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phyllodes

phyllodes
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Member since: 30.07.2013

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      27.08.2013 19:57
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      A good overall iPod great for traveling and exercising/the gym

      Alongside my phone which I listen to music on, I purchased one of these iPod Shuffles a while ago now as something cheaper, smaller, lighter and more practical to take to the gym to listen to music on. The 4th generation iPod shuffle certainly fulfills these things. It is very small and light and can clip onto clothing to be taken anywhere quite discretely.

      *Design*

      The iPod shuffle 4th generation is available in a range of colours - mine is blue. It is also available in grey, green, orange and pink colours. It comes with a pair of official Apple earphones, which are of average quality. They have a nice finish to them and are of good quality. It is a very small MP3 player at 3.1 by 2.9cm with a very small depth. It is light too, weight under 500g. The iPod has a central play/pause button on the front. Around this is a control wheel, which enables you to skip songs and change the volume. Other buttons include a locking button on top (which prevents buttons accidentally being pressed whilst in a pocket actually performing functions) and another button (VoiceOver button) which actually reads out the songs playing (as there is no screen unlike other iPods and MP3 players).

      *Usability*

      I find this iPod reasonably easy to use although some of the stuff was complicated at first, such as syncing playlists to the iPod and then reaching these playlists with the buttons without the use of a screen. I finally got to grips with this however, but even with instructions it was confusing. For example with podcasts (available on iTunes) too, I was always confused by which ones automatically played first when you reach the podcast playlist.

      The buttons work well and are fairly simple in general. However when it comes to selecting playlists and finding a song you actually want to listen to, it's extremely difficult. Without a screen, you cannot play particular songs you want to hear on demand. If your playlist was listed alphabetically, you could potentially scroll through the list to find the song you want, but this is time-consuming and impractical considering the 2 GB version can hold roughly 500 songs.

      However it is a very small and portable MP3 player, which can be attached to clothes thanks to the clip on the back. This clip works well and reliably so you don't have to worry about the iPod falling off.

      *Price & Availability*

      The iPod shuffle 4th generation has a retail price of £39.99, which is not bad at all. It is ideal even today for taking it away or to the gym, when you don't want to risk losing something else of greater value such as your phone. You can purchase it online new for less than this price (£30-35 range).

      *Summary*

      The 4th generation iPod shuffle is a great little iPod for taking out whilst traveling or to the gym. It is very light, small and portable. It reliably clips onto clothes too. The 2 GB version has a good capacity for music holding around 500 songs. It is fairly easy to work, although the lack of a screen makes some tasks such as selecting songs and playlists a nightmare. If you are not too bothered about what plays (i.e. all the songs you sync onto the iPod from your computer are ones you love) then it is perfect for you.

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    • Golds Gym Exercise Wheel / Fitness / 45 Readings / 44 Ratings
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      26.08.2013 14:36
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      A good piece of equipment to help tone your abs from a different angle

      I train my abs a lot more than I used to, having realised that they recover fairly quickly and have grown more in response to this enhanced training. Therefore I tend to perform most my abs exercises at home, with the help of chinup bars (for hanging leg raises) and also this exercise wheel. I saw a video of someone doing rolling crunches with a wheel like this and thought I would give it a go.

      I trust in Golds Gym a lot as they are a reputable company in the fitness industry. This exercise wheel has served me well and still does on almost a daily basis. I feel the motion it puts my abs through is truly unique and in this way provides them with a great workout.

      The wheel is made of plastic but is pretty strong. I weigh about 70kg and it supports my weight well. The two handles on the sides have some grip with inlets for your fingers to wrap round. The wheel itself also has some grip marks, which enables you to have some control over the wheel rather than it just sliding away and bringing your body with it.

      You use the wheel by holding it with both hands in a pressup position but kneeling instead of on your toes. You then let the wheel climb out in front of you whilst holding on to fully stretch out your abs. You then contract your abs to bring the wheel back in towards you and repeat this movement. As well as working abs, it does certainly work your legs and arms as well. I tend to feel it in my hips and around my thighs after doing many repetitions.

      It is best used on a surface with some friction such as a thin carpet or mat. It cost me around £10 when I bought mine, but is available on Amazon now for £7.99 and I am sure you can find it cheaper elsewhere online. It adds a bit of variety to an abs workout and works well in strengthening my core and adding some lean muscle. I would recommend it for a change to working abs!

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      24.08.2013 22:39
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      A brilliant grill for cooking quick and healthy meat and vegetables

      I had heard about the joys of George Foreman grills a long time before I purchased mine. It was when I found an exceedingly cheap grill online, I could not help but buy it. It is a great grill and cooks all meats and vegetables too very quickly by cooking both sides simultaenously. It is a healthier way to cook too as the oil from meats runs down the grill into the fat tray that comes with the machine.

      *Design*

      The grill is silver in colour with the George Foreman logo on top of the lid. The lid has a large handle at the front. On the sides are two clips, which hold the lid in place once it is down. This certain locking position ensures that food gets cooked evenly as the top grill comes down to the same level on both sides. A fat tray, which is gray comes with the machine. This is completely detached, so you place it under the grill at the front whilst you are cooking to catch the fat.

      The grills themselves are of great quality and a decent size enough to cook four pieces of meat. There is also a light on top of the machine, which indicates when the grill has heated up sufficiently.

      *Cooking*

      You can cook all sorts of meats and vegetables too on the grill. I have done a lot of chicken as well as burgers, sausages and more on the grill. The best thing is that things cook in a fraction of the time that they would usually take using an oven or doing a shallow fry. The food is cooked evenly on both sides thanks to the double-sided heat. Chicken will cook in around 6-7 minutes and a burger will take 5-7 minutes depending on the thickness. The grill gets extremely hot, which helps with the cooking speed. The only downside is that if your food is too thick, it may start to burn on the outside before cooking on the inside, which is not great! Also I have tried adding sauces to things whilst cooking but depending on the sauce, these may burn too.

