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sparkles29

sparkles29
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Member since: 09.03.2010

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      17.03.2011 13:39
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      A great little piece of kit for a fiver

      I bought this little gadget a few months ago so that I could listen to music when I'm in the bath without driving the neighbours mad with the sound of my stereo blasting from the front room to the bathroom. I also thought it would be handy to have around in case of a power cut or, after the extreme weather conditions we had last winter in the UK, to sling in the car if I need to go out in the snow so that if I ever get stranded somewhere I won't drain the battery in my car by having the radio on.

      I wasn't expecting much for £5.50, and it's a small enough amount of money not to worry too much either way, but I have been pleasantly surprised. This analogue radio is a good little piece of kit by all accounts. It's light, and small enough to slip into a bag or a car glove compartment easily at 10cm x 4cm x 3.5cm. As well as being a radio it also has a torch positioned on the side; it's not the brightest torch in the world but it would certainly do in an emergency.

      The radio is AM/FM with comes with a headphone socket and also a handy carry loop. As you would expect, the controls are simple to operate. There are slide type controls for frequencies and volume. You choose your channel using a dial that is positioned on the front of the radio. There is also a fully extending antennae style aerial on top of the radio.

      You can either use the wind up function to power the radio or put batteries in. If you do choose to use it with batteries it takes 2 x AA. Now -I have to admit to being a bit dubious about claims that it would give 30 minutes of 'air time' from 60 seconds of winding. So I wound it up for a minute and left it in the bathroom, going back periodically to check. It actually lasted almost an hour! Granted, I didn't have the volume really high (that will drain the charge much quicker) but it was comfortably loud enough to be heard if you are in the same room as the radio. There are two small lights on the front of the radio; a red one and a green one. When the radio is charged up the green light will come on, and the charge gradually runs down this will get dimmer. A red light will come on when it's time to give it another crank.

      As you would expect, the sound quality is not pristine, but hey - we're not talking about a piece of Bang & Olufsen kit here. It's a £5.00 radio from Tesco! I find the sound to be perfectly acceptable, there isn't much interference at all and it stays tuned in to a station really well.

      Overall I am really pleased with this little radio. It's excellent value for money in my opinion.

      At the time of writing this radio is on offer from Tesco Direct for only £4.00. If you have it delivered to your local store then there is no delivery charge.

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        16.03.2011 13:47
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        What happens when the oil stops flowing.

        Andy Sutherland is an oil engineer. Eight years ago he was commissioned to write a report by a group of people, the identities of whom he does not know, on the fragility of the world due to its reliance on oil, and what would happen should the oil stop flowing. His findings have haunted him ever since and have largely contributed to the breakup of his marriage, as he has become obsessed with the theory that one day, the world will reach 'Peak Oil' which will occur when all the easily extractable oil in the ground will dry up and it will no longer be economically viable to remove what's left.

        It begins on a Monday morning. Andy is out in Iraq doing some private contracting work and is travelling with a somewhat depleted and very fatigued platoon of British soldiers. Meanwhile his estranged wife, Jenny, is in Manchester for a job interview - the start of her new life, she hopes. Their two children, Leona and Jake, are in London, at University and boarding school. A news report comes in - a massive bomb has gone off outside one of the main Suni temples in Saudi Arabia. Over the next few hours a chain of events takes place around the world that effectively shuts off the global oil supply. Events that Andy had outlined in his report years previously...

        Much of the UK's armed forces are out of the country. The police and what military resources remain are being deployed to guard oil refineries and other strategic installations such as petrol stations and supermarkets. Motorways are blockaded to stop people moving around the country. Electricity and water supplies are cut off. Great Britain is on lockdown. Meanwhile, society is rapidly descending into lawlessness and anarchy as people realise that that they are now without rule of law. There are no police on the streets and people are being pretty much left to their own devices. Houses are being looted, people are being murdered for food and water(or even just for fun), and women are being raped.

        In the shadows a lone figure is searching for Leona. His job is simple - to find her and to eliminate her. For Leona could singlehandedly topple those who hold the future of civilisation in their hands. A group of people who wield enough power to shape history and world events. A group of people who paid her father an awful lot of money to write a report, eight years ago.

        As things begin to unravel each member of the Sutherland family faces their own personal hell as they try desperately to survive the rising chaos and terror that is unfolding.

        I read this book in one sitting. I just couldn't put it down. And it scared the bejeezus out of me, for two reasons. Firstly, it really brought home to me just how reliant we are on a few pipelines snaking across far away, politically unstable lands, carrying the 'black gold' that we in the Western World rely on for almost everything in our daily lives in one way or another. Secondly, how quickly things will turn to custard if the taps carrying that black gold get turned off for any reason. It's a sobering thought. And it's not an unthinkable one. One day the oil is actually going to run out. Already the race is on to find alternative energy sources with only varying degrees of success. Currently we are almost wholly reliant on oil to keep the cogs of our daily lives turning. Money doesn't make the world go round, oil does.

        Any romantic notions that you may have about the British Blitz Spirit and communities working together to help each other will be shattered upon reading Last Light. We live in a just in time society these days with most people only keeping two or three days supply of food in the house. When people are starving and dehydrated they will do pretty much anything to survive, including things that in 'normal' life they would consider unthinkable. We take everything for granted and assume that the Governement will just step in and 'sort everything out'. But that ain't necessarily so.

        The book flits between the different strands of the storyline chapter by chapter. Although this won't suit all readers I personally did enjoy this style of writing, as at any given moment in time you are fully immersed in exactly what's happening, and it really gives you a flavour of how quickly events are unfolding in the different locations.

        I would encourage you all to read this book. It's definitely an eye opener and you may find yourself having a few sleepless nights once you've finished it. Or you could just google Peak Oil if you REALLY want to terrify yourself. You may even find yourself, like me, planting a few vegetables this year and keeping your larder better stocked. You know - 'just in case'.

        Last Light ISBN: 9780752893273

        At the time of writing new paperback copies of Last Light are available from Amazon for £5.35.

        Alex Scarrow has written a second book , Afterlight, which follows on from Last Light and is about how society copes in a post oil world. I haven't read that yet, but it's next on my list.

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          02.01.2011 21:29
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          A luxurious body butter that will leave your skin silky soft and smelling delicious

          Body Shop coconut body butter is, in my opinion, the best body butter on the market. I have tried other brands but I don't think they compare to the Body Shop butter. I've been using it for years now and I love it. I am a big fan of all the Body Shop Body Butter range but there's just something about the coconut flavour that is very special.

          I have the butter in both sizes. There is a 50ml tub, this retails at £5.00, and a 200ml tub, which costs £12.50. The 50ml size is perfect to slip into your suitcase for holidays.

