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soutram

soutram
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Member since: 07.01.2009

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      07.12.2009 12:53
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      Redundancy is a horrible thing to go through

      My partner works in the motor trade which since the old recession hit has not be doing that great, having said this the garage he worked for was still making money & they always seemed to be busy. The garage was part of a franchise of three, one unit got sold off, this didn't ring any alarm bells as it was not making money so they got rid, the other two garages carried on as normal.

      One day my partner brought a letter home stating that all the talk of them closing down was rubbish and people where talking out of there hats, business was great and there was no way they where going to be shutting the doors, great news I thought, at least we know his job was safe.

      Two weeks later he phoned me to say the company had called in the administrators and they where looking for someone to buy the company, they had been told that there was no money left in the company to pay them but they had to carry on working because if they walked out then the would be breaching there contracts and would get fired, this would then mean no redundancy money.

      He carried on working for another two weeks with the threat of redundancy and also knowing that he would not get paid for the work, then at 4.30pm on a Thursday the administrators walked in and made everyone in the company redundant, they where told to leave immediately and to come back on the Friday at lunch time to pick up there tools and personal belongings.

      This was the last thing we could have possibly needed, I am currently on maternity leave so am not getting paid very much money, if I where working full time it would not have been quite so bad because my wages could have at least paid some of the bills off, my maternity money didn't even cover our rent let alone heating, water, council tax etc.

      As the company had gone under we would have to claim the redundancy money off the government and they cap the amount at £390 a week (I know the manager there was on double that), they say they try to pay you within six weeks but we had herd of people waiting months for there money, also because he was told to leave there and then we could also claim notice pay (again capped at £390 per week).

      It took a week for the administrators to send us the forms we needed and then I think we were very lucky as it only took four weeks to get the redundancy money through.

      After going through this experience I just want to give a couple of bits of advice on how to get through redundancy a bit better.

      Sign on to Jobseekers straight away - They deduct job seekers from notice pay so if you don't claim you get less money

      If you're renting - Contact your local council and ask about Housing Benefit & Council Tax Benefit, we did this and because we had never claimed before they paid all of our rent for us & told us we didn't need to pay Council Tax

      If you own your home - Contact your mortgage lender, most offers to either let you pay just the interest or some will even let you take a three month payment holiday.

      Contact HM Revenue & Customs - If you're already getting Child Tax Credit this may increase & you may even get Working Tax Credits

      Finally write to all of your utilities providers to explain what has happened, they are very helpful and usually either let you stop paying for a while or reduce you payments to a more manageable amount.

      I think we where quite lucky as we received a lot of help with bills etc and my partner managed to find another job within a month, I would imagine that not everyone is this fortunate, mind you my job is not looking that secure at he moment so I may be doing this all again soon.

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        25.11.2009 13:53
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        A great little walker that folds away after use

        My little girl is at that age now where she has mastered crawling and has now started to pull herself up on pretty much anything she can grab hold of, because she gets so excited when she is standing up we decided it was time to buy her a baby walker.

        After looking around the internet I was amazed at the masses of different baby walkers available, we knew we wanted one she could sit in (she is not stable enough to use a push along one yet), so we narrowed the search down to those, in the end we ended up on Amazon as they seemed to have a very good selection and all at various price ranges.

        After having a good at the features of each one we settled on the Tippitoes Baby Walker, this was for various reasons, the first being its cool looking as it's a car shape and the other main reason was because it folds down reasonably flat so it can be stored away when not in use.

        Features:
        This baby walker is a nice girly pink colour with a cream seat with pink checks, as I said before is in the shape of a car so on the front you have stickers which are the headlights & indicators and the toy tray comprises of a steering wheel, starting leaver, red & blue lights (flash like a police car) and three buttons - two play tunes and the other is the horn, there is also a ball she can spin around, not sure what it has to do with a car but she loves it. The toy tray is also removable; sometimes we take it off & we stick her toys that have suction cups on in its place.

        The walker has two small wheels on the front which turn in any direction to enable your child to move the car and it has two larger wheels on the back. The base of the walker is made of a sturdy plastic so if your child bumps into anything it won't break, it also has plastic inserts underneath so the walker will not runaway down hills (we didn't use these are we don't intend on sending our child down a hill in it).

        The seat has three adjustable heights, our girl is 8 months old and on the lowest setting she can just about touch the floor to push herself along so it probably would not be suitable for a child any younger

        Making the car:
        The car came to us in bits so we had to build it, it was fairly easy to put together, most of it just clicks into place, the main problem we had was fitting the seat, the seat has a ridged back to it and this makes clicking the seat into place very hard because you cant get you fingers into the small space to push the clips in, it took us about 30 mins to get the seat to fit right (that's two of us trying), other than that everything else is straight forward.

        Dimensions:
        The walker is 71cm x 64 cm, when locked in position is stands 51cm tall and when folded flat its 25cm tall

        My opinion:
        Overall I would say this was a very good purchase, my little girl loves sitting in it and although she can only go backwards at the moment I'm sure it won't be long before she is whizzing around the house.

        She can operate all of the toys on the tray apart from the hooter in the middle of the steering wheel, you have to push it quickly to make it work & she has not got the hang of it just yet. I think her favorite bits are the spiny ball and the leaver which when pushed makes a engine starting noise (not my favorite though especially when she just pushes and pulls it constantly for 20 mins).

