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On first appearances this seems strange little beast as you'd expect a Black and Decker to be green not orange.... But colour confusion aside this thing is the business for keeping edges neat and tackling bits the mower will not go near.
It's got a 500w electric motor but it comes with a relatively short power cable (6 metres) so if you don't have one already you'll need an extension cable as this will likely fall short in any longer gardens or with anyone without an outside power socket who has to put the cable through a window!
Assembly of this little machine was absolutely minimal and it's so light! I can remember tackling my mums garden years ago with a similar looking model and after half an hour my back was broken.. No chance of that here thankfully as this is very light indeed and has a telescopic shaft making it easy to adjust to your height so no bending over...
Performance wise this Strimmer does not disappoint at all. It's got good cutting power and width for a small machine and the metal "guide" that sticks out the front makes it easy to cut round washing poles, fences and to edge the lawn without burning through piles of string through hitting solid objects. The guard is also very effective as there is minimal "kick back" of debris from cutting through weeds etc although safety gear is a must with all power tools, and if you use a left to right motion you further reduce the risk of kicking stones etc. back at yourself from the rotating cutting string.
Feeding string is also very easy. Simply release the power button, press the head of the Strimmer into the grass, release and press the power button again... This Strimmer has one of the most reliable auto-feeds I've ever used and coming from a family of bad gardeners I've burned through many a Strimmer over the years!! When the string is done the cartridge is very easy to replace and very cheap to source online - another plus for this machine as so many "cheap" Strimmers sting you after the fact when you need to pay a fortune to replace the cutting string.
On the downside it's very noisy, more so that other machines I've used, but to be fair the cutting power of this machine is astonishing for its size so that can easily be forgiven and ear defenders are best worn anyway. And back to the cable length... Way to short for this short of product, if you don't have an outside power socket your guaranteed to need to buy an extension cable.
In short a good little Strimmer but the short cable lets it down a little.
I know this product is designed for kids but as an eczema sufferer I find it hard to get a product which smells nice but is kind to skin and Sanex Dermo Kids Bodywash and Foam Bath manages to do this. I first came across it when looking after our twin baby nephews who also suffer from eczema and dry skin and it really helps keep their skin soft and moisturised and does not irritate broken skin.
The product comes in a 500ml bottle and retails in our local supermarket for around £3.15 although it is on offer fairly regularly. The bottle states that the product is hypoallergenic, paediatrician approved and pH balanced which is reassuring for parents of children with skin conditions. The body wash itself is a plain white colour and has a light fresh fragrance nothing too perfumey or overpowering. From using just a little on a sponge as a body wash you get a good lather and a little goes a long way and for getting some bubbles in the bath for the boys we didn't need to use much. Myself and my husband have now been using it regularly for a couple of months and I find that it does not over dry the skin unlike some highly perfumed and coloured body washes for adults that are marketed as skin friendly. I know there is an adults version of Sanex and I have also tried this but I just much prefer the fragrance of the kids stuff (it smells so clean and fresh) and its handy to have in for the nephews too! I guess the only drawback is that at over £3 a bottle it is a bit more pricey than your average body wash but if you shop around its always on offer somewhere and it is worth it if you have delicate skin.
My husband and I are frequent travellers to the Outer Hebrides and to make the 3 hour long boat journey go quicker we used to bring cards, travel games, magazines, laptops and anything else we could think of to entertain ourselves, that is until we found Monopoly Deal!
We both enjoy the traditional Monopoly game but it's not very practical for travelling and 3 hours is not long enough for a game in The Shoes world (we get very competitive!). We have also tried travel Monopoly but its bulky and there are too many fiddley little bits that can get lost easily and you need a very flat surface to play which when travelling is not always possibly. We came across Monopoly Deal in our local supermarket and it was on offer of 2 for £8 along with another card based game from Hasbro and on reading the back of the pack it seemed like we could be on to a winner with a new travel game.
The point of the game is to collect three full sets of different coloured properties and it is the same properties that are in the original game e.g. Water Works and Electric Company so if you have played Monopoly before you already have a handle on the properties. Each player is dealt 5 cards to start with and on each turn the player must take two from a draw pile and can then play up to 3 cards by banking money, placing properties down or playing an action cards. Action cards are great and keep the game going, you can force a player to give you birthday money, steal a property or even a complete set but beware other players can have an action card in their hand which can do the same or say no to a steal move you make! You could be almost winning with 2 full property sets then get hit by your opponent with a huge fine for rent on their property and lose the lot so it's important to keep lots of money in the bank to pay fines! I guess what we find best is that it is really a game of luck and there is not always going to be a better player - it all depends on the cards you are dealt!