          I find the body butter luxuriously creamy and soft. It is solid in the tub but scoops out easily with your fingers and melts into your skin upon application. It looks lovely too - pale cream in colour - and is silky smooth to the touch. It looks and smells almost good enough to eat in the tub; rich but subtle at the same time. Unlike other body butters I have tried, the Body Shop body butter smells authentic and there are no underlying chemical or manmade smells, which is something that I have noticed in body butters made by other companies. To me, it simply smells of holidays. I always associate coconut with holidays - I don't know why - but it's a smell that I find comforting and familiar.

          The smell lasts for hours. If I put it on in the morning after a shower, I can still smell the butter - very faintly - on my skin when I get home from work. Colleagues often poke their heads into my office to tell me that they can smell me from down the corridor. I am assuming that's a good thing, of course

          I do tend to use a lot of it - too much really. It can leave my skin a little greasy, which some people may find off putting, but I don't mind because my skin baby soft. A tip that a Body Shop consultant gave me, after she looked shocked when I told her that I use a 200ml tub in around six weeks, is to take a little and rub it between your hands which will warm up the butter and make it go a lot further. I was really grateful for the tip, but I still trowel it on. For 'normal' users a large tub will probably last around three months if applied once a day so it's quite economical for most people - just not me!

          I use this body butter instead of aftersun too. Obviously I would not recommend that anyone else to that, but it works much better than an aftersun lotion on my skin as it moisturises it much better. Please note that I would not use this on skin that is burnt and sore, I simply choose to use it rather than an aftersun moisturiser.

          This product contains cocoa beans and shea butter - both produced in Ghana. The Body Shop states that it uses a fair trade co-operative of over 30000 small scale farmers to source their cocoa beans and purchases the shea butter from the Tungtevia Shea Butter Association which is made up from around 400 women from 10 villages. Body Shop ensures that these people are given a fair price for their products and it has given them a steady income and the opportunity to support their families and send their children to school.

          I've given this product four stars simply because some people may find it a bit greasy - but I'd really like to give it five!

          There are other products in the coconut range, including: bath scrub, lip balm and body lotion.

          You can find out the list of ingredients from the Body Shop website at www.thebodyshop.co.uk

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          • Tesco MMS07 / Microwave / 89 Readings / 84 Ratings
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            25.11.2010 19:34
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            A great little product for the money despite little niggles

            I've had this little microwave coming up for two years now. I bought it from a Tesco store but you can also get it from the Tesco Direct website. The MMS07 is painted in a silver colour, which fits in with my kitchen colour scheme. It's also small (45.2cm x 26.2cm x 33.5cm) with a 17 litre capacity, and light, weighing in at only 11.3kg, which means that I can move it around the kitchen easily by myself should I need to. It sits, very unobtrusively, in the corner of the kitchen. Given that it's not actually stainless steel it does look a lot more expensive than it is and not tacky at all.

            This is a very basic microwave which suits me as I don't use it for anything other than heating stuff up such as beans or soup. In all fairness I actually don't think it would be possible to make it any easier to use! The MMS07 only has two dials; one is the timer which goes up to 30 minutes, although I am somewhat befuddled as to what on earth you would put in a microwave for half an hour, and the other to set one of the six power levels (five for heating and one defrost option). As you would imagine on a basic model such as this, it is not programmable. I for one am absolutely delighted about that - trying to work out how to use kitchen equipment that has enough buttons, digital displays and knobs to give a flight deck on the space shuttle a run for its money gives me no pleasure whatsoever!

            To be honest, I don't even bother too much with the timer. My philosophy - which has always served me well - is to pop in chosen food or beverage and blast it on full power until the window steams up, by which point whatever is inside is ready. I appreciate that this is a less than scientific approach but it's always worked for me!

            Although this little machine has done me proud, I do have a couple of issues with it. Firstly, the glass turntable slips off the runners quite a lot. At first I thought that I hadn't replaced it properly after washing it but after it kept recurring I figured out that it's a design fault rather than me making a mistake! Secondly, it's too small for any of my dinner plates. I don't use it to heat 'meals' up per se, so I personally don't find it too restrictive but if you are a person who does then this would be a problem - unless you eat your dinner off a side plate...

            The only other 'potential' problem occurs because the microwave is so light. If you open the door in a particularly robust manner the whole machine moves - not ideal if, like me, you tend to leave stuff lying around on top of the damn thing!

            Its energy efficiency rating is B which I am happy with. It's quite a powerful little machine - the oven power is 700 watts. The power cable is around a metre long which is ample in my opinion.
            The Tesco Direct catalogue number for this product is 200-6586 and the current selling price is £32.99. I can't remember exactly how much I paid for it but it was around the £30.00 mark. You will receive 64 Tesco club card points on this purchase but you will have to pay for delivery should you order it from the Tesco Direct website as free delivery starts on purchases of over £50.00.

            Despite the problems I've given it four stars simply because it's so easy to use and is brilliant value for money in my opinion.

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              25.11.2010 15:20
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              Some ways to save money online

              I don't know about anybody else but over the past few months my finances have become increasingly stretched and so I'm always looking out for ways to save money. The internet is a great place for that so I've put together a list of some ways that the World Wide Web can save you a few ££s.

              *Price Comparison Sites*

              Comparison websites allow you to compare the price of products from pretty much every online retailer. There are comparison sites available for pretty much anything from insurance and credit cards to hotels. Some of the most popular price comparison websites include gocompare.com, moneysupermarket.co.uk, mysupermarket.com and my personal favourite, Amazon.com as you can get prices for used goods on there too.

              *Vouchers and Voucher Codes*

              I only recently learned about vouchers and online voucher codes, but since then I've never looked back! Some vouchers you have to print out and take with you to the store, but the majority of these offers come in the form of voucher codes that you simply type in when you get to the checkout of the online retailer from which you are making a purchase. There are a number of websites dedicated to online vouchers and deals, including www.vouchercodes.co.uk. Simply type in your chosen retailer and the site will return a list of available offers, many with customer feedback. Offers range from discounts on delivery, or goods, or even freebies. My best deal to date has been three courses at Pizza Express for £12.50 which is a superb deal given that a pizza alone is around the £10.00 mark.

              *Swap Sites*

              Swap sites allow you to exchange something that you don't want for something you do. Swap sites have grown in popularity over the past few years and have really exploded recently as people are finding their household budgets have to stretch even further. And not only is it a great idea but it's also environmentally friendly! You can swap almost anything, from clothes to books and even skills. On some sites you can also sell items for cash; it's worth checking this option out as an alternative to Ebay as the charges could be lower. There are literally hundreds of swapping sites out there but here are some to whet your appetite:

              www.spapz.co.uk is a swap site offering many goods and services
              www.swishing.org shows you how to organise a clothes swap party with friends.
              www.seedypeople.co.uk is for gardeners who have seeds to swap.
              www.readitswapit.co.uk is a book-swapping site.
              www.u-exchange.com which has houses all over the world available for holiday exchanges
              www.letslinkuk.net is a community networks which link people who want to swap their skills and goods.

