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j9j8j7
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Member since: 08.12.2010

  • Not at all impressed with the "update." I think I'll take a break from reviewing for a while.

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    • Panasonic RP-HJE120E-K / Headphones / 67 Readings / 64 Ratings
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      09.02.2014 00:17
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      Great headphones for next to nothing.

      I regularly listen to my ipod while out walking the dog. Over the last few years I have run through a string of earbuds ranging from dirt cheap to midrange. They have all had their problems and most die after just a few months. For the past 8 months I have been using a pair of Panasonic RP-HJE120E-K Ergo Fit Ear Canal Headphones. I chose them because they had great reviews on Amazon and only cost £6 so I wouldn't be too put out if they weren't that good or didn't last long.

      I have been extremely pleased with these headphones. They have a rather unusual shape that sits in my ears very well unlike most earbuds. I can even go jogging with them not falling out. The rubbery bud part that goes in the ear is offset to one side of the hard plastic part where the cable is connected. I think this helps them stay anchored in my ears. There are two different sizes of durable, rubbery buds, which stay on the headphones well even when thrown in bags and pockets without care. The chord is a decent length at 117 cm; long enough to be functional but not long enough to get in the way. One minor niggle is that the connector is L shaped which pulls out of my ipod far easier that a standard straight plug if I catch the cord on something. However, I think this might help protect the headphone chord to a degree because after 8 months these headphones still work perfectly in both ears (which has not been the case for many of its predecessors, some of which cost much, much more). There is also a small amount of chord rustle/feedback but not nearly as bad as my previous earbuds (JVC Marshmallow Earphones which were twice the price but absolutely dreadful).

      The sound quality is decent to good but nothing to write home about, but they are exceptional for the price. I have no problem recommending these earbud headphones and will most likely buy another pair when my current pair die... except a quick check on Amazon shows that these are now £8 while the RP-HJE120-E1K (which look absolutely identical in both looks and features except having an extra 1 between the E and the K in the product number) are listed at just £5.39.

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      • Magimix 11610 / Blender / 87 Readings / 82 Ratings
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        14.12.2013 18:40
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        This is an expensive blender worth every pence.

        ===Motivation===
        I've made some good purchases this year. I've had a hard time choosing between my Siemen's tumble dryer, my Baavet wool pillow and my Magimix Blender for the best purchase of the year, but I think the blender takes the win because it is both highly practical and extremely pleasurable to use.

        ===Why did I choose this blender?===
        After having a horrible experience with a rather pricey Duronic BL1200 blender I did a LOT of research before settling on the Magimix 11610, 1.8L blender in black. The Amazon reviews were highly complementary and the Magimix received high praise on a number of raw food forums- I don't follow a raw food diet but I figured if the Magimix can handle raw carrots and whole apples then it would be able to handle anything I would throw at it. The raw foodies seemed to think it was the next best thing to a Vitamix, which start at around £400 and are clearly excessive for my needs.


        ===Specs===
        The Magimix 11610 has a powerful 1200W motor with 8 speed settings and 4 pre programmed settings for ice, smoothies, soups, and desserts. The square, 1.8L jug is made of heavy, heat resistant glass. It is easy to clean and fully disassembles for thorough cleaning. It comes with a specially made spatula that can be used while the blender is running.

        ===My experience===
        One of the reasons I bought this blender was that it had the ability to remove the blade from the base. I've had a number of blenders over the years and find that the "auto clean" functions are fine for every day cleaning but now and again I like to take everything apart and get into all the nooks and crannies. Unlike my awful Duronic blender, this one FULLY disassembles- meaning every part can be taken apart. It isn't hard to do and goes back together without fuss. However, I rarely need to take it apart because it is extremely well designed and there aren't any nooks or crannies for food to get into. To clean it on a day to day basis I just rinse it out and fill it about half way with warm water and a drop of washing up liquid then run it on speed 3-4 for about 30 seconds.

        I primarily use this blender to make breakfast smoothies every morning. It does this extremely well. The powerful 1200W motor blends everything effortlessly and I've never felt like it was struggling to mix everything together (even when I'm making very thick smoothies with lots of frozen fruit). The smoothie setting is wonderful; it starts off slow and then builds up speed ensuring that the mixture is not thrown up on the sides of the jug. Then it slows back down to make sure any chunks settle back down into the blades before one last speedy blend. The result is incredibly smooth smoothies with never so much as a lump of unblended fruit (it even makes light work of raw, unpeeled apples). The lid fits snugly and there is a nice removable part to allow for easy additions while the blender is running. I use this to add whey powder mid cycle.

        The soup setting is equally good. Unlike my old blender, it can be filled right to the top without the lid trying to shooting off. The heat resistant jug means soup can go in piping hot without fear. Soups come out lovely and smooth.

        The dessert setting is fantastic too. The blender comes with a little recipe book and so far my favourite is an ice cream/sorbet thing that is made from a frozen banana, frozen raspberries and a bit of apple juice. It is an amazing, tasty treat in summer or a perfect healthy alternative to ice cream. For many of the desserts you need the specially designed spatula (included) that allows you to press the fruit into the blades while the blender is running. It means you need far less liquid to blend everything together making thick, ice cream like mixtures possible.

        Another positive of this blender is that it is relatively quiet. It's not silent, but there's no need to stop your conversation or shout while it is running. It is slightly louder if you take out the part of the lid to make an addition while it is running, but nothing unbearable.

        The whole unit looks nice sitting on the counter and more importantly, it stays in place. Even on the highest settings there isn't even a hint of counter creep.

        Are there any negatives? No.


        ===Price and Availability===
        This blender is not cheap. It is currently listed on Amazon for £159.99, which is the same price I paid for it 6 months ago.

        ===Conclusion===
        This is an expensive blender worth every pence. I have used it at least once a day, every day for the past 6 months and it still brings a smile to my face every time (And trust me, it's not easy to get a smile out of me first thing in the morning!) I absolutely LOVE this blender and it wins my award for Best Buy of 2013.