The game can be played with 2 to 5 players and is very easy to pick up, we got the hang of it by the first game and is fast enough that you can play a game in 15 to 20 minutes so it doesn't drag out. The pack contains 110 cards and two card sized Quick Start Rules which are really handy to remind yourself as you go along. The pack is only twice the size of a pack of cards and the box is robust enough that 2 years later we have not ripped it or had it fall apart on us and the cards go back in easily. There are no fiddly bits to lose and we now take the game with us every time we travel as it is all so much fun and we don't feel we need to bring any other entertainment. Monopoly Deal is a winner for us and would recommend it to anyone looking for a handy travel game or even just a games night in the house.
My wife and I had never thought about getting a bread maker before but when we were given this as a Christmas Present we thought, what the heck let's give it a try.
First of all it is a bit bigger than I expected a bread maker to be (when you look at the size of the loaf tin in comparison to the size of the machine!) but when you use it and realise that even in a small kitchen like ours there's no danger of things next to it get getting blasted with heat when it's running then I'm more than happy with the size.
Secondly it's ridiculously straightforward in its construction and really easy to take the tin out and keep the whole machine clean. As some reviewers have said on first use it was a bit smelly when the grease burnt off but most cooking appliances are and it fades really quickly.
Now on to the bread!! I work shifts and my wife works nine to five, so we found we wasted a lot of bread when we bought loaves from the shop. So the smaller loaves you can make in this machine are very handy in that regard and really easy to put together. The instruction manual is basic but easy to follow and comes with all the measuring instruments supplied - just make sure the bread pan is clean (no soap residue as this added ingredient makes dough bricks not bread which I learned the hard way) and makes sure you measure accurately and you're in business.
A superb feature of this machine is the timer - you can bung in all the ingredients at night and set the time to coincide with your alarm clock and wake up to fresh bread and if you've never tried fresh bread and butcher sausage sandwiches on a Saturday morning I can't recommend it enough!
A word of warning though is to shop savvy with your ingredients. Some standard recipes can be quite expensive by the time you buy all the ingredients on a loaf per loaf basis and you'll find yourself being cheaper to buy bread from a supermarket and suffer the wastage. We've found though that most supermarkets (in the home baking section) have pre mixed bread flours for white bread, wholemeal bread, Ciabatta bread etc., and these we've found to retail for around 70 pence, significantly cheaper and no reduction in quality from buying everything separately (not to mention a lot less measuring involved).
Back to the heading for this review though - versatility. Ok maybe a little bit misleading in that this machine in primarily a bread maker (and a good one to boot) but we use other functions of the machine a lot more now and we love the results we get. The dough setting on the machine gives wonderful results in making your own rolls and pizza dough.
Yeah I know it sounds boring but until you've tried the rolls you have no idea what you're missing. Simply bung in your half bag (250g) of wholemeal bread mix from your supermarket of choice, add 175mls of water, press the dough button and find something else to do for 90 minutes. After your 90 minutes, simply empty the bread pan onto a lightly floured worktop or chopping board and cut into 4 or 6 even pieces. Shape the dough into a rough square and put on a greased baking tray. Cover with Clingfilm and allow to rise for 15 minutes. Brush the rolls with melted butter and bake for 15 minutes at 190C and enjoy the results. Might sound a bit fiddly but it gives you 8-12 rolls for 70 pence (not to mentioned how good they taste!) and after the first couple of times doing this you'll find it takes no time at all.
Then there's the jam.... We tried the jam recipe (we make our own Jam the old fashioned stirring a pot like a maniac way too) and we realised we'd bought a bit too much fruit for the time we had so we thought we'd try the bread maker out and we were not let down at all. Simply add two cups of fruit (we made raspberries and strawberries) a cup of chopped cooking apple, a cup of preserving sugar, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and press the button. No hassle and excellent jam that tastes great and sets very well too.
So in summary - a good machine with a good bit of versatility if you use your imagination.
My wife and I had eyed this up for a good while before we bought it after having been put off of steaming foods with the hassle we've had with steamers in the past. We'd had the "old fashioned" three tier steamers in both the electric variety and the on the hob pot variety but it all came down to the same thing - the general fiddling around trying to work out timings and which food should be on what level and on and on; which generally makes it easier to use more pots and leave the steamer gathering dust somewhere...
