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msvforb
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Member since: 29.07.2009

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    • Nestlé Aero Bubbles / Chocolate / 26 Readings / 24 Ratings
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      20.08.2009 13:18
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      A great sweet treat.

      I've always loved Aero chocolate but don't always fancy a standard bar so when I discovered Aero Bubbles a few years ago I was delighted. These chocolates are available in the standard and mint versions but as I've most recently eaten the standard chocolates this review is based on these.

      The Pack:

      Aero Bubbles come in two sizes, the 135g bag designed for sharing and the standard bag. Strangely the standard bag doesn't have a weight printed on it but I would estimate that each bag contains about 35 - 40g of chocolate or about 15 individual chocolates.

      The packaging is the standard Aero chocolate brown and white with the usual Aero and Nestle logos on the front which makes the chocolates really distinctive on the shelf. There is also a picture of a few of the chocolates on the front (including one with a chunk cut out so that you can see what they look like inside). The larger "sharing" bags can easily be stood on end which is really useful.

      The Chocolate

      The pack says "chocolate is tastier when it melts, and bubbly chocolate melts better. That's why we fill Aero with bubbles and the reason you get such an intense pleasure"

      Each individual chocolate is a spherical shape with a diameter about the size of a penny. The chocolate is smooth on the outside but on biting in you can see the promised bubbles. The chocolate does indeed melt quickly and has the lovely Nestle taste. I really enjoy Nestle chocolate as I don't find it too sweet unlike some similar brands.


      Price and Availability:

      These chocolates are available in most supermarkets and newsagents and are sometimes available in the larger size bags at cinemas, theatres and other similar venues.

      A standard size bag costs about 59p with the larger bag costing £1.89 in my local newsagent, about average for this size product.

      Nutritional Information:

      100g of the chocolates contains a whopping:

      526 calories
      56.1g sugar
      30.5g fat (of which 19.6g is saturated fat)
      0.2g salt

      Obviously these chocolates are not particularly healthy but in my opinion if you have a few as a treat now and then, they are no more bad for you than any other chocolate you might choose.

      These chocolates are made with vegetable fat and as such are suitable for vegetarians.

      In summary I really enjoy Aero Bubbles and will be buying some more next time I fancy some chocolate.

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      • More +
        13.08.2009 18:20
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        Great for families wanting everything in the one resort.

        When I was small my family and I would often spend our summer holidays at the seaside here in the UK, often this was at an independent hotel, B&B or caravan park but occasionally we went to Butlins and I have many happy memories of those times. Now, many years later I find myself taking my holidays here in the UK again and so I've been back to Butlins a few times lately.

        Booking Your Stay:

        You can book a Butlins break either via a travel agent, over the phone direct or on their website www.butlins.com. I tend to book online and have found the process really easy, there are also sometimes discounts available for booking online. A £70 deposit is payable on booking with the balance becoming payable about six to eight weeks before your break.

        The one thing that really annoys me about booking with Butlins is that it's not possible to book self catering break for less than three people. Whilst I appreciate that the Butlins self catering accommodation has all been built with at least two bedrooms and therefore can sleep four people I don't think that you should be penalised as a couple by having to pay for four people just to get accommodation with cooking facilities or pay for food you're not going to eat and have to eat out all the time. Because of this all my recent stays have been in dinner, bed & breakfast accommodation and so that is what is reviewed further below.

        Location:

        One of the things that I really love about this particular camp is its location. The Skegness resort is in fact just outside Skegness in neighbouring Ingoldmells. It is just over 2 miles from Skegness town centre and about a mile from Fantasy Island in Ingoldmells. It is also just a short drive/bus ride away from some lovely quieter villages and towns both on the coast and further in land.

        Getting There:

        It is possible to book travel to the resort when booking your break but I've always arranged this separately at a later date. The camp is situated on the main road between Skegness and Ingoldmells and so is easily accessible by car, there is plenty of parking on site. Alternatively there are frequent train services to Skegness from Nottingham and Grantham and frequent bus services to Butlins itself from Skegness. There are also usually lot so taxis at the station or you can book one in advance with Red Cars the resort's preferred cab firm.

        Accommodation:

        Butlins accommodation is divided into three categories, standard, silver and gold, the price and quality of the accommodation increasing as you move up from standard - silver - gold. I've been to Butlins several times over the last few years and have stayed in all three and for me the phrase 'you get what you pay for' couldn't be more appropriate.

        Standard accommodation is very basic, think a slightly updated version of the chalets in Hi-de-hi! For those staying in dinner, bed and breakfast accommodation the accommodation comprises a room with double or twin beds, a cabinet with a TV and a single built in cupboard/wardrobe. Tea and coffee making facilities are provided but stocks aren't replenished during your stay as there is no housekeeping service. Whilst the rooms always appear clean on arrival I have noticed there is usually a slight smell of damp in the standard rooms. Bathrooms are basic but clean and towels are not provided.

        The only real plus point that this accommodation has is that it's currently located right in the centre of the park near both the main entrance and most of the entertainment and other facilities. Of course this means that it can get a lot more noisy than some of the other accommodation which can be a decent walk away from the centre.

        Silver accommodation tends to be situated a little further away from the centre of the resort and is therefore in a quieter area. The rooms are generally a bit more comfortable and modern but otherwise very similar to standard accommodation however housekeeping do visit a few times during your stay. In my opinion it's definitely worth paying that little bit extra for silver accommodation.

