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kerrypanda

kerrypanda
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Member since: 13.05.2009

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      28.04.2010 13:09
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      Not full of win this time, sorry kitties KTHXBYE X

      Eric Nakagawa co-founded the cult "I Can Has Cheezburger?" site with Karl Unebasami in 2007. It features amateur cat photos with amusing captions, usually with phonetic spelling and bad grammar, and is still going strong.

      This book is the accompanying guide to the cute universe of lolcats and their lolcat talk. It's narrated by illustrated Professor Happycat who talks us through us the finer points of some of 'I Can Has Cheezburger's' most iconic images and phrases.

      I got this book as a stocking filler from a relative at Christmas and I was thrilled when I saw it, having been a big fan of the site before and not knowing there was a book out. It's a small hardback book with 192 pages, and the paper is thick and glossy. It's the kind of book that is designed to be dipped into randomly, not read cover to cover in one go.

      I expected to see some of the famous lolcat pictures and sayings, but unfortunately I just wasn't that impressed with it and the book was only flicked through occasionally and has been left gathering dust in the bookcase.

      On the positive side, this little book (6" by 6") is packed with images, there are photographs of over 200 cats, so they have not been stingy with the content. Most of the photos are charming and at least half of them are funny in some way with some proper lols occurring every now and then. The cover image features the original 'I Can Has Cheezburger?' cat who started it all.

      The highlights for me include the picture of a sad cat sitting up on his hind legs saying 'I made you a cookie.... but I eated it',

      a sardonic looking cat sitting in a cardboard box 'hello from ebays... not what you ordered?',

      a ginger cat with its head stuck through the frame of a chair 'call for halp, I iz stuck for realz this time',

      and my favourite which is the beautiful double page picture of a cat lying on the floor gazing at the fairy lights surrounding him with the caption 'oh ur floor, so much awesome. Litez poken me all over.' That one never fails to make me smile.

      You don't really need professor Happycats' tutorials if you know anything about lolcats but the pages showing some of ICHCs' most famous phrases, like 'nomnomnom', and 'I'm in ur...' are reminders of how popular the brand is now you hear those sayings everywhere, especially on the net.

      That said, even though this is only a novelty book the phrase quantity over quality comes to mind. There is a definite amateur feel to the book. Often the images are not as sharp as the pictures on the site, there are no borders so one photograph seems to blend in with another, and sometimes the photos are cropped too much making them hard to see and I had to hold the book away from me to work it out.

      There are also several problems with the text, sometimes it is so densely 'txtspk' it's hard to understand what it means, sometimes the caption is almost too faint to read, or it's actually covering the photo. You have to make an effort to understand an image or a word when the book is presumably meant to be an effortless and fun read.

      The worst part is that some, actually most of the classics are omitted from this collection. Invisible Sandwich cat and Invisible Bicycle cat are missing. So is the original Serious cat and angry Ebay cat. Ceiling cat is there but without his original caption. Monorail Cat is there but doesn't even get a page to himself! Apparently the lack of iconic lolcats is down to copyright reasons, the site has to get permission from the photograph owners to reproduce the images, hence the long list of 'thx to's at the end of the book.

      'I Can Has Cheezburger: A LOLcat Colleckshun' is quite a cute little book and is probably best given as a stocking filler or little gift for kids or cat lovers, especially non computer savvy ones.

      That's the thing though - I much prefer the website as you can click on the I Can Has Cheezburger site free of charge whenever you like, and see dozens of new lolcats daily. I find the ones in the book get a bit dull over time and £9.99 is quite expensive for what you get.

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        27.04.2010 22:50
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        I'm sticking with this one :)

        I have very pale 'Nicola Roberts' type skin and it depresses me that every summer I am lucky if during the hottest week of the summer I develop even a hint of a tan. Unless I'm careful with the SPF I am more likely to turn lobster red.

        I've tried sunless face tanners before without much luck ('I've been tangoed' is the phrase that comes to mind) but I read several positive reviews about Olay Total Effects Touch of Sunshine and decided to try it for myself.

        Olay Total Effects Touch of Sunshine is a day moisturiser with a touch of sunless tanner and an SPF of 15. It promises a light sun kissed glow that builds up gradually.

        As well as the tanning aspect the Total Effects range also promises seven powerful anti-ageing effects to fight the signs of ageing;

        1 -Line minimization: Visibly reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
        2 -Nourishing Moisturisation: Intensively hydrates dry skin
        3 -Tone Enhancement: Balances colour and visibly evens skin tone
        4 -Gentle Exfoliation: Noticeably smoothes skin texture
        5 - Pore Refinement: Minimises the appearance of pores
        6 - Brightening: For radiant, healthy glow
        7 - Spot minimisation: Reduces appearance of blotches and age spots

        In Superdrug I was mildly irritated at how Olays' products all seemed to have fairly similar packaging and lots of products in each range, so I spent at least a minute in the Olay section before finding what I was looking for.

        The Touch of Sunshine (forgive me for not using the full title each time, I've no idea why these products have to be given such long names) moisturiser is packaged in a shiny black box with an instructions leaflet inside.

        The container looks nice, it's a solid tube shape and a pearlised cream colour with a yellow sunshine design on the label and a large clear cap which you can see the black pump dispenser through. It looks like quite a chunky tube and contains 50 ml of moisturiser.

        It cost £12.99 in Superdrug which I think may have been a special offer price though my receipt doesn't mention a discount.

        Applying is very simple. After washing your face you apply one pump of moisturiser to your finger and smooth evenly all over your face, taking special care near eyebrows and hairline, then apply another pump to the neck blending well at the base of your neck so you're not left with a telltale tide mark.

        The formulation of Touch of Sunshine is very smooth and quite thick. It's white in colour and smells a bit like sun cream but not strongly. The SPF15 is not really going to protect you in the sun but it's better than nothing, and a lot of make-up products have added SPF too so it all helps.

        Opinion

        A little goes a long way with this stuff, I'm usually quite liberal about applying moisturiser, but I'm careful with this, initially because I was scared of turning orange and then because I could see I was getting good results with a small amount. I did forget to apply it to my neck at first and then started to notice a definite colour difference between my face and neck so now I make sure to remember.

        The pump dispenser had a small piece of black plastic covering the opening that you remove and set aside each time when you use it, but inevitably I lost it so I am not too impressed with that feature. I don't usually like pump dispensers as you can't get to all of the product but after a bit of investigating I realised that the top would come off easily enough to allow me to get at the rest of the moisturiser when I need to.

        Touch of Sunshine is the 'driest' feeling moisturiser I've ever used, and I like that. It sinks straight into my skin leaving it feeling slightly velvety but not damp or greasy so I can apply make-up directly afterwards.

        I'm very pleased with this moisturiser/facial tanner as after only a few days of use I started to look healthier in the mornings with a more even skin tone, and after a few weeks my skin is looking better than it has in ages. I have found I don't actually need to use foundation as my skin is all one shade instead of white with patches of pink and I can finally go out in public without looking like a vampire!

        I couldn't honestly say I've noticed any difference to the faint lines on my face, but my pores do seem smaller and my skin tone looks more even, and a light tan makes me look younger too (in my opinion!)

        It's kind of hard to recommend a facial tanner as these things react differently on people, I recall reading reviews saying it didn't tan at all or tanned too much. I would recommend giving Touch of Sunshine a try though, especially if you can get hold of a sample somewhere. You can find it in most shops that stock skincare products.

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          23.04.2010 15:51
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          Tasty, but ironic that Skinny Water is fatter than regular water!

          Every year when the weather warms up I face my traditional yearly panic at the thought of having to venture out of doors without all of my many protective layers to hide in, and make the decision to do something about it once and for all.

