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There is nothing more relaxing after a late shift than coming home and relaxing on the sofa with a good TV program and a mug of hot chocolate - Bliss! I have always tended to buy Galaxy Hot Chocolate because of it's rich, creamy taste. However on a visit to Asda a few weeks ago I noticed that the Skinny Cow hot chocolate range was on offer at only £1 (usual price £1.99) for a 200g tub - a bargain too tempting to resist. I like the combination of mint and chocolate so naturally seleced the mint flavour hot chocolate, putting THREE tubs in my trolley (psychologically I'd convinced myself I'd like it and so best to stock up on the offer!) Packaging: -------------- Produced by Nestle it is very eye-catching and funky! It comes in a traditional shaped hot chocolate plastic tub with black and white "cow" patches in the background and the skinny cow laying seductively on the front above a mug of the prepared drink - Mmmmm! There are highlights of green on the packaging to emphasise the mint flavour. The Experience: --------------------- I came home after a particularly hectic late shift. Some people would have reached for the wine... I reached for the Skinny Cow! On opening the tub the smell was very chocolately and sweet with a slight hint of mint. I put the kettle on and as directed by the packaging placed 2 heaped teaspoons of the powder into a mug, plus a little extra just to make sure I had a good, strong, flavoursome hot chocolate. I added the hot water and gave it a good stir using a teaspoon. I found that the powder disolved into the water quickly and completely - no floaty, bitty powder particles floating on top. Perfection so far! I always add a little milk to my hot chocolate, to add richness and help cool it down for immediate drinking. Once made the smell was very minty and set my taste buds off salivating. The consistency is quite thin and watery rather than creamy, due to it been made with water, not milk. Typical of low fat hot chocolates. There was a small amount of froth on the top, but this soon disappeared as I began to drink it. Now for the real test... the taste. I settled myself onto the sofa, switched on the TV and prepared myself. I raised my mug to my expectant lips, took a sip and waited for my taste buds to respond. Ooooooo!!!! They were not disappointed and most satisfied. The flavour is rich, chocolately and the mint comes through well. Not overpowering, not too sweet, a very good balance of the two. It doesn't have that certain "sweetner" taste that a lot of diet drinks have and you wouldn't know from taste alone that this is low calorie and low fat drink. It has a smooth consistency as you drink it, and my only complaint it that it isn't fuller and creamier. But then again if it was the cow would be fat, not skinny! Overall this is a very smooth, minty chocolate drink. It is superior to Options because of the rich flavour rather than the artificial taste of essence and sweetners. It won't replace Galaxy drinking chocolate in my cupboard because it's not creamy enough for me in terms of consistency but I would certainly buy it again should it be on offer and would recommend it to those who are watching the waist line and wanting a low calorie hot chocolate drink. It saves on fat and calories but looses nothing in flavour! Nutritional Information per serving with 200ml water: Calories 37 Sugars 3.7g Fat 1.4g Saturates 1g Salt 0.3g
The current credit crunch coupled with a recent break-up with my partner has made me re-assess my budgeting skills. I have read numerous articles that recommend switching to supermarket own brand products which can lead to savings of hundreds of pounds a year (perhaps slightly less for an independent woman who eats at her parents whenever possible!). So I have recently been doing just that and trying stores own brands of various products, with various degrees of success. On a recent trip to Asda I was stocking up on soup (always handy to take to work!). I noticed that the Smart Price soups were only 17p per 400g tin, compared with around 80p for the Heinz equivalent. Intrigued I selected one can of each flavour - Chicken, Tomato, and Vegetable. This review is of the Smart Price Cream of Chicken Soup... The tin packaging is typical of all Smart Price products with the easily identifiable white and green colouring and labelling. All the expected information is on the packaging i.e. ingredients, nutritional values, cooking instructions, storage etc. Basically it takes 2 minutes to heat in the microwave or 4-5 minutes to heat in a pan. The tin has no ring-pull so out came my trusty tin opener. The soup looked a very light yellowy almost transparent colour and I have to admit didn't look very appealing. I poured it into my bowl and the consistency was watery rather than thick and rich. It had the odd few flecks of chicken in it and I was still hopeful that the taste would make up for the lack-lustre appearance. Couple of minutes in the microwave, some buttered crusty bread and I was ready to tuck in. On my spoon the soup still looked watery, greasy and lacked any real colour. It ran off my spoon, rather than "glubbed" like a good, creamy chicken soup should. There was no smell to the soup, and there was not much taste either! There was a slight hint of chicken essence, but it is just too watery to have any real flavour to it. There was nothing, no saltiness, no sweetness - just a mouthful of bland watery liquid. It reminded me of a cuppa soup, but with less taste. Even dunking my crusty bread didn't help, the soup has no consistency or richness so doesn't cling to the bread, it's like dipping it into water. A very unsatisfying lunch. Although unsurprising given it contains only 2% chicken. Verdict: ~~~~~ Even for 17p this soup is disappointing. It is far too watery and has no real taste or flavour. For me chicken soup should be rich, smooth and creamy and this is none of these things. I won't be buying it again and it certainly won't be helping me to save my hundreds of pounds as I'll be switching back to good old Heinz! Just as an aside I tried both the Smart Price Tomato and Vegetable soups and both are far better than the chicken variety in terms of flavour and for 17p offer good value for money. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Nutritional Values per 100g Energy 41kcal Protein 0.9g Carbohydrate 3.6g Of which sugars 1.0g Fat 2.6g Of which saturates 0.7g Fibre 0.5g Sodium 0.40g Equivalent as salt 1.0g Allergy Advice Contains Gluten. Contains Wheat. Contains Milk.
