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sbw80

sbw80
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Member since: 07.06.2012

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      18.06.2013 21:55
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      You get what you pay for

      I moved in with my boyfriend and his dog last year. I love them both, bless 'em, but there version of clean is very different to mine and the dogs little 'presents' when we leave him (I'm trying to train him out of that little habit but he's 12 years old so I think it may be a lost battle) meant that the floor was never completely clean. After moaning quite a bit whilst constantly cleaning my boyfriend came home one day with a Quest Steam Mop so that I'd stop the whining. It worked too, for a little while. We've now upgraded to a more powerful and adaptable Karcher steam cleaner but for the price the Quest Steam Mop is not that bad a purchase.

      ~How it works~
      Well, I'm not a technically person by any means so get ready for the dummies version. Water added to the mop is heated until if forms steam. The steam cleans the floor, via a microfibre floor cloth which catches the muck. The steam not only cleans but apparently also deodorises, getting rid of bad smells. The heat is also meant to kill germs, bacteria and dust mites. I'm not sure how much of this is true. I do know that the floor is cleaner to a much higher standard than a normal mop (You do still have to hoover first). The steam gets up a lot of dirt, including some stubborn stains (But only to some degree, after using the Kracher I realised that there was a lot it hadn't got). It states that cleaning agent isn't required but started putting a little bit of floor cleaner in it after a while just to get that gleam.
      The 30 seconds it is supposed to take to warm up id more like a minute. There is an indicator light that changes colour when it is the right temperature to use. You need to stay near it though and it moving it as it heats if cleaning wood or laminate floor as it made part of the floor slightly lighter.

      ~Design~
      The design is similar to the non-electric hoover brushes that suck up the dust. The unit is very light in weight and is easy to carry around. It glides easily and is easy to use.

      The mop comes with two microfibre cloths that fit over the bottom of the mop (best not to change them when it's still hot). Each cloth can generally do a semi-dirty room although the dirtier the cloth gets the less effective the mop is. It doesn't attempt to soak in the muck as other versions do and the cloths get very soggy so you reach a certain point where you're just spreading wet dirt. You can buy general spare cloths, we picked some up from Homebase that weren't too expensive, but they are not as good as a fit as the clothes provided. The cloths also wash in the washing machine without any issues.

      The cable on the mop is quite short, requring me to use an extension a lot of the time.

      Some options also come with a carpet-glider to clean carpets. Mine does not have this.

      ~Where it can be used~
      The packing states that it is safe on all floors including ceramic tiles, sealed hardwood, carpets and laminate. You'll need an adapter ring to use it on carpets. I've used the mop on both ceramic tiles and laminate floor. Other than slight fading once on the laminate, I have never had any issues.

      ~Filling the machine~
      Firstly, you need to make sure that the machine is turned off before you refill it. I once forgot and ended up with slightly warm water everywhere as it basically just comes straight back out. Because the machine is a bit flimsy I've taken to turning it off at the socket as I don't quite trust the on/off button. This is probably a bit extreme but I always think it's best to be safe.

      The mop has a 500ml tank to hold the water. Filling it requires unscrewing the black cap at the top and pouring the water in. It's not the best design in the world to say the least and I've found that the only way to get water in the machine instead of on the floor is to use one of the little plastic jug things that come with an iron. This can be a bit of a nuisance and if your rooms are average size then chances are you will need to refill before the floor is finished.

      ~Availability & Price~
      Ours was bought a while back for around £35. It is available for between £30 and £40 but I can only find it stocked on ebay at the moment.

      ~Conclusion~
      This is a perfect example of you get what you pay for. It's a cheap steam mop (With most on the market between £50 - £100) but due to this it's a bit flimsy. If you only want it for occasional use, small floors or if you don't have pets this is probably good for you. The constant refilling of the water tank, change of clothes and short cable prevent it for being a substantial purchase for a large amount of frequent cleaning. If you want a quick clean, buy this. If you want a versatile and more durable cleaner I'd invest a bit more money.

