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upton66

upton66
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Member since: 25.11.2000

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    • More +
      29.12.2010 21:35
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      Great all-round use

      This is a superb all round product for both diy-ers and professionals.

      The innocent looking white paste that readily extrudes from the tube really packs a punch. I have recently used a dozen tubes to stick about 70 metres of mdf skirting in a house, it made the job so easy with no mess, no smells and sets rock solid. As a bonus it is a paintable brilliant white filler.

      The bright and cheerful yellow tubes contain 350ml of product and comes with a screw-on nozzle. To use you need a ratchet trigger "gun". Ensure you get the slightly larger size; the basic guns only take the 310ml tubes. The product currently costs £2.75 from Screwfix or £2.54 if you buy a dozen. The gun about £3.50 - the product costs only about £1 plus VAT to the trade. It's available from many builder/DIY suppliers.

      You slice off the top of the threaded nozzle with a Stanley knife to expose the product. Screw on the pointed nozzle and slice off the top to the size and angle you need. The smallest hole at an angle to squeeze out a thin bead for filling the smallest gaps or just chop the end off to squeeze out a healthy bead for fixing large items eg skirting or architrave.

      Surfaces to be stuck need to be clean and dry but basically the product will pretty well stick anything to anything. I stuck primed mdf skirting to plastered walls that had had one coat of watered down emulsion. They'll need blasting off to shift them.

      Using the trigger gun the product extrudes smoothly and cleanly with no air bubbles. For the skirting I ran quarter inch strips along the top and middle of the skirting. The product is basically a grab adhesive, ie it sticks almost immediately so you need to push the two materials together as hard as you can in the correct position and hold them for a few seconds. However if you touch them together very gently you can wriggle and manoeuvre them into place before a good push fixes them for good.

      If you stick, realise they are into the wrong position, and prize them apart you'll lose the strength if you re-position and try again. Quickly scrape off all the adhesive from both surfaces before it sets with a knife and start again. After 24 hours the two materials are stuck together forever. For long lengths of skirting where the walls curved and the skirting tried to pull away from the wall I hammered temporary blocks into the floor against the skirting to wedge it for 24 hours.

      As a filler this product is superb. Using my skirting as an example I squeezed a narrow bead of Gripfill between wall and skirting after each piece was stuck and set on the wall. Use a wet finger to smooth the product to a neat white line sealing the gap. Any excess can be wiped away with a damp cloth, a damp towel is ideal. Take the trouble to remove all excess in this way, as once it is set, it is an effort to scratch it off with a blade or having to sand it off.

      Gripfill washes off the hands easily with warm water before it sets too hard.

      As a filler you can fill gaps up to about 3mm in one go. Try and fill bigger gaps and it'll crack, so just fill in several stages over a couple of days. The filler takes any paint as good as plaster, so either emulsion you might use on the walls or undercoat on skirting.

      If you don't finish a tube then wipe away the excess from the nozzle and leave it. To use again just push a nail in the top and squeeze out the stopper of set compound and carry on.

      A creamy soft product that is a pleasure to use, highly recommended.

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    • Panasonic KX-TG8524 / Telephone / 8 Readings / 8 Ratings
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      29.12.2010 21:32
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      Great Buy

      At £90 from Tesco this has proved to be a good buy. Four handsets with individual chargers with a good range round house and garden. It is good looking too; the default screen is a big digital clock on a colour background with the date.

      I took advantage of the "double-up your points" offer at Tesco so actually paid with £40 of Tesco rewards plus £10 cash.

      The keys are large and are all illuminated with a fairly bright blue background. There are basically two soft keys which by default are top left for address book, top right for last calls made. The central rocker of four buttons and large central silver button access all the features. The surrounding four buttons are green phone to answer or connect call, red phone to end call, speakerphone and Eco-mode. The eco-mode is supposed to preserve battery power but will reduce range, however since the booklet says you can leave handsets on chargers all the time ECO-mode seems a bit pointless.

      The screen is very clear, two inches diagonally across and the displayed text and figures are one and half centimetre high which is pretty big. The clearest settings, which you can choose, seem to be a yellow background, the selected line of text or a name and number are then highlighted blue, good contrast, nice and clear for those short or long sighted amongst us.

      It is all plug and play. I inserted the batteries and left them all to charge over night. Distributing each around the house next morning they had all registered themselves to the base unit and all had dialling tones. I set the clock on one and they all sync'd. The first job was to copy all our names and numbers across from the old phone.

      The top left "soft key" accesses the address book and pressing again you enter your first name press ok and enter number, and to accept all the defaults, press ok again and again. You can do clever things like assign numbers into categories eg family and different groups of friends and give them different ring tones or different colour screen colours when they ring. All great if you are into that kind of thing.

      There are endless features but the three most useful ones are as follows:

      The address book holds 200 names and numbers, which are easy to find with two button presses, left soft key and scroll down.

      The re-dial memory holds the last ten people you phoned, to find the list press right soft key and scroll down. You will only see the numbers you called from any particular handset.

      For the list of all calls received you press centre silver button once and then again and scroll down. The calls you missed are not ticked. Once viewed the icon for missed calls disappears. You can view the same list from any handset.

      There are numerous options that can be set up including barring callers, restrict outgoing calls, set number withhold, alarms and a night mode. Night mode might be useful to some: you can restrict night calls to selected callers or none, and could set the night hours to be daytime if you a night worker.