      When cooking, the lid gets quite hot too, which is something to be aware of.

      *Maintenance*

      The grill is reasonably easy to clean, although this is one of the difficulties as it takes a bit of time and effort. You have to leave the grill to cool down before attending to it for cleaning. It can take 30 minutes to cool down a little bit and in excess of an hour to be completely cool. I use a sponge with some washing up liquid to scrub the grill. I then rinse it under the sink, being careful not to get water into the back of the grill where the wire comes out. This takes a bit of effort and it is quite heavy to handle by hand over a sink. However, nothing sticks to the grills too badly so things come off relatively easily.

      *Price & Availability*

      The retail price for this grill is £54.99, but you can almost certainly find it cheaper. On Amazon it is currently priced at £32.95, which isn't too bad. I did get lucky when I bought mine from the PC World Business store for around £15. You can also find it in stores such as Currys and on eBay too.

      *Summary*

      This grill is a great thing to have in the kitchen for quickly and evenly cooking meat for the whole family. The fat is drained from the grill into the tray, which is easy to clean after. It is a healthier way to cook and takes no time at all. The only drawback is that you need to spend some effort cleaning the grill after every use.

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      23.08.2013 07:11
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      A good all in one formula, great as a postworkout shake

      This supplement is a great all in one product, which can act either as a post workout formula or even meal replacement thanks to its protein and carbohydrate contents. It can be used to help lean gains and also to put on some mass if you are a little skinny. Using this product purely as a postworkout shake myself, I saw some impressive lean gains, probably helped by the extra contents of Creapure (a creatine monohydrate mix from MyProtein) and HMB, which helps to fuel lean muscle growth and prevent breakdown (catabolism).

      The product comes in a big plastic bag like most of their other powdered products. Courier delivers it for around £4 when bought online. The bag is re-sealable, and this seal works reasonably well and easily to keep the powder fresh. You can either buy an unflavoured version, which is cheapest, or select from a variety of flavoured powders. You then simply mix the powder with water or even milk/other fluids to have it. It is best mixed in a shaker bottle, which works well. The prices range depending on quantity and flavour, which I have listed below:

      Unflavoured - 2.5kg = £32.99, 5kg = £59.99
      Flavoured - 2.5kg = £34.99, 5kg = £62.99

      Compared to the impact whey protein which I currently use, the markups here for flavoured versions is very little so I would recommend them as the unflavoured tastes disgusting! Flavours include strawberry, smooth chocolate, chocolate mint, banana, toffee, cookies and cream, latte, mocha and more.

      It is suggested that a serving consists of 70g of the stuff, which is two large scoops (not included with product). Just over 42% of this 70g is protein, with 29% carbohydrates and under 4% fat. There is also a 5g serving of the Creapure mentioned above alongside 1.5g HMB, which certainly enhances its effect. You do not have to have the full 70g - sometimes I have less depending on when I am having it. It can be used to supplement meals if you feel you need some more nutrition.

      Since I started using this product, I certainly noticed a slight enhancement in my muscle gains after using whey protein for so long. I did not notice any changes in my muscle recovery, as I have always been wary of this using products such as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) and having decent nutrition throughout the day to help combat this and fuel my muscles. However I imagine the ingredients within Hurricaine XS give you a better recovery and tone down the muscle ache after a hard workout due to its active ingredients.

      Overall this is a good all-round product for gaining weight and muscle. I would recommend it to those looking for a straight forward improved postworkout 'protein' shake. The carbohydrates within are from oats and the protein is whey protein. This combination improves protein uptake into the muscles and enhances growth and recovery. There are no fast acting carbohydrates in this product however, so I would also recommend some form of fruit or sugar to help replenish your energy after a workout too. This combination would be sure to see you gaining lean muscle and not aching too much.

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    • Tesco IR06 Steam Iron / Iron / 28 Readings / 27 Ratings
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      22.08.2013 10:04
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      A decent iron if on a budget

      I have had this iron for years now and it is still working very well. I initially bought it from Tesco for around £12. As a student doctor, I have to iron many shirts for my placements - this iron came in very handy for this laborious task! Although reasonably cheap, it is a decent quality iron. The steam works effectively to iron out those creases.

      The iron came in a rather plain cardboard box displaying the iron and some other functions of the product. Inside is the iron itself along with some instructions for use.

      The iron has a white and light blue colour scheme, and looks rather small and compact compared to some modern high-tech irons, which seem to be twice the size! I like the design - the way the handle curves over the settings dial from the back to the front of the iron with a streamlined effect. On the front are two buttons - one is for spraying water, the other for steam. These buttons both work fairly well, although I have to press the steam one a few times to get it going before the steam comes out. The water sprays out fairly evenly, which is good rather than a more definite spray which would just wet your clothes and maybe cause marks. Just in front of this is an open hole where you fill the iron up with water to power the steam function. Usually irons have a cap here, but I don't see this as a limitation considering this iron has no cap. The water seems to flow in and is kept in its place without leaking, even if you then stand the iron upright.

      The settings dial beneath the handle consists of settings for all fabrics - cotton, silk and all the rest. Following this guide, I have never damaged my clothes having used the right settings. The dial easily turns round and clicks into place on each setting. A light on the rear side of the iron indicates when the iron is heating up. The wire is around 1.5m or so long and plugs into the mains. It has a protective coating, which is iron-resistant meaning you won't burn through the wire and end up with a nasty accident.

