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Bought back in 2006 the Canon 400D wasn’t top of the range at the time but we are still using it today. Unless buying decent lenses for it though you’re not really going to get much better quality than some of the compact cameras you get today but it would make a good introduction to a DSLR at a decent price. It has been an incredibly reliable camera in all weather with only a problem with a Sigma lens during a really cold spell. I love the fact I’ve been able to buy a T-ring for it to convert my telescope into the lens for using during the day and at night for photographing the moon and stars.
One of the downsides to this camera is the fact it doesn’t work well in low light. When photographing wildlife this is really off-putting as with some functions, you cannot take a photo without the flash popping up before you can take a photo. This creates quite a noise alone without the shutter noise too and has scared quite a few animals away.
The camera though does have many features: flash off, night portrait, sports, close up, landscape, portrait, full auto, P (Program AE), TV (shutter priority), AV (aperture priority), M (Manual exposure), A-Dep (automatic depth of field). Combining the likes of the landscape function with the Sigma AP0 DG lens (currently around £130) is perfect for zooming in without losing any quality but at times there can be a struggle with focusing which can be the difference between getting and missing that perfect moment so usually manual takes priority over auto. I am so used to seeing image on screen on my compact camera rather than having to look through the viewfinder with the DSLR but viewing back photos and deleting them through the camera is easy enough – thankfully as it takes a CF card rather than SD card so you would need to buy an adapter or use the USB lead to view on the computer.
Attaching lenses is very easy – just line up the white dots and rotate until it clicks onto place. The battery life is also fantastic but worth buying a back up battery to change when out and about if required. You will also need a case/bag as it is quite bulky – many times I’ve preferred the compact camera instead. This isn’t the camera to buy if you want really sharp images as it is only 10.1MP and if buying with the 18-55mm lens will really only work well with close objects. For around £130 used though it is still a decent price depending on whether you want to spend the money on additional lenses.
The Sony BDP-S370 has been my Blu-Ray player since 2010 and is still being used today. Mainly used with DVDs and the occasional blu-ray there is a surprising difference in quality but even when using with a variety of TVs can show quite a difference too. Although it is a little slow to react when switching it on at the plug to opening the disk drawer (should be 3 seconds although this is from powering on), it still has a large range of features making it well worth the price including DVD upscaling, YouTube and iPlayer access via a wired/wireless connection, USB if you’ve downloaded content or home videos/music etc, USB for memory for downloading content and BRAVIA sync (which works with my current TV).
The design of the blu-ray player is very sleek. I was always very worried it may break as there’s a thin panel at the front with the power, open/close, play and stop buttons but as long as it’s placed on a flat surface you do only need a light touch for these. Theatre mode (on the BD remote) provides a much more dramatic sound quality but darkens and reduces the picture colour enormously whether using with the TV alone or a BD/DVD. There is a three year difference between the Sony Blu-Ray and my BRAVIA but the remotes are still consistent in design – the blu-ray slightly smaller and thicker so it’s easy to tell them apart.
The menu is very easy to scroll through setup, video/photo, music, USB and Network. Wireless set up isn’t something I ever bothered with as my BRAVIA is a SmartTV and the blu-ray requires a USB adapter for wireless connection and LAN cable for a wired connection (not provided and was around £75 back in 2010). Best of all though, it’s a quiet machine! You do get the occasional hiccup sound from it as it loads content but this rarely interrupts viewing.
Priced at £159 in 2010 and now discontinued by the manufacturer, the blu-ray player is now about 1/3 of the price if you can find it. If you don’t need the internet connection it’s worth considering as it is still is decent quality.
I’ve had my Fresh Express Max food processor now for over a year and it does have its downsides but I really do feel I’ve saved so much time and effort with it. Basically the food processor has 5 separate attachments letting you switch between slicing, thin shredding, thick shredding, grating and dicing easily. The machine will only spin the drum blades when pressing the very large button on the machine so you shouldn’t make much mess or have any accidents.
Rather than a traditional food processor where you funnel things through the tube/blades into the plastic bowl, the fruit/veg etc on the Fresh Express Max is funnelled through the blades out into your chosen bowl or plate so there is no restriction on space. This makes prepping ingredients far quicker as you do not have to empty the bowl each time – just get another bowl and place it under the funnel for the next ingredient.
The funnel tube is small so a lot of food has to be cut up before hand e.g. potatoes and annoyingly when you get to the end of a carrot for example, you end up with an ungrated slice stuck between the plastic funnel and blades which can make the blade drum harder to remove. I find some veg like onions which are softer and break apart are also a bit harder to work through the machine but in general it does a really good job. You then just run your finger around the middle of the drum to get the excess off, remove the drum to get any caught on the outside and that’s it ready for cleaning.
