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At just under a fiver, the Tesco Value hand mixer is a bargain. I've never used any other so have nothing to compare it to, but it works like a charm for mixing ingredients.
In the box is the body of the hand mixer itself (there are no logos marking it out as a Tesco product, by the way, just a sticker on the bottom which you could remove though I haven't) and two steel beaters and dough hooks. I've never managed to pack it neatly back into the box after the first time I removed it, which is a minor annoyance.
It's a simple bit of kit. The beater and hook attachments just click into place, and there's an eject button for when you want to pop them back out again. There are five speed settings, with a switch to flick between them and turn it off. The beaters are fantastic for mixing cake ingredients, which is what I bought the mixer for. The sticker on the bottom advises that for every 3 minutes of constant use you should then switch it off for 10 minutes, but rules are made to be broken. When it's been in use for around five minutes it starts to smell a little bit like warm metal, which is when I turn it off.
The dough hooks, unfortunately, haven't worked out so well for me. When I've tried to use it for bread mix I've found that the mix travels up the dough hooks and actually into the body of the hand mixer itself if I don't turn it off fast enough. I spent an unenjoyable afternoon once cleaning bread mix out of the holes where the dough hooks click in with a cotton bud. I'm not sure whether this is through any fault of my own, but I don't often use it for baking bread. When I do I have to have a quick trigger finger on the speed settings, ready to turn it off if mix starts travelling up the dough hooks.
Despite this I'm happy with it. It cost under fiver, the beater attachments work, and as a beginner baker I would feel uncomfortable using something more expensive for fear of breaking it. There's just one real complaint that I have, and that's the ridiculously short cord. There's only one spot in my kitchen where there's a clear bit of worktop directly in front of a plug, so that's where I have to use it. This kind of stinginess in the manufacturing is what gives it away that this is a cheap product.
I usually prefer Barry M for nail varnishes, but there was a good offer on the 17 range in Boots so I bought this matte top coat (along with a few other things!) a while ago, but only just got around to trying it.
It's a 10ml bottle, which is a standard size for nail varnishes. The colour looks like diluted milk in the bottle, but it goes on clear and doesn't change the colour of the nail varnish you're wearing it on top of. It does exactly what it says on the tin: as it dries, you can see your nail varnish turning from shiny to matte. It dries to the touch pretty quickly, within a minute.
The only thing I disliked about it is if you go over the same spot twice it will lift some colour off the bottom coat. This is especially problematic when you've given nail art a go: I ended up with a few smudged polka dots. It's important to get it on quickly and smoothly because it dries so quickly, otherwise it seems to highlight perfections more than a normal top coat would.
I think this is a really neat little product, and I'll buy more 17 nail varnishes in the future. It allows all colours in your nail varnish collection to do double duty, and looks especially good on top of nail art. My favourite look is bright yellow with white polka dots and the matte top coat, but if that's not your style, I liked it over a plain navy too.
After my last front light was stolen, I bought myself a cheapie from eBay. The bracket was terribly fiddly, and after I had finally managed to get it to stay where I wanted it, the light itself broke.
Not wanting to spend another three hours installing a bracket I decided to do a bit of research and get something decent. I came across a review for the Knog Boomer, which sounded perfect. No bracket! This is absolutely my favourite thing about this light. No bracket to install, you just wrap the silicone strap around your handlebars (or wherever you want, within reason) and attach it to the hook at the back of the light. It's on! And when you remove the light, no unsightly bracket is left behind to spoil the clean lines of your bike. It's a bit fiddly at first, but you get the hang of it really quickly.
It's blindingly bright, too. It's just one LED so I wasn't expecting anything amazing, but as we all know it's quality not quantity, and this LED is super bright. According to Knog it's up to 55 lumens (which apparently is 1/8th as bright as a 40w bulb). There are four light settings, three flashing and one steady. Two of the flashing settings are erratic, containing longer bursts of light and shorter bursts, which in theory attracts the attention of drivers more than a regular flash would. I'm not sure what the difference between the two erratic flash settings are, I just use the one that comes on first when you press the 'on/off' switch. Another thing I like about the Knog Boomer is that instead of having to cycle through all of the settings to turn the light off, you simply hold down the 'on/off' button and it turns off.