      The iron heats up very quickly once plugged in - it only takes around 30-40 seconds. It is then ready for use! It works very well, ironing out all creases with reasonable ease. Some tougher creases will require more effort with the iron with some added pressure and repeated irons over the crease. The use of the steam button in conjunction with the water spray works well together in tackling some tougher creases.

      The iron is easy to maintain and mine has been fine since I bought it, and I use it a lot! There has been no build up underneath or inside the iron. In conjunction with a reasonable ironing board, you can certainly get the job done with this iron without spending a heck lot more money. It does the job, and does it well. The multiple settings for various garments, the steam and water spray functions as well as its good price make it the perfect pick if looking for an effective iron on a budget.

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    • Argos Value Exercise Mat / Fitness / 26 Readings / 26 Ratings
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      21.08.2013 19:22
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      A low budget exercise mat

      I bought one of these not long ago so that I could perform some exercises such as pressups/situps and other abs exercises outside in the garden without getting too dirty. As a student, I have always been a fan of the argos value range as it's so cheap. However some products are a lot better value than others, and this is not one of them.

      *Design*

      The exercise mat is gray in colour and made of a PVC outside material with foam on the inside. It is 120 x 64 x 2 cm in height, width and depth. It is of a decent size, which is one of the plus points. However the mere 2cm depth, which is of poor quality foam just is not good enough when lying on a surface that may have the odd stone or bump underneath - it's not comfortable.

      The mat can be folded and has a Pro Fitness logo on one side. It's a very cheap looking item and there is nothing more to it.

      *Portability*

      The mat is reasonably portable as it is thin and can be folded once or twice quite easily, or even rolled up. It is very light too.

      *Comfort*

      This is where the mat is majorly lacking. You can literally feel each and every bump and rock under your body when lying on this mat. It is very thin and the foam does not provide much comfort against the ground beneath. I do not mind this as much as it still stops me from getting dirty, but perhaps for older people this is not ideal.

      *Quality*

      The mat is clearly not the best quality one out there. The foam inside is very soft and probably the cheapest foam out there. The PVC outer material is good as it is easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth/paper towel. If you add some cleaning material to it like antibacterial spray or washing up liquid, it goes a bit white and bubbly, although this quickly dries clean. The PVC cover is very thin too, so I would not be surprised to see it peel and break. However I have not had my mat for very long and do not use it that often so mine has been fine for the last few months.

      *Price*

      The mat retails at £6.99, available from Argos either in store or online where you can reserve for pickup or get it delivered. It's not really worth having this delivered - it costs at least a few pounds and is easy enough to pick up from a store, being very light and portable.

      *Conclusion*

      This exercise mat does the job, but with a complete lack of comfort and quality. It does help to protect clothes from getting too dirty when used outside. I have not used my mat inside as our floors are carpeted, but I imagine it would work well here. However due to the PVC outer material, I can imagine the mat slipping quite a lot on a wooden or even carpeted floor.

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        21.08.2013 14:32
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        Pads for slendertone abdominal belts for a smooth electrical transmission

        I have bought many of these slendertone replacement pads for my slenderone abs system for men, which I recently reviewed. They are an essential part of the full product. The pads are of great quality and work well with the slendertone system to produce electrical nerve stimulation and great abs contractions.

        The replacement pads come in a small packet, which contains three pads: one square pad and two oblong pads. The square pad fits centrally onto the abs belt. The oblong pads fit over each side of the belt. On the belt that comes with the slendertone product, there are guidance markings for where to place the pads. These are very useful and identified by waist size on the belt.

        The pads fit onto the belt to cover the small round metal parts. These then transmit the electrical nerve stimulation through the pads and to your muscles via input from the system controller attached to the belt. The pads consist of a three layer conductive medium to transfer the stimulation to your nerves and muscles. On appearance, the pads are black on one side (which attaches to the belt). On the other side that sticks to your skin, there is a silver fine chequered pattern from the small metal parts that make up one of the layers. It all looks very technical and they have obviously been produced to a good quality to serve their purpose.

        The pads consist of a gel layer, which is sticky and attaches to your skin. This provides some softness and comfort on your skin. They easily stick onto your skin but must be positioned carefully whilst wrapping the belt around your waist, so you don't have to re-position the pads. Initially they feel a little cold and wet once applied due to the gel layer. During use, they are comfortable and do not irritate me at all. The pads come off very easily. You certainly do not get waxed once they come off! In fact it is fairly pain-free as you pull the pads off your skin. Due to their softness and the gel layer, they come off very carefully causing no harm and they do not even take hair off as you release them. One thing to be wary of is that you need to be careful you do not peel them off the toning belt too when you take the belt and pads away from your skin. This is easily done as it is a similar adhesive material that sticks the pads to the belt itself, which is not overly strong. Once taken off, you can apply plastic covers to the exposed sticky parts that were on your skin. This helps to conserve the sticky part to help them last longer, and it is best to apply these plastic covers with care making sure there are not any air bubbles as this worsens their protection.

        The retail price for these is £11.99 for a set of pads. You can find them a lot cheaper from genuine dealers on eBay for example, and also on Amazon. This is quite expensive for replacement pads in my opinion. They recommend changing them every 20-30 workouts as once exposed to air, they start to lose their stickiness. If you do 5 workouts a week, this means a set of pads will last you 4-6 weeks, which is not great. Although you can continue to try wearing them, they lose their effectiveness. This is because parts of the pads will simply not stick to your skin, leaving gaps. When not firmly stuck on, the stimulation is actually more painful due to the bad skin contact. Also they fail to work efficiently in contracting the right muscles. Therefore it is best to replace them when they lose their stickiness.