        Its also very handy to know that when I put her in it I know that if I leave the room she will still be in it when I get back, rather than under the table, climbing into her toy box or turning on the PS3 and surround sound etc.

        I love the fact that when she is not in it I can just close it up and stick it behind the sofa so its not in the way of her playing with her other toys.

        I bought his from Amazon for £37.99 (with free delivery) and found it to be one of the cheaper ones on the internet as most walkers seem to cost between £45 - £60

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          20.11.2009 14:09
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          A great buy, you can give you baby fruit etc and know they wont choke

          When I was first told about this product I thought it would be a bit of a waste of time so never bothered getting one, then on day my little girl swallowed a bit of pear whole and started to choke, this frightened me and I didn't want it to happen again so I went online and purchased on of these feeders straight away.

          This item is a very simple idea; you have a white handle which is quite chunky and very easy for a baby to hold, this has a green screw base, you undo the base to reveal the top of the net, you can then put any kind of fruit or treat in the net, screw the green base back to the white handle and there you are a nice safe baby feeder.

          I only tend to put fruit in mine (grapes, banana, apple, pear etc), it does say you can put biscuits in it but I don't think they would be very easy to eat through the net.

          This net teaches you baby to chew so it's a great idea if you are moving on from puree food to mashed, it also prevents you baby eating any seeds or skin because the holes are very small there is no way a seed could get through.

          The net is very easy to clean, once you unscrew the green base the net just pulls out through the top so you can give it a good scrub, I tend to use a nail brush on mine as I found it was the best thing to use to get it all clean. Its best to wash it straight after use (especially if you put banana in it), if you leave it the net tends to get discolored and then never looks clean.

          This has turned out to be a very good purchase for me, I can now give my girl all sorts of fruit and treats without the fear of her choking on anything, this feeder also means I don't have so sit and watch her eat, I can give her the net and know she will quite happily chomp away on it.

          I bought mine from Ebay for £5 (it came with four nets) but you can also get them on Amazon for £9.95 (only comes with one net), replacement nets cost £9.94 also from Amazon

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            16.11.2009 10:53
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            A very good cheap set of scales

            Since my little girl has started eating solids I have been following recipes out of a book that I was given and like all recipes you have to weigh food out so I needed a set of scales (yes believe it or not I have never owned a set).

            All I needed was a basic set of scales that where nice and cheap so I had a look at Argos online to see which ones they had available in my local store and I found a set for a massive £3.99, ok so they didn't look that pretty but that didn't bother me as they where going to live in a cupboard until I needed them, so off I popped to pick them up.

            On opening the box I was quite surprised to see that the scales actually felt a little more substantial than they looked in the picture, I expected them to be made of a cheap plastic that may break easily but they actually seem quite strong.

            The scales are quite a good size (24cm tall, 14cm deep and 16cm wide, the tray on the top of the scales is also reasonably deep (7cm) so you can get quite a lot in it (1.2 litres), they have a 11lb weighing capacity (I only ever go up to 1lb though) and overall I would say they are quite accurate.

            These scales also store away well, if you press down the bit that the tray sits on you can slot the scales inside the weighing tray so they are half the size & take up very little room in you cupboard.

            The only problem I have with these scales is the tray on the top of the scales wobbles about a little bit so it can be hard to get the pointer to sit on zero before you start weighing but other that that for £3.99 these are great scales.

            The other downside is that the scales are made out of a blue plastic (very cheap looking) definitely not something you would keep on you worktop for all to see, but if you just need something that you can just get out of the cupboard occasionally then these are great.

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              20.10.2009 14:21
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              Overall not a great phone but if your on a budget then it will do

              Recently our home phone packed up so we had to look for a new one, we didn't want one that was very expensive as we don't use the phone that much and didn't see the point in spending a fortune for it to just sit there.

              After looking through the Argos catalogue I came across the Binatone Veva 1200, it was a single cordless handset and cost £18.99, just what we where looking for so of I went to purchase it.

              What's in the Box?
              In the box you get the handset, the base for the handset, the mains cable, a telephone cable and a set of instructions that tell you how to use the various features of the phone.

              The Phone
              The phone is made out of a cheap plastic; it feels like it may break quite easily, the buttons are made out of a soft rubber material with white numbers and letters on them. The dimensions of the phone are 14cm long and 5.5cm wide so it's quite a nice size, it fits in my hand just right.

              The base is made out of the same cheap plastic, overall it's not a very nice looking phone but then at £18.99 what can you expect.

              This phone is also available with two handsets and cost £29.99

              Functions
              The phone has a basic amount of functions which is fine for me as I just want a phone to be able to make calls and nothing more.

              The functions are as follows:
              50 name and number phonebook, 10 last number redial., 20 name and number incoming call list, 5 monophonic ringtones, Call timer, Clock, Alarm, Call waiting, Ringer volume control on handset, Caller ID - Network dependant and Date and time settings.

              As I said not masses of features but the 50 name phonebook is handy to store all of you numbers in and I find the last 10 number redial very handy.

              My Opinion
              We have had a few problems with this phone, the first couple of weeks it was fine then for some reason in the middle of the night it started beeping, at first we thought it was ringing but when we got up we realized it wasn't so we picked it up & put it back in its base and went back to bed, then a hour later it did the same again (very annoying at 3 in the morning) so my partner took it of its base and put it under a cushions so we couldn't hear it.

