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The 'Sensations' range of crisps are made by Walkers. Famously launched by the Gary Linekar and Victoria Beckham advert back in 2002 these crisps have gained a reputaion as 'posh' crisps (hence V.Beckham) and this 'poshness' is certainly reflected in the packaging which gives the crisps an 'up market' and attractive appeal. I brought my Roast Chicken and Thyme 'Sensations' packet (160g) from Somerfield for £1.65 on a 'buy one get one free' deal.
Sensations first appeared in 2002 and at that time they were packaged in white bags now you will find find them in a glossy black bag with their trademark 'artistic' S across the front. The sensations 'S' is decorated with the various ingredients of the bags flavour. On mine there were pieces of sliced chicken, wedges of lemons and a few springs of thyme.
~Taste and Aroma~
When opening the bag you are greeted by a lovely aroma of roast chicken (funny that), I'm not sure it smells exactly like roast chicken....well not the ones we have, but it's pretty good. Made with 100% English potatoes (Lady Rosetta & Saturna) the 'Sensations' crisps are quite thickly cut and have a discernable crunch and are less oily than walkers normal roast chicken crisps. I could taste the roast chicken and some light thyme flavouring together with the clean after taste of lemon, in all the balance of flavours was very good.
Per 35g serving will give you :
~Fat & Salt content~
The fat content of 9.1 per 35g is 13 % of the recommended daily amount (RDA). Walkers normal 'Roast Chicken' flavour crisps are only a little lower (8.1per 35g). If you eat an whole packet of Roast Chicken and Thyme' you will consume around 776 calories, 36% of the RDA for fat and getting on towards 40% of the RDA for salt. Walkers have apparently reduced the salt content of their crisps by 70%, and now they use sunseed oil which is apparently alot more healthier than sunflower Oil.
If you are given to temptation you can get smaller bags of these crisps although I've only seen the 'Thai Chilli' flavour for sale in my town supermarket. I personally couldn't eat that many, certainly not the whole bag, they are far too savoury for me and besides 'Chicken' breath is not an attractive thing to have.
'Sensations' pride themselves on using real ingredients in their crisps so as well as finding thyme and lemon you will also find real 'dried' chicken, as with most products these days they claim no artifical sweeteners, flavours, preservatives or colours.
These crisps do live up to the posh label, they were very savoury and I know from previous experience that they go down well at parties. Personally, I wouldn't describe them as an everyday crisps think I'd prefer Walkers normal chicken crisps on that basis. It's worth noting that you can buy smaller bags although so far I've only seen the Thai Chilli in my local supermarket.
If you don't fancy the Roast Chicken and Thyme flavour there are a number of other flavours including : Thai Sweet Chilli, Vintage Cheddar and Onion chutney, Southern Style Barbecue, Peking Spare Ribs, Oriental Red Curry, Lime and Corriander chutney, Balsamic Vinegar and Carmelised Onion, Buffalo Mozzarella and Herbs.
Tetley Redbus Tea
I was introduced to Redbush Tea (also known as Rooibos tea) about 5 years ago. I usually buy it from the local health shop but the last few times, more out of convenience I've brought it from Tesco. They can be expensive to buy I tend to go for the 40 bag's mine cost £1.69, you can also buy a 80 bag box for £3.19.
Redbus tea produces a distinctive red tea which is naturally caffine free and contains no tannins (like normal tea). The Rooibos tea plants grow in the cedarberg region of the western, South Africa.
The tea comes in a watercolour effect 'flame' red box, this is very apt because the redbush tea bushes grow in an area of South Africa where the temperture often reach 48 degrees in the summer. The box has the words 'Redbush' in large white lettering on the side of the box which helps to locate it on the tea section of the supermarket. The tea bags are the round type and have a slight scent to them giving the tea a distinctive aroma.
The tea bag with benefits
The three main benefits of drinking Redbus tea are :
* it's naturally caffine free
* it's rich in antioxidiants
* its hydrating
These are also promoted on the tetley redbush tea box.
Making a cuppa
I've found it to be a very refreshing drink especially this week when it's been quite hot. I do drink quite alot of the stuff and will often use a teabag twice. To make the most of the antioxidiants it's best to leave the tea bag to infuse for around 3-5 minutes. Some people drink it with milk and, or sugar, but i prefer it neat
As mentioned at the beginning I usually buy my rooibos tea from the local health shop from tea suppliers how have proven good work ethic's. Tetley claim on the pack to be involved with Rooibos Ltd who work to help the local economy and inhabitants of the Redbus producing regions. They are also members of the Ethical Tea Paternership. More details can be found on www.rooibos.ltd.za and www.ethicalteapaternership.org
I love redbush tea, I find it really refreshing and drink quite a few cups of it a day. I have to say that taste wise I prefer the 'rooibos' tea that I buy from the health shop but for convenience purposes I will buy tetley. I gave my mum some to try the other day and she just pulled a face and said "yuk", perphaps it's not everyone's cup of tea but there's no denying it's health benefits. Definitely worth trying
Colgate Oxygen Toothpaste
Colgate 'Oxygen' toothpaste is produced by Colgate-Palmolive. It was the Colgate company that first produced the 'toothpaste in a tube' (1896), previous to that it was kept in glass jars, no doubt next to their false teeth lol.
A light blue box over laid with red at one end with the Colgate logo in white and the a picture of bubbles on the other end of the box which further empahsies the 'Oxygen' concept. I brought the 100ml tube for £2.00 at superdrug. To be honest with you I'm not usually that fussy when buying toothpaste,when confronted with racks and racks of the stuff I usually go for the reduced or special offers.
On the box Cogate claims that this toothpaste provides :
1) Pure freshness
2) Long lasting fresh breath
3) Care and protection for your teeth and gums.
But it's biggest claim is that it 'gently lift away' plaque and impurities by the oxygen in the toothpaste.
The toothpaste has a 'flip lid' and the gel has quite a pleasant minty taste, well i quite like it, Within the toothpaste gel there are little 'specs' of which I assume must be (or represent) the'oxygen'. The toothpaste does froth up quite abit giving you that 'I've got rabies' sort of look.
Where's the Oxygen gone ?
I remember years ago my chemistry teacher at school telling us that we'd be better off cleaning our teeth with mud than toothpaste, I've always thought that was a odd thing to say untill I recently found out what goes into toothpaste. My dentist tells me It's the 'abrasives' in the gel (ie silica) which give toothpaste its cleaning power, they remove stains and plaque, as well as polish teeth but must not be too abrasive enough to damage tooth enamel.
For many years there has been concern about how some toothpastes were far too 'abrasive', they were infact bad for your teeth so Colgate's claim of removing plague by the use of oxygen sounds quite good until you realise that the only chemical in the toothpaste that produces oxygen is 'Calcium peroxide' and this chemical is present in almost all toothpastes. Like most other toothpastes Colgate Oxygen contains abrasives and it's these abrasives that helps to get rid of plaque and stains. I'm personally inclined to believe that there aren't bubbles' of oxygen' in this toothpaste (and if there are, they don't work) instead It's simply a marketing ploy.
Ingredients: Glycerin, Hydrated Silica, Propylene Glycol, Aqua, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Aroma, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Monofluorophosphate (10000ppmF), Cellulose Gum, Sodium Saccharin, Sodium Hydroxide, Carrageenan, Calcium Peroxide, Polyethylene, Limonene, Cl 42090, Cl 74160
I think the 'oxygen' statement is more a marketing ploy and although it's true that Calcium Peroxide produces oxygen, this is present in a number of toothpastes and not unique to Colgate Oxygen, in light of this I do find it a bit little misleading,.........taste nice though :-)
For some stunningly interesting toothpaste related facts take a look at www.toothpasteworld.com (i have no friends.com lol)
I've tried a number of 'low' fat cheese over the last year partly because my Dad's diabetic and every week they've been trying different reduced fat cheese's in the hope that one day they will find one that isn't 'rubbery' and 'grills' well. Although I was somewhat sceptical when I first tried this cheese this scepticism quickly turned to amazement ...it tastes just like their normal mature cheese. However, as expected it is alot more expensive than the standard mature cheese. If you shop around you can occasionally pick it up at a reduced price, we brought a 400g block for £3.95 at morrisons
Cathedral cheese is made by Dairy Crest in the westcountry (just down the road from where I live, apparently) Like the rest of their cheese the 'lighter' cheese comes in a helpful re-sealable packet. It comes in 200g and 400g size and if you prefer you can also buy it 'pre-grated' and 'sliced'
As most people know cheese is a good source of protein, I'm not sure why but the 'lighter' mature cheese contains 28.6g of protein per 100g compared to 25.4g in the 'normal' mature of the same amount. So in what you lose in fat content you gain in protein !?