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      18.06.2013 16:15
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      It's more than a bag, it's a statement.

      I've been a fan of irregular choice shoes for a number of years. They're not the cheapest of product so I only own 6 pairs of shoes and two hand bags, but they are amongst the most individual items I own and always get positive comments. It may be an irregular choice, but it's the right choice. Here's why...

      ~The Bag~
      This review is of the turquoise and red version of the Irregular Choice Lola Cutch.

      The bag is designed to match the Oz Charm Bow Court, amazing Irregular Choice shoes that are now very difficult to get hold of. Sadly I don't have the shoes but bought the bag to go with a pair of red heels (I personally thing the matching bag and shoes is too much and limits versatility). The fibrant bag goes with quite a number of colours and bridges that gap between smart and casual so can be used when dressed up or down.

      The outside body of the back contains three different fabrics (A mixture of fabrics and patterns is a signature of Irregular Choice). A red check cotton type fabric is combined with turquoise felt, creating a mixture of fabrics. It is finished with a red spotty bow and red piping around the edges. There is also an adorable little monkey attached to the bag which I've sadly managed to lose.

      The inside of the bag is a nice and fluffy orange colour with a small zip pocket (Good for loose change if you're not carrying a purse). I've had mine a while now and there is sometimes a small residual amount of fluff but very tiny. It doesn't get dirty easily but be careful if it does. Try to ensure that you use a damp rather than wet cloth. The same goes for the outside. I also like the inside of the flap which has a very pretty floral design.

      The versatility of the strap allows you the opportunity to use as a clutch or a shoulder bag. Clips on the side make the strap easily removable but you do need to be careful. As the bag is a felt like material the clips can cause slight holes in the felt if not positioned right. I had this issue with my Irregular Choice Scotty Dog Clutch which is of a similar design but not with this bag as I was more careful the second time. The strap is a gold coloured twisted metal which is very pretty. It's long enough to allow the bag to sit at the hip

      The bag is approximately 43cm by 22cm and 94 cm wide. Being a clutch it's not the type of bag to carry your life long belongings in but it's certainly big enough for the essential keys, purse, lipstick, sunglasses. The bag fold in on itself making it more extendable at thew bottom, therefore slighter bigger than it appears.

      ~Irregular Choice~
      The British company has been around since 1999, formed to create more unique shoes that stand out. Sold primarily online (With ASOS, Schuh and Amazon key stockists), there are three store in the UK two of which are in London and the other Brighton 9The Irregular Choice birthplace).

      ~Price & Availability~
      The rrp price for the bag is around £35 but you can often get it for £20, depending on the colour. My turquoise version is currently £19.95 at amazon.

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      • Smash - Season 1 (DVD) / TV Series / 19 Readings / 19 Ratings
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        18.06.2013 14:47
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        If you love musicals you will love this

        Love musicals?
        Intrigued by Marilyn Monroe?
        Getting a bit fed up with the teen antics of glee?

        If you answered yes to any of the above them I'm pretty sure that you're going to like Smash, a tv series that revolves around the creation of a new Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe

        ~The Plot~
        The story begins where all stories begin, with the writers. Julia Houston and Tom Levitt, a well-known Broadway writing duo that have had some success with their previous stage offerings are contemplating the subject of their next musical offering. They return to an idea they (and many others) have had previously, Marilyn Monroe the musical. Brainstorming leads to creation of an amazing song called 'Never give all the heart', a witty but heart-breaking number that questions Marilyn's relationship with men. From this point the musical is born, step in two potential and amazing (in very different ways) Marilyn's, a sexy but arrogant director, a hilarious drink throwing producer and a number of scheming 'evil' people and there you have it.

        The musical develops with the showing, giving great insight into the development of the musical. Each show has a number of 'Marilyn' songs, written in reality by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, as well as a number of covers. Some artistic licence is given in order to give full staging to the Marilyn numbers, cutting from rehearsals to sequences where the scene is fully staged. The 15 episodes of season 1 take us from the development and first auditions to the show's previews, with sub plots of the lives of all of those involved with creating the show.