In terms of cleaning it’s so incredibly easy if you have a dishwasher. All I have to do is remove the tube (just a twist to the side), remove the blade drum (again just a small twist), rinse everything to get the excess food out of it and place it in the dishwasher - the main machine doesn't touch any food. If you don’t have a dishwasher then it can be a bit of a nightmare – graters are probably my least favourite item to wash but as long as you rinse them straight away they are not too bad.
“…as the blades on the different attachments are not accessible there is no chance of hurting your fingers” (from Amazon) Now this I really do have to disagree with as when the drums are stacked and attached to the machine you are facing slicer blade (the green/white one). If anyone places their fingers into the centre of this, perhaps to pull the machine forward they are at a huge risk of slicing their fingers on the incredibly sharp blades inside so you must make sure you store the machine out of the reach of children.
The machine is compact, quick to use and very easy to clean. If you cook from scratch and need to prepare your ingredients this food processor is ideal.
Bought back in November 2013 in the Black Friday sales, I think the York 210 has been one of my favourite purchases. Considering its price of £170 (with an RRP of £399.99) I think this made me more likely to use it to make sure I was getting value for money as I could easily have gotten one for around £20 and used it as a clothes hanger. This bike is very big so won’t be for everyone and it has to be near a plug. It also takes quite a lot of assembly which I managed to do myself after having to open the box and lift pieces out individually to carry up stairs because it’s incredibly heavy. The strapping on the pedals was probably the hardest part of it.
There are four user settings where you can enter sex, age, height and weight to get a far more accurate calorie and body fat reading (although I’m sure it’s still not perfect). You then have the option of using it manually and changing the resistance levels yourself (there are 32) or using one of the other 18 pre-programmed levels e.g. increasing/decreasing resistance, alternating between high and low resistance and there’s heart rate control programme. Although it has hand pulse sensors I don’t use these much which means I often can’t find out my body fat ratio or use the recovery programs but they’re really not something you have to do every time. My preferred program is manual so I raise and lower the resistance as and when I feel like it.
The worst thing about the bike is the seat is the least comfortable thing I’ve ever sat on. Although I use my bike regularly (4 to 7 times a week) I can still feel bruised. Even biking shorts with a padded insert do little to help so a bike seat cover is a must have with this bike. One thing I do have to disagree with is one of the product descriptions: “Utilising the large muscle groups in the lower body, an exercise bike is an effective machine for a total body workout.” No this isn’t a total body workout. There is no upper body workout with this bike.
The bike can be moved a little more easily by tugging on the handlebars and raising the back end as there are wheels at the front. With the feet widening the bike you have to be very careful manoeuvring it through doorways (I’ve already scratched the wallpaper through to the plasterboard on one bit of wall!).
Overall I’m really happy with my purchase. I love the calorie counter and seeing how far I’ve gone (usually 20km in 30 mins). I keep track of these on another site so e.g. in 16 days I’d cycled 300km. It’s not a full body exercise though and unless changing your diet, you won’t lose weight with this alone.
I bought my Big Nail Shiner back in 2012 from The Body Shop and although it’s looking a bit past its best with infrequent use, it still works. Considering it only cost £2 (same price now) I think this is fantastic value for money and it’s one of those staple beauty items I will continue to buy.
There are three parts to the Shiner to smooth, buff and shine the nails. Starting with the dark grey portion you lightly file the whole of the nail bed to remove any unwanted lines or bumps, then using the other end (a lighter grey), buff over the nail which helps remove the filings before using the other side to shine the nails. When I’ve finished my nails they usually look like they have a coat of clear varnish on.
The main reason I use the shiner isn’t really for that clear varnish look but to ensure when I put a solid colour polish on that it looks even – it really helps to give you a good surface to start on or you may end up putting additional coats of polish on to cover up the imperfections. If you have a lot of ridges on your nails you do have to be very careful because over filing/smoothing can weaken the nails and cause them to split. It only takes me about 10 seconds per nail (if that) for each of the three parts and if you do want to up-keep, The Body Shop recommends using the dark grey/lighter grey sections every two weeks and you can use the shiner section anytime. I just use mine whenever I have a special occasion.
Another reason my Shiner has lasted so long is because it’s a decent length too. I think it also helps it came in an acetate sleeve so it can be taken anywhere without damaging other items or being damaged. One of the good things, and perhaps one of the downsides too is when using any part of the Shiner close to my cuticles it really doesn’t damage the skin around my nails. There are times when I feel like I can’t get close enough to the cuticle though.
Over time the edges of the Shiner do start to curl or get ripped and the darker grey section may not be quite so rough but if you take care of it, it really can last a decent length of time. It’s easy to carry in your bag and very handy for holidays if you want that polished look without having to take nail polish and remover with you.