              *Free Phone Calls*

              Since the introduction of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) people can make free telephone calls all over the world through their computer. All you need is a VoIP system such as Skype - as does the person you want to speak to obviously - and you're all set. My mum lives in Australia and speaking to her via Skype saves us both a fortune. The last time I made a 'traditional' phone call to her it cost me around £25.00 for an hour so the benefits of this service speak for themselves!

              *Cashback*

              Getting paid to shop was something I dreamt about when I was younger - probably like many of you - well the ladies at least! A career as a personal shopper may have perhaps been the answer, but alas it was not meant to be! However, when a friend told me how much she was making by using cashback sites for her online purchases I decided to give it a whirl. A cashback site works by using affiliated links, so every time you buy a product through the link on the cashback site you earn some money. Basically what happens is that, when you buy through an affiliate the retailer in question pays the cashback site for introducing you as a new customer, then the cashback site passes that payment on to you. So far I have received £40.00 from my pet insurance policy and £50.00 for breakdown cover - and yes, they were the best options available to me, I didn't just sign up for them to get the kickback!

              Some cashback sites are free to join and others charge a fee. Generally those that take a fee simply deduct it from the cash that is currently in your account. I use quidco for anyone that's interested!

              *Freecycle*

              Freecycle is a grassroots movement which has taken off in a big way in the UK. Members join via a website and can exchange unwanted items for free. Members post unwanted items via an email to others in their freecycle group. They then choose a new home for said item from the replies that they receive. Likewise members can also post an email if they are looking for a specific item to find out if other members have what they need. From my own experience I can safely say that yes, there IS a lot of tat on there, but there are also some little gems. I've received a flatbed scanner, a TV and stand, packing boxes and packing materials. However, over the past few weeks I have definitely noticed a lot more 'wanted' than 'offer' messages - sign of the times I suppose.

              *Bumblebee Auctions*

              I've given this its own 'section' because I think it's brilliant! I'm sure most of you probably already know about this so humour me! For those of you who don't know, Bumblebee auctions.co.uk is a website run by the police where items of property that are seized during police investigations are auctioned off to the public. Genius! Auctions start from £1.00 and include electrical items, jewellery, sporting equipment, cosmetics and other goods. All of the proceeds go to charity too.

              So, there's a few ideas to start you off - happy surfing!

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                16.10.2010 10:43
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                No complaints from me!

                ***This is the silver model that I am reviewing - it is the same appliance but has a different reference code which is VTP 112***

                I'm a big fan of slow cookers. Chuck all the ingredients in, turn it on, go to work, come home and voila - dinner is served! My old one was looking a bit tired though, so my friend came up trumps with this Breville 3.5 litre slow cooker as a birthday gift for me.

                It's sleek and stylish - the polished stainless steel finish fits in perfectly with my kitchen. The ceramic crock pot inside is black. The lid is made from toughened tempered glass which is dishwasher safe. The handles are quick cool so you can literally pick up the crock pot and take it to the table without any need to turn off the heat first. The plug takes 13A fuses and the electric cable is just over a metre long.

                There are three settings on this particular model; Low, High and Keep warm. At 225 watts it works out a lot cheaper for me to use the slow cooker than to turn on my oven, even if I leave it on all day when I'm at work. The wraparound heating element ensures that food is cooked evenly without any need for stirring.

                I tend to cook a lot of chillis, soups and curries then freeze them but I like to experiment, particularly with cuts of meat that I wouldn't cook in a conventional oven because they are cheaper, and therefore tend to be less tender than premium cuts. The slow, moist cooking process of a slow cooker is perfect for breaking down more fibrous cuts of meat and making them incredibly soft.

                To save me time in the mornings (I'm not one of these folk who gets up, showers, watches morning telly for an hour then has a leisurely breakfast before leaving for work) I simply put all the ingredients in the crock pot the night before and leave it in the fridge. Then, the next morning I just pop the crock pot into the base unit and turn it on before I leave the house. When I get home in the evenings and my meal is cooked, I just turn the setting to 'Keep Warm' until I'm ready to eat. Of course it's not really economical to use it for a single meal - I generally cook up a big batch of my meal of choice and then freeze it in individual portions.

                The 3.5 litre capacity is more than enough to feed four people. I cooked braised beef in red wine at the weekend for three adults and one child and the cooker was perfect for the job. I simply removed the crock pot and placed it straight onto the dining table so people could help themselves. There was enough food for everyone to enjoy a large helping with plenty to spare. The dish took about five hours to cook; I started it off on the low setting for around three hours then turned it up to high for the remainder of the cooking time. The beef was so soft it just fell apart when a fork went into it - perfect!

                A word of caution - there is virtually no liquid evaporation with a slow cooker. I had a couple of minor hiccups when I first started using a slow cooker, resulting in lots of liquid bubbling over the top and down the sides of the cooker - so you do have to be aware of that and account for it. If you're unsure about how much liquid to put in a particular dish then I am in no doubt you could find out the exact requirements from a quick search on Google!

                The only downside to this product, as far as I can see, is that it doesn't have a timer. It's not too much of a problem for me, as I have used one for long enough to pretty much be able to 'guesstimate' how long a particular dish will take to cook, but for anyone who is new to the world of slow cookers it could pose a problem.

                I don't know where my friend bought this particular slow cooker from so I can't tell you how much it cost, but it's currently £24.99 at Argos.

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                  25.08.2010 16:15
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                  A perfect base from which to explore St Tropez!

                  **This is a long review - so my apologies if there's too much information here for your personal tastes, but I didn't want to miss anything out as I feel all of it is relevant and important to give you the overall picture of the hotel**

                  I was lucky enough to go to the Cote D'Azur earlier this month with a couple of my girlfriends. We agreed on St Tropez because we wanted to push the boat out a little (no pun intended there)! Accommodation was looking a bit pricey though and we decided that we would rather stay somewhere nearby and have more pennies for spends, so we started looking for alternatives. My friend's parents had stayed at the Best Western Montfleurie, in Sainte Maxime, a few years previously. Sainte Maxime is a small resort which is literally just across the bay of St Tropez, 15 minutes from the resort by water taxi. They highly recommended it so we booked it, packed it and off we went!

