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timetoshine
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Member since: 18.09.2012

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      05.11.2012 22:52
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      Another triumph for an underrated great of modern music

      The new album is a mixed blessing for Owl City, the name of the musical project created by Adam Young. The Midsummer Station is a distinct turn for the project after he maintained the same synth pop style for the previous three albums. It was conceived in part out of the ashes of its predecessor, All Things Bright and Beautiful, in my opinion the best album by Owl City. That was such a poor commercial failure, selling just 143,000 in the US. Therefore, Adam decided to branch out, bring in other producers such as Stargate and John Crosby and adopt a more commercial sound. Overall, it is a different album, much more polished than any previous one, which has all of the vocal effects, pounding bass and repetition of this decade's music. However, it still brings to the table a considerable amount of the Owl City charm and character, which redeems it and makes it a generally excellent album. It is a mixed blessing though as many who have grown up listening to the chirpy home produced pop of Young are now subjected to a more mainstream and chart friendly ensemble of songs. The debate has often been venomous but it is a new musical direction which keeps Owl City relevant, current and a sustainable project. This is still an amazing album, perhaps now with an even wider appeal.

      Tracks

      1) Dreams and Disasters - an instant hook, this is a great introduction to the album with a driving bassline and soaring vocals. It is not too unexpected yet.

      2) Shooting Star - the second single from the album has attracted comparisons to Katy Perry's Firework and I can see the similarity. It is not particularly inventive and is by far not my favourite on the album but it is nonetheless. It has a pop charm and is optimistic, both reflectors of the whole album.

      3) Gold - this is one of my favourite songs of Owl City and the best on the album. It is life-affirming with a dash of inspiration. Sure, the chorus of G-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ll-l-l-l-ll-d-d-d-d-dd-d is not too creative but it works really well, is a well-woven song and has a magical air about it.

      4) Dementia - a great song, a real highlight, about Adam's own life trying to reconcile fame with an ordinary existence. It has great sequences of lyrics and a more subtle chorus than the other songs on the album. The occasional vocals from featured guest Mark Hoppus adds to the layering effect on this excellent song.

      5) Im Coming After You - This is perhaps a weaker song on the album but with an intoxicating woo-woo-woo chorus. It is a little similar to Deer In the Headlights, but with a great backing beat.

      6) Speed of Love - a great dance number with really addictive twists of beat but lacking lyrically

      7) Good Time - the most well known song, this was the first single and a summer hit mainly due to his collaboration with Carly Rae Jepson. It is actually a decent song when given a few listens, but is mostly just a mainstream pop factory song with a catchy hook and a memorable chorus 'its always a good time'

      8) Embers - This is an outstanding song and I adore the first few lines of lyrics. Listen to them and they show a songcraft which is rarely seen in the mainstream. The chorus is also good, reminding me of Shooting Stars even more, which knits the album together nicely.

      9) Silhouette - A rare ballad from Owl City, this is hauntingly beautiful. It builds up with plinking piano keys, a soothing drum beat and a gorgeous string section. One of the most artistic and evocative song on the album.

      10) Metropolis - An average song on the album, perhaps better than some earlier, showing that this is a record that gets better as you go. The hook is the line 'I left my heart in Metropolis' which is delivered nicely. It has quite an atmospheric feel with the soaring violin backdrop. In retrospect, this album grows on you such that I am changing my opinion whilst re-listening to each of the songs and finding new dimensions.

      11) Take It All Away - a bold, thumping and triumphant conclusion, this is anthemic in its quality. Its drumbeats are exquisite and though it is not especially innovative in its lyrics and construction, it is like Gold in that it has just a special spark about it.

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      • Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum / Spirits / 32 Readings / 32 Ratings
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        30.10.2012 18:11
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        A delicious rum, why do I seem to be the only person drinking it?

        I have not been drinking out at bars, clubs and pubs for very long because of my age. So whilst at a celebration of the birth of one of my closest friends, I had to go through what was at that stage the agonizing process of ordering drinks at the bar. How do I know what to order? My birthday was six days ago? So I grabbed another friend and he ordered a rum and coke. So I leapt on that once my friend had gone and asked for the same. Now it took them about ten minutes to believe my ID but when they did, the barman asked a painful question. What rum do you want? My reply was in a quavering voice. Rum and coke please. He eventually settled on giving me a Sailor Jerry spiced rum and since it hit my lips I have found a new favourite spirit.

        Now I am at university and well into the swing of drink purchasing processes. But always I tend to return to Sailor Jerry spiced rum. Of course, I am the only person who drinks the stuff, everyone else with their vodka, beer or cider looks at me with wary suspicion. It is a delicious drink with a rich flavour, though I know that there are sweeter rums out there. Officially, it has notes of 'intense vanilla, dry buttery toffee and subtle cinnamon' though I am not pretentious in that way and just enjoy it for its taste. Usually, I am a means to an end sort of person when it comes to alcohol. Good times and intoxication are the order of the day, as a responsible student of course. However, this I can just enjoy as a drink in its own right.

        I tend to hate drinking most things straight or even on the rocks and with Sailor Jerry there is no exception. However, if that is how you wish to drink it then it is probably a smoother and better quality rum than you can otherwise buy to drink without a mixer. At first I was not brave enough to go beyond diet coke as an addition to my rum. Now I know how versatile it is, I have begun branching out into more exotic drinks. It is an absolute delight to add to any tropical fruit juice combinations. I tried adding it to a mixture of orange, pineapple and papaya and it tasted like summer in a glass. Divine. And so much better than Pimms for your exotic burst of sunshine. Sailor Jerry takes to most mixers to be honest and it is always nice to have a spiced rum, which gives your drink so much more depth of flavour than an unspiced variety. It takes to citrus flavours well, which offset its darker, mellower burnt sugar notes. Even cocktails that usually require a lighter rum (if you like pina colada) take on a whole new dimension with a darker, spiced dash of Sailor Jerry Spiced. I also find that a dash of vodka does not upset the balanced flavours if you so desire.

