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I have just started to play the djembe, and its not as easy as it looks. Being a beginner I chose a synthetic head, since the cold wet British weather tends to play havoc with natural skin heads. The two djembe I own I purchased from ebay. They were bargains, however it is worth remembering that these drums are heavy so the postage costs can be very high. Drums are often available second-hand, and I do recommend you chose a synthetic head if you are a beginner like me. In particular I recommend the Remo range of drums (www.remo.com). This company makes drums that are designed for use in schools so they are tough and durable. They come in a variety of patterns, my favourite being the Rainforest design, however the design itelf makes no difference to the sound the drums make. The kids djembe is about 14 inches tall, with a eight inch drum head. This is small enough to be tucked under the arm and light enough to be held between the knees for playing. The sound is surprisingly good for something so small and reasonably priced (although this drum costs up to £85 new, they can be found for much less, but beware of any postage costs. A favourite site of mine is www.knockonwood.co.uk. Their prices for percussion are very competitive. My newest djembe has a 14 inch head and is about 24 inches tall. It makes the most amazing sounds and I am very pleased with this purchase. This djembe would have cost almost £250 new but I was lucky enough to find someone on ebay local to me and they kindly delivered it to me when I won the bidding (thanks Gilly). I started playing drums when we had a percussionist visit my school. The kids and the teachers had a great time (www.rhythmbash.com). He explained about the shape of the drum being important in producing the sound, and we all made music. It was a wonderful day of drumming and I enjoyed it a lot.
Booking I booked on the Internet at www.travelodge.co.uk. This is very quick and easy. Some areas have lots of Travelodges, so its best to type in the postcode on the front page and a list of the nearest 5 Travelodges are given. Be careful, this is "as the crow flies" so check on a map the nearest really is the nearest by road. The room cost £30 per night, winter special rate. Breakfast not included. Finding the Travelodge Travelodge provide a very clear map in their directory (order one online) or you can print out from the site. In this case the Travelodge is located on the A61 north towards Sheffield, Chesterfield inner ring road on the northern outskirts of town. Its about 3 miles from junction 30 of the M1. Checking in I thought I had paid online but giving credit card details only reserves the room. Booking in and paying (cash, visa, switch) took less than 5 minutes. Facilities Standard Travelodge room with king size bed and sofa bed. There is a small amount of hanging space, extra quilt, pillows and spare sheet (to make up the sofa bed). Shower over bath is a "self-mixer" (the newer Travelodges have temperature controlled showers). Tea tray and kettle in the room, with extra supplies available for free (when reception is open). Make sure you arrive prepared with toiletries etc, these can be bought from reception but are expensive and choice is limited. TV reception was appalling, snowy/distorted picture on all channels. Nearby I was given vouchers to get 20% off the adjacent Little Chef (there is also a Burger King) but I'd noticed a Tesco store nearby so I ate there (much better value). At the time of writing (January 2004) Tesco do a twelve item all day breakfast for £2.99. Magic value.
Booking I booked on the Internet at www.travelodge.co.uk. This is very quick and easy. Some areas have lots of Travelodges, so its best to type in the postcode on the front page and a list of the nearest 5 Travelodges are given. Be careful, this is "as the crow flies" so check on a map the nearest really is the nearest by road. The room cost £30 per night, winter special rate. Breakfast not included. Finding the Travelodge Travelodge provide a very clear map in their directory (order one online) or you can print out from the site. In this case the Travelodge is located approximately 4 miles south of Shrewsbury at the A5/A49 roundabout. Parking is plentiful and free. Checking in I thought I had paid online but giving credit card details only reserves the room. Booking in and paying (cash, visa, switch) took less than 5 minutes. Facilities Standard Travelodge room with king size bed and sofa bed. There is a small amount of hanging space, extra quilt, pillows and spare sheet (to make up the sofa bed). Shower over bath is a "self-mixer" (the newer Travelodges have temperature controlled showers). Tea tray and kettle in the room, with extra supplies available for free (when reception is open). Make sure you arrive prepared with toiletries etc, these can be bought from reception but are expensive and choice is limited. Nearby Next door is a Little Chef with pizza and Harry Ramsden takeaway. Takeaway is very good value, especially since I was given a 20% Travelodge customer discount. Opening hours vary. There is also a Dobies garden centre which has a market style food area. Two minutes walk brings you to a petrol station. Hints and Tips Within five minutes drive is a Sainsburys which opens at 7am, idea for buying cereal and milk (from roundabout take exit towards Shrewsbury, superstore signposted). This is also the park and ride into Shrewsbury.