Less Saturated Fat, less Calories
Cathedral states that this cheese contains 30% less fat. Per 100g the lighter cheese contains 21.8g of fat with 14.9g of this being saturated fat (the nasty stuff) The 'normal' mature cheese contains 34.9g of fat with 21.7 of this is saturated fat which is quite a difference. The 'lighter' will have 311 calories compared to 416 for the 'normal mature cheese.
Cheese is also a good source of calcium and therefore for your teeth, in 30g (size of a match box) of 'lighter' cheese you will find 288mg of it, which works out about 36% RDA. However if you do eat 100g you will comsume 120% of the RDA. Not sure what an overdose of calcium will do to you :-)
So, taking the above in consideration, together with the taste I would certainly recommend it to anyone who likes cheese but wants a 'low' fat verson. To find out more see www.trycathedrallighter.co.uk
Garners 'Original' Pickled Onions
I've got a friend who likes pickled eggs (yuk) and I've got another one who likes Gherkin's (with his fish and chips). I'm not too fond of either but I do like the occasional pickled onion.
In an effort to save money I recently tried a jar of 'supermarket own brand' pickled onions and have to say I wasn't that impressed. I don't eat that many pickled onions but when I do I don't want 'crunchless', soggy, tasteless onions the size of golf balls soaked in overpowering vinegar. Garner's is thankfully a different experience their onions are brusting with flavour, have a crunch and the malt vinegar is not too overpowering.
I brought the 454g (230g) Garner's jar from Sainbury for £1.95. In addition to the 'Original' onions Garner's also produce : Sweet pickled onions, Silverskin onions and Pickled Shallots. The 'original' pickled onion bottle has a white label with 'Garner's in raised italics, this looks great against the colour of the barley vinegar and gives it that 'quality' look and traditional appeal.....unlike the supermarket 'brand own' Iwhich has the most unappealing apperance, the jars of which look like those 'aquaruims'( where the Gherkin lives) at the local fish n chip shop.
Unlike the 'brand own' pickled onions which i tried Garner's onions have a discernable 'crunch', are smaller in size and sweeter in taste. The barley malt vinger and spices are balanced perfectly, the onions are so succulent that you can feel the onions layers almost unroll in your mouth, the combination of sweetness of the onion, bitterness of the vingar combined with the spices is sublime. It's just a more pleasant experience than the cheapo vesion. It's truely a reflection of that adage 'you get what you pay for', Garner's aren't the cheapest but they are tasty.
In addition to Garner's I also love onion flavoured monster munch, when I was younger i'd conbine these two 'loves' by playing table foot ball using monster munch feet and a 'small' pickled onion as a football, unfortunately the feet use to disintegrate and someone would inevitably end up eating the pickle :-)
In conclusion... if you want tasty pickled onions pay the extra and buy these.
Gaymers have been making cider since 1770 and is one of the largest cider makers in the world (apparently). Although the Gaymers were producing cider in 1770 it wasn't until William Gaymer (1842-1936) came along that Gaymers entered into full scale commercial cider production. Gaymers are now based at Shepton Mallet, Somerset where they have been making Cider for the last 100 years. Gaymers produce a number of Ciders, such as Gaymers Olde English Cyder, Blackthorn Cider, Diamond White, White Star to name a few.
I was having a refreshing pint of 'Thatchers' Cider (also made in Somerset) over the weekend and a friend of mine was drinking Gaymers pear Cider. Whilst out shopping the other day I saw this bottle of Gaymers (£1.69 from Tesco) and thought I would give it a go. I use to think that 'Pear Cider' was one of those noviety drinks but it has infact been around quite a long time, 'perry' is the best example of this.
Gaymers Pear Cider is made from English pears and is advertised as a 4.5% 'medium pear cider', being 'Cold Filtered' and having a smooth and refreshing taste.
Cold Filtered : It's quite common to see this on beers and Ciders these days, basically cold filtering reduces the brewing process thus making a drink alot more marketable the downside some would say is that it reduces flavour and body, it certainly produces a clearer drink which i guess makes it more appealing to a wider group of customers, without the 'traditional' cloudy bits.
The Bottle :Mine came in an attractive green bottle (568ml) with a green label edged with a gold colour band. It also has a gold label around the bottle neck with 'Cold Filtered' written on it. On the back there's a little green label which reminds us that it's equivalent to 2.6 units and just above that is a little picture of a pregnant woman drinking with a red cross through it ? Like many drinks it contains 'Sulphites'. Sulphites are essentially used as a food preservative and used in this instance to prevent oxidation of the liquid.
The taste : It's quite a subtle taste and I found the slightly sparking attitude greatly reduced the burp factor (or maybe that's just me!). Like many of the 'trendy' ciders, Gaymers recommend that you serve it with Ice, personally I find this detracts from the subtle flavour. Personally I'd prefer a pint of Thatchers Cider, but I have to say that I found Gaymers Pear Cider to be a pleasant, refreshing drink and I imagine it would be an ideal accompaniment with a light meal.
The Conclusion : It's a nice drink to have with a meal as it's light and not too over powering. If I was going to buy a 'Pear' cider I would more than likely buy a kopparberg, the Kopparberg suits by taste buds better but, depending on taste you might prefer this one.
Marmite - the spread the you either love or hate have now made a squeezable jar version and some of those who love Marmite hate it (where will it end). I'm one of those who love Marmite and although I usually buy the traditional glass jar version I decided to try to try the plastic squeezable type. Everyone seems to be doing squeezy versions at the moment ie, tomato ketchup, salad cream. I've got quite a few of them in my food cupboard, my parents came around the other day and my dad asked "why are all your bottles upside down"? ha....
I've always known that Marmite was 'Yeast extract' but didn't know that it was made from brewers yeast the stuff which has been used to ferment sugars in alcohol. All Marmite lovers have the German scientist 'Liebig' to thank, it was he who discovered that the brewer's yeast cells could be concentrated, bottled and eaten. In 1902 the Marmite Food Company was set up in Burton on Trent and Marmite started rolling off the selves (or rather sludging off the selves). Marmite originally came in a small earthenware pot, similar to the kind of French casserole dish called a 'Marmite' it's believed this is where
Marmite gets its name from.
The 'Squeezable' Marmite
If you don't know, Marmite can be identified from it's yellow lid and black bulb shaped body and distinctive label of which the squeezable keeps, whereas the glass jar has a screw lid the plastic version has a snap open lid and of course is upside down.
Marmite advertising states: "Marmite Squeeze Me is here! The end of having to destroy your bread when spreading the lovely thick goo. The end of travelling without your little tub of yummy goodness. For now there is a new jar in town. It squeezes, it drizzles, it doesn't make a mess and if you hold it close, you may even hear it whisper I Love". (see - www.marmite.com)
As mentioned above some people don't like this move, some regard it nothing short of sacrilegious. Here's a some of the stated pro's and con's.
When using the old style glass jars bread crumbs from the knife use to end up in the Marmite, with this squeezable version that no longer happens. Gone are the days of having strings of Marmite from the jar to the knife. The Squeezy has a built in 'Silicon' value which stops drips and the container is lighter meaning it's easy to take when you travel. (It's also very good for writing on bread :-)
The Marmite company states it contains the same ingredients, which are : Yeast Extract , Sodium Chloride (salt), Vegetable Extract, Niacin (vit B3), Thiamin (vit B1),Spice Extracts ,Riboflavin (vit B2),Folic Acid, Vit B12. It's 100% vegetarian and contains virtually no fat or sugar.