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          29.10.2013 19:10
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          An excellent value whey protein powder

          ===Motivation===
          For the last year or so I have been making morning smoothies and adding a scoop of whey protein so help increase my morning protein intake in an easy, quick and tasty way. Until a few months ago I had been using MyProtein's Goat Whey Protein (reviewed previously), but the last time I went to order it wasn't listed. I called the company and they could not give me any information about when/if it would be available again. I decided to try both soya free options currently available. I have already reviewed the Impact Native Whey 95 (unflavoured). This review will focus on my other selection: Essential Whey 60.

          ===Why did I choose Essential Whey 60?===
          Unlike most other protein powders, this product does not contain soy lecithin. Soy lecithin is used to make powders more mixable, but it contains phytosterols which have a mild estrogenic effect on the body. Since I use a form of natural birth control that relies, in part, on subtle changes due to the shifts in the balance of progesterone and estrogen in the body, I try to limit my soy intake (saving it for things like chocolate and the occasional stir fry or Chinese take away). Also my mum and brother are both highly allergic to soya so I try to limit my intake just in case eating too much might trigger a reaction in me.

          The next selling point for me was that the unflavoured version of this product contains only one ingredient: Undenatured Whey Protein Concentrate. Please note: this product is produced in a facility that handles eggs, soya, gluten and cruetaceane (so may not be suitable for those with severe allergies to one or more of those things).

          And last but not least- price. This whey powder costs just £8.99 for 1kg making it incredible cheap compared to other whey powders without soya lecithin.

          ===Taste and Mixability===
          This is an unflavoured protein powder (which is my preference since I add it to a smoothie anyway). When I first opened the bag I detected a slight sour milk smell, but it tasted absolutely fine although I'm probably not the best person to ask about taste since there is no way I'm drinking protein powder mixed in just water or juice. I find this powder perfectly drinkable but it gives quite a fluffy texture to my smoothies, but I haven't had any problems with gas, which can be a problem with some whey powders. It has no lecithin to make it easy to mix, but this isn't a problem for me because I use an electric blender.

          My morning smoothie (for my husband and me) generally contains:
          1 banana (2 if very small)
          1 heaped scoop whey powder
          A handful or two of frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, cherries)
          Sometimes a few fresh grapes, melon or pineapple
          A slosh of apple juice (sometimes I use grape, pineapple or mango juice- or a blend)
          2 spoonfuls natural or Greek yogurt
          A dollop of honey or a small spoon of coconut sugar (optional)
          Optional: a dash of vanilla extract or a spoonful of coconut milk
          A few ice cubes if using fresh fruit instead of frozen.

          ===Price and Availability===
          This product is available only from MyProtein.com where you can get a 1kg bag (which lasts my husband and me about 3 months, with daily use) for just £8.99 or a 5kg bag for £37.39. If you go through topcashback, you currently get 5.25% cash back and this goes up to 15.75% for new customers. For any students out there, NUS card holders get 10% off all orders. They also their own loyalty scheme where you get 1 point (worth 1p) for every £1 you spend which you can save up or use on your next order. I generally spend a bit extra to get the next day shipping from DPD (they text you a one hour time slot the morning of delivery so you don't have to wait in all day) because I think the standard delivery is provided by Yodel- who I avoid like the plague.

          ===Results===
          I have a lot more energy in the mornings when I have my protein smoothie, my mood is generally better and I'm no longer waking up starving in the middle of the night. I always miss my smoothies when I go on holiday and don't have my blender on hand. I prefer the texture of the Impact Native Whey 95 because this Essential Whey 60 comes out too fluffy for my taste. However, the low price makes this an excellent choice for anyone looking to add a bit of protein to their diet without breaking the bank.

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            26.09.2013 22:18
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            A great unflavoured whey protein without soya.

            ===Motivation===
            I do best if I include protein in every meal. I find this relatively easy to do at lunch and dinner, but first thing in the morning there's only so much I can stomach (not to mention needing something quick so I'm not late for work). For the last year or so I have been making morning smoothies and adding a scoop of whey protein. Until a few months ago I had been using MyProtein's Goat Whey Protein (reviewed previously), but the last time I went to order it wasn't listed. I called the company and they could not give me any information about when/if it would be available again. I looked around for other options and selected MyProtein's Unflavoured Impact Native Whey 95. Please note, this product also comes in chocolate, strawberry and vanilla varieties, but I have never bought them so my review will only relate to the unflavoured version.

            ===Why did I choose Impact Native Whey 95?===
            Unlike most other protein powders, this product does not contain soy lecithin. Soy lecithin is used to make powders more mixable, but it contains phytosterols which have a mild estrogenic effect on the body. Since I use a form of natural birth control that relies, in part, on subtle changes due to the shifts in the balance of progesterone and estrogen in the body, I try to limit my soy intake (saving it for things like chocolate and the occasional stir fry or Chinese take away). Also my mum and brother are both highly allergic to soy so I try to limit my intake just in case eating too much might trigger a reaction in me. Instead of soy lecithin, this product uses sunflower lecithin to make it easy to mix.

            I also like the limited ingredient list: Native Whey Protein Isolate, Lactase, Emulsifier (Sunflower Lecithin). Lactase is an enzyme that helps us digest the lactose in milk.

            Please note: this product is produced in a facility that handles eggs, soya, gluten and cruetaceane (so may not be suitable for those with severe allergies to one or more of those things).

            The 95 in the product name comes from the fact it has a 95% protein content.

            ===Taste and Mixability===
            This is an unflavoured protein powder (which is my preference since I add it to a smoothie anyway). I'm probably not the best person to ask about taste since there is no way I'm drinking protein powder mixed in just water or juice. That said, this powder is very nice in a smoothie. I personally think it improves the taste by giving it a mild creaminess and a hint of fluffiness to the texture. It is not as frothy as some protein powders I have used. I'm not sure how it does in a hand shaker, but it mixes up just fine in my jug blender. I've never had any issues with clumping so the sunflower lecithin seems to be doing its job.

