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Silver Spoon Half Spoon Granulated Sugar Since giving up smoking almost three years ago I have been putting on weight at the rate of a stone a year, obviously this can't go on for ever as I will not be able to move so I have been trying to cut certain things out of my diet recently in an attempt to lose a little weight without actually going on a diet. I have tried many sweeteners in my hot drinks over the years but never found one that I could really use as an alternative to sugar without ruining the enjoyment of my drink. Recently though, I have discovered is Silver Spoon Half Spoon Granulated Sugar, I drink a lot of tea and take two sugars every time so my daily sugar intake is very high, the idea of halving my intake without losing any of the taste really appealed to me so I thought I would give it a try. Information Half Spoon sugar costs roughly twice the price of normal sugar, but since you only use half as much, I suppose you could say it costs the same price as normal. There are 8kcal of energy per serving and 2g of carbohydrates, both these figures are only slightly less than ordinary sugar, but when you consider you will be using only half the amount you normally do it is a lot less. Half Spoon sugar is a combination of normal sugar and sweeteners to make it taste the same as normal sugar when using only half the amount. It can be used in baking and for normal everyday uses such as in your tea/coffee or on your cereal. The packaging is fairly similar to ordinary Silver Spoon sugar really but the packaging is dark blue and the front reads half spoon. Is It Any Good? So it is supposed to taste exactly the same as normal sugar but allow you to use only half the amount you normally would, so does it do what it claims? Well yes it does in my opinion, in tea I take only one teaspoon of half spoon and to be completely honest it tastes exactly the same as two teaspoons of normal sugar. I also use it on my morning Weetabix, I have two Weetabix every morning and used to sprinkle one teaspoon of normal sugar over each Weetabix biscuit, I now use just one teaspoon of half spoon sugar over the two biscuits and it tastes the same as before, so taste wise it is brilliant and does exactly what it says on the tin. It also manages to smell the same (if you are in to smelling sugar that is) but then to be honest it normal sugar mainly, it just has sweeteners added to allow you to get the same taste whilst using less. The appearance of the half spoon sugar is exactly as you would expect, it is normal sugar grains with bits of white sweetener thrown in here and there. I have also used half spoon in baking, I made a sponge cake a couple of weeks ago and used half the amount of sugar in the recipe and the normal amount of everything else, the result was a perfect cake that tasted just as it should do, so it seems to do the job in all applications. The only real problem arises when we are visited by a close friend or family member, someone who knows us well enough to enter our kitchen and make themselves a cup of tea or coffee. My brother-in-law did this the other day and was kind enough to offer me a cup, unfortunately when I tasted my cup of tea it had two teaspoons of half spoon it as we store our sugar in a sugar bowl so he had not realised it was any different to normal sugar. This resulted in my tea tasting like it had four sugars in it! When I told him about it he said he thought his brew tasted a little sweet! Overall Overall would I recommend Silver Spoon Half Spoon Sugar? Yes I would, the only real problem I have outlined above is not really something that happens very often in reality. Taste wise I believe it passes the test completely, I have never had any complaints from guests who have called for a brew and have used it on cereal and in baking as well as in hot drinks. As mentioned previously I have tried many different sweeteners in the past and could not get used to them in my tea, but this seems to do the job perfectly. Whilst I am still taking in normal sugar as well as sweetener I have halved my intake and that can only be a good thing. The price could be lower, I don't see why it has to be twice the price of normal sugar really, but I suppose they are playing on the fact that as you will only use half the amount so it will last twice as long so cost the same in the long run and whilst I would like to see them bring the price down, I am willing to pay the current price due to the health and diet side of it. I suppose the other plus point is that if you buy the same size bag as you normally buy normal sugar you will only need to put it on your shopping list half as often. Thanks For Reading, John, Also On Ciao!
== Canon Pixma ip5200 == I purchased this printer about three years ago now and it was not one of the latest models then. I was looking for a new printer as my all in one HP was costing a fortune in ink and I was just starting up an ebay business so I needed to be able to print invoices etc. cheaply and fairly quickly. I looked at Canon's mainly as they are one of the best known brands for doing cheaper inks. I had looked at a few different models when I came across the Pixma ip5200 in Comet whilst shopping for something else, where it was on offer for half the original price at just short of £35 with a full set of inks, replacing the inks in my HP with originals would cost more than this so I snapped it up there and then. === Looks === The Canon Pixma ip5200 is a pretty stylish looking printer, even now, the design is quite sleek and rounded and the two colours black and silver compiment each other very well in my opinion. When not in use the front closes up and leaves you with a nicely rounded rectangular object which is very easy on the eye, even when compared to the much more modern printers available today and would not look out of place on any modern desk, it certainly looks good on mine even next to a much more modern monitor and scanner. === In Use / Features === The printer is incredibly easy to get started with being a plug and play and has been installed on four computers now over the last three years including a laptop, installation has never taken longer than five minutes from memory. It comes with a driver disk, however I have never needed to use this and have installed it using the last three editions of windows. Paper can be stored in a cassette underneath the printer or on a fold out tray on the top of the unit, I prefer to use the cassette as it holds more paper (about 150 sheets) and this also allows the printer to be stored against a wall as mine is. It also leaves the top of the printer flat for storage of items ie clocks, calenders etc. a godsend for me as I am always short of space on my desk so every square inch counts!! Being three or four years old, it is not exactly packed with features, but its main use for me has just been invoice printing so it has served me fine. I have used it for photo and colour printing though in the time I have had it and I must say I have not had any problems with it in any department. Function-wise the Canon Pixma ip5200 is pretty simple really, there are only three buttons on the front of it, one being the power button, another is to select where to take paper from (the cassette or the top tray) this is very handy to have on the front of the printer as if you decide to print a photo you can simply open the top tray and put your photo paper in then press the paper source button, instead of having to take the cassette out and put your photo paper in there before replacing it. The third button is a paper feed and resume button, so there is nothing too complicated about this printer! Below the three button is a usb port so you can plug a pen drive or camera directly into the printer and print photos off in that way. Ink is changed by lifting a lid on the top of the printer in front of the top paper tray, opening this lid automatically sends the inks out into the middle of the printer and makes them easily accessable for changing. They flash when they are low also, so you can see at a glance which ones need replacing. There are five ink cartridges (two blacks and three colours) and this makes using the Canon more economical when changing the colours as they can be changed individually without having to change all the colours in one when just one has run out. === Print Quality === As I have already said, the main use for this printer is just for invoices printed in black only, however I have used it to print colour and photos while I have owned it. When printing invoices it is pretty quick, a page takes a second or so, and the result is very good, letters are sharp and do not bleed and the finished printout always looks professional and neat, I am very happy with the quality for invoices. When printing in colour, the printer used to be just as good as in black but it does seem to have lessend slightly in quality as time has gone on. The colours are not quite as sharp and realistic as they used to be and also occasionally there is a line of lighter colour which does not matter too much when printing something off the internet but can be very annoying when printing photos. I must say I only use compatible inks now though and when I first had the printer I used originals so that could be the problem and it might not actually be the printers fault. Photos printed with original inks when the printer was new were excellent. I have four photos on the wall in my conservatory which were printed on the Canon when it was new using original inks and they are still almost as good as the day they were printed, I think they have faded ever so slightly but this to be expected in a conservatory. The photos I printed when the printer was new were all excellent as I have mentioned and were almost as good as some we had printed professionally, the images were sharp and clean with excellent colour and no sign of square pixels anywhere. I have printed some photos off recently using cheap compatible inks and I have to say they are still pretty much acceptable, obviously they are not as good as professional prints but when viewed in a picture frame on the wall they are certainly good enough to use. Aside from the occasional problem with a lighter line on the photos, the colour is not as good as it used to be, and pictures do not seem quite as vivid as they should, although images are still sharp and very well defined, the colour problem could quite easily be down the compatible inks though as mentioned earlier. Obviously newer printers on the market will print better photos than this printer, just because of the age of it, but the results are certainly good enough to display at home and show to friends, if you are after much better quality prints it works out much cheaper to have them done professionally in my opinion. === Durability === Well I have owned this printer for about three years now and I have never had a problem with it (touch wood, lol). It has been used daily for printing invoices and in it's lifetime I would say it has probably printed about twenty thousand pages but it still works as good today as the first day I bought it. nothing has broken on it and everything works as it should. It has been very well used and has also taken quite a lot of knocks but as I say it is absolutely fine. It still prints as it should and still looks fine so I will be keeping hold of it for the forseeable future. === Ink Prices === I only use compatible inks in this printer now and have done for the last couple of years, they are still widely available and two full sets of chipped inks costs just £8.99 including postage on ebay which I consider to be dirt cheap. Two full sets of inks last me about two months even though I do a lot of printing, but I don't print photos very often, just basic printing usually. When the computer tells me the ink has run out in a certain cartridge I ignore it and tend to get at least another week out of it before any pages are missing ink. A full set of original inks can be purchased for about £40 including postage, also on ebay but I wouldn't ever pay that much when compatibles are so much cheaper and do the job perfectly well for me. === Recommended? === So would I recommend this printer? Yes I would definately, I doubt if it is still being made but it is possible to get a second hand one on ebay for about £20 - £30 including postage. Obviously there are lots of printers on the market and you can easily pick up a new one for the price of a second hand one of these which will be much newer and will probably be better than the out dated Pixma ip5200, however for the tremendous fault free service it has given me and the decent quality printing it has always produced I can only give this printer five stars and recommend it highly to anyone interested in it. It is pretty slow when printing photos (an A4 page takes about five minutes on the best quality) and I have mentioned slight faults with colour but I believe this to be down the the cheap inks and not the printer itself so I really can't find fault with it for the job I use it for, and when you consider the price of the compatible inks it is an incredibly cheap printer to run which is a massive plus point for me as the running cost of anything to do with my business affects my profit directly. As mentioned earlier it is still a good looking printer and although it will not have the features of a more modern printer it does everything I ask of it, so if you are looking for a decent, cheap printer that will not cost the earth to run this is a definate contender in my opinion, and it will not be replaced until it packs up completely, at £35 it has cost me about £10 a year (excluding inks) and at this sort of money it owes me absolutely nothing, even if it packs up tomorrow after me singing it's praises in this review, lol. Thanks For Reading, John, Also On Ciao!
Tesco Value Baked Beans In Tomato Sauce I like baked beans, I always have, especially with a full English which I enjoy now and again. Unfortunately my wife can't stand them so as a result we did not eat them very often until Heinz recently started selling them in mini plastic tubs, I bought a pack of four of these and she can now pop one in the microwave when we have a full English and there is just enough for one person. I occasionally like beans on toast for my lunch but have always had Heinz until yesterday, I must have mentioned to Karen, my wife, that the product of the week was Tesco value beans so she had picked a tin up specially, oh so sad! Packaging The Tesco value packaging has come on a bit in recent years, what was once a very dull and bland red, white and blue label is now, well, red, white and blue predominantly however there is at least a picture of some beans in the background now. The front of the tin has the Tesco value logo at the top, the name of the tin contents, in this case baked beans in tomato sauce, across the middle and the main nutritional information across the bottom, which I think is a very good idea and should maybe be adopted by a few other food makers. This information is all on a background of baked beans as mentioned previously. There are also a couple of graphics at the top of the tin stating great taste (a matter of opinion) and new recipe. It also states the weight of the contents (420g) and then further around the tin are the ingredients and nutritional information etc.. This is all on a paper label which is wrapped around the tin which requires a tin opener to get at the contents (how old fashioned). Overall I would say the packaging is pretty good to look at really, when you consider it is a supermarket own, value, brand, but annoying that they didn't put an easy pull off lid on it, although this would probably drive up the price a little I suppose. Ingredients And Nutritional Information Ingredients: Water, Haricot Beans (40%), Tomato Paste (14%), Sugar, Modified Maize Starch, Salt, Onion Powder, Paprika, Flavouring. Nutritional Information (per 210g, half a tin): Energy 125kCal, Protein 9.9g, Carbohydrate 18.9g, of which sugars 7.9g, fat 1.1g, of which saturates 0.2g, fibre 7.4g, Sodium 0.5g, salt equivalent 1.3g. Some of this information is displayed on the front of the tin in the 'traffic lights' labelling and beans are a good source of fibre as can be seen and also mentioned on the the front of the label. The amount of salt