      You can use the set up as an intercom between handsets. This is useful when you've lost and are trying to locate a handset. If one caller answers a call another can pick up another handset to join in, listen in or take up the call, which may or may not be popular amongst the family.

      It's a nice chunky phone to hold and with the belt clip even easier to grip; useless as a belt clip though, it just jumps off if you lean down.

      If you miss any calls then there is a symbol that shows on the screens of all the phones. If a message has been left then there is a bright red right arrow light on the answerphone base unit, which you just touch to listen to. So positioned by the front door you can immediately see it. Unfortunately there is no indicator on the base unit if you have missed a call but no message left, you have to check a handset as mentioned above.

      You can set the answerphone to be on or off with just one press of a button on the base unit. You can set it to cut in after 1 though to seven rings. Not longer than seven rings unfortunately so if you have a large house you need to be on your toes. You can use the irritating lady's default message or record your own. You can access the answerphone remotely when you are staying away from home and quite usefully you can turn it on remotely if you forget after you've left home, I don't think you can turn it off.

      Once you've set up all your names and numbers it is easy to transfer them to the other three handsets either individually or all together though you can only transfer to one handset at a time and there is no sync facility to ensure the phone book is the same on all handsets which is a pity.

      Each handset takes two standard re-chargeable Ni-MH AAA batteries so will be easy to replace when the time comes. The re-charge units are a bit light and flimsy but hold the phone steady though tend to slide off the table with the drag of the power lead. When positioned a light comes on at the top of the phone and the display says either charging or full charged.

      So this phone has a multitude of features, some useful, others fun but as a good solid phone with an outstandingly clear screen I would recommend it.

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    • More +
      11.12.2010 21:49
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      Unbeatable broadband speed

      Fastest Broadband, TV, Home Phone, Mobile Phone, Mobile Internet all with great courteous service.

      I switched to a Virgin package as I was fed up with a mediocre broadband service down the old fashioned copper wires. The endless array of broadband providers all promise the earth but in all the sales spiel seem to conveniently ignore the physical limitations of your local BT telephone exchange. So despite their protestations I tell them, no, 10Mb broadband is physically impossible where I live, however good your introductory offer is. So hence my switch to Virgin.

      My Virgin 10Mb broadband connection now gives me effectively instantaneous web browsing, the pages flick up almost before you finish clicking a link, no getting cut off, no "hanging". I'm very pleased. I have no requirement for downloading massive video files or music, but for my casual internet browsing and emailing occasional large files it is perfect. The fibre optic cables run down the pavement outside the house to a box about fifty feet from our front door and from there the cable has been run round to where we requested it.

      The twin black cables were neatly pinned down the garden fence and up and round the edge of the house. The first stop is into a connection box for the TV, so that is in our front room. The cable then comes back out the wall, round to the side of the house and into the hall where we requested the main phone socket, out and round the back of the house and into another connection socket where we wanted the internet connection.

      This was a long morning's work for Virgin but it all counted as a standard connection, which with the offer we accepted was free, or at least included.

      Broadband Package - came with a free modem and wireless router and a usb dongle. This was all set up and tested for us on both our desktop and laptop. My 10Mb speed is called the "L" package and testing the connection on Speedtest.net I really am getting it.

      Broadband cable emerging from the box is a very stout white co-axial cable that is connected to the small Virgin branded modem. This has to be plugged in to the mains via a all-in-one plug transformer but can be placed anywhere. A wire from this goes to the router, which also has to be plugged in unfortunately, and this needs to be placed to give you a decent wireless signal around the house. The wire provided to connect the two is a metre or so long. The D-Link DIR615 router offers up four direct ethernet connections if you want to plus straight into the back of a computer or you can just use it entirely wirelessly. To save cables I use it all wirelessly and with the desktop within fifteen feet of the router there is no difference in broadband and network speed between wireless or wired connection. The usb D-Link DWA140 dongle works perfectly. - Full price is £12.75 /mo though I am getting it for £6.25 for six months.

      Phone Package - we went for the basic "M" package that gives us free weekend calls. Note that the free calls are actually between midnight Friday to midnight Sunday, rather than from Friday early evening. One bonus is that included in the free calls are calls to Virgin mobiles, So as we are a family all with Virgin this is a bit of a bonus. If you can also establish which of your friends are also on Virgin then there could be some savings to be made here. Virgin line rental is £12.74 /month, again getting half price for six months. One downside is you don't get free 0845 and 0870 calls and you have to pay £2.05 extra per month for caller display.

      TV Package - we opted for the "XL" package because we wanted all the documentary channels in high definition. There are actually 17 HD channels on offer but in my opinion they are all drivel except BBC HD, BBC1, Discovery and National Geographic and very occasional occasionally ITV1 and Channel 4 & 5. For the bonus of the superb, enhanced picture quality on these channels, I had to take the top TV package. Pricey I know but a good program in HD is a pleasure to watch and makes the non-HD pictures look pretty ropey. To all the cynics I can assure you that you really do get photographic quality TV. Full price is £23.50 /month again getting it half price for six months. The HD box was free and there was no connection charge.

      Virgin Mobile - As an unexpected bonus we discovered that as Virgin mobile users we could switch all the family to the "Virgin Media" package rather than the standard "Virgin Package". This just required each member of the family to phone up and request that their phone number is registered under the new home package. All phone accounts keep their independence ie same numbers, still get their own bills, still same payment arrangements, no change to package or cost - it just means that we all now get free Virgin to Virgin calls at all times, ie the minutes don't get lobbed off your minutes package. Also all free texting.