        In terms of how it compares to other brands it is as delicious as Captain Morgan, perhaps one of the best known brands. I have also tried a more budget option of Cockspur Spiced, which despite being delicious, did not match up in terms of quality. Therefore, it is an excellent investment which will reward you for your generosity with fresher, smoother bursts of spice and flavour. However, it can be a little pricey, such as in Tesco for example where you are able to purchase a 70 Cl bottle for £18.40 whereas my Cockspur was just a little over £10. Nonetheless, this spirit has much to recommend.

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      • Nandos / Restaurant / Cafe National / 35 Readings / 35 Ratings
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        29.10.2012 18:43
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        Paradise

        Nando's is a behemoth in the restaurant galaxy and like a good friend, Nando's and I go back a long way. Down the years, it has been the destination of choice for most of my friends for birthdays, celebrations and emotional goodbyes. We have dabbled in such experimentations as Pizza Express and ASK Italian. However, we all end up in our special booth in a very special restaurant. Basically, Nando's is a chicken restaurant with Portugese/Mozambique origins. They are a global brand in over thirty countries and five continents and are continuously opening new restaurants. However, unlike other food chains eg McDonalds etc, they have personality, a sublime brand identity and most important of all, are a wonderful place to eat and share special moments.

        ===The Experience===
        This is why I go to Nando's. I will talk about the food a little later, but that (strangely enough) is secondary to the experience of the restaurant itself. Though I have visited many different outlets of the chain, most of my experience is based around my 'local' in Southend in Essex. Each building is different but my Nando's is set in a stylish wooden building with leafy plant decorations and stands in strong contrast with the other restaurants all around it with their basic shop front styles. You tend to have to queue because the place is bustling with people. But that just ramps up the anticipation as you get closer. Unfortunately you cannot book ahead for a reservation, you can do so on the day if you want a guaranteed table. You are greeted by a friendly member of staff who asks you if you have been to a Nando's before and of course we always share a wry smile and say yes. We often ask for our regular booth as we are a bit of a permanent fixture. Normally, they are able to accommodate our same-day bookings and so we tend to be happy.

        The real charm of Nando's comes through when you walk through the restaurant. The interior design of their restaurants is sublime with each having an individual character. Whilst mine is a dark wood theme, others such as in the Westfield shopping centre in London are stylish glass interiors. Whilst I will discuss the food in a short while, the way you order food is a little more controversial. Rather than the traditional format of being asked at the table, you take your order up to a front desk where they process it for you. You then have to help yourself to cutlery, napkins, drinks and condiments. Some may say that this is lazy and does not justify the cost of the dining experience. Nonetheless, I say that this is a part of the Nando's experience. When you have picked your food, you tend to go up as a group and order, bond as you do and are not rushed by a waiter with that awkward moment when everyone has decided what they want to eat and you have no idea. I am the sort of person that muses on the menu for ages and change my mind constantly, so that is the nightmare situation. In terms of money, because of the self-service, a tip is not foisted on you which is fair enough, it is simply an option for a discrete bowl on the counter's side. Particularly nice are the personal touches that come with the brand. On the board behind the cooking area, there are always quips and light hearted jokes for you to enjoy whilst you wait. To be honest, you will notice that particularly at certain times, it is a largely youth-oriented restaurant, but this is an unfair generalization. People of all ages and especially families can feel comfortable eating with the Nando's experience, as long as they like the food that is.

        However, one of the things I adore most about Nando's is their generous rewards system. You get a card and a stamp for every visit where you spend over £6. Then after three visits, you can get a free quarter chicken, then half chicken and then a whole chicken. I have had more free chicken than I can eat in the past. I think it is time now to talk about...

        ===The Food===
        This is why you came to Nando's after all really. However personal and youthful the branding and experience is, it is a place where people come to socialise over food. They have a standardised menu with only small and usually international variations. The main specialism is Peri-Peri Chicken, the name of their signature chilli, which is pretty much ubiquitous in most of the dishes. First of all you may want to order a starter, I do not tend to but such is the wealth of my Nando's experience (or lack of wealth by the time I am finished) that I have tried most of them. Appeteasers as they are cutely named can be bought separately but are often offered at a discounted price by the person taking your order. The hommous is nice, though fairly standard with pitta, elevated though by a divine Peri-Peri drizzle. As you can see, it is quite important that you can enjoy chilli. However, my best friend likes neither chilli nor chicken and yet somehow Nando's is still his favourite restaurant! You can also buy alternatives like a red pepper dip and olives but I would suggest simply going to your main course, which is where the heart of Nando's truly lies.

        The classic dish that I would recommend to beginners in this particular form of cuisine is the exotic sounding quarter or half chicken. I would recommend getting it with two sides such as chips, garlic bread (which is especially sublime), rice or corn on the cob. You can pay a little extra if you like and get a posher side such as ratatouille or flavoured 'Macho' peas. Alternatively, burgers, pittas, wraps and salads are also available for you to fill with chicken. If you are considering ordering the steak roll, please leave Nando's immediately. Of course, if you are vegetarian there is a whole range of other dishes and I have been surprised how good their meatless selection actually is from bean burgers to vegetarian salads to mushroom and halloumi pitta.