The Nails Inc Express Nail Polish remover is good but it’s not my preferred brand in this type of polish remover. Rather than a traditional liquid remover where you would soak a cotton wool ball in the remover to wipe over nails, you place one finger at a time in the centre of the bottle surrounded by a soft sponge/foam and wipe the nail against the foam to remove the polish. You then don’t have to worry about any mess as it won’t transfer polish to your other fingers or drip.
The product I usually use is the Bourjois Magic Nail Polish remover which has a slightly larger bottle but contains a rougher foam inside. The Nails Inc version does feel more luxurious with a softer foam insert but then it should for £8 for 60ml compared to Bourjois £4.99 for 75ml. I’m glad Nails Inc haven’t included that it only takes 1 second to remove the polish like Bourjois as it usually takes me 2-3 wipes to remove all of the polish. I’m not sure if this is down to usually having several coats of polish on or that the foam is too soft to provide friction. When using it with Rimmel’s Space Dust polish (a glitter polish) even if I hold my finger against the foam for a few seconds before wiping it takes quite a few attempts to remove it fully and similar to Bourjois, the glitter scratches against the foam and pulls bits of it off. I then end up just scraping the glitter off with my nails instead which can be a bit more damaging.
Unfortunately Nails Inc haven’t done much to mask the very pungent smell of the polish but this usually dissipates quite quickly from your fingers and the room especially since you don’t have the cotton wool left lying in the bin. You’re then left with a slightly sugary sweet fragrance on your skin. This nail polish remover is acetone free so it won’t dry out nails and doesn’t leave any residue so I can easily take off the previous polish, give my hands a quick wash (although maybe not needed) and apply another.
Considering the price of the Nails Inc Express remover and that I don’t feel it’s quite as quick as Bourjois’ nail polish remover, I’d actually recommend going with the cheaper option. Although both are absolutely fantastic for travelling with there’s only a few millimetres difference in the bottles so even with the Bourjois one being slightly bigger I’d still take that one. Nails Inc Express does do it’s job but I’d rather take performance over quality/price in this case.
The Bourjois Magic Nail Polish remover is my favourite of this type of nail polish remover. I’ve also tried the Nails Inc version which didn’t quite live up to the performance of the Bourjois. The 75ml bottle is lined with a foam sponge soaked in nail polish remover and rather than wasting 3 or 4 balls of cotton wool, just requires you to place your finger in the bottle and wipe your nail against the foam.
The biggest thing with Bourjois products is they always smell good. Being a nail polish remover it is still rather pungent but the red fruit and vanilla fragrance does a great job of masking the harsh chemical smell. This scent does linger on your fingers but is very easily washed off.
The Magic Nail Polish remover states it only takes 1 second per nail and quite often I do find that is quite right. However if my nails have a base coat, two to three coats of polish and a top coat I do have to keep wiping but generally this may only be an extra once or twice. With Rimmel’s Space Dust (a glittery polish) though I have to switch back to cotton wool because it actually rips little bits of the foam out of the bottle and takes a good five or six attempts to remove the polish (or rather it removes the polish but the glitter is so stubborn). The glitter is then left in the bottle.
The biggest downside of the Bourjois Polish remover is the fact you are quite restricted to only using it on your fingers. For review purposes (of course) I did try it on my toes and ended up spilling the polish remover on the floor – it doesn’t feel like you’re putting your hands/toes in a bottle of liquid but there is still a lot in it. You can soak some cotton wool in it if needed but that’s just not as user friendly as traditional bottles of remover.
After using it, I find the sweet almond oil does leave my nails feeling slightly moisturised although not to the point of actually feeling the product left on the skin. It also benefits from being acetone and paraben free which is important as acetone can dry nails out and parabens may be linked to health problems.
Overall, the Bourjois Magic Nail Polish remover is quick and easy to use, but only on your fingernails and only with certain nail polishes. That said though I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it again. Better still I got my remover free in an offer at Boots but usually priced at £4.99 it lasts absolutely ages.
I keep getting my hair cut and then I see these gorgeous long hair styles and miss my long hair. I’d been looking for extensions and happened to come across the Babyliss Styleable Extension Set 18” and after checking the various reviews decided to splash out the £29.99 (compared to the £140 human hair set I was considering).
I wasn’t expecting anything too great for the price but I was actually pleasantly surprised when they arrived. There are 2 sectioning clips (one of these broke the first time I opened it), a tail comb which is very handy for sectioning your hair off as well as combing through the extensions plus the two hair pieces – one 7” wide with 4 clips and the other 12” wide (both 18” long) with 6 clips. Each of the clips are hidden beneath the hair without bulking it out much and are as easy to use as kids hair clips but thankfully these actually stay in place!
Considering they are synthetic they don’t actually look out of place in my hair (although my hair is quite thick). I went for the dark brunette because I’d read the dark brown was more like black whereas this set has reddish hues rather than being a solid brown. One of the problems I have at the moment is my hair is about shoulder length and quite a blunt cut so it is very obvious where my hair ends – especially underneath the extensions. I can either wait until my hair grows longer or buy a second set which would bulk out the ends more. Another great thing about this set is there is very little shedding from them.