      Virgin Mobile Internet - You can also request a dongle to stick in any usb port of any pc wherever you are. This is reduced to £8 per month with an 18month commitment and includes the dongle and 1Gb usage per month which should be adequate for average use. Mobile internet with a dongle will only be as good as the Virgin signal, but if you get good mobile phone connection you'll get good internet connection. The speed of the internet wherever we have tested this is superb. For those on the go this is a great add-on to your Virgin Media package. When we rang up for one they offered one at £5 /month, so can't complain.

      Virgin Mobile Deals - As a Virgin customer they offer reduced price phones and packages - worth investigating.

      Recommend Virgin - if a friend takes up a Virgin Media TV, Broadband, Home Phone package you can earn up to £30 per successful connection.

      Ways to Pay - You pay for your Broadband. TV, Home Phone Package by direct debit to Virgin Media. Your Virgin Mobile package is paid to Virgin Mobile on a separate direct debit. Any dongle is paid by separate direct debit.

      Note that if you pay for your mobile with top-ups bought from the shops either at the till or with your top-up card you will earn Virgin Rewards. You won't earn thee if you pay by direct debit. These rewards are worthwhile - for every £100 top you earn £10, these can be used against the purchase of your next phone bought directly from Virgin - just another bonus.

      Overall I think Virgin have come up trumps - fair deals, good service, easy switchover from your current provider. Overall I have a hefty price package but it's great to be free of those dreaded and restrictive copper wires.

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      • Marmite XO / Spread / 16 Readings / 14 Ratings
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        09.12.2010 11:49
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        Marmite Lovers Dream

        I've really acquired a taste for this, such an improvement on the original Marmite

        First sniff and it's a rich, deep caramelly, stronger marmite smell. Not much help I know but you can't pin down this unique product.

        Taste original Marmite and it's thin and salty; XO is thicker tasting, richer and more aromatic. I can't go back to the original now.

        Marmite haters will say it smells and probably tastes of creosote or some floor tile adhesive. It has the same consistency.

        It's a great replacement for the old original: for me on hot white toast or warm brown bread, on Ryvita biscuits or to give a boost to a tasteless sauce.

        It supposed to be good for you, lots of vitamin B. So if you like Marmite this is a bonus if you cannot bear the taste of yeast like me which the only other way to get a worthwhile dose of this supplement.

        The XO pot is attractive, sophisticated black as against the old red and yellow colour scheme. The XO for Extra Old I suppose is emulating a fine brandy grade. This product has apparently been matured four times longer than the ordinary stuff though don't know how long that is matured.

        It has the same ingredients but something has been tweaked to make it very much more tasty.

        It's available everywhere and at Tesco is currently about £3.99 for a 250gm pot, though I got three for two the other day. Ordinary Marmite is closer to £1.54 for a 125gm pot

        Well recommended to all lovers and one to steer very well clear of to all you haters.

        Do try it. Roll on the XXO version.

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        • Electrolux EOB53000X / Oven / 17 Readings / 15 Ratings
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          08.12.2010 11:13
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          Quick and Good Looking

          Looking for a new oven, we went for a Which? best buy and found it at the best price from Jual Domestics at £284. Very pleased with the purchase.

          Easy to install though it didn't come with a mains cable for some reason. We bought the shiny chrome model and it looks great. Simple controls, brightly lit oven and a large clear door, clear red digit clock display and built-in pinger. It looks great.

          My frustration with other electric ovens has been the inordinate time they take to heat up and thinking about the electricity meter going into overdrive before it even reaches the desired temperature, also the adjoining kitchen units getting cheerfully warm at my expense. This oven is very different, it heats up exceptionally quickly and there is no heat out the sides and even the oven door stays at a safe temperature. With the large glass door it looks big and it certainly is big enough for a family.

          Controls are really simple, nothing fancy, one knob for the setting, one for the temperature with two indicator lights, one for oven on and the other only on when it is heating and maintaining set temperature.

          The choice of settings are Light Only, Convection Oven, Defrost Setting and Grill

          The grill actually works, experience of grills inside other ovens has always been disappointing but this is really good. You can actually finish off your cooked dishes with the melted cheese on top, toast bread and buns etc and grill bacon and it actually works, this is a bit of a revelation. What's more setting the temperature to the highest setting and the other knob to Grill, it is heated and ready to go within a couple of minutes and the elements are close enough to evenly grill really well. The oven door should be shut when grilling, bit different from some ovens.

          The defrost function; I don't know if anyone would use this. I suppose if you forget to take something out the freezer but I imagine I would rather use the microwave or cook whatever from frozen. The gives examples like defrost 1Kg of chicken takes 30mins, the microwave would probably take 10minutes.

          Overall the manual is very detailed and clearly written with useful guidance on temperatures and times, cleaning etc etc.