          After having grown tired of my new exercise and diet regime within a week I went to Holland and Barrett and asked for some easy slimming suggestions. One of the most interesting things I left the shop with was a bottle of Bio Synergy Skinny Water for 99p.

          I didn't need any persuading when the H & B assistant pointed out Skinny Water, as I'd wanted to try it for ages. Quite a while ago it seemed to be a fad amongst Hollywood celebs, the gossip magazines printed pictures of Jennifer Aniston, Paris Hilton, Cameron Diaz and Liz Hurley drinking Skinny Water, and I kept an eye out for it but never saw any (I think only the swankier supermarkets stocked it then). I was pleased to finally get my hands on some.

          The Skinny Water bottle looks very bright and attractive. It's a clear plastic bottle designed with a dip in the middle which makes it comfortable to hold. The plastic wrapper is bright aqua blue and the screw-top cap is raspberry coloured. Some of the text is also in raspberry and the rest is in bright yellow. The brand name is in large yellow letters and is very easy to see.

          The drink mentions on the packaging that it is a slimming aid. There are motivational slogans too like 'Body Perfect' and 'Make It Happen'. It's described as 'a spring water that has been enhanced with a unique combination of ingredients to help you lose and maintain your weight. Skinny Water's (their use of apostrophe, not mine!) ingredients have been shown to suppress appetite, block carbohydrates from converting into fat and increase fat burning, making it the prefect compliment to a healthier lifestyle.'

          The drink contains L-Carnitine and Chromium which are meant to reduce sugar cravings and burn carbs, concentrated pomegranate juice for flavour, and sweeteners (sucralose). Each 500ml bottle contains 9 calories and a trace of salt and fat. The sell by date is about a year, and the makers recommend the drink should be consumed within 3 days. They also recommend drinking 4 bottles a day and following a healthy lifestyle to lose weight.

          The drink itself is clear coloured like regular water and has a mild pomegranate taste. It is a still water drink.

          Opinion

          Skinny Water passed the taste test with flying colours, I found it to be a really nice flavour. I often find pomegranate flavoured drinks taste a bit dry, but in this case the taste was subtle, fruity, sweeter than I've found in brands like Pom, and genuinely refreshing especially when chilled. I think it's actually the nicest flavoured water I've had. At 99p it's also competitively priced.

          I did a bit of online research into Skinny Water. It has its own site which mainly focuses on its TV, magazine and celebrity endorsements, which I can hardly complain about as it was seeing a photo of Jennifer Aniston drinking a bottle which initially caught my interest! The brand does seem to be aimed at impressionable celebrity-obsessed young women, perfectly illustrated by their choice of brand 'ambassador', an ex-Hollyoaks actress.

          I read a lot of consumer testimonials from people claiming that they no longer feel hungry between meals thanks to Skinny Water and have lost weight, but expert opinion appears to be dubious about Skinny Waters' claims to help weightloss, and I did notice that the makers cleverly mention that 'following numerous studies chromium has received approval from the FDA in the US.' If you were to read that quickly you could think it meant the drink itself has approval. The nutritional experts say that Skinny Water is just a gimmick and is making misleading claims about being a slimming aid as they have not actually conducted any studies to find out if their product works.

          I think it could work - if you follow the advice to lead a healthy lifestyle too! By itself I don't think you would see any difference unless you were substituting Skinny Water for a drink with a higher calorie content. Even though it only has 9 calories a bottle, they recommend four bottles a day which would add up to a lot of extra cals in a week.

          I have bought Skinny Water again merely for the taste of the drink though I admit I can feel a twinge of embarrassment walking round with such a blatant diet product in my hand! I wouldn't use it as a slimming aid though. Free tap water would probably do better for that purpose.

          Skinny Water costs 99p per 500ml bottle and is widely available on the high street, it's also possible to buy in bulk from Amazon or eBay. The brand also includes a Pink Grapefruit version, its own Skinny Cola and a 'Body Perfect' supplement.

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            21.01.2010 20:24
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            A lip smacking 5 stars!

            Browsing in Lush after work today, I was collared by an enthusiastic sales assistant who wanted to tell me about new products instore. One of them was a product called Lip Scrub, which was previously sold under the 'B never too busy to be beautiful' brand. I had never tried a lip scrub before though I have countless lip balms and creams at home so I was interested and had a look at the testers.

            The lip scrub was available in three different scents, Sweet Lips, Bubblegum and Mint Julips. Bubblegum has the Snow Fairy scent which is well-known among Lush addicts, it reminds me of lollipops and sugar mice, and it's too sickly sweet for me. Mint Julips was lovely, it smelt of mint but also sweet tones like vanilla. The instant favourite for me though was Sweet Lips, a simple blend of chocolate and vanilla, with chocolate being the main scent.

            The packaging is different from the picture shown above but it is still packaged in a chunky clear glass jar with a black plastic screw-top lid. There is a sticker on the lid showing the Lush logo and the name 'Sweet Lips' in white writing on a black background, another sticker around the jar in the same style, and one underneath showing the expiry date (a little over a year).

            The jar is quite a generous size for this type of product, the label says it has 25g of lip scrub, and it's totally full to the brim with product. I should mention that the jars aren't hygienically sealed shut so customers can unscrew the lid in the shop and look at the product. I am probably a bit over-squeamish but I took one from the bottom of the pile and checked the surface had no indentations before I bought it!

            The ingredients list is short and simple, castor sugar, organic jojoba oil, vanilla extract, cocoa absolute, tagetes oil, and flavouring. It's also a vegan product.

            It cost £4.50 which I initially thought was a little expensive but the assistant assured me it would probably last for the best part of a year, and what tipped me over the edge was the fact that if I spent over £20 instore I could take a free Christmas gift box. The lip scrub took my total to just over £20 and then I got a £16 Christmas box for nothing. Win win!

            The product looks lighter than you see in the picture above, it's a sandy yellow colour and it looks quite shiny in the jar. It is also a dense formulation, I can turn the jar upside down and nothing falls out.

            To apply it all I have to do is touch my finger to the surface of the jar and it picks up enough product. A little goes a long way with this stuff. The combination of exfoliating sugar grains and moisturising oil is very effective, and the sweet taste is an added bonus. I am a compulsive lip-balm applier and I had thought my lips were in the best condition they could be but they are definitely softer now.

            Something the sales assistant told me, and I kind of wish she hadn't, is that the lip scrub is 100% safe to eat! It's a very good idea that a product you put on your lips should be edible (though I can't think of any edible lipsticks.) It is perfectly alright to apply the scrub then lick it off when you are finished. I just have to remind myself that it is made up of sugar and oil or I think I could go through the whole jar in no time!

            One little tip - it's a fairly light formulation which is a good thing as you can't go overboard and end up with a swollen looking mouth, but if you have dry or chapped lips like my boyfriend and want a more heavy duty scrubbing session applying a layer of Vaseline first gives more intensive results.

            I am very pleased with this, I will definitely repurchase it.

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            • Review of the Year 2009 / Discussion / 90 Readings / 87 Ratings
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              28.12.2009 01:15
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              All in all a pretty good year.

              *What did you do in 2009 that you have not done before?*
              I stopped asking my male relatives to do DIY projects for me and learnt how to fix and put things together things myself, started cooking meals from scratch more often than just heating them up, finally mastered the art of living to a budget, stopped leaving a light on outside my door at night, I suppose I finally became a grown-up. It only took *whispers* 34 years.

              *Did anyone close to you give birth?*
              Yes, my best friend and her husband have a four month old beautiful baby boy! He's adorable.

              *Did anyone close to you die?*
              No, thank goodness.