        Gold accommodation comes in the form of two or three bedroom apartments. These apartments have a separate lounge (with widescreen TV and DVD player) and a well equipped kitchen as well as a modern bath/shower room in which towels are provided. In my experience housekeeping visit on a daily basis.

        This accommodation tends to be situated the furthest from the centre of the resort which is fine for those who are reasonably mobile on a sunny day but is not so great if you find walking difficult or when the weather isn't so great.

        Butlins also offer static caravan holidays at this resort. I have never stayed in one of these caravans so cannot review these further but from the outside at least the caravans are much like those you would find on any modern caravan park. These caravans are situated across the main road from the rest of the site but there is a walkway underneath the road connecting the two.

        Eating & Drinking:

        If you book a break that includes dinner, bed and breakfast then on check in you receive a meal card which entitles you to entry to one of the three dining rooms on site. These dining rooms are very much like large canteens with various food service points service a wide variety of fairly basic rood. The food is generally good and there's no problem with going for second helpings so it's pretty much like being at an all you can eat buffet. Tea and coffee, water, fruit juice and squash are also available free of charge but if you want something else to drink (either a soft drink or alcoholic) you'll need to buy it from the bar in the dining room.

        In my opinion the one downside to this is that you have to eat your meals at pretty set times. For example when staying in standard accommodation breakfast is 8 am - 10am and dinner 4pm - 6pm and so while I usually make it to breakfast I often find myself missing dinner and opting to pay for a meal elsewhere later in the evening. Of course this is my choice but it all adds to the cost of my holiday.

        If you've chosen to go for a self catering break or if you want some refreshment outside the standard mealtimes for your dining room then there are plenty of places you can grab something to eat whether you fancy fish and chips, a burger, pizza or and sanwich you can find it in and around the main Skyline centre. There is also a pub which does standard pub meals from lunchtime through to about 10pm.

        If you're in search of a drink then you have a choice of several bars (including a sports bar) around the site all of which tend to be open until either 11pm or midnight. There is also a nightclub which stays open into the small hours but is only for those over 18.

        Food and drink prices whilst not being extortionate are not cheap and are generally more than you would expect to pay in many of the cafes, pubs and restaurants just outside the site.

        Facilities and Enterainment:

        Part of the appeal of Butlins resorts is the built in entertainment and other facilities. The site is a great place for kids with frequent shows being put on in the Skyline (the main entertainment area right at the heart of the resort) by the Skyline Gang and Butlins' famous Red Coats. In the evenings there are shows in the resort's two biggest bars the Centre Stage and Reds which are fun for all the family.

        Splashworld is an indoor swimming pool complete with water slides which can be enjoyed by all guests for no extra charge and there is also a smaller outdoor pool which is open only when the weather is really nice. Also dependent on the weather is the resort's funfair which is open until early evening most days.

        The site also has a rear entrance which takes you right onto the seafront. Whilst this area of the beach isn't private to Butlins holidaymakers it is a nice reasonably sheltered spot and a good place to spend a day.

        In addition to the above there are lots of things to do which aren't included in the price. These include crazy golf, a cinema, ten bin bowling, pool, various amusement arcades and a spa which is exclusive to the Skegness resort.

        In my opinion there's something here that everyone will enjoy

        Cost & Value For Money

        The price of a break depends very much on the time of year you want to go and the sort of accommodation/catering you're after. It can be expensive especially in school holidays but I've found that to say what else is included it's not actually that much more expensive than booking a caravan on a nearby caravan park. Good deals can be found if you book a long time in advance or close to the day you want to arrive.

        Other Points:

        Whilst Butlins is generally a family resort they do run periodic adults only weekends based on a particular theme. These weekends tend to attract large groups of people on hen or stag weekends etc. I recently went on a 90s weekend at the resort which was great fun but a bit mad!

        Premier membership of Butlins is achieved by staying at one of the resorts a set number of times over a period of a couple of years. If you're a premier member discounts are available on many breaks but for me the big benefit is that you can check in two to three hours earlier than you would otherwise be able to.

        Would I recommend Butlins? Well it depends on what sort of holiday you're after and how far you want your money to stretch but I keep going back year after year and so it must be a thumbs up from me.

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        • Vimto / Soft Drink / 25 Readings / 25 Ratings
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          12.08.2009 13:32
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          A nice treat but really too sweet

          I don't drink a lot of fizzy drinks and when I do I tend to stick to my old favourite diet coke but this morning I fancied something a bit different, something fruity. I haven't had a Vimto in years and so when I spotted this in the cooler I decided that it was the drink for me.

          The can tells me that it contains a mixed fruit juice drink with the delicious secret Vimto flavour. A tantalising mix of secret herbs and spices and it does in fact have a very distinctive taste. Vimto contains amongst other things a mixture of grape, blackcurrant and raspberry juices and there is a hint of these flavours but Vimto has a sweet flavour all of its own which is hard to identify.

          I didn't find this drink to be as fizzy as some other carbonated drinks I've had lately and for me this is a big advantage as I find that whilst a slight sparkle can help make a drink refreshing sometimes it is just too much.

          Nutritional Information

          Health wise this drink really isn't great for you, particularly for your teeth. Typically of a non-diet carbonated drink it's full of sugar with a 330ml can containing 36g of 40% of an adult's guideline daily amount. The other nutritional information is as follows:

          Calories - 147
          Fat - trace
          Salt - trace

          The ingredients tell you that the drink contains amongst other things cabonated water, glucose fructose syrup and mixed fruit juices from concentrate (3%) so whilst there is some fruit juice in there it's not a large amount.