        In summary, these replacement pads are required for use with the slendertone abs belt. They are made of great quality materials and transmit the stimulation to your nerves and muscles very well with a good soft and comfortable skin contact. They do not hurt to peel off and take no hair with them. They are quick and easy to apply to the belt and skin during workouts. Although fairly pricey, you do need to replace these fairly often with the belt. I would recommend buying them cheaper on eBay.

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        20.08.2013 18:07
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        A decent piece of equipment, which may suit you

        Ok now that I have your attention, the title is sarcastic. I bought one of these a while ago after watching so many videos and reading reviews. I thought it would be a good idea to help strengthen my abs as well as build some muscle. They certainly made my abs stronger through some of the more excrutiating workout regimens, but I did not notice any size difference. You cannot TARGET fat loss, so using these will NOT get you a six pack necessarily, but WILL help to tone your abs, strengthen your core and possibly add a little bit of muscle to the area.

        The product comes in a box with a gray, black and golden design. It looks very expensive, and it is - with a retail price of £199.99. I would never pay this. I got mine for £105 at the time new, but now they are a lot cheaper at £83.99 currently on Amazon. If you would like one, buying one second hand is not a bad bet as they are even cheaper and usually in great condition as people use them a few times and sell them on.

        Inside the box is the belt, some sticky pads (one front, two sides), the 'system' controller, a charger and instruction manuals/workout planners. One of the booklets suggests different workouts with the machine which I initially followed. There are different powers and types of stimulation that this abs belt can give you - all through electrical nerve stimulation. It's like having a TENS machine, but for the abs. The belt was easy to put together, and you position the sticky pads on the belt at the designated places depending on your waist size (instructions will guide you here). The sticky pads do stick fairly well to the belt. My system came with some charge so I tried it instantly. I was initially terrified; I have no idea why. I was expecting some powerful electrical shocks, but it was nothing like that.

        It does feel a bit strange at first as your abs contract without you voluntarily doing so. This means you can sit there doing anything - work, reading, (I wouldn't recommend eating) and the belt will work away. Depending on what workout you have it on, it will give pulses of stimulation to your abs via the sticky pads on your tummy. Some workouts do this for a while and then give pulses at a faster rate intermittently to change things up a bit. You can change the power for EACH PAD on the sides, meaning you could work one side harder than the other if you wish although there are limitations in the power discrepancies between sides. This is good if you feel one side is a little bit less toned or weaker than the other, as it enables this side to 'catch up'.

        Although you can do whatever you like whilst the belt is working, it can be very distracting. Especially on the higher power levels, although once your abs get used to the work, you tend to 'zone out' a bit and not realise the contractions as much. After a workout, which can be from a number of custom or preset times (if you choose a set workout), my abs always feel like they have been worked hard. I definitely saw strength improvements quickly and before I knew it (a week or so later), I was ramping it up to full power to blast my abs. In terms of tone, I did notice some better toning around my core, although my abdominus rectus muscles did not seem much bigger. I did feel more slender in conjunction with the toned look - so the product name does hold some truth!

        The abs belt is very easy to use. You simply wrap it round your waist and, using velcro, secure it in place. The pads that stick to your tummy have a plastic covering to keep them sticky, which you should replace after each workout. Eventually these pads lose their stickiness and you need to buy new ones, costing around £10 each. The retail price is £11.99 so it is quite expensive, like buying new razor blades! The official replacement pads consist of the two pads with rounded edges for each side, as well as the square central pad, which fits onto the front of your abs. Slendertone recommend changing the pads every 20-30 workouts, which is every 4-6 weeks if you do 5 workouts a week. This is reasonable, and mine have lasted up to around 30 uses each.

        This 'system' is expensive for what it is, although you can see why. It is made of high quality and mine is still working fine. The system controller is very easy to use with only a few buttons, and it can sit comfortably in a little pocket on the belt whilst you are wearing and using it. The controller is not too heavy so this is not noticeable. The belt itself is quite comfortable to wear and feels very secure, especially once you start contracting your abs!

        Regarding charging, I usually have to charge my system every 6-8 workouts as I usually do the high intensity ones. You simply plug the system itself (detachable from the belt) into the mains and it charges fully within a few hours. A battery indicator on the screen efficiently tells you how the charging is progressing. My system has not loss 'charge' over time and I still re-charge it at a similar frequency to when I first bought it.

        In terms of the workouts themselves, this system features 7 programmes: beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert, pro, ab power, endurance. They all feature different lengths of times and power settings. You can still manually adjust the power on these workouts if you feel it is too much/too little. You can also select your own custom workouts. The system has built in warm up/cool down features too, so you aren't immediately thrown in the deep end during a workout.

        Notably, this product has a *two year guarantee*, which is a great bonus when paying such a price for an item. This is reassuring. I have had mine for 3 years now and it still works very well. It is clearly a well-made piece of equipment, which you do unfortunately pay a price for! In conclusion, this abs belt is worth considering for purchase if you feel it would suit you. It certainly strengthens abs leading to a stronger core. This is great to keep your back from straining and also in many sports and other exercises. It does 'tone' your abs, by which I mean it makes your abdominal region more slender and brings out a few grooves and points of definition here and there, which may not have been there before (providing you have low enough body fat in the region). In terms of building massive solid abs, these probably won't do it! I use this system in conjunction with training abs doing conventional exercises at the gym, so I cannot comment accurately on this. It comes at a price, and the pads are fairly expensive too. However, you can use the machine whenever and it is reasonably effective. If you have the money and think it would do something for you - I give it the go ahead!