            My morning smoothie (for my husband and me) generally contains:
            1 banana (2 if very small)
            1 heaped scoop Myprotein Impact Native Whey 95
            A handful or two of frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, cherries)
            Sometimes a few fresh grapes, melon or pineapple
            A slosh of apple juice (sometimes I use grape, pineapple or mango juice- or a blend)
            2 spoonfuls natural or Greek yogurt
            A dollop of honey or a small spoon of coconut sugar
            Optional: a dash of vanilla extract or a spoonful of coconut milk
            A few ice cubes if using fresh fruit instead of frozen.

            ===Results===
            I have a lot more energy in the mornings when I have my protein smoothie, my mood is generally better and I'm no longer waking up starving in the middle of the night. I have had absolutely no problems with gas with this product (perhaps because of the added lactase?). I was very thankful to find a soy free whey powder to replace the Goat Whey I bought previously. To make it even better, it costs less! All in all, I'm very happy with this powder and it gets the full 5 stars from me.

            ===Price and Availability===
            This product is available only from MyProtein.com where you can get a 1kg bag (which lasts my husband and me about 3 months, with daily use) for £23.99 or a 2.5kg bag for £50.99. It occasionally goes on offer for slightly less and they have frequent promotions (free gifts or % off offers). If you go through topcashback, you currently get 5.25% cash back and this goes up to 15.75% for new customers. For any students out there, NUS card holders get 10% off all orders. They also their own loyalty scheme where you get 1 point (worth 1p) for every £1 you spend which you can save up or use on your next order. I generally spend a bit extra to get the next day shipping from DPD (they text you a one hour time slot the morning of delivery so you don't have to wait in all day) because I think the standard delivery is provided by Yodel- who I avoid like the plague.

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              06.09.2013 21:29
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              A wonderful, inexpensive workhorse fountain pen.

              ===Motivation===
              I work with primary school children (KS2). As the children are taught and encouraged to use 'joined up writing' at all times it is important that I do the same when marking books or writing on the board. Two years ago my school switched to Berol handwriting pens, which are quite possibly the worst handwriting pens I have ever used, and Staedtler Stick 430 M ballpoint pens, which are among the worst pens I have ever come across. After just a few weeks I had had enough and decided to buy a decent pen for school. I am a firm believer that a nice pen promotes better handwriting and I like fountain pens because of the smooth way they write and the vast array of ink available. I wanted a fairly inexpensive pen in case it was lost or damaged at school. I settled on a blue Lamy Safari fountain pen with an extra fine nib (I write fairly small and prefer a fine line).

              ===Lamy Safari===
              Lamy is family owned German brand which still produces all their pens at their factory in Heidelberg, Germany. The Safari is a very good value pen at around £10-20 depending on the colour and nib width. It isn't the best looking pen in the world, but it is excellent for day to day use. It has a tough ABS plastic barrel and a strong metal clip on the lid which actually stays in place whether I clip the pen onto a single sheet or a dozen. The nib is made of steel. The pen has indentions for your fingers making it an excellent pen for beginners as it encourages proper placement of your fingers (something which many, many children don't do correctly which leads to poor handwriting and hand pain).

              ===Extra Fine===
              As I mentioned earlier, I have an extra fine nib. Lamys tend to run thick compared to other brands I have used. My extra fine Safari is only marginally thinner than my fine nibbed Parker Frontier fountain pen. The ink flow is extremely smooth. The only time I ever have any scratching is when I am almost completely out of ink. The nib is strong and won't bend out of shape under normal use but one day I dropped it from chest height, nib first (open), onto the paved playground... the nib bend out of shape. I tried to bend it back but it never worked as well so I ordered a replacement nib from Amazon for about £5. It was extremely easy to replace the nib and works like new.

              ===Ink===
              This pen takes Lamy T10 cartridges which come in a variety of colours including black, blue (washable), red, turquoise, violet, blue-black, and green. I prefer something more unique so I use a Lamy Z24 piston converter which allows me to use bottled ink (of any brand). My ink of choice at the moment is Noodler's Bulletproof Legal Lapis ink which is a beautiful, rich deep green/blue that is waterproof and resistant to UV light (meaning it doesn't fade even if left in the sunshine).

              ===Price and Availability===
              You can buy this pen on Amazon for £15 (free shipping). The extra fine nib is by far the hardest to find and tend to be slightly more expensive than the medium or fine nibbed versions of the same pen.

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              • HP Laserjet P2055d / Laser Printer / 109 Readings / 107 Ratings
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                26.08.2013 14:32
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                An excellent black and white dual sided printer

                ===Motivation===
                I don't normally allow advertising to sway my purchasing decisions, but a few years ago I was in dire need of a new printer and had little time to research it properly. I'll admit that (in a moment of weakness) Kodak's string of TV adverts highlighting the low cost of cartridges that was running at the time made me look at the Kodak 3250 All-in-One printer. It had generally good reviews on Amazon so I decided to buy it- a decision I bitterly regretted. Never, ever, ever have I had such a thirsty printer. The cartridges might be cheap, but it is a false economy when each cartridge only lasts a short time (I kept track once- 99 pages of text for a standard black cartridge). To make matters worse it frequently fed pages in crooked and often pulled several pages through at once making it impossible to print double sided unless you were willing to feed each page through individually. One day I decided enough was enough and I needed a better printer. After doing A LOT of research I decided on a HP P2055d laser printer.

                ===About the Printer===
                The P2055d is only a black and white printer but that suits me just fine since the vast majority of my printing doesn't require colour and I still have the Kodak printer for the rare occasions I need colour or scanning/copying. I was far more interested in the claimed 33 pages per minute and the automated double sided printing. The paper tray holds 250 sheets with an optional expansion tray allowing an additional 500 sheets.