is a little worrying though as in a full tin of these beans there is 2.6g of salt and when you consider your body really only needs 3g per day this is almost your daily allowance in one go if you eat the whole tin to yourself, easily done if having beans on toast, and they have apparently reduced the salt content by a half in recent years. The All Important Taste Test.... So the most important bit, what are they like? I will compare them to Heinz as that is the brand of baked beans I normally eat (and will be eating in future to be honest). The beans themselves seem smaller than Heinz beans but beans are beans in all honesty and they taste pretty much the same as Heinz, but the sauce is the big difference. The sauce is not as thick as Heinz and does not have any where near as good a flavour, it is bland (probably missing the salt they have removed recently) and pretty dull tasting really, as well as being more watery and is just not as enjoyable as Heinz. The beans are smaller also, as mentioned above, and this adds to the disappointment really too, as they feel smaller in your mouth and while this does not really affect the taste of the beans, it somehow affects the overall enjoyment of them. In short they are what they are, a cheaper alternative to Heinz in every way, they cost less and taste less. Heinz beans are bigger (slightly) and the sauce is much thicker and sweeter, and carries far more flavour in my opinion. This said though, I suppose if you are on a tight budget they are an alternative that you would probably get used to if eating them all the time. I had the full tin on toast for my lunch so I could really taste them as there was not really anything else to break them up, if you ate a small portion of them as part of a meal (with a full English for example) they might be more acceptable. Recommended? I am undecided on whether or not to recommend Tesco value baked beans or not really. They are, in my opinion, not a patch on Heinz, but then they are cheaper and if served as a small portion with another meal they may well be quite acceptable. That said though, when Heinz are on special offer, a pack of four would not work out that much more expensive really. In fact at 29p a tin they are not really that cheap, I am sure they used to be much, much cheaper than that at one time (I seem to remember them being 9p once upon a time). Coupled with the fact that they need to open with a tin opener, which is a bit of a nuisance these days with the invention of the easy pull off lids, I know we definitely won't be buying them again, although we buy the Heinz plastic tubs now for the reasons mentioned above, so that is maybe a little unfair, but I think I will say if you can afford Heinz, stick to Heinz, if you are on a really tight budget they are probably ok really once you get used to them. Thanks for reading, John, also on Ciao
Casio MS-8TV Desk Calculator For the last year or so I have worked full time selling on ebay, I started this up as a sideline initially but with the recession hitting my flooring business pretty badly, I found myself spending more and more time on ebay until it eventually became my full time job. I do all my own accounts for the business and keep a daily ledger so I know exactly where I am up to so a desk calculator is a must for me. I actually picked this up at a car boot sale a couple of years ago for 50p so it owes me absolutely nothing but I have seen it on ebay for £6.99 plus postage. Features This calculator is a pretty standard one really, it has all the usual features you would expect on a standard calculator, such as plus, minus, divide, equals etc., the plus button is larger than the other ones (about twice the size), there are also memory plus and minus buttons as well as the memory recall, although I don't tend to use these very often but they are present if required. Other keys include an 'on' button (fairly obviously), AC and C (also pretty standard) and a plus/minus button so you can work with negative numbers. The calculator is solar and battery powered and measures approximately 6" x 4" with the last 2" in length being angled upwards and housing the screen and solar panel. Mine is dark grey, but I have also seen it in silver, and the base has four 'popped out' feet, two of which are rubber non-slip ones. There are also three tax buttons which come in really handy. You press the percentage rate set button for a couple of seconds and the current tax rate comes up on the screen, you can then type in your own tax rate and press the rate set button again, that is now the set tax rate. Now you can use this tax rate on amounts you wish, you simply type an amount in and then press one of the two green buttons at the top of the calculator, tax- or tax+, this then either minuses your selected percentage from the amount typed in or adds it. This is a really handy function for working out VAT, or ebay fees, or basically anything that is expressed as a percentage that you use a lot as it saves you typing in the percentage amount all the time. In Use So what is the calculator like to use? In all honesty it is absolutely fine, the buttons are a decent size and well spaced out making it easy to use quickly without hitting other buttons by accident. The larger plus button is very handy as that is the button I use most and it is very easy to hit when adding a lot of amounts up quickly. The display is a decent size and with the screen being angled up slightly it is very easy to see. Another great feature is the fact that it is solar powered as well as battery powered allowing the best of both worlds, the solar panel works pretty well although the screen can be a little dim at night when there is less natural light, which probably means I need a new battery to use the dual power mode, but it is still usable so I have not bothered just yet. The non-slip feet keep it pretty firmly rooted to the spot I put it in on my desk, so it does not move around when in use which is also very handy. As I have said already the tax buttons are a really nice feature for me, I did not buy this calculator because of this function, but if I were buying a new one I would defiantly look out for this feature. Although I did not use the instruction manual (who would for a calculator?) I have just had a flick through it and it is very easy to understand, and the calculator is well made and very tough and durable. I have dropped it a number of times in the couple of years I have had it and it has not suffered at all, as far as I can see. The only negative point I can possibly come up with is that when I first got it I noticed that when using it very quickly the buttons would sometimes stick down, and then nothing else registered until you had got the stuck button back up. However this was only a problem for the first couple of weeks and then I think I must have got used using it and developed a knack of pressing the buttons in such a way that they did not stick any more. Recommended? So would I recommend this Casio calculator? Well yes I would really, although I must say at £6.99 plus £2.99 postage on ebay it seems quite a lot to pay for a pretty standard desk calculator really, and having had mine for so long, I don't think I would pay that much to replace it, if it were to stop working on me. If you can find one in a shop for three or four quid it is probably worth having or if you can find one on a car boot sale for 50p like me then even better! It is very easy to use and very durable so it ticks the right boxes in my opinion, it is also made by a reputable company which is always a plus point with any electrical item, although I don't think I would be bothering Casio's support line if it were to go wrong! Overall it gets 4 out of 5 stars from me and the only reason it lost one is because you have to learn how to press the buttons so as not to make them stick down. Details Casio MS-8TV Two way power Rating: solar cell battery DC 1.5v Thanks for reading, John, also on Ciao
Old El Paso Original Smoky BBQ Fajitas Fajitas are one of our favourite meals and we probably have them about once a week on average. If you use one of the many fajita kits that are out there they are incredibly easy and quick to make too. The Old El Paso kits are our favourites and they are available in a few different flavours but the original smoky BBQ has to be the best in my opinion. Packaging And What is In The Box The fajita kit comes in a card box about 9" square and the background is the striking yellow used on most Old El Paso packaging. The top of the box has a Spanish style tile roof across it with the 'Old El Paso' logo below it. Under this lot there are some fajitas bursting with fillings, it is quite good as packaging goes, in my opinion, it does make me want to pick it up off the shelf and see what it is. Its also tells you what is included and what you need to add to make the dish, however I normally add to this. On the rear of the box there is more yellow and the instructions which are really easy to follow, as well as telling you a veggie and a beef alternative. On the bottom of the box are the ingredients and nutritional information. On opening the box you will find eight flour tortillas in a clear packet, a foil type bag with some salsa in it and the mixture of spices that you add when cooking to give the flavour to your ingredients, also in a foil type bag. Ingredients and Nutritional Information '''Ingredients; Flour Tortillas (326g):''' Wheat flour, water, vegetable oil, stabiliser (glycerol), raising agents, emulsifier, dextrose, salt, preservative (potassium sorbate) '''Thick and chunky salsa:''' Tomato (54%), onions (16%), green peppers (10%) tomato paste, water, salt, vinegar, onion flakes, sugar, onion powder, lemon juice concentrate, guajillo pepper (0.4%), garlic powder, spices, acidity regulator (citric acid) '''Spice mix for fajitas (30g):''' Sugar, dehydrated vegetables (onion, garlic, hydrolysed soy protein), salt, flavouring, yeast extract, spices (black pepper, cayenne pepper, ginger), acidity regulator, colour (caramel) '''Contains wheat and soy ingredients''' '''Nutritional Information per 100g:''' Energy 1070kj / 254kcal, protein 7.0g, carbohydrates 37.8g, of which sugars 6.2g, fat 8.3g, of which saturates 3.2g, fibre 2.0g, sodium 0.91g, salt equivalent 2.3g Making Them Suggested on the front of the box is what you need to add to your fajita kit to make the dish. They suggest chicken breast, two peppers and an onion, and this is what I used to add when we first started having them, however over the years I have started experimenting with different ingredients. You can use beef instead of chicken, or even put a mixture in. Quite often if we have people round for dinner and decide to do fajitas, I do two separate pans, one with chicken in and one with beef, to give a little variety, however I much prefer them with chicken, as do most of my guests as the chicken dish always goes first and the beef version gets left until last and tends to be eaten by those who are starving. Needless to say, when there is just my wife and I we only have chicken. I normally use one chicken breast, one pepper and half an onion per person eating, as a rough guide, but I also like to throw in a few mushrooms and some courgettes. I use different coloured peppers and red onion to add a bit of colour to the dish and I like to get everything prepared before I start cooking. I cut the chicken breasts, peppers, onion and courgettes into strips and slice the mushrooms, I keep all the chopped ingredients in the fridge on plates covered with cling film until I am ready to start cooking. I also like to have my accompaniments ready before I start cooking. The salsa that comes in the packet, I open and squeeze into a side dish and then we like to have some soured cream, which I put in a similar side dish, grated cheese (really strong cheddar is nice) and some finely chopped fresh chillies to add a bit of a kick. I like to put a bit of salad on the plates too as a garnish / accompaniment to the fajitas so I also prep this separately. Once I am ready to start cooking I simply remove all the ingredients from the fridge and get a wok nice and warm on the hob with a little olive oil. I always do the onions first, I give them a couple of minutes on a fairly low heat just to soften them up a little at first. Then I turn the heat up, add a little more olive oil and put the mushrooms in. I fry the onions and mushrooms over a high heat for two or three minutes and then add the rest of the vegetables and reduce the heat a little. After about five minutes I add the spice packet that comes in the kit and then the chicken, salt and pepper and a drop of white wine vinegar or a splash of white wine, this helps to keep it all moist and stops the spice mix sticking to the pan and making a mess. When the chicken is cooked through, I reduce the heat and make a start on the tortillas. I normally do them one at a time in a hot dry frying pan about 30 seconds on each side and then into a hot covered dish to keep them warm, but you can do them in the microwave or the oven. I transfer the chicken and vegetable dish to a hot serving dish and serve. Making A Fajita Making a fajita is really simple, you take your flour tortilla and lay it flat on your plate. Add some of the chicken and vegetable mixture to the middle of your tortilla in a line about an inch and a half wide, but leave a gap at the bottom of the tortilla of a couple of inches. Add any sauce you fancy, salsa or soured cream, guacamole is nice too. If you want to give it a kick sprinkle some chopped fresh chillies over and then some grated strong cheddar adds a really nice flavour to it. Next fold the bottom bit (that you left empty) upwards over the mixture and roll each side inwards to make a wrap, simples, then eat!! The real secret is to try not to be too greedy and put too much filling in as then you will end up with it not wrapping up properly and it will be all down your shirt! Taste You can vary the taste according to what you like. They way I make then they are quite spicy as I add all of the spice packet, plus some fresh chillies but you could use a lot less spice and leave out the chillies to make the dish milder if you prefer. The filling with the spice mix over it is quite a sweet and spicy taste, you can taste garlic and a hint of ginger, it has quite a 'Mexican' flavour. If you add some soured cream this gives it a cooler creamy flavour and really compliments the spice mix well. The cheese tops it all off nicely, in my opinion, if you use a strong one it is quite overpowering in its flavour, but as all the other flavours are pretty strong too, it does not take away from anything else and it all seems to work together perfectly. Summary So would I recommend Old El Paso Original Smoky BBQ Fajitas? Yes I would recommend them 100%, they are one of our favourite dinners and one which people look forward to when visiting us. They are really simple to make if you do all your prep first and even if you do a couple of variations it is not too taxing. I have done them in the past for ten people, I did a chicken and a beef version, using sirloin steak for the beef. I also had three vegetarians in the party so I did a third pan with Quorn strips instead on the meat. I prepped everything in the afternoon and when it came to cooking for everyone it was really simple and so easy to keep everything warm as you serve it in warmed dishes for people to help themselves to. You could even use a table warmer if you have one. So they are as easy to make for ten people as they are for two, they are really tasty and can be played about with really easily if you fancy a change and the kits are regularly available on offer at the large supermarkets for two for £3.00 or something similar to that. Although full price is normally nearly that for one kit so it is best to stock up when they are on offer. Details Old El Paso are a Spanish company and have been trading since 1938. They produce Mexican food and came to the UK in 1984, they are the number one Mexican food brand in the UK and Ireland which they are quite proud of. Old El Paso UK Ltd., P.O. Box 363, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 1YT United Kingdom 0800 897 77 (9am - 8pm weekdays) http://www.oldelpaso.co.uk/ Available in all good supermarkets for around £2.84 unless on offer. Thanks for reading, John, also on Ciao!
