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OK...packet of crisps in front of me...lets write about this. 50p here I come!
Damn need to pad it out to make 150 words. OK firstly where did I buy them from...mmm bound to be Asda - I'll stick that in anyway (no-one will know)...price? How the hell do I know? I'll leave that bit out.
Taste...awful...but they were 'best before 2007' but I'd better not put that - I'll just say they tasted OK. OK now I should put something about Asda to make it look good/more thought intensive...oh someone's already done it...nice one! "cut and paste" ...voila!!
Now better finish up ...ah great....150 words exactly - nearly went over. Could get RSI with too many words. No use in going over the top - get paid anyway...
Now then...lets look at that Guides profile - oh that's the 10th time I've seen that...says she doesn't rate anyone who doesn't rate back. "OH...get-a-LIFE". Guess I'd better start rating. I've had 502 ratings so far...oh! I've only rated 17 people back. mmm suppose I could pull that up a bit. OK here goes...god he drones on and on ....yadi yadi yada...OK "very useful" yawn....next..."very useful"...next..."very useful"... Fab 20 ratings in less than 4 minutes - god I'm good.
Oh that's strange...I must have reviewed that before ...who knew?! Lol Better go further down his list and find something else to rate...more time wasted - could have fitted in another 2 ratings...PRAT. Jeez all this guy does is music...boring. OK pick one...any one....Yes..."very useful"...and another "very useful". There you go, you boring man...2 Very Useful's. I better get 2 ratings back from you.
Oh...here's someone else. Rude title...sounds interesting ...oh good they give it 5 stars - oh great title but boring read - no sex or breasts...they tricked me into reading it. ...that'll be a "very useful" then (MUST remember to put sex themes in my titles in future) - oh best write a message to show willing..."brilliant work". I wonder what they were rating. It's no good...curiosity has got the better of me...let's go back and seeee....ah yes chest guards.
God...this computer is so slow...I'll be here all day if I rate everyone who's rated me. Oh bugger it... I'll just put something in my profile to say let me know if I forget you. That's that covered off then!
What?! Someone marked me "not useful"...??? why?... I did my 150 words - took me 10 minutes - ...which is ummm... well 5p a minute at my reckoning. Well...lets just visit them. Oh they've got a "crown" - for a hoover. Nah not interesting at all. Where's the button "not useful". Stick that up your.... Oh ...email ...yippee. What?...she's going to report me for revenge rating. SO SO unfair. Oh bloody hell...better email back - don't want to lose my money. "Sorry hon - hit the wrong button - meant to say very useful". There that should do it. Bitch!!
H0W 70 WR1T3 4 G00D D00Y00 R3V13W (Secret pointers!)
In my opinion, the key to writing a good review is two-fold.
Firstly, have an eye catching title (to get the punters reading!). It's no good having a great review if the title lets you down and no-one wants to read it - if you're getting a low number of "hits" then change your headline to see if your hit rate improves!!
Secondly, have a viewpoint about a product with perhaps a different or unusual slant. It should be engaging, balanced and ideally take the reader through some key pointers - in an organised way which makes it quick on the eye and easy to digest.
Often it's best to write it, leave it and then come back to it later - far easier to tweak as errors are more likely to glare at you at a later date. A general rule of thumb is if you have to re-read a sentence before it makes sense, then it needs to be re-written.
If you can appeal to the readers emotions then this is also a winner. An element of humour always goes down well as does speaking from the heart when discussing painful/sensitive subject matters. Honesty is always refreshing and loved by all.
The key points to write about obviously depend upon the subject matter involved and will be dictated by your own personal experience. As an example, you could include 2 or more of the following:
- Pre-purchasing experience
- Purchasing experience
- Product description
- Post-purchasing experience
- Retrospective analysis
- Current purchasing advice
1. Reason for purchase/background to your purchasing decision
2. What made you choose this brand versus other similar items/brands
3. Brief information about the manufacturer or reseller - if appropriate or interesting
4. Where item was purchased
5. Cost of item
6. If purchased on-line - ease of navigating around the website and placing your order
7. If purchased in store, what was your overall shopping experience with this company
8. Details about the manufacturers warranty - and costs for extending the warranty
9. Information regarding how item was packaged if appropriate (e.g. description if poor packaging caused damage in post, or if product included an extra widget or instruction booklet).
10. How item was shipped/delivered - or how easy it was to collect (e.g. couldn't fit this into my car so had to pay an extra £10.00 for delivery)
11. Description of the item in terms of material/ingredients/grade used in its manufacture
12. Description of the characteristics of the product i.e. what it can do/its target market/its intended use and whether there are other similar models that a buyer should be aware of (e.g. I bought this because it was the cheapest but if I wanted more memory I would have chosen X which is the next model up)
13. Comparison of the quality of this product versus others in the marketplace
14. Description using all senses i.e. taste/sound/smell/touch/visual (as appropriate!)
15. First impressions (e.g. when you first opened the box)
16. Your intended use for the item - and whether it was made fit for this purpose
17. Second impressions (e.g. describe what happened when you first used the item)
18. Any additional usage notes (e.g. it performed well when I did x and y but failed to do z - however when I added this to it, which doesn't get mentioned in the user handbook, it worked perfectly).
19. Any warnings or advice (e.g. it says suitable for a child of 1+ years but I feel it's too dangerous due to 'xyz' and would be better for a child of 4+ years)
20. Feedback from other people who have used this item, if relevant (e.g. I lent this to my elderly mother but she found it too heavy to hold).
21. Third impressions (e.g. describe your experience with the product over a longer time frame covering reliability, robustness of product etc..)
22. If item required repairing under warranty, description of service provided - and whether warranty is worth purchasing
23. Do you feel, in hindsight, that the product was good value for money
24. If you could turn the clock back, would you still purchase this item
**Current Purchasing Advice**
25. Who is currently selling the item at the best price - and/or where's the best place to buy
26. Overall good points of product
27. Overall bad points of product
28. Your final conclusion
The above list is very basic - there are of course numerous other incidentals that you can also mention e.g:
* Food * - you could include how to store it, whether it freezes well, useful recipes, how to modify it for vegans/vegetarians, list of ingredients for those on a diet or suffering allergies etc...
* Books * - you could indicate the writing style of the author i.e. whether they write in the first person etc... and how this book compares against some of their previous works, whether the plot had an unusual twist or if the storyline was very transparent (don't spoil it for the reader by telling them the whole plot though - leave them wanting more!)
* Films * - you could write about how the film compared with earlier adaptations of the same book/play or who directed the film - how the film was initially reviewed, who acted particularly well, awards won etc (again don't spoil it for the avid film buff - give them just enough information to whet their appetite).
* Holiday locations * - you could write a full review of the accommodation, a little about the owners of the hotel, whether there is a chain of hotels owned by the same group, the cost of the hotel/holiday, how you managed to get better discounts, the plus points and negative points of staying in your accommodation, the entertainment, the food, general housekeeping information, how complaints are dealt with, whether it was good for disabled holidaymakers, any pearls of wisdom and a list of nearby locations/places to see/things to do and their associated costs etc...
As you can see, the list is endless!! Simply remember that everyone reading your review is after YOUR personal insight/experience. If you can make it fun, snappy and interesting then so much the better. Just ensure it includes all the relevant points to enable a buyer to make the right purchasing decision - which is what it's really all about at the end of the day!!
...AND FINALLY - SOME DO'S AND DON'TS!!
DO write something original - ideally with a new angle
DON'T copy or plagiarise (or if you do this in part, attribute it appropriately)
DO write about something you know and have tried in person
DON'T 'wing' it - if you don't know much about a subject matter then don't waffle around it. Indicate what you DO know and ultimately pass on a small (but valuable) point - rather than a tonne of useless information.
DO write as many reviews in a day as you like - PROVIDED they are top quality reviews and not just 150+ words of drivel
DON'T expect not to get a label of being a "churner" if you do many reviews all day, every day. Some people will go so far as to avoid rating you because of it (they think you're only in it for the money and are probably not providing top quality reviews)
DO ideally leave a little time between posting your last review and your next - as it gives people more time and opportunity to read and rate your work. The more ratings a piece of work, the more money you receive
DON'T rush your reviews - and remember you can always revisit earlier pieces of work to get them more polished and invite members to re-rate.
DO think of a good title - the better titles/headlines get more hits
DON'T underestimate the power of a good headline... it's a newspapers lifeline
DO use good English, grammar, punctuation, spelling etc
DON'T get upset if you get feedback criticising you for the above or if people downgrade their ratings because of your poor grammar/spelling etc... On the bright side you can only get better and you will gradually see this reflected in your ratings. Many people use Microsoft Word and 'spell check' their work first, prior to submitting
DO use sentences and paragraphs or titles and subtitles to make your work easier to read
DON'T lump your opinion into one massive paragraph - no-one will feel like wading through it
DO take direction from a Guide if they tell you your work isn't useful
DON'T take their advice personally - and re-work your review only if you want to - or if you feel they may have a point
DO take the time to review other people's work - especially if they have reviewed yours
DON'T assume that people will continue to review your work when you don't "give back" or never return the favour
DO take the opportunity to network and thank people for particularly nice comments they have made. You can and will make many friends at Dooyoo if you choose to do so
DON'T get sooo caught up with Dooyoo that you take any disagreements about your writing style personally when made - move onwards and upwards and agree to disagree!
DO remember that you can nominate others for crowns
DON'T feel you have to tell them you've nominated them - and only nominate if you feel the work is outstanding in some way i.e. very useful advice, something that made you cry/laugh, something that made you "take a moment" and has changed your life forever - or simply a very well written review.
DO enjoy yourself
DON'T be mean or give 'revenge ratings' out to those who have displeased you in some way
DO understand Dooyoo is a commercial site and needs good reviews covering many different types of products in order to stay ahead of the game and maintain their top rankings
DON'T forget you aide Dooyoo in two ways - by writing top reviews and by weeding out those reviews which are poor in quality (by giving accurate ratings)
DO use Dooyoo yourself and take the opportunity to learn about all sorts of things that will aide you in your every day life
DON'T abandon your husband/wife/children/parents/friends for Dooyoo... (simply make them sit on the chair right next to you and insist they join in ;-) xxx
I wandered lonely as a cloud,
that floats on high o'er vales and slags,
when all at once I saw crowd,
A host of golden toastabags;
Beside the cake, beneath the cheese,
Fighting for supremacy near the peas.
Continuous as the stars that shine
I twinkled past the milky way,
for they stretched in never-ending line
Along the aisle of the bay;
Two thousand saw I at a glance,
All in a row - and not by chance.
The cakes beside them waved; but they
Out-did the gorgeous cakes in glee:
A shopper just HAD to pay,
for such a toastie company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
what wealth the toastabags would brought:
Now oft, when on my couch I lie
In hunger or in pensive mood,
Toastabags flash upon my inward eye
which is the bliss of solitude;
and then my tum with toasties fills,
And I crunch among the daffodils.
Snooty Wordsworth, 2009 :-)
TOASTABAGS - THE REAL REVIEW!
I spotted these bags in Asda for £1.99.
Do they do the job?
Surprisingly they make great toasted sandwiches quickly and easily...and I really have enjoyed all my toasted sandwiches that I've made.
Why not just grill your sandwich or use a sandwich toasting machine?
Without a doubt, the one thing I hate about the normal sandwich toasters is that they do make a mess (fillings often oooze out the sides) and you're left spending 5 minutes cleaning everything up. By contrast, the toastabags are an absolute breeze to clean - and take less than 20 seconds to wash through properly!
Secondly at my work we only have a toaster - no grill to hand - so this product enables me to have some nice hot food when there are limited facilities.
The bags are light golden brown in colour - and in my experience are just the right size for most standard sliced loaves and toasters. They have little handles cut into the bags so it's easy to take the bag out of the toaster within seconds of it popping up. I've not burnt myself once!!
Best of all they're totally re-usable. Simply clean or put in the dishwasher and let them dry - then they're fine to use again and again. The manufacturers do put a limit on the number of uses though by mentioning "Use each bag up to 100 times".
They also come in packs of two - so I keep one at home and the other at work. (Note: Some of my work colleagues have borrowed my 'work' one - and have now bought their own for home use after being suitably impressed).
The bag itself measures 18cm high x 16cm long (or 7" high x 6.25" long).
What are the bags made from?
They definitely have flame retardant properties as the toast can burn but the bags remain just fine. You are able to see a fine woven structure if you look closely - but as to what they're actually made from I don't know. It appears the manufacturers are keeping quiet - as all I can see on the packet is PTFE nonstick.
What can you put in a Toastabag?
Pretty much anything you want! You can make a toasted sandwich with any ingredient you desire - or (as it says on the packet) "you can heat up pastries, pizza slices, chicken nuggets and more!" unquote.
Personally I've not been amazingly innovative with my choice of toasted sandwiches to date i.e. cheese ...cheese with chilli and tomato pickle...cheese and ham...cheese and tomato...ummm....cheese... :-)
The box does however come with over 20 handly recipe suggestions. My favourite which I've yet to try is:
Apple Pie & Custard
Spread one piece of bread with Apple pie filling, sprinkle on cinnamon to taste. Spread one side of the other slice with ready-made custard. Make up the sandwich, place in the toastabag and toast.