          Price and availability

          Whilst this drink isn't as widely available as some of the bigger names it is starting to appear more frequently than it used to. This morning I paid 65p for a can, the standard price for canned drinks in my local shop but I have seen this on offer, four for a pound in Poundland.

          The drink is available in 330ml can, 500ml bottles and 2 litre bottles.

          Whilst I really enjoyed this drink initially, after a few sips I felt as though there was almost a coating on my teeth and really felt the need to brush them and that was before I discovered quite how much sugar there is in each can.

          Recommended for an occasional treat, a nice blast from the past. Next time I'll be on the look out for the no added sugar variety.

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          11.08.2009 17:27
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          Fruity and floral but not overpowering.

          When I received a bottle of this perfume as a gift a few years ago I was a little bit dubious for a couple of reasons, firstly, I'm always dubious when someone else chooses a fragrance for me as smell is such a personal preference, and secondly Morgan was a name I associated with fashion rather than fragrance. I'm pleased to say that when I eventually gave it a try I was very pleasantly surprised.

          The Claim:

          "Morgan de Toi perfume by Morgan was launched in 2003, the scent is distinctively feminine with subtle tones of floral essences and fruity undertones. Morgan de Toi perfume is a firm favourite with fashion conscious young women looking for a chic perfume that accentuates a vivacious lifestyle."

          Packaging

          The fragrance comes in a deep red and silver box with an outline of the bottle and morgan de toi in white printed on the front. The bottle itself is a distinctive shape, the shape of a curvaceous body which I think is really different for fragrance of this sort. The bottle itself is clear but it has a silver and red spray at the top which gives it an added touch of glamour. The bottle has a quirky little charm where a belly button ring might be which is really cute.

          The Fragrance

          I have read that the perfume has a "Top note of blueberry blossom, pink pepper. Middle note of amber crystal, black jasmine, nectarine. Base note of agarwood," but to be honest I find it difficult to distinguish any individual scent.

          What I really like about this fragrance is that it isn't too heavy. Although when you first spray the scent there is quite a strong smell it's not overpowering, and once dry you are left with a light slightly sweet floral scent that is long lasting.

          Price & Availability

          As this is a stand alone eau de toilette rather than part of a range of products of the same fragrance it isn't generally available in most department stores and perfume shops although I have noticed that gift sets tend to be available in certain specialist perfume shops around Christmas time. In stead, the fragrance tends to be found in shops such as Boots & Superdrug with their similar stand along eau de toilette and eau de cologne products. The fragrance is also available on many cosmetic and fragrance websites although it can sometimes be difficult to find somewhere that has this in stock and so I've been known to buy a bottle on e bay when I'm running low.

          The price of the fragrance varies widely. One website I've visited recently claims that it has a RRP of £19.99 for a 30ml bottle but I've been able to find this for less than half the price in various places over the years so it is well worth shopping around.

          In summary at this price I'd say this fragrance is well worth a try. It's quite a light fragrance and so could be worn either during the day or in the evening.

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          • More +
            11.08.2009 12:57
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            Written for children but can be enjoyed by all.

            When Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was first published in 1997 I was eighteen and had no kids so I was hardly its target audience but that didn't stop me reading and enjoying the book and becoming something of a Harry Potter fan, I've since read all the books and seen all the films that have been released so far but I haven't picked this one up in a while and so when it caught my eye over the weekend I decided it might be nice to reread it.

            Unless you've been living in a cupboard under the stairs for the last 12 years, chances are you have at least heard of the phenomenon that is Harry Potter even if you haven't read the books or seen the films. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (published as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the USA) is the first in a series of seven books written by J K Rowling and published by Bloomsbury between 1997 and 2007 about the life of Harry Potter a young wizard who finds himself the centre of a series of events that could change the wizarding world forever.

            The blurb:

            "Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy - until he is rescued by a beetle-eyed giant of a man, enrols at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizadry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The Reason: HARRY POTTER IS A WIZARD!"

            The appeal:

            It's hard to say why this series of books has so captured the imagination of readers all over the world. Whilst in some people's opinion it might not be up there with the great works of literature this book is undeniably a thumping good read, an inspiring story of good versus evil and just generally good fun to read.

            My thoughts:

            Having read all the books in the series previously, on re reading it's easy to see how this first book was really just an introduction to Harry's world and the story which would develop. That said the first novel is a great read in its own right and sees Harry discovering that he is a wizard and spending his first year at Hogwarts where he and his friends find themselves on a quest to find out about the philosopher's stone and to save it from getting into the wrong hands.

            Unlike some of the later books in the series this book definitely seems to be more aimed at children than readers in general. Whilst still being full of adventure the book is nowhere near as dark or complicated as some of the books that come later and can easily be read by some younger readers without any input from an adult.

            One thing that I will always love about this book is that it's introduced so many kids to the love of reading who might not have developed that otherwise. I've read this book with several of the kids in my life and it's been a hit with them all.

            The book which is 223 pages long in its paperback form is available as a paperback, hardback or audiobook and has been released in several special editions including one with a different cover designed to appeal to adults.

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            • More +
              10.08.2009 21:49
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              I'm still searching

              I have long hair that tends to get greasy quite quickly around the roots whilst being dry at the ends and so I'm always on the look out for a shampoo that balances the two. I've tried several balancing shampoos in the past but typically all those that seem to work for me seem to stop being produced after a while and so I'm now on yet another hunt for the perfect shampoo. At the moment I'm trying Herbal Essences Fresh Balance Icy Pineapple and Cotton Extracts shampoo.