                  When we finally arrived at our destination we were rather weary, having had (literally) a planes, trains and automobiles experience to get from Hull to Sainte Maxime, with a short pit stop for some beers in Nice while we waited for the coach as, unfortunately, we had missed the water taxi due to our plane arriving late. I had also managed to smash a bottle of the duty free Gordons en route which wasn't helping. So when Jane said "Rach, we must keep an open mind about the hotel because it was, after all, six years ago when my mum and dad were here and it's only a 3 star," I had begun to fear the worst and and was not nearly inebriated enough to deal with it.

                  However, I am delighted to say that my fears were completely unfounded. My first impressions of the outside of the hotel were very positive. It is situated in a quiet residential area of Sainte Maxime, set back from the main coastal road that runs through the town, up a small hill. It is a lovely, sand coloured building which blends in perfectly with the others that surround it - most of them being huge, residential mansions! When we walked into the reception we were given a very warm welcome by the duty manager, who spoke almost perfect English. The reception area was very inviting with a tiled floor, dark wood furniture and lemon and gold decor. There was also a seating area and a very posh loo. Being as eagle eyed as I am I also spotted the bar, which was just around the corner, and skimmed over the guest book - it was bursting with glowing testimonials, many from repeat customers. So far things were looking good!

                  Our check in was quick and easy and, having been given two room keys, we were shown to our room on the first floor. There was a lift but we took the stairs - there weren't many. We had booked one family room for the three of us. It cost 170 Euros per night for the room which, considering the area and the fact that it was the height of season (we went earlier this month) I thought was very reasonable. Breakfast was not included at the price, and costs 10.5 Euros - but more about breakfast later!

                  The room itself was incredibly well presented and maintained, and decorated in the lemon and gold theme. In it there was a double bed, and a single bed that could double up as a sofa during the day, set back in a small alcove. It wasn't a huge room but it was big enough for the three of us to co-exist without falling over each other. The beds were very comfortable and had plenty of pillows and covers - including extra supplies in the wardrobes. There was a large, flat screen TV mounted on the wall - we didn't watch any TV but we tried it and it worked! There was also a desk and table, a large mirror and some storage cupboards situated underneath the TV.

                  The air conditioning system worked perfectly and we were able to regulate it ourselves (I've stayed in some hotels where it's regulated centrally and as good as useless!) meaning that it was on 24/7 (again, very annoying when you stay in a hotel where you have to insert your bloody room key into a special 'slot' near the door to get anything electrical to work!) as the temperature outside was in the 30s every day. We also had a balcony with two wicker chairs and a table. The balcony overlooked the road (you can request a sea view or a garden view room) which was fine for us as we didn't spend that much time on the balcony - or in the room! The view from our balcony was still very pleasant, however, as the road I suspect is only used by residents going to and from their houses, there is a lot of trees and lush vegetation and some of the properties that surround the hotel are quite magnificent!

                  The mini bar was stocked with beer, soft drinks, Toblerone and some kind of St Tropez cocktail which tasted kind of peachy and a bit sickly but once I'd opened it I had to finish it, waste not want not and all... On top of the mini bar was a little basket containing snacks such as mini bruschettas, kettle chips and crisps. Interestingly enough, and what I thought was a lovely touch, was that the mini bar was not one of those with the sensors built in that clocks up £14.50 on your tab if you so much as breathe on a miniature bottle of Smirnoff. You take what you want, the mini bar is then filled up again by the maids each day and when you check out you just advise the staff what you have had and it's added onto your final bill.

                  What I also really liked was that there was a separate loo and bathroom. These again were very well decorated and presented. The windows opened fully in both too. The bathroom was very large and airy. There was a bath with an overhead shower - the shower wasn't particularly powerful, but we fiddled about with the showerhead and that sorted it right out! In the bathroom there was also two built in wardrobes with lots of coat hangers and ample pace at the bottom for shoes - always a must when you've got three ladies in one hotel room! There was one bath towel and a hand towel each - I am confident that had we asked for more they would have appeared almost instantaneously! There was a large mirror over the sink (and also a full length mirror which was very handy!) and a hairdryer supplied by the hotel. The hairdryer itself was pretty powerful but it was just placed a little too high for me and the cord wasn't particularly long so I couldn't dry my hair upside down which is what I would normally do at home. I'm only 5 1" though so for 99.9 percent of the population this wouldn't be a problem!

                  The maids came in every day and, not only did they do the usual duties but if we left any clothes lying around anywhere they folded them up for us and placed them in a neat little pile at the bottom of the bed!

                  We spent a couple of hours round the pool one afternoon after overheating at the beach. The pool itself isn't huge - but it's big enough to get a few lengths in should you feel the need for some exercise. The pool area itself was spotless and boasts those lovely wooden sun loungers with the expensive, thick cushions, umbrellas and tables. It gets the sun most of the day which is perfect for people who like sunbathing but don't like the beach, and is fully concealed from any outside prying eyes by huge bushes. I did take a quick dip and found the water to be very cool, but not icy cold. It was also extremely clean. Table service is offered round the pool area.

                  Although we didn't have dinner in the hotel, we did have breakfast in there on our last morning. Breakfast is a buffet style meal, which you help yourself to. Drinks consisted of the tea coffee, fruit juice and water. There was a very good selection of food, made up of; cereals, fruit, fruit juice, yoghurts, scrambled eggs, ham, cheeses, tapenades, croissants, a variety of breads, crackers and cakes. It was a very relaxed affair. The restaurant itself is light and airy, and is built onto the side of the hotel. It is single storey, with a flat roof - there is some kind of electric venetian blind system in place (sorry, don't know the technical term) whereby the slats all open up to let air and sunlight through, which is lovely.

                  All in all I have to say that the three star Best Western Montfleurie is of a much higher standard - both in terms of the hotel itself and the staff who work there - than a lot of hotels I have stayed in with a higher star rating. It is small (only 30 rooms and one suite) intimate and cosy. The staff speak very good English, they are helpful, friendly, polite and courteous - nothing is too much trouble for them. We were relaxing in the gardens early one evening with some champagne (which was served perfectly chilled and in a matching ice bucket and glasses) when the waiter came outside and advised us that there had been a tropical storm a few weeks previous which had brought out hoards of mosquitoes. He then proceeded to give us some mosquito repellent wipes, lest we be attacked by any of the little monsters while we were enjoying our soiree!

                  It is also in a perfect location, being only two minutes on foot to the sea front and five minutes to the marina - where the water taxis leave for St Tropez, Port Grimaud and other destinations - and the centre of Sainte Maxime itself.

                  I didn't check whether the hotel had off street parking as we did not have a car. But there was plenty of parking available on the road where the hotel is situated.

                  I'm more than a little sorry that we didn't get to spend more time in the hotel as the whole experience was thoroughly enjoyable and highly relaxing. Not to worry though, there's always next year. Bon vacance!