In order to make the Marmite 'flow' better they've made the Marmite thinner. Some people have complained that it's lost some of it's taste because of this. There has previously been concerns over the Marmite salt levels and some schools have banned the spread because of this. In a serving of 2g there is 0.22g of salt with the adult daily intake being 6g you would need to munch through quite a lot of the stuff on toast and then there's the fact that there's more salt in the bread and butter. Anyway.....in response Unilever have a salt reduction programme in place and maybe thats effected the taste. Finally, It's also more expensive than old glass jar version (see below)
~My personally opinion~
Taste : It still has that meaty salty taste although I have to admit that it does taste to me a bit weaker. I do like a good dollop of Marmite on my toast and my first comment of the squeezable version is the very small amounts it 'squirts' out, perfect if you want to write your name on toast but a bit of a pain if you are a greedy Marmite monster like me. I've always found that there's something quite satisfying about scraping around the old style glass bottles for that last bit of the Marmite. However, the squeezable does seem to be less messy, quick to use and idea if you want to take it on holiday...of course you still need to use a knife to spread it but unlike the old jar you won't get bread crumbs in the Marmite
I brought mine for £2.41 (200g) at Tesco compare that to the £2.47 glass jar (250g) and it does come out more expensive.
Conclusion : True to the Marmite tradition, you'll either love it or hate it
Buckfast Abbey is located in 'Buckfast' South Devon. It's the home to a group of Benedictine monks who are probably best known for making tonic wine and honey. Buckfast is right on the edge of Buckfastleigh which is one of the 'gateways' to Dartmoor and the Abbey sits amidst picturesque scenery on the banks of the river Dart. I've been both a visitor and an employee ( Retail worker, not a monk :-) of Buckfast Abbey. It will cost you nothing to park and wander the grounds (which is a quite rare these days!) and makes for an idea stop before or after making a trip onto Dartmoor or one of the other local attractions. There's not much for Kids to do here, (spot the monk?). The Abbey does have an educational section from which you can (if interested) learn about the Bee's, Wine making etc , you can find information about all these things on the Buckfast Abbey website, you might need to organise these in advance.
The first Abbey was built here in 1018 (built of wood) and founded by Benedictine monks. In 1147 it was rebuilt in stone and became a Cistercian abbey. In 1539 King henry started a campaign to bring about the dissolution of all monasteries within England and subsequently for 343 years the abbey was left to fall apart until even the foundations became buried. In 1882 Benedictine monks returned from France and acquired the land In 1905 they started building the Abbey / Church on the old Cistercian abbey foundations.
The Abbey as it stands now is a 20th century construction which was started in 1902 and built over a 32 year period. Understandably some people are surprised by this and may feel a bit let down by the fact that this isn't a medieval structure. The present Abbey and Church was built (re-built) by the monks themselves (hence the 32 years!). There are some amazing photo's of the monks working at great heights on the Abbey wearing their habits with no hard hats or security ropes. (wonder if they wear pants :-) To my knowledge only one person fell during it's construction and he landed in a pile of sand.
*The Abbey Church
As already mentioned it's free to enter the grounds of the Abbey, there's no parking charge and the Abbey church is also free to enter. Towards the back of the Church you will find the 'Blessed Sacrament Chapel' in which you will find a very large (contemporary) 'modern' stain glass window, it's not everyone's cup of tea but again it's a testament to the skills and workmanship of the monks. Midday Prayer in the Church begins at 1pm (lasts 10mins) and at 12.05 each day Mass is taken in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. although still open to the public during this time it is requested that people be as quiet as possible, or else you will have to answer to the 'Monk Police' (na, only joking !)
Church opening times : 9am (Fridays 10am) to 6pm, Sundays Noon to 6pm.
There are a number of small gardens next to the Church, The 'Lavender' garden has 150 varies of the species, the Physic garden has been planted with many of the herbs you would find in the middle ages whilst the 'Sensory' garden combines plants with water features.
Audio Visual Information Hut
If you are visiting buck fast Abbey for the first time it is helpful to have some knowledge of the Abbey's history and I would suggest visiting the 'audio visual' hut next to the gift shop which will explain the not so simple history of the place. The presentation lasts about 20 minutes and provides an overview of the history of the Abbey and it's involvements, ie honey making / production of tonic wine, it also explains the monks lifestyles. The Audio Visual Information Hut is the first building on your right as you enter the car park.
The Shops : There are 3 shops, the gift shop, monastic shop and bookshop.
~The Gift Shop~
The gift shop is the next building along from the Audio Visual hut and is managed by a man who wears bright colored shirts. This is the shop I worked in, from here you can buy the infamous buckfast tonic wine and 'Buckfast Honey' (when in season). You will sometimes also find one of the monks working in the shop, although not usually in a habit. In this shop you can buy a range of items from 'buck fast Abbey' key rings to interesting items that are made by local crafts people. It's also a good place to buy local guide books and if you are thinking of going onto the moors you can buy OS maps from the shop.
Buckfast is famous for it's Tonic wine of which use to have quite a following in certain parts of Scotland, Rab C Nesbitt in the comedy of the same name frequently referred to it and one episode features his pilgrimage to Buckfast, which I personally found hilarious. The Tonic wine is made from a base wine which comes from France and the monks add various herbs to make the tonic. I've heard that some Scots who drink this will often never finish a bottle because they believe the last 'dregs' contain Monks toes nails. It's marketed as having medicinal properties, It is quite strong and an acquired taste, you either love it or hate it, I'm not that fond of it myself. Should you prefer you can also buy other locally produced wine, cider and fruit juice here.
You can buy buckfast honey from here (when in season) the yield of honey depends a lot on the weather. Whilst working here I met people who would travel great distances to buy the stuff only to find that it been a bad year and that there was no honey. They would get rather annoyed at this, unfortunately there's not alot you can do about that. I would suggest that anyone going to buckfast Abbey specially to buy the honey to check on it's availability before going. Even when there is honey it does sell out rather quickly, you can however order it by post and you would need to contact the shop (via main switch board)
Shop opening Times : weekdays 9am till 5.30, (5pm during winter). Sunday Noon - 5pm
~The Monastic Shop~
To the left from the car park there is a path which takes you to the monastic shop. It contains a wide selection of produce from various monasteries, including Europe. I use to love this shop, it's full of wines and beers that you normally find anywhere else. Some of these beers are quite strong. When working in the gift shop I would often wheel deliveries up to the monastic shop and one of the monks would thank me by giving me a bottle of monastic beer. There is also an on-line shop which can be accessed from the main Abbey web page.
Opening Times : weekdays 9am till 5.00, Sunday Noon - 5pm
The bookshop faces the Abbey and about 2 minutes walk from the gift shop. It sells posters, books, cards, music, Dvd's, gifts, jewelery and like the Monastic shop has an on-line shop which can again be accessed via the main Buckfast Abbey website.
Opening Times : 9am to 5.30pm (winter close 5pm), Sundays Noon to 5pm.
The Grange Restaurant
The Grange restaurant is the on-Site café/restaurant, it is a Licensed tea rooms, serving lunches, teas and light refreshments. The restaurant is well equipped for children's menu's and much more substantial fare, including cream teas. I've eaten here quite few times and I've always enjoyed it.
Opening times : weekdays 10am-4.30, Sunday 10am-4.30 (4pm winter)
~Car Parking and further Information~
Car parking is free and has spaces for approximately two hundred and fifty cars and eighteen coaches, which provides ample space throughout the year. Toilets are available, just off from the car park. Further toilets are available at the back of the 'grange Restaurant', failing that there's toilets inside the Grange restaurant itself and the Education centre. There is comprehensive information on all aspects of Buckfast Abbey on the Buckfast Abbey website I would recommend that in order to get the most out of your visit to read up on things before you get here. Detailed PDF files on all aspects of Buckfast Abbey are available to download from the main Abbey website. Website : www.buckfast.org.uk
Mediwest provide first Aid cover during opening times, the first Aid room is next to the Chapel. All shops contain First Aid kits.
All areas are accessible to disabled visitors there are also facilities for hearing impaired visitors and those with visual impaired visitors ( raised signs and braille map). There are a limited number of wheelchairs available on a first come first serve basis. Guide dogs are permitted and there are parking areas for disabled visitors (note that the disabled parking spaces in the car park are about 500 meters from the Church). There are also a limited number of Disabled parking spaces right next to the Church. There is level access to shops and grounds and no steps to negotiate. Toilets for disabled visitors can be found next to the car park, in the Grange restaurant, or next to the lavender gardens.