        ~Characters/Actors~
        Julia Houston - Debra Messing, best known for Will and Grace fame, plays the female half of the Houston and Levitt writing duo. Currently married with a son but has a few relationship ghosts in the closet.

        Tom Levitt - The other half, an amazing composer who is close friends with one of the potential Marilyn's. He is portrayed by Christian Borle, a broadway veteran himself.

        Derek Wills - Played by the very aesthetically pleasing Jack Davenport, from This Life and the Pirate of the Caribean films. Derek is the dark and brooding director who like to get up close and 'personal' with his stars.

        Karen Cartwright - Potential Marilyn number one. A relative unknown, raw talent, girl next door type who has moved to New York to make it big. Karen is played by Katharine McPhee, an unknown to me but gained quite a bit of fame in the US when she game second in American Idol (The fifth series I think). She has the most amazing voice but is more of an understated raw Marilyn, before the transformation.

        Ivy Lynn - A blonde bombshell with an amazing voice, a typical choice to play Miss Monroe, and thus Marilyn option number two. Ivy is portrayed by award winning broadway star Megan Hilty.
        Eileen Rand - The crazily unique producer of the show who is currently going through a divorce to her husband Jerry 9The cause of many hilarious moments). Academy award winning Anjelica Huston (Prizzi's Honor, The Witches, The Addams Family) plays this role to perfection.

        The support cast is also really great, there are a number of great singers and dancers. There is also a number of guest appearances throughout the show including one by a major star for quite a few episodes (I won't spoil it by revealing who but I had no idea she could sing). Watch out for 'The Movie Star' (Episode 11)

        ~The Songs~
        Where to start, we are given 17 Marilyn numbers in series one which make up the musical, later named Bombshell. Each number would stand against any that are currently on the stage and could have come from a real musical (I would actually pay to see bombshell on stage if they did it in real life). 'Let me be your star', 'Don't Forget Me' and 'Never give all the heart' are show stopping ballads but there are also a number of other great songs that are witty and intelligent. Most numbers are sang by the equally great Hilty and Mphee but Christian Borle is also amazing in 'Don't Say Yes Until I Finish Talking'.

        As well as the Marilyn numbers there are also covers throughout the show, but these tend to be more alternative music rather than Glee type cheesy pop (I like cheesy pop but Smash is a bit more grown up). Katharine McPhee does a version of Snow Patrol's 'Run' that is serious competition for the Leona Lewis version and watch out for 'A Thousand and One Nights' in episode 12.

        ~Also~
        The music of Bombshell is available to download and was released on CD as well as a release of some other songs from the show. Sadly it looks as if the show will not be renewed for a third season but season two ended with resolve to account for this so it is not one of those annoying cliff-hanger situations. Season 2 has not been released on DVD yet.

        ~Technical Details~
        Rating: 12
        Runtime: 670 minutes

        This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
        June 2013

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        • Inferno - Dan Brown / Fiction Book / 20 Readings / 20 Ratings
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          18.06.2013 12:06
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          I'd read the first three books first

          Warning: Slight spoiler, if you do not want the location of the novel revealed please stop reading now.

          ~The Plot~
          Robert Langdon, the accidental mystery sleuth and expert of symbology, is back once more to solve another of Dan Brown's adventures that mix both factual information with speculation, urban myths and conspiracy theories. Langdon, a Harvard professor of religious iconology and symbology, has happened upon quite a few modern day treasure hunts in recent years, taking on religious extremists, French police and Washington politics, to fight the good fight on the side of the righteous. Not surprising then, Langdon (Who is interlinked with Tom Hanks in my head now due to the previous film adaptations) needs a break but waking up in a foreign hospital with little memory of how he got there. He quickly realises that he needs to discover his memory quickly when it becomes apparent that the injuries that resulted in his hospital admission may not have been accidental. He therefore must try to retrace his steps in order to figure out what he knows that someone would want to kill him for.