They do get tangled easily and although this is a styleable set up to 180 degrees, I’ve read other reviews and a lot of people have said it just doesn’t work – they’ve tried curling and straightening and it didn’t make a difference. There were also a lot of comments which mentioned the condition of the set worsened so for the moment, I am quite happy to wear them as they are – they are far easier to comb them as they are. I could also cut them but I quite like that they do have a slight curl to the ends.
To clean them it’s just a case of gently shampooing after each use. I then just leave them to air dry. I’m contemplating a second set just for a fuller look although would have preferred at least one other piece within the set. It still works out a lot cheaper than some other sets but I may wait until my hair is a little longer so it won’t need bulking out. If you’ve not got the money for human hair extensions they are worth considering.
Upgrading from a Colgate 360 manual toothbrush I went for the Oral-B Professional Care 600 in the limited edition pink colour with bonus travel case. I liked the fact that it would indicate when 30 seconds were up for brushing each quadrant of your mouth and again when the 2 minutes is up.
There''s not much to unpack from the box; the handle, one brush head, the base and plug (2 pin). I have a shaver point in my house and would recommend starting to charge it as early as possible because my toothbrush was still charging after 7 hours. The little manual points out you may find your gums bleeding as it gets used to the brush and changing from a manual I found there was a little blood but it did only last a couple of days.
The toothbrush head will vibrate and when 30 seconds is up it will stutter and this gives you time to brush each side and the top of each tooth. I do find that when using the electric toothbrush though when I have finished the 2 minutes I feel I need to do an extra quick brush all over. There''s also a pressure sensor to let you know if you''re pushing too hard.
From the first use I did notice a difference as my teeth felt a lot smoother even thorough the day. The head provided with the toothbrush was the Precision Clearn brush head but it can also be used with the Floss Action Brush Head, 3DWhite brush head and TriZone brush head. The heads also have blue indicator bristles which let you know when they should be replaced at around 3 months.
The Standing Polyurethane Origami Case was one of the first accessories I got my Kindle Fire HD 7". Available in a range of colours; Black, Citron Yellow, Grey, Pink and Purple I ended up going with the Purple (which is in fact called Royal). Originally priced around £30 it has come down a bit to £24.99 which I find quite respectable considering the Leather case of the same design was £50 now reduced to £35.
One of the most important details about this case is that it will only fit the new 7" Fire HD - not the old one with a camera as this has a larger frame around the screen and therefore slightly larger than the new 7". It is also available for the HDX 7" and 8.9".
The case took a little manipulation to fit the Kindle in but in a way this was good as I knew it wouldn't be likely to pop back out if accidently dropped. There's a solid backing to the case with speaker vent, power button and volume buttons which are easy to access whether the cover is flat against the back or in its standing position. There have been occasions though where I do accidently press them although this is more down to the fact that I had it in the standing position whereas had the cover been flat against the back I'd have had to lift a flap to access them. There's also easy access for the power cable and earphones. The only downside I've found to these is that when using some apps e.g. Spotify and the cable is plugged in you can't stand it up so have to have it on landscape where the screen doesn't automatically flip round. This is a design flaw with the Kindle itself though (or even the apps) rather than the cover.
The flap to the cover has a soft microfibre covering so that when closed and the cover is flat against the screen it isn't going to scratch it. In theory this is absolutely perfect and actually in reality too but you really do have to watch where you are placing your Kindle if lying it flat when open as I find my case can pick up crumbs and dust which then transfer to the screen so I may have to invest in a screen protector for a little extra protection. The Kindle itself is a little weighty but I don't find this case adds a lot of extra weight to it. It's also very comfortable to hold even if the flap is flat against the back although it does add a little extra chunkiness to it.
The origami to the flap is very easy to master - there's even instructions provided but it will only bend one way so you can't really go wrong (although I often tend to!). Initially it did take a little time to loosen up but after a few weeks it's easy to fold into position. There are magnets in the cover to hold it in it shape then another to hold it to the back of the case so even when picking it up and shaking it around it isn't going to flap about (very important during a game of Boggle). This lets you place the Kindle in landscape or portrait at a very comfortable angle for viewing. The biggest problem I've found in portrait though is it will want to fall to landscape if not on a flat surface - even placing it on the sofa causes it to tilt. Sometimes you can counteract this by turning it 180 degrees but that doesn't always work. This really hasn't been a huge issue for me though.