              In the morning we had a look and it seems that the metal prongs in the base of the phone sometimes loose connection with the prongs in the phone stand so it constantly beeps, the most frustrating part is that it only seems to do it in the early hours of the morning, we have tried taking the phone back but they wont replace it as we no longer have the receipt so now every night we have to make sure we take the phone of the base to make sure it does not start beeping.

              Apart from that the phone pretty much does what it is supposed to do, sits on the cabinet and waits for someone to ring it, the ring tones are ok sounding and are a good volume so it can be herd wherever I am in the house.

              Overall this phone is ok, it's a budget phone that looks and feels like it's a budget phone, I think next time I will invest a little more and get a better one.

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                08.10.2009 10:42
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                Great cheap baby monitors that I think are well worth the money

                Recently the video baby monitors that I had been given (second hand) gave up the ghost so I had to purchase a new set. I decided that I didn't need a video one again or one with any other fancy gimmick on it (one that plays a melody etc), I wanted a nice basic and reasonable cheap monitor just so I could hear when she wakes up in a morning etc.

                After looking online at the hundreds of monitors available (most of which are very expensive) I found the Tomy Walkabout Classic Advance and after reading a couple of reviews I decided that this one should do the job just fine.

                Whats in the Box?
                In the box you get a set of instructions whish tell you how to get started and how to use all of the various features these monitors have, you also get two baby monitor unit, one is the baby unit and one is the Parent Unit and you get two mains adaptors (one for each unit)

                The Units
                The units are quite a nice size (about 8cm wide and 20cm tall inc aerial) and are made from a very sturdy plastic, the main body is white and the aerial (a rubber material) and various buttons are a light blue colour.

                On the parent unit you have the power button on the top and next to it you have a talk button this allows you to talk to you child if necessary, it works like a walkie talkie, you just press and hold the button and talk into the unit (the talk back function also has adjustable volume).

                On the front of the unit you have eight lights (five green and three red) these will light up when your child starts to make a noise, the first couple of lights if the baby is just chatting and they go up into the red if the baby starts to cry or scream.

                On the back of the unit you have a belt clip which allows you to walk around with it attached to you, there are also the volume buttons which has nine settings, I find the second setting is more than loud enough to hear the little one.

                The baby unit is the same size as the parent unit but has different features, you have the same power button on the top but on the front you have a blue coloured circle which has four blue lights set into it, when both units are turned on you can activate the lights by pressing the power button on the parent unit, this acts as a night light, you can turn it on before you enter the room and it allows you to check on the little one without having to turn the main light on and disturb them. The light also fades out after five mins so if you forget to turn it off the unit will do it.

                You don't have any volume buttons etc on this unit as it is all operated by the parent unit, although inside the battery compartment of the baby unit is a switch that activates the Sound Activated Transmission feature, if this is turned on the parent unit will remain silent until you baby makes a noise, it will then turn itself on so you can hear your child. This feature means that you are saving power which is handy if you are running it of batteries all of the time.

                Both units take AA batteries, the parent unit needs three and the baby unit needs three AA batteries.

                What do I think?
                Overall I am very pleased with these baby monitors, they are a nice compact size so don't take up to much shelf room, both units can run off batteries so if you don't have a socket nearby it's not a problem and both seem to be very sturdy so if you are clumsy like me and drop them they tend to bounce rather than break.

                Some of the reviews I read said the units had a constant interference and the range of them was terrible, I have had neither of these problems, you do get a low white noise type of sound coming from the parent unit but if you have the volume set low then you can hardly hear it & you get used to it, or do as I have and set it to the sound activation feature, the units are then silent until your child makes a noise.

                As for the range of these monitors I have also had no problems, I live in a three bedroom house and in a evening my little girl is in bed upstairs and I have the unit on downstairs whilst I watch TV and as yet I have had no problems with loosing connection.

                Only downside to these is they tend to go through batteries very quickly even if the power save mode is used, as yet I have not managed to get these to work from rechargeable batteries. I tend to leave the baby unit and parent unit plugged into the mains and the parent unit is put on batteries when I go to bed.

                These units cost £35 from Amazon so they are one of the cheaper units around and I think for that price they are well worth buying.

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                  01.10.2009 10:37
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                  A great toy that has saved our TV buttons

                  Recently my little girl (7 months) is into absolutely everything, she seems to have a real thing for our sky remote and our mobile phones so I decided to find her a toy that was a similar size to the TV buttons so she could play with that instead of constantly turning the TV over and pressing the mute button etc.

                  After having a look around the new Toys R Us store in my area I came across the Vtech Soft Singing Phone, as soon as I saw it I thought it would be perfect because it's a phone & a similar size to the TV buttons.

                  What's in the box?
                  All you get in the box is the toy itself & a set of instructions which tell you how to fit the batteries & what functions the toy has.

                  The Phone:
                  There are two versions of this phone one is bright pink and purple which was great for my little girl and the other is yellow, blue and red so ideal for little boys. The phone is 17cm long, 7cm wide and 3 cm deep (very similar size to a sky remote control).

                  The front and back of the phone is made out of a hard plastic and the sides are a padded fabric which has pictures of triangles, squares, numbers and musical notes on it. On the top of the toy is a soft fabric strap which has Velcro so you can attach it around pushchair straps etc to prevent it getting thrown on the floor and it also has a soft antenna which my little girl loves chewing.

                  On the front of the phone you have a baby safe mirror which is surrounded by a clear plastic that has two green and two yellow beads inside, just under the mirror you have the on/off switch and then below that you have four buttons, one is a red square with a picture of a cat and the number one on it, the next is a purple star which has a picture of a dog & the number two on it, the next is a green triangle with a picture of a bird and the number three on it and finally a yellow circle with a picture of a rabbit and the number four on it.