Any bad points?
I have noticed that if I cut the cheese into chunks (not deliberate...often the sharp knife at work goes missing when the boss gets depressed) then the chunks don't always fully melt down properly. I don't like my toast well toasted so I go with the lumps or put it in the microwave for 10 seconds to really melt down - but if I wanted browner toast then it would probably do the job! Most receipes say to toast for 3 minutes - so in fairness I've only been toasting for 2!
What I like most about this product
I just like the fact that I haven't got to waste more than 20 seconds cleaning up the toastabag - and I'm pleased to relieve the monotony of my normal 'work' sandwiches with something hot!!
Are there similar products on the market - and how do they compare?
I've not tried similar products - but I do know that you can purchase a box of twin black bags as shown in the photo above (rather than the golden brown ones) which you can use up to 300 times (rather than 100 times). The ones I have are made of thinner material apparently.
There are also clear bags available from a different manufacturer - which potentially makes it easier to see if the food is "done" and shows better if you haven't cleaned it properly.
Ease of use 10/10
Flexibility of this product versus a sandwich toasting machine 10/10
Perfection of toasted sandwich compared to a toasting machine 8/10
Value for money 10/10
To sum up: Great for a quick snack when you want something with a bit more umph than a plain cold sandwich!!
D-on't sleep as much as I should - just one more check on Dooyoo...O-n waking, I hop from foot to foot while loading computer ...Loo vs Dooyoo!O-ften found surreptitiously flicking to Dooyoo during working hours :-0Y-es...I won't be a minute... is a regular and frequent saying in my houseO-bviously only do housework in between taking mini Dooyoo fixes...obviously!O-nly worn a hole in my chair from many hours sat in it!
I've received all of the following items from my local Freecycle site. Naturally all of these things were FREE, as the name "Freecycle" suggests:
* Plant pots
* DVD player & remote
* Coffee maker
* Metal bed head
* Bed head bolts
* Tumble dryer
* Christmas decorations
* Large Ikea solid wood effect bookshelf
* Ikea light wood/glass door cabinet with glass shelving
* Nearly new Zanussi Fridge Freezer
* Fridge/Freezer for my mum and dad
* 1960s two level dolls house with all the furniture/dolls
* Solid pine coffee table
* Set of sherry glasses and shot glasses
* Spare sets of bedlinen
* Two sets of curtains for french doors & large double window
* Log maker
* Childrens books
* Venetian Blinds
* Garden table and chairs
* Bread and Jam making machine
* Items to make a wreath
* Currently being offered bamboo plants...collecting shortly
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
See my SECRET TIPS below telling you how to beat other peoples
requests - to get the best goods all for yourself!! Normally
most reviewers don't tell you all their secrets...
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
What did I need TO DO to get these for free?
First of all I had to join my local Freecycle site. Freecycle is run separately by each town, as a Yahoo Group - so you do need a Yahoo email account to sign in.
To find your local group simply type in "Freecycle xxxxx" (insert the name of your local town) into a search engine. Once you find your local group, apply to become a member. You will then be told, often a few days later, if your application has been successful or not.
Note: You can become a member of several different Freecycle groups - although some moderators will turn you down if you aren't a true "local". Unfortunately none of the individual groups can "talk to each other" so if you are on the border of several towns you'd have to join all groups - which then means multiple listings on every site if you want to offer something.
Why do moderators ask your reason for joining?
They are looking for someone who is passionate about keeping stuff out of the local tip or landfill sites, and who is happy to contribute good quality goods (which are no longer needed) to other members of their community. Often they want someone who is local. They want someone who doesn't abuse the site by taking items and then re-selling them for a profit - and who is nice/polite. They want people who give as well as receive.
What kind of items are given away?
Anything and everything goes. Some Freecycle sites even allow you to advertise your animals (although sometimes this is frowned upon) - but generally anything that is in "reasonable" to "good" condition can be posted. If something needs refurbishing/renovating then be sure to let people know first in your post so you don't waste their time (or yours!).
Essentially anything you can give to a charity shop, sell on Ebay or car boot can be posted on Freecycle.
Are any posts rejected?
Once you post a WANTED or OFFERED advert, the moderator will check it prior to it going onto Freecycle. Your post can sometimes be rejected if:
* you forget to add your postcode (sometimes they let you off!)
* if you forget to tick the box that allows people to email you on your Yahoo email account - which you do when first setting up your Freecycle account
* you are not strictly adhering to local rules e.g. trying to sell an animal if your local Freecycle site doesn't support this activity
* you aren't giving things away for free e.g. "I'd like to swap my daughters current black TV for a pink TV for her all-pink bedroom" (this was one of mine that got rejected early on (blush)!).
* you are a con merchant
* you are abusing Freecycle in order to advertise something
* if many Freecyclers have complained about you
How come you got lots of good stuff?
I'm discerning?...No seriously! :-)
OK once you're a member you can see all the items listed - there are normally several pages of listings each day with part of the message showing...and it may look something like this:
OFFERED: 3 Piece Suite VGC RG22 6DP
A great 3 piece suite that needs to go because we're moving house...
OFFERED: Garden Shed RG22 3HL
OK condition, getting new one delivered so needs to be dismantled...
WANTED: Conservatory [LOCATION NOT GIVEN!]
Hi...a real long shot I know but I'd love a conservatory for...
TAKEN: Sunflower seeds - Reading RG22 4HI
Thanks for everyone who asked - these have now been taken STC...
If I see something I'd LOVE to have, I simply click on the item "OFFERED" and find out more. If I'm interested, I then click the icon to email that person - and politely request it. Sometimes there can be 1-20 people asking for any one item (or more!) so I don't hold my breath!
Alternatively if someone has posted a "WANTED" ad, I will click on the reply icon if I have the item that they want (and if I no longer want or need it!).
So...I REPEAT!...what's your secret for getting so much good stuff?
1. I email quickly - within minutes of something coming up, if I can.
2. I send a friendly and polite email
3. I advise that "I would love to be considered for xyz because...." and I give a valid reason why. Using the word "considered" builds a better image in the owners eye rather than just "I would like..."
4. I state how soon I can collect (ideally same day - any time to suit them)
5. I provide my contact details
6. If it's New Year I wish them Happy New Year etc!!
7. I analyse when the moderator posts the ads (some do it several times in the day e.g. around 9am, 4pm and 11pm). Understanding when the moderators work and review the ads to be posted is KEY to understanding when to log on and find the best bargains!!
I don't say:
1. Yes...I'll take it.
2. Can I have this please.
3. I want this, if it's still available.
4. I'll take it off your hands.
5. I'm disabled/no car etc...so can you post it to me please?
Is there anything else you do?
Yes - above all I am an active member. I actively place my own OFFERED adverts on a fairly regular basis. People tend to be regulars on this site and get to know you, so they'd rather give to people who are (1) worthy or genuinely in need of help and then (2) like to give to someone that regularly offers items on Freecycle too. Normally point 1 is the strongest point - but don't underestimate point 2!!
Next, I ALWAYS take the givers telephone number and if I'm running even 5 or 10 minutes late I CONTACT them to let them know I'm behind schedule. This is rare though - as on the whole, I always turn up on time so that I don't keep them waiting. They are GIVING me something for FREE - so it's only courteous NOT to keep them waiting in the house all day wondering if/when I'm going to turn up.
What was the last thing you gave away?
I had an awning (3m x 2.5m) which I'd bought from Ebay but had never put up. It wasn't new and I got it for a bargain price of £10.00. I had many people asking for this but I finally chose someone who wanted to use it for his wife - who is suffering from breast cancer - so that she could enjoy some time outside. My partner saw her and she looked very ill. It's nice to feel you're helping someone.
So...what other kinds of things have you given away?
* Epson photosmart printer + inks
* Loads of books
* Office chair
* Tumble dryer
* Baby clothes
* Kids chairs & table set
* Bed linen
* Curtains (originally from freecycle)
* Baby cot
* Baby and childrens toys
* Stereo system & 2 x speakers
* Bed head
* Solid pine table (originally from freecycle)
* Garden pots (some from freecycle)
* Garden table and chairs (originally from freecycle)
* Rose plants
In fact, I've given lots and lots of things away - too numerous to mention
How did YOU find out about Freecycle?
I originally saw a posting on Ebay, in the members section discussing how/where to get free packaging material from. Someone mentioned that they got theirs from Freecycle. (Many Freecyclers are happy to give away unwanted boxes and bubble wrap etc - and this can add up if you Ebay many items). I originally signed onto Freecycle for this reason, but then realised its wider capabilities...and promptly furnished my whole house (with the help of Ebay as well) since I'm on a tight budget!
Is there anything that bugs you about Freecycle?
1. I think it's annoying when people don't have the common manners to turn up when they say (some don't turn up at all!). I no longer wait in for these people but simply remove the item outside and go out. If they don't collect by the time I come home and I haven't heard from them, I post it back onto the site and simply won't offer them things again.
2. I dislike people who take my items and then Ebay them to make money. I can Ebay with the best of them - and I made a choice NOT to make money from the item but to give it back to the community. It's part of my giving strategy - which comes back to me ten fold.
3. Sometimes someone offers something which isn't really for sale - and they use Freecycle to either scam or con people. Mostly they're picked up by the moderators but some not. On the whole, these are quite easy to spot though.
Is there anything else I should be aware of?
1. I will mention "stranger danger" (not to make you feel like a 5 year old but to give constructive advice LOL!!). Naturally with Freecycle you don't know WHO you are letting into your home/answering your door to (or even visiting to go and collect something). For items I'm offering, I sometimes say "I prefer to leave item outside for you to collect - no need to knock at the door" - or I ensure hubby is home from work when they visit. Other times I have the item waiting right by the front door and give it to them without inviting them in. I've never had a problem yet though. When I'm making collections I always wait outside or take someone with me - and if going alone I leave an address detailing where I'm going (just in case...I've watched CSI lol!).
2. Next, you can make friends ...and there are some really nice people out there. One lady, who gave me a set of sherry glasses just before Christmas '07 even inspired me to start fostering after a good chin wag!
3. Finally, it can be addictive (like Dooyoo!) so moderate your requests and only apply for something if you really WANT or NEED it - or you'll be putting it all back onto Freecycle to make space again a few weeks later!! ...uhummmmm that would be me then! ;-)
"yes!" I thought to myself...I've got him now. I circled around slowly, assessing him - seeking out the slightest move, watching his eyes... and my lips parted gently. His powerful thighs twitched. I sought to steady my breathing, my heart pounding. I wanted to feel his body again, under mine, and unleash my full womanly force that would leave him both unresistant and powerless...
His chest was heaving and chest hairs gently curved around his top - his clothing now gaped open following my sudden voracious onslaught a few moments before. My firm breasts had puzzled him as they slammed against his shoulder...which wasn't surprising really - as they were fake.
OK hands up! I was in a karate kickboxing sparring match - and my wonderful 'Dolly Partons' (my nickname for my MaxiGuard Chest Guard) had inadvertently caught him after delivering a few well aimed kicks and punches designed to incapacitate - Oh! And as to watching his eyes? Totally professional of course - you always watch their eyes - as they mirror the whole body and often allow you to predict what your opponent is going to do next . Why?...what did you think was happening?!!
OK I knew you'd ask! The Ladies MaxiGuard Chest Guard was originally designed to provide "added confidence" to women when undertaking or competing in various contact sports.
While it can be worn for Karate Kickboxing (as I did) it can also be worn for many other types of martial arts/contact sports including fencing, cricket, rugby, boxing etc... This product has been endorsed by the World Karate Federation and is a useful - if not a critical - piece of safety clothing for women who intend to compete/spar.
The Chest Guard is essentially a high quality LDPE plastic, off white in colour, moulded into the shape of a womans upper torso and is designed to protect the breasts, side ribs and sternum - with ventilation holes provided underneath the bust area. This is not a stand-alone product as it is made to specifically fit inside the Ladies MaxiGuard Vest - so you DO need to purchase both products at the same time.
The MaxiGuard Vest is a round necked, sleeveless vest made from: 86% Tactel, 10% Lycra, 4% Nylon. The product information advises that a bra is not required.
What's LDPE plastic when it's at home?
Buggered if I knew so I looked it up - I found a website called www.sks-bottle.com/LDPEHelp.html which tells me that LDPE stands for Low Density Polyethylene. Characteristics include quote "a good resistance to chemicals, good vapor barrier, as well it tends to be stress crack resistant and lightweight" unquote. Hence they've picked the perfect material to use as a chest guard providing excellent safety features, which is lightweight with good longevity.
And for those of you who want to know what Polyethylene is (pedantic sods!), according to http://pslc.ws/macrog//pe.htm it's the most popular plastic in the world. All your plastic bottles in the bathroom are probably made from it - and it's even used to make toys, plastic bags and bullet proof vests. Technically speaking, it has the simplest structure of all commercial polymers where a molecule of polyethylene is just a long chain of atoms comprising two hydrogen atoms attached to each carbon atom. Much like:
h h h
| | |
c c c
| | |
h h h
When you have a carbon atom with a long chain of polyethylene attached to it (instead of a single hydrogen atom as shown above), then it creates what's known as "branching" - also called LDPE. Voila...now you know! ...Wake up...stay with me...the best is yet to come!!
