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saz_alicious
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Member since: 24.05.2009

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      13.10.2010 14:30
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      An excellent mp3 which may just give Apple a run for their money

      So the world is speeding along in the form of Apple from ipods to iphones and now some mini nano thingy but me, I 'm not all that high-tech or materialistic. As long as it sounds good, is affordable and is fairly time-proof, I'm happy.

      So when my last Sandisk mp3 clip started to feature problems I decided it was it was time to move on. But I wanted something in the same realm. The mp3 realm. Preferably with a well-recognised brand that wasn't as mainstream as Apple.

      So I went for this, an mp3 created by Sony. They have definitely done a good job here. The colour I opted for was red although it also came in grey and black. Dimensions:

      Height 44mm

      Width 9.3mm

      Length 86.8mm

      Meaning that its a good practical size, and thin enough to slip in almost anywhere.

      The Basics
      ---------------
      Screen:
      It is a good size, taking up over half of the front meaning that everything is very easy to see, unlike small pocket size mp3s where the words scroll across or small mp3s where the text is annoyingly miniscule. The screen is a gradient blue-black and mine is surrounded by a deep crimson red interface meaning that it really is quite a good-looking device.
      The white text is also very easy to read and stands out well from the background colour.

      Keypad:
      It is very easy to use. There are just 3 buttons: middle navigation key, a 'back' button doubling up as 'home' and an option button doubling up as the 'power off' button. The design means that the middle button (navigation) is more raised that the other two but all the buttons feel like they are being pressed when you push them, yet are not so easy to press that you always end up accidentally brushing across them which is particularly useful.


      Synchronization with computer
      ----------------------------------------
      Fairly important to me is how fast I can download music as patient though I may be, I like to be able to update my music relatively quickly. As I connected the device to the computer I found that once its connected a circular 'connecting' sign appears on the mp3 and you cannot use the mp3 whilst its being plugged in/being simultaneously charged. Which is a bit of a nuisance sometimes but not too much of a niggle.

      My computer takes 3-5 seconds to detec t the device.

      At first, moving music files from com to mp3 couldn't be easier. If I opened the music application 'real player' or 'windows media' a box appeared asking if you want to sync the device with the computer. You can click affirmative but this way takes a while.

      It is by far easier and quicker to simply open up separate windows for the mp3 and sound file and then jut 'drag and drop.' This worked brilliantly for me.

      However, after a few months I found that the computer doesn't seem to always recognise the mp3 that quickly. And would show a 'stopped responding' notice after a few seconds of being plugged in. Took it out, re-tried, changed usb portlets and a few times I just gave up altogether and waited a few hours or the next day. The reason for this could be my computer or the fact I bought a new mp3 cable (£2.95 off ebay) but I am not sure...


      Playing and sound quality
      ---------------------------------
      Music is very easy to access. It's easy to scroll through songs because of the navigation pad: there's the standard one- press and the other quite standard one- just holding on to the down arrow to go faster. The sound quality is also really very good- I was very impressed- probably down to the well-made earphones although using other unprovided earphones work too.


      Menu from left-right
      ---------------------------
      Shuffle all
      FM Radio
      Clock/date
      Photo librar
      Music library:
      Video library: Settings: Ability to change music, photo as well as language settings
      Playlists:
      Now playing:


      Battery life
      ---------------
      Very good battery life which is a plus as I'm not one to like having to charge up anything every two odd minutes. Officially 30 hours when fully charged although I'd say a bit less. So translated that means it can last me about 4-5 days of moderate listening although I do tend to re-charge it every night.


      Other negs
      ----------------
      I'd say this mp3 is more practical than multi-purpose. For example, once songs are on the mp3 you cannot organize them into playlists or actually do much to them, this needs to be done whilst on the computer (creating folders). This said, there is a 'shuffle all' button which allows you to, well shuffle all songs.
      The start-up time may seem a little bit delayed at first but you get used to it.


      Conclusion
      -----------------
      Apart from the occasional mishaps with the wire connection (which may or may not be a personal computer problem), and the lack of freedom once the music is actually on the mp3, I'd say this is a very recommendable device which is simple to use, practical and makes music sound good!
      Retail price: .£75.00 ish although selling in ebay for £35.00 and much less!

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        11.10.2010 19:29
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        Better than having a post saying 'Orio al Serio airport' but really needs a lot of improving!

        After a fairly quick and hassle-free 3 hour journey with Ryanair, I arrived at Orio al Serio airport, also known as the Milan-Bergamo airport. I had learned that it was fairly easy to travel from Milan-Bergamo airport to Brescia, my destination, and therefore I chose this airport over it's cousin Malpensa counterpart, which is the other airport close to Milan.

        I arrived fairly late at 10pm (Ryanair's erratic times are always a bit of a down-side) and I have to say I was expecting a lot. Expectation also built because of the wonderful birds-eye view scenes you see before touching down and all the exotic excitedness of being in a brand new country. Yet, as the ryanair connection bus drove all the ex-passengers from the plane to the airport I realised I had been a little bit disillusioned.

        The airport is, especially if you arrive fairly late as I did, a bit dull and dingy at a first glance and fairly small, unaided by the actual design of the airport which I found to be quite constrictive. Now the main issue I had right at the start was finding somewhere reasonable to sleep as when I arrived all the ticket booths were closed and therefore I thought it best to wait until the following morning, especially since it was so late. Ok, I understood it was an airport- there would be no ready-made bunk-beds springing up from the floors, but the space for newly arrived-slightly red-eyed foreigners was very limited: in the main area there were two back to back rows of very hard and very uncomfortable metal chairs and then, as I would discover the following morning, other single chairs dotted around further down.

        Thankfully, I managed to find a couple of free seats which I then tried to lie down on as a make-shift bed, but shortly after me another flight arrived and a lot of passengers were forced to find corners of the floor to lie down on which was a bit hard-going.

        There were also a few announcements all in Italian with no English translations. Even though I understand Italian they were too fast for me to understand and at one point an Italian security-offical looking man who didn't speak English came up to the 'den' of make-shift beds and seemed to say something quite important and be signalling then walked off. A few people then got up and moved. Since I didn't understand a word I just did a bit of staring, a bit of blinking then carried on trying to get to sleep. Thankfully, I later learned that most of the staff in the airport are fairly competent in speaking both English and Italian so don't worry too much if you only speak English!

        The next morning I woke up extra early and had to ask a different security man where to find the WC as it was not well-marked. There is just one WC located at the entrance near arrivals which was a very big minus as places such as the information desk or places to eat were located at the other end of the airport meaning a few treks backwards and forwards.

        Another note to women or perhaps young female students such as myself are the flirty chat-ups slightly bored security guards might try to engage in. As on the way out of the WC, the same guard started speaking to me and asked me if I wanted a lift to my destination in his car. Alarm bells!! As tempting as it may have been to not have to lug luggage anywhere I also knew in Italy, nothing is free!

