Parfum which presumably is a bit stronger & longer lasting.
I believe they also do a deodorant, body shampoo & lotion.
To use hold a few inches away from the Warmest pressure points of your body such as wrists, back of ears, neck, cleavage, inside elbows & anywhere else you want someone to enjoy the scent when they get up close & personal.
The smell is delicate, fresh & flowery, with white flower notes of Lily of the Valley, Gardenia & Jasmine, leather, combined with fresh cut flowers & cedar.
I started using this in the 1980's. I really love the scent of this delicate perfume.
It is not what I would call a knockout perfume - in other words it doesn't hit people as you pass. It is more just a subtle fragrance that someone close to you would pick up.
As such it is light & just right for daytime use, but not what I would choose for going out on a special evening date.
I have noticed that it doesn't last for many hours or not as strong as I would like it to, it frequently needs refreshing. Possibly if someone was nibbling your ear they would still be able to smell it for a long time after applying, but for the usual just smelling nice to people in the room, it doesn't last.
This is one I always like to have handy, especially for daytime & summer holidays.
It definitely gets my recommendation
I'm not very keen on the bottle not being see-through. The contents of my present bottle are nearing the end & the spray doesn't always work, so I'm never sure if it's finished or just not spraying properly. It sounds as if there is a little bit left when shaken, so I suppose it is on its way out.
CROWN CARVERIES - THE WILLOW TREE TORQUAY
I have just received an email to my inbox from my local Crown Carvery which reminded me that I should do a review on it, so here goes;
~~My local Crown Carvery~~
The Willow Tree at Torquay is the only Crown Carvery I have experience of. I have been there several times over the past three years but each time I wonder why I go back.
My partner took me there initially as he had taken his family there quite a lot.
The email I received today was from The Willow Tree (Crown Carveries) at Condor Way, Torquay, TQ2 7TG -Tel 01803 615245 (details in case anyone wants to go there after reading this review!) as well as it's name & details it's heading is 'The Warmest Welcome'
It is written as a letter & begins Dear..... (Christian name)
Great Value Carvery Still Only £3.59
Eating out costs less at Willow Tree (even with potentially harder times ahead) so when you go for a meal make it count - with a full carvery, Monday to Saturday, for just £3.59.
There is then a link banner which says Get All The Delicious Details -
The letter continues
There's no need to book either, so just pop in Monday to Saturday and feast on;
* A choice of three succulent roasts
* As many vegetables as you like
* Yorkshire puds and all the trimmings
* All for just £3.59 Monday to Saturday
More Summer Savings
If you prefer a lighter bite, enjoy a Sweet Chilli Turkey & Gammon Salad or traditional Ploughman's for just £4.99 (also Monday to Saturday) including a refreshing drink from;
* Pint of Stella 4 lager
* Pint of Strongbow cider
* 175ml glass of house wine
* Glass of draught fruit juice
Save as you savour this summer!
The Willow Tree
I saw on the bottom it said - Join us on Facebook. What for? I really can't see the point.
They say -
Crown Carveries is dedicated to bringing back a taste of tradition - both in the food and drinks on offer and the generous welcoming hospitality that's served with them.
Our every day great value price is just £3.59 all day Monday - Saturday and as we're committed to carving the cost of eating out this isn't a special offer but our all year round price.
We offer the ever popular carvery, with a choice of three roast meats and an unlimited choice of vegetables, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puds and all the traditional trimmings. You can then help yourself to as much as you like from the rest of the carving deck. You can even go back for more veg if you've room!
There's a tempting range of starters and puddings too - from traditional dishes like the prawn cocktail or hearty treacle sponge with custard, to more modern favourites like chicken tikka and chocolate fudge sensation.
There's a wide range of beers and lagers and plenty of wines to choose from - almost all of which are available by the glass as well as the bottle. Naturally, there's a good choice of soft drinks also, including refreshing fruit juices.
Relax a while as we're also serving up exotic and revitalizing long drinks for just £1.99 each;
* Tropical Taster - a delicious blend of Malibu coconut liqueur with apple and mango juice for a real taste of the tropics.
* Citrus Berry Twist - a mix of Smirnoff Lime vodka topped up with lemonade and a dash of pomegranate and raspberry cordial - refreshingly zingy.
* Peach Breeze - a combination of Archers Peach Schnapps, orange juice and cranberry juice drink for a light and fruity taste.