When I'm not using the Kindle or if out and about and I have it in my bag I am thankful that there's a magnet to keep the cover closed - a feature missing on many other covers as this protects the screen getting scratched by keys etc. One of the things I'm not a huge fan of is having 'amazon' emblazoned on both the back cover and inside cover. Great advertising for them though as if having the Kindle itself wasn't enough. There are times though that I find the 'amazon' has printed itself on the screen if it is slightly dirty - easy enough to wipe though and is more down to having a dirty screen than anything being transferred from the cover.
In terms of protection, yes I find it does protect my Kindle well but I probably wouldn't recommend this one if it's a child that has the Kindle. When the case is empty you'll see why as there's no rigidity in the flap to hold it flat so this will cause it to cave in. When the Kindle is in the case this is held flat by it lying on the screen but if a sudden weight was placed on it I don't think it would offer a great deal of protection against smashing the screen. There are no sharp points though in the origami but I just wouldn't want to take the chance.
I love the colour of this cover. It's perhaps not quite as bright as it looks on the website but a lot of that is just down to lighting. In a yellow light it takes on a slightly brownish hue but is definitely a purple cover. My cover has not scratched or marked but I do try and take care of it.
Overall I have to say I am very happy with this cover. It's versatile and protects my Kindle. It benefits a lot from having the magnets to keep it closed which I didn't realise how much it helped until using a cover without them. There are a couple of flaws in terms of it standing in portrait while on an uneven surface but it's not been anything that really annoyed me and most importantly it's still very comfortable to hold the Kindle for long periods of time. I also find it's at a decent price point and a good quality item so I expect to keep this case for a long time.
The Delonghi Vintage Icona Storica KBOV3001.BK Jug Kettle is expensive but over the last year I've been really glad I went for quality rather than a cheap substitute. Priced around £74 the price hasn't changed much over the last year but I can honestly say it is worth it.
My kettle rather than being fully black with stainless steel also incorporates brown. I wasn't actually that keen on it as I would have preferred it just to be black/silver but it has really grown on me. There's a brown knob to lid, brown handle and base while the main body of the kettle is in a matte black. The only downside to the colour is actually the matte black and stainless steel show up marks (so not advisable to keep it near the cooker) but is easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth.
The kettle itself is functional but there are a few things I would change about it. Starting from the top the lid is difficult to pull off and even after continuous use hasn't loosened any. This isn't bad if the water is cool but after having to fill/refill numerous times to get hot water to wash the dishes after the dishwasher broke, I found that the condensation on the lid produced large and hot water droplets which fly off with the force of removing the lid. Occasionally this can fly onto the skin so I am glad I don't have kids nearby and will always try and remove the lid over the sink.
The big handle is comfortable to hold although the kettle can get very heavy when filled to its 1.7 litre capacity. The slightly textured design probably doesn't add an awful lot of grip but it's never slipped out my hand. The handle is only attached at the top of the kettle and it's never felt of cheap quality so I'm always very confident it will hold the weight if the kettle is full. The only problem I have with it is it obscures the water level so I will lift it to gauge how much water is in it. The water level actually only registers 1 litre plus so for one to two cups it won't register the level with its wider base design.
A huge plus point to this kettle is the hidden element so you don't have to put a lot of water in it - there's less chance of it over heating. A lot of kettles I've used end up with brown staining inside but this one is still the stainless steel it was when it was bought. I also like that this kettle has a sharper spout to it (rather than round) as you can be more precise with your pouring. There is also a filter in spout (hence why it should always be filled from the top rather than spot).
In terms of heating up water I couldn't actually say it is any quicker than cheaper kettles. Boiling a full kettle can take around 3 minutes with one to two cups taking about a minute. This kettle will hold its heat quite well though which was very handy when having hand wash dishes as it meant I didn't have to keep reheating the water.
The base is probably the cheapest part of the kettle. Just a brown plastic disk which allows the kettle to swivel 360 degrees (actually very handy as we have both left and right handed people in the house). The base isn't flimsy though so it has taken quite a battering from my uncoordinated placement. There isn't a huge amount of flexibility in the cord though so it will choose to move of its own accord where I'd rather have the cord to the wall. It should in theory wrap around the inside of the base but it's only about 1 metre long so depends where you're placing it.
Even with all it's downsides I'd still have to give it 4 stars as I know this is a good quality item that is going to last. It does it's basic function well and it looks stylish.
For what it is, I do have to say that the Leifheit Varioline M is expensive but at the same time maybe only mid priced when comparing it to other clothes airers. It's also really not the most stylish of things to take up a good portion of the living room but when the weather is miserable and the central heating or wood burner is on, it is an essential and an extremely good one at that.
I already own an over bath airer and a 3 tier airer but they just never seem to be enough and with clothes overlapping or bunched too close together means the air just can't circulate so I can be left with damp clothes for 3 or more days. This is where the design of the Varioline benefits as it has a 15m drying length claiming it takes one to two loads of washing at once - I'd have to agree but I wouldn't put more than one and a half on it.