        So after politely excusing myself I went to find something to nibble on. There are a small handful of places to eat small snacks if you feel a bit peckish- mainly brioches and coffee and such like- you are in Italy after all! But beware of fiendishly high prices.

        A big plus of the airport, ironically not part of the airport itself, is the transport system outside of the airport. The airport isn't too far from Milan and also cities such as Brescia or Bergamo and there were fairly cheap and frequent buses running every 10-15 mins. Passes and charges do vary depending on the service and destination and it is best to buy tickets from the ticket man inside the airport (ask at the information desk) as they will tend to try and help you find the best deal. I paid roughly 15 euros for a ticket from the airport direct to Brescia but I think it was cheaper, maybe 10 euros for a ticket to Milan.

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        • More +
          30.04.2010 18:33
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          A very good buy!!

          Introduction
          -----------------
          I recently reached the bottom of my last pocket-friendly anti-bacterial wash and therefore went on the hunt for something a bit bigger but that I could carry around quite easily if I wanted. The purchase I settled on was a square-shaped anti-bacterial which I was drawn to because of the "£1 special offer" sticker pasted to the front.


          Why it's a bit different
          -----------------------------
          Carex have developed a wash that isn't just your average standard wash but has been specifically designed so that it not only cleanses but also moisturizes your hands at the same time. The brand I actually settled on was 'Moisture plus' which came in a white bottle which said that it contained moisturising milk protein.

          The bottle
          ---------------
          The bottle comes on with a screw on lid which has a squirty section on top which can be pressed for blobs of the handwash. Yet the screwed on top also means that should you be running a bit low on the wash you can always unscrew it and squirt a small amount of moisturiser or cream in to help it last that little bit longer. However, its shape means that it is a bit bulky to be always carrying around in a handbag, but I have found that with larger handbags this isn't a problem. It's solid design also means that it stands very easily on a cabinet or table.


          The wash
          --------------
          I really love the wash itself as it came out white and had a very creamy texture, more like shampoo than the watery anti-bacterials I was used to. It smelt faintly aromatic and was incredibly gentle on the skin so I was pleased it was cleasing them at the same time. I've found that I rarely need to moisturise my hands anymore as the wash works brilliantly and as I use it 2-3 times a day my hands stay relatively clean.



          Drawbacks
          ----------------
          I would say the only minor drawback would be the size of the bottle and the fact that unlike some very convenient anti-bacterial washes which don't require the use of water, you must use this wash as you're washing your hands.



          Conclusion
          -----------------
          Great smelling handwash which not only cleases but leaves your hands really soft and moisturised so if it's an all-round moisturiser/cleanser you're looking for, look no further!

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            24.01.2010 12:48
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            Brilliant for waxing, recommended to all!

            Yes. Like many women. I have the odd hair. On my upperlip. Which should not be there. From when I discovered the first couple of stray hairs about a year back I have since undergone a strict mirror-facial inspection every day to ensure there are no more unadressed outbreaks. The moment I see any sign- the tiniest, miniscule sign- whoosh, and out come the wax strips. Before wax strips, I used to just use tweezers but after a while I thought it was high time I got properly smoothed up.

            I had originally wanted to go for the professional salon option, but thinking I could do a lot cheaper (but still get a great finish) I checked out Boot's hair removal products, finally arriving at Veet's strips.

            I was very impressed.

            What am I?
            --------------

            Veet wax strips come in different forms which can be used on different parts of the body such as the face or bikini line. They also do special strips for sensitive skin. These 20 facial strips are specially designed to cater for hair removal on the delicate areas of the face such as the upper lip or chin because of their small rectangular size.

            Veet also create a range of other products such as hair removal creams but this is the first product I had tried in their range.

            What do I come in?
            --------------------------------

            The wax strips come in a pink rectangular packet which clearly show the Veet logo, the part of the body to use them on (face) and key ingredients which are Shea Butter and Berry.

            It also indicates that there are 20 wax strips and 4 perfect finish wipes inside.

            There is also the statement that with regular use these strips have been clinically proven to make your hair re-grow 'fewer, finer and softer.'


            The strips
            ----------------

            Each pink wax strip is roughly 4cm by 1cm and surrounded by 2 pieces of paper. I always like to give new products a bit of a feel and a smell before using them and these strips have a great fruity smell and are smooth to the touch. The two pieces of paper mean that even if you're a bit clumsy and drop the strips before you're ready to use them it won't matter as the pieces of paper have to be peeled back before the wax is revealed.

            Price
            ------

            I paid roughly £6.00 for a pack in Boots which I thought was a little pricey, but considering effectiveness, how long they last and how smooth my skin is it's well worth it! You can also get something back if you've got a Boot's card and can collect points.

            Using it
            -------------

            They are incredibly easy to use which scores big points with me: you simply rub the strip between your hands for a few seconds until you feel the paper warming up between your hands. This means the wax inside has melted enough and are ready to use. You then peel back a corner which should come off fairly easily.

            Warning: you'll need a mirror otherwise you'll end up with wax all over the place.

            You peel the paper back to reveal the pink wax underneath and attach it to the section of facial skin. It's best to use small sections of the strip at a time and to also apply it to small sections of skin at a time. Time-consuming but worth it! You then have to pull the skin taut (to reduce pain) and rub the back of the wax strip in the direction of the hair for a few seconds, then strip back as quickly as you can.

            It takes a bit of practice to get it right but you soon get the hang of it! To begin with, especially if you have to go over the same area again your face will become quite inflamed and red (which is why it is suggested to test your skin reaction first -very advisable if you have sensitive skin- and the packet also advises not to re-wax the same area more than once, although I'm quite impatient and usually disregard this).

            There are 4 'Perfect finish wipes' which are like little squares of oily wipes which you can use after your hair removal session to remove any excess wax. After using these, I then usually rinse my whole face of and towel dry it. I think there are never enough of these facial wipes inside and so usually I have to use something else like baby oil as a substitute. Still, I think the fact they even include wipes is a big positive.

            Best time to apply
            -----------------------

            I've found that for me the best time to use these strips is just after a shower. Or, if you need urgent attention, bathe the necessary area in warm water and soap to begin with so it's a bit more receptive to having hair pulled out of it. Maybe, when you get a bit more used to the strips you can venture for the dry application but I've been using them for about half a year and still like having a quick wash before I sit down to use them.


            What I think
            --------------------

            These strips are fantastic. I found that after just using one, I not only got rid of the couple of hairs I'd been targeting but on closer inspection, had even pulled out lots of little hairs I hadn't even noticed! They are easy to use and I especially like the fact that there are finish wipes included to really soothe your skin afterwards.