If you prefer alcohol free try a glass of our homemade Lemon or Lime Fizz for just £1 and made to our own secret recipe - or one of these flavoured cordials topped up with soda and served over ice for a long refreshing taste
* Pomegranate with Raspberry or
* Lemon & Ginger
Savour The Summer With Us
Most of our pubs have great beer gardens to eat alfresco in the good weather and the longer and warmer nights, but if you're not sure check with your local Crown Carvery in advance.
I say -
The Willow Tree @ Torquay does not seem to have a garden, just a large car park. There are a few benches outside but they just look over the car park which is not a particularly attractive outlook for relaxing with your meal & drink.
The price of £3.59 which attracts you on their board outside & in emails etc does not include dessert or drinks (a drink maybe if it is part of a different offer) & does not apply to Sundays, which you might only realise once you are parked & have your drink in your hand ready to pay for the carvery tickets etc. We did feel as if we had 'beaten' this however, when we arrived on a Bank Holiday Monday & it was the special Monday to Saturday price.
For the purpose of this review, I have just phoned The Willow Tree & asked a few questions. Apparently the Sunday carvery price is £6.50 each. Puddings/desserts start at £1.60 to £2.99 & are the same price every day regardless of different Sunday prices for carvery. There are also vegetarian options such as fish pie, spinach & mushroom lasagne & vegetarian moussaka. For these you pay from £4.99 at the bar depending on your choice. The food is brought to your table & you then go to the carvery bar to add vegetables as you wish. I'm not sure if you pay more for the vegetables.
My experience is only of The Willow Tree at Torquay, so called because it is located on the edge of the small out of town shopping complex called 'The Willows', which consists of large stores M&S (currently being extended upwards), Sainsbury's, Boots, Next, Carpet Right & Mothercare. The actual Crown carvery building is situated a few hundred yards away up a hill, near to a few little shops such as a gym/salon/hairdressers - nothing very exciting. There is a large housing estate around it. All of this was built around 1989.
So you drive in through the shops, houses etc into their own car park. The building looks quite pleasing from the outside, neither grand nor a shack. You climb the steps, passing the few benches for eating outside, & enter through double doors into a sort of waiting area, then through to the bar. Here you order your drink & ask for a ticket for the carvery & pay for both. You then take your drink to a vacant table of your choice & 'bagsy' it by leaving your drink & jumper or something not valuable on the table & chairs. Thus the people who have not had this forethought will not have anywhere to sit when they have their food & drink & are looking for a table before you have been served.
Then you find the queue & join on the end to get your carvery meal. On getting to the point in the queue where the plates & trays & food starts to be laid out in front of you, you are allowed to pick up a plate ( a smaller plate than you would consider a dinner plate) on production of your paid carvery ticket. You then move forward behind everyone else & start to choose which food you would like. The temptation here is always to pile it high - as my Mother would have said, your eyes are bigger than your belly! Depending on who you get to serve on the day, you are allowed roughly two pieces of meat either the same of different which is carved in front of you & put onto your plate. I note that the email & menu says a choice of three different meats, which presumably means you get two choices out of the three. I don't recall every being offered more than two here, perhaps they have changed the rules or perhaps the person carving has always been a meany on the days that I have been there. There is only ever one person doing the carving which makes for slow service & people having a little moan, so they are probably feeling well fed up. You can then proceed to pile on the veggies, yorkshires, stuffing, perhaps chipolata if you are lucky, sauces & gravy. The choice of vegetables is not awe inspiring. The usual roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, carrots, peas, cauliflower cheese. I don 't recall seeing any proper green leafed vegetables or things like roast parsnips. At Christmas you might get sprouts sometimes at the expense of something else..
So collect your cutlery & serviettes (sachets of things like HP & tomato sauce available if you want them) & armed with your over piled plate of food, toddle back to your saved table, where you will find the usual condiments, & of course, hopefully, the jumpers & drinks which you left behind.
As you take your seat you are fairly disgusted at the table which in my experience is usually not wiped or properly cleared away from the last occupants. At this point I have to go in search of an elusive member of staff to ask that the table be wiped & cleared. As you look around you once you are seated, you will observe the state of the windows, the carpet, the curtains & the dirty walls. On several occasions we have sat at the same table & I have seen the same food stained patch of wallpaper beside me. I don't mean the following week but a much longer time span. It's probably still the same!
If you need to use the loo beware! The door to the Ladies is dirty & the paintwork damaged. Inside it is no better. The cubicles are dirty, wet floor etc & they don't look as if anyone bothers to go in there to check. On my last visit I had to report to the barmaid that there was no toilet paper.
