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lights84
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    • Lush Ultrabland / Skin Care / 16 Readings / 15 Ratings
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      12.05.2014 01:31
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      • Gentle
      • " Few ingredients"
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      • Oily

      As with all Lush products, this product is free from animal testing. It is not

      Believe it or not, I am in my 30s but I only recently started using cleansers. Although I have always had fairly dry skin, I have managed to care for it with specific products that have always suited my needs- until now. Since having two children has taken its toll on my skin I have been forced to try different skin care routines to bring my skin tone back into balance, and Lush's Ultrabland cleanser is the one that I have been using recently.

      The Lush Ultrabland cleanser was recommended to me by a Lush employee who told me that there is no better option for dry and sensitive skin. I am sensitive to a lot of ingredients so i was pleased to read the label of the cleanser in the store and see that there were not too many ingredients in the cleanser. Also, too many essential oils can set my skin off but this cleaner only contains two. I also rubbed a bit on my wrist int he store and I liked that it didn't have a strong smell or bright colour, so I bought a small pot to use at home.

      The first thing I noticed when using Ultrabland is that it is very kind to my skin. It doesn't dry it out like a lot of skin products do, it feels moisturising as soon as I put it on my face. It doesn't sting either, which some essential oils do to my skin. I think the reason for this might be the almond oil in the cleanser which seems to protect my skin somewhat. It also leaves a slight sheen on my skin, which might aggravate naturally oily skin but is perfect for my dry skin. It also easily removes the small amount of make up I use, and I have noticed that the longer I leave it on for the better it is at doing this.

      There is a very mild fragrance when you use the cleanser and I think this is from the rose water ingredient, which I believe is a natural skin care remedy that people have used for many years. The cream has a soft, fluffy feel to it and is a light brown colour. It's a bit stickier than I would expect a cleanser to be, but this doesn't seem to aggravate my eczema at all and overall it leaves my skin feeling fresh and well pampered, perhaps because it is quite a thick cleanser. I started out with small applications but now I use a thicker layer of it on my skin to encourage exfoliation, before removing it with a wet cotton ball. It is easy to remove without leaving behind dry skin, again because of the nut oil I think.

      If you like fancy looking, strong smelling cleansers then this is not for you, but if you want to be careful of what you put on your skin and if you have dry and sensitive skin, I highly recommend it. My skin feels soothed and refreshed after using it and my face feels cleaner without having to use soap on it, which is simply too strong for my delicate skin now. I do recommend this cleanser, but I give it 4 stars instead of 5 because it is a bit oily and does create a bit of a sheen, which is fine for occasional use but I'm not sure I'd want to use it more regularly than that, as the sheen remains even after the product has been cleaned off.

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      04.01.2014 20:38
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      An excellent bouncer that is great value for money

      I didn't plan to buy a baby bouncer for my new baby as my toddler hated her's when she was little and simply wouldn't sit in it for 2 minutes. However, this second baby has entirely different preferences; she can't stand being left lying down in her Moses basket, and always prefers to sit upright when she is awake and I am holding her. Since I can't hold her in an upright position all day long I decided to invest in a baby bouncer for her, and after doing a bit of research online the baby bouncer I went for is the Bright Starts Safari model.

      I particularly liked the look of this baby bouncer because all the other ones were either blue or pink, and I get tired of the limited colour choices for my little girls (they are always being given pink things). I can't imagine that any boy or girl wouldn't love the look of this bouncer, as it has a lovely 'safari' animal design on it. It is mostly yellow with a blue patterned bottom and several animals and trees on it. The animals include an elephant, giraffe, a lion, and a few ladybirds, and the trees have brightly coloured leaves of varying colours. It really is lovely to look at, and the design hides stains nicely in the way that a single-coloured design wouldn't. My toddler loves to point out the animals on the bouncer too.

      This bouncer is fairly basic in design, but also very sturdy and safe. It doesn't have a music facility, as we have enough noisy items in the house and I mostly wanted the bouncer for sitting up purposes. In this regard it is perfect, as it is strongly made, with a metal frame that I can't imagine being easily damaged, and a soft large padded seat for baby to sit in. As this seat is nicely curved my baby also quite likes falling asleep in it while being rocked, as it is comfortable against her back and allows her to curl up in it a little. The seat has a seat-belt type contraption set into it which baby can be slid into, one leg on either side so she is in there securely. It is really easy to get her in and out of the seat and the entire contraption is just perfect for when I need to jump up and answer the door or make a phone call or anything else that needs baby to be settled, safe and content for a short while, that doesn't require lots of fiddling to get it right.

      The cover is easy to wipe clean with a baby wipe and also easy to detach to wash it, and easy to put back on the bouncer.

      The bouncer is great for rocking baby to sleep too. It can easily be rocked back and forth with minimum effort, with just a foot for example, and when baby is hard to settle and writhing about, this very wriggly motion makes the bouncer bounce, so in a way it allows her to self-soothe while I give my tired arms a wee rest. Also, the bouncer has a small contraption at the bottom of it which takes an AA battery and when activated by a simply button it makes the whole bouncer vibrate. My daughter absolutely loves the gentle vibration, as it helps her to relax. The button is on the vibrator at the bottom of the bouncer and it is easy for an adult to switch on and off but is not easy for a toddler to use, which in this household is a good thing!

      We picked up our Safari design bouncer earlier this year from Mothercare for £19.99, which is it's current price as it is on sale. I deem it excellent value and I also think we'll get a lot of use out of it, as it looks like a well made and durable product and my daughter is only a few months old yet. I have heard people say that bouncers can only be used from 6 months of age, but I think it depends more on weight, as it is fine for my chubby girl. She is happier than if left in the moses basket, and safer as my toddler can't attempt to get her out of the seat harness. I also never leave her in there for long unsupervised, which is sound advice for any parent with a young child and a toddler anyway.

      One drawback of the bouncer is that you can't lift it to carry it around the house while baby is in it - it isn't designed for that. I use it in different rooms of course but I have to move it using two hands and then put baby into it afterwards. For this reason, there is a bar that goes across the top of the bouncer, but it releases when you only lightly pull it. This is also a drawback in my opinion, because my toddler is forever pulling it out and then trying to slot it back in, which is of course dangerous as the plastic ends could hurt baby while she is in the bouncer. I therefore only put it in when I am in the room and can see what my toddler is up to.

      The bar is plastic but partly padded and multicoloured in stripes to match the bright design of the bouncer. Each end slots easily into place on either side of the bouncer, and it hangs across it so that the two plastic figures on it hang directly in front of baby. These are a bright yellow giraffe and a blue elephant. My baby girl does love looking at these, and they are nice and bright and smiley figures, however they are also made of hard plastic, and as she is able to knock them to make them swing, before too long she will be big enough to be hit by one of these swings. So I will soon be putting the bar away, and I think it's a major drawback with this model, as padded/cloth figures would have prevented such a problem. I therefore have to give the Bright Starts Safari baby bouncer 4 stars instead of the 5 I would like to give it.

      Overall I will say that this is an excellent bouncer and great value for money, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

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        23.11.2013 22:55
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        A decent printer to fulfil your basic needs.