Getting to Buckfast
Buckfast Abbey is about half a mile from A38 at A384 Buckfastleigh turn off. The A38 itself runs between Exeter and Plymouth and the Buckfastleigh is about half way between those two Cities. Nearest Station : Totnes or Newton Abbot, about 20 minutes from either of these stations by bus to the Abbey. You will find further details at www.stagecoachbus.com
Buckfast Abbey Contact Information
Main switch board - tel : 01364 64550
Abbey website : www.buckfast.org.uk
~Other attractions in the area~
As mentioned at the beginning, Buckfast Abbey is a good place to rest before or after visiting the moors or one of the other local attractions. These are the most popular :
Butterfly farm & Otter sanctuary - www.ottersandbutterflies.co.uk
Pennywell farm and Wildlife centre - www.pennywellfarm.co.uk
The South Devon Railway Trust (Steam) - www.southdevonrailways.org
Dartmoor National Park Authority - www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk
*For more Information on these try the www.buckfastleigh.gov.uk website*
In conclusion then. Buckfast Abbey is free to visit, it cost nothing to park and enter the grounds, costs nothing to visit the Church and is a great place to relax before or after a trip on the moors or one of the other local attractions.
Roses Lime cordial was my first introduction to the 'Roses' brand back when I was a kid. It wasn't until many years later that I encountered Roses marmalade whilst sharing a house with friends. After 'borrowing' some I became an avid user of Lemon and Lime marmalade and brought a jar myself (although my rugby playing mates thought I was a pansy for doing so).
Roses Marmalde comes in an attractive, traditional looking jar (mine was 454g) is made from only citrus fruit and has that home made look about it with pictures of cut lemons and limes on the label. The marmalade itself has a distintive and attractive green colour to it with little chunks of Lemon and Limes enbedded within the marmalades jelly like consistency, it's the ideal accompaniment with toast and if you prefer a different citrus flavour Roses also make : Seville orange, Grapefruit, Lime, Lemon in addition to the Lemon and Lime mention here.
**The Story of 'Roses' marmalade**
Roses marmalade is named after Lachlan Rose who first imported lime juice from the West Indies in the 1860s and found a way of preserving it without alcohol. Despite the lack of alcohol it was very popular with sailors at that time because it helped to stop scurvy (Through doing this he effectively invented the worlds first concentrated fruit drink). One of the few things that Humans and other primates have in common with Guinea pigs is that they cannot manufacture their own vitamin C (so I've been told!), it's this absence of Vitamin C that resulted in Scurvy.
It was the Scottish naval physician James Lind (1716-1794) who first established the importance of vitamin C and it's relation to the dreaded 'Scurvy', concluding that "the result of all my experiments was that oranges and lemons were the most effectual remedies for this distemper at sea." As a result of his work, from 1795 it became compulsory for sailors to drink a daily ration of lime juice (hence the origins of the term 'limeys' as used by Americans to describe the British). Roses still make lime cordial, I use to drink gallons of the stuff when I was a child (hence my green skin ). Marmalade was added to the Roses brand a short time later than the lime juice in 1865
Ingredients: Glucose-Fructose Syrup - Lemons 10% - Limes 10% - Sugar - Gelling Agent, Pectin - Citrus Acid - Acidity Regulator - Sodium Citrate's - Copper Complexes of Chlorophyllins, Lutein.
(It's recommend to refrigerate after opening this product and to consume within 6 weeks)
This marmalade is often marketed as a marmalade for connoisseurs, I don't confess to be such a person, I just love the zesty, fruity, fresh taste of Lemon and limes. It's not going to be everyone's taste but If you fancy trying some you can buy them at morrisons or at somerfield. I brought mine for £1.85 454g jar from Somerfield. p.s Lidl's do occaionally have them on offer ie: two jar for £1.85.
The Epson Picture Mate (Mobile Phone Edition) is a small compact 10 x 15cm photo printer which is about the size of a loaf of bread (256mm (W),146mm (D),147mm (H), 2.5kg (5.5lb) in weight. Although this model has been largely superseded by other Picture Mate models it still represents a good buy, I brought mine last year on ebay for £20 and have been more than satisfied with it.
Small photo printers offer the convenience of being able to print your own photos within your own home removing the necessity to visit a photo lab or photo kiosk. If you can buy the print cartridge and photo paper cheaply enough they can also be competitive against such stores. The Epson Picture Mate can be operated as a stand alone printer removing the need for a computer, or If you prefer you can connect the Picture Mate to your computer via the USB (compatible with Windows and Mac).
I considered a number of photo printers before choosing this one, It was the quality of photo prints, cost and reliability which made me choose the Epson. The Picture Mate is easy to use, provides high quality photos and is ideal for those with little or no computer experience or people who want a quick and simple solution to printing out their digital photos. With its optional Blue tooth module the Picture Mate is also able to print from compatible camera-enabled phones. Epson state that this little printer can provide professional photo lab quality 10x15cm photos that are affordable and durable (100 years on the right photo paper). Here's my experience of using the Picture Mate :
**In the box**
* Picture Mate Personal Photo Lab
* Power Cord
* Picture Mate Photo Cartridge (T557) : Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Red and Blue.
* Picture Mate Photo Paper - 20 Sheets
* User's Guide Kit: CD-ROM (Apple MacOS 8.6 or later, Apple MacOS X 10.1.3, Microsoft Windows 98/ME/2000/XP) and User's Manuals
The only let down is the fact that no USB cable is included. My digital camera came complete with a USB lead so that fact hasn't bothered me although saying that I usually print from my cameras SD card.
To set up you connect the power cord and switch on and then insert ink cartridge (T557) into the back of the printer via printer door being very careful not to tip the ink cartridge when inserting. Once you've inserted the cartridge and switched the printer on it will take awhile to 'charge' the cartridge (around 3 mins) during which time various noises come from the unit. Once this has completed the LCD screen will then come up with the menu screen. I should point out that the 2 inch LCD screen is in mono and that you can't pre-view photos on the LCD, I know some people might be put out about this, personally I haven't found this to be a problem.
The layout of the printers control buttons are simple, it has an 'On' button, a large print button, a smaller cancel button, a simple up and down control to move through the menu, a 'back' button and an 'Ok' button. The Picture Mate comes complete with a sample print cartridge and 20 sheets of photo paper which is designed to get you started. It's worth mentioning that this doesn't last long (20 photos, obviously :-) you will need to buy an additional cartridge and paper at some point, the best way of doing this is to buy a Epson Picture Pack which supplies you with a cartridge(T557) and the photo paper which will enable you to print approximately 100 glossy 10x15cm photos. This is a more economical and convenient way of buying and is the best way to rival the cost of the traditional high street photo stores.
Align the Cartridge / Cleaning the Print Head
Like most printers the print cartridge needs to be aligned once a new print cartridge is installed. This is quite simple operation to do although there are a few things to watch out for. Normally things go OK, however, If you notice that a printed photo looks faded or has colour missing do a 'Nozzle check' print out, if segments are missing on the print out you will need to clean the print head. Cleaning the print head uses quite a bit of ink (yea, weird that!) as I found out, use this function only when needed. Excessive use can lead to the 'internal' cartridge ink pad becomes full of ink and then you have to replace the cartridge with a new one. All these functions Align Cartridge, Nozzle Print Check and Print Head Cleaning can be found in the maintenance section under 'More Options'.
**Connecting your camera**
You can connect your camera by one of the following ways :
* By USB (providing you've got a lead!).
* By Pic Bridge.
* By Camera memory card.
* By Blue tooth
Once the unit has detected your camera or memory card it will ask you whether you want to print a 'proof sheet'. This provides thumb prints of all the photos you taken. It is fairly easy printer to use, which provides an intuitive interface especially good for the non-technical consumer which guides you through a simple one-touch printing process. It couldn't be simpler. If like me you print from a memory card the menu will presents you with a number of photo print options :
* Print all photo's on the card
* Print a selected photo
* Print a range of photo's from a card
Card Media Accepted : CF+ Compact Flash, Smart Media Standard 2000, SD/MMC card slot , XD picture card, Compact Flash, Memory Sticks (up to 128 MB), Memory Stick Duo, Multi Meda Card (128), Smart Media, xD-Picture Card, Magic Gate Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Micro drive, SD Card, mini SD card. * Printing via a camera using a USB cable is just as easy.