So that's the Knog Boomer, but the Knog Boomer Rechargeable is even better. Instead of having to buy batteries, you recharge the light using a USB port. No cables required, the light itself has a USB shaped plug that just plugs straight in. Not needing a cable means that you can charge your light anywhere where there's a computer. I plan to charge mine at work, not that it needs charging often. Knog suggests that the burn time is up to 3.5 hours on steady or 12 hours on flashing mode, but in my experience it lasts much longer. I've charged it once in one month's use (that's with half an hour's use every day), and it's still going strong. The only thing I would say about charging the light is that it's wider than something like a memory stick, so will take up a lot of space. If you have two USB ports, while the light is charging you won't be able to fit anything in the one next to it. Still, it does charge quickly. You know when it's done because the indicator (which is the light itself) changes from red to green.
The availability of so many different colours is really the icing on the cake. I chose pink to match the flowers on my handlebars, but you can go as crazy or as tame as you like. The only colour they don't have that I would like to see is yellow.
I bought the Knog Kransky in purple to replace my previous cable lock, which was lent out and never seen again. I use cable locks as a backup to my D-lock, so while I am security conscious it doesn't have to be the best of the best, as it's mainly protecting my front wheel, not the frame.
The Kransky is the strongest of the three locks of this series Knog produces (the other two being the Party Frank and the Kabana), and is available in purple, red, black and white. It comes with three keys, all of which match the colour of the lock itself. I chose purple, so my keys have purple key caps embossed with the Knog logo. They're cute and stand out on my key ring. They come attached to a 'wrist coil', which is like a bracelet for wearing your key on. Not something I want to do, but the keys are easily removed.
The specs are as follows:
Cable Diameter: 22mm, steel cable diameter 12mm
Material: Silicone overmoulded braided steel cable with fibre core
It doesn't have a Sold Secure rating, so I'm not sure how it measures up when compared to other cable locks. If you have your bike insured one of the conditions may be to lock it with a lock of a certain Sold Secure rating, my D lock is Gold rated so it doesn't matter what cable lock I use, but this is worth thinking about if you have cycle insurance. The lock looks thicker than most that I see in the streets, so I hope that it is a good thief deterrent at the very least.
So I like the colour, I like the brand, it looks thick enough to offer some security, but I just have one problem with this lock: how to store it. It's just so big and flops around when I'm trying to lock my bike! The Knog compares it to a sausage on their website, and they've got a point. A big silicone sausage is not what you want to be handling in public, if you get my drift. It looks... suspect. Whereas my previous cable lock was coiled and could easily be attached to my rear rack, this thing is huge and unwieldy. There is an attachment available to buy separately, but there's nowhere to attach it to on my frame, so I keep it in my basket. This isn't ideal because it gets dirty then transfers the dirt to whatever else I'm carrying in my basket. So while it comes in a pretty colour, I wish I had bought something less pretty that I could attach to my rear rack.
I rented Get Up and Dance for a girly night in. I like the Just Dance series, so thought I'd try something a bit different. Unfortunately, Get Up and Dance isn't a patch on Just Dance.
Firstly, the menu is confusing. There are four main options; Get Up And Dance, Get Up and Party, Get Up and Dance Group, and Shape Up. Get Up and Dance is represented by a single player dancing, but its sub-menu includes multiplayer options, so what's the point of the Get Up and Party and Get Up and Dance Group options? This really could have been streamlined.
Shape Up is very similar to the normal playing modes, except it gives each song 'Cardio Points'. I'm not sure what these relate to: the Cardio Points for each song seem to be around 1000-1500, so it's clearly not calories being burnt (I wish!).
There are also two further options in the menu, Rehearse and Video Jukebox. Rehearse allows you to learn the dances by breaking each song down into small sections. Learning the songs would take the fun out of it for me, but perhaps for someone nervous about playing this type of game in front of others it could be useful.
Video Jukebox is a little odd, it does show the video for each selected song in the background, but in front is the game character dancing to the song. This isn't a game, so you don't have to dance along, you just... watch.
Gameplay is the same no matter what option you select from the menu. You choose a song, whether you want to be the lead dancer or a backing dancer, then copy what the character onscreen is doing. The game is for 1 to 4 players, so you can dance alone or with friends. Unfortunately the game is really ruined by two things for me: the tracklist (see below) and the rather boring dances. Where the lyrics suggest a particular move this is followed (Hot Stuff by Donna Summer has lots of thrusting, for example), but the rest of the choreography is very lacklustre. My favourite Just Dance songs are the silly ones (the cowboy themed Viva Las Vegas, for example), but there is none of this here. I can imagine a group of teenage girls coming up with these dances for a school talent show. There's no wit, and very little fun. I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You by The Black Kids is a prime example of this. While I like the song, the dance was so boring and irrelevant I couldn't wait for it to end.