            They can also be used on more sensitive areas such as the bikini line or under the arms although I haven't dared go that far yet!

            The few negative points are that the wax can get quite sticky and be a bit fiddly to try and apply.. Also, although the strips can be used multiple times they do eventually lose their stickiness and therefore stop working which sometimes means you have to go over the same area. (Although I usually only use 1 or 2 strips in each hair removal session anyway).

            All in all, I love Veet's wax strips. They are a fruity and effective way to get rid of annoying little facial hair and a lot cheaper than getting it done professionally!

            2 big thumbs up!

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            • More +
              24.01.2010 01:57
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              good deodorant but there's more effective ones out there!

              Like most people, I hate sweating. It's natural but pretty awful having to deal with the results of a non-working deodorant and wet underarms. I also find there are certain materials which I have to avoid like the plague because they just open up the sweat ducts even more: viscose, acrylic, 100% polyester are complete non-goes. My arms are also especially odd in that deodorants tend to work well to begin with, then I end up having to swap the deodorant as it loses effect. Therefore, I have a sort of carousol of deodorants going on and Nivea's double effect deodorant is one of them although I'm not sure if I'll be buying another when it runs out.

              The brand
              ---------------
              Nivea is a well known brand which creates a variety of skin and beauty care products for both men and women.


              Spray
              ---------
              The deodorant comes in a tall lilac 250ml can with a press down spray button on the top. It's shiny, feminine-esque appearance is fairly appealing to look at and it's height makes it stand out on the self. Faint images of flowers across the front, hint at the violet-themed flowery scent of the spray and a tiny picure of a woman shaving her arms is used to illustrate that the deodorant should lead to softer skin and a 'close shave. Other information encircling the front include:
              -Double effect
              -Gentle 24 hour care protection
              -violet fragrance
              -smooth underarm skin for longer


              Using it
              -----------
              To use, you are instructed to shake the bottle, hold it 15cm from the underarm and spray, making sure it is not applied to broken or irritated skin. There is also a slightly bizarre statement that it is an antiperspirant not a shaving product. Just in case you hadnt quite noticed that yet. The button at the top of the can is fairly easy to press and the spray comes out, as expected in a long spray. The lid is also fairly easy to re-attach to the bottle although I usually keep this off as it's more convenient.


              The smell
              --------------
              The smell is probably the deodoran's main positive point. It's really flowery and violety, probably the nicest fragrance I've smelt for deodorants. It lingers both in the air and on the skin for quite a long time which is very refreshing, and usually results in me spraying on a bit more than needed.


              Results- does it work?
              ------------------------------
              I found that this deodorant worked fairly well for me, better than most deodorants. I didn't find myself sweating. However, I did find that although it about suffices for daily use it's not strong enough to use when I'm doing extremely active work or working out for example, or when the weather is very warm- the sweaty armpits were back and so I'd have to change and use an alternative deodorant. Still, for everyday use it's pretty good.

              I'd say the deodorant was very gentle on the skin, probably due to the vitamin c and avocado extracts, however I wouldn't go so far as to say it led to a closer shave as I haven't really felt much difference there.

              A big negative is, spray too much on, and your arms will feel wet from the outset, which can be fairly irritating. Therefore, it might be wiser to go for a deodorant labelled 'dry' rather than 'gentle.'

              Conclusion
              ---------------
              It's a great smelling deodorant, good for everyday use but for me, not strong enough for the times I need that little extra protection. Although it is fairly gentle on the skin, spraying too much can mean your underamrs feel very uncomfortable. This also means that I still have to give under-arm non-friendly materials like viscose, acrylic a miss when using this deodorant.

              I'd suggest a dryer deodorant for anyone that needs more than a flowery smell to keep the armpits happy!

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              • More +
                19.01.2010 19:55
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                A good cleanser for healthy hands

                Germs? Nobody likes them. But in the past I've always made do with the classic formula of our fore-fathers: soap and water. That is until the advent of swine flu and the likes, and I thought it was about time to upgrade. Plus, I have to say it is fairly comforting being able to go out and cleanse my hands whenever I feel they're getting a bit dirty or at particular intervals during the day such as just before lunch. As despite being brought up as a child with the 'now wash your hands' motto just before eating, this seems to have slowly peeled out of my memory as I've got older. And sometimes I'm just in too much of a rush.

                Brand
                ----------
                I've never actually heard of the brand Cuticura. But, always one to increase my knowledge, I googled the brand and found out Cuticura's origins date back over 4 generations, where they accrued prestige for creating one of the first antiseptic soaps in the US.

                Package
                ------------
                The cleanser comes in a medium sized plastic see-through tube which means that it's easy to see how much cleanser you've used up. It's also very sturdy and generally well-designed. The label is blue, matching the capped lid and contains 100ml which is just enough for me: It's not big enough to be a burden to carry around and it's not a pointlessly petite-sized bottle that'll last you about 2 squirts to the index finger.

                Price
                -------
                This little bottle will only set you back around £1.25 which I think is incredibly good as even if you're the type of person who has a slight obsession with cleanliness or just the type that likes having hands cleaned up regularly throughout the day and therefore get through the cleanser fairly quickly, you're not forking out truckloads to restock your handbag.

                The promises
                ----------------
                -To help stop the spread of bacteria on your hands..when out and about.
                -Proven to kill over 99.9% of bacteria fast

                Using it
                -----------
                The gel is transparent and quite runny which means I usually forget to pace myself and end up squeezing the bottle a bit too entusiastically so that I then have to try and slide some of the cleanser back into the small hole at the top of the bottle, which is actually quite easy to do. The only downfall to this is sometimes the top of the bottle will get a little bit messy. But just a little.

                The smell is very...clinical is the main way to describe it. At first i really disliked it as it's very strong when it first hits your hands and smells very cucumbry (which is not undesirable just a bit unexpected), but this disappears fairly quickly as the liquid dries out. I also don't mind the scent so much because I think cleanliness is a great smell in general.

                To begin with I squeezed hardly any of the stuff onto my hands as I wanted to make it last as long as possible. Having realised stingy is not the way to go with hand hygiene and that I might as well cleanse my hands properly, I now use a lot more and rub the liquid all over my hands, between the fingers and wrists, and yet it's still lasting pretty good, and I'm 2 months in and counting.

                What I think
                ------------------
                It does the job and my hands aways feel really clean and fresh after using this cleanser. It's size means I can carry it around almost anywhere- and I generally do. And I feel a lot more confident in my hand hygiene knowing that I can just whip out the bottle whenever I feel they need a bit of antiseptic reinforcement. So, my only 2 niggles would be sometimes my hands do dry out a bit too much and I have to use moisturiser afterwards and my second mini niggle is that I'd prefer if the scent of the cleanser was a little more floral, or lemony or herby. But, that said I'd rather my hands were clean rather than smelt pretty. And it seems with most cleansers you can't get the best of both of those worlds.