Booking I booked on the Internet at www.travelodge.co.uk. This is very quick and easy. Some areas have lots of Travelodges, so its best to type in the postcode on the front page and a list of the nearest 5 Travelodges are given. Be careful, this is "as the crow flies" so check on a map the nearest really is the nearest by road. The room cost £30 per night, winter special rate. Breakfast not included. Finding the Travelodge Travelodge provide a very clear map in their directory (order one online) or you can print out from the site. In this case the Travelodge is located on the motorway service area just off junction 4 of the M65 towards Blackburn. Parking is plentiful and free. Checking in I thought I had paid online but giving credit card details only reserves the room. Booking in and paying (cash, visa, switch) took less than 5 minutes. Facilities There was a small amount of building work going on here, so entrance was through the "general facilities" doors. No ground floor accommodations, key card needed to enter the Travelodge, exit the lobby and activate the lift. Tea tray and kettle in the room, with extra supplies available for free (when reception is open). Make sure you arrive prepared. Nearby Next door (covered access) is a Little Chef with pizza and Harry Ramsden takeaway. Takeaway is very good value, especially since I was given a 20% Travelodge customer discount. Opening hours vary. There is also a McDonalds, which was well populated by kids from the nearby housing estate. Two minutes walk brings you to a petrol station with small 24-hour supermarket. Hints and Tips My journey into Blackburn failed to offer any supermarkets or leisure facilities. While I was there, installation of pay-per-view TV was happening.
I love to shop. I hate spending money. Where does that leave me (and my wallet)? The answer to my conundrum is e-bay. To be able to bid you need to register - the hardest part of using the site. For security they send a password to the e-mail address you have given them - so type it carefully! Once you have registered then you are able to buy and sell. On the home page, e-bay lists general categories like antiques, automotive, books, coins, etc. If you click on one of these categories (for example books), that brings up a further list of sub-categories like audio, children, fiction. Be careful, you can spend hours reading through what people are offering for sale. Anyone want a 1936 Ayshire digest? You can use the basic search facilities within these sub-categories. For example, if you are in the category Annuals, you can search for 1970 and chose from the huge number of annuals published in that year (an ideal gift for someone born in that year). When using the search facility, beware of using too general a term (like star wars) which will bring up 1000's of hits. A more specific term like star wars DVD will take you to the two or three on offer. And dont forget, if ebay dont have it this week, goodies are being added every minute so check back often. When you do start bidding or selling items, then your most useful page will be "my ebay". There you can see every item you are bidding on, and check on the progress of the items you are selling. Ebay also offer a facility to "watch" an item, so if something catches you eye but is several days off the end of the auction then you can add it to your list and bid nearer the closing date. Be careful of leaving it too late tho, towards the close of bidding some items can get very busy. The best items to sell are those small enough, and robust enough to post. There are 1000's of CDs, DVDs, videos and games for sale, so before you pay out the full price see wha
t ebay has to offer. Shop carefully though, because some items I have sold have gone for MORE than I paid for them. Use dooyoo to check prices before you bid. And remember in most cases the seller will expect the buyer to pay postage, so watch out for that added cost. Read the descriptions carefully. Make sure that what you are buying is exactly what you want. Although, having said that, the couple of times I have accidentally bought something that turned out to be not what I was expecting it to be (in one case I bought the same DVD twice, my fault for not checking I was bidding again on the SAME item) I just put it straight back on e-bay (and in the case of the duplicate DVD I even made a 50p profit). E-bay also offer a local service, where you can search for items available in your area (I guess this is to rival the for sale ads in the local newspapers). I am trying this out with a couple of items that really are too large (and expensive) to post. To avoid selling these items too cheaply I have put quite a high reserve on them, and I have stated clearly that the buyer pays full postage and packing if they are unable to pick them up from me. This is also handy if you want to see the goods before you hand over your money, especially if a lot of money is involved.
How many of us long for the kind of Christmases we see on The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie, where the gifts exchanged are hand made with love, or purchased with pennies that have been hoarded all year? The recipient carefully unwraps the childishly wrapped gift, and gratefully wraps the scarf around his neck or pins the brooch to her throat, blinking back the tears of joy. The most welcome gifts for most of us are not the flashy but useless stuff but the items chosen with care. Take a few moments to think about the recipient of the gift. Someone who adores a certain brand of perfume (and there is nothing more flattering than being asked what fragrance one is wearing) would be delighted with the matching soap or bath oil. Grandparents adore gifts of recent photographs of their growing family, especially if presented in an attractive frame. Food and drink are always welcome, choose one or two luxury items, and present in an attractive box or carton. A couple of bottles or sherry or sparkling wine, or whiskey and champagne if your budget stretches to it, make excellent last minute gifts that suit male and female, young and old alike. I am also a great believer in gift vouchers. M&S were always my old standby, however I now prefer to choose those that can be spent in a range of stores, for example Kingfisher (Woolies, Superdrug, B&Q) or Waterstones/HMV vouchers. Whatever your final choice, make sure you don't look too disappointed when you get the usual round of socks and bobble hats!
