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spangle359

spangle359
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    • Tunnock's Teacakes / Snacks / 41 Readings / 36 Ratings
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      24.11.2007 21:25
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      Soft fluffy marshmallow cake/biscuit

      Anyone growing up in Scotland is aware of the name Tunnocks. They have been around since 1890 and still make the same delicious cakes and biscuits that they always have. I daresay the ingredients have changed over the years but somehow they taste exactly the same as they did when I was young.

      While at primary school we were taken on a school trip to the Tunnock's Factory to see how cakes and biscuits were made...yes those were the days when school trips finished with a treat or two. We were all given a huge bag of biscuits when we left and mine was practically filled with Tea Cakes, this began my lifelong love of these cakes/biscuits.

      That is the biggest problem with Tunnock's Tea Cakes, are they a cake or a biscuit...hmmm. Well, they look like a cake but they contain biscuit.

      Tea Cakes can only be described as delicious. They are domes of marshmallow with a biscuit base all covered in chocolate. However, any resemblance to other similar products stops there. Tunnock's teacakes are filled with the softest, fluffiest marshmallow that you could find, it is not gooey nor sticky, it literally melts in your mouth, ohhh and around your mouth and all over your hands and nose as you bite into it....but that is part of the fun of eating a teacake. The biscuit base is soft but crunchy and is never soggy (which is quite a feat considering that the mallow sits on top of it. The whole thing is then covered in Tunnock's own milk chocolate. Biting into a teacake is a dream. I cannot eat these with tea because they make my tea too sweet but I love them with coffee. There is also a dark chocolate version which I haven't tried yet so I cannot comment on the taste. They could be described as a bit sickly, I suppose, if you don't have a sweet tooth, but I adore them.

      Packaging is bright and cheerful, yellow with red writing and all the nutritional values are clearly displayed They come in boxes of 6 and 10 and you have to be a really strong person to eat only one.

      Nutritional values are:
      Calories - 106
      Sugars - 8.6g
      Fat 4.6g
      Saturates - 2.5g
      Salt - 0.12g

      Ok, maybe not the most healthy food in the world, but for a small treat, it won't kill you. Life has to have small treats and Tunnock's Teacakes is definitely one of them.

      The product has the vegetarian trademark although it does contain Egg and Cow's Milk.

      Price of a box of six teacakes varies from around £1 to £1.30 depending on where you buy them. A box of ten costs around £1.60 I think a box of ten would be quite dangerous though...the temptation would be just too much.

      Tunnocks make many other products such as caramel wafers, caramel logs and snowballs (another favourite of mine). More information can be found on www.tunnock.co.uk. It is good to see a family business that has not been swallowed up and taken over by the bigger manufacturers.

      I am delighted that I can find this product in Spain because it is one of those products that I would miss from Scotland. The only problem that I have is hiding them from the rest of the family because a box wouldn't last five minutes. Give them a try, you will be hard pushed to stop at one.

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        09.11.2007 11:33
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        Organising your home is the key to an easy Christmas

        With Christmas just around the corner it is time to start planning. It is no good leaving everything to the last minute and wondering why time is running away with you.

        Mid-November is a great time to have a clear out. Take the time to go through all your cupboards and closets and clear out anything that is too small, too out of date, never used or just junk. Get the kids to do the same (then sneak into their rooms when they are at school and throw out some more…). Discard old, unused or broken toys, buy a few large plastic tubs and organize the remaining toys and games, the kids rooms will look so much clearer. Take anything decent to your local charity shop and bin the remainder. Go through all your dvds and videos and get rid of any that you no longer need. Let your home breathe, it needs air circulating and that can’t happen if it is all cluttered up. Start clearing the decks and get ready for Christmas and a whole lot of new clutter entering the house.

        If you are intending decorating, do it in November, don’t leave it till December. If not, then tie an old t-shirt around a floor-brush and wipe down your walls, you will be amazed at how much cleaner they look and you will know that all the dust has been removed. Do this in every room and make sure you vacuum it all up. Take down the curtains and wash them or have them dry-cleaned. Clear out the linen cupboard and wash up anything that has been at the bottom of the pile since last year (or better still, get rid of that stuff because if you haven’t used it in a year, then you probably don’t need it).

        Go through your kitchen, do you really need all those mis-matched plates and cups or mugs? Does anyone use them? What about all the odd cutlery? Food cupboards can be cleared out and all out of date or unused packets or tins can be binned, cupboards washed out and all ready for the Christmas stash of food that we all seem to feel we need. Pull out all the equipment in the kitchen…cooker, fridge, washing machine, dryer and dishwasher and clean the appliances, behind them and under them…ok, your kitchen will probably take a day alone, but it will be worth it. Defrost your freezer and it will be ready to take all the Christmas leftovers.

        Throw out any old magazines and newspapers as those are huge dust collectors. Go through the whole year’s collection of family birthday cards and either discard or box them up into the attic. Gather all photographs together and organize them into boxes. If you haven’t organized them as you use them, gather together all your bills for the year and shred what you can and box the remainder. Look out all licences, permits, insurance documents etc and organize them into chronological order, then buy an expandable file and head it up with the months of the year, slot them into their correct month for renewing for next year…simple, but you will never miss a deadline if you check it every month…also you will know what your commitments are on a monthly basis.

        If you have ornaments, treasured items or general clutter that you wish to keep but not necessarily display, wash them, dry them and box them away in the attic….remember to label every box.

        Start making Christmas lists. I always have two lists, one for food and one for gifts. I start shopping for both in November, it spreads the cost, keeps the loads down and makes for a much better Christmas. I buy any tins, packets or frozen goods in November and store them once I have done all my cleaning, you will have loads of space in your cupboards after all. I start shopping for small gifts, this way I can take my time and get what I really want instead of panic buying. I also get the time to look around the shops before they get too busy and get ideas that I would never have had if I had left it to the last minute. I find that I don’t spend nearly so much by shopping early because I have the time to compare prices and work much more to a budget. I set aside a cupboard and load my gift purchases into that. I always buy a few little extra gifts just in case I forget someone. A great tip that I got a couple of years ago was to wrap and label gifts as you bought them…that saves so much time and is totally stress free….it also means that the kids can’t find out what they have for Christmas because they won’t rip a parcel.

        Buy and write your Christmas cards in November, even buying stamps every week..again it spreads the costs of sending them. Remember to post overseas cards in plenty of time. This means you can write them over a few days rather than killing yourself writing them all on one night. I hate writing Christmas cards but I don’t mind doing a few every night for a week.

        Buy your Christmas wrapping paper, ribbons and sealing tape while you have a choice….leave it to the last minute and you will be left with the stuff that no-one else wants. Buy crackers, napkins, tablecloths etc. for the same reason. It also means that all that additional expense is out of the way before December.

        I always count on November being my busiest month of the year as far as cleaning and organizing are concerned and then I just kinda sail through December. This way I am not caught out rushing around like a lunatic at the last minute and I just sort of drift into Christmas Day. I always have around 20 people for Christmas lunch (I don’t like eating out on Christmas Day, I much prefer to cook at home and have all the family come to us) and it all goes quite painlessly and easily.