          The oven comes with two shelves and a roasting pan and you have rails for five shelf positions so it is quite flexible. Starting off with good intentions the oven should be easy to keep clean, wiping over the oven and specially the inside of the oven door after every use with a warm sponge and a drop of washing up liquid as recommended. The oven rails at the sides unhook fairly easily so you have no excuse not to keep them shiny new, same as the oven shelves. The grill elements can be folded down to clean the oven roof when required which is novel. Apparently the whole oven door can be taken off to give it a though clean should you have neglected it for too long. Alternatively just the inner glass panel can be removed for cleaning. The outside will look good with a wipe over with a sponge and towel dried to polish. The internal 25W lamp looks easy enough to replace, I shall keep the heatproof glass cover clean to keep the oven light bright.

          The clock is bright and clear, nice to have a permanent display of current in the kitchen. Clock functions as both countdown timer, cooking time, start and stop time.

          The pinger ie countdown timer max time is 2hr 30min and emits a suitably annoying beep to persuade you to check the oven and turn it off.

          You can set the oven to turn itself off after a set time eg 1hr; alternatively if oven already on you can set it to turn off at eg 2pm. Additionally you can set both end time and cooking time so for eg could set to turn off at 3pm and cook for 1hr 30min so it would turn itself on at 1.30pm. As the oven heats up so quickly I may even use this. In my old oven that took about 20min to heat up I never wanted to risk creating a bacteriological breeding ground in my casserole before it got round to heating it at the proper temperature!

          So it is proving to be an excellent buy.

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        • More +
          06.12.2010 13:51
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          Don't think you could beat it

          This sleek, stylish modern, energy efficient hob has won me over.

          This is the first induction hob I have owned and used and despite the high initial cost I highly recommend it. Energy savings over the long term should be significant, but it is the speed and efficiency and good looks that will win you over.

          Installation was simple. Into a 590x520mm aperture in the worktop and the unit drops in squarely and as it is only 53mm deep it will slot into any worktop. There are no awkward projections underneath, all the works are neatly enclosed in a metal casing, just the mains lead emerging for connection. The installation instructions are clear with the usual advice regarding clearances to adjacent and overhead units. The black glass hob on show in the worktop is 590x520mm.

          Once installed you are presented with this piece of magic glass, less than 1cm thick, four engraved markings for the pan positions, and markings for the four touch sensitive switches, power + & -, on-off and padlock.

          It is hard to believe it works more efficiently and more responsively than a traditional gas flame; this is state-of-the-art. Perhaps the only downside is you need magnetic pans but this includes most stainless steel ones, but excludes copper-bottom ones. If you are looking for new pans, these days they have symbols on the bottom to advise what hobs they are suitable for.

          Touch the on-off button; place your pan WITH something in it to heat or cook, touch the button for the pan position and an adjacent red light comes on. Press the + button to increase the power from 1 through to maximum 9. Instantly the pan responds and heats up. Hence my "WITH" above, the pan will obviously heat without anything in it. Testing it just with water in the pan and immediately you will see bubbles; oil in the pan to fry and instantly it starts to respond. It is a fascinating technology.

          The controls are very responsive. Full heat at number 9 will rapidly heat anything Note I do mean rapid: heating milk, sauce or a ready made dish on number 9 will result in rapid burning and sticking on the bottom, so stirring is essential or heating slowly on a lower setting is recommended. On numbers 1 or 2 pans simmer beautifully. You really can prepare food much more quickly and altogether cleaner.

          To turn the power up or down for any position you again just touch the button for position and the + or - button. You cannot very quickly press up, up, I takes perhaps half a second to register each press but you soon get used to this.

          Removing a pan from a position and the power instantly cuts out, so this is the energy saving bit. Put the pan back and it is on again. To turn all positions off you touch the off button. As a safety feature, even when all turned off, the position buttons will glow "H" when the position is still hot and reduces to "h" when just warm and eventually goes blank. The heat left in each position is just that retained by the glass from the hot pan, no energy is being wasted. So you simply slide a pan away from the ring and it just stops heating.

          There is a padlock button. Pressing it locks the controls so they cannot be accidentally turned on or adjusted. To de-activate the function you hold down the padlock button for a couple of seconds. Maybe of some use to the overly health and safety conscious.

          One criticism maybe is that there is no timer function. This seems a bit over the top - have we ever had a timer function on a gas hob to stop your potatoes boiling after ten minutes? I suppose what is technologically feasible has to be offered these days.

          It is just a sheet of glass so cleaning is recommended with just a soft cloth and occasionally with standard window cleaner. In theory nothing can burn because there is no heat without a metal pan on a position and spills will not be heated, as there is no magnetic material to heat up.

          Maybe a downside is that it is only a piece of glass so, even though it is toughened, it will eventually scratch and obviously nothing should be dropped on it. I have started with good intentions by cooking through a piece of kitchen paper, ie placing the pan on the paper on the position, this will stop any grit on the bottom of the pan scratching the surface.

          So overall a fabulous, if somewhat expensive, piece of kit. I paid £320 from Electricshop.com less £8 cashback through Topcashback

          Few downsides, highly recommended.

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          • Samsung RL38SCSW / Fridge / 14 Readings / 11 Ratings
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            30.11.2010 15:50
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            Fair Value, good looking frost-free model

            Looking for a free-standing, quiet, frost-free fridge freezer, one-third freezer, two-third fridge we decided on this smart white model.

            Best price was from Sainsbury's at £328 with 656 nectar points and £6.56 cashback from TopCashBack and comes with a two year Samsung guarantee.