The name Varioline refers to the adjustable lines which lets you leave a larger gap between clothes or lets you place two lines closer together e.g. for towels so its not folded in half and allows the air to circulate between. The lines are very easy to move and there are little grooves along each side if you really want everything to be the same distance apart. The only downside is heavier items like towels can cause the lines to move closer together so it can be a bit of a balancing act. With both the over bath and 3 tier airers I'd always have everything draped in half over the lines so they're not overlapping but the Varioline also benefits from being tall so hand towels don't have to be hung in half and you can use pegs easily to hold items in place. The Varioline also has some rather handy sock holders on one side which means they can hang singly rather than be folded over a line saving a lot of space.
Although the design of the Varioline is quite lengthy - it is even longer than our largest radiator - it is still very light so not to be so cumbersome for placing outside to make use of any dry days we do get. The top sections will fold inwards to help and the legs fold easily too if needing it flat to move around. Another benefit of the design for outside use is it won't topple over where I found the 3 tier arier would easily with a gust of wind.
When I got my dryer it was just over £40 and currently just under. It's really not something I want in the room if we have guests round but thankfully it can be moved to a spare room and if not in use, can be folded flat (although it is still quite long for storing). However compared to the various airers I've used over the years it has been one of the best and I would have to say is good value for money.
Updating our old manual scales to the Hanson H1040 5kg Touch Sensitive scales was a fantastic idea. Having lost the bowl to the old set I was always left trying to balance ill fitting mixing bowls onto the manual scales, having to manually reset the scale to zero and guessing smaller weights. These scales are very slim and light with a wide weighing area (20cm x 20cm) fitting a large range of bowls/plates/cups etc without problem.
I bought these scales from a local shop in the sale - reduced from £30 to £16.99 but they can be found around £13 online. They are also available in a range of colours - red, cream, silver and black. I went for the black and because the top is glass the colour isn't going to get scratched. The base is not solid with a large rectangle cut out which is quite handy as when moving the scales it gives you something to hold onto. There are also four rubber feet which stop the scales sliding around but which activate the weights - so basically if they break off (unlikely) or fall out the scales won't work.
There are only two buttons on the scale - Unit and On/Off Tare but it basically works as a touch screen as these are not raised so you'll notice that any time you do press down (to reset or switch off) the number on the scale will rise. On only takes a second to switch on, tare (automatic zero) will work almost instantly when pressed and to switch off takes around three seconds. What I like most about these scales is you're not restricted to solid weight - pounds and ounces and grams (up to 5kg/11lbs), it also gives you fluid ounces and millilitres and it's very easy to switch between them all.
There is a huge flaw with these scales however. They do state that after a minute of no activity they will automatically switch off. No problem there as it saves on battery life. However these scales will automatically switch off after two minutes whether they are still being used or not. This isn't mentioned in the instructions and something I was really glad I found out before using them for baking as normally I would have one bowl and continue to reset for each ingredient where possible which could have caused problems so now I know to switch it on and off between them.
Cleaning the scales is easy as it is just flat glass so incredibly easy just to wipe with a damp cloth. There's no rim around the glass either so you don't have to worry about crumbs getting caught in it if weighing directly on the scale itself. It will show up fingerprints but this isn't a problem for me. The scales take a Lithium battery and I've found this lasts months but obviously just depending on how often they are used.
With a 10 year guarantee I feel very happy with my purchase and wouldn't hesitate to buy another. They are a great price if you do get them under £15 - I perhaps wouldn't have gone for them at £30. I am a little worried I drop them as it would smash so perhaps not recommended if you're baking with kids but for my house they are ideal as it's very slim, light but still compact. Another step closer to being a fantastic baker!
The Braun Oral-B Trizone 5000 Six Mode toothbrush to me has a few novelty features which really didn't need to be included however having tried a variety of different electric toothbrushes it is one I buy replacement heads for.
My toothbrush is the Limited Edition in a sleek black and silver design (quite manly) with blue charging light and red pressure sensor. If several family members are using the same handle the brush heads can be distinguished by the coloured ring supplied with the heads. It comes with a travel charger and includes an attachment which slips onto the charger to hold any extra brush heads in a covered compartment but as this takes 4 heads it can make the kit bulky so not something I use. There's also a wireless SmartGuide which can be wall-mounted (more on that a bit later). There are three heads provided - 2 x TriZone brush heads and a PowerTip for hard to reach areas. These have the indicator bristles so you have a good idea of when they need replacing. One thing I find this toothbrush is missing is a travel case. I was hoping it would fit in one of my old cases but the handle is a little longer and much bulkier than the previous Oral-B / Philips ones I've had.