                  *****Highly recommended*****

                  This review is also on CIAO (with lots of lovely photos) under my username sparkles29

                  A couple of further things to note:

                  A taxi from Sainte Maxime to Nice Airport costs 250 Euros - one way. However, the hotel has a contract with a local taxi company so they will pre-book cabs for guests - both ways. We got a taxi (well, I say taxi but it was a gorgeous, brand new Audi with full leather interior and air con - the back seats were like armchairs and the driver had thoughtfully provided very nice magazines to read too!) back to Nice airport for just 160 Euros.

                  At the time of writing this review my friend has booked to go back to the Montfleurie next May and the price of 70 Euros per room per night.



                  Best Western Hotel Montfleurie 3, Avenue Montfleuri, Sainte-Maxime, FR-83120, France

                  http://www.hotel-montfleuri.com/content/view/12/14/lang,en/

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                  • Wheatgrass in General / Recipe / 115 Readings / 111 Ratings
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                    23.07.2010 13:56
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                    Good for your body, bad for your tastebuds!

                    Wheatgrass is basically the young grass from a common wheat plant that is harvested after around seven days growth. It can be consumed in various forms, including fresh and frozen juice, powder, tablets and other nutritional supplements. Over the past few years the popularity of wheatgrass has increased dramatically as a 'superfood', probably due to the huge rise of smoothie and juice bars on the High Street. I certainly hadn't heard about wheatgrass until a smoothie bar opened up at the University where I work. It's £3.00 for a 'shot'.

                    It's pretty amazing stuff. Just two ounces of fresh wheatgrass juice contains the equivalent in vitamins and minerals of a whopping 3lb of organic green vegetables! It is a rich source of calcium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulphur and zinc. A shot of wheatgrass juice will have an instant impact as it is immediately absorbed into the bloodstream and will boost energy levels. It is largely made up of chlorophyll and is also high in saponin. Both of these ingredients act as detoxifiers and cleansers, carrying harmful substances away from the bloodstream and cells.

                    Wheatgrass is jam-packed full of vitamins B, C and E and is therefore able to neutralise cancer-causing free radicals. It also contains a very high concentration of enzymes which will help the digestive system to function at optimum levels. It is actually made up of around 70% chlorophyll which acts as a detoxifier for the liver and a cleanser for the digestive tract. Chlorophyll is an important muscle builder as it has the ability to stimulate the production of red blood cells which aid in the development of muscle tissue. As well as building muscle, chlorophyll is considered to be a 'blood builder too. It is believed to stimulate the production of hemo and/or globin, both of which are required for the synthesis and function of the components of healthy blood.

                    People with skin complaints, including eczema and psoriasis, can benefit from using wheatgrass in ointment form as it can relieve itching and also stop the spread of such infectious conditions. It can also sooth and heal cuts, sunburn and insect bites. Dental health is not disregarded either. If taken on a daily basis wheatgrass can help reduce tooth decay. Additionally, if held in the mouth for a few minutes it can reduce toothache by pulling harmful toxins from the gums.

                    The consumption of wheatgrass can also help to control weight. It works by suppressing the appetite, and be stimulating metabolism. The nutritional value of wheatgrass is so high that many people don't crave the foods that lead to overeating. As a weight control aid is safe and can be very effective.

                    Last, but by no means least, wheatgrass can be effective as a decongestant. Research has shown that chlorophyll packs inserted into the sinuses had a drying effect - clearing up congestion and giving immediate relief. Drinking wheatgrass juice every day can help fight off colds.

                    Wheagrass is one of nature's most powerful sources of nutrition. Now, if only it tasted better. I can only manage it in a smoothie which contains very strong tasting fruit to mask the taste of the stuff!

                    ****I've given it four stars - it should really be a five for nutritional value alone, but it tastes so bad that I had to drop one!

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                    • Beetroot in general / Recipe / 82 Readings / 79 Ratings
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                      29.06.2010 12:02
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                      Beetroot's Brilliant

                      **Please note that this is NOT the category for which I suggested this article! Dooyoo have put it in 'Recipes'.**

                      Beetroot's brilliant. It's low in calories, it's packed full of powerful antioxidants and nutrients and is rich in cleansing and detoxifying properties. Since the 16th century this humble root vegetable has been used to treat a number of ailments.

                      Beetroot offers a rich source of proteins, carbohydrates and contains high levels of important vitamins and micronutrients, including A, B6 and C. It contains silica, which turns into calcium when and where it is needed within our bodies, and is also a rich source of folic acid and iron. There are many benefits associated with a diet rich in beetroot.

                      Research has shown that beetroot can help lower blood pressure. Experts at the London School of Medicine and Dentistry conducted tests that showed the blood pressures of healthy volunteers were reduced within an hour of drinking 500ml of beetroot juice. Other preliminary studies have shown that beetroot can help prevent lung and skin cancer.

                      Beetroot is one of the richest sources of folic acid, something that is essential for normal tissue growth. Folic acid also crucial to the development of a baby's spinal cord during the first three months of pregnancy and can help prevent spinal cord defects such as spina bifida. Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive can get 75% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of folic acid from just three raw baby beetroot.

                      The bioactive agent betaine, which is essential for the liver to function healthily, is heavily present in beetroot. When the liver is functioning properly, fats are broken down efficiently, aiding weight loss, and preventing fatigue and nausea. Recent studies point to betaine as also contributing to the prevention of coronary and cerebral artery diseases. It is also important for cardiovascular health.

                      Betacyanin is the pigment that gives beetroot its colour, and is an antioxidant. Antioxidants are believed to help reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, protecting artery walls and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. They also help to cleanse the gall bladder, kidneys and spleen.

                      Beetroot contains soluble fibre, which has also been shown to have cholesterol lowering capabilities. It also contains virtually no fat. It has a Glycaemic Index (GI) of 64 which makes it 'medium' on the index; this means that it is converted into sugar slowly which helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable and stop 'spiking' and 'crashing' which can cause fatigue and mood swings.

                      There's really no end to the benefits of beetroot. Beetroot should be provided free of charge on the National Health Service. It truly is a Superfood!

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                        13.06.2010 20:14
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                        There's no maybe about it. This is definitely brilliant.

                        I still lament the demise of Oasis. I was lucky enough to see them twice last year. Once at Cardiff's millennium stadium with 75000 other people; I was so excited that even being piss-bombed prior to the band coming on stage couldn't darken my mood (having enjoyed several sherbets thoughout the afternoon helped as well as having just witnessed the mighty Kasabian storm their way through an amazing support set). The second time I saw them was at Bridlington Spa, one of only 3500 people to get tickets for that gig, which would in fact turn out to be their last. It was hot, it was sweaty, the bars ran out of everything except cider and some kind of alcopop that was blue and looked like it could strip off my stomach lining, and it was completely minging being only 5"1 and stuck in the middle of a crazy mosh pit...but what a night!