The Printer has a simple LCD menu layout through which you can access all the aspects of the printers operation. You can select your photo, enter number required and choose the photo layout - (Borderless, Border, 20, Double). Through the 'More Options' you can access the Colour effects - Colour, Black and White, Sepia the Zoom, Auto Correction and Image Enhancer features. The Maintenance Menu - Clean Print Head, Nozzle Check, Align Print Head, LCD Contrast, Cartridge Status and lastly the Blue tooth section.
**Quality of Photo's**
Picture Mate uses what Epson call "Advanced Micro Piezo" ink jet technology, 6-colour pigment printing which according to Epson has the same look and feel of traditional photo lab prints. This is achieved through 5760 x 1440 optimised dpi with microscopic droplets for the sharp detail, and seamless gradations. Epson will quoted print speed of 1.9 min/page - photo - 100 x 150 mm are a bit optimistic, I've found it to be more around the 2.52 min mark. I've been very impressed with the quality of photo's from this little printer. The Epson print speed is quite slow but at least they are 'touch dry' this is a trade off for
a better quality of photo.
**Types of Photo Paper**
It's worth remembering that there are a number of types of photo paper, if you want your prints to last the quoted 100 years you need to buy the 'Premium' photo paper. If you buy a Picture Pack this will be included in the package. You can buy this paper separately, Amazon sells a pack of 50 sheets for around the £8 mark.
COSTS : The print cartridge's can be a bit expensive (£17+). If you shop around you can find them sometimes for under £5. Until recently ukdvdr.co.uk were selling compatible T5570 cartridge's for 99p, I've used a couple, they have produce excellent results. If you shop around you should be able to get a print cartridge for under £6 and a Epson Picture Pack (Cartridge and 100 sheets of photo paper) can be purchased for around £23 at Amazon. To be honest I don't know the cost per print, obviously if the ink cartridge doesn't run out before it reaches 100 prints (which I suspect it will) the Amazon purchased 'Picture Pack' will produce a cost of 23p a photo.
**Printing from camera phones**
Epson has created a dedicated mobile phone printing application specifically for Blue tooth enabled Nokia mobile phones offering you further print options. Based on the Symbian® operating system, the application allows you to control size and quality settings, and add frames to the image before printing directly to Picture Mate. The Blue tooth will also print wirelessly (with a range of 10 metres) from other compatible notebook PCs, PDAs and digital cameras, best to check the Epson website for details on that. Although I don't tend to take many photos via my phone I have printed a few photo's from my Nokia phone using this method and it's been pretty straight forward. To set the printer up for Blue tooth you connect the adapter to back of printer (when not in use) and a light comes on, once you've done this the LCD brings up the Blue tooth page.
This Epson has got to be one of the cheapest stand alone printers out there, In a way this is the basic 'No Frills' Epson, it doesn't have the facility to view photos on the LCD, it's slow and despite being called 'portable' you need to be near a plug socket to use it. Yet you cannot help to be amazed by the quality of print and the simplicity of it's operation.
I mentioned at the beginning that although you can still buy this model it has been superseded by the Picture Mate 100 / 500 which does have a colour LCD and for true portability the option to fit a rechargeable lithium battery. I would suggest that if you can afford it to buy one of the newer models, however if you have the opportunity to buy the older basic model at a bargain price, buy it, I know you won't regret it.
It was my dental hygienist who first recommended using listerine mouth wash, I had problems with inflamed gums (gingivitis)at the time and using listerine was part of a proposed dental cleaning regime to deal with it. I'm assuming that if a dental practitioner recommends it, it must be good for you, or is it ?.
Listerine 'freshburst' comes in 250 ml, 500 ml and costs around £2 for the smaller sizes. The liquid has a florescence green appearance and the bottles have child proof caps (It's not suitable for use in children under 12 years of age). It says on the front of the bottle that listerine reduces plague by up to 56% more than brushing alone. It claims to provide 24 hour protection against plague and lasting breath confidence. Used twice daily listerine claims to:
*Prevent and reduce plague
*Kill bacteria between teeth
~How does Listerine do this ? ~
listerineprofessional.com explain 's that it works on (and I quote) : "organised community of germs in a gooey matrix". Listerine also claims that the 4 essential oils (Menthol, Thymol, Methyl and Salicylate) contained in the mouthwash get rid of the 'gooey matrix' (the bacteria's homes!).
~ Ingredients ~
Listerine contains the following ingredients: Aqua, Alcohol, Sorbitol, Poloxamer 407, Benzoic Acid, (Eucalyptol, Menthol, Thymol, Methyl Salicylate), Aroma, Sodium Saccharin, Sodium Benzoate CI42053, CI47005.
SORBITOL - is a sugar free substitue, it's used alot in sugar free mints, it occcurs naturally in stone fruit, it can have a laxative effective!?
POLOXAMER 407 - is used to dissolve oily ingredients in water. It's also found in multi-purpose contact lens cleaning solutions!?
BENZOIC ACID - found naturally in Cranberry and bilberry, it inhibits the growth of mould, yeast and has many medical applications.
SODIUM BENZOATE - found naturally in cranberries, prunes, plums, cinnamon, cloves, and apples and kills bacteria.
The two CI numbers are colourings : C1 42053 = Green, C1 470051 = Yellow.
Put 2 teaspoons (around 20ml) of mouthwash into a glass and swish around your mouth, I personally I use the bottle cap as a measure as I'm always in a rush in the morning. Listerine tells you to gargle, personally i belive' swishing' to be more apt because the only time I gargle is when I've got a sore throat.
~ Swishing ~
My dental hygienist always gets me to swish my mouth out with listerine before she cleans my gums. She told me off the other day because i didn't swish long enough. Apparently you should swish listerine for 30 seconds before spitting it out. The first thing you notice when using listerine is the burning sensation which can make your eyes water, so the 30 seconds for some people can seem a long time. However, If you think you might be good at swishing there are a number of websites where people compete for the longest listerine swishing times!?
~ Swigging ~ (Listerine on the rocks!)
It says on the bottle 'DO NOT SWIG' after the 'burning' senstaion you might ask why someone would want to swig such stuff, it is claimed that some people with an alcohol addiction will do just that, because listerine is 25% Alcohol, not something I've personally considered.
~ Fresh Breath ~
Since using listerine I have found that my oral health has improved, I've also found it very effective at removing onion, garlic breath etc. It works really well against the smell of beer and is excellent at getting rid of 'monkey' mouth - you know, the day after drinking too much beer , waking up to the feeling that a monkey has slept in your mouth.
To sum up then using the listerine scientifc approach : Listerine causes bacteria to get drunk on alcohol, the Four Oils of the Apocalypse meanwhile destroy the gooey matrix (the bacteria homes) leaving a disorganised community of mortally wounded germs, leaving us with 'fresh' breath. Yipppeeeee. Seriously though, it's good stuff, especially if you suffer from sore gums....give it a try
~ What is Firebox ? ~
Firebox (firebox.com) is a internet based gadget and gift retail site. It was started in 1998 by two university students who came up with the 'Shot Glass Chess Set' (a drinking game). By 2004 they were listed by the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 as the 13th fastest growing privately owned business in the UK. By 2007 the business was turning over £11.4m and in 2008 they became the Stuff Gadget Awards 2008 Winner - 'Retailer of the year'. The site is all about having fun and this is emphasied by the products and the general ethos of the site.
...."We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing " .
If you are looking for gifts firebox really does have something for everyone : men, women, & children - plus a few things for pets. It has a huge range of items ie: tiny remote control helicopters, flying insects, robots, dinosaurs. foam dart firing tommy gun, sesame street dolls, lots of USB gadgets like Doctor who's Tardis (with sound effect) etc....
~The Website ~ www.firebox.com
The firebox website is colourfully presented, it appears quite narrow in shape which centers on the monitor making it easy to see everything on the site. It's also easy to navigate with clearly labeled links and from the top of the web page you can access the the main departments :
~ searching for products ~
The products are displayed on the website with a picture of the item complete with a brief description, pressing the 'more' button takes you to a further product information page. On this page you can also find out if the item is in stock and you can view the price in English Euro's or US Dollars. You can also access customers reviews on this page and occasionally people send in videos and photo's of the items they've brought which I've personally found very helpful and entertaining.