        Surviving Christmas is all about being organized and having everything done well in advance. We run our own business and work right up until Christmas Eve so I have to be organized otherwise Christmas just wouldn’t happen. If I can do this anyone can, it really is the only time of year that I can honestly say that I am on top of things. Start organizing now and you will notice a huge difference in December.

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        • Other locations... / Discussion / 29 Readings / 26 Ratings
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          04.11.2007 14:20
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          A great experience of true Texan living and one that you will never forget

          As a family we tend to get ourselves into some very strange situations and one of our trips to America was no exception. My sister and family lived in Florida and we went for a visit. After a couple of weeks my sister suggested that we leave the boys with her and the two of us take off in their car for a long weekend in Dallas, Texas. After two seconds of thinking about it, we agreed and run off before she could change her mind.

          All was fine, no problems driving in USA, we crossed the border into Texas and suddenly there was a horrible grating noise from the car…we were actually 4 miles inside the Texas border and luckily just at a stopping off point. We called my sister who advised us to ring AAA (equivalent to AA) and get back on the road for our weekend away.

          It was around 10.30 in the evening by the time the AAA truck pulled up, complete with the really hunky guy in typical checked shirt, cowboy boots and wrangler jeans (the temperature was 88degrees and he was dressed for winter). I do remember taking photos while he was trying to fix the car…hunks like this don’t come along too often. The car was unfixable so we had to be taken to the local town of Gainsville…at this point I was just thrilled that I got to sit next to hunky guy in the breakdown truckJ. We arrived at the garage, which incidentally was spotlessly clean, at midnight. The owner came out from his house and called in a mechanic to assess the damage. It was not good…I don’t know exactly what was wrong with the car but it was going to take 3 days and cost 2000dollars to fix. However, the owner of the garage, seeing our faces, gave us his chevvy (wow, you should’ve seen this beast) and told us we could drive around in it until our car was fixed…even go onto Dallas if we wanted.

          We decided to stay in Gainsville just in case the car could be fixed sooner but were very grateful for use of his car. We asked about accommodation and were given three options, cheap, mid and expensive. Both the mid-range and expensive were full for that evening so we had to go cheap. Well, that was an experience, It was a motel….do believe everything you read about motels in remote parts of America….they really do rent rooms by the hour..this was evident by the amount of doors slamming all night long. I went into the room, looked at the bedding and we immediately went in search of a 24hour Walmart…so there we were at 3am wandering around Walmart buying pillows, sheets and a duvet. I got a surprise to find that our “best” room had a waterbed, so after cleaning the mattress we made the bed up and managed to sleep between door slams of the attached rooms. We hurried out of there in the morning and booked into the mid-range hotel which was excellent. Very clean and welcoming.

          We then set about exploring the town…remember this was only 4 miles into Texas, we were amazed, the men really did dress like cowboys and the women were actually wearing the gingham checked dresses…and people did really ride around on horses. We stopped for breakfast in a breakfast house and the sheriff arrived on horseback, parked his horse and entered. All the townfolk touched their forelock and passed on their greetings to the big guy with the badge, he was so respected. There was a small incident where two guys were fighting in the street so the sheriff drew his gun and set off to break it up…one shot in the air was all that was required and life returned to normal………….at this point we were sitting with our chins on the floor and really thought that we’d been caught up in some movie set, but no, this was real life. Breakfast (grits, sausage and eggs) was served by ladies in long gingham dresses, white aprons and little frilly hats. We spotted the local “ladies of the night” apparently they were also ladies of the day…dressed as you would imagine in the black basques, stockings and high heels, entering what was obviously a house of ill repute. Men arrived on horses, went about their business and left, there was even tumbleweed running along the street.

          We visited the local town square, there was an antiques market in town that day and all manner of things could be bought……at a price. However we noticed that there was lots of bartering going on and swapping this thing for that…you got the impression that the same goods just kept going around the town being swapped for the same goods. The buildings were all so old, constructed of wooden beams with wooden floors. The town had two saloons with ranch type doors and everyone really did stop talking when you entered. Then they welcomed you in and found out who you were and why you were in their town…after that it was easy.

          The people were genuinely very friendly and really focused in on our Scottish accents, they made us feel so welcome…many of them hadn’t a clue where Scotland was but they loved the accent. We wandered around the town for two days, amazed at all the sights, people living in broken down houses, real Indians calling into the town for supplies, fully dressed in Indian gear on horseback, lassoing competions, shooting competitions, bare-back riding competitions, water troughs for the horses and a whole host of other things that you see in any western film. This was definitely a male dominated world but the women didn’t seem to mind at all, many of them probably didn’t know any differently. We had a fantastic few days but it was so surreal and we always felt that we were in some sort of time-warp.

          We arrived back at the garage to collect the car and were surprised that it had all been fixed and the car was cleaned and filled with petrol. The owner presented us with a computerized bill and even showed us three other similar bills for the same job on other cars the same as ours….just to show us that he was charging the same amount to us as he did to the locals…amazing really! They gave us directions back onto the highway and told us to call into the outlet mall on the edge of town if we wanted to do some shopping. We bid our farewells and thanked him for the use of his car and for the experience of the town. It was now much too late to head for Dallas but we felt we had a much better experience in Gainsville.

          We started on the route home and found the outlet mall about 2 miles up the road. It was massive with every modern store you could imagine. It was so different to the town that we had just visited, all mod conveniences and everything up to date and sparkling new. This was a revelation, I did a whole load of shopping and we headed home. When we recounted our adventure to my sister and her friends and told them about Gainsville, they immediately mentioned the outlet mall. Apparently it is very well known but they knew nothing of the town that we had spend 3 days visiting. It was actually quite sad to think that the town is so steeped in history and tradition and really is living in the past when all people really know about is the shiny new mall just up the road. We were very glad to have found the real town and the real people and d’you know it probably suits the locals that too many people don’t find their way into the town, I think it would spoil things for them. However, if you are ever headed that way and want a piece of true Texan living then you must visit Gainsville, it is a truly worthwhile experience.

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            03.11.2007 16:57
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            A great service if you wish to sell your car

            Most of us like to have a clean looking car and there are many ways in which we achieve this. From paying the kids a few pounds to clean it with a bucket and sponge to a whole car valeting/detailing service carried out by a professional company.

            For many of us, the quick run through the autocar wash is sufficient, a few pounds and the car looks clean, ok, on closer inspection it isn’t really clean, but at least the surface dirt has been removed, or has it? Actually, no, all that has happened is that the surface dirt has been spread around your car so that it covers a larger area and looks less dirty. In addition, all that dirt has been scraped over your car by the brushes that are supposed to be cleaning it. Each time you take your car through the carwash the scrapes get deeper and more ingrained with dirt. Similarly if you wash you own car, you just spread the dirt and scrape the car. If you happen to catch the sun shining on your car or park your car under a streetlight you will clearly see these scratches or swirl marks on the paintwork.

            If you value your car, have to use it for a special occasion or are thinking of selling it then it is well worth looking at a car valeting/detailing service. This is something that I would never have considered until a family member started up their own valeting/detailing service and I was treated to the full works. It actually came at the time that we were selling a car and the whole service added £900 to the value of the car…unbelievable really. This is a service well worth the price you pay. It costs around £250 for a full service, although can be considerably more for a sports or high value car.