        I try to keep or household appliances to a minimum but having a printer became quite essential after a while of being self employed as I needed to keep track of invoices, outgoings, etc. I spent a while reading reviews of printers but couldn't decide what to buy, so I asked my husband to pick an efficient model for under £50.

        The HP Deskjet 3050A e-All-in-One printer sounds complicated, and unfortunately it can be, but it doesn't have to be. Let me explain. The 'All-in-One' label means it can print ordinary documents and pictures, as well as copying ad scanning documents. The 'e-' in the title stands for 'e-printing', a relatively new technology that means the printer can print anything directly from the internet, which I have used and can attest to as being just as straightforward as printing from a Word document.

        HP is a well known and trusted brand and this is one of my husband's main reasons for choosing this printer, and I'm glad he did as their customer service has been very good in my experience so far. The other reasons he chose the HP Deskjet printer is because it has a scanning function and because it uses very little energy in standby mode, whereas some appliances use a lot of power even when they are not being used. I also like that the printer automatically prints double sided unless asked not to, which again is something I might forget to do normally but is really useful for saving on paper usage.

        The printer software is easy to install and printing is easy to set up. You only need to do it once for it to work every time, but you do need to have a good internet connection so that the printer can access the web for the 'e-print' option.

        The HP 3050A takes an average amount of time to print documents. Colour documents take longer but not exceptionally long compared to other printers in my experience. The paper feeds into the top of the printer and it doesn't tend to get jammed like with some models. The printer claims to be able to handle different types of paper, but I have only used it with ordinary plain printer paper so far, so I cannot attest to this. However the paper feed says it can hold 60 sheets at a time which is useful as you don't have to keep topping up the printer paper and can just leave it to print long documents, and although I haven't tested 60 pages exactly I always put a big wad of paper in the feeder and this has never become jammed in my experience. In fact I''m sure I have put more than 60 pages in the feeder, but this has never caused the Deskjet any problems.

        The left hand side of the printer has the main buttons on it for using the printer, which consist of a cancel button, a back button, and a button for other settings. There are more buttons for other settings at the bottom of the printer, and all of these are easy to access and use, although I mainly use the printer for printing invoices and only occasionally for scanning and e-printing. We tested the copying function once and it does indeed create copies of documents that are as clear as photocopies would be.

        The printer is quite heavy despite being small in size, but it's ideal for a small office or spare room as it doesn't take up much room. On the other hand it would not be useful if you have to move it from room to room in order to use it, as it is heavy and not easy to grip when you carry it, which I have had to do once and would rather not have to do again.

        The main drawback of this printer is that it runs on ink cartridges that are fiddly to set up. I admit to trying to change them a couple of times and becoming very frustrated that although they look as though they have clicked into place easily, the printer has then not registered that they have been put in correctly. This is when I have had to access HP customer services and I have found them to be useful and patient with explaining how to change the ink cartridges successfully, but still the cartridge replacement experience seems to be hit and miss. This seems to be an acquired knack however as I often get it wrong whereas my husband can usually change the cartridges easily, so I usually leave the job to him.
        The other negative of the printer is that it is quite noisy, which doesn't bother me as I usually leave the room while it is printing, but if you were using it all day at your desk it would almost certainly annoy you.

        The printer also has a memory card slot so that you can print photos directly from card instead of having to connect them to a printer using a lead. I have a camera with a lead however so have never used this function and cannot say how useful or efficient it is.

        We paid £35 for our HP Deskjet printer and I do think it was worth the price, as it serves our basic needs in this household, and is rather dynamic with all the things it can do if needed. So to conclude, all of the listed 3050A's functions work well, but I must admit that the printer itself does have a significant drawback, which is that it runs on two ink cartridges which are both fiddly to replace. It is also quite noisy. On the other hand the cartridges do not cost much and I have been able to get them on offer before for less than £6 per black and white cartridge from the Staples store in town. I also really like that the printer has a low energy usage when left on standby mode. For all these reasons, the HP Deskjey 3050A gets a overall 4 stars from me.

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          09.11.2013 22:56
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          Good quality headphones without the usual tinny sound quality.

          I'm generally not into big brands and I prefer to supporter smaller companies, but I seem to get through a lot of headphones and I really wanted a pair that wouldn't break within a few months of use. I mostly headphones them to listen to music on my MP3 player, but also occasionally to watch videos on my laptop, so when a friend of mine raved to me about the Sennheiser MX 660 in-ear headphones I thought I'd believe the hype and give them a go.

          The Sennheiser MX 660 headphones are the most expensive headphones I have ever invested in. They cost me around the £15 mark but I believe you can occasionally find them for cheaper than that. They do work with various devices which is handy, as my previous iPod headphones were, in true Apple-style, incompatible with other people's MP3 players. The MX 660 also has a volume control feature which is useful for players that are compatible with it, as it saves fiddling around with the actual player when you need to reduce or increase the volume.

          The headphones also have a long sound cable which I have found useful. The headphones come with a cable carrier which seemed like an unnecessary addition at first but actually it is very useful for winding the long cord to the length you want it, and when I use the headphones with my laptop the long cable is easy to extend from the cable winder and then wind back up, which saves me having to untangle cords every time I want to plug in and listen to something.

          The felt pads that house the earphones are well made and comfortable and don't come off easily as I have found with other headphone felt pads, and I find that using them helps to keep the headphones snug in my ears. In the past I have found some earphones to be too slippery and to fall out of my ears easily, but I have not had this problem with the MX 660.

          These headphones are certainly are of exceptional quality, and they look simple but stylish. They are well made and durable, and they have survived a few falls and also being stepped on once. They haven't come apart at the seams like some of the headphones I have used in the past, but then I would expect that much for the 50% price investment I made in buying them. The headphone leads are made of a soft and flexible rubber material that don't seem to tangle as easily as other cables do, although I do use the winder most of the time, ie when I'm not in a rush or being lazy. What I really like about these headphones though is the 'bass control' that they boast, ie that I can actually hear the bass in the music I listen to on my MP3 player. I have never found this with headphones before, only with proper high quality headsets, so this is impressive to me. It really does improve the quality of the music, as some bands I listen to like Muse and Massive Attack sound very different with the bass turned up, and this factor alone makes these headphones my favourite so far.

          I do recommend Sennheiser's MX 660 headphones, especially if you like to hear some bass on your tracks instead of the tinny sound created by cheaper headphones. Just be sure to check that they are compatible with your music player, and if the volume control works for you too then that is also a great bonus.

          5 stars from me.

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          • Weleda Birch Body Scrub / Weleda / 59 Readings / 58 Ratings
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            18.10.2013 19:22
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            A good body scrub that can be used all over for dry skin exfoliation.

            Since becoming pregnant my heels have really been suffering, as I am unable to bend to pay them much attention, and the skin at one point became quite rough on my heels so I thought I'd treat myself to some Birch Body Scrub by Weleda. This scrub is intended to exfoliate areas of dry skin that have built up which is why I thought using it on my feet would be ideal.

