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littlexen

littlexen
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Member since: 21.05.2007

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    • Star Magazine / Magazine / Newspaper / 62 Readings / 62 Ratings
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      06.10.2008 11:24
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      A Celebrity gossip magazine

      Like all girls I love my celebrity gossip magazines and spend an absolute fortune buying them. I like everything from Hello and Ok to Heat, Closer and Star. Why do I buy them? Well the lives of celebrities' interests me and I love to read the ins and outs of who is up to what with whom and so on. They are also very easy to read and keep me occupied on my journey too and from work, in the bath or during my lunch break when I just want to leave the real world behind and disappear into a world of fairytales and fantasies. I am not that big a fan of reading books and novels, they just don't interest me, so whilst other people are happy to spend a few pound on a book, I prefer to spend the same amount on some magazines.

      Star magazine can best be described as a weekly celeb filled magazine which costs £1 and is available in most supermarkets and newspaper shops. It consists of around 120 pages which are full to the brim with tit for tat stories on everyone from the very exclusive 'A' list right down to the not so exclusive 'Z' list complete with shenanigans and tales of woe and is very similar to Heat magazine except for the difference in price.

      The one thing I like about Star Magazine is the way in which it is written and that is of a trashy nature, unintelligent language, lots of pictures and very similar in style to your below average tabloid newspaper such as The Daily Star of whom this magazine has the same publisher.

      This week I was treated to two magazines for 99p and for that money I got eye catching headlines such as "Posh - I run 20 miles a week" and "Angelina and Brad in crisis talks" well for anyone who loves celebs as much as I do, I quickly handed my money over to the cashier and headed out of the shop to the bus stop ready to get my latest celeb fix. As with most magazines inside the front cover is the general index of what you are likely to find within the magazine. Within Star magazine there are eight different categories:

      Breaking News - This section covers mostly the topics and headlines found on the front of the magazine with a few more stories added in for example this time an extra story features Rachel Stevens, formerly of S Club 7 and how she has dropped from a dress size 10 to a tiny super skinny size 6.

      The Big Picture - Again more celeb filled stories which Star don't feel warrant front page headlines but are still big stories which sell the magazine and this week we can read about Cruz Beckham banging his head complete with accompanying pictures. Justin Timberlake and girlfriend Jessica Biel being caught in a steamy snog and the very gorgeous Brad Pitt dressed from head to toe in yellow clothing looking like a banana (yet incredibly yummy).

      Celebs exposed - This section of the magazine is somewhere celebrities would be embarrassed to find themselves featured. Similar to Heat, Star drags out some dodgy looking pictures to 'expose' stars. This week sees Lisa Snowden and her 14 year old modelling poses, Celebs seen out with boobs hanging out, knickers and worse on show and those dressed in the oddest of clothes.

      Star Fashion - This is my favourite part of the magazine I have to admit where I get 13 pages of Fashion and Beauty with tips telling me where I can buy the clothes that are featured at high street prices and as someone who loves fashion and beauty I am almost always tempted to buy everything I see. So here you will see everything from 'This weeks must have items' which can be anything from shoes and bags to coats and hats and usually there is a picture of a Celebrity wearing one of those items.
      Hollywood Star - This is the second magazine which is free inside Star and it mainly features all the top stories from the US and the celebrity culture over there. Over 13 pages you are likely to read stories about Katie Holmes and Posh and why they have really fallen out and which couples are dating and which ones have split up as well as rated or slated which will show some A listers looking fantastic in the most beautiful clothes imaginable and some who quite frankly should be ashamed of themselves and are seen in something resembling a potato sack which the likes of you and me still could not afford to buy.

      Star bodies - Within this section we are informed usually about the latest Celeb Diet with hints and tips about how to get a body like someone, this week to happens to be the TV Presenter Donna Air and her tips on how to stay slim. There are also pictures past and present of Celebs who recently gave birth and now have the audacity to fit back into their size 8 attire.
      Star TV - Here you will find the TV listings section for the week ahead, TV previews with information and storylines from the soaps and an interview with TV Presenter Gethin Jones this week.

      Plus - This part of the magazine features articles which are slightly more serious such as a write up about Crete and why we should all go there on holiday, the letters pages in which the letter of the week (or email) will win some Tigi products, Film, DVD, Book and Music reviews all of which are rated out of 5 stars by Star magazine and finally Starscopes which to you and I are the horoscopes and there is always a featured celebrity whom this week happens to be Simon Cowell who is 49 this year.
      Like all magazines this one is filled to the brim with advertisements from many leading companies such as Muller Yoghurts, Tesco, Ford, O2 and Asda to name a few buy I have never found there to be lots of junk mail leaflets slotted inside which fall out as soon as you open the pages which is in my view brilliant because I hate having to constantly pick these things up from the floor in my attempts not to litter the place.

      For anyone who hasn't read Star magazine before and are still unsure as to whether or not to purchase it can look on the Star website which is www.star-magazine.co.uk and looks wise the website is very similar to that of the magazine and at the top right hand side of the screen you should be able to view this weeks front cover and by clicking on it you will be given an insight as to what is featured within the magazine itself.

      I know these magazines are not the choice of many, but I happen to really enjoy reading them, it is the cheap escapism for me combined with information and celebrity gossip from eye catching headlines which encourage me to spend 99p of my own money. As a previous avid reader of Heat, I do admit I prefer Star magazine, it is much trashier, easier to read and holds no information back to leave you guessing between stories. An easy, fun read and for me I love it!

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      • Nescafe Gold Blend Decaff / Coffee / 63 Readings / 61 Ratings
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        04.10.2008 17:43
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        A vile tasting coffee from Nescafe!

        There is no denying it, I love coffee, and I love the taste nearly as much as the buzz I get from the caffeine. I need it in a morning to get me going and I need it throughout the day to keep me energised and focused on the tasks ahead. As a student I relied upon it to get me through writing my essays and the many hours I spent revising and now in my mid twenties I am still relying upon coffee to give me a kick up the bum. The only downside of drinking so much caffeine is the buzz it gives me and now that I don't have to be up all night studying finishing off that final closing paragraph of an essay it was time to relinquish my dependency on it. I felt that if I cut down on the amount of caffeine I consumed per day then I wouldn't wake up in a morning feeling like I had just gone to bed because of the caffeine in my system stopping and interrupting my sleep. I switched upon the advice of my mother to Nescafe Gold Blend Decaff, the same coffee that I drank but without all of the caffeine in the hope my addiction and need would subside and I would become half human again.

        The Nescafe brand has been around since the 1930's and I it has been a firm favourite in my parents household since I was a child. They use it religiously, unless they have a family dinner in which case the Cypriot coffee (packed with caffeine) comes out.

        Decaffeinated Nescafe coffee didn't become available until the late 1980's and wasn't something I had ever considered drinking if I am being totally honest. For me drinking coffee is all about the taste and the freshness of the bean on the palate, one thing I don't feel I get from trendy high street stores like Costa Coffee or Café Nero where the taste is lacking and isn't sharp enough for me. I like the taste of coffee as soon as it hits my palette, the sharp, rich aroma that fills my nostrils as the hot water mixes with the coffee granules in my mug and I wanted all of this without the high levels of caffeine.

        The jar of Nescafe Gold Blend Decaff is easy to spot upon your supermarket shelf because in my local Tesco they house all of the Nescafe coffee products together and this particular jar has a bright blue lid (despite the photo accompanying this product on Ciao having a red lid) with the words Nescafe Original being placed upon a background of a gold bean with the word 'Decaff' being strategically placed in black writing underneath those words. Inside the jar there is a gold foil top which you need to open by popping it with a spoon and then you will find that there are no coffee beans as such because in order to preserve the aroma and fuller flavour this Decaff coffee is what they call a freeze dried soluble coffee which resemble gravy granules to me, they are a light brown colour and crumble easily if you squish them between your fingers or with a spoon which denotes that as soon as they come into contact with boiling water they dissolve easily.