Gwen Stefani - "What You Waiting For"
Taio Cruz - "Come On Girl"
Timbaland featuring Katy Perry - "If We Ever Meet Again"
Pussycat Dolls - "Don't Cha"
Nicole Scherzinger - "Poison"
Salt-N-Pepa - "Push It"
La Roux - "Bulletproof"
Girls Aloud - "The Promise"
Jessie J - 'Nobody's Perfect"
Donna Summer - "Hot Stuff'
Barenaked Ladies - "One Week"
Yolanda Be Cool Vs D Cup - "We No Speak Americano"
Elton John - "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)"
Dusty Springfield - "I Only Want to Be With You"
Lionel Richie - "Dancing On the Ceiling"
Billy Ray Cyrus - "Achy Breaky Heart"
Vato Gonzalez featuring Foreign Beggars "Badman Riddim (Jump)"
Reel 2 Real Feat. The Mad Stuntman - "I Like to Move It"
Alexandra Stan - "Mr Saxobeat"
Apache Indian - "Boom Shack-A-Lak"
Gina G - "Ooh Ahh... Just A Little Bit"
Black Kids - "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You"
De La Soul - "Me Myself and I"
Example - "Kickstarts"
Marina & The Diamonds - "Hollywood"
Noisettes - "Don't Upset the Rhythm"
Pulp - "Common People"
Rizzle Kicks - "Down With the Trumpets"
Wretch 32 Feat. Example - "Unorthodox"
Basement Jaxx - "Where's Your Head At"
Music is a very personal thing so I can't comment objectively on the song choices, but I thought they were rubbish. It's an odd mix, including songs that I do like but would never think of dancing to (One Week by the Barenaked Ladies being one of those).
Annoyances also include the figures showing the upcoming moves looking nothing like the moves they're supposed to represent, and a long wait for some of the dances to start. If the song has a slow intro you can be standing there for 20-30 seconds until the dancing starts. I'm not a fan of the characters either, their clothes occasionally match the song, but more often they're just in stereotypical 80s garb, leggings and all. This is regardless of what era the song is from.
I really can't recommend this game. Just Dance is much more intuitive to use, and the gameplay is far better.
There's a little girl in my life who is difficult to buy for. She's 6, and her parents always request expensive electronic gifts (a 6 year old needs a ginormous flat screen TV in her room? Seriously?). I ignore this and buy her some silly and educational gifts and a book for each occasion.
The Wilko Craft Time Face Painting Kit was this Christmas's silly gift. She loves having her face painted, like most kids, so I thought she'd like it, and at £3.28 it didn't really matter if it was used once then forgotten about.
Well, it certainly wasn't used just once then forgotten about. She loved it. It was a runaway favourite! She loves having her face painted, but even more than that she loves painting our faces. The set comes with an A4 sheet of ideas, with drawings of faces painted as pandas, cats, donkeys, robots, clowns, etc. Even this is really nicely done, it's simple to follow and cute. The little girl can follow it, and is happy with the results, though we do sometimes have to ask what we are when she's finished. In this ideas sheet some of the children are wearing homemade animal ears and headbands to go with their face paints, so we've had additional fun making ears.
The kit comes with 8 colours, a brush, and two sponges. The paints aren't especially high quality, they start to fade after four or five hours, and the white begins to crack. But it is obviously a cheap set, which is one of the reasons why we're happy to let a 6 year old play with it. If I had bought a more expensive professional set obviously I would be more worried about getting the colours mixed in together and scrubbing the brush too hard, but as it's cheap and cheerful children can be allowed to mess it up to her heart's content.
I got the Samsung GT B5310 (or as it was called when it was sold to me, the Genio Slide) just over a year ago. In today's fast-moving market this means that it might as well be 10 years old. It does have some useful features, but I'm desperate for my upgrade to come!