                ===Speed===
                I'm not the world's most patient person so I like that you can turn this printer on and have the first page out in just 15 seconds (my old Kodak took longer than that to print a page if it was already turned on). If the printer is already turned on then a single page takes just 7 seconds on the 600 dpi setting, 8 seconds on the fastRes 1200 setting and just 10 seconds on the proRes 1200 setting. It is equally impressive when printing longer documents. 10 pages (single sided) takes just 28 seconds and a minute will give you 30 pages on the proRes 1200 setting.

                ===Quality===
                Even on the lowest setting (600 dpi) text is crisp, clear and professional looking. With VERY close inspection you can see some slight feathering at the very edges but that disappears entirely when you move up to the next setting (fastRes 1200), which is the one I use most often. And no more paper jams. I have printed thousands of pages on this printer and I have only had 2 paper jams, both of which were easy to clear. Thank goodness for no more crooked printing jobs which were the norm with the Kodak.

                ===Double Sided Printing===
                The automated double sided printing is one of my favourite features on this printer. I do a lot of double sided printing to save paper and I absolutely love that this printer takes care of everything for me. It prints the first side then pulls the paper back in to print on the back. Obviously, it takes slightly longer; front and back will print in 14 seconds. A minute will produce just 7 sheets front and back (so 14 pages of text) and a 20 page document (10 sheets front and back) will take you 1 minute and 20 seconds. But the extra time is no burden because I don't have to do anything. I can set it to print a load of work, make a cup of tea and come back to everything done perfectly.

                ===Toner Costs===
                The original cartridge that came with the printer gave me about 2270 pages. The Kodak (which brags about its low ink prices) costs just under £7 per cartridge from Amazon (generic cartridges are were just as expensive). Each of those was only giving me about 100 pages of printing so this printer just about paid for itself in ink costs just with the first cartridge. HP replacement toner is expensive. A regular CE505A cartridge (claimed 2300 pages) costs about £60 from Amazon and £76 from Staples. A high volume CE505X cartridge costs £95 from Amazon and £155 from Staples for a claimed 6500 pages of printing. However, generic cartridges are considerably less. I have been using HornseaToner generic cartridges which the printer registers as genuine HP ones and there is not reduction in print quality what so ever. A single high volume (6500 page) cartridge comes in at less than £20 including shipping. You can get two for £35 or three for just over £50. So this printer's ink costs are FAR, FAR, FAR lower than the Kodak. It has paid for itself many times over.

                ===Price and Availability===
                I paid £162, including shipping, in January 2012. This model is still available on Amazon for £300. At that price, I imagine there are better deals to be found in their newer models. For the price I paid it was an absolute bargain. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend an HP laser printer.

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                  11.08.2013 12:19
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                  An excellent, but expensive rucksack.

                  ===Motivation===
                  If you have read many of my reviews you will know I have a beautiful Alaskan Malamute dog. For his first birthday we bought him a Ruffwear Palisades Dog Rucksack. He is now 3 and a half years old (so we have used it for over 2 years) and are currently on a walking holiday in Switzerland and using the pack every day so it seemed like an appropriate time to finally write a review for it.

                  ===Ruffwear===
                  Ruffwear is an American company that specializes in high quality dog gear including harnesses, dog packs, lifejackets, dog boots, collars, leads, beds and toys. I have seen lots of different dog rucksacks but the Ruffwear ones are by far the best on the market. They are extremely well made and designed (many other brands can cause chaffing, hot spots or joint pain from poor weight distribution). In addition, Ruffwear packs are the most stylish. They are the Black Diamond of dog gear- stylish, well made, but expensive.

                  ===Palisades Dog Pack===
                  The Palisades rucksacks are the largest of Ruffwear's line of dog packs and designed for multi-day adventures. The pack's harness is well designed and has never caused chaffing and seems to sit very comfortably on our dog. It is fairly easy to put on by slipping it over his head, placing one leg through the straps, then fastening 2 strong plastic clasps. The straps are adjustable at several points to ensure a good fit and there are fleece pads around the belly straps to make it comfortable for the dog and prevent chaffing. There's a strong handle on the back which is usefull for holding onto when in a crowd (larger dogs) or to help lift medium sized dogs over obstacles. There is also a strong metal fastener to hook onto a lead (or climbing carabineer).

                  The saddlebags are made of a bright red, durable nylon material. Each side of the saddlebads has one large and one smaller zippered compartment plus 5 gear loops on the outside. Inside each large compartment is an additional zippered pocket. There are several adjustable compression straps to ensure loaded packs sit correctly.

                  One of the nicest features of this pack is that the pack's saddlebags detach from the harness. This is extremely useful when going through narrow spaces like stiles, fences and bridges. It is also useful when taking brakes or when my dog wants to go for a swim. The saddlebags are held onto the harness by 4 strong, plastic clasps and 2 velcro straps that keep the saddle bags close to the body (preventing excessive jostling which could injure your dog). It takes less than a minute to remove or replace the bags.

                  The rucksack comes with 2 1L water bladders (similar to those found in many human packs). To be honest, we never use them. I find carrying 2 water bottles easier since I can tip any undrunk water back into his bottle.

                  ===Sizing===
                  This pack comes in S, M, and L. The S size has a 10L capacity and would be suitable for smaller (female) labs and huskies or similar sized breeds (so remember this is a large pack and S would fit many dogs classed as 'large' breeds. The M holds 14L and would fit most labs, huskies, German shepherds, etc. The L holds a massive 18L and works for very large to giant breeds including Malamutes, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, and Great Danes. Initially I tried a M on our Malamute as he is on the small side for a male of his breed and his girth measurements fit into the M on the sizing charts, but when I tried it on him it didn't sit quite right and I was worried he might outgrow it (as he was not yet full grown at the time). The L sits on him better although we had to tighten the straps quite a lot to fit him. It is important to keep in mind that each dog is different and trying the pack on is the best way to see which size fits best.