          As always, Langdon gains a female sidekick (There's always a new woman, quite a womanizer is Langdon). who has secrets and a history all of her own. For this outing it's Sienna Brooks, who has secrets and a history all of her own. Together Robert and Sienna must dash around, evading the authorities and mysterious bad guys in order to discover the secrets that Florence holds in order to prevent a major disaster that could have huge consequences.

          The story, in true Dan Brown brilliance, has a lot of twists and turns that keep you guessing and wanting more.

          ~The Author~
          Dan Brown is the author of six novels, including four books that feature the character of Robert Langdon; Angles & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol and now Inferno. If you haven't already, I would recommend reading these novels first. Inferno will still make sense without reading the first three novels but you will lose some of the context. The Da Vinci Code, deemed to be Brown's most successful book, has been estimated to have made more than $250 million and has sold more than 81 million copies sold worldwide. The Lost Symbol sold over one million copies on its first day. Both Angles & Demons and The Da Vinci Code have been adapted into films (With the timeline switched placing The Da Vinci Code first) starring Tom Hanks.

          ~Wider Context~
          Brown has a very distinctive style of writing and utilises the same plot mechanisms throughout all of his novels which are not for everyone. He is also not a character writer, the characters are often two dimensional and unrealistic as a result on his focus on educating the reader and prompting thought and debate into wider issues. This is very evident with the different women he throws at Langdon. I think he tends to write the 'bad' guys better, providing a richer and fuller characterization of Langdon's current nemesis. He can get a little too preachy at times but I think he is still an amazing writer.

          What I love about Dan Brown's books is the level of detail regarding the places that the characters visit and the art and objects that they interact with. In essence, for me Brown writes truly amazing travel guides with a bit of fiction and plot as an added bonus (Or sub plot if you will). He has a way of bringing places to life on a page like no other I've read and his unique vision of the world changes your perspective. Dan Brown's previous books have all revealed less know facts about their location. For example, I have been to Rome three times but never read about the Passetto (a secret passage on top of the Vatican wall) in any guide book. After reading Angels and Demons I spent a nice afternoon at the Vatican following the passage from below and 're-seeing' the place through Brown's eyes. I went to Florence in 2011 but now I need go back and view it again. The same applies to art, if Brown was my tour guide and art critic I'd be a very happy girl. Yes, I could probably find out this information if I spent enough time on google and had an inkling of what I was looking for but it wouldn't come alive in the same way, feeding inspiration and curiosity. I this sense, I do believe that Dan Brown is an amazing artist.

          There is a downside through; each book location is now riddled with 'Dan Brown Tours' thereby increasing crowds and cost to visit the locations. I think it also helps if you have visited the location before you read the book too. I've been lucky as I've been to most except Washington DC, the location for The Lost Symbol, Brown's last book. I didn't really ruin my enjoyment of the book and it made me really want to visit Washington DC but I didn't have the same connection than I have with other novels.

          ~Ease of Reading~
          The book is very easy to read, due to Brown's great writing style.I did have to google a lot whilst I was reading but that's just because I like to know have factual the information is and want to know more. You may find it difficult to put it down, I read it in two days even though I had an essay due.

          ~Technical Details~
          This review is for the Kindle version of the novel, currently available from Amazon for £7.20.

          This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
          June 2013

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        • bunches.co.uk / Online Shop / 35 Readings / 35 Ratings
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          27.02.2013 12:01
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          Great production from an established company at a good price.

          I've had both flowers and balloons sent to me as presents via bunches.co.uk. I was so impressed with the quality, flowers lasted almost up to a month, that I have now started using the site to order presents.

          ~The Company~
          Bunches is based in Nottingham and has been operating since 1989, growing from a flower stall to an international family business since (The history in the 'About Us' section of the website is pretty interesting if you have time to read).