        Now having been promised that I would get all the great taste and the rich aroma of my favourite NESCAFÉ coffee, without all of the caffeine I was feeling pretty confident that I would be ale to enjoy my cup of coffee but still sleep like a baby waking up feeling refreshed without rushing to the kitchen for the coffee jar before going to work. Sadly for me this wasn't at all the case. As I mentioned I like the taste and the aroma of coffee that is why I drink it and to be honest I am not too sure what I expected from decaffineated coffee because I had never tried it before. The aroma, although it smelt like coffee wasn't particularly exciting. It seemed to be a watered down version of the normal coffee, whilst it have off a sharp coffee aroma it was lacking any body or wasn't at all as rich as the fuilly caffeinated brand and I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from the taste after this dissapointment. I like to smell things before I eat or drink them, usully avoiding putting anything in my mouth that I don't like the smell of. When I have my usual Nescafe Gold Blend the first thing I notice is the smell as I pour the water into my mug and leave it for a few minutes to make that perfect cup of coffee and with this decaff version there was a faint smell of coffee but without the caffeine there isnt an awful lot to get excited about. On a scale of 1 to 10, the aroma gets a 4 from me, with the fully caffeinated version scoring an 8/10. This should give readers an indication of how lacking it is.

        The aroma was firstly disappointing and I hoped that when I put my coffee to my lips that the taste wasn't as bad as the aroma suggested it would be. Whereas my usual coffee is smooth on the lips and quite a lot thicker in consistanty this was much more watery and had distinctly lacked any taste of coffee, the flavour for me just wasn't there and the bitter aftertaste was too much for me to bear, so much so that I couldn't finish the first cup. I take my coffee without milk, cream or sugar, I don't see the point in ruining a perfectly good cup of coffee by adding things too it and after deciding to give the Decaff the benefit of the doubt and try it with some milk it was just as awful and the bitter taste wasn't masked by the milk, so I have permanently switched back to Nescafe Gold Blend and instead limiting the number of cups I drink per day because I don't see the point in paying for something I don't like the taste of.

        The flavour wasn't rich, I couldn't actually taste any coffee beans at all when drinking either with or without milk and my mouth was left feeling like a tramps old sock after finishing. Over a week I have tried 8-9 cups of the coffee and each time I have been left hugely dissapointed. It is not a gold standard I'm afraid and I really wouldn't recommend it as an alternative for those looking to reduce their caffeine intake. On taste, I rate the coffee as a 2/10 whereas the caffeinated version again received 8/10.

        Despite my dislike for this product you can find it in any supermarket, in my local Tesco it is £2.74 for 100g although it is currently on offer to buy two jars for £4 and a 200g jar retails for £5.40 although again it is on offer for £7 if you buy two jars. I personally wouldn't bother, it didn't give me the rich aroma I liked and it didn't taste similar to the fully caffeinated version and isn't something I will be buying again..

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        • More +
          16.05.2008 13:04
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          LED light up tweezers

          Every girl wants to look her best and the one thing that irritates me with women is the over grown bushy eyebrows, the Liam Gallagher mono brow specials which are where it looks like you have only one eyebrow. Ladies there is never a need to look like that. The number of times I have wanted to stop someone in a street and pluck their eyebrows is quite scary and on this issue I do border neurotic. For me eyebrows are one of the most important features upon the face because they frame and enhance your eyes, whatever their shape or colour and as a girl who likes to flutter her eyelashes to get attention, having a mono-brow is not an option.

          Now for the task of eyebrow plucking, you can just use an ordinary 99p pair of tweezers which will do the job you want them to do. However, I am not one to settle for the ordinary and always want something a little different, that stands out and catches my attentions whilst promising to do the job I want it to do.

          Let me introduce you to La-Tweez. La Tweez are Stainless steel tweezers with a built-in LED spotlight and the spotlight illuminates upon your brow when in use so that when you look in the mirror you can see every little hair. I initially bought La-Tweez because they came in a cute pink lipstick shaped case which I can carry around in my handbag at all times and as part of the packaging is a little mirror which magnifies your eyebrow area x2 and I like this little added extra because you can open up and use whenever you feel it is necessary to do. However, if pink really isn't your colour of choice there is an option to have one in black.

          I bought my La-Tweez from Fragrance Direct which is an online website for the bargain price of £6.50 when I was in need of some new perfume and if you shop around online you can find them priced between £5 and £19, so it is definitely best to shop around before making a purchase.

          Looks wise La-Tweez are odd looking, what you have is a pair of tweezers and in the middle of these tweezers is a bullet-shaped LED Light which when switched on creates the light which is directed to the area in which you point it. Much like one of those banned laser-pen items which I think are now banned. The light from the LED itself is very strong and really does show up any stray hairs around your eyebrows which could have escaped the tweezers and the batteries within these tweezers give you at least 6 hours worth of light at a time which is a very long time if you pluck regularly and should the batteries run out you can always replace them.

          Having the bullet-shaped LED light in the middle of these tweezers does make them much easier to hold because tweezers can be quite difficult to balance between your fingers properly, whereas with La-Tweez I can rest my forefinger and middle finger upon the bullet-shaped LED.

          When it comes to using these tweezers they are very simple to use and if you have never thought of plucking your eyebrows before I have a few handy tips to make it a much easier process. Before you begin plucking away at your overgrown brows you need to check where your eyebrow shape should begin and the simplest way to do this is to hold a pencil alongside your nose as you look into a mirror and there you will see where your brow line should start. Whilst that pencil is horizontal move it to an angle diagonally to the corner of your eye and this is your starting point. I use my eye-liner pencil to mark a spot on my face to remind me of all these start and finishing points so that I get an equal shaped eyebrow on either side of my face. When it comes to shaping the middle part of your brow, that bit directly above your iris this is where the highest part of the arch should be and if you are not sure what shape that is, and then you can always seek a consultation at your nearest beauty salon.

          Once you have got the correct shape in mind, use the light from La-Tweez and point the light at one eyebrow, within that area you will probably see a few very lightly colour stray hairs which you would not normally have noticed, the beauty of this product is that nothing gets away. But, in order to ensure they don't escape you can highlight them with a white nail pencil, my own personal choice or your eyeliner pencil to remind you they need to be removed. Once you have done that with both eyes you are almost ready to use your new tweezers but first you will need to grab that eyebrow brush and brush your eyebrows following the way the hair has grown to remove any dead skin cells, make-up or whatever else might be found there.

          Firstly there are a few do's and don'ts when it comes to plucking:

          Do:

          -->Tweeze your brows very carefully and constantly check the shape as you. This is to avoid over tweezing. If you are unsure re-check your eyebrow shape using the pencil technique followed by the drawing of the dots and then using the LED light have another look at the hairs you wish to remove.

          -->Only ever pluck hairs in the direction that they grow otherwise you will find it is quite painful and you will get very red patches around your newly plucked eyebrows.

          -->If you find tweezing is quite painful then you can use some Bonjela if you have any in your bathroom cabinet/kitchen cupboard to numb that area around your brow. If you have thick hair on your eyebrows (like me) then I can suggest numbing the area first and Bonjela or you can use hot water on a cotton wool pad to open up the pores to make hair removal much easier. Either of these methods works very well.

          After you have plucked your eyebrows, if the newly plucked area is quite red and sore use some calamine lotion to soothe the area you have just plucked, especially if it is your first time or some ice. Finally, re-brush your eyebrows using your eyebrow brush to check the shape.

          The one thing you should do is constantly check your shape; once you become comfortable with what you are doing then plucking your eyebrows should only take a few minutes at the most. However, if it something you haven't done for a long time or have never plucked, it is worth spending a little extra time to get it right thus making future plucking an easier task.So, after Littlexen's simple guide to plucking there are some Don'ts to follow and these are just my own little bits of advice especially when using La-Tweez.

          Don't:

          -->Over tweeze your brows once they are finished. By all means double check for stray hairs using the bullet-shaped LED light, but don't begin re-shaping them.

          -->Never tweeze away too much hair, I know this is obvious but one of my friends for quite carried away with her tweezing and had bald eyebrows. So if you are unsure, constantly re-check what you are doing and using the light within these tweezers can save you from embarrassing eyebrows.

          Once you have completed your tweezing session then you should tweeze at least once a week to maintain the shape you have created to keep it neat and tidy and far from looking like Liam Gallagher again.So for me La-Tweez is a lifesaver in the eyebrow department and something I find really use to have and to use. I have had my La-Tweez tweezers for 4 months now and the one thing I have found is that they haven't bent out of shape, they are still shiny and look very new and they haven't become blunt at the end. I know some tweezers are used for a majority of things from scrapping dirt out from under nails to medical uses and in my own opinion these tweezers should only be used for hair plucking on the face and in particular the eyebrow as they are designed to do.

          In my own view these are the best tweezers that I have ever owned, they are easy to use, they help you with the task in hand and they are brilliantly priced if you shop around for a bargain. I cannot recommend these tweezers highly enough.