            Weleda is an expensive brand that is known for using good ingredients and minimal chemicals, mainly relying on combinations of plant and essential oils. The Birch Body Scrub comes in a screw top tube which would be ideal for not making a mess when getting a splodge of scrubbing matter out but unfortunately the tube itself does get quite slippery when wet which makes opening and closing the simple cap a tricky maneuver.

            The scrub smells nice, quite fresh and zesty like you might expect from, for example, a Lush product, but less powerfully strong. It doesn't smell particularly of birch, but I am told that birch used to be a natural remedy for dry skin so that explains the name of the product. The scrub is a yellowy-white colour and doesn't look particularly appealing but then I don't think body scrubs ever do as a rule of thumb, due to being made up of exfoliating grains.

            I have used the Birch Body Scrub all over my body in the shower and have not had a bad reaction to it despite having very sensitive skin, so it works well as a body wash that also leaves the skin slightly moisturised. What I have found it most useful for though is for my feet, as I have had my husband rub the scrub over my heels after soaking them in the tub and it has successfully taken the dry skin right off with very little work required. The scrub is not as rough as I have found others to be in the past but it still works wonders when massaged in for a while, without causing raw red skin like some body scrubs do. You have to rinse for a while to get the scrub off afterwards as it is moisturising so it sticks to the skin and takes a while to remove all the grains, but I didn't find this particularly annoying, just part of the process and worth it for a nicely made product with no harmful nasties in it - I prefer not to put them on my pregnant body.

            The only downside to this scrub is that it costs around £8 for a 150ml tube of Weleda Birch Body Scrub, which is really quite steep even as an occasional treat, I think. I am also not entirely convinced that similar products on the market won't do just as an efficient job without such a steep price tag. On the other hand, this product should keep for a long time and since you only need to use a little at a time it is unlikely that I will need to buy another scrub for a long time yet, so if you do fancy treating yourself I recommend the Birch Body Scrub.

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            • Dyson DC39 Animal / Vacuum Cleaner / 72 Readings / 68 Ratings
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              13.10.2013 20:33
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              Worth the investment if you suffer from allergies.

              We decided to buy the Dyson DC39 Animal Ball Cylinder vacuum cleaner because it had good reviews for people with allergies, and I am allergic to dust mites and pet hairs. We have two guinea pigs which are often let out to play, and our old vacuum cleaner didn't seem to clean the hairs off the carpet and sofas properly, so eventually we made the leap and invested in the Dyson Animal.

              The Dyson Animal vacuum cleaner is a heavy duty cleaner. What I mean by this is that it has an obviously high suction that has the ability to clean carpets, sofas and corners efficiently. This was apparent from my first use of the cleaner, and since then the power of the machine has not diminished. The marketers claim that this is due to their 'Patented Radial Root Cyclone technology', which I must admit I originally scoffed at, but compared to our old Hoover and other vacuum cleaners I have owned over the years, the Animal clearly has something special about it that gives it powerful and relentless suction that I have yet to see rivalled by other cleaners.

              The Animal vacuum cleaner has a typically modern look to it. Our's is deep purple in colour and it has a suave sort of style that hints at futuristic aspects of vacuum cleaning. Futhermore, the large ball at the back of the cleaner - or the 'ball techonology' to use its technical term - is far more efficient than the usual wheels vacuum cleaners have that don't rotate well and often pick up dirt as they go. Certainly this is a well thought out, well designed model of vacuum cleaner, and although I'd have happily paid less for an eyesore that did the same job, it is quite nice having a funky looking appliance like this around the house.

              The Animal vacuum cleaner is lightweight as it is quite compact, so that it is easy enough to move around with you while you vacuum- it doesn't get stuck in doors, and can easily be used on the stairs. It's small size and low weight also make it easy to pack away into the cupboard under the stairs, which of course is one of the main advantages of having a non-upright model. This is a bag-free vacuum cleaner and the cylinder that holds the dirt shows when it is full, although it is not a clear cylinder but a purple-tinted one, in keeping with the design. A clearer cylinder would certainly make it easier to see when the cleaner is full however - although you might assume that you would know from when the suction decreases, I have found that with this cleaner the suction power keeps going strong even after the cylinder is full. I haven't been able to decide whether this is a good thing or not.

              Due to being compact in size the cylinder does fill up quickly, but this is a bonus in my book as the cleaner clearly picks up a lot of dirt in very little time. Pet hairs are nowhere to be seen after using this baby. On the other hand, it can be a little finicky to empty the cylinder, and you have to be careful not to get the hairs everywhere as they get crammed in tight in there. For the price I would expect this not to be an issue at all.

              The cleaner is not particularly noisy but my toddler is afraid of it nevertheless, as it makes a powerful noise when it is on due to the high suction factor. It is definitely quieter than our old Hoover was, but then that was an old model and I think perhaps new models in general are less noisy nowadays.

              The Animal cleaner comes with several attachments, a few of which I have used but not felt the need to reuse after the first attempt. I'm sure that they work; they look well-designed enough, but our needs are met by the basic nozzle of the Animal so I tend to stick with that when I vacuum. My husband does use the mini turbine head for tight corners and he has found that to be useful, but we both think that with or without it the house gets properly cleaned using the cleaner, without the additional attachments.

              At over £300, this is by no means the cheapest vacuum cleaner on the market. However, reassuringly it comes with a 5 year parts guarantee and, having owned it for well over a year, we have not had any problems with it yet. I'd say that it has been worth the money we paid for it, as it does a much better job at getting rid of pet hair than any other model I have used in the past, and does so with minimal effort and maximum efficiency. Moving away from it's key feature (i.e. its ability to hoover up fur and hair), it's a great vacuum cleaner in its own right, but perhaps not worth the high price. For me personally, this cleaner has been magnificent at reducing my allergies, including my hayfever in summer and my eczema due to dry skin in winter.

              In summary, this is an efficient, excellent model but it is not a cheap vacuum cleaner. As with many household appliances, you get what you pay for, so if like me you suffer from allergies or are annoyed by pet hairs covering all your surfaces, this is the cleaner to invest in. It cost us £305 on offer at the local Currys store, but the RRP is £339.99. Either way the price is steep. Although it comes with a 5 year guarantee, I don't think the investment will be worth it for most people unless it will significantly higher your standard of living, which is has done for me. So I give it 4 stars for personal indispensability and the few niggles I have listed here, but general high quality.

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                09.10.2013 22:32
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                A pricey book good cream for dry hands.

                I don't normally need to use hand cream but the colder weather and washing up without gloves has been taking its toll recently, so I decided to try Weleda Sea Buckthorn hand cream, which is not a cheap product, but I was given a tube as a gift a while ago so I thought I'd give it a go.

                The cream comes in a bright orange tube with a screw cap, and the 50ml container I was given contains several month's use of cream, even if you apply it to your hands throughout the day like I do. The colour of the cream may come as a shocker to some - it is bright orange, but due to natural ingredients and not synthetic or chemical colouring. This hand cream is made of mostly natural ingredients, with a base of sesame seed oil that is moisturing for the hands, and although it is not a thick cream, it is not watery or cheap feeling either. As with most Weleda products, this is a good quality cream made of orange, mandarin and grapefruit oils, which give a fresh summery aroma. The smell is not too strong, and it is not made of artificial perfumes that irritate the skin, which are bonuses in my book, but it is a little sickly, so if you have a delicate nose for smells you might not like it.