              The Claim:

              According to the bottle this shampoo will gently purify your hair by sweeping away excess oil and styling build up.

              The Product:

              The shampoo which is a clear apple green colour comes in a clear plastic container with the herbal essences name and logo on the front and an apple green flip top lid. Once out of the bottle the shampoo is quite thick and so doesn't run everywhere unlike some cheaper shampoos I've come across. The shampoo does smell of pineapples as described and some of this fragrance remains after you've washed your hair although it doesn't last all that long

              My Thoughts:

              Initially this product is very effective. As my hair is both long and quite thick I find that two or three squirts of the bottle gives me just the right amount of shampoo to lather my hair once. The bottle gives the usual directions of wet hair, lather, rinse and repeat as required but I don't use lots of styling products and so I don't feel it's necessary to go through the cycle more than once before my hair is squeaky clean.

              Unfortunately this clean feeling doesn't last all that long and within 12 hours my hair is starting to feel as though it needs washing again. With other shampoos I can usually leave my hair to either every second or even every third day.

              Price and Value

              At around £1.98 for a 200ml bottle or £3.22 for a 400ml bottle I think that you are definitely paying for the brand name where this shampoo is concerned. In the past I've paid half this amount for a bigger bottle of a supermarket own brand shampoo and found it to be just as effective if not more so.

              In summary I'll finish off the bottle but won't rush to buy this again unless it's on offer.

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            • Waterstones Card / Credit Card / 39 Readings / 36 Ratings
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              10.08.2009 14:23
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              A great loyalty scheme with a good return

              I am avid reader and so a couple of years ago when I found out that Waterstones were launching a loyalty points card I was delighted, free books have to be a good thing. Whilst I had a WH Smith club card (now sadly obsolete) for years and used that when I could, I'd always loved browsing around Waterstones and so I was pleased to hear that I would be able to get some reward for shopping there too.

              Signing Up For the Scheme:

              Signing up for the scheme is really easy, you can either fill in a leaflet in store and get your card right away or sign up on line and be sent your card within a couple of days. If you sign up in store you can then add your points card to any existing Waterstones online account you may have and that's it, you're ready to shop.

              Collecting Points:

              Points are available on items bought both in store and online. Purchases generally attract 3 points (each point is worth 1p) per £1 spent although there are sometimes particular books on which you can receive double (or occasionally triple) points, such books are clearly marked in store with a "double points" sticker or notified to those registered with the Waterstones website by e mail.

              You can get points not just on books but on any item you buy and so now and again I'll pop into the store for cards or wrapping paper and add to my points balance that way.

              Finally if you choose not to have a bag from the store you get and additional five points added to your account, a nice touch I think.

              Redeeming Points:

              Redeeming your points is really easy. If you're shopping in store it's just a case of asking for your points to be deducted from the cost of your purchase and there's no problem with using some or all of your points to make a part payment and paying the difference in some other way.

              When shopping online as long as you are logged into the website the cash price of a book to you using your points will be displayed with each book. On check out you then have the option to use all your points against the purchase or to pay by card and earn points on your purchase, it's up to you.

              All in all I think this is a really great loyalty cards. 1p per point might not sound like a lot but if you buy a lot of books these points soon add up. I've had four free books over the last eighteen months or so and getting each one has felt like a real treat.

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                07.08.2009 17:31
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                A great read.

                When Myron Bolitar, a sports rep and one time first round draft to the NBA, is signed on by the New Jersey Dragons it isn't so that he can make a comeback. In fact, Bolitar has been signed to track down his team mate and former arch-rival Greg Downing. What he doesn't know when he accepts the job is that far from being a simple missing persons case, this becomes a murder hunt. But, who is the victim, who killed her, what is their motive and, why is someone attempting to blackmail not only Greg, and the team but also Myron himself?

                Full of twists and turns the third book in Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar series is also full of the usual witty dialogue. Although Myron is of course the protagonist in this story numerous appearances are made by other familiar characters, Jessica, Esperanza, Big Cyndi, Myron's parents and of course Win, and it's great to follow what's going on with them. Don't think that you have to have read the earlier Bolitar books to get into this though, it's a great stand alone novel but once you've read it I wouldn't be surprised if you wanted to read the rest.

                I initially bought this book to pass time on a train journey but still found myself reading it that evening long after I was home and I finished it the following day. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good mystery novel. If you're new to Coben I'd say read these great books and then don't miss some of his great stand along thrillers such as Tell No One and The Woods.

                This book which was originally published in 1996 was reissued in 2002. The novel is available to purchse new from Amazon Marketplace for £2.45 + postage and packing.

                This review has been adapted and extended from one originally posted by me on Amazon.co.uk

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              • moonpig.com / Online Shop / 26 Readings / 25 Ratings
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                07.08.2009 15:05
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                A great site for occasional use.

                If you're anything like me you probably find yourself sending cards what seems like all the time. Unfortunately sometimes I feel as though I have a memory like a sieve and so now and again I find myself realising that I need to send a card the same day and that I have neither card or stamp or the means to buy them. Enter Moonpig.com.

                Moonpig.com is a website which has been running since July 2000. It allows you to choose from a wide range or cards (including Me 2 U bear and many other familiar ranges) for all sorts of occasions. Once you've chosen your card it's easy to personalise it and arrange for it to be sent by first class post either the same day or on a day of your choice. I've used the site a few times now and I'm sure I'll use it again in future.