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          • Amazon Marketplace / Online Shop / 44 Readings / 41 Ratings
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            18.04.2008 13:24
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            Online shop to sell your wears

            During my student days, I spent many hours on Amazon buying all of the books I needed for my course because the prices that I got offered through this website were much cheaper than my local bookstore or any high street retailer. It wasn't until a few months ago that I rediscovered all of these books and was debating whether to take them for recycling when I came across the Marketplace on the Amazon website. For those people who are not aware, Amazon.co.uk is one of the biggest online stores and they offer everything from books and DVDs to computer games and more recently jewellery and shoes. The marketplace aspect of this site is for people like you and I who have lots of unwanted books, computer games and DVDs who want to sell them on to other people and make a little of money back on our purchases.

            So, I found myself with piles of books ranging in genre from Chick Lit to Historical reference books so I decided to use the marketplace to offload these books onto someone else who could enjoy them as much as I had done.

            The marketplace section of the website is set out so that everything you need to see and read is in front of you. From the main Amazon website you just need to click on the 'Sell your stuff' link which will take you there directly. On the left hand side of the screen are all of help topics with easy to follow instructions set out under different topic headings. I found this to be really useful when I began to sell my items because I had never done it before and the instructions themselves were easy to follow and understand. On the main screen page is a little information about Amazon and what the marketplace is all about and to the right hand side of the screen is further help with any queries you might have where you are given the option to contact Amazon directly.

            When it comes to selling your items using the marketplace you firstly need to be over the age of 18 and you need to register with Amazon to set up your account. The registration process is very easy and you need the following information to do that:

            -->UK-based credit card
            -->A UK phone number where we can immediately reach you
            -->Your invoice address
            -->A current UK bank account, including information that can be found on a cheque.

            All of this information is given to you as you go through the registration process. Then once you are registered you can log into your account to begin listing your items for sale.
            To list an item you firstly need to search for the book/videogame/DVD/video etc that you wish to sell. I have tended to sell just books and a few DVDS, but when it comes to books you should ensure that you locate the exact edition and to do that I use the ISBN number located inside the book, or at the very least if the edition you are listing is no longer available on Amazon, you can do what is called 'making a note' in the general comments section to alert anyone thinking of buying your book that it differs to the one shown.

            Once you have done this you need to consider how much you wish to sell that item for and one of the good things about the marketplace is that Amazon will give you an indication of the lowest price available for an item in the condition that you are advertising yours, for example if your book is brand new and never read Amazon will tell you of similar prices of that same book being sold by other marketplace users. So, when I am selling a book I always try to either match this price or make it a few pence less. The reason for doing this is that it will push your item to the top of the queue for anyone searching for the item.

            One of the positive aspects of listing popular or hard to find books are that there is always someone wanting to buy them. The downside of that are the competitive prices, but you have to be shrewd to sell your books on and in my case I wasn't so interested in making money from them, just getting rid of them to make space in my room.

            Selling your books or whatever item you choose to sell via Amazon is totally free. Your listing (the things you are selling) will show for a total of sixty days, after which time an email will be sent to you informing you your item is unsold and is coming to an end and you will be offered a chance to re-list the item. Again, if you do wish to re-list, I would suggest making the item a lower price for a quick sale if you are determined to sell the item.
            Nothing in this life comes for free, so whilst listing items for free is brilliant; selling an item comes with a fee. Once an item with Amazon is sold, they will take 17.25% of that sale price through fees, plus an 86p completion fee per item, unless it is an electronic or photo item then it is an 11.5% fee. A list of the fee's that Amazon charge can be found within the FAQs in the marketplace. The person who has bought your item however is automatically charged postage and packing fee which changes according to the current Royal Mail pricing system and again all of this information can be found within the FAQs where there is a table showing the current prices. The postage is often less than this, especially if you post second class, and so the surplus from the postage helps to cover the fees. These prices also differ is you are posting to countries within the EU and further a field.
            Sellers have the option to sell worldwide, or just to the UK or EU. I personally tend to stick with the UK unless I have a book which I think will sell outside of the UK. One thing that I have found is the love of Mills and Boons books by people living in America, having cleared half of my Mums books, these were by far the better selling books outside the UK.

            As a seller there are a few things which you are responsible for and one of those things is your commitment to dispatch the item within a few days of it being sold. If you are not able to achieve this, for example if you are away from home for any reason, you must update your "Holiday Settings" meaning your books will not be listed until you are available to fulfill the orders, you can also contact the buyers to let them know their items will be delayed and hope that they understand. Another commitment you must make to Amazon is that your email address is always up to date.
            When you make a sale, you will receive an email, which runs to three pages, breaking down the sale item, the charges and fees and at the bottom of the email is a delivery label which you can use and attach to your jiffy envelope to post your item.

            Since I started selling my books during the month of February I have sold approximately 25 books and in total I have made over £50 in total. A lot of my items are close to their expiry date for listing, but because it isn't costing me anything to have them there I will re-list them at the appropriate time and continue to do so in the hope I sell them.

            Earnings from your sales, less fees and commission are swept into your designated bank account every couple of weeks automatically and that bank account is the one you listed with Amazon during the setting up of your sellers account. You can go in and manually transfer the money over as and when you feel the need too, but to be honest I tend just to let Amazon do the work every two weeks. At all times records of your monies are kept within your account so that you can double check your earnings are going into your bank account and to date I have received every penny I have earned.

            As someone using Amazon, you can also buy items from Amazon Marketplace and doing this is just as easy as buying from the main site itself. If you use Amazon quite regularly, you will notice a small box on the right hand side of the item offering you a New and Used item for sale. If you click on the used button, you will be able to see all the sellers offering that item, with a summary of the asking price, condition, seller feedback and delivery restrictions. Then if you decide to take this option you continue to make your selection as normal through the checkout route and make your purchase but please note that there will be additional costs because you won't be given the option of free delivery for example.

            As with EBay, It is useful to other potential customers that if you do make a successful purchase, that you leave feedback for the seller, as this starts to build up a profile of that seller and how reliable they are. Unfortunately not all buyers do go back and do this - I have sold just over 25 items, but haven't got all of the feedback which in itself quite annoying because I always dispatch my items on time with the correct postage on and it would be nice to have 100% feedback for everything I have sold for other potential buyers to see. It is also good to ensure that you package your item carefully to ensure it will not be damaged on route.

            When it comes to disputes and refunds, sellers and buyers are left to resolve issues between themselves although Amazon will step in for example if an order is not fulfilled. The one thing I have learnt from other sellers is that communicating with your buyers is essential. As soon as an item of mine is sold and I receive the relevant email, I will always email my buyers and I advise them that I am dispatching the item and by what method I am using and make a point to ask them to leave feedback on my account once they receive the item. One guaranteed way to stop potential fall out is to get a Certificate of posting at the very least, or send recorded delivery even. I had one buyer who complained he never received an item and I was able to track it myself using Royal Mail and when the dispute was sent to Amazon themselves I was able to prove the item had been posted and had been signed for, therefore Amazon knew that I had done my duty of care and my part in the dispute came to an end.

            Selling through Amazon is very safe because everything is done through the Amazon Payments system meaning the seller does not get any of your details other than the address of where to send an item to, only Amazon do. Likewise as a seller, you are not given any of the buyer's information other than their address; the money they give to you comes through Amazon and is shown as an Amazon credit.

            Amazon Marketplace is to me has been a lifeline in getting rid of books that I no longer need to keep and have no desire to re-read and the same can be said of the few DVDs that I have also sold. Maintaining your Seller account is relatively easy because of the alert system in place with Amazon and once your item is listed you don't have to play any further part in the marketplace until your item is sold or is being offered for relisting, the rest of the time you just sit back and wait. So for me, as someone who is a busy person with work and home life I do not constantly have to log into my account to check the status of anything. In the time that I have been selling my items I am pleased with the earnings I have made because I had intended to recycle some of them or send them to a charity shop. When dealing with transactions, again this has been really straightforward because everything is done for you and your responsibility lies with packaging up the item and dispatching it through the post office to its new owner.

            So all in all I like Amazon marketplace, it is user-friendly and the FAQs is constantly updated to help you with any queries and with the one dispute I have had to date it was sorted out with relative ease. So as long as you stick to your commitments with Amazon and play by the rule book your time as a seller should be really easy to manage and whilst the fee's are quite hefty, I am happy to pay them because selling items is made really easy and not time consuming which I found with EBay and everything you need to know can be found with relative ease using the FAQ section. So, I do recommend you try this option for selling your unwanted books, DVDs and in some cases videos to see how you get on with it yourself.

