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I'm well known by my friends and family for having an iPod attached to my body. My ears often get a quick glance before anybody starts talking to me. So needless to say, music is a big part of my life, and there are only a handful of musicians I would consider myself a true fan of. Lostprophets is one of those bands. Like many fans, their breakthrough track "Last Train Home" is what brought them to my attention. And back when the track was released in early 2004, I didn't expect to like them for so long. But almost six years later, I'm still proud to be a fan. And having recently been to see them live for only the second time - the last time was back in 2005! - and looking forward to my third time in May, I think it's about time I wrote an opinion on them. Hailing from Pontypridd, Wales, Lostprophets formed in 1997 and have released four studio albums and three EPs - the most recent being The Betrayed in January 2010. They've been nominated and won numerous awards, achieved two top ten singles and have reached Number One in the Alternative Songs chart. Current members include Ian Watkins on vocals, Lee Gaze on lead guitar, Mike Lewis on rhythm guitar, Stuart Richardson on bass, Jamie Oliver on turntables, backing vocals and samples and Luke Johnson on drums and percussion. Past band members have been DJ Stepzak on turntables and samples, Mike Chiplin on drums and percussion and Iian Rubin the most recent member to leave in early 2009, also on drums and percussion. Getting hot, thirsty and occasionally hit, shoved and jumped on might not be everybody's idea of fun, but Lostprophets put on such an immense live show, that these things become minor inconveniences. On both occasions I've been to one of their tours, the crowd has been fully involved, and I've not seen one person who hasn't enjoyed themselves out of the thousands who flock to see them. In the four years worth of live shows I missed, Lostprophets seem to have adapted themselves to the stage and now seem to be more comfortable up there. Having the good fortune to have met the band personally after the show last week (25th February), I'm also pleased to say that the majority of the band are extremely nice in person, taking the time to have conversations as well as the usual pictures and autographs. As for the rest of the band, after entertaining a crowd of 2000+, tiredness is to be expected and some of them still took the time for autographs and pictures. There's no way you can hold it against them though, the energy they put into the show would leave anybody too tired to talk. So why do I like Lostprophets so much? The clever guitar riffs and immense bass lines play a part, the heart thudding drum beat and colossal introduction to with turntables to most song play another part, but I guess my heart really belongs to the lyrics and vocals. Having not been able to understand a word of what Ian Watkins was saying during our conversation, I now find it quite surprising how he sings with such clarity. With catchy tunes, amazing vocals and very catchy lyrics, it's no wonder Lostprophets have made it this far. The band also make an effort to stay connected with fans and share information and news in the form of a band Twitter, individual Twitters, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and Flickr, as well as a YouTube channel for video updates. The Fake Sound of Progress (2000 - 2002) is regarded as the band's least popular album but was still certified Gold. "Shinobi Vs. Dragon Ninja" was the first single to be released by the band and achieved medium popularity, making it to number 33 in the US Alternative Chart and number 41 in the UK singles chart. "The Fake Sound of Progress" attained number 21, the band's second single and last to be released from the first album. The album, Start Something was released in early 2004 and through its success; the band became more extensively known internationally. Selling over half a million copies in the US alone, the album quickly became the breakthrough album, achieving number 4 is the UK album charts. "Burn Burn" was the first single to be released from Start Something, achieving an impressive number 17 in the UK charts and started to get the Lostprophets noticed a little more. "Last Train Home" was released next, the breakthrough single. Reaching number 8 in the UK chart and number 1 in the US Alternative chart, this was the single that really got the Lostprophets noticed. "Make a Move" was next to be released, reaching number 9 in the US Alternative Chart, followed by "Last Summer", one of the bands slower songs, reaching number 13 in the UK singles chart. "Goodbye Tonight" was released as a UK single only, reaching 42 while "I Don't Know" was released as a radio single, reaching number 11. Goodbye Tonight was the last single to be released from Start Something. Following the success of Start Something, the band released Liberation Transmission in 2006 and entered the UK album Chart at number 1. "Rooftops" was the first single to be released from this album and hit number 8 in the UK singles chart and is widely regarded as one of the bands most popular songs. "A Town Called Hypocrisy" was released next, reaching number 23. "Can't Catch Tomorrow" was the third single to be released from Liberation Transmission, and although didn't achieve high in the charts (35), has since become one of the Lostprophets well-known songs. "4am Forever" was the last single to be released from this album, one of the slower and more emotion-filled songs from the Lostprophets. It reached a disappointing 34 in the charts. The band's fourth studio album, The Betrayed, was finally released in January 2010 after numerous delays, following problems with the label and producers. Reaching number 1 in the UK Indie Album charts and number 3 in the general UK album charts, this album is by far the best, in my opinion. "It's Not The End of The World, But I Can See It From Here" became the band's first single to be released in 2 years and reached number 16 in the UK charts. "Where We Belong" was released next, reaching number 32. This is personally one of my current favourite songs. "For He's A Jolly Good Felon" will be the next single to be released on the 5th April 2010. The video has already been recorded in Manchester during a day off from their current tour and will contain an exclusive B-side. With successes ranging from number 1 albums and singles, it's no wonder Lostprophets has become a favourite band of many - mine included. Having stuck by the band for the past 6 years, I hope I'll be able to still call myself a fan in another 6, following more success and popularity. With each album and single being better than the last, it's impossible to see where the band will be in a few years. I recommend Lostprophets to pretty much everyone. The catchy lyrics and clever beats will almost certainly pull you in. With my ticket in hand for the next UK show in Cardiff, I eagerly wait to see what will be produced next by this amazing British band.