        Above all, though, the key to your main course is the spice of the chicken. You can choose from a sliding scale of Plain, Lemon and Herb, Mango and Lime, Medium, Hot and Extra Hot. I would not go for plain personally as the other two varieties are mild but have a lot of flavour to them. However, my spice of choice tends to be medium, it is the perfect 'medium' between a small kick and a shove off a cliff in terms of chilli. You specify these things and can then go and pick up sauces and condiments. They are kept in their own little enclave which is nice, but sometimes leads to minor fights over bottles. I tend to grab about four different flavours, all Nando's varieties and leave behind the ketchup and salad dressings. It is also great that you can recreate your Nando's food experience at home since they sell lots of their sauces, rubs and marinades in most supermarkets.

        If you are eating such spicy food, though, the drinks become an issue. When I am feeling particularly generous to myself I get the bottomless glass where you can refill with as much coke, diet coke, fanta and sprite as you like. Other times I get a glass just for water and ice which they are less grudging to give you than lots of other restaurants and do not add a service charge for all the effort of turning on a tap. Now. There are many school of thoughts on Nando's. I have never done it but there are those out there that believe it is morally okay to get the free water glass and then discretely fill it with other drinks from the refill stations. I will leave that up to your morals. Choose well. If you still need to satisfy your chilli tastebuds with a dessert, you can also get unlimited frozen yoghurt for a one off cost and they have other desserts available as well. Once you are done, the service tends to be swift but it is a place where many people stay after they have eaten to hang out until they feel guilty enough looking at the queue. Our record is two hours. All in all, this is one of my favourite places on the planet. If you have never been, go. Eat. Enjoy. I would write more,except I actually have to leave to go for a meal out for my friends. Can you guess where we are going?

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          27.10.2012 15:08
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          Yes it cleans and yes it clears

          Normally, I ignore the ostentatious claims of the bottles that you can find along the beauty sections of supermarkets. If it has a rich and nourishing infusion of berries and jasmine, notes of saffron and exotic 'essential' oils plucked from the far corners of the earth, I tend to steer clear. I am a guy after all. But one product that I cannot live without is a decent exfoliating facial cream or wash. Soap is fine for the rest of your body, but my history of sensitive skin and eczema mean that my face dries out horribly if I just use soap on it.

          I have tried many of the different brands on the market, tending to purchase the one that is the best deal price-wise at the time. At the moment, I am using the Clean & Clear exfoliating daily wash. This is basically a cream that you apply to your moistened face, wash off with clean water and it leaves your skin fresh and cleansed. Your first impression of the product is a decent one with its attractive packaging. It is a calm blend of blues, white and purple, which make it an elegant and understated bottle. I keep it by my bath/shower as I would not be embarrassed to have the brand name or bottle in plain sight, perhaps unlike if I was using an unbranded product. It is a squeezy tube, which is an excellent design feature as it makes it easier to get the last amount of the product out. Also, the top of the bottle has a rounded off edge, which makes it easier to hold in the often perilous world of the wet shower. Aren't the little things in life lovely? However, the only downside to this is that the sanding down of the bottle is still quite rough and it leaves a very sharp corner. In the aforementioned 'perilous world', this has led to some unfortunate stabbings! Its design is decent nonetheless and like many products these days, it has the nozzle end at the base so that the product drips down and you don't have to wait ages for the lost remnants to emerge from the tube.

          The bottle itself promises much. It claims to be the No.1 UK Facial Wash, which is fair enough given that it is produced by as big a company as Johnson & Johnson. This did much when I was buying the product in my local supermarket that it would be a reasonable quality facial product. It has many other claims, which I thought were all fair enough in the end and I will discuss in a bit. The product itself is a fairly thick and creamy facial gel that you can apply to your face. To make it cost effective, I use it quite sparingly but I would imagine that you can use more for better results. I have found that it leaves my skin fresh and clean, about the same level as the other major brands in the exfoliating wash category. It claims to be oil-free and this shows because it does not leave residue or any greasy feeling at all. It also says that it will leave you with softer skin from day 1 but does not do this as well as a wash that is specifically moisturizing. Back to the ostentatious claims and hyperactive marketing though. It describes its 'micro beads' and my heads are in my hands. But you can often feel a gritty sensation in these daily washes and so I wondered if that might actually be a part of the cleaning process. Clean & Clear is not like sandpaper, unlike many of the other micro-bead washes, but they might actually be working wonders on my skin. I have fairly bad blackheads and large pores and they have not disappeared but I would imagine that they would be worse otherwise.

          You are supposed to use this as part of your Clean & Clear 'daily routine' but I have not tried many other of their products and it is perfectly fine to mix with other brands and products. It is a fairly good product that lathers well and I would recommend. However, it does have its downsides. It is unscented but does still have a smell. I never thought I would, but it has left me pining for an infusion of berries and jasmine and notes of saffron. Instead, you get an unappealing chemical smell which detracts from the pleasant cleansing experience. Finally, the main problem I tend to have with most of these bottles is that lots of the cream spills out of the bottle. You have to try and catch it in the cap and scoop it out with your hands, but it is still a design flaw that they do not seem to have got around to solving yet. All in all, it does not set itself apart from the other brands, but is worth a try if you can get it at a decent price. Because I got it on a special offer for about £1.50, my appreciation of its value for money is skewed. However, it typically retails at between £2 and £3.50. This seems like quite a lot, but then that is the price you may have pay for beauty. Not that it is a miracle cream just yet.