How to use
Simply use the Ladies MaxiGuard Vest in much the same way as you would a normal T-shirt - then slip the Chest Guard in between two layers of cloth at the front of the Vest when you want or need protection.
The beauty of this product is that it is simple and easy to use. When your training doesn't involve "contact" then keep the Plastic Chest Guard in your sports bag. When you do need the protection it's just a matter of slipping the Chest Guard into the vest (a 2 second job!).
After training you can put your vest in the washing machine (treat it the same as a normal t-shirt) - and then rinse or wipe your chest guard using soap and water and let it dry.
I found that it was useful to purchase 3 vests so I could use one, have one in the wash and have a clean one ready for my next training session - at £17.70 a time this proved quite costly but was well worth the expense in the long run. You only need to invest in one Chest Guard though.
Being a CC-D cup I also found that it was better to wear a sports bra underneath the vest - rather than just using the vest alone as advertised - as this gave me much needed added support.
I did feel a little like 'Dolly Parton' once the chest guard was inserted - and my eyes kept catching sight of my "new extra large boobs" which was a little humorous if not a tad off-putting. Never-the-less, I found this to be a fantastic product - easy to use, comfortable and did the job as intended!
Sizes and Pricing
I liked the website: www.black-eagle.co.uk - who sell the MaxiGuard Chest Guards for £9.20 each (available in sizes XXS, XS, 11A, 11B, S, M, MC, L or XL) and provide a choice of white or black MaxiGuard vests at £17.70 each (available in size 10, 12 or 14).
Other than the obvious advantage of protecting your upper body and reducing the risk of trauma or injury to ribs, breasts and sternum (and avoiding pain!), many cancer websites do point out that sometimes "fat necroses" (fat breakdown) can occur within your breasts if you do receive a hard knock on them - this breakdown can then degenerate and cause hard lumps. Often a biopsy is needed to rule out malignancy...so why take the chance?!
It works! It truly does. Now...many people giving reviews will testify to this using their children as prime examples ("it worked on my little Johnny who's always bruising himself"...yada yada yada!)... but I'm here to tell you that this stuff truly DOES work miracles...forget about the kids!! LOL
MY FUNNY MIRACLE
A few years ago me and hubby went on a skiing holiday while living in Spain and invited my brother and his girlfriend across from England to join us. My brother is an avid skier (a regular attendee of black runs). I'd never skied before but fancied giving it a go.
My brother gently guided me on either a blue or green run (my first after a lesson on the nursery slopes!) - and patiently told me "I'm going to traverse left to right...follow me". I did and the world was good. We stopped half way down without any mishaps and I felt really pleased with myself - "was I perhaps a natural?" I glowed, privately to myself.
Then he said the immortal words "I'm going to straight line it - meet you at the bottom". Now...he's my brother. I'm going to traverse left and right translated into "we". "I'm going to straight line it now" translates into "we" ...get it?
I watched my brother as he hunkered down into a tight tuck and marvelled at how aerodynamic he looked. I of course quickly followed suit. I mean it was half way down the mountain for christ sake...it'll be fine...it wasn't like I was straight lining it from the TOP or anything...
For the first 5 seconds I was smiling inside - it was going wonderfully. Then...curiously I seemed to pick up speed down the mountainside (as one does I suppose). It then occurred to me that I was going a tad faster than I would have liked. ....It quickly re-occurred to me that as I could only see flashes of peoples suits as I skiied past them, and that...BLOODY HELL...I was fast!! I then remembered that, at the end of the ski slope, was a big solid bund of snow and then a sheer drop down a mountainside. It came, rather like an unwanted news flash, that at my current speed I was unlikely to be able to stop. Images of Eddie the Eagle suddenly sprang to mind.
Bugger...oh f***... OK think... "SNOW PLOUGH!" ...I thought quickly and mentally patted myself on my back. My skiis felt like I was traversing across a herd of washing machines set on a super fast spin cycle. Operation "Snow Plough" was a clear winner in my book - although in all truthfulness I didn't actually have a plan 'B'.
I gingerly started to straighten up and before I knew it, the world turned white as I somersaulted and then nose dived spectacularly through snow covered ice for around 40-50 metres. My designer sunglasses broke across the nose ridge with the pressure of snow being hurled against my face and when I finally stopped, I lay there for a few minutes, not daring to move, peering tentatively out between what used to be my dark glasses which were still tangled around my ears but curiously now open up to the elements...flopping on either side of my nose.
My partner finally got to me and was probably the most worried I've ever seen him (apart from the time when I spilt my coffee near his laptop...!) and pronounced that he thought I was dead cos I hadn't moved for so long. He obligingly fetched my skiis from up the hill - around 3 minutes walk away and gave me a hug (ahh!) and I had a party of wellwishers below...OK just my brother and his girlfriend, but I'm sure more people cared :-p
"What the HELL were you doing?!" my brother exploded.
You said "straight line it..." I retorted, somewhat defensively. His eyes went heavenward. "No...I said I was going to straight line it...I expected you to keep gently traversing down the slope ...like we were doing at the top". WELL really! He had some nerve. Placing the fault back on my shoulders.
Still...I mused...I HAD survived, so I could forgive him - but if I had injured myself he wouldn't have heard the last of it, that's for sure!
I went back to my hotel an hour or so later, and hubby was pampering me. "Do you want a cuppa"...he asked. It was at that point that I realised that I couldn't actually lift my head off the bed to answer him. NO REALLY....I wasn't being lazy!! The muscles in my neck had been wrenched after my spectacular fall - and I literally had to use my hands to lift my head up. Very weird - and quite funny.
Now I don't know about you, but when you have problems like this after only 2-3 hours from the injury, then you just KNOW that you aren't going to be able to move the next day (am I RIGHT...OR AM I RIGHT?). OK if you're 20 maybe not, but late 30's (OK you got me, early 40s!) TRUST ME....I'm right.
I had arnica in my bag for my little one - so figuring it might help I totally creamed up all around my neck - and then settled for an early night with some pain killers to help any inflammation. (A natural medic me some might say!).
Do you know what? The next morning my neck was as good as NEW. I'm really NOT exaggerating. I really had no problems at all. Now, I figured this stuff may help for bruising for my todder...but I never truly appreciated the power of arnica before I injured my neck. I was moving it left and right in total disbelief. I had myself down as totally disabled by morning and it had never felt BETTER.
Well...frankly I never would have believed it possible - so I thought I'd give you my experience and let you be the judge. I always keep some in my medicine cabinet now and wouldn't be without it.
You can purchase this at most pharmacies or even on Ebay for a fixed price. You will pay from around £3.50-£5.00 on average for the 30g size and between £5.50-£8.00 for the 50g size.
Nelsons themselves currently advertise the 30g tube for £3.95 and the 50g tube for £5.50. Ebay sometimes sell it cheaper - but other companies tend to be more expensive unless they have a "special offer" e.g. currently healthstuff.co.uk sell the 30g tube for £4.35.
WHO MAKES THIS STUFF?
A company called Nelson and Russell Holdings Limited - which is a family run business that has a turnover in excess of £25m. The company was founded in 1860 but then later acquired in 1974 by the Wilson family. Today they have over 200 employees and it's run by two brothers, Robert and Patrick Wilson.
Their top 3 selling products are: Arnica, Calendula and Tea Tree.
Most recently Nelsons earnt the regional award and Coutts Prize for "Family Business 2008/2009".
Around 20 years ago I was an Ann Summers rep (earning a top sales for the South badge!). Those days were fun.
My only embarrasing moment was when my parents helped me move home and I had two big cases of all my samples - whips/potions/lingerie/ vibrators/ love balls etc etc... I decided to hide some of the vibrators (because my cases were too full) in the bottom of some plastic bin liners with various clothes on top to 'disguise' the true contents. My dad started to carry the bags down my stairs and suddenly the bin liner ripped at the bottom. (Damn those cheap bin liners...!).
Out poured all these vibrators - and there was a deathly silence as they all bounced down the stairs and rolled loudly over my hall tiles. Finally the batteries also came to a halt...and my mum picked one up and said "are these yours dear?". My dad made a strange noise and walked outside ....Oh the SHAME!! ;-) lol
Anyway I thought I'd write a brief note on some things to think about when purchasing sex toys which may/may not assist - and which you all probably know anyway!!
POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A VIBRATOR
1. Firstly, you can check out the intensity of a vibrator by placing it on the tip of your nose - it will give you a reasonable indication - although not totally the same granted! (I don't think anywhere offers changing rooms to try out these things but correct me if I'm wrong).
2. Many women are allergic to rubber. If you are, think TWICE about the type of vibrator you buy - you may need to opt for a boring plastic casing instead of the latest latex designs. Sometimes, rubber or latex ones can cause thrush or irritation afterwards.
3. Remember to check in the shop how "noisy" the vibrator is before purchasing. If you are in your own home and don't have children and are happy to have loud sounding vibrators then fine...but sometimes a woman likes a more secretive 'play' i.e. when hubby's asleep and she doesn't feel like sex(! oh yesss...we ONLY tell you sometimes that we don't feel like it because our vibrators are BETTER LOL). Perhaps with young children in a next room a quieter vibrator is also better otherwise you worry that you may wake someone.
4. Always clean the vibrator after use - sometimes the plain plastic ones make this easier.
5. If you are buying a vibrator for your partner, check first what she/he prefers. You may get off on the thought of giving them a 14" black stallion vibrator - while they may prefer a 3" small clitoral stimulator...you see where I'm going with this? It's a very personal choice - unless you are just adding to a large collection.
6. Be aware that your vibrator can interfere with TV signals - so if you are house sharing and they start getting lines down their telly they know what you're up to. Someone more technical can perhaps tell me if this is still the case with the advent of sky tv...but it was definitely an 'issue' before.
7. There is obviously a time/place for vibrators - but be aware of the story in the newspapers a year or two back of some woman trying out a clitoral stimulator (a butterfly type I think) while out shopping in Tescos/Sainsburys -she consquently passed out from having too much fun. If you are going to do something like this - test drive it first in your own home LOL. ;-)
A POINTS TO PONDER WITH DUO BALLS
Duo balls are like two balls with a piece of cord attaching them which clink/vibrate as you move (you put them inside you). However what many people fail to realise is that sometimes they set off security alarms because of the ball bearings inside them. This goes for shop alarms and of course Airport Security. Try not to travel through customs with your duo balls or you may spark an incident! (If you do, please write about it on Dooyoo so we can all get to hear about it first :-)
SOCIAL ETIQUETTE RULE WHEN HAVING AN ANN SUMMERS PARTY
They are fun for a girlie night in - but remember, if you decide to hold a party, make sure you tell everyone present that "what's said at the party, stays at the party" i.e. not to be spoken about outside. It's a social etiquette rule really and its well worth enforcing and mentioning because it avoids any problems afterwards.
I mention this because I remember one of my clients who worked at some stables and I did a party for around 20 or so of her friends. She happened to mention that she wore duo balls when she went out horse riding. The next day, a couple of the stable lads shouted across to her "Have you got your duo balls in Laura?" Bless...she was highly embarrassed and it took her a while to live it down.
TIPS FOR ANN SUMMERS REPS
1. Be sensitive to the group you are 'working'. If they are loud and brash and knocking back the alcohol then you can tailor your presentation, words and jokes to appeal to them. If they are quieter and more reserved then you need to adjust accordingly.
For example rules for trying on lingerie; with a more exhuberant group of women (read rough!) then you tell them to keep their knickers on because you don't want to scrape loads of white stuff off the gusset. With a more demure lot it would be the last thing you'd say.
2. A lot of preparation makes for the best parties. Have loads of different games in your mind and all the prep behind them - and adjust it according to how the party is going. It takes experience and hard work to make a party seamless. For example, 20 years ago I used to make chocolate willies as prizes and a large chocolate willy for the top prize (using my Ann Summers moulds) as part of my pre-party preparation. I did this the night before. Making parties fun and getting everyone - no matter how quiet to join in - can make all the difference between good sales and mediocre sales - you need to get everyone relaxed and in the buying mood.
3. A lot of sales can be made outside of the parties. I used to have several regular customers who wanted the products but didn't want the faff of a party. It's important that you make everyone feel comfortable - i.e. I used to have an old woman who wanted to buy lube every few months - and making her feel that it was a highest selling product because most women found it useful and suffered dryness at menopause or other times was an important aspect of keeping her business.
On a whim a few weeks ago, I decided to scan the internet for a cheap 3 night break in Cornwall. I came across Parkdean Holidays and opted for Mullion Holiday Park in South Cornwall - near the Lizard, which is the most southerly point of the UK.
REASON FOR CHOICE
I wanted a location which was cheap, which catered to my 5 year old as well as my 82 year old mother in law - who was down visiting us in Hampshire for a week.