                All in all, a great little cleanser, just wish the smell was a bit more flowery!

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                • Lidl / Highstreet Shopping / 55 Readings / 53 Ratings
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                  10.01.2010 18:48
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                  My fave supermarket by a mile!

                  Intro
                  --------
                  I used to shop at Aldi, because it just happened to be closer to where I lived, but after having secured a part-time job at Lidl I now do the bulk of my student shopping there. It's really convenient as I can just get it all done straight after work or before my shift, plus I know where most of the bargains are based for that week so I rarely spend over £15.00 in a week. So, I guess as both customer and employee I can give a pretty well-rounded review of the shop from both the inside and the outside.


                  Background
                  ----------------
                  Lidl is a well-established international food retailer ,which has become a well-known brand both nationally and internationally. It boasts more than 8,000 stores across Europe, and is on the verge of breaking into the US markets. it has built mainly built up a reputation through its cheap affordable prices and good-quality food. This is also the main drive of its slogan:
                  "Where quality is cheaper!"


                  Products
                  ------------
                  Lidl stores stock all of the expected products: fruit, vegetables, cereal etc and usually have a similar store layout. The layout of my own local store is:

                  Aisle 1
                  Fruit and Veg, tins of canned fruit, fruit juices, bread
                  --------------------------------------------------------------------
                  All the cans of fruit and juices are always at very cheap affordable prices and the choice is also fairly good. The fruit and Vegetables are always fresh and usually rotated throughout the day although intervals can change if the store is very busy. Usually the fruit and veg is good-quality and any non-saleable produce is normally identified quickly by staff who dispose of it accordingly. However, occasionally you might get the odd batch of slightly bruised bananas or bad fruit, but I'm sure this is the same for all big stores: your Tescos, Morrisons or Sainsburys. There are nearly always bargains such as price reductions on this aisle which is really great
                  8/10

                  Aisle 2
                  Teas, herbs, oil, Veg, boxes of chocolate, non-food items
                  -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Again, the main point to mention is that Lidl also stocks non-food items which vary from week to week. Usually they include some stationery, seasonal clothing (such as ski ware, winter jackets, gloves) and maybe children's toys. Although I think some of the items are occasionally a bit pricey (shoes for example) I really like this section as often it saves me having to trek to another store for the odd items I may have run out of (such as pens or envelopes).
                  8/10

                  Aisle 3
                  Pasta, pasta sauces, cereal
                  ------------------------------------
                  As a student, I find that this aisle forms the staple of my diet, and that all of my carbohydrates from here are always less than a pound, usually less than 50p which means I hardly ever go over my shopping budget. Just as an example, I regularly buy small packets of instant noodles which are only 12p a pack. Absolute bargain!!

                  There are 3 more aisles which stock items such as crisps, biscuits, chocolate; beauty and sanitary products, batteries, dvds and on the final aisle alcohol and freezer products. THere are always lots of bargain buys and 'discounted products' on each aisle meaning it's easy to save the pennies.


                  Staff
                  -------
                  Even before I started working at Lidl, I always found the staff very polite and friendly at the checkout and very helpful around the store. I really enjoy working at my local store as I get on with everyone and the Manager is, unlike most managers, really approachable and easy to get along with.


                  Working
                  ------------
                  You are worked quite hard at Lidl. By that I mean, whereas some stores might just expect you to sit down and work as cashier during the entirety of your shift at Lidl, you're expected to, when things are quiet, be proactive and use your free time to re-stock products, take note of special items, help customers, etc etc and when working a late shift you're expected to clean up the till area, restock merchandise, tidy up dumps from the shelves and various other jobs. But all in all, I've found it a very enjoyable and friendly place to work. After a long shift, although I'm usually fairly tired, it's a good type of tired- because you know you've done a good day's work!


                  Conclusion
                  ---------------
                  Lidl's the ONLY place to shop and a great place to work!!!


                  Hours:
                  ---------
                  Mon- Friday: 0800 - 2200
                  Saturday: 0800 - 2000
                  Sunday: 1000- 1600

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                  • More +
                    10.01.2010 18:31
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                    Ticklish, light-hearted narrative, ideal for teens and possibly above

                    Intro
                    -------
                    Digging through a few piles of old books to sell on Amazon, I recently stumbled across 'Dancing in my Nuddy Pants' which was a book from my teenage days. It's just a thin book with a bright fuchsia pink cover that sort of jumps out at you amongst the other paler covers in my collection. (Different cover to the one shown). Curious to see what was so appealing about it, I decided to have a quick flick through just to refresh my memory. I quickly ended up reading through from start to finish.


                    Why?
                    --------
                    It's a great page-turner. Described by one critic as the Bridget Jones diary for young teenagers it definitely drew out a few laughs and a good many smiles for me despite it being five years on from when I first read it and potentially less comical.


                    What's before and after?
                    ---------------------------------
                    This book is the third and last in a series of wacky-titled books based around the character Georgia Nicolson aka the slightly crazed teenager. The first in the series was entitled: 'Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging' and others include: 'Knocked out by my Nunga-Nungas' and 'It's OK, I'm wearing really big knickers!' Although perhaps not the most believable array of events and shenanigans (if it mimicked real life completely it would undoubtedly be a lot more dull) the book as always is full of plenty of tickling lines, anecdotes and funny insights.


                    Plot
                    -------
                    The book bumbles along in an often bizarre but continually comical way through the thoughts, emotions and events which transpire as Georgia grapples with relationships and a boyfriend who she has been madly fancying for the whole of the last prequel and is going out with at the beginning of the book. For me, the funniest bits are the wacky ways she describes other people and other things around her which are often a little bit witty and the random sprinklings of French words as she's trying to learn French at school.


                    Format
                    ----------
                    The book, like all the books in the series takes the form of short, brief diary extracts which make reading incredibly fast-paced, drawing you in to the life of this teenager from the first page which begins: 'I've just seen a sparrow be quite literally washed off its perch on a tree. It should have had its umbrella up. But even if it had had its umbrella up it might have slipped on a bit of wet leaf and crashed into a passing squirrel. That is what life is like.'


                    Style/easiness to read
                    ------------------------------
                    The author, Louise Rennison has developed a style that is timeless and flicking through the pages years later helped me to recall why these books were so un-put-downable in the first place: they touch on a whole range of subjects in a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek way: family issues, boyfriends, spots, pets, homework, stress, kissing parents and even the 'L-rd of the Flies.' Although some sections are a little over the top, this does tend to add to the general flavour and this tends to be largely overlooked as you're reading. I think what make these books especially better than any other competition it is fast-moving from beginning to end. You only get snippets of the personalities of the other characters such as friends and teachers but as you see them through the sarcastic and critical eyes of the main character they really are brought to life.


                    key quotes
                    ---------------
                    'Vati (Dad) was actually doing a press up when I came in. I hope he is insured.'