== The Royal Hotel, Luton == Three years ago we bought an apartment in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria. The idea behind this was to enable us to holiday for longer and more often once we had a family, with the apartment bought and paid for we would only have to find our flights. Unfortunately flights from our nearest airport with the available flights, Manchester, to the small airport in bourgas (our local airport in Bulgaria) are quite expensive which did put a bit of a dampener on our idea at first. Fortunately, last year, we discovered Wizz Air (who I will review at a later date), a budget airline who fly to our local airport in Bulgaria at a fraction of the cost of other carriers but only from Luton airport. The drive to Luton takes a couple of hours longer than to Manchester but the financial savings and the fact I hate Manchester airport, plus slightly less time in the air make it a viable alternative for us. The flight normally takes off around lunch time so this would mean setting off very early to make sure we arrived in time allowing for early morning motorway traffic, so the alternative we have taken the last two times has been to stay in Luton the night before making for a more leisurely departure in the morning. The savings we make by travelling to Luton more than allow for this and it also gives us the added bonus of an extra night away which is always a plus. We tried a travel lodge at a service station on the M1 last time and were very disappointed with it, so we had to look for an alternative this time and The Royal Hotel was our choice, based on (mainly) price, and fairly good customer reviews on the site we booked in from (booking.com), it also had an on-site bar which we thought would be handy for a drink before and after dinner as we were travelling with our 5 week old daughter and didn't want to be out on a pub crawl or have to go out looking for somewhere to spend our first night away, as it were. === Booking === We booked online without any problem through booking.com, I am a big fan of cashback websites for a bit of extra discount when booking or buying anything online, but unfortunately I could not find booking.com on any of the sites I normally use. I therefore tried finding The Royal Hotel on a couple of other hotel sites that do offer cashback, (Expedia and Hotels.com) to try and take advantage of this type of discount but it was not listed with either of these so in the end I booked with booking.com. Booking online was a pretty simple affair with the usual details being required (name, address, email etc. as well as a credit / debit card for payment) and only took me about five minutes. I printed off the confirmation page although this was not needed on check in, they just required our name and the card we paid on. You could also book by phone if prefered and they offer a free call back service. Also when booking with booking.com I noticed the price you see is the price you pay, unlike so many hotel sites now (such as the two mentioned above) which show you one price and then add on taxes and fees of £7-£10 per night when you click through to book, probably why these other sites can afford to pay up to 13% cashback on bookings made through them!! === On Arrival / First Impressions === We printed directions from AA routefinder and they were not very good at all it has to be said. We had actually driven past the hotel quite soon after looking for it but as it looks nothing like the the picture for it used in the advertising (its surroundings have been removed in the picture for obvious reasons which I will come to later) we had completely missed it and then became lost. Eventually we decided we would have to ring the hotel and ask for directions as we had spent 20 minutes driving around with no joy. My wife made the call which was answered by the girl on the front desk, she was extremely helpful and managed to guide us in pretty quickly and with no problems at all as we were not that far away when we called, I got the impression we were not the first people to struggle finding the place to be honest though. Also there are a lot of one way systems in Luton which make it quite difficult when you do not know the area, we arrived at 5.30pm too so this did not help as the roads were very busy too. We arrived at the hotel and pulled into the car park which is to the rear and accessed through a security bar which raises to let you in. First impressions of the place were not very good at all to be honest, as mentioned earlier the photo used in all the advertising for this hotel has had its surroundings removed from it (if you look closely at the picture Dooyoo have for it, all the blank looking part in front of the hotel, which I thought was the car park on booking, is actually roads, railway bridges and a subway, and I don't mean the rapidly expanding sandwich shop!!). It is, in fact, completely surrounded by busy roads, in fact right at the front is a very busy junction with people cutting each other up and a lot of hooting going on, and the railway I mention, runs over a bridge just yards away from the building, if you look at the picture of the exterior the railway bridge is just out of shot to the right of the picture and runs over the road that has been removed and behind the hotel (we didn't hear a train during our stay though, it has to be said, although we were at the front where the busy road junction was, maybe if you are at the rear you will), we were a bit fed up to say the least as we got out of the car and I wish I had taken a couple of pictures of the exterior to publish and show what it really looks like as, apart from anything else, it would make it easier to find and recognise. Although on a positive I suppose this does show how good the transport links are!! The next thing we had to do was hump all our luggage which included two heavy suitcases, hand luggage, a baby and pram etc. around the outside of the hotel on the pavement as the hotel entrance is on the opposite side of the building to the car park. As my wife is still recovering from a caesarian section delivery she cannot lift anything heavier than our new baby so it took me three trips from the car to the reception. This was only made worse by the thought that I would have to do it all again in reverse the following morning. However a handy tip, if you do stay at this hotel and you are on the first floor, there is a fire exit right at the end of the main corridor which I discovered and this leads directly down to the car park via a metal staircase, this turned out to be a complete life saver for me the next morning, I don't know if it is alarmed or anything and you have to go through a fire door which is marked 'only in emergency' or something similar but the cleaners were using it so I had a quick word with them and used it to load our car up saving me a lot of shoe leather and a possible heart attack!! Another point is that the car park could do with re-covering as it is riddled with pot holes making wheeling a suitcase across it quite difficult. I suppose we could have left the bulk of our luggage in the car overnight as my wife had packed us a seperate bag for this stop-over, however the area it was in looked decidedly dodgy on first impressions so I decided it would be safer in the hotel with us. === Reception And Public Areas === The reception area is quite compact but does all it needs to, it is quite well lit and has a front desk and tiled floor with the stairs leading up to the rooms. It is entered through the main door which has an intercom entry system, (as mentioned previously it is not in a the best area of Luton) and is tastefully decorated, although it is starting to look a little tired, I have definately seen worse though. We were met by the girl with whom we had spoken to on the phone who was very friendly and quickly checked us in before dropping the bombshell that the Royal Hotel does not have a lift, meaning I then had to hump all our luggage, and pram, up the stairs and to our room which was down the one corridor that floor has. This also makes it a big problem for disabled access as I don't believe any of the 25 rooms are on the ground floor. The corridor and landing were, again, tastefully decorated and not quite as tired as reception, there was a fairly new carpet on the floor and the lighting was again pretty good, the corridor to our room was wide enough to go down with cases easily. I have to say all the public areas were very clean and well maintained, we did not have a problem with any of them. I noticed there was a suite on the ground floor also which I think is used as a business center from reading the hotel description online, this was accessed through double doors from the reception area just next to the front desk but we did not see inside it. === The Bar === The bar at The Royal Hotel is more like a seperate pub really. On arrival my wife wanted to chill out in the room for a little while, where I preferred to go and check the bar (and a couple of pints) out. I entered the bar from the hotel but could not go back through the same door as it had a combination lock on the bar side so I had to go outside and back round to the main entrance and ring the buzzer to get back in again, not a big problem really but a little annoying when you are staying there, especially if it happens to be raining. The bar is quite nice have plenty of chairs and tables and being decorated very nicely again. I noticed a pool table and jukebox and in all fairness it seemed like quite a nice place, it had quite loud music on when we arrived and as our room was directly above it we could hear this in the room, although when we went down later on (about 7pm) the music had been turned down and we did not hear it in the room when we went back upstairs after dinner. I was greeted by a very nice barman at the bar who pulled me a pint of lager which was just £2.00 which I thought very reasonable considering we were so near London and sat down for an unwind after our three and a half hour journey. There seemed to be a good selection of draught beers, bottled drinks and spirits, but I was told later on that they did not do coffee, when I ordered one for my wife, even though I could see a coffee machine behind the bar!! The bar seemed to be frequented, mainly, by locals and workmen who had just finished from what I saw, and they seemed very friendly. When my wife came down with me later on we got talking to another couple in the family room, which is the first room you come into if accessing the bar from the hotel and wasn't actually advertised as a family room, but we noticed this couple in there with a child so assumed it was ok to take ours in also. They were local and very nice, I didn't have any problems taking my wife and daughter in there for a quick drink before dinner even though on first impressions of the place I might have. They didn't serve food though so we had to go out and find somewhere to eat which my wife found a little daunting at first as it did seem quite a rough area and she was worried about taking our daughter out at night there, however in reality, it was absolutely fine but the area might be off putting for some people. === The Room === Our first impression of the room was quite good to be honest. It was quite large and had two large double glazed windows on the main wall. There was a dressing table, cupboard, armchair, double bed, two bed side tables with lamps on and still plenty of floor space left. There was a tea and coffee making tray and a kettle (no biscuits though unfortunately), a trouser press and an open wardrobe with coat hangers behind the door. There was also a digital safe which we didn't use on this occasion as we didn't have many valuables with us that we didn't keep on our person, but I always think a safe is something every hotel room should have and not many do. It was well laid out and decorated quite plainly but quite nice really, the carpet was a bit worn though but my wife says only I notice flooring and no one else does really, thats the problem with being a carpet fitter I suppose. The windows were both open and letting a lot of traffic noise in so we quickly closed them and it was not quite as bad, but could still be heard, this was better in the night though, I must say, as the traffic died down a bit, but then it started up again quite early (about 6am) and this was annoying as it woke us up. I should also say that I am a very heavy sleeper and if you are a light sleeper and want a nights sleep then you should probably rule this hotel out straight away, we both slept ok until 6am though to be honest. One problem with the room that my wife pointed out was the lighting. There was only one light on the ceiling and it was fitted with an uplighter shade which sends most of the light back up to the ceiling. The problem with this was that there had originally been a wall running down the center of our room which now had an RSJ across it which had boxing around it which was lower than the ceiling, this stopped any light getting across to the other half of the room where the dressing table was making it quite dark. While this did not bother me too much it annoyed my wife when she was trying to use the mirror to do her hair and make up etc. and could be easily remedied with a better ceiling light or a lamp on the dressing table. There was a fairly decent sized plasma tv on the wall also, although it only had four channels so this might be a nuisance to some people, but we only had it on for background noise so it wasn't really a problem to us. The bathroom was compact but housed everything we needed. There was a bath with a large shower over, a sink and toilet. The bathroom was mostly tiled and was clean and well maintained, as was the rest of the room. There was dove liquid soap, shampoo and shower gel in handy dispensers and the shower was very pleasant, I can't stand showers with no water pressure but this was fine and had quite a large head which was good. There were ample towels for our stay also although the bath towels were not very big and had been quite well washed so they were not very soft, but I am probably being a little picky here. === Other Points Of Interest === Breakfast is available at The Royal Hotel, although I cannot really comment on this as we opted to eat at the airport, nothing to do with the hotel, we just like to eat at the airport as it gives you something to do while waiting for your flight. A continental breakfast is avaiable for £2.50 each and full english is just £5.00 which also includes the continental option, offering very good value for money I think, and had we been flying later in the day I think we would have tried it. This was served in the breakfast room which I passed through to get to the bar and it seemed absolutely fine and in keeping with the rest of the hotel. The hotel is within easy walking distance of a very nice square which appears to have been recently re-developed and has a few nice looking resturaunts, we opted for an italian who's name I cannot remember but it was very nice and child friendly, we had a lovely meal there and I would recommend it. I also noticed a couple of indians and I think there was chinese too, there were probably more down the side streets but we didn't venture that far. Just out of interest there was also a pretty decent looking cinema next door to the Italian, so plenty to do really if you have a night to kill as we did. The hotel is very handy for both the airport and the motorway (M1) which were another couple of reasons we booked it. The drive to the airport in the morning took about ten minutes and was very easy and well signposted (a plus after trying to find the hotel the evening before) we were very happy with this having had a long drive the day before and if you can find it ok it is only ten minutes from the M1. The hotel offers free wi-fi which is always a plus for me as I take my laptop everywhere, and in the room there were instructions for connecting to their service along with a password, very good I thought until I tried to connect. The service that should have shown up was called 'The Royal Hotel' but it did not show up when I searched for available networks. I rang the front desk, they were quick to answer and very friendly and helpful again saying it had been off for a while but had just come back on, unfortunately it did not come on for us so we could not take advantage of this facility. It was only advertised as being available in the public areas to be fair though and we only tried it in the room so maybe it works in some rooms and downstairs but we didn't manage to get it working. Had I been desperate to get online I could have sat in the breakfast room and accessed it there but I did not bother in the end. There was supposed to be hair dryer in the room and my wife looked everywhere for it but could not find one, as we were going on holiday and had taken our baggage upstairs with us she had her own with her but this could have been a problem if not, although I have to say, if we had contacted reception about this I am sure they would have found us one. Another small niggle was that the bulb in one of the bedside tables had blown, however I am sure this would have been quickly put right had we brought it to the attention of the hotel staff, but it really didn't bother us that much and again I think am probably being a little picky. On a plus point we both found the bed extremely comfortable, the mattress was a decent one and the pillows and bedding were very good also which is always a good thing in cheap hotels as they so often have cheap rubbish mattresses that leave you tossing and turning all night. The car park was pretty good too really, apart from the fact it could do with re-surfacing, you entered through an electronic barrier as I mentioned earlier and had to obtain a token from reception to get out so this made us feel quite happy to park the car up, there were plenty of parking spaces available in it too. === Overall === Taking everything into consideration, I think we will try another hotel next time we stay in Luton. There was nothing really badly wrong with The Royal Hotel, but I think there were just too many little niggles that added up to it not being that great in the end. I have chosen the option 'yes' for 'would you recommend this to a friend' and I would but I would only say it was good for the price we paid. One nights stay room only cost £47.00 for the three of us and they offered us a cot at no extra charge but we a had a travel cot with us so we declined. The closest alternative we found when booking was £68.00 and did not include parking, so with this in mind I would recommend it but only if you want to save a few quid. To be perfectly honest, next time I will spend a little bit more and, hopefully, find somewhere better because although it was just somewhere to lay our heads before going away, it was really the first night of our holiday and for the sake of £20.00 I think I will try not to be quite as tight next time, especially when I take into account the fact that we saved nearly £400 by flying from Luton and managed to get 4 more days away as their flight times are more flexible than non-budget carriers. Another point I should make is that we only booked the hotel the day before travelling to Luton and I think by booking in advance you could probably get a slightly better deal with some of the other hotels which are available. It is fair to say that I would not completely rule out staying here again and I have stayed in much worse hotels that cost more than this. However if you are looking for a cheap stay in Luton which is handy for both the M1 and the airport as well as the town center and train station there are probably much worse places around (in fact I know for a fact there are as I have stayed in some of them!), it is also within walking distance of Luton train station. The hotel rating is '''3 star''' and I think I would (just about) agree with them when taking everything into consideration. I must say all the staff we encountered at the hotel were very friendly and helpful, I don't know if that is by good luck or managment but if it is the latter they are definately doing something right. Decor-wise everything is fine and everywhere we saw was very clean and well maintained if just a little tired (apart from the car park, but again I am being slightly picky). I do think it could really do with a lift though, as they will be attracting people like us who are flying from Luton and have a lot of luggage with them, as well as alienating the disabled and this is the main reason I won't be using them again. My overall score for the hotel would be '''60%, or 3 stars out of 5''', so just above average, but quite good value for money when taking the alternatives into account and it certainly served its purpose for us. === Details === The Royal Hotel 1 Mill Street Luton Bedfordshire LU1 2NA Phone: 01582 400 909 Fax: 01582 692 099 The Royal Hotel is part of The Landlet Hotel Group who have been operating for 30 years, it has 25 Bedrooms over two floors including; singles, twins, trebles and family rooms accessed by stairs only, 24 hour reception, continental and full english breakfast served daily 7.30am- 9.00am, coffee lounge, bar, conference facilities, wi-fi and free secure on site parking. All rooms have tea and coffee making facilities, digital safe, trouser press and colour TV. Check-in is from 1pm and checkout is by 11am. Rooms start at £30.00, we paid £47.00 for a double and took our own travel cot but were offered a cot on check in for our baby, this would have been free of charge unlike some hotels we looked at. The hotel also offers a loyalty scheme where you are collect points on a card and after 9 paid for stays you will receive your 10th night free, but I do wonder if anyone actually gets to the free nights stay though!! Thanks for reading, also on Ciao, John