            It is a good size with 176 usable litres in the fridge and 78li in the four freezer drawers below. It looks quite a monster at six feet high ie 183cm and a footprint of 67cm x 69cm so very adequate for a family. A nice feature is that all the workings are hidden behind the smooth metal back, so you can set it against a wall and it wont collect the dust in the usual radiator, compressor and pipework etc. Feet are easy to adjust to get it level and as the casters are quit chunky we've stood them on furniture cups to stop them digging into the lino floor. There is piece of white trim to cover up the front casters so the overall look is quite smart.

            The fridge has a veggie drawer and three reinforced glass shelves and four plastic shelves in the door. The lower door shelf is wide enough for a bottle. It is well designed with no wasted corners and really bright light in the fridge, shame they never seem to put lights in the freezer compartments. Samsung are proud of their anti-bacterial coating, which should keep it smelling fresh. It also has their multi-flow system of circulating the cool air, which they say should maintain an even temperature and reduce spoilage.

            The freezer has decent size, deep, see-through drawers, again no wasted space and they slide fairly well. There is a door alarm if left open more than about two minutes.

            It looks very smart, neat handles that do not project beyond the sides that are easy on the hand. The door is reversible if needs must. Despite the neat touch of a flat back unfortunately it doesn't have a flat top, so you can't stick trays or odd and ends on the top as it is recessed; maybe this is a good thing, the less space to put things, the less you hoard.

            It is very quiet. One criticism in the Which? report is that it is a bit more expensive to run than other machines but then that depends how often you open and close both fridge and freezer and how warm you keep your kitchen so am not too worried.

            Another recommended appliance.

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            • Beko DSFN1530 / Dishwasher / 19 Readings / 18 Ratings
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              24.11.2010 22:02
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              Great Value

              This machine was bought after looking for the cheapest, quietest, full size dishwasher and it has exceeded all expectations. It is actually a very good looking machine and seems to be exceptional value.

              I paid £215.99 from Kitchen Science with £8.64 cashback from TopCashBack

              Easy to install it slips into a standard 600mm gap under your worktop, the footprint is square at 600mm and the height 850mm. In case we need to pull the machine out we glued a piece of mdf onto the floor so that it will slide out easily without rucking the lino floor.

              The inside is all metallic and very sturdy, possibly the two trays and runners are a bit spindly compared to more expensive models. The cutlery container is also a little flimsy but will be fine if treated with care. These containers do take up room compared to the more modern style of having a separate cutlery tray at the top of the machine.

              The front is plain, a slight trendy curve and just an on/pause button and three indicator lights to show the current washing and drying phase and when finished.

              The main controls are on the top of the door visible when you open it. Here you set the beast to work.

              Progressively press the Program Selection Button to scroll through the choice of five programs namely -
              A Cold Pre-Wash; A 30min QuickWash at 35deg; A 136min Economy Wash at 50deg; A 58min "Quick & Clean" Wash at 60deg or a 115min Intensive Wash at 70deg

              Press the Half-Load button if suitable. Then press the On/Off Button and shut the door and away it goes. The indicator lights on the front will advise progress

              As advertised the World's Quickest Wash really does work and results are perfect, all clean and shiny. As with all dishwashers you are advised to swill plates and dishes off under the tap in the sink before loading, as an engineer once advised me, dishwashers are not waste disposal units.

              The machine is surprisingly quiet and that is in a fairly large kitchen with lino floor. It is supposed to be 54db which is not the quietest, according to specs on paper, but it is fine.

              Inside on top of the door with the program selection button there are two indicator lights for low salt and low rinse-aid. Salt container is filled through the usual style access in the machine floor, a large easily turned lid to the salt container. The rinse aid is through the usual fiddly access point next to the detergent container. They always have the hopeless visual rinse-aid indicator that is supposed to be dark when full, light when needs filling; just rely on the indicator light coming on.

              As we have installed a water softener in the house we are using only half measures of detergent and the standard of washing is perfect. We have loaded it with salt but the machine will draw very little as it won't need any extra.

              Economy of the machine is comparable with other more expensive machines and it is supposed to be AAA
              In reality it depends what economy you are worried about, electricity or water consumption if you are on a meter. A Quick Wash only uses 0.79KWh and 11.8Ltr water which isn't bad whereas an Intensive Wash burns up 1.67KWh and drinks a startling 17.5Ltr of water which is way out of kilter with the other big names in the dishwasher world. I'll stick to my economical quick washes but every month run an intensive one just to clear the tubes and thoroughly freshen it up.

              So overall I'm very pleased and I highly recommend it.

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              • Sony Ericsson W595 / Mobile Phone / 19 Readings / 18 Ratings
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                03.12.2009 12:38
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                A Great phone

                A great solid feeling, easy to hold, sturdy phone in blue on the T-Mobile/Virgin network on PAYG.

                The alleged recommended price is £129.99 but I got mine from Virgin at £119.99 less £40 of loyalty vouchers that I had to use up.

                This is going to be a simplistic review because I am a fairly boring phone user- ie all I wanted was a decent size phone that had a loud ring, big digits on a decent size screen and was not slippery to hold and decently spaced keys - this meets all my basic requirements. Also being a slide phone it locks when you close it, so you don't have to faff around with a combination of keys to unlock it.

                The Sony Ericsson Menu is fairly standard so it was easy to move over from my previous model.
                When you press the centre button to open the menu, the default selection is Messaging, which is sensible.

                The other options are from top left to right:
                WWW; Virgin Media; Entertainment; Camera; Messaging; Media; Radio; Contacts; Walkman; Call Log; Calendar and Settings.