              *What countries did you visit?*
              Australia and France, both toward the end of the year.

              *What you would like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?*
              A reliable car.

              *What dates will you remember from 2009?*
              I never remember any dates apart from birthdays.

              *Did you suffer any illness or injury?*
              I had a cancer scare early in the year, a nerve-wracking time.

              *What was the best thing you bought?*
              I bought an original 1980s 'Lemon Drop' My Little Pony from eBay! It was my favourite toy as a child, but my parents are very unsentimental and throw everything away, and I had nothing left from my childhood, so it was lovely to have it back. A silly purchase but it made me happy!

              *Whose behaviour has merited celebration?*
              My son has overcome more than one phobia this year, and has rediscovered the joy of learning. I'm very proud of him.

              *Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?*
              Some of my family and acquaintances have been very dismissive of my sons disabilities and bombard me with the same questions and 'helpful' suggestions over and over when I see them yet can't be bothered to do five minutes research on the internet.
              There was also plenty of disapproval when I removed him from school, and even though he is clearly much happier and healthier I am constantly asked when I am putting him back into school, any school.
              This question has instantly raised my blood pressure!

              *Where did most of your money go?*
              Educational trips, activities and projects, also home improvements.

              *What did you get really excited about?*
              Going to Australia to visit family. I was really excited about seeing the Neighbours set though it didn't happen in the end unfortunately. I was also excited to take the leap into home educating.

              *What songs will you remember from 2009?*
              Does this mean 2009 new releases only? Bad Romance - Lady GaGa, Who'd Have Known - Lily Allen, Get Me Outta Here - Esmee Denters, Fire - Kasabian, Bad Boys - Alex Burke, Mama Do - Pixie Lott, Remedy - Little Boots, T-Shirt - Shontelle, Fight For This Love - Cheryl Cole (remembered for all the wrong reasons), aside from Kasabian it's been a big pop year for me. Oh, and Ice Ice Baby, I imagine that will be stuck in my head for quite a while yet, see favourite TV programme answer!

              *Compared to this time last year are you... happier, fitter or more productive?*
              Happier, less fit, more productive in some ways, less in some.

              *What do you wish you had done more of?*
              I wish I had exercised more.

              *What do you wish you had done less of?*
              I wish I had eaten less! Top of my resolution list for 2010 is losing the weight I gained this year.

              *What was your favourite TV programme?*
              I hate to say it, but maybe the X Factor, I loved and hated it in equal measure. I was irritated by all of the presenters and 'judges' and most of the acts but couldn't stop watching - until Jedward left. I loved Jedward to bits!

              *Do you hate anyone that you didn't hate last year?*
              No.

              *What's been the best book of 2009?*
              'Oscar's Books' by Thomas Wright. I am a fan of Oscar Wilde and love learning any new information about his life.

              *What was your greatest musical discovery?*
              There have been a lot of new young female artists around this year, and about time too - La Roux, Florence and the Machine, Ladyhawke, Little Boots, Pixie Lott, etc.

              *What did you want to get in 2009?*
              The only answer that springs to mind in response to that question is: a piece of original art. Every now and then I find a painting or sculpture that really grabs me, but when push comes to shove I can never justify the cost when the money could always be better spent on my child and my house. I love browsing galleries and on-line exhibitions though. One day...

              *What did you want and didn't get?*
              I wanted adequate help/support from my sons school. They repeatedly told me there was nothing available or suitable or necessary for his needs, then everything I'd requested miraculously became available immediately after I sent a letter to the school telling them to deregister him. Coincidence?

              *What is your favourite film of the year?*
              'Where the Wild Things Are', I found that to be a surprisingly good family film. And 'Up' was very good too.

              *What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?*
              I turned 34 and went on a weekend city break and ate way too much.

              *What political issue stirred you the most?*
              The expenses scandal was very annoying to read about, especially the justification by the politicians that they didn't break any laws by claiming money for toilet rolls and moat cleaning, so what was the problem? It's those same politicians who make the laws!

              *Who was the best person you met?*
              My son had a socialisation mentor for about six months who went above and beyond her job description in all the ways she helped him, she was an absolute gem.

              *Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009?*
              To trust my instincts, and to have the courage of my convictions. I have become more confident in both my opinions and abilities this year.

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                02.11.2009 17:32
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                Terry and Dawn French can have the cornflake ones.

                Terry's first produced the Chocolate Apple in the UK in the 1920s. Thanks to its popularity in 1936 they then launched the Chocolate Orange, which was an immediate huge success. Aside from a brief period during the second world war when Terry's stopped manufacturing the Chocolate Orange because they couldn't import the orange oil it required, production started again in the late 40s and due to its major success the less popular Chocolate Apple was later withdrawn from sale.

                Terry's Milk Chocolate Orange remains the most popular product in their Chocolate Orange line, though Terry's introduced the Plain Chocolate orange in the 1970s, followed by the Chocolate Orange Lemon, Chocolate Orange Snowball (white chocolate), Chocolate Orange Mint, Chocolate Orange Toffee, Chocolate Orange Bars, Chocolate Orange Tangy, Chocolate Raspberry, Chocolate Orange Volcanic Popping Candy, Chocolate Orange hazelnut and more, offering plenty of variation on the theme.

                In 2003 Terry's introduced Chocolate Orange Segsations which negated the need to 'tap and unwrap' as each chocolate orange segment is individually wrapped. They are available in either 700g tins or 330g plastic tubs. I am reviewing the tin.

                The tin has the classic Milk Chocolate Orange styling, it's blue with an orange border around the lid edge and features a large Terry's Chocolate Orange logo on top of the lid. The side of the tin shows the 5 different varieties of segment - dark, crispy, crunchy, milky and honeycomb.

                The nutritional information is unsurprising. A recommended 25g serving gives 130 calories and 7.2g fat which equates to 10% of the guideline daily amount. That's if you manage to stick to the recommended serving though which works out at a small handful. I think most of us would get through more than 5 or 6 in a sitting!

                There is a special Terry's Chocolate Orange Careline Freephone number printed on the base of the tin and Kraft suggest you visit their website to find out how you can incorporate Terry's Segsations into a healthy lifestyle, but I couldn't find any mention of chocolate on their healthy eating site.

                The underside of the tin also has a description of each variety of chocolate segment. They are named the blue one (milk), the red one (dark), the yellow one (crunchy), the orange one (honeycomb) and the light blue one (crispy).

                A new addition to Segsations is the tag-line, 'Chocolates with something to say...' Unwrapping each chocolate you find they each have words printed on their upper-most side, slogans like 'Partygirl', 'Tasty!', 'Groovy', 'Have Another'(what, even if you have gone beyond your 25g?!), 'Chill out', and 'You're Beautiful'. I haven't unwrapped them all but it seems that most of them have different things printed on them.

                Terry's aren't the first confectioners to put messages on their sweets, Loveheart sweets are the original and the best in that department as far as I'm aware, and Munchies have cheeky slogans on their packaging, 'You want me', etc. I think the idea doesn't work particularly well on chocolate orange segments as the sweet has to be unwrapped to discover the message, Terry's chocolate is not a very romantic medium for love messages, and most of the messages are meaningless. 'Alright!' and 'Cheers!' aren't going to have you breathless with anticipation to read the next one, are they?

                Each individual segment of chocolate closely resembles a segment from a standard Terry's Chocolate Orange'. They are shaped to look like real orange segments complete with the orange peel texture effect on the outer edge. They all smell just like orange and chocolate. I know that sounds obvious, but it's true!