I chose Cornwall so we could visit St. Michaels Mount (and take my mother in law there for her 82nd birthday) plus take my 5 year old daughter to visit various pirate coves (and the like), because she's been studying all about pirates at school. Since she has also learnt all about Castles I thought the castle at St. Michaels Mount would also give her a good opportunity to dress up in her 'medieval princess costume' and consolidate her studies (amongst cream tea/icecream/boat rides etc that is!).
Mostly we needed somewhere to unwind and relax so that we could spend quality time with my mother in law (who we don't get to see often) BUT it had to be equally good for keeping our 5 year old daughter happy and amused too.
Last year we chose Butlins in Skegness but my partner and I absolutely hated it - although our daughter could talk of nothing else and had a great time. We have never really holidayed in the UK before - preferring more exotic long-haul holidays - so this time we thought we'd cross our fingers and give Parkdean Holidays a shot - since I can't say "Butlins" without shuddering and developing a twitch!
COST OF HOLIDAY
We booked a Cormorant Caravan at Mullion Holiday Park for 3 adults & 1 child for 3 nights (covering 3 April - 6 April). The total cost was £118.21.
Check in was advised as 4pm onwards and check out at 10am. If you arrive earlier in the day you can apparently use all the site facilities and they will store your luggage for you until a caravan is available.
WHAT WAS INCLUDED IN THE COST OF THE HOLIDAY
1. Caravan Accommodation
The caravan was in very good condition. It included all facilities such as
* Steps up to caravan leading to front door;
* LIVINGROOM/DINING ROOM - with wall-wall padded chairs spanning the width of the caravan (which could be opened out to reveal a spring loaded double bed), 2 large wall cupboards, a coffee side table, 1 foot stool, padded chairs surrounding dining room table, glass fruit bowl, gas fire, 3 windows.
* KITCHEN - with microwave, oven, TV, fridge with small freezer compartment, kettle, toaster, pots/pans, cutlery, plates, cups, mugs, tin opener, knives/ladles etc and kitchen bin, kitchen bucket + welcome pack instructions, window, 2 main power points.
* DOUBLE BEDROOM: Bed sheet, 2 duvets, 2 duvet covers, spare blankets, wardrobe, mirror, power points x 2, chest of drawers and two bedside tables with overhead storage above bed, window.
* SINGLE BEDROOM: Bed sheets x 2, 2 duvets, 2 duvet covers, wardrobe, wall storage unit, window.
* HALLWAY: A 2nd access/exit doorway to caravan, hanging pegs for coats, door to small storage cupboard.
* SMALL STORAGE CUPBOARD: Dust pan & brush, large brush.
* BATHROOM: A medium sized enclosed shower area, pedestal sink, toilet, glazed window with pull blind, storage rack above toilet to store things, 2 toilet rolls (cheap brand).
EXCLUDED: Food/towels/tea towels/toiletries
2. Evening Entertainment (at the Stargate Club and Bar)
In our welcome pack we received 4 passes which provided access to the entertainment at night - although we didn't bother carrying these and they were never asked for. Every night from around 6:30-8:30pm there was a show on for the kids - with two life sized characters - a Seagull and a kissing Lizard. They chatted to the kids, got them dancing/playing games, had competitions, gave out prizes with lots of fun music and at times it was quite funny. They also encouraged kids to get mum/dad up to dance. My daughter absolutely loved it. After this they did bingo for half an hour (not my cup of tea) and then had various adult entertainment - which we never stayed around for but I'm sure it would have been fairly interesting as they were great with the kids.
3. General On-Site facilities
We didn't really use many site facilities because it was such a short stay and we were out and about - but in addition to the nightly entertainment, Parkdean put various themed things on throughout the day for the kids - with many competitions - and then handed out certificates and prizes during the evening entertainment session e.g. best crazy golf player etc... From a quick glance at their brochure, the structured entertainment started early in the morning for the under 5s, then there was perhaps a crazy golf competition for 5 year olds+ at around 11am - and more things in the afternoon, but I didn't take too much notice as we came off-site each day.
I think most things on-site were free but we paid £1.00 for my daughter to have a few goes on a bouncy castle, £1.50 for the crazy golf and I'm sure people had to pay for their bikes (pedallo style).
Site facilities include:
- Indoor pool open 9am-6:30pm
- Outdoor pool (available from 18 May-20 Sept) - headed pool plus paddling pool
- Soft play area with ball pool (open from 10am - with specific time set aside between 10am-11am for under 5s only).
- Solarium - charge applies
- Crazy Golf - charge applies (£1.50)
- Scuba Diving - Monday evenings you can learn to scuba dive in 2 hour introductory course - charge applies
- Film Screening
- Free Wi-Fi
- Pool, Darts and Bowlingo (?! Don't ask - I haven't a clue!) 10am-10pm
- Amusements centre (2p slot machines, various games machines of the shooting, driving, kicking football variety, one armed bandits etc - covering a large area about the size of a large swimming pool)
- Large adventure playground (this was great and my daughter loved it!)
- Multi-Sports Court
- Stargate club & Bar (open 6:30 - late with soda bar for children)
- Kynance Bar, Grill & Carvery (open 11am-11pm; Sunday 12 noon-10:30pm - pub grub, Sky TV, costa coffee and free wi-fi internet)
- Big munch takeaway (offering a full menu and fish & chips - times vary through season)
- Touring & Camping reception (with small book library aimed mainly at kids)
- Smoking terrace
- On-site shop which sells food/magazines/toys etc
HOLIDAY GRIPES (hint: pretty much 0!)
Surprisingly, we all really enjoyed this holiday. If I had 1 or 2 gripes they would all be SO MINOR that it would not impact my decision about returning here. I shall list the minor gripes for the extra fussy, because perhaps what's fine for me would ruin the holiday for someone else:
The caravan was in good condition - although the seating area along one side of the caravan was a little discoloured with use - and the carpet in the living room was also discoloured and marked. The toaster only worked on one side, the shower door didn't close easily without lifting it up as the hinges had dropped slightly - and the single beds were extra slim so for large people it would probably be uncomfortable - the mattress in the double bed was clean but obviously a cheap mattress so it hurt my back a little but it was fine overall. The key thing is the caravan was fine-nice and not pristine-super duper deluxe.
The entertainment I couldn't fault with regard to my 5 year old daughter. She literally glowed and was dragging us out of the caravan so she could get there - even us adults enjoyed it to a degree! Unfortunately I didn't stay around for the adult entertainment so I can't comment.
It was a shame that we had to pay for the crazy golf (£1.50) and the bouncy castle (£1.00) but this was no different to when we went to Butlins. I had only 1 child to cater for, so the cost for us was peanuts (but I'm mindful these kind of things do add up for parents which is why I've listed it).
The two meals that we had at the Kynance Bar were nice and were similar to prices at the Harvester with not too dissimilar a menu - but we mainly took advantage of the self catering. If you are on a tight budget, then food is likely to be the highest expenditure of the holiday so you'd want to limit the number of times you used the on-site restaurant. (Note: One nice aspect is that when the kids eat all their meals, they get a free face mask of their favourite Lizard or Seagull character - which really encouraged my daughter to eat. A proper kids menu is also available where they can select 1 thing from the top row (e.g. hamburger, chicken....), 1 thing from the middle row and 1 thing from the bottom row plus they get a pudding and drink - I think this was around £3.95 or £4.95 (sorry I forget which).
You can pre-purchase tickets for food - we didn't do this but the price was £14.95 for adults (covering breakfast and evening meal) and £9.95 for children daily - but we thought this was too expensive and chose to pay ad-hoc for the 2 times we ate on site.
THINGS IM GLAD I BOUGHT - OR WISH I'D REMEMBERED
I'm glad I bought:
- my special orthopaedic pillow (it helped me sleep)
- washing up liquid and sponge/scourer (why buy more when you get there?)
- small electric heater (at night the caravans get quite cold as they don't have a lot of insulation - this gave an extra boost to the gas heater in the livingroom and also allowed us to warm up the bedrooms before we all got undressed for the night so we were nice and cosy) - probably don't need this in the height of the summer though - more likely an extra fan would be good then!
- foil/cling film
- food/drink from home (saved money and saved on time spent shopping!)
- shower mat (they don't provide one)
- dressing up things for my daughter (such as medieval princess costume for our trip to a castle, a Spanish flamenca dress for dancing in evening - all designed to enhance the holiday and make it more fun/special for her.
- cool bag and ice blocks (for the picnic I made each day)
- mobile phone (use as a morning alarm, and satellite navigation)
- toilet roll
- games and books for evening in caravan to relax instead of using telly
I wish I'd remembered:
- travel flask for making cups of coffee (I remembered the cool bags for picnics - but totally forgot about a flask...duh!)
- sun cream; my partner burnt his bald patch but I did underestimate the sun and should have bought suncream even though it's April. The rest of us just got colour in our cheeks but it's better to be safe than sorry.
THINGS TO SEE & DO AWAY FROM MULLION HOLIDAY PARK
Almost opposite the holiday park is a chocolate factory - I didn't get a chance to go in, but this would be interesting to see! While at Mullion you can pick up various free guides and maps providing discounts to various attractions (plus you can get discounts if you buy the local newspaper on some things). Some of the information I've listed below is borne from my own personal experience - but where I say that I haven't been I've given you a bit more info which I've extracted from my free copy of the Cornwall Guide 09 - which has a website address of www.cata.co.uk.
MULLION COVE - This is a small working harbour/cove where there's a few small houses, a gift shop, toilets, basket full of shells for kids to pick out with an honesty box charging 25p per shell, walkway filled with fishermens lobster baskets/nets. It's quite picturesque and the harbour is small with only a handful of boats moored there. There are little steps up to the cliff edge where you get marvellous views of the sea/rocks below and great views of the sea birds nesting high above on the rocks. There is a little sandy cove on the other side of the harbour which can get cut off by the tide - so you have to be careful. The cove is great for a half hour-1 hour visit and is on the road which is almost directly opposite Mullion Holiday Park.
FLAMBARDS EXPERIENCE - I think this park would have set us back around £55.00 for the day for 3 adults and 1 child - but it has brilliant write ups and is similar to somewhere like Legoland in terms of number of things to do - ideal for rainy days especially! According to the brochure it has "exciting rides, family shows, live entertainment, glorious gardens, re-creations of a Victorian village and Britiain in the Blitz" unquote. It was around 20-30 minutes away from Mullion. www.flambards.co.uk
ST MICHAELS MOUNT - This is about half an hour drive away - parking cost us around £3.00 for the day. There are a few cafe's along the beach front that sell cream teas, bacon butties, sweets, icecreams, cakes, sandwiches and the like. There is also a fabulously large play park for kids and large clean public toilets. Once you reach St. Michaels Mount (at low tide you can walk across - tide information 01736 710265) you can then pay to go up to see the castle and gardens (Castle opens from 29th March - 1st Nov Sunday-Friday 10:30am-5pm AND gardens are open from May to June Monday-Friday 10:30am-5pm and July-October Thurs & Friday only 10:30am-5pm). The boat to St. Michaels Mount cost £1.50 each (each way) and £1.00 for children each way. The views across the bay to Penzance are spectacular however the climb up the steep hill is not for the faint hearted, very ill, disabled or wheelchair bound I'm afraid. The island has a cafe, restaurant and 2 gift shops. www.stmichaelsmount.co.uk
FUTURE WORLD @ GOONHILLY - We never made it here afterall which was disappointing as we ran out of time but this has an interactive visitors centre with a "variety of fun and interactive play... both indoors and outdoors". This is probably only 20 minutes drive away from Mullion Park and has robots, guided tours and the latest in futuristic transport called "Segway" as seen on Dr. Who and The Gadget Show. www.goonhilly.bt.com
NATIONAL SEAL SANCTUARY - I didn't read great reports about the seal sanctuary as many people complained it was expensive and not worth the cost compared to other attractions - but then again they are doing a great job and its the leading marine rescue centre for seals so why not! You will get greater savings if you buy your tickets in advance - tel 0871 423 2110 - Gweek, North Helston, TR12 6UG. Ticket costs are: Adults £11.95 gate price or pre-purchased £6.95. Child (3-14) £9.95 gate or pre-purchased £4.50 Student/Consession £10.95 gate or pre-purchased £5.95, Family (2+2) £36.00 gate or pre-purchaesd £20.00. New for 2009 is quote "Rocky our blind Californian Sea Lion has been joined this year by two younger playmates - a pair of male Patagonia Sea Lions". www.sealsanctuary.co.uk
TREVARNO - I never went here but this is closeby and is the National Museum of Gardening with "70 acres of gardens, grounds and woodland walks, treasure trails and adventure play area, railway restoration project, museum". It apparently has a gift shop, plant sales and homemade refreshments. It's located on the B3303 Camborne-Helston road. Admission is £6.50 adults, Seniors £5.75, Disabled £3.25, Children £2.25, under 5s Free. Family ticket £16.00, Toy museum £0.50p www.trevarno.co.uk.