            So what is actually involved?:

            The whole process takes 8-12 hours depending on the state of your car. The car goes through a 18 stage washing process to ensure that every particle of dirt, grime, grease and any other substances is removed. This is all done with anti-grit buckets, low pressure washing and kid gloves. A full clay treatment is applied (this is the point at which you really don’t want to see your car – it looks like it has died). The swirl marks (as mentioned above) are removed and wax is applied. This is then polished to a level you cannot imagine. Wheels are cleaned, waxed and polished and door handles, lights and all other extremities are cleaned and polished. Windows are cleaned to perfection. The interior of the car is scrubbed, cleaned and polished and a good company will also de-fogg the interior – this is an anti-bacterial treatment that leaves your car squeaky clean of all kinds of nasty bacteria that you wouldn’t believe lives in your car. The upholstery will look as new whether it be leather, vinyl or fabric and dashboards, switches, lights steering wheel etc will be cleaned and polished to an incredibly high standard.

            The end result is that your car looks better than it has ever done, much better than any showroom or manufacturer could ever achieve because it is all treated by hand. Yes it takes a full day but it is well worth it. If you have a car that you wish to sell then I would definitely recommend a good valenting/detailing service, although I would also recommend that you look on the internet or shop around before you buy…you cannot beat personal recommendation on this. You will add a lot of value to your car and the treatment should last a good three months. Any reputable company will also give you advice on aftercare and which products to use.

            Yes this is a luxury treatment but one that I would consider necessary if I was selling my car or if I owned a car that needed to keep its value. It also makes you very much aware of the damage that autowashes can do to your car and makes you think about how you handwash your car in future…no more grubby sponges and buckets.

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              01.11.2007 21:18
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              Great machine that works every time

              During the course of our business (graphic design) we have a great need for laminating documents. We have gone through several laminators and would recommend the GBC Laminator Heat Seal H310.

              First of all, what is a laminator and what does it do:

              A Laminator is a machine that uses laminating pouches to encase documents in a plastic covering, protecting them and making them more rigid. These documents then have a much longer life and will not tear, become dog-eared or fade.

              The GBC Laminator Heat Seal H310 is ideal for our uses because it takes up to A3 size paper. It is also a heat-seal laminator which means that it melts the two pieces of laminate together using a heat process, making for a tight seal…one piece of warning here though is that once a document is sealed, it cannot be reopened…you get one chance at it. This laminator also creates photo quality documents, meaning that you get a fine glossy finish.

              It is really important that you are able to vary the temperature of a laminator as different types and thicknesses of paper require different temperatures to bond the laminate. I have watched as many a photograph has melted under temperatures that were much too high. The GBC Laminator Heat Seal H310 is fully controllable and allows you to vary from cool to extremely hot.

              Something to look out for when choosing a laminator is the thickness of pouch that it can accept as laminating pouches vary in thickness…80micron is thin laminate (suitable for documents such as certificates etc.) up to 250micron (125micron each side) suitable for menus, business cards, file dividers etc. The GBC Laminator Heat Seal H310 takes up to 250micron.

              Anyone who has used a laminator is well aware that sometimes things can get stuck and you can end up in quite a stew trying to get a document out of a laminator (it always seems to happen to one-off documents that have not replacement), however this laminator has a quick release button, allowing you to remove a document before it is mangled and melted beyond recognition.

              There are a few other things that are worth mentioning about this laminator.
              1. It has a red glow to let you know that it is ready to use
              2. It comes with a 2 year warranty
              3. It only weighs about the same as two bags of sugar so can be easily transported.

              Another important thing to remember about a laminator is that in order to use it, you need a space that is more than double the size of the paper that you wish to laminate, you need space to feed in the paper and space to receive it at the other end.

              Laminating is great fun, kids love to see their treasured artwork encased in plastic, it is ideal for protecting certificates, photographs, any personal documents, school projects or any kind of document that requires protection against tearing or fading.

              I would recommend the GBC Laminator Heat Seal H310 as an efficient machine either for home or office use. Price ranges from 100.00 pounds to 140.00 depending on where you buy it. It comes with a small sample pack of laminating pouches but that will never be enough because once you start using a laminator you become a bit obsessed and everything suddenly has to be laminated….you have been warned.

              Good machine that does what it says!

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                15.10.2007 12:07
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                Stirling is one of the most historic cities in the UK, a must for anyone visiting Scotland

                I lived, worked and socialized in Stirling for many years and have a particular fondness for the city.

                Stirling is located in Central Scotland, almost halfway between its better knows cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Road and rail links are excellent for travelling in any direction. Airports at Glasgow and Edinburgh are each within an hour’s journey.

                The City (status gained in 2002) of Stirling is quite unique in that it manages to remain an historic town with many ancient buildings, steeped in history as well as a new, vibrant town centre. Both cultures live in perfect harmony with neither detracting from the other.

                Stirling is known as Braveheart country and, thanks to Mel Gibson, tourism in the town has greatly increased. You can find many references to William Wallace throughout the city and if you are feeling really energetic you can take a trip to the outskirts of the town and visit the monument to him. It is quite fascinating and exhausting as you climb to the top of the tower but the views are breath-taking.

                Stirling is surrounded by the Ochil Hills, where there are many excellent walking routes around the surrounding villages whose residents support the town.

                Stirling Castle is one of the best examples of Scottish castles, it sits high above the town and is definitely worth a visit. The castle has recently undergone extensive restoration and has been restored to its former glory. The kitchens are quite amazing and you are really transported back in time as you stand in the middle of the mayhem of a typical castle kitchen. The climb to the castle is very steep, although there are regular buses from the town. Once again, the views are stunning. You can easily spend a whole day wandering around the castle and the grounds, there are also picnic areas within the grounds as well as tea-rooms and a snack bar. The castle really deserves its own review but for more information, opening times, entrance fees etc. go to: http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/stirling/stirlingcastle/

                The town is absolutely steeped in history and as you wander along the cobbled streets of the old town you will come across some incredible buildings dating back to the 14th century and beyond. You should take time to visit The Old Town Jail and the Tolbooth, both of which have lively presentations by actors employed to recreate the days when these buildings were in use. Robert Spittal’s House, Lord Darnley’s House, The Holy Rude Church, Albert Halls and the Municiple buildings are all worth a visit, although you would certainly need more than a day to cover all of those. The sites of the battle of Stirling Bridge is a short walk away and the Bannockburn centre is an ideal visit for all the information and details of that historic battle…again that is probably a visit in itself.

                The town is pedestrianised in the centre so wandering around is easy. It is built on a hill though so wheelchair access can be difficult but mobility is aided by wheelchair hire companies in the town centre.

                The town centre itself remains relatively unchanged with old buildings housing new businesses. You have to look above street level to appreciate the buildings though as shops and offices at eye level mirror any large town or city with bright signage and fluorescent lighting. All the major retailers are present in the town as are many individual shops that are particular to Stirling. Small businesses offering specific products do very well here. There are several souvenir shops and the goods on offer are of a very high standard, usually because they are hand-made locally.

                In the past 15 years, Stirling has added another shopping mall, again it has been added to the town without intruding on the beauty of the town. There is really nothing that you can’t buy in Stirling.