                The cream spreads quite well so you only need a teaspoon amount for your hands when you use it. It is easy to rub in and has been keeping the dry skin on my hands nicely hydrated. I usually apply it twice a day, but sometimes more if I have been washing up more than usual or if I have been out in the cold for a length of time. The cream soaks in quite quickly and it isn't particularly oily, which I expected it to be because of the seed oil base. I think perhaps it's the buckthorn berries in the cream at work here as they are known for being good for your skin; some people take them in capsules for the same reason.

                A 50ml tube of Sea Buckthorn hand cream costs £7.95, which I do think is pricey but it's a nice hand cream and I expect it to last me for some time yet. I will not replace it when it runs out though so I am giving it 3 stars here.

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                • Wilko Table Top Ironing Board / Iron / 53 Readings / 49 Ratings
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                  03.10.2013 23:34
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                  A 3 star product that may or may not suit your needs.

                  I'm not a fan of ironing but like most adults I do need to have an iron and ironing board one in order to look smart for certain occasions, usually work meetings. I didn't want a big ironing board with long legs like my mum used to have as I remember it being permanently set up in the spare room and also being knocked over by us kids a few times. So this Wilko Table Top Ironing Board seemed like the right buy for me when I saw it in Wilkinsons.

                  The Wilko Table Top Ironing Board is a basic design of white metal and 4 small legs to keep it propped up above the table you're using it on. The legs don't slide around as they have rubber feet, although they do not offer very strong grip so you do have to be aware of this depending on the surface you are using the ironing board on. It has a polka dot cotton cover which is available in pink or blue, with large white dots. The cover is easy to remove and wash and put back on again. The board is covered in foam which the cover goes over and the board is very lightweight so super easy to move from room to room and to set up and put away.

                  The ironing board measures about 80cm by 30cm so it is very compact and easy to put away and out of sight. I keep it between two storage units so it is not even noticeable but easy to access when I need to use it. On the other hand though, the small size does make ironing larger items difficult, which is my husband's main complaint with this ironing board as his clothing items are much larger than mine. For only £6 I consider it a bargain as it is just right for my occasional ironing needs, and it is fairly durable as I have been using it for several months now. It is not a particularly impressive or versatile product however so I am only giving it 3 stars.

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                    26.09.2013 15:11
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                    Poor writing, basic and predictable plot, and dull dialogue.

                    Twilight is not the sort of book I would normally read, as I don't tend to read mainstream bestsellers, and although I did enjoy the Harry Potter books, I believe that that series is of a rare high quality within the fantasy genre, which most books are not. But a friend who is into quite similar books to me recommended that I read Twilight, so I thought I'd give it a go. He warned me that it is not well written, but that the story is gripping, so I borrowed his copy and delved right in.

                    This is a very easy to read book, and I read it in a single day without having to concentrate too much and without skimming over anything. Brain fodder this is not. The opposite - maybe.

                    What struck me straight away about Twilight is how poorly written it is, which is obvious from the first page and which I am unaccustomed to as I usually read good books. It is not written in a way where you can believe that the author has deliberately written it in a poor manner, as it is the grammar and sentence structure is really bad throughout, and the dialogue is often stunted and repetitive. I'm not a literary snob and I like a good storyline that can help a reader to overlook poor craftmanship, but the book is written in such an incredibly banal way that I simply couldn't over look it. I couldn't believe that such a popular book could be so badly written, so I actually looked up the author to see whether she had written Twilight as a young writer, a teenager perhaps, but to my immense surprise I found that she actually wrote it in her 30s. Eek.

                    There is no doubt then that this book soared to great heights because of the content and not because Stephenie Meyer is a good writer. The vampire genre has of course been all the rage for some years now, beginning over a decade ago with the popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, and Meyer does have a slightly different take on vampire lifestyle so to those with an interest in these pointy-toothed fiends I am sure her characters came across as refreshing and different. I however found the supposed mystery and danger surrounding them to in fact be dull and underdeveloped, and in fact the storyline has been done before - in Buffy - with the characters of Angel and Spike who try to be good by not killing people but who live noble lives of struggle and occasional failure.

                    Meyer's vampires are not really all that original, then.

                    The book is narrated by a young girl named Isabella Swan, who goes by the nickname of Bella. She is meant to be a teenager of above average intelligence, whose thoughts soar above those of her peers who are all apparently witless country bumpkins and, in the case of the boys at least, are obsessed with her despite the fact that she is not particularly good looking or friendly or witty. Her supposed cleverness is not at all believable, no matter how well she seems to do in all her classes without effort, because her narration is so banal and she clearly has no hobbies or interests. Many passages are simply descriptions of what she is doing, including things like washing up, what she is cooking for dinner and how, etc. I realise you might say that this is a deliberate attempt of the author's to contrast her human life with that of vampire life, and why she finds vampire so fascinating, but the dull tone continues throughout the book and even into the action scenes, so I don't believe this is the case. Also, the vampires are meant to be amazing to every in their presence, but they only seem to have an effect on her, besides a few other girls really fancying some of the boys but considering them out of their league.

                    I put the tedious narration down to an author with poor writing skills who relies on a 2D character to tell a simple but timely story. Bella could potentially pose some interesting questions as to what it is to be human, as we learn that she is clearly bored with humanity from the first page of the book. However the extent of her musings on human life are incredibly basic and do not go beyond a the meager observation that life is dull. Philosophy this is not. It's no surprise then that the hero of the book, Edward Cullen, is introduced very early on in the book and immediately there is banter between him and Bella, and mystery because we don't know why all his actions seem to be to do with her, but at least it gives us something to anticipate beyond Bella's dull observations of household chores etc. Being such a dull person, Bella is immediately obsessed by Edward who is meant to be interesting, though it is hard to see why. You have to admire her naivety and arrogance at this point simply for their sheer unlikeliness - I have never met a teenager who was so listless but also apparently so bright and in tune with life. Bella is meant to be a clever and stimulated individual, but she has one interest in life and that is a boy who is apparently more beautiful than any other boy could be. We know nothing of her likes and dislikes beyond this; she has no preference in clothing, music, going out, friendships - nothing normal at all really. Excuse the poor explanation there - the language of the book appears to be rubbing off on me.

                    You might think that Edward will be described in detail, his features and mannerisms ingrained in our minds, as these ought to be what draw Bella to him, but instead we are presented with another 2D character who is called 'beautiful' at least 20 times throughout the book, but we are left to guess as to how he is beautiful. He has nice hair and nice skin, is the extent of what we are told. He's a bit muscley. And he has extreme mood swings which make him mysterious and dangerous, just the sort of guy every teenage girl fantasises about of course. While descriptions of mundane kitchen tasks is Meyer's forte, creating characters is not. This is strange when you consider how easy to read the book is and how simple it would be to occasionally refer to Edward's or Bella's features, movements, mannerisms or clothing. All we really know is that this youth has 'perfect' features, whatever that means, and that he is very pale. As is Bella. As if this is meant to be significant, as if paleness signifies intelligence or something.. I don't really know what Meyer was getting at with such an observation but honestly it doesn't seem as if she knows herself. There are a lot of inconsistencies like this in the book, threads that don't connect together, and you simply have to forget about them and read on or they will end up annoying you.