But we decided to try and eat healthier (in other words the wife wants me to eat more veg!) and after looking at the manufacturers description and some reviews we decided to have a punt as it were.
We went for the store purchase option, simply for the comeback if there was anything wrong, and we like to have insurance on things (something Amazon still lacks on) so we purchased it for £70 out of Currys and paid £15 for a three year no quibble guarantee. So off we set with our new toy to see what we could make...
Out of the box assembly is child's play - base unit, drip tray and two large compartments, one of which is split into two with a divider, essentially giving you three separate "cooking" areas. There is also a rack for separating the larger area (so you could cook double the chicken for example by using the extra layer) a rice cooking tray and two sauce trays (which we've found work superbly for cooking more rice if you have guests coming round or a big family). There's a clearly marked water fill line in the base unit, a water level indicator (essentially a clear plastic panel in the base unit), a low water level alarm and a handy little lip that flips out to allow you to top up the water if needs be.
Unlike many modern kitchen appliances the guide that comes with the intellisteamer is actually very in depth and tells you the cooking times you need to steam the majority of most popular meats, veg, rice and pasta and we've only found a need to tweak the times on a few thing to suit our personal preferences and the results have been nothing short of excellent.
But the thing that sets this apart from other steamers in my opinion is the separate compartments it has and the ability to time things to perfection. With the three compartments you can easily fill the steamer with what you want to cook, set the times, press the button and walk away until the timer starts beeping. There's no adding the next level if it's time for the broccoli to go on, or lifting the tray with the potatoes off and sticking the meat underneath as the potatoes take longer but the meat would drip onto the potatoes - that hassle is no longer there with the intellisteamer. You put the foods in their compartments (for example rice at the back, carrots in the front left and chicken in the front right) choose the times for each compartment and press the steam button. Rice (taking longest to cook) will start first and will take about 40 minutes, and the cooking time will count down from 40 until it reaches the next start time (carrots at 30 minutes approximately) which will then start cooking and will continue counting down until the chicken comes on at 18 minutes (all times taken from instruction manual) and when everything has steamed away for its allotted time the steamer's alarm will go off and it's time to dish up and eat. If you're not ready to eat just then though the steamer will keep the food warm for up to minutes making it truly a hassle free cooking solution.
The resulting quality and taste of the food are as impressive as it's hassle saving - other than the occasional miss reading of instructions in terms of volume of foods against steaming times from my part nothing has ever came out of the steamer raw or shriveled up like a prune, the manual gives very clear and detailed instructions and with a little simple maths it's easy to work out what your doing.
One thing that I couldn't leave out of this review is the quality and ease of rice cooking with the intellisteamer. If like me you have an uncanny ability to make rice and the bottom of a pot develop and strong attraction to each other I'd say it's worth buying just for that alone; albeit it would be a very expensive rice cooker!!
Before buying this we had looked at some reviews in various places and one criticism was the difficulty in cleaning the steamer after use. Well I can say from experience that as with any electric steamer the small holes in the plastic steaming compartments can be very fiddly to get into. I have found however if you are cooking meats or anything that leaves residue that the best thing to do is to stick the steaming compartment straight into hot soapy water as soon as you've dished up your food - as with any kitchen task if you let things dry in they can be a nightmare and the little holes in this steamers compartments are no exceptions.
Another thing some may take issue is space. The steamer itself is not small and can take up a lot of space in a small kitchen and when you are cleaning it the steaming compartments, rice trays etc and drip tray do take up pretty much a full drying rack so you need to keep this in mind. I will say however that my wife and I have a very small kitchen and we re-arranged things in order for the steamer to stay out as we use it a lot!
Ease of use
Superb Instruction Manuals
Easily cook full meals with no hassle
Maybe a bit expensive for a steamer
Can be fiddly to clean
However in my opinion the pros as they stand far outweigh the cons and I need to give this item five stars - we both work and don't have a lot of time to cook. We can come home, bung stuff in the steamer press the button and go get ourselves ready to eat, no more standing in the kitchen stirring or watching the clock.
Having worn rigid gas permeable contact (RGP) lenses for 2 years now I have tried various cleaning and conditioning systems as well as all in one type systems and am still set with Bausch and Lomb as the best brand and also highly recommended by my eye consultant. I normally use Bausch and Lomb Boston Advance Cleaner and separate Conditioning Solution but saw the Simplus pack in the shop and decided to give it a go as it's a brand I trust.