The London Underground - or the tube, as it's more common know - is fast, convenient and as a tourist, stopped at all the places I wanted to go. Split into nine different zones with thirteen different lines, the Underground covers almost all area of London within the M25. With so many different lines and zones, the tube is extremely confusing at the best of times and can take a while to get used to, but there are large maps available for viewing and some major stations also offer smaller pocket maps, it's worth grabbing a few of these are they are easily lost and ripped. The lines and zones are clearly marked by a variety of different colours for each line As a lone parent with a young child, hauling a pushchair around can be daunting at the best of time, and out of hundreds of stations, only a handful within Central London offer step-free access. Not really a problem if there's two of you, just an inconvenience, but if you are by yourself or are wheelchair bound, this can be a major problem. Although I am able to manage stairs with a pushchair, the sheer amount was extremely intimidating though the steps at 99% of stations aren't steep in the slightest and luckily, a lot of passer-bys offer a helping hand. The step-free access stations are clearly marked on all maps - including your handheld ones. Although the Underground network is huge, most stations are not and you can start feeling claustrophobic very quickly, especially as the major stations are extremely busy almost all the time. As with all public transport, peak times such as the school run do get really busy and it's worth avoiding these times, especially as pick pockets will be using the Underground. The waiting times for the tube vary depending on which line but during the daytime, I never seemed to wait more than a few minutes. Prices vary depending on which zones you're travelling within, though as a tourist, I didn't need to venture out of zones 1-2, which cost me £5.60 (after 9:30am) for unlimited travel, reasonable value in my opinion, though if you needed to buy one of these for more than a couple of days, it would probably be worth getting an Oyster card. If you need to travel to more zones, this would obviously be more expensive with zones 1-3 going up to £6.30 (after 9:30am) and so on. For your money, you get a ticket that's extremely similar to a train ticket with a black strip on the back for the machines at each station to read. The machines at the station let you in and out and with every station I went to, a couple of members of staff were watching over the process. At every station I used, there was an extra wide machine for wheelchairs and pushchairs - even if it wasn't a step-free access station. Each station I used had a good number of staff around, mainly working on public safety and making sure people don't jump the barriers. Extremely reassuring if you get lost, injured or pick pocketed. The trains themselves are quite narrow, adding to the sense of claustrophobia and I personally felt sick looking out the windows and seeing the tunnel wall just inches from the windows. On most trains, there was a designated area for pushchairs and wheelchairs, and in general, people did seem to respect this. Each train differs with its seating system and you can either get the two-seater facing forward classic or the multiple seats in a row under the windows. The seats themselves, although cushioned, weren't too comfortable and not at all roomy. Overall, I would recommend the tube if you're able to get down the steps with ease. It truly is the fastest way around London but as expected, does get extremely busy. If you're using the tube for just a couple of days, it offers good value for money but I can see travelling in London all the time would prove expensive. Although I didn't have many problems with the stations, I hope they improve the situation surrounding step-free accesses and add more escalators or lifts, even if to those stations that prove most popular.
I'm barely out of my DooYoo training wheels myself, having been here for just two months. However, with me still being new to the site, I feel I'm able to point new members in the right direction as I've only recently got onto the right paths myself. *Writing Reviews and Churning* There's a multitude of information available for the product you're reviewing. Churning out reviews that barely scrape 150 words won't win you any favours, will damage your reputation and will probably lose you money in the long run. Think quality, not quantity. Yes, while you "only" earn 15 DooYoo miles per view, if your review is of decent quality, more people will read it and more people will come back to read your other reviews. The 150 word is a minimum, not a target; you don't have to stop writing once you hit 150 words! (If you did, my advice would end here) You don't need a reputation, I hear you cry! Well, you do. I'm sure the people who get nothing but Not Useful and Somewhat Useful's get a little advice from DooYoo, and I have seen members removed and banned. While the £££ signs may be lit up in your eyes right now, slow down, take a breather and actually think about your review. You don't have to review every single thing today! There's 365 days in the year and the 5 review limit isn't a target. *Ratings, quick rating and revenge ratings* 150 DooYoo miles doesn't sound like much. Why would you need someone to look at your reviews when you can just earn money from writing them? Just because someone rated me, doesn't mean I have to rate them back. True. This is very true, you don't. And I never did. But looking back at my first 15 or so reviews, I have an average of around 4 ratings each. I never rated back and those people stop rating me, they took the time to read my review and give me an opinion but I never gave it back. These days, I do the same thing. While I don't expect ratings back every time, if I spot a name I've reviewed 7 or 8 times and never received even one back, I won't go to that review. Unfair, you may say. But almost all of us are here to earn a little extra cash while being part of a community and I'd prefer to lend my time to someone who will lend it back. Quick ratings annoy me endlessly. A quick rating is where you rate back the same thing you received. What's wrong with that, you may ask. The person who rated you hasn't written the same thing as you, even if it's on the same subject! Giving someone a Useful on a crowned review because they gave you one doesn't really cut it, and I have my own little black book of quick raters who I now avoid. And look at it this way, for every 1000 rates you receive an extra £15.00 for your effort (based on 15 DooYoo miles). And it's easily done; I'm almost at the 2000 received ratings mark! It is worth rating other people, and rating them properly. REVENGE RATING! I hate this. Hate hate hate. I usually try to leave a few words of advice to try and help out new members and give pointers on where they're going wrong. I don't have to do this and I could just rate Not Useful and leave. But I don't, so when I receive a Not Useful or Somewhat Useful back, I do get a little upset, yes. I always report revenge raters and it's only you who will lose out in the end. Thankfully, since I've put up a guide to my ratings on my profile, my Not Useful or Somewhat Useful ratings haven't moved up much. *Community Spirit* No, it's not in the terms and conditions. It's not what you signed up for. You don't need to take part in the community. But it helps if you do. I