                There are hundreds of bars and restaurants throughout the town. There are several restaurants offering traditional Scottish food as well as Italian, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, in fact anything you could mention, you can find to eat in Stirling. There is everything from a basic sandwich to a five star restaurant. For something really special though, I would go the the Old School Restaurant. This is part of the old Stirling High School, which is still in operation as an Hotel. The restaurant is renowned for its food and the setting is very traditional. For a quick and cheerful Mexican meal I would head for Smiling Jacks, has a bit of a café feel to it but the food is fabulous. There are Chinese and Indian buffets for anyone wishing a quick and cheap meal and loads of small restaurants catering for the wide diversity of visitors to the town.

                Bars are equally diverse, there is a large student population in Stirling so there are lots of young people in the town. This gives it a vibrancy of its own. Bars, clubs and restaurants cater well for this age group. However there are also many quieter bars where you can sit in front of a log fire in the winter and where you might find someone picking up a guitar or some other instrument and an impromptu musical evening will be in full flow before you know it. Stirling is very much like that, a very spontaneous town. Groups of people of all ages and races mix very well.

                Stirling University has one of the most amazing campuses in Scotland and anyone privileged enough to study there fully appreciates the beauty of the site. It has its own lake and full sports arena. It is a world recognized university and produces excellent results.

                Hotels and Guest houses tend to be of a fairly high standard. There are many to choose from and prices vary accordingly. There is everything from nearby castles to a humble B and B. It would take many pages of a review to highlight these so I would suggest looking at http://www.stirling.co.uk/accommodation/hotels.htm
                For further information on hotels and restaurants. At the top of the range, I would recommend Airth Castle or Dunblane Hydro, both are an experience in themselves but you might not want to leave and appreciate the town. These are both incredibly expensive places to stay but if you have a very special occasion, then well worth it. At mid-range I would suggest The Terraces or Park Lodge Hotel, very well appointed hotels offering excellent facilities and in the centre of the town. Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels in Stirling are subject to very strict local controls. It would be highly unlikely that you would find anywhere that is not of a good standard. The local authority is very diligent in its pursuit of offering only quality accommodation in Stirling.

                I could go on and on for ever on the subject of Stirling, but if you have a spare day or two, forget the hustle and bustle of Glasgow and Edinburgh and travel to Stirling. If you are visiting Scotland then this is a city that you must visit. It really does have something for everyone

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                • Halloween 2007 / Discussion / 37 Readings / 35 Ratings
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                  14.10.2007 12:38
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                  good, low cost fun

                  I used to go completely over the top with Halloween when the children were younger. It was the only time of the year (apart from school plays) that I ever threaded a needle to make a costume. My costumes were always a little bit thrown together but the kids loved them.

                  Another favourite thing of mine was to decorate the house. I am not really one to throw away money so I always tried to create a fun and friendly atmosphere without breaking the bank. Children arriving at the door to “guise” as it is known in Scotland or “trick or treat” as it is known everywhere else, always smiled as we opened the door in full costume. I would add that most of the guisers were under the age of 12.

                  I did all the preparation beforehand so that I could relax and enjoy the evening with the kids.

                  I decorated the house as follows:
                  Windows:
                  1. Buy two or three packs of orange and black crepe paper and cut out ghost/pumpkin/witch shapes and attach to windows

                  2. Buy white Christmas window spray and spray on a few ghosts

                  3. Carve out a couple of pumpkins and set with tealites on the doorstep

                  4. Busy some orange and black balloons and tie them onto trees and bushes at the entrance to your house

                  All of the above items can be purchased in the 99p shops in most towns and the total cost of the above would be around £10-12, not bad for party decorations.

                  Then inside the house, as is tradition in Scotland, we always had a tub set up and dooking for apples. We also had a string with scones dipped in treacle hanging suspended across the room. Everyone was allocated their scones and had to try to bite bits off while we raised and lowered the string…great fun and only advisable if you have a wipeable floor. I would make a huge tub of jelly and fill it with rubber spiders and other insects, the kids would don a blindfold and plunge their hands into the tub, triumphant when they pulled out a toy.

                  Then, the treat bags. I made trays of fudge, mars bar cake, toffee apples, tablet (a real Scottish delicacy) and small macaroons. I dipped marshmallows in chocolate and filled up about 50 small bags with a selection of the above. These always went down really well. Everyone would “perform” their little act, tell a joke, sing a song, recite a poem or whatever their forte and receive a treat bag in return. To me that is what Halloween is all about, watching childrens’ faces as they laugh and play games. We used to jump out on them and scare them but in a fun way.


                  Now that all sounds like a lot of work but it takes a few hours and makes a lot of children very happy. The whole evening would cost around £35-40 (including decorations and treat bags). It took around 4 hours to make the traybakes and decorate the house.

                  Now the boys are teenagers and it is soooo uncool to do anything at Halloween, ohhh how sad is that?

                  Making a bit of effort is well worth it, even if the neighbours think you have gone mad.

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                    12.10.2007 12:23
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                    San Juan festival in Spain is the biggest festival of the year, great family fun.

                    Everyone loves a good party and no race can party like the Spanish. If you happen to be in Spain on the 23rd-24th June you should not expect to sleep because the whole country will be celebrating the festival of San Juan.

                    The history of the celebration seems to date back to Pagan times and many of the rituals and customs are therefore of Pagan origin. The San Juan rituals are also inherent in the people of Spain and the celebrations go on long into the night. If you have no knowledge of this festival then you will be pleasantly surprised if you arrive during the celebrations.

                    The 23rd June is the transition between the dark nights of winter and the long nights of summer and the festival celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. It embraces the elements of fire, water and sun and all the celebrations revolve around those elements.

                    I can only comment on the events in Andalucia (southern Spain) but I understand that very similar events take place all over Spain.

                    The first thing you will notice on the morning of 23rd June is the frenzy of activity, starting around 6am. Your local town or village has to be decorated, bunting, flags, balloons, baubles etc. will be put up anywhere that they can be attached. The pyrotechnic guys will be having a field day, many beaches will be cordoned off as they prepare for the biggest firework display of the year. Huge stages are set up for the musical events that take place later in the evening. All this activity first thing is the morning is very exhausting and you will find that everything is organized by 2pm. There then follows the traditional siesta until around 5pm – no-one sleeps on this day though, every bar and restaurant is filled to capacity as the celebrations begin.

                    Then around 6pm everyone makes their way to the beach, you would not believe the amount of stuff that is carried onto the beach. Massive groups of people assemble, whole extended families arrive armed with barbeques and enough food and drink to feed them all for a week. Tents are set up and bonfires are lit all the way along the beach (this is the one night of the year that you can do what you like on the beach). It is the busiest you will ever see a beach in Southern Spain, everyone from the newborn baby to the great-great grandmother is there.

                    Everyone basically parties on until just before Midnight when you will notice that everyone makes their way down to the sea. Tradition is that you have to enter the sea backwards at midnight, empty out a bottle of old water, fill up a bottle of fresh water, come out of the sea facing forward and wash your face in the fresh water…this supposedly guarantees eternal youth (hmmmmm). There they follows the spectacle of the youths jumping over the bonfires to ensure fertility. Children also burn their old schoolbooks from the year just finished. Individual families have their own traditions which are quite fascinating to see.

