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WHY CHOOSE ZAKYNTHOS FOR A HOLIDAY? I spent my summer holiday this year on the lovely island of Zakynthos. It was my first visit to this island, although I have been to several other Greek islands, and have holidayed on the Greek mainland. We looked at Greece and her islands and decided on Zante. It proved to be a good choice as we spent two glorious weeks here enjoying the sunshine and soaking up the lovely atmosphere. Yes, it was hot but not so hot that we weren't able to get out and about. The climate was just right for our summer holiday. One thing that did make us a little dubious about a holiday on Zakynthos was its reputation for clubbing. My husband and I are in our fifties and certainly weren't looking for somewhere that was a destination hot spot for young eager party animals. However, I do think that most of holiday resorts that are known for their clubbing facilities also have many lovely and quieter spots ideal for both couples and families. But I felt, after some research, that the hotel we had chosen was on the outskirts of the resort of Laganas so would be in a good location for us. We chose to stay in The Louis Zante Beach Hotel. This hotel is ideal for family and couples. We had a lovely relaxing holiday and I can be honest with you and say that we didn't spend any time at all in clubs! A FEW FACTS ABOUT ZANTE As we went out and about in Zakynthos we found that the island has an interesting history. http://www.explore-zakynthos.com "According to the poet Homer, the name of Zakynthos was derived from the first inhabitant of Zante Island - who was named Zakynthos. He was the son of King Dardanos of Troy, who arrived on the island around 1500-1600 BC According to other historical sources, the name of Zakynthos island is derived from the words Za and Cynthos, which means hill. This corresponds to the mountainous landscape of Zakynthos." The island has had Roman, Byzantine, Venetian , French, Russian-Turkish and British rulers. When Greece became independent from Turkey there was a struggle to join Greece, along with the other Ionian islands. Zante became part of Greece in 1864. During the Second World War in 1940, Italy began its invasion on Greece. This attempt was not successful and they were pushed back by the Greek army. Then the Germans and Italians mounted a combined force and managed to occupy Greece in 1941. Now Greece was under Nazi occupation but control was split between Germany, Bulgaria and Italy. Zakynthos was mainly under Italian control. While we were on holiday in Zante we heard of how the islands Jewish population survived WW11 and the Holocaust. It is said that the order came from the controlling Nazis that the Jews should be handed over ready to be deported. The islanders hid the 275 Jewish inhabitants and fortunately all of these people survived. Zakynthos was liberated from the German and Italian occupation on September 12th 1944. In the year of 1953 there were a series of severe earthquakes which caused extensive damage to the island's buildings. The worst earthquake reached 7.3 on the Richter scale. While we were on holiday here in August to September 2013 we felt two tremors in one day and it really did feel weird. We heard that there were more tremors on that day but we only definitely noticed two. One happened when we were eating dinner in the hotel's restaurant when we felt the earth move! Lampshades shook and lights flickered and dimmed. My chair felt as if it was being stretched from underneath. The waiters carried on as usual, seemingly oblivious to this phenomenon. After the 1953 earthquake much renovation had to take place. Zakynthos (also known as Zante) is one of the Greek Ionian Islands and is the third largest (there are seven main islands) and the most southerly of these islands. It has an area of approximately 410 km2 and is about 123 km long. On this island you will see mountains, beaches, vineyards and much greenery. Our hotel room had a view of the sea, lawn areas, and a sandy beach with islands to be seen out at sea and mountains framing the beach. Indeed, we were spoilt for scenic views. CLIMATE The Ionian Islands get more rainfall than other Greek islands. The rain mainly falls in winter but this does mean that the island looks fairly verdant and pretty even in its dry summer. The weather at the end of August and into September was hot but not too humid. We found that we were able to walk around more than we can in Cyprus at a similar time of year. The weather reached the low thirties while we were here with a few days being a little higher. We enjoyed blue skies and sunshine throughout our stay. During the evening we found it warm enough and pleasant to sit outside. We swam in the sea often and found stepping into the water was wonderful as it was beautifully warm. The climate for Zakynthos is around 14°C during January and February (the coldest months) and temperatures average 32°C in the hottest time of the year (during the months of July and August). We were told by workers and inhabitants of the island that the weather cools down towards the end of September. There is little rainfall from April through to September. The wettest month is December with an average rainfall of 191 mm (7.5"). The sea temperature in August is around 26°C (79°F). OUT AND ABOUT Zakynthos is easy enough to travel around. The bus service is good and it's easy to use the taxi service. Taxi cabs are metered. It is simple to hire a car but we didn't find this necessary. There are far too many places to visit in zante for me to mention here and so I shall only speak of a few to give you an idea of what to expect. Navagio Beach or Shipwreck Bay is much visited by tourists and consists of a beautiful sandy cove and crystal clear water edged by high cliffs. The cove can only be reached from the sea. Here one can see the Shipwreck of 1983. I would advise checking with the trip organiser before embarking as some boats will anchor some distance from the beach meaning that good swimming skills are needed to reach the cove. Marathonisi Island (Turtle Island) is worth visiting, in my opinion. Actually it is lovely for the boat trip out to the island and looking for turtles on the way. The island is shaped like a turtle and turtles do nest here. Because of the turtles nesting and imminent hatching, on the island, no buildings are permitted. Boats moor here and passengers can alight and swim in the clear sparkling waters. Refreshments can be bought from a boat which circles the small island. There are no facilities but it is a delight to swim from here. Zante Town is well worth visiting; well we certainly both enjoyed our day spent here. The town is on the coast and the port, as is usual with all ports, is busy and has many bars and restaurants close by. The town has shopping facilities, an amphitheatre, museums and a library. There is a mini tourist train which travels along the sea front and passes by some areas of interest. I would definitely recommend visiting St Dionysios Church in the town. The church is named for St Dionysios or Dennis who is the patron saint of the island. The church is beautiful inside and holds the golden casket of Saint Dionysios. It is worth a visit. RESORTS LAGANAS/KALAMAKI We stayed in the resort of Laganas. Laganas is close to the resort of Kalamaki and both resorts are pleasant family holiday spots, although the centre of Laganas is a hot spot for young holidaymakers. The beaches around Laganas and Kalamaki are long and sandy. Here the water is shallow and clear and ideal for children and people like me who aren't the strongest and most confident of swimmers. I found it so easy to walk into the sea here. The sea remains shallow for a long way out. Motorised water sports aren't allowed around Laganas and Kalamaki as these areas are designated as conservation areas for the loggerhead turtles (Caretta Caretta). The females return to the place where they themselves hatched to lay their own eggs. One can see areas of the beaches marked out as no go areas where a nest has been spotted. The nests are marked and watched so that when the hatching of the baby turtles is thought to be imminent a run is erected to try to give some shade from the hot sun for the baby turtles and protection as they make their way on a dangerous journey to the sea. The airport is located at Kalamaki. ARGASSI Argassi is close to Zante Town. It is one of the larger and busier resorts. The beach here is of sand and shingle and is narrow. However, unlike Laganas and Kalamaki water sports are available here. TSILIVI Tsilivi has a great beach which is long and sandy. The sea here is shallow and easily accessible. The area offers many hotels, bars, restaurants and shops. It is a family resort and has facilities aimed at children such as mini golf. There are many other resorts and some are unspoiled with only a few facilities but offering a tavern or two and an authentic Greek holiday. EATING OUT We enjoyed eating out in Zakynthos. Many restaurants offer a great choice in sea food but really there is something for everyone. The island has been influenced by several nations and this is reflected in its varied cuisine. I think it caters for all and I didn't find being a non-meat eater to be a problem. There are restaurants, bars, snack bars and cafes in resorts spread across the island and these vary greatly in size, menu and type. We found the prices reasonable when we ate out. One can choose to try traditional Greek food or international cuisine. There are some fast food outlets too but as we didn't have any children with us we managed to avoid these. I didn't actually see much of McDonalds or Pizza Hut but I just knew they were around somewhere. HOW TO TRAVEL Many tour operators offer packages to Zante. We used First Choice on an All-inclusive package. We chose our hotel as it was part of the Louis chain. We have stayed at several Louis Hotels and have always found hotels belonging to this group to be of a good standard and excellent in terms of service. I think as Zante is easy to travel around that holidaying on an all-inclusive basis isn't really necessary. We saw there were lots of villas and small hotels in good locations and at decent prices. I don't think one has to pay too much to enjoy a holiday in Zante. After all, if you travel here in the summer the weather should be good, the beaches are lovely, there are shops around and so a self-catering holiday to suit small or large budgets should be a good option. Hotels offer choices of board basis. OVERALL We had a wonderful and relaxing holiday on this island although we managed to get out and about as well as chilling in our hotel. We had lovely days swimming in the sea, enjoying boat trips, looking for turtles, lazing by the pool and wining and dining. Our holiday raced by but we were left happy that we had had such a lovely time on this island. My husband and I both agreed that we would like to return to the island of Zakynthos.
