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melvinium

melvinium
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Member since: 22.08.2008

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      11.06.2009 17:45
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      If you have ever briefly considered an overlanding trip, do it - and use Dragoman.

      Dragoman - It's a truck not a bus

      Last November, hubby and I set off for our "last adventure before kids" - 16 nights travelling through Kenya and Tanzania before ending in Zanzibar on the beach.

      We did this epic voyage with a world class overlanding company called Dragoman.

      This is the story of our adventure.

      We booked our trip over the internet simply by visiting the Dragoman website and checking out all of the trips that they do. When we booked there had been some political unrest in Kenya following the elections, so advertising showed a reduction in cost for the tickets. This piqued our interest, and I, because I do enjoy the finer things in life was worried about spending a long time on a truck and in a tent, so wanted to go for one of the shorter trips. We settled on Nairobi - Dar Es Salaam. The brochure said that most overlanding companies do the trip in 10-12 nights, but Dragoman take 14 nights so you can really experience the Serengeti and get up close and personal with the animals.

      Booking was very easy, Dragoman recommended some flights for us, and these included a heavy discount better than anything else we could find on the net, so we booked, paid our deposit, and then started planning.

      We were sent a kit list of essentials and nice-to-haves, and we duly went out and spent a small fortune on really heavy duty first aid kits (complete with sutures, drips and surgical knives - just in case); and an even bigger fortune on rabies, hepatits B and Cholera injections. Typically for us, the recommended Malaria tablets were also the most expensive ones on the market, so what started off as a relatively cheap holiday for what we were doing, soon escalated into being quite expensive. I guess it is like an insurance policy though, there is no value on your own health, so better pay for all of the immunizations than risk it.

      Dragoman were supplying the truck, the tents (with built in mosquito net) and the crew, and we had to bring our own sleeping bags, airbeds/bedding rolls, clothes and kitty money.

      Quickly the day of departure arrived, and we (somewhat nervously) set off for Nairobi. This involved flying from Norwich airport to Schipol, Amsterdam, and the Schipol to Nairobi. Unfortunately for us, snow occurred. I don't think Norwich airport were that well equipped to deal with the snow, so this meant we were 45 minutes leaving. We arrived in Amsterdam to discover that our flight was leaving from the furthest away terminal, in a pretty big airport, so we had to run from one side of the other, and made it to the check in desk with seconds to spare. We were the last ones on the flight, but luckily managed to get a block of 3 seats between the two of us, and had a pretty comfortable flight (not bad considering all of the reviews I could find of Kenyan Airways were really diabolical).

      We arrived in Nairobi (I had been told this is one of the most dangerous cities in the world), and stood waiting for our bags to come off the plane. One by one all the passengers from our flight picked up their luggage and left, and we eventually realized that our luggage hadn't made the connection.

      After pointing to diagrams of luggage we were eventually told that our luggage was still in Amsterdam, and that it would arrive later on that evening.

      So with a heavy heart, and smelly clothes (snow weather wear doesn't go well in 40 degree heat) we got a taxi to the hotel that we were meeting at.
      In the hotel we met up with our crew, Jax the trip leader, Alex the driver, and later on met up with Jackson, our cook.

      We were taken to our first campsite just outside Nairobi national park, and taught how to put up our tents. We were all given a "job" to do for the length of the trip. Mine was stools. This meant that at every campsite I had to get the stools out of the truck and set them up for our meal, then clear them all away at the end.

      We were divided into pairs, and given a rota for cook duty as well.
      Then we met Josh. Josh was our truck for the next 14 nights. We grew to love him like a family member, and compared to all of the other overlanding companies that we met en route, Josh was by far the best, with the most character.

      We were a fairly small group - 8 of us on the trip, plus the 3 crew members. This meant there was lots of space inside Josh to spread out. We had overhanging net "buckets" in which we could store things which we would need on a day to day basis, like first aid kit, guide books, toilet paper etc.
      All of the tents were stored on the roof of Josh, under a big tarpaulin. Our big bags, and sleeping bags were stored in the back locker, and then all of the cooking equipment, our water supply, food and other bits and bobs were stored in locked compartments above the wheels of Josh. It was a very well adapted truck, painted a beautiful bright orange.

      We all paid about $600 each for the kitty money, and one member of the team was tasked with being in charge of this. We used this money for the food that we bought, plus entry into National parks and the petrol for the trip. This way, it was our trip, and we could decide what we did and didn't want to spend the money on. I was a little dubious about this at first, but it actually worked out really well as we bonded more together when making group decisions.

      Whilst in Nairobi we went to a Giraffe Sanctuary, visited an elephant orphanage, did a walking safari on Lake Nakuru where we got a boat through the Hippo infested waters, then walked among the giraffe, antelope, zebra etc finding animal bones and all kinds of interesting trails. Our campsites were mostly equipped with showers and toilets, and although they weren't of a massively high standard, they did the job. We could hear lions and hippos at night whilst laying in our thin canvas shelters, and it was all pretty special. We went to Elsamere, of Born Free fame, and had high tea in the Adamsons' house.

      We headed through Tanzania, which was absolutely beautiful to the Serengeti National Park, where we saw lions, a leopard and her cub, hundreds of hippos, millions of giraffe, zebra, bison, buffalo, pelicans, flamingos, baboons, monkeys, rhinoceros, hyenas, cheetah. It was absolutely breathtaking. At night we slept in the middle of the Serengeti for 2 nights, we made sure we had no food in our tents, but it was quite scary hearing the lions and growling right outside.

      We did a balloon flight early in the morning, and while we weren't lucky enough to see the great migration while we were up there, it was an amazing experience, and after all the camping we appreciated an English breakfast and couple of glasses of champagne!

      After the Serengeti we headed over to the Ngorogoro crater where we saw the elusive elephants that we hadn't seen in the Serengeti. There was a high concentration of animals inside the crater, and we thoroughly enjoyed sitting in our jeep being whizzed round by Lionel our guide.

      Back in Josh, we met a masaai tribe and had a trip to their village, visited an orphanage and met all of the children where we spent some time with them, and then left them a huge food hamper that we had all clubbed together to buy.

      As we headed further south the temperature was getting hotter, so it was strange when we drove past Mount Kilimanjaro one day and saw the snowy peaks.

      We eventually arrived in Dar, where we spent the night camping on the beach, before heading out on a ferry to Zanzibar. It was at this point that we waved goodbye to Josh who was sadly to heavy to come on the ferry. Apparently an overlanding company had tried to take their truck on the ferry and it had sunk!

      We spent 3 nights in Zanzibar, visiting a spice plantation, doing snorkeling trips, and generally chilling out. It was an amazing end to an amazing experience and one that I will never forget.

      Whilst we were on the trip, at a lot of the campsites we stayed at, other overlanding companies would also be staying so we got to socialize with other trips, and see their trucks. In all honesty our truck was far and away the nicest truck. Some of the others had seats which all faced inwards which meant if you wanted to look out of the window behind you, it meant craning your neck. Josh had forward facing seats, and was also the only truck I saw which had a roof seat, so while we were going through the Serengeti we could sit up high and watch the wildlife go by.

      I would definitely recommend an overlanding trip to anyone considering something different, and definitely would recommend Dragoman.
      There was recently an article in The Times about overlanding trips, and Dragoman came out the clear winner as the best and safest overlanding company.

      One thing you have to remember though, is that you are on a truck and not a bus. The tour leaders get quite offended if you call it a bus!

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      • More +
        28.05.2009 16:15
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        If you have ever contemplated it for a minute give it a go, it is great fun!

        At the beginning of May, I turned 30, I know it is hard to believe as I look so young, but 'tis true. I had already been to several 30th birthday parties over the last couple of years as most of my friends are the same age as me, so had been to an 80s night, cocktail party and various others, and I wanted to do something a bit different.