I have recently had a bit of a beauty product blitz and spent a small fortune at Boots. Consequently I have received numerous £5 off vouchers which could be used against the Boots No7 range. I decided having already spent half my salary in the store, spending a little more wouldn't hurt, especially if I received £5 discount. So I decided to treat myself (again!) and perused their some would say rather expensive range of No7 products. Having recently discovered the miracle that is Cliniques anti-blemish range, I decided to indulge my spot free skin and bought the No7 Total Renewal Micro-dermabrasion Body Exfoliator. It retails at £10 for 150ml, so with my voucher I paid £5. A fair price indeed! So what does this Micro-dermabrasion Body Exfoliator claim to achieve? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Well reading the blurb on the packaging I was promised instantly younger-looking, fresher feeling skin on my chest, shoulders, arms and hands. Wonderful! Apparently this exfoliator contains aluminium-oxide micro-crystals (very scientific) that sweep away the dull surface cells revealing smoother, radiant skin. It alleges that within 4 weeks dry, rough areas of my skin will feel smoother and tiny bumps wills be polished away. Basically my skin will be refined and renewed! So how does it look and feel? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Well I have to say the packaging is rather dull and undistinguished. It comes in a pale blue box, with the product description in small writing on the front and the No7 logo in gold at the top of the packaging. It doesn't stand out from the shelf and would easily win a hide & seek contest as it is that difficult to spot. However all No7 products are packaged in a similar way - very minimalist and understated. I presume they assume the products are so good they sell themselves! The actual exfoliator is white in colour and quite a thick texture. It appears to be smooth and creamy however rub it between your fingers and you can feel the micro-crystals like very fine grains of sand. It is unscented and hypo-allergenic. So how do I use it? ~~~~~~~~~~~~ The instructions suggest using this product in the shower 2 or 3 times a week. So far I have been using it every two days. I put a small amount, about the size of a 5p piece, onto my hand and gently massage it in small circular motions across my chest. I repeat this for my back and arms. I can feel the micro-crystals on my skin, not too rough but enough to tell my skin is being exfoliated. I then rinse it off, all the time gently rubbing my skin. My skin is left a little red straight after this but it is very sensitive anyway, and the redness quickly fades. So does it live up to the hype and promises made on the packaing? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ In my opinion YES! I have been using this product for about 4 weeks now, an average of 3 times per week. The skin on my arms, chest and back where I use the exfoliator feels noticeably softer and smoother. In fact after only using this product a couple of times my partner commented on how baby soft my skin was feeling - RESULT! I have never experienced "tiny bumps" on my skin so that wasn't an issue for me, however I do suffer from large pores and I have noticed that since using this these seem to have gotten smaller and less noticeable, particularly across my chest. However it could just be the result of me paying more attention to my skin care routine as I always moisturise after using this exfoliator. But overall I do feel my skin is looking more radiant and glowing and it is certainly feeling the softest and smoothest it's ever felt and I am very impressed with this No7 product. In Summary... ~~~~~~~~~ I paid £5 for this No7 exfoliator, a price I feel is an absolute bargain. I would happily pay the full £10 price tag because I feel it delivers on its promises and is a quality item. Only a small amount is needed each time and so it will last a good while offering decent value. Overall I recommend this to anyone who wants to pamper their skin and be rewarded with a fresher, smoother, more even complexion!
My brother has a habit of buying the most random, useless, and at times ridiculous Christmas presents. For example the time he sent me an electric shock game whereby the last person to press the button when the light stops gets a rather nasty zap. "I thought it would be fun after a few drinks" he said Fun??? Painful and tear inducing - Yes! Fun - No! Or the year he sent me this awful orange plastic megaphone shaped thing which made a "boom" sound and did nothing else (after reading JJJ's recent review I discovered this was an Airzooka!). I spent the best part of 30 minutes Christmas morning scratching my head before deciding the most useful function for the "gift" was as a makeshift waste bin. So last Christmas imagine my apprehension as he handed me a perfectly wrapped slim rectangle box complete with gold bow. Expecting yet another insanely pointless present I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to tear off the paper and find he'd bought me a Vanilla & Wood Scentissimo Fragrence Diffuser... So what exactly is a Vanilla & Wood Scentissimo Fragrence Diffuser? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ On opening the box and removing the contents you are presented with a slightly frosted glass bottle filled with the Vanilla & Wood liquid scent. On the front of the bottle is a small and stylish fabric label saying Scentissimo and the name of the fragrance. Also in the box is 9 rattan sticks and a wooden cork type lid with a silver rim. Somewhat bemused as to what I placed where, I read the instructions and followed them, unscrewing the cap on the glass bottle, replacing it with the cork and inserted the 9 rattan sticks arranging them as chicly as I could. TA-DA! I was now left with a rather chic arrangement which would look fabulous on display in my lounge. Scentissimo is essentially a room diffuser, albeit a very attractive and unique one. When the sticks are placed into the glass bottle, the fragrance gently and naturally dispenses through the sticks, to slowly infuse your room with a delightful blended fragrance - in this case Vanilla & Sandalwood. It is much more aesthetically pleasing than traditional air fresheners, lasts longer than flowers and is a an ideal way to beautifully fragrance the home. So what's my opinion on Scentissimo? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I had friends coming over one evening and spent the day cleaning and tidying. I found my Scentissimo gift hidden away and forgotten about in one of my drawers. I decided it was the perfect occasion to trial it so assembled it and placed it on a table in my lounge. It looked fantastic and certainly made a statement of elegance. Unsure of what to expect in terms of fragrance I left it and went out to stock up on wine. On returning home an hour or so later I instantly noticed an aroma as I walked into my hallway. The smell was woody with a sweet vanilla undertone and was quite simply delicious. It wasn't overpowering, but was definitely noticeable and certainly pleasant and alluring. As I entered my lounge it became slightly stronger and filled the whole room. I was VERY, VERY impressed and for 5 minutes or so wondered around just sniffing in the scent - Heaven! Even better was when my friends arrived and the instantly commented on how nice and sweet my home smelt. On seeing my Scentissimo they too cooed and commented on how beautiful and stylish it looked and wanted to know where they could buy one! So where can I buy a Scentissimo and how much does it cost? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ On Googling "Scentissimo" I discovered that they can be purchased from several online retailers, for example www.kiarie.co.uk who specialise in contemporary furniture, décor, candles and fragrances. They retail at £19.55. This is somewhat expensive however it promises to fragrance and infuse your room for at least 2 months. I have had mine in use for about 4 weeks now and approximately one third of the fragrance has been used. Also you are paying for the style statement. Scentissimo looks beautiful and adds a certain modern chicness to a room. Other fragrances are available and include Orange Blossom & Honey and Black Fig & Pomegranate. My overall opinion ~~~~~~~~~~~~ I highly recommend Scentissimo firstly for how wonderful it looks in a room and its style factor and secondly, for the fragrance which lasts, and lasts and lasts. Every time I enter my lounge I am met with the lovely smell of sandalwood mixed with sweet vanilla. It is delicate and light and not too overpowering. I find Scentissimo far superior to other air fresheners and plug-in diffusers that I have tried and will certainly be buying another one when mine runs out. Although I think I'll put my order in with my brother now - before he decides to return to his old ways and buys me his usual Christmas tack!!! Just as an aside and point of interest I have since noticed that Asda sell their own branded version of Scentissimo for the bargain price of around £6.99. However it doesn't look anywhere near as elegant but I suppose if it does the job that doesn't matter. Perhaps a product I'll try in the future...