When I was planning my new kitchen I was definite about a few items that I felt, for me, were must haves. In fact I was more bothered about incorporating some space saving and useful devices than the actual cupboards. Now it's just over a year since my husband fitted our kitchen and I can say that all in all I'm pleased with most units and fitments. One of these must haves was a unit to house bins that I could use for recycling. I was fed up with a bag of jars and bottles on display in the kitchen until this was emptied into one of the recycling boxes outside. When we took our ideas to B&Q to make sure that everything fitted before purchasing, the kitchen planner had to make one or two minor adjustments. This meant that the unit we had in mind for recycling bins wouldn't fit. However, he came up with a compromise of a 300mm pull out bin unit. This, together with two different sized bins would fit perfectly into an available space. The product picture shows two bins of the same size but I have a larger bin going long ways with a smaller bin placed behind this. They are an exact fit. For me this is ideal as I use the larger one for tins, jars and bottles and the smaller bin for folded card and paper. The unit works well. Its chrome framework holds the bins securely in place and, as the cupboard is pulled open, they pull outwards with the door. The door is pulled open by metal runners and is quite smooth to operate. The bins both have a pair of handles and are bucket type bins. I use a large carrier bag inside the front larger bin. I can fit a good amount of metal, plastic and glass recycling into this. It doesn't have to have a carrier bag but I find it easier to empty by lifting out the bag from the bin and taking it outside the house to the box. However, it is easy to empty the recycling into the box (on my front driveway by simply tipping it but then it does need a rinse out more often. Provided items are compressed before going into the recycling bin in the kitchen, then I find that all the cans, bottles and jars from the whole week can be stored inside it. It is deep so holds more than it looks capable of, on first looking. The smaller bin easily holds enough folded paper and cardboard for a normal week. As our recycling boxes are emptied weekly then this is ideal. I really appreciate the fact that now, with this unit, and its two bins, my recycling can be stored neatly away. This seems a fresh and hygienic option for recycling to me and helps to keep the kitchen tidier. PRICE/AVAILABILITY This unit is available from B&Q Stores and costs £90. This may seem expensive but I feel that as part of a kitchen re-fit it isn't so bad and I am pleased with this unit. After all, it is two bins, plus a unit with metal fittings.
I have eaten at Café Fino several times. On most occasions a I have found the food to be tasty, well presented and of very good value but on just one occasion I wasn't so pleased. I suppose anyone and anywhere can have an off day and because on the other occasions I was pleased with my food then I will have to rate this place as being good and hope that the not so good time was a one off. Café Fino has a very extensive menu which offers, in my opinion, something for everyone. I think it would be difficult not to find something to your taste here. I don't eat meat but still don't have much trouble finding something here to enjoy. I would say that the vegetarian choice is quite good. The café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and it is open seven days a week. We have eaten here mainly on weekends when we have been shopping (my husband and myself that is) as it is on Romford Market, and thought it would be better to eat out than have to go home and cook. We have eaten here on Sundays although we haven't yet sampled the roast dinner. The meal that we didn't like was omelettes. My husband ordered a ham and cheese omelette and I ordered a cheese, tomato and onion filling for mine. The omelettes were both on the dry side and really didn't taste at all nice. However, on all other occasions I really couldn't fault the food at all. One particular meal that I enjoyed was a vegetable lasagne which was very nice and of a generous portion, too generous for me, in fact. We have eaten varied meals here; burgers, fish and chips as well as a more snack type meal of toasted sandwiches; these were tasty. The interior of café Fino is fairly large for a cafe. In hot weather fans are switched on making it feel quite pleasant. There are many tables and chairs placed around but I find there is a good amount of space between them. More than in some other cafes close by. From inside you can see the cooking area. Music plays but not too loudly. Outside there is a small sectioned off area for al fresco dining. In the summer parasols are provided. The café opens on to the market and so sitting here can be quite noisy and one can hear some colourful language at times. We always find the service good with our order taken quickly and food comes up fairly quickly too, depending on what you have ordered, as the food is cooked to order. The toilets are towards the rear of the restaurant. The ladies toilet is adapted for disabled guests. There are baby changing facilities too.
"O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, How lovely are your branches Not only green when summer's here But in the coldest time of year. O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, How lovely are thy branches!" I have always preferred to have a real Christmas tree in my home rather than an artificial one. For years my husband and I would always enjoy going out to look at trees and taking care in choosing a real tree. We would look for a good shape and a dark green colour and look out for needle drop. I always felt excited about choosing a tree and once it was set up in the living room I adored the aroma of a real fir Christmas tree. But in more recent years when we've had a large household plus a sometimes naughty dog we have found that a real tree just wasn't such a sensible option for our home. The last artificial tree that we owned was about six foot in height and the branches were very widespread. It definitely was a great purchase; it had lasted well but after several years of use and being kept in a damp garage for most of the year, last Christmas hubby said that a new tree would be a good idea. I had seen some realistic artificial trees on on-line sites but I thought that with those I had seen that I would need a lottery win to purchase one or I just couldn't be sure how realistic they really were by looking on-line. I much preferred to buy a tree that I had actually seen and touched. This tree is intended for indoor use only. WHERE TO PURCHASE My search for a new artificial tree took and hubby and I to a B&Q superstore. I had in mind buying a tree that was in the region of 5 to 5 ½ foot in height. While I was looking at trees at around that height my husband called me over to look at a tree on display. I was impressed! We both agreed that this was the most realistic looking artificial tree that we had seen so far. My husband insisted that we should buy it there and then but my concerns were that it was seven foot tall! I reminded him that space was an issue and that really we wanted a smaller tree than the one we had and not a larger one. My husband turned up his nose at the thought of a small tree. We ended up not purchasing the tree at this time but instead returned home and over the next few days I did a little more research. The result of this research was that I thought that the tree we had seen from B&Q seemed as good as those I had looked at on-line and wasn't any more expensive, in fact cheaper than most for trees of that height. An added and very important advantage was that, of course we had seen the B&Q tree set up in the store. I still had doubts regarding the size and the wide spread of the lower branches but my husband promised that if it was too thickset for our living room then he would see if some branches could be left off of the tree or he would sort something out to thin out this tree. But my eldest son really made my decision when he spoke of his dad not often being enthusiastic over purchases for Christmas. He said it was rare for his dad to be eager to buy something expensive and decorative so I should humour him. I thought he had a point here! I decided to buy the tree by using the reserve and collect in store service. We had been re fitting our kitchen and so had some mother purchase to make (we are fairly regular customers of B&Q over the last eighteen months or so) BRINGING HOME THE TREE As we had chosen the reserve and collect option when we arrived at the store our purchase was ready and waiting at the customer services desk which, in this particular store, is close to the entrance. The tree comes packaged in a large box and is on the heavy side. Not too heavy to get to and into a car but it would be heavy if one were using public transport. The tree in its box fit into the boot of our saloon car. This item can be ordered for home delivery. For on-line orders delivery is free and orders over fifty pounds are also delivered free. SETTING UP This tree does actually take a while to set up. We haven't got around to putting up our Christmas decorations this year but I would say it must have taken around forty-five minutes maybe longer to set up, last year. I did read some reviews before buying and some said that this tree was really quick to set up but I find this somewhat puzzling. My husband doesn't hang around with this type of thing and yet he certainly couldn't have set this tree up in less than half an hour, even if a pint was waiting for him at the end of the task! I expect it will be slightly quicker this year when the memory of setting it up will return and at least we'll be able to start quicker. But I would still say it isn't a speedy task. The branches are colour coded. They have coloured stickers on such as, green red yellow white etc. as well as letters. I think there were nine sets of branches although one was the central tree top. Some colours had more branches than others. The branches fit in to the main body/trunk of the tree by hooking in. An instruction leaflet comes with the tree and using this as a guide meant that the process was easy enough to follow but just a little time consuming. To help to set the tree up I made sure that all the branches were placed together in piles in order and this made the task slightly easier. The bigger, bushier branches fit into the tree lower down and as the branches are fitted into the slots in the trunk then the tree shape begins to show. The branches have little tabs similar to the sticky fastening on loaves of bread. I thought that if these tabs came off of the branches then it would take a while to find where the branch fits into the tree but it would still be possible to match up the branch by working out its size and therefore its position. Once all the branches have been hooked into the tree then it looks really good. It's easy enough now to make sure the branches are pointing in the right direction. Now comes the fun part with the tree being ready for the fairy lights and baubles and tinsel. APPEARANCE The tree certainly looks realistic. I would say amazingly so. It has mixed tips and some look more authentic than others but all of them look good. On running ones fingers along the pine needles it really feels as if this tree might shed! The pine cones add to the look of a real tree. I like the deep green natural colour of the tree. This is the most realistic tree that I have seen and although it is expensive, for how it looks it isn't actually that bad. The fake foliage on this tree is abundant and widespread. My husband left some of the lower branches off the tree for the sake of space. The tree still looked good and balanced and well proportioned. This tree has seventy three plastic branches (PE and PVC with Polyethylene tips) and these have offshoots. Here and here and there pine cones sit upon the branches adding to its authentic look. The tree looks good when it is bare and once dressed it is beautiful. ON THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS Once the Christmas decorations were removed from the tree it still took a while to disassemble it