          ~Site Layout~
          The website is not the greatest I've ever seen but it's more than adequate. Tabs basically split products into six categories;

          * Luxury Bouquets
          * Extra Value Flowers
          * Gift Sets
          * House Plants
          * Helium Balloons

          There are also seasonal options, such as mother's day, or spring flowers. All are easily accessible and makes what you are looking for pretty straight forward. A selection box also allows you to view flowers by suggested occasion, type, price group or colour; however these options are a bit hidden in the middle of the page. There is also a pretty standard search option.

          Photos of the products are to a high quality and the items I have ordered actually looked like they did on the website. The general layout is pretty but there does seem to be quite a bit of clutter, thus it's not as easy to use as it could be. It is a bit annoying that I cannot see all flowers at once or sort based upon price however flowers in each section are placed in low to high price order generally. Options to compare products better, including extras that can only be added at the basket, would be useful.

          The website lacks dynamics that other sites such as interflora has, rather appearing as a duplication of a sales brochure and not taking advantage of an online site for comparing and contrasting options. Without being rude, the site feels a bit cheap, focusing on looking pretty rather than functionality.

          ~The Products~
          All online orders include a free box of 8 disc chocolates (Which taste like easter egg). These are nice but do contain advertising for bunches.co.uk on them. Smart idea but is more like getting a chocolate bar free rather than a box of chocolates (I'm not complaining though, free is free).

          Classic Value Flowers - Prices range from £11.99 for 12 carnations to £22.99 for pink Asiatic Lilies, pink Alstroemeria and two-tone Cherry Tessino Spray Carnations. There are also bouquets featuring tulips, pussy willow, Dutch Freesia, Dendrobium Orchids and many more. If you want a cheap, pretty bunch then this is the place for you.

          Luxury Bouquets - Flowers in this category start at £23.99 and go up to £44.99 for two dozen red roses. There's less options in this section but there is still a number of different flowers, including very pretty pink daisies and avalanche roses.

          Extra Value Flowers - Provides similar options to the classic value flowers but bunches are extra large. Prices go from 18.99 to 28.99.

          House Plants - These range from £18.99 to £26.99. I really don't know much about plants but the prices seem reasonable compares to other sites.

          Helium Balloons - Priced at £12.99, a lot of different occasions are covered (My personal favourite, there's nothing like opening a box and having a balloon fly out).

          Gift Sets - these are combinations of flowers or balloons with a mini celebration cake (The type Clintons used to sell), greetings cards, boxes of Belgian chocolates, or bears. These options can also be added on checkout and range from £1.99 for a mini inflated balloon to £4.99 to chocolate flaked truffles. It's nice to have the option of added extras however it would be nice to be able to decide what I want to include before the checkout stage otherwise if I want to know prices with different flower options I have to keep adding and deleting things from the basket.

          Personalised Cards - You can add a little homemade style greetings card to your order for around £2.99. You can personalise the message inside which bunches print on a label and stick inside. There is an option to preview your message online and is nice and easy to use but you could get a much nicer card from websites such as moon pig for the same price that are much more personal. The bunches card I received was in the plastic cover rather than an envelope which seemed a bit impersonal.

          There is also an option to have flowers delivered monthly for a set period, prices for this option vary depending upon the type of flowers wanted.

          ~Delivery~
          All items that I've found include delivery via Royal Mail in the price stated which is great as you don't have to worry about postage prices. You can order for any future date but as it is Royal Mail bunches cannot guarantee delivery on a specific date. Obviously Royal mail do not deliver on Sundays or Bank Holidays and same day delivery is not an option.

          For £5.50 you can request a courier delivery (Currently by Fed Ex, but is Royal Mail special delivery on Saturdays in some geographical areas) that offers a guaranteed delivery on the day of your choice between 7.30am and 7pm.

          All of this information and more is easy to access on the website and is written in a way that is easy to comprehend.

          I've used the Royal Mail option and have got lucky regarding when my items were delivered. When someone sent me a balloon for my birthday I ended up having to go to the post office to collect it as I missed the delivery but it was delivered on the right day, therefore I would think that most Royal Mail deliveries would get there on time. For my mother's day delivery I have selected courier just in case but generally I don't feel the need for the extra cost.