The general grubbiness & tattiness only seems to bother me, not my partner - perhaps it's a woman thing.
I dread to think what the kitchens are like however if this is their general standard of cleanliness!
Because of the advertised low cost, it is nearly always crowded & noisy & this doesn't make for a relaxed experience.
As you tuck into your meal, you gradually begin to realise that it is not up to much & did you really want all of those mediocre veggies? Of course you didn't & you are very unlikely to eat them all. The meat also leaves a lot to be desired. The gravy is greasy. My partner who has a voraciouis appetite & gets as much of everything as possible on his plate, never manages to finish it. More from grumbling about the poor quality than because of the amount.
You can go back for more vegetables if you like, but I have never seen anybody do this. Personally even if I wanted them, I would not like to have to put them on my used gravy & left bits plate. I'm afraid I always like a clean plate even at home.
We leave saying why did we come here again? It's still as grubby, the staff certainly didn't go to charm school, & the food was disappointing. I wouldn't choose to go there myself, but my partner has often suggested we call in there, more from old habit I think, of when he was providing for a growing family at a reasonable cost. He soon realises his mistake once he sits down with the food in front of him.
The advertised £3.59 price can be misleading.
By the time you have bought drinks & a dessert if you want them, the price will be creeping up to almost £10 each.
I certainly would not pay £6.50 on a Sunday for the same carvery meal.
I know it would be difficult to police, but if each person was allowed to take less, there wouldn't be such a terrible waste & the cost could be kept down.
The tatty, grubby premises leaves a lot to be desired.
The food also leaves a lot to be desired. As a basic meal I suppose it passes muster, but when you start comparing it with other better quality carveries, it just doesn't compare. I suppose you get what you pay for. But the better ones are not actually more than two or three pounds more expensive. If strapped for cash I would prefer to pay more & not have dessert & maybe have a glass of water instead of an expensive drink at a better place. As a comparison, we had a carvery at a country pub the other week, & the staff couldn't possibly have been more friendly & helpful & the food was superb. It was just as busy being a Sunday lunchtime, but the cost was reasonable & the owner who was evident & his staff couldn't have been more helpful, they went out of their way.
I would say the Willow Tree is OK for the local shop & office staff for lunch occasionally, although I would imagine they would get very bored with it after a while.
For a nice romantic meal out, it is a definite no-no. You fellas certainly would not impress the new lady by taking her there!
Beware holidaymakers to Torquay. This is not the impression we like to give - choose somewhere else, perhaps one of the very nice harbourside café/bars to eat & enjoy better service & food & a lovely location.
To be honest, just writing this review is making me feel queasy!
~~Last but not least~~
I was astounded to see on the email, mention of the following award! I can't imagine how they were awarded it!
They show the badge of honour which claims they are Winner at Great British Pub Foods 2010
"Crown Carvery lovers regularly vote with their feet, but now our pub food peers have voted us the best too - in the Great British Pub Food Awards for 2010!
Crown Carveries took the top prize for Best Food Concept, as voted by the judging panel, and - like you tell us - it was all about;
* Great value for money
* Consistently good quality food
* Fantastic standards & friendly service
Getting Bigger & Better
Since Crown Carveries began December 2008, it's gone from strength to strength and this year is projected to serve around 20 million meals to its highly valued and loyal customers.
Crown Carveries brand manager, Heather Colebrook says: "I'm delighted for all the outstanding people we have and this is deserved recognition for their hard work and commitment. Congratulations to the whole team as this is a fantastic achievement."
Crown Carveries - simply the best - but you knew that already of course!"
Pardon? We did? I think not!!!!
I can only conclude that some branches of Crown Carvery are better than others, in which case they all ought to be regularly inspected by their powers that be.
Update 18/3/2012 - recently paid another visit as received email from them offering two meals for £7 plus free ice cream. It was packed, obviously lots of emails went out. It did seem better than previously reported though. Not wonderful, but better service & good value with the email coupons. I am on a diet & was happy with just meat & veg but not potatoes although they did look nice! They also could privide gluten free gravy which I had & it was very good. Didn't use the loo & sat in a different area so can't comment if the lack of cleanliness previously reported is still the same.
TURTLE WAX ZIP WAX SUPER CONCENTRATE
This has been around for years & I was surprised to see it was not catalogued so I put in a product suggestion & am writing the first review on it to let you know how good I think it is.