                    Much of the book reads like unnecessary padding until we get to the action scenes, because there is no building up of characters, although there IS plenty of build up of teenage hormones, which I will get to in a minute. The action scenes are sadly very predictable and poorly relayed - several times I misunderstood what was happening and had to flick back a few pages to reread the sequence of events, only to find that the author herself had muddled them up. Again the action surrounds these two characters and Bella is at the central of them since she is an astoundingly amazing being, for reasons no one can really fathom, the author included perhaps. Her advanced mind seems to be the crux of this and later we learn that she may be better looking than we have been led to believe, so that explains why all the boys at school are keen to date her despite the fact that she can barely hold a conversation with any individual and doesn't seem to enjoy socialising or anything else much.

                    So there we have it. To tell you more about the book would be to give away the very basic plotline, so I won't ruin that for you. I will say though that later in the book, as a few events actually take place, it does become mildly interesting, but always with this horridly poor narration to dull the effects of any excitement. And still there is nothing to propel the book to great heights, except perhaps the hype surrounding it.

                    It is rare that I prefer TV adaptations and I have not seen any of the Twilight series but I can't imagine that it isn't better than the books, so I am going to watch an episode and see what I think.

                    I find it disconcerting that Twilight has won awards for being good children's literature when it is so poorly written and also so unambitious. I can't see what it gives young people besides a bit of mild erotica. No I'm not exaggerating here - Bella is horny for Edward and he is equally horny back, and this is portrayed as love in the book. Really it is every teenager girl's supposed fantasy, with the beautiful man who is also brawny and sensitive and clever rescuing the girl from other men. Or indeed from her own stupidity. And she swoons to this of course, it gives her something to do in life and she can live the horny fantasy easily since Edward is as obsessed with her as she is with him, for reasons we can't quite fathom, and he actually makes it his prerogative to follow her around and put her life above his. Meanwhile Edward is obsessed with Bella for her blood as well as her sexuality, which means they are both like animals around each other, and perhaps this would be arousing to a teenage audience but I can't say I enjoyed reading their desperate attempts at fondling each other.

                    Other children's books that deserve the recognition they get are unique, capturing people's imaginations like Huck Finn's daring or Aslan's courage, appealing to both child and adult minds and hearts with a strong message and moral. Twilight has none of these things. It is popular because it is about vampires, and vampires are popular, and a lot of books about vampires are rubbish - even less well written than Twilight. All this book does is capture teenage horniness and bizarre fantasy - the fantasy of a teenage girl who finds her dream guy, who likes nothing better than to rescue her and flick between adoring her and admonishing her, which I would go so far as calling an abusive relationship if I felt that it had any punch to it. I found the love scenes somewhat embarrassing and was surprised that a 30 year old could write like a 16 year old girl, and that Meyer seems to think that this is love akin to Heathcliff and Catherine's or Romeo and Juliet's. The poetry of love simply isn't there. On the other hand, Meyer is a Mormon so that would explain the repressed nature of the erotic encounters take place, as there is no actual sex or allusion to people's naughty bits. And perhaps the world wants this, as it seems to have fallen for Meyer's uninventive portrayal of love - this book has certainly sold enough copies globally. I guess vampires, no matter how dull and 2D they are, do feature highly in teenager's esteems, and I have no doubt that they are the book's primary audience, as I don't know who else could be so willing to overlook poor writing, basic and predictable plot, and dull dialogue in exchange for mildly erotic and predictable fantastical encounters.

                    I do appreciate that not all books will appeal to all people, but I still like to read a range of book outside of my immediate interests, as I'm interested in what makes them appeal to other people. Nevertheless, rarely have a found a book so unsatisfying as I have found Twilight, and for this reason I don't recommend it.

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                      13.09.2013 21:57
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                      An expensive baby carrier but it has zero faults

                      Ergo is a well known and trusted brand among babywearing parents, and they have a lot of different baby carriers on offer. The Ergo Baby Carrier is one of the more popular styles as it is quite versatile and can be worn on the front, back, or on the hip. I have this classic Ergobaby carrier in black as I thought it would mask baby stains better than the other colours on offer, but it is also available in various other colours.

                      The Ergobaby carrier is made of a thick cotton material that helps to keep baby warm in winter but does not cause overheating in summer as it doesn't go over baby's head. The way it works is that baby sits in it so that s/he is supported to just above the waist, and has his/her head free to move and look around. Because of this, a baby has to be able to hold up its own head before you can safely use this carrier with it, and if you want to wear a younger baby I recommend a support front sling or cloth sling to wear on the front. I also recommend buying from a reputable brand, as these have tried and tested carriers, whereas some lesser known brands are not considered safe for young babies and some have even been found to be quite damaging, eg forward-facing front carriers.

                      Now back to the Ergobaby. Unlike with other carriers this baby backpack is designed to fit against your back or front or side, so baby is snug against you and feels close to you when you're out and about. In my experience it has never failed to settle my daughter down for a nap when she is tired, as simply feeling snug and secure against me in the carrier does the trick for her. The carrier is made of thick cotton which is soft and well padded, and it has a lining that is made of thinner cotton, so there is no doubt that it is comfortable when she is in it.

                      The carrier also has a burgundy coloured hood that hangs down the back of the carrier unobtrusively, but when you need it you can slip your arms round and find one of the two dangly ends which have little buttons on them, and bring them round to the front to button them up around your neck. What this does is form a hood around your baby's head which is perfect for when baby drops off for a nap, so that there is no danger of his/her head swinging backwards during sleep. My daughter will never have this hood on except when she is fast asleep and she will demand to have it off the second she wakes up, but otherwise it works really well supporting her head against my back and it always looks comfortable on her - in fact we are always getting compliments on our carrier because of this.

                      Thanks to my local sling meet I have tried several different baby carriers over the years and in the beginning I used a woven cloth wrap to carry my baby on front which was perfect at the time. But as she got older my daughter wanted to be able to get in and out the sling at intervals so I decided to invest in a padded carrier rather than a sling that would require tying and being untied. The Ergobaby is perfect for this as it simply clips around your waist with a buckle and has an arm/shoulder strap for each arm, like with a backpack. In the beginning I needed help getting baby in and out of the sling but as she has become used to it and I became more confident about it this has become really easy, and my daughter now holds onto my neck while I put the sling around her without any fuss, wherever we are, without even the aid of a mirror to see what I am doing.

                      Due to the basic but clever design of the Ergobaby the carrier is very lightweight and easy to compact into a small bundle and pack away, so it is ideal for taking away on holidays or taking out for a walk whether or not you are sure you will need it. The band that goes around your waist is adjustable and thick and it is nice and snug, again made of a thick quality cotton material, and I find that it spreads the weight across my hips really well as does my husband, although he has to adjust it to the widest length while I wear it on the thinnest.