                Registration, Your Account & Navigating around the site

                Registering with the site is really straightforward, all you need to do is provide details of your full name and e mail address and choose a password and you're registered. As part of the registration process you can also opt whether or not the receive the moonpig.com newsletter which is an e mail alert giving you details of the latest offers and cards available.

                Once registered it's easy to access your account by just clicking on the 'my account' tab at the top of the page. From there it's easy to view/amend your account details, check your order history, add pre pay credit (see below) or view/edit your address book and e mail reminder calendar.

                The site as a whole is very easy to navigate around with a menu of occasions for which you might want to choose a card down the left hand side of the homepage and various tabs across the top of the screen to allow you to log in/register, access your account etc.

                Choosing and Personalising Your Card

                Choosing a card can be the most difficult part of the process as you can be spoilt for choice, of course this is no bad thing. The easiest way to begin your search is to click on the link for your occasion on the menu to the left of the screen, this will take you to the site's selection of cards for that occasion. Once you've chosen your occasion a menu of all the available cards is shown on the right hand side of the screen. By clicking on the card you can see a bigger version of the card both inside and out. This also details which parts of the card can be personalised.

                Once you've chosen your card you move on to personalising it. Firstly the front of the card and then the inside. It's possible to add text (which can be in a large variety of fonts and colours) to both parts of the inside of the card so there's plenty of room to add any message you want. Once you've personalised your card you get the opportunity to preview it before moving on to the next step.

                Sending Your Card:

                You can arrange for the card to be sent either to you or directly to the recipient. I really like this option and have used both in the past. It's really useful to be able to send the card direct if you've left it to the last minute but if you've got a bit more time or you're going to see the recipient I think it's nice to be able to order a personalised card which you can give to them personally.

                If you chose to send the card direct to the recipient you will need to add their name and address details to your address book unless you've sent them a card through Moonpig before. Any address that you've used previously will be stored on the site indefinitely. As someone who is rubbish at remembering my friend's full addresses this is a God send for me.

                You can choose whether to send your card by first class post or by special delivery (which obviously adds to the cost) and you can choose to send the either the same/next posting day (cards ordered before 2pm Monday to Friday can be sent out the same day) or at some later date anytime in the future. I find this option really handy if I'm going away and want to make sure that a card arrives with someone on their actual special day.

                At this point there's also the option to add a small note to the envelope which I think is a nice extra touch.

                Payment and Price

                The price of the cards depends on the size. A standard card is currently £2.99, a large card £5.99 or a pack of four identical small cards £6. In addition to this there is a postage and handling charge of 47p for an individual card.

                There are two ways to pay for your cards, pay as you go or pre pay. Pay as you go is exactly as it sounds, you pay for each card by credit or debit card as you order it. Alternatively you can add credit to your account in advance to be used as and when you order a card. For every £20 you add by pre pay you get £5 bonus credit which could result in a substantial cost saving if you use the site regularly.

                Other Points

                One thing that I find really useful about this site is the option to set up e mail alerts to alert you of occasions in the future when you might want to send a card. This option is easily accessed through you're my account screen. To set up an alert you just enter the recipient's name, the type and date of the occasion the length of time in advance that you want to be notified. Notification can be anything up to 31 days in advance but I tend to set them up for ten days before the day giving me the option to use Moonpig or to get a card elsewhere if I prefer.

                Finally some of the cards can be personalised by adding a photo. I think this is a really nice touch but haven't used this option myself as yet.

                I've used the site a few times now and in my experience cards arrive in good time and are well received. I've also received a couple of these cards which have been really nice and just as good quality as anything you might buy on the high street.

                In summary there are some great cards available on the site and the option to personalise them is really useful but at £3.46 for a standard card this is a site which is a bit too pricey to use regularly.

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                • More +
                  06.08.2009 18:09
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                  Typical chick lit told in a different way.

                  I recently found myelf short of something new to read and so decided to reread this novel which I remembered reading and enjoying some years ago. Whilst I've definitely read better books of this sort since then I still enjoyed it second time around.

                  The blurb:

                  "Meet Lucy Gordon, the sweet, scatty, irresistible heroine of Fiona Walker's delicious new novel. Lucy lives in a Berkshire village with her two friends, Jane and Bella, and works in the marketing department of Widgetex Computers. Her boss - Slave Driver - is a constant bane; her family are lovable eccentrics; her boyfriend, the dishy but fickle Greg, takes shameless advantage of her (Lucy is too good hearted to notice). Throughout two action-packed, fun-filled, disaster-strewn years, Lucy charts an erratic course among this motley crew to her very own happy ending."

                  My thoughts on the book:

                  Told mainly in the form of letters to her brother, e mails to her friends and notes meant for no-one but herself, this is the story of two and a bit years in the life of Lucy Gordon a twenty something marketing executive.
                  Although the story is similar to many others in the genre, (girl is head over heels in love with guy who treats her badly, girl finally sees sense and gets rid of guy, girl seeks love with others while managing not to notice that Prince Charming is already in her life and is madly in love with her), I still enjoyed the book and the anecdotes of Lucy's feuding family, over ambitious colleagues and equally confused housemates were very amusing and made for an entertaining read.

                  The only major fault (if you could call it that) which I could find with the book was that due to the style of writing it was very difficult to find a place to stop reading and consequently, I found myself reading until the early hours on more than one occasion but then I don't think I'd have been able to stop myself even if it has been written in normal chapter form.

                  This is the only book I've read by Fiona Walker but I believe that this is quite different in style to her others so perhaps fans might find this hard work but in my opinion it is worth sticking with it.