I enjoy being physically fit and active and they do say "A healthy body equals a healthy mind". A very true saying in my opinion. I get a real buzz and feel on a high when I'm exercising, scientifically this probably relates to the release of adrenalin. I also find exercise works for combating stress and I use it as a means to unwind and release my tension after a difficult day at work. Given all of the above, it's not surprising that I'm a member of my local gym - Bannatyne's. I joined around 3 years ago and I visit 3-4 times a week. Consequently I thought I would share my opinion on Dooyoo... Why Bannatyne's ~~~~~~~~~~~ The Bannatyne's I visit is just on the edge of Wakefield, 1 mile off Junction 41 of the M1 at Paragon Business Village. Before joining I went for a look around the facilities, which were very impressive. This initial "wow" factor, plus the fact that it's only 10 minutes from my home and I pass it on my way to and from work, were the driving forces behind me signing up to become a member. Membership costs ~~~~~~~~~~~~ These vary according to the tariff you select. I have joint membership with a friend and pay £43 per month. This allows me to visit anytime of day 7 days a week. If this was single membership I would pay £50 - thus it's financially beneficial if you can sign up with someone else, as well as giving you a gym buddy to train with. A friend pays around £30 per month for "off-peak" access. She can visit Monday-Friday before 4pm. Good value depending on your schedule and work commitments. Children's memberships are also available, although seen I'm not a parent I have no idea as to the costs of these - sorry! Opening Hours ~~~~~~~~~~ Mon-Fri: 6:30am - 11:00pm Sat-Sun: 8:00am - 10:30pm Parking & Reception ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Bannatyne's Wakefield has a large car park and I have never had trouble finding a space, even at the most busy times (generally 5-7pm & weekends). The car park is flood-let and well maintained and I feel safe parking my car. The large glass fronted windows of the gym mean you can watch your car whilst you pump iron (if your one of those obsessed petrol-head types). The reception area is spacious and inviting. To enter I am required to swipe my membership card at the turn-style and cringe as my face pops-up on the overheard screens. This helps reduce membership fraud and increases security. There is a café bar area complete with a comfortable lounge incorporating a large TV screen (usually showing sport!) and a selection of newspapers and magazines to browse. A wide choice of drinks, snacks, and meals are available and it's nice to chill out and relax after a session. From my experience the staff are friendly and efficient and this area is always clean and welcoming. The food served is reasonably priced (e.g. £2 for soup & a roll) and very tasty. Changing Rooms ~~~~~~~~~~~ Male, female and family changing facilities are available. For obvious reasons I'll can only comment on the female area. This is very spacious with several benches, 4 private changing booths and ample locker space (no charge). There is a shower area with 10 private cubicles and Lux shower gel dispensers on each wall. Mirrors and hair-dryers are a plenty enabling me to change from "sweaty gym-chick" to "immaculate-chick" with minimal fuss. Hygiene standards are high, although occasionally lowered by lazy members. The one's who leave empty shampoo bottles lying around, or who can't be bothered throwing away water bottles or tissues. Perhaps they think the £43 membership includes a personal servant? Despite this the cleaning staff do a fantastic job, are always visible and are always smiling! The Gym ~~~~~~ The actual gym is split across two levels. The gym on the 1st floor is the largest and the busiest. It has a vast array of equipment including cardiovascular, resistance machines and free weights. The gym on the 2nd floor or "Mezzanine" is mainly for cardiovascular workouts and has floor space designated to sit-ups and stretching. Both gyms are fully air-conditioned and music is played into them via a speaker system. The equipment is always well maintained and state of the art, for example all the cardiovascular machines have their own LCD screen so you can plug in your headphones and watch TV or listen to the radio. I find this most useful to relieve boredom and distract from the pain! The Pool ~~~~~~ My favourite part of Bannatyne's! The pool area is wonderful. It's a very pleasant, tranquil and relaxed area (unless there's an aqua aerobics session on!). There's a 20m heated pool, sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi. Again the whole area is well maintained and kept spotlessly clean. I love finishing my gym session with a few laps of the pool and then unwinding my aching muscles in the sauna. On a weekend there tends to be families with children in the pool, which is my one gripe about Bannatyne's. However there are two swimming lanes so it is still possible to do some serious laps. For me the pool area is one key reason why I chose Bannatyne's over other local fitness clubs. Other Stuff ~~~~~~~ Classes are available at Bannatyne's at no extra cost. The timetable is varied, ranging from Spin class, to Yogo, to Boxercise. To take part in a class you need to book in advance with reception. This ensures that they don't become oversubscribed. Classes run throughout the day and evening offering flexibility. I choose not to attend them however talking to people who do the feedback is generally positive and they add variety and fun to exercise. Sunbed facilities are also available and tokens can be bought for the "stand and tan" units. Been fair skinned and anti-sunbeds I don't make use of these. Personal training sessions can also be booked with the fitness team. My friend has been having these recently and pays £20 for an hour. This buys him the undivided attention of one the staff who motivates and encourages him and shows him the exercises he needs to do to develop certain muscles groups. I must say the results have been impressive and my friend is more than happy to keep paying the £20 for this level of 1:1 input. My Opinion ~~~~~~~ I can't rate Bannatyne's highly enough. The quality and standard of the Wakefield club is second to none and I've recommended it to several friends. I actually enjoy visiting the gym and find it a very fun, pleasant and friendly experience. The staff are approachable but at the same time don't interfere. I have had a few "fitness reviews" where weight, muscle mass, cardio ability etc are tested and then the instructor produces a personal exercise plan according to what I want to work on. I have found this incredibly useful and it has helped boost my motivation when I've found it lacking. The kind of people who use Bannatyne's tend to be those who focus on keeping fit rather than the one's who are training for a "Strong Man" title (the type who stand in front of the mirror making grunting sounds whilst flexing their pecs). No one hogs the machines, I never feel intimidated in using the equipment, and members are very courteous and obey gym etiquette (e.g. wiping down machines after use). There is a very member-friendly vibe and feedback is listened to and acted upon. Member comments and management responses to these are displayed on a notice board and there are also regular member themed events e.g. a summer BBQ. Overall I am 110% satisfied with Bannatyne's as a fitness club and I don't envisage taking my membership elsewhere. It provides a friendly environment for me to maintain my physical fitness. I feel my £43 a month is well spent and the facilities are always well maintained and constantly been modernised and improved as new equipment evolves. I couldn't ask for anything else from a gym!