POLDARK MINE - This mine is only 2 miles away from Helston and provides guided mine tours and claims to be "the only complete underground tin mine open to the public". They have a beam pumping engine, museum plus activity centre with craft activities, shops, restaurant, picnic area and childrens play area. Opens 10am-5:30pm (last mine tour 4:00pm) and is closed on Saturdays between 8th April-17th July. Open backed and high heeled shoes not permitted for the tour. www.poldark-mine.co.uk
LIZARD - Of course a journey to the Lizard wouldn't be complete without actually visiting Lizard point. We half saw it through torrential rain on the day we had to return home - but didn't really get to "see it"...so next time!! :- ( We did pick up a newspaper who provided an overview of all the beaches, beach safety and things to do - they have a website www.visitlizardcornwall.co.uk which may well be useful for you.
PRAA SANDS - This was a cove that we discovered about 20 minutes away which was lovely. Many surfers were there and it had a lovely long sandy beach with a few cafes/restaurants and shops and public toilets. Very relaxing and daughter loved it.
COVERACK BEACH - Quote from Lizard & Meneage newspaper "Pleasant harbour, wide sand and pebble beach. Popular for bathing, water sports and rock fishing. Swimming possible, dogs permitted, shop/cafe nearby, parking, toilets.
KYNANCE COVE - This is supposed to be one of the best coves located about 15-20 minutes away, but we ran out of time to see it. On our last day we followed the winding road through pretty moorland in pelting rain to "look at the cove from the car". We saw a sign saying there was a "toll fee" (a few pounds) for the road and then I think you have to pay for parking on top (but we got there early so didn't pay anything - as no-one was manning the gates). Apparently it's a really picturesque cove with a pleasant sandy beach at low tide, and turquoise water - but we couldn't see it from the car park! Toilets are a 10 minute walk from the beach. They warn that the final steps down to the beach are steep and you can get cut off at high tide.
GUNWALLOE COVE - We came across this cove during our travels which is about 10 minutes drive away. My daughter wasn't so keen as it was more fine pebbles than sand - but she did enjoy finding slithers of slate everywhere, especially when she found out she could write on it. There is a ship wreck here (according to a plaque warning people against stealing bits from it during dives etc). We saw a tea house above the cove which claimed to serve things but it was shut so presumably only opens later in the season (its a private house). The cove was very quiet...we only saw 2 people walking past with their dog! The local newspaper advises there is a sandy cove to north of main beach and interesting church amongst dunes, with lifeguard at weekends.
KENNACK SANDS BEACH - We never got time to see this beach which is on the easterly side of the Lizard However the local newspaper advises "Blue flag beach, wide sandy beach, one of the most popular on the Lizard. Cliff walks towards Cadgwith or Black Head. Dogs banned on western beach only. Swimming, shop/cafe nearby, toilets and parking."
MISC - Obviously there are hundreds of things to see and do but I've just chosen those places closest to the holiday park - a trip to Lands End may also take your fancy as well as visiting the Eden Project (close to St. Austell), The Minack Theatre, Geevor Tin Mine, Paradise Park & JungleBarn, Pendennis Castle, Glendurgan, Trebah, National Maritime Museum, Trelissick, Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Trengwainton, Tate St Ives are other places which are also closeby...to name but a few!!
MULLION PARK CONTACT DETAILS
Mullion holiday park, Ruan Minor , TR12 7LJ
Call: 0871 641 0359
HOW TO FIND MULLION HOLIDAY PARK
Travel instructions: From the A30 take the A39 from Fraddon to Truro and continue on the Falmouth road. Take the A394 to Helston then the A3083 for The Lizard. After approximately 7 miles you will find Mullion holiday park on the left opposite the Mullion turning. (TR12 7LJ)
HOW I FELT MULLION HOLIDAY PARK COMPARED TO BUTLINS
The accommodation at Butlins (Skegness) was the most basic available and didn't have any of the self catering facilities available at our Caravan in Mullion Holiday Park. The decor was also very tired and the shower very small - it didn't appear anywhere near as 'bright and clean'. The beds were more uncomfortable and so lumpy that I dreaded sleeping in them each night.
On the plus side, the extent of "things to do on-site" at Butlins was more superior to Mullion - this is where Butlins excelled - but then again I think the site is probably 4 times the size. There were park/fair ground type rides, bowling, soft play, play areas, creche facilities, spa - this aspect I couldn't really fault - it was fantastic.
My main bug-bear was that food (which was included as I chose a package) had to be eaten between 4pm-6pm (even the grownups!). My stomach wasn't really ready at this time as I normally don't eat until c9pm. The entertainment on site started around 5pm for the kids shows - but by the time we got to the food hall (plastic tables - canteen style) half of the inhabitants at Butlins had already eaten and were queueing outside in the cold, to grab the best seats. After we finished eating at 6pm we then had to stand around for around 1 hour while watching the show, before we could grab someone's seat who was leaving the entertainment hall. Mullion was far more relaxed - where you could eat at a sensible time - with restaurants serving up to 10pm and then you could walk into the entertainment centre and find seats without a problem (bliss in comparison).
Mullion therefore gets my complete vote.
I will also be putting this information on Trip Advisor.
MY PRE-PURCHASE EXPERIENCE:
I have an appalling lack of manners when it comes to reading books which authors have slaved over for years. I quickly skim through the first page and if it doesn't immediately capture my imagination I discard it. No second chances. My free time too short to expend valuable energy on something which will turn out to be a lemon ...neither changing or impacting my life nor giving me pause for thought.
The first few paragraphs of this book had me smiling (jerking my memory back 10 years ago to India, remembering similar past little idiosyncracies). The book therefore got its day!
In truth the write up on the back cover left me salivating for more - so it led me to the unusual step of purchasing my book on-line - before I'd EVEN got the chance to read the first few paragraphs. A rare occurance indeed.
THE READ ITSELF:
Despite my wasteful manner of skipping paragraphs to get to the heart of the matter quickly (and missing ways of better educating myself on finer points) - I mused after my half day of reading and finishing this book that I neither ate nor did anything much else, due to my fixation on this fascinating insight into the life of Greg Mortenson, following his achievements in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. A few pages in the centre of the book showed 22 photos - which also gave life to the story and helped me feel closer to the people and events listed. As is my 'arse about face' way of reading - after finishing the book I then discovered a useful map showing the area's discussed in the book (right at the front of the book - a part which I'd skipped!), which I then spent some time poring over and committing place names to memory with relish. I'm now going to do what I rarely do - and re-read it!
Greg was a mountaineer who attempted to climb K2 (the worlds second highest mountain - and far more difficult a climb than Everest!) and ...failed. This was a severe blow as the reasons for the climb were very personal and one can feel his agony for the failure - but he shows us a light - and recalls how he turned it around in his own mind. This is something I will hold on to in the future when life doesn't go my way - as indeed it won't at some point!
This then led him to surviving the descent and ultimately arriving lost in a small village in Pakistan called Korphe, after taking the wrong pathway. This village opened his eyes to the challenges faced by many of the children in the poorest parts of Pakistan - who are desperate to gain an education, against all odds. In return for their kindness and hospitality (and probably partly out of shock!) Greg vowed to build them a school - a promise which he later lived up to.
Ultimately Greg changed the direction of his life and lived a frugal life back in the US so that he might fulfil a special dream shared with these people (who later became a second family to him). He is, in his own way, another Mother Theresa (a person whom he admired greatly and met in some manner of ways..OK I'm not telling you how!). With the help of a rich benefactor after lots of false starts and money raising attempts, Greg was given the money to build this school.
This book guides us through Gregs adventure of trying to pull his dream together and turn it into a reality - it covers his trials and tribulations - the odds were definitely stacked against him. He takes us through his major setbacks, many revisits, more money, kidnapping, an unusual marriage and two death threats (fatwa's). He relates his greatest achievements - which are many, covering how he helps the first village and then the next - until finally crossing the borders to Afghanistan. Greg is a humble man with many quirks and is someone you instantly feel warmth towards.
The book allows you also to have your own journey of discovery covering in 'bite sized chunks' the differences of culture, religion and languages of the Pakistani people. It will instil that they are not so different from us. For me, I was personally struck by how their children are often falling over themselves to improve their lot and how they are prepared to work harder to get a better life - not just for themselves but for their whole local village. It made me wonder if perhaps we are too soft with our own children whose outlook of wanting things now/having an easy almost slovenly life has made them quite selfish in comparison.
This book also uncovers the changes to Pakistan and Afghanistan during the early days of the Taliban power in which Greg became naturally embroiled during his efforts of building schools etc.
For me I also received an insight into the lives, dreams and aspirations of some of the people that he met along the way and gained useful information and a better understanding of Muslims - which I've now stored up for the future, which I'm grateful for.
One of the things that most made me "take stock" is that Greg learnt the hard way he couldn't always do things "the American way (or British way!)". Often people tend to go in when helping '3rd world countries' as the big "I am" which ultimately inhibits progress. Greg learnt to shut his mouth and realised that the people of Pakistan had more to teach him than he them.
I think it's a marvellous book and thoroughly engaging/enjoyable! Buy the book! 9.95/10
PREVIOUS BOOKS I'VE ENJOYED WITH SIMILAR VIGOUR:
Midnight Express and Alive - way before the films came out!
BACK COVER INFO:
'Here we drink three cups of tea to do business: the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything - even die.'. Haji Ali, Korphe Village Chief, Karakoram Mountains, Pakistan.
In 1993, after a terrifying and disastrous attempt to climb K2, a mountaineer called Greg Mortenson drifted, cold and dehydrated, into an impoverished Pakistan village in the Karakoram Mountains. Moved by the inhabitants' kindness, he promised to return and build a school. Three Cups of Tea is the story of that promise and its extraordinary outcome. Over the next decade Mortenson built not just one but fifty-five schools in remote villages across the forbidding and breathtaking landscape of Pakistan and Afghanistan, just as the Taliban rose to power. His story is at once a riveting adventure and a testament to the power of the humanitarian spirit.
After many years of travelling I've decided to compile a few of my travel tips -covering some of the things I've learnt or discovered along the way - which hopefully will give you food for thought:
1. Give a photocopy of your passport and driving licence to your parents or close friend in case you lose yours on holiday - then you'll have all the reference details to hand in order to be able to renew them quickly and easily, should they get lost or stolen.
2. Whenever you visit a hotel take all the freebie soaps/shampoo/body washes etc. Then use them the next time you go on holiday. Keep the bottles once empty so you can fill them up /decant from your favourite bottles - great for when space is at a premium.
3. Buy milk and put it in your freezer - you can always microwave it when you get home to have an emergency cuppa when you step in the door. Everything else in the fridge should be binned if it's gonna be past the eat by date by the time you return.
4. Ask someone to keep an eye on the house and then leave them £5-£10 to pick you up some basics the day before you return - so you don't immediately have to go out shopping when you get home - because you'll be tired and the last thing you'll feel like doing is going out shopping!
5. Rather than buying all your drugs e.g. anti-malerial tablets in the UK which can cost £50+ for longer visits, consider buying them in the country you are visiting for probably a tenth of the cost. Note: Obviously you need to research what drugs you are going to buy 'ahead of time' and be aware that sometimes the instructions are in a foreign language (they aren't all printed in English!) - no good saving money and then overdosing! (Many people travelling around India said they'd purchased their anti-malerials in India and had saved a fortune (although they knew the country and it wasn't their first time so they were comfortable doing this). It's definitely a 'point to ponder' for those of you on a tight budget!
6. Do a bit of internet research when it comes to airport parking - There are a lot cheaper alternatives than just turning up at the airport and paying the regular car parking price. Last time I paid less for the car parking by turning up at the airport and getting them to park my car for me...seriously!
7. Many children are fussy eaters. Remember to make and take sandwiches or a small picnic to the airport rather than relying on the food there. There's nothing worse than shelling out £20.00+ for them to have sandwiches filled with something they don't really like (cos there's nothing else left!) and refusing to eat it afterwards, despite you picking out the lettuce and pickle etc.. (OK yes I know you can do McDonalds but I've had flights were McDonalds were closed...!). Far easier just to make up a quick few sandwiches, throw them in a plastic bag with a few crisps/apples/carton drinks - than stressing out at the airport - plus you'll save a small fortune - because airport food is usually quite expensive.
8. Depending on where I go, I consider/weigh up taking out travel insurance versus the cost. I'd definitely do insurance for the U.S. (and other long haul destinations) because it's so expensive in the States and they won't treat you without it - but parts of Europe and all UK destinations I personally don't bother (although I'm NOT advocating you should do this). In the ideal world take out insurance ALWAYS - but if you are considering ditching your insurance because you can't afford the holiday - which I've done on numerous occasions(!), then (a) try to make your holiday as safe and accident free as possible (i.e. no adventure sports, no swimming with the local rhinos, riding mopeds in your knickers with no safety helmet, binge drinking/drug taking etc). (b) Try to search the internet to get a better insurance deal to beat the current quote or (c) downgrade your holiday/switch to another date or hotel so holiday costs are brought down to enable you to afford the insurance (d) do lots of work on Dooyoo to boost your earnings or (e) look at paying for your holiday on certain credit cards which include the holiday insurance cover for free - but immediately pay off the card in full to avoid interest charges!
9. If you take a flight only then you might want to consider pre-packing a tent in case there are no rooms available anywhere.