        My first idea was to hire a cottage somewhere and have a big BBQ, some booze and a couple of nights exploring a new destination, however I had numerous different budgets to cater for particular in the time of the recession, so no-one could confirm what they could afford, therefore it was difficult to find something that would suit everyone when I didn't know how many people were going to come.

        At a loss one day in February, my husband suggested to me the Sno!Zone in Milton Keynes. He said we could find a nice hotel nearby and arrange some snow activites. I wasn't overly bothered by the Snow activities, but thought that it could be fun, so started to look into.

        As there was to be a fairly large group of us, I arranged through the group bookings department at Sno!zone. I was dealt with by a very helpful man called Daryl (totally recommend him if you need to speak to someone there). He asked what we all wanted to do (no-one had a clue) and gave us various options and price lists.

        Anyway, to cut a long story short, after a couple of months of organization trying to figure out what my friends wanted to do and when we wanted to do it, we had 3 sessions booked.

        A 1 hour beginners snowboarding lesson for 7 of us ( we decided that Snowboarding was cooler than skiing so opted for that) a 2 hour recreational session for 2 people (who were already capable snowboarders and reached a certain criteria that Snozone ask you to reach before you are allowed on the recreational slope on your own) and a tobogganing session for 8 of us.

        First up was the snowboarding lesson, you wouldn't believe how terrified we all were when we saw the slope, and the people wizzing down it doing jumps and such like.

        We had a fab instructor called Jules, who was really motivated and friendly (and she told me she guessed I was around 25 - so she is good at flattery!) who taught us how to attach our boots to our boards, and how to take them off.

        We then headed out to the lesson slope. This section is cordoned off so that beginners and novices can learn in relative peace without getting in the way of the experts!

        We went straight up to the top of this slope, and practiced putting on our boards, before standing facing the top of the slope and sliding down backwards to the middle of the slope. After a number of times doing this we learnt to go backwards and to the side, stop, and then go backwards and to the other side of the slope. It was actually pretty difficult, and my bum was freezing from me spending so much time on it rather than standing up. It was brilliant fun though, and the hour wizzed by and before we knew it, our time was up.

        We had one final race down the slope where we took our boards off and sat on them in between the bindings and slid down the hill like a sledge, this was great fun although I nearly ended up on the recreational slope as my board was slightly facing to the left - oops!

        I really recommend that if you go snowboarding or skiing you wear something which is totally waterproof and also slightly padded. I wore combats and some waterproofs and although I was warm enough, my bottom was a tad cold, and bruised by the time we finished.

        The two recreational boarders were still going and we were all impressed with how easy they made it look. We sat and watched them in the viewing area with a refreshing drink.

        Soon it was time for the tobogganing. We were somewhat embarrassed when we turned up and there were around 15 children and then us adults. We grabbed a toboggan which was basically a tiny piece of plastic shaped to fit on your bum, with 2 handles. We soon learnt that the knack was to lean as far backwards as we could to build up speed, and it was great fun zooming down the hill racing each other, the only problem was the climb back up to the top of the slope.

        There is a section cordoned off for tobogganing, and we were only half as high as we had been for the boarding, but this time instead of getting on a conveyor belt style lift, we had to climb up the hill. The first few times were tiring, but great fun, after around 10 times though, we were getting a bit fed up and tired out. The children had long since given up so we practically had the whole slope to ourselves, but soon we were defeated by the slog up the slope so we went in too. The total tobogganing session was 45 minutes, but we only lasted 30.

        The price.
        We paid £27 each for the 1 hour beginners lesson and in my opinion it was worth it as the equipment hire (board, boots and helmet) was included in this price. However, the first lesson you spend 10 minutes or so getting to grips with your boards before you even head out onto the slopes, so you only really get to go down the slope for 30 minutes or so excluding the time it takes to get back up on the lift.
        Tobogganing was £14 for 45 minutes, but I think 30 minutes would have been a long enough session.

        2 hours of recreational snowboarding was £31.
        Since the initial session, 4 of us have been back for a second lesson, and 2 for a further 3rd and 4th lesson and we are already discussing a snow holiday this year or beginning of next.
        I would really recommend this experience to anyone who is physically capable.

        Thanks for reading.

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        • What's In Your Bag? / Discussion / 108 Readings / 122 Ratings
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          17.10.2008 15:29
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          Pretty tidy really not got the kitchen sink.

          Whats (in) My Bag Baby?

          I thought I would add my bag details to the ever growing discussion!
          I wonder what someones bag says about them?.

          Anyway, foryears I carried one of those tiny handbags and when eventually I broke the zip as it was bulging so much, I knew I should try a larger bag. I have never looked back!
          My bag is black and has a long strap so if my shoulders are aching (yes my bag CAN get that full) I can put it over my neck and wear it as an across the shoulder bag.

          So in the main compartment of my bag I have:
          My purse - this is a beautiful red, with a big pink flower across it, it is filled with my cards, bank cards, credit card, store cards, driving licence, RAC card, Mecca Bingo Card (yes I have been - it is great fun) and various others.
          There is also a photo of my husband from when we first met (5 years ago) so he is looking very young!

          I have a tiny little make up case which is pink and has guinea pigs on it (I love guinea pigs and have 3 at home), inside which is a plaster holder with plasters (which I got as part of my first aid at work course) a mini perfume sample of Chic by Carolina Herrera - no idea where that came from, and a nail file.

          I have a can of body spray - which is Charlie Passion. I was always a Charlie fan in my younger days, and you never know when you need a quick spray :-)

          for some reason, I have a fork in my handbag, not really sure on why!

          I have a hair clip which I use all the time, it is one of those big grip ones, like a claw which I can use when I am getting annoyed by my hair at work - yes hair does get annoying!

          A bottle of Carex Hand Gel (see my review on that) which I wouldnt be without, always there to wash my hands with when I cant get to a sink.
          Last, but not least in the main secction is my diary and a pen. Cant be without those to find out what I am doing on a day to day basis.

          I have a small zip compartment inside the main bag, and in there I find:
          My mini wedding album, as part of our photography package for our wedding we got 8 mini pocket sized albums. They are so brilliant to show people who want to see the wedding photos, but saves us lugging around our full sized album which has a stainless steel cover. We had a storybook style, so our photos are printed on pages like a magazine, rather than actual photos stuck into an album.

          I have a first aid training pack, complete with a mask for doing mouth to mouth resusitation. Fortunately I havent had to use this yet.

          There is also a tube of L'Occitane hand cream which was taken from a hotel room that we stayed in once.

          I have a zip up compartment at the front of my bag, and in there is my mobile phone in its phone sock (so it doesnt get scratched) and my new ipod nano chromatic (see my other review). This is in a clear gel case, so it too doesnt get scratched.

          In the side pocket of my bag are my car keys and house keys which are both on seperate key fobs.

          And that is it, that is all I have in my bag. For once it is fairly clutter free and tidy :-)

          Thanks for reading!

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          • More +
            09.10.2008 17:30
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            I love it!

            iPod Nano Chromatic 16GB

            **Edited to say, now had this for 6 months, and it is still going strong. I listen to it almost every day at work for hours. Still love it and recommend it. I bought a clear case for mine so it has no scatches on.**

            Well, I have been excited about this one arriving for a few weeks now. I have always had a Creative mp3 player, which I have been perfectly happy with, but when we go to Africa in a few weeks, our van apparently has an ipod connector, so I decided to change my existing mp3 for an apple ipod.