                Once you have your contacts set up, to find anyone you just use the down button and they are all listed alphabetically or you can press the first letter to find someone, and then press the call button to ring them.

                The keys feel precise and respond to the flat of my finger without knocking the adjacent keys and the numbers are really big on the screen, half a centimetre high.

                Texting is as easy as any other phone. It's simple to turn off that irritating invention - predictive texting.
                As with all phones, as far as I know you cannot for some unknown reason make the letters display as big as the numbers when dialling - but they are very sharp and dark so very pleasing to use.

                The surface of the phone is that slightly rubbery, tacky feeling so it feels really safe in the hand. I don't think the other colours have the same feeling they are more shiny and easy to drop. It is not too designer thin; in fact it is 1cm thick so you have something solid to hold.

                People moan about the Virgin network coverage but seem to forget it is actually the T-Mobile network and for me they have been few places with no coverage at all. Occasionally in the middle of shops or in a dip amongst hills but otherwise no problems. Voice clarity on the phone is really good, as also the hands-free which is really loud and clear. No complaints.

                There is one feature I'm quite impressed with and that's Google Maps, which is a pre-loaded app. It is hidden under Entertainment and shown as Location Services. It finds and displays your position to within about 500m of the T-Mobile phone mast transmitting your signal. The display is the Google Earth website that we all familiar with and is surprisingly clear, so I can zoom down to see the car in my driveway from space - that is cool! - so if you are out it is quite useful to find you way around an unfamiliar town and you can zoom up and down to see the street names to help get your bearings. Unfortunately this application does count on your tariff as using the internet. With my Virgin tariff it is a flat 30p unlimited use per day, so not too bad.

                Vewing webpage text is really clear and you make the script very large and view it vertically or horizontally, so quite fun for reading the news or checking the weather in the bus. There are pre-sets for accessing facebook and ebay etc if you are that way inclined. You can try and access any website though many are not available as cut down versions for viewing over the mobile phone networks so may appear truncated or be inaccessible.

                As for other gimmicks on the phone, the camera is a useful emergency one. Pretty ropey 3.2megapix camera with the usual miniscule lens, pictures look great on the phone screen but pretty rubbish when viewed on a computer screen. A good toy though and fun for taking pictures of your contacts to attach to your phone book so you are reminded what they look like when they ring you.

                The walkman and sound is probably ok, but not a feature for me. It has shake control, shake side to side to change track, up and down to change volume. Also "SensMe" - something about choosing tracks based on an analysis of the mood, tempo and chords of the music on your phone - what banality will they think of next.

                The games are fun for two minutes but they seem to be only demo ones on my phone and I'm not going to pay for the privilege of wasting any time with them.

                There are some nice graphics that look pretty when you open your phone.

                Mine came with a 2Gb memory chip, which will be useful elsewhere.

                I hope it serves me well.

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              • Kenco Rich Roast / Coffee / 13 Readings / 10 Ratings
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                20.11.2009 15:58
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                Not for me

                I think I can see why I got 50% extra free - a 300gm jar of this stuff for the price of what 200gm would have allegedly been.

                When you break the seal of this instant coffee you get that lovely appetising aroma. The next day you unscrew the lid and what a disappointment and then it dawns that you've got to plough your way through this jar of stuff.

                On the second day it smells of almost a garden fertilizer, chemically, like dry dust from an old shed. A heaped teaspoon magically dissolves into a mug of almost boiling water and there you have this think of instant "coffee"

                It smells of hot water, ie almost nothing and it's black so I suppose it passes the minimum trading standards requirements. Taste - well hot, drying on the tongue, a weird nothingness, not as bad as it smells and it's fairly thirst quenching though when it's gone, you're pretty glad. Don't let it get cool as then the chemical taste hits you and when you get to the end there is a hint of dregs, bitter and pretty vile and a black scum round the mug.

                I'm a black coffee drinker with no sugar so I should be getting the true taste of whatever I drink - and this ain't good.

                Kenco claim on the jar they have been passionate about coffee for 80 years, that's a bit of a worry, I think they've lost the passion and the plot with this one. Apparently buying this jar also gives coffee farming communities a better future - I bet they don't drink this themselves.

                At present at Tesco it is £3.00 for the 200gm jar

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              • PG Tips Teabags / Tea / 12 Readings / 12 Ratings
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                18.11.2009 14:57
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                Best reliable Cup of Tea

                To me this is still the only decent tea.

                This is my judgement of PG Tips Teabags based on making tea in a tea-pot as opposed to dropping a bag in a cup which to me just tastes awful however good the bag - always tastes like instant stewed tea.

                Open the pack and you get that proper smell of how tea has always smelt, reminds too of the tea-cards you used to collect as a child. You must keep the pack airtight and a while ago we got a free PG Tips tin that just snugly takes an open pack of 160bags, 150gm pack.

                Being big breakfast time tea drinkers we have a large 1.8ltr aluminium teapot - this gives us eight decent mugs of tea. Four bags do the trick.

                As with all tea making the essential stage is to have a scalding hot tea pot, so pre-heated with boiling water, water back in the kettle, four bags dropped in the pot, scalding hot water back in the pot and quickly covered with a tea-cosy. It must then stand for at least five minutes. You can give the teabags a stir but definitely do not press the bags, that seems to spoil the taste. At this dilution it pours as a nice clear tan colour and smells good.