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          25.10.2012 17:22
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          The brighter return to a-ha roots in the third album

          A-ha were a band that between 1984 and 2009 won the hearts and minds of millions around the world. When I first listened to them a few years ago they certainly won mine. This is their third album (I am aiming to review as many as they have on dooyoo) The album was born out of record label pressure to write a set of songs that were more commercially viable than the moodier predecessor Scoundrel Days. This is almost a return to the classic days of Hunting High And Low, but they kept their maturity and some of the dated synth sounds but with a compelling songwriting pedigree. It has many of the signature a-ha songs and is deservedly one of their most famous.

          ---Stay On These Roads---
          The title track is a classic of the a-ha legacy. It sends shivers down your spine from the very beginning with its deeply moving lyrics and haunting ballad form. Morten's soaring vocals sound as good as ever. The melody sounds unbelievable and is testament to the musical quality of the band. It is the perfect opening to a bold album.

          ---The Blood That Moves The Body---
          This song is heavily drenched in string sounds, which mark an important shift for the band and it is an impressive track. It is catchy and has a foot-tapping quality to it. It also shows off better than any other track the backing vocals of Pal and Magne.

          ---Touchy!---
          This song is characteristic of the album in that it is less substantial than the lyrics of the Scoundrel Days album but is darker with a greater musical range. It does have some interesting words attached but the chorus leaves a little more to be desired.

          ---This Alone Is Love---
          A return to the darker sound works well in this album track. The music is pared back and Morten's voice takes centre stage. Occasionally, sharp riffs of guitar and keyboard tunes interject, but it is about the voice. The chorus even has the classic sound of a Morten soar against a backdrop of drum beats.

          ---Hurry Home---
          This is a beautiful song that is well-paced and has some beautiful keyboard sounds that boom in the background. Again, a backing vocal section works really well. Lyrical lines like 'why now should i deny the only true thing inside me' is representative of the internal struggle in the band between commercial sounds and their darker, more mature musical side that would later erupt.

          ---The Living Daylights---
          One of the most famous a-ha songs is their Bond theme, a reminder of their popularity in the musical world. The album version is different to the single released for the film. The jury is still out and debate continues over why this is. Some say that this album version is a re-mix of the original though others contend that a-ha were unhappy with the John Barry version and wanted it to stay as they had recorded it. Nevertheless, it is an excellent song in its own right with a memorable single-line chorus, which has sung back at them by crowds of thousands ever since.

          ---There's Never A Forever Thing---
          A beautiful love song that could equally apply to the band itself. Guitars strum, strings sound and drums beat in the background with Morten's voice intertwining with plinks of the piano. It is mournful and compelling listening.

          ---Out of Blue Comes Green---
          This is the song beloved by the fans. When Morten was performing his 2012 solo tour, he polled a-ha fans to find out their favourite song that he could then play. The result was not a known single but an album track from Stay On These Roads. A rare track to hear live, it was played to an electric energy from the crowd. It is an epic 6:42 length and has beautiful lyrics with synth heavy but mesmerising music alongside a pulsating beat. This is the song where perhaps Morten soars the highest when his 'eyes have seen for better' and he cries out for 'Mother' and 'Father'.

          ---You Are The One---
          An upbeat single that was one of their last hits this side of the breakup before they re-joined as a-ha. It features a brass section unusually prominently for the band but works well as a straightforward, undemanding and unadulterated pop song.

          ---You'll End Up Crying---
          The most bizarre moment of the a-ha discography when the polished album ends with this odd two minute 'song'. It is a strange finish and does not fit with the rest of the album but nothing could ever spoil the classic songs on Stay On These Roads, even if this shows that the album was not yet a fully formed perfect package. Not that they had long to wait for that to come along...

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        • Uno / Card Games / 35 Readings / 35 Ratings
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          24.10.2012 00:37
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          Dont listen to the recommended age - you dont have to be 7-8 yrs old to love Uno!

          Uno is a card game that if you play it with family, friends or even strangers can bring people together over some hilarious laughs and bonding over banter. I have spent many Christmas days sitting in the lounge with everyone gathered around watching the Uno spectacle. Fueling the game with alcohol spices it up no end and with everybody in high spirits, and screaming uno when they reach their last card leads to a lot of noise and fun to be had.

          ===The Rules===
          The basic objective of uno is to get rid of all of your cards. Lets face it, not everyone sticks to the original rules so I will tell you how we always play it. Part of the fun is bickering over the rules anyway. We deal each player seven and then go clockwise around the circle of people. You put down a card each time and if you cannot put a card down, then you pick one up from the pack. You are allowed to put a card down if it matches the colour or number of the card face up on the deck or if it is a special card which I will discuss later. When you reach one card, you shout uno to the distress or exhiliration of your fellow players. If you do not, be sure that they will pick you up on it when you then try to win.

          These are the cards in the pack. It is quite a lot to take in but once you get into the swing of things, they will become second nature to you.

          Basic number cards ie 1,2,3... each either red, yellow, green or blue

          Skip card (circle with a line through it) - the next player after you put this down has to skip a go, unless they also have one, where the next player skips two goes and so on

          Reverse card (arrows twisting round each other) reverse direction of play ie clockwise goes to anti-clockwise

          Draw Two (+2 symbol) the next player has to draw two cards from the pack, unless they have a +2 as well, where next person has to draw 4 and so on. These are fairly common cards and so it can be fun to watch lots be put down and an unfortunate individual have to draw many many cards.