also like to send messages to a few people when I've really enjoyed their review or I've found something in common with them. It makes the site more social, more fun and less about earning money. If you're having fun on the site, you'll be here for a lot long, rather than leaving when the novelty of the site has worn off. You never know, you might make some good online friends. *Personality* You have one somewhere, don't lie. Let it shine through in your reviews! While not going overboard and reaching 1,000 words, tell me how you came across the product! Give me an experience! Picked up any handy hints and tips relating to the product? Share! Personally, I don't mind a little personality in reviews I read. It gives it uniqueness and makes it yours and yours alone. While I don't need to know how many tins of soup and what kinds were in your Tesco trolley when you picked up the bread you were planning to dunk in them, it is nice to know how you came across the bread. Is it a family favourite, was it recommended (and why was it!), was it on special offer and where (so I can find myself a bargain!). It's all GOOD kinds of (irrelevant) information. *Research* I've read so many reviews where it's said something like "there are other kinds of this product but I don't know what..." and it's completely put me off and made me think the author doesn't really care about what they're saying. Google is an amazing tool. Having a quick look for missing information won't hurt your review and yes, while it may take a few minutes, it does make the review so much better. Accuracy is a key part in a review. *Quality* It's often the most boring information that makes the review so much better. Things like nutritional information (I'm on a diet so I find this information invaluable!!), ingredients - although I don't always include this, it is important to some people, particularly people who can't eat certain things, people with allergies, vegetarians, vegans, etc. Price!!! Even if it's only an approximate, I want to know how much the product will set me back if I ever decide to try it. It all makes for a good review, and while it's boring, it's important too. *Spell check, vocabulary and grammar* It's not hard to stick your review through a quick spell check. There are some free online ones if you haven't got a program like Microsoft Word. Capitalization and grammar are also extremely important. Please please please proof read your review. Net/text speak is a big no-no too. I dnt want 2 reed sumthin' this thx. Vocabulary is also important, using the word 'good' 4 times per paragraph gets repetitive and it seems like you haven't put much effort into your review. *Layout* Spacing your review is important too, it makes it easier to read and more attractive. It's also easier to write in actual paragraphs as you're less likely to churn and repeat the same information. However, too much spacing can, at time, be annoying as the scroll button works overtime. Overall, just be honest, include all information in your review, follow the rules, rate back and spell check, you'll soon get into the DooYoo habit and it will all become second nature.
I booked this hotel on a whim. Travelodge were doing their £9 sale and this was the only one in Central London to take part in the offer - or at least, the only one I could find. Staying for two nights, the total cost was £32.90 - £9 for one night, £12 the next and £5.95 each night for breakfast. Finding the hotel was extremely easy; a ten minute walk from King's Cross train station/King's Cross St. Pancreas tube station, with no awkward directions - just a walk down the road leading from the station to the hotel. On the way down, you pass a Starbucks, McDonald's, several shops and cafes. Arriving at the hotel, I was pleasantly surprised - reviews I had read on the hotel after booking had said the building was old, shabby and worn - this didn't appear to be the case. I arrived at approximately 5pm and found no queue when I arrived. Being a mother of a young baby, I'm used to hauling a pushchair up and down steps and was pleased with the fact the entrance to the hotel only had four or five to contend with. Though I don't struggle with stairs, wheelchair users and other lone parents may find these difficult as they are rather steep. The lobby area was clean with a restaurant attached to the left. Although there were three or four computers at the reception area, only one member of staff seemed to be attending, though this wasn't a problem as it was quiet. Check in was quick and simple. As my room was pre-paid, all I had to do was provide my name and confirm my address and I was handed an electronic key-card. The staff member wasn't overly friendly and welcoming but by no means rude. Going towards the lifts, I passed half a dozen computers which provided internet access at £1 for 20 minutes and a vending machine offering snacks such as crisps and chocolate and those all important toiletries that are easily forgotten such as shampoo and body wash. To access the corridor leading to the rooms, you need insert your key-card into the door, giving you a sense of security and safety. Going into the corridor, I was met by three lifts - though I only witnessed two working in the dozen or so times I used them. The lifts themselves were extremely small, barely fitting my daughter's pushchair in - though people still seemed to want to cram themselves in to the tiny space and rub shoulders with strangers. Getting out the lift, a badly placed vending machine meant I had to squeeze out the lift into the corridor. The vending machine itself offered a bottle for coke and water for around £1.50 each. The corridors were slightly narrow and two people wouldn't be able to walk side by side. The signs were extremely confusing to begin with - maybe it was just my floor, but there were no arrow signs showing which way to go. Luckily, the corridor had plenty of turns and leads you round in a full circle, so although it took a little longer, we still got there. Arriving at the door, I noticed it was already and the wood around the handle was damaged. Though this was unique to my room, it was a worrying factor. After vigorous testing from inside and out, I was assured the lock itself wasn't damaged and nobody could get into the room whilst I wasn't there; it just needed firmly shutting and quick check upon entering/leaving. Though not convenient, it wasn't too much hassle. Upon entering the room, I was slightly shocked at the size. After passing a small bathroom and storage cupboard, I entered a twin bed room with a desk, TV and bedside table. The room's walkway was very narrow, barely big enough for me to fit the pushchair in, but it did fit. The room itself was very clean and fresh, as with almost every Travelodge I have stayed at and I was not disappointed with the cleanliness at all. On looking around the room, I noticed there was a lot of storage space - extremely handy for a room this size - with a huge wardrobe as you walk in, a kind of built in chest next to this and then the desk with four average sized drawer and one large drawer. In between the beds was a bedside table fixed to the wall with two more decent sized drawers. As with most budget hotels, there were no 'frills' like chocolate on the pillow or biscuits, however a kettle, two cups, spoons, tea bags, coffee sachets, sugar, milk and sweeteners are provided as well as multiple vending machines throughout the hotel. Bins were provided - one in the main room and one in