I chose this model because of the snazzy red slide-out QWERTY keyboard, but I actually never use it as I find predictive text much easier. The only reason I ever flip out the keyboard is to insert an unusual symbol into a text. Some, like currency symbols, can't be accessed in any other way, and there's one symbol that is totally unobtainable on this phone - %! I find it really strange and while it's not quite a tragedy that I have to write "percent" in full, it has annoyed me on occasion.
One of my favourite things about the phone, in fact the only thing I'll miss, is a cute theme called 'Cartoon'. The wallpaper is the view of out a window (you can see the curtains and window ledge) of two owls on a branch, and when you receive a text another owl flies up holding an envelope in its beak. The scene changes at night, showing a dark sky, and the owls asleep. (I guess no one told Samsung that owls are nocturnal.) The menu is also cute, when you open it a character walks in and stands by a pull switch. When you select a program, the character pulls the switch. There are lots of characters to choose from, including Alice in Wonderland, Red Riding Hood, a clown, and a gorilla.
There are a few useful widgets preloaded onto the phone and housed in a bar running down the left side of the start screen (unless you disable it), but no one seems to have created any more since the phone was released. In a world of customisation this is a massive drawback. But I do find the iPlayer widget useful, as I can download BBC programmes over wifi and then watch them at the gym.
The phone is pretty chunky, at 105 x 56.8 x 15.7mm and 135g, and the camera isn't great. It's 3.2 megapixels with no flash, so taking pictures indoors is out of the question.
But my biggest problem with the phone, and the the reason why I want to upgrade, is its terrible handling of the internet. Browsing is slow, and if the page is anything other than text and tiny pictures you'll just get an error message. I can't login to any of my email accounts, and the Facebook interface is terrible. Nowadays there's such an emphasis on connectivity that this is inexcusable.
After my Advent Roma 1000 died a slow death, having always been pretty rubbish, I was overjoyed to be able to finally get a new laptop. I'm a postgraduate student, so use my laptop for a lot of writing, reading articles, and skiving off (this usually takes the form of Facebook, Youtube, the usual).
I will confess to being attracted by the look of the laptop. It's available in pink, purple, blue and red. I initially took a shine to the blue, but after a lot of trouble with PC World and Currys not having blue in stock I went for the red. The rounded corners, unusual colouring around the keyboard and small unobtrusive logo on the lid all attracted me. And in my view, if you're going to own it, you might as well like the look of it.
The battery came half-charged, so I was able to play with my new toy straight away. Setting it up was extremely easy, I was up and running in no time. Unfortunately it came with quite a bit of software that I didn't need or want, including lots of trial versions of games and shortcuts already on the desktop. While it's expected now I do resent that before I can start setting up my laptop I have to go through uninstalling and deleting things that the manufacturer has been paid to put on there. If I want Skype I'll install it, and if I want a shortcut to Snapfish I'll put it there. I paid for the laptop, I don't then want this advertising on it.
Anyway, that's just a little issue of mine. While deleting the rubbish I noticed that it came preloaded with a couple of games that I did enjoy, namely Cake Mania and Farm Frenzy, so it's not all bad.
In the two weeks I've been using it I've found the laptop fast enough for my needs. It boots up quickly, shuts down quickly, and works quickly. I'm used to a laptop slower than a funeral march, so in comparison any new laptop would be fast, but I have been impressed anyway. I'm also impressed with the number of wireless connections it's able to detect. Where my old laptop often wasn't able to connect to the wireless in a particular building at my university this one picks it up strongly.
A couple of other little things have been making my life easier, one of them being the textured touchpad. This means it's easy to find without having to take your eyes off the screen. It also supports gestures, so I can zoom in and out of pages by pinching and flicking. This has been a mixed blessing: it's handy when I actually want to zoom in or out, but it's very easy to do it accidentally, which is annoying. The keyboard is nicely designed, the only problem I've had is with the arrow keys. The up/down keys are half the size of normal keys, both occupying one space. As I'm not used to this I do keep hitting the wrong key, but I'm sure I'll get the hang of it eventually. I also like that there's no catch or button clicking needed to open the lid of the laptop, you just pull it straight open.
I'm finding the battery life acceptable, though other reviewers (on Dooyoo and elsewhere) disagree. I can eke out over five hours when not connected to the internet, which is much better than the one hour I was getting with the Advent Roma 1000, and is exactly what HP promise. When connected to the internet it's more like two and a half hours, which to me is still a luxury.