          Draw Four (black with +4 symbol) this is the same as draw two but it is a wildcard which means you can put it down on any colour and then declare which colour you want it to be after you have played it. Again, immense amounts of pleasure can be had when someone has to pick up eight, then twelve...

          Wildcard (black with a red, yellow, blue, green oval) another wildcards, which are useful to hold on to when someone is almost winning or you want to win on any colour. Basically, here you just play it and declare the colour


          =====Why you should love Uno!====
          It is fun - not just your boring standard blackjack, poker

          It is colourful - which can cheer up your day, I always find that fanning out a wad of fluorescent cards livens up my afternoon with family

          It brings people together - everyone in the family (with a few exceptions maybe eg babies, pets) can pick the game up. When I play it with family it tends to turn into male-dominated brawls over this colourful cards - picture the scene - but this still ends up as a laugh and a bonding session.

          The original uno is the best. They have tried to innovate with new styles but the classic is called that for a reason. It is fairly cheap to buy, with many online retailers selling it for about £5. This may seem disproportionate compared to a regular pack of cards, but it is a branded Mattel game after all and is well worth the money. As long as you take care of them, they offer you and your family and friends a lifetime of happiness. And what more could you ask for from some ink printed on paper?

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          • Juggling Kit / Novelty Toy / 25 Readings / 25 Ratings
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            22.10.2012 23:59
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            Chic balls for the distinguishing juggler

            Before buying these juggling balls, I had never even contemplated taking up the sport (and yes I call it a sport, it is as artistic as gymnastics in my opinion, though I am certain many will disagree). My father was a great juggler and used to wow me as a kid. He even frightened me a little when he marched into the kitchen and juggled the knives. But a very long time ago, I followed in his footsteps by purchasing a set of juggling balls. It was a very long time ago. One time after Christmas, I was in Woolworths, rummaging through their sale items and found this exact set half price at £5. I fell in love and begged my mother to buy them for me. When she did I was over the moon and went home as soon as possible to try them out. Unfortunately, I was only a child at the time and so my patience was severely limited and they gathered the inevitable dust in the darkest cupboard in the house.

            Years later, I have discovered them again. They are exquisite quality, despite being found in a high street retailer, and they could easily be passed off as professional quality. In terms of colour, they are silver and black, which is an unusual colour combination to the traditional glaring bright colours of most balls. They are fairly rigid, which makes them more solid to throw. What is perhaps most striking is their weight. Apart from specially designed heavy balls, they are heavier than any others that I have tried. They may seem odd to those that have been juggling with lighter, but you will soon get used to the difference. However, the only problem comes when you are playing with them around other people. To learn, I had to be in my room watching simple animations of routines. If I dropped them, they made a large noise so I soon had to learn to juggle them over my bed. Staring at the wall for such a long time was a pretty demoralising experience. But these juggling balls are worth it. They are perfect for all levels. Now I am getting away from a beginners stage, I think they will serve me well. Moreover, I have joined the juggling society at my university and am using these balls to teach some people. Therefore, they are useful for a wide range of people.

            Their quality is also a strong point. Though they are showing the slightest signs of beginning to fray, it is not a real problem and they are many many years old. The stitching has remained intact and the material is of a good quality. The filling has not made any sort of appearance yet which can only be a good sign. This is a juggling set, though, so it comes with an additional booklet. When I bought this set, the booklet was slightly different. It was an 'executive' guide to juggling with basic instructions, cute caricatures of juggling stereotypes and small trivia quizzes. It was a fun novelty at first but after a while did not really add much value. Nonetheless, the booklet seems to have changed now to a Learn to Juggle booklet. This is 50 pages and so may be more useful than my original version. One of the main problems I have found now is that there are only three balls in the set. Great at first, but if you want to start to progress and juggle four, you are unlikely to find another of the same weight. This necessitates buying a whole other set of three, which I have not brought myself to do just yet.

            Though you will not have as much luck anymore as I did in buying them in Woolworths, they are still available to purchase online. By using a price comparison website, they are available for £7.85 which may seem like a lot but if you are keen to learn, they will last you a long time and be a worthwhile investment because of their high quality. The comparison link can be accessed at http://www.comparestoreprices.co.uk/creative-toys/lagoon-games-juggling-kit.asp. If you use them for as long as I have and with enough care, you may even develop the most beautiful bond on earth. The love between a man and his juggling balls.

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            • Bonjela / Pain Relief / 23 Readings / 22 Ratings
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              18.10.2012 16:55
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              A medicine cupboard essential

              Unfortunately, I am someone who is terminally plagued with mouth ulcers. They form huge ridges across my mouth and for a short space of time consume my life with their painful stinging. There comes a point when eventually I reach for the bonjela. It is basically a gel that you apply a small amount to the affected area. In my case this is mouth ulcers, which seems to be the main problem for those that use the product. However, it is also used for alleviating the pain of braces, dentures and cold sores. Some of my friends have used bonjela for these purposes and have found it an effective pain relief.

              This is a medicine and so should be treated with caution. The dosage instructions are to massage about a centimeter of bonjela onto your ulcer or other mouth problem and then only repeat after 3 hours have passed. In addition, you are supposed to not apply it directly to dentures if that is the reason you are using the product. Instead, you apply it to the mouth and wait 30 minutes before you put your dentures back in. This shows just how broad the product's appeal is. Even though it is not mentioned on the packaging, I do know that some people use it for teething children. Given that it also applies to the elderly with dentures and everyone else, this is quite a useful medicine cabinet product to have. Nonetheless, I should mention at this point that the standard bonjela product commands you not to give it to children and adolescents under the age of 16. This is because of the risk of Reye's syndrome from choline salicylate, which can be fatal when it affects the liver and brain. There are other products available, therefore, such as the children's version of bonjela, that are suitable for this type of usage. Though the warning was slightly worrying given that I had been using bonjela my entire life including all my childhood, it is worth staying on the safe side.