                      The shoulder straps are also made of a thick cotton material and they are very robust and well padded. They do not look frayed or well worn even after over a year of use and they are easily adjusted to make them tighter or looser around your shoulders. There is also a strap attached to the shoulder straps that can be buckled for additional support. I never used this as I never felt the need to, but my husband always does when he uses the carrier. I can't use the carrier at all now as I am heavily pregnant, but I plan to use it with the next baby. My two year old is taken out in our Ergobaby most days.

                      This carrier helped me to become more confident as a mother, more able to get out of the house with a little girl who was sometimes in a bad mood, and more able to calm her down when this was the case. I have been able to use it in wet weather by taking an umbrella out with me that covers us both, and I love that it leaves my hands entirely free to do as I please while my daughter is content to look around at the world and interact with people from the safety and comfort of my back. I have never had to worry about getting up or down stairs, or about muddy pushchair wheels in the house. The only niggle I have is that you can't wear a backpack with this carrier, so when I have had to get shopping I have had to carry bags, but on the other hand this carrier can be worn on the front or side, I simply never felt the need to.

                      This is a well made and longlasting carrier. It has been in the washing machine many times but it still isn't showing signs of wear and it has never let me down. I expect my husband will continue to wear my daughter in it for some time yet, at least until she is three, at which point my new baby will be able to use it. It is also a safe, high quality product, from a brand that is recommended by leading parenting magazines and specialists. That's where we come to the price tag - this carrier cost me £70 second hand on Ebay and even then I got it at a cheap price. A new Ergobaby carrier retails at between £120-£140. But, if you consider the cost of pushchairs- we have never needed to buy any- and the pure convenience of being able to babywear, plus the fact that carrying babies has been shown to reduce stress levels in their brains, you might find that the high price is worth it. I certainly have.

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                        07.09.2013 18:33
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                        A basic rug that will keep your bum dry in summer.

                        I have just packed away my Draper picnic rug as the weather is slowly becoming cooler now and wetter. As a family we have had plenty of use out of it this wonderful hot summer, and we will certainly use it again as there is still plenty of use left in it yet, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to a prospective picnic rug buyer.

                        I bought the Draper picnic rug from my local hardware store for £6.99, which seemed like a reasonable price for such a product as there were similar rugs in the same shop that cost several pounds more. We were on our way to the park and it suddenly occurred to me that we had a picnic basket but no rug, and I liked the tartan design of the Draper one so I bought this one on the spot.

                        The rug is nice and comfortable, it is soft like any rug should be but I would probably call it a mat rather than a rug because it is not particularly thick. It feels a bit cheap when you sit on it but it looks nice and it's not uncomfortable, and certainly more comfortable than just sitting on grass.

                        The rug seemed a lot bigger when I bought it and carried it to the park, but sitting on it there is only room for me and a little space for my toddler although she wasn't interested on sitting on it anyway, she is always too busy running around. The rug measures 70cm x 100cm which as I say isn't huge but it does mean that it is quite lightweight and it is certainly big enough to avoid getting grass on your bum, or grass on a couple of bums if you sit with it horizontally instead of vertically.

                        The Draper picnic rug has a layer of PVC on the underside so that if the grass is wet it won't soak through to the soft side. This was not much of a problem this summer anyway but I did test the rug on slightly damp grass and it held its own.

                        The rug design is quite useful for masking inevitable food and drink spills as it is a dark tartan pattern. The top surface also dries fairly quickly and is easily wiped clean with a baby wipe as a temporary measure. The PVC side is easy to sponge down in the bath and it also dried easily on the line in the heat with no problems.

                        I have noticed one problem with the rug which is that it is a big slippery because of the texture of the top material, so it is quite easy for things to roll off it or for you to slip on it if sitting at an angle, eg on a hill. This did happen to me once this summer and it was definitely to do with the texture of the rug and nothing else, which is a bit annoying as I'd expect a rug like this to have better grip for sitting on.

                        It is a nice looking rug and it serves its basic function, but it is also very basic design that could be improved, so I recommend shopping around rather than buying this rug, unless it sounds like it suits all your needs based on this review.

                        I give it 3 stars.

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                          05.09.2013 14:45
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                          Essential oils for your brain, joint and possibly skin health.

                          When I was a young girl I suffered quite badly from eczema, and at the time my doctor prescribed me high dose evening primrose oil capsules to take, on the basis that they might improve the elasticity of my skin and also help to balance my hormones in the long run, as eczema flare ups can be triggered by hormone changes.

                          After several years of taking them these capsules were removed from prescriptions as no evidence had been found to link them to improved skin for eczema sufferers. However, research has recently found that certain oils are essential for brain health in older people and brain growth in young children, and for supple joints later in life, and due to the average western diet many of us aren't getting enough of the oils and omegas we need. While eating fish twice a week might be better than nothing for your health, in fact fish does not contain a good balance of the three omega essential fatty acids, which are 3, 6, and 9, and which all serve slightly different functions and must be taken together in a specific ratio in order to work properly.

                          Other research has found that people who suffer from atopic eczema are usually also deficient in certain oils, which suggests that taking omegas would in theory help someone with naturally dry skin. So, years after giving up on the evening primrose capsules, I decided to try out an omega blend instead, because it could be the evening primrose alone was not provided my body with the balance it needed. The Vertese brand was my first choice as their capsules are gelatine free and the 3-6-9 blend is available in each capsule in exactly the ratio that has been found to help with brain health and even joint health to an extent.

                          All the ingredients in these Vertese capsules are from natural plant sources. The main oil in them is
                          flaxseed oil, which has been found to benefit growing baby's brains in exactly the same way as fish oils, but for some reason this has not had much press coverage even though flax is the safer option to taking high dose fish oils. The other benefit of taking these capsules is that high doses of fish oil have been found to contain high levels of toxic chemicals such as mercury, and as of yet capsules are not routinely tested for such nasties before going for sale on the market, so you must be aware of this if you are taking them. The problem is that large fish are used to make the fish oils and the large fish feast on small fish who all contain small amounts of things like mercury, which then become concentrated in the larger fish. Aside from that there is also the havoc the recent mass demand for fish oils is causing to the health of our seas and also to small fishing populations all over the world who need their industry to survive.

                          The other oils that make up the Vertese 3-6-9 blend are sunflower seed Oil, pumpkinseed Oil, wheatgerm oil, evening primrose oil, rosemary oil, and rice brand oil.

                          Vertese Omega capsules are very easy to take due to their small size. They have no aroma that I can detect and they are tidy little oval, deep yellow shapes that are easy to swallow. You can take one or two a day depending on your needs - I usually take one a day but when I forget to take one I make up for it by taking two another day. I was able to continue taking them when I had awful pregnancy sickness, which is just as well as growing babies need these oils to develop properly too, and that helped to keep my mind at ease when I wasn't able to eat well or much.