                    'individualosity'


                    Conclusion
                    ---------------
                    These books are primarily aimed at teenagers as it is these issues which the book revolves around. However, it has also attracted interest from inquisitive mums and dads alike. Personally though I think unless you were of teenage-age, it would be one of those books you might just breeze across as you walked through Waterstones, dip into for a few smiles and a bit of a laugh, but then place back on the shelf. Or buy as a gift for someone.

                    Verdict
                    ------------
                    A great read for teenagers and a bit of a tickler for adults too!


                    `

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                      10.01.2010 18:22
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                      Get your lips round some new words!

                      Bonjour.
                      Je m'appelle so and so
                      J'habite en Angleterre.

                      Without fail, these are the 3 notorious phrases firmly drilled into the minds of every ex-french pupil. Rightly so. And a pretty good testament to the power that languages can have on the mind. It's also these 3 phrases that ensure that should we ever embark on a voyage across the English channel we'll at least be able to have a stab at an intro before exchanging broken French for really loud English in the desperate hope of being understood.


                      Personal Experience
                      ----------------------------

                      I really love learning languages now, so much so that I decided to study them (French and Italian) at University level. Still, for me I know that language learning was impeded by a number of different reasons. The first being that throughout most of high school, learning French was just that thing-we-have-to-do-cos-the-school-won't-make-it-optional subject. My second problem with language learning was that all through my totty years of high school (Year 7- Year 9ish) it never really held my interest. But most importantly, I never really enjoyed learning French. This was probably down to a number of more specific reasons:

                      a) I was shy and didn't like having to read aloud in class or answering questions.

                      b) I disliked my teacher, or more specifically French lessons.

                      Obviously, these factors didn't help the learning curve but I think that in general, the way in which pupils respond to languages is largely partly to do with their attitudes towards it.

                      Lots of people I knew just hated that they had no choice in having to learn a language at school, usually saying 'I'm rubbish at it' or 'I know I don't want to go into languages so what's the point' or even 'who needs another language, most people speak English anyway.' Eeeek! But I don't think there was enough said about the benefits of learning a language. It was only really on having a conversation with my parents round about the time I was able to make choices about what languages I wanted to study (Year 9 I think) where the usefulness and importance of learning a language was really driven home. Words such as 'leaving university with an edge' 'working overseas' really peaked my interest as I've always wanted to spread my wings and see the world, and languages seemed the easiest gateway to do this.


                      How to improve language skills
                      -----------------------------------------

                      Spending time in the target country is most definitely one of the best ways to learn a language just as learning a language is one of the best ways to open up your horizons and doors in fields such as business (the word 'multilingual' always looks good on a CV), culture- learning about your language's culture helps you to view things differently - and socially. Because of the nature of multicultural Britain, I've come across many people who are either of french or francophone backgrounds or are learning a language and the fact that you share some interests from the outset creates a bedrock on which to build conversation.

                      But obviously, lots of people can't afford to just get up and spend a year out immersing themselves into a new culture. So, the next best method is to immerse yourself in the culture whilst from your own home. I've picked up various ways to do this as I've gone along:


                      1. Enrol on a course.
                      ----------------------------
                      If you're serious about language-learning then I'd say find a course you like the sound of and stick to it. It doesn't have to be at University level- many colleges and establishments offer beginner, intermediate and advanced courses in a range of different languages, summer courses and crash courses if you're wanting to learn the essential before holiday


                      2. Locate key sources of information
                      ------------------------------------------------
                      Try and compile a list of sites which offer free exercises, interactive courses and games in the target language as this will make learning more fun. Sites such as youtube also offer quick ways to expand vocabulary, by just typing in a few key phrases


                      3.Read the target language
                      -------------------------------------
                      I found reading information in the target language difficult to begin with but it's also one of the best ways to build up vocabulary. As you're reading you're also picking up an understanding of the way in which sentence structures work and other grammatical features. It's best to have studied the grammar of the language at least on a basic level before starting reading otherwise you might get a bit discouraged at not being able to understand most of the text. But you can decide whether you start off with beginner books, leaflets, or novels if you want to start off at the deep end. The main thing is to get used to looking up any words you don't understand and keep a small notebook to write down the sentence in which they appear as this will help you to memorise them as they're in context.

                      If you prefer reading online, find a site with text. For example. I try and read the French newspaper 'le Monde' daily and always note down new headlines and interesting new words. Also, if you can make one of these sites your internet homepage, even if you don't have time to read the entire article, you can always have a quick scan whilst you're waiting for something to download on the computer.


                      4. Find a pen-pal or online forum
                      -------------------------------------------
                      With social networks and online forums easy to join this is a great way to practice language skills. I used 'google.fr' to search French forums and although I waited a while before I had the confidence to contribute, I did read some of the posts by other native speakers which really helped. The only problem is you might pick up wrongly-spelt words and there might be a lot of slang involved.


                      Tips
                      ------

                      I'd say the most important thing is if you're wanting to take up languages (either officially or self-taught) is to ENJOY. I have teachers and now tutors to thank for that. I'd also say keep working at it. Especially your weaknesses. I used to absolutely dread learning French grammar until I finally realised it wasn't going to go away and that my speaking, writing and listening were all suffering because of it. So, I pulled my socks up, fished out the grammar books and practiced practiced practiced to the point that I now still find certain aspects difficult but it's much improved.

                      Also, if you can afford it and if you have the time, I would again strongly recommend visiting the country. Immersing yourself in the target language country is definitely an effective way to improve quickly but make sure you surround yourself with French speakers not English which I've heard can be harder to do than it sounds.

                      Here are a few links and resources which I've proved to be highly useful during my language learning curve:


                      French Grammar, 5th Edition, Schaum's Outlines (full of grammar explanations and exercises suitable for beginners- advanced level)

                      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Schaums-Outline-French-Grammar-5ed/dp/0071546057/

                      Oxford Hachette French dictionary (One of the really big bilingual dictionaries)

                      Mot-à-Mot

                      New advanced French Vocabulary: Paul Humerstone, ed 2006

                      www.zut.org
                      This is mainly a resource for school so can't be accessed without subscription between the hours of 9am and 4pm, however outside of these hours the resources are free. There are listening, reading and writing exercises from beginner level up to A-level French, German and Welsh.

                      I've only included the French links (not Italian) as this is the language I started off learning, but if you'd like any suggestions for Italian sources feel free to message me!


                      Verdict
                      ----------
                      Get your lips round some new words!!!

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                        22.11.2009 22:28
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                        A handy green book for anyone studying Italian!