              I have found that the dosage is not necessarily worth keeping to slavishly. The main problem with bonjela is that it can really sting when you apply it to something painful like mouth ulcers. This often stops me from using it when they are not too bad, because it just is not worth it. However, using it just before meals, and just before brushing your teeth is a good idea as these are times of high impact for mouth problems and make life just generally easier. You dont want to be trying to eat with friends or family and making strange expressions or audible cries of pain, as I often do when I have not used bonjela.

              My main tip for using the product does involve altering the dosage level. I suggest that you copy what I do because it makes the product much less painful. About five minutes before I am about to use bonjela, I use a small amount on the affected area. Applying it is simple, just use clean hands to squeeze the small tube and rub a tiny amount into the ulcer. Then, wait those five minutes for it to numb the pain slightly. When that time is complete, it is much less distressing to apply a full amount of bonjela. Otherwise, you may find yourself in my position, hopping up and down in the bathroom to the concern of everyone else in the house because it is so painful.

              In terms of the value of the product, it is very good value for money. It tends to retail at about £2, and you can get it in most supermarkets, chemists and high street health retailers like Boots. Even though it is a small tube with instructions in a slightly larger box, it lasts a long time. Indeed, I have found that the cyclical nature of my mouth ulcers means that I get to the use by date and still have not used all of the product up. In short, this is a fantastic medicine which is well worth having in your basic store cupboard, especially if you suffer from mouth ulcers or other problems in the mouth.

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              • Smirnoff Vodka / Spirits / 22 Readings / 21 Ratings
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                16.10.2012 15:42
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                The classic vodka is the standard choice

                When you are looking for a vodka to drink with, then Smirnoff is the standard choice. Ubiquitous in pubs, clubs and homes around the world, it is the best choice for most consumers. This basic Smirnoff is known as number 21 and is one of the most famous drinks. It is produced by the company Diageo, who also make other well known alcohol brands such as Gordon's gin, Baileys and many others besides. They are clearly impressed by their own product, as they claimed in March 2006 that it was the best selling spirit brand in the world. But what is it actually like?

                Your first impression is of the packaging. Its red label and distinctive symbols make this an iconic product and so if you are drinking with friends and you care about keeping up appearances, then it is the obvious choice. The aroma is of a pretty standard vodka. Whilst some people claim that it is tasteless, you will nonetheless most likely agree with me that it is just the taste of pure alcohol. This is unsurprising given that like most spirits, it is particularly strong. Indeed, the alcohol content of this particular vodka is 40%. This makes it the ideal product if you are simply looking to extract the alcoholic intoxication from your drinks.

                The taste is smoother and less raw than many other vodkas, though I am not a connoisseur and would happily drink other rival brands such as Vladivar when they are mixed. This means that it is okay to drink straight as a shot or aperitif. In so far as any vodka is enjoyable when drunk in that way. Most people will mix the vodka though, and it goes well with most mixers, carbonated drinks eg cola, lemonade and is balanced and neutral enough to suit most cocktails. Indeed, its quality has been internationally recognised. For example, it won a double gold medal at the 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Winning the highest possible prize like this endorses the brand as a quality vodka.

                This is a vodka drink that stands at the heart of the Smirnoff brand. Whilst it may not have the curiosity factor of some of their flavoured bottles in all of their interesting dimensions, it is a solid drink that you can use in most situations. Indeed, it is one of the best products, especially when compared with others such as Smirnoff Ice, a product that pales in comparison. It claims to be the drink of the Russian Royal Court and as such shows off all of its history and culture to those drinking it. Today, it reaches into most markets and is accessible to all drinkers at some point. Nonetheless, it is more expensive than its competitors. In its different sizes, it can range between £8 and £15, which can be a couple of pounds more expensive than other brands. You get what you paid for though as it is triple distilled and a known, recognisable brand that will last you a reasonable amount of time and will definitely be cheaper than drinking in venues.

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              • More +
                12.10.2012 16:36
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                An elegant pop-folk album where Noah and the Whale have finally triumphed

                This was the first Noah and the Whale album that I listened to and it was truly a revelation about a band, which you really only know about from their oft-repeated song 5 Years Time. Released in 2011, it is a bold-sounding pop record with catchy lyrics and impressive melodic hooks. However, once I got around to listening to their back catalogue (which in the end I discovered was only two other albums), I got a fuller appreciation of their journey. Their first album was more straightforward noughties folk-pop, which was not an especially brilliant album. Following this was The First Days of Spring, which was infused with classical and orchestral grandeur and a slower, more reflective tone. What really stood out for me, though, was how different this all sounded to Last Night On Earth. They have certainly been on a journey and as band members have left such as Laura Marling on backing female vocals and Doug Fink on drums, their sound has been constantly reinvented and revitalised. Once you listen to the album, you can hear their progression. The songs mingle the pop catchiness of their debut with the big sound of their second and this is the album where they matured into a legitimate songwriting tour de force.

                Watching the performing a live session on a Channel 4 music show illuminated the album even more so for me. It proved that the grand sound could be recreated live, with the strings and other instruments offering a rich and satisfying folk sound. They also discussed the process of producing the album, mentioning for example, that in writing the songs, they wanted to get to the heart of its message and melody quickly. This makes the album much more accessible than its predecessor, which has longer tracks and is more about moodsetting and crescendo than individual pop song.