                  The last button is at the very bottom of the phone, this is a roller ball, one side is yellow and the other side is green, the ball can be rolled in any direction (rolling the button does nothing) and the ball can also be pressed to activate the phone.

                  When you first turn the phone on it rings and all four buttons flash, whilst they are flashing it also sings "ring ring ring and play away who is on the phone today" it then asks you to call one of the four animals on the buttons for example "lets call the rabbit" the rabbit button will be lit up & the phone will be making a ringing sound, if you hit the correct button it would make the animal noise and then say "hello rabbit & laugh".

                  The phone also plays other melodies, there are ten in total on the phone and they are activated by pressing one of the numbered buttons (as you press the buttons they also say whichever number is on them).

                  The melodies you get are: Row Your Boat, Merrily We Roll Along, Old McDonald, London Bridge, Wheels On The Bus, Head Shoulders Knees & Toes, Incy Wincy Spider, Three Blind Mice, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Rock-a-bye Baby.

                  The phone has a automatic shut off so if it's not in use for 30 seconds it turns itself of to preserve the batteries, if you hit one of the buttons it will come back to life.

                  Care & Maintenance
                  To keep the phone clean you can wipe over it with a slightly damp cloth. The instructions say to keep it out of direct sunlight & away from any direct heat source, they also says not to drop it in water.

                  The phone takes 2 AA batteries (mine where already supplied) it does recommend not using rechargeable batteries. Batteries are simple to replace, just take the screw out of the back & the panel comes off revealing the battery compartment.

                  My Opinion
                  This has to be the toy my little girl plays with the most, it's a good size for her to hold onto and has bits on it she can chew if she wants. The buttons are very easy to press so she can activate al of the sounds etc herself.

                  It does say it's a soft phone, I wouldn't really class it as being that soft, the front and back are a normal hard plastic & the fabric sides although padded are still not what I call soft so if your child is prone to hitting themselves with toys then probably best to not to get them this one.

                  Overall though this was a great purchase, it only cost £9.99, its getting loads of use and most importantly it seems to keep her away from our TV buttons and phones.

                  I bought this phone from Toys R Us for £9.99; it's also available on the Vtech website for £7.99 at Amazon for £5.99

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                    23.09.2009 10:37
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                    A great shampoo that leave my hair feeling & looking great

                    Recently I decided to have a look around for a new shampoo & conditioner; I currently use Head and Shoulders but found that it always seemed to leave my hair feeling dry and unmanageable so I wanted something that would leave my hair feeling smooth and keep it in good condition.

                    I had a good look at all of the various brands in my local supermarket and spotted Pantene, I used to use this years ago and was always pleased with the results so I decided to give it another go.

                    I decided to purchase the two in one bottle because firstly it was cheaper than buying both separately (I know they last longer as separates) and secondly I find it easier and quicker to just have to wash my hair the once (yes I'm that lazy).

                    The bottle
                    The bottle is a white plastic squeezy bottle with a black clip shut lid, the lid is flat so you can stand the bottle up on it (which means the shampoo is always at the lid end) and the clip shut lid means sure you don't have any spillages if the bottle is ever knocked over.

                    The label is a simple label it has the Pantene logo at the top and then a green flash with Smooth & Sleek Shampoo & Conditioner written in white (the colour of the flash changes depending on which shampoo you purchase). Then you have 2 in 1 written in green just below the flash. On the back you have all of the usual info like the ingredients and directions for use etc.

                    The Shampoo
                    The shampoo is white in colour and has a nice creamy smooth feel to it, it has a nice subtle smell to it but I can't quite put my finger on what it smells like.

                    The shampoo lathers up reasonably well, I find that I don't have to use very much of the shampoo (which means it last a long time) and I have very thick and long hair. As I am working the shampoo into my hair I can feel it getting softer and when I rinse the shampoo out I can run my fingers through my hair without getting them all tangled up.

                    Did it work?
                    Once I dried my hair it felt smoother and looked 100 times better than it has for a long time, my hair always looked thick and dry but after using this shampoo it was flatter and has a nice shine to it. When I used other shampoos I always had to straighten my hair afterwards to try and get it looking half decent but with this shampoo I can just dry it and walk straight out of the door so it saves me loads of time in a morning.

                    Cost & Availability
                    This shampoo cost me £3.89 for a 500ml bottle (should have been 400ml but got 25% extra free), this seems a pretty average price (Head and Shoulders is £3.84). Tesco do currently have a offer on of buy one get one free so it a bargain if you get it on that offer.

                    As I mentioned earlier there are different versions of this shampoo depending on what you hair is like, other available are:
                    Pantene Volume & Body 2 In 1, Pantene Classic Care 2 In 1 & Pantene Rich Volume 2 In 1

                    You can get all of these in either 250ml bottles or 500ml bottles (250ml cost £2.39)

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                    • Angels and Demons (DVD) / DVD / 132 Readings / 129 Ratings
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                      21.09.2009 10:24
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                      A very good film to watch but I think the book is far better

                      I am a big fan of the Dan Brown books and I particularly enjoyed The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons so when I found out they where making films about the books I was very curious to see if they could make them as good as the books.

                      I bought Angels and Demons at the weekend as it was on offer in Tesco for £8 if you spent £30, so on Saturday night I sat down to watch it.