                        I love books; I just don't normally buy them as I tend to read them and then cast them to one side. Even with academic books, I like to loan the book first, get a taste of it and then decide whether its worth splashing the silvers on. But about a year ago, I decided it would be useful to read up on a bit of basic Italian before I started my long and arduous 4-year uni course.

                        The dilemma I had was there were so many Beginner Italian books, talking books, CDs and cassettes out there I didn't really know what to go for. It was like a living nightmare. Still, I took a trip to my local Waterstones and after yo-yoing between about 5 different 'maybes' that were all shouting 'PICK ME!' I decided it would be wise to try and look further afield and happened to stumble across a closing down bookstore which just happened to be selling a small green Italian phrase book for just 50p. Absolute Bargain.


                        Appearance
                        -----------------
                        The book is fairly small (roughly 10cm long) but quite thick. It has a bright green cover with a black and white penguin on the front (since it's made by Penguin) and states 'Italian Phrase Book' in big bold letters. The front and back cover are both shiny which makes the whole thing a lot more durable and spillage-proof especially if you're going to be carrying it around a lot.


                        Quality
                        ----------
                        I have to say that the paper of the pages remind me a little bit of toilet paper because ithey're a bit see-through but this is probably to cut printing costs. Having a feel, the pages are actually a lot thicker than they look. They're also more beige than white. There isn't any colour used on the inside as it's very basic. Some may prefer a splash of colour to make things a bit more interesting but personally I actually like the fact the only colour used is black for the text as it means everything stands out and you're not being put off by the colour, and pictures and fancy layouts you might get in more expensive phrase books.


                        Content
                        -----------
                        The book assumes you know nothing about Italian so it starts off with 'Pronunciation' and 'Basic Grammar' which is very reassuring as you're building up a bit of understanding of the way the language works right from the beginning.

                        The next section is probably the most useful. It's entitled 'essentials' and covers all the beginner information: the type of things which would help you to survive the first few minutes in an Italian country- How to say Yes, no, please, thank you and your main greetings. Then it covers all of the common questions you're likely to need if you're going abroad and 'Useful statements.'

                        Personally, I like to just open a book and pull out the main information. Here I had 5 pages of vital information without all the fluff. Everything is very clear and very concise with the headings in bold. And the Italian and English definition in list form. This really does facilitate learning as I discovered later on in trying to learn the new phrases: You can just cover one side up with your hand and go down the list, reciting it aloud or mentally.

                        The rest of the book covers all the other main topics and areas that could crop up in conversation:

                        Signs and Public Notices
                        Money
                        Travel
                        Directions
                        Motoring
                        Accommodation
                        Meeting People
                        Restaurant
                        Shopping and Services
                        Post Office
                        Sightseeing
                        Entertainment
                        Sports and games
                        On the beach
                        Camping and Walking
                        At the doctor's
                        At the dentists'
                        Problems and Accidents
                        Time and Dates
                        Numbers
                        Weights and Measures

                        Each chapter is headed really well and within each chapter are sub-headings which further break down the information. Right at the end there is a vocabulary section with the sounds of the words spelt out phonetically so you can practice your speaking at the same time.

                        It's everything you want and more from a phrasebook.


                        Final thoughts
                        -------------------
                        Presumably, this book is directed at people thinking about travelling abroad. But like me, I've found a use for it in gaining basic knowledge in the language and for increasing my vocabulary. I've only been doing Italian for a year and yet I've already been in and out of it more times than I can remember. It's size means you can keep it anywhere- in your bag or on your bedside if you're anything like me and like to tip up on some Italian first thing in the morning or last thing at night.

                        If you're visiting Italy and wanting a quick low-down on all the basic words of the language this phrasebook is perfect. Also, if you're wanting to learn the basics, this phrasebook is perfect. I'd say it's superior to the language packs I might have spent out on in the store because it just gives you the bare bones: There aren't any practice exercises or 'recap' sections, it's exactly what it says on the tin: a book of phrases.

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                          12.11.2009 21:31
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                          Very refreshing, all-round drink!

                          Cranberries are fast becoming known as the 'super fruit' of the commercial world because of their fantastic taste and health benefits: the fruit is bursting with antioxidants (which can help build up the immune system) and pytochemicals (which can help prevent cardio-vascular disease).

                          So, with this information intact, when i recently came down with the sniffles, rather than reaching for some quick-fix, symptom-solving tablets I took a trip down to Lidl, pulled out a £1.00 coin for a carton of cranberry juice that promised to be 50% bigger than normal AND had just removed any added sugar. It was also the 'Light' version of the classic cranberry juice.

                          The carton
                          --------------
                          The juice comes in a large white carton with the red colour of the cranberries and the brand across the front. The red juice can be poured out easily because of the unscrewable lid at the top of the carton. This is also handy because it means you can store the drink flat in the fridge when you're running out of space.

                          The drink
                          -------------

                          Normally I drink juice at room temperature or just slightly chilled as I learnt that this prevents drinks from sapping the body's natural energy. But...cranberry juice is best served chilled. So, after being in the fridge for a good few hours, I tried it out and was immediately impressed:

                          The taste is very distinct. It's very sharp and has a slight dryness to it. It's not too sweet but just sweet enough to tantalise the tongue and there is an even sharper after-taste which lingers on the palate for quite a while. it's also one of those drinks that are strangely addictive. I'm not sure if it's because the taste is so sharp or because it's a little dry towards the end but I find it very difficult to limit myself to just one glass!


                          Uses
                          --------
                          This drink is great to have first thing in the morning- a surge of antioxidants and natural berries kicks the day of pretty deliciously. Yet, as indicated on the carton, it can be drunk just on its own or used as a mixer in cocktails.

                          I've also done a bit of 'experimental cooking' and found cranberry jucie to be useful just to sharpen something up a little when I don't want anything quite as sweet as sugar. Say in sauces for desserts.

                          Cranberry juice has been shown to help out in the bloaty feeling some women get during menstrual cycles and to help with kidney problems.


                          The smallprint
                          -------------------
                          Each 250ml serving contains:

                          Energy: 83kJ/20 kcal
                          Carbohydrate sugars: 3.2g
                          plus
                          80mg of Proanthocyanidin (PACs) which help to maintain health by acting on harmful bacteria in the body

                          Conclusion
                          -----------------

                          Served chilled this drink is extremely refreshing and although I usually drink cold drinks towards the beginning of the day with meals, and hot drinks towards the end, this juice can be drunk with almost anything because the taste isn't too over-powering. It's as food-compatible as water and a lot tastier with lots of great health benefits chucked in at the same time.

                          Not bad for just a pound!

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                            02.11.2009 17:49
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                            An antiseptic toothpaste with a kick that leaves your mouth feeling more than mintily fresh!