the bathroom - but these were small and both got full after just a few hours. I had forgotten to book a travel cot for my daughter and I thought this would be a problem as the hotel had hundreds of guests. But after explaining the situation to the front desk, I was happy to be told one will be on its way up soon. Again, the staff member wasn't overly enthusiastic but having worked for Travelodge myself, I don't hold it against her. 15 to 20 minutes later, a different member of staff delivered the cot. Not an unreasonable amount of time but would have caused a problem if someone was in a rush. After settling in to the room, I made my way to the restaurant in the lobby. There was an adequate amount of table although at busy times I can see that you probably would have to wait for one. For a small hotel restaurant, the menu was alright. There were six or seven different meal options in each category - starter, main meal, dessert, children's menu - and a licensed bar. Each meal seemed to be around the £6, decent for Central London. I was provided with a high chair and the waitress seemed friendly enough. There was a widescreen TV attached to the wall and the volume was of perfect volume - loud enough to hear but not interrupt a conversation - and was set on a general music channel. Although it was only 6pm and the restaurant hadn't been open too long, the soup wasn't available and I had to make a quick alternative decision. The portion sizes were great and I felt full after my starter and half my main meal. If you don't fancy anything from the restaurant or you find it closed, there were two fast foods places directly opposite the hotel and more up the road by King's Cross station. Going back up to my room, I decided to run a bath for me and my daughter. The bathroom was extremely small and I had to squash myself right in to be able to shut the door. The bath itself was also small, especially in length. Not a bath you can lie down and relax in but doesn't cause a problem if you're just sitting up. I was able to straighten my legs in the bath and to adequately wash myself and my daughter. I was pleasantly surprised by the towels provided; they were of extremely good size and in excellent condition. Although it was January, snowy and extremely cold outside, it was by no means cold inside. However, it wasn't very warm either. A small radiator with temperature controls and an off button was beside the desk. The windows opened about 2 inches and was slightly hard to open - even harder to close. The curtain hung from two separate rails which overlapped, which completely blocked light from entering. Having read other reviews for this hotel, I was worried about the noise level from the neighbouring rooms but on both nights had no problems - or complaints! - and didn't find any problems with thin walls. However, on a few occasions I could hear people walking past my door and their conversations could be clearly heard - even if they were talking quietly. Luckily, the corridor didn't seem to be busy and I heard no noise past 10pm. The beds themselves were clean and comfortable, but I did notice one was firmer than the other - perfect for catering to different needs but could cause a problem if both people want a softer bed! The sheets and duvet cover were simple and extremely clean. The duvet was tucked in tightly under the bed, so much so I had to get out to loosen them. There was one pillow per bed provided however a spare can be found in the wardrobe. There was a set of light switches on the wall above the bedside table, controlling all the lights in the room - barring the bathroom. The light above the second twin bed seemed to be well and truly on its way out but was perfect for me as it worked well as a nightlight for my daughter - though it obviously wasn't meant for this use. Using the bathroom again in the morning, I noticed a small bar of soap and two disposable plastic cups had been supplied. The mirror and sink area was big enough for two people (as long as you don't need to close the door!) though the sink itself wasn't. I couldn't seem to get any cold water through the taps, no matter what I did. I'm not sure if this was just a fault with my room or was a recurring theme throughout the hotel. Before leaving the hotel for the day, I rechecked into my room. Again, this was a quick, easy and simple process of confirming a few details and having my key-card reprogrammed for that day. I was happy enough to leave my belongings in the room whilst going out all day and upon returning, had found my room had been cleaned - I had mixed feelings about this. When I used to work for Travelodge, we used to ask our longer stay guests if they would like their rooms cleaning while out. I wasn't asked and although it was great coming back to a clean and tidy room, I did have the initial panic about my laptop, cash and belongings as some things had been moved around - though this proved an unfounded fear. The bins had been emptied, sheets changed, floor hovered, refreshments replenished and other general tidying up. The TV was small but for a budget hotel, I wouldn't expect anymore. Ten channels were provided, including the usual BBC One, Two, ITV, Channel Four and Five as well as a music channel, news channel and Cbeebies - plus some radio stations to boot. The only major quibble I have about my whole experience in this hotel was with the travel cot. Although hardly any travel cots come with sheets, I wasn't provided with anything to cover the mattress which seemed to be stained several times. As my daughter often sleeps on her knees with her bum in the air and face on the mattress, I did find this unacceptable and had to make do with stripping the spare bed for the sheet to cover the stains. On both mornings of my hotel stay, I had breakfast. As mentioned before, advance booking is £5.95 and two kids can eat free with each paying adult. I thought this was extremely good value for what was on offer. The breakfast was an all-you-can-eat buffet and consisted of several different things. Cornflakes and Rice Krispies were on offer for cereal with fresh milk. Cooked breakfast was sausages, bacon, scrambled egg, beans and tomatoes. I witnessed these being replenished twice - though the first time I came down was pretty early and the food seemed to have been left out for a while. The hot foods are provided on big metal trays keeping them warm. White and wholegrain bread could be found next to an industrial toaster that was constantly left on. Butter, jam and marmalade were served in small cartons. Blueberry muffins and fresh Muller fruit yogurts in multiple flavours could also be found on the breakfast buffet as well as tea, coffee, apple juice and orange juice. The morning staff seemed much more lively, cheery and friendlier than the other shifts with one staff member in particular who took a shine to my daughter and made our breakfast experience all the more pleasant. Checking out was simple. I just dropped my key-card into the slot on the reception desk and was on my way. Overall, I was extremely happy with my experience at this Travelodge. As I experienced none of the problems I have read in other reviews, I would happily recommend this hotel to anybody who wants to stay in a convenient Central London location and rooms can be found from as little as £19 if booked well in advance and even £9 during sale times. More importantly, my daughter was happy and relaxed in this hotel and didn't seem to mind being away from home like she usually is.