There's a search engine (top left) or, if you desire you can see everything that's on offer by clicking on the 'Show me everything' link. Just remember that if you have a slow computer or on dial up this might take awhile to down load, there's a lot of stuff on this site. On the left of the web page there's a 'top 20' best selling product list (with pictures) and on the right a list of 'What's new' - again with pictures. Another helpful feature on the site is the ability to search according to price bracket (under £20, 20-50,50-100, 100 and over). Items range in price from under £5 to £324,000 for the Moller Skycar (flying car) although I have to say the Moller looks more thunder birds than flying car.
~Firebox and Me~
I came across this site a few years back whilst surfing the internet. I have brought quite a few things from firebox over the years for family and friend. Awhile back I brought my brother a tiny 'Black Ghost Helicopter' for just under £20 which he would fly around the house (with the cat chasing it !). Fortunately they are made of polypropylene foam so can stand up to repeated crashes without any damage. I recently brought myself a 'MR T in your pocket', it's a novelty keyring which contains various Mr T phrases, recorded by the man himself, ie : "Don't Gimme No Back Talk, Sucka" and "Quit Your Jibba Jabba",etc. I've used it a few times when caught up in heated debates with the council over rubbish collections. You can also buy certain 'classics' on this site ie : Stylophone, Etch-A-Sketch Action Men , Retro Sweets (old classics, in a box or large jar). Here's a few of my favorites.
Bath Ducks - apart from the normal yellow duck you can get 'Elvis' duck and also 'Star Wars' themed ducks - 'Princess layer', 'Duck fadar', 'Luke pondwalker', and 'Pond tropper'. Not only do they float they also glow various colours.
~Weird Edible Stuff~
There's also a food section which offers something a bit different. Apart from the Space food and Chili chocolate offerings they also offer a range of unusual food items. If you really fancy eating insects Firebox can offer you a more palatable bush tusker experience than 'I'm a celebrity, get me outta here' with 'Insectilix lolly's' - these are lolly's which contain various insects, you can choose between Scorpion, 100% safe (apparently), Worm or a Minty lolly with edible ants - YUMMY! You will also find Weasel coffee, Monkey picked tea, Sumatran civet cats coffee in this section.
~Stuff for Kids~
Since writing this review Firebox have added a section for tots which will no doubt will grow with demand. There's plenty of things on here for older kids although you will need to search through the other product categories to find them. I've just brought a Zombie Brain Jelly mold for my nephew (just realised how weird that sounds).
As well as the site Firebox sends out a catalogues several times a year to around 7 million customers. These contain some of their latest items ,it's quite handy to have and around A5 size it's easy to carry. Unlike most catalogues it doesn't have an order page but it does provide an order line number (0844 922 5565). You can also download the latest firebox catalogue from the firebox website.
You can if you desire buy Firebox gift vouchers from £5, min to £400 max.Gift vouchers must be redeemed on line at firebox.com or by phone within 1 year of purchase and cannot be used for orders already placed. Obviously, if the value of the order exceeds the value of the firebox.com gift voucher, the balance must be paid by credit or debit card.
~How to order~
* ONE-LINE : via website
* BY PHONE : 0844 922 1010 (between the office hours of 9am and 5:30pm)
* By FAX : fax copy of Firebox order form, to 0870 220 2178
* POST - Firebox order form to : Firebox.com, Ardwell Road, Streatham Hill, London, SW2 4RT
~ How to pay ~
Firebox accepts : VISA, Master Card, American Express, Delta and Switch/Solo. You can also pay by Cheque or Postal orders. When you place an order on line Firebox send two emails, one to confirm they have received the order and a second 'confirmation' email after checking availability. Some products do sell out fast, you can pre-order these items and firebox will email you when that particular item is back in stock, again that option will be displayed next to the product.
If you have any questions regarding an order or product you can contact Firebox direct on email@example.com. When completing a order, on the checkout page you can find out what services are available for your postcode area. You can also find out the estimated delivery time. Orders are dispatched either by Royal Mail (1st Class) or by courier. Firebox dispatch orders received before 4pm (Mon-frid) on the same day, providing the item is in stock. There's also the facility to track your order but you will need to register. On each product there is a delivery link which will tell you if the item is in stock and also the expected delivery time. You will find that some items sell out quickly but you can set up an email alert for that item which will tell you when they are back in stock.
Security - Firebox use 128-bit SSL software to encrypt your credit/debit card information. They are also part of ISIS (Internet Shopping is Safe) and IDIS (Internet Delivery is safe). Full details are provided on the website.
Firebox offer a range of delivery options at various prices including delivering to a local post office were you can pick up your item at your pleasure
* Standard Delivery (£3.99)
(1-3 days) Provided by courier, Royal Ist Class post, or Royal Mail Recorded Delivery.
*Royal Mail Special delivery (£6.95)
(next day by 1pm) - (for orders under 2kg) outlying post codes next day by 5pm - see website for details.
*Post Office - Collect Locally- (£3.95)
Firebox can send your order to your local post office who will hold your parcel for 21 days. Firebox will will let you know when the post office receive your parcel and continue to remind you on a weekly basis.
*Express Delivery Service by City Link. (from £5.95-7.95) :
Next day. Saturday deliveries £9.95. City Link will refund the delivery charge if they fail to deliver within the given time frame. There are a few post codes where this service is unavailable which are details on the web site.
My own personal experience is that it's taken items (standard delivery) a couple of days to get to me. They have come very well packed and up to now I've never needed to contact customer services so I can't really comment on that aspect.
~Further Savings~ ***The Firebox Christmas Voucher giveaway***
On the back of the catalogue you will find a code number for a discount voucher. These can range anywhere from the lowest (£2) to the jackpot amount £1000. You simply enter this code into the appropriate area of the website and it tells you what discount you've won. My last firebox 'voucher' was worth £3 although I did pick up a £5 discount firebox vouchers from vouchercodes.com few weeks back :-)
If you are unhappy with an item you've brought, or if you simply change your mind firebox does offer a 30 day money back guarantee. Just return the item with the dispatch note, in an unused state complete with packaging and all components (excluding P&P). Certain products and services are excluded from this returns policy, including food/perishable items, personalized products or those made to order. These items cannot be returned for a refund unless faulty.
~Christmas Returns policy~
Should you need to return an item over the Christmas period Firebox will offer a full refund if they receive the return item (un-opened) before 15th January 2009
Firebox provide comprehensive information on all aspects of the buying process, provide a large range of delivery options. I've always found shopping on firebox to be an enjoyable experience and would recommend them to anyone looking for something different to buy as gift. (Price's quoted were correct at the time of writing (12/Dec/2008)
If you are looking to save money this year on branded clothes it might be worth your while taking a look at www.mandmdirect.co.uk. M and M Direct are the number web based sport and fashion discount retailer (source: 'Hitwise'). M and M Buy end-of-line clearence goods from well known brands and sell them direct to the consumer from their warehouses in Hertfordshire. Cutting out the middleman means they are able to reductions of up to 75% over the RRP. Started in 1987 by two business men their first advert appeared in the 'Shoot' magazine that same year. Originally called M and M Sports they changed their name to M and M Direct in 2006 at that point sales had pass the 60 million pound mark. There is a huge range of brand names, to give an example of some : Helly Hansen, Bench, Schott, Henley,Penguin, Firetrap, Lambretta, fcuk, energie, sonneti, boxfresh, fenchurch, Fly53, ringspun, crosshatch, carter, levis, fred perry, ben sherman, etc...
~THE BENEFITS OF SHOPPING AT M and M~
* Save 70 % on fashion and sports brands
* Over 3,000 discounts online
* 100% genuine products
* Men, Woman and Children's ranges
* 24 hr shopping, delivery to your door
* Dedicated customer service
* Easy to use, Secure website
* 28 day 'no quibble' guarantee
~THE WEBSITE ~
The M&M website gets around 15 million visitors a year and has over 100 top fashion and sports brands. As mentioned above there is over 3,000 items on the web page but despite this the site is easy to navigate around and you can find all you need to know on the first page. There's a search engine (top left on webpage) from which you can search by brand or type of clothing. If you prefer you can look through the different departments : Fashion, Sports trainers, Outdoors and ski, Street and surf, Gifts, Web exclusives, Football and Last chance to buy. There's also the option of using the Mens', Womens, Boys, Girls & Sale section above the main display frame. You can also order a catalogue from the webpage, access customer services and get order info. If you want to get the latest deals and discounts without visting the website you can set up a RSS feed, you can get more information and advice on how to set this up by clicking on the RSS symbol (bottom right of webpage).