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          20.08.2013 14:15
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          A good overall moisturiser to be used after sun exposure

          As I purchase my summer sun products at Boots, I always buy their Soltan Aftersun Lotion in combination with a sun protection cream. I see it as just as important as the sun cream itself. It is very soothing on the skin after a hot day out in the sun, and it helps the skin to stay moist and not dry out. Concerning sunburn, it seems to help relieve the dryness of the skin and assists in the healing process.

          The bottle is blue as opposed to the yellow sun care products. It has built in insect repellent, which is great. This means you can come home from the pool/beach, shower and go out that evening having applied this and be protected from nasty mosquitos and similar insects!

          I usually get the 400ml bottle, which costs £8.99, but is currently on offer at £4.49 (and usually is on some sort of offer). Considering the quality of the product and that it is usually on offer, in conjunction with the boots card reward points, the price is not bad compared to other products.

          I much prefer the lotion bottle as opposed to the spray. It is easier to get the cream out, and I usually apply a fair bit of the cream so this speedier process than spraying it on certainly helps. The cream is reasonably runny and translucent with a white touch to it. Although they claim it is odorless, it does have a very light aroma, which is fresh.

          The cream rubs into my skin very well, although it does require a bit of effort and time to fully be absorbed. Otherwise you will be left with a shiny sheen on your skin. I do not mind this and I often apply quite a bit so that my skin has a lasting supply of moisture (don't know if this actually helps). You have to rub the cream in quite a bit to get rid of the sheen. Also it is a little bit sticky until fully absorbed (and even when absorbed), which is annoying when it comes to putting clothes on. After a while you do not notice this anymore and you feel fine.

          In terms of product quality, I would say it is pretty good. It feels great and soothing to apply. It usually feels cool in temperature itself, which is nice on skin that has been in the sun all day. It moisturises well and gets rid of that stretchy dry skin feeling. It does not combat sunburn as well as you may wish, but it certainly helps keeping it moist. When I was last burnt, it was actually Savlon antiseptic cream that helped heal my burn and it worked far more efficiently than this aftersun. I usually apply this aftersun however for many days/weeks after being in the sun, as it help to maintain a tan by keeping your skin moist.

          Overall, I have always been pleased with this product and will continue to use it. You can usually buy it for a reasonable price, it is of good quality and contains insect repellent too as an added bonus. It has great moisturising effects and feels like a quality aftersun once applied compared to cheaper moisturisers/aftersun creams.

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          19.08.2013 16:18
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          A unique pair of good quality slip on shoes

          I have had a few pairs of these in the past in a variety of colours. I really enjoyed purchasing different coloured Vans slip on shoes as you could have one colour to match different jeans/tops etc. I had the pink and brown ones, blue and black and also white and black. They are great shoes and were quite popular back in the day, but now I feel rather embarrassed to get my current pair on! I feel they are a bit outdated now and more for kids, however they are still a good quality and comfortable pair of shoes.

          *Design*

          These shoes are made of canvas material, so are great for spring/summer time. Saying this, they still feel a little heavier than you may expect. However they are cool to wear on a hot summer's day. Each shoe features a chequered pattern usually with a two or three tone colour scheme. The range of colours enables you to pick a pair suited to the clothes you wear. They are also unisex shoes, so anyone can wear them. There is a Vans logo on the outer side of each shoe, with a logo on the back base too where the rubber sole goes round. They look quite stylish and certainly tend to stand out from the crowd. With their design, they can be worn either with trousers/jeans or shorts.

          *Comfort*

          I have always found these shoes reasonably comfortable. With their canvas material along the dorsal foot, your foot is not squeezed into the shoe - it has a little bit of space to move, but the shoes still keep your foot in place. They do this with a padding on either side of the shoe as well as some extra padding at the heel end to keep your foot locked in.

          When I first wore these shoes, I was in excruciating pain due to blisters at my heel. The shoes really needed wearing in manually a bit before wearing them on my feet! The back part of the shoe was quite hard at first and digged into my heel. Once worn in, they grip the foot well and are very comfortable to wear. The sole is of reasonable quality although you do feel some sharper bumps in the road more than when wearing other shoes. They are ideal for walking distances in a city. With the slip on design, they are also very easy to get on and off in an instant, which helps if you are in a rush looking for a pair of shoes! I have chosen to wear these many times in the past simply because of this.

          *Quality*

          Vans slip on shoes are of reasonable quality - much better than a lot of similar makes you may see. This classic slip on shoe has been copied by many other companies, but Vans are by far the best quality. The canvas material is strong and has never broken on me. The only bit that wears is the heel of the shoe where the Vans logo is on the base, however this could always be due to the way I walk!

          If the shoes get dirty, they are very easy to clean. The canvas chequered material over the back of the foot along the top of the shoe is flat and easy to wipe clean. Admittedly it may need a bit of a scrub at times too, but you can do this safely. You can even stick them in the washing machine although I would not recommend it just in case they get damaged.

          *Price & Availability*

          You can purchase a pair of these for anywhere between £28 and £45 depending on design, availability and size. They are widely available online - more so than in shops these days. The infant sizes for kids cost less at around £18-25. You can certainly find them less than these prices if you shop around online. My last blue/black pair cost me £26 as far as I can remember. This is not a bad price as they are of decent quality and will last a while.

          *Summary*

          The Vans chequered slip on shoes are unique and bring a little fashion to your feet. I am not as inclined to wear mine these days as they seem to have died out a bit, but no doubt they will come back into fashion one day like most other things! They are of good quality, comfort and come at a reasonable price.