Weight Watchers Malted Danish is sliced white bread with malted wheat flakes and wheat bran produced by Warburtons and comes in 400g loaves. I found this bread while reading through my Slimming World books and decided to give it a try. I was quite impressed with this bread at first. Tasty, healthy and unique to other breads, Malted Danish provided me with a healthy range of bread to aid my weight loss. Providing one slice of bread for half a point on the Weight Watchers diet or one healthy B choice for three slices on the Slimming World diet. The bread comes in a plastic loaf bag, helping the keep the bread fresh, soft and tasty and offers you around 14 slices per loaf. The bag itself is mainly green, with transparent windows to see the bread and the Weight Watchers and Warburtons logos. On the bottom is the nutritional information and allergy advice. This bread is extremely delicious, tasting fresh, succulent and soft, this bread is definitely not lacking in the taste department like some other weight control breads. The only quibbles I have with the bread is the size, with each piece being around 2.5 - 3 inches in height and around 2 inches in width. Very small for a piece of bread, but 2 or 3 slices does adequately fill you up. The bread does not toast well either, turning extremely hard, dry and crunchy, quickly losing heat making it harder to melt butter into the bread. There's a slight aftertaste with this bread but it is by no means unpleasant. Each 20.4g slice of bread contains just 49 calories, 2.5 g of protein, 9.1g of carbohydrates, 0.6g sugar, 0.3g of fat, a fantastic 0.1g of saturates, 0.8g of fibre, 0.09g of sodium and 0.2g of salt, making this bread one of the healthiest on the market and is suitable for vegetarians. This bread contains wheat gluten and Soya and is made in a bakery which uses milk, sesame seeds and barely. Weight Watches Malted Danish is available at most - if not all - major retailers and is priced around the 60 - 85p mark, dependant on where you buy it, providing you with fantastic value for money on top of the healthy benefits. Overall, this bread is fantastic. Healthy and tasty, it's always my first choice of bread for sandwiches and with meals, though most of the time; I use other bread for toast. Providing you with fantastic value for money, I recommend this bread to anyone who wants a healthier alternative to other brands.
Pepsi Max is like the Coke Zero of the world. A sugar free diet product without the actual dreaded "D" word. Pepsi's producer, Britvic, describes Pepsi Max as a "low calorie cola flavoured soft drink with sweeteners". I'm normally a dedicated Diet Coke person but I came across 6 cans of Pepsi Max for £1.32 in Tesco the other day. Working out at just 22p per can, I decided it's worth the plunge and give Pepsi a fair try. At first, Pepsi Max tastes like Coke Zero with more bubbles. Not bad, as long as you don't drink more than two mouthfuls at a time in fear of burning through my windpipe. Pepsi Max comes in a black steel can, which proudly displays the nutritional information and plenty of reminders that this is, in fact Pepsi, not Coke. As mentioned before, this tasted like Coke Zero with more bubbles, at first. But after a few more mouthfuls, began to taste sweeter than normal Coke zero, Diet Coke and normal Coke put together. The fizziness of this drink doesn't do it any favours, leaving your tongue tingling and your throat burning - though this does seem to be a problem after 10 minutes as Pepsi just loses all fizziness randomly. There's an aftertaste with Pepsi Max - after the bubbles have disappeared, that is - which reminded me of cheap 9p cola; sweet and substandard. Pepsi Max boasts it contains just one calorie per 330ml can and 0.3g of protein. Fantastic, if it weren't for the fact Diet Coke and Coke zero boast the same thing and don't lack in the flavour department. Usually available anywhere that sells Coke, Pepsi costs around the same price (unless it's on offer). Overall, I wasn't impressed with Pepsi and will be sticking to Diet Coke in the future - no matter how many special offers Pepsi appear in.