                      What is it about?
                      Angels and Demons is all about science and religion, a large European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) manages to produce three containers of antimatter which shortly after being made one gets stolen, meanwhile in Rome they are morning the loss of the pope and are preparing to go into conclave and start the process of picking a new pope when they received a threat from a 400 year old underground secret society the Illuminati.

                      The Illuminati have kidnapped four of the most popular cardinals and say they will kill one every hour until midnight and then the Vatican will be destroyed in a burst of light (the antimatter will be used as a bomb). This is when they decided to ask Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) and renowned symbologist to come and help them figure out who has taken the cardinals and try to save there lives.

                      The film takes you on a journey of the path of illuminations which is all about four alters of science which are each somehow related to the four elements (Earth, Fire, Air, Water), Robert Langdon uses the Vatican's secret archives to figure out where the path of illumination starts, this then leads you on a path of twists and turns, murder and deceit.

                      Main Characters
                      Tom Hanks plays Robert Langdon
                      Ewan McGregor plays Patrick Mckenna
                      Ayelet Zurer plays the role of Vittoria Vetra (A CERN scientist)
                      Stellan Skarsgard plays Commander Maximillian Richter (Head of Swiss Guard)
                      Pierfrancesco Favino plays Ernesto Olivetti (Inspecter in the Gendarme Corps of Vatican City State.)
                      A. Mueller-Stahl plays Cardinal Strauss (Cardinal who is in charge of conclave)

                      Is it any good?
                      Well as I said I am a big fan of the book and I think if I hadn't read the book then I probably would have enjoyed the film a lot more. The film misses out some rather large bits of the book but then I suppose they cant get a whole book into two hours, the start of the film is completely different to the book, in the book Robert Langdon is called in by the Director of CERN to help them figure out who killed there scientist so he spends quite a bit of time at he science facility where as in the film he is called in by the Vatican and goes straight to Rome.

                      Even though they missed out these bits the film is still very enjoyable, it's a lot faster passed than the book (which I suppose it has to be to keep people interested), once Robert gets to Rome the film pretty much follows the book although because it is so fast passed he does tend to solve the clues a bit to quick, I think they could have gone into a little bit more detail on the history of the Path of Illumination etc as I feel this would have made the film make more sense to people who have not read the book.

                      Overall I would say the film was very enjoyable, it had lots of action and murder etc, but I feel that some of the storey got a bit lost and maybe was not told quite as well as it could have been. I expected it to be as good as the Da Vinci code which I thought went into quite a lot of detail and explained the story well, Angels and Demons just seemed a bit rushed.

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                        18.09.2009 14:19
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                        A great meal that very quick and easy to make, ideal if you don't have the time to cook from scratch

                        Having a 6 month old baby means I don't always have the time to cook really nice meals from scratch, I seem to be forever sticking chips and pies etc in the oven so I decided to buy some packets that would enable me to make some nice casseroles etc

                        When I was looking through the available sauce mixes I spotted the Colmans Beef & Ale sauce, the picture on the front of the packet looked very nice so I bought one and cooked it that evening.

                        The Packet
                        The top half of the packet is brown with the Yellow and red Colman's logo, beneath the logo you have a picture of what the dish looks like (meat mushrooms in a sauce) then below that you have the contents (for one meal).

                        On the reverse of the packet you have the ingredients, how to cook instructions and the nutritional information. It also has a something special section that gives you a slight alternative to the cooking instructions which makes another tasty meal.

                        How To Cook
                        Firstly you need to have the following ingredients
                        1 Packet of beef and ale mix
                        450g lean braising steak
                        1 medium onion
                        115g mushrooms
                        425ml cold water

                        Simply preheat your oven to 180, put the beef, onions (sliced) and mushrooms (chopped) in an ovenproof dish, mix the sauce contents of the sachet with the water and pour over the beef, onions and mushrooms, cover and cook for 1 hour 30mins or until beef is tender.

                        Nutritional Info
                        Complete meal for one
                        Calories 209, Sugar 3.2g, Fat 6.8g, Saturates 2.9g and salt 1.2g

                        The Sauce
                        I absolutely love this sauce mix, because you cook it for a long time the beef is always so tender and the flavour is lovely, you can def taste the ale in this mix, the sauce is nice, thick and creamy, I think this would work very well as a pie.

                        The colour of the mix is a dark brown (gravy like) and even though it thickens up quite a lot you still get plenty (which is good for me as I love my gravy). I find that this sauce works very well with either good old mash or even roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings with a bit of veg.

                        My Opinion
                        As I said having a small child means I don't always have the time to cook so these mixes are the perfect solution for me, I just bung in all the fresh ingredients and an hour and half later we have a lovely tasty meal. They don't cost the earth either, this particular packet mix cost me 74 pence (serves 4) and to be honest I wouldn't have a clue how to make something like this from scratch.

                        I now buy quite a few of these packets (various flavours) and love using them, it makes my life so much easier and I feel like we are having good food rather than chips and pies etc all of the time.

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                        • Hancock (DVD) / DVD / 126 Readings / 124 Ratings
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                          14.09.2009 10:56
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                          A good film to watch if you just want a nice relaxed night in

                          I originally saw this film in the cinema and loved it so when I saw that it was being showed on Sky movies I just had to watch it again.