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          19.08.2013 00:10
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          A decent pair of contact lenses

          These are the most recent lenses I have purchased as I tend to try out various makes to see what suits me best. A while ago I switched to buying my own lenses online rather than via a company such as Specsavers, after realising how much cheaper it was. I also had an incredible stock of contact lens solution built up due to in my opinion the excessive amounts delivered each month with my contract (probably what I was paying for in the end).

          I ordered two boxes of six lenses, providing me with six months worth so long as I did not damage a pair or lose a lens. The box is easy to open and has a nice secure fastening mechanism by use of a cardboard flap, rather similar to cereal boxes. It is something simple but all previous lenses I have had were never secure once the box was opened. Each lens is individually packed inside solution with the prescription on the lens tray so you can be confident of the lens you are putting in once you open the lens tray.

          Upon first handling these lenses, I could tell they were of the delicate variety. They were very soft and easily turned inside out, which they still do. You therefore have to handle them very carefully. Upon storing the lenses, this has led me to much time-wasted and confusion over which way round the lenses were when it came to putting them back in. After storing them in solution and giving them a little shake, the lenses would occasionally fold on themselves and confuse me as to what way round they were. With much practice, I have now got better at telling which way round they should be, however this has not been without fault. I have put these lenses in at times the wrong way round and there is a very subtle but noticeable scratchy feeling to my eye. Upon taking the lens out and turning it inside out to re-apply, the scratchy feeling goes and it becomes evident that they were inside out originally!

          Besides this issue, the lenses are very comfortable to wear and I really cannot tell they are in. I can't say this for all other lenses I have worn, so this is certainly a true bonus. My eyes do not dry out or get itchy with these lenses, which has happened in the past with other makes. They also seem to last well up to a month without causing any problems. They also have a slight tint to them, which helps in bright sunlight!

          They are easy to clean as long as you are delicate. Although they are soft and tend to easily fold onto themselves, I have never had a pair rip like some of mine have in the past from other makes. Two boxes of 6 lenses in each cost me £26 online. This was slightly more than I had paid for other lenses before, but it was worth it for their comfort and hydration. They are not the most premium pair of lenses, but they are certainly decent. Considering these will last me 6 months, that works out at around £4.30 a month, which is a lot better than the £13/month contract I was paying with Specsavers. I would certainly recommend trying these Cooper Vision Proclear lenses.

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          18.08.2013 12:21
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          A brilliant quality toaster that comes at a price

          We have had this toaster for many years now and it is still as great as ever. It is a very robust piece of equipment made from the best materials, and so it does come at a price. I will be reviewing the Dualit 47180 4 Slice NewGen toaster, which is different to the one pictured here.

          *Design*

          The toaster is available in many colours, chrome being the original. Other colours give a lovely contrast between the chrome front and the sides, which can be pink, purple, green, yellow, black, cyan, cream, gray and more. Choosing your colour means you can make the toaster look brilliant in any kitchen. The colours are very vivid too, painted onto good quality aluminium casing.

          The toaster has four slots for slices of bread or even bagels, each 28mm wide. This is quite wide but it will hold all size slices that fits, as the tray it enters will grip the slice as you lower it into the toaster. There is a lever on the front at the bottom, which is pulled to lower the slices into the machine. This is a great feature as you can wait until you are ready to get your slices before using the lever to push them back up. This way, your slices won't get cold by automatically popping up if you are not ready. There are two control panels - one is a dial, which measures time in minutes. The other is settings depending on what you want toasted. You can heat certain slots at a time and even toast one side of a slice, which is great for bagels.

          Underneath is a crumb tray, which pulls out the front. This collects all the crumbs pretty well and is easy to empty and wash. There are also four little feet, which are actually adjustable so that you can sit your toaster flat even on a slightly uneven surface.

          The quality of materials used is superb and you will not find better in a toaster. They are handmade in the UK so we were told, and the aluminium casing in conjunction with the 'ProHeat elements' in the slots are of great quality and long-lasting.

          *Toasting*

          Perfectly toasted bread, bagels and crumpets can be expected with this toaster once you get the timing right! The options enable for specific toasting - you can do one side and you can activate only one slot or two/three/four slots at a time, which can save electricity. The only way to tell that your toast is ready is that the timer reaches the end and there is a rather loud click. Apart from this, the toast does not pop up so sometimes it can be difficult to realise it has finished if you are busy across the kitchen. It would be better if a louder mechanism was put into place when the timer is up such as a bell. As for when the slices are toasting, you can hear a winding noise from the mechanical timer going round. This means it produces a constant although quiet noise when on, which some people may not like.

          *Price & Availability*

          This toaster costs quite a lot, currently at around £172 on Amazon. This is bit cheaper than the usual price mark at around £195 to £200. This is a lot of money to dish out for a toaster but it is of superb quality, looks great and is sure to last years.

          *Summary*

          The Dualit range is excellent and this toaster is in keeping with this. It has a lovely handmade design of the most premium materials, available in an array of vivid colours (besides the not so vivid chrome). It works perfectly and the settings enable you to do what you want without wasting electricity. It is easy to maintain too. Although pricey, I would recommend it for the longterm - ideal if you have just got a new kitchen fitted out!

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            18.08.2013 01:34
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            A great kitchen appliance for making quick and tasty toasties

            I have always loved making toasties, and I had to continue this passion of mine at university. They are so easy to make and taste so good! Luckily I came across a very cheap toastie maker in Tesco when shopping for university at under £5. I have used it ever since to make delicious toasties with great ease. It is no top of the range toastie maker, but I see no real reason to delve into your pocket and pay more for something that does pretty much the same job.