My only complaint is that it seems to attract fluff. I've also encountered an odd thing just twice: at the top of the screen one line of pixels flashes black. Restarting has solved the problem each time, and as long as this doesn't happen too often I'm not going to do anything about it. In other words, I'm incredibly happy with my new laptop. While it wouldn't suit a serious gamer, or someone who prefers a plainer look for their technology, I'm happy with the look and performance of my HP Pavilion G6.
Processor AMD Dual-Core E2-3000M (1.8 GHz, 1 MB L2 cache)
Operating System Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium 64
RAM 4 GB DDR3
Graphics card AMD Radeon HD 6380G Dual GPU 1 GB DDR3 dedicated, up to 1.98 GB total
Screen type High-Definition LED BrightView Display widescreen
Screen resolution 1366 x 768 pixels
Screen size 15.6"
Screen features LED BrightView
Hard drive 500 GB SATA 5400 rpm
Optical disk drive SuperMulti DVD±R/RW with Double Layer Support
Memory card reader Multi-Format Digital Media Card Reader for Secure Digital cards and Multimedia cards
Modem/Ethernet Integrated 10/100 BASE-T Ethernet LAN
WiFi WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Sound Altec Lansing speakers
Battery Lithium-Ion 6 cells Up to 5 hours battery life
Size 374 x 245 x 36 mm
I hadn't ridden a bike since being a teenager, but all of a sudden last year I noticed lots of girls (late teens - early 20s) zipping around on Dutch style upright bikes with baskets and needed one. I felt justified in this, not being able to drive, so I started bike shopping in earnest.
I decided upon the Claud Butler Summer Bay 2010. It had everything I needed, namely style, a basket for my handbag, and rear rack for my shopping. I got the 17" frame which is ideal for my height, but it's also available in 15" and 19".
Having now been riding this bike for a year and a half, I can say that I absolutely love it. Every time I see my bike (which has now been accessorised with flowers and a large silver bell) my heart skips a beat. It's just so lovely looking, which genuinely adds to my joy at riding it. I get lots of comments from pedestrians, especially when I stop at Zebra crossings for them, along the lines of "I love your bike".
But moving on from my shallowness, how's the ride? Well, in a word, great. The riding position is comfortable, I haven't had to get a new seat for comfort reasons as a lot of cyclists do (though mine has become stained blue from riding in jeans), I've only ever had one puncture, my brakes work just as well as they did on day one, and so far I haven't had any problems. Using a pannier bag I can do a pretty decent weekly shop on my bike, and I ride it to and from work, town, and pretty much everywhere. The frame shape means that I can ride in a skirt, and even when in trousers I really enjoy the easy mounting/dismounting. In fact I think I've been saved from falling off by it, once when riding in snow my bike skidded on ice and I went from riding my bike to standing next to it, both feet on the ground, in what felt like 0.2 seconds, not really remembering how I did it.
The only possible negatives I can think of are the lack of gears (through I believe the 2011 model has 3 gears). I usually enjoy not having to think about which gear to ride in, and I live in a very flat place, but when faced with a steep hill/strong winds I do find myself wishing for those extra gears. I also find the bike heavy when lifting it up kerbs or stairs, and the white frame quickly becomes marked.
I ordered my Claud Butler Summer Bay through a local independent shop, and paid for it through the Cycle to Work scheme. The frame originally would have cost £350, plus £30 for the basket, but through the Cycle to Work scheme it did end up being a little bit cheaper. I would absolutely recommend the Cycle to Work scheme as well as the bike.
Just a word on cycling in general: I really feel like my bike has given me a lot of additional freedom. Whereas before I was limited by walking/public transport, I can now get to anywhere within a 10 mile radius pretty quickly. I can carry a lot of shopping on my bike, and can always find a 'parking space'. Cycling in heavy traffic is sometimes hair-raising, but if you know how best to position yourself and interact with traffic you don't have too much to worry about. Touch wood, I haven't yet had an accident. The cost of running a bike is minimal too, once you've made the initial purchase you don't have to worry about petrol, and you may even save on gym fees!