                  ===What I think===
                  This pack is very well made. After over 2 years of frequent use the saddlebags are showing some wear including a few tiny holes on each side as our boy frequently forgets how fat he is when wearing these and bashes them against rocks, branches and brambles on a regular basis, but the bags still look remarkably good considering this frequent abuse. I expect to get many, many more years of hard use out of them. I have washed both the bags and the harness in my washing machine without a problem.

                  Normally on a day out our dog carries 1-2L of water, a Ruffwear Bivy bowl (reviewed earlier), a Lock-n-Lock box where we can put a bag of poo or 2 if we are somewhere it needs to be picked up but a long way from a bin, poo bags, food and a few other bits and pieces. The bags could easily hold more, but I don't want to overload my dog as it could easily become too heavy of a casual carrier like my dog (who only carries it a few times a month plus every day for a few weeks out of the year when on holiday). It can take some practice to balance the sides correctly. It is particularly hard to keep the sides balanced when the bag isn't holding much- it frequently wants to list to one side. It does better when carrying a little more weight.

                  Alaskan Malamutes, as a breed, love to pull. That is what they were bred to do. Obviously, we don't generally allow our dog to pull on the lead. However, we do have an exception. I have attached a climbing carabineer to the metal ring on this pack's harness. One end of his lead is attached to the carabineer while the other is connected to his normal walking collar. When we are going up a steep hill I apply pressure to his harness and he can pull to his heart's desire. When I switch the pressure to his collar he must stop pulling. He learned the rules extremely quickly and enjoys the sanctioned pulling and I love having the extra power to keep up with my husband on long, steep walks.

                  ===What our dog thinks===
                  If I'm perfectly honest, our boy would rather not wear his rucksack but forgives us quickly as he knows it means an extra fun adventure walk. He also loves the attention he receives when wearing it. As a very large, wolfish looking dog, people often find him intimidating, but this rucksack makes him much more approachable. People come right over to him when he is wearing his pack and we frequently get asked if they can stroke him or take a picture with him. Sometimes it feels like I am walking with a celebrity as at times 20+ people will be crowded around us wanting to stroke him and get a photo. Even very young children totter right over to him to say hello. This isn't necessarily something everyone will experience with this pack, but a stylish rucksack plus a somewhat exotic dog like an Alaskan Malamute make an irresistible combination.

                  ===Price and Availability===
                  Earlier I called Ruffwear the Black Diamond of dog wear. Sadly this includes the high price tag. I bought this pack from InnerWolf.co.uk for £108. This same model is still available on Amazon for about £120. However, they have since come out with a new version (it looks very similar and has many of the same features) which is available from numerous websites for £120-£130. My version is the one pictured above (with Palisades printed diagonally across each side of the saddlebags). The newer version has a cluster of small, dark red dots on the right hand side of each saddlebag.

                  ===Conclusion===
                  This is an excellent dog pack that gets the full 5 stars from me. Although expensive it is well worth the cost.

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                  • More +
                    01.08.2013 10:46
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                    Not very good whiteboard pens.

                    ===Motivation===
                    In addition to working in a primary school, I work as a private mathematics tutor. Instead of wasting loads of paper I frequently use small whiteboards during my lessons. I like to have a variety of colours to highlight different aspects of the problems (and because many of the kids enjoy it more than just using black all the time). In the past I have used Berol Fine tip drywipe pens (which were excellent), but they stopped making the coloured ones so I had to find another brand. I saw a pack of 8 assorted colour Artline 2-in-1 fine tip drywipe pens on Amazon for a reasonable price so decided to give them a try.

                    ===What you get===
                    This pack includes 8 double sided pens (black, red, blue, green, brown, orange, purple, and pink). One side has a 0.4mm polyacetal resin tip and the other side has a 1.0mm acrylic fibre tip. In practical terms, this means that the thin side is considerably thinner than most medium width handwriting pens (which tend to be about 0.6mm) while the thick side is slightly thinner than the Berol fine tip, 1.2mm, I used previously.

                    ===My thoughts===
                    The thicker (1.0mm) side is a nice width for small whiteboards and the colours are all useable (no yellow) and vibrant. However, that's where the positives end. The thin side of these pens are simply too thin to be useful, even on small whiteboards. They leave such thin lines that they are extremely pale and hard to read. To make matters worse, they dry up extremely easily (even when care is taken to ensure the caps are replaced properly). The 0.4mm purple side and the 1mm blue side dried up within a few days of use. A number of the other colours dried up within a few weeks and nearly all of them were unusable within 3 months of periodic use. In addition, the nibs are not particularly durable making them less suitable for children (who often press down a little too hard). I also find the scent stronger and more offensive than the Berol drywipe pens.

                    ===Price and Availability===
                    These drywipe pens are available on Amazon for £7.74 + £2.72 shipping.

                    ===Conclusion===
                    I cannot recommend these pens. The 0.4mm sides produce such pale, thin lines they are virtually unusable. The 1mm sides have good colour but the tips are not durable enough. Both sides dry out too quickly.

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                      26.06.2013 22:27
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                      A very good hands free dog walking/jogging belt.

                      ===Motivation===
                      If you have read any of my recent reviews you will know that I broke my right hand and hurt my left shoulder about 5 weeks ago. These two injuries made it incredibly difficult to walk my 3 year old Alaskan Malamute (very large, strong dog with a high prey drive who needs a LOT of exercise). I couldn't hold the lead with my broken hand and my left shoulder would not have had the strength to hold my dog if he saw a cat/rabbit/whatever and lunged at it. I decided to invest in a dog walking belt. After a bit of research I settled on the Canadog Deluxe Walking Belt with Pocket and Bottle Holder.

                      ===About the Belt===
                      The Deluxe Walking Belt is 4 ½" (11cm) wide and can be adjusted to fit hips 30"- 48" (76-122cm). It is padded and fleece lined for comfort with a durable, water resistant outer shell for use in any weather. The wide width helps distribute any pressure evenly, thus protecting and supporting your back.