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            • Nestlé Magic Straws / Soft Drink / 34 Readings / 31 Ratings
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              15.04.2008 13:04
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              Nesquik chocolate straws

              I love milk. Whether it is semi-skimmed, full fat I love milk but my favourite kind of milk is chocolate milk and in particular Nesquik chocolate Milk. More recently I have switched to using Nesquik magic straws call it the child in me trying to break out, but I find them to be lots of fun and I am still fascinated as to how they change the colour of my milk.

              These Nesquik Straws which come in two different varieties are available in most supermarkets and local convenience stores ranging in price from 89p for a packet of 4 Straws and up to £2.00 for the larger packets. Again price and availability may change depending on where you live, but I tend to buy mine in Asda or at my local convenience store hence the difference in price. They arrive in a tightly sealed plastic pouch which has the Nesquik bunny on the front of them licking his lips in anticipation of drinking his chocolate milk. I have to admit I do sometimes struggle to open the packets and end up either asking my Dad nicely to do it for me or I revert to scissors.

              Now Nestle, who make Nesquik, recommend that you should use one straw with at least 250ml of milk, now I am not the type of person who is going to be as pedantic as that and begin measuring out my milk to ensure I get it spot on and one of the biggest selling points these straws have tried to promote is that children should drink more milk and equally important is that you should only use cold milk and not hot milk because of the possibility that the straw might melt. I can add however that because I am told not to do something I am more likely to actually do it and I have tried these straws with hot milk and I wasn't impressed because I didn't quite get the hot chocolate effect that I thought I was going to get, instead I got a watery chocolate taste which was vile. So my advice, use ice cold milk and don't try to use the same straw more than once because you won't get the same flavour.

              So what do you so with these straws? Well, once you have got your glass of cold milk, you need to get one of your straws and place it directly into the milk as you would do with any kind of straw. These Nesquik Straws are made up of two sections, there is an outer straw which you suck up the milk through and within the outer straw is a smaller straw inside and it is that smaller straw where the little chocolate are tightly packed together. The smaller straw is used to stop all of the chocolate beads being released all together as pressure is applied to the outer straw through sucking; it is designed to release the beads slowly over a period of time and to ensure you enjoy the chocolate taste of your milk. As you suck the milk up through the straw like an expert you will notice that it changes colour almost instantly into a lovely chocolate colour. This for me is the exciting bit, watching the white milk turn into chocolate milk and instead of the milk in your glass being chocolate flavoured it isn't, everything is done in reverse. There is however a few of the little chocolate beads which do escape into your glass and turn the milk slightly chocolaty. You will find that if you slurp your milk slowly you get a more intense chocolate taste to slurping your milk quickly. You will also notice that once you have been sucking on your straw for a certain amount of time the chocolate flavour becomes less chocolaty, so my advice is to turn the straw upside down to bring back the chocolate flavour. I often try leaving the straw in the milk for a minute or two to intensify the chocolate flavour giving the chocolate beads some time to mix with the milk. When it comes to sucking on the straw, it isn't quick like trying to bring about the flavour of a chocolate milkshake from McDonalds where you are sucking for a good few minutes before you get any flavour, what you will find with this is that the second the liquid enters your mouth you get the chocolate taste instantly.

              I do buy Nesquik powder to make my own chocolate milk and I admit I do prefer these chocolate straws because it tastes exactly the same but there is no powdery after effect at the bottom of the glass. No matter how much you stir the milk there is always some left at the bottom but with these straws there is never anything left behind. If I am feeling super lazy then I will buy Nesquik chocolate milk which has already been prepared for me, but for the time being I am enjoying my chocolate straws. I do buy the chocolate ones rather than the strawberry ones because I find them far too sweet in taste and with far too much sugar and after drinking with them I always feel like my teeth have got a sugar coating on them and I have to instantly brush my teeth. So if you do have sweet tooth, then you may prefer the strawberry flavoured straws.

              Sometimes when you have finished the milk, you are left with a few chocolate beads in the straw and sometimes you are not, you shouldn't reuse these straws though unless you are using them again right away. You can continue to suck through these and get the chocolate taste from the beads, but to me I find this quite strong.

              For those of you who have children, Nesquik Magic Straws are mess free; when you have finished with the straw you simply throw it away. There is rarely any powdery mess unless the straw is removed from the glass of milk and if it gets onto your clothing it does not stain.

              As I have said before, Nesquik Magic Straws are available in packets of 4 or packets of 10 and they do range in price. The current price of a packet of 4 is 89p in my local supermarket, whereas a packet of 10 are likely to cost £1.22 and weigh 37g, so they are expensive in comparison to buying the Nesquik powder which for 300g is only £1.54. However, the straws are much more fun and keep me amused for at least 20 minutes.
              I am a huge fan of Nesquik Magic Straws and preferably the Chocolate ones, they are designed to encourage parents to allow their children to drink more milk because milk contains over 10 essential nutrients and is the best source of Vitamin D which we all need for strong teeth and healthy bones and because children like chocolate it is deemed more likely that they will drink milk with a little help.

              As far as I am concerned I am happy to buy these Magic Straws and I do always look out for BOGOF offers especially on the packets of 10 Straws. In my house a packet of 10 would last little more than a week but then I am the only one to consume them, if you have a bigger family then they will obviously not last as long.

              So go on, give them a try, after all they are good for you.

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              • More +
                09.01.2008 10:58
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                A lovel;y quick fix for sweet lovers

                I love food at Christmas time and the seasonal delights that are put out on supermarket shelves make me nearly as excited as Santa Claus visiting on Christmas Eve. This year is no exception; my mum has now succeeded in dragging me around all of the high street supermarkets in order to purchase Christmassy looking food items to keep the younger ones entertained at our family get together on Christmas Day. Last weekend I happened to go to the German Market in London's Hyde Park and there was a stall selling traditional Lebkuchen products which ranged in shape and size. Everything being sold was sweet and spicy, cake and biscuit based and the lovely man on the stall was telling people that the recipe he was using dated right back to the late 1290's. Each and every Lebkuchen cake or biscuit was decorated with icing, or alternatively sold in decorative tins that were very festive. After trying his own style Lebkuchen and absolutely loving it, I had to find buy more. The only supermarket where I could find it was Sainsburys and I have to admit, had I not been looking for them I would probably have walked straight past them on the shelves. Whilst the packaging is very pretty they don't exactly jump off the shelf shouting "buy me and try me". I couldn't wait to try them when I got home to see if they were as delicious as the ones I had tried in Hyde Park.

                Sainsbury's Iced Lebkuchen Stars are currently on offer in my local store, two packets are available for £1.50, a saving of 48p as they normally retail for 99p per 250g. Each packet contains two different shaped stars.

                Inside the very festive looking cellophane these iced stars don't look like anything special if I am honest, having just been witness to a lot of different designs and shapes of Lebkuchen I wasn't too sure what to expect. Upon opening the bag I have to admit there wasn't much of an aroma to give me an insight as to what they would taste like. The only notable smell was that of cocoa, quite a strong fragrance in any case. What I was really expecting was the sweet smell of spicy gingerbread which had previously left me reaching for tissues my mouth was watering so much. Looks wise there is a dark chocolate base which covers a softly spiced gingerbread biscuit cake bottom and then on top of that each star is coated with a thick white icing glaze to finish them off. They remind me of the Asda Extra Special Belgian Chocolate gingerbread biscuits that I recently became rather partial too with the way they are put together.

                Traditionally Lebkuchen cakes usually include honey, spices such as ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla as well as nuts, almonds and candied fruit. An array of flavours to get your juices flowing but equally enough ingredients to get anyone with certain allergies hospitalised so be warned.

                Instead of putting my shopping away, the first thing I did as I got home was grab one of my iced Lebkuchen stars I was that eager to try them. Each packet contains two differently topped stars, the first has a thick vanilla icing which generously coats the biscuit while the bottom is a dark chocolate which I have to admit on first taste seems overly bitter. As the sweet sugary icing blends though the bitterness melts away and there is a rich explosion of flavours in your mouth. Biting into the biscuit itself although you don't hear the icing crack it definitely crumbles as your teeth sink into the biscuit and almost immediately the sweetly spiced ginger centre which is like a very light biscuit dough comes alive and all three tastes mix together wonderfully. The first bite unleashes the flavours while further bites seem to push the more dominant flavours to the fore.