Here are the (boring!) particulars:
Frame: 6061 T4 T6 aluminium
Fork: Steel rigid
Cassette: Single speed 18t
Front Brake: V brake
Rear Brake: V brake
Brake Levers: V brake
Stem: Rigid steel quill
Rims: Single wall Alloy
Front Hub: 36h Alloy
Rear Hub: 36h Alloy
Front Tyre: Kenda 700 x 38
Rear Tyre: Kenda 700 x 38
Weight: Approx. 27.56lbs (12.5kg)
I decided on a laptop that I wanted from the PC World website, but unfortunately it was out of stock for home delivery. It did show as being available for store pick-up, but when I entered my postcode it wasn't available in any store near me. It suggested that I enter another postcode. Deciding to playing this odd game, I entered postcodes for several cities nearby, but none had the laptop I wanted. After waiting a week I contacted PC World to ask whether they were expecting any more stock, or if they could post the model I wanted from a store to my address. The reply stated that they were expecting more in, but didn't know when. How can a store not know when they'll get more of a particular laptop in? It's not a cheap bit of kit, you'd think there would be a system for this.
Anyway, I decided to try my luck in store. I asked again how I could get hold of the laptop that I wanted, and was told that they get deliveries every Monday. Would their next delivery include the laptop I wanted? Didn't know. Could they order it? No.
A week later, I emailed again. I was told that the laptop hadn't been discontinued so they were expecting to get more in, they didn't know when. What kind of stock control system is this?! The next day I checked online and found that the page for the model I wanted had been taken off the website and I just got a "product unavailable" message. I decided to give up and order the same model in a different colour. It was in stock at my local branch, so I reserved it online. I got an email saying that I could pick it up in store an hour after I placed my order. Brilliant.
Or so I thought.
I show up at the store, and am kept waiting a suspiciously long time. Of course, "due to a stock error", they don't have the laptop that I reserved in stock. I get a half-hearted apology.
I can only conclude that PC World really don't want my money. I've been trying and trying to give them £349, but they're just not interested!
I had seen a laptop I liked on the PC World and Currys website, so decided to go to the shop to see it in person. This review is a story of both PC World and Currys, but as they're owned by the same company and sell exactly the same products at the same prices I think I can be forgiven for lumping it into one.
While I was having a play with the demo model in PC World I noticed that I couldn't scroll using the touchpad. I asked a sales assistant how to scroll and he played around with it for a while, looked at the settings, then pronounced that this model does not have a scroll function. Weird, I thought it was standard. I decided to investigate and found that I couldn't scroll using any of the HP laptops. Another sales assistant was hovering by now so I asked him the same question and he played around for a while, then said "I don't know, sorry".
I decided to try Currys next door, so I went in and asked an older sales assistant. He at first said that it wouldn't scroll because it has a demo version of Windows installed, had a look at it and said that it doesn't have arrows at the side of the touchpad, so that means it won't scroll. When I pointed out that my laptop doesn't have arrows but does scroll, he made up some massive story about how it's now been legislated (!) that all touchpads that scroll have arrows at the side, and all the ones that don't scroll don't have arrows at the side. This is to stop consumers from getting confused. Well, by this time I was very confused. A laptop that doesn't scroll? Unlikely. He suggested that I buy an 'essentials bundle' which included a mouse with a wheel, and I left the store.
When I got home I Googled it. The laptop I was looking at has a touchpad that supports multi-touch gestures, including a two finger scroll. That was it, just use two fingers instead of one and it'll scroll! So PC World Guy 1 who decided that it doesn't scroll because he couldn't do it was wrong, PC World Guy 2 who told me he didn't know at least gets one point for honesty but minus two for not actually looking it up, and Currys Guy who fed me weird stories about why it wouldn't scroll was also wrong. And a liar. Why make up these ridiculous stories when you could just go check?!
I wish I could say I won't be using them again, but the laptop I want (that does scroll!) is only available through these clowns. I'll think I'll order it online so I don't have to interact with their staff.
I recently had a corn on each of my little toes, and while shopping came across two different removal methods, Carnation Footcare Corn Caps and Scholl Corn Removal Medicated Plasters. So I decided to try a little experiment: I bought one pack of each, and used one on each corn.
The Carnation Corn Caps were made of more natural ingredients. The active ingredient in both was the same (40% salicylic acid), but the Carnation Corn Caps also included peanut oil, yellow beeswax, partially hydrogenated wood rosin, vegetable triglyceride, E124 Ponceau 4R, and E110 Sunset Yellow. They don't all sound great, but at least I do recognise some of them. The packet is also manufactured from sustainable forests, so this one appealed to the socially responsible side of me.