I was patting myself on the back three years ago when I secured myself a fixed rate mortgage at a VERY good rate from my local high street Nationwide. This does have several terms and conditions applied to it, one of which is that I MUST purchase my buildings and contents insurance through the Nationwide. The rates seemed very competitive however, and so I signed on the dotted line. A couple of months ago I had need to make a claim when the wash basin overflowed and damaged the hall ceiling. I hunted out my dusty documents, telephoned the claim number (a local rate call, not freephone) and was shocked when the (very long) recorded message informed me that I was through to Nationwide insurance, and that "they shared information regarding claims with other insurers to protect themselves against fraud". I was surprised, shocked even, that even before I had discussed my claim with Nationwide I had already been "warned off" making a fraudulent claim. The Nationwide operator talked me through the problem, agreed that my policy covered the damage, minus the excess, and said a tradesman would contact me directly to resolve the problem (a new ceiling and re-wallpaper the hall). The tradesman they appointed (a company called Rainbow, who obviously subcontracted the work, since all the vans that turned up had other names on them) duly arrived, told me it would take two days (with one day inbetween for the plaster to dry). To cut a l-o-n-g story short, the tradesmen were a bunch of cowboys who made more damage, thus occupying my home for seven days in total, yet despite repeated calls to Nationwide I have been unable to get an apology or assurance they will not use this company in the future. No doubt the Nationwide has paid they cowboys and they have moved on to the next victim.
Situated near to Debenhams, the Santa Fe is jewel amonst the over-priced, over-cooked and over-crowded bars and eateries that are cashing in on the shopping sensation that is the Oracle in Reading. Its even worth NOT booking so that you can sip one of the various Margaritas at the bar while you wait for your table to be called. There must be about 20 different varieties, certainly enough to keep you going back to try "just one more". The menu is a delight, enough variety to satisfy any palate and the waitress was more than happy to guide my partner through the less spicy delicacies. We started with shrimp, the cajun spiced version that had just the right amount of bite, my partner chose steak for his main course (delicious, he exclaimed, cuts like butter) and I chose a spicy Hoki (fish) dish from the specials board. We shared a dessert, a huge brownie served with home-made ice cream. The coffee maker was playing up, our cappucinos arrived well after we had finished pudding, so the waitress deducted them, and the pudding, from the bill by way of an apology. The bill, therefore, was a modest £47 for the two of us, which included two drinks each. Excellent food, efficient service, comfortable surroundings.
I was due to go for a job interview and two days before I just knew I was getting a cold. Not liking the usual lemsip type remedies, I browsed the shelves at Boots and came across these. The package contained enough pills for five days, and cost about the same as the other cold remedies, but my goodness did they work quickly. I started to feel better a few hours after I had taken the first dosage, and by the time of the interview I was on top form again. Unlike the usual cold remedies, Echinacea does not seem to have any side effects. I usually suffer from a dry throat and nose with lemsip, and my muscles still ache, but with Echinacea I felt well all over. Unfortunately, the day after the packet had finished (five days supply), my cold returned with a vengence, and I spent two days in bed with a box of tissues and a hot water bottle. Next time I will take two ro three packets, up to the recommended fourteen days and see if that works.
I had a surprise when I logged on today. My excite start page has gone all halloweeny with pumpkins and ghosts running around on it. Had an even bigger surprise when I logged on to myoffers so see twinkling christmas trees in what must be the first Christmas competition of 2000. Don't think too badly of the site, however, as they aim to get the prize to you (all £1500 of it) so you can have a pre-Christmas shopping spree (the best Christmas ever I guess). This site is very easy to use and navigate. You do need to give them some personal information when you sign up, and each prize draw needs more personal information. The prizes range from a few pounds (cook books and the like) to round the world air tickets and wads of cash. The site keeps a record of the comps you have entered, and they even have a new comps page so regulars like me can go straight to the comps without wasting valuable online time. Even if you are not lucky enough to win a prize, you will easy collect enough "clicks" for a mousemat (and we can never have enough of them). myoffers are now doing a referral scheme, so if you like this review and you like the site I would be grateful if you could put mrsbbq as your referrer.