          ~Returns~
          Because the main products sold are perishable there isn't a straight forward returns policy. There is a complaints procedure, for if you're not with the product, that is stated clearly on the site. Complaints must be with 14 days that the order was dispatched. A Freephone number as well as an address to write to is provided and I think it's very straight forward and written really well that suggests the company cares about customer service. Their phone line available between 8.30am and 6.00pm Monday to Friday and 8.30am to 12.30pm Saturday, so you can call outside of normal work hours.
          "We aim to respond to customer service matters within one working day and resolve all complaints within three working days, either by replacing the bouquet or refunding your money. Calls may be monitored for training purposes and to maintain our high level of service."

          ~Money off & Offers~
          Bunches offers a customer reward scheme in the form of posy points. You collect 1 Posy Point for every 10p spent and each Posy Point is worth £0.005, therefore flowers costing £19.99 earn you 200 points and gives £1 to spend. You can use points against future orders.

          Quidco also give cashback and often have special offers for bunches, cashback is currently at 10%.

          ~Other~
          The site also includes some useful sections such as 'Caring for your flowers', which contains a large number of tips and how to videos to care for specific types of flowers.

          If you don't like websites or would prefer to deal with 'real people', you can request a brochure containing all products that bunches.co.uk provide and can place orders over the phone. You can also contact them if you have any special requests not listed on the website. They have a Freephone contact number which is always handy, one of the reasons I stopped ordering things by phone was because of the bill.

          They also have a blog, which I've only skimmed but seems pretty amusing, and can be followed on facebook, twitter and RSS feed.

          ~Conclusion~
          Bunches is a great site that offers quality products at a reasonable price. Although the website is a bit basic and is not very dynamic, it is easy to use and is nice to the eye. It dores generally feel a bit cluttered but everything I need is there and is easy to comprehend.

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            08.01.2013 12:49
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            Perfect for me because i make it mine

            I really really don't like rings so when my boyfriend proposed he did it with a Chamilia charm with an engagement ring on it (It's very pretty). I already have a Chamilia bracelet but I didn't want my new charm to get lost amongst a 101 Dalmatian and Dopey and so my boyfriend offered to buy me a necklace to put it on. I looked at the Chamilia necklaces but the one in the Pandora catalogue looked for more appealing and so the bank holiday weekend found us in the Pandora shop in Derby's Westfield.

            ~The Brand~
            Pandora is best known for customizable charm bracelets that were first released in 2000. The company has been around since 1982, originally as a wholesale business, and now sells rings, earrings, necklaces and the bracelets in more than 50 countries.

            ~Where to buy~
            Pandora has 469 stores in the UK buy also authorises other stores such as Argento, John Greed anf House of Fraiser to sell their products. The easiest way to find your nearest stockist is to visit http://www.pandora.net/en-gb/stores. I bought a charm from Argento online (With Quidco cashback) for my niece without any issue although it does come with a card rather than hard bodied presentation box.

            Visiting a Pandora store itself is quite an experience although you need to be willing to wait a bit in line. The stores are very pretty with glass display cases everywhere and the staff are very informative asnd take their time (hence the lines).

            ~The Necklace~
            I'm not a jewellery person so i would always opt for more understated Silver every time rather than Gold. After trying on a couple of lengths I decided that 50cm hanged the best (I'm not keen on having things close to my neck). Be aware that the chains do stretch when they have a lot of charms on them. The necklace is designed in the exact same way as the bracelets (but longer obviously) in that they have a 3mm chain designed in an integrate way to give it a continuous snake or cord like effect. It fastens with a clip claps, making it really easy to fasten and unfasten, and is engraved with the Pandora logo and is made from 925 Sterling Silver.