The pack comes with a 120ml bottle of Multi Action Solution and a contact lens case and instructions enclosed. The side of the pack states 'With built in protein remover for everyday protein removal and easy, no evening rub care regimen for convenience' so I had high hopes of it saving me time in cleaning and preparing the lenses for wearing. However only in the instructions inside the box does it give the proper procedure for using the multi action solution and it isn't a simple bung them In the case leave them to soak and then put them back in. Once you take your lenses out you can indeed put them straight in the case with no evening rub but you then need to rub each lens for 30 seconds each in the morning with the solution and then rinse each one for 5 seconds with the solution again so what time you save in the evening not cleaning them you are essentially just adding it back on in the morning. I much prefer cleaning them the night before so I am able to just get up in the morning give each lens a quick wet with conditioning solution and pop in them in and off I go to work.
I did give the system a go and I find the one bottle does everything system good and would likely use this if I was going away for the weekend or on holiday to save on bringing separate bottles of cleaners, conditioners and saline but long term this option is not for me. I found it did not remove protein and lipid build us as efficiently as a separate cleaner and also I was using more of the solution which would end up costing more long term than a separate cleaning and conditioning solution would.
As I have an eye condition called Keratoconus I am unable to wear glasses or soft contact lenses to correct my vision so for the last 2 years I have been wearing rigid gas-permeable (RGP) contact lenses to help stabilise my vision. As the RGP lenses have to be cleaned and left in conditioning fluid every day and the lenses themselves kept indefinitely it was essential to find a good cleaning system for my lenses. Bausch and Lomb Boston Advance Cleaner and Conditioner was the brand recommended by my consultant as the best on the market to maintain my lenses and I can't disagree with this.
The cleaner comes in a smaller 30ml bottle but as you only need a few drops per lens to efficiently clean the lens and remove protein and lipid build up from it the bottle lasts me for at least 3 months. The conditioning solution comes in a 120ml bottle and is used for storing your lenses in overnight, giving them a quick soak or re-wetting during the day and the bottle lasts me around 2 months as you do not use more than 2mls a day. The conditioning solution is designed to bind and coat the surface of the lens to help on insertion and enhance wettability throughout the day. The Boston conditioning solution also helps reduce friction against both the cornea and the eyelids which is a huge deal for me as the lens wearer as RGP lenses are rigid, hard plastic and in general not very comfy to wear unlike soft lenses. The longest you can wear RGP lenses is 12 hours and you need a good conditioning solution to help make these 12 hours bearable!
Boston is the name of the range for Bausch and Lomb for RGP lenses and they are maybe slightly more pricey than own brand products but having tried the cheaper alternative they just don't live up to the cleaning and conditioning system that Bausch and Lomb provide, my eyes became sore and dry very quickly and the preservatives used in some cheaper brands can cause discomfort when wearing the lenses. Own brand systems do not offer the comfort and reduced friction over the cornea which leads to the dreaded red eye meaning you need to remove your lens and allow your eye to heal for a day while unable to wear your lenses to correct your vision which is not ideal.
Boston packaging is inoffensive and bottles have different coloured tops for the cleaner and conditioning solution to avoid mix ups and instructions on the back are big enough to read easily with a clear use by date visible on the back of each bottle along with storage advice.
I would only recommend Bausch and Lomb Boston to people wearing RGP lenses as it offers an unrivalled cleaning and conditioning system leading to very comfortable contact lenses for prolonged use.
The first time I saw news articles about this phone it piqued my interest. I use my phone all the time, not often to browse the internet or facebook or anything like that - I play games, listen to music and use the kindle app on my android phone a lot!! So when I saw that a phone was coming out that looked to be on a par if not better than an iphone and with the now familiar android operating system to boot I wanted it then and there.
My previous phone was a little Sony Ericcson x10 mini pro with a pop out keyboard and when I first got my hands on the Galaxy S3 I must admit I was surprised by the size of the thing and genuinely thought this thing is too big for me - thankfully I was very wrong and the phone with its slim shape fits comfortably in my jacket and jeans pockets with no problem at all and as it is so thin it doesn't stick out so the danger of battering it off something in my travels is thankfully miniscule...