                      The belt has 2 nickel plated D rings to attach the dog(s) to. You need to attach the dog to both rings or the force will not be distributed evenly through the belt. The easiest way to do this is to use a climbing carabineer (not included, but available as an add on option at additional cost).

                      The belt has a small pocket, but it isn't big enough to hold more than a few poo bags, a key or perhaps a small phone (it's not big enough to hold a smartphone). There are also straps to hold a water bottle, but I find a 500ml plastic bottle slightly too big to be comfortable. I keep meaning to pick up at 330ml bottle at the supermarket, but I only think about it when I'm walking the dog- not when I'm grocery shopping.

                      It comes in black, blue or red (I have the black).

                      ===How well does it work?
                      You are meant to wear the belt on your hips, but I find it rides up to my waist. Although my hips fall in the 30"- 48" size, my waist does not so I find the belt a little too big for me. As such, it can rotate around a bit if my dog stops to sniff something. This is less of a problem when I'm wearing a coat, but as the weather warms up I sometimes wish I had gone for a belt with smaller sizing. My husband says it says on his hips just fine so long as he wears it fairly snug. I think it might be more of an issue with women who have more defined hips/waist.

                      All that said, this belt does work very well. The second day I used it a fox darted out of the bushes just in front of us. Of course, my dog lunged at it, but I had no trouble at all standing my ground and keeping him under control without the use of my hands/arms (he weighs 2/3 my body weight and Malamutes are breed to pull). The belt gives you a great centre of gravity so sudden (or sustained) pulling is easy to deal with (much easier than holding the lead in your hands- which makes you far more top heavy and puts more strain on your shoulders).

                      I find this belt very good for walking and my husband has found it makes jogging with the dog much easier.

                      It can be used with multiple dogs, but I haven't tried this as I only have the one.

                      ===Price and Availability===
                      This isn't a cheap belt. I considered buying a much less robust belt but decided against it- my dog weighs 2/3 as much as I do and is very, very strong. I decided it was worth spending extra to buy something I could trust to bear that burden and something that was well designed (a poorly designed belt puts your back at risk and I don't need any more injuries). I bought my belt from Snowpaw Store (online) for £36.99.

                      ===Conclusion===
                      I'm giving this belt 4 stars. It works well, but it rides up to my waist making it a little too loose for optimal comfort. I also think it is a hair too expensive and the pocket and bottle holder could be designed slightly better. However, it has been a life saver for me and means I can still walk my dog despite my injuries. I imagine I will get a lot of good out of it for years to come.

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                      • Prestige 51047 Dakota / Kettle / 127 Readings / 124 Ratings
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                        16.06.2013 18:00
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                        A decent kettle at a reasonable price.

                        ===Motivation===
                        After a poor experience with a very expensive Morphy Richards kettle I switched to buying dirt cheap value kettles. I went through a string of different brands' budget kettles but each one died after about 6 months. I decided to switch to something mid-range. I wanted a not too expensive kettle that would last a few years. After reading loads of reviews I settled on the Prestige Dakota Jug Kettle which cost me a little over £20 (at the time) and came with a two year guarantee.

                        ===Features===
                        Like most kettles, this one holds up to 1.7L of water and has an automatic boil-dry safety cut out. It has a 3000W concealed element. After my budget kettles I realize how much I appreciate having a concealed element since I live in a hard water area- the lime scale builds up much slower and needs to be descaled less frequently than an exposed element.

                        This kettle has a 360 degree swivel base (meaning you can place the kettle on facing any way) and the base is non-slip so it doesn't migrate across your worktop. There is space inside the base to wrap excess cord, but since the cord is relatively short (75cm) I don't see this as a terribly useful feature.

                        There are water level gauges on both sides of the kettle making them easy to see, but they only mark the minimum level, 1L, and the maximum (1.7L). A few more level markings would have been nice. The gauges glow blue when the kettle is switched on.

                        ===What I like about the Prestige Dakota Kettle===
                        I have this kettle in black with blue water level gauges. It looks reasonably nice (far better than the nasty white budget kettles). It heats up reasonably quickly. A full kettle of water boils in about 3 and a half minutes (I just timed it as 3m 32s, but the exact time varies depends on the starting temperature of the water). It takes about a minute and a half (just timed at 1m 28s) at the minimum level (about 650ml).

                        The screen over the spout works well and prevents any stray calcium build up from escaping into your tea. It is easy to remove and clean and pops back into place without fuss.

                        This kettle is relatively quiet when boiling, which is nice.

                        ===What I don't like about this kettle===
                        My biggest gripe is the high minimum level. At 650ml the minimum level is far too much water for a single cup of tea. It is even too much for two mugs of tea or coffee- so this isn't the most economical kettle.

                        The pouring spout is relatively shallow so you have to pour the water slowly or you risk spilling it. This is fine for a cup of tea but can be a little irritating if you are pouring a full kettle into a pot for pasta. Sometimes I just open the lid to pour out a full jug into a pot since I don't care about the water going through the screen.

                        ===Price and Availability===
                        I bought my kettle off Amazon for £22, but it is currently listed at £31.83 (the blue version is listed at £19.99). I think it was excellent value for money when I bought it, but don't think it is overpriced even at full price.

                        ===Conclusions===
                        I am reasonably happy with this kettle. After 8 months it is still working well. The 2 year guarantee gives me peace of mind. It heats up quickly and doesn't require much maintenance. I just wish the minimum level was a bit lower.

                        Update: Another 6 months on and this kettle is still going strong.

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                        • Panasonic KXTCA60 / Headset / 140 Readings / 136 Ratings
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                          09.06.2013 17:49
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                          Fine for casual calls but perhaps a bit too much static for business use.

                          ===Motivation===
                          I like to multitask and do chores like ironing or dishes while I talk on the phone with my mom, brother and best friend back in the States. A headset makes doing so infinitely easier. It also makes waiting on hold for long periods more bearable. The past 3 weeks I have been using my phone even more as I find holding the phone difficult with my broken right hand and raising the phone to my ear puts strain on my injured left shoulder.