I like a bargain (as in I like to breathe). Nothing pleases me more than when my half-price undies from figleaves.com arrive or my discounted book from amazon.co.uk. So imagine the scene when I was waiting to pay for my shopping in Sainsburys (real life, not dotcom), and I could just about make out the words "cokeauction" around the bottle two people in front of me. Near panic gripped me, what was I missing out on? Torn between the expense of purchasing a bottle or following the other shoppers home and going through their garbage, I INVESTED 69 pence in my own bottle. The rest, as they say, is history. Within the first week of the site going live I had recruited just about everyone in my corner of the office to sign up for their 500 free credits and soon the little brown jiffy bags began to roll in. The quality and value of the items we managed to get in that first week has varied immensely: we found the blue beads and silver photo frame in a "clearance" store for £1.99, the teeny tiny maglite retails for £6.99 in a local camping store) and the daft microphone recorder keyring is in an Innovations type catalogue for £9.99. I managed to get two sets of makeup in that first week for my 500 points and the Max Factor lipstick is a gorgeous colour. In a few days the "prices" began to rise. Bidding is most furious in the hour or so before the auction closes, and you need to be a serious coke addict (the brown stuff not the white stuff) to get anything these days. Its kinda tempting to cruise the train, inspecting everyones rubbish in the hopes of that sparkly red ring pull. I'm still a minor league player, congrats to Rowena for getting her DVD player and to Scott who gets a couple of items PER WEEK (but can he still chew?) Coke auction labels are now few and far between, none in my local supermarkets anymore, still able to pick up the occasional can from the newsagent. It will be interesting to see if the bi
dding levels off, or gets even more crazy as everyone tries to dump what they have collected. Cans and bottles are now in
X-rated Disney movie, geeky scientist injects invisibility potion and goes on mad rampage. Does all those things he wanted to do but did not dare: undresses sleeping co-worker, terrifies next door neighbour, spies on ex-girlfriend and her lover. Unable to change back, he plots to kill the witnesses to his invisibility. Most memorable are the tremendous special effects, a gorilla is made to "reform" from the injection working its way along the blood vessels to make organs, muscles and finally the skin and fur appearing. Later we watch as the scientist disappears, skin tears away, organs disolve, then finally the skeleton melts, leaving only a dent in the bed. Shying away from the traditional chair moving/door opening plot devices to allow us to track the invisible man, water, steam and blood (yuk) outline his body as he goes about his murderous rampage. It seems that this film was made to pander to the voyeur market. Teens (despite its 18 rating) will no doubt strip it from the shelves when the video is released. Tasteless, plotless, gruesome and scary.
Watching Jonathan Edwards take the triple jump gold medal, showing maturity and technique triumphing over the strength of youth, that was something worth watching, Seeing Clint Eastwood and co being sent for 10 mile runs, that's not even close to funny or clever. Tommy Lee Jones and Clint still look good (with their clothes on), but poor James Garner should have halved his tanning time and doubled his dose of pain medication, the poor guy could hardly stand never mind jog. Donald Sutherland snaffled the best dialogue, and with his twinkling eyes and sexy-flirty line in patter he was the only believable character. Clint misfired hopelessly on the maturity of age strengths, insisting on dragging out some old feud between him and Tommy, leading to the most unconvincing fist fight since Mike and Ken on Coronation Street. The reason they all (finally) got up into space was the strongest part of the plot, the media loved the old guys, and in the USA the public get what the public want. Acing the interview with Jay Leno, our heroes could do no wrong, The space footage is fabulous, glorious views of earth and astounding SFX of the space station exploding and spewing debris across the screen. I'd give this 2 out of 10, a couple of good laughs but messy, tedious plot and tired, unconvincing acting.
I got a free sachet of this the other day and I could not wait to try it. Like all of the Original Source bath treats, this looks good enough to eat, thick and gooey like orange sauce, with a delicious fruity fragrance. It foams up well on a body puff, and left my skin feeling soft and not at all dry or itchy. The sachet easily had enough for two showers, and it can be used as a shampoo, so a great item to take on holiday or if you hate cluttered bath rooms. I loved it.
My friends are producing sprogs left, right and (erm) center, so the usual nipping down to the pub has recently been put on hold until we can find a kiddie's welcome brew house. We tried out the fast food joints (nil points) and meeting in the park is OK when the sun shines, but luckily we then stumbled upon Debenhams cafe. This riverside venue is smartly decorated in blonde wood and tile floors, plenty of room between the tables for the baby buggy, nice clean baby changing facilities and (most important) they have a nice selection of chilled white wines. Debenhams has recently won a child friendly award, and they are proudly displaying this fact. The baby chairs now carry the legend "VIP", food for the baby is provided free for the baby in a smart blue and green two portion dish, and bottle warmers are provided on request. Update - what a difference a few weeks can make. Debenhams have changed the menu, making the least expensive dish about a fiver, however they now offer a cheap "fast track" menu (that was not being offered the day we visited). The disabled lift was blocked by furniture, so we struggled upstairs with the buggy, and waited so long to get served we left without placing an order. Hopeless!