            *Design*

            The toastie maker, part of the Everyday Value range, comes in a simple box with some instructions. It has a round shape to it, which looks gives it a modern edge and makes it look slick in the kitchen. On top are two lights - one red, one green. There is a simple clipping mechanism, which holds the lid of the machine down in place once your sandwiches are inside. It plugs into the mains and will immediately begin heating up once plugged in. It is not too large and fits well in a kitchen, and can easily be stored away on its side in a cupboard too.

            Inside the machine are non-stick plates on both the base and lid, which heat up to toast your sandwich on both sides. These are fairly easy to clean with a damp cloth or even paper towel and some disinfectant once it has cooled down. Having used mine for years, it's still in pretty good working condition having done this.

            *Using The Toastie Maker*

            The machine is very easy to use. You literally plug it in and it starts heating up. Once the green light goes off, you can place your sandwich in to be toasted. I tend to prepare the whole sandwich and then put the lot in once it has heated up. This way, you get a nice even toast to both bread slices. There is no timer and no indication of when your toastie is ready - it would depend on what is inside too! If you have a thick sandwich with cheese to be melted for example, it will probably take more than a minute..! I tend to leave all my sandwiches in the toaster for 2-3 minutes and this does them well.

            Once toasted, you can remove the sandwich (it will be very hot) from the machine, being careful if using metal not to scratch the metal plates. It can then be unplugged and easily cleaned once cooled down (as mentioned above) before being stored away.

            *What Can You Make?*

            You can use normal sized bread in the toaster - i.e. it does not have to be square small pieces of bread; the toastie maker can fit larger more rectangular slices too. However, I would say in terms of thickness you have to be careful. If your sandwich is too thick, it is hard to close the lid and the outside will toast and get a lot hotter than the centre of the sandwich. However the clipping mechanism of the lid down to the base works very well and enables you to squeeze one or two reasonably thick sandwiches into the machine at a time.

            My favourite combinations are: tuna and cheese, ham and cheese. Cheese melts just perfectly in this toastie all over the accompanying meat, which tastes great. I still use butter (or margarine) whilst making my sandwiches as it tastes great. You are supposed to butter the outside of the bread (the side that will be in contact with the hot metal toasting plates), but this can get quite messy. It gives a lovely flavour to the bread though as the butter melts all over the outside. I have never had any problems with sandwiches sticking anyway, so I doubt this butter trick is meant to prevent that.

            *Summary*

            I have not seen one of these available recently in Tesco (not this model anyway) but if you can get your hands on one, they cost peanuts and are really great. They are so easy to use, have a simple yet attractive design and are easy to maintain and store. They are great for making sandwiches a little tastier and more interesting, and are ideal on a cold winter's day when craving something warm and tasty.

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              17.08.2013 13:52
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              A great little adjunct to the Nespresso coffee machines to provide a perfect frothy milk

              We have this Magimix Nespresso milk frother alongside our Nespresso coffee machine, which is a great adjunct to froth up some milk to go with my morning coffee. I think ours came with the Nespresso coffee machine we bought, but it can be purchased separately too. It is ideal for use alongside a Nespresso coffee machine but you could also use it to froth milk excellently alongside any other coffee machine.

              *Design*

              The frother has a very modern and sleek design - a silver finish around a mug-shaped container with a nice big black handle. There is a button on the front, which lights up when active. This will froth the milk for roughly 50 seconds. A Nespresso logo lies beneath this. The frother has a clear lid so that you can watch it do its magic. Inside is a non-stick surface with a magnetic nozzle at the bottom - this is where you attach either the latte attachment or cappuccino attachment to get frothing. The jug itself is a bit heavier than it first looks, but still easy to handle. It comes with a plug and station that the jug sits on to provide it with power. It's only small and fits in the kitchen perfectly. In fact it would be better if the frother was a little bit bigger so that you could prepare more than one drink at a time!

              *Does it Work?*

              The machine works fairly well with a 50 second time limit once the button is pressed. The annoying thing is that there is a refractory delay once it has been used once, so you cannot froth again for another 30 seconds or so. It aims to do two things:

              Froth milk
              Warm up the milk

              You can use either of the two attachments (one is black, one is a silver whisk) to froth milk for either latte or cappuccino respectively. You then fill up a glass with this frothed milk before placing it under the Nespresso machine and adding the coffee. The coffee then pours through perfectly leaving you with the perfect morning coffee. I find the temperature of the milk could be a bit hotter, but combined with the slightly hotter coffee out the machine, it's the perfect temperature to drink straight away. This is ideal for mornings when you may be a bit rushed!

              I like to then add a little bit of chocolate powder to my coffee, especially if it's a cappuccino. It tastes delicious in the morning, and the froth really adds a nice authentic texture to the drink.

              *Drawbacks*

              1. Size
              2. Burning milk

              The machine could be a little larger as I say, because you can only froth enough milk for one drink at a time. It has measurements on the inside to indicate how much and the maximum you should be doing too. Secondly, despite the non-stick lining on the inside, milk seems to burn to this after a while. It is difficult to clean so we try to clean it as best we can in-between uses to prevent this build up.

              *Price & Availability*

              This machine is quite expensive, as is the Nespresso range and coffees! It costs anywhere between £55 and £80 online depending on where you look. This is quite expensive but it is a quality and reliable product, which works well. It certainly froths milk better than using traditional methods. There are newer versions such as the aerocinno 3, which can be bought from Nespresso themselves.

              *Conclusion*

              This is a lovely little machine, which adds some delight to my morning coffees. The milk is frothed very well and to a good temperature once combined with some hotter coffee meaning it is readily drinkable. It is slightly pricey, could be a bit bigger and sometimes you can get a build up of burnt milk on the bottom, which is why I cannot give it 5 stars. It has lasted us years though and still works very well, almost silently whilst it is on. I would recommend this to be used in conjunction with a Nespresso or other coffee machine.