                My favourite 'Segsation' is the one in the orange wrapper, honeycomb. I have never seen this one appear anywhere except in the Segsations box unfortunately as I think it's a really pleasant combination. The honeycomb appears in generously sized chunks all through the chocolate. It looks orange and is very probably not real honeycomb (especially as Terry's describes it as honeycomb flavour) but it tastes like it and is nice and crunchy when you bite into it. It also adds a chewy texture to the chocolate while eating. The honey and orange combination is delicious.

                The next one is milk chocolate. This has the familiar blue wrapper and is the original Terry's Chocolate Orange flavour. This is the one everyone should know, Terry's describes it as 'delicious milk chocolate flavoured with the essence of real juicy oranges'. It doesn't taste any more orangey than the others but it's very smooth velvety chocolate with an authentic taste of oranges, it doesn't taste artificial at all. No bells and whistles with this one, just a chocolate classic in a little plastic wrapper.

                My third favourite is crispy which is the one in the light blue wrapper. Why another blue wrapper? Terry's still had plenty of colours left to choose from! Anyway, this one is 'packed with lovely light and crispy puffed rice bits' which you can see on the bumpy underside of the chocolate. They have been generous with the puffed rice as it's all the way through the segment and this adds a nice crispy texture.

                Then we come to the two varieties which are always the last left in our tin.

                The yellow one is called crunchy and according to Terry's has been 'secretly embedded with little crushed cornflake bits.' Even before trying the chocolate the description of crushed cornflake bits didn't sound appetising. The texture isn't very crunchy, and the amount of crushed cornflake bits added is quite stingy. I can taste cornflakes after I have finished eating the chocolate though, but I don't know if that's a good thing! This one was added to replace the white chocolate segment but I would have preferred that, or they could have brought back their Chocolate Apple or Raspberry? This one is a little bit blah.

                Last one is the red one - dark. I like Plain Chocolate Orange so you would think I would like this one. However it's not just dark chocolate, it's 'a milk chocolate top sitting on a cheeky dark chocolate bottom'. The base is a layer of plain chocolate topped with milk chocolate. I can taste the slightly bitter dark chocolate for a moment after biting into it, then it begins to taste like the milky one. Good if you don't like dark chocolate much, but those who buy the tin because the like the Plain Chocolate orange would be disappointed. I do still eat them because they are there, but they seem a bit pointless.

                Ultimately though, this chocolate selection is very very moreish. So much so that we are on our third tin even though I originally meant to buy one and set it aside for Christmas. Any Chocolate Orange segment is better than no Chocolate Orange segment!

                I would definitely recommend the Segsations to anyone who likes orange flavoured chocolate. Right now you can buy the 700g tin for £5 at most of the major supermarkets.

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                  31.10.2009 21:56
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                  Great starter chemistry set. Just prepare yourself for a lot of reading before you can get started.

                  I am currently home-educating my son and buying a chemistry set was high on my shopping list as he is far more enthusiastic about science experiments than about maths or English.

                  I had just got my £20 Amazon voucher through from Dooyoo so I looked on Amazon for chemistry sets. They all seemed similar so I chose the 100 experiment Chemistry Lab from Trends UK because it was the cheapest set at the time at £24.49, and also it was the only set to have a customer review attached to it. Amazon states that 'the Trends Chemistry Lab is perfect for science-mad boys and girls, encouraging learning and an interest in chemistry!'

                  The set is packaged in a big cardboard box measuring 14" high and nearly 17" wide. The box looks very colourful, it's blue with photos of the equipment and a list of contents. The packaging states that the set is only to be used by children over 10 years old who are being supervised by adults that have studied the precautions mentioned in the instruction booklet.

                  The back of the box has more safety information. The lab set contains some chemicals which are classified as a safety hazard, there is eye protection for a child but not the supervising adult, the toy is not safety protected, and you will need to buy some extra items and chemicals that are not included with the kit.

                  Inside the box the kit and the chemicals are all firmly held in place in a polystyrene block.

                  Equipment pieces include -
                  a 100ml glass beaker and a 100ml glass conical flask with measurement levels printed on them,.
                  4 glass test tubes with plastic caps, also a metal test-tube holder, a plastic rack, 5 cork stoppers (3 with holes) and a cleaning brush,
                  A spirit burner,
                  A pair of plastic safety goggles with an elasticated head strap,
                  filter papers (which are taped to the back of the polystyrene), litmus papers and universal indicator papers,
                  A plastic funnel, plastic dropping pipette and plastic measuring spoon and scoop,
                  100mm rubber tubing, 100mm glass tubing and a 120mm glass stirring rod.

                  The chemicals are all in identical plastic containers like pill bottles. They have child-proof caps. The chemicals name is printed on the front of the container with its symbol in the periodic table, along with large symbols underneath to indicate whether the chemical may be an irritant to eyes, flammable, toxic, dangerous for the environment, or harmful if swallowed.

                  The chemicals included are -
                  Ammonium Chloride
                  Calcium Carbonate
                  Calcium Hydroxide
                  Copper Oxide
                  Copper Sulphate
                  Copper Foil
                  Iron Sulphate
                  Iron Filings
                  Litmus Blue
                  Magnesium Strip
                  Magnesium Sulphate
                  Methyl Orange
                  Aluminium Potassium Sulphate
                  Potassium Iodide
                  Sodium Carbonate
                  Sodium Hydrogen Sulphate
                  Sodium Sulphate
                  Sodium Thiosulphate
                  Tartaric Acid
                  Zinc pellets

                  Lastly the Chemistry Lab has an instruction booklet. This has the same cover design as the box the kit comes in. The safety rules are listed first along with first-aid information should an accident occur. It then explains how to set up and use the equipment and lists additional equipment and chemicals that you will be required to buy to complete the experiments. Then the 100 experiments are listed, followed by answer pages at the back of the leaflet.

                  The idea with the experiment list is that you start with the simplest experiments at the beginning, and follow them in order to build confidence and ability instead of ploughing straight into the ambitious ones. They start with basic comparison experiments, like 'which of these four chemicals dissolve in water?' and build up to making rotten egg smells, gorgeous colour combinations, turning pennies green and gold and growing edible crystals.

                  The most important advice I can give to anyone thinking of buying this set is that you must familiarise yourself with the instruction booklet before starting any of the experiments. It requires careful reading, and could be clearer in its presntation. There is only one illustration in the entire booklet. Sodium Chloride is mentioned by its more common name of salt in the list of additional chemicals that you will need, but for the experiments it was just listed as Sodium Chloride and I went through all 20 identical chemical pots looking for it before I remembered it was salt and I could find it in the kitchen.

                  The instruction booklet suggests you make crystallising dishes from yogurt pots and cut them to a 1cm depth. Then the first experiment that requires a crystallising dish instructs you to pour 2cm of water into the dish, which would obviously spill over the sides, so I had to make them at different sizes.

                  Another thing the instruction guide doesn't tell you is that you can use the chemical solutions from one experiment in another one. I tipped away a dissolved copper sulphate solution one day only to find that we needed to make a copper sulphate solution for a later experiment so we could have kept it. The kit only comes with small amounts of each chemical so it annoyed me that I'd wasted some when I could have used it again.

                  Therefore it's not only important to read the safety instructions first and stock up on your extra kit and chemicals, but it's a good idea to read through at least a couple of chapters of experiments to see where you can re-use solutions.

                  It seems annoying that you have to buy extra chemicals but legally toy companies aren't allowed to sell certain chemicals to children. Ones you need to buy include hydrogen peroxide and methylated spirits. I would rather have to buy extra chemicals than have to do restricted experiments with the kit provided. Also the delay gives you time to read the instructions properly.

                  The equipment is of good quality. The glassware is thick and it all looks like proper science lab equipment. The goggles have an adjustable strap and fit both my son and myself. There is a good assortment of chemicals and a wide range of experiments. Every experiment we have tried so far (about 20 of them) has turned out the way it was supposed to.