                        Anyway - I digress. Sorry. To the album then. This is Oasis' first offering, released on Creation Records in August 1994, and spawning four massive hit singles. And what an offering it is. Put it this way, if Definitely Maybe was sacrificed to the Sun God of Rock and Roll we would be enjoying better summers and spending considerably more time in the sunshyyyyyyyne.

                        When Definitely Maybe was released Creation were experiencing some financial turbulence and there was only £60,000 in the pot with which to promote the album. Not a lot! Therefore, given that that the record went on to sell 100000 copies in four days after its release is staggering (and this is in the days before itunes and digital downloads!) - and shows how much of an impact Oasis had made in a few short months since the release of their first single. That first weeks sales figures made Definitely Maybe the fastest selling debut album in Britain. Ever. It was a seminal moment for British music. And the rest, as they say, is history...

                        The first track 'Rock n Roll Star' opens up with that fantastic guitar intro that doesn't quite prepare you for what's about to ensue. Then the track kicks in and punches you square in the face. The thumping drum beat and squealing guitars only serve to fuel the fire of Liam's laconic drawl, as he spits out those lyrics with utter contempt, "You're not down with who I am/Look at you now/You're all in my hands tonight," oh yes we are my friend. We believe. I think it's one of Oasis' best ever tracks. This is rock and roll baby and it sounds exactly like it's supposed to.

                        Next up is Shakermaker, the second single. It's a little more 'muted' than Rock and Roll Star and doesn't have the same energy, but it's rolled out with the confidence of a bunch of egomaniacs who know they can get a lyric down a fag packet, put it together in someone's back bedroom and know it's going to be immense. "Shake along with me", Liam's not asking, he's telling.

                        Live Forever, the third single, is another massive anthem. I mean, come on! Who doesn't want to live forever? Down tempo and quite melancholy, but with rolling guitars that snag us back to the incessant rock and roll vibe that ties the whole album together.

                        Up In The Sky is a uptempo track which could be a cracking campaign song if the country were ever embroiled in a class war! Kicking off with a stinging riff, Noel's lyrics are pretty simple to understand, "Hey you/Wearing the Crown/ Making no sound/ I hear you feel down/ Well that's too bad/Welcome to my world." It's underrated in my opinion. The more you listen to it the better it gets.

                        Supersonic was the first single released from Definitely Maybe, on 11 April 1994. And this track just blows me away. Liam's lyrics, for the most part, are completely nonsensical, "I know a girl called Elsa/She's into Alka Seltzer/She sniffs it through a cane on a supersonic train/And she makes me laugh/I got her autograph/She done it with a doctor/On a helicopter." Um - WHAT? And that's the genius of it. It's nothing short of legendary. When that opening drum beat kicks I know what's coming next and I get chills down my spine. "I'm feeling supersonic/Give me gin and tonic/You can have it all/ But how much do you want it?" After listening to this track for the first time I wanted it all and I wanted it badly.

                        Bring It On Down gives us Liam snarling and stomping like a petulant teenager. This is an angry little number which swirls along like a mini tornado. This wasn't released as a single but it should have been. When I listen to it now it reminds me more than a little of 'What's the Story Morning Glory', my favourite Oasis track of all time. It's not as good by any means, and it lacks the air of menace of Morning Glory, but it's dark, it's drum-led and there's a lot going on.

                        Next up is the utterly, utterly brilliant 'Cigarettes and Alcohol', which spent a massive 35 weeks in the charts after it was released. Everybody should know this track - no excuses! Therefore, all I'm going to say that it provided the perfect soundtrack for what was happening in my life at the time and, in my defence, I blame the pressure of University for leading me astray. And I couldn't possibly comment any further!

                        Slide Away was written, according to Noel Gallagher, on a Les Paul guitar that Johnny Marr sent to him. It's a love song, which Liam delivers straight up with no sneering and no pontificating - to the backdrop of a heavy baseline and some twanging chords. But it works - it really, really works. It's superb. The lyrics are simple and effective, "Hold me down/ All the world's asleep/ I need you now - you've knocked me off my feet / I dream of you - we talk of growing old/ But you said please don't". Blimey - who'd have thought it?

                        There just isn't a weak track on this album. My least favourite would have to be 'Married with Children'. Followed by Digsy's Dinner , Columbia and Up in The Sky. And it's not that they're 'bad'. They're still pretty great in fact - but they just seem to lack the air of arrogance that is sprinkled liberally on top the other tracks. And because of that I think they lose something. I'm not quite sure what that something is but it's definitely tangible.

                        When I listen to this album I want to jump up and punch my fist in the air with a big stupid grin on my face. This quote from NME sums up exactly how I feel about Definitely Maybe: "It's like opening your bedroom curtains one morning and discovering that some f-er's built the Taj Mahal in your back garden and then filled it with your favourite flavour of Angel Delight. Yeah, that good."

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                          23.05.2010 15:09
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                          Some of my favourite inspirational quotes.

                          For months now I've been subscribing to a daily email. Each morning, when I open my inbox, I have a new, inspirational quote waiting for me and over the weeks I've really grown to look forward to it. So much so that I started to keep a note of my favourites. I send them on to my work colleagues and friends when I find something particularly powerful, thought-provoking or funny - there's no medicine like a good belly laugh in my humble opinion! I'd like to share with you a few of my favourite quotes so far. Each one has had a positive impact on me, whether it has galvanised me into action about something, caused me to think differently about a situation or issue or just made me smile when I read

                          Some you'll doubt recognise and a few you won't. But I hope you enjoy these quotes as much as I do and I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on them too.

                          My personal 'favourite' favourite to date is the one by Thomas Jefferson, which you'll find towards the end of this article. I've had to tie quite a few knots in my time!

                          ***************

                          "Women have to harness their power -- it's absolutely true. It's just learning not to take the first no. And if you can't go straight ahead, you go around the corner."
                          Cher

                          "Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can."
                          Danny Kaye

                          "Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it."
                          Dennis P. Kimbro

                          "There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you need to be a person who makes things happen."
                          Jim Lovell

                          "Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there."
                          Will Rogers

                          "The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for."
                          Maureen Dowd

                          "Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive it isn't. "
                          Richard Bach (Illusions)

                          "When our memories outweigh our dreams, we have grown old."
                          Bill Clinton

                          "I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief."
                          Gerry Spence

                          "An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory."
                          Friedrich Engels

                          "Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs."
                          Henry Ford

                          "The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy; I mean that if you are happy you will be good."
                          Bertrand Russell

                          "There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other."
                          Douglas Everett (American Hockey Player)

                          "When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on."
                          Thomas Jefferson

                          "How far that little candle throws his beams. So shines a good deed in a weary world."
                          William Shakespeare

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                            21.05.2010 12:52
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                            An excellent vacuum cleaner for only £15.00!