            Now firstly you need to know a little bit about my background. I can remember a work colleague buying an original ipod when they first came out, and I borrowed it to see what it was like. Well I hated the wheel, I found it hard to use and not very user friendly. I also believe that ipods are totally over rated and people have bought into the hype about them rather than the product. With the media calling their downloadable programmes "podcasts" and not something a bit more generic, it all add to the hype and people get sucked in.
            Well, the ipod nano chromatics have sucked me in this time, and this is my review on it.

            - Cost & Appearance -
            I have opted for the pink 16GB ipod, they retail in the UK for anything from £144 - £190 at the moment, but I imagine the price will soon drop as they have only just been released.
            When my ipod arrived, I was ridiculously excited, I don't know what it is about the little gadget, but it is very aesthetically pleasing.

            - Size -
            It is 3.6" high, by 1.5" wide and 0.24" thick. It weights 1.3 ounces. The screen is 2.0" diagonal with a screen resolution of 320X240 pixels.
            The screen is in the top half of the ipod, and the wheel is displayed in the bottom half. My wheel is white in colour (against the pink background), but the silver and black ones have a black wheel.
            The whole ipod has a slight curviture to it, but it is very slight, and is more like a curved edge than anything else.

            The back of the ipod is pink, but in the middle has the apple logo and says "ipod" at the bottom on the back it says 16B and has some small text advising the serial number as well as some trademark logos. Personally I would have rather had it all pink without the ipod and apple advertising, but I guess they want their logo on their somewhere!

            - Whats in the pack? -
            My ipod arrived in a seethrough Perspex box. A sticker peeled away allowing me to open the box and take out a Perspex sheet which held the ipod in place. Bending the Perspex allowed me to extract the ipod from its holders. Included in the box is a USB charger, earphones, a small piece of plastic which I am currently assuming is an ipod rest, but I might figure out what it is later as I try it all out! and a quick start booklet. A note on the quickstart guide says "For complete instructions and important safety information see the iPod nano User Guide www.apple.com/support/manuals/ipod
            Oh, I almost forgot, there were some lovely apple stickers included in the pack a well.

            - Features -
            Now as mentioned I am an ipod virgin, so although there are some new features on this nano compared to previous versions, I will be reviewing all of the features.
            Firstly I need to collect the ipod to my computer and sync it to all of my music. I already had just under 8GB of music on my hard drive, so this takes a while to sync into iTunes and then my ipod, but only about 10 minutes. So now I am ready to go.

            The first feature is the wheel. Now surely I can't be the only person to find this stupid to use. I personally think it is clunky and difficult to get used to. I assume it is the same version you would find on other ipod, but not knowing that I don't need to press any buttons and instead I only need to run my finger up or down the wheel results in me selecting Italian (I think) as the language default, which doesn't enhance my use-ability of the device! I'm already remembering why I didn't like this wheel the first time round. So once I have set the language I can check out the other features (now I understand them). I think this is a feature that once you are used to will be okay, but for now as I get used to it, I find it a hindrance.

            - Main Menu Options -
            From the main menu I have the following options:
            Music, Videos, Photos, Podcasts, Extras, Settings, Shuffle Songs and Now Playing.
            Music, Videos, Photos and Podcasts all list the data on the ipod which falls into those categories, and so far I only have music, so all of the other folders are empty.

            - Extras -
            Under Extras I have Alarms, Calendars, Clocks, Contacts, Games, Notes, Screen Lock and Stopwatch. I can set an alarm, and a sleep timer under the alarm section; View Calendars and set up To Dos as well as view alarms in the Calendar section; Add world clocks in the Clocks section; I can sync contacts from my outlook in the Contacts section; Choose from 3 games to play in the games section: Klondike, Maze or Vortex; Add notes in the notes section; Lock the screen with a pin code in the Screen Lock section; and time things in the StopWatch section.

            - Music -
            Under the music section I have the following options:
            Genius; Playlists; Artists; Albums; Songs; Genres; Composers; Audiobooks and Search.
            Genius is the new 4th generation kit. If you hold down the centre button when playing a song, it will allow you to start genius, which means it will play suggested songs which are similar to the song you are listening to. I did try this and it seems to go on tempo, so this would be a good feature to have if you were running and wanted upbeat music at a certain pace for example.
            Playlists can be created in iTunes, so you can add music to a playlist and then easily select it from this menu.
            Artists, Albums, Songs Genres and Composers are all self explanatory really and allow you to filter at each of these levels.
            I haven't used the Audiobooks feature, but I imagine if you download a book it will be displayed here. Search has an alphabet displayed which you use your wheel to select what you want to search on.

            If you are playing a song you can see the album cover displayed on the screen. If you tilt the ipod so it is horizontal, the screen image rotates with it. You can click from here and see all of the other songs on the album, you can also easily scroll through the different albums.

            You can set songs to be on shuffle mode, which means that instead of playing all songs from album, or artist or whatever you selected, you can shuffle at random, and any song could be played next. A new feature of the ipod nano is that you can flick to the next song with a flick of your wrist. I have tried this, and I don't think I have the knack mastered yet as sometimes it moves to the next song and other times it doesn't work.

            - Games -
            The games are okay, but to be honest I have my DS for games on the move, and don't really want to play them on here; but anyway, there are 3 games as standard with the option to buy more from iTunes.
            The games that have come with the nano are:
            Klondike - the patience card game
            Maze - where you move a ball round a maze into holes using the ipods motions, so you tilt the actual ipod to move the ball
            Vortex - is kind of like the game I used to play on my old BBC computer - Breakout. In this version you are hitting a ball down a kind of well, which hits objects, and then bounces back up the well towards you. You use the wheel on the ipod to move round to where the ball is coming back to.

            - The verdict -

            Well I have now had my ipod for 3 days, I thought I had better see if I can get used to the wheel before condemning its functionality. So my verdict is - the wheel is still naff, I would much rather have buttons, but the more I use it the more I am getting used to it.

            Regarding the actual iPod, I love - love the look of it and I cant believe how tiny it is and especially how thin, it doesn't look possible that there is a battery in there. I have downloaded 109 albums (and most of the album artwork), and still over just over 10GB of free space, which is good as we are planning to put all of our CD collection onto the iPod and use iPod speakers in the lounge for our music.

            I have been keeping my ipod in one of my phone socks, but to be honest even the sock is too big for this ipod, so I have ordered a crystal case for it from eBay as I imagine it would be quite easy to scratch the surface.

            The screen which has a slight curve to it has no glare from reflection, which were some concerns I noticed people had about the new design before I bought it.
            All in all a great little mp4 player, and I mean little, but big in space and quality.
            Thanks for reading, I am aware this was a mammoth review :-)

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            • Egg Heads / TV Programme / 96 Readings / 98 Ratings
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              06.10.2008 20:37
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              How well can you score against the formidable egg heads?

              EggHeads.

              This popular quiz show, at the time of writing is found on BBC2 on a weeknight at 6. We started watching it because it is on around teatime, and the Simpsons has been repeated so many times, we thought we would try for something a little more intellectual.

              Eggheads is currently in its sixth series, and features a "formidable" quiz team made up of possibly the best quiz team in the country.
              The Eggheads:
              Kevin Ashman: winner of British Quiz Championship, European Quiz Championship, World Quizzing Championships, Fifteen to One, Mastermind, Brain of Britain and Mind Sports Olympiad.

              C. J. de Mooi: winner of BrainTeaser, 100% and The Weakest Link as well as having been Mensa chess champion and apparently, and (I find) unbelievably a model.

              Daphne Fowler: winner of Fifteen to One, Brain of Britain and Going for Gold.

              Chris Hughes: winner of Mastermind, International Mastermind and Brain of Britain.