                    After all this activity everyone settles down to watch the incredible fireworks displays all along the beaches. Then it is basically “party till the sun comes up”. This is a fantastic night and one you will certainly remember for many years. The amazing thing is that by 10am the following day, you would never know that there had been any bonfires on the beach, everyone clears away their own mess, that is part of the tradition. All the fires are extinguished and ashes cleared from the beach.

                    If you are in Spain on 23rd June you must take in this celebration…actually it would be very hard to avoid. Join in the fun and have a great time.

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                      11.09.2007 18:40
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                      great little, must have gadget that will save you hours.

                      Every week I have several parcels to wrap, we have a design company and all our clients finished work is wrapped for delivery. I always like it to look professionally packaged and my attempts with rolls of sellotape, double sided tape and any other type of tape that I can find, usually end in a disaster with tape stuck to me, to the parcel, the carpet, the cat etc. Tape is cut or ripped in all different, uneven sizes. Then I found these little gems, Scotch Tape Strips, they even come with their own dispenser, you’ve guessed it, the Scotch Tape Strip Dispenser…don’t buy the strips without the dispenser because that just doesn’t work!!

                      The dispenser is an plastic oblong, about the size of a cigarette lighter, attached to an elasticated strip that fits on your wrist or across the back of your hand. It contains a pack of strips of scotch tape each measuring 19mm x 50mm, perfect size for small parcels.

                      There is no cutting involved, the tape is already layered into the dispenser and comes off one strip at a time, you just pull and it releases. All the strips are the same size and have a nice clear, clean look, great on white or metallic paper as there are no grubby edges or strangely cut shapes.

                      This little object is a godsend when wrapping parcels, you don’t need to pre-cut lengths of tape or have it all stuck to the table ready to pull off when you need it. It is so easy to use. Although the strips are quite small, several used together easily keep a large parcel from falling apart. It is an absolute necessity at Christmas and Birthdays when you have lots of gifts to wrap, it means you can sit at a table and wrap (I used to be all over the floor, losing the scissors, tape etc).

                      You can also buy refill strips, these come in packs of three, each one being 75 strips. These are easily loaded into the dispenser and ready to use.

                      I paid €2.95 for the dispenser and one extra pack of strips and €2.49 for the replacement pack. It is a good bit more expensive than sellotape but the time that it saves is worth the extra. You can buy the dispenser and the refill at most good stationery shops and many other outlets such as card shops. I now have very professional looking packages and don’t end up being wrapped in sticky tape. Ok, you do miss the fun of seeing the cat running around trying to get the tape off its paw but it can always play with the packaging instead.

                      I would definitely recommend the Scotch Tape Strip Dispenser, it has saved me many many frustrating hours of wrapping.

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                      • Elicina Cream / Skin Care / 40 Readings / 36 Ratings
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                        04.09.2007 17:37
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                        Fantastic cream that I would recommend, very quick results, easy to use and inexpensive

                        Having a good friend and client who owns a beauty salon here in Spain allows me the privilege of trying and testing the latest hair and beauty products. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t but I am always willing to try.

                        I was recently asked to try out a new product, Elicina Cream. I read the leaflet, which translated from Spanish into English read as “Cream of Slobber of Snail”. I have to admit that I wasn’t very keen to try this one and didn’t even want to open the jar, scared of what I would find…..after all, what is snail slobber? I later found that that the beauty industry calls it cream of snail secretions…in otherwords, snail saliva. Ok, knowing that didn’t make me feel anymore keen to use it but it did clear up the “slobber” confusion.

                        As with all new beauty products, I do research them quite heavily before using them and my findings on this were quite surprising. This ingredient (slobber) was discovered in 1980 by a Chilean snail farming family who farmed snails for the French food market. They had, and still do, operate a very snail friendly environment with the main emphasis on breeding snails in the finest of conditions..(don’t suppose anyone thought of telling them that they were going to be eaten at the end of their useful lives). Anyway they found that anyone working with the snails developed very soft skin and any cuts and abrasions were quickly healed. Wrinkles on their hands were smoothed and skin infections cleared without leaving scars.

                        The use of snails for medical purposes goes back to the ancient Greek Period when snails were used to heal such conditions as gastric ulcers and whooping cough. In fact, the snail was used as the symbol for pharmacies.

                        So what does this Elicina cream do:

                        1. The beauty trade has pounced on this product and is marketing it as the latest “wrinkle reduction” cream. It actually does work, smoothing out fine wrinkles and drastically reducing the appearance of deep wrinkles. You can actually see a great difference within one week of using it.
                        2. Teenage acne, pimples and blackheads are easily cleared with Elicina cream. Any old acne scars are also smoothed out and become less visible. New acne marks will disappear.
                        3. Stretch marks are virtually eliminated as the cream regenerates the skin.
                        4. Age spots and freckles are faded, many becoming invisible
                        5. Great skin exfoliator, leaves skin feeling fresh, tight and clean.

                        The cream is 80% natural snail secretions and 20% addititives. It contains natural collagens (helps to repair skin), allantoin( essential for skin renewal), Glycolic acid (natural glycolic acid helps to exfoliate the skin), vitamins and minerals, essential for skin regeneration.

                        Does it Work?

                        We run some salon tests and I was amazed at the results. Our teenage tester, who suffered from acne, was delighted with her new skin which, within a month of using, had completely changed her face. All of her acne spots had disappeared and her older scars were barely noticeable. She will continue to use the cream until those are gone. I personally have a few laughter lines that I would rather do without and used it to see if it would reduce them. It certainly did, I could see a difference very quickly and also noticed that some freckles that I had since childhood had faded away. I had a couple of mosquito bites that disappeared overnight after using the cream too. I can’t comment on the effect on stretch marks because fortunately, I don’t have any but I am sure we will find someone to test those for us.

                        How do you use it?

                        It is very simple to use, you first of all clean the skin thoroughly, pat dry and apply the cream. You need very little of this cream as it goes a very long way, a slob the size of a fingernail will cover your whole face and neck. Use only once a day at bedtime. You should not use this cream and go out into direct sunlight…hence the reason why you use it at bedtime. You will feel a slight tightening as the ingredients work their magic and you will see a difference very quickly.

                        How much does it cost?

                        The price varies depending upon where you buy it. It can be bought over the internet at a very reasonable price. I pay around 50Euros in Spain (about 35pounds) for a 100gm tub. That should last around 6 months, even with my teenage sons and husband using it. The cream itself has a shelf life of 3 years if kept in a dark place…so it is a good investment even if you only use it occasionally

                        I cannot praise Elicina cream enough, it is a wonderful find and one that I am delighted to share. It is such a good, natural product and is produced without harming any snails. Yes, they are still farmed, but in excellent conditions and their secretions are collected and passed on for manufacturing. I would expect that they are still carted off to the French Food Market at the end of the day, but at least they are not harmed in the making of beauty products.

                        I still don’t like the sound of Cream of Snail Slobber but it has a very low scent, is not at all messy, very reasonable and has a wealth of fantastic attributes……does it really matter what it is called? I can’t imagine what Brian the Snail would make of all this though!!!

                        Ohh and before anyone thinks of starting up their own snail garden in their backyard, these are special Chilean snails, Helix aspersa, that are bred especially for their taste

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                          01.09.2007 16:23
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                          Wonderfully scented perfume that lasts the whole day

                          I love Yves Saint Laurent perfumes but with two particular favourites. My evening favourite is Opium but my daytime favourite perfume has to be Rive Gauche.