                The songs themselves have character and the vocals are always charismatically delivered by Charlie Fink. The first track is an up-tempo pop piece that captivates the listener with its big sound and engaging message about a new life. In a way, the revitalisation of the band is epitomised in this song. Tonight's The Kind Of Night is often played first in their live shows, though this is in my opinion one of the least original songs on the album. This is made up though in the next song, the first single from the album, L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. It is a resounding pop song that will stay in your mind for some time. It is also a popular song, coming in sales behind only 5 Years Time, their otherwise most successful song. Other highlights on the rest album are Give It All Back, an anecdotal piece about looking back on forming and playing as a band. The musical interlude Paradise Stars is hauntingly simple and shows one thing that I adore about this album. It all knits perfectly together, since Paradise Stars was a phrase lyrically woven into the first track of the album. Waiting for My Chance To Come is another song that resonates with thick strings and is an optimistic and upbeat track that has the potential to get you through tough times as it did with me. Finally, the album slows down with its final tracks The Line and Old Joy. These provide stark relief to the beautifully bold rest of the album. They are beautiful and particularly the latter, have a tearful quality that hook you emotionally. This is one of my favourite albums of all time. Musical beauty is a tough thing to capture.

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              • Tipp-Ex Rapid Fluid / Homeware / 18 Readings / 17 Ratings
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                04.10.2012 18:20
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                Just cross it out

                This seems to be part of the stationary landscape since its launch in 1965. But I have never really understood why people use this product anymore. I can appreciate that people writing in biro pens can make mistakes and that these need to be corrected, but whilst the need exists, this is not the right product. I find it dangerous to have on my desk because if you leave the lid off for just a moment, you will definitely knock it over and ruin all of your other papers, possessions and computer.

                But even when I am being careful, I do not like the actual Tipp-Ex fluid. It is designed to be applied to mistakes and cover them over. However, when you are drawing over them, you either have to use a lot on the text, or it still lets the ink underneath show through. Moreover, the only colour I have ever seen is white. Now that might be useful for some people, but paper forms (which is what I use it for mostly) are rarely the same colour. That means that using Tipp-Ex draws attention to the mistake in a far greater way than a simple crossing-out would.

                Thirdly, the foam applicator is a nuisance tool that really doesn't help the product. When you pull it out of the container, even after a vigorous shake, it still has too much liquid on the brush, which tends to drip or ruin your paper. It claims to have a sharp edge for detailed correction and a broader edge for other uses. Nonetheless, when you actually use it, this wont make a blind bit of difference as you try and sweep the Tipp-Ex over your mistake and hope for the best.

                Its main problem, in my view, is that the whole point of using Tipp-Ex is that you can cover over your mistake and write over it again. It fails. You have to wait a ridiculously long time for the solvent to evaporate otherwise it will be a sticky mess. Then your pen will be scratchy when it has dried and it will fail to write properly anyway. The Tipp-Ex pens have all these problems, though I feel that the correction tape at least does not have the problems associated with liquidity.

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                • Sekonda Watches / Watch / 17 Readings / 17 Ratings
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                  03.10.2012 19:55
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                  The best watch brand for a beautiful bargain

                  Sekonda watches is the bestselling UK brand and it has sustained this position for a long time, in my view, based on the quality, range and stylishness of their products. I give it a four star rating because of these reasons. However, it is not perfect because if you were paying the price of their higher-end models, you might want a more luxurious brand. My experiences with Sekonda watches have invariably been positive and it has tended to be the name I go for.

                  The quality of the watches is outstanding since they are durable and work out as excellent value for money. My current watch illustrates this perfectly as it is the Sekonda 3779 Mens Champagne Dial Brown Leather Strap Watch. It was an 18th birthday present from a friend, which shows just how popular the brand is. It has never let me down and is very stylish indeed with a ruby leather strap and a simple, elegant, glossy champagne face. However, one of the best aspects of Sekonda is that its prices are very reasonable for the watch that you get. This particular one costs around £28 and is well worth that in my opinion. Indeed, shortly after beginning to wear it, I took it off and placed it on a kitchen table whilst washing up and people commented that I probably should not be leaving such an expensive watch around. That is something I like about most Sekonda watches, since expensive watches are just a fashion statement, it is nice to have a comment like that. It shows that you are really getting good value for money.

                  However, the actual price range varies as you would expect. They do whole ranges for men, women and children as well as some special fashion lines. In most of their ranges, the styles vary massively so you are likely to find something you like. It is important that Sekonda do follow some trends though, which keep the brand relevant. For example, they have followed the trend for colour watches in their kaleidoscopic 'Partytime' range. This would appeal to the youth market in particular and it is an added bonus that these are not the low quality colour watches that you sometimes see people wearing and which I have bought and broken in minutes. Though it is not obviously aimed at me, I think their SEKSY range for women is impressive with some style innovations and great affordable designs. It has been market on television advertisments in the same way that an up-market fashion or perfume might be presented. Though I am not as much of a fan of their Xpose range, because of their fabric straps, but that is more of a personal taste and they would be useful for sport and outdoor use.

                  In terms of where you can buy Sekonda watches, they are usually stocked at most jewelers that stock watch ranges. They usually have a large section in catalogues in stores like Argos and can be found in many places on the high street because of their profile. Their website is also a fantastic place to browse their selection. It is extremely easy to navigate with sections for each range. The pictures are perfect quality and are large enough to get a good idea of the product. It would be useful if you could buy online directly from the company but they make you use their store locator to find your nearest outlet. Nonetheless, an outstanding brand of watches.