What is it and where is it? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ White Rose is a shopping centre on the south side of Leeds. It's on the A653 Ringroad and accessible from the M621 (Junction 1) or the M62 (Junction 28). The address is: White Rose Shopping Centre, Dewsbury Road, Leeds, LS11 8LU. It's similar to Meadow Hall (Sheffield) or Trafford Centre (Manchester) but on a smaller scale. Parking ~~~~~ Parking at White Rose is free. There are 4,500 car parking spaces located across 6 customer car parks. Each car park is linked to a different shop entrance. The car parks are well maintained and I feel happy leaving my car whilst I shop. Even at busy times I have always been able to find a space without too much hassle. Christmas is slightly different and it feels like the whole of Yorkshire descends on mass to the centre. Heed my advice and get there when the centre opens to avoid car park rage! Disabled spaces are available in each car park for those visitors with a Blue Badge parking permit. A Sainsbury's petrol station is on site for those in need of re-fuelling before continuing the journey. Public Transport Links ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ White Rose has it's own on-site bus station and is well served by buses from Leeds city centre and surrounding towns (Morley, Bradford, Wakefield, Huddersfield). The bus station is covered by CCTV and on-site securty. Opening Hours ~~~~~~~~~~ Monday 10:00 am - 08:00 pm Tuesday 10:00 am - 08:00 pm Wednesday 10:00 am - 08:00 pm Thursday 10:00 am - 09:00 pm Friday 10:00 am - 08:00 pm Saturday 09:00 am - 07:00 pm Sunday 11:00 am - 05:00 pm Bank Holidays 10:00 am - 06:00 pm Layout ~~~~~ White Rose is split over two levels. The lower level is where all the shops are and they run in a straight line from one end (Sainsburys) to the other (Debanhams). Scattered between the shops are boutique carts selling various items such as photo's, handbags, unique jewellery and whatever the latest JML craze happens to be! At each end there are also coffee bars, allowing you to rest your weary feet, relax and watch the other shoppers mill around. The upper level is the food court area and in my opinion there's a good and varied selection including: Nando's, McDonalds, Ainsley's, Bagel Nash, Subway, KFC, and a Fish and Chip place. There is generous seating, although at obvious times (lunch and tea) you may find yourself wondering aimlessly for an empty table. Also on the upper level are a couple of travel agents (Co-Op and Going Places), Supercuts hair salon (no appointment necessary), Sports Direct, Orange, and a Juice bar. The Centre isn't huge and it is virtually impossible to get lost. However information stands and free maps are available to help you get your bearings. The Shops ~~~~~~~ White Rose offers a good selection of shops, particularly for women's fashion. Several major retailers have outlets including Marks and Spencers, BHS, Next, River Island, Primark, New Look, Monsoon, Dorothy Perkins, Warehouse, Ann Summers and Zara. Men are also well catered for in the fashion stakes with shops such as Burtons, Topman, Officers Club, Suits You and Envy. For those with a shoe fetish White Rose offers Barrets, Clarks, Faith, Garage shoes, and Schuh. General shops include Sainsburys, Argos, Debanhams and WH Smiths. For those looking for beauty shops there is Boots, Superdrug and the Body Shop. White Rose has an excellent choice of Jewellers (H Samuels, Beaver Brooks, Goldsmiths) and is great when hunting for a special present for someone. Choice of electrical shops is limited to Currys however on a similar theme there is HMV and Game, and also numerous mobile phone outlets. For those with children there is Adams, Pumpkin Patch, Early Learning Centre, Build a Bear, and Disney Store. Facilities ~~~~~~ With all these shops available a shopper needs access to cash. Halifax and Yorkshire Bank are available with cash machines, with one located at either end of the centre. Disabled access is good. Above WH Smith is a mobility centre where it is possible to hire scooters. Two glass lifts link the lower and upper levels, and lifts are also available in some of the stores (MandS, Primark, BHS). Otherwise there are two main escalators or stair access between the 2-levels. There are three separate toilet areas spread out across the centre which have baby changing facilities and vending machines where you can get nappies if you need them. I have always found the toilets to be clean and well maintained. My Opinion ~~~~~~~~ I love White Rose. It's 10 minutes from where I live and I often find myself moseying around it on my days off when its cold or rainy. White Rose is small in comparison to other shopping centres, but for me this is a huge benefit. Instead of having to trawl around an endless maze of shops for hours and hours trying to find what I want I can be in and out of White Rose in 30 minutes if I need to be. The layout is logical and it has all the key shops and is especially good for clothes stores. It's perfect during sale season and I never feel as stressed as I do when I sale shop in bigger centres or cities. It is bright and airy and is always well maintained and up-to-date in terms of décor. The coffee bars are a welcome treat at the start or end of a shopping trip, as well as been a good for socialising with family or friends and comparing purchases. I love the fact that I can shop, drop in for a hair cut, and do my weekly shop in one location. The free parking is also a huge plus. Overall White Rose is the perfect shopping venue, especially for those who like shopping but don't like it to take up a full day! For more info visit: http://www.white-rose.co.uk
I work shifts and consequently a few times a week I am required to get up at the unearthly hour of 5:25am. The routine is as follows: My alarm sounds, I lazily throw my arm out of the duvet, feel around on top my bedside drawers for my clock-radio, hit several buttons until it stops "buzz buzz buzzing", scramble out of bed, trip over yesterdays dirty laundry which is lying in a heap in the middle of the floor, feel my way onto the landing and into the bathroom, flick the shower switch, yelp in shock when the water temperature is -5 degrees and eventually peel open my eyes to greet the shift ahead! You see some people use coffee to wake themselves up in the morning... I use my morning shower and rely on a shower gel that will invigorate not only my skin, but my mind and senses as well! Many a time have I turned up at work, still half asleep because a particular shower gel has failed to fully arouse me from my slumber!!! So in need of a new shower gel I visited my local Boots and noticed a new shower gel product from Radox "Spa Purify - Wellbeing". The offer price was £1.30 for a 250ml bottle and I decided to give it a try... About The Product ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Radox Spa Purify Wellbeing is a hypoallergenic shower blend with Dead Sea salts and aloe vera that promises to hydrate and purify the skin. The blurb on the back of the packaging states that this shower gel will breathe some life into the skin (perfect - exactly what I need at 5:25am!!!). Apparently the blend of aloe vera and Dead Sea salts gently cleanses, purifies and hydrates the skin, leaving a feeling of being refreshed and revitalised. On stepping out of the shower you'll feel as good as new. And hopefully awake enough to start an early shift! This product is hypoallergenic and so is perfect for sensitive skin, which I have in abundance. Another reason why this product is potentially perfect for me! What's gone into it? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ * 100 years of Radox know-how * A spoonful of aloe vera (helps the medicine go down... or is that sugar?) * Dead Sea salts * A perfect pH balance * A thumbs-up from the skin experts The Packaging ~~~~~~~~~ The bottle design looks very tranquil and relaxed. It has a sanctuary feeling about it, and I can imagine the accompanying advert containing a woman bathing beneath a waterfall! It's a transparent, curved bottle and the shower gel can be seen inside containing lots of little air bubbles. The green and white Radox logo is located on the front, with the product name and description and a very calming and soothing picture of pebbles on ripples of water. I can almost hear the sound of water lapping against a lake shore... The Smell ~~~~~~ The smell of a shower gel is very important. I don't want to walk into work smelling of cheap bog water! On opening the bottle and having a good whiff, the smell is heavenly! I could literally stand and inhale this wonderful scent for hours (if only I didn't need to be at work within the hour). It is hard to describe and capture the scent in words, but it's slightly fruity and incredibly fresh and invigorating. Again it conjures up the image of bathing deep within a jungle, beneath a waterfall, with bird song for company...Opps, back to reality... My Experience and Opinion ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I squeeze a generous blob of this shower gel onto my already wet shower poof and begin to wash. It lathers up perfectly, not so much that it takes 10 minutes to fully rinse off but enough to know that it is doing its job and cleansing the skin. It feels light, soft and silky on the skin and the smell is the same and just as strong as when I sniffed it in the bottle - Mmmm! It easily rinses away and doesn't feel like it clings or clogs the skin. Did it meet my morning "wake-up challenge"??? Well the gorgeous, fresh fragrance was enough to start awakening my senses, and the actual shower gel felt like it did hydrate and cleanse my skin. It made my skin feel like it was wakening up and coming to life and I felt invigorated to start my day! And it passes the arm pit test - I whiffed my pits after showering and they smelt clean and fresh - result! Overall ~~~~~ I have used this shower gel for a few weeks now. It leaves my skin feeling soft and smooth and the smell lingers after showering. It's not overpowering, but reminds me that my skin has been cleansed, purified and hydrated. I feel ready to face the days challenges and I feel fresh and clean. As I mentioned before I have super sensitive skin and some shower gels leave me itching, however this isn't a problem with Radox Spa Purify and I would recommend this shower gel whole heartedly to everyone! Go on... wake yourself up! Other Radox Mineral Spa shower gels are available including: * Mineral Spa Clay * Mineral Spa Scrub * Mineral Spa Seaweed The full price is £1.95 in Boots and I would pay that because in my opinion it is a quality product. More information is available on the Radox website: www.radow.co.uk
I'm a Blemished Encrusted Monster!!! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For as long as I can remember I've suffered with blemish prone skin, particularly on my back and more recently on my chest. I always thought my skin would grow out of these unattractive red blotches and one day I'd reach maturity and would have perfect soft, gorgeous blemish free skin. But alas I'm 27 and my skin is still as spot prone as when I was17! Anyone who suffers with blemishes will know how soul destroying it can be. I avoid wearing vest tops and spend ages trawling the shops for suitable clothes that cover my back but still look sexy and stylish for a night out. I'd become incredibly self-conscious and lacked personal confidence. I'm not sure why I've let my blemishes ruin my life for so long before taking action but maybe it was because I didn't believe there was a solution. I tried various spot creams but nothing really helped and some even made my blemishes worse, causing them to flare up and look even redder and nastier. So I became resigned to the fact I had blemish prone skin and instead concentrated on wearing clothes that hid my unsightly back. A Solution??? ~~~~~~~~~ But recently I was in Boots and browsing the Clinique counter. I love Clinique make-up and was just nosying at what other products they offer. The "Anti-Blemish" range instantly caught my eye and in particular the Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Body Spray. The assistant noticed by perusal of this product and approached me, and so followed a discussion about happy customers who highly rated the body spray and were impressed with the results. Still somewhat dubious and with the distinct feeling I'd just fallen for a well-rehearsed sales pitch I bought it! Costing £12.72 for a 100ml spray I was hoping I hadn't wasted my money. Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Body Spray professes to be an oil-free formula that helps clear and prevent blemish breakouts everywhere (back, chest, shoulders) as well as reducing the look of redness. For me, it sounded a miracle cure! How do I use it??? ~~~~~~~~~~~~ I use this product once a day after showering. Applying it is easy because of the 360 degree spray action which even works upside down. This makes it possible to spray the product evenly over my back myself, rather than needing someone else to do it for me. I spray 4-5 times to ensure a generous covering over the top half of my back, 1 spray on each shoulder and 2 sprays across my chest. There is a very, very slight clinical smell to the spray, typical of medicated spot products. But it is barely noticeable and isn't long lasting. The spray feels cold and wet when it first hits the skin, like a fine mist of water but within a couple of minutes it dries. Once dried it feels slightly tacky to touch, but I notice like the smell, this soon fades and you can't tell you have the solution on. I get dressed within 5 minutes of applying it and this is fine as it doesn't stain. So is it Bye Bye Blemish Encrusted Monster??? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ YES IT IS!!! Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Body Spray has done what it promised and cleared by blemish prone skin!!! It is a miracle! I have been using it once a day for 3 weeks now and almost straight away noticed the improvement it had on my skin. Existing blemishes appeared noticeably less red and within a few days they had disappeared altogether and I have had no new breakouts. For the first time in as long as I can remember my back is spot and pimple free. My skin feels soft and looks radiant and I am glowing with body confidence! This product has led me to feel self-assured and proud of my skin and I feel able to wear the tops I've always wanted to with poise. I can't recommend it enough to anyone who suffers blemishes. Clinique has excelled and created a gem of a product and the £12.72 price tag now seems like a bargain! I'll be buying this item time and time again - and adding it to my list of things I want from Santa!