              Judith Keppel: first British winner of one million pounds on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

              A new team faces the eggheads every day, with 4 head-to-head rounds where the challenging team chooses who plays in which round from their own team, and then chooses the egghead to face them. The types of rounds include Politics, Geography, Sport, Entertainment, TV & Film and Art & Literature. Three multiple choice questions are asked to each player in turn, and whoever wins their head-to-head makes it through to the final round. In the event of a tie break, it goes to sudden death where questions are asked with no multiple choice answers.

              The final round sees the winners of the head to heads against each other, with the same format, three multiple choice questions then going to sudden deathy in the result of a tie break.

              The quiz is good fun, with the questions similar to that of a pub quiz, so the general public has a chance in getting a fair few right, making you feel brainy.

              The show has been presented by Dermot Murnahan, up until the current series, where Jeremy Vine has started co hosting. Tonight was the first episode I have watched with Jeremy presenting, and I wasnt overly impressed. He seemed to have no ideas of his own and everything was done exactly the same as if it was Dermot, but in a more boring way. He seemed to speak in monotone, which made the whole episode quite annoying, and in my view ruined it.

              Slightly more annoying than Jeremy Vine though is C.J. de Mooi. I seem to get annoyed with him every single show. You know at school there was always one annoying git who thought they knew everything? They would sit in class with a smug face always answering the question, and not with just the answer, but with ten paragraphs about the history of the question as well as the answer which most people think is right, but is actually wrong because of blah blah blah before finally getting round to the answer. Yes, that is C.J. de Mooi. However not only is he really annoying, but he actually more often than not ends up losing his head to head and doesnt make it to the final.

              So other than C.J. and Jeremy Vine, the show is pretty good, and passes the time whilst you are eating your tea and also helps boost your general knowledge.

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              • Body Piercing / Archive Lifestyle / 66 Readings / 65 Ratings
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                06.10.2008 16:37
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                My opinion and personal experience of piercings

                Piercing.

                Piercing has always been a topic which greatly fascinates me. When I was at university studying psychology, my first choice for my final year dissertation was on piercing and social attitudes towards it in todays culture.

                So when I reviewed someone else's opinions on body piercing, I started thinking maybe I should write my own review on it.

                Now Wikipedia describes body piercing as "The practice of puncturing or cutting a part of the human body, creating an opening in which jewelry may be worn".
                How many people have looked at ear piercing in that kind of way?
                I imagine most people (myself included) see it as a way of wearing pretty jewellery in their ears to enhance their attractiveness (although even that sounds a bit pretentious).

                Now I was 13 when I first had my ears pierced, my parents wouldn't let me have it done any earlier, and although at the time I remember thinking how unfair it was, and how others in my school already had their ears pierced, now I am pleased that I waited that long. Being 13 I was able to choose with some responsibility whether I wanted to have it done or not. It was a big day for me, we went to a piercing studio in a hairdressers salon, and I sat on the chair while the man got out the piercing gun and pierced my ears.
                I can also remember the day when I first took out the piercing studs (I think they are less gigantic now as they seemed to be then) and changed them for some earrings I had got as a birthday present - this is because I fainted! I remember asking my Mum to help me put these new earrings in as I was struggling, and while she was doing it I fainted! No idea why, and I have been fine changing my earrings ever since!

                I am totally against babies and toddlers having their ears pierced, in fact I think even 8 year olds also look ridiculous with them pierced. In my opinion, and remember this is my opinion only, I think it looks really chavvy. There is also the argument about choice, and whether the parents have the right to make that choice on behalf of their children.

                I think High School is a reasonable time in someones life to have their ears pierced (if they want it), while they are at primary school and even nursery I don't think it goes anyway towards enhancing their looks, more the opposite.

                I had a second hole put in each of my ears in my first year at university. Again, this was done with a gun. This was in a random clothes shop in Coventry, and looking back, although I had no problems with the piercings, I would go to a proper body art place to get any future piercings done.

                I had the top of my ear done at the original shop where my ears were pierced also in my first year at uni. I think this was partly down to freedom and expressing myself as an individual whilst at university.

                In my second year, my boyfriend (and first love) broke my heart by cheating on me with my housemate, and it was shortly after this that I decided to go and have my nose pierced. I don't know what it was that made me do it, but something about doing it helped me get over him, maybe it was the changing of my appearance, I don't know, but it went some way towards making me feel better about myself, and nine years later I still have my noise piercing! My nose was pierced with a gun, but I have since found out that it isn't recommended for nose piercings or even ear piercing really, it is harder to clean a piercing gun for a start, so it is more sterile using a needle and then throwing it away. Also because the gun uses blunt force, it can shatter the surrounding cartilage and over time can cause the ear (or whatever) to deform, this is called "cauliflowering".

                After university I came to live back with my parents for a year or so, and it was during that time that I decided to get my tongue pierced. It was something I had been thinking about for a while, and one day while I was out shopping, I walked over to the Tattooist and Body Piercing studio to ask about it. I was told it would cost £35 and they could fit me in that day. I decided to go away and think about it. Later on in the pub with my friends(we weren't drinking, just met for lunch) I told them about my trip, and how I thought I might go and get it done. It was quite funny, about 8 of us went down to the tattooist, and they all waited whilst I had it done.

                They gave me some mouth wash to rinse around in my mouth which would numb my tongue (which it did) and then they got a clamp out and clamped my tongue. The needle was quite long, and I confess I closed my eyes at this point (it was hard to look the other way with it being right in my face in front of my eyes!) and the tongue bar was on the needle, as he pierced my tongue, the bar automatically slid into place. The bar was quite long, this is to compensate for the swelling afterwards. For 5 or 6 weeks after the piercing I needed to go back to get the bar changed for smaller and smaller ones as the swelling subsided.

                I was advised to suck on ice cubes for the rest of the day and take pain killers as needed. They also advised me not to go out drinking as I might forget about it and do some damage. When I went home and showed my Mum (there was no hiding it as I couldn't speak properly) she was utterly horrified. I mean really horrified, I was quite surprised by her reaction as she is usually quite easy going and a bit wacky herself.

                I remember I couldn't swallow very easily so eating was out of the question and even drinking was rather difficult, especially that first day. Taking pain killers was totally out of the question as swallowing was so difficult.

                I eventually got used to it, the pain went and it all healed nicely, because the tongue is a muscle it is very fast healing, and the mouth is one of the cleanest parts of your body, so it is very unlikely that it will become infected.

                I had my tongue piercing in for a year exactly. A year to the day that I had it done, I took it out, as it was annoying me. You know how you cringe when you hear nails being scraped down a blackboard? Well eating with metal cutlery was having the same affect on me when it clanged on my tongue bar, so eventually I took it out. I noticed that while it healed over the middle of my tongue healed first, so I could get the bar in the top and bottom of my tongue, but not through the middle. Now I had a little bubble underneath my tongue where the bar came out, but nothing else to show for it.

                All in all, I am for freedom of expression, and I quite like body piercing, as long as it is not on babies or young children. Jewellery can be removed, unlike tattoos and therefore it is a semi permanent way of expressing yourself. I say semi permanent because you can always remove the jewellery, but may be left with a small hole depending on the type of piercing and how long you have had it.

                The new craze which is taking off appears to be implanting, and I have seen several people with horns, or other shapes under their skin which have been implanted, and can then have jewellery screwed onto them.
                Interesting.

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                  03.10.2008 11:20
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                  Good way to get around Docklands

                  Docklands Light Railway (DLR)
                  The Docklands area of London has undergone a massive redevelopment in recent times, and the Docklands Light Railway services the region.