                  I like this kit overall but I bought this one simply because it was cheapest and had a favourable review. If I was looking now I would probably choose the John Adams Science Lab kit as it has reduced in price from £29.99 to £19.99 and is a better-known brand.

                  I will finish by giving a list of the science sites we have found which provide other experiments to try in case they can be of use to anyone.

                  http://www.thehappyscientist.com
                  http://www.nasa.gov/home/index.html
                  http://www.classroomspace.org.uk/
                  http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/StarChild.html
                  http://www.thenakedscientists.com/
                  http://www.explorelearning.com/
                  http://www.nmm.ac.uk/server/show/nav.3554
                  http://www.oxtrust.org.uk/
                  http://www.planet-science.com/home.html
                  http://www.sciencewithme.com/index.php
                  http://www.sciencematters.biz/
                  http://www.thefutureiswild.com/index.asp?level1id=1
                  http://www.howstuffworks.com/
                  http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learning/kids/
                  http://www.scitech.ac.uk/
                  http://www.scienceyear.com/home.html
                  http://yucky.discovery.com/flash/

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                    30.10.2009 22:33
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                    Thoroughly recommended for feline friends.

                    My cat was going into a cattery for the first time and I read on a pet forum that it's comforting for them to take a familiar toy in to remind them of home. Emily has never been one for cat toys, preferring to target things like Scart leads and earphone wires, if not terrorising the local wildlife, but I decided I should buy her a new toy to take to the cattery as she would be in a small enclosed space and might want something to play with.

                    I have tried expensive toys for Emily before like a play tunnel with toy attachments which she totally ignored and avoided, a laser light toy that made her angry and she scratched the wallpaper, and a battery operated toy which featured a mouse on the end of a wire which flipped about madly and scared her. My keywords for this new purchase were 'cheap' and 'basic'!

                    Amazon has a wide range of cat toys. I made my way through the list and the item I kept returning to look at was the Jolly Moggy Cat Toy Wild Catnip Mice Twin Pack. The product was described as 'a natural wild catnip toy for your cat. They will love these mice which are filled with pure and natural catnip. Source of joy for cat and owners.' There was also a positive customer recommendation. The cost for a pack of two toy mice was £1.99.

                    Only three days later the parcel was posted through the letterbox. The toy mouse duo were not wrapped in any packaging, just attached to the backing card with t-shaped plastic fasteners. It's important to make sure the plastic tags are completely removed before giving to your cat.

                    The toy mice themselves are cute looking, they have an almost home-made look to them. One is off-white in colour, the other is mid-brown. They have a rough knitted texture and their eyes are knitted too in black. They have silky ribbon tails, cotton thread whiskers and leather-look ears all of which appear to be firmly fastened on the toys. They are quite large so would not present a choking hazard.

                    After looking at the toys I put them up on a bookshelf to show Emily later, and then forgot about them until later when I saw Emily standing up on her back legs like a fat tortoiseshell coloured meerkat sniffing in the direction of the bookshelves. She could clearly smell the natural wild catnip in the mice and was trying to investigate.

                    Catnip is a herb that is a member of the mint family, it has a euphoric behavioural effect on about two thirds of British domestic cats which is hereditary, apparently Australian cats don't react to it at all. Kittens don't respond to it either, only adult cats.

                    The packaging suggests you rub the mice between your hands to release the oils for maximum effect. I did this, then threw one of the mice across the floor. It had an instant effect on the cat, she was throwing it around, rolling on it, biting it, it brought out the mouser in her. She tends to have short frenzied playtimes with them then needs to get away, maybe the catnip gets a bit much.

                    The mice are quite fat so they are easy to get hold of, and the rough knit texture is great for kitty claws to grip into while they do that funny kicking thing with their back paws!

                    She took both mice to the cattery with her and when I collected her after five days one of them was ripped along its back but the catnip wasn't ripped out and its whiskers, ears and other bits were all still attached.

                    These are definitely a good buy for cats. Once Emily has destroyed them both I will buy replacements or look at the other products in the Jolly Moggy range, for instance they do a larger mouse with a coarser texture to it.

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                    • Supa Weekend / Fish Food / 76 Readings / 75 Ratings
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                      24.10.2009 14:08
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                      For emergencies only. It's best for someone to come and feed the fish if possible.

                      I had to leave my goldfish Ernie alone for a few days while I went to visit relatives. My cat had to go into a cattery as she hates being left in the house alone, and I found that the friends who had volunteered to pop round and feed the cat and the fish for me weren't so keen to go out of their way just for a goldfish.

                      Someone told me that you could buy fish food in solid blocks which would disintegrate slowly in the tank releasing food regularly. A quick search on the internet proved this to be the case. However the search also threw up some disturbing titles like 'Solid food is a fish killer!!!' Apparently it's not uncommon for people to put solid food in their tank and come back home to an aquarium of dead fish.

                      A user on a pet forum recommended just feeding your fish a little extra for a few days before going away, but Ernie is very greedy and I thought he would get anxious at not being fed for three days. I would have to write an entire review on Ernie to explain properly, but he's a rescue fish with a traumatic background and he self-harms when he's upset. Yes, really! He asks for his food every morning and evening by blowing bubbles at the top of the tank and flipping so water splashes out of the tank and I didn't like to think of him doing his little routine and not getting fed. I decided to buy some solid fish food and watch how he reacted to it before I left.

                      My local pet shop had a holiday fish food display right next to their door with several varieties to choose from. The shop owner recommended Supa Weekend Fish Food and it looked very simple to use.

                      It cost £1.59 for four blocks of weekend fish food, which is the kind you use for 3-4 days. There are four 6g tablets to each pack which are off-white in colour and have the SUPA name printed onto their tops. They are on a card backing which shows the Supa logo and a picture of some fish, and fixed in place with a thin plastic covering.

                      The packaging says that Supa is a quality brand and a value brand. The weekend fish food is for all varieties of cold water and tropical fish. 1 block feeds up to 15 aquarium fish for up to 3-4 days. Suitable for aquariums of up to 45 litres. It is a complete food which will dissolve slowly and neutralise the tank water at the same time. It's made in the UK.

                      I had a trial run to make sure he took to it as I had a vision of shutting the front door and leaving for three days and seconds later the aquarium was filled with a cloud of fish food.

                      The shop owner was very helpful. I did have the intention of switching the filter off when I left and adding an oxygenating tablet but the shop owner told me the filter has to be switched on to clear away any uneaten food particles. I was concerned that the food is meant to feed up to 15 fish over 3-4 days and I only have one but the shop owner said it would be fine because he's a big fish, and 15 fish in a 45 litre tank would be quite small.

                      The tablet popped out of the pack easily and I could see small specks of food on the surface. You only use one at a time. I let it fall to the bottom of the tank where Ernie examined it then came up to the top to start demanding his breakfast. He looked agitated when he didn't get the usual immediate response, but I was pleased to see that he began calmly hovering over the weekend food tablet after a few hours.

                      The results in our case were good. Ernie didn't beg for his food for three days which meant he must have been getting enough food from the solid tablet. It was very slow release as I didn't see it dispensing food, but by the evening of day three it had pretty much worn away. I didn't see any food in the water, but I did have to clean the filter out and it was quite mucky inside.

                      I found this food easy to use with no adverse effects, and I did use it when I went away. I don't know if I would use it again though, and I would be wary of recommending it just because it worked in my case.

                      I think the 3-4 day blocks are okay, but there are bigger blocks available that will feed fish for up to two weeks, and these are the ones that I read can kill fish, probably by blocking the filter. Getting advice and doing a supervised trial run is a good idea, and there are other options like fish feeders which are expensive but safer. Or bully a friend into feeding them!