                  This is a nice, quick, read which I would recommend to anyone who likes a good chick lit novel.

                  The book (ISBN: 0340768096) which was originally published in 2000 is available new from Amazon for £5.99. Of course it's also available used from Amazon Marketplace for as little as 1p + postage and packing.

                  This review has been adapted and extended from one previously written by me on amazon.co.uk

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                  • More +
                    06.08.2009 16:55
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                    Budget hotel accommodation can be great.

                    Recently some friends and I decided that we fancied a long weekend away. There were a few places around the country that we wanted to visit and so we decided to stay en route between them. Knowing that Travelodge is one of the few places that lets three adults share a family room at no additional cost we decided to see if they had hotels around the areas we wanted to stay and were pleased to discover them at both the Cambridge Fourwentways service area and the Oxford Peartree Interchange service area.

                    Whilst this review is based mainly on my recent stays at both of the above I have stayed in many Travelodge's around the country over the last few years and so may also comment on my experiences elsewhere.

                    Location:

                    Travelodge hotels are situated all over the country mainly in city and town centres or at motorway service stations. I've found that most big cities have a number of the hotels and it's worth looking at the price and availability of each of these as prices can vary greatly from hotel to hotel, this especially applies to the hotels situated in the London area.

                    Making a reservation

                    As with most hotel chains it's possible to book a room either over the phone or on the Travelodge website (www.travelodge.co.uk). I find it easiest to book online and always either do this or at least research my options online before booking over the phone.

                    The website is easy to navigate and the booking process is straightforward. The big downside to booking with Travelodge is that you have to pay for the full cost of your stay upfront no matter how far in advance you're making your booking.

                    Whilst booking online there are a whole host of extras which you can select at a cost, from booking breakfast (£4.05), to an SMS booking confirmation message (15p) or even accommodation for your pet (£20).

                    Check In & Service

                    The standard check in time at a Travelodge is 3pm. However in most hotels it is possible to arrange a check in for an additional fee of £10.

                    I have always found the Travelodge staff to be friendly and helpful both when checking in and asking for assistance in other ways. Whether asking for extra pillows and towels or directions, staff have always helped me with my request really efficiently. During our most recent stay at the Cambridge Fourwentways hotel one of our party left her phone in the room when we checked out. 100 miles and two hours later we realised we'd left it behind and so called the hotel. The reception staff were really helpful in locating the phone and sending it on to us.

                    The rooms:

                    Travelodge rooms are fairly basic as you would expect in any budget hotel. A family room will include a double bed and a sofa bed, a TV showing the standard terrestrial channels + Sky News, tea and coffee making facilities, a dressing table/desk and chair and an area for hanging/storing your belongings in lieu of a proper wardrobe.

                    Generally the beds are very comfortable but the sofa beds less so, I wouldn't want to sleep on one of those for more than a couple of nights. Recently I've found that when you've booked a family room you need to make the sofa bed up yourself. Whilst this doesn't bother me I can imagine that lost of people would not appreciate this inconvenience.

                    Similarly the bathrooms are fairly basic with toilet, bath with shower and wash basin.

                    I always find that the hotels only provide enough towels and pillows for one per person and so usually find my self heading back to reception to ask for more (there are no phones in Travelodge rooms and so you can't contact reception in any other way) which have always been provided with no problems.

                    Breakfast:

                    Whilst bed and breakfast packages don't come as standard it is possible to book breakfast as an extra when making your booking. If you choose not to take this option it is again possible to order breakfast at reception during your stay. Whilst I have never taken up this option I have noticed advertisements for a standard breakfast package of cereal, flapjack or cereal bar, fruit juice and tea or coffee being available for £4.05 per person on the website or £4.50 at the hotel.

                    Other facilities:

                    Facilities vary from hotel to hotel. Many hotels have a hotel bar which serves drinks and a basic bar menu at general hotel bar prices. There are usually coin operated snack, soft drink and hot drink vending machines in the reception area of the hotel and sometimes coin/card operated internet access is available in the same area. Most hotels seem to have wi-fi internet access available although I have never used this.
                    Cost:

                    The price of a room varies greatly depending on which hotel you choose, how far in advance you book, when you want to stay and whether or not you want the flexibility of being able to cancel your reservation and receive your money back. There are often non-flexible room rates as low as £29 per room (whether it be single, double, twin or family room) available in many hotels and the website has regular sales with a small number of rooms available for as little as £9 per night.

                    In my experience the advanced purchase (no cancellation) cheapest offers are often only available for one night stays. However, I have found that if I booked two or more separate consecutive one night stays I have been able to book rooms at the cheapest rates. When I've made a booking in this way it hasn't been a problem to stay in the same room for the duration of my stay at the hotel.

                    In summary I probably wouldn't recommend spending a week at a time in a Travelodge but as a base for a couple of nights you can't really go wrong.

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                    • Vaseline Lip Therapy / Make Up / 22 Readings / 22 Ratings
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                      05.08.2009 21:37
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                      A great product for everyone.

                      For years now I've noticed more and more people carrying around small blue and white tins of Vaseline Lip Therapy and wondered what all the fuss was about. I was always perfectly happy with the various lip salves and lip balms I'd tried and for some reason didn't find the idea of putting just plain Vaseline on my lips very appealing. So, when last winter I found myself away from home with sore lips and nothing to sooth them and my friend handed over her tin of Vaseline Lip Therapy I was dubious to say the least.