                            I bought this vacuum cleaner last October when I moved house. My previous vacuum, manufactured by a popular household name and costing £85.00 on a Tesco special offer reduced from £115.00, had lasted less than 12 months before the motor blew up. Unfortunately I had misplaced the receipt so Tesco were unwilling to offer me either a replacement or a refund. Funds were quite limited at the time, and my friend also has one of these and had recommended it to me so I decided to give it a go, just as a stop-gap until I could afford something else.

                            To be honest I wasn't expecting that much from a vacuum cleaner that cost me £15.00 but I was amazed at how good this little machine is. It is much more effective than my previous model! Whilst I don't use it every day, I generally vacuum twice a week (three times if people are coming over, lol!) so it's used fairly frequently.

                            It's extremely simple to use - no bells and whistles here. Simply press the foot pedal to turn it on and away you go. You can pull the machine around easily as its on wheels. Once you're done you you don't have to worry about trailing wires either as the 5 metre power cord comes with a foot operated rewind, something that I didn't expect from a value model. Its small size (35cm x 18cm x 24cm approx) makes it very easy to store away.

                            At 1200 watts it's not the most powerful of machines on the market by any means, but the suction is extremely strong. I have a cat and it picks up hairs without any problems at all. It has a 1.5 metre stretch hose which is ideal for vacuuming stairs but as it weighs in at only 3.4kg it's so light that I can carry the whole thing up the stairs with one hand, using the carry handle, whilst vacuuming with the other.

                            In terms of noise - well it's no noisier than any other vacuum I've used.

                            The cleaner is suitable for different floor surfaces too. I have carpets in the living room and bedrooms, slate tiles in the kitchen and bathroom and laminate in the upstairs loo and it can cope with all these different flooring types no problem; the flick of a switch will extend or retract the brushes on the base of the nozzle as required.

                            The vacuum comes with three dust bags, each with a capacity is 1.5 litres. There is a handy 'dustbag full' indicator on top of the cleaner. I've used all three bags now so do need to get some replacement ones. The bags are very easy to change. Just flip up the handle located on the side of the machine and the lid will lift up. Slide the full bag out, slot the new bag in and close the lid. Unfortunately, I've looked on the Argos website several times now and they are always sold out, which means a trip to the shop. In the meantime I have just emptied the full bag and popped it back in - they are strong enough to be able to do this a couple of times. It's a messy job though and I don't recommend it! Must try and get to Argos this weekend...

                            I don't think this vacuum would be any good on a deep pile carpet as from time to time it does struggle a little, even on my short pile carpets, and I have to remove the nozzle, get on my hands and knees and use the hose to remove any particularly stubborn bits of fluff, etc. But in general I have no complaints whatsoever and it's a real little powerhouse for the money.

                            I even took out the three-year replacement product cover - well for £3.99 it would have been rude not to!

                            At the time of writing this vacuum cleaner was available from Argos (www.argos.co.uk) for £14.81.The product code is 406/3358. A pack of 5 Argos Value dust bags costs £5.99 but are still not available online!

                            ***Verdict overall***

                            This is a great little vacuum cleaner for everyday light use, and much better than some more expensive models on the market. Compact, lightweight and powerful it cleans my house with ease and would also be ideal for use in a car or caravan.

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                              15.04.2010 21:25
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                              If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen!

                              I picked up a bottle of Encona West Indian Original Hot Pepper sauce in Iceland a few weeks ago. It cost around £1.00 for 142ml which I thought was pretty reasonable, but in my experience 'hot' sauces tend to be a bit tame and I have to use a third of the bottle in one go, so not having used this before I probably wouldn't have paid much more for a 'trial run'.

                              I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised with this sauce. This baby is FIERCE and then some!

                              Upon first glance it didn't look very scary. On the bottle there's a lovely picture of a beach and a hammock and it just states that the sauce is 'hot' and there is a single red pepper to signify the 'hotness'. "Ha - that's no match for me" I thought as I lobbed it in my basket along with the potato waffles and fish fingers. And, given that I like to add a liberal helping (i.e. half the jar) of hot jalapeno peppers to a cheese sarnie you can understand why I'm a bit gung ho with these things. The people in my local Chinese take away despair of me because it doesn't matter how much I plead they won't make me a 'hot' curry - well, not by my standards anyway!

                              So, cue a few days ago when I'm rooting around looking for a way to spice up some grilled chicken and roasted veg. My eye caught the innocuous looking bottle of Hot Pepper Sauce and I decided to give it a whirl. I opened it, chucked it liberally over my dinner, took a big mouthful and WHAMMO!

                              I certainly won't be doing that again! In hindsight, I probably should have read the ingredients on the back of the bottle. The first two listed are Habanero Peppers and Scotch Bonnet Peppers, two of the hottest chilli peppers in the world. And here's a bit of chilli trivia for you. Until recently, the Habanero was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's hottest chilli. That accolade is now apparently being challenged by the 'Dorset Naga', which is grown in our very own county of Dorset no less (hence the name); although the Naga was, in fact, originally cultivated from a Habanero. You get the picture - it's HOT HOTTIE HOT.

                              Anyway, once I'd gotten over the shock, caught my breath and wiped my eyes I was absolutely chuffed to bits. At last, something that satisfies my cravings for hot food!

                              And this really is a great little sauce. It's a fiery orange colour (another clue I should have picked up on), quite runny in consistency and contains chilli seeds. It's very versatile and can be used as a cooking ingredient in soups and sauces, as a seasoning or a condiment. I've tried it mixed with mayonnaise, or yoghurt as a dip. And also with passata as a spiced up tomato pizza base. I haven't used it 'neat' since 'Chickengate'. Live and learn, people, live and learn!!!

                              Encona belongs to parent company Enco Product Ltd. Encona used to market Caribbean grocery products in the UK during the 1950s and 1960s when the West Indian population in the UK was growing. The first pepper sauce was introduced in 1975 and now Encona manufactures a range of 'A taste of' sauces; Caribbean, Far East, Asia and the Americas.
                              Each range is made up of several different products with varying degrees of heat. There are eleven sauces altogether, with exciting names such as 'Smooth Papaya Hot Pepper Sauce' and 'American Chilli Ketchup'. Upon further exploration, it turns out that a picture of an entire red chilli on a bottle means, in Encona language, that this is the hottest sauce they make. Go figure.

                              You can buy Encona sauces from most of the big supermarkets. The company has its own website www.tasteexplorers.co.uk. And even its own pages on Twitter and Facebook! I have so far resisted the urge to join, but I can't wait to try out some of Encona's other offerings. I'll just be proceeding with a bit more caution this time!