                I find it pleasantly refreshing, a very clean taste, no cloying, no after-taste and I can drink three mugs for breakfast and my three in the afternoon if at home and feel re-hydrated and not just full of liquid that sits on the stomach. Tea is a diuretic so you will be passing it back out pretty quick. So remember to drink your proper quota of at least one and half litres of fresh water a day as well as the tea.

                I like mine with a shot of skimmed milk, which preserves the taste of tea, whereas semi and full fat milk drown it and make it unpleasantly creamy.

                A great traditional tea, welcome in the cold or the hot weather, always re-freshing. Being tea-bags this product is probably not for the purists who insist on loose tea, but it's good enough for me.

                Additionally I know the taste of the same tea will vary around the country dependent on the hardness of the wate. This seems to be good with our really hard water at home but also and seems to taste the same when we have taken a pack away to an area with soft water.

                The taste of this tea doesn't seem to have changed over the years thankfully, hasn't been re-branded, re-blended or un-necessarily improved, so long may it last - highly recommended.

                Currently they are £4.00 for two packs - 160bags, 150gm

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                • Tefal QuickCup / Kettle / 16 Readings / 15 Ratings
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                  11.11.2009 11:44
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                  • "Ease of use"

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                  Great piece of kit

                  The Tefal Quick-Cup is a great piece of kit for all the family at home.

                  Being someone who is in and out from the garden and always after a hot coffee with muddy boots and dirty hands this machine is perfect.

                  The neat design is both clever and simple. Coffee granules in the cup, one touch of the red button and about fifteen seconds later a hot coffee and I'm on my way.

                  For tea-drinkers not such good news, the water is not scalding hot enough so your tea tastes like instant stewed tea, most unpleasant. Only if you go the trouble of heating the mug first can you get an almost passable cup of tea, if you are desperate.

                  The default quantity of water seems to be a standard mug of water with space for some milk. You can adjust this by a combination of key presses. If you want more or less water you just press the red button again to start and stop the water flow.

                  The other downside is the cost of the cartridges; around £4.50 or a bit less if you search the internet. The cartridge life depends on the hardness and purity of your local water supply, they last us around a month before the water flow drops off significantly. We also de-scale it every couple of months. This is an easy operation, fill with a litre of cheap white vinegar and run the program by pressing hot and cold buttons together. Ten minutes later it's all done and a flush through with fresh water and you are all set.

                  The last downside is it is pretty noisy as it splutters and coughs out the water, so those creeping down to the kitchen for that midnight cuppa may wake you up.

                  It holds one and half litres of water in an easy to fill container. The container is impressively balanced. With just one hand you can lift the handle of the tank, fill it to the top from the tap, carry it back and replace it on the machine all without any spills, it sits on a catch at the base of the unit.

                  I can't really see the point of drawing cold water from the machine as the water will be ambient and lifeless from sitting around in the tank unless you are overly worried about impurities in your own tap water. Far healthier will be cool, oxygenated water from the mains.

                  As for saving the world, well yes it will obviously use less energy than a kettle as you are only heating the one cup of water at a time, but it still burns up almost 3Kw of electricity for those fifteen seconds vending the water. So in summary it is an expensive but convenient luxury. The indicator lights will flash when it reckons you need a new filter, not sure if this comes on after a set time (marketing ploy to make you buy the filters) or is genuinely measuring the flow rate and hence a measure of the filter getting clogged up. In view of the cost of the replacement filters we tend to ignore the flashing light till the flow rate decreases. When you do replace it a combination of key presses resets the indicator.

                  As to being safe for the kids, well only if they are taught common sense, the water is hot enough to burn tender skin and you need to be tall enough to be looking down on the machine. Sometimes the water tends to splutter out so you can get splashed if you don't keep your hands out the way. So yes great for teenagers to encourage them to have a hot drink when they come in from the cold.

                  Do remember to keep the tank filled with water, as it will quickly run dry and no doubt damage it; also after a refill from empty it splutters more on dispensing the first cup.

                  We, unfortunately bought ours at around £65 earlier in the year, I see they are now available for around £25 at for eg Choicebrand over the internet.

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                  • More +
                    31.10.2009 11:22
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                    Easy way to eat a lot of fibre

                    With an alarming 27% fibre, these must be one of the highest fibre breakfast cereals and must therefore be good for you.

                    Whilst decidedly un-appetising looking, you can actually come to love them. They stay crunchy in cold milk and reasonably so in warm and they give a bit of taste to some of the more bland cereals and take the sweetness off others.

                    They have the stigma of being that breakfast cereal you dread as a child, what auntie so and so has had all her life to keep her bowels moving. Well they certainly do that, but do make sure you drink loads of water till you get used to them or you will get the gripes.

                    Opening the packet you can smell the slightly cereal, malty, rabbit-food aroma. On tucking in you get the crunch and slight sweetness, difficult to describe but pleasant. I quite like them with plain yoghurt.

                    There is still 17% sugar in the product to rot your teeth, but then without it, together with the 1.7% salt, they would probably be in-edible. Basically they are just wheat bran, sugar and flavourings with added impressive-sounding vitamins that you never knew you needed. Un-surprisingly the allergy advice is they contain barley and wheat and are suitable for vegetarians but are also halal and kosher approved.