                  - My experience -

                  I am not from London, and recently my Husband had an audition for Gladiators, which meant a day in the Capital. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to watch the auditions, but wanted to be there for moral support for hubby, so we both went down to London. The audition was in Bethnal Green, and could last for up to 7 hours, which left me with a reasonably large amount of time to kill. Luckily for me, my Mum came down with us, so I wouldn't be wandering around on my own, but we still didn't know what to do. If you are a visitor to London for a short period of time it is difficult to know what to do really as there is so much to choose from.
                  We had both done the usual touristy things before, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Harrods etc, so wanted to do something a bit different.

                  I had never been to Canary Wharf, and so fancied going to have a look, I checked out online, and found out there was a new shopping centre at Canary Wharf, so I thought this might kill a few hours. I also was told that the Docklands Light Railway would take me there, and as I had never been on the line before, thought I would check it out.
                  We got to Bank and went to change onto the DLR, but unfortunately there was some building works which had over-run and the DLR was not running between Bank and Canary Wharf. We got the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf instead and checked out all of the sky scrapers and amazing glass buildings above the tube station.

                  We then found our way to Heron Keys, which is the next tube station to Canary Wharf, and is on the DLR. This was only about a 5 minute walk from Canary Wharf tube station.
                  We decided to get the railway from here to Cutty Sark at Greenwich.

                  We boarded the train, and set off across the Thames, it was a very odd journey, it felt like being on a theme park ride at somewhere like Alton Towers. When we went round a corner (there were a few) it felt almost precarious, and the whole train moved to the side. I'm sure for the usual people who use it, they are used to this, but me and my Mum were a bit apprehensive at first. What makes it different as well is that it is above the ground as opposed to the underground, which is obviously under the ground. This means that you can see where you are going and have some pretty spectacular views of London particularly as you cross the Thames.

                  We got off at the Cutty Sark, and had a nice time pootling around on the pier and taking in the view of Canary Wharf from the other side of the Thames. The Cutty Sark was covered over with tarpaulins as it is being renovated from the fire in 2007. We had a coffee in an interesting coffee shop on Greenwich high street, and then got the DLR back to Heron Keys. It was a little busier on the way back as schools had finished, so there were a few schoolchildren. We were safely taken back to Heron Keys, and the journey probably took 15 minutes.

                  - History -

                  Since getting back I have checked Wikipedia for some facts on the DLR:

                  It opened in August 1987 and reaches north to Stratford, south to Lewisham, east to Beckton and wet to Bank and the financial district of London, it is currently 31km long.

                  The trains are computer-controlled and usually have no driver (I'm so glad I didn't know that before we went on, but it probably explains why it felt like a theme park train!). A Passenger Service Agent (PSA) on each train checks for tickets and controls the door. (we didn't see any PSAs and didn't have our tickets checked).

                  - Future for DLR -

                  With the development of the Docklands as part of the 'Thames Gateway" and the Olympics in 2012, there are several extensions and enhancements being planned. See Wikipedia for the enhancements which include upgrading stations so they can cater for 3 carriage trains as well as some new stations and another new route across the Thames.

                  So if you are in London, and are stuck for something to do why not pay a visit to the Docklands area of London and have a go on the DLR! We bought a zone travel card day pass which was £7 and the DLR is covered within this.
                  Incidentally my hubby didnt get through the auditions, so you wont be seeing him soon on Gladiators - maybe next year :-)

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                  • Heat Magazine / Magazine / Newspaper / 57 Readings / 58 Ratings
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                    02.10.2008 19:44
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                    Does what it says on the tin - spies ont he celebs

                    Heat Magazine

                    You may have already read my Now review, well now here is the Heat one. I bought both magazines on the same day to do a review on both and make some comparisons between the two to see which one is the best value for money.

                    You are never going to get away from the fact that both magazines are trashy celebrity gossip magazines, but I have read both of them in the past, and you never know when a celebrity question will come up in a pub quiz, so it could be deemed as research really!

                    So Heat Magazine retails in at £1.65, and is also available weekly, the same as Now. Now was £1.20 if you remember, so Heat is a bit more expensive. I hear you asking whether you get more for your money with Heat magazine, well bear with me and you will find out!

                    With a first flick through, I can easily feel that Heat is a more substantial magazine, coming in at 146 pages to Nows 100. If you remember, Now had 30 pages of ads, what does Heat have? 41 pages. 11 pages more than Now. 35% of Now was adverts, and only 28% of Heat is adverts. I say only, but I think 28% is still quite a high amount.

                    - So what about content? -
                    The Cover is eye catching, with Heat written in large font in bright red text across the middle. The stories featured on the cover of this weeks issue are:
                    Pete and Jordans loveless marriage; Lindsay (Lohan) self harms, Nicola (from Girls Aloud) slams Chris Moyles; and there is a picture of Cheryl and Ashley Cole with a big headline saying "FORGIVEN" about their marriage problems since Ashley cheated.

                    Similarly to Now, the first few pages are celebrity articles, usually double page spreads, and are mainly the cover features. There is a big spread with loads of photos of Ashley and Cheryl looking happy together again. An article on the filming of the new series of Little Britain USA and pictures of the new American characters (that should be funny).
                    A fashion article on the celebrity look of the week, which apparently is blazers. Remind you of your school days? Readers emails and letters page, which is usually quite a funny read. Apparently Jennifer Aniston is dating Leo again, well that is the rumour in heat magazine this week, although there are no pictures of them together.

                    So just over half of the magazine (up to page 64) is about celebrity gossip and rumours (are they the same thing?!) Then comes to one of my favourite pages. The Hoop of Horror, where some celebrities have been caught out with their flies undone, or fake tan missing from their ankles or whatever. This weeks features Pamela Anderson, with her flies undone , Vanessa Feltz, Brad Pitt and Jerry Springer amongst others.#

                    The spotted! pages are also good, this is where viewers send in their celebrity spots of the week. Things like Ping Ping, the worlds smallest man was spotted having lunch at Ping Pong in central London. There are some celebrity facts about stars, an article on Richard & Judy, an interview with Alan Carr and a few photos from his family album.

                    There are then 18 pages on fashion. Who got it right, and who got wrong. Who wears it best, as well as some fashion tips.
                    There are some film reviews next, and the top ten films to watch. Top of the list is currently "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People" anyone reviewed that on dooyoo yet?

                    There are some music reviews next week, both singles (do people still buy singles nowadays?) and albums. Will Young and James Morrison have had their albums reviewed this week.

                    Then it is the turn of DVDs. Top of the DVD list this week is "Sex and the City: The movie".

                    There is even a book list review. Top of this list is "Look Who It Is" which is Alan Carrs memoirs.

                    Next is the HeatTV seven day pick of the weeks television. This is actually a TV guide for the 4th-10th October for BBC1, BBC2, ITV1. Channel4 andFive, as well as some choice picks from Heat.

                    At the end of the magazine is the regular feature, 10 questions we ask everyone, this week they have asked Simon Pegg.

                    - To summarise -

                    So, as you can see, both Heat and Now are very similar magazines, they contain celebrity gossip and fashion. The content is different, there have been different stories in both magazines this week, in fact there is barely any duplicate articles in the two. Overall, my personal preference is Heat magazine, it has more content, is slightly more pricey, but the articles, particularly this week are ones that appeal to me more. Both magazines are good to catch up on the celebrity gossip and will pass the time. At the end of the day though, they are both just celebrity gossip magazines.

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                    • Now / Magazine / Newspaper / 46 Readings / 49 Ratings
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                      02.10.2008 15:33
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                      Okay for a journey or to kill time on your lunch break

                      Now Magazine

                      I am rather partial to a celebrity trashy magazine every once in a while, and my two favourites are Heat and Now. I have decided to buy both and review them, so this first review is for Now.

                      The issue I have bought is 6 Oct 2008, and it cost £1.20.