Jacobs Tuc Original Snack Crackers Tuc crackers are made by Jacob Fruitfield Food Group (Jacob's) and were named, apparently, after the Trade Union Congress. According to the company that makes them, they were launching the biscuits in the UK and didn't have a name for them. They saw a billboard advertising the Trade Union Congress where it was shortened to TUC and at the last minute decided to name their new snack after this. In early American advertising they were referred to as 'The Uncommon Cracker'. They are available in eight different varieties including a mini version as well as a couple of hot and spicy versions and a paprika variety, but this review is about the original and, in my opinion, still the best version of these crackers. Ingredients / Nutritional Information Ingredients; wheat flour, vegetable oil, glucose syrup, barley malt extract, liquid whole egg, salt, raising agents (ammonium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate), flour treatment agent (sodium sulphite) Nutritional Information (per cracker (5g)); Calories: 24, Protein: 0.3, Carbohydrate: 2.8, Fat: 1.3, Fibre: 0.1 Packaging Tuc crackers come in a stack of approximately thirty crackers wrapped in plastic as do most crackers to be honest. The plastic is mainly yellow in colour and has a blue 'Tuc shape' on top of about ten Tuc crackers fanned out like a deck of cards, on top of this is the Tuc name. Just below this it tells you the flavour, in this case 'original' and to the other end of the packet there is the rather nice slogan 'Tuc in', on the other side of the packaging is the normal info as listed above, ingredients etc. and the ends of the packaging are finished almost like a sweet wrapper, being loose and pulled away from the crackers and crimped together. The packaging has remained almost the same over the years and although it is now an unmissable sight on the supermarket shelves and does not really need to be changed, I find it a bit bland really and a little un-thought about almost as if they dreamed it up as quickly as the name. The Biscuits The crackers are rectangular in shape, with the corners cut off, and each one displays the name 'Tuc' made up of small pin-pricks in the centre of the biscuit. These are not just for show, they also serve the purpose of preventing bubbles during baking, they are a sort of creamy yellow colour. They can be eaten on their own or with a range of toppings including cheese, cold meat, pate etc. and I prefer them topped with something as this normally compliments the flavour and I find them just a little plain on their own. When you first bite into a Tuc cracker, whether topped or un-topped, you get an instant salty taste, or hit, which is really nice and not too much, the salty taste seems to rub onto your tongue and stay there for a second making your mouth water and then it changes to a more mild and almost sweet and buttery aftertaste. The texture is different to most other crackers too, in that they are quite soft and crumble quite nicely into your mouth, without cracking and breaking up all over the place which I personally find quite annoying at times. Overall Summing up then, would I recommend Tuc crackers? Yes I definitely would, they are a really tasty alternative to so many other crackers out there as well as being easier to eat and much less messy in my view. I like them, mainly, with cheese and pickle, but they are nice with almost any topping you can think of, try a big dollop of cream cheese and a slice of fresh chilli for a kick, they are also nice with ham and tomato as well as still being fairly enjoyable on their own. Full marks from me and a must have when getting the cheese board out in my opinion. They are readily available at all good supermarkets and most smaller, Spar type, stores for around about the pound mark, which is about average for a packet of branded savory biscuits. This price is for a 150g packet (approximately thirty biscuits) and they are only available in Europe, North America and North Arfica currently. However I also noticed they are available on ebay for £1.49 from one enterprising seller who will also ship them worldwide and only charges the postage to your country out at cost, I am not sure how a packet of these would fare in the postal system as they are quite delicate really and would need to be very well packaged, but it shows you can now enjoy them worldwide if you wish too! Thanks For Reading, Also On Ciao, John
Wizz Air As you may know if you have read my reviews before, we bought an apartment in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria three years ago with the hope that when we had a family, the first of which has just recently come along, we could holiday quite often and for longer without it costing the earth. We have to get to a fairly small airport in Bulgaria called Bourgas which has proved to be a little expensive initially using Thomas Cook and Balkan Air from Manchester, and with Easy Jet only flying to Sofia, the capital, which is too far by road to be viable, we were a bit fed up at first. However we have recently discovered the budget airline Wizz Air which flies from Luton to Bourgas for a fraction of the cost we have paid in the past and with the journey to Luton only taking a couple of hours longer than Manchester it has been a life saver to us. Having flown with them four times now I decided it was time to review them. The Company Wizz Air was only conceived in June 2003 when six people with a wide range of airline expertise got together with József Váradi, the Company's Chief Executive Officer. Just three months later they were a registered company and ready to fly. The first flight took off on 19th May 2004 from Katowice. Today Wizz Air has 12 operating bases in the region: Gdansk, Poznan, Katowice, Warsaw and Wroclaw, in Poland, Budapest in Hungary, Sofia in Bulgaria, Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca and Timisoara in Romania, Kyiv in Ukraine and Prague in Czech Republic, offering flights on over 150 routes. Because the company is only young, they operate a young fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft with 180 leather seats, a 'young' fleet always being a good point for me as a nervous flyer, but also making for better on-board comfort and facilities. In fact I only found out about them a couple of years ago, by going on the forum for our complex in Bulgaria and noticing someone had recommended them for cheap flights to Bourgas. Booking / The Website I have always booked our flights online at Wizz Air's website www.wizzair.com and to be honest I think this is the only way you can book with them. The site is quite simple really and decorated in Wizz Air's trademark colours (two different shades of purple). I have always found it very easy to navigate and I don't think anyone with a basic knowledge of the internet would have a problem with it. There are special offers flashing across the centre and top of the page, and underneath this box is a map with all the places Wizz Air fly to and from. Quite a nice little feature with the map is the ability to hover your mouse over a city and see all the destinations from that place come up as lines directly to the destinations. For example if you hover over Liverpool, three lines pop up between Liverpool on the map and Gdansk, Warsaw and Katowice so you can see at a glance where you can fly to and where from. On the left of the page is the all important book a flight box, here you can choose the normal things associated with booking a flight i.e. one way or return trip, starting point and destination, dates, number of passengers etc.. Once you have clicked find flights you are taken through to a page which displays your chosen dates (if available) and usually at least a couple of alternatives for each route (either different times on the same date or maybe a day or two either side of your chosen dates). I have always found this very handy as we are hardly ever tied down to exact dates and the savings that can be made sometimes just by flying a day earlier or coming back a day later are well worth changing your dates for. A good example of this is the last flight I booked with Wizz air to Bulgaria, we had intended flying back on the fifth of the month but the flight on the tenth was nearly £60.00 cheaper each, so I could see at a glance that we could have five days extra on holiday for a saving of nearly £120!! Another thing that I like about this page is that the prices shown include airport taxes (don't worry there are still some extras to add on as you would expect from a budget airline, but at least the taxes are included so you have a fairly decent idea of the final cost). A summary of your flights is shown on the right hand side and if you select a different flight this updates automatically. In this box you can also alter the currency you wish to pay in and your payment method (so you can see the charge for a debit or credit card added to the bill also!!) Once you have decided on your flights you go through to the login / register page where you have to enter all the details of each passenger and any extras you need (such as baggage, insurance, airport check-in etc.), followed by a purchase / payment page and finally you have a confirmation page which you can print off and hand in at the check-in desk if you are checking in at the airport and have paid extra for the privilege. So all in all, as I have already mentioned, booking is a pretty simple affair. Pricing I have always found Wizz Air's pricing to be excellent in comparison to the closest best price with another carrier for our journey (Luton to Bourgas). For example the last flights we booked cost just over £300.00 for return flights for myself, my wife and an infant, the closest alternative we could find was with Thomas Cook Air, from Manchester, giving us four days less away (as Wizz Air's flying dates are much more flexible, as indeed most budget carriers are), was nearly £700.00!! Well worth the extra couple of hours drive to Luton for us. As I have said I have only flown this particular route with Wizz Air previously, however we are looking a city break to Poland either later this year or early next, so I have had a look at Wizz Air for flights and they seem to be very reasonable for this route too. At the time of writing it seems to two of us could travel from Liverpool to Warsaw and return for 5 - 7 days in November for a shade over £100.00, there will be a few extras to add to this before we have finished but it shouldn't be much more than £150 which I think is excellent for two return flights. As I mentioned earlier there are a few extras that need to be added to the initial price you see when booking with Wizz Air. Recently we have grown used to these extras, such as credit card surcharge, airport check-in charges and paying extra for a meal etc., so I will break down the main extras here. As I have said the initial price you see includes all airport taxes and charges so that is a pretty good start, however you still need to pay extra if you wish to check baggage in to the hold of the plane. The current charge for one piece of luggage is £13.00 per person per flight, so if there are two of you travelling on a return flight and you wish to take one case each you are looking at £52.00 extra, also I am pretty sure you have to check-in at the airport if you have baggage for the hold so this would cost you another £16.00 (£4 per person per flight). Whilst this seems expensive, it is pretty much inline with what other budget carriers are charging but when you consider the weight allowance is a massive 32kg each I don't think it is actually that bad at all. Another thing to consider is that if you are planning a short break you might be able to manage with the 10kg of hand luggage that each passenger is allowed, you can get some pretty good small cases now, with wheels on, that you can pull through the airport with you and carry on to the plane. As well as saving you the checked in baggage fee, it eliminates the need for airport check-in (making a further financial saving as well as the time it could save you) and you don't have to wait for your luggage to be unloaded at the other end which is another bonus. If you do need to check some baggage in you could consider sharing one large case between two if you want to make a small saving, with the weight allowance being as good as it is. Next comes the dreaded debit or credit charge fee we are beginning to get used to now, the charge for either of these is £16, I think they work this out as £4 per person per flight but I am not 100% sure They also accept payment by bank transfer which is half the price of credit / debit cards, but a good option if you fly with them a lot, and one I think we will do before booking with them again, is to take out their credit card, as if you pay with this there is no booking charge. The charge for an infant under 2, which we had to pay this time, is £21.00 per flight and they do not get their own seat, however our last flight was not full so we did manage to get three seats, again this is a pretty standard charge across all carriers. As Wizz Air do not offer pre-booked seats and the cabin fills up on a first come, first serve basis, there is also the opportunity to purchase priority boarding passes, this allows you to be among the first people to enter the plane (for £3 per person per flight) so you have a good chance of picking seats together, however don't take this option if travelling with an infant, as we very nearly did, as people travelling with infants are called first with the priority boarding people anyway. There are allsorts of other things you can pay extra for, such as extra legroom seats, holiday insurance and transfers at either end but I will not drone on about these, I will mention the '''Wizz Flex''' service though as I think it will be a very good idea for some people. For £9 per person per flight, his service allows you to change your flight to another available one up to three hours before your original flight is due to leave, a good idea if you want a flexible return date or for emergencies that might occur. Food And Drink As with most budget carriers there is no pre-bookable meal available on Wizz Air's flights, (which I always think is a plus to be honest, in-flight meals are not great but I always feel left out if I do not book one when they come out, because of this I tend to book one every time now, if available, and it adds an unnecessary (and quite large) extra to your bill. However they do offer a drinks and snacks service during the flight. The choice on board is not brilliant, it has to be said, but you should not have a problem finding something to refresh you from what they do offer. When I say the choice is not brilliant, there are only three spirits available, and no tonic water much to my dismay on our last flight as I fancied a Vodka and tonic, and no Bailys to my wife's dismay, but there is red and white wine, beer and a selection of soft drinks as well as hot drinks and crisps, sandwiches and chocolate so there is an adequate selection really. They also do the rounds with the usual duty free goods and gifts but we rarely bother with any of these on flights so I could not really tell you exactly what is available. The Staff Is I have said, we have only flown with Wizz Air four times so far and I will update at a later date if anything changes but so far all the staff on board Wizz Air flights have been excellent. Maybe we have been lucky so far as I have seen some negative reviews of staff, but we have always found them to be polite, helpful and very attentive in all their duties. They are normally foreign (usually Hungarian, as that is where Wizz Air is based), but have always spoken very good English and seem happy to serve and help the passengers, I find this quite refreshing as some cabin staff (mentioning no names) can be quite snotty and unhelpful, but as I say we have never experienced this on a Wizz Air flight, my sister who has flown with them twice has the same view on this. We have never had any problems with the staff on the ground either, although I have to say I am never really 100% sure who works for the airline and who works for the airport so I won't go into this too much. The captains, although I have yet to meet one, always seem very good at their jobs which is the most important thing, we have always experienced very smooth take off and landings over the four flights we have experienced with them so far. The baggage handlers were also extremely good with our pram on our last flight, taking it off us at the steps and delivering it to the bottom of the steps on arrival with no damage, although, again, I am not sure if they actually work for the airline or not. The Planes As mentioned above, Wizz Air operates a pretty young fleet of Airbus A320's. Each of these has 180 leather seats on board, offering pretty good comfort when compared to many other airlines I have flown with. As I say the seats are comfortable and the legroom I must say is very good when, again, compared to others I have used and when you consider they are a budget airline too this is even better. As the fleet is fairly young the planes we have seen have all seemed in very good shape and condition. The facilities are very good and well maintained, and the planes are always very clean and tidy from what we have seen. The mechanicals (from what I can make out with my limited experience) have always seemed very good although on our last flight we did have a slightly noise engine on take off, however this seems pretty normal and seems to be the case on over 50% of flights I take so I would not mark them down for this too much. Safety is evidently very important to them also, the staff do a very good safety briefing at the start of the flight and when we flew with our young baby they were quick to bring and demonstrate the baby seatbelt for us. Obviously with the fleet be so young, this helps a great deal with on-board safety also. Timekeeping Until our last flight we have always left on time although we were about 20 minutes late getting underway on this flight, however we had a decent tailwind and managed to get this lost time back in the air so we still landed on time. I will say though, my sister flew with them last year and she was delayed by two hours on her outbound flight, but this was not down the airline and was the fault of air traffic control, if I remember rightly, so I suppose they can not really be blamed for this. Again I will update this review in the future if we start to experience any real timekeeping problems, as we intend to use them quite a lot over the next few years, but up until now I cannot really fault them personally. Overall Summing up then, I think you will realise that I am more than happy with Wizz Air overall. Maybe their food and drink selection could be better but I think I am probably being very picky there. Taking everything into consideration I am extremely happy with the service they provide and will be continuing to use them for the foreseeable future. Booking is quick and easy, the planes are very good and the staff are friendly, but most importantly their pricing is excellent when compared to other carriers, including budget ones. The luggage allowance of 32kg is brilliant, especially for us when travelling for four weeks at a time sometimes, and also for taking stuff over to Bulgaria for our apartment without having to worry about paying excess baggage costs. It is also very handy for bringing lots of cheap duty free booze home with us!! If you haven't flown with Wizz Air before I would absolutely recommend you take a look at their website next time you are thinking of booking a cheap flight somewhere, they fly from Luton, Liverpool, Doncaster and Glasgow in the UK, although most of their flights are from Luton. In fact that is probably my only gripe really, I wish they would put a few more destinations on from Liverpool as it is only 45 minutes from us and Luton takes over three hours to get to. If you live anywhere near Luton though, they have a good range of destinations from there and are well worth looking into as an alternative to some of the bigger, better known, budget airlines. As I have said already I will continue to use them for the foreseeable future (for the Luton to Bourgas route) and recommend them to friends as well as people who rent our apartment from us. I will also be making them my first port of call when I book for Poland later this year, and in the future I will always check their site for flights when going anywhere else to see if they fly there. We have never needed to contact customer services by phone, but I should point out that it you do need to they charge 75p a minute, which I think is a bit excessive, I suppose if they can keep the flight costs down by doing the odd thing like this it is not the end of the world, and, as I say, we have not yet felt the need to use this service so it has not bothered us yet. As I have just said I would definitely recommend Wizz Air and would give them a score of 95% or 5 stars the only reason I have knocked them down from 100% really is because they could do with a few more routes from Liverpool for me, or even better start flying from Blackpool, lol. Details Wizz Air Hungary Airlines Ltd. LÅ'rinci út 59, Building C2 2220 Vecsés, Hungary Court of Pest County as Court of Registration, Reg.No.:13-09-096209 EU VAT No: HU13122605 Website: www.wizzair.com 0906 959 0002 (Calls are charged at 75p per minute though! Also calls from mobile networks may be charged at an even higher rate.) They have a very young fleet of Airbus A320's, 34 in total with an average age of three years and by 2017 they expect to increase their fleet to 132 aircraft, so I presume they are planning on adding a few routes with aircraft expansion at that rate and I will be interested to see what they are. Thanks For Reading, Also On Ciao!, John