                          Whats is about?
                          Hancock (played by the lovely Will Smith) starts of as a down and out drunk with superhuman powers such as: flight, super-strength, immortality and invulnerability, whilst trying to catch criminals and help people in need he causes so much damage that the people of Los Angeles hate him. One day he saves the life of Ray Embrey (who works in public relations) and Ray (played by Jason Bateman) feels he has to repay Hancoock so he decides to try and change Hancocks image.

                          Ray decided the best way to get people to love Hancock is to put him in prison, he feels that if Hancock is not around crime in the city will start to rise and people will demand Hancocks release so he can come and save the day.

                          There is one person though who is not happy that Hancock is in there lives and that is Mary (Rays wife, played by Charlize Theron), even when Hancock sorts himself out Mary still does not like him and then Hancock starts to discover exactly why she dislikes him so much, it seems that they have a very very long history which soon puts both there lives at risk.

                          What do I think?
                          I think that you have to watch this film with a open mind, its not in anyway like batman where you have stunning effects and a great story line this film is very much a daft superhero film, you can tell straight away that the effects are computer generated (some of the flying scenes are just crazy) but if you can look past this the you will probably enjoy the film.

                          It's a very light hearted film with some very funny scenes in it (I especially liked the whale throwing), I think Will Smith is very good in this film, I do love it when he does serious films but I also think he is very funny and I liked seeing him in this, I don't think it would have been as good if anyone else played Hancock.

                          When I saw trailers for this film I assumed it was going to be more for the kids but I was wrong, some of the scenes are not appropriate for kids and there is swearing in it. This film is more about Hancock trying find out who he is and where he comes from than him being a superhero and saving the world.

                          This film is ideal if you just want a night in and want to watch something that you don't have to concentrate to much on, you can just sit back enjoy the film and have a bit of a laugh.

                          Additional Details
                          Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language.
                          Run time - 92 mins
                          Released in July 2008

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                          • More +
                            09.09.2009 10:26
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                            One of the better survey sites with good rewards and plenty of surveys

                            I am a member of quite a few survey sites and apart from Lightspeed Panel I would say that this is one of my favorites, I have been a member of this site for around a year now and have received two cheques to date so I thought it's about time I wrote a review about the site.

                            Globaltestmarket.com is another one of the vast research companies out there, you join up and they send you surveys to find out what products you purchase or what you think of certain adverts or even get you to look at a new advertising campaigns to find out what your opinion of it is.

                            They are an American company but all of the surveys you get sent a relevant to you (lots of British companies use them), when you join the ask you to fill out a few profile surveys (Household, Travel, Employment, Financial, Technology, Medical, Vehicle) so they can then send any relevant surveys you way.

                            The Site:
                            The site is very easy to navigate, when you go to www.globaltestmarket.com you are greeted by there home page which on the right hand side gives you a short list on how the company works then if you decide you wish to join just hit the get started button, this then takes you to a short form that you have to fill in with name and address, date of birth emails address etc.

                            Once you have done all of that you can the start to fill in the profile surveys which will enable you to get more paid surveys sent to you (these don't take very long to fill in and you can update them at any point if your circumstances change).

                            Its quite a basic website, once you have logged in you only have a couple fo pages you can look at: My Details - this is where you name, address etc is stored, Surveys - This is where the profile surveys are & any other surveys you may have been invited to but not yet completed, Market Points - This shows you how many market points you have and this is also where you redeem them, Sweepstakes - Some surveys give you entries into the sweepstake, in this section you can read the rules and conditions etc, Contact Us - This page has a form you fill in if you wish to contact Global and finally the Blog - This just gives you updates on payments etc.

                            Surveys:
                            On average I get sent about two surveys a day (this can vary though, sometimes I get none & other times I get four), Its not very often I get screened out of the surveys, I would say this happens to me about 25% of the time but if I do then I still get rewarded 5 market point.

                            Surveys tend to reward you with 10 - 50 market points (of 5 if screened out), they on average tend to take around 15 - 25 mins to complete and are usually very straight forward (usually a load of options and you tick which ones apply)

                            Rewards
                            As I just mentioned you get on average 10 - 50 market points for a survey, each market point if worth 5 cents. You cant redeem your market points untill you have a minimum of 1000, this is then converted into $50 (using Expedia currency converter this amounts to £30.51).

                            Once you have selected to redeem your market points Global send you a cheque, this can take six - eight weeks to arrive (which is one downside to the company), I think I have been lucky though because both my payments arrived within four weeks.

                            As I mentioned I have been a member for about a year or so now and have received two cheques from them, this does not sound a lot I know but I don't tend to do all of the surveys that I get sent (I don't always have time or sometimes just cant be bothered) , I would imagine if I completed all of the surveys then I probably would have received a couple more cheques on top of the ones I have already received.

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                            • More +
                              07.09.2009 10:46
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                              A great toy/teether which my little girl loves

                              After my little girl deciding to start sucking her thumb rather than use a dummy the Tommee Tippee Teether dummies that I have been using became useless, she flatly refused to chomp on them so I started looking around for an alternative.

                              After strolling into my local town one day and visiting the toy shop I spotted the Fisher Price Musical Keys Teether, as it was a toy as well as a teether I decided to purchase it and give it a go.

                              What Is It?
                              The Fisher Price Musical Teether Keys is a musical toy combined with three keys that your child can chew on whilst going through that horrible teething stage. The toy is approx 24cm long (when lied flat) it has a bright green ring at the top which enables you to clip the toy to pushchairs etc so there is less chance of you loosing it.