As with most stores, there are a lot of positive and negative things that can influence you to use them. With BrightHouse, the negative often outweigh the positive, but if you have poor credit, you're pretty much compelled to use them. I have been a BrightHouse customer for a few months now. When I first went in, I was drawn by the brilliantly displayed TV's and instantly wanted one. While asking about the credit agreement and terms, the salesperson was slightly pushy. Though nobody is forced to say yes in any situation, a person who is easily led or falls under the slightest pressure who feel bound by the situation. BrightHouse offer insurance which is compulsory unless you can prove you have your own contents insurance. This is relatively low price. On top of this, they also offer replacement and repair for approximately £5 a week (on my product). I find this extremely useful as it also covers me for returning the product with no penalty and no need to pay the remainder of the contract and also lets me put the account on hold for up to a year. I wasn't given the exact product I wanted, which was a little disheartening, but instead was offered a "QR" product (quality refurbished) which I've had absolutely no problems with. BrightHouse isn't the cheapest place you could go to, and if you are able to, I would advise anyone to get their product elsewhere - even a credit card would offer a cheaper price when you calculate the APR. However, BrightHouse provide goods to those who can't. But BrightHouse isn't all terrible. The staff - generally, although my salesperson was pushy, a word with the manager steered my opinion - are absolutely fantastic, professional and extremely helpful. Direct debits aren't an option and weekly payments are a must, however I am able to phone the store every week and pay by debit card, saving me a trip to the store. The payments are affordable; I personally pay £13.21 a week, including both of my insurances. Delivery is set at £24 and late payment fees are £3 - they won't budge on this, as I found out during a hospital stay.
Periods are never fun and a big inconvenience to any woman's life, so I find tampons a Godsend. Discreet, odour control and unnoticeable, I prefer tampons over sanitary towels. I've used many brands of tampons, usually buying what's on offer and I tried Lil Lets for the first time a few months ago and haven't switched back to any other brand. Lil Lets are compact enough to fit in your pocket with drawing attention to itself and comes in a white and pink polka dot cellophane wrapper, not a paper one, ensuring it isn't torn by the movement of your bag or pocket. Lil Lets comes with a plastic applicator, not a cardboard one for an easy and more comfortable insert. The tampons come in a relatively small box, offering 12 individually wrapped tampons. The colour of each box varies on which absorbency you have chosen. Lil Lets offer a no leaks guarantee and I was sceptical of this at first. I get extremely heavy periods and have always found leaks with any brand I use. But after a few months of using Lil Lets, I can safely say this is true. The tampon expands outwards not downwards once it starts absorbing, and because it expands outwards only, stays a comfortable fit for the duration the tampon is used. Lil Lets are available in most - if not all - major supermarkets and pharmacies, though I have started seeing these in some corner shops more frequently. I personally get these from Asda at around £1 per box, providing extremely good value for money. Overall, if you use tampons, I would recommend these due to the no leaks guarantee, size and prize. A fantastic product making a woman's life even easier.
Lucozade Apple is an energy drink produced by the GlaxoSmithKline group, made popular by the original and orange flavoured drinks. I was given one of these by my niece who seems to love them, but the complete opposite is to be said for me. I was genuinely unimpressed by this drink, something I don't come across often as I like most things. Lucozade Apple comes in the regular Lucozade bottle - long, thin and slightly wavy - the only difference is, the plastic wrapping is green. I made the mistake of trying this while actually thirsty, resulting in my finishing half the bottle in a few gulps. I soon regretted this. Lucozade Apple tastes nothing like apple, as fate would have it. I would describe it more as carbonated soda water with a hint of synthetic apple. And then there's the bubbles. Lot of bubbles. Too many bubbles. While, yes, it's a fizzy drink, the amount is just ridiculous. There's an aftertaste of... bubbles, to be honest. Your tongue just tingles. And here's the biggest problem I have with this drink. The nutritional value. While non-diet drinks aren't healthy in most cases, I find it disgusting Lucozade Apple would claim 57% of your Recommended Daily Allowance of sugar. No, I'm not lying, I'm really not. 262 calories also claim 13% of your RDA and 0.01g of salt at 1%. It's just the sugar. All 51.7g per 380ml bottle of it. And the whole bottle contains a whopping 2% of apple juice. You can buy this drink (I don't recommend it though!) at most retailers with a price tag of around £1.10, depending on where you buy. Overall, you're probably best just adding 51.7g of sugar to regular apple juice if you really want an energy boost, it would probably be tastier.
Galaxy Caramel is yet another addition to the Galaxy family. Produced by Mars, they explain that Galaxy Caramel is "signature Galaxy smoothness enhanced with luscious caramel". I'm not sure how long this addition has been around, but I saw it for the first time yesterday (I tend to stay clear of the chocolate aisle!). I was really impressed with this; the pieces are bigger than the average Galaxy bar though still holding their famous wavy shape. The packaging is much like any other Galaxy chocolate bar. Rich tones of browns and bronzes on the outer packaging with Galaxy scrawled across the front with the nutritional information, ingredients and contact information on the back. The inner packaging consists of shiny bronze foil-like paper. This chocolate bar has a very intense taste. You can taste the signature smoothness of Galaxy almost immediately in every bite-sized chunk, quickly followed by a very rich and silky caramel. Although this tastes like heaven, heaven very quickly gets sickly and too sweet, which in turn, leaves your mouth feeling slightly dry. There's an aftertaste of caramel with this product, which is to be expected, but this disappears quickly, leaving you feeling slightly nauseous and on an extreme sugar rush - though if you have more self-control than I possess and stop munching at the first signs of it becoming sickly, this probably wouldn't happen! Each piece (8.4g) - that's right, each PIECE - contains 42 calories, equal to 2% of your Recommended Daily Allowance. Not bad, you may be thinking, but check out the rest of the stats; 4.8g of sugar, 5% of your RDA, 2.2g of fat, 3% of your RDA, 1.3g saturates, setting you back an outstanding 7% of your RDA and 0.03g of salt, 1% of your RDA. Which may not look terrible at first glance (apart from that 7% saturates!) but remember, this is each piece, will you really stop at just one? 135g of this rich, creamy chocolate bar will set you back around £1.25, dependant upon where you buy it and is available at most - if not all - supermarkets and larger convenience stores. Overall, this chocolate bar tastes like it was made in heaven itself, but quickly gets sickly and will set you back a minimum of 7% of your RDA of saturates for just one piece. Tasty but extremely unhealthy.