although not as long as it took to assemble the tree. Well, it wouldn't really as once the branch is unhooked then it can be closed a little and returned to the box; there is no fussing over appearance just packaging. The branches do need pushing down a bit through to make enough room in the box. I thought it would be a good idea to keep all the branches together according to their coding. I did this by placing each bundle into carrier bags with a letter written on them. The box was closed and taped up in readiness for this coming Christmas. PRICE B&Q were selling this tree for £100 but the price has just been reduced to £75. In my opinion that is a very good price for an artificial tree of this standard. SIZE/SPECIFICATIONS Height (mm): 2130 ( 7 ft approx) Width (mm): 1500 Diameter (mm): 1510 (151cm (59") base diameter) Material: Metal Self Assembly Required. OVERALL I honestly think that this is a fantastic artificial Christmas tree. It is definitely the best one that we have ever owned. I think you have to look long and very closely to know that it isn't a real tree. It was expensive although not quite so much now as the price has just dropped by 25% but even at £100 I would say that if you can afford it then it is worth the price. A truly beautiful tree if you want something that very closely resembles the real thing but without the hassle. I would thoroughly recommend this tree but if you are considering making this purchase then please remember that it is big, both in terms of its height being seven foot and the very wide spread of its branches. If you have the room for it, then it will look great. I would say that as the tree is so dense it can take a lot of fairy lights. It will look good however many you have but, in my opinion, it is worth using several sets of lights (400 LED lights are recommended) as they really will set off this tree. Because an artificial tree lacks one thing that I love about a real tree, that being the pine aroma, I always buy a pine air freshener and if it's one that hooks up then this is ideal as I hook it on a branch where it can't be seen from in the room. If I can't find one of these then I stand the air freshener on the windowsill near to the tree. It just adds that little bit of authenticity. "MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE"
I have trouble packing light but I do always try. Usually when I go on holiday I take two handbags (and sometimes a small clutch bag as well) which will match the shoes that I'm packing to wear in the evening. I usually take a black pair and a brown pair of shoes. This year I thought to myself that I would try to find a nice bag in both colours so that I could take just the one handbag on holiday with me. Not only would this mean there would be less luggage to take away but I thought that one big advantage to only taking one evening bag away, would be that I didn't have to keep changing bags and bags wasting valuable holiday time. Also I often find that I often forget to take items out with me because of the bag change over. I looked at many handbags before buying the Natural Mock Croc handbag from The Collection at Debenhams. I decided on this bag because: It was both brown and black in colour and so just what I wanted. I thought it looked smart. The bag fastens properly. I don't like bags where only an internal pocket can be secured but the bag gapes open. It was the size of handbag that I required for my holiday. The handbag is fairly light in weight. It wasn't too expensive. I had seen this bag in store and so knew exactly what I was buying but I actually bought it on-line along with other purchases. This was partly because I had an on line discount code. This bag is, in my opinion, rather smart and has a designer look about it. I like that it has large handles so it can be used as a shoulder or grab bag. EXTERIOR The material on the outside of this bag is polyurethane. The faux crocodile trim is in black and is used to trim the base of the bag and is also on the flap that closes the bag. There is a small 'The collection' motif on the bag. The rest of the bag is in a light creamy brown colour and also has a medium brown colour on the trim. The material can be wiped clean. The bag has a popper fastener and this opens and closes the bag nicely. I like the handles on this bag as they are wide enough and soft enough to be comfortable when holding the bag. The bag measures: H 24cm (9.5") x W 30cm (12") x D 8cm (3.25") For me this is a good size and fits everything I want to take out with me of an evening. It is fairly roomy and I can fit some make up, purse, travel wipes, tissues, brush, mobile phone, camera etc. INTERIOR The bag has patterned polyester lining inside. There are two pockets inside the bag big enough to keep items secure such as purses, plastic cards and papers. As well as this there is a pouches for a mobile phone. However, as phones seem to be quite large nowadays this pouch is a bit on the small size, especially for smart phones. PRICE I paid £25.20 for this handbag. It was a sale item at the time and I had a further on-line discount. The full price for The Collection's Mock Croc bag is £35 but it is currently on sale and costs £26.25.
~~MICROSOFT SURFACE TOUCH PAD KEYBOARD~~ I purchased my Microsoft Surface Keyboard from Currys for the price of £279. At the time of purchase I was offered a touchpad keyboard to go with it for £69. I didn't buy this keyboard but over the next few days I realised that I would like a keyboard to go with the tablet. I looked on-line to see if I could find a bargain but prices seemed to be the same or even more than in Currys. After owning the Surface for a week I returned to the high street and purchased a touch pad keyboard. ~~ABOUT THE TOUCH PAD/COVER~~ The Microsoft 'surface' works as an ordinary tablet with a touch screen but it can also be used with a keyboard. I could have purchased a standard keyboard but once I had seen the touch keypad I knew this was what I wanted. The touch keypad clicks by way of magnets onto the base of the tablet and also acts as a protective cover when folded over the tablet. When it is folded over the tablet then the keys are disabled. The touch pad is available in three colours. These are blue (cyan) white and black. The blue is fairly bright and I thought that this made a change to my usual choice of black accessories. This cover/touch pad is spill proof whichhas got to be a good feature. In my opinion The Microsoft Surface Touch pad is lovely to use. It is a Qwerty keyboard in layout and has short cut keys for the tablet. It also has a track pad. I wanted something to make typing easier on my fingers and wrists and with these keys you don't have to press hard at all. With a keyboard attached, either with normal keys or touch pressure keys, the tablet really is like a mini laptop. I have now discovered that personally I would rather use my laptop or desktop PC when undertaking a lot of typing but I do think for anyone moving around a lot, from room to room indoors or for those who travel to work, or particularly for those whose work involves travel, then the surface really is ideal. It is an excellent device for taking on holiday, especially when you want, or need, to travel light. The tablet really is so handy when it is used with the keyboard or touch pad as then it is really having a mini laptop to hand. ~~SIZE~~ 7.4 x 11.0 in (187.96 x 279.4 mm) The touch pad is 3 mm thin Weight 0.46 lbs. (0.2 kg) ~~PRICE/AVAILABILITY~~ John Lewis £64.95 Microsoft shop £64.99 Currys £ 64.99 PC World £64.99
MICROSOFT SURFACE TABLET I am lucky enough to own a laptop and a desktop but decided a tablet would also be nice to own. I thought a tablet would be good as they are more portable than a laptop and so would be useful to me for several reasons. But I am far from being technical and knew little about tablets. I did some research on-line and then went out to look in a few high street stores at various tablets. I wanted something small but preferably larger than a seven inch screen. I wanted it to be light in weight so that it was easy to carry around as well as being light and manageable to hold in one hand. I have problems typing for long and have never touch typed. Because of this I thought a touch screen would be good to use. I wanted a tablet mainly for: Being able to check Facebook newsfeeds and send and view messages on Facebook. Be able to access my emails. Have access to consumer review sites so that I could read and rate on-line reviews. Perhaps get a Kindle application. The trouble is that I took my husband shopping with me and, once again, I was influenced by him. I had told him I was going to treat myself and look for a tablet. I mentioned being able to use it as a Kindle and thought I might even buy a Kindlefire. My husband was in favour of my purchasing a tablet but wanted me to have something light that I could rest on my lap rather than my laptop. He thought I needed something light on my knees when I was typing for long periods of time. I started to think he might be right. We looked in a few places, one of them being a large Tesco store followed by PCWorld and then on to Currys. I know that Currys and PCWorld belong to the same chain but they didn't have the same tablets on display therefore by going to both places I got to see a larger range of tablets. A knowledgeable assistant talked me through the pros and cons of an android tablet as opposed to the Microsoft tablet. Actually I became baffled! Not so much puzzled about what they were capable of but for what purpose I really wanted the tablet for. What drew my husband to the Microsoft tablet was the fact that it had 'word' on it. He was sure that having this programme would make the tablet easier for me to understand and use. The 'surface' has Office Home and Student 2013 including Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote installed. The 'surface' works as an ordinary tablet with touchscreen but can also be used with a keyboard BATTERY LIFE I find the battery life on this tablet pretty good and really the 'surface' is, in terms of battery life, more like using a phone than a laptop. KICK STAND On the back of this tablet is an integrated flip out kick stand. This makes it even more convenient to use if sitting at a desk, table or on a laptop tray. Once the kick stand is in use the table stands nicely in place. This comes into its own really when using the tablet to watch a video or for gaming. CAMERA This tablet has two cameras, a rear and front camera (720p HD). I think that using a camera on the tablet is easier than with a laptop. SPECIFICATIONS/FEATURES The Microsoft Surface tablet has many features so here are just a few important (to me) of them. Operating system Windows RT Screen size 10.6" Screen type LCD Storage 32 GB Processor NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-Core Built-in Webcam One USB port Battery Life 8 hours RAM memory 2GB DIMENSIONS Height 172.0 mm Width 9.4 mm Depth 274.0 Weight 0.88 kg OVERALL I do believe that this is a great product and brilliant for those who travel a lot as it is so portable and easy to use. It has good storage and lots of great features but I still find that I keep returning to my laptop. I seem to just find a laptop easier to use owing to it being that much larger. If I'm using word and/or undertaking various tasks then I prefer to use my laptop or desktop. I do think that this is a god machine but, probably for me, a simpler and cheaper tablet would have been more suited to my requirements. I could have purchased an android tablet with the main features that I wanted for around £130. But because I wavered and perhaps made a wrong decision doesn't mean that for many would be purchasers this is a lovely tablet. If you can manage to type away on a smaller screen and want something that can be a tablet or really combined with a mini laptop then this is great. For me it's just a bit too large to use one handed, as a Kindle, when reading in bed. I really needed something more like my iPhone but with a bigger screen. AVAILABILITY I purchased my Surface from a Currys high street store and I was offered a touch pad to go with this. I declined but purchased at a later date. This tablet is widely available from Argos, PCWorld /Currys and Tesco, as well as many other stores.