                              The ring is attached to the main body of the toy by an orange webbing type material (this is very strong and unlikely to break), the main body is a bright blue colour which has purple bumps around the outer edge. All of the main body is made of a hard plastic. It has three buttons on the front which when pressed make sounds which is followed by music.

                              One button has a car on it and when pressed it makes a beep beep sound then plays a tune for a couple of seconds, the next button has a house on it which when pressed makes a doorbell sound and again a couple of seconds of music (different from the car music) then finally you have the heart which makes the sound of a child laughing and again followed by music.

                              On the bottom of the blue body you have a half ring which is black and white stripes (also made out of a hard plastic), attached to this half ring you have three teether keys (also attached with the webbing material), one key is mainly bright blue and has the chewy teether bit attached, there is also a bright red key and a bright purple key.

                              Each key relates to one of the buttons, so you have the blue one which has a car on molded into it, this is the same car that is on the button and the plastic holder is the same colour as the car on the button, you have the red key which has a heart molded into it which matches the heart on the button and again the teether housing matches the red heart, finally you have the purple key which has the house molded into it and the housing is the same purple as the picture.

                              Is it any good?
                              Answer is yes. My little girl was a bit small for it at first so never used to chew on the keys but she loved playing with the toy itself and because the keys where a bit big she used to chew on the green ring instead. Now she is a bit bigger she is always chewing on the keys.

                              This toy now goes everywhere with us, she absolutely loves it. Having the green ring on the top is great because she can hold the toy herself and when she is in her pushchair etc we can clip it on so she cant loose it.

                              I feel there are three downsides to this toy these are the volume, the length of the music and the weight. The toy very quite and the tune only plays for a couple of seconds, the main body of the toy is chunky and heavy so be warned if your child clouts themselves in the head with it they will cry (mine has done this several times).

                              On the other hand though it's a very colourful toy, the buttons are very easy to press and it's very sturdy so when it gets thrown about it does not break. There are also no sharp edges on this toy everything is nicely rounded off so your child can't hurt themselves whilst playing with it.

                              This toy cost me £5.99 from my local toyshop, I have since seen it in Mothercare for £7.99, I think this is definitely a toy I will be buying for friends children as a gift.

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                              • More +
                                04.09.2009 13:25
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                                A great day out, its well worth a visit, we all had a fantastic time

                                Myself my partner and a few friends decided that we would have a day out to Longleat Safari Park on the Bank holiday Monday, I had been to Longleat before but when I was a child, it was a great day out back then and I was hoping it would be even better all these years later.

                                As it was a bank holiday that we where planning on going on we knew it would be busy so we set of at 8.30am to get there for when it opened which was 10am and I'm so glad we did that because as we predicted it got incredibly busy later on.

                                Longleat Safari Park has two parts to it, firstly you have the Safari Park itself and then you have the house and gardens which also has various rides and attractions around it.

                                The Safari Park:
                                The safari park was opened in1966 and it was the first place outside of Africa to open a drive through safari. The safari park consists of various enclosures - East African Game Reserve which consists of Giraffes, Zebras, Llamas and Camels, you then move onto the Flamingo Valley consisting of you've guessed it Flamingos, then you have the Vulture Venue again consisting of Vultures, next you come across the Monkey Jungle (closed when we visited due to a monkey having Herpes), be warned the monkeys do tend to pull bits of peoples cars, you can go round this section if you wish.

                                After the monkeys you have the Big Game Reserve which has White Rhinos, Ankole Cattle, Camels and Dear, we had quite a close encounter with a Rhino in here, there are just some animals you don't want to get to close to and that was one of them. Next you have the Dear Park where for £1 you can purchase some food and feed the dear out of your car window.

                                You then go past Pelican pond consisting of Pelicans and onto Tiger Territory (you are allowed car windows opened until you get to this point), after Tiger Territory you go into Lion Country and then finally onto Wolf Wood.

                                The whole safari takes about a hour and a half and if you don't wish to take your car around then a safari bus is available for a surcharge (3yrs +). Obviously soft top cars are not allowed to go through the safari and dogs are also not permitted, they do provide free kennels where you can leave you dog whilst you visit the safari.

                                The House, Gardens and other attractions:

                                Longleat house is a beautiful Elizabethan stately home which most of is open to the public, it was completed in 1580 and is now the home of the 7th Marquess of Bath, the house is set in 900 acres of landscaped grounds and 8000 acres of woodlands, lakes and farmland.

                                The house is accessible for wheelchair users, pushchairs are not permitted but they do provide hip carriers for small babies free of charge. It take about an hour to walk around the house, guides are in every room and are very knowledgeable so if you wish to find out more information about something they are more than happy to help.

                                There are only a few rooms open to the public (these are - The Great Hall, The Red Library, The Lower Dining Room, The State Dining Room, The Salon, The State Drawing Room, The Dress Corridor, the Grand Staircase and the basement where you see the kitchens and a servant quarters) as the house is still lived in, private tours of other rooms are available at a cost of £10 per person but these are only available on certain days throughout the year.

                                After you have looked around the house you can then move on and explore what the grounds have to offer:

                                Safari Boats - There are two boats operating on the lake so you don't have to wait to long to get on to this attraction, the boats take you on a tour of the lake and introduce you to the seal lions living there (they swim alongside the boats and jump out of the water to get food), the boats also take you past the Gorilla Island where Nico the Silverback is living (he evens has sky + tv) and if you are really luck you may even spot Longleats most dangerous residents the hippos - Spot and Sonia. Fully accessible to wheelchairs but pushchairs are left by the boat house, the trip take approx 15 minutes.