Domino's Pizza is one of the best known pizza chain stores in the UK and USA. Domino's gained in popularity very quickly whilst sponsoring TV shows like The Simpsons and Take Me Out. Although Domino's isn't cheap, they do offer special deals quite often, like the famous 555 deal - five pizza's for a fiver each - and often get vouchers delivered to my door. I first came across Domino's after seeing multiple TV adverts and decided to see what all the fuss was about. I was extremely impressed by the high quality and freshness of all the ingredients. Domino's have a variety of pizza's, including all the usual classics like Hawaiian, Vegetarian, Pepperoni and Cheese and Tomato. They also have their own unique variety of pizza's too including Meateor, Texas BBQ, Vegi Volcano, The 'Sizzler' and many more. The pizza's come with a dip, slotted into a hole in the pizza box in which you can dip your crust into, the perfect way to reduce waste for those crust-haters. As well as pizza's, Domino's also sell drinks in 1.25 litre bottles, extremely tasty sides like Garlic Bread, Potato Wedges, Chicken Wings and Chicken Strippers, amongst others and desserts too, including Ben $ Jerry's ice cream in multiple flavours, Cookies, Waffles and "Chocolate Melts". What impresses me the most is the delivery time. The last time I ordered Domino's the whole process of ordering, baking and delivering took an incredible 25 minutes. The pizza's and sides were obviously fresh out the oven as they were piping hot and filled my house with the smell of delicious fresh ingredients. Domino's can be ordered online or over the phone and paid in cash or credit card. Pizza isn't one of the healthiest meals around and should be enjoyed as an occasion treat. Domino's is available in most cities and towns and your nearest one can be found on their website. The price and size of pizza's vary, although Domino's certainly isn't cheap with a large pizza being around £15. Overall, Domino's is the perfect tasty treat, providing freshly baked ingredients and excellent sides and desserts.
TU is Sainsbury's own range of clothing. From kids clothes, coats, jeans and t-shirts to accessories, hats, belts and gloves, TU have something for everyone. I first came across TU about a year ago when I moved and Sainsbury's became my local store. I would mainly buy clothes for my daughter as they produced some high quality, extremely cute and even well-known charactered clothes like Upsy Daisy from In The Night Garden, Winnie The Pooh characters, Fifi and many others. I also bought some jeans and a cardigan for myself but the adult range seemed to be heading for simple and "safe" clothes and were rather bland and plain. All the clothes I bought - for both me and my daughter - were of extremely high quality and I was impressed with all aspects of the clothing. Sainsbury's stock would be updated often, resulting in some real bargains and sales, mainly consisting of the adult's range of clothes. The clothes are available in sizes from 8 to 24 for the adults range and all ages for children. I was a little disappointed to see they didn't have a "teenage" section, though this might not be true for other stores. Prices vary depending on what you're looking for, but apart from baby clothes, I never bought anything at full price as I felt I could get them cheaper elsewhere. Adult coats were in the region of £25 - £50, jeans were around £8 - £30, tops were £6 - £20 and accessories ranged from £2 - £15. Overall, I would recommend TU for baby clothes as they have a variety of different styles and designs, however I feel you could get better quality adult clothes elsewhere as TU sticks to simple, boring looks.
I found out I was expecting my first child on a complete whim. I had no reason at that point to suspect I was pregnant, but got a test anyway. Some mothers just know. I was scared, excited, shocked - pretty much all the emotions I could feel. And pregnancy was confusing, full of choices and options and things I didn't know I would have to think about. But one thing that I didn't have to think about was where I wanted to give birth. Hospital. Most people don't like hospitals, and I'm one of them. Boring, clinical and sometimes scary, hospitals aren't a nice place to be at the best of times. I had a reasonably healthy pregnancy and my due date came and went. 10 days after I was due to give birth; I was on my way to the hospital to be induced. Good thing I planned a hospital birth as I would have been bitterly disappointed by my daughter's late arrival. Of course, I go into full blown labour at the bus station and end up in an ambulance going to the delivery ward - not the way I had planned the day, but at least things were moving now! I was extremely surprised by the delivery ward. It's recommended you visit the ward before you give birth but due to circumstances, I was never able to. The beds were bigger, comfy and electronic for ease. The rooms were bland but not clinical, taking the some of the scare factor away. For a first baby, I was extremely lucky to only have to endure 6.5 hours of established labour and a pushing time of around 10 - 20 minutes. Although this is a relatively short time, it didn't stop it being any less painful and my plans for no epidural went straight out the window after a few hours, something I wouldn't have been able to have at home. I never thought childbirth would be nice but I never expected my daughter to open her bowels half way through the labour. This produced a problem in itself as it caused an obstruction in the birth canal and a few minutes into pushing, I see the midwife going to get a doctor. They thought they would have to take me for an emergency c-section as I was exhausted, struggling and baby was starting to get distressed. Imagine if I was at home? Luckily, I persevered through, throwing everything I had into getting that baby out and in the end, I didn't need the c-section. Because my daughter had opened her bowels, we did have to stay in hospital for 24 hours to make sure she hadn't swallowed any. If I had of opted for a home birth and I hadn't have been able to persevere with the pushing and needed that emergency c-section, would my daughter be here now? Probably not. Would I have been able to manage the pain at home? Probably not. And would I have avoided hospital after the birth? Definitely not. So although home births might be more calming, relaxing and maybe even easier, you can't bank on having a healthy, easy and problem-free childbirth. And I would opt for having multiple doctors, midwives, strong pain-relief and emergency medical equipment around me over the comfort of home with one midwife with some gas and air any day.