Compared to the Professional Care 600 (also by Oral-B) I prefer that the TriZone 5000 has a much larger head. I was a bit worried that to begin with the head would be far too big and by manually moving the brush tip (which moves separately to the rest of the brush) felt it would probably push on my gums too much but this isn't the case and I think some of the features of the toothbrush help against this. The pressure sensor has been a big plus for me and when initially using the toothbrush found it would light up quite often but after continued use this doesn't happen as often. Although I do have a mirror in front of me the vibration will change too (to Sensitive mode) if pressing too hard as you can't always see the red light while brushing as it's on the back of the handle.
The six modes of the toothbrush are Daily Clean (2 mins), Deep Clean (3 mins), Sensitive, Whitening, Massage (for gums) and tongue cleaning. The Daily and Deep Clean modes have a constant vibration whereas the others come in more of a wave. The main problem is that unless you're using the wireless SmartGuide you can't be sure which mode the toothbrush is on until you've got used to the various vibrations and go through each one until you find the one you want. A good point however is that if you do need to switch the brush off it will remember the time and not start from the beginning when switched back on again.
I can see why the SmartGuide is a good idea - it tells you when your two minutes is up (however so does the toothbrush by various vibrations for each quarter), it will give you an unhappy face if you're pressing too hard (however you know that by the red light), it fills in each quadrant so you know to move onto the next area and it will tell you with the various icons which mode the toothbrush is on (but you learn these after a while). This has meant that the SmartGuide quickly became redundant for me and I don't actually know where mine is now. I'm quite glad it's not required as that's saved having to buy replacement batteries for it. There are various counters on the SmartGuide for 2 minutes and professional and count up/count down for 30 to 45 second quadrants but again with the toothbrush itself indicating these out they are a bit of a novelty to have. The toothbrush is suitable for kids age 3-14 so this feature is more something for them.
The tongue cleaner is a good idea but I wouldn't want to use the same brush head as I'm using for my teeth. My previous electric toothbrush was the Philips Sonicare with a UV light to kill bacteria so I'm slightly missing that feature with this toothbrush. It says you can use it with or without toothpaste but my tongue can get quite tingly depending on which toothpaste I'm using. It also follows the 30 second quadrant where it's only recommended to brush the tongue for 20 seconds and they suggest using a sensitive brush head but this has to be bought separately.
One of the things I don't like with Oral-B toothbrushes is the length of time they take to charge. This one takes about 24 hours to fully charge where I'm not happy to leave it charging overnight. It's not just for safety but considering it only lasts about 10 days fully charged means it regularly needs charged which all adds up on the electricity bill. This is better than the Professional Care 600 though (which only lasted 7 days) but the Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum lasts 3 weeks with the same charge. However there's really no comparison with a manual brush - the TriZone leaves my mouth feeling far cleaner.
The Trizone 5000 Six Mode is currently available for £99.99 with 4 replacement heads about £12. One of the good things about this handle is it will work with older Oral-B heads including FlossAction, Sensitive, Precision Clean, 3D White, PowerTip as well as the TriZone brush heads so you're not restricted if you find the TriZone head is too big. There are some negatives to this one but I'd still give it 4 stars.
Holiday Garden is a 3 star hotel in Playa de Muro, Mallorca. The main reason we decided to head there was because of it was adults only and its location - easy enough to walk to Port de Alcudia and not far from Port de Pollenca. Actually the main reason was it wasn't that far from the beach with its white sands and if I was basing my review solely on that I would definitely recommend it. However, regardless of its location and its good points there were a few things that would really put me off recommending Holiday Garden.
Having booked the hotel and flights through Expedia we had to book transfers separately. We spent about £28 return for 2 including 1 suitcase with Resorthoppa which took around 1 hour 15 minutes by the time we left the airport (had we gone with a taxi which would have only taken about 50 minutes it would have cost £80 one way). I think it is possible to book transfers through the hotel but shortly after booking the English section of the website disappeared and the Spanish translation wasn't that easy to follow/didn't always work so no idea if it would have been any cheaper.
We were dropped off right in front of the hotel (perfect!) and almost didn't get in because the woman at reception wanted a print out of our booking which we didn't have. She did let us fill in the form but wanted us to email the booking as soon as we got into the room. I'm not sure what would have happened had we not brought the iPad because neither of us have Smartphones. They obviously had our booking though and we could prove who we were from our passports. We were however given an 'upgrade' (I say that lightly) from a standard King Size to what I'm guessing is a superior room with our own little garden with sun loungers and parasol as well as the standard table/chairs. I will also say here that all of the reception staff had quite good English for all our queries but didn't appreciate the woman booking us in being so curt.
What I loved most about the hotel is that it's not a high rise building but little buildings surrounding the stage and pool. I think they are all the same which means there are 4 rooms on the ground floor and 4 on the first floor each with little balconies (not all of the ground floor rooms have gardens).