                          Rive Gauche is a very distinct frangrance, deliciously French and very sophisticated. Once you have tried or smelt this scent you will never forget it. It is difficult to describe as it has nothing to compare or liken it to. In addition, it does smell slightly different on everyone. it is certainly not a sweet scent and I wouldn't say particularly flowery, it is quite citrusy, quite musky and definitely exotic smelling. People associate other people with their scent and everyone will remember that you wear this one. However, some people do overuse this perfume and it can be very overpowering....a simple case of "less is more"

                          This is a scent that transcends all age groups, I always used the perfume when I was in my 20's but now I find the perfume a bit too heavy and tend to use the Eau de Toilette. The scent is exactly the same just less intense. This is one of the few scents that truly lasts all day.

                          The packaging itself is very simple, tubular metallic bottle with blue and black horizontal stripes, the bottle is packaged in a box with an identical design. Price varies depending upon where you buy but it is not a cheap perfume. I would expect to pay 28-35pounds for the Eau de Toilette (120ml) and around 45-50pounds for the perfume(15ml). However, since you have to use very little (one squirt of the atomiser, or a couple of dabs of perfume is usually enough) it lasts forever and doesn't "off" or sour as many perfumes can do. Keep the bottle in a dark place, as you should with all perfumes, and it will last a long time.

                          A couple of words of warning though, my younger son has a coughing fit and difficulty breathing if he comes into contact with the Eau de Toilette just after it has been sprayed......best excuse I have had for keeping him out of the bedroom while I am getting ready to go out...hahah!
                          Secondly, I cannot wear the perfume it if I am going into direct sunshine, I have a dreadful reaction to it, coming out in very painful blisters that need medical attention........great when you live in Spain, huh!!!! However, the Eau de Toilette seems to be ok.

                          Incidentally, the name means Left Bank, meaning the Left Bank district of Paris, although i am certain that the Left Bank of Paris never smelt this good!!!!

                          One final tip on using any perfume, Eau de Toilette or Cologne......dab or spray a little at the nape of your neck, just below your hairline and a little on the inside of the hem of a skirt or top (at the back) and your scent will float with you rather than stick to you.

                          I would recommend that you give this Eau de Toilette a try but don't overdo it and be careful in the sun. I would also be wary if you suffer from asthma or any other respitory illness as the atomiser is quite strong.

                          Smell and feel deliciously exotic!!!

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                          • More +
                            04.01.2007 15:38
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                            no need to use expensive gym equipment to exercise

                            After the excesses of Christmas and New Year many of us resolve to lose weight and get fit. This is all very well and good and we go back to our work-lives with the intention of joining a gym or exercise class or rush out and buy the latest piece of exercise equipment…then life takes over. We receive the January bills and all of a sudden that additional expense of a gym membership is just not affordable. Most of us gain weight over the festive season and I always try to visualise my weight gain in bags of sugar..yes I know it sounds really stupid, but if you have put on 10pounds or 5 kilos in weight, go into the supermarket, put 5 bags of sugar in a basket and carry it for 5 mins. That is how much extra weight you are asking your body to lug around. .

                            However, there is a very simple solution. You can do it by yourself or invite a friend, you can do it whenever you like and not be tied to gym opening times, you will not need to buy any overpriced fitness dvd..in short, you can create your own gym at home, using "equipment" that will be already in your home and it won’t cost you a penny. I have loads of gym training experience and would advise that you start of slowly and build up, do not go for overkill, you will end up harming yourself. Always support your lower back if you are doing any kind of sit up and never ever use jerk or forced movements, your body will loosen up fairly quickly and will bend and stretch when it is ready. Always work in sets, usually of 10, exercises. This ensures that you exercise both sides of your body equally and believe me, it is much easier to see the end of a set of 10 than a set of 50 or 100. Build up the number of sets over time. Always start with a warm-up.

                            Warm Up Exercises

                            Wear loose fitting clothes and play your favourite cd. Start from the top of your body and work your way down.

                            Start by slowly moving your head from side to side, trying but not forcing to look over each shoulder in turn. Do this is sets of ten. I would recommend starting off with one or two sets and building up to five sets. Do not try to recreate the Exorcist, your head will not turn 360degrees.

                            Then rotate your shoulders, both at the same time, again in sets of ten, building up to five sets.

                            Shake out your arms, pretend you have something sticky on your fingers that you are trying to shake off, let your fingers loose, then lift your arms up until they are level with your shoulders and bending from the elbow, bring in each arm in turn until it reaches your chest, again in sets of ten.

                            Then it is the turn of your hips. Put your hands quite firmly on your hips and slowly rotate in as full a circle as you can manage, keep the circle small though. Do this slowly so that you do not jerk your back. Again in sets of ten. This will loosen up your hips without doing any damage.

                            Shake out your legs, pretending that you have a shoe stuck on each foot in turn, keeping your foot loose and dangly. Then using one leg at a time, bring up each knee in turn, again in sets of ten for each knee.

                            Ok, that was the warm-up, muscles should be nice and flexible by now and able to work a little bit harder. Time to use all that "equipment" that is already in the house.

                            Arms always seem to need a lot of toning, especially if you want to avoid “bingo wings”. Take two tins of beans from the cupboard, one in each hand and keeping your arms straight and by your side. Lift each arm to shoulder level and drop, again in sets of ten. Then holding arms at shoulder level, out to the side, bring arms in to meet in the middle of your chest, keeping tins of beans firmly in your grip. You will develop more exercises the more you do this.

                            A couple of small childrens’ rubber balls or tennis balls gripped and released in your hand, again in sets of 10, will tighten up lower arms

                            Legs and thighs usually need attention and any work done on thighs usually leads to a tighter bum as well. Just go to the bottom step of a staircase and step up and down…this will become very painful very quickly, but try to get through the pain and build this one up, it is really an excellent exercise. As you progress, you can go up and down two or three stairs, but one is enough to start. This will help your legs and increase your cardi-vascular rate. Start slowly and build up speed.

                            Another good leg exercise..find a pair of loose socks (slipper socks are ideal) and slip a one pound pack of eg raisins inside each sock. Then lie down on your back with legs out in front of you and slowly lift and lower each leg in turn…you will be amazed at how much harder this is with a bag of raisins attached…be careful to support your lower back with a small cushion when doing this exercise.

                            Skipping Rope - this can be made out of any rope and all you need is a space where you can skip without knocking over ornaments, furniture etc. Again start slowly & build up.

                            Rope Balls - Another kid’s item that is an excellent piece of exercise equipment. If you don’t have one then make one. Take a tennis ball, make a hole through the centre and feed a piece of soft rope through it. Tie it at one end, leave a tail about 2 foot long and make a loop to go round your foot at the other end, make sure it is loose around your ankle. Then fit it on your ankle, swing the ball around and keep swinging and jumping over the ball as it rotates around your leg. This is a great exercise.

                            Hoola Hoop - Remember those, you may have a kid’s one lying around unused, if not, they only cost a couple of pounds to buy and can be found quite easily.