A few weeks ago the fridge compartment of my Hotpoint fridge freezer packed up and couldn't be revived. The time had come, too soon really, to purchase a new model. WHAT I WANTED I wanted a fridge freezer where the drawers opened and closed more easily. But this is difficult, I think, as trying out empty freezer drawers in display appliances doesn't really give one a good idea about how easy these would operate when full. But I knew I would have a good inspection of a new fridge freezer. After all, the food is taken out and returned so often in a freezer that it really is a nuisance if the drawers don't close easily. With fridge freezers, I find most are designed so that the fridge section is a lot larger than that of the freezer. Fridge freezers that share space 50:50 are hard to find, I don't even know if this ratio is available. Most fridge freezers seem to be top heavy. Our last one was roughly 60:40 which worked out quite well but this time when we looked at fridge freezers we found that most were about 70:30. It seemed that only a Samsung fridge freezer came close to what we had in mind. This one was a Curry's exclusive and priced at £799.00. I didn't want to spend that much yet also didn't want to buy something that I wasn't pleased with from day one. We decided to delay our decision until I'd had a better look on-line. MOST IMPORTANT FOR ME SIZE: A new freezer had to fit into the same size space that would be vacated by the old appliance. INTERNAL SIZE: I wanted the freezer to be of a similar or at least almost the same size as the model that was departing. COLOUR: I already have graphite/silver/grey appliances and wanted some colour coordination. EASY OPENING: I wanted compartments to open and close smoothly. FROST FREE: I hate defrosting freezers. ENERGY EFFICIENT: I wanted an A+ rating or better so the freezer would be economical to run. WHERE TO PURCHASE? A freezer is not something I would want to buy unseen, especially as I am particular about the smooth opening of the compartments. We thought we should look for a Samsung model in a design similar to the one we had already seen and liked, although hopefully selling at a cheaper price. I looked on-line and came across the Samsung RL58GPEIH on various websites. It looked very similar to the model that we had looked at but was cheaper. I then looked at the appliances online website and they had this particular model. The site showed an informative video of the fridge freezer and it looked to be what I wanted. It was priced at £629, in Currys and Appliances on-line. Both stores offer standard free delivery but for next day delivery Currys charges £12.99 and Appliances online charges £9.99. I couldn't get next day delivery from Currys but I could from Appliances Online, therefore I ordered from the latter. ORDERING Ordering from Appliances Online was straightforward. I had to affirm details such as could a lorry park easily in my road and were there steps up to the property. Once I'd paid and completed the ordering process I received an email confirming my order and saying that it could be tracked. The company had my email address and my husband's mobile phone number. We were contacted several times before the appliance arrived by both email and text messages. DELIVERY I was impressed with delivery overall. My order could be tracked and information was updated every so often. We were kept informed by email and text messaging throughout and were messaged to say that our delivery would arrive between 11am and 3 pm. The delivery driver's name and a contact phone number were supplied to us. The driver did, in fact, phone us when he was twenty-five minutes away. This was useful as then we knew when to put the dog safely out of the way and into the garden as well as opening doors in readiness for the delivery of our order. It arrived as promised via two delivery men. Although slightly smaller than the outgoing model it wouldn't go through the door until the packaging was removed. I think this might be to do with this freezer having handles which made it a bit awkward to manoeuvre. We could have paid more to have the old appliance removed and recycled but chose not to. IN ITS PLACE We could also have had the freezer installed but my husband prefers to do these tasks himself. Moving this fridge freezer into its position in the kitchen was made easier by the fact that it has two small wheels fitted onto the rear base. When the appliance is tilted backwards these small wheels will operate. The freezer was easy to level. APPEARANCE The Samsung G-Series RL58GPEIH Fridge Freezer is freestanding. It comes in a stainless steel look. I wasn't sure that this would look good alongside my under counter freezer which was in a graphite colour but I think, although not exactly the same colour, the stainless steel effect is a dark finish and matches well. I'm pleased with the co-ordination colour wise. It isn't quite as tall as the previous freezer which, I think makes it look a little better as it isn't too imposing. Both the fridge and freezer compartments can both be opened by lever system handles. These handles are lovely to use. On the fridge door there is an LED thermostat and a dispenser for the water filter. These both add to the modern look of this appliance. FRIDGE I liked the fridge compartment when I had viewed the similar Samsung model in the Currys store. I thought it more impressive than the fridge compartment of many other brands that I saw. I still think that it looks good and everything seems to fit well inside it. One thing that I would say is, in my opinion, there is a design fault in that the door will only hold two bottles in an upright position. The bottle compartment is wide and can hold a large four pint (2.27 litres) size plastic container and on its side. There is still room for a smaller bottle of milk or a bottle of wine next to this but nothing else will stand up. And it's a bit of a nuisance that there is no other place to store opened bottles upright. I do find this a bit of a pain and now find I'm pushed into buying smaller sized milk containers. Perhaps I should also buy smaller bottle s of wine! Apart from the open bottles problem there is still plenty of room in this fridge for everything else to be kept. The inside of the door holds the water tank for the dispenser and also has plenty of room for jars, eggs and other foodstuffs that you may wish to store here. Inside the fridge there are shelves placed at different levels. It is recommended that these should be kept in the position that they were placed in by the manufacturer as the placing is supposed to keep the fridge running at optimum efficiency. A nice feature is the wine rack, although I couldn't fit a bottle of champagne on this so had to instead place it on the shelf above. My husband took over this wine rack by filling it with bottled beer. To the bottom of the fridge space are two large box types of containers. I like these as I can fit so much inside. These containers pull out which means all the food inside is easy to access. The bottom drawer is called the 'Fresh Zone' and I keep meat in here as it's so cold and because meat should be kept at the lowest part of the fridge for hygiene reasons. This fridge is clever and has something called 'Multi Flow' using technology to make cool air flow through the entire fridge, keeping it very cool throughout and at a stable temperature This Samsung is a little smaller than my Hotpoint model and I am pleased about this. I couldn't reach or see easily what was near to the top of my last fridge. With this appliance I can see what's stored inside and reach items much easier. And although the fridge isn't quite as large as my last one in height or width it still seems to fit a great deal inside. Actually, although it looks smaller than the last appliance there is barely any difference in capacity. This must be due to manufacturer's use of Ecospace technology and their claims that the thin wall insulation technology' means that there is more space internally which does not affect the exterior space. FREEZER Inside the freezer is an ice making gadget. There are two trays in which to place water and once frozen a simple turn of either one will turn the ice out of the ice maker and into a storage space underneath. This is a nice touch especially at Christmas, hot summer days or party time. It doesn't take up too much room either. Next to this is a small compartment ideal to store a few of the slimmer packaged items of frozen food such as packets of beef burgers, sausages, fish fingers etc. There are three further drawer compartments which pull out nicely. I am pleased with these as I wasn't happy with the comfort of opening drawers in my last freezer. The design in this respect is good, I think. Although my last appliance had four large drawers I think that this model actually holds almost as much. Also, everything stored inside is far easier to see and to remove. WATER DISPENSER The water dispenser is stored on the inner fridge door. This is fitted with a Brita water filter (supplied) and can be filled with tap water by removing the container to fill or, alternatively, there is an opening at the top of the container which can be filled without removing the whole container. Once the water is chilled it's simple to operate and have cold filtered water on tap! The dispenser is child safe as it can be locked after use. THERMOSTAT The thermostat is on the exterior of the fridge door. After closing the fridge door the LED digital display will show the fridge and the freezer temperatures; this is clear and easy to read. On the thermostat panel there is also a: POWER FREEZE-This is a fast freeze function. TEMPERATURE ALARM-The temperature alarm will light up and flash if the temperature of the freezer has risen, perhaps due to a power cut. VACATION CONTROL-This is a useful and economic function if you are going away for several days or more. The freezer can be set to use less power. The fridge needs to be emptied if using this as the fridge will operate at 15 degrees (too warm for a refrigerator) but the freezer will stay at its normal below freezing temperature. ALARM- This alarm will activate if the fridge is left open. This is a great feature if the fridge has been accidentally left open and so is in danger of its temperature rising. DOOR REVERSAL The doors on his model are reversible. We didn't need to reverse them but I had read on a couple of reviews before I purchased this model that the process can be tricky. The doors are very heavy. Instructions are supplied in