Indesit 10 Place Slimline Dishwasher We took delivery of this dishwasher almost a month ago now, and we are very pleased with it overall so I have decided to make it my come back review as I have not written one for some time. We ordered it from Laskys as when we did a search for this particular model (we had been to a couple of electrical shops previously to select the exact model we wanted but then ordered it online as I find you can normally save quite a bit this way) Laskys came up cheapest and included free delivery. I also found a voucher code APPLIANCE3 for a further £6.15 discount and I had already logged in through a cashback site and saved a further 3.5%, so all in all I think I got a pretty good deal. Technical Details The main reason for selecting this model originally was the width of the appliance. The dimensions are (in mm): 850 x 450 x 600, with 450 being the width, our utility area has a space 460mm wide next to the washing machine and tumble dryer so this model fits in perfectly. Another factor was the energy rating, I always buy A rated appliances now when replacing old ones, as I can't see the point in buying anything else and wasting electricity, this model is A rated for energy consumption and for wash performance and drying efficiency also, so this had us interested straight away. Other technical details include the average water consumption per load, which at 10 litres is not bad at all and the noise level is 53 dB, which is not bad at all if you are wondering, it is a lot quieter than our old dishwasher (a 10 year old Hotpoint) which sounded like it was trying to escape once it got going. Features The Indesit IDS105S has 10 place settings as a guide, people rarely use full place settings these days as a rule (we don't anyway) but it allows roughly 10 large plates and 10 small, a few glasses/cups and a couple of pans, as well as cutlery, there are three of us (although one is quite small it has to be said) and we put it on roughly every other day, it is noticeably smaller than a full size dishwasher if you see them side by side but we are used to a slim line model anyway so it seems normal to us, and it has to be said it seems pretty spacious inside really. There are 5 programs, including a pre-rinse cycle and a quick wash although we normally use the eco-wash setting as it uses the least of everything and to be honest we have not had any problems so far on this cycle, other than heavily soiled pans which probably needed hand washing really anyway. There are wash phase indicator lights on the panel so you know where it is up to, there is a salt level indicator which will be handy if you use it, a cutlery basket (I think most do now) and the top basket is height adjustable which can come in handy. The drying method just uses residual heat as I think most dishwashers do and this works better if you leave the door ajar when the cycle has finished to allow the steam to escape. In Use Overall This dishwasher is quite stylish and modern looking, it is finished in silver which I think is a bit nicer than white and it seems quite slick next to our washing machine and tumble dryer which are a few years old. Inside it is surprisingly spacious really for a slim line model, as I have said previously we only put it on every other day as a rule and we use quite a lot of kitchen ware every day. The adjustable top basket is a handy feature, we didn't have anything like that on our old model and it has been handy sometimes for large pans or large wine glasses. It is also extremely easy to use, when it was delivered I plumbed it in in the place of our old one and when putting it on for the first time I did so without reading the user manual (I realise this is what all men do with new appliances), and have not yet felt the need to read through it as using it has been self explanatory so far. When it is running you can hear it going but it is much quieter than our old model and so it is almost like silence to us now. We normally use supermarket own brand dishwasher tablets and so far we have not had any problems with things coming out with dirty marks on them, other than a couple of pans and dishes that we didn't really expect to clean really. Our pots come out clean and dry every time and I have to say the cleaning performance is as good as the A rating they have given it, if I were to score it out of 10 I would honestly give it a 10 so far, our old dishwasher used to send at least two items out still dirty every load so it is really refreshing to not have to worry about this any more. Glasses come out well rinsed and pretty much unmarked, they still need polishing if you are fussy (as I am when doing a dinner party) although for everyday use they are fine. Recommended? The build quality is very good, the dishwasher seems very solid and well built, the baskets are pretty sturdy too, and the door has a nice solid feel when using it as have the controls. It is good looking and does the job it is there for very well so far, it is fairly quiet in use and so overall I would definitely recommend this dishwasher. The only downside really, I suppose, is the fact that it is a slim line model, if we had a bit more room we would obviously go for a full size dishwasher, however this is not really an option for us and if it is a slim line model you are after then I can recommend this model very highly. Thanks for reading, also on Ciao, John
I have used this site many times as a big fan of takeaway pizza, well, any pizza really! Many years ago I worked for Pizzaland for a couple of years and ate pizza nearly every day without ever tiring of it. Not long after I left, Pizzaland, or Bright Reasons Resturaunts, were bought out by the group that own Pizza Hut and they did away with Pizzaland changing many of them in to Bella Pasta's at the time. I also worked at a Pizza Express for about nine months a good few years ago. I quite often order a pizza for delivery and often use Pizza Hut as well as Dominoes as the two pizza places are both roughly the same distance from my home. The Site When you first log on to the Pizza Hut site you are met with a very red, but in my opinion, an amazing looking home page. The Pizza Hut logo is at the top of the site to the left, below this are six tabs with things like menu, nutrition, deals and locations, under these tabs is a, sort of, television with special offers and new menu additions etc.. To the right of this is an advertisement for the express checkout, the real ingredients they use and more deals these three sub sections are tabbed above. Below all this and almost the full width of the page is a tombola of offers and competitions etc. which you can scroll through, all in all it is a very eye catching front page, however this is really the American site and to the top right of this page you can select your country. Selecting the UK brings up a much whiter page where you can see a couple of special offers, book a table, find your nearest hut, or enter your postcode to begin the pizza order and delivery process. You can also log in from this page if you are already a member. You can also Visit The Resturaunt Visit The Resturaunt Clicking on this option brings up a new page which again is quite white in surroundings and not quite as eye catching as the American site, there is a big picture of a pizza, some garlic bread and a large glass of cola in the middle of this page and to the right of this you see that this combination can be ordered for one person for just £4.00. This is advertised as a rectangular banner and is called happy hour, clicking on the banner brings up a new page where you can see the happy hour is in fact three hours long and is on from Monday to Friday between 3pm and 6pm in the Pizza Hut resturaunts and you can choose from a pizza, pasta or salad and then a side of garlic bread and a choice of soft drink. This is a great offer and is £4.00 for one person, £7.50 for two and £14.00 for four, we have had this offer a few times recently and it is very good value for money, below the advert for this deal is a box where you can find a hut and book a table. Going back to the main page of this section, you can do most of the things I have already mentioned, such as book a table, find a hut etc. but you can also see what's new at Pizza Hut, order online, look at the menu and deals or register with them. You can also buy gift vouchers. Delivery To Your Door This banner has a box to type your postcode into and then you hit the red Go button. The next page offers you three options order for delivery or order for collection or order for later the first option takes you straight to the order page, the other two options both take you through to a resuraunt selection screen, where you can select the nearest Pizza Hut to you depending on your postcode. Depending on where you live you will be given a selection of resuraunts and the distance from you in miles, you can also check the opening hours of each resturaunt and see it's location on a map. Whether you have picked delivery or pick up you will now be on the order page, if you chose to order now and pick up later you will have entered the time you would like to collect your food, a handy option if you are going out for a couple of hours to the pub for instance and want to have your grub ordered and ready to collect at the time you specify. The first page of the ordering section offers you three options where you can pick a pizza, pick a pasta or pick a deal. The deal section is always a good place to look first as they normally have a good range of really good offers to choose from, whether it is a collection deal or for a large or small group, I always look on here first as they change the offers quite often also. If none of the deals float your boat then you can go back one and select to either start with a pizza or a pasta, in my case this is pizza nine times out of ten!! Clicking on pizza then allows you to choose the size, type of base and the toppings you would like to add. You may also have your pizza half and half. Every time you add something to your pizza the price at the bottom of the page updates so you know exactly how much it is going to cost you. If you choose to start with pick a pasta then you are given three pastas to choose from in either a single serving or a family size. Once you have selected your pizzas and pastas you are then offered special offers, normally a garlic bread side order for 50p and if anything you have ordered could be ordered as part of a deal then it will offer to upgrade your order to that deal and tells you what you would get and how much more t will cost you. Once you have done all this you go to checkout where you can check your order over and you must register if you have not already. Registering only takes about thirty seconds and you just have to provide your name, address and an email address. You can opt out of all the special offers if you do not want spamming by them. If you are already registered you simply log-in and click order. Once you have ordered you will recieve an email confirming your order and you just sit back and wait for them to deliver, if you chose this option, or go and collect if that was what you chose. Booking A Table Clicking on the book a table option on the site, takes you through to another request for your postcode, typing this in and hitting go will then bring up about ten resturaunts in order of distance from your postcode. You are told the address of each resturaunt and the distance in miles from your home for each one. There is also a phone number for each one so you could simply ring up and book a table if you like. Each resturaunt then has the option to be seen on a map or you can simply click on book for any of the resturaunts you would like. You then have to enter a few details, name, email, phone number, as well as the time and date of the booking you would like to make and the number of people it is for. You then click on request booking they will then get back to you via either email of telephone and let you know if the time and date you requested is available. I have only used this service once as there was a fairly large group of us wanting to visit on a Saturday night, other than this time I have not needed to book and have always either got a table straight away or been asked to wait for about half an hour at the longest, although different areas may be different so do not take my word for this, but the time I did use this service, they got back to me by email within a couple of hours and there was no propblem with the booking as I had requested it a couple of weeks before the event. I found it a very good service and quite handy as another resturaunt we use quite often, and must book at, is constantly engaged when you try and ring them up, it has taken me up to an hour to get through to them before now and I wish they offered this service. Menus And Deals Clicking on this option brings up a few different options again, you can choose the resturaunt menu, quite handy if you want to have a look at the menu before going out or show it someone to see if they fancy it or not. There is also the kids menu and the collection and takeaway menu deals that you can choose from. The resturaunt menu is split up into different sections such as; pizzas, pastas, starters and sides, desserts and drinks amongst others, each section can be selected from a menu on the left and then once selected, that section is displayed in the middle of the page. The kids menu is all displayed in one page but is split up into different sections of pizzas, pasta, drinks etc.. The collection and takeaway menus differ slightly from the resturaunt menu in content as well as lay out. Is It Any Good? The site is very well laid out and extremely easy to navigate and understand, each page loads fairly quickly and is very easy to use, I would think that even a complete novice would be able to find his/her way around the site very quickly. It is quite well illustrated and easy on the eye, although as previously mentioned, I personally prefer the American site finding it quite striking, but ours is ok I suppose. Ordering on the site is very easy also, as is registartion and finding the right deal for you, if that is what you want. It also updates your price everytime you add something so you always know where you are up to, and you will not have any problem finding the right store to collect from if that is what you want to do. The maps they provide are very good and if all else fails there is always a phone number to ring if you are stuck. I would give the site itself 9/10 Is Pizza Hut any good? you ask, well in my opinion it is, yes. As already mentioned, I am a big pizza fan, whether it is in i resturaunt, from a takeaway or made myself at home from scratch, I even make my own dough! I like Pizza Hut's pizzas, I think their dough is nice and light and fluffy, some places the dough is very dense and heavy making go quite hard and tough when cooked. They are also quite generous with their toppings in comparison to some other pizza chains and takeaways, there is nothing worse, in my opinion, than getting your pizza and there being hardly any cheese on it, a couple of onions and three pieces of pepperoni. Pizza Hut's sides and starters are quite good also, and the pasta's are not bad although the choice is not massive. I have not had a bad meal at Pizza Hut, I can honestly say, don't get me wrong I am not saying they are the best resturaunt in my area, but for a big chain and for the prices they charge, I have always been very happy with them. I also know a lot of my friends feel this way about them too. When I have ordered a meal for delivery it has always arrived within half an our, even at busy times, and quite often much quicker, although I have to say my nearest resturaunt is less than half a mile from my home. I have used the collection service a few times and asked for it to be ready at a certain time, it has always been ready when I arrived to collect it. The resturaunts themselves are quite nicely done out and are always very clean, and the service has always been good enough in my opinion, although the service is possibly the only thing that is not constantly good at Pizza Hut. Obviously if you order online you only deal with your computer and the delivery driver so service is not the highest thing on your wish list, this is also true of collecting, as you will probably only deal with one person at the resturaunt and only very briefly, but if you are eating in a resturaunt then it is quite important and unfortunately like so many other chains of this type, they seem to employ mainly young students or school leavers and while some of these are vey good at their jobs, a lot are only there for the money and do not actually want to be there, and this is quite apparent sometimes, if you can look past this though, the food is very good, for what it is and they do have some very good special offers on, especially the happy hour deal which is on at the moment, which is definately worth trying. So I will mark Pizza Hut overall 7/10, but that is only let down by the service in general and if this was improved I would probably give them 8.5/10, it is worth remembering that Pizza Hut is really a fast food resturaunt though, although it is a bit better than one of these really, and they are better than most when it comes to takeaway pizza. Thaks For Reading, Also On Ciao, John