                          My little girl also takes these every day, but I don't give her the capsule to swallow as it could be a choking hazard for a two year old. Instead I pierce the capsule and squeeze the oil onto a teaspoon, and she happily takes it that way, although a few times when she has said no to it I have simply mixed it in her with her yoghurt or even juice. Due to not having a strong smell or taste this has not bothered her at all.

                          As with all oil supplements, it takes a while to notice the effects of these capsules, which is also why it is so hard for scientists to prove or disprove that they have an effect on dry skin. Personally I feel they make a huge difference to me, as my skin has improved over the years, but of course I can't provide proof for this. On the other hand, I am getting older and I have a small child and another on the way, and my skin - though still dry - is much better than it used to be, and I have never had any joint problems.

                          The Vertese Omega capsules are suitable for vegetarians and vegans and none of the ingredients have ever been tested on animals. They also contain no artificial colourings or flavourings or additives.

                          I usually buy these capsules for £6.49 for a box of 60 from my local Holland and Barrett store, but they also sell a box of 30 capsules for around £3.50. As a pregnant woman and a mother of a toddler I do not think that these cost much for the benefits they give - roughly £7 every two months to help prevent joint problems, ensure brain health for my growing baby, and for my little girl is cheap, in my opinion.

                          5 stars from a long term user!

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                            02.09.2013 12:46
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                            An excellent life-long tool with a hefty price tag.

                            For those with green spaces to tend to, secateurs are a must if there are brambles or hedges or trees that need cutting back or pruning. Secateurs are designed to protect hands from sharp branches and brambles while they are being tackled, as any other gardening tool will likely cause you prickly misery- I know this from experience. We have quite a few tangled brambles on our allotment so a while ago I bought myself a pair of Felco Model 2 Secateurs to keep them from getting too out of hand.

                            These secateurs are designed really well. The handles are nice and long so that you can get a good grip on them even while wearing gardening gloves, which is essential when cutting back greenery. The handles are grooved to fit your fingers and they have a rubber cushion stop to ease the pressure of using them on your wrist. I have used other secateurs in the past and not found them so agreeable to use in this regard. They really do make a difference to your wrist and fingers, and I think this is in part also due to the fact that the secateurs, although they look bulky at first glance, are actually quite lightweight. Because of this they are easy to use, and I have had no trouble angling them to get at tough brambles whereas in the past with cheaper secateurs I have not been able to tackle the tougher bits at all.

                            The blades of these Felco secateurs are nice and sharp and of high quality, I have not noticed them wearing down at all since buying them just under a year ago. They still cut really well, and I seem to get into less fights with the brambles using these secateurs than with other ones, which I put down to the Felco design. You also have two options when using them- you can either select the steel cutters, or the anvil blades by turning the nut situated on the blades themselves. The secateurs come with an adjustment key that is used to turn the nut, which is easy to do but I have not done it much as I have not had much use for the anvil blades, although they do seem good at cutting smaller pieces back, while the steel cutters will pretty much cut through anything you put them to, which is why I use them the most.

                            Visually these secateurs are also pleasing. The handles are bright red and easy to get gleaming with a baby wipe or similar. The blades are made of quality metal and they look to be in good condition even after many uses. The Felco Model 2 Secateurs look like a high quality gardening tool and that's because they are.

                            Unfortunately that means that they aren't cheap. I see you can get them on Amazon for £48.50! which I would not personally spend on any gardening tool. I bought these in a gardening store when they were on sale at half price for around the £25 mark. The price includes a lifetime guarantee, so once you have bought a pair of these you need never buy secateurs again. Despite how useful and efficient they are though I cannot justify the full price of them and am therefore dropping a star to give them 4.

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                              29.08.2013 23:11
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                              Nothing beats the smell of freshly baked bread first thing in the morning.

                              Owning a breadmaker never used to be high up on my list, as my kitchen is quite small and it gets crowded with appliances far too easily, however when my daughter was diagnosed with a soy allergy and I realised just how hard it is to buy bread without soy in it, I went ahead and bought a breadmaker. I did try baking my own bread a few times but it was far too time consuming and I couldn't keep it up, and the specialty soy-free bread was hard to get hold of, expensive, and tasted like cardboard, so I decided to invest in a breadmaker instead.

                              It took me a while to choose the right kind of breakmaker to suit our household, but I easily narrowed it down to the Morphy Richards brand because it is a trusted British brand that has been going for many years, and most of their products have been tried and tested my many users. In the end I invested in the 48280 Morphy Richards Fast Bake breadmaker, as I had read a few raving reviews of it, and also had a recommendation from a friend. I did look around for smaller versions but couldn't find any - it seems that breadmakers have to be bulky, that's just the way they are made, so I made space in my kitchen by getting rid of the microwave, which I felt we were coming to rely on too much as a family anyway.

                              The 48280 Fast Bake breadmaker is a typically bulky breadmaking machine. It is a rectangular shape but with curved edges, so it has no pointed or sharp corners. This does give it a nice suave look, and indeed the outer plastic of the breadmaker is shiny and easy to wipe clean, despite it being off-white in colour. It is very durable looking, with a hard outer plastic shell, vents on the sides and back, and a small basin inside for baking bread in.

                              The bread tin sits in a silver space in the breadmaker, and it is easy to get to as the lid opens and closes with ease. The bread baking tin sits snugly on a small round metal contraption in the breadmaker. Inside the tin is a strange little metal device which is what is used to knead the bread. It looks very simple and it is also very blunt but I can attest that it works and it works well, as I have made so many different kinds of bread over the past 6 months with this machine. The tin has a thin wire handle for transporting it and this is quite strong and durable, but also easy to put out of the way if you don't wish to use it.

                              You have to be careful not to scratch the tin when you clean it as it is non-stick, but I find that it washes or wipes clean very easily as there is barely any dough left in it after cooking, which is again another huge plus as normally whenever I bake anything by hand I then have to clean up gooey sticky doughy mess on the counter top and any dishes I have used, and sometimes my clothes as well..!

                              The lid of the Fast Bake has a glass panel you can see through so that you can watch the bread going round and round as it is mixed, which my toddler absolutely loves to do, although she is also slightly afraid of the noise of the appliance when it is on. I don't think it is particularly noisy, as it is not as noisy as our washing machine, but as it takes over an hour to bake some people might get annoyed by the sound.

                              On the front panel of the breadmaker are a few buttons for adjusting the settings, which is super easy to do, and the maker is automatically set at the basic bread recipe so once your ingredients are in the tin you only have to press one button to get the process started. Once I turned the breadmaker off at the plug while it was in motion but when I turned it back on again it resumed from where it was, which I think is brilliant as otherwise the entire loaf mix would have been wasted.

                              Now to making the actual bread. This could not be simpler and it takes me less than 5 minutes to throw all the ingredients in the tin - I know because I have timed it. There is an instruction manual that comes with the breadmaker and this includes a number of recipes including ones for muffins and other sweet goods, but I have only ever used the breadmaker to make bread - so far. I usually make the basic loaf recipe as it bakes so well and my daughter loves it, and it is so good to have fresh bread in the house. You can also choose between making a small or a large loaf, so if we have guests I usually make a larger loaf but if not I make a small loaf daily so that it stays nice and fresh when we eat it. You can also choose to brown the bread, to make it more crusty, and a few other features which I have tried but not used again because I am so happy with the basic functions.