I love to cook! On my days off there is something incredibly soothing and de-stressing about concocting a culinary delight to tantalise the taste buds. However, I cook Indian, I cook Chinese, I cook Mexican, I even dabble with Itallian! I do not cook English. I just don't! I'm not really sure why... I suppose on reflection it's the hassle and mess. It generally requires numerous pots and pans and a vast amount of soaked in grease! So if I want good old English nosh then I eat out...saves on the washing up! So when I'm feeling lazy I head to The Cock and Crown, Wakefield. What is the Cock and Crown? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Cock & Crown is a pub and carvery. It's located 2 miles west of Wakefield Centre on the Wakefield to Doncaster road. It's part of the Crown Carveries group who "concentrate on doing the simple things well". That is, they focus on good old English food and drink in a comfy, traditional homely environment. The Menu ~~~~~~~ Unsurprisingly from a company named Crown Carveries the highlight is....CARVERY! This is available all day, every day. There is a choice of three roast meats, turkey, beef or gammon complete with stuffing, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and a choice of vegetables (these vary according to season). For those with larger appetites the vegetables are unlimited and you can return to the serving counter and help yourself to seconds, or thirds, or fourths! And best of all the carvery costs only £3.50 Monday - Saturday and £5.99 on Sundays - BARGAIN! Other menu options include a choice of Starters, for example Soup of the Day or Prawn Cocktail and also Desserts such as Toffee Apple Pie or Orange Jelly and Ice Cream - Mmmmmm! For those who don't want the traditional carvery then other options are available, although choice is limited (salads, veggie option, or fish pie). Prices for these options vary, however remain reasonable. Drinks ~~~~ The drinks menu is similar to that of any pub and a wide range of beers, wines, spirits, soft drinks and hot beverages is available. A coke costs about £1.80 and a pint is about £2.60. The prices are more expensive than my local village pub but the cynic within me believes this is how they make profit and keep the food prices so low. I suppose it depends on personal preference - I don't mind as I prefer to be full and sober rather than drunk and starving! The Venue ~~~~~~~ The Cock and Crown is VERY popular and this is reflected in the car park always being busy. However ample parking is available and we have never had trouble finding a space. On entering the pub you are met with a very welcoming and comfortable environment. The décor is traditional with lots of deep reds and dark wood and you feel like you've entered a true British pub. Near the entrance there are a few gaming-type machines and an area where you can sit if you just want a drink rather than food. The rest of the interior is filled with tables for dining. Again the traditional, homey theme is continued and the tables and chair are wooden and well-worn without looking shabby. The interior is spacious and the tables well located - I've never felt like I've been sat on a fellow diner's knee. On arriving you find your self a vacant table, make yourself comfortable, decide what your eating and drinking and order and pay at the bar - simple! If you have the carvery each person in your party receives a little ticket and you hand it in at the carvery stand. The Food ~~~~~~ The carvery stand is located at the bottom end of the pub. It's spotlessly clean and well set out. The chef who serves is always smiling, friendly and jovial and most importantly is generous when slicing the meat! I tend to select the turkey and beef and have always found the meat to be beautifully tender and roasted to perfection. The Yorkshire Puddings are obviously frozen, rather than home-made which is a shame however for £3.50 I don't feel I can complain. The vegetables are always hot and cooked to my liking - soft but not mushy. My favourite is the cauliflower cheese, it really does just melt in the mouth. Gravy and a selection of condiments are also available. Careful with the mustard though - it's HOT!! I've never had a starter so can't comment on these, however the puddings are delicious. The Chocolate Melting cake is wonderfully rich and moist and the Toffee Apple Pie has generous chunks of apple coated with a sweet toffee sauce and topped with lashings of smooth custard - Yum Yum! The Staff ~~~~~~ I have always found the staff to be pleasant and welcoming. They have a positive customer attitude and are very friendly and polite. We are always greeted with a smile and the service is incredibly organised given how busy the Cock and Crown gets. The staff are efficient without making you feel rushed and leave you to enjoy your meal in your own time. My pet hate about eating out is taking a mouthful of food and the waitress rushing over to ask "is everything okay?" knowing full well you can't do anything but nod for fear of spitting your mouthful of half chewed up food over her! Overall ~~~~~ For the bargain price of £3.50 the Cock and Crown offers excellent value and quality in a welcoming, comfortable, traditional pub environment. You will be hard pushed to find anywhere where you can eat out so cheaply and still have such a good standard of food and service. It is always busy, yet somehow your never stood waiting and the atmosphere is always lively. However the Cock and Crown is a victim of it's own success - we've been on a couple of occasions around 6.30pm only to find that the carvery meat has run out and so not wanting a salad we've had to take our custom elsewhere. But we've learnt our lesson and now tend to visit for lunch - problem solved! Would I recommend this pub... Without a doubt YES! And when we've been away from home we've eaten in other Crown Carveries and had the same positive experience. So if you have one nearby then save yourself the blood, sweat and tears of slaving over a hot stove and take yourself out! Contact Details ~~~~~~~~~~ Cock & Crown Inn 570 Doncaster Road Crofton Wakefield WF4 1PP Tel: 01924 862344 http://www.crowncarveries.co.uk
Tea - the very essence of psychiatric nursing. You've heard the saying "behind every great man is a great woman" well behind every great psychiatric nurse is a great cup of tea! It's true, for general nurses the thermometer and stethoscope are tools of the trade, for mental health nurses it's a cuppa. We just couldn't perform without a mug of tea in our hand. So imagine my delight when one shift a colleague appeared with a different blend of tea for us all to try... Lady Grey! "It's wonderful, so delicate and refreshing" she cooed as we all scrambled over each other to try a new tea sensation... What is Lady Grey? ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Lady Grey is a blend unique to Twinings Aromatics range. It's a lighter alternative to the more widely available Earl Grey and promises a gentle, citrus flavour. It's infused with the flavour of orange, lemon and bergamot (a fragrant citrus fruit which is a variety of sour orange native to Asia) and promises a light and refreshing brew. The ingredients are: Tea (obviously!), orange peel (3%), lemon peel (3%), and flavouring. How's it packaged? ~~~~~~~~~~~~ It's packed in a small box containing 50 tea bags. It retails at £1.99 however the Twinings Aromatic range is currently on offer for £1 at Asda - bargain! The box is black with a small picture of oranges and a lemon in the centre. It looks very refined and is well suited to the Twinings brand. So what about the taste? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ On opening the box and having a sniff you're met with a delicious scent of delicate citrus aromas which certainly tantalised my tea taste buds. I couldn't wait to taste it and I wasn't disappointed. The flavour is very gentle and very subtle but has definite citrus undertones. It's not a strong taste and doesn't over stimulate the palette; instead it's subtle, fresh and revitalizing. It leaves a pleasant aftertaste and I find it very thirst-quenching. In fact on my fist sip I fell in love and Lady Grey has become my favourite blend of tea. However it's a blend of tea to be drunk when relaxing and having some chill-out time, when its delicate citrus aromas can be fully enjoyed and savoured. Therefore it's not best suited to the psychiatric nurse running around spilling it everywhere. For this reason I stick to plain old Tetley at work and I indulge myself in the wonderful blend of Lady Grey when I'm at home, feet up, and enjoying some "me" time. How do I make the perfect cup? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The box instructs to brew for 3-5 minutes. I personally brew for 2 minutes; I find any longer leaves a slightly bitter taste and detracts from the lightness of the blend. I also add a little drop of milk - I can't drink boiled water without milk, it makes me cringe! Others argue milk spoils the taste. The box also suggests adding a slice of citrus fruit. It's all personal taste and experimenting to find the perfect cup of Lady Grey to suit individual preference. So what's the verdict from the experts? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My nurse colleagues all agreed that Lady Grey is a lovely blend of tea. Someone even described it as "divine and heavenly". It's relaxing and soothing and wonderful for winding down after a hard day at work, hence it's not the mainstay of psychiatric nursing and will never replace plain black tea as the tool of the trade. But none the less, it's a damn good cuppa and gets our seal of approval! Now whose turn is it to put the kettle on...?