the user's manual. MORE FEATURES FOR YOUR INFORMATION This fridge freezer has many features and so I have chosen just a few here which I feel may be helpful if you are considering purchasing this freezer. Dimensions (cm): (H)192.0 x (W)59.7 x (D)67.0 Manufacturer's Five year warranty A++ Energy Rating Annual Energy Consumption of 270 Kwh Fridge Capacity Gross- 266 litres Fridge Capacity Net-257 Litres Freezer Capacity Gross-150 Litres Safety Glass Shelves in Refrigerator Freezer Capacity Net 115 Litres Three Shelves in Fridge LED Lighting 41 dB-Noise Level Annual Energy Cost Based On 15p/Unit 40.5 pounds DOES IT TICK ALL THE BOXES? Does it tick all of the boxes? Well, I don't think we often get everything we want in terms of household appliances and so some compromise is often necessary. I think in terms of the features that I deemed the most important then the Samsung G-Series RL58GPEIH Fridge Freezer was the model most suited to my requirements and pocket. In terms of size, it fits well in the space where it had to go. Being slightly smaller but having a similar capacity to my old appliance, is useful as it is easier to access. I am pleased with how much I can fit into both the fridge and the freezer compartments and so I would have to place a big tick next to size. In terms of colour coordination, the freezer matches quite well. I think having handles helps to keep fingerprints at bay. I wanted the freezer compartments to open easily and I am pleased that they do. All freezer drawers are much easier to open and close than those in my last freezer. I wanted my appliance to be energy efficient and was looking for an A+ rating. This Samsung freezer actually has an A++ rating, so even better. I think that my new fridge freezer is a good buy. However, I think the price of £629.00 is a lot to pay and so I hope that I will be able to say I made a good choice in six or seven years' time. AVAILABILITY I paid £629 from Appliances Online. This fridge freezer is available from many outlets. Here are a few: www.currys.co.uk (Home delivery only-not available from store) www.ao.com (Appliances Online) www.johnlewis.com www.bootskitchenappliances.com
~~WHY CHOOSE THIS MAXI DRESS?~~ Since I was a teenager blue jeans have almost always been my preferred form of attire. However, there are occasions when we all have to dress up a little and at these times I will often choose to wear a maxi dress. I also have found that when going on holiday, especially when going to countries with warmer climates than the United Kingdom, that jeans are too hot and uncomfortable for me (even in the evening) and so then I am happy to wear a maxi dress. I think a simple style dress is an easy and comfortable item of clothing to wear. I used to include lots of skirts and tops to wear in the evening on my holidays but once in the hotel room I often find there isn't enough storage for many clothes. I have also come to the conclusion that I've wasted a lot of time when I should be doing more interesting things, than dithering over what to wear. Over the last couple of years maxi dresses seem to have become fashionable and therefore are more easily found in high street stores. I've been pleased to find several decent maxi dresses recently. When I shop for clothes for myself I tend to buy them from the high street or on-line. In the case of 'The Collection Blue beaded floral maxi dress' I had seen it in a Debenhams store, had a look and a feel, yet I didn't purchase at the time. Instead, I later ordered several items from their on-line store. This worked out slightly better than buying in store price wise as, at the time I had a discount code giving me 10% off as well as already benefiting from the sales price. I was making a large order and so the 10% was most welcome. The order also qualified for free delivery. When my order arrived I didn't leave it long until I tried on the clothes that were included as I knew I would probably be returning several items. However, in the case of the blue jersey maxi dress from the Debenhams Collection range, no return was necessary. The dress is available in a standard length or from Debenhams petite collection. Standard length, at 57 inches/145cm (back measurement) is usually too long for me (I'm only 5 ft 2 ½") but the Petite length can often be just a little too short, therefore I purchased in the standard length. I chose this length in the knowledge that I would most likely send it off with a few other dresses to be slightly shortened. This means I get the exact length that I want and it doesn't cost too much. I don't wear heels and so dresses are often too long for me. I am very pleased with the fit of this dress; it really has proved to be very comfortable. I am very fussy with trims around the arm or neckline. Comfort for me is very important. I really can't be bothered wearing something that is uncomfortable even if it does look nice. I have now learnt my lesson; if in doubt don't purchase. If I try something on and think I like the look of it but it itches a bit or feels heavy then it will just end up hanging dormant in the depths of my wardrobe. Nobody likes to waste their money. This dress feels great. It's made of a soft jersey material which is just slightly silky and smooth to the touch. I bought several dresses at around the same time as this one but this is my favourite. I like it so much because I believe that not only does it feel good to wear but it doesn't look too bad either. Another big advantage is that it doesn't need ironing. After washing this dress I quickly place it on a clothes hanger to dry. I have also tumble- dried it but I don't think this is recommended. I took this dress on two holidays this year. On both occasions I rolled it up and packed it away in this condition. When I removed it from my suitcase on arriving on holiday I was pleased to see that it wasn't creased. The dress is a sleeveless summer dress. I would describe it as self-lined which means it isn't too heavy or hot to wear. I found it most suitable to wear on warm evenings, in Zakynthos this summer as well as on one or two evenings in the British hot summer that many of us have enjoyed. It is slightly gathered (smocked) around the shoulders and is of a vee-neck/cross over design on the neck. Really, the style is both summery and feminine. Under the bust there is a half waist band (to the front) with a beading detail upon it. I think this makes the dress a little fancier and lends it to evening wear or day wear. It really is suitable for either and can be worn for casual or occasions when I might want to dress up a little but without fear of being overdressed. The dress ties at the back with thin straps which are of the same material as the dress. I wear flat shoes but I do feel that this dress can be worn with flat shoes or heels. I cannot wear flip flops but I think it would look good with a pretty pair of decorative flip flops or sandals. I like the colours used in the design of this dress. I love shades of blue and this dress seems predominantly blue but on closer inspection it has many colours, such as white, mauve, purple, a little gold, and turquoise, all incorporated in the overall floral pattern. I always think it is a good idea to take multi coloured clothes on holiday so that accessories can be easily matched and therefore less items need to be taken along; you probably will need to pack lightly. The colours in this dress mean that shoes, cardigans, jackets, bags and jewellery are easy to match to it. I would say that this maxi dress is suitable for a wide age range. It is a good dress to wear for all sizes from the slim to those with a fuller figure. As it isn't too fitted anywhere or too revealing I feel that it makes a good choice for many women. CARE The Collection beaded maxi dress is machine or hand washable. I wash it at 30 degrees and give it a good spin. SIZE RANGE This maxi dress is available in size 10 to 22 and it is also available in The Collection's petite range. PRICE I think that this dress was priced at £38.00 when I purchased it but I paid around £34.00. It is now on sale at a bargain being half price at £19.
I recently purchased a Microsoft Surface tablet and I wanted to buy some sort of bag or sleeve for it straight away to protect it. I purchased the tablet in a Currys store but, as they didn't have much in stock in the way of bags or cases that would fit and nothing for the sort of price I wished to pay, (less than £20) I walked across the car park, the short distance to PC World, Curry's sister company to see if they might have a better selection. I first had in mind a simple slip in type of sleeve for my new tablet; I thought this would be the handiest. On first looking in PC World it didn't seem as if they had anything more to offer than Currys that would be the right size for my tablet. The bags and sleeves for tablets were all too small but then I was directed by a helpful sales assistant to another shelf holding cases and laptop bags. Here I found that there was far more choice. The Microsoft Surface tablet has a 10.6 inch screen and measures 11 by 7 inches. Most tablets are smaller than this and so will fit into a smaller bag. There were a few choices here but I soon decided on the Logik Laptop sleeve/bag L11NBL12. This case bag is made from neoprene, which is a soft, pliable yet tough material that is durable as well as water resistant. The Logik L11NBL12 sleeve is available in several colours. I seem to remember red, blue, black, purple and I think pink as well. I chose a blue sleeve. I would say it is a medium blue colour. I thought this colour would stand out from my husband's work netbook which he keeps in a black case. The Logik L11NBL12 sleeve cost £9.99 which was about the price I was happy to pay for a bag. It is a really nice and lightweight bag, in my opinion, ideal for carrying around one of the larger tablets, Macbook or a netbook. The style is of a sleeve type but it has a dual zip which open and close the case to half way down the case on each side. The inside of the sleeve is nicely lined in a soft material which helps to protect my laptop from any possible knocks and bumps. Protective corner pads are integrated into the case internally and these hold the top two corners of the tablet nicely in place. It is made in China. I would say that this is a good sleeve for the price paid. There are probably better and more protective cases on the market but really this is just what I wanted; a simple and easy to open case. I would recommend it. This sleeve holds my Surface tablet nicely in place.