On entering our room (231 - ground floor) it was nice and cool but did have a smell about it (a little damp perhaps) but cosmetically it looked OK but in need of modernising. There was plenty of storage for clothes, a safe available for Euro17,50 a week or Euro2,40 a day. I was quite glad the room was air conditioned although I ended up switching it off even though it was still in the 20Cs at night as I woke up quite a few times feeling cold. The King size bed was comfortable enough although quite a small pillow (no pillow menu as listed on the website). There was a matching sideboard, table, chair and bedside tables (not my taste really) as well as a comfy little sofa. The large flatscreen TV only had one English language channel - BBC World News. The little garden outside was well maintained with shrubbery border, 2 sun loungers, parasol as well as the table and chairs. We had a fridge which was invaluable for keeping bottles of water and juice in although the freezer compartment needed defrosting and there was a towel in it which couldn't have been very hygienic so I wouldn't have liked to keep anything other than bottles in there.
The bathroom was a decent size with shower (no bath), sink, toilet and bidet. When we arrived I don't think the bathroom had been cleaned as there was still a towel on the floor and no towels for us. We did find some in the room later on though. If that had been it, I would have said for a 3 star room (albeit an upgrade from the standard room) it wasn't bad. Unfortunately we noticed a rather large hole which constantly dripped through the night on each side of the ceiling just above the shower head so we reported this to reception the next morning. Apparently they knew about it so would send someone to have a look at it. A couple of workmen did turn up later that day while we were sitting outside and they ended up cutting a hole in the plaster and stuffing it with a towel - as though that would help stop the dripping!
The dripping soon started again and even after one of the workmen handed boyfriend the phone with reception on the end telling us they'd be back the next day, it didn't come as much of a surprise that no one turned up next day and even at the end of the week it still hadn't been fixed.
1. When we went for a shower you ended up getting a cold drip every minute or so from the ceiling.
2. Was this even clean water?!
This pretty much ruined the holiday for us so we tried to not spend much time in the room but obviously still had to use the toilet and shower.
Another thing I wasn't happy about was never knowing when they were coming to clean the rooms. All of the staff - whether the cleaners or workmen just gave a knock and walked in so you could never really relax. One day the cleaners were knocking at 9am and on another day they didn't do the room until about 6pm.
Our stay was all inclusive and having read many reviews before our trip I had such a low expectation of the food that I was actually really pleasantly surprised. Everything was a buffet so at breakfast you had a choice of cooked food, breads, rolls, jams, fruit juices etc. Lunch and dinner were quite similar with a range of salads, pasta and sauce, pizza, chips, lots of fish and meat dishes but then a choice of wines, cider and fizzy juice. At 4pm there was even free cake at the pool bar although when we went on Thursday it wasn't open. I think we did get our moneys worth (about £13 a day extra for all inclusive compared to one lunch out which was Euro30). On one plate I had pizza, chips, pasta, sauce, paella, potato salad, beetroot slices and savoury rice. A lot of the dishes were overcooked and some of them were not very hot but this wasn't enough to put me off. Boyfriend usually went up for 2 or 3 plates before even considering dessert. The waiting staff were very quick to clean plates away - sometimes a little too quick but couldn't really complain.
Thursday evenings offered a romantic meal and it was nice to see people making an effort to dress up a little more (well some didn't) and we got a glass of champagne and a red carnation. This was just in the restaurant though so you still felt like you were eating in a canteen. There was supposed to be live music but think we were a bit early as we didn't hear any music until later that night - likely from the stage. Fridays offered a BBQ but we left just after breakfast. The hotel has quite a good range of facilities with the pool, Jacuzzi (we were confused as to whether this cost as it mentioned 1 euro on the board but free on the welcome leaflet), crazy golf, golf, bar, pool bar, giant Connect 4, Balinese beds, dance classes, bike rental etc
Mid September seemed a great time to stay at the hotel. The hotel does seem to cater more for Germans than Brits (we seemed to be the only ones there) and on researching I was worried about the mosquitoes but can happily say we were not bothered by any even when sitting down by the lake. There was very little noise except for the neighbours coming and going and flushing their toilet/shower dripping but very few drunks. The hotel is on a one way street so little traffic, next door to the hospital (although no noise from there at all), and very close to the shops - every second shop seems to be a Spar. The area definitely seemed a lot nicer than Port de Alcudia although still very touristy.
I will never be booking a 3 star accommodation again and will never be staying at Holiday Garden again. Still really rather grossed out at the dripping water even over a month later. I wouldn't have been overly impressed with it had there not been a drip either. For a 4 night holiday I was glad to get home although I did miss the weather, the beach and the variety of food. I could only give it 2 stars though.
P.S. One thing you may see is the poor ponies tied up as you're walking to the beach. Honestly one of the most heart breaking things I have seen. They looked like they had been sedated as they barely moved and didn't look like they had food or water in the hot weather. Shame on the parents who actually paid for their children to ride them.