Yesterday, as my partner had a day off work & was staying with me for a long weekend, we decided to go outside in the sun & wash our cars together.
This is not a job that I enjoy or embark on very often. In fact my car is lucky if I wash it twice a year & I also usually rely on the dealer to wash it when it is serviced!
My partner on the other hand, runs his through the car wash regularly or as of late when funds have been a bit tight, has washed it regularly at home. He also polishes it sometimes.
Armed with two buckets, two sponges, a brush for the alloy wheels, a hose reel connected to the outside tap & a huge bottle of Zip Wax that I had found in the garage, we ventured outside to begin.
Our bottle of Zip Wax (left behind by my sons who always use this brand) is 5 litres! This size claims up to 300 washes.
It is manufactured by Turtle Wax.
It claims it is the World's most popular car wash & wax. It's unique fast acting formula deep cleans, shines & adds Turtle Wax in one easy step to give your car a shining, streak free finish every time.
Adds a Turtle Wax shine as it washes.
Instructions are to rinse off loose dirt with cold water prior to washing.
use one capful to an empty bucket then fill with warm water.
Wash vehicle then rinse with clean water.
Dry with chamois.
~How we used it & why~
My car is only 2 years old & has a metallic finish. Partly chosen because I like the look & partly because I think I can get away with not having to polish it! The last time I had shampooed it I used a small bottle of Halford's shampoo which came in a car care kit that I had at Christmas. The finished result wasn't awe inspiring.
I took a look at the sorry state of my car. I occasionally have to wash a large bird pooh off (living on the coast we regularly get bombarded with huge seagull poohs!) & for this I use washing up liquid on a piece of wet kitchen tissue. I leave it on for half an hour or so to soak the dried on bird pooh so that it comes away easily. It does leave it very smeary though. The day before the big wash we had driven through salt water on a tidal road beside an estuary. You can imagine how bad it looked, covered in dirt, brake dust caking the alloys, salt water mingled with dirty windscreen & bodywork & dried on, & the residue of cleaned off bird poohs - lovely!!
We set to work, my other half with the hose & bucket of warm water into which he poured a couple of capfuls of the Zip Wax (he used more than the recommended amount as it was so desperate!) He rinsed the car with clear water first, then started 'soaping' it all over with the shampoo & a sponge, including the wheel arches, windows, headlights, windscreen & mirrors. He then rinsed it all off with clear water from the hose pipe. Meanwhile I got going with the alloy wheels. Everything is very close together on my alloys, which makes it very difficult to get between them & to clean properly. With the other bucket I also put a bit of the Zip Wax in the bottom & topped up with warm water. I had a little brush which I had purchased specially for the purpose & so I stirred up the shampoo & water mixture & began dipping in the brush & inserting it between all the 'spokes'. The front wheels especially were very dirty, being thick with brake dust & before half a wheel was done I had a bucket of black water! I continued with the dirty water however & it did an excellent job.
Now on to my partner's car which is not metallic. This is an old vehicle but one that has been lovingly cared for over the years. He regularly cleans it & polishes it, sometimes at the garage car wash, sometimes at home. He is very proud of the finished appearance. I have to say that the frequent use of car washes at the garage is not my idea of looking after the car paintwork, as I think it scratches. Also, whichever price wash you choose, it never seems to be able to tackle alloy wheels. In my opinion if you are using a mechanical car wash, you might just as well have the cheapest one as it doesn't do any of the other promised jobs properly.
Looking at his car we observed that it was covered in dust (probably from the Sahara or maybe volcanic ash or some such!) & looked a bit sorry for itself. The alloys didn't look that bad. As he has been a bit strapped for cash lately, he had been using washing up liquid to wash his beloved car at home! It hadn't been looking as good as it used to.
We set to work again using the same methods as with my car before. His alloys are fairly flat looking & don't have 'spokes' or anything about them which you would need to get between. I used the brush anyway, as it was a good way to apply the shampoo & give them a bit of a rub. Needless to say the dirty water was only light grey as against black when I had done my wheels!
Now I know you are supposed to use a chamois leather to get the water off after washing a car, but it doesn't get done if you use a garage car wash, you just drive out with it dripping. Unless you are going to give your car a thorough polishing afterwards, I can't really see the point of putting all that effort in with chamois leather, & this Zip Wax doesn't leave any streaks.