10. Take your address book with you and make sure it's up to date. Not only is it useful when you're writing your postcards but it's great for emergencies. Have your bank telephone number/details in the book just in case your card has a fatal error while abroad and refuses to give you any money out of the cashpoint (happened to me once - which is why I always carry 2 cards just in case!).
11. If you are staying at a hotel with say, spa facilities, then pre-book up massages, manicures, childs place at childs club etc as soon as you get your booking with the hotel confirmed. Several times I've been on holiday and got to the hotel - only to be told that they have no availability for massages as they're fully booked. This can be really disappointing if its important to you.
12. If you have young children and are hiring a car, check before you fly that they DEFINITELY have a spare car seat for your child set aside - sometimes the hire cars provide car seats on 'first come first served' basis so even if you tick the box to say you want one - you may not necessarily get one. I checked once just to be on the safe side and they'd run out - so I had to bring mine with me from the UK. It was a pain but I'd far rather this than take the risk of driving without one!
13. If you want to reduce the cost of your holiday then don't forget to look at booking your holiday on-line through a cash back website - or to pay for the holiday on a credit card to earn cash back (then pay the credit card off completely).
THINGS TO CONSIDER PACKING
In this section there are various items I have packed in the past which have proved very useful. I always travel as light as possible so I'm not saying you should pack everything - but rather weigh up what might be worth carrying!
1. Buy sterilising tablets (especially if you are self catering) so you can sterilise fruit/veg (e.g. apples, lettuce etc) before eating if you feel the area you're travelling to may be dodgy or if you are prone to funny tummy's! I did try this once and although its a good tip you do need to wash the stuff again once more in bottled water to stop a chlorine taste to it. This is probably more useful for very young children and those who are someway immune compromised.
2. Always useful to take a small torch along with you in case you need to walk late at night or if there is a black out.
3. Many cheap/basic hotels often fail to have plugs for their sinks/baths - so throw a few cheap 25p-£1 plastic plugs of different sizes into your suitcase if you are on a tight budget - if none of them work you can always shove your flannel around one to bulk it out.
4. If you're apt to buy gifts while on holiday buy one of those bags that you unzip gradually to make a bag double the height/capacity. That way it can be small on your way out and filled/larger on your return.
5. Buy a hat that you can roll up or be packed in a suitcase. Pretty straw hats are great until you come back to the UK and throw it in your suitcase for the return journey...you'll never get them looking the way they should and eventually they get consigned to the bin! Even jam packing the head with all your socks doesn't stop the rim from getting bent out of shape.
6. Always pack a small light rucksack - use this as your flight bag or simply pack it in the main suitcase. This allows you to go exploring on holiday and have somewhere you can put your camera, water, sun lotion, hat, headache tablets, map, mobile phone, book, towel, bikini etc...
7. Never ever put your credit cards, cash, household keys, car keys etc in your main luggage - if this gets lost you'll be buggered!
8. Pack anything that can spilt if broken (hair shampoo/conditioner bottles etc) into plastic bags. That way if baggage handling manage to crush your luggage you will at least have some clothes that you can wear without having to wash all the shampoo out of them first. Then when you return home you can use the same plastic bag to throw all your dirty washing into -so you can separate the clean clothes from dirty washing. If anything gets spilt on the return journey you probably won't care so much!
9. If you know you will be arriving at your destination late, put all the things on top inside your case that you'll need first e.g. nightie, towel, toothbrush, toothpaste - so you don't need to drag everything out of your suitcase at 2am in order to get to it! That way you can unpack properly in the morning.
10. Always take a pen and some paper with you - it will often come in handy - not least for strangers giving you directions to a place!
11. Pack any spare change that you have for the country you are visiting. This is especially useful where you need to pay e.g. 1 euro for the suitcase trolley once you arrive at your destination - it save's the hassle of having to get change from the change machine/cashier if you already have it on you!
12. Pack a currency converter - takes up only a little space and makes shopping a whole lot easier when you know how much you're spending!
13. Take just a SMALL camera with you - unless you're an avid photographer wanting to take professional shots. I told my other half this while he was weighing up the pro's and con's of buying a wacking great big semi-pro camera worth c£2K. We both love photography - he understands the technicalities and loves fiddling - I 'point and click' and get just as good results. In fact I get more results because once the bloody thing goes through check-in and gets to the hotel room, then he rarely brings it out because it's too heavy/cumbersome to lug around all the time in the hot weather - especially when you have a 4 year old wanting a piggy back and you've got your day sack with suncream/maps etc. You can't put them anywhere discreetly like inside your rucksack cos the camera bag is too big and doesn't leave room for hardly anything else, you worry constantly someone will nick it, its obvious you're a tourist...and then you end up lugging it all the way back home after taking maybe 2 days worth of photos across the span of a 2 week holiday. Don't do it!!
14. When packing your flight bag remember that they may lose your main luggage so put things in your flight bag that will help in this circumstance e.g. pair of knickers, toothbrush/paste, flannel, all paperwork, all credit cards/cash etc...
15. Be open minded to homeopathic medicine. I tried EVERYTHING I had in my medicine kit for delhi belly in India - and the only thing that worked was some small insignificant looking homeopathic tablets. I am now a convert!
16. A travel hairdryer is always useful. Not only to dry your hair but to heat up a small freezing bedroom, dry your socks or clothes or bikini (nothing worse than putting on a damp bikini - and they dry under a hair dryer in no time!).
17. Sometimes its nice to take a small collection of photographs of your family/your life with you. Yes it's a bit strange at first glance putting this in, but if you ever get kidnapped you can make them feel sorry for you if you show them photos of your loved ones and it helps build a rapport so they hopefully let you go - plus if you meet local people e.g. you decide to stay at a family run B&B - it gives you a chance to show them "in pictures" what your life is like in the UK - which is a great ice breaker. They often like to learn about us as much as we like to learn about them!
18. Don't forget to pack an electric plug adaptor.
19. If you love your coffee/tea and you're fussy about what you drink, then consider taking a travel kettle, powdered milk/coffee/tea/sugar with you. Nothing better than waking up to a nice cuppa before you go down to the hotels dining room for breakfast - or coming in late at night to a nice cuppa when everywhere is closed! Many countries won't sell English Tea (or at least it's hard to find!). Some people like to take small sachets of salt, vinegar, tomato ketchup etc as well as these can be also tricky items to track down in certain countries!
20. A light dressing gown is great for summer locations. Not only is it nice to have something to put on when you first step out of the shower - its great for a quick cover up when room service knock at the door or when the fire alarms go off. It's also useful when you get sunburn and need something loose fitting to wear in the hotel room (if you share it with others) i.e. no rubbing waist band etc...
21. If you want to pack perfume remember that sometimes when you get hot the perfume can irritate your skin (so do a test patch first if unsure), it can also attract insects/mosquitoes so use sparingly at night :-)
22. Insect repellant can be nasty stuff. Some will take the dye out of shoes etc so you may find you need to let it dry on your body first before putting clothes or shoes on. I remember one holiday spraying my legs and feet with my black sandles already on and I didn't work out until nearly the end of my holiday that the reason my feet were always dyed black was because the insect repellant was reacting to the shoe dye!! duh...!!
23. If you are back-packing, or travelling economy(!), it's always useful to buy a travel washing line. Not only is it useful as a washing line to dry your clothes/swimwear on - but is good if you need extra wardrobe storage space to hang extra clothes.
24. Don't forget if you are taking your phone/laptop/shaver to also take your charger with you!
25. If you have the space in your suitcase, a travel iron is always a useful gadget. Not only do you look clean and "pressed" - but you can quickly dry clothes with it, and in some countries like parts of Africa it proves useful to stop the Putzi fly larvae from burrowing into your skin (iron your clothes before you put them on!).
26. I always like to take 2 swimming costumes ...wear one / dry one !
27. An odd toilet roll often comes in handy - especially a half used roll from home. Crush it flat so save on space and put it in your hand luggage. Often airport toilets run out of paper and you can use it for mopping up spills/cleaning the kids up or even as emergency writing paper!). Wet wipes are particularly useful if you have kids!
28. If you're planning to go self catering - always consider packing a tin opener if you've got the space. The amount of times I needed a tin opener...!!
29. It's sad to say that most of us work hard and then when we finally get to relax on holiday this is the time we get ill. On holiday is often the one time our body finally starts to allow itself the luxury of breaking down. If I'm going to get ill it's normally at the weekend or on holiday! Think back on all the holidays you've had and see if you can recall whether you suddenly came down with flu, cold, headache, unscheduled period, cold sore, skin rash, gout etc and then ensure that you pack a mini medicine cupboard to cover likely scenarios. I also normally pack a thermometer to check my daughters temperature if she is ill (one of those ear ones) and calpol. Remember to follow instructions re: storage of medicine i.e. many say keep in cool/dark place. Any important medicine should definitely be kept in your flight bag on the outbound journey, just in case your main suitcase goes missing.
30. Condoms. I'm not sure how to make this point without revealing my past but here it is! I dated a man who was rather large 10" / normal girth. We ran out of condoms and naturally we went out to buy some more, while holidaying in Greece. Perhaps it was the make of condom, perhaps they were defective(!) Greek men are no smaller than other Europeans in my limited experience...- but the condoms were too small for him. His eyes were nearly tearing up with the pain of trying to roll the condom on - so we had to give up! So if uh hum you're a little large in that department and you're going to Greece, you may want to ensure you take your own condoms with you! I'm not going to mention about safe sex/state the obvious about condoms.
31. Take an auto-translator or dictionary with you if you don't speak the lingo. This is especially useful if one of you becomes ill/there's an emergency and you need to speak with doctors/police/fire brigade (who may not speak English) - and of course it's also helpful for getting out and about, shopping, asking directions etc...
32. I often take tweezers, nail clippers, face packs, nail varnish etc and do all the 'beauty things' on holiday that I never get time to do at home. One great thing is to buy an oil pack for your hair (or use olive oil) and put it on your hair first thing before going to the beach (if hair long enough tie it up out of the way) - then by the end of the day your hair is soft and silky after a day at the beach. A really great treatment!
ABOUT YOUR LUGGAGE...!!
1. Don't put your home address on your luggage for when/if it gets lost. If someone has your home address and your house keys/car keys you're not going to like your homecoming. It's useful to put your parents address/telephone number to contact in the event your suitcase is lost - and to put these details both on the inside as well as on the outside of the suitcase because often outer labels get detached/lost.
2. If like me you have a vague memory and regularly use several different suitcases - then get a strap with your name on it - or buy a suitcase which stands out e.g. bright pink with blue spots! You don't half feel silly hurling yourself onto a big blue suitcase and man-handling it off ...only to find it isn't yours. You then find yourself telling everyone around you who assisted...well mine looks VERY similar - then you suddenly see a medium sized silver suitcase which looks suspiciously like yours up ahead! It happens! Remember to look at your suitcase before you part with it and retain the image. If it gets lost you'll also have to describe it at the "lost & found" desk.
3. Put all things like scissors, nail files, nail clippers etc into your main luggage or you'll lose it if you have it in your flight bag. Check beforehand what's allowed/not allowed onto the plane.
AT THE AIRPORT
1. Always take the time to note down where you parked your car - sometimes its hard to remember 2 weeks later at 2am when you're tired.
2. Always take the kids to the loo just before you board (JUST BEFORE!!) because often there is no going to the loo while passengers are boarding and it could be another half hour or more before you're all set to take off.
ON/OFF THE PLANE
1. Generally always select the aisle seat in the plane unless you absolutely must have a window view. The window seat is draughty and colder for some reason (yes I know they're supposed to be air tight LOL!) and its a pain in the butt to get everyone to move when you need the loo or want to stretch your legs...especially if they're asleep! You can also stretch one leg out really well into the aisle when no-one is walking down. You also get more choice of seats the earlier you turn up for check-in.
2. If you want to go onto the plane and just crash/sleep - then do the opposite. Always select the window seat because the trolleys don't bash into your legs as they whizz past, people don't accidentally brush against you as the plane suddenly pitches while they're walking past and people don't keep asking you to move to get to the loo etc...
3. If you get bored with the normal variety of your in-flight meals then opt for a vegetarian or halal meal - also many times the vegetarians get their meals first because they're the awkward buggers so if you're starving hit the light when they ask for all vegetarians to make themselves known.
4. Don't fly with a cold when you're completely bunged up - cos last time I made that mistake my eardrums burst on the plane. The pain is akin to childbirth!
5. Often the airline expects the people next to the emergency exits to help open the doors in an emergency and assist other passengers off - therefore if you have children with you, you won't get these seats. Best to sit immediately behind these seats to maximise your chances of getting off quickly! ;-)
...AND IF YOU HAVE BABIES/TODDLERS
1. When disembarking get the funny little golf-cab-type cars to take you leisurely down to the luggage area. Babies/toddlers make your arms drop off after 10 minutes of holding/carrying them and you could be waiting an hour for your luggage. Juggling your hand luggage with your baby to try and get your passport out is hard work as a single mum - but the drivers will do all the work for you. Often the pushchairs come onto the conveyer belt LAST ...oh yes!!