When I ordered a large Nica tote bag from the Debenhams website in the summer l knew that I wanted a large handbag but I thought that it might be very difficult to find things in it. The bag was large and didn't have any dividing pockets inside. Whilst looking at handbags before finalising my order on the website, by chance I came across the black handbag organiser from Debenhams The Collection range. I thought it might be just the thing I needed and so went ahead and added this item to my shopping basket. The handbag organiser is ideal for women like me who don't often sort out their handbags but like to be well prepared when they go out. It is also a great idea for those who swap their handbags around quite often. The organiser can be used to fit and to keep inside a larger bag. When I use my large Nica bag I also use this organiser. I put all of my plastic cards, purse, keys, Oyster card any other papers or any important things that I want to find quickly, in the organiser and then place it inside the bag. I also think that keeping money and credit/debit cards inside the organiser makes shopping and going out and about more secure because the organiser fits deep inside the bag. When I want to use my purse or card I find the organiser easy to access. Really the organiser feels like sections that are an integral part of a bag. The advantage is that important stuff is kept together. I can also put other items which are easier to find, or that I don't need so often, in the larger bag rather than the organiser. It works well when I have a change of handbag because, providing the new bag is large enough (it only needs to be a medium to large size) all I need to do is take the organiser from one bag and place into another. By doing this I will know that at least I have the most important stuff in my chosen bag. I think the handbag organiser actually looks rather nice and, although I don't think it is quite good enough to use as a handbag in its own right on a long term basis, I think for a holiday bag if one wanted to travel light then it could be used for this purpose. In my opinion it is really only the straps that let the bag down in terms of smartness, as they are made from a thin black canvas material and don't really match the fabric of the bag which, being of a shiny mock snakeskin, looks quite fancy. Although the organiser bag is small (its length measuring less than ten inches) much can be fitted into it. This is mainly because of its many pockets which, in my opinion, are of the correct size to be useful. The Collection handbag organiser zips up to keep everything kept in the main section safe. EXTERIOR On one side of the organiser bag there is a zipped compartment which runs across most of the front area. Slightly underneath this are two further non fastening pockets, one being mobile phone size and the other is larger. There is also a transparent framed pocket ideal for forms of photo ID cards or similar. There is a handy narrow pocket intended to keep a pen inside. The organiser has a clip for keys. On the other side of the bag there are two non-fastening pockets. INTERIOR The interior is fully lined. There is one zip up pocket inside the organiser which is ideal to keep a little money in or perhaps a personal item or two. FURTHER DETAILS * Materials (outer): 100% polyurethane (lining): 100% nylon * Measurements (HWD): 15 x 24 x 5cm/ 6 x 9.5 x 2" PRICE I paid around £11.00 for this item with discounts. At the time the RRP was £18.00 and it is currently selling for £5.42 which I feel is a bargain.
I purchased the Nica Black Scalloped Trimmed Tote Bag during the summer (July) just gone when I wanted and needed some serious retail therapy but of the on-line rather than on the high street kind. I found some on-line voucher codes and ordered several items from the Debenhams website. Among my purchases was this bag. It was also available in store. Delivery was free. This is a large and solid feeling bag which I would say is between a shopping bag and a handbag. I have used it many times since purchasing it and have really given it a good test. I have been pleased with its durability. I would say that it isn't the lightest of bags. I wanted something that I could take with me on those occasions when I was out for the day and had a lot to take with me. If possible I like to take a large smart bag that I can cram a lot into. I prefer to take a large bag if I'm going to the theatre and want to take a small bottle of water, cleansing wipes, small chocolate bar and perhaps binoculars as well as the usual type of thing such as purse, phone, tissues and make -up. This bag is large enough to fit in all I need to take with me as well as a little more such as an umbrella if necessary, I can take all of this and still fit in thin and neatly folded cardigan. This bag really is a perfect one for me when going out and about. I also find this bag good for high street shopping. But as it is big I find it best to place my handbag organiser inside as when using this items inside the bag so much easier to find inside its mysterious depths. It is a tote type bag but the two chunky grab handles are long enough to use it either on the arm or on the shoulder. I am quite choosy over handbags; I like them to feel comfortable to hold and very importantly, to be secure. Many bags have inner zips but the bag itself doesn't seal and I feel these can be a pickpockets dream. I think it's so easy to leave a purse or phone in the main compartment as a temporary measure but then forgetting to place it in a more secure part of the bag. This bag has a zip which does up the bag as a whole. For me this is a huge advantage. The exterior of the bag is a black leather look with black leather look and suede leather look to the sides. It has attractive scalloping to add a decorative touch It has a small front compartment on the outside which has a magnetic catch. Above that is a zip up pouch type of compartment which is ideal for things such as my Oyster card. The interior of the bag is fully lined and made of a patterned material of green and a stone colour. Inside are two open pouches, one clearly intended for a mobile phone. The other lies next to it and I find it handy for to keep my keys in. On the other inner wall of the bag there is a zipped compartment. Another thing I like is that the zips are easy to use because they are so chunky making them so easy to grab and pull. MATERIALS (www.Debenhams.com) Outer: 100% Polyurethane Trim: 100% Polyester HWD: 33 x 34 x 15cm/ 13 x 13.5 x 6 Front zip pocket Lining: 100% Polyester This bag sells for the reduced price of £29.50 as it was on sale for £59.00. However, I only paid £26.55 owing to discounts. I wouldn't pay £59 for a bag but the price of around £26.00 up to £30.00, I feel is a very good purchase price.
WHICH SCREENING IS BEST? This year my husband and I decided our garden needed attention. We thought some screening might make the patio area more inviting in terms of attractiveness and privacy. Our patio has a concrete wall on one side and a wooden fence panel on the other. Neither looked particularly attractive. The concrete fence didn't look great and on the other side the fencing panel just wouldn't quite stand straight. Erecting new fencing would have been costly and a time consuming task, so we looked for something my husband could quickly (and fairly cheaply) fit himself. After looking at various types of screening I felt that a bamboo type of cover would probably be our best bet. WHERE FROM? I looked in various outlets, on internet sites and on high street DIY stores. I thought most types of screening seemed expensive and, as we weren't sure if it would fit well onto the existing fences, we didn't want to spend too much money. Bamboo screening is readily available from gardening and DIY outlets, during spring and summer months at least, but sometimes it isn't easy to find the exact size you require and for the price you're willing to pay. Most screens I found for the price I had in mind weren't high or long enough. We wanted the screening to be fairly high to afford a measure of privacy on the patio where we sometimes eat and have a drink. Wilko's Bamboo Slat Screening at £15 it seemed a good buy. We decided to purchase just one roll and see how it looked when put in place. If all went well then we would return to purchase a further roll. CARRYING THE SCREENING We bought screening which was 1.8m high by 3m in length. The screening is sold in a roll, packed inside a thick plastic bag with handy integrated handles. The packaging was good for easy transportation. The bag was easy to carry back to the car park which was about a ten minute walk away. It isn't very heavy either but a bit on the awkward side if it has to be carried for any great distance. FIXING Once home my husband soon set to work fixing the screening. First of all he unrolled it and checked that the screening looked of a good enough quality and didn't have slats missing or damaged. It seemed to be in a good condition. My husband attached the screening to the concrete fence (the side which we felt most needed to be covered) by means of screws attached to the fence post and by tying green gardening wire wherever necessary. Fixing the screening doesn't take long at all. Obviously the effort involved varies according to what it is to be fitted to and how easily it can be attached. We didn't need the whole three metre length of the screening but, as the slats are flexible, he simply doubled one end over itself and left it like that rather than cut any off and it blended in well. However, this screening can be cut to the size required. It was just as well that my husband didn't cut the screening to size because a few weeks after fitting it he and a neighbour between them cut down some extremely hardy ivy, leaving a gap in the chain link fence (next to the concrete wall) between both gardens. We later purchased some bark screening to fill this in and the bamboo screening was moved along and the extra length was then used. WHAT IS IT? The screening, being of bamboo, is natural looking. It consists of bamboo cut in half lengthwise and these slats of bamboo are then linked in many places by a thin wire across its length. Because of the gaps the screening is flexible and can be fixed onto existing walls, fences or sheds, either in a straight line or contoured to fit around plants and trees. Bamboo slat screening is, in my opinion, a versatile type of screening which has many uses. It can be used instead of a fence, or to cover existing and perhaps unsightly broken walls, fences or sheds. The screening provides privacy but as it isn't solid it lets some light through. Wilko Bamboo Slat Screening can be used as a windbreak to shelter plants, and to section off areas of the garden and hide/screen refuse bins, compost heaps and anything really that will look better positioned behind a screen. It is much cheaper and easier to install than a fence, but then again, it isn't likely to last as long as a properly erected fence. APPEARANCE Once the screening was fixed and we placed some planters and flowers against it I was pleased with the overall affect. I like the fact that it's so natural looking and therefore didn't look amiss used with other types of screening and fencing already in the garden or fitted later. I think it blends well and, in my opinion, provides a perfect backdrop for our precious plants. The addition of several new solar lights sets it off, I believe. As my husband and I were both pleased with the first length of this bamboo screening that we purchased, we soon ventured back to Wilkinsons for the purpose of buying an additional roll of bamboo screening to fit on the other side of the patio. Once the second roll of slat screening was acquired my husband fixed it to the other side of the patio and onto a wooden fence. This wooden fence (our neighbour's) stood a little lopsided and so the bamboo screening helped to tidy this side up and also to help both sides of the patio to match, to some extent. PRICE We paid £15 for this size (1.8x3m) of bamboo slat screening from Wilkinsons. It is currently reduced (as at September-October 2013) to £10. I thought the price we paid was reasonable and so obviously feel that the sale price is a bargain. Wilko sells other sizes and types of garden screening. OVERALL I'm very pleased with this screening. I had to be pleased to purchase a second roll of bamboo slat screening from the same store. I am happy, and so is my husband, with the purchase of this product, both in terms of its look and because I feel that it has definitely fulfilled the purpose for which it was intended. Now that it has stood firmly in its place in our garden for a few months, I would say that it seems to perhaps be hardier than the bark screening which we purchased a little later than this bamboo slat type.