                          My phone has a single 2.5mm jack so I was limited in my headset options (although this seems standard for landline phones most headsets have 3.5mm jacks more common on computers). I ended up buying a Panasonic KXTCA60 headset even though it wasn't exactly what I wanted- it was the best I could find for a reasonable price and Panasonic is generally a fairly good brand.

                          ===About the headset===
                          As I mentioned earlier, the Panasonic KXTCA60 has a single 2.5mm chord which is 120cm (4ft) long. It has a lapel clip to keep the chord in place and reduce noise. There is a padded speaker for one ear and a movable microphone arm on the same side (the headset can be turned to be worn over either ear). The headset is adjustable, but even on the smallest setting I find it too big for my (small side of average for a women's) head. For this reason I don't think it would work well for a child.

                          I have been a little disappointed with this headset. Frankly, I expected better from a brand like Panasonic. The speaker is not particularly clear and makes a lot of static and crackling noises. It is good enough for me to use on casual calls to friends and family from my quiet house, but I don't think it would be ideal for work use where there's more background noise. I think the microphone is slightly clearer because I haven't had anyone complain about the reduction in call clarity, but maybe they are just being polite.

                          You cannot adjust the volume on this headset.

                          One thing to note is that you must plug the headset into the phone before starting a call. You can't plug it in half way through a call. You can, however, unplug the headset during a call and switch to using it normally (but you won't be able to go back to using the headset during that call). I don't know why this is the case, but it was the same with another phone and headset I owned years ago.

                          ===Price and availability===
                          I bought my headset on Amazon where it is still available for £12.96 (free super-saver shipping).

                          ===Conclusion===
                          This headset does what I wanted it to do- multitask while making calls to friends or family. It is a little too big for me and isn't quite as clear as I would like, but it does free up my hands to do other things while talking (much better than using speakerphone or trying to hold the phone with my shoulder). I'm happy to give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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                            28.05.2013 15:51
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                            Super inexpensive, good quality torch.

                            Disclaimer: I broke my hand last week so I was going to keep this brief but apparently this is a "most wanted" product and as such the review must be at least 500 words so please forgive any typing errors as I'm limited to only using my left (non-dominant) hand.

                            ===Why did I buy these torches ===
                            I like to have a few small torches scattered around the house and car so that one is always near to hand when one is needed. With that in mind I couldn't resist buying a 3 pack of these Rolson 9 LED torches off Amazon when I saw them for under a fiver (batteries and shipping included).

                            ===Size, Appearance and Weight===
                            These torches come in black and silver and are about 8.5cm long with a 2.5 cm diameter. They are made of aluminium with the top and bottom thirds textured to improve grip while the middle third is smooth. The rubber on/off button is large and takes up the whole of the back end (which makes it easy to hold without accidentally switching on or off but does mean you can't stand it on its back end). They are easy to turn on/off without being so sensitive that you risk accidentally pressing it when you don't mean to do so.

                            These aren't the lightest torches in the world, but the majority of the weight comes from the 3 AAA batteries each uses (included); at about 60g, they are perfectly fine for everything except super lightweight backpacking. If I need both hands, I have no problem holding one of these torches in my mouth for a few minutes.

                            ===Do they work?===
                            Yes. The 9 LED bulbs give excellent illumination. The light is nice and white. They aren't brilliant for longer distances (more than about 4m), but what do you expect for such a low price?

                            ===Do they last?===
                            I've had mine for over a year and haven't had a single problem with any of them despite regular use and frequently being bashed around in bags and dropped on the floor (including hard floors).

                            ===Price and Availability===
                            You can currently get a pack of 3 of these torches off Amazon for £4.10 but they are classed as an add on item so you only get free shipping if your order is over £20. Alternatively, you can get 2 of these torches along with a very decent quality head torch which I can also recommend for £6.70 (free shipping).

                            ===Conclusion===
                            I highly recommend a set of these torches to keep around the house and car. They are small enough to stick in just about any drawer or bag and light enough not to push you over any luggage limits when travelling. They are durable and give off a nice bright, white light. And last but not least, they are super inexpensive. I would still recommend them if they were 3-4 times the price but at less than £5 for a pack of 3, including batteries, they are an absolute steal!

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                              18.05.2013 23:50
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                              My favourite KS3 Maths workbooks.

                              ===Motivation===
                              In addition to working part time at a local primary school, I am a private mathematics tutor for all ages (KS1 right through to adults). I have a number of different workbooks to use during my lessons and Lonsdale Essentials KS3 Mathematics Workbooks are among my favourites. This review will focus on the Year 7 book.

                              ===Contents and Layout==
                              Like most academic study guides/workbooks, this book is organized by topic. It covers Numbers (place value, ordering numbers, rounding, adding and subtraction, Multiplication and Division, Fractions, Decimals, Negative Numbers, Percentages, Ration, Number Patterns, basic Algebra and Equations, Coordinates and Graphs, Shapes (2D & 3D), Angles, Measures and Measurements (time, metric and imperial units), Perimeter, Area, Volume, Handling Data (tally charts, frequency, pie charts, line graphs, bar graphs), Averages and Probability.

                              Each section has 2-4 pages of questions ranging from level 4 to 6 in difficulty. The section starts with the easier (level 4) questions and works up to the more difficult ones. The level of each question is clearly marked which is extremely helpful as I can instantly find the right level questions for my students (very helpful when working with a wide range of different ability students).

                              The book also clearly marks questions where a calculator may be used. I imagine this would be extremely helpful to parents and students reviewing on their own as the exams have both calculator and non-calculator sections but many books don't make it clear whether you are expected to be able to work it out without a calculator or not. This book gives a nice mix of questions.