                      Ernie was very content with the solid food tablet and would probably give it 5 stars, but being aware of the potential risks I would say 3 'undecided' stars.

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                        21.10.2009 00:11
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                        A great Christmas resource book.

                        I picked up a copy of this big hardback book 'Ultimate Christmas' at a market years ago. I remember spotting it as it really stood out on the shelves.

                        The book is over 11 inches in height and 9 inches wide, and it has 192 pages. The cover design is like a present that has been wrapped in red paper with gold stars and tied with a big gold bow. The title and author's name are printed on a white tag attached to the bow. It's a very bright festive cover.

                        'Ultimate Christmas' is an illustrated guide to preparing for Christmas. It covers everything I can think of - Christmas Day menu suggestions, how to make decorations for the tree, making pomanders, garlands, wreaths and door swags, arranging centrepiece and mantelpiece displays, making your own Christmas cards and wrapping paper, and so on.

                        The chapter titled 'a gallery of Christmas trees' has a section on selecting the tree you want and its container then there are full page photographs of trees dressed in different themes: traditional Victorian style, silver and white, country-style, glitzy, carnival, and trees with an edible theme, sweets and lollies, and gingerbread angels and fruit garlands. Each double page of two tree suggestions is followed by another double page offering a craft project like salt-dough camels, pomanders, home-made silk baubles, dried fruit garlands, etc. There are some unusual tree options offered like a small bay tree to decorate a small room.

                        'Wreaths, garlands and flowers' is aimed at people who are better with their hands than I am. It shows how to make door swags and wreaths, ambitious-looking garlands, and a kissing bough. It also covers topiary and suggests ideas for festive floral displays.

                        'Christmas lights and effects' covers candles and Christmas lanterns, and how to decorate candelabras and centrepieces, and a piece on how to turn a twig wreath into a candle chandelier. It ends with four double-page mantelpiece themes that complement the themed Christmas trees, rococo for the traditional trees, silver, homespun to go with the edible theme and sunshine which would go well with the carnival trees.

                        'Seasonal gifts, cards and stationery' deals with everything under that subject, from printing gift-wrap to making gift boxes, tying different kinds of bows, making gift tags, cards, novelty cards, even stockings and fabric advent calendars. This chapter also offers wrapping themes and suggestions for finishing touches to wrapped presents.

                        'The dining table' is about creating beautiful table themes. As with the tree gallery several options are shown across double page spreads, then the following pages demonstrate how to create the effects, the crackers, printed tablecloth, etc.

                        'Christmas food' is my favourite chapter. It deals with the menu for Christmas Day but not just the traditional British meal. There are international festive menus like Christmas Eve in Provence which includes oyster tarts and salt cod, American Christmas Lunch which has a great Pecan Pie recipe, A German Christmas Dinner - roast goose, strudel and stolen, and the Norwegian Christmas Buffet which features gravlax salad, roast lamb, gratin potatoes, and a vanilla cream mould with berry sauce. These are followed by festive cake and biscuit recipes. There are over 50 recipes in this chapter.

                        At the back of the book is a useful 'Countdown to Christmas' chart, and I don't want to make anyone anxious but the countdown started two weeks ago in early October!

                        'Ultimate Christmas' is a Dorling Kindersley book. DK are known for their large format 'visual guides', and this book is a great example. Jane Newdick who took the pictures for the book and wrote the introduction is a noted photographic stylist.

                        It's a gorgeous book to look at, the colours are rich and there are so many inspiring images to enjoy. Our copy has been well loved over the years to the point that the spine covering has been completely worn away. My son loves looking at the Christmas tree photos and it gets him really excited about Christmas. There are over 100 decorations presented in this book and simple step-by-step photos demonstrate how to make a lot of them. I would particularly recommend making the salt-dough camels! Ours turned out really well and look lovely on the tree every year. Most of the projects are suitable for children.

                        The Amazon link above shows some page thumbnails of the traditional Christmas trees, the fruit garland and half a page of one of the table settings which gives a good idea of the layout. I noticed that several sellers are selling it for £0.01. I can guarantee that this book is well worth a penny!

                        'The Ultimate Christmas' is packed with inspiring and creative ideas which will help you plan a fun and stylish Christmas every year.

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                          20.10.2009 00:48
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                          Vegan manifesto masquerading as a diet book.

                          This book came to my attention a couple of years ago when I saw a picture of Victoria Beckham queuing to buy a copy in a bookshop in LA. I needed to lose a couple of stone, therefore diet books were my thing at the time and I couldn't pass up one that had practically been endorsed by Posh!

                          I wasn't alone in that view either. Even though the book had been out since 2005, its appearance in 2007 in Posh's hands, then Lindsay Lohan's, sent 'Skinny Bitch' hurtling into the best-seller lists on both sides of the Atlantic.

                          It's written by Kim Barnouin, an ex-model and Rory Freedman, an ex-models agent and I will tell you right away that these women have clearly absorbed every bit of the body hate culture you find in that profession.

                          How does this grab you? "You need to exercise you lazy shit", "don't be a fat pig anymore", "do you really think oils and milk and eggs won't make you fat? Sober up asshole" "eat right, shitheads." Are you feeling motivated yet?!

                          The title 'Skinny Bitch' is an effective attention grabber, and in the last chapter the authors admit that's all it is. They devised the title simply to sell books and get attention for their message.

                          That message is - go vegan. The writers know that books on veganism don't shift units and make their writers rich, which is why there is no mention of veganism on the front cover of the book which promises 'A no-nonsense, tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous!' or the sales pitch on the back cover, and nothing in the introduction or the part you are allowed to read free on Amazon, but that is what this book is about! It kicks in on page 39 with the chapter titled 'The dead, rotting decomposing flesh diet' and doesn't let up from then on.

                          The book has chapters about giving up sugar, meat, dairy then it launches into graphic and distressing descriptions of what happens to animals in abbatoirs, a charming chapter on how to turn yourself into a quality 'dumper' in the toilet, then a big chunk of the book is on corruption and cruelty in the American food industry.

                          The actual diet section only takes up a small part of the book. They suggest that in a perfect world you eat fruit for breakfast, an organic salad for lunch and rice, pasta or a stir-fry for dinner. There are about nine pages of vegan food suppliers, then a months worth of recommended menus.

                          Soft drinks are referred to as liquid Satan, if you like dairy you may as well 'suck your mother's tits', sugar is likened to crack, coffee drinkers are pathetic pussies with breath like ass! There are endless provocative sound-bites to choose from - 'If you want to be skinny you've got to be a vegetarian', 'every time you put crap in your body you are crap.'

                          I dislike the bad language that appears several times per page on average. The contents page sets the tone with chapters titled 'Government Agencies don't give a shit about your health' and 'Don't be a pussy.' I think the swearing throughout is unnecessary.

                          The tone of the writing is condescending and patronising. It feels exactly like sitting down with two women who are evangelical and preachy about their lifestyle choices and think you're a moron if you don't want to live the same way. It amuses me that they advise readers not to preach at people about changing their lifestyles when that is what this book consists of!

                          Neither Rory nor Kim have ever been overweight and it's cruel to call people fat lazy pigs when they may be disposed to weight-gain. An LA model and models agent will find the books philosophy easier to abide by than the average British woman.

                          The authors are hypocrites. They are highly critical of preservatives in meat/dairy ready meals, then later on they advise readers to rely on preservative filled vegan meat substitute food.