Our finished results from using the Zip Wax for everything were amazing! My partner's car is a dark maroon & there were no streaks at all. He kept saying all afternoon how good his car looked. As this product is a shampoo which incorporates wax, it gives a lovely shiny polished finish to be proud of. Possibly there won't be globules sitting on the paint when it rains, but to all intents & purposes you would think it had been polished & buffed lovingly, without the need for all that elbow grease.
My own car looked so good, that I have to keep looking out of the window to admire it! The alloys look great, shiny silver, the bodywork looks a different colour & positively gleaming! Overall it looks like a different car!
The cheapest price I found
is £2.99.from Halfords for 500ml with an offer of 3 for 2!
So for the cost of the Zip Wax & your metered water you can have a finish that's comparable with polishing without buying separate shampoo & polish plus all that effort needed. I know which I would choose!
My overall opinion is that this is an excellent product which I would recommend & I would always buy it in future.
I agree with all the claims that it cleans & waxes & the finish is streak free.
The only thing to be wary of I would say, is that if you go over the windscreen with it, the wax leaves a film on the glass that prevents the windscreen wipers from doing their job properly, so ideally you need to clean the windscreen afterwards with something like a glass cleaner, meths or white vinegar.
Update 19/3/2012 - Recently bought a cheaper car shampoo supposedly with wax but was very disappointed. I would say, even if the genuin Zip Wax/Turtle Wax is more expensive it is worth it as nothing else matches up to it.
2 X STRAWBERRY & 2 X RASPBERRY YOGURTS
As an avid yogurt eater I was getting into bad habits with all sorts of high fat creamy yogurt & raiding the fridge for it at least four times daily. I kidded myself that because I was eating it instead of cream with blueberries or bananas that it was slimming!!
I really love thick & creamy yogurts. I don't like the yogurts with less fat that turn out to be so runny you might as well be drinking them instead of using a spoon.
I spotted this Danone Shape Zero% in the supermarket. I was attracted by the packaging which looked appetising. (My son always says, 'when you say something looks nice, what you mean is the packaging & the picture on it looks nice' I suppose he is right & the proof is in the eating, but it does show that by the manufacturer getting the packaging right it persuades us to try the product. So having been attracted by the cardboard sleeve with a background of various shades of mauve & a picture of luscious looking strawberries & raspberries, my mouth was watering. I read on & it said there is no added sugar; it is fat free & each pot only 71 calories. It claimed to be deliciously thick fat free yogurt with fruit & sweeteners, containing naturally occurring sugars in a creamy texture. The pack contains 2 x strawberry & 2 x raspberry - my favourites, each pot 120g. This seemed just what I should be eating. The best before date was at least 4 weeks hence - it's always good when the date is a long one, as I tend to stock up the fridge then forget what is at the back until it is out of date.
At the top left hand corner of the pack is the traffic light system which showed sugars 8.9g, fat 0.1g, saturates 0g, salt 0.2g & as already said, total calories 71g.
On the back of the pack it shows various figures for each flavour.
Not quite the absolute zero everything that I had I initially thought but I decided to give it a go as I had been recommended to it as it was zero fat & wonder of wonders, was also thick & creamy!
I did my usual trick of forgetting it for a couple of weeks in favour of other things until I spied it hiding in the fridge. I took out the pack, slid out the pots & separated them - they are joined at the seam & just need to be snapped apart.
On the pot is a yellow square suggesting wee can find out more about
How to eat healthily
Practical fitness advice
Tips to look & feel great
We are also told that the pot has zero added sugar & zero added fat & has 100% taste.
Warning: It says contains milk & is produced on a line handling almond, hazelnut, walnut & what.
Contains a source of phenylalanine & contains naturally occurring sugars.
Suitable for vegetarians.
It's a nice little pot & I just needed to lift the foil top
& pull back. I chose the raspberry flavour indicated on the top of the pot. The smell which met my nostrils was delicate, lovely, really made you want to go on & enjoy the yogurt. In went the spoon & mmmm!!! It really is thick & creamy! There are actual bits of fruit to be found & the taste is also very nice, just like raspberry should be. The colour is Pale to medium & the nutritional information tells us that the colouring for the raspberry yogurt is actually concentrated elderberry juice.