                              As a final word - do try not to get it on your clothes. 'Cos it ain't coming out. And if anyone does happen to have a homegrown remedy for removing chilli stains I would love to hear it!

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                                12.04.2010 10:47
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                                Eating slowly will not only improve our health, it can benefit our social wellbeing too!

                                When you tuck into your lunch do you realise that food digestion actually begins in the mouth, not the stomach. As you chew your salivary glands secrete enzyme rich saliva which breaks down food starch into sugar and begins the process of fat digestion. The saliva itself moistens the food and helps to create a food bolus (a ball) which can then be swallowed easily. The more you chew, the more your food begins to be digested thus making it much easier for your stomach to finish the job. Under-digested food can also cause gastrooesophogeal reflux (that's heartburn to you and me). This happens when the stomach contents, consisting of food, stomach acid and digestive juices, travel back up from the stomach into the oesophagus and cause a painful burning sensation.

                                While you are eating your intestine is sending signals to your brain. Once it's had enough food it sends out an 'I've had enough to eat' message to the brain. When the brain receives this it activates the satiety response which is what makes us stop eating. According to the experts it can take up to 20 minutes for food to move from the stomach to the intestine, the intestine to send out the signal to our brain and our brain to put the brakes on. If we're eating rapidly we actually don't hear that 'I'm full' signal quickly enough and end up eating more than we need. This not only gives us that awful bloated feeling but can of course contribute to weight gain in the longer term.

                                If you eat slowly you will actually taste your food - I know, amazing isn't it! That in itself can be a pleasurable and sensual experience; savouring the flavours, textures and smells from your favourite meal, how they intermingle and work together. Not only that but you will actually start to pay attention to what you are putting in your mouth. Chowing down on a mouthful of value beefburger and chips is likely to become less enjoyable and therefore you may subconsciously effect a change from unhealthy to healthy eating.

                                There are reasons other than health, however, to exhort the benefits of eating slowly. In today's fast paced world, many of us don't take the opportunity to actually sit down and enjoy a meal as it should be enjoyed, and instead, treat our food as an inconvenience simply to be tolerated. To put it simply, we eat on the go. We eat at our desks, we eat in our cars, we eat standing up in the kitchen while we're waiting for the washing machine to finish. But by repeatedly doing this we are disconnecting ourselves from a very important ritual that has, for centuries, been at the heart of society. - sitting down, around the table, with friends and family and breaking bread together!

                                In many cultures a meal is considered to be an extremely important social occasion. Family and friends gather round the table for hours, talking, eating and drinking. The French and the Italians, for example, take their food very seriously, savouring each course and complementing it with wine. We would do well to take their lead. Sharing a meal with friends and family is one of the most important social rituals we can observe; appreciating good food and spending quality time with the people that we love the most.

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                                • Benefit High Beam / Make Up / 107 Readings / 102 Ratings
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                                  04.04.2010 12:46
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                                  A subtle skin illuminating liquid which will give your skin a gorgeous glow.

                                  **Please note that the company information contained in this review is also included in my review for Benefit Bathina Body So Fine**

                                  Benefit High Beam is a complexion enhancing highlighter, part of the BeneFit Cosmetics range of products. Benefit has christened this product a 'supermodel in a bottle' and I can certainly see why because it makes your skin look radiant!

                                  I've been using High Beam for a while now as it offers me the look that l want - a healthy, glowing complexion. My skin looks luminous when I wear this and I feel great. It also gives me a light shimmer which looks great on photos!

                                  The product itself comes in a nail polish style bottle, even down to the style of the applicator brush. In fact it has the consistency of nail polish too. It is a lovely pearly, pale pink colour. It's quite thick in consistency. Don't let that put you off; it's just important to blend it really, really well into your skin or you could look a bit 'stripey' in certain lighting. Not a good look. And a little goes a long way; the mantra 'less is more' would definitely be appropriate here. Otherwise you run the risk of looking like a glitter bomb, albeit a subtle one! I would suggest having a play around with it at home first, just to get used to it.

                                  I wear High Beam in several ways - it's very versatile. If I want to highlight certain areas of my face I put on my tinted moisturiser and then apply the High Beam to the parts that I want to accentuate; my cheekbones, as well as along my brow bone and the bridge of my nose. For a night out I will also sometimes apply it to the sockets above my eyes, just beneath my eyebrows, and also on the inside corners of my eyes - it really helps to open my eyes up and make them stand out. If I want an 'all over glow' then I simply mix the High Beam with a moisturiser and apply. Instant radiance - perfect!

                                  Benefit was born in 1976, created by identical twins Jean and Jane Ford who opened up their first beauty boutique in San Francisco. The wacky brand now has over 3000 counters in 30 countries and many of the products have attained cult status amongst celebrities, including Mary Kate Olsen. Probably most famous of all the Benefit products is 'Benetint', a rose-coloured lip and cheek stain, originally concocted in 1977 for an exotic dancer who wanted something that would make her nipples look pretty and pink. With the strapline 'the sexiest flush you can get from a bottle' Benetint is as much in demand today as it was then and is loved by celebrities, make-up artists and fashionistas everywhere.

                                  I must however mention that, for some people, there may be an issue with wearing Benefit. This is around the company's animal testing policy. Benefit states that it does not test its finished products on animals. It also states (and this is taken directly from the Benefit website) that, "It is impossible to use only ingredients which have never been tested on animals at some point in the past. In conformity with European rules, tests on ingredients are not done on animals when other methods exist to ensure the safety of those ingredients." So - it's a bit 'woolly' to say the least. I've done some research on the internet and can't find anything concrete either way. It's for this reason that I have only given this product four stars - I would have preferred to give it three and a half but there isn't that option!

                                  I have to say that I've been a fan of Benefit for a long time. The company has managed to create a niche for itself that many have tried to emulate but haven't even gotten close. It's a delicious mix of the whimsical, the pretty and the girly (think pink - lots and lots of pink), but with just a sprinkle of flirtatiousness; all wrapped up with a big vintage bow! Benefit puts as much thought into its distinctive kitsch and kookie packaging and product names as it does into the products themselves. With titles such as Dr Feelgood complexion balm, Some kind-a Gorgeous foundation faker, Ooh La Lift instant under-eye brightening boost and Thrrrob "turned on" face powder it's almost impossible to fall under the Benefit spell just a little. And everything smells just heavenly. Which made it even harder for me to decide that the products I own now will probably be my last, until such time that Benefit can categorically state that it does not test any ingredients on animals or uses suppliers who do.

                                  Benefit High Beam is available from www.benefitcosmetics.co.uk and costs £17.50 (plus delivery).

                                  Although I have stated that I would recommend this product I would also draw attention to the company's current animal testing policy.

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