                          They promise an 'acceptable vegan junk food list that'll make your nipples hard'. Unfortunately for British nipples not many of the suggested brands are available in this country. Kim and Rory suggest you 'drag your cankles to a health food store. If they don't have it open your fat mouth and ask for it.' Problem solved.

                          The dairy chapter is particularly disturbing. There are many studies quoted and we all know you can find a study to prove any point you'd like to make. They suggest milk causes autism which is an outlandish claim I'd never heard before. They also suggest that dairy, instead of helping to combat osteoporosis could actually be what causes it which obviously runs counter to what health professionals say and is potentially a dangerous thing to say.

                          This is not a good diet book. It's more about promoting veganism than anything else. I am a vegetarian on moral grounds, though I have occasional slips as I really like the taste of meat. I do appreciate that this book makes you think about the meat that ends up on your plate, and there is a specific part that helped put me off pork for life. I just don't like the deceit involved. It's not even a good vegan book either. There are plenty of vegan cookbooks available on Amazon which are far better.

                          'Skinny Bitch' is available for £5.49 on Amazon. There is now an entire series of books including 'Skinny Bastard' for men, 'Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven' for mums-to-be and 'Skinny Bitching' which is Rory and Kim's take on someone else's book 'The Secret'. 'Skinny Bitch in the Kitch' is a vegan cookbook. The authors admit that neither can cook and they live off fruit, nuts, salad and vegan convenience foods! I don't know how on earth they came up with a cook book!

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                            17.10.2009 21:57
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                            A timeless classic.

                            The children's book 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' was written by Brooklyn kindergarten teacher Judi Barrett and illustrated by her then-husband Ron Barrett. It was first published in 1978 and had sold more than three million copies before the release of the current film of the same name which is loosely based on the book.

                            The recent film release of 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' inspired me to dig out the story book I used to read to my son when he was little. I don't think the book was ever well known in this country before the film, an American friend gave my son a copy for one of his birthdays. I had never heard of the story before but it became a firm favourite with my son until he outgrew picturebook age.

                            For a bedtime story, sparked off by a funny pancake-meets-face incident at breakfast time, Grandpa tells his two grandchildren (one of whom is also the narrator) about the make-believe land of Chewandswallow. In Chewandswallow the weather doesn't bring rain or sunshine. It brings breakfast and lunch and dinner. The rain is soup and juice, the snow is mashed potatoes and green peas, and the wind blows in storms of hamburgers. The weather forecast is the days menu. The townspeople take their cups and plates outside with them prepared to catch the meals for the day. But over time the weather gets worse and worse, and the population find themselves under threat.

                            This is one of the few storybooks I actually enjoyed reading to my son! It really engages the imaginations of the readers. The writing is simple and the story is very imaginative and clever, it's the perfect mix of comedy and jeopardy. We don't meet a single Chewandswallow character (Grandpa doesn't count!), it's all about the food. There are inspired touches like the jelly sunset and roofless restaurants, and the rubbish trucks pick up discarded food with giant fork and spoon attachments.

                            The illustrations are superb. They are very detailed and realistic line drawings which are black and white in the real world that Grandpa and his family inhabit, then colour appears when he tells the story, and in a subtle way stays with them afterwards in the form of a yellow sunset. Interestingly not all colours make it into the book. I have searched every page and there is no hint of blue anywhere! The main colour scheme for the illustrations is yellow and red.

                            Most of the story is in the pictures. We would spot something new every time we read the book, like a squirrel in a tree slipping on jam or a poster on a lamppost with the words 'Vote for Ann Chovie'. The food looks very rich and appetizing for line-drawings, it always put me in the mood for an iced doughnut.

                            I have an American copy of the paperback book which has the same cover picture of Grandpa with a meatball bouncing off of his dinner plate. It contains a few American terms for food like Jell-O for jelly, soda instead of fizzy drinks, jelly instead of jam. The British version may have British terminology though publishers don't always go to that effort for the British market! When my son couldn't read I just substituted the words he would understand, and later I only needed to explain that the book was written by an American and they use different words for some foods. It didn't detract from the story.

                            The recommendation on the book cover is for 9-11 year olds. I think it's most perfect for primary school age children, who would enjoy the silliness of a man staggering round in the street with a tube of macaroni on his head, or a school flattened by a maple syrup-covered giant pancake. It's a thirty page book that takes about 10 minutes to read making it the perfect length for a bedtime story.

                            'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' is currently £4.98 on Amazon and is published by Simon & Schuster. If you like it you should read the sequel too, 'Pickles to Pittsburgh'.

                            I haven't seen the film but I would bet the book will be around long after the film has been forgotten. I haven't read the inevitable movie tie-in book either, but I can guarantee the original is a better investment for a child with a good imagination. Whenever they see the sun setting over a snowy hill they will always think of butter melting on mashed potatoes!

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                            • Tesco Diet Cola / Soft Drink / 63 Readings / 63 Ratings
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                              16.10.2009 15:56
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                              Doesn't compare to the real thing.

                              I am currently on an economy drive as I want to start setting money aside for Christmas. I have been a Diet Coke addict for a few years and I'm aware that it is expensive compared to the supermarket own-brands.

                              Tesco diet cola costs £2.31 for 12 cans. I can currently buy 12 cans of the real Diet Coke in Tesco for £4.50, otherwise it's £5.38 for 12 cans. Even when on special offer the official Diet Coke is still nearly double the price of the Tesco diet cola. Considering I usually drink 2 cans a day I could see that changing to a cheaper brand would make quite a saving.

                              I went to two Tesco supermarkets and neither stocked the Tesco diet cola which gave me a suspicion that it couldn't be all that popular, but I ordered a pack of 12 cans when I next placed an on-line grocery order.

                              The Tesco diet cola packaging looks similar to Diet Cokes, silver plastic shrink-wrapping over the silver cans. There is a picture on both the plastic wrapper and the can of a glass of diet coke with ice which looks appetizing.

                              The Tesco diet cola can has a lot more information printed on it than a Diet Coke can. It's a 330ml size with 4 calories, 0.5g of sugar and trace amounts of fat, saturates and salt per can. It contains no artificial colours or flavours, but cannot be guaranteed nut-free.

                              Pouring the cola into a glass it looked just like Diet Coke but produced much more fizz in the glass initially. The first sip tasted fine, definitely sweeter than Diet Coke and without any kick to it, but fine. It all went wrong when I swallowed it.

                              The diet cola can boasts that it has a 'cool refreshing taste'. I would swallow a mouthful, fine, then my mouth immediately experienced a revolting aftertaste which I can only describe as soapy!

                              By the time I had made my way through all 12 cans my taste buds had adjusted I suppose, and I could drink it without gagging but I could still detect something a bit 'off'. The ingredient list includes concentrates of apple, carrot and hibiscus (a plant), and malt extract which must be where the odd taste comes from.

                              It was far from refreshing, it made me thirsty. I'd end up standing in front of the open fridge thinking 'oh no, not that odd-tasting stuff, I want a real Diet Coke.' I had to drink it quickly too because it goes flat quickly and it tastes even worse then. I can only stomach it when it's ice cold and just opened.

                              Though something I should mention about drinking it quickly when just opened is that with Tesco diet cola you are drinking a very bubbly drink, and that can lead to unfortunate gassy side-effects.

                              It is a case of 'you get what you pay for', I want to like it and I have reached a point where I can put up with it if I have to. Really I only drank all 12 cans because I knew I was going to write a review and I wanted to have a firm opinion, and also because I hate waste.

                              I am going to try Sainsbury's own-brand diet cola to see if that is any better. If not I think I would rather drink tap water!

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                                15.10.2009 19:53
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                                It looks like your skin but better.