                                Adventure Castle - A large castle play are for the kids, you can sit and relax whilst they head inside to play on the various slides and climbing frames etc. Unlike other attractions you can go in this more than once.

                                Hedge Maze - This maze has been here since 1975, it takes up 1.4 acres of land and a pathway length of 1.6 miles, it also has bridges so you can get a good view of the maze from up high, not suitable for pushchairs of wheelchairs.

                                Railway - This is a scaled down railway which takes you on a trip around some of the grounds, you head past the lake with the sea lions and through some of the woods, the trip take about 15 mins and is accessible to wheelchairs but pushchairs again are left at he station.

                                Old Joes Mine - This attractions introduces you to fruit bats, you head through some corridors looking at various spiders and scorpions etc then you enter a room where they have bats flying around, the zoom past you heads so close you can feel the wind from there wings, they do tend to dive bomb you a lot, if you are not a fan of bats stay well clear of this attraction.

                                Pets corner - Full with a variety of animals including guinea pigs, otters, snakes and more, you can even hold a tarantula if your brave enough. They also do parrot shows throughout the day which are well worth watching, we thoroughly enjoyed the show.

                                Postman Pat Village - We did not go in here so cant really tell you anything about it, I think it's for smaller children.

                                Mirror Maze - Is basically a maze made out of mirrors, a fun maze for the kids (old and young) to complete.
                                There are also two motion simulators here, a tea cup ride, life and times of Lord Bath exhibition, family bygones exhibition and a scale model of Longleat House as well as all the gardens that you can look around.

                                We had a fantastic day out here, we arrived at 10am and didn't leave until 6pm, most people visiting Longleat go around the Safari park first then visit the house etc, we decided to do it the other way around so we had a look around the house then did the safari on our way out, this worked out really well because the attractions were nice and quite so we went straight on everything, it started to get really busy in the afternoon and waiting times where getting quite long, this is when we went to the safari which was nice and quiet because everyone was now in the house and gardens.

                                Prices:
                                The best way to pay for this attraction is to get the Passport ticket which gives you free entry into everything; it saves you almost 50%.

                                Adult - £23.00
                                Child (3 - 14yrs) - £15.00
                                Senior Citizens (60yrs +) - £17

                                If you bought individual tickets for everything it would cost you £48. (The cheapest attraction is £3 each)

                                If you only wish to visit the safari then its £12 (£8 for child) and same for the house also £12 (£6 for child)

                                If you have a large group going (12 people +) then prices are dramatically reduced

                                Adult - £16.10
                                Child - £10.50
                                Senior Citizen - £11.90

                                Directions
                                Longleat is just off the A36 between Bath and Salisbury

                                From the South East: M3 (J8) - A303 - A36 towards Bath - Longleat is just off the A362 between Warminster and Frome

                                From the South West: A303 in a London direction - A350 towards Warminster - A36 towards Bath - Longleat is just off the A362 between Warminster and Frome

                                From the North: M4 (J18) - A46 towards Bath - A36 towards Salisbury - Longleat is just off the A362 between Warminster and Frome

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                                • More +
                                  02.09.2009 16:50
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                                  A great little toy that makes my little girl laugh her head of

                                  Myself and my partner recently went to a large Tesco store (one that sells loads of toys) and we couldn't resist having a look to see what we could purchase for our little girl (six months old), I was looking at all of the soft toys when my partner spotted a bright pink plastic pig.

                                  I wasn't that impressed with it at first but then my partner pushed the pigs nose and it started to oink and then vibrated (this lasted for about five seconds) he then pressed the nose again and it started to jump about, giggle and play a tune (this lasted for about 10 seconds), it instantly made me laugh, we showed it to our daughter who loved it so we bought it.

                                  The pig is a Fisher Price Bounce and Giggle Pig, its bright pink with a blue base (makes it look like its wearing shorts), has one green ear and one yellow ear and a little bit of purple hair in-between (two bits of ribbon), it has two large soft rubber feet at the bottom and a small tail at the back which enables the pig to sit down (it also has two other feet about halfway up but these don't do anything). It has two big eyes and a big smiley mouth and in the middle is a soft rubber nose which when pushed makes the pig giggle and vibrate etc.

                                  The nose is a soft rubber material and is very easy to push, my little girl can activate it quite easily (usually with her forehead though). This toy is suitable for 6 months +, there does not appear to be any bits that will come off easy, I have pulled everything on it with all my strength and nothing has broken yet, at first I was concerned about the hair but this seems to be securely in place.

                                  There are other animals available, you can get the pig (which we bought), there is a cow which is black and white with red shorts a blue ear, a red ear and red hair and there is an elephant which is bright blue with green shorts a red ear, a purple ear and yellow hair. Each toy makes the relevant noise for that animal. All three animals are the same size which is - approx 13cm wide and 13cm high.

                                  They need three AA batteries (mine came with these already supplied). They also have a on off switch so when they are not in use you can switch them off to save the batteries. We have had this toy for around a month now and its still going strong on the original batteries.

                                  This has to be my little girl's favorite toy at the moment, she is constantly activating it and when it's vibrating she holds on tight and laughs her head off.

                                  This toy cost me £9.97 in Tesco and I used my vouchers which I doubled up so I didn't really cost me anything. They are also available on Amazon for £9.99.

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