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                • More +
                  02.10.2012 18:17
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                  You will be smelling your hands for a long time after washing them

                  This Carex hand wash is part of their family favourite fragrance range, a fun alliterated title to say in itself. That is what this range is all about though, having fun, and turning something as humdrum as handwash into a memorable moment. The Strawberry Laces flavour is a delightful product to use for many reasons and this is why I would recommend it. I first tried it around a friend's house and visibly enjoyed it so much that they bought me one of my own!

                  1) The smell - strawberry laces is the perfect flavour to remind you of your childhood. It really appeals to the senses and is strong enough to enjoy. Also, it stays around for quite a long time, which gives you the chance to enjoy it over and over again. Importantly, it does not overly smell artificial or of chemicals, like many synthetic fruit products. This means that it is a welcome change from the pretentious flavours of many bathroom products such as aloe vera and buttermilk. You will be transported back to sweetshop memories, believe it or not, because it might not seem like much, but I have been motivated to review it after all. However, I should say that they cheekily put a picture of a strawberry on the front of the packaging alongside a stream of laces. Now, from the ingredients list I cannot see any actual fruit content (unsurprisingly), and I thought this was against fair description rules. But I will let it go for now because it tastes like strawberry laces.

                  2) The colour - This is a beautiful pinky purple colour, which is in many shades under the contours of the bottle. This makes it a bright and cheerful addition to your bathroom.

                  3) Family-friendly - Whilst this may not be the use that I (or possibly you) might use the hand wash, it would be great for families. I have already mentioned the smell and the colour, which would definitely appeal. Indeed, this is supported by the background of the product. Carex wanted to develop a child-friendly range and so collaborated with fragrance experts and children from the Manchester East Didsbury School. The strawberry laces flavour came second in a poll of kids, beaten only by chocolate orange. That is another great flavour that I would definitely recommend. Their research is elaborated more fully on their website at http://www.carex.co.uk if you go to their /news-events/2010/nov/choco-orange-could-make-life-sweeter-kids-hygiene-0 section. It showed showed that of the children they surveyed '8 out of 10 said they would like a handwash which smelled of their favourite scent'. Just make sure they do not drink it because the cap is loosened easily and it even tempted me!

                  4) Everything you would expect from a handwash - I find that soaps dry my skin far too much so I use these types of hand washes regularly for my hands. It is anti-bacterial and kills 99% of bacteria, though nobody seems to ever deal with the other one percent. It has added moisturisers for your hands, though it was unexpectedly sticky rather than the smooth hand washes to which I am accustomed.

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                  • More +
                    24.09.2012 16:47

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                    Dettol's version is worth a buy

                    This is the branded version of the many anti-bacterial surface cleansers that you can find on supermarket shelves. It is an essential item for every kitchen and a couple of sprays can be used to clean all your surfaces. I find it easiest to wipe off the crumbs and use a damp cloth to wipe over first. Then you can use kitchen towell with the surface cleanser for sparkling and clean surfaces. It removes 90% of allergens and 99% of bacteria and viruses. This level of disinfection is the reason why it is also used in the cafe in which I work.

                    It suggests many different places where you can use it such as chopping boards, high chairs, changing mats, fridges, bins, kitchen sinks, baths, taps and toilet seats but kitchen work surfaces are the places where I find it most useful. This is helped by the fact that it is safe to use in food preparation areas and can remove dust mites, which I find appealing because of my dust allergy. Unfortunately, you cannot use it for windows, mirrors, varnished surfaces and baby bottles but it is still a versatile and essential product. There is no odour in the standard Dettol bottle but many other bottles and brands have interesting and appetising scents such as apple and pink grapefruit if you prefer. Perhaps the unique selling point of the Dettol bottle is its peace of mind with the brand and that it is tested by doctors and given the British Allergy Foundation Seal of Approval. It also has an ergonomically pleasing bottle shape with a wide base to contain lots of the liquid. It also has a reliable nozzle that is easy to operate and does not jam as often as other anti-bacterial sprays.

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                  • More +
                    24.09.2012 16:45
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                    Walkers have done it again

                    There isn't much new in the crisp world these days. Most new types are basic variations on the idea of sliced, shaped, fried potato or maize or corn. Any new flavours tend to be gimmicks that taste awful, or are entries in a publicity stunt competition. But Walkers have proved that they deserve to be the market leader of the crisp universe with their new range of Sun Bites. The packaging is gorgeous with luscious pastel colours and cartoon style flowers and suns. Of these different varieties, the Sun Ripened Sweet Chilli flavour has to be my personal favourite.

                    The flavour itself is delicious, which is created using ingredients that you would not usually find in mainstream crisps. In the sweet chilli flavour, you can taste the more unusual tones of soy sauce, ginger and star anise. There is a very definite kick of chilli to these crisps, though, so thry may not be to everybody's taste. Perhaps this is shown by the ingredients list, which does not read like a list of E-numbers and chemical names but with natural ingredients. Their texture is their unique selling point. They are 67% wholegrain, which makes them extremely crispy with their undulating ridges and yet they are light, without the usual greasiness associated with ridged crisps. Moreover, they are healthier crisps since per pack you only consume 6% of your daily calories, 3% of your saturated fat and 3% of your salt recommended daily allowances. However, this may only be in part because the packs are so small at only 25g and so do not last long or be enough to satisfy your snack cravings in a single sitting. Overall, while much of the new brand is marketing bluster, they do as much as possible to live up to their ostentatious slogan - 'tiny moments of extraordinary pleasure'.

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