I tried to be good & only eat one. Danone Shape is well known to claim it makes you 'feel fuller for longer' & although there is no mention of that on this particular product packaging, when looking it up on their website it does say 'Danone Shape has a unique hunger control formula with fibre, protein and a delicious, creamy texture to help beat those feelings of hunger'. I eventually succumbed, not because I felt hungry, but I just fancied trying the strawberry flavour as well. It was a bit lighter in colour than the raspberry which was surprising as the colouring for the strawberry one is cochineal.
Again it was very enjoyable, thick and creamy fruit yogurt with a slight tang to the taste & bits of yummy fruit.
I have to say my personal favourite would always be raspberry whether it be fresh fruit or a product /recipe containing it. Both were delicious however & to be recommended.
I'm looking forward to trying the others in the range, Blackberry & Cherry - Mango & Peach. They will definitely all be on my shopping list for next time.
They come in neat little pots which are securely sealed & so would be suitable for a picnic or packed lunch. Some supermarkets will supply you with plastic cutlery to take your purchases on a picnic, otherwise just go to the fresh salad/fruit salad bar in Sainsbury's & pick up some there - usually spoon one end/fork the other. They are ideal for picnics as they are not thin & sloppy & won't spill.
I have just checked my Tesco receipt for 17/6/10 & it was 75p!
If Tesco had a half price offer when I was shopping there it may have swayed me to try it - I'm jolly glad I did as I am now hooked on it!
These yogurts are well within an adult's daily guideline as shown on the traffic light system & also on the more in depth nutritional information & will help as part of a calorie controlled diet.
I really enjoyed these yogurts. They truly are thick & creamy texture & full of the taste as well as actual little pieces of fresh fruit.
They are a wonderful find if you are slimming, but I would recommend them even if you are not
RIGHT GUARD WOMEN INVISIBLE
High performance anti-perspirant deodorant 0% alcohol
Made by Schwarzkopf UK Henkel.
It comes in a white aerosol can size 250ml with blue writing which says it is invisible & works for 24 hours, is NEW & leaves no white marks, & is a high performance anti-perspirant deodorant.
Special formula for full deodorant protection without white marks
Provides 24 hour protection against wetness and odour
Keeps you feeling fresh & confident all day long
Alcohol free, ph-balanced & dermatologically tested
Some shops sell cans marked 3D protection against white marks - not sure what that is, but the one I am reviewing here is not marked as that, although it is invisible, non white mark protection
The top where the spray element is housed is white plastic. It did have a clear lid, but I found that when I tried to pull it off after a few uses, it brought the whole spray thing with it, so after my son managed to put the mechanism back together again, I now have to leave the lid off all the time.
There is a note of helpline telephone number & website if you have questions or comments - presumably you can use this if you have complaints or problems.
Warnings are -
As with all pressurised containers - protect from sunlight, do not pierce or burn * keep away from sources of ignition.
Solvent abuse can kill instantly
Avoid inhalation, keep away from eyes & do not apply to irritated or damaged skin.
From that I deduce that you need to use in a well ventilated room or run out quickly when you feel you are inhaling the spray!
Do not use after shaving or if you have any damaged or sore skin, say from a bleeding spot or eczema.
To use you must shake well, hold can upright 6 inches from underarms and spray in short bursts. (if unit fails to operate, rinse button in warm water then use normally) I haven't actually tried that technique out.
I have used this most days but sometimes use a roll on or just talc if I'm not going out. I have found it to be effective when enough is used. One spritz under each arm doesn't seem to do the trick, but two does.
If it is a hot day & I have just showered & am getting ready to go out, I find whatever I use I feel wet again even while I'm getting ready & have to go & wash all over again & spray all over again.
The smell is light & pleasant, in fact not much smell at all, so doesn't clash with your perfume which is good.
There are no white marks on clothes as promised.
I was tempted to try this when I spotted it on buy one get one free. I can't remember where, but I think it appears on this offer in most places from time to time.
I have read a lot lately about how anti-perspirant causes breast cancer. Trials in women with breast cancer showed that the majority had lingering traces of anti-perspirant in the breast tissue & lymph nodes under the arms. This frightened me so at one point I scoured the shop shelves for deodorant with no alcohol or aluminium which are big culprits - not easy to find. Hence if I'm not going out I just use talc as I don't think prolonged use of anti-perspirant is good for us. Having said all of that, I can't do without a good anti-perspirant deodorant for most occasions & this seems to suit me.
Some makes have caused painful rashes on me in the past & I avoid them like the plague.
Price £2.45 or on offer at 2 for £3.00 in Boots
Don't forget you get Advantage points in Boots
Note: This is my own review & is showing on another site.