2. A mobile DVD player, paper/pens, a few soft toys are all great to take along for young toddlers/children who turn into the devil incarnate when they're bored. Be resigned to the fact that they will probably show you up...it's half the fun! LOL
3. Babies and young children can have real problems with air pressure. Just as the plane starts to decend have a drink ready (or their milk bottle) and get them drinking to help relieve the pressure. Another tip is to put a few drops of decongestant, Olbas oil or even Vicks onto a hankie and hold it close to their nose.
4. Once you arrive at the airport, take the kids to the loo just before you set off to your destination - it's a lot easier than trying to stop off somewhere (and you know they'll ask at the most awkward time)!
AT YOUR HOLIDAY DESTINATION
1. DON'T wear a waist/bum bag - you stand out a mile as a tourist - just keep wallet/money safe in an inside pocket somewhere - and if you're in a particularly dangerous area sew some local currency into the hem of your clothes.
2. DON'T go around wearing your camera around your neck either. If you're taking it during walks around town, put it in a bag/ruck sack so it's not too obvious and just take it out when you want to take snaps. Thieves sometimes drive by on a motorbike and snatch items off you with a knife to cut through straps - so ideally you don't want to be garrotted!
3. DO go by the old adage of taking some money with you just in case someone tries to rob you. They may just leave you alone and unharmed if you give them something.
4. If you are a small group (e.g. teens-early 20s) try to go together and leave together - don't split up. There's safety in numbers.
5. Don't offer or allow yourself to carry anything for ANYONE. If you feel you absolutely have to and are finding it impossible to say no - then tell them at the desk that you are carrying something for someone which you HAVEN'T PACKED YOURSELF and which you believe are biscuits for their great aunt Doris ...but could they just do a check of the biscuits so you can assure yourself that they haven't given you drugs to carry. You really should and must say no. I have no idea if you will still be treated as a criminal if you ask them to check the biscuits for you and it turns out you are carrying a box of heroin...and in some countries you may not like to find out the answer... e.g. some places carry the death penalty or you can be flogged or spend many years in prison.
6. If you are looking for a restaurant, eat where the locals eat. Avoid salads where possible because local water, while not affecting the local people, may affect you simply because of the different balance of minerals etc... Even in India the local Goans I teamed up with (and travelled up to Northern India with) claimed they got ill on non-local water!
7. Where possible try to take advantage of hotel security safes for your passports etc - it's easy to lose a passport/bag when touring around and ruins the holiday if you have to spend a couple of days at the embassy.
8. When you plan to travel for more than a few weeks e.g. world tour or 4 months around Africa - make sure you regularly check in with family or friends e.g. say you'll email them every Tue or Thur circumstances permitting and each time give them a rough itinerary of what you're planning to do. If it's been 2 weeks and they've not heard from you, then alarm bells can start to sound. You never know when you might need help and it's good to know that if something does happen to you, someone will notice and help will be close at hand.
9. Do immediately check out where all the fire exits/fire extinguishers and alarms are from your bedroom and get familiar with the layout. You don't want to start doing this at 3am in a smoke filled hallway.
10. If the general advice is not to drink the local water - then make sure you buy bottled water to drink. Don't only use it for drinking but also use it for brushing your teeth too!
SAFETY FOR SMALL BABIES/TODDLERS/CHILDREN
1. If you have children never let them out of your sight. Don't let your guard down just because you're on holiday.
2. In hot countries avoid the sun between 11-3pm and don't forget if you visit a play park at say 4-5pm your child may still get serious burns from sliding down a long slide with shorts on - always check temperature of slides etc with your hands first before allowing your child to slide down them.
3. Keep young children in the shade, plied with frequent drinks, and a hat.
4. Remember small babies/children can't control their body temperature like adults can. Don't keep them in their buggy all the time - they often swelter in them. Make sure you buy a suitable umbrella and perhaps a fan which clicks onto the umbrella - Mothercare do them to keep them cool. A cool child in hot weather is a happy child.
5. If a baby's fontenelle has depressed and you can fit your thumb in it, then they are dangerously dehydrated. It doesn't take much for a child to get dehydrated in very hot weather. Take them to be assessed to the local A&E.
6. Remember that some water proof suntan lotions don't allow childrens skin to breath so they can over heat.
7. Finally a pasty white baby looks like you're taking care of their skin - and you'll get everyone's respect ...they don't need to look tanned.
8. If you are swimming in the sea make sure you are aware of local rip tides etc so you and your children can swim safely.
9. Don't forget the sterilising tablets I mentioned above - you can also sterilise baby's bath water if they tend to put their hands in their mouths when bathing to avoid getting ill.
10. You can buy powder which is combined with calamine to help with prickly heat in children. (This is called Talquistina in Spain - although not seen it in the UK).
11. If the weather is really hot make sure you go for an air conditioned car - especially if you have kids - you'll all be far more comfortable. However also take a towel with you wherever you go, and place it over the child car seat if you're not parked underground - otherwise the cars and car seats soon heat up quickly if the car is left in the sun. A safety buckle can burn a child badly if they touch it and the seats can be too hot for a baby/child to sit in it - a towel covering the chair stops it from getting too hot. Also, remember to pack your childs stick on window sun shields to protect their eyes from the sun - they take up virtually no room in the suitcase and you'll only end up wishing you'd brought them along! Sun glasses are also a must for young babies/children to protect their eyes in very sunny climates.
1. If you want to hire a car and the temperature/climate is HOT HOT HOT - with relentless sun, please don't hire an open topped car. You'll fry. You won't look cool. You'll look stupid! And when you get caught in those traffic jams - you WILL resemble a lobster and possibly get sun stroke LOL ;-)
1. If you want great room service, give the maid 50% of the tip up front and promise the remainder at the end of the holiday. If they know they're going to get a great tip from you they'll work harder to keep you happy.
2. If you don't like your hotel room - talk with your rep. Mention first that you are interested in taking various trips with him...(for which he will earn commission and so be indebted to you) and then mention you want to switch rooms/change hotel. He's more likely to make an effort if he knows he's going to make some money out of you!!
1. Booking hotel tours can be quite expensive but also time effective if you're only on holiday for a short while. On the plus side everything is arranged for you and often the tours are very good - and you learn a lot more than bumbling through it yourself (if you have a great tour guide). On the negative side you can do it cheaper yourself and you often only get a short whistle stop at each place - which is frustrating when you find somewhere you want to investigate further. Sometimes (if you have the money) the hotel tours can be utilised as taste testers for where you want to direct the rest of your holiday.
1. Remember that different countries have different laws so check them out first before going. I believe it's a criminal offence to have chewing gum in Singapore or to drop litter. In Arab countries you should check first before going topless anywhere (and totally avoid drunken sex orgies on the beach)! mmmm
2. Remember that different countries also have different shopping times. For example, when Spanish siesta hits (especially in parts of Southern Spain) all the shops shut - so... if you forgot to get the pain killer for your raging toothache in the morning and waited until lunch time to get it - you'll be in pain until all the shops re-open again at 5pm. Also some pharmacies rotate in certain towns so only 1 will be open on weekends to dispense medicine - this can be a harrowing experience when you're desperate! Again this is important to remember not only for medical reasons but if you are self catering and want to avoid restaurants. If you forget to shop in the morning you'll have no food for lunch unless you bought it the day before! :-)
3. Don't forget that there are laws about what you can and CAN'T take out of different countries - learn before you go what they are or you may find yourself missing your flight home and having to explain yourself (or worse!).
4. When buying things in a foreign country remember what looks great there very often won't look so great back at home. e.g. who doesn't go to Egypt and take home a papyrus painting (often painted on the cheaper banana leaves!)...you love it...you get it home and put it up - then a year later you go off it. Buy something generic that will fit into your English home is my advice. I bought a stone carving in Egypt...there were lots of pharaoh-type ones...however at the back of the shop there was one which didn't scream Egypt which I bought. In Sri Lanka I bought an ebony carving - I ignored all the Sinhalese styles and bought one depicting the three graces with SLIGHT Sinhalese faces - again this has stood the test of time. My papyrus, bottle of sand, mexican hat, bongo drums unfortunately went by the wayside as did the general inexpensive tatt!
5. If you need emergency treatment abroad in a hospital, then be aware that some countries don't do everything for you in hospital - they expect the family to help. For example, in India an English girl needed her appendix taken out. Her friend visited her every few days in hospital until the hotel manager kindly pointed out to her that in India the persons family normally provides the food, drink and other facilities needed by hospital patients - and asked her why she wasn't helping her friend. Luckily the landlady had felt duty bound to assist the girl -but she would have starved through lack of basic understanding if she had relied on her friend to know/understand how some hospitals in India are run. Leave all your ideas about how things "should run" back at home - you're on foreign turf now!
6. Many countries, strangely, differ in the strength of OTC (over the counter) drugs. Spain provides pain killers of double the dose of the UK - while Italy provides a much lower dose than the UK. I don't know why but it's something I noticed while living in Spain - and an Italian friend said he was surprised that UK medicine was so much stronger than his home country. It's useful to be aware of this.
1. If you purchase a flight-ONLY and find that there are no hotel rooms/hostels available - or none that you want to stay in (happened to me once in Israel) then you can always opt to buy a cheap tent and go camping on the beach - although check the beach signs because sometimes camping on the beach is not allowed. Just don't forget to buy a good bed roll because the sand is HARD when you sleep on it!! (Unfortunately when I woke up the next morning on this particular occasion, bombings had started in Israel - and our nice clear beach suddenly had a whole military platoon decend all around us ...admittedly they were quiet and I only realised when I walked out of the tent in my bra and knickers! ...and it was just the search lights that kept strobing through our tent that kept us awake from the other side!!... those were the days LOL!!).
2. If someone has looked after your house make sure you always bring them something small/nice back from your hols so they'll do it again for you next year! :-)
Once I was a hard nosed bitch
and travelled fast without a hitch
but during those times when I was bad
my fuel gauge dropped and I was sad
So I read up on the internet
and with renewed vigour I was set
I threw out the seats and lost dead wood
to drop the car weight like I should...
My man said "hey! don't be so mean"
so I threw him out too (his words were obscene!)
I lost the weight and my miles increased
but by then my meal ticket was deceased.
I pondered again on what I had done
and decided to visit www.petrolprices.com
I found out that Sainsbury's - my nearest store
did diesel for just 99.9p ...and no more
It then told me "Unleaded...88.9"
what bloody use is that, when my car draws the line?
I've tried giving it "unleaded" before
and it's cost me a fortune to drain to the core
I've now decided to drive my car slower
in order to get my fuel consumption much lower
but...always the Bitch I shunt cars with glee
...it helps them travel 'more to the gallon' you see.
Firstly the warm up...there are only 5 main things to worry about - the rest is anciliary...
1st Thing. Make sure YOU are OK (selfish I know :0) - get yourself rested, get your innoculations if needed, get yourself well and fit enough for your holiday - whether that's fit to drop on the nearest sunbed or fit enough to enjoy a walking holiday it doesn't matter. You need to be fit to enjoy your holiday. If you're not, and you're not terminally ill or likely to get worse, then put off the holiday until you can really enjoy it. It costs money you know!
If you've already booked it then you may be buggered but this is one of the reasons why I like to late book...I know I'm well and not going to have a surprise 'monthly period' which pulls me down for c7 days ...for women there's nothing worse than looking forward to a holiday and then having your period slap bang in the middle of it to ruin a wonderful time away - and for men there's nothing worse than going on holiday with a woman suffering from PMT for a week...and don't even go there re: sex!!
Oh...If you have a family who are going with you - then amend the above to read "Make sure you and everyone you're going to be responsible for on holiday is OK" ... cos it ain't pretty having to be the one nursing a sickly child if you're shelling out £1K a week to do so and missing out on a great holiday at the same time!!
2nd Thing. What I call "Paperwork". Your flight tickets. An up to date and useable passport. Driving licence (even if you've planned for someone else to drive still take your driving licence to cover emergency planning). Plus any other paperwork that is essential for the country you are visiting. Sometimes its nice to have pictures of your family/your life to take with you. Yes it's a bit strange but if you ever get kidnapped you can make them feel sorry for you if you show them photos of your loved ones and it helps build a rapport with them so they let you go - plus if you meet local people e.g. you decide to stay at a family run B&B - it gives you a chance to show them in pictures what your life is like - which is a great ice breaker.
3rd Thing. Money, Money, Money (this includes cash, bank card, credit card, travellers cheques). Make sure you leave at least one debit/credit card at home that you can withdraw money from - just in case you lose everything on holiday. Try to always go out with some money while on holiday even if you don't need any money because you just want a late night stroll - this way if someone tries to mug you, you can give them something and hopefully avoid any violence.
4th Thing. Your suitcase! I always used to like buying those bags that you unzip in a never ending spiral so it grows to double the size ...this is great if you're the type of person who ends up buying lots of stuff on holiday. You go out with it looking small and you come back so it's at maximum capacity!!
5th Thing. Way of getting to the airport on the right day at the right time (allowing at least 1-2 hours for check in - Airline dependent).