This was a christmas present from myself to my wife, we finally got around to opening and playing it last night (15th February!!). We both enjoy the board game version of Monopoly, and we wanted some new games for the Wii, so this seemed like a great idea for a present, we both enjoyed playing it and so I decided to write a review on it. The Game In General I am not going to describe exactly how the game of Monopoly works, as most people reading this review will have played some version of it at some time in their life. Suffice it to say, you hve to move around the board, buy as much property as you can afford, and then collect rent from other players as they land on your properties. When you have bought a matching set of properties, you may then go on to build houses and then hotels on these properties, thus increasing the amount of rent you can charge. The game continues until only one player is left in, all the other players having gone bankrupt!! This usually causes bitterness and family arguments so be warned!! The Classic Game The Wii version of this great game has the classic version of the game as described above, as you would expect, this can be played on a variety of different playing boards, as well as the classic board. You also get to select your playing piece from the classic versions such as the top hat, dog or iron, but there are also newer pieces available on different game boards, such as a mobile phone, on the here and now version and a doughnut on the cake board!!!! The classic game can be played with up to four players and you can play 'hotseat' style with just one Wii remote, or each player may have their own remote. Not all players have to be human and you can select computer players to play against and also select the skill level at which they will play. You all then enter your names and play as you would the board game. When it comes around to your turn, you shake the Wii remote, which makes a sound like two dice rattling together (my wife was very impressed by this!!), and then press the A button to release the dice, they then roll across the board and display the amount of moves you get to make. Doubles mean an extra throw, but three doubles on the row means you are off to jail!! If you land on a property that is owned by another player, the rent is automatically transfered from your account to theirs, assuming you have enough money. If you land on an un-bought space, you can choose to buy it or auction it off, if you select auction, then everyone, including yourself, gets to take it in turn to place a bid on it until it is sold the highest bidder. At the end of your turn you can pass play on to the next player, or go into accounts, this allows you to buy houses or hotels (assuming you have a matching set of properties) or offer trades with other players for property and money. If another player decides he/she wants to trade with you then the trade will be offered to you as it is proposed and it is up to you whether or not you accept. The gameplay in this classic version of the game is brilliant and is very fast. Navigation around the various screens is simple and done with the standard Wii remote, and the graphics are actually quite good for the Wii although they do seem to be getting better on the later games. The only slight annoyance is the music which is very repetitive, although this can be turned off. If you are, like me, a fan of the board game then it is worth buying this game just for this classic version of the game alone, as you can lie back on the sofa and play it and not have to worry about counting money out or working out change etc.. You can also change the house rules as you would expect in any up to date version of a Monopoly game, so if you like your taxes to go into Free Parking or evenly distributed houses on properties then stop off here before playing and tweek your game however you like!! The Richest Edition With this version of the game they say forget what you know about playing classic Monopoly --- Richest Edition is something completely different and they are right. The only similarity between this version and the classic version is that you play on the same board and select one of the same pieces. We decided to try this version of the game out first and, once we had sussed out exactly what to do, we really enjoyed it. There are three different levels at which you can play this version and they are; Developer, Industrialist and Tycoon. Developer is the quickest version of this new game and is set over just six rounds and there is no trading, this version should take about 30 minutes to play. The next version Industrialist played over nine rounds lasting about 45 minutes and bringing in to play community chest, chance and the special spaces like Free Parking a bit more. The third version Tycoon is the longest one lasting about an hour and played over 12 rounds, all Community Chest and Chance spaces are fully functional in this version as are the special spaces, also there the option to trade after every three rounds. As already mentioned this version of the game is completely different to the classic version. Each human player that is playing will need their own Wii remote and there can be up to four players, you can select some players as computer players. At the beginning of each round four dice are rolled and their values shown, you then all play a mini game to decide who gets to pick from the dice first. The mini games are quite fun, although they may become repetitive after some time, and involve winning races and betting on the stock market amongst other things, using your Wii remote, this is why you all need a remote each as you play the mini games against each other either all on the same screen or on split screens. The winner of each mini game gets to select one of the dice first, 2nd chooses 2nd and so on. You play a new mini game each round. Next you must select one of the four dice that were rolled before you played the mini game. The number on the dice represents the number of your pieces that will be placed on the board that round. Each person selects a dice and they are randomly allocated one space for each spot on the dice they selected. When you are all placed on these spaces Mr. Monopoly sets off on his round of the board! No money is used in this version of the game as you aquire property simply by landing on it, rent is paid using properties also. When Mr. Monopoly reaches a playing piece on the board, he decides what will happen to the player whose piece it is according to the rules. If a piece has landed on an unowned property, the property becomes yours. If you land on an owned property you have to pay rent in property, the more developed the property is, the more properties it will cost you, you get to choose which properties you give up. Once you have a monopoly (a matching set of properties) you can build houses and hotels on it as in the classic game, this can be done by landing on your own set or through Community Chest or Chance cards, once you get hotels on a monopoly this monopoly is safe from being taken from you, but can still be affected by some Community Chest events. If a player lands on your monopoly they have to pay you two properties, if you have houses they pay three properties etc. etc.. If one of your pieces lands on Just Visiting you are exempt from paying rent for the rest of the round, Free Parking means you can move one of your remaining pieces to another unoccupied square to either avoid paying rent or pick up another property. If you land on Go To Jail you have to pay three properties back to the bank. Landing on Go allows you to choose any unowned property to add to your protfolio. Taxes require you to return one property as tax, or in the case of super tax you will have to give back one property for each four you own. Community Chest allows different evens depending on which version of richest edition you are playing and chance allows you to steal a property from someone richer than you or build houses on a monopoly you own. The outcome of these variants of the game is decided at the end of the number of rounds played as outlined earlier. Each property you own has a value and this is added together and shown as your 'worth' you also get value added to this for each house and/or hotel you own, they player with the highest 'worth' at the end of the game wins. Hints And Tips When playing the richest edition version of the game, the most important decision you make eack round is the dice number you pick. Early in the game it is a good idea to pick high numbers, as this gives you more chance of landing on unowned properties which then become yours. Later on in the game you have to think about how many properties you already own, as taking a large dice roll when you don't have may properties, could mean you end up landing on a lot of owned properties and paying a lot of rent. If you have a lot of properties, however, it might be a good idea to take higher numbers as there is a good chance of landing on your own prperties and improving them with houses or hotels. The mini games are set up in favour of the losing player always, therefore if you are well ahead you will encounter more obsticales etc. therefore making it harder for you to win the mini games and therefore unable to have an early choice at the dice, so it is not always a good idea to run away with the game too early on. Also there are a lot of cards which allow the poorest player to take a property, or sometimes a monopoly, off a richer player, so the game can turn around rapidly in one round if you are not careful. It seems to me that you are better off being the average player all the way through the game and then trying to win the game in the last couple of rounds. When playing the classic game, I have a few tips I have come up with over the many years I have been playing the game. Firstly do not think that Mayfair and Park Lane are the best set on the board, as they are not! Firstly there are only two properties to aim at making it statistically harder to catch rent payers compared to three property sets. Also the houses and hotels are the dearest at £200 each making it an expensive set to develope, and one that is quite often missed. The best set on the board is the orange set followed by the purple set. These two sets on the left flank of the board are both three property sets, and developement is reasonable and attainable at £100 per house or hotel. Also you not only catch people traveling around the board but also pick people out who are sent to jail on their release, any player throwing a 6, 8 or 9 (statistically easy numbers to roll with two dice) will hit your orange set. Also I recomend buying every property you land on for the first few rounds of the board even if you have to mortgage properties you own in order to buy more, as the game of Monopoly is all about aquisition and so you will have the upper hand if you own more property than everyone else nine times out of ten. Another tip is to think any trades through carefully, do not let a property go if it will allow another player to make a set up, unless you are getting a set in return. My Opinion So what do I think of this game for the Wii? Actually, my wife and I are really impressed with it, as I have already mentioned the gameplay and graphics are very good, as is navigation with the Wii remotes. These points are quite important to us and they have managed to tick the boxes with them. The classic game is exactly the same as the board game but without the need to set the board up and mess about with cards and money, and working out cash amounts and getting change out of the bank to pay someone etc. etc.. We both enjoyed playing the classic version the few times we have played it. They try to keep it a bit different by having a few different themed boards to play on and these are locked initially and unlocked by getting stamps in you monopoly passport. There is a futuristic board and even a cheese board to play on if you get enough stamps. I have to admit I would rather just stick to the classic board as I know everything on it and how much rent is due on each property by its name, from the many years playing it. We have tried a couple of the themed boards and you do not know what is what as all the properties are re-named according to the theme, my wife seems to prefer the themed boards though so these will obviously appeal to some people and not to others. In creating the richest edition of the game for the Wii, I have to say that the makers have done a really good job. I don't normally like new variations to classic games that I have played all my life and normally prefer to stick to the classic version. I have to admit that if my wife had not put the richest edition on first I probably would not have bothered with it, however having played it a few times now and got the hang of it, I actually think it is really good and a great alternative to the classic version in my opinion, and one I would recomend to anyone who likes the game and also to dislikers of the game. There is also a section where you can practice the mini games, which is a good idea to have a go at as some of them are a bit tricky!! Like I said earlier, the mini games are quite good and entertaining, however I am not sure how long they will stay this way for as there are not that many really and I would say that this is probably going to be the only negative point about the game, as once you tire of these games you will probably tire of the richest version of the game, however you still have the classic version, which I will never tire of. Overall I would definately recomend this game to anyone liking Monopoly and to those who do not like the classic game try the richest edition out as it is quite different and worth a try. It is a really easy game to just put on and play and the different versions to choose from mean you can have a quick game lasting about half an hour up to the classic game which can take as long as about four hours in my experience! Thanks For Reading, Also On Ciao.co.uk And Ciao.com, John
I joined King.com about two years ago. I was previously a member of the itbox site which was similar but no where near as good and was closed down. When it closed down I had to look for a new a new site of this type and found King.com very high up in Google results by typing something like 'skill games for money'. What Is King.com? King.com is, as mentioned above, a website offering a range of skill games which can be played for money. Basically you choose from the very extensive list of games and then choose a stake and you then play that game and your score is compared to someone else's, the higher score of the two wins the cash prize. You don't have to play for money, all the games can also be played just for fun and then you will just earn jewels if you win, I will explain jewels later. As they offer true skill games, it really is down to how good you are at a game that decides the outcome. Unlike casino websites where the casino normally wins, you are actually playing against another human being, so if you beat them at your chosen game, you win the money. Obviously King.com take their cut out of the prize pot for hosting the website and games, however this means the outcome of the games does not matter to them as they make their money whatever the outcome. King.com is used all over the world so you could be playing your chosen game against anyone in the world! The Website When you first arrive at King.com are met with a very colourful and neatly laid out hompage. There is a shaded green banner across the top of the page with their logo to the left, to the right of the banner is alogin box for existing members and in the middle, at the top, are two clickable sentences; Register a new account and What is King.com?, these are both self explanetary. Below this but still in the banner are six orange tabs which are; play games, royal games, my account, community, support and deposit. Then below the banner on the main page to the left half are eight boxes, two wide and four deep, these have all the different categories of games in them, apart from one which is a 'diploma hunt' box. So each box has the game category at the top of it, on a green banner again, and inside each box in the top third is a picture of the game from that ctegory with the highest prize pot at present, below this picture, in a yellow banner, is the amount that is in that prize pot, and then below this banner are four of the most popular games from each category and at the bottom is a tab to 'show all games from this category'. On the right half of the main page at the top is an advertising box which shows moving screenshots of all the different games available on King.com and the amount of players online at that time (currently 69,354!!) Below this box is 'The Fools Blog' which when you click on it there are lots of postings about the site and the games on the site that you can read and leave comments on. Then there are some smaller boxes, with things like; latest logins, hot player, most jewels today and closing soon. The first two are self explanetary, the most jewels today are the players who have earned the most jewels that day, whenever you play games you earn jewels as well as cash if you win, you can also play just for jewels and not for money as already mentioned. Closing soon are daily or weekly competions that are coming to an end soon, these types of competions can have quite high cash prizes, as much as a few hundred pounds, however you do need to be very good at a game to win a prize as much as that. Games Available King.com has over a hundred games available, so I will not list them all but I will list the categories of games and talk a little about my favourites. The seven game categories are; Royal Games, Card Games, Puzzle Games, Strategy Games, Action Games, Sports Games and Word Games. I will talk about Royal Games Later as they are a bit different to the rest and are a bit more like casino games, so I don't tend to play these. One of my favourite card games is Pyramid, and there is also a slightly different version called Pyramid Quest. This is the classic solitare type game that can be found on most pub quiz machines. Basically you have a load of playing cards laid out in a similar fashion to solitare and you have to clear cards by going up or down one value each time, when you cannot go you must turn over another card, you also have a wild card you can play whenever you want, I really like this game and find it very addictive, once I have played it once, I tend to play it at least another ten times and have to drag myself away from it. There are also quite a few different solitare games available if that is your thing, as well as the classic game Hearts, which cannot be played for money at the moment, and Freecell amongst other card games. My favourite puzzle game by far, and the game I play most on king.com is Chuzzle. Chuzzle is a grid of little furry creatures all different colours, you have to slide lines of them horizontally or vertically to match three or more of these little cuties of the same colour to make them explode and dissapear only for more to appear to replace them. You get about five minutes to clear as many as you can, once you have cleared a certain amount you move on to the next level and get a level bonus. This game's attraction is in its simplicity and it is seriously addictive, I have sat and played this game for three hours without a break before now, and I have got a few friends who have done the same, so be warned!! Also in puzzle games are things like Bejeweled 2, which is quite similar to Chuzzle in a sense, there is also a unique skill version of Deal or no Deal, which is very good. There is a game called startris which is a bit like the classic game tetris and many more. In the strategy games section there are the obvious two strategy games chess and backgammon, as well as a couple of Mah Jong games and a Sudoku game. There is also a great little invention called Big Bang, where you have to remove different sized plantes from a grid by making them explode and send out fragments to destroy other planets, this is a great game and will really get you thinking. The only action game I really play is Zuma and this is probably more of a puzzle type game really, this involves firing coloured balls at other coloured balls! When you get three or more of the same colour together they explode and disappear, these balls are constantly moving towards the center of the game board and if they ever reach it the game is over, this is also quite addictive and you have to think quickly on the later levels. There are many other action games available including and pinball game and a fishing game. The sports game section is the second smallest section and is mainly made up of pool and bowling games, these are not really my cup of tea but I have played them in the past and they are pretty good if they are your thing. There is also a dart game. The word games section is the smallest and only has five games at present including Wordlink which is a bit like Word Soup which can be found on most pub quiz machines. In this word game you simply have to find as many words as possible from the letters provided in the time limit. The most played word game is Keyword, in which you have to spell the best three words in each round. All in all there is a really good mix of games in my opinion, and there should really be something to be found on here for everyone, whatever your preference. The graphics in the games are pretty good in my opinion and the gameplay is pretty good and quick, the games load and play quite fast, so there is very little waiting around between games and you normally find out whether or not you have won you game straight after you have played, unless King.com has not been able to match you with someone yet. You do not need to worry about being beaten all the time by really good players at certain games either, as the better you are at a game the higher rank you achieve, in normal games you are only matched against players of the same rank as you. The only time this does not apply is on the daily and weekly tornaments which are open to all players, so you need to make sure you are quite good at a game before entering these competitions. All the games are available in a few different types of set up. Nearly all the games are avilable in two player mode, but most are also available in three or four player versions where you play the same game, but then your score is compared against two or three others in stead of just one. This means the prizepot is larger as there are more entrants, however there is, of course, more competition. Most of the games are also available in daily and weekly tornaments also, as already mentioned, and these can attract a lot of entrants and the prizepot increases with each entrant and some prizepots can reach quite a few hundred pounds, however these competitions are open to all players as already mentioned so you need to make sure you are good at the game. There are also cup competitions, where sixteen people enter, there