Whilst at work a fellow nurse decided to undertake a survey on the different eye-creams people used (I mean, what else would one do on a mental health unit???). My turn came and she asked: "What about you Claire, which brand do you use?" "I don't use eye cream" replied I. "Heck, I have enough to do at 5:30am without messing about with silly things like eye cream" My fellow nurse looked at me aghast! "But your nearly 30! How can you NOT use eye cream?" And so followed a conversation about fine lines, wrinkles, bags, dark circles etc etc all of which, I was informed, I would develop the second I turned 30! "Your face won't look after you if you don't look after it!" was the advice of my wise 30-something colleagues. I forgot about their words until browsing through a copy of the Avon Catalogue. I came across Avon's Anew Rejuvenate products which included a rather snazzy looking eye cream. Suddenly my colleagues warning echoed in my ears, I had a vision of myself waking up on my 30th, looking in the mirror and seeing the face of the elephant man staring back at me!!! I decided to act and splashed out on Avon Anew Rejuvenate 24 Hour Eye Moisturiser - prevention is better than cure as they say! What is Anew Rejuvenate? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Anew Rejuvenate range promises to gives you fresher, flawless, rejuvenated looking skin by using anti-ageing technology to help your skin look and feel your youthful best every day. The eye cream from this range is an innovative dual day and night eye treatment that fights ageing around the clock. The blurb made it sound fabulous and like the exact product I needed - apparently eyes look younger in just 24 hours! So how's it packaged? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The eye cream comes in a little blue plastic tub with a silver rimmed lid. It looks quite stylish and wouldn't look out of place next to products from the big names like Clinique or Elizabeth Arden. Unscrew the lid and you're presented with a rather funky styled ying-yang inner compartment. One side contains the white day cream and the other side contains the mint-green night cream. There are 10mls of each cream. And the cost? ~~~~~~~~ A rather expensive £15. This places it in a similar price band to eye creams from Clinique and L'Oreal. At this price it really does need to deliver on the blurb! So how about the actual creams? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Stick your nose in the pot and you'll notice the creams have an ever so light fragrance. It's sweet and rather pleasant but not overpowering. The day cream feels very smooth and soft and glides easily onto the eye area. It appears to absorb easily however I noticed when applying eye make-up over it that it causes creases and somehow clings to the upper skin surface rather than soaking in like I'd expect. The night cream is a little thicker and more gel-like but again glides on easy enough. Again there seems to be a slight tacky residue that lingers after application but it doesn't matter so much if all you do is go to bed afterwards. Applying the cream takes only seconds, it's just a case of gently dabbing it around the eye. You only need a small amount of each cream as a little does go along way (useful seen as there is only 10ml of each!). Does it deliver on the promises? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ In a word - No! I have used both creams daily, forming it into my daily cleansing/moisturising routine, for the last 5-6 weeks. I envisaged softer, brighter looking eyes with skin so radiant people would comment "Oh Claire - you've started using eye cream at last!" But no. I haven't noticed any change at all. Nothing. Nil. I can't even say the skin around my eyes feels softer - it doesn't. And it certainly doesn't appear rejuvenated. In all honesty there has been no benefit at all from this 24-hour eye moisturiser. Most disappointing, especially with the £15 price tag! One could theorise that as I'm not 30 yet, then the eye cream can't improve or rejuvenate my already youthful skin. Perhaps if I use it when I'm over 30 it really will perform the miracles it promises on the box. However I strongly doubt it and won't be buying this product again. Not even when I wake up looking like the elephant man! My search for the perfect eye cream will need to continue...
In February of this year the boyf and I set off on our much anticipated four week tour of New Zealand's North & South Islands in a motor home. A truly wonderful and very authentic experience, however after three weeks of feeling every bump in the road and sleeping on a hardboard pull out sofa/bed my posterior was in need of a rest and some home comforts. And this is what the Villa Del Lago apartments provided in abundance!!! After a 4.5 hour and somewhat perilous drive from Franz Josef we arrived in Queenstown late afternoon. We were driving along the main road into the centre when the Sat Nav woman informed us "In 500m turn left and you have reached your destination". Been the obedient type the boyf did as he was told. "You've gone wrong" I declared looking in horror at the tighter than tight and steeper than steep driveway he was supposed to manoeuvre our 4-berth monster motor home down. "No I haven't" replied the boyf pointing triumphantly at the Villa Del Lago sign swinging in the breeze. The apartments are situated on the hillside overlooking Lake Wakatipu and consequently are built on a steep incline which obviously wasn't meant for parking oversized motor homes. However with careful progression, numerous 100-point manoeuvres and me constantly shouting "Stop! Watch the bush/wall/person" the boyf managed to park. Relieved to be in one piece we jumped out of the home and were greeted by Clare, the apartment owner, who was clearly amused at our parking attempts "we don't often get motor homes staying here", she chuckled. Clare was incredibly friendly and welcoming and after the completion of some minor paperwork she showed us to our 1-bedroom apartment which would be home for the next 2-nights. After demonstrating how everything worked and ensuring we were happy Clare left us to settle in. I was speechless! The apartments are advertised as 5-star and they certainly did not disappoint. Everything about them oozes luxury and style. We walked through the patio doors into a spacious open-plan kitchen and lounge. Everything is ultra-modern, super clean and has the "wow" factor. The kitchen has all the appliances you'd expect including fridge, freezer, oven, microwave, dishwasher etc etc. The lounge has a 32" LCD TV complete with Sky, CD& stereo system, a cosy gas log fire (for autumn & winter) and most importantly of all for my weary posterior, a very, very comfy sofa to relax on. Wi-fi internet is available, although this costs extra. The bedroom is separate and just as luxurious, modern décor, a large comfortable double bed, lots and lots of wardrobe and drawer space, and patio doors overlooking the Lake and Remarkables Mountain range. The view is just breathtaking and waking up the next morning and watching the sun rise I really did think I'd gone to heaven. For me, it was paradise. The bathroom continues on the theme of luxery, spotlessly clean and shining with a walk-in shower. Towels and toiletries are provided. There is also a separate laundry complete with washer, dryer and ironing board. Ideal for those staying for longer periods or for those coming from 3-weeks of motor home living and whose clothes have turned somewhat stale and smelly (aka moi!). Each apartment has its own patio complete with table and chairs. Perfect for sharing a bottle of fine New Zealand wine and admiring the intimate views of the water and mountains. The apartment felt private and we weren't overlooked by any of the other guests. The apartments are located just on the edge of Queenstown, and it's possible to walk into the centre (approx. 