The packet contains five plasters, and you are warned not to use more than five plasters per corn, so one packet will do for one corn, which is nice, and not something that can be said for the Scholl version. The plaster is shaped like a standard rectangular plaster, but the sticky side has a felt ring in the middle, and inside that is some pink paste. To apply you just stick the plaster so that the felt ring is around the corn, which is easier said than done, as the plaster is so bulky that you can't really see what you're doing. The plaster was also too big to stick around toes, so I found that it started to come off and irritate my skin. Each plaster is to be left on for two days, so this wasn't great. My main problem, though, was that the pink gel would leak out of the felt ring and kill the healthy skin around the corn. No matter how I positioned the plaster this still happened, so my whole little toe looked like a dead prawn. (Sorry.)
I started to get a bit worried about my zombie toe, so I only used four of the plasters. After a few days, while riding my bike I felt my corn come off. It wasn't particularly pleasant, I felt a little sting, but then it was off. Unfortunately I was wearing tights at the time so I had this corn hanging around in there for hours. It felt like a hard contact lens. (Not really Carnation's fault, but if I'm being honest, it was gross.) Just over two weeks after the corn dropping off I now have a shiny patch of pink skin where the corn was, with a ring of broken skin around it, and some other irritated bits of skin further away. See my review on Scholl Corn Removal Medicated Plasters to compare Carnation Footcare Corn Caps with the leading brand. Short version: the Carnation Corn Caps were cheaper, it only took one packet to remove my corn, but the plasters weren't shaped as well and the corn-removing paste leaked out, killing healthy skin.
I recently had a corn on each of my little toes, and while shopping came across two different removal methods, Scholl Corn Removal Medicated Plasters and Carnation Footcare Corn Caps. So I decided to try a little experiment: I bought one pack of each, and used one on each corn.
Scholl was the more chemical-sounding of the two. Both contained the same active ingredient, 40% salicylic acid, but the Scholl plasters also contain polyvinyl alkyl ether adhesive, titanium dioxide, liquid paraffin, antioxidant (4, 4'-thio-bis-tert-butyl-5-methylphenol), red iron oxide and black iron oxide. Sounds... unhealthy.
Application was very easy. The plasters come in two parts, a little sticky dot that you attach directly to the corn, and then a round pad with two thin plaster bits coming off it that you stick over the corn (with the dot on it). The plaster is an odd shape, but this helped it to stick around toes, which are awkwardly shaped, it has to be said.
The packet contained 4 plasters, which are supposed to be changed daily. This wasn't long enough to remove my corn, so I had to purchase another packet. And then another. The instructions warn you not to use the product for more than two weeks, so I guess Scholl know that four plasters isn't going to be enough and do intend for you to buy more. A bit of a swizz, I think.
After my twelve days of corn plastering were up, my corn still hadn't fallen off, but it was looking very white. I decided to leave it for a while, and sure enough, while walking a few days later it fell off. It wasn't a pleasant sensation, I did know that it was happening, but it didn't hurt.
Two weeks later I have a patch of shiny red skin where my corn was, with a ring of broken skin around it. It still isn't really presentable, so I would recommend removing your corn(s) in winter. I haven't been able to wear open-toed shoes or sandals for over a month now, and some of my shoes which are usually comfortable do still irritate the skin where the corn was. Scholl Corn Removal Medicated Plasters turned out to be quite expensive, but they did the job in the end. See my review on Carnation Footcare Corn Caps for my review on the alternative.
The Fujifilm Finepix Z35 is available in four cute colours and one rather standard one: True Blue, Apple Green, Deep Purple, Marshmallow White & Pink, and, last and least, Quartz Black & Silver. I was drawn to the white and pink colour scheme, and if I'm honest, that's the reason why I chose this camera over other similar models on the market. I use my camera for holidays snaps, social events, and taking pictures of junk to sell on eBay, so I'm not a demanding photographer. The price is also very reasonable: while I bought mine for £80, it has now dropped to £60 on Amazon.