                      Vaseline is a product made from petroleum jelly which has been used as a remedy for various skin complaints since the 1880s. Vaseline Lip therapy is a handy pocket sized product designed especially for use on the lips.

                      The product is easy to apply direct to your lips with your fingers (or presumably a lip brush) and I find that it leaves my lips feeling moist, smooth and soothed for quite a while after application without leaving them sticky. The product is free of taste and so ideal for all.

                      As the name suggests this product is really designed for the lips but it is Vaseline and so I've been known to use it on other parts of the body when out and about and in need of something to sooth dry, chapped or sore skin.

                      Vaseline Lip Therapy comes in a distinctive blue and white tin about 1.5cm deep and 4cm in diameter. Each tin contains 20g of the balm and in my experience lasts for several months if not longer. Costing on average £1 - £1.50 per tin I find this to be really good value for money.

                      There are now several other versions of this product containg Aloe Vera (a green and white tin), rose and almond oil (a pink and white tin) and SPF15 Sun protection (a yellow and white tin) but for me the original is the best.

                      In summary I'm a complete convert now and so have a tin not only in my handbag but in my desk draw at work and on my dressing table at home. Recently on the odd occasion that I've used some other form of lip balm or lip salve to stop my lips drying out I've been disappointed my what little effect it has and next time I've made sure to reach for the Vaseline.

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                    • More +
                      05.08.2009 13:36
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                      A great place to eat for all the family.

                      Due to a recent tightening of the purse strings I don't get to eat out either as often as I'd like or as often as I used to but when the budget does stretch to a meal out Frankie and Benny's is one of the first places I'd choose to go.

                      Frankie & Benny's is a chain of Italian/American diner style restaurants situated throughout the UK. The restaurants are mainly to be found in retail and entertainment parks although I have noticed that more have started to open up in city centres recently.

                      Ambience

                      On first walking through the door Frankie & Benny's have the feel of a 50s American bar/diner from the bar with high stools to the dark wood and red leather covered booth seating. There are five Frankie & Benny's compilation CDs featuring music from the 50s from the likes of Dean Martin, Shirley Bassey and Nat King Cole, these CDs are played on a constant loop in each of the restaurants and really add to the feel of place. Incidentally these CDs are available to buy in the restaurants or on the website www.frankieandbennys.com.

                      Getting a Table:

                      On entering the restaurant you are usually shown straight to your table but at busier times you might be asked to have a drink in the bar. Some restaurants have a buzzer system to alert you when your table is ready which I think is a really good idea so that you don't have to listen for your name to be called over the hustle and bustle of a busy bar and restaurant.

                      In my opinion one big downside to eating at this chain is that with the exception of big parties and special times of year (eg valentines day or around Christmas time) it isn't possible to book a table, this can lead to long waits at peak times.

                      Service:

                      In my experience the staff have always been really helpful and it's easy to attract their attention if you want some help but you don't find them hovering around the tables too much when you're eating your meal.

                      I have eaten at Frankie & Benny's lots of times and have only once had a long wait for my order. On this occasion the computer ordering system had failed but once this problem was rectified we were thanked for our patience with a free starter, a bonus for us as we were in no real rush.

                      Menu & Price:

                      The restaurant serves a wide range of starters (eg Bruschetta, soups, chicken wings etc) for one or to share, main courses (eg pasta dishes, pizzas, burgers, salads) and desserts (eg cheesecake, ice cream, sticky toffee pudding) so there is pretty much something for everyone.

                      In addition to the main menu there is a kids menu from which for £3.95 you can get a main meal, dessert and unlimited soft drink refills.

                      Full versions of all the menus are available on the website so I won't bore you further regarding these but if you're visiting for breakfast or for lunch mid week you should note that there are separate menus for these times and the lunch menu in particular has some great offers with one course being available for £5.95, two courses for £7.25 and three courses for £8.45.

                      In my opinion the food is always fresh and tasty and there are many dishes that I have eaten repeatedly and so would highly recommend.

                      With regard to price whilst not really cheap the food is no more expensive than what you would pay in a similar restaurant. A two course dinner and drinks for two tends to set me back about £25 - £30 so whilst it's not somewhere you can eat everyday it's good for a special occasion.

                      Special Offers:

                      Unlike many other chain restaurants I do not often find money off vouchers are readily available for Frankie & Benny's however there are often in restaurant promotions which are worth looking out for. For example at the moment there is Monday madness where diners get 25% off their food bill every Monday evening. There is also currently a new summer menu from which you can have two courses for £9.95 on certain days. I have not yet seen this menu and so can't comment further.

                      Other:

                      The website offers the chance to join the mailing list from which you can receive money off vouchers and details of other offers. There is also a section of the website especially designed for kids with games to play and puzzles etc to download.

                      Vouchers are available to purchase for use in the restaurants.

                      Little Frankies:

                      Over the last two or three years I have noticed Little Frankie's restaurants opening up in a few places. These restaurants whilst similar in layout and ambience have a greatly reduced version of the main Frankie & Benny's menu on offer. In fact, most of my favourites are missing from this menu and so I tend to eat elsewhere.

                      In summary if you're looking for good quality, tasty Italian/American food for all the family I would recommend a trip to Frankie & Benny's.

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                    • Meadowhall / Highstreet Shopping / 21 Readings / 21 Ratings
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                      04.08.2009 15:22
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                      Everything you could want to buy under one roof

                      Meadowhall shopping centre which first opened in 1990 is one of the largest shopping centres in the north of England. Situated at junction 34 of the M1 it's an easy journey for both those who live locally and those coming from further away.