                The second of the two stars is coated in more of a glaze, which is in my opinion very thin, so much so it is almost translucent; it just glimmers under the kitchen lights but when biting into it the first thing you will notice is how much softer it is than the star with the vanilla icing. There is still the dark chocolate coating on the bottom which in itself is as bitter as the first. Although this glazed star is much softer the taste is just as strong and effervescent as the three flavours again come together as one in your mouth. I definitely prefer the star with the vanilla icing because I've got a bit of a sweet tooth, and they are incredibly sweet but I've also become a big fan too of the glazed stars. As I mentioned earlier, they remind me of the Asda own Extra special Belgian chocolate biscuits which host a dark chocolate base with a sweet tasting soft ginger biscuit, the only thing missing is the icing.

                I think these Sainsburys Lebkuchen iced stars are fabulous and are definitely a perfect biscuits for Christmas, although I would happily eat them all year round if there wasn't a danger of me struggling to fit into my clothes! A lot of the foods my mother conjures up for Christmas time are based around slightly sweet and spicy eateries such as mince pies and Christmas cake so these biscuits are a perfect fit for that very thing and I have no doubts in my mind that both young and old with embrace these biscuits and fall in love with them in the same way I have.

                These biscuits themselves I feel are the type you could just sit down and eat alongside a nice cup of tea or coffee as you would do a muffin or a slice of cake. They are very versatile but are so sweet eating more than one or two at a time will leave you feeling like you've eaten a pound of sugar. On the whole I am a big fan and will definitely be buying them again as and when I can find them on sale. In the meantime I'll just have to find the recipe and make my own. Sainsbury's Iced Lebkuchen Stars get 5 stars out of 5 from me.

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                • Sony KDL-20S2030U / LCD TV / 56 Readings / 53 Ratings
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                  17.11.2007 15:51
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                  A small Sony television

                  When it came to purchasing a new television for our bedroom I was excluded from the actual decision making process, my husband instead deciding that he would ‘surprise’ me which left me in something of a state of dread that our credit card would take a pounding and he would arrive home with a 72” widescreen. I was fairly confident that he would choose a Sony I just prayed that it wasn’t some huge monster. My fears proved unfounded when he returned home carrying, on his own the 20” widescreen Sony KDL20S2030, a LCD television from the Bravia range. The total cost only £389.99 from Dixons.

                  The decision to purchase the KDL20S2030 my husband reliably informs me was because it didn’t require a stand, would sit on the computer table in the corner of our bedroom and could double up as a computer monitor which we were at the time desperately in need of replacing.

                  Once it was home I was left with the task of clearing away our old computer monitor, setting the KDL20S2030 into place and then making sure that the computer continued to work and that all of the television channels were programmed in. Getting down to business wasn’t too much trouble at all as the entire unit weighs only 7.3kg and has a stand built into the base which leaves it standing securely so there is no movement in the screen. With most Bravia models, the unit is a matt black and has a strong plastic casing, the exact dimensions being 50cm wide, 41cm high and 21cm deep. The visible screen dimensions are 35cm high by 47cm wide.

                  As we have a larger Bravia in our living room tuning in the channels required little reference to the instruction manual which is of a high quality with everything set out in a plain English step by step guide. Once the power and external aerial was attached I selected the automatic tuning option and both the analogue and digital channels were detected and stored within 5 minutes. We have a DVD player in our bedroom neither do we use any of our consoles in there but if we did, the KDL20S2030 has 2 SCART sockets to enable this. The PC input socket was clearly marked and required no need for a video graphics adapter. From unpacking to watching the television took 20 minutes.

                  The KDL20S2030 uses 3 liquid crystal display panels with the image being produced and projected through each of these panels. Each panel has a designated colour of red, green and blue that turn the pixels on and off to increase the clarity and contrast of pictures on the flat, plastic display at the front of the display. In terms of interlaced lines used by the television to make up the picture display there are 576 lines horizontally, and 1080 vertically. Being HD ready the picture quality is just stunning with the range of colours out of this world. The images are razor sharp and the level of detail, despite the smaller display perfect. The range of colours in my mind as soon as I realized it was another Bravia was never in doubt but it actually exceeded my expectations and I have to say I prefer watching television on the 20” screen more than the 50” we have in our living room as the levels of image distortion are reduced to negligible levels. With our 50” Bravia the levels of distortion were quite high until we purchased a HD digital box but this is not required with the KDL20S2030.

                  Using the screen as a monitor is brilliant and a hundred times better than our previous screen, the only problem being when my husband decided he wants to play quite quick action games as the responsiveness/refreshment time of the screen is considerably slower than a specialist computer monitor.

                  The KDL20S2030 has two 5w speakers positioned just below the screen and these are in my opinion a little too powerful for a television so small. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the sound quality or indeed the clarity of sound produced, even on very low settings it can be too loud and there is a touch of vibration that can be detected when watching some shows. The levels of vibration obviously increases the louder the television is and to combat this we had to pack the small gaps between the base of the stand and our computer desk with cotton wool. This reduced the problem but hasn’t completely eradicated it. For the first few weeks this really did get on my nerves but now after a month I seem to have learnt to ignore it.

                  In the first few weeks of owning the KDL20S2030 I honestly could have thrown it through the bedroom window due to the vibration of the stand caused by the speakers but have now learnt to live with and love it. I have no problems recommending the KDL20S2030 as a good quality small screened LCD television because of the exceptional picture quality but would not advise anyone to buy it for use as a computer monitor as seeing the look of frustration on my husbands face when trying to play games leads me to believe that there are better PC solutions out there.

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                  • Creative Gigaworks T20 / PC Speaker / 41 Readings / 37 Ratings
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                    15.11.2007 10:56
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                    Excellent stand alone speakers for the PC

                    The speakers that came as standard with our PC package can only be described as poor, the quality of the sound produced, the bass and volume controls were of such a low quality that after a couple of weeks of listening to my MP3 files through them and becoming frustrated I had something which my husband described as a “Tasmanian Devil” incident and subsequently punched a hole in the closest speaker. I would add that this is out of character but that was of little consolation to the speaker which refused to do anything but sit in pieces on the desk. A replacement was called for and I was determined to find the best speakers around to avoid any further tantrums and to make sure I could enjoy my music while working from home without moving our stereo system around. The resulting research led me to the Creative Giga Works T20 speaker system, which with a price tag of £60 seemed reasonable after I had sampled the distinctive and clear sounds from the display model.

                    As the 2 speakers are wired together and operated on a plug and play basis the hardest thing about setting the speakers up is removing them from the box and deciding where to position them for best effect. Instead of being attached via a USB port, the one wire, which is considerable long at 50cm slots into the speaker port as you would expect. The entire installation process took approximately 3-5 minutes, which considering my lack of technical knowledge is good in my view.

                    The design of the speakers is again as you would probably expect, instead of concentrating on making them look space age or slightly eccentric the T20 system are designed with functionality in mind, standing 15cm high, 6cm wide and 5cm deep and due to the large amount of weight positioned in the bottom of the speaker, there are no stands. It is just a case of placing them down, but a minor irritation is that because of the smooth finish to the plastic, if they are knocked they do move around. Some sort of grip or suction pad on the base would top this product off for me.

                    Underneath the right hand speaker are 3 separate dials that control both speakers. These buttons control the power, volume and bass. As I have fairly long nails and small fingers I don’t have a problem with making fine adjustments to any of the dials but my husband does due to having larger hands. He regularly comments on how fiddly the dials are, and I have to agree, they are positioned a bit too close together. Further down towards the base of the speaker is a port for headphones, something I have never used and so can’t comment on.

                    The speakers have an integrated audio amplifier and nominal output in terms of power is 28w, which allows for 14w per speaker. I honestly can’t say if this is a good level of output or not due to my lack of knowledge in this area, but having listened to music through the speakers I can safely say that for ambient listening while working or surfing the Internet the speakers produce enough volume for my liking. If you are looking for something that will have your neighbours applying for an ASBO, these speakers are not for you.

                    Despite not have a subwoofer, the sound quality is the best I have heard from a set of PC speakers and I am delighted with my purchase. There are a few slight problems with design but thanks to the sound quality that is so clear, the acceptable bass and the fact that I can now enjoy music from my PC, I am more than happy to overlook them. A price of £60 is fair in my opinion and would recommend them.