The Chicco DJ Walker Seventy is a baby walker with the added feature of a removable toy. There's much debate about walkers as some say they delay a child's first unaided steps and others say it speeds the moment up. This product was given to me by a friend whose son had grown out of it. It's a unisex walker and had a variety of different colours on it. Although I was given this walker without the detachable toy (apparently this broke after being dropped a few times), I was quite impressed with it at first. My daughter reached all her milestones early, apart from any which involved her legs, so I thought this would be great to help her use them. At first, I would have to put a blanket at the front of her as she would lean forward and push her chest onto the tray which proved quite painful. Once she got the hang of sitting up straight, she would love to sit in the walker for hours, but still wouldn't use her legs. The walker has a fairly large tray space which is moulded into the walker and is around an inch deep. There's a bumper around the bottom of the walker, wider than the seat itself, saving nasty finger trapping accidents. The walker can be folded flat by a small lever underneath the tray and can easily slide behind the couch for easy storage. As she got a bit older and a bit heavier, bright red rings would appear around her thighs from the seat of the walker. These looked extremely painful and would take a while to disappear and seemed to be quite itchy - think sitting on the edge of something and then getting off to find a little indentation and red mark in your skin. I stopped using the walker after this and it seems it hasn't been missed. My daughter eventually started standing without the aid of this baby walker. These are available at most baby stores, major retailers and online and I've seen them at around the £25 - £35 price mark. Overall, I would not recommend this walker, especially to a baby or toddler who has yet to develop any leg strength.
Slimming World, as the name suggests, is a slimming club where members go to find help and support in losing weight. I've always been a big eater, from being a young child. So it's no surprise I turned into an overweight young adult. Although I was bullied most of my way through school, it never occurred to me to change and lose weight. I personally never hated my size because I was still able to do what I wanted; it just seemed everyone else had a problem with my weight. So I trudged my way through my teens and then arrived into my twenties, expecting my first child. My mum has always been a big woman too and she was on and off at Slimming World. A few months after I gave birth to my daughter, my weight was causing me to be tired all the time and at times, leaving me almost too tired to be a good mum. So I joined Slimming World. I was extremely impressed at my first session. My consultant was extremely friendly, funny and so down to earth and laid back, my social anxieties were pushed aside and I signed on the dotted line. I'm still amazed at how much I can eat and still lose weight every week. Food optimising is extremely simple, the plan is brilliant and so easy to follow and best of all, absolutely nothing is banned! Slimming World have a simple system in place. You pick what plan you're going to follow that day - either green, original, extra easy and a few others - and stick to it! You get "free foods" which are (depending on the day you've picked!) both obvious and extremely surprising. You can quite literally eat as much free food as you want and you're still guaranteed to lose weight. Free foods include fruit, vegetables, meat (original day), pasta and potatoes (green), eggs and so much more! You're also given "healthy extra's", the extra's that are healthy only in moderation. Things like milk, cheese, bread and cereals. You're given to healthy A choices - dairy products - and healthy B choices - breads, cereals, soups. And then, my favourite thing, the Syns! Syns work on a point's type of system. You simply check how many syns is in your treat and deduct it from your weekly allowance! 105 syns a week, or 15 syns a day. Generally, chocolate bars are in the region on 8 - 13 syns, biscuits are around 2 each and crisps are around 8. With the Slimming World plan, nothing is banned and in theory, you CAN have a chocolate bar a day and still lose weight at the end of the week (I should know, I've done it more than once!) Sounds too good to be true and believe me, I was sceptical at first. Slimming World costs me £4.95 a week (it has very recently gone up from £4.50, the last price rise was around 13 years ago) and it's worth every penny. I "stay to group" every week to share my losses and gains and to hear of others progress. It's extremely encouraging, non-judgemental, friendly, full of tips and advice and supportive. Best of all, you can pick your own "target weight" as Slimming World encourages you to be healthy, not slim and celebrate your little milestones like losing 10% of your body weight and every 7lbs you lose. There's also a "Slimmer of the Week" and "Slimmer of the Month", where you receive a selection of goodies given to you by other members (mainly fruit, cereal bars and yogurts). Slimming World also have their own magazine on sale in shops (you can buy this at your group at a discounted price), recipe books mainly incorporating your free foods and low-syn treats and desserts and their own range of cereal bars that are extremely tasty. The website is also extremely helpful, giving you recipes and letting you track your progress every week in the form of charts so you can watch your weight go down and gives you the all important mid-week support when your willpower starts to wander. Overall, Slimming World is extremely easy to follow, so helpful and supportive, non-judgemental and just a fantastic way to lose weight, meet new people and to get out the house and have fun! I recommend Slimming World to anyone who wants to lose weight - and you're guaranteed to do it, even if you have a chocolate bar a day! And as for the cynics out there who think this plan doesn't work - I've lost over 3 stone with losses as big as 7lbs a week in just a few months - I'm living proof it does work and I'm not far from being a healthy, maintainable weight and now have more choice in clothes as I don't have to go to specialist places!