                      The front cover advertises stories on Jade Goody and her new agony following her hysterectomy; Brangelinas crisis move to germany; Kym Ryder trying to get her partner to commit or it is all over; and Myleene and her "Quickie wedding secret".

                      The first 3 pages inside the magazine are adverts. A Next advert, which already loses points for me, I hate magazines that are full of adverts, especially a double spread advert, it just seems a waste of gossip inches to me, and then a Head & Shoulders advert.

                      The next 15 pages of the magazine show the stories advertised on the cover, all of this weeks celebrity gossip. Then there are 4 pages of outfits that the stars have worn this week on the red carpet. This consists of mostly the cast of Desperate Housewives.
                      There are two articles on the whole magazine that are not about celebrities, one is about a girl finding out she had breast cancer at a wedding dress fitting, and the other about a girl who killed her 4 year old who had cerebral palsy. The rest of the magazine is pretty much taken up with celebrity stylings and gossip.

                      There are 18 pages of Fashion, starting with the Hotlist - this weeks colour to wear, which is apparently hot pink. Then we are told it is the week to try the Layered look. There are 5 suggested outfits to copy, and a couple of celebrities showing how it is done.
                      Style Stalker is where readers write in and ask where celebrities got their clothes from, so if there is a particular dress you liked on Eastenders, you can write in and be advised where it came from.

                      Next there is a bag review page. I am a bag fan, and there are 30 bags or so being suggested, apparently the brighter the better! They are a bit too bright for me, leopard print isn't my cup of tea.

                      To be honest, I find the fashion pages a bit dull. Considering most of the magazine is about celebrity gossip, you can check out what they are wearing on all of the other pages, nevermind dedicating 18 pages (including some adverts) to fashion.

                      We then move onto Beauty, there is a special on boobs, and how to love them. This includes advise on getting a boob job. Hello? I thought this was about loving your boobs, surely you should be encouraging people to love what they have got, big or small, instead of encouraging them to get them changed.

                      There are some reviews for shine serum - surely they should know you can get some good reviews for that kind of thing on dooyoo? :-)

                      Problem pages - these are always great for a laugh. Ask Dr Dawn - is a bit disappointing, there are only 2 questions on there. Luckily there is another section - Agony forum, this sounds more interesting. This is all about sex. There is even a dilemma that the readers of the magazine can write in and give advice about.

                      Holiday news and this week focuses on Siena in Italy and has some good deals and suggestions.

                      The rest of the magazine is a bit of a hotchpotch of Horoscopes, a recipe for chicken Caesar salad, some readers comments, whats on TV highlights, and an interview with an Ugly Betty Star as well as a fair few adverts.

                      In total 100 pages of magazine, including the front and back cover. With 31 pages of that taken up with adverts, that's 35% of the magazine on advertising, quite a high amount I would say.

                      The magazine is published weekly, and the magazine described above is a pretty average magazine. Depending on the time of year the coverage changes, so when Big Brother is on, there is a lot of big brother gossip in the magazine. This weeks has an interview with Lisa Snowdon who is currently taking part in Strictly Come Dancing, so I imagine over the coming weeks, this television show will be featured heavily.

                      For £1.20 this magazine is not too expensive, it is not the cheapest celebrity magazine out, and I must admit, I have thought it was thicker than other cheaper magazines and therefore would contain more articles, but since counting the number of pages taken up by adverts, it has opened my eyes a little, and I might try the other magazines and review them to see how this compares in actual article space.

                      The magazine passed a lunch break for me, I definitely wouldn't bother buying this every week as there is only so much fashion and celebrity styling that you can take. A recommended magazine to take on a plane, or a bus journey to while away an hour or so.

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                      • facebook.com / Internet Site / 56 Readings / 55 Ratings
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                        01.10.2008 11:35
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                        If you want to catch up with old mates it is a good tool!

                        Summary and brief History

                        Addictive site to have a good old nosey and what your friends are doing, and who they are poking!!
                        Facebook is fast becoming a global phenomenon. It is a social networking site where you can check up on your friends and people you used to know but have lost touch with.

                        It was launched on the 4th February 2004, and was the invention of Mark Zuckerberg who came up with the concept for Harvard students while he was studying there. It was later expanded to include other colleges in the Ivy League, then any university student, then high school student and finally to anyone aged 13 or over.

                        The website is free, and generates revenue from advertising.

                        What is it all about?

                        Basically, users sign up and create themselves an account, they can then join a network (lacking somewhat in England, but supposed to be by city, workplace, school and region - the nearest network for Norfolk is London!). These networks are supposed to help people from within the same networks connect with others from within the same network - but as you can imagine London is a pretty big network, covering at least as far as Norfolk! You can then search for and add friends. Once someone is your friend (and depending on security settings discussed later) you can then view their profile.

                        People can set a status against their name advising people of what they are doing, or to show a message. e.g. Melissa is... aching from the gym or Sam is... selling his car, does anyone want to buy it?

                        Other people can view at a glance, all of their friends statuses, which is quite a good way of finding out if your friends have been up to anything exciting, like having a baby, or getting married, or even if they have just been out on the razzle without you!!
                        Once your curiosity has been peaked by your friends status, you could then go in and have a look at their profile, which is displayed on their "wall" and see any pictures that they have uploaded of their wedding, baby, or night out without you. This is always good for a laugh, and you can could check out your ex boyfriend, and relish in how much weight he has gained and how he really has let himself go since he split up with you :-)

                        When you upload photos, you can tag people in them, so if you upload a picture of you and your mates on a night out, you can tag each of your friends in the picture, and they will be sent a notification advising them that you have tagged them.

                        When you log into facebook, you can view a news feed, which sums up all the activity that your friends have been doing. So if they have edited their profile, or changed their profile picture, or even uploaded photos, this will be displayed in the news feed.

                        You can write on your friends walls, leave them messages, or even "poke" them, using a poking application.

                        Applications - now this is a bad point for me. There are hundreds of applications created for facebook, these range from games, to quizzes and are all time wasters. You can play various games like scrabble, word games, ten pin bowling and the likes, and then compare your score with your friends as long as you download the application to your profile. There are millions of quizzes you can do which will advise you on which Pink Lady you are most like, or which Spice Girl you would be.

                        These applications when you download them, make you send invites to other people, most of them force you to send at least 10 invites. This means that every time you log onto facebook you are inundated with requests from your friends to add scrabble, or the Spice Girls quiz to your profile.


                        Security and some advice
                        You can set security settings on your profile, so that only people who are your friends can view your details, and this is a good idea to help go someway to preventing identity fraud. Which brings me onto one of the downsides of facebook - I have watched programmes revealing how easy it would be, using the details you add on facebook, for a stranger to clone your identity.
                        Some tips I know of to prevent this happening are:

                        * Don't put your full date of birth on the site - at least make sure the year of your birth is not available, but preferably don't put your DOB on there at all.

                        * Make sure that your address is not on the site anywhere at all.

                        * If someone requests to add you as a friend, make sure that you know them, and they aren't adding you to find out your details, to then clone your identity.

                        Overall Facebook is quite addictive, I usually check my facebook once a day to see if anything new and exciting has happened!
                        As a result of millions of workers checking their facebooks, or playing games, a lot of companies have blocked their employees from accessing it at work. So beware if you don't use it now, if you sign up you may become addicted!!

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                        • More +
                          26.09.2008 15:32
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                          Kids and adults will enjoy this fun game

                          Drawn to Life

                          I first saw this game on the shelf in Sainsburys a while ago, and the cover of it looked so childlike, that I didn't even bother to pick it up and see what it is about. I have seen it a few times since, and it still looked a little childish for me.

                          I was then given it to play on my DS, and haven't looked back since. I haven't yet completed it, but have been playing it for a while, so thought I would be alright to give it a review.