                            Other Exercises

                            Walk across the floor on your knees, stretching out, this will lengthen thigh muscles. Walk across the floor on your bum, keeping knees bent and held up, this will get rid of a flabby bottom. Stand with your legs apart and slowly flop forward, open your legs until you can touch the floor, then over time bring legs closer and closer together until your body is stretched enough that you can touch your toes without forcing (this will take a few sessions so don’t push it).

                            Sit Ups - I am not a great fan of sit ups because people can do serious damage to their back, however, there is a way in which these can be done safely to start with while you build up your back and stomach muscles. Lie on the floor on your back with your feet (from knees to ankles) supported on an armchair or sofa, support your lower back with a small cushion and slowly raise your head towards your knees. Do this in sets of 5 and remember to breathe, you don’t need to hold your breath when doing sit-ups. When you have strengthened all the major muscle groups you can go onto doing proper sit-ups.


                            So there you have it, a little work-out program that can be done with the minimum of fuss, little and often is usually the key. All of the above will take about 20-30minutes and the time will fly if you do it all to music. I guarantee that by the end of January you will feel much fitter and provided that you don’t overindulge in food and drink, you will definitely have lost excess weight. Continue this until the summer and that swimsuit will fit…and all that without the cost of a gym membership.

                            If you have any sort of heart condition, are pregnant or have any other serious health concerns, I would check with your doctor before embarking on any sort of exercise program.

                            As well as the above, you could make sure you walk every day, again try this while listening to music, make the tracks vary from slow to fast and back to slower and walk in time to the music. If you own a bike, then get on it and start cycling ohh and isn’t this the time of year when we should be starting to turn over the garden..or is that just asking too much…lol.

                            Happy exercising.

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                            • Travel Stories / Discussion / 52 Readings / 50 Ratings
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                              17.12.2006 12:53
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                              Christmas is a family time, a time for sharing and caring

                              I love travelling and I also love Christmas. I have spent Christmas is quite a few different locations, from the totally “over the top” American Christmas to the somewhat humble Spanish Christmas. I have to admit to preferring the latter and having now spent three Christmases in Spain, I would be very reluctant to travel back to the UK to spend Christmas there.

                              Travelling to Southern Spain from the UK is very easy, there are numerous flights from most airports and journey times vary from 2- 4 hours, depending on location. Flights are relatively inexpensive, especially if booked well in advance. There are hundreds of available hotel rooms and apartments, most of which can be booked online with a very easy internet search, failing that, your local travel agent will organise a trip..although you can expect to pay a lot more.

                              The first thing you notice when you leave the airport is the temperature, it is usually around 25 degrees in December during the daytime…very comfortable and many holidaymakers still insist on wearing shorts and t-shirts. You can always spot the locals as we are running around in jeans and fleeces..lol. Mornings and evenings are much cooler and with marble and tiled floors, I would advise a pair of slippersocks, essential for any trip to Spain in the winter-time.

                              If you arrive after dark, the next thing you will notice is the Christmas Light Display. The town halls in Spain vie with each other to produce the most spectacular light displays and each town is decorated with the most amazing results. However, none of this is put up before the second weekend in December. This is because the real Christmas for Spain is not celebrated until 6th January (more about that later in review).

                              Shop, restaurant and bar displays are decorated much the same as they are in the UK with the British Bars and Restaurants going a tad over the top. Spanish people tend to look on in amusement at their efforts. Houses are rarely decorated (unless they have British residents).

                              Street markets are beautiful and a great place to pick up last minute bargains. The whole Christmas shopping experience in Spain is totally different to the UK, there is no rushing around, no panic buying or hoards of people needing to get that “one off” item. In fact when the Playstation 2 made its appearance and everyone in the UK was panicking and rushing around trying to find one, our local GAME shop was stocked from floor to ceiling and selling a couple a day.

                              Christmas in Spain is much more low key. Gifts tend to be tokens and kids do not expect vast sums of money to be spent on them. Shops have more toys than usual but still not to the same level as found in the UK. Christmas here is much more about family and friends getting together to celebrate, have a huge feast and spend time with each other. Incidentally, Spanish Christmas feast starts on Christmas Eve and goes on all through Christmas days…these guys know how to party.

                              You may also notice that from 21st December, there are large queues outside the town halls, this is because the local councils in all towns distribute Christmas packages to the poor and underprivileged. These packages include meat, chicken, vegetables, tinned goods and wine..enough for a good Christmas dinner, they also receive an envelope with an allowance per person, I think it is around 50Euros. Seeing these people walk away with their Christmas boxes and a big smile on their faces is the true spirit of Christmas for me.

                              Christmas Day in Spain for any visitor is quite different. For a start, you wake up to glorious sunshine (usually) then have the option of a walk along the prom where everyone you meet will wish you “Feliz Navidad”, people will be swimming in the sea and you will see remnants of the Christmas Eve Parties still going on in the Spanish bars and restaurants as well as on the beaches. The British restaurants on this coast offer full Christmas Lunch and a good offer of a home from home Christmas Day. Personally, we avoid these as I like having Christmas Day at home. Many people also opt to have Christmas Lunch on the beach and set up barbeques and tables in the sunshine. Many shops remain open and all will be open again on Boxing Day (apart from the British ones who seem to take a two week break)

                              If you really want to experience a Spanish Christmas then you have to wait until January. On the evening of January 5th there is a spectacular parade in every town throughout Spain. It is the evening of the Three Kings. Floats are paraded through the town with the final three being the Three Kings. ~In this part of Spain, the kings are paraded down to the beach and sent out in a boat. Our parade generally consists of around 20 floats and each one contains several children and adults who throw millions of sweets to the crowd. This has to be seen to be believed as the sweets rain down on you and the children catch them in hats, bags and any other receptacle they can find. Our haul from last year lasted until Easter. It is all about children having a great night and receiving sweets from the Kings, prior to their gifts on Three Kings Day. When children go home, they lay their shoes outside the door so that the Kings “know” that a child lives there and will leave gifts…very similar to our Father Christmas. However, the gifts that they receive are much smaller and of much less financial value. I have never heard them complaining. There then follows the biggest feast of the year and two days holiday to recover.

                              I would say that if you want to escape the madness of Christmas in the UK, by that I mean the crowded shops, people rushing about and the general panic that seems to ensue, then I would say, head for Spain, soak up the culture and the true meaning of Christmas, spend some time with some Spanish people and get back to reality. You will have a great time and catch some sun at the same time. Spending Christmas in Spain has made my children much less materialist and we would find it really hard to leave here at Christmastime now…we much prefer this sort of Christmas season

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                              • More +
                                16.11.2006 23:15
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                                quick tanning system

                                Living in a hot country probably means that I spend less time in the sun now than I ever did in Scotland. Several reasons for that:

                                1. It is simply too hot
                                2. I have a business to run
                                3. The health risks associated with exposure to the sun
                                4. I just don’t enjoy lying in the sun.

                                Despite the fact that we have 300 days of sunshine per year, I am probably less tanned than most holidaymakers on a fortnight’s break.

                                One of my clients owns a health and beauty salon and kindly invited me for a complete makeover…loads of fun, a chance to be spoiled rotten for a day and an opportunity to use all those products that I didn’t have the nerve, time or inclination to try myself.

                                One such product was the Fantasy Spray Tanning Booth. I have never tried any form of fake tan or sunbed and quite frankly didn’t really have notion to use this system, but, since it was a gift, I didn’t have the heart to say no.