                            Personally, I really love strong toothpastes and a few years back I went on a bit of an obsessive hunt to find the 'next strongest toothpaste.' I searched the nation's stores far and wide and landed, after a good while, at the doorstep of Euthymol.


                            About the brand
                            ----------------------
                            Euthymol is a registered trademark but is not widely known, probably because unlike your classic 'colgates' and 'Aquafreshs' this brand isn't commerially advertised.

                            The toothpaste itself is scientifically prepared and fluoride free. Also, rather than relying solely on the conventional ingredients, the manufacturers actually use antiseptic ingredients which aim to clean and also sanitise your mouth at the same time. As well as this, it includes flavoured oils so that the overall objective is to safeguard your teeth and gums and leave a freshness that is stronger than your average minty sensation.

                            Through the powers of Wikipedia I also found out that this toothpaste is often used in the Army, and has been proven to have extra benefits such as helping to prevent mouth ulcers.


                            The packet
                            -----------------
                            Everything about 'Euthymol' says 'different.' For a start, the paste itself is bright pink which comes as a bit of a pleasant shock because of the simpleness of the packaging: the box is white and rectangular with the text 'Original Toothpaste' and the name 'Euthymol' in bright red font across the front. To look at, the box does look fairly old-fashioned and reminds me of those old-fashioned traditional pear-drop sweet packets, although I think it is supposed to mimic the old shop signs you used to get in front of corner shops.

                            Because of the small size of the box, it's actually handy to keep a hold of in case you go travelling, as you can just keep the toothpaste inside it rather than using a separate bag or container. Because the packaging is quite stiff it's fairly sturdy and doesn't seem to crush that easily.


                            The tube
                            ------------
                            The 75ml tube is easy to open. When you unscrew the lid there's a tiny spike in the inside which you can handily use to pierce through the bit of foil covering at the top of the tube. This is original as you don't have to peel anything back as with most toohtpastes.

                            For some reason, the tube actually reminds me of acrylic paint tubes as it has that sort of feel to it, and isn't like the normal smooth, thin plasticy feel of mainstream toothpastes. This means that you can't cut the toothpaste tube in half (as I sometimes do when I don't have time to buy another one and am trying to get the last bit out). But I'd say this is a pretty petty disadvantage so I haven't bothered listing it below.


                            The paste
                            --------------
                            The note on the packet warns that no other toothpaste has the unique strong taste of Euthymol. I have to say, I agree completely. I have never tasted a toothpaste quite as strong as this one. But that's a good thing. For me. If you prefer mildness to strength I would probably label Euthymol as a certain no-go!

                            When i first brushed my teeth with this, I noticed the difference immediately: Your mouth is filled with a very strong antiseptic taste, which is quite overpowering the first time you try it but also quite refreshing in your mouth. Afterwards, on running my tongue along my teeth they felt super clean, looked super white and my mouth felt really cleansed. The taste itself wore off after a short while but my mouth continued to feel really fresh which I was really happy with.

                            Conclusion
                            ---------------
                            I've been using this toothpaste, now for the past few years and at just £1.75 for a briliant clean- I absolutely love it!

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                            • The Soloist (DVD) / DVD / 49 Readings / 49 Ratings
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                              29.10.2009 19:57
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                              A well-acted, thought-provoking film

                              Intro
                              -------
                              I am a huge Jamie Foxx fan and am always looking forward to his next big role with a quiet confidence it will be more than just an average watch. So it was with no hesitation that I picked out this film as a 'must watch' during my latest 7-hour flight journey abroad. I wasn't let down: "The Soloist" somehow managed to draw me in from the very start; and keep me hooked. Although admittedly, a little less in the second half than in the first half of the film.

                              The film
                              -----------
                              Based on a true story, and the novel by Steve Lopez, "The Soloist" is a film which delves into the very core of mental illness in a way, which I'd say was unprecedented by anything I've seen before. This is done in two ways: fantastic directing and fantastic performances.

                              The film firstly focuses around a journalist, Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) who is searching for his next big story. As he's travelling down the subway, he chances across Nathaniel Ayers (played by the brilliantly talented Jamie Foxx), a homeless, bizarrely-dressed man with just a wheeler full of his accumulated junk to his name. And a violin. A two-stringed violin which he's playing so beautifully and so intensely, it draws Steve Lopez out of the car to try and speak to him. And thus begins a very unlikely but unique relationship in which the journalist decides, from the moment he steps out of the car, he wants to help him. And in a way so does the spectator.

                              We soon find out that Nathaniel is not the stereotypical homeless man. The film takes flashes back to the golden age of his childhood where his teacher first discovered his extraordinary music talent but there are signs which you pick up showing you how slowly, cello music (his forte) stopped being just a pastime and began to encroach on the whole of his life. Music had built him up to be on the top rung of society, but somewhere along the line, he fell. Far. But through the help of Lopez, he manages to at least get back up on his feet.

                              To begin with you are bounced back and forth between Lopez's and Ayer's different lives, as Lopez writes up columns which generates interest from outside sources, and at first I found the relationship a little difficult not to engage with but to get used to because it is so emotionally charged- Nathaniel is constantly nervous, stammering and avoiding eye-contact whilst Lopex is fast-talking, impatient but striving to help a man who has lost all confidence in himself and everything around him. Slowly, Lopez spends more and more time in Ayer's world and there are a few scenes centred around the non-reported, poverty-stricken side of LA and the thousands of homeless people living rough all around its streets.

                              It is in essence, the tale of one man's struggle to help another. But what makes this simple story so spectacular is that in a very thought-provoking way, the film strips away your prejudices or misconceptions about mental illness, homeless people, poverty, journalists in general and crafts an authentic relationship which makes you think, "hmmmm, I never thought about that in that way."

                              My thoughts
                              --------------

                              I don't think it's an easy film to watch, especially if you don't normally go for hard-hitting, gritty dramas which tackle slightly tabooed issues. but if you are open-minded you'll find it both captivating, powerful and extremely thought-provoking.

                              The roles played by Foxx and Robert Downey Jr are most definitely oscar-worthy. (Foxx, even apparently had to go for therapy after filming the film due to the intensity of him acting such an emotionally-instable character). However, I did feel that if there had been a few more perhaps not light-hearted, but warmer scenes with the two characters it would have given a more rounded finish as at times I felt it lacked something. (Though I can't quite put my finger on what exactly).

                              This said, it will generate lots of different emotions:I felt uplifted, enlightened, chilled, frustrated and relieved in places where Nathaniel started to listen to Steve.

                              The ending was not the ending I'd imagined, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a good ending. The best way to describe it would be realistic rather than completely fulfilling. It was also quite moving. (Don't want to spoil it!).

                              I'd say there were a few really slow moments in the film, which normally irritate me a lot more, but I think because of the great acting I just about handled them.