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                    • More +
                      14.11.2007 12:25
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                      The queen of all scrubbers with a price to match

                      BeneFit are arguably my favourite brand of cosmetics, they are fun, up to date and have funky retro packaging which really stand out on the shelves in my local Boots store and look even better on my dressing table on view to everyone.

                      My latest purchase was Honey Snap Out of It which is a honey and almond scrub for pure exfoliation to keep your skin in tip top condition. It was sold to me by the Cosmetic Assistant on the Benefit counter who said that my skin on my face needed to be exfoliated more than once a week if I wore make-up on a daily basis because I am prone to dry, itchy patches of dry skin around my T-zones and using a simple moisturising cream wasn't as effective as it could be.

                      This product has been designed so that you can use it on a daily basis because it isn't as harsh on your skin as other exfoliating products can be, despite how grainy the texture actually is.

                      To use this product as a face scrub I would suggest washing your face clean before using it and then you simply splash your face with warm water and then using a 50p size amount of product onto your hand and massage into your face using circular motions to ensure you cover your face entirely whilst at the same time loosening any bits of dry skin without rubbing too hard. To rinse off use warm water in then again in a circular motion before you pat your face dry. When I used this product for the first time I was really quite amazed at how soft and smooth my skin felt because the product itself to touch is really quite grainy against your skin, hence why you don't need to rub too hard to remove dead skin cells. The reason you should use circular motions to use the product is that it boosts your circulation and helps to bring about the healthy glow.

                      When using this product you can definitley smell the honey and almonds although the almond smell is not quite a vivid as that f the honey it does linger on your skin after use.

                      Honey Snap out of it can also be used a face mask, another major selling factor for me because I love to pamper myself when I am home alone. To use it as a face mask I always ensure once again that I have washed my face to make sure it is clean and then using just enough cream to cover my entire face I leave on for around ten minutes before I wash it off using warm water and to remove the product I use circular motions to remove any dead skins and I find after doing this that not only is my skin soft and smooth but it also leaves me with a healthy glow.

                      SO why is this product as amazing as I am telling you it is? Well it is all down to the ingredients it contains. There is natural honey which is suitable for all skin types and is used for its ability to heal the skin. Followed by oatmeal and sweet almond meal which are the ingredients that gently exfoliate and then there is apricot oil which helps to hydrate the skin and finally there is vitamin E which in skincare products is an antioxidant to smooth and softening the skin and it helps to prevent signs of aging. So after all of those ingredients there is little wonder my skin is left in beautiful condition.

                      I purchased my Honey Snap Out of it from my local Boots store and for 150ml you can expect to pay in the region of £18.50 and I am happy to pay that price for something that actually does as it promises to do and leave me with soft and glowing skin. You can also purchase it online from the Benefit website and in many other high street stores which stock the Benefit range such as Debenhams and House of Fraser and I definitely recommend it.

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                      • Listerine Original / Oral Care / 55 Readings / 45 Ratings
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                        13.11.2007 11:19
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                        a good refreshing mouthwash

                        Oral hygiene along with my own presentation is one of the most important things to me so I always clean my teeth twice a day without fail, sometimes three times a day if I feel particularly uncomfortable prior to attending an evening engagement. For me there is nothing worse than running your tongue over your teeth and feeling the build up of plaque and other matter that has attached itself to the enamel, it physically makes me sick. Since I stopped smoking I have been more assured by the fact that my breath stays fresh and I don't emit "Fag Ash Pour Femme" onto unsuspecting strangers in the street or on the train to work yet I continue to maintain the regimented oral hygiene routine that sees a visit to the dentist every 4 months, regular daily brushings, flossing and liberal swirlings of mouthwash.

                        Listerine Original is the first mouthwash I can remember; my mum would always buy it and insist on my sister and me using it first thing in the morning and last thing before turning in for the night. While the dragon adverts associated with the UK's number one selling mouthwash were mildly amusing as a child, the thought of using the mouthwash sent a shiver down my spine. I just did not like it and I hadn't used it for many years until purchasing a 500ml bottle this week. As a child I can only remember the original flavour being available and as for competing brands I have to say I can't remember any others. Today is a different story, every company associated with oral hygiene seems to have a whole host of products and Listerine have a wide range of different mouthwashes from Soft mint which has a mild flavour to the shiver inducing Original.

                        Listerine Antiseptic Mouthwash Original is available in a 500ml bottle and can be found very easily on the shelves of any major supermarket, high street chemist such as Boots, Superdrug or your local pharmacy and convenience stores. I bought mine in Asda earlier this week and paid £4.00 for two bottles thanks to the buy one, get one free offer. Normally it retails at £2.99. Unsurprisingly, the bottle is made from clear plastic with a screw top lid. On the front of the bottle is the label which clearly states the product name - Listerine and under the name is the following wording "Reduces plaque by up to 56% more than brushing alone" and then there are two cartoon images of some teeth and one has plaque and the other doesn't. As they are cartoons they are hardly scientific before and after shots!

                        If I had to describe the actual mouthwash I would have to say it has the same colouring as urine, it isn't totally clear so doesn't have the appearance of tap water. After unscrewing the lid the strong smell of antiseptic filled my nostrils and I was instantly transported back to my parent's bathroom. The smell is overly chemical by nature, and whilst being very clean and clinical my brain associates the smell with safety and security so I actually do really like it. Being water based means that it is really easy to use and on the back of the bottle there is a list of ingredients, one of which has the ability to kill plague while the other active ingredient Eucalyptol reduces inflammation and pain in the gums while having something of a cooling sensation to avoid burning the inside of the mouth. Anything Eucalyptus in does seem to have a cooling effect about it whether it is mouthwash or chewing gum.

                        When it comes to using Listerine there are some directions on the bottle which state:

                         Especially effective when used morning and evening after brushing.

                         Pour 20ml (4 x 5ml teaspoonfuls) into a glass, rinse around teeth and gums, gargle and then spit out after 30 seconds.

                        Personally, I just fill the cap to the top with the liquid rather than use a glass as it works just as well and then tipping my head back I pour the liquid into my mouth and gargle with it for a few seconds and rinse it around my teeth and gums. As I am doing that I check the feel of my teeth with my tongue to ensure I am happy with it, if not I spit it out and repeat the action. Once the mouthwash is in your mouth the taste and feel is both disgusting, yet mildly arousing. I find it impossible to keep the mouthwash in my mouth for longer than 30 seconds at a time because of the tingling sensation that over time becomes more of a burning sensation. God help you if you stop swirling it around your mouth as the burning comes on much quicker than normal and my eyes start to water. The taste is vile, just vile. I have never swallowed any as that isn't advisable but it leaves a strong antiseptic taste in the mouth that fades fairly quickly. As soon as the mouthwash is spit out the one thing that springs to mind is that it is just like chewing on Airwaves.

                        As it had been some time since I last used Listerine I used it over a 5 days period before actually giving my opinion of it. I wanted to see whether there was a build up of any plague or gunk on my teeth after changing from my usual brand. I am happy to state that Listerine Original left my mouth feeling clean and refreshed, my teeth stayed in a good condition until the evening and coffee stains that tend to slightly darken my teeth over the course of the day didn't seem to be noticeable. The taste is pretty disgusting but it doesn't linger in the mouth so it is a short term thing and the weird sensations of using the mouthwash as something I would recommend just because it is slightly freaky so overall I would strongly recommend Listerine Original. It is number one for a reason, and that is because it knocks the socks off everything else - literally.

                        Post Note:

                        For those of you with younger children please note there is a health warning on this product stating that you should NOT administer Listerine to children under the age of twelve years. Obviously my mum never read the warnings!

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                        • Bertolli Olive Oil / Oil / Vinegar / 49 Readings / 46 Ratings
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                          12.11.2007 15:59
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                          Enriches the flavour of your food

                          Both of my parents are Greek Cypriot, needless to say olives, and in particular olive oil has been in my life for as long as I remember. My Grandmother who is in her late 80's swears by it for all different forms of use from contemporary religious reasons to skin care. It has also been said more recently that good Olive Oil acts like a painkiller and there are many health benefits to gain from using Olive Oil as it contains several forms of antioxidants and vitamins such as vitamin E, Vitamin A and Vitamin K whilst at the same time, it doesn't contain hydrogenated fats that we read and hear about in news stories which are bad for the body. In its place are good monounsaturated fatty acids. It can help to reduce high cholesterol in some people with the help of the antioxidants and it can when used to cook a balanced diet also help to lower blood pressure.