1 mile). To walk along the main road is about 20 minutes. However I highly recommended following the path at the back of the apartment which leads down to the Lakeside. It's about a 40 minute gentle stroll into town this way, but it's an incredibly scenic walk along the tree-lined waters edge. Take your time, enjoy the tranquillity and admire the mountains - there are very few scenes as beautiful or as awe inspiring. It's possible to swim, fish or kayak on the Lake and if we'd been there for longer we certainly would have tried such activities. It's possible to book Queenstown Adventure activities (e.g. sky diving, jet boating, wine tours etc) through Villa Del Lago and Clare is happy to make recommendations and share stories of things her and her husband have done. This saves time and effort of having to book things yourself and it's at no extra cost! And so our 2-nights of luxury living sadly came to an end. However the boyf and I felt well rested, well stretched, and well comforted and so were psyched to jump back in our motor home and enjoy our last 5 days of touring. In a strange way I'd missed been on the road although my posterior disagreed and I had to drag it from the comfort of a real bed! Negotiating getting out of Villa Del Lago drive was no less perilous than trying to get in and I felt a sense of relief to be safely on the main road in one piece as I sadly waved good bye to paradise (sniff sniff). One, two, and three bedroom apartments are available at Villa Del Lago and prices start around £80 a night for the 1 bedroom apartment. Ours was pre-booked as part of a package so I can't say what the cost was. However the next time I visit New Zealand I will definitely be staying at the Villa Del Lago again, hopefully for longer so I can really enjoy living in luxury. The contact details are: 249 Frankton Road, Queenstown, New Zealand, Freephone 0800 84 55 23 ( NZ Only ), Telephone 64 3 442 5727 The website is: http://www.villadellago.co.nz and I recommend visiting it if only to look at the photos of the spectacular views and scenery on offer. Oh and just to say a HUGE thank you to the clever person at Freedom Australia who we booked the tour with. It was a genius idea to allow us 2-nights of luxury to rejuvenate our tired and weary bodies and for that I'll be nominating you for a Nobel Prize, because it certainly helped keep the peace between my posterior and I ;o)
SO WHAT IS THIS PLACE THEY CALL XSCAPE? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Xscape, Castleford describes itself as "the ultimate entertainment destination" a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with. It is the only place I can think of where one can eat, drink, watch a movie, bowl, ski/snowboard, shop, rock climb, skate, or exercise under one roof! Xscape really does capture the true meaning of the saying "something for all the family". Xscape Castelford is located just off Junction 32 of the M62 and with over 1,400 FREE parking spaces finding somewhere to leave the car is never a problem. For those who don't drive it is accessible by both bus and train from nearby cities, including Leeds and Wakefield. It's impossible to miss, especially at night when a great laser beam type light emanates from its rooftop! Xscape is my venue of choice whenever I'm arranging a social gathering with friends, particularly in winter when it's cold and wet outside and I don't want to be walking from restaurant to pub to cinema to pub! There's a food venue to suit everyone including Nando's, Chiquito's, Ask, Pizza Express, Bella Italia & a Chinese buffet restaurant. There are also plenty of bars to choose from, including a Llyods and for those who want a non-alcoholic beverage Starbucks do a wicked coffee! BUT WILL I BE ENTERTAINED? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ In terms of entertainment there is a HUGE Cineworld on the upper level. Just head up the escalator as you walk in the entrance. Also up there is Laserzone for those who like laser adventure and a games arcade complete with dodgems! If you bear right as you enter Xscape you'll find the bowling alley, which has a generous 20 computerised lanes, pool tables and offers a DJ & Dance Floor for Friday and Saturday nights! Be warned though, after 6pm Mon-Fri and on weekends the bowling section is always busy and there's a wait for lanes. I WANT SOMETHING MORE HEART STOPPING! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For those who prefer slightly more adventurous activity then I suggest the Sno! Zone - complete with a 170m long snow slope offering skiing, snow boarding and even tobogganing at certain times. There is also a learning slope so novices can practice their skills before been allowed to progress to the main slope. Lessons are available as is hire of equipment and clothing. Prices vary according to activity and time on the slope but you get a bet deal if you go before 5pm Mon-Fri. For those feeling less adventurous I highly recommend the Sno! Bar which offers panoramic views of the snow slope. I like nothing better than sitting back; sipping a cocktail (or 6) and watching the more energetic people ride up and down the slopes. Add a bowl of fries to the equation and it's a very pleasant way to pass the time! Ice skating is also available and can be found near the entrance to Sno! Zone. It costs £6 for adults and £4 for children for a 30 minute session. For those who prefer to skate on dry ground Xscape also houses a skate park and again equipment is available to hire. One thing you won't miss when you enter Xscape is the rock climbing walls that towers above you as you walk through the doors. Above the climbing walls and 15m high up is the Sky Ride aerial assault course. I haven't dared venture on either of these as I tend to get an adrenaline rush just by looking up and watching everyone else up there. Both the wall and assault course cost around £8 per person. Shops are available within Xscape however these tend to be focused on action adventure/surf style outlets and sell clothing and equipment that suit the activities Xscape offers. Cash machines are also available, one near the entrance as you enter and another near to Sno! Zone. OVERALL ~~~~~~ Overall Xscape is a great place for a fun filled day and night out. I'm lucky enough to live close by but even for those who don't it's worth a visit with something to suit everyone's tastes. And there's a hotel over the road for those wanting to make it a real break of it as well as a discount designer outlet next door! The address for this complex is: Xscape Castleford, Colorado way, Glasshoughton, Castleford, WF10 4TA. For more information and to see pictures of all the action the website is excellent quality: http://www.xscape.co.uk/snow/castleford