BOOKING My husband and I decided to spend our holiday on the Greek island of Zante. We had already stayed in Louis group hotels, and have been impressed, and so decided to try the Louis Zante Beach Hotel. This is a four star hotel. I booked as a package through First Choice Holidays after looking around at other tour operators. I found the flight times with First Choice great and the price seemed good, therefore I chose this company. I looked up the holiday details on-line but booked by telephone. CHECKING IN We travelled from the airport to the hotel on the First Choice/Thomson coach transfer service which took no more than thirty minutes. Several people arrived at the same time and the reception was busy but well manned. I was impressed with the quick checking in process. We paid a deposit for a room safe and a deposit for the use of pool/beach towels. We were supplied with information regarding meal times, food outlets, bars etc. An A/I band was attached to our wrists. We were given a room key which had a magnet attached to control the electricity supply in the room. Our cases were taken to our room by a porter. I would say that reception service throughout our stay were excellent. HOTEL ROOMS Rooms are located on the first and second floor in the main hotel building as well as in bungalows dotted around the hotels grounds. Our room was situated on the second floor of the hotel. Inside the hotel there are two lifts for guests. I was pleasantly surprised that we never had to wait long throughout our stay for a lift to be available. Our room was close to the lifts and staircase which seemed a good location although we were worried it might be noisy at times. However, the room position proved to be ideal; we never found the hotel at all noisy. OUR ROOM On entering the room the first thing I did was to open the doors to the balcony and step outside. As a sea view is very important to me I had paid for this feature. If I hadn't liked the view then I wouldn't have unpacked but would have requested a different room. I know from past experience of the Louis Hotels group that they will endeavour to please their guests. Well, the view was simply gorgeous. I couldn't complain about my home for the next two weeks. The room had a lovely large bed and this proved to be one of the most comfortable hotel beds that I have slept in. We may have been fortunate and been given a fairly new bed as some others guests did mention their beds being uncomfortable; ours was lovely. Extra pillows were to be found in the wardrobe but we requested more for extra comfort. These were brought to our room. There was a bedside table/cabinet (with drawer) on either side of the bed. We each had a reading lamp and controls to operate other lights in the room plus the light for the balcony. In the dressing table drawer a hair dryer was placed inside. Next to the dressing table there was a mirror and a light above it. The room contained a sofa bed and two chairs.. Also in the room was a chest of drawers with tea and coffee making tray placed on top. There was a kettle, cups saucers and various sachets of tea and coffee plus milk and sachets of sugar. A large plastic bottle of mineral water was supplied on our arrival. Literature we had been given on checking in informed us that if this bottle was empty and left outside the fridge it would be replaced. Tea, coffee etc. was replenished throughout our stay. We never had to ask for more milk or sugar. The wardrobe was large with a shelf and the doors opened out into the room. We had enough hangers for our clothes which is unusual. The fridge was a decent size being large enough to hold bottled water, a bottle of orange squash and a litre carton of juice. A further set of drawers was located under the fridge. The fridge and safe were integrated into the wardrobe fitment and a door closed over them. There was plenty of storage in this room but then there were only two of us. I think if we had stayed in this room with any of our children some years ago then we might have needed another chest of drawers, but then I think it's rare to find adequate storage in hotels when there are more than two people using the room. But I would still say that this was one of the better hotels that I have stayed in in terms of storage space. I thought that the air conditioning was good and used it often. The room had a telephone and a television. EN-SUITE The bathroom was small but adequate, although the bath was the narrowest I've ever come across. Even just using to stand and shower (over bath shower) it was too narrow for comfort and I wonder how some of the more ample guests coped. But the shower itself gave a good shower apart from on two occasions when I tried to shower earlier than usual in the evening. There was a toilet and vanity sink unit in the bathroom. It had a shaver point. Hand soap was supplied as was shower gel/shampoo. Toiletries were replenished as necessary. There were four towels in the bathroom and a bath mat. BALCONY The rooms have been recently refurbished at this hotel and I think the balcony furniture must have been renewed at the same time. Furniture consisted of a small table and two comfortable chairs. The balcony because was well screened from the balconies on both sides and this afforded a good measure of privacy. There was a rail to dry clothes/towels fixed onto a wall on the balcony. CLEANING OF ROOM Towels were changed every day unless left them folded on the towel rack. Toilet tissue was always supplied. Toiletry dispensers were refilled when necessary. Drinking water was refilled whenever we left the bottle outside of the fridge. I have always found Louis hotels very clean but the maid who cleaned our room really surpassed herself. Often in hotel rooms I see something that's been missed but our room was thoroughly cleaned every day. Sheets were also changed frequently. Any dirty cups (even our own mugs) were washed and dried. It really was a delight to enter our room after it had been cleaned. ACCESS We became friendly with a family of three generations and the elderly grandmother was confined to a wheelchair. They said they coped well and were staying in a room in the main hotel. Their only grumble seemed to be that their beds weren't comfortable. I think that the reliability of the hotel lifts must have been a big help to disabled guests and those with babies in pushchairs. There were many bungalows on ground floor level. I was impressed that the hotel had ramps fitted throughout. The swimming pool was one of the easiest to access that I have come across. It had easy to ascend/descend steps rather than ladders and sturdy handrails. GROUNDS The grounds are extensive and lovely with lawn areas, trees and flowers dotted around, a pleasant pool area with entertainment area and a beach bar. There are several ways to reach the beach and walking around the grounds is easy owing to many linked pathways. POOL The swimming pool had a life guard in attendance. I loved the swimming pool although it wasn't the largest ever. It was easy to access by shallow steps and hand rails. It looked clean; we saw the pool and surrounding areas being thoroughly cleaned every morning. The pool area was kept clean throughout the day too and the life guard regularly swept away puddles to keep the area as slip-free as possible. There was a small children's paddling pool close to the swimming pool. The sun loungers were comfortable and the parasols attractive. Although I appreciated this swimming pool I did think that the hotel needed a second pool. We found at times, especially during our first week, when English and Welsh (not sure about Irish) schools were still on holiday, that the pool and its surrounds became too noisy. This was really because of parents leaving pre-teens for too long to their own devices. Several people were disappointed that these older children didn't seem to be checked and they did spoil the tranquillity of the hotel. The second week was more pleasant when most of the children staying were Scandinavians under school age (under seven) and young pre-school aged children from around Europe who weren't any trouble at all. I thought if the hotel had another pool it might have helped with this noise issue and been an improvement on the hotel, making it even nicer. Also, there were too many guests staying here in peak season, in my opinion, for just the one pool. The hotel certainly had enough room for another pool which could have been either an indoor or outdoor one. One didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to secure a sunbed. The pool area was thoroughly cleaned every morning at around eight o clock and towels seemed to be laid on beds after this time. We never had trouble finding two beds and a parasol together. Sunbeds were placed around the pool and on the lawns. ENTERTAINMENT The daytime entertainment was excellent. The animators were a group of lovely and friendly young Italians and one Polish girl. I cannot praise them enough. They were charming and hard working. I felt they spent time speaking to all guests and although we didn't join in many daytime activities on this holiday we weren't forgotten and became friendly with the entertainers. All guests were invited to participate in beach volleyball, football, killer darts, pool, table tennis, French boules, pool games, water aerobics and more but there was no pressure at all. Animators worked hard in the evening too and put on some lovely sows. We did think that the entertainment could have gone on a little later in the evenings. A/I OPTION Food and drink is available at the Louis Zante Beach from breakfast through to supper snacks. Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks are available from ten in the morning until midnight. A pay bar is open until midnight. Meals consisted of self-service buffet and show cooking. Guests could eat in the Asian restaurant if previously booked. Carafes or glasses of red and white wine were available at lunch and dinner as was beer, water, soft drinks and tea and coffee. After dinner snacks consisting of sandwiches, crisps, and popcorn were available from the main bar area. Afternoon cakes were served by the pool bar. Drinks were served during the day from the poolside bar and at the beach bar. In the evening drinks were available from the poolside bar near to the entertainment area and also from the main bar. Waiter/waitress served drinks by the main bar. Local beer was on draught. The poolside bar served beer in small recyclable plastic glasses but in the main bar beer was served in 'proper' glasses, either in half or pint glasses. Overall we thought drinks served in this hotel were mainly of a good standard. We thought the red wine was better than the white. The local beer was decent. I usually drank vodka or ouzo as well as sampling various cocktails. I enjoyed the cocktails as they weren't overwhelmingly strong but pleasant. My husband and I thought the all-inclusive option at the Zante Beach was impressive. Most guests seemed to be staying here on an A/I basis. FOOD (INCLUDING VEGETARIAN OPTIONS) Vegetarian options weren't bad although I think meat free options could be improved upon in the way of a larger choice. I would say that it is better than many hotels but not as good as two Louis hotels that I have stayed at in Paphos, Cyprus. There was nearly always a pasta sauce (and pasta) suitable for vegetarians and there was a vegetarian corner, although I did sometimes struggle to find something I fancied. I think if the salad bar had offered a little more, perhaps in the way of quiche, more cheeses, tuna, then this would have better suited both vegetarians and omnivores. I thought the salad choices were disappointing although the sauces and dips were lovely. There didn't seem to be many complaints about the food but my husband and I were a little disappointed. We felt food was cooked well but often there were weird choices for instance roast beef but only wedges to go with this and altogether some strange combinations. We also thought that the joints of meat on the carvery ran out too early and should have been replaced. The food wasn't bad but we felt it could have been better. The restaurant had Greek, Cypriot, Italian nights and there was usually something Greek to be found. STAFF We were very impressed with staff throughout the hotel; we found cleaning staff, bar, waiting, reception and entertainment staff to all be polite, friendly and efficient. FACILITIES The hotel has an outdoor pool and paddling pool. Sun loungers are free to guests around the pool and lawns but loungers and parasol are charged for on the beach. I believe proceeds go towards the preservation of turtles in the area. There is a small games area for children Computers are available and Wi-Fi is at a charge. Fully equipped gymnasium Darts Table tennis Diving centre Car hire Television room Evening and daytime entertainment Hair salon Children's club Two floodlit tennis courts Wedding packages and services Towel hire LOCATION The hotel is beachside. The beach is long and of soft golden sand. The sea is clear and it's easy to access the calm waters. When we were here (late August to September) the sea was wonderfully warm and inviting. Water sports aren't available because they would disturb the turtles in this area, which is an important nesting area for the loggerhead turtles. However, pedaloes can be hired and the hotel has a diving centre and small boats can be hired. A few metres from the hotel there's a small jetty where boat trips can be taken from. Louis Zante Beach Hotel is located on the outskirts of Laganas and close to the small resort of Kalamaki. It's on the outskirts of Laganas and is fairly peaceful but still easy to travel to the main (and lively) Laganas strip or the lovely family resort of Kalamaki, or to Zante town. From the front of the hotel there is a long driveway leading to the main road and the start of shops, bars and restaurants. It is more pleasant to walk a short distance along the beach where one soon comes across bars and shops. GUESTS AT ZANTE BEACH There was a good mix of nationalities staying at this hotel which makes things more interesting. It is nice, in my opinion, to meet people from other countries. There were probably mainly British guests during our first week but there was more of a mix during the second week. OVERALL The Louis Zante Beach is a family hotel of a good standard. We would definitely consider returning to this hotel. We loved the beach and the grounds. Most of all the service was excellent. I liked our hotel room and was impressed with the cleanliness of the room, hotel and grounds. I also liked the fact that the hotel is close to the airport meaning that the transfer time was short.
~~NEEDING A CLOSER VIEW~~ After many years spent going to see my daughter sing and act in various amateur productions and competitions I found that, in more recent years, my view of the stage was often blurred. If I was seated a long way from the stage then I couldn't see very well at all and everything seemed hazy. I also found that when visiting the theatre to watch professional productions that, unless I had good seats, I couldn't see as well as I wanted to. This problem with my vision is probably age related and I did have my eyesight tested. I was given glasses for distance vision but unfortunately just cannot get on with them. I can mostly see okay to read, although find I have to hold papers further away at times. I thought that a set of binoculars might help for theatre trips so that I could see clearly at certain times during the production. I wouldn't look through them for the whole show but for key moments I would be able to get a good view. I remembered going to watch "The Phantom of the Opera" at Her Majesty's Theatre in London a few years ago and was seated high up in the 'Grand circle.' I would say that at many shows the whole stage is used and you don't need a close up view throughout the show but there are always those moments that you particularly want a good view of. Well, I could see the costumes and beautiful scenery but there was no chance of seeing the actor's expressions this far up even for those with excellent eyesight. But theatre glasses/binoculars were supplied at a small cost. It wasn't practical, in my opinion, to use these glasses for the whole time but it was nice to peer through them just now and again. And when I saw the 25th anniversary concert of Les Misérables at London's O2 we were even further away, and right up in the very dizzy heights. It was lovely hearing Michael Ball, Colm Wilkinson and Alfie Boe but I had a better view of them from the large screen behind. When I booked tickets to go and see "Sweeney Todd" at The Adelphi Theatre, with Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton in the lead roles, I decided that I would buy some type of magnification lenses so that I could get a good look at Michael ball! But mostly I wanted to have a clear view of special moments, such as watching my daughter be awarded with singing prizes and of my son graduating in Canterbury Cathedral. ~~WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR~~ I began researching theatre/opera glasses and binoculars. Theatre glasses seemed to be expensive and only really intended for theatre use. Most binoculars that I looked at were too bulky and too powerful. I wasn't going bird or nature watching, or spying on anyone and so just wanted something that would enable me to have a clear and enlarged view at key moments. I thought that a small set of binoculars might be the best way to go as they might be used more than theatre glasses. They could be used inside or outside and so other members of the family might have occasion to use them as well as myself. After a little research I felt that I was looking for: Something close to theatre glasses in terms of magnification. I didn't want anything which magnified too much. A pair of lightweight binoculars. Compact so that they could fit easily into a handbag or pocket, and not look cumbersome. Folding binoculars; this would make them easier to carry around. Not too expensive. I was thinking of under twenty pounds. After looking at various pairs of binoculars and theatre glasses on-line I found a pair which I thought might suit me the most. Okay, the set of binoculars that I found aren't particularly intended for theatre, being intended more for watching sports binoculars but they still seemed to me to be the best for the price and in other ways, such as being light in weight. These binoculars ticked all the boxes and were 8x21 zoom which seemed about right for what I wanted. ~~PRICE/WHERE TO PURCHASE~~ I saw the Hawke Sports Compact Binoculars on the Maplin website. I wanted to see them before purchasing and so I reserved them at a local store and went to collect the next day. Before paying I asked to look at them and when I decided that I was satisfied with my choice I paid for my purchase. I purchased from a Maplin's store and paid £12.99. They can be purchased on-line or reserved from store. Hawke binoculars can be purchased from many stores both on-line and on the high street, including: http://www.uttings.co.uk at £13.99 www.amazon.co.uk at £26.69 ~~SPECIFICATIONS~~ (www.maplin.co.uk) * Fully coated optics * Centre focus * Smallest in range * Carry case and neck strap * Hawke 10 year warranty "Rubber armoured compact folding binoculars. Fully coated optics for a brighter, clearer image. Shockproof and Water Resistant - ideal for gripping even with wet or slippery hands. Folding down to pocket size when not in use, Hawke compact binoculars are designed to travel. The zip-up carry case has a belt loop and wrist strap for ease of carrying. Being rubber armoured, they are able to withstand the bumps and scrapes of everyday life. Fully coated optics give a clear bright image, simple centre focus provides ease of use and a lightweight neck strap keeps them safe and available. ~~USES~~ I find that these small and compact binoculars are light and easy to carry around and will fit into a small bag or even a coat pocket. They easily fit into the palm of one hand and are easy to grip. The Hawke Sports binoculars have a nylon neck strap which is very useful. The glasses are comfortable to use, the lenses are surrounded with a flexible rubber which makes them comfortable around one's eyes. They are easy to focus when they are being used by a roller mechanism. I have used these several times and have been clumsy and even dropped them but fortunately without there being any resulting damage. I think that they are well made and are well designed with an outer coating of 'armoured rubber' as well as being shock and water proof. They seem to be 'me-proof' too! I wish I had owned these when my eldest son used to play rugby and I could then have had a much better view of him scoring his tries. In fact there would have been many times when my children took parts in sports and performances at various things when I would have loved to have had a close up view. If I had known that I could purchase such a small, light and unobtrusive pair of binoculars then I would have purchased them long ago. I have now taken these binoculars with me on a few theatre visits. I first took them to see "Sweeney Todd" with Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton in the lead roles. Being something of a Michael Ball fan made me want to get a few good views of the man himself. We had good seats actually and so I did have a good view. This, plus the fact that I took my binoculars, meant that when I peeped through them I got a wonderful view of Michael's cheeky grin. I also took the binoculars when I last went to see "Les Misérables "at London's Queen's Theatre. Again, I had a good seat in the stalls near to the front of the auditorium, but I did still use the binoculars at key moments. I wouldn't use the binoculars for too long as it doesn't feel the same to view for long through them but for certain numbers and scenes it is nice to have a good view of the actors faces and be able to see their expressions. ~~THE CASE~~ I particularly like the black cushioned fabric carry case which is supplied with the binoculars. The case looks like a carrier for a small digital camera and it can be held in one hand. It fastens with Velcro and has a loop on the back. ~~OVERALL~~ I don't think it would have been worth paying a lot for a set of binoculars for me but I think that £12.99 is a great price for the Hawke Sports Binoculars. I would say that the quality and the feel of these are much better than I expected. Because these binoculars are so very compact and lightweight I think they are a worthwhile purchase which should last me for many years.