                          In today's market Olive Oil has become extremely popular and my family are particularly fond of the Bertolli range of oils. My personal favourite is the Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Why? Because it is nothing but the juice extracted from the Olive itself, there are no chemicals involved and no heat, it is just a completely natural process that means that the taste isn't interfered with or enhanced with any artificial flavours. The Bertolli range is historically Italian and they use olives grown in the Mediterranean between November and February, the best time of the year to obtain the ripest, juiciest olives and it definitely is reflected in the taste when compared with cheaper, supermarket own brands. To ensure that all of the flavour is captured as soon as they are picked, the olives are pressed within 24 hours of them being harvested and if they pass the quality control of the experts they are then bottled.

                          The Bertolli range itself has a wide variety of products on the shelves of supermarkets ranging from oils, buttery spreads and nibbles to pasta sauces and savoury foods.

                          Now I personally and most obviously my favourite foods originate from Greece and Cyprus, but I also have a love affair with Italian foods as well, liking everything from pasta and fish to some good freshly baked olive bread. There is nothing better than having some lovely warm flavoured bread (particularly sun dried tomato flavoured) and a mini dish of Olive Oil in which to dip the bread into whilst I am waiting for my food to arrive in my favourite Italian restaurant and naturally a good plate of olives too.

                          This Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil looks a pale green in colour and clearly is a liquid. The consistency is thicker than water yet runnier than sunflower or vegetable oils making it perfect for use in cooking as measuring out amounts of the oils is really easy. One slip of the wrist and you won't end up with a pan full of the oil. Removing the lid for the first time on a new bottle I always love the faint olive aroma that seems to be trapped inside and having been brought up when olives started to form part of your staple diet the aroma is instantly recognisable to me. The actual flavour is really quite strong with the aftertaste being rather mellow on the palate. It doesn't taste all slimy and oily as you would probably expect, there is a smoothness about the taste which is dependent upon what foods you actually choose to have with it.

                          Bertolli Olive Oil is a versatile product in itself and it can be used for numerous different things when cooking, as well as the reasons mentioned previously. It can be used as a salad dressing, as a dip for warm bread, as a pasta sauce, or for sautéing foods. I use the oil to sautéing mushrooms as the natural flavours are drawn out beautifully.

                          If you have never tried olive oil before then Bertolli is a good label to start with because they have a range of olive oils that differ in strength and in trying them you should be able to taste the difference and combination of the olives used. Each olive oil also has a different use, so depending on what you are wanting to use it for depends on what you should buy, for example Olio di Oliva is very light to taste and is best for roasting and frying whereas something like Robusto which is better used for adding to casseroles, soup and meat. In total there are four different options to try and I keep smaller bottles of them all at home in my cupboard which I refill as they become empty.

                          The Bertolli range is easy to spot in your supermarkets amongst the vegetable and sunflower oils because Bertolli use glass bottles for their olive oils. The label itself stands out because in white lettering on a red background are the words 'Bertolli' accompanied by a picture of someone picking olives. A 500ml bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil you can expect to pay about £3.79 in your supermarkets and a little more in your local shops. There are sometimes offers on in supermarkets where you can buy these oils a little cheaper and there are sometimes smaller bottles available although my local supermarket only stocks the big bottles. I personally think with a shelf life of a year and for a 500ml bottle the price is quite reasonable because you are never going to drown something in a lot of Olive Oil. A 500ml bottle lasts me anywhere between three to six months and I do use it two or three times a week.

                          I personally could never use a different kind of oil for adding to food or cooking, olive oil has always been a part of my life and I love the Bertolli range for its taste and how it brings the flavours in food to life. It is easy to find, purchase and more importantly using it won't help contribute to that first heart attack.

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                          • More +
                            08.11.2007 10:33
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                            Great hair protecting spray

                            Alongside the Mediterranean blood flowing through my veins I also have naturally curly hair which requires straightening every day otherwise I start to resemble Brian May in his Queen days. I am sure you can all picture that lovely bouffant of jet black hair that he had and when I straighten my hair, no matter what styling products I try my hair becomes quite dry and is then difficult to manage. Lots of products have passed through my hair over the years in an attempt to protect my hair from the heat of my hair straighteners all of which turned out to be utterly pointless and a let down.
                            I asked my stylist to recommend something which would not leave my hair feeling really dry after use and because my straighteners heat up to 210 degrees I am constantly worrying about the damage I am causing to my hair. My stylist managed to convince me to try 'GHD thermal protector for dry, coarse hair'. The main selling point was that not only should it protect but also add shine as I straightened.

                            This product comes in a 150ml bottle which is brown in colour with the words GHD clearly shown in red and looks very similar to a bottle of shampoo in size but it is a spray. It retails at different prices depending on where you buy it from but you can expect to pay anything from £8.45 to £12.99 which is quite a difference and it can be purchased online from many different outlets and I bought mine for £9.95 from the GHD website itself not wanting to pay an over inflated price in the salon.

                            To use this thermal protector you firstly need to ensure that your hair is clean and slightly damp so an ideal time to use it is after you have washed your hair. Then to use it you simply spray the product onto your hair before you dry it using your hairdryer. It is not a good idea to try and spray your hair in one go as experience has taught me that for best results dividing my hair into sections is the much better by ensuring equal coverage of the spray.

                            Once your hair is dry you simply divide your hair into sections and straighten using your hair straighteners. Claiming to "Control unruly hair and add sustained moisture when heat-styling" I have to say that it is no word of a lie, and since using it there has been a remarkable difference in not only how straight my hair becomes without little kinks here and there but it is much sleeker and it stays that way for a much longer period of time, so I don't have to come home from work and re-straighten it to get ready to go out again.
                            This product contains meadow seed oil which is used in a lot of hair care products and its primary function is to maintain the moisture content and help increase the elasticity and this is brought about by the heat of your hair straighteners.

                            The shine that now coats my hair is absolutely stunning and much better than it has ever been before. GHD Thermal Protector does just that, protect and every since using it the general feel of my hair is that it is stronger, healthier and moisturised. The original price of £12.99 I was quoted in my salon nearly put me off but I am glad that I shopped around and I would say that when priced below £10 and considering the month or so it will last it is a must have for anyone who straightens their hair on a daily basis. Don't suffer with dry brittle hair any longer, pick up a bottle of GHD Thermal Protector and you will be amazed by the results just as I was.

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                            • Mentos Fruit / Sweets / 34 Readings / 31 Ratings
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                              02.11.2007 10:50
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                              Cheap affordable chewy sweets

                              I always carry something to chew in my handbag and it differs from cherry drops, soft mints to my new favourite Mentos depending on what is available in my local shop as I pass it on my way to work. Never being one to pass up the opportunity to try something new recently I decided to change from my usual brand of fruity Mentos and dabbled with the sugar free version. Less sugar equals healthier surely, which in turn means more benefits for my teeth and me without compromising on taste.

                              Mentos are sold as chewy dragee, which in English translates to a chewy sweet with a hard shell and a soft chewable centre. Mentos come in a range of flavours such as mint, fruit, spearmint and the sugar free variety. The sugar free variety are sold in one of those small flip top cardboard box enclosed in a sealed cellophane wrapper in the same way Tunes have been repackaged. I find this type of packaging makes them much easier to carry around in my handbag without having the hassle of the paper wrapping and loose sweet being left undiscovered for months on end. The box itself is a deep red colour with the word Mentos clearly displayed diagonally across the front of the box in large dark blue letters to make them instantly recognizable. Below the word Mentos is 'sugar free' along with the flavour, in this case 'Fruit'.

                              One of the main ingredients in these Mentos is Xylitol, a sugar substitute that occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables such as berries, mushrooms and oats. Now for anyone thinking of eating lots of these sweets because they like them, let me warn you against that because Xylitol can act as a mild laxative! Enough said on that I think. The rest of the ingredients can be found on the side of the box along with the nutritional content.
                              Once you open the box after removing the cellophane wrapping, the trick is to find the little loose piece of cellophane with the red tab on it, you can then flip the box lid open to reveal inside about 12 sweets which come in three different colours - a pale pink, a dark pink and an orange colour. The sweets themselves are similar in size to soft mints, just a shade smaller than a 10 pence piece.