OK - so you walk out the door and you've got YOU (or you and your family), your paperwork (passport, flight tickets/passes), money and a suitcase and a means of getting to the airport on time.
If you have forgotten anything then you can always buy it while on holiday.
That leaves me with the final 5 indispensable things to take on holiday with me. OK here goes:
6th Thing. Mobile phone - always useful in emergencies! This is my latest thing but only because of my partners insistence. OK scrap that - that's one of HIS things. My 6th thing would be to always pack a small lightweight rucksack or sling over bag which folds down to nothing. This is when you start going on various tours (either ones you've designed yourself or hotel tours) and provides a lightweight bag with which to carry your sun hat/sun cream/guide book/bottled water etc...
7th Thing. A little travel kettle with powdered milk, sugar, coffee/tea stuffed inside - complete with travel plug attached to it. Over the years this has proved the most welcome when arriving at ungodly hours when everywhere is closed - and it's great to be able to make a drink in the morning before you go down for the hotel breakfast just to get you up and running in the morning - after all you are on holiday.
8th Thing. I tend to take hand luggage and include wacky things like toothpaste, flannel, spare pair of knickers, bag of sweets, sun glasses, prescription medicine (as required), translation book, money, credit cards, tampax, phone, address book. Basically the few things I might need if the airline loses all my luggage for the holiday so I can make it through the next 24-48 hours until I can buy replacement clothes etc.
9th Thing. If I want to pamper myself while on holiday (and catch up on all the girlie things I've been meaning to do but haven't had time for such as pluck eyebrows, wax bikini line, do my nails, etc... then I'll take all the products with me to save spending precious time hunting for it on holiday so I can just get on and do it.
10th Thing. Boredom dispellers - I'll take a book or magazine that I can really get in to, to help the time pass while travelling to my destination. Sometimes it's a good novel - other times its a travel book about the country I'm visiting so that I can start to plan my itinerary...nothing like doing things at the last minute!
The credit crunch has affected me already. Last year I started fostering teenagers and now the agency I'm with is struggling to give me work. It seems like local authorities aren't referring children to private agencies now because of the cost and/or they're waiting for their new budgets in April.
Not only am I missing the actual foster children that I want to help - but I'm also missing the fact that we receive an income which helps both myself, my family and our foster child have a better life (in terms of holidays, after school activities, regular outings etc).
I'm now having to work SMARTER and I've had to cut back significantly on our spending habits. Food is currently one of my bug bears - we spend so much on food each week and then end up throwing half of it out. I'm now getting tough with myself. I spend time on the internet researching things/ways to earn more money and to get what little I've got to stretch further.
For example, I earned £120.60 since last night (if you can call it earning!) just by making a few smart choices - and I'll be doing things like this every night until we have enough money to be able to afford all the things we want or need: Here's what I did last night in case any of you were wondering!:
1. EARNT £1:00 - TIME 2 minutes: COMPLETED A SURVEY
Yesterday my friend at work asked me whether I'd joined YouGov (this is a polling company and most quoted research company in the country, a UK organisation). I joined and it took me all of 2 minutes to complete the first survey (which was a few questions about my income bracket, my job, my age, number of people in my family etc). £1.00 for 2 minutes is not bad at all. Apparently they pay at LEAST 50p per survey (and up to a few pounds if it's a longer survey!) and you get sent a cheque once your account reaches £50.00 (plus a chance to win other occasional cash prizes).
My friends mother has already racked up £50.00 and says it doesn't really take much time at all.
If you want to give it a go, please would you be kind enough to join via my link so I get a kickback for telling you about it!:
(Deleted: link to join - as I'm told its not allowed on Dooyoo, but please contact me for details via private message)
2. EARNT: £19.60 - Time: c.10 mins + 30 minutes grocery shopping: DID MY WEEKLY SHOPPING
I decided to go on-line shopping at Asda to save money on my weekly shop last night (I went to Tesco's on-line shopping last week - and I think on the whole I may prefer them but I still liked Asda!). First of all I went to a top cash back site called "TopCashBack" - they are the UK's best cash-back site (according to a pole on moneysavingexpert.com) ...I joined TopCashBack, and then signed up to Asda on-line shopping through them. TopCashBack pay you £5.00 for your first ASDA online-order. I then clicked through to Asda and spent the next half hour selecting my groceries after signing up. I saved £9.29 against multi-buys. Finally I put in the code M4-FD-FD-47 to get free delivery (your grocery order has to be over £50.00 for this code to work) which was worth another £5.00. Next I played around with the TopCashBack site - you can earn money for clicking through to retailers websites and I earnt another 31p by looking at 5 retailers.
If you want to give it a go, please would you be kind enough to join via my link so I can get a referral bonus - it won't affect your payments!:
(Deleted: link to join - as I'm told its not allowed on Dooyoo, but please contact me for details via private message)
3. EARNT: £100.00 - Time 3 minutes: OPENED A NEW BANK ACCOUNT
I took the advice of moneysavingexpert.com and opened an Alliance & Leicester Premier Current Account. Alliance & Leicester give you £100.00 for opening this account - but the key bug bear is that you have to transfer all your DD/SO payments from your existing bank account (which they do automatically for you) in order to qualify. They pay the £100.00 in 4 months time. You also have to have an account with at least 1 DD or SO in order to qualify and pay at least £500.00 into it each month. Here's the link!:
(Deleted: link to join - as I'm told its not allowed on Dooyoo, but please contact me for details via private message)
So in short, the credit crunch has impacted me - but also made me be a lot smarter about how I spend my money in the long term - so apart from missing the fact that I don't have a child to foster, it isn't all doom and gloom - I'm going to be saving lots of money in the future! :-)
Here is a list of the Top 10 things I've learnt when I've been made redundant in past recessions. OK....I'm showing my age now LOL.
Anyway, I hope it helps!:
---------------------- x ------------------------- x -----------------------
1. If you THINK business is on the 'down turn' where you work, take out redundancy insurance NOW. Some insurance companies make you wait 3 months - some 6 months, before you can claim. Don't think you can take out insurance a week before you get your redundancy notice, and that the insurance company will happily make payments to you.
2. Some insurance companies will send someone out to your house every week to check if you are actively seeking work and will require job seeking proof. If you don't provide this each week, at your expense, then they don't pay you. Watch the small print. I went to Spain for an interview and they stopped my insurance payout because "I couldn't have been actively seeking in the UK if I was in Spain at a job interview" (its in the T's & C's!). End of my monthly cash cow that was...and was I happy? : - (
3. The job centre won't give you a crisis loan if you don't have enough money left over each week to pay it back at £1.00 per week (well it was £1.00 per week when I applied for one - things may have changed since then). If you are truly broke, you don't qualify for a crisis loan!
4. Despite what people say, hassling the people at the job centre for milk tokens when you don't have a baby or extra money for a non-existent dog only ticks them off - they don't give into you unless they are really new and inexperienced! Believe it or not, they can make it awkward for you if they really want to!
5. It's patently embarrassing if your mum happens to be working at the same job centre where you're signing on!! Oh yes!...
6. While redundancy is often devastating, if you 'work it right' by taking out insurance protection, it can provide a nice career break for those that want/need it - and give you time to plan a new career direction if it's what you've been dreaming of. BUT... the job centre doesn't aim to make your life peachy - they want you off their books - and most insurances don't pay after 1 year (they try to find ways of avoiding payments... so stay on your toes!). So even if you are insured, it's not always plain sailing. You need to work at being redundant! Also, the timing is critical for getting back into work after a nice soujourn/career break before your redundancy payments run out.
7. If after 6 months "out of work" questions spring to mind like "how did I ever fit in a full time job?!" , make sure it isn't because you've been spending lots of time in front of the TV or doing dooyoo reviews. Remember this time "out of work" is precious - yes you can relax/de-stress from the rat race - but you also need to use this time constructively and build a different and better life than before. Your 1 year will be up before you know it!
8. During your term of 'signing on' it's best to mention on your CV that you've actively chosen to do something different with your life - time off for travel, writing a book, helping an orphanage etc. Sounds so much more exciting than I was made redundant and am so lazy I didn't want to work for a year (or so devoid of useful skills that nobody wanted to employ me!).
9. Always get payments by Direct Debit from the Job Centre - it's so much easier and saves so much faffing. They won't accidentally pay you twice, despite what some people hope when they decide to opt for cashing in a giro each week!
10. Don't work while signing on. Without a doubt, at some point, you will get 'dobbed in' and you won't like the consequences.
Making a themed celebratory cake is a snap!
CAKES for BIRTHDAYS... WEDDINGS... ANNIVERSARIES... ETC can all be made with a little bit of love and imagination - no previous cake making experience required!
COST: Factor on a total cost of £20.00 to make a cake, because you'll need lots of little bits (which you can use again on the next cake!).
Here's what you do: (Short Version)
1. Buy a ready made cake. Madeira cake is great!
2. Carve the cake up to make the basic design.
3. Slap it on a board and cover it with buttercream icing (from Asda)
4. Roll your ready made icing (using butter on board to stop icing from sticking!)
5. Drape icing over cake, trim, and then decorate
Here's what you do: (Long Version)
1. Find a plain sponge cake (with/without filling) that you fancy using from the supermarket ...don't bother baking it yourself!
MY CHOICE: I tend to go for the largest madeira sponge cakes shaped like bricks - but you can go for anything really. Just make sure that the cake can be CARVED UP into the final shape that you want and that its 'eat by date' is on or after the event.
2. Next, buy some ready made buttercream icing in a tub.
MY CHOICE: (I normally get the chocolate or vanilla flavour from Asda). You will also need:
* ready made coloured icing (c.£2.30/500g pack) - I tend to buy lots of different colours but you can just buy white and lots of food colourings - and mix the colours to suit, to save money.
* Sugar Florist Paste (around £2.00)
* Cake decorating glue (around £2.00)
* Cake board (also £1-£3 quid from Asda)
(I bought the icing and sugar florist paste from a local cake making shop).
STAGE 1 - Form the shape
3. Carve up the cake into the basic shape that you want. Don't worry about what it looks like, it will all be covered up anyway. Set the bottom of the cake onto the cake board with the buttercream icing. Then glue bits of cake together with buttercream icing to form the right shape. When you're finally happy with the basic shape, slap the buttercream icing all over it - don't worry if some of the icing doesn't stick properly (by the time you drape your rolled-icing over it, you won't be able to tell!).
MY CHOICE: If I'm using chocolate cake I use chocolate buttercream icing and for say a lemon cake I go for vanilla buttercream icing. Strangely madeira cake and chocolate buttercream icing does work well together!
STAGE 2 - Create the stage
4. Next, roll out your ready made icing to a nice thickness AND then gently drape the icing over your cake. Trim the icing.
MY TIP: I normally roll the icing on a sheet of alumunium foil - but I have to grease the foil and rolling pin first with butter so that the icing doesn't stick to the foil or rolling pin. The buttercream icing will help make the icing stick to the cake. Try to make your joins as neat as possible - but don't worry if it's not perfect, there are lots of creative ways you can cover joins up!
STAGE 3 - Decorate, Decorate, Decorate
6. You're now ready to decorate and have fun!!
* Icing shapes - If you want to make shapes out of icing (e.g. horses heads if you're making a stable) then mix the icing and sugar florist paste 50/50. This makes the icing set hard and allows you to really model different shapes with your icing.
* Unsightly joins - joins can be hidden with strategically placed objects such as flowers and if you buy edible glitter which you can brush onto cakes, this also hides a multitude of sins!!
My last 2 projects were:
1. Two blocks of stables with 9 horses
2. Peppa Pig sitting on a purple sofa with George and Dinosaur.
FOR STABLES I USED: 2 x madeira cakes which I placed in an L shape. I covered these with white icing, and glued on brown stable doors from brown icing - running a sharp knife over the icing to create a wooden door effect. I then used a flower shape cutter to make the roof tiles from blue icing (rolled out icing and cut out little blue flower shapes then overlapped each flower slightly, glueing them on with special edible glue).
The horses heads were made from yellow, green, pink and purple icing - with different colour manes. I mixed icing and sugar florist paste 50/50. I then glued the horses heads onto the cake plus used a toothpick to strengthen (half the toothpick in the horses head and the other half in the cake). I made grass from green icing and pricked the icing with a fork to rough it up/give it texture...I added miniature Barbie doll pieces to the scene to create a trough and watering can etc + added a small white dove from the cake shop to sit on roof. I then covered the cake with edible sparkle dust which made the whole thing shimmer. This was absolutely adored by my daughter :-)
FOR PEPPA PIG I USED: 2 x madeira cakes, cut up pieces to make sofa back/arm rests and stuck them to main sofa piece with the buttercream icing. I then made peppa pig models and a green dinosaur from 50/50 icing and sugar florist paste. Finally I rolled out purple icing and draped it over the sofa...and then finished it off by brushing it with sparkly edible glitter for extra shine and impact. Finally I sat Peppa pig, George and Dinosaur on the sofa using toothpicks to hold them in place. The kids all loved it!
I've also made a pirate ship, a princess castle, and a big chocolate dress (with a large bratz doll in the middle of it).
GOOD LUCK :-)