                                What is involved?

                                First of all I was asked to strip off and wear only a paper thong, then I was given a moisturiser to cover the top of my feet, soles of my feet and hands. I had to slip into a pair of paper slippers, pop on a paper hat to completely cover my hair, and after all that, was shown to the tanning booth.

                                The tanning booth itself is about the size of a single shower cabinet and looks just like that. It has a series of knobs on the front where you can select the depth of tan. It also has instructions on how to achieve perfect cover. I would recommend that you read these very carefully. The instructions are also illustrated but, as I am not very good with stick men illustrations, it was a bit of a waste of time for me. I then entered the tanning booth and listened to the instructions of the therapist. I was told to close my eyes and mouth (that was the difficult part..lol) and stand facing the back wall. There then followed a hissing sound and I was squirted with liquid from various jets on the wall. I then had to turn to the side and stand as if I was running a race…(must have looked a bit ridiculous in the paper thong, slippers and hat), the hissing and squirting was repeated. I then had to face the front, then the other side while the booth hissed and squirted around me. The whole thing took about 15 seconds and I emerged from the capsule, thinking I was going to have a wonderful all-over tan…hah!!!!

                                I looked down to see all this goo running down my body and wondered what on earth had happened. However, this was normal!!!! I was given a pair of mitten like gloves, padded with a sort of J-cloth surface, the therapist donned a similar pair and informed me that she would “do” the back and I could “do” the front. There then followed a frenzied ten minutes while we massaged and rubbed in the “tan” Well, it certainly looked better after that, no more streaky or runny bits. I couldn’t get dressed for another twenty minutes as it needed time to dry, but apart from that it felt fine. My skin felt really soft and the smell of the liquid was quite pleasant. I had a nice healthy glow (but then I had chosen the lowest setting) with not a hint of orange.

                                How safe is it?

                                Prior to having this treatment and after the horrendous tales of sunbeds, I researched this product and discovered the following information. The tanning product itself contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as the active ingredient. It is a colourless product derived from glycerine that interacts with the animo acids in dead skin to produce a brown colour change. Since the dead skin cells are constantly being shed, the colour change achieved by DHA lasts for around 7 days. DHA is not absorbed into the skin and has no known toxicity. So basically I was coating my skin in glycerine to stop it absorbing any of the product and then painting the glycerine brown…then when it all flaked off, I would be back to my usual skin colour…sounded pretty safe to me. An additional safety factor is that DHA has been listed with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a safe product since 1973. Apparently it is safe enough to use with skin conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis, although I would do a double check and a skin test before using it if I suffered from either of these conditions.

                                Did it last?

                                You cannot shower for 10 hours and my first shower after that was a bit of a shock…it all appeared to be running off, at least the water at my feet was very brown. I was scared to look at the cream bath towel, but it was ok, no brown tan streaks and the tan appeared to have stuck to my body. So far, so good. I have two showers a day and it did last a full seven days. Well, most of it lasted seven days..it did start to get a bit patchy. I don’t know if that was due to my overzealous exfoliating in the shower, but I did start to have a sort of giraffe-like appearance, fortunately on parts of my body that I could keep covered. My heels also took on a life of their own, appearing very dark and leathery, so sandals had to be put away for a few days…but, apart from that, it was fine.

                                How much does it cost?

                                I believe that the treatment costs between 25-35pounds in the UK, depending on the salon, and lasts for around a week. For your money you get a treatment, a rub down, paper thong, paper hat and paper slippers...oh, and not forgetting the mittens.

                                Would I recommend it?

                                As an alternative to lying in the sun or using a sunbed, yes, I certainly would, and I do believe that you obtain a much more even coverage than any cream or lotion based products. However, it is a bit of a palaver with all that rubbing in at an incredibly fast pace and making sure that every part of you is covered. Having said that, the whole thing from spraying to finishing rubbing in has to be completed in about 15 minutes, Add to that, the 20minutes drying time and it is a pretty quick way to achieve a nice all-over tan without any sand getting into awkward places.

                                I would recommend it if you have a special occasion or want a good pick-up in the middle of winter…you will certainly have a nice healthy glow to your skin. I’m not sure if I will use it again, but it is nice to know that it is there should I feel the need to change from my usual pale colour.

                                More information on this and other products in the range can be found at
                                http://www.fantasytan.com/products.html

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                                  12.11.2006 00:02
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                                  A lighthearted look at toddlers, now that mine are all grown up

                                  Although my sons are long past the toddler stage, I have the advantage of being an auntie to a toddler and seeing things that I missed when mine were going through this stage. The reason that I missed these things was that I was too busy cleaning, wiping, tidying up after them. I used to wonder why my sons were always hungry as toddlers. I thought it was just a phase, but, having watched my nephew, I now understand why and I would advise any adult who is overweight to follow the toddler diet. It is very simple, doesn’t cost a lot and you are guaranteed to lose weight.

                                  Breakfast
                                  Porridge, Toast, Orange Juice
                                  While porridge is being made, take two fingers of toast, already spread with smooth peanut butter, Poke a hole in first piece of toast and then shake hand over side of chair until it falls on floor and eaten by dog. Take second piece of toast and squeeze between both hands, then throw on floor.

                                  Porridge
                                  Fill spoon with porridge and dump it onto tray, do this several times then stir porridge on tray. Spoon more porridge into hair and run hands through hair to ensure even coverage.
                                  Put both hands into bowl and mix porridge, making sure that both hands and arms are covered then wipe on legs.

                                  Orange Juice
                                  Make sure orange juice is in Tommee Tippee (or similar sprinker cup) and place in hand, wave hand over head. Pour some onto dog, then take lid off and pour remains onto tray.

                                  Mid-Morning Snack (best taken with bare feet)
                                  Peeled and Sliced Pear
                                  Handful of Grapes
                                  Take pear slices and press firmly into floor with foot, ensuring that it squidges through toes.
                                  Take grapes to window and press onto glass, then move around window until only skin is left and throw on floor.

                                  Lunch
                                  Home-made soup and wholemeal bread, Water
                                  Take all peas out of soup and mash into tray (using bread as masher) Dip bread into soup then squeeze between fingers, rub hands in hair. Place cup of water in middle of soup and press down. Throw cup on floor.

                                  Mid-Afternoon Snack
                                  Skips or Quavers (half pack), Water
                                  Take a few and squash into carpet with foot, add water and mix together into carpet. Take remainder and push firmly down side of sofa.

                                  Dinner
                                  Mince and Mashed Potatoes (with carrots), Yogurt and Water
                                  Eat Carrots and spit out all lumpy bits of mince and poke into ear, feed dog with remainder from spoon. Eat yogurt with fingers and wipe on legs, feed empty carton to dog. Take lid off cup and pour water onto floor.

                                  Supper
                                  Rice Pudding (or similar)
                                  Allow someone to feed this to you and devour every drop because you will be starving. Shout and scream as loud as you can when it is finished (think of the calories you will be using up)


                                  We never had a dog but I watch as my nephew's dog piles on the pounds, he thinks he has died and gone to heaven. He eats all day.
                                  So, there you have it, if you want to lose a few pounds for Christmas, follow the toddler diet…or if you want to avoid the above scenario, keep spoon-feeding them…lol

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