                          The initial difference between this game and other platforms games, is that you are the "creator" and you can draw your own playable character as well as weapons, and scenery.

                          You start off in a village, where the Raposas live. (Raposas are little people) It is here that you learn the story of the Raposas, and theie creator who drew their world and everything in it, but then abandoned them long ago.

                          The Raposas beg you to help them, and you create the hero for them. You meet different Raposa villagers along the way, including Wilfre who used to be a villager, but stole the book of life and ripped all of the pages from it. The idea being that the book of life contains all of the creators drawings, like the sun (so when you arrive in the village it is really dark and you cannot see)and the rain.

                          This part of the game for me is the most tedious, and I guess the game is really aimed at children, so it would probably suit them, but the story is quite a big aspect of the game play, and you speak to a certain character, who tells you to go and speak to someone else, then you have to go to a specific location and it is a little long winded, but not too annoying.

                          In the Village are hidden gateways, which you find as part of the story. Once you have found the gateways, every now and then the villagers ask you to go through and find the specific pages from the Book of Life (remember the ones that Wilfre ripped out).
                          Going through the gateway you can access different levels (depending on how far you have reached) and this is like a platform game. You can jump around and collect tokens, find secret areas where orbs are found which you can purchase from the village shop (such as a new song). This for me, is the best part of the game, as I like platform games. This is old style 2D platform like Mario Brothers or Donkey Kong.

                          You find the pages from the Book of Life within the platform element, and also rescue other villagers along the way who either got lost or ran away when Wilfre became bad. These villagers then come back with you through the gate to the village and become part of the storyline.

                          Every now and again, you will reach an artists easel within the platform game, when you reach this you are required to draw/create/colour in an item which you will use within the game eg a whale to ride on the water with, or a sledge, or even your weapons such as acorn shooters and snowball launchers. This aspect of the game is quite cute.

                          As I say I haven't finished the game yet, so cant comment on the whole game, but so far, after quite a few hours of game play it seems that I still have a way to go, but I am enjoying it. I like the platform aspect of the games, collecting the coins and searching for the special items hidden around the screens. I also like being able to colour in or create the different objects as we go. For me, it is just the storyline which is a bit tedious, but it isn't too annoying. I would recommend this game for children 8 years and upwards, but it is not such a kiddies game a I originally assumed from the packaging. It is suitable for adults to play too.

                          Drawn to Life can be purchased from Amazon for £12.48 at the time of writing (26th Sep 08).

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                          • More +
                            26.09.2008 11:12
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                            Might be a worth a visit, but not a second

                            Amazona Zoo - Cromer

                            This is a new tourist attraction in Cromer, on the North Norfolk Coast which was opened in June 2008.
                            Four of us went to visit on a boiling hot day (I think the only day of summer this year) in July.
                            We arrived in Cromer, and followed the brown signs to Amazona, which were pretty clear and obvious to follow until we arrived in the carpark, which was quite big, and pretty empty. We were one of about 20 cars. We walked over a board walk and into the zoo, where we paid £8.50 each to enter. As we had printed off vouchers from the zoos website, we each got 50p off our ticket!

                            First impressions were good, it is obviously new as the boardwalks are in really good condition, but there was no litter laying around, and the staff were all friendly. We started walking round the zoo, and it was not long before we realised we were going the wrong way round. Now I am a bit of a rebel, so I didn't mind going round the zoo backwards, it saves you from following the masses anyway!!
                            So we started off with some big cats. Jaguars and Pumas which were very cute, they were just lazing around in the shade. The big cats enclosures have 2 fences surrounding them, one inner fence, and then about a foot apart another fence, I guess to prevent members of the public from climbing over the wooden posts surrounding the enclosure, and putting their hands through the fence and being bitten. The enclosures seemed to be of a reasonable size, and had a wooden tree stump with a couple of branches for them to climb up. I always feel sorry for the animals when I get to a zoo because they seem so sad and bored in there.
                            There was an emu and some Maras, that look like a cross between a hare and a deer.
                            There were also some parrots in cages near here, which made us jump by flying at us as we looked in!
                            An indoor section of the zoo was the reptile area. This was really hot, especially with the weather on the day we looked round, we couldn't spend too much time in here. In the middle of the reptile enclosure is a raised murky pool which contains fish that you would be likely to find in the Amazon river. These fish are pretty big, I cant remember what they were, but the water is very dark and murky to simulate the conditions so you have to look closely. There are some small crocodiles in a pool next to this tank, they were sunbathing when we saw them.

                            The rest of the zoo is outside. In the middle is a large section where the tapirs and capybaras are found. The Tapir is related to the rhinoceros and has a long snout like an anteater. It shares the enclosure with the capybaras which looked like massive guineapigs to me.
                            There is also a picnic area near here.
                            The monkey enclosure is my favourite section, and there were a group of spider monkeys in a big enclosure with lots of rope to swing on and tree stumps and branches to climb. The monkeys seemed fascinated by the young children that were looking at them, and kept coming over to look at them through the fence. The Marmosets were in an indoor enclosure at the time we saw them, eating carrots they looked very cool with their fluffy white ears peeking out at us.

                            The rest of the park is birds. Flamingos, water birds and parrots.
                            The park is well laid out, and the paths that take you round have animal footprints and leaves etched in, which look quite cool, but my sister stubbed her toe on a bit of it (it is quite uneven in places) and cut it open. Luckily a kind lady in the toilets gave her a plaster!
                            We purchased an ice cream from the café and sat looking out over the park from the terrace which was lovely, as it was so warm it did kind of feel like we were in a different country, with the noises the birds and monkeys were making.

                            I asked a member of staff about expansion, as the park itself seemed a little small, and the majority of the park seemed to be taken up by birds, so I wondered if there were any plans to introduce some new animals, but she didn't seem too sure.

                            All in all it was a good afternoon out, it didn't take very long to walk round the park, and I found it a little disappointing that it was mostly birds, with only a couple of cats and a group of monkeys as bigger animals. We did enjoy it, but we all said we probably wouldn't bother going back again, particularly as there is quite a wide range of animal parks in Norfolk which are better.

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                            • Soups / Recipe / 46 Readings / 47 Ratings
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                              25.09.2008 17:09
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                              Try it, it really is good

                              Spicy Corn Soup

                              I thought I would share with you all the soup that I am addicted to at the moment. It really is so delicious, and perfect for this time of year now that Autumn is officially here and we have to start putting the heating on. This will keep you warm and snug and will fill you up, as well as being low in fat .

                              The ingredients that you will need are:
                              2 tins of sweetcorn (I just use supermarket own brand roughly 19p per tin)

                              1 tin of reduced fan coconut milk (roughly 95p for 400ml tin)

                              Some thai green curry paste (I buy it in the jar, and leave it in my fridge to make more and more batches of the soup - average about £1.50 per jar)

                              Now for the easy bit. This really is the most simplest recipe!

                              Open the tins of sweetcorn, being careful not to cut yourself on the sharp tin lids (I feel like I am on Blue Peter).
                              Pour the sweetcorn into a pan, and place on the hob (which is turned on!)

                              Open the tin of coconut milk (I used reduced fat so that this is a healthy version, but I guess you could use full fat if you wanted - I cant imagine it would make much difference though.

                              Pour the coconut milk into the pan with the sweetcorn and give it a stir. Fill the empty coconut can with water, and swill round to get all the last dredges of milk out of it, and add that to the pan.
                              Get as much thai green curry paste as you like (I like things spicy, so put in a good tablespoon of it) and place in the pan with the sweetcorn and the coconut milk. Stir it all round.