are eight games intially and eight winners go through to a quarter final then four go into a semi final and eventually two people end up in the final, in these types of competitions there are prizes for the winners of each round and they obviously increase the further you get in the cup. All these different types of entry keep it quite interesting I think and as if that is not enough you can also challenge people to a game of your choice as well as be challenged yourself, if you are challenged and you accept then a game will be set up between you and the person who challenged you for an agreed amount of money. You are notified about challenges by email. Royal Games Royal games, as already mentioned, are a bit more like casino games and instead of playing skill games against other people, you are now playing against King.com. You need a seperate account to play Royal games and it is also funded seperately from your normal account although from memory I think you can transfer money between the two accounts. When you click on Royal games you navigate away from the King.com site and go to the Royal games site. You do have the opportunity to set your account up so that it is not possible to get into Royal games and can only stay on the skill games site, this is quite handy if you are going to allow children to have an account but don't want them to go on the Royal games site. Royal games is pretty much a bingo site and has a wide range of bingo rooms as well as the video slots normally associated with bingo sites, but there are also scratch cards, black jack and 'exclusive royal games' which includes a game called King of the Hill in which you have to say higher or lower than each playing card to get to the top of the hill, if you reach the top of the hill then you get a percentage of all losing money until you are knocked off by someone else reaching the top, this is quite good but very hard to win as you have to turn over quite a few cards. There are usually some very good sign up bonuses for joining the Royal games site (up to 500%) so it might be worth taking advantage of this just to see how you get on, this is what I did and if I remeber rightly I received £60 to play with for depositing only £10, oncve I had lost this I did not bother with Royal games again though and now I just stick to the skill games. I will just mention, though, that my wife sighned up at the same time as me and got the same sign up bonus on Royal games which she used on bingo and she did very well, she withdrew £100 about a week after joining but found it very difficult to ever play enough to be able to cash in the sign up bonus and eventually lost this trying, however £100 from a £10 deposit is not to be sniffed at. It is worth mentioning, however, that this will not happen to everyone and she was just lucky. Jewels I have mentioned the fact that you not only win money but also jewels previously, now I will tell you what they mean to you. You also win jewels when you play games for fun and not for any money. You win jewels even if you lose a game but not as many and you tend to get more jewels if the entry cost for a game is higher, win or lose. Your account has an avatar, a picture of you that you can design yourself and add all sorts of things to. There is also a system in place on King.com that is a bit like the coloured dot on Ciao! but on here it is gemstones. You start off as Amber and progress, depending on your success, through to star Diamond!! The higher you get in this system the more features become unlocked. These are a range of things, starting off at the bottom, you have to reach Jade (the second level) to be allowed to send messages and chat. Black Opal (the third level) allows you to add a background to your avatar, Topaz (fourth level) allows you to challenge people, and so on until you get near the top, a Black Diamond allows you to have your own personal blog, a Heart Diamond allows you to have a VIP presentation and the much coveted Star Diamond allows a Star VIP presentation, whatever that is!??!! Jewels cannot be exchanged for cash or prizes or anything like that. This is also a community site like Ciao! and so I suppose the more jewels you earn and features you unlock, the more things you can do to express yourself on the site. I have to admit, I have never bothered with any of this side of this site and use it purely for playing the skill games, which is totally possible, you do not get hassled into chatting with people etc. if you do not want to. Cost Of Games (And Prizes) Most games have a free option, as I have already mentioned, where you play just for jewels and the pleasure of beating your opponent. However if you want to play for money then there are a lot of different amounts you can play for and this varies also from game to game. Some games only have a few options while others have about twenty different options! A good example of this and the one I will use for this section is my favourite card game Pyramid, this has 17 different options. There are two cup tournament possibilities, each for sixteen players and each costing £1.80 the two different cup games are for the two slightly different types of game, Pyramid and Pyramid Quest. There is a total prize fund for these two games of £21.59 (this means King.com take £7.21!!) and the prizes break down as follows; * Final £8.91 * Semi Final £4.59 * Quarter Final £2.43 * First Round £0.81 So if you get through the first round you get a bit of money back but need to win a quarter final to be in profit. Next come the Jackpot Tournaments, there is a daily competition for each type of the game which is 45p to enter and could get you a share of £450 there is also a 45p enrtry weekly competition which attracts more people and so more money as it is open for longer, there is also a 90p verison, which obviously the money amasses quicker in this game. Then we move on to the instant cash tournaments, for each version of the game there is a two player 45p entry game in which you can win 67p if you are victorious. then there is a 90p two player with a prize of £1.34 and a two player costing £1.34 to enter but with a prize of £2.02 to the winner. There are then two three player games with entrance fees of £1.80 and £9 these pay a one off prize to the winner out of the three entrants of £4.04 and £20.25, again you an see here the massive cut that King.com takes. Then there are three four player games costing £1.80, £2.69 or £4.50 to join, these have a first and second prize, if you come second you will get your money back and a small amount of profit, if you win you will roughly double your money. The last two games available are two player free to enter games, one for each version of the game. If you play a lot on King.com, you will earn a small discount of either 5% or 10% off your entry fees, you can track your progress in this loyalty shceme under your account. Also each time you play a new game you have to play it five times on either free play or one of the 45p entry amounts, once you have played the game five times then all the other entry options will be unlocked. Joining And Depositing Money Signing up is very simple, you simply click on the link at the top of the site, and enter a few details. You are allowed, from memory, £3 to play with for free when you first sign up, without making a deposit, however be warned you cannot ever withdraw any of this money, even winnings, and when you make an initial deposit it vanishes, so bear this in mind. This was at least true when I joined two years ago, so I assume it has not changed. Once you have entered your details they will send an activation email which you just open and click the link to prove you own the email account. Joining is very simple and only takes a couple of minutes. Depositing money could not be more simple either, they accept most credit and debit cards and once you have added a card to your account you can do quick deposits using the same card and just entering a few details to confirm you are the cardholder. They have also added Paypal to the list of funding and withdrawal methods recently and this is the option I now use as it is a very safe way of sending money over the internet and does not cost you anything to send it. There are a few sign up bonuses when depositing for the first time, I have already mentioned the Royal games bonuses, but there are also options on your first deposit with the skill games site, these are; * Deposit £5 and get another £5 free £10 in total * Deposit £20 and get another £10 free £30 in total * Deposit £30 and get another £15 free £45 in total If you are going to play on King.com quite a lot, it is worth taking them up on their £15 bonus in my opinion, but you also get offers emailed to you quite a bit (usually when you have not visited the site for a while) offering you a £5 bonus when you make any deposit, I try and make use of these whenever I make a deposit. Cashback I have to add this section to let you know the best cashback deals available for King.com. The best deal I could find is with my favourite site, Topcashback, drop me a message for a refferal link if you are not already a member, and they are offering £15 cashback if you sign up and make a deposit. To earn this though you have to join Royal games and deposit with them. This is definately worth it though, sigh up, deposit £10 and get £60 to play with, then get £15 cashback, you can't lose!! If you join through Internet Cashback you will get £3 for opening a normal King.com account and funding it, again message me for a refferal link if you are not a memeber. Bad Points There are a few bad points I can think of with King.com, the first is making withdrawals. When you put in a withdrawal request, you are told it can take up to 14 days to process, I think this is quite a long time really and they should be able to do it quick, it normally takes about this long also. They also have the cheek to charge you £1 withdrawal fee! I think they already make enough money from the games without charging you to withdraw your winnings as well. I also think they could take a slightly smaller cut out of the prize money and make the prizes a bit more attractive, the number of people they have using this site, I am sure they would still make a lot of money even if they lowered their cut, and this would probably encourage more people to sign up and play more. Another probel it the customer service, although they do always get back to you eventually and they are quite helpful, it normally takes them about 48 hours to reply to your emails, so if you need to send two or three emails about something and wait for replies in between, this means a problem can take about a week to sort out. It is also very difficult to actually get to the point of sending them an email, they make you trawl through loads of FAQ's before actually allowing you to email them, and there is no phone number to contact them that way. These are small niggles really though and although they do annoy me a little they do not distract from the game playing which is what this site is all about really. My Opinion Overall Having been a member of this site for two years now, I have to say I think overall it is a very good site. The actual site itself in very well laid out and extremely easy to navigate. There is a great mix of games, although I have to admit of the hundred or so games available I have probably only played about thirty of them, and the gameplay is very good, the graphics in the games will not win any medals but are absolutely fine for the types of games available and the speed and gameplay, in my opinion, is more important than the graphics. I like the fact that you will never get put up against an expert at a certain game if you are not that good at it and this makes the site very fair. As I have already said, I wish they would take a smaller cut and make the prizes a bit better, as at the moment if you lose a game you need to win at it twice to get your money back and I feel it should be easier than this to win your losses back, and I think King.com must be making enough money even if they reduced the fees, but this will probably never happen, you have to try and get the discount every month to make it a bit better. The Royal games are quite good also as a rule, although I have to admit I have not used these since I spent my initial bonus and just stick to the skill games now, as these are actually down to your own skill in a game and this means if you are actually good at a game then you, should, win some money playing it. Overall I would recommend this site to anyone who likes these types of games, if you often play on pub games machines then you will probably like this site and you have the option of doing it all for free if you don't want to gamble any of your hard earned cash. You could, of course learn a game on free play and when you are very good at it you can then play it for cash, or you can just play free play for ever the choice is yours!!! Thanks For Reading, Also On Ciao!, John
My printer had been playing up for a couple of months, I normally (99% of the time) only use it for printing in black for invoices, however I do occasionally print something off in colour and sometimes print a photo. It was missing one of the colours out now and again and so I decided it was time for a new one. Why Canon? My old printer was a Canon and although it was playing up it had served me well for about three years of constant use. I also think the design of the Canon printers is very good, I think they are far better to look at than most other makes and this is quite important when you are going to be looking at it everyday, sat on your desk. Another reason is the fact that the ink cartridges are much more affordable than some other makes, I once had a Hewlet Packard printer and required a second mortgage everytime they were ready for replacing, this is a fairly important factor for me as I tend to replace at least one ink cartridge per week. I decided my new printer was to be a Canon and set about surfing the internet for a decent deal. My new printer, like my old one, would be printing black only 99% of the time but occasionally I like to print a photo out and so it needed to be good in this area also. I must admit I get most of my photo printing done by the professionals now, as there is so much competition and this has brought the prices of printing right down, but sometimes you just want to print one off there and then and so it is nice to have the option available. I found the Canon Pixma IP4600 on a site I have used before a couple of times and one I find to be very good. They are called OYYY.co.uk and they tend to be very competitive on price. Also if you log on to their site through Topcashback (the best cashback site around at the moment in my opinion, message me for a referal link) you get 3% cashback on your purchase, this almost covers the next day delivery charge. As well as being competitive on price they offer a next day delivery service which is always nice. Specification The Canon Pixma IP4600 is a colour inkjet printer which boasts a standard resolution of 9600 dpi x 2400 dpi, it will print 26 pages per minute in monochrome and 21 in colour and a 10x15cm photolab-quality print in approximately 20 seconds. It has three paper handling inputs which are; a 150 sheet paper tray, a 150 sheet paper cassette and a 1 disc DVD/CD tray and also supports double side printing, the maximum paper size is A4 and it also supports; B5, A5, Letter, Legal, Envelopes (DL size or Commercial 10), 10 x 15cm, 10 x 18cm, 13 x 18cm, 20 x 25cm, Credit Card (54 x 86mm). You do not have to have it connected to your PC (or MAC) as it also has a PictBridge direct printing port. It comes with two different types of software for the PC and MAC which is Easy-PhotoPrint EX (different version for each platform). The printer has five ink cartridges (two black and three colour) Your Print I did not notice this service before ordering my printer but must mention it here as I think it is a brilliant idea. 'Your Print' is a service from Canon (and available on OYYY.co.uk) where you can pick a digital photo that you have, upload it to Canon, choose a printer that are interested in purchasing, and they will send you a print of your photo done on that printer absolutely free!!. This is a fantastic idea and means you can 'try before you buy' and check out the quality of the printing your new printer is capable of. My Opinion I have been using this printer for about two weeks now and have to say I am very impressed. Firstly it is very nice to look at, it is mainly black and very curvacious with a silver line around the top and the Canon logo on the front in silver also. The operational buttons are placed on the curved front which I like, and I am very please with the overall look, which I think is fairly important as it sits directly in front of me all day. You can also close the front up which makes it look very neat and tidy when not in use. The fact that this printer has two paper sources is also very handy as you can load each one up with up to 150 sheets of paper and selct your paper source from the PC, this is handy if you print on two different types of paper quite often (like normal paper and photo paper) as you can load each different source up with the two different paper types and simply select the source in the computer, meaning you do not have to change the paper around. To be honest though I only really use the paper cassette underneath the printer and this allows me to store the printer against a wall and with a monitor on top of it, this just needs moving slightly when changing ink. When printing with this Canon, like I mentioned above, I mainly only print in black, and so could in theory use a much cheaper printer, or maybe a laser but the quality of printing in black for invoices (which is what I print 99% of the time) is excellent. It is noticably better than the three year old Canon I have just got rid of. The letters and numbers appear perfectly and are very sharp. Colour printing is also extremely good, I have only printed a few things off in colour since I have had it, mainly pages off the internet or emails, but whenever there has been a colour, detailed picture it has come out perfectly and I really can't say a bad word against it. I have also printed a couple of photo's out just to see how good it is at them, I used Tesco finest glossy photo card and printed them in the highest quality level available, and I have to say we could not really tell much difference between these and some professional ones we have, the colours are vivid and the lines sharp, I really cannot fault this printer on any level of printing, especially at the price it is so readily available at. I do not normally print photo's off at home as I find with all the special offers online with professional printers it actually works out more expensive to print your own, however as I have said I do like the freedom of having this facility available. I have not yet tried the DVD/CD printing yet as I do not have any printable discs, however I will update this review when I have tried this function out. All things considered this is a fantastic printer in my opinion, is is very reasonably priced and ink is not going to break the bank (see below). It ticks all the boxes for me, it is good looking, pretty quick and prints brilliantly. The instructions, if you need them because it is very simple to set up, are very easy to understand and going off Canon's track record, with me, will be very reliable also. And the Your Print service is a really good idea allowing you to try it out first. Price And Availability The Canon Pixma IP4600 is available at a very wide range of stores and I will not list them all here, however I bought mine from OYYY.co.uk for £69.98 plus £2.99 post and packing, at the time of writing this price is still the same but if you need anything else at the same time you will receive free postage if you spend over £100. You will also receive 3% cashback on this if you first go through Topcashback. At the time of writing this was still the best deal I could find pricewise if you don't mind waiting up to five days for delivery. If you want it quick Lambdatek are offering it for £76.36 with next day delivery, this works out cheaper than OYYY.co.uk with their next day delivery although you will not earn any cashback with Lambdatek. Inks The all important ink prices are as follows; the three colours are £7.54 each including VAT and the blacks are £7.33 and £7.98 including VAT, these prices are for original cartridges and are also from OYYY.co.uk but do not include postage prices. I will be buying compatible cartridges and have just found and ordered a full set of inks for £19.99 including postage, on ebay, which I think is very reasonable. Having taken everything about this printer in to account, I could not give it any less than five stars and would definately recommend it to anyone wanting a new printer that is reasonably priced and wanting to print anything from paperwork to photos. Thanks For Reading, Also On Ciao!