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              • Apple iPhone 4 16 GB / Smartphone / 24 Readings / 20 Ratings
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                16.08.2013 23:56
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                An excellent phone with many functions, now at a reasonable price

                The iPhone has been going for a long time now, and I got my hands on one of these almost two years ago in replacement of a rather rubbish phone compared. In my opinion, the iPhone 4 is still an excellent phone, and it should be considered for purchase versus the iPhone 4s and iPhone 5 along with other popular smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S4. Although it may not carry the same speeds and functions and screen size, it is an incredibly useful phone for the current price.

                *Design*

                The iPhone 4 features a 3.5 inch wide-screen multi-touch function retina display. It is of great quality and enables you to view photos and media with superb clarity and vivid colours. The home button sits at the bottom of the phone below the screen, which brings you to the home screen where you can view all your applications. The other buttons lie along the upper left side of the phone - volume control and a switch to turn the phone on/off silent mode. On top of the phone is the power button, which can be clicked to lock the phone and held to bring up the power off option. That's it for the buttons - all the functions are cleverly integrated into the multi-touch screen.

                The iPhone 4 weighs just 137 grams, which is not bad at all. It is 58.6mm wide by 115.2mm long by just 9.3mm in depth. At under 1cm thick, it easily fits into a pocket quite discretely. Obviously this can be compared to even thinner modern versions and other phones, but it's still a great size.

                The phone is made of excellent quality materials meaning it is pretty solid and will not have pieces falling off, unless you drop it! The design is very simple and slick, available in either white or black finishes. I have the white 16 GB version, which is great as it does not stain with dirt like most white clothes or other accessories do.

                *Features*

                The iPhone 4 has tons of features as a modern smartphone. It has two cameras - one on the front, one on the back. The back camera is a 5 megapixel camera capable of 5x digital zoom with a flash function too. The front camera is not as powerful, but used for things such as facetime and taking pictures whilst the phone is facing you with ease.

                The App store and iTunes score enable you to purchase/get 'apps' and music/videos respectively from a massive choice - many of which are free. Apps can help you in your day-to-day tasks - many of which feature functions that are not built into the phone. Other apps include games that you can play in your spare time and so much more. As they say, there literally is an app for everything! Even measuring your own heartbeat (admittedly you have to feel your own pulse whilst tapping the beat into the phone, so you may as well just feel it and count with a timer but anyhow...)

                The phone has all the usual features that have been around for a while, except brilliantly displayed on this touch screen display - calculator, stopwatch, alarms, email, internet browser, calendar, address book, voice recorder, GPS and more. Youtube used to be a default phone application, but you now have to download a separate youtube application from the App store.

                Obviously the phone has calling and texting abilities with MMS capabilities too. The Newsstand app enables you to read magazines and newspapers from the App store.

                The touch screen works really well. You are easily able to scroll through web pages, photos and messages. You can pinch the screen to zoom in and out and hold your finger down to give access to more options so that you can manage text easily - copying, pasting etc. The phone has capacity for storing many photos, which can be internal or external along with videos, music and all the applications. The 16GB version has been plenty for all of my music (minus a few old songs) as well as a small number of games and other applications.

                The phone also has a built in accelerometer, which is used to tell which way the phone is standing. This means you can easily change the phone display by tilting the phone. It becomes natural after a while and works really well. This also enables you to optimise web page and photo viewing.

                *Usability*

                This phone is incredibly easy to use. You don't really need instructions! You simply press with your finger where you want to go and what you want to do and it happens! You can scroll by sliding your fingers, zoom by pinching and even rotate by moving two fingers in a rotatory fashion.

                The quality of phone calls is excellent - the speaker provides sound of good quality and people on the other end can always be heard (unless there is a signal problem). You can adjust the volume of the ear speaker to your liking too, depending on the environment you are in. It is very easy to type on this phone. I found it a little difficult at slow and was slow to start due to the small-ish size of the on-screen keyboard. However I quickly gained speed and now type at about one-third the speed that I can on a computer, which is pretty good going! The phone has a built in dictionary to make typing easier too, although this annoyingly replaces normal words with obscure ones sometimes and does not always work very well.

                The phone comes with a charger, which can be plugged into a USB port (on any laptop/computer). This enables your phone to be charged and you can also sync data from your computer with the phone. Songs sync within seconds and movies sync surprisingly fast too within a few minutes depending on size. The battery is something that many people have had a problem with this phone. There are many ways to reduce battery usage such as quitting applications that aren't in use (as they stay open in the background) and switching off settings such as bluetooth/wifi/automatic location tracking. With plenty of use and knowing these tricks, the phone can easily last over a day before it needs a full recharge.

                *Price & Availability*

                This phone costs around £360 new but can be found for as low as £270 in black and white. It is not retailed by Apple anymore, who only sell the 8 GB version of the iPhone 4 at the moment. You can purchase it online through many other sellers and even on eBay where I originally bought mine. It is best to be very cautious when buying such an item on eBay however. I would try and see the phone in person before purchasing and also request a serial number to check on the Apple website that the product is legit (serial number can be found inside sim card tray). For under £300, this is actually a great price for a very functional phone and I would highly recommend it.

                *Final Remarks*

                In summary the iPhone 4 is an excellent phone with many features that now is available at a reasonable price. It has a lovely display and is extremely easy to use, making life a lot easier with so many features usable whilst on the go! With the iOS 7 update coming out this September and compatible with this phone, it will soon be undergoing a revamp in terms of the design and function of the operating system. I would get your hands on one (or better - iPhone 4s/5) so you don't miss out!

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