                              Whenever I buy anything like this taste is the most important thing to me. If I don't like the way something tastes or feels within my mouth I will immediately spit it out as I have issues with the texture of food. After popping the first sweet into my mouth I was unsure whether or not I should suck the sweet or chew it. Normally I would begin to chew instantly and in this case as the outer casing was quite hard I decided it was probably better to try and soften it first before biting into it. The outer layer is rather sweet to taste although they are sugar free and once you bite into them they are rather crunchy like a really hard mint. Once I had finished crunching my way through the outer casing the sweet becomes really chewy just like soft mints with the fruity flavour being released slowly to a point where it is really strong and stays strong for a good few minutes without really fading. The box gives no indication as far as I can see as to what colour represents which flavour other than the word fruit, so having chewed on them on all I have deciphered that the light pink ones are of a strawberry origin whereas the darker pink coloured ones are cherry flavoured and unsurprisingly the orange coloured sweets are a tangy orange flavour.

                              Each of the flavours are as I have said really strong and the variety is just right. If more flavours had been added it would have become slightly annoying trying to find my favourites. After finishing the first box I was suddenly struck by the fact that they reminded me of tutti-frutti sweets that I would buy by the bag as a child. In my own person opinion I preferred the cherry flavoured sweet in comparison to the other two flavours, mainly because I love cherries so forgive me for the bias towards them but the Strawberry flavoured sweet were a little too sickly for me after chewing on a few of them and the orange sweet, well although it was orange flavoured I just didn't like the aftertaste it left, it was much too bitter for my palate after a couple of minutes of chewing.

                              While the taste of the orange sweet was a little disappointing, the upside was that there was no grainy after feel or sugary residue left coating my teeth after eating them so the urge to instantly grab my toothbrush and clean my teeth wasn't there for once which was a big plus point in my view.

                              Mentos can be bought it seems from a variety of supermarkets and smaller convenience stores. Although my box was priced at 62p you are likely to get a better deal in places like Asda and other supermarkets and save yourself between 4 and 10p a time. They are also available in the non-box variety and in buying them in the packets you are likely to be able to buy a lot more different flavours to try; of which none are sugar free.

                              When I first tried these sweets I wasn't too sure what to expect, for me most sugar free things just do not taste right, I've got a sweet tooth and require sugar but I was pleasantly surprised. Although I wasn't a big fan of the orange flavoured Mentos it wouldn't put me off buying them again but if it was a toss up between these and Cherry Drops, the drops would win every time.

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                              • Snooper S5 / Archive Electronic / 40 Readings / 38 Ratings
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                                11.10.2007 16:52
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                                A licence saving device

                                Last year in the United Kingdom 2.1 million people were caught travelling at excess speeds on the roads incurring 3 points on their driving licence and a £60 fine. I personally accounted for 2 of those offences counted above and was livid that each time I had been captured by static cameras located at the side of the road when driving in an area where I was unfamiliar with the layout of the area, the location of the cameras or the speed limit of the road. In the second instance I was on a country road that was classed as a 40 mile per hour area yet all of the similar roads approaching it were the national speed limit. Determined not to get caught again I bought a second hand Snooper S5-R from my brother in law, a device he had used without issue for 3 years. When originally purchased it cost £199.99, yet I managed with a sweet smile and much begging to get it for £50.

                                The Snooper is a small black box powered from the cigarette lighter of the car and sits on the dashboard alerting the driver to static speed cameras (GATSO) and mobile laser speed cameras. When I say that the box is small I mean it, as it's actual dimensions are 11 x 4 x 1.5 cm and with suction pads it fits securely into the car and doesn't move around at all even when playing at speed on winding roads. Design wise the S5-R is built for functionality and due to the colour doesn't need removing from the car every time I leave it.

                                The comprehensive instruction manual I have states that the S5-R can detect GATSO cameras 300 metres away and the handheld laser and radar guns up to 2 miles away. When a threat (as the cameras will now be referred to) is detected the box starts to bleep and the LCD display on the top displays a number of bars to indicate how far away the threat is. The volume control is located on the right hand side and has the ability to go from barely audible to deafening. As you approach a threat the beep is replaced by a clicking sound and the display bars will increase until eventually you should see the threat with your own eyes and have an opportunity to adjust your speed accordingly.

                                I have been using the S5-R now for 6 months and have had no problems with the device; it has worked and worked sometimes far too well. When driving around London the bleeping and clicking is almost constant as the 360-degree coverage means that nearly everywhere you go a threat is detected. After 30 minutes behind the wheel the bleeping and clicking is extremely irritating and I personally turn the volume right down and have positioned the box so that the bars sit in my line of sight.

                                Calculating value for money of a radar detector is a tricky business. How do you know it has failed to save you a further endorsement on your licence unless you get a summons through in the post? What I can say is that since I installed the S5-R in my car I have the confidence to drive at speeds I feel comfortable with without constantly checking my speeds in areas I am unfamiliar with which means I can keep my attention focussed on the road and other road users.

                                If you want to drive with confidence and without fear of a speeding summons popping through your letterbox I would strongly recommend the Snooper S5-R. It works and works well, requires no software or updates meaning that once it is positioned in the car it is ready to go and ready to save your licence from endorsement. It does however lose one star from the rating because the bleeping and clicking can get very irritating.

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                                • Benefit Lipscription / Make Up / 46 Readings / 43 Ratings
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                                  08.10.2007 14:13
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                                  Gorgeous soft kissable lips guaranteed.

                                  Every girl wants nice soft kissable lips and I am no exception to that rule. The one issue I have with the Great British weather is its ability to dry out my skin within a few days, one minute it is hot, then it is cold and within days I am left looking pasty and flaky and in constant need of lotions and creams to make me feel good. The one thing about lips is that everyone you meet notices them whether it is to speak to them, to eat or as in my family to kiss people. It is tradition in our family to kiss each person we meet and greet on both cheeks and the last thing I want is to look like is Freddy Kruger coming in for the kill with my flaky lips. It is times like these when I can't even hide the chapped look of my lips under my lip balm or Vaseline that I needed some help and I started searching for something that could help me with my little problem. Looking online and manically searching I ventured off to my local Boots store and purchased what I think is that perfect product.

                                  Benefit Lipscription was sold to me by the girl at the Benefit counter who gave me a full demonstration on how to use the product and then the effect that it would have. I have to say I was impressed with it and didn't hesitate to hand over my £23 for two tubes, walking away with a smile on my face. The two foil tubes are presented within a Benefit brown box, on the front of which is the same logo as the Dr Feelgood range, so they are instantly recognisable. The tubes themselves are quite small in size and only contain 15.0g each of the balms.

                                  Lipscription is quite possibly one of the best products I have ever purchased. I have been using it for the last two months and happily meeting and greeting anyone just so I can kiss them with my ultra smooth lips. Gone are the days when they looked horrible and dry. Lipscription as I said comes in the form of two tubes and I would definitely recommend getting both the tubes to use in conjunction with one another, although I am told you can buy them separately if you shop around. The first tube is used to exfoliate your lips and rid of them of that dry, flaky unwanted skin. The smooth cream has little AHA scrubbing beads in it that is enriched with Jojoba. AHA is a commonly used exfoliator in beauty products and Jojoba I know from one of my aromatherapy oils is a skin moisturiser that is easily absorbed and it helps to prevent dryness of the skin.

                                  To apply it all you need to do is squeeze a really small amount onto the tip of your index finger and then you gently rub your lips in a circular motion but not too hard because it can hurt depending upon how sensitive your lips are. Once you have completely rubbed the skin of both lips you take a cotton wool pad and wipe the excess from your lips. At this stage you should hopefully see quite a lot of the excess skin appear upon your cotton wool pad, I know I did. Once you have done this I always run my finger along my lips to see whether or not they feel soft, if you are using this product for the first time you may need to be a little more patient than I was and repeat the action. The next step is to get the second tube and apply the 'shiny lip balm' as it is called to your lips and within this lip balm is chamomile and vitamin E both of which help to soothe the new skin on your lips. Again when you are using the Shiny lip balm you will only need to be using the same amount of this as you did with the exfoliant for perfect results. There isn't really a smell description that I can give to either of these two products; they smell bland in all honesty nothing really stands out.

                                  The first thing I noticed after I had been shown how to use this product in the Boots Store was how much dry skin came off my lips, having not ever been able to find a product on the market which has been designed specifically for this problem I do tend to run my toothbrush along my lips to try and get rid of the excess dry skin, but that pales into insignificance with this product. When using it myself in front of the mirror I found it also very easy to use and now tend to use it as and when I feel my lips are in need of some TLC. I have been using this product now for a few months and my lips are in impeccable condition, gone are the tell tale weather worn sights and in place are luscious, soft smooth lips.

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