My wife and I are both big Deal Or No Deal fans, and we are avid watchers of the quiz show. We tried the Deal Or No Deal DVD game last christmas, and, like most people I have spoken to about it, found it to be far too slow. When my wife realised they had brought out a version for the Nintendo Wii she put it on her christmas list! When I discovered it on her list I decided it would be a very good buy as I fancied it myself also! Loading The Game When you insert the disc and click on the Deal Or No Deal icon, you are met with a red box from the show and the familiar theme tune, you can then create a new profile for yourself which I will cover later. Once you have created a profile it will appear on this page and you will be able to click on your name to go into the game. The next menu you are met with gives you five choices; new game, tutorial, options, account and credits. Most of these are self explanetory, the tutorial gets you playing fast without having to bother with the instructions, options are simply, music on or off and sound on or off! Account gives either statistics or the bankers magic vault and shows how many of his secrets you have unlocked. New game is the button everyone wants to press, so you press it and are presented with three further options. Different Games Available If all you could do on this game were play the game like on the television, it would not keep you interested for very long I shouldn't think. Luckily there are three different types of game to keep you entertained. These are; Solo, multiplayer and break the banker's code. Solo is simply like playing the game on television, you are the player who's profile you have picked and you are led through the game by Noel Edmonds. First you must choose a box from the 22 available. To do this you simply scroll through the boxes until you reach the one you want and select it, it now appears in front of Noel. Now the game can begin, you open the boxes one at a time in rounds like you would on the show. First a round of five boxes and then rounds of 3 until you get to final 2. At the end of each round the banker rings up to make you an offer just as he would on the television program. If you decide to 'deal' you still complete the game just as you would on television. To win this game, you are playing against the banker, you must take the maximum amount of money out of the game, by either taking the highest offer from the banker throughout the game or the amount in your box if that is higher. There fore you will lose if you accept an amount of money less than the bankers highest offer, or you open your box and that is lower. In solo mode you may also play the role of the banker, the console is now the player and you must watch it make its box selections, during this game you will make the offer at the end of each round. Obviously the aim of this game is to do exactly the opposite of the game described above. You now want the player to lose and must tempt them to accept an offer from you that you believe is lower than what they have in their box. Then there is the banker's bonus game, in this game you are the player again, however you are now able to influence the banker's respect for you. Every time the banker calls with an offer, you are asked to challenge him in order to gain his respect. If you win the challenge you offer is higher, but be careful, if you lose to the banker he loses respect for you and your offer will be lower. The banker's code game, is a mini game very similar to the old mastermind game. You choose four different numbers each from one to seven all different, the banker then gives you a coloured disc for each number you have picked. Red for a wrong number, yellow for a correct number in the wrong place and green for a correct number in the correct place. You have to use these marks to find the banker's code in a few rounds as possible, this is quite and addictive game, especially if, like me, you remember playing this game as a child. This bankers code game is also one of the challenges you might face when playing the banker's bonus game. Next there is the multiplayer option. In this mode two people can play Deal Or No Deal together, but you must have two Wii remotes. To play this you must select the multiplayer option, connect the second remote and then select either 'classic' or 'evil banker'. In this multiplayer mode, one of the players is the banker and the other plays the role of the player. If you select the classic game you simply play the game the same as on television and one of you plays the player, the other plays the banker as described above. If you decide on the ecil banker option, the banker is then shown the contents of the players box, this could give you quite a bit of help when making your offers, however it makes the game a little like a game of poker as the player can try to read the bankers face when asking them things, this is the best version of the game in our opinion. Creating Your Own Profile Before you can actually play the game you need to create a profile for each person who will be playing. To do this you must click on one of the 'new profile' boxes on the introduction page, there are only four of these and once they are full you will have to delete one to add another player. Once you have clicked on one ofthe available boxes, you must enter your name, this is done by scrolling the alphabet across the bottom of the screen and clicking on the individual letters as you need them. This is fairly difficult I find as I am not very good at holding the Wii remote very still when trying to select something. However once you have entered your name you press the blue tick icon and that is it, you are ready to play! Playability Of The Game As this was a christmas present, it was opened and played for the first time with our family on christmas day. We are all quite big fans of the show and so there was a bit or arguing as to who got to play first however we soon sorted this out and got down to playing it. The game is incredibly easy to play and like I mentioned earlier we found the multiplayer game with the evil banker option the best version of the game. To be honest I think this is the only real version to play. The single player game soon becomes quite dull and boring, and the only other real option is the play the banker's code mini game, which, as I said earlier, is quite addictive. After playing the game for an hour or so on christmas day, my wife and I have tried it out again at home a couple of times but I think you need a few people round to make it a bit more of a laugh really. The game is fairly fast paced though and moves between screens pretty quickly which was our main complaint with the DVD game. Scrolling is good also and the graphics are pretty good for the Wii. I think they initially had to get over the problem of transfering the moving controllers to the screen and now they have done that they are looking at graphics as they are beginning to improve now.Having said all that it it not a very complicated game so I suppose the graphics should be good. Sound is very good also although the music soon becomes very annoying but you can turn this off in options. We play it now with sound on and music off, then we play our own music in the background. Conclusion All in all I would say of this game that it is quite a good game that you can enjoy with friends once in a while. I don't think it is the sort of game you will have on every night, we certainly haven't, but if you are a fan of the show it is quite a good one to have in your collection and you will probably get your moneys worth out of it over a year or so I would think. As a one player game it very quickly becomes boring and to be honest you will probably play the one player game about five or six times before you tire of it. The mastermind style game is very good though if you are on your own, and I have found myself putting it on and losing an hour to it! Price And Availability This game is available at all good computer games shops such as Game, for around the £25 mark, however, at the time of writing this review, Asda still have it on their online shop for just under £18 with free delivery and you get cashback this way also, this is where I got mine from and they delivered within 3 days and that was before christmas. Thanks For Reading, Also On Ciao!
Techfocus is, mainly, an electrical accessories retailer, owned and operated by Kinch Electronics Ltd. from their offices near Lincoln UK. They sell things like memory cards, ipod accessories, rechargable battery packs for sat navs etc, and some computer accessories and cables. They also seem to be cashing in on the latest crazes, the Nintendo Wii and the DS Lite. Whilst I have visited the site before, not long before christmas, I have not made a purchase from them before as I found them to be very expensive in comparison to most better know companies, however for the purpose of this review I will order something from them today (Monday) to test out the speedy, and boasted about, service they offer. I will then update the review when my item arrives before publishing it later this week. The Site The site is quite easy on the eye, initially, and it has to be said it is extremely well laid out. Across the top of the page is a banner with the techfocus logo in the company colours of blue and orange on the left, underneath this they list their three main selling points; speed, quality and service. To the right of this banner is your basket, with a picture of a shopping trolly! Underneath this is a counter for the amount of items currently in you basket, or trolly, and the total cost of them. Between these two is the quote 'same day dispatch on all orders placed before 3pm' which is quite a good selling point to anyone wanting their goods quickly and one I make myself in my ebay shop, its does however state below this quote that you should check product pages for exceptions! Below this are the usual tabs; my account, about us, contact us, new products, etc.. Below this banner is a search box to type in something you are looking for on the site, always a nice addition and one that should be easy to find I think. Next, down the left of the main page is a list of all the categories of products they sell, each of these categories can be clicked on to bring up a list of products down the center of the page. Down the centre of the home page are special offers and best sellers of the moment, at the time of writing the first thing I noticed, which I found initially very ineresting is the fact that they have Wii fit boards in stock, these are sold out everywhere, I know this as I got one for my wife for christmas and it was the hardest thing ever to find! The only problem with this is the price, they have gone down the route of most ebay sellers as soon as they get stock of these and put them on well above the RRP of £69.99, techfocus want £91.99! A bit naughty really. Down the right hand side of the main page is a box with some popular items in it. At the bottom of the main page are they payment terms they accept, and the company address. As I mentioned earlier all of this is very easy on the eye and extremely well laid out and very easy to navigate, some similar sites I have visited are quite complicated to use and I feel you could manage this site even if you are a complete computer, or internet, novice. Cashback When shopping on the internet I do not buy anything now before I have checked to see if the company I am using offers cashback through one of the many cashback sites I use. If you do not use cashback sites yet, drop me a message and I will send you a few links for the best ones around at the moment. The best cashback I could find for techfocus was 2% of your total purchse for branded products and a massive 7% for none-branded goods. While this is very good cashback wise, it also shows just how big the companies mark-up is, especially on none-branded goods, as they can afford to give you 7% of the price back, as long as you are in the know that is!! In comparisson to these figures, Comet, Currys and PC World only offer 4%. This brings me back the complaint I had at the top of this review about their prices being high. Products Offered I briefly touched on the products offered by techfocus earlier, however I will go into a little more detail now. As previoulsy mentioned they sell electrical accessories mostly, the products available are split up in to ten main sections, they are: * Communication * Consoles * Ipod/MP3 * Memory * PC Peripherals * PDA Accessories * TV/Monitor cables * GPS * Mobile Phones * Clearance Items Most of these are self explanatory, and they are split up into sub-sections, however there is not quite as much as you would expect under each sub-section. Communication breaks down into Skype headsets and phones, however clicking on headsets brings you a blank page, stating 'there are no items to display', and the skype phones brings up just four results, all of which are out of stock! Consoles, as briefly mentioned, just breaks down into; Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS Lite, although there is also a 'game accessories' section with some expensive none-official controllers and charging leads, a section not really worth looking at to be honest. Of the Nintendo Wii and DS Lite stuff that is actually in stock, it is very expensive again, a Wii console is £199.99! These can be bought for less than £170.00! The Ipod section breaks down into a further 8 sub-sections including car accessories and chargers, these two might as well be the same category as they seem to have the same items in them! Then there are headphones, skins, speakers and cables amongst other things, all of which are again very much overpriced, I would look on ebay for these types of things as they are much cheaper on there. Next comes memory, this obviously breaks down into the many different types of memory cards and flash cards that are available, as well as card readers. Again the choice in these sections is not brilliant, but probably adequate, however once again there are very few items listed that are actually in stock everything is once again very overpriced, for example: a Sandisk 1GB SD Memory Card is £10.75! Next are the PC periphials, which splits into four categories, they are PCMCIA cards, PCI cards and USB adapters and gadgets, again the choice in these sections is poor as are the stock levels. PDA accessories include; batteries, cradles, chargers and sync cables, and at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, the choice is slim and stock levels are low! The next three catergories are more of the same and I do not need to bore you any more with information on small choice, small stock room! The final section, clearance items, has four items in it, so much for the January sales at this company, these are 3 different, but equally awful ipod cases and a 4GB Sandisk compact flash card which is, you guessed it, out of stock!!! I was beginning to wonder if they would actually have anything I would want to buy, and if so would it be in stock. Ordering Ordering anything on this site, as expected having found the site so easy to use, is very easy. You first browse the site for something you want, and check it is in stock! This is easy to spot as all items have either a tick or a cross under their descriptions, with in stock or out of stock next to it, most have out of stock in my experience as already mentioned. I eventually found an accessory set for the Wii fit board which I have looked at in shops for £17.99, techfocus have it on for £12.72, so they do actually have some bargains! An interesting point on this item though is, if you purchase this set with a Wii fit board from techfocus, it will set you back £109.89, minus the £91.99 for the Wii fit on its own, this means you are paying £17.90 for the accessory pack if bought as part of a package so keep your eye on the rices of anything you decide to buy from here. When you have found the item you want to buy, next to it in the two techfocus colours are two boxes, orange and blue, one is for more information on the product and the other is to buy the item, they buy now button is in a paler blue colour if the item is out of stock, hence this is the colour of most of them! Luckily though the item I had decided on was in stock and first of all I signed in to the cashback site I was going to use and logged on to the techfocus site through this so my cashback could be tracked, as it was a branded item, I would only get 2% cashback but every litle helps! Next I found the item again and clicked on the buy now button, this then moved one of this item into my basket, meaning the trolly icon at the top of the site now read 1 item £12.72. I then clicked on the trolly symbol to go to checkout. The next page that comes up is a list of items you have bought and the chance to enter a voucher ode if you have one. There is then a go to checkout button, but also a use paypal button which I decided to use. I like sites that accept paypal as it is a very safe payment method to use online, as you do not have to enter any bank or card details, also you are covered for up to £500 if anything goes wrong, also it is completely free to buyer (although quite expensive to the seller). I clicked on the paypal button and the familiar log in page came up. I looged in and came though to a summary page, on this page I finally found out how much the postage was going to be; another £3.58! Still slightly cheaper than the high street though, I confirmed and that was it, no need to enter your address or sign up with techfocus as this is visible through paypal, now I would just sit back and wait for my item to arrive, I had ordered well before 3pm so my item should be dispatched same day by first class post, in my experience of royal mail, it should arrive tomorrow or Wednesday. Delivery Wow! The item was delivered this morning (Tuesday) I am very impressed, that means from ordering and paying, to recieving my goods was almost exactly 22 hours!! A service like this really cannot be beaten. Granted much of the delivery speed is down to Royal Mail, however I have to say techfocus obviously stuck to their same day dispatch promise, the item was also very well packaged, so absolutely no complaints what so ever with delivery. The only problem with this is I don't get to try out the customer service, which is advertised as being excellent, but this is not a bad thing. I will update this review in the future to include details of the customer service, should I have the need to use it, or if I hear what they are like from a reliable source. Conclusion So overall what do I think of techfocus? I have to say their website is one of the best I have visited recently, not in the respect of it being mega modern and complicated, but the fact that it is simply easy on the eye, and so simple to navigate. Everything is really well laid out and it is very easy to work out how to use the site, even if you are a complete beginner in my opinion. Moving from page to page is also done very quickly, as there is no waiting for complex graphics to load. The fact that they accept paypal is also a very big plus in my opinion, for the reasons I gave earlier, more and more companies are starting to catch on to paypal now and it is not just limited to ebay, there are many benefits with payapl and it always give me a good impression of a company if they accept it, the other thing is that the payment is instant and means they can get on with packaging and dispatching your goods quicker. It is always a nice touch if sites are signed up with cashback sites also, and so many smaller companies, like techfocus, are not. Now the bad points, unfortunately the good points above are completely cancelled out by the bad points. The main problem I have with this site is price, they are not competitive on price at all. Honestly the Nintendo Wii accessory pack I bought was the only thing I would buy off this site at the moment. I nearly gave up on ordering something and just wrote the review purely on the site content, as the things they actually have in stock are so overpriced, there are lots of cheaper sites on the internet, selling the same sort of things. Then obviously the next problem is stock levels, the most annoying thing in the world when shopping, either in a shop or online, is to choose something you want, only to be told it is out of stock and you can't have it! I wouldn't mind but even if they had stock of everything they listed the choice would not be exactly big. I suppose if you are looking for a Wii fit board, they are slightly cheaper here than on ebay and you will have it very quickly but once they sell out of these they have very little else to offer, and lets not forget even though they are slightly cheaper than on ebay, they are still £22.00 over the recomended retail price, so they are still nailing your hat on really. If nobody bought these items at inflated prices then retailers would not be able to get away with ripping us off. This is probably another reason why you should not shop here, and unless they start stocking more stuff and make some drastic price cuts, I will not be shopping here again and have only awarded two stars and not recommended it to buyers, even though there are so many positives above, there are simply far too many negatives that more than cancel out the positives unfortunately, these problems could however be put right quite easily and I will look in on this site again in the future to see if it has improved and will update this review if it has. Thanks For Reading, Also On Ciao