To the phone itself - not only does it look amazing it's genuinely a very impressive piece of technology. The screen is very large, literally the entire size of the phone and as someone not too used to touch screen I was a bit wary, within 5 minutes of using the phone though those fears where quashed as the touch screen works seamlessly with none of the "multi touch" issues I've had in the past with other touch screen phones and my large fingers. Also with the screen being so large the on screen keyboard is generous without taking over the entire display when typing text messages or browsing the internet. The screen rotation works well in this aspect as well - tilt the phone on its side and you can easily use both thumbs to type out the largest of text messages in seconds or if you more techno savvy you can use the phone's clever voice interface to tell it to send someone a message...
Speed wise this phone is a marvel - the manufacturer rates the processor at 1.4ghz and if like me your thinking "what does that mean then" I'll tell you it means the phone does what you want it to lightning fast, no standing pressing buttons whilst the phone has a conniption fit trying to catch up with you touching the screen repeatedly the screen, it's smooth and fast and a dream whether you're in a hurry to send a text, make a call or find a note to yourself you saved on the phone.
The real draw of this phone for me though is the Galaxy S3's ability to replace multiple devices. As I mentioned before I used the kindle application (free from Google market place on android) a lot on my previous phone and with the Galaxy's huge screen and crystal clear display any thoughts I had of buying a kindle are gone as with this in your pocket you really don't need one at all - why carry the extra item or spend the extra money?
Next is the gaming capabilities of the Galaxy S3, I must admit I was sceptical at first after watching you tube videos etc of games being played on this model before I bought the phone (it really looked too good to be true!) and I was prepared to be a bit disappointed but I really wasn't. There are lots of games available on Google play (the new Android Marketplace) and they don't disappoint. From the classic and highly addictive Angry Birds (free unlike on iphone!) to the cult Grand Theft Auto 3 (the full version from the PC, Xbox and Playstation 2) the games are stunningly smooth graphically and the control interfaces are surprisingly good. There are even some good first person shooting games in the shape of Brothers in Arms 2, Battlefield 2 Bad Company and some original titles such as Dead Trigger and Shadowgun with a lot more on the way as well as games for every taste. Add to that the variety of game consoles and handheld console emulators available to buy and the wide variety of ROMs (games you download and save to your phone's SD card) to be found online means you can turn your phone into a Gamboy advance an Super Nintendo or Sega Mega drive and play all the classic games from your youth on the go!
And lastly in terms of media entertainment you have the excellent built in music player and the frankly superb video player that comes pre-installed. With these you've no need to ever entertain the thought of getting an ipod. The phone's own video player has multi - format capability so it can play back many of your favourite film formats (such as .avi or mp4), all in stunning definition and rich sound with the supplied headset.
Storage wise the phone (I got the 16gb model) has lots of space to download apps and save music files, photos and the odd movie or five; as well as the ability to add an external micro SD card up to 64gb in capacity. I purchased a 32gb card to move my music collection onto and the phone is able to recognise the card easily and access music seamlessly, there's no problems waiting in files to load etc.
The phone has an excellent wireless modem on board and downloads files faster than my old slow laptop and offers very fast connection when browsing the web.
There's also the small issue of the 8mp camera and HD video camera built into the phone too, which gives excellent photo quality with lots of setting on the camera such as burst shots and auto focus to allow you to take good quality pictures.
Battery life I've found to actually be very good. The Galaxy S3 has it's own built in power saving mode which limits processor speed and reduces brightness when you're out and about as well as there being many applications (the majority of them free) you can download from Google Play which help minimise the phone's power usage when idle. I'm averaging about 30 hours out of a single charge at the minute with the kindle app in use for many hours a day and a goodly amount of gaming and music thrown in too boot. Essentially if you set the phone to power saving when in your pocket I've found it only dropped 3 per cent charge during my 8 hour work day with only the occasional sneaky text send when the boss isn't watching. Playing Grand Theft Auto 3 for just over 4 hours on the first night I downloaded the game accounted for 60 per cent of the battery and watching a 2 hour movie accounted for less that 50 per cent of the battery - all in all much better than I expected. Although as mentioned by another reviewer it is slow to charge...
Drawbacks wise, there are a few but none unique to this phone. Being a touch screen it can get very dirty (but it's easily cleaned) and with a screen so large your best to get a case/screen protector asap but any savvy shopper can get those very cheap these days. Being so thin, without a case you will feel you might drop the phone very easily so I would advise anyone getting this phone to get a case for it too. Other than that there are no other drawbacks I've seen so far.
To summarise if you want to have a kindle, an ipod, a mobile phone and a portable gaming device to cover all eventualities whether you're commuting, in the house, on your lunch hour or on the train on your way to see friends or family then don't bother - get a Galaxy s3.