                              Once the ingredients are in the tin you don't even have to mix them up, you just stick them in the breadmaker and it is obvious when the tin has clicked nicely into place as it sits well in there, and then you close the lid and press the start/stop button. Otherwise you can fiddle with the functions to suit the bread you are making but again this is easy to do as the instructions are so simple to follow. I have made Italian herb bread using the given recipe and the same basic setting, and I must say this bread with herbs added to it is delicious, and a fast favourite in this household and therefore another staple. We eat it with hummus and olives or sundried tomatoes at least once a week and feel very Mediterranean when doing so!

                              The Fast Bake takes only an hour and a half to cook up your loaf of bread while you do other things. I usually put it on at night so that we have a fresh loaf ready in the morning, and I can tell you that nothing surpasses the smell of freshly baked bread when you go downstairs first thing. It does take a while longer to cook when you are using yeast as it stops kneading the dough to let it rise at intervals, but again this has not bothered me as I usually put it on at night. It is safe to do so and also especially ideal if you are making something like a pizza base, as it will still save you masses of time in terms of waiting for the dough to rise.

                              My only complaint with this breadmaker is the smell it makes when it is kneading the dough. Maybe it is just because I am pregnant and have a sensitive nose and stomach right now but the smell of the yeast baking is just horrible and I can't be downstairs while it is happening. So again putting it on at night is ideal for me as the yeast smell has gone by morning and instead you have the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread, with very little time and effort from yourself. The only thing that might annoy some people about this is that the breadmaker gives a loud beeping sound to let you know when the bread has been made, and we can hear this from upstairs in our house. It doesn't bother me at all, but it might bother some people, in which case you may want to stick to evening or morning baking or else sleep as far away from your baking appliance as you can..!

                              I have made so much bread with this machine now that I have perfected my own recipe and I must say it has fans in and outside of my household. The basic recipe involves water, bread flour, coconut milk, salt, sugar, freshly chopped rosemary, Vitalite and yeast. The only ingredient I have to buy especially is the yeast, but that costs me less than a pound for several batches of bread so it still works out very economically for me. I realise that the breadmaker has to be plugged in and electricity isn't free, however I no longer have to buy expensive soy-free bread just for the sake of it, when it doesn't even taste nice and still has added stabilisers etc in it. So even if it costs the same or a little more than bought bread does, I feel confident feeding my family this bread as I know exactly what is in it, and when guests are over I can always adjust ingredients accordingly, eg I made a gluten free loaf for a friend with gluten free flour once and she was over the moon about it, as most people don't have the time to make special bread for her and in fact she gets her own on prescription from the doctor as she has Celiac disease, and she said the bread I made was much nicer. So she is now going to invest in a Morphy breadmaker too!

                              I think you have probably realised by now that I love my breadmaker and I simply couldn't do without it in this household. It is one of the best investments I have ever made and I will get years of fun out of it as it is durable, still working well without a single glitch, and the recipes are so easily adaptable. I have impulsively thrown raisins, berries, even cocoa powder into the standard recipe before and every time have had great results. I have also baked bread using lentil flour and it has been nice and springy to eat, not hard and thick like the shop-bought versions I have tried in the past. Really, I cannot fault this machine. I absolutely love it and I don't know how I managed without it before. Actually, I didn't - I'd spend ages reading bread ingredient lists or asking about ingredients in bakeries and either being turned away no wiser or ending up with a loaf that upset my daughter's tummy - you'd be surprised just how many products they add soy to now, because it seems to have become cheaper than wheat, but personally I don't think we should be eating so much of it in unfermented form, and perhaps that's why so many children have soy allergies now.

                              I will stop ranting on about my love affair with this breadmaker now and end with a basic summary - 5 stars from me for what is definitely an indispensable product in this household. And worth every penny of the £60 I spent!

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                              • More +
                                28.08.2013 22:37
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                                A nice bag that ticks a lot of boxes.

                                I am not someone who collects a lot of handbags, as I prefer to have just a few different types to suit my needs. Because of this, I can be quite picky about buying a new bag. Many have been tried and tested and then passed on to the local charity shop over the years. So when I was given this Cath Kidson Victoria Rose Saddle Bag for Christmas, I wasn't sure I would like it at first. Although I liked the classic Kidson design straight away, it seemed bulky for a satchel-style bag and I wasn't sure how much use I would get out of it. But how wrong I was to doubt it!

                                In fact, many satchels are too small or compact inside to hold many useful items, but the Victoria Rose bag is wide all the way around, which is what gave me the impression that it would be too bulky to wear. It is large enough for me to carry normal items in as well as baby wipes, nappies, a notepad and other bits and pieces. One thing I have noticed with other satchel bags is that they can't always take the weight of all the stuff I cart around with me, especially the weight of a pack of baby wipes and a bottle of water. The Kidson bag has stood the challenge however, and it has not frayed at all from all the weight.

                                Nor does it hurt my shoulder when I wear it. I put this down to it having a nice thick fabric shoulder strap, which has a movable piece attached to it for changing the length of the strap easily and for maximum comfort. The strap is also of high quality and is well sewn into the bag - in the past I have found that seams have torn where they have not been sewn in properly.

                                The Victoria Rose bag is made of canvas, so it is a good strong material and can take a bit of weight. The inside of the bag is a plain dark colour while the outside is the typical floral Kidson design, and this gets me a lot of compliments when I'm out wearing the bag. It is also a nice dark blue colour which hides any small stains collected on outdoor travels. I have successfully been able to wipe these up using baby wipes due to the fabric material of the bag, which is easy to clean and not easily damaged.

                                The bag has a flap with metal fastenings attached to close the bag, which are easy to clip closed. This means all your belongings are secure inside the bag and not liable to fall out easily. Inside the bag are several lined pockets of different sizes, which I find very useful for securing things inside the bag, although I don't keep my phone in there as I find it a hassle to open the bag up and get the phone out frequently. I have tried keeping my phone in one of the outside pockets of the bag, but this hasn't worked out well as it tends to be loose in there and I don't want it to fall out. However, a different sized phone might not have this same problem, if you don't mind having it on display.

                                There are two larger pockets on the face of the bag beneath where the flap closes, but I only keep small objects in them such as keys and small change, which are easy to access and unlikely to fall out. These pockets are really useful to me and I now think all side bags could do with them - in fact I don't know why all bags don't come with them, as they make such a difference to the usefulness of the bag. On the other hand, despite being a durable and well-made, well-designed bag, the issue of there not being a secure pocket on the outside for my phone is an issue for me, as I have to keep it in my pocket and my clothes don't always have pockets so this impacts what I wear when I am taking this bag out.. Now you see what I mean by always searching for the perfect bag. This one isn't far off, and it is certainly very stylish, but for the price of around £40-£45, it could still be better. It gets 4 stars from me.

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