                              The questions are clear and well worded. The formatting is basic and straightforward. It doesn't try to be fun or interesting and is highly unlikely to captivate a child but I find it very appealing. It is honest. It doesn't pretend to be anything more than a maths workbook. As a result I find it much easier to use than most other maths workbooks (far better than the CGP books recommended by many schools- which I find cluttered and distracting). I find the simple layout almost has a calming effect and would particularly recommend this book to children with visual and organizational issues (dyslexia, dyspraxia, etc.).

                              This book includes an answer key at the centre which easily pulls out (useful for parents wanting to check answers but remove the temptation for the child to peek at the answer if working on their own).

                              It is worth noting that this is a workbook only. It does not include any explanation of terminology or examples of how to work out the questions. As a tutor well versed in the methods currently taught in schools I only wanted the questions. However, if you are a parent looking for a resource for your child to use at home you might want to use this workbook alongside the Longsdale Key Stage 3 Essentials Mathematics Course book (either the Year 7 or the complete KS3 book). I bought a copy of the course book for one of my students and she finds it quite helpful and generally easy to understand.

                              ===Any Problems?===
                              I might pick up the Year 8 & 9 books to use with more able children as this book only goes up to level 6.

                              ===Price and Availability ===
                              This workbook is available on Amazon for £3.79 (with free shipping). The accompanying course book costs £3.74 for the Year 7 book or £9.65 for the complete KS3 book.

                              ===Conclusion===
                              I highly recommend this book for KS3 children wanting/needing a little extra practice in mathematics. This series is (by far) my favourite KS3 maths workbooks.

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                                09.04.2013 16:55
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                                Your hands and wallet will thank you for switching to these excellent quality dish gloves.

                                ===Motivation===
                                I don't own a dishwasher but make most of our meals at home from scratch so I have quite a few dishes to do by hand every day. My dry, sensitive skin pretty much demands I use dish gloves unless I'm just washing one or two things. For a long time I made do with the gloves I could pick up at the supermarket (not the value ones, the best I could find) but inevitably they would split after a week or two. I tried loads of different brands/types but none seemed very good. They just couldn't cope with my long nails and hot dish water.

                                About a year ago I decided I'd had enough and spent some time researching dish gloves on the internet. I found some good things about Lakeland Dermalux washing up gloves and decided to give them a try.

                                ===Look and Feel===
                                These latex free gloves are white and considerably thicker than your average supermarket washing up gloves. They have a lovely, soft lining which makes them stronger and means you can use very, very hot water without the heat becoming unbearable. My fingers have excellent mobility in these gloves, despite the thickness. In the first week or two I had to be a little extra careful because the gloves are a hair less grippy than some cheaper brands, but as soon as I adjusted to the difference I haven't had a problem with dishes slipping out of my grasp.

                                ===Do They Last?===
                                YES! I am pleased to say that these gloves last considerably better than any other brand I have tried here in the UK. I can easily wear the same gloves for two or three months (compared to a week or two I was getting out of other brands). The only holes have come from accidentally poking them with a sharp knife (not my long nails). Over time they do tend to become stiff. Most of the flexibility returns when immersed in hot water so it isn't much of a problem, but eventually I get tired of the stiffness and get a new pair.

                                ===Sizing===
                                When I first bought these gloves I ordered small and medium. The smalls were fine on my small side of average woman's hands but the mediums were perfectly functional as well. Since the mediums also fit my husband's hands I have since just ordered mediums so my husband and I could use the same pair of gloves (so he doesn't have an excuse not to do the dishes).

                                ===Price and Availability ===
                                Lakeland Dermaluxe washing up gloves cost £2.79 per pair but they have been on a 3 for 2 offer for over a year. At first I thought them a little expensive, but I spend a lot less on these gloves since each pair lasts so much longer. They provide excellent value for money. As far as I know they are exclusive to Lakeland and can be purchased online or in store. I don't have a store near me so always order online. I've had no problems with any of my orders. Lakeland frequently does promotions and free gifts, so I tend to stock up when there is one I like.

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                                09.03.2013 12:06
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                                A 70% isopropyl alcohol swab that works well for cleaning small objects and doesn't smell too bad.

                                ===Motivation===
                                As I mentioned in previous reviews, just over a year ago I switched from the pill to a natural form of birth control called Sympto-Thermal Method or Fertility Awareness Method. One aspect of this method is charting my basal body temperature every morning, which obviously means I need to clean my thermometer every day. The leaflet in one of my thermometers recommended using 70% Isopropyl Alcohol. I find the easiest way to do this is with individually wrapped alcohol swabs (often called pre-injection swabs in this country). This review will focus on Reliject pre-injection wipes.

                                ===Look, Feel & Smell===
                                These 70% Isopropyl Alcohol Swabs come in a small cardboard box containing 100 individually wrapped swabs. The 5cm x 5cm packets are teal and blue and look slightly more interesting than the run of the mill packaging used by most other brands (UHS, Sterets, etc.). Like other brands the packets are foil lined to ensure the wipes stay moist. They are easy to rip open without tearing the wipe inside. The wipes themselves are soft, flexible and measure 3.1 cm x 6.2 cm making them much more practical than the tiny Sterets swabs I reviewed recently. These wipes carry a definite alcohol scent but don't smell nearly as bad as the Uhs brand wipes, perhaps because these are slightly less saturated (they are nice and moist, but not so moist you're afraid they might drip).

                                ===Uses==
                                As the name pre-injection swab suggests, these wipes can be used to clean skin prior to an injection. I also like to keep a few in the first aid kit for wiping off cuts and grazes. However, they also work really well for cleaning small objects like thermometers, headsets, keyboards, mice, doorknobs, pens and pocket knives.

                                ===Price & Availability===
                                A box of 100 Reliject swabs is currently available on Amazon for £1.95 + £0.99 shipping. They are also listed for similar prices on a number of medical supply websites, but then shipping tends to be more if you aren't placing a large order.

                                ===Conclusion===
                                These wipes are my favourite 70% isopropyl alcohol swabs readily available here in the UK. They have a nice texture and size for cleaning my thermometer but don't smell nearly as bad as some brands. I will certainly buy them again.

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