The Z35's ease of use is perhaps its greatest feature. To take a picture, you simply slide the lens cover back and click the shutter button. It's that easy. It takes two seconds (I counted!) from sliding the lens cover back to the camera actually turning on, then around another two seconds for the camera to autofocus and take a picture. If you need to capture a moment quickly there are no fiddly on/off buttons to find, you just slide the lens back and away you go. Of course, changing settings in order to get the ideal picture takes time. If you need to turn the flash on or off or turn on the macro mode there are buttons for this by the screen, so this is just a matter of pressing the correct button, but if you want to turn on one of the many specific modes for picture taking you have to access these through the main menu. There are lots to choose from (and therefore scroll through), including landscape, portrait, sport, sunset, snow, beach, party, flower, and text. I've never made use of any of these, as the auto mode seems to cope well with everything that I throw at it.
There is also a timer function, which comes in handy for group shots, and a movie mode. Depending on the size of your memory card, you can take extremely long movies with this camera. I currently have 3.68GB remaining on my memory card (bought separately) and can take a 38 minute movie. The sound quality is good, though not perfect.
Battery life when using the camera for photographs is excellent, I charge it very infrequently, which means that you can take it on holiday without also taking the charger. The camera itself is also very light, it weighs in at just 115g without the battery, and its slim shape means that it won't take up much space in your carry on, handbag or beach bag. It's also a sturdy little thing, and feels well made. After having the camera for eighteen months, it still doesn't have a mark on it. I do keep it in a case, and it is generally well looked after, but it has had a couple of scrapes and come out of the other side unharmed. The sliding lens cover mechanism also feels strong and built to last.
There are few negative things to say about the Finepix Z35, bearing in mind that it is a point and shoot intended for everyday use by amateurs. It doesn't come with a memory card and the internal memory is just 18MB, so you do have to buy an SDHC card for it. This card does fit in the card reader on my laptop, so transferring pictures is simple and fast.
The buttons are rather small, but if you have average sized fingers this isn't a problem. Older men with larger fingers will have trouble looking through your pictures, which may be a blessing, depending on how much you want your granddad to see of your holiday to Ibiza. As the lens is quite close to the edge of the camera I also find that when my boyfriend takes a picture there's always a massive finger hovering in the top left of the photograph. It may be the case that this camera isn't suitable for males.
Primark (known as Penneys in Ireland) currently has 151 stores in the UK, and a further 68 spread across Europe, so there's probably a Primark near you. The stores are large, and items are cheap. Of course, you get what you pay for, so items are often poor quality, stores are usually a mess, and the customer service leaves something to be desired.
So why bother? Well, if asked to put a figure on how much of Primark stock is cheap rubbish, I'd say 98%. That leaves 2% of stock which is cheap, but not rubbish. If you're on a budget, shopping wisely in Primark can give you a wardrobe worthy of envy, for a fraction of the price you'd pay in other high street stores. It's possible to buy shoes, dresses and handbags for around £10 each. Primark is also great for basics, as a plain vest typically costs £1.50, and these last for a very long time. Jewellery is very cheap, though expect green marks on your skin.
The downside to Primark is that it's rather like a giant jumble sale. As shoppers have little respect for the low-priced merchandise it's often dropped on the floor. Shopping in Primark takes some know-how and persistence. Here are my top tips, as an ex-employee, for getting what you want:
Don't trust the shop assistants. Like in all shops, some are interested in helping you and some are not. Unfortunately, because it can be hard to find a certain item in a particular size in the warehouse, they often won't look as hard as they could to find things. If you go to the Customer Services desk, they can check whether there are any in stock for you.
The Customer Services desk can also order things in for you. People are easily defeated if they can't find what they want, not realising that there is some organisation behind it all. Unfortunately, because ordering things in requires a pain-in-the-backside phone call, Customer Services would often like to avoid doing it. Insist.
Deliveries are almost daily, and the good stuff can sell out quickly, so you have to go regularly if you want the best chance of getting the goods.
Spare stock of things that are going on the tables is often squished into the very middle of the table, where it's hidden from view by the clothes on the outside of the table. If you can't find your size, move the outer pile of clothes and see if there's anything behind.
If your local store has more than one set of tills, the ones furthest away from the women's clothes are usually the quietest.
Even if they say the same size on the label there are often differences from item to item. If they don't have your size try checking the size above or below, poor quality control means that sizes vary drastically.
Try the kids' section! Girls' dresses age 12-13 years fit like a size 10, and they're about half the price that they would be if they were in the women's section. They also tend to be cute, with floral patterns, bows, etc. If you like a good girly dress and they'd fit you, you should give it a try.
But most importantly, don't buy things just because they're cheap. Will you wear it? If not, put it back.