                              Conclusion
                              ----------------

                              A brilliantly crafted, although sometimes slow film with just a few small sour points in an otherwise brilliantly acted friendship between two characters.

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                              • Gillette Venus / Shaving & Grooming / 51 Readings / 51 Ratings
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                                12.08.2009 18:26
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                                Probably worth trying a different brand!

                                No pain no gain. Apparently the motto associated with looking good. Well, I was sick of exiting the bathroom holding my leg and half hobbling because my cheap men's razors had yet again drawn blood from my poor legs. I'm not sure if my legs are very sensitive or if they're just always full of hidden bumps but when shaving day comes around although I usually ended up with relatively clear, un-foresty legs they often hurt. A lot.

                                So, I decided I needed a change. Something more feminine. Something that did the trick but was a bit gentler on the skin. There are lots of ladyshavers out there but the only reason I decided to go for the Venus ladyshaver was that I'd gone into my local convenience store and that was the only alternative to the regular male shavers.

                                It cost me £3.99 from my local cornershop (although the cashier kindly advised he'd bought them on offer for a pound just two weeks before) and came in a light blue packet which when opened also came with some replacement shavers. To remove the head of the shaver , there's a little dome-shaped button below the razor section. Push this upwards and the razor head will pop off. However, you have to be careful because this can happen accidentally when you're trying to shave and then you have to fiddle to get it back on.

                                So shaver in one hand, high-lather-forming soap in the other, I entered the bathroom confident that Venus's fire would work its wonders. Unfortunately, despite the good appearances it just wasn't happening for me.

                                The shaver is well designed. I'll give it that. It fits well in your hand: It has a smooth blue handle with a grip-type section on the underside which is made from rubber and stops your hand from slipping. It's also a lot chunkier than the plain disposable shavers I used to buy. The razor head moves up and down which makes it easier to manoeuvre up and down your leg.

                                The problem for me wasn't the shaver, more the shave itself. It wasn't a close shave at all. I found that the cushioned pads on either side of the blade meant that the shaver was a lot gentler on the skin but I found I had to keep going over the same areas and even then, I wasn't able to shave off all of the hair. It certainly wasn't as close a shave as my old blades.

                                This was the case on the very first shave so I knew that it wasn't because the blades had become too blunt. Still, admittedly although I usually shave fairly regularly I hadn't shaved for a few weeks and my legs were a bit more insulated than normal so this probably didn't help. That said, I still think for a first shave it should have been a lot better. I think I was mainly disappointed because I'd been used to such a close (and sometimes painful) shave with my old disposable blades.

                                Still, results are results and although I know lots of people who have found these razors perfection, they didn't work that well for me. I'm definitely going to go for a different brand next time as this wasn't my Venus or my fire!

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                                  12.08.2009 18:12
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                                  A great buy!

                                  The first thing we were told when we started our very first Italian lesson at uni was: DO NOT BUY A POCKET SIZED DICTIONARY. Instead we were ordered to invest in the big double-decker-sized multi-lingual dictionary as the other forbidden kind was too basic for our needs. So, I promptly purchased my big-sized dictionary from Amazon and was relatively happy.

                                  However, when it comes to travelling home between term dates it is too difficult to lug a massive dictionary into a bag and onto the train only to be pushed under the bed to be used maybe once or twice for the odd Italian essay. Also, if you're lying in bed late at night and have a sudden urge to know the Italian for something like 'teacup' or 'insomnia' it can be quite cumbersome having to lift a heavy dictionary up to bed-level and flick through it. So I broke the rules and went on the hunt for a smaller pea-sized version to accompany what I already had.

                                  I could have ordered off Amazon but I needed to use one asap, so I went to Waterstones as I had some vouchers. They do a range of books which are clumped together in make: Oxford, Collins, Paravia etc. I browsed through a number of the smaller dictionaries but for me, the Collins dictionary stood out.

                                  Size matters
                                  ----------------

                                  The most appealing thing about the Collins dictionary is that it's not your average pocket-size, it's a 'compact edition' and is in length, somewhere between the big dictionary and the pocket sized dictionary- but a lot slimmer which makes it easier to carry around. It also means that the text is a little bit bigger than a pocket-sized one and the pages about twice as big which makes it easier when you're flicking through and looking for words.

                                  Appearance
                                  ----------------

                                  The dictionary is very attractive with a bright, shiny green cover (replicating the green of the Italian flag I think). I've found that psychologically it also makes looking up the odd word a little less of a chore because you see the bright cover and the small size and know it will only take a few moments to find the relevant word. When I only had my big dictionary to hand I would sometimes just guess a word if I wasn't sure (very bad practice!) because I was pushed for time and didn't want to waste it ploughing through page after page.

                                  Structure
                                  -------------

                                  The dictionary has Italian-English at the front and English-Italian at the back. This is split up clearly with a single blank page in the middle.

                                  Words
                                  ---------

                                  Words are in two lists down each page. If you open out a double page, at the top of the left page is the first word on the page and at the top of the right page is the last word of the page which means to locate a word you can just simply skim over these two words to find out if the word will be on one of those two pages.

                                  All of the words are in a bold blue which means they stand out. The translation is in black and any additional information such as example sentences in the required language are in bold. So aesthetically, the inside of the dictionary is as good as the outside. Also, I've also found that the colour helps your eyes to find a word.

                                  Next to each word is a phonetic description of the word in brackets, an abbreviation (if it's a noun) to show whether its masculine/feminine and singular/plural and its definition. This is everything a language student needs to know.

                                  e.g chitar'rista,-i,e [kitar'rista] sm/f guitarist, guitar player.

                                  Price
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                                  I paid £5.99 for mine in Waterstones although I'm positive you can bag yours a lot cheaper either new or second hand off Amazon.


                                  The EXTRAS:
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                                  Within the dictionary, now and then you'll come across the words: 'parole chiave' (for the Italian section) or 'key word' in the English section, which will identify for you if you've located a very useful or frequently used Italian/English word. When I see that label I always take a special note to make sure I remember what these words mean as I know they're likely to crop up again. Words like 'buono' (good) and 'ci' (us) get under the key word titles.

                                  Here and there, the dictionary also includes snippets of background information on certain features important to Italian culture such as famous landmarks.

                                  The first few pages of the dictionary also include:

                                  1. A bit of background on William Collins- the founder of Collins' books.
                                  2. Lists of abbreviations given in French and Italian
                                  3. Phonetic transcription of Italian sounds (very useful for beginners)
                                  4.Conjugation of lots of different Italian verbs (really useful for quick referencing)


                                  I've used the dictionary umpteen times already and have only had to resort to my monster-sized dictionary once or twice for the odd word when it hasn't been quite as comprehensive as I needed. Yet, all in all- a great compact-edition dictionary with everything you'd expect plus a little bit extra!

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