M and M send out around 19 million catalogues a year, with five main seasonal catalogues. Their latest 88 page Xmas catalogue is out now. I do actually like having a catalogue to look through, I find that the colours are a bit more faithful than the ones on my computer monitor.
~HOW TO ORDER~
There are 4 ways to order from M and M Direct:
By Phone - Call on 0871 664 1333 (Mon-Fri 9.00 am to 10.00 pm, Weekends 9.00am to 7.00 pm)
By Fax - 0871 664 1355
By Post (order form on last page of catalogue)
M and M Direct,
M and M accept Visa, Solo, Switch, Mastercard, Electron, Cheque and Postal orders. They require the following details to process your order : email address, correspondence address, contact number, and payment/card details. Note : M&M don't offer credit.
I know this is one aspect which might concern people, I'm quite hesitate myself of passing my card details over the internet. M and M do have their own secure server software that encrypts (SSL) all personal information preventing it from being accessed or read by any third party. When you reach the credit card area a padlock should appear in the bottom right hand section of the screen to indicate that the site is secure. They do say and I quote that they "will not disclose your details to any third party unless it is necessary to fulfil your order, or....if you've ticked the notification box". One thing to remember when using M&M if you don't want your details to be passed onto a 'carefully' selected third party is to make sure you 'untick' that specific notification box.
The standard postage cost (within UK) is £3.99. On the website M&M tell you that delivery will take between 3-5 working days, I've usually got my order within a 2/3 days. I've never experienced a late delivery (7 days or more). With Express delivery (£6.99) goods ordered by noon Monday to Friday will be delivered the next day. I've only used express once, I tend to go for the standard delivery.
If you are unhappy with your purchase (or have a quibble !? ) M&M will offer you a full refund or exchange providing the item is returned within 28 days of purchase and (unworn). The only goods they will not provide a refund on are underwear, swimwear and pierced earrings. I've only had to return one item myself which wasn't quite the right size and they gave me a full refund. I've also contacted the customer services department a few times to track an order and in both incidents I've personally found them to be very polite and helpful.
Since 2005 M&M has supported the Teenage Cancer Trust. You will sometimes find that a TCT donation logo will appear next to some of the fashion and sport brands ie adidas, timberland, this indicates money will be donated by the brand or M&M Direct. So far M and M have donated more than £368,000 since it began it's support of TCT.
~MY EXPERIENCE OF USING M and M~
I was first introduced to M&M Direct by my brother after I noticed that he was wearing a nice pair of trainers, the same pair infact that I'd seen in town but had brought for half the price. I've personally been using M&M now for around two years and I've been very happy with the goods and service. To give an example of some of the things I've brought so far with the RRP in brackets: New balance running shoes, £24.99 (£50.00) a pair of Timberland shoes, £30.00 (£55.00) Helly Hanson jacket £44.99 (£89.99), Berghaus coat £79 (£139.00). I have to say that the children's section isn't as big as the mens and womens but it is improving and has got a lot better than it was. You can get items even cheaper during their on-line sales although these tend to be the larger and small sizes.
I would say M&M are one of the better web based discount stores, if not the best. I like the fact that that stock changes on a daily basis, there's such a variation of branded goods that I always find something I like - you've got to be quick though, it doesn't tend to hang around long. Being a discount store ordered goods will often arrive simply boxed or wrapped but in the two years that I've been involved with them the products have always been in excellent condition. I actually enjoy and prefer this way of shopping, it fits into my mad busy life and to be honest I don't enjoy shopping in the city. I have friends who disagree with me (mostly girls) who prefer to go out shopping and they do have a point with wanting to try things on. However, if like me you are pressed for time and money or simply prefer not to go shopping this site might possibly interest you.
I've had my HP Photosmart C1380 All-in-one Printer for quite awhile now. It's proved to be a reliable work horse produces great text and photographs and for the price I believe represents a good buy. The first I heard about the HP printer was back in 2006 and at that time they were selling for around the £70 mark, at the time of writing you can buy them from Amazon for £49.00 including free delivery. My experience with the printer to date has been very positive although like many printers it's recommended to shop around for ink cartridges as these can be quite expensive to purchase. The Photosmart also operates as a stand alone unit meaning you can use the photocopier or print photo's without the use of a computer. Unlike many of the other models in the photosmart range this HP lacks a LCD to view photo's with, or pic bridge to connect camera's. You can however print a photo proof sheet from which to select photos.
To run this printer you need to be running either Vista,98SE, Me,2000 or XP,it will also run on Mac's. You will need a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive and an available USB port and USBcable. It helps if you have a 16 bit colour monitor (32-bit colour recommended) with a minimum resolution of 800 x 600 monitor HP recomemd that you have Adobe® Acrobat® Reader 5 or higher. There's quite alot of software with the HP and therefore you need at least 1.2 GB available hard disk space for software installation, you also need an additional 50 MB hard disk space for full colour scanning. Despite the fact that the HP works as a stand alone it does still require a computer to set it up, it's also helpful to have internet access.
IN THE BOX : Power lead, Ink cartridge, Software CD Windows Vista, 98SE, Me, 2000, XP, Mac, Book of instructions
SETTING UP THE ALL IN ONE HP PRINTER
Set up is pretty easy. I'm running Vista on my system and encountered no problems. Once you've inserted the 'Set Up' CD into your computer drive it's just a question of following the on screen pronts. One thing to remember during set up is to only connect the printer to your computer when requested to do so otherwise you might have problems with operating the software and will need to re-do the set up. As expected with a multi purpose printer there's quite alot of software to install fortunately HP's install program has a 'Custom' option that lets you choose which programs to install - perfect if you already have good photo software. The main HP software is HP PhotoSmart Essential & HP Solution Centre
HP PHOTOSMART ESSENTIALS : This is the software through which you can add, edit and share your photographs. You can also : send photographs with windows mail or through Photosmart share, store & manage photos online, order photo gifts for friends and family, ie :MemoryBooks, calendars and mugs - (With Snapfish, a service of HP)
HP SOLUTION CENTRE : This is the software which allows you to adjust your print, scan and copy settings. It also has a shopping, help and support and create section.
To insert the Ink cartridges you open the printer door on the front of the printer, the printer needs to be on, the printer cartridge holder should slide to the right when you open the front door and from there you can insert the cartridges. The Photosmart uses the following ink cartridges:
BLACK - 336 RRP 14.89 (7ml) 338 RRP 15.59 (11ml)
TRI - COLOUR - 342 RRP 14.99 (7ml) 343 RRP 17.99 (11ml)
PHOTO - 348 RRP 17.89
From the standard black and white cartridge you can get around 680 pages with the colour it's around 440, obviously dependant on what you are printing and which size cartridge you are using. I would personally recommend using the larger size cartridges which can be brought alot cheaper than the above stated RRP. You can save alot of money buying equivalent Hp cartridges, I've used these in the past but now tend to buy reduced price Vivera HP inks. I personally found that some of the equivalent ink cartridges don't work that well with the on board HP Ink level indicator. My most recent purchase was through Amazon where I brought a 343 Tri Colour (7ml) and a 338 Balck (11ml) for £18.22.
THE PRINTER : The HP can print at a maximun resolution of 1,200x2,400dpi. HP quoted print speeds are on the optimistic side (B=22ppm C=20ppm) this will obviously be dependant on the complexities of the document but I've found a more realistic figure to be - 11ppm in black and white, and 7ppm in colour.
TEXT & GRAPHICS
There are three print settings on the HP the quoted print speeds above are for the lowest quality setting if you require decent text quality then I would plump for the second highest, it's slower printing but produces sharper text. On graphics the HP speeds ahead, producing 7.0ppm in its lowest quality mode. At its best setting the HP's text is very good, but you'll have to settle for just 1.9ppm. At the second-fastest setting, it achieves very bright and vivid results at the rate of around 3ppm, while the best quality is available at around 1.5ppm.