                    At around £2.59 /750gm pack they are pricey but are occasionally on offer at supermarkets. The supermarket cheapy brands seem to be just as good, just as boring but nutritionally as good for you.

                    The packaging is already 90% re-cycled and you can send it round the cycle again.

                    Overall, extremely boring but a great feel-good morning breakfast cereal. I wouldn't recommend them for an evening snack as you may well have extreme stomach ache by the morning due to de-hydration!

                    They are also by appointment to Her Majesty.

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                    • More +
                      28.10.2009 22:34
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                      Meant to keep you healthy

                      Sesame seeds are meant to be good for you and if you like the odd mineral supplement then I'd rather eat the actual product high in the supplement than a manufactured extract.

                      If you keep birds then you'll know these seeds look just like bird grit, slightly paler but the same look and feel, though fortunately not as hard when you come to eat them.

                      Apparently they contain the essential minerals copper, magnesium, calcium, zinc and all-sorts - the sort of minerals you never knew you needed until someone dreamt up the idea of promoting them as a health food. These minerals may help protect you from everything from heart failure, arthritis, and respiratory conditions to colon cancer - depending on what you read; no doubt only if you manage to swallow a cup or so every day for umpteen years. - so take such research with big pinches of salt.

                      Well I like just like them to give a bit of feel-good factor to fresh natural yoghurt for breakfast. I can't eat them later in the day other wise I get the gripes. So do always drink loads of extra water till you get used to them. With my small pots of homemade yoghurt I add about three teaspoons of these seeds. They give a little crunch and quite a pleasant fresh but non-descript flavour.

                      They are currently £0.89p for 100g at Tesco

                      As with so many things the manufacturer cannot guarantee they are nut-free, but sesame seeds are one of the ingredients that have to be declared for allergy advice - hence the packet of sesame seeds says "contains sesame seeds" (!!)

                      They contain 18.2% protein and lots of energy, 58% fat though a sprinkle on your cereal won't give you much. They do cheer up boring cornflakes to give a slight nutty/gritty flavour.

                      As one of the oldest recorded condiments to food, dating perhaps back to before 1500BC - the phrase" open-sesame" stems from the way the seeds pods burst open when ripe.

                      Sesame seeds are of course the main ingredient of Tahini, which I intensely dislike but is used in middle-eastern cookery. Just the seeds turn up as topping to bread and rolls, for me they just don't go so I'll just to stick to using them as a feel-good sprinkle on my breakfast.

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                      • Stews & Sauces / Recipe / 17 Readings / 15 Ratings
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                        22.10.2009 23:57
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                        Always in Demand by Friends & Family, Oldest to Youngest

                        I've seen so many gravy "recipes" in food magazines that look so vile yet are claimed to be the ultimate gravy I thought I better share my accompaniment to roast meats. Also, in restaurants of any type, fancy or down-to-earth they usually serve up a few teaspoons of posh "jus" which is some insipid coloured water or some poopy brown liquid that tastes artificial and unrelated to the meat it accompanies.

                        Note this is not a "healthy" gravy but then everything in moderation as part of a fresh balanced diet is good for you, I say.

                        We cook all roast meats in roaster bags to save all the cooking essential juices. With chicken a large onion is stuffed up it's b**; beef needs nothing extra; lamb has a sprig of fresh rosemary and a couple of crushed garlic cloves and pork is roasted with a couple of onions.

                        So when the meat is done, always let it sit for quarter of an hour whilst the oven is turned up high to give the roast potatoes a final blast.

                        Drain the juices from the bag into a large saucepan. Add a couple of dessertspoonfuls of self-raising flour, or just enough to blend in all the juices to a thin roux.

                        Add about 125ml of tomato passata, the crushed/liquidised whole tomato, not tomato juice or puree. Add a good splash, about 25ml of mushroom ketchup; have only found the one from George Watkins, and the same quantity of gravy browning; a good thick one like Crosse & Blackwell.

                        Now add about 150ml of cheap red plonk, we keep a stock of the cheapest red wine on offer, no more than £2.50 per bottle after discounts.

                        Lastly add half a teaspoon of marmite.

                        Then start blending in the stock, if you have it avaialable:- chicken stock for chicken, lamb and pork or beef stock for beef. If none around then use the cooking water from the carrots. If no carrots on the menu use fresh boiled water and add a couple stock concentrates like Knorr Stockpots. Don't use the water from potatoes, too starchy or from green vegetables, too strong.

                        Stir in enough liquid to make into the consistency you like and keep stirring it off the bottom of the pan till it boils and starts to thicken, then simmer for a few minutes.

                        Using the meat juices will give the right flavour for the right meat, so, no, the gravy doesn't always taste the same. Save any gravy left over into a jug and store in the fridge till the next roast.

                        None of this throwing away all the fat and reducing what's left till it is half the volume to concentrate the flavours nonsense. For us, it's all about making a big saucepan of gravy and enjoying a couple of big ladles over your roast meat, crunchy roast potatoes and veg and tucking in.

                        The healthy food brigade seems to have forgotten that some flavours only exist in fats, removing the fat from foods removes all the subtle tastes.

                        To balance the fact that we use all the fatty meat juices we eat no actual meat fat or skin but only because none of us physically like it, the texture or the taste, so we tend to buy the leanest cuts of beef and pork, beef topside/corner cut and pork loin pieces; lamb legs and whole chickens.

                        See what you make of this simple gravy.

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