                              As the soup heats up the curry paste will melt into the soup.
                              Bring it to the boil, and leave to simmer for a few minutes before blending the soup.

                              The soup is now a creamy yellow colour and is quite a thick consistency, if you would like it to be less thick, simply add some more water.

                              Then sit back and enjoy it, maybe with some crusty bread.
                              Yum!

                              I manage to get 4 large bowls of soup out of this recipe, but if you are making it to a less dense consistency then you can get more.

                              The total ingredients above works out around £1.83, for four bowls is 46p per bowl, plus don't forget you still have most of the jar of curry paste left in your fridge for the next batch!

                              **UPDATE**
                              Tried this with red thai curry paste as well, as Tescos doent seem to have the green one in at the moment, and red works just as well, and gives it a hotter kick.
                              Yummy!

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                              • More +
                                25.09.2008 13:33
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                                Well worth a visit

                                Norwich - Norfolk

                                Norwich - full of carrot munching farmers ooh arr, with tractor exhibitions and combine harvesters. Is this your view of Norwich?

                                Read on, and I hope to give you an insight into Norwich which will change your stereotypical opinion.

                                I live in Norfolk, and Norwich is the capital of the county. It is a "Fine City" don't you know? Well at least that is what the signs tell you as you enter the outskirts of Norwich.

                                Norwich is serviced by the A11, A47 and the A140 to name the major routes. As visitors to Norfolk will know much to their disdain, Norfolk doesn't have any motorways. Good for people who don't want to leave Norfolk, and bad for people who want to travel outside of this beautiful county! However it might be a clever ploy to retain people within the county.

                                Norwich is the home to over 50 national and regional headquarters and household names such as Norwich Union, Virgin, Unilever, Kettle Foods, KLM, Lotus, Archant to name but a few.

                                At one time Norwich Union (now AVIVA) boasted that it could provide a job for life for all school leavers in Norwich. This obviously isn't the case anymore, but most people around the Norwich area have probably worked for AVIVA at one time or another (I certainly have - in fact I met my now husband there!)

                                Norwich has its very own airport, yes Norwich international. There are flights daily to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam which then provides worldwide links. Flybe is one of those cheaper airlines which now has flights going to and from Norwich as well.

                                The UEA (University of East Anglia) can be found in Norwich, and this is one of the UK's top universities , with an international reputation for teaching and research. Just round the corner from the UEA is the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital Foundation trust, which is a pretty new hospital which was moved from the city centre to Colney. It plays an important role in the teaching and training of a very wide range of health professionals.

                                The UEA also has one of the highest graduate retention rates in the country, with over 40% of graduates from the UEA living and working locally. People just don't want to leave once they have lived in Norfolk!

                                One of the reasons might be the nightlife! Norwich was voted best city for student nightlife and is packed with bars and cafes. A riverside complex was built with numerous bars, and nightclubs also cinema and bowling alley. Other than that the tombland area of Norwich is good for clubs and bars, and there are a few tasty Spanish tapas bars, and Italian restaurants round here too.

                                Norwich city centre is very beautiful, there are over 1500 historic buildings within the walled centre, two cathedrals and a Norman castle to name a few. There are six theatres, including the Theatre Royal , and one of only two puppet theatres in England. The Norwich puppet theatre is currently surviving on emergency funding and the theatre has got enough to stay open until Easter 2009 - if you wish to donate any money the link is http://www.justgiving.com/puppettheatre

                                Recently we had the elephant trail in Norwich, which was brilliant. Fifty-Three elephants (not real ones) were decorated and placed on the streets around Norwich and people were invited to take part in the elephant trail where they went round with map and camera in hand finding all of the elephants.

                                The elephants have just been auctioned off and raised a staggering £203,000 to go towards their real life counterparts as well as children with cancer.

                                Norwich City Football Club, or the canaries, are they are known, are based in Norwich. In their time they used to be okay, and have won the league cup twice, in 1962 and 1985. They are currently in the Championship and play at Carrow Road. Delia Smith (well know TV Cook) is one of the majority shareholders in the football club.

                                Here are a couple of other fascinating facts that I have found through my research:
                                In 1878, the first commercial long distance call in the UK was made between Colmans Carrow Works and Canon Street in London (maybe that was why they never bothered building the motorways!)

                                Following the 'riot' of 1274, Norwich had the rare distinction of being the only English city to be excommunicated by the Pope (again, is this why we never got a motorway?)

                                So there you have it, Norwich isn't just about farmers and agriculture, I hope I have managed to inspire you to visit this "Fine City" and see some of her worthwhile sights. As long as you don't mind taking the scenic route on the dual carriageways...

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                                • Walkers French Fries / Snacks / 45 Readings / 44 Ratings
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                                  25.09.2008 11:06
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                                  Good healthy snack as far as crisps go

                                  Walkers French Fries - Salt & Vinegar

                                  These French Fries that I am reviewing are part of a multipack, so the nutritional values may alter from those on an original pack sold.

                                  The front of the packet is predominantly green and says French Fries and Salt & Vinegar. A third of the front of the pack is red and shows the Walkers logo along with the calories, sugar, fat, saturates and salt content and the percentage this pack is of an adult's guideline daily amount. It also states that it is a multipack bag, and not for individual sale.

                                  The back of the packet has some spiel about Walkers - how they really want you to enjoy this snack, and they have made if better for you without changing the taste at all.

                                  According to the packet, French Fries now contain 80% less saturated fat (1) because they are cooked in one of the healthiest oils there is, called SUNSEED a special type of sunflower oil. This bag also apparently contains 45% less salt (2)

                                  (1) Than in 2006
                                  (2) Than in 2005

                                  Nutritional Values (per pack)
                                  Energy 342 kj / 82 kcal
                                  Protein 1.0g
                                  Carbohydrate 12.5g of which sugars 0.2g
                                  Fat 3.0g of which saturates 0.3g, mono saturates 2.5g, polyunsaturates 0.3g
                                  Fibre 1.0g
                                  Sodium 0.17g

                                  So how do they taste?

                                  French fries are very crunchy - they are not a quiet snack to eat, and I feel aware when I am eating them that I am making a lot of crunching noise (more than regular crisps). As I am eating these at work, I don't feel too bad about because in my office I have the loudest eater and drinker in the world, who slurps his tea in a disgusting manner, annoying the whole room - anyway, that is another story (I wonder if there is a review on peoples eating habits!)

                                  So, they are crunchy, what else? Well appearance wise they are long and thin. They are coated in the flavouring, which looks like a powdery salt. The flavouring is really tasty and quite strong you can taste both the vinegar and the salt clearly, and it leaves a tingle on your tastebuds.

                                  For the purpose of the review, I have tried to remove the flavouring from a fry, so I can tell you about the taste of it on its own. It is impossible to remove all of the flavouring, because, as mentioned earlier it is coated in the flavouring. However I can taste the fry, and it is a very plain taste, most of the taste is the crunch, if that makes sense, sounds weird, but as the taste isn't very strong when the flavour is missing, the texture comes into play a lot more, so as it is so crunchy, that is what the taste of the fry is like.

                                  Once I have finished eating the pack, there is a pool of flavouring left in the bottom of the pack, which I quite like dipping my finger in, which shows to me that the flavouring of the crisps is my favourite part.

                                  Why I chose to eat these?

                                  Well, as I have done weight watchers before, I know that the multipack version of French Fries is only 1 weight watcher point, which is quite low for such a largish snack. You can see that the amount of calories and saturated fat (the bad fat) is quite low, so these crisps are healthier than other crisps, even such packets as Walkers baked crisps, and Walkers lights.
                                  So in all I would recommend these crisps as a healthy alternative to other crisps, they are not my favourite crisp, but they do have a good flavour, and are reasonably low in fat.

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