PHOTO PRINTING & QUALITY
As mentioned above the printer will print directly from a camera (via USB) or from a photo card using one of the 6 in 1 card reader inputs which are located front left of the unit. The HP has something called Photosmart Express on the front left edge with three card slots below, these support CompactFlash, Sony MemoryStick and MemoryStick Duo, Secure Digital and MMC and XD. I printed my first photo using the standard colour and black and white and I have to say that I was really happy with the results. Before I brought my parents a little photo printer I use to do all the family photo's on the HP and it coped very well. On HP's photo paper it printed competent photos using its standard cartridges. For even better photo quality use a Tri colour and photo cartridge together and use the premier hp photo paper which has a 100 year shelf life.
The scanner's optical resolution of 1,200x2,400 (at up to 48-bit colour, 8 bit grayscale (256 levels of grey) is quite good for this price. Since having the HP I've scanned in most of my parents old family photo's, birth certificates and other documents obviously you need to adjust the resolution for what you are scanning.The scanner includes an image editor and the integrated OCR software will convert scanned text to edititable text (if you choose to install). One other thing to note is that you need use your computer to scan document.
The copier can copy to 4800x1200 dpi. I've used it quite a bit, its saved me numerous trips into town just to photocopy few documents and was really useful when doing my college work. Again you can photocopy without the use of a PC if needed or you can use the built in software and edit your images on the computer. It's easy to operate the HP as a stand alone unit buttons are clearly marked on the top left hand side of the printer. To copy there's one button for black and white and one for colour, it's that's simple.
The HP all-in-one has been the most reliable printer I've ever owned and I'm more than happy with it. PC advisor was singing it's praises back in 2002 when it was £70 but now you can buy it for £50 or less, if you shop around. If you want one with a built in LCD to view photo's check out the C4280 which you can buy for around £50.
Around 7 months ago I brought a Bissell 6594E vacuum. Thought about getting a dyson but after seeing the price I brought one of these instead. I was a bit unsure when I first saw the Bissell because it's not a manfacturer that I was acquainted with. So here's a bit about the founders of the company, Ana and Melville Bissell.
The story of Bissell
In 1872 and Ana and Melville were running a crockery shop in michigan, USA. The crockery came packed in crates of sawdust and it was Ana's frustration with the sweeping up of that sawdust that caused Melville to invent a carpet cleaner device. The first 'Bissell' factory was opened in 1883. On Melville's death, Anna Bissell took control of the expanding bissell business, becoming one of America's first female corporate CEOs. It is still run by the bissell family, the present CEO being Mark.J.Bissell.
THE SPECS: The Bissell Powerforce is a 1,400 w , 12 amp bagless vacuum and has the following features:
*Easy to grab carrying handle
* Lightweight design for easy carrying
* Ergonomically Designed Handle for Easier Handling
*3.75 litre dust cup capacity
* Can clean on : Carpet, Upholstery, stairs, auto, Hard surfaces
*Scuff Resistant Bumper with Edge to Edge Cleaning
*12" WideTrack Cleaning Path for quicker cleaning
*7 height adjustments on the handle
*Easy to empty clear dirt container
*Flexible reinforced stretch hose
*25 foot Power Cord with easy release mechanism
*Foot Pedal On/Off Switch
*Crevice tool,extension wand
*On the back - combination dusting brush and upholstroy tool.
*4 Stages of Filtration including HEPA and Charcoal Filter ~ captures dust & micro particles and eliminates smells
The Bissell comes with a two year warranty. It has a very 'user' freindly instruction booklet which is well laid out easy to understand and includes everything you need to know including information about replacement parts. NOTE : When unpacking the hoover you will need to attach the handle which is packed separately, it's just a case of inserting a screw either side of the handle.
USING THE BISSELL
The Bissell 'powerforce' has great suction, however this suction will deminish if you don't clean the in-built filters on a regular basis. Bissell recomend you clean the filters once a month, if like us you have pets you may need to clean them a bit sooner. The filters are cleaned by running them under warm water and they need to be dry before they are re-inserted. Bissell's vacuum filration system is made up of 'Pre-Motor and 'Post-Motor filters. The pre-Motor protects the motor from debris and is located underneath the dirt container. The post-Motor filter returns clean air to the room and is positioned below the dust container lever.
Contary to belief 'HEPA' is not something you pick up at a NHS hospital. To be honest I hadn't a clue what HEPA was until I started using the Bissell. At home we have two cats which leave fur everywhere. I found myself sneezing alot when they were around, however not only has the Bissell been very effective at picking up all the cat hairs but it's also helped reduce my sneezing, which I'm very grateful for. What is a HEPA filter? (Hold on, just get my anorak)
HEPA (High-efficiency particulate air) filters are often advertised as being beneficial for asthma and allergy sufferers. The HEPA filter apparently traps the fine particles (such as pollen and dust mite poo) which trigger allergy and asthma symptoms. It's reckoned that they remove 99.97% of airborne particles down to 0.3 micrometers in diameter (dust mites are 04 micrometers, apparently!). I'm quite prone to dust borne allergies so I'm all for the HEPA. The original HEPA filter was designed in 1940's and was used to prevent radioactive contaminants. (I suppose if you were threatened by radiation fall out- you could always get the hoover out, ha ha!)
CHARCOAL Filter : (Activated charcoal filter) This filter removes odours, that simple ! As mentioned above it returns clean air to the room. You can wash the filters but, if you do need to replace any of the filters you can buy them on line through Bissell or you can buy them through Curry's spare parts section on their sister website 'Partmaster'. I've included the address below. I have to say that up to now I haven't needed to change any of the filters. I did need to buy a drive belt a few weeks back which cost £7.99 but thats the only expense I've encountered so far.
Cost of replacement filters with Part No :
Inner and Outer Circular filters £6.99 (32064)
Pre-Motor filter £6.99 (203-1215)
Post-Motor filter £6.75 (32066)
Drive Belt £7.99 pack of two (32074)
You will find a more comprehensive list of spare parts in the Bissell users guide.
The Bissell works great over large carpet areas it has great suction. With a simple adjustment of the height adjustment knob It will also work equally well over bare floors. It picks up alot of stuff and you get to see it all in the clear plastic tank, there's something oddly satifying about that. In smaller areas the Bissell isn't so much fun mostly because the foot of the cleaner is quite large. When the cleaner is full you empty the hoover by simply sliding the lever which is positioned just below the dirt container from one side of the vacuum to the other. The furniture protection guard on the front of the cleaner is a handy addition, the way I hoover it's essential addition (you will notice that my hover looks a tad battered). The handle adjustment is also quite handy, it means that you can hoover under tables and chairs. Bissell claim that on the lowest setting you can clean under beds, but unless you've got large rooms to manoeuvre the 'hummer' sized cleaner around in it does make for hard work.
THE BUILT-IN TOOLS
With Bissells 'built-in' tools (dusting brush and upholstery cleaner) you can clean the sofa, shelves and other areas. You simply detach the hose from the base of the cleaner and then connect whichever adaptor you need. I have used it to hoover the sofa, unfortunately the last time I tried hooving the curtains they got sucked into the hose and I inadvertively pulled the curtains down. Despite Bissell claiming that this is a light weigth cleaner (12lbs) it does become quite a chore carrying it around if you've got lots of stairs to climb. We've solved that problem by having a little Goblin (called sid) who lives at the top of the stairs :-)
The Bissell is a great hover for cleaning wide carpet areas especially if you have an open planned type of house. It is reliable and has very good suction. It can also be used for cleaning soft furnishings and is very easy to maintain. However, the Bissell is quite a lump to carry up stairs especially if you have narrow stairs. All the weight is in the bottom (foot) of the hoover and it's easy to lose balance when carrying it, I've hit a few things trying to carry it upstairs (as the photo's of my 'battered' Bissell will show).
For UK Inquiries
The Boat Yard
105 Striaght Road
Berkshire SL4 2SE
mon - thurs 9am - 5
http://www.partmaster.co.uk/cgi-bin/home.pl?cam p_ id=currys
(for spare parts)