                                Bare Escentuals Bare Minerals make-up range is made from 100% pure crushed minerals and botanicals. It is healthy for your skin and can improve the complexion over time. Bare Escentuals say it's so pure you can sleep in it.

                                I bought a starter kit from Debenhams after I watched a demonstration at the Bare Minerals counter there. The saleswoman at Bare Minerals seemed to be busier than anyone else in the beauty department with people clustered around the counter watching make-overs which made me curious as to why she was attracting so much interest.

                                She removed a woman's make-up then applied several different powders to her face using the same brush. After five minutes she'd finished and the woman in the chair looked lovely. Her complexion was glowing, and the dark circles under her eyes and redness under her nose were gone.

                                I had been en-route to MAC but decided to try something new and buy a Bare Minerals starter kit instead. There are three kits to choose from for light, medium and dark skin, and the nine piece kit contains two foundations, two other powders called warmth and mineral veil, a skin rever-upper, three application brushes and a how-to DVD. The kit costs £45 and is worth £141. It all comes bubble-wrapped in a sturdy box you can keep all of your products in.

                                The kit

                                I am pale so I bought the light kit that comes with the 2g 'light' and 'fairly light' powder foundations which are in small black-lidded tubs. Not only are they healthier for the skin than liquid foundation, they are also SPF15. Having two shades means you can blend them to best suit your skin tone.

                                The brushes you get in the kit are the best ones for applying the make-up, they feel a little bit coarse but they grab just the right amount of powder and give a flawless finish. They have their names written on the handles. The main one is the flawless face brush, the full coverage kabuki gives more extensive coverage if needed. It has a very short metal handle. The max coverage concealer brush looks like a little paintbrush and is designed to provide the most detailed application.

                                Mineral Veil is the star of the kit. It is a sheer, light reflecting powder that is applied over the foundation and bronzer and blends everything together. It seals make-up and makes it last all day, and you can use it for as many touch-ups as you like. It creates a soft focus effect for your skin.

                                Warmth all-over face colour looks like a dark terracotta bronzer. It's not a product I would have bought on its own. It's good for shading and warming the complexion by brushing it on everywhere the sun would catch you, but a little goes a long way.

                                The Skin rev-er upper is the only liquid product in the kit. It's not a moisturiser, it's more like a radiance serum. You apply it before the foundation and it smoothes the surface of the skin, adding vitamins and botanicals. It contains acids that clear out the pores.

                                The how-to DVD included in the kit is worth watching for a demonstration of how best to apply the make-up. The videos are on the Bare Escentuals website too. There is also a How-to booklet in the kit.

                                Application

                                The pots don't look very big but they last for ages as you only need to use small amounts. In fact the golden rule with Bare Minerals is 'less is more'.
                                You pour some into the lid, (by the way, a good tip I read is to not remove the protective plastic seals over the powder filters but to poke 2/3 holes through allowing for more control. As you only need a little bit the sifter can allow too much through) swirl the brush in the lid until it has picked up the powder, then tap on the lid edge until there is no powder visible on the outside of the brush. Apply in small circles to your skin pressing harder than you normally would. The secret to the perfect finish is buffing the powder right into your skin. It's best to apply it in natural light though it's hard to over-do it.

                                You apply concealer to blemishes by dipping the concealer brush into the foundation powder and patting onto the blemish, blending out.


                                My skin is dry, and I do find the powder can feel itchy and tight on my skin if I don't prep it properly before applying make-up, but that has applied with every foundation I've ever used. I use the rev-er upper first, and if my skin feels dry after applying everything I spritz my face with water and press in with a cotton wool pad.

                                I am very pale and I am reaching the point where 'fairly light' was starting to look a little dark for me so I have invested in a lighter foundation 'fair' for the winter. The darkest one will be useless till next summer but they last forever. I can mix the foundations in the tub lid, which is great for when I'm transitioning into my autumn/spring skin!

                                The foundations in the kit are smaller than if you bought them separately, but it's a good idea to try out the smaller sizes in the starter kit so you can try everything out and make sure you like it before you buy the bigger re-fills.

                                Buying from Debenhams is a good idea as a professional can advise you on the best products for you, they also offer a follow-up phone call about a week after purchase to check you aren't having difficulties with anything. Bare Minerals is also sold regularly on QVC, and there are some reasonable eBay sellers, I bought my 9g full sized 'fair' foundation for £21 from an eBay seller and she included a free kabuki brush.

                                Even if you try the kit and don't like it, you still have a skin serum and three make-up brushes at a cheaper price than if you'd bought them out of the kit.

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                                  14.10.2009 18:42
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                                  Best garlic bread we've ever had.

                                  I'm sure everyone has heard of Pizza Express. They are a British chain of pizza restaurants founded in 1965 that have a belief that focusing on flavour, fresh quality ingredients and simple hand-made food is best. They don't use GM foods or hydrogenated fat in their food.

                                  Pizza Express also has a very successful 'At Home' range which is sold in all major supermarkets in the chiller sections. You can buy a selection of pizzas, salad dressings and breads including their famous dough balls.

                                  I bought the Garlic Bread with Mozzarella on impulse from Tesco when I saw it, as we'd had Pizza Express garlic bread in one of their restaurants and my son loved it. The cheese topping was a bonus.

                                  Packaging

                                  The packaging looks different to what's pictured above. The two pieces of garlic bread sit on a black plastic tray which you can see through a clear 'window' in the middle of the packet, and the plastic covering is gold/brown coloured with the blue Pizza Express logo on the right. It's quite a large item for garlic bread, about 14 inches long, 8 inches high. I first thought it contained two small pizzas when I picked it up.

                                  Garlic Bread

                                  There are two generously sized portions of garlic bread in the packaging, and they look rustic and hand-made, though for a supermarket range I don't suppose they are. The dough is classic Pizza Express pizza dough. There is a good layer of garlic butter all over up to the crusts, several small cubes of mozzarella sitting in the middle of the bread, and a fine scattering of parsley.

                                  The ingredient list is refreshingly simple. The dough is made from wheat flour, salt, yeast, water and malt flour, and the toppings are mozzarella cheese and garlic butter made from unsalted butter, garlic, flat leaf parsley, salt and lemon juice. How often can you understand every item an ingredients list nowadays? The sell-by date is about two weeks after purchase unless frozen.

                                  Cooking

                                  They cook for 9-10 minutes at Gas Mark 6/220 degrees centigrade. A word on the temperature, the Pizza Express website has the temperature suggestion of 200 degrees and I would try that, as at 220 degrees it cooks very quickly and the crust of the bread starts to scorch by 9 minutes.
                                  It's the kind of item that needs to be monitored anyway as they cook so quickly by the time you smell the garlic butter wafting through the house they will already be slightly burnt.

                                  Eating

                                  Once out of the oven and served up they look just like the ones you would get in Pizza Express. The bread is very tasty on its own, it tastes freshly baked and soft in the middle with a kind of crust on the outside but not a crusty crust if you know what I mean, you wouldn't be able to cut your mouth while eating it.
                                  It is very garlicky and there is just enough butter, enough to make it nicely moist, not so much that the bread goes soggy.
                                  The mozzarella cheese melts well, or in Pizza Express' own words 'our signature mozzarella cubes melt into wonderfully creamy golden pools'. The cheese coverage is good, it's not stingey and it doesn't drip over the sides.
                                  It's all done just right.


                                  The garlic bread portions are obviously great with pizza, or make a nice little snack for a quick lunch, and the Pizza Express website suggests they make a great accompaniment to a simple omelette.

                                  The cost is £2.95 and even though you can buy a twin-pack of French stick type garlic bread in Tesco for £1.22 I would recommend the Pizza Express version as I think the difference in quality makes the price very reasonable for what you get in return.

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