                      Location and Transport:

                      Meadowhall is situated on the outskirts of Sheffield within sight of junction 34 of the M1 and about a fifteen minute drive from the city centre. There are about 12,000 parking spaces spread out over 6 large car parks which surround the centre therefore there is ample parking even at peak shopping times, parking is free of charge.

                      The travel interchange has frequent bus and tram links to places all round Sheffield and the greater South Yorkshire area. There is also a railway station with frequent train services covering routes to Leeds, Manchester and Lincoln as well as stations throughout South Yorkshire

                      Shopping:

                      The centre has all the typical shops that you might expect to find in any UK high street or shopping centre with Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, House of Fraser, Boots, WH Smith, Clinton, H Samuels etc etc all being represented. There are also a large number of more specialised shops such as Karen Millen, Kurt Geiger, Nut Bar and The Disney Store so you can pretty much find anything you want. There are also a wide range of high street banks and travel agents.

                      The only thing which is really missing from the centre is a supermarket, Marks & Spencer's food hall being the only place you can nip for a pint of milk or that night's dinner.

                      One of my favourite areas of Meadowhall is The Lanes, an area of smaller specialist shops where you can find all kinds of things from clothing to candles, ornaments to sheet music and jewellery to toys. I find this area of the centre great to browse around and usually head here if I'm in search of something that's a little bit different.

                      In addition to the main stores and The Lanes there are various stalls throughout the centre where you can often find a bargain. These stalls tend to sell jewellery or refreshments and I often find myself drawn to them whilst I'm passing.

                      Eating and Drinking

                      Situated right at the heart of the centre is the Oasis a large food court with ample seating surrounded by outlets selling all kinds of food. Whether you fancy a Chinese or a pizza, fish and chips or a jacket potato you'll find it here. The big screen in the Oasis shows Meadowhall TV which shows what's going on around the centre, features some of the best offers available and shows a selection of film trailers, music videos and some actual TV programmes.

                      Above and around the main part of the Oasis are a pub and a selection of eat in restaurants including well known chains such as Frankie & Benny's, Nandos, Pizza Express and Zizzi along with some lesser known restaurants which in my experience all serve great quality food and drink.

                      The Oasis isn't the only place to stop for a bite to eat with various coffee shops and other eateries being spread throughout the centre.

                      Other Facilities:

                      For me one of the main attractions at Meadowhall is the multi-screen Vue cinema which shows most of the latest releases. This is situated upstairs in the Oasis area

                      There are a number of customer service information points situated throughout the centre where it's possible to ask for help, pick up a map, purchase a Meadowhall gift card (which can be used in over 250 stores around the centre) or get an item gift wrapped.

                      As you would expect for somewhere this size there are numerous toilets and baby changing facilities situated around the centre and in my experience these are always clean and pleasant to use.

                      Finally, for those with kids ages 8 or under there's a play area where they can let of steam

                      Opening Times:

                      Generally the opening times for the main mall are as listed below, some shops do open earlier than the times stated and the Oasis area stays open for a while after the main shopping area has closed. Opening hours are of course extended near Christmas time, usually by an hour each day from Monday to Saturday.

                      Monday - Friday: 10 am - 9pm
                      Saturday: 9 am - 7pm
                      Sunday: 11 am - 5pm

                      In summary I find that Meadowhall meets all my shopping needs under one roof. Whether I'm looking for Poundland or Paperchase, Superdrug or Shoe Zone I can find it here. The centre is well situated with great transport links. Unfortunately at peak times the centre gets very busy. As I live locally I tend to avoid Meadowhall altogether on a Saturday afternoon especially when it's getting close to Christmas.

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                      • More +
                        04.08.2009 11:36
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                        A great sweet treat.

                        I've never really been a big fan of chocolate biscuits although I don't mind one now and again but I remember Cadbury fingers being a staple part of childhood birthday parties and lunch boxes on special occasions. I still have a soft spot for them now.

                        Cadbury fingers are 'a deliscious finger shaped crisp biscuit smothered in yummy Cadbury milk chocolate' or so is that claim on the box and basically I'd have to agree.

                        Packaging:

                        The biscuits come in an oblong box in Cadbury's trademark deep purple colours with the Cadbury logo and pictures of the biscuits on the front so there's really no mistaking them on the shelf. Inside the box the biscuits are contained is a platic tray wrapped in cellophane which keeps them fresh until the cellophane seal is broken. After that it's usually best to keep the biscuits in the fridge and eat them within a few days to make sure that they don't go soft.

                        The biscuit:

                        What I love about these biscuits is the contrast of the smooth chocolate and the crunchy biscuit.

                        Generally the biscuits come in 125g packs. Each 125g pack typically containing 24 fingers. The nutritional information shows that these biscuits are not too bad for you when eaten as part of a balanced diet. One biscuit contains:

                        30 kCal
                        1.5g fat
                        0.02g salt

                        According to the ingredients listed on the box the biscuits contain milk chocolate, wheat flour, vegetable fat, sugar, sugar syrup, salt, raising agents and flavouring. The packaging also warns that the biscuits may contain a trace of nuts. These biscuits are suitable for vegetarions.

                        Cadbury fingers are available in most supermarkets and similar retailers. I have recently found this product four aroung £1.19 for a box, well worth the money in my opinion.

                        Cadbury fingers are a lovely sweet treat great for enjoying with a cup of tea or on their own. The only downside that I can think of is the fact that the biscuits are so moreish, one really is never enough.

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