            The inside section of the clasp has ridges so that all charms have to be screwed on to the necklace. There are also two threaded sections about a quarter in to the necklace from each end which allow you to place your charms into different sections. These threaded areas can be covered by clips that are available to buy separately and a wide range of clips available starting from around £15.
            Pandora jewellery also comes in pretty white hard bodied jewellery boxes and a white bag tied with a pink ribbon which both have the Pandora logo on them when bought from a shop (Not provided if you buy them online from authorised retailers).

            You do need to take care of the necklace, making sure it stays away from water and doesn't get any hair care products. I've heard some horror stories about people losing bracelets as they get kinks in that got worse over time and eventually broke. Pandora advise that the bracelets and necklaces are the last thing you put on when you're getting ready each day and the first thing you take off each night. You do get a free cleaning cloth when you buy the jewellery but unfortunately they were out of stock when I got mine so I need to go back and get it.

            ~Cost~
            Prices do vary depending upon the length of the necklace:

            40cm to 45cm - £100
            50cm - £115
            The necklace is also available in Oxidised Silver, making it look dark grey (For the same price as the Sterling Silver) or in Sterling Silver with a 14ct Gold clasp (Starting from £300). You can also buy the necklace cheaper if you opt for the standard lobster type clasp (Starting from £85).

            Granted, £100 is expensive for a silver necklace but it does look a lot nicer than the cheaper imitations and is a quality product.

            ~Charms~
            Pandora charms and clips for the necklace range from £20 to £450, made from either Sterling Silver, 14ct Gold or a combination of both. There are a large number of different charms available from hearts, a camera, an elephant, the choices are endless (Except Disney, for Disney charms you do need to buy Chamilia). Some Chamilia charms do fit on Pandora bracelets and necklaces but not all so I would double check before buying, we tried my Chamilia charm on the necklace in the store before buying. You can also buy murano glass beads which start from £30. For my Chamilia bracelet like my charms to mean something though and only get them as gifts and so I tend to ask people not to be me beads (As I think the price is excessive) and buy cheap ones for a couple of pound from Amazon. This way I can have lots of them and change the colour of my bracelet constantly and they don't look that much different from my neice's expensive Pandora murano beads.

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              08.01.2013 11:27
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              I'd be lost without them now

              Whilst rummaging around a Curry's store one day I came across this Dyson Clean and Tidy kit for £20. This seemed like a good deal and so i googled to compare prices on my phone, everyone else was selling it for between £35 and £50 and so i thought i might as well try it.

              ~Dyson~
              For those who don't know, Dyson is a company which designs and manufactures vacuum cleaners, hand dryers, bladeless fans and heaters. James Dyson, frustrated with a Hoover Junior vacuum cleaner and inspired by a saw mill, James spent the next 20 or so years developing the bag less Dyson vacuum cleaner with cyclone technology. It's fair to say that they sell quite well. The Clean and Tidy kit provides accessories that fit all Dyson vacuum cleaners.

              ~In the box~
              The pack contains three brand new and sparkly accessories for the Dyson:

              a soft dusting brush for light household dust
              a mattress tool
              a useful up-top tool to get to those hard to reach places

              Also provided is a storage bag that can roll up on be hooked over something and hang down, like a roll up make-up bag. It has spaces for the three accessories as well as three other pockets, one with a zip. I keep mine hung up on a hook on the cupboard door and generally just carry the tools around so whilst it is pretty and nice to have it doesn't really add to the product other than by providing storage.

              The final piece of kit in the box should be an adapter required for Dyson models DC01 to DC18. I say should as I had no adapter in my box and as i have a DC07 Dyson upright, my pretty little tools had to stay in the box. (Please note, description for this listing says four brushes, mine had three,but has the same product name and details).

              ~The ability to adapt~
              The good people of Dyson, thinking ahead, had placed some text on the side of the box containing an email address to use should you be missing the adapter. So i wrote my email, pessimistically thinking they'll take months to send it or try to charge me for it, thus the cynic I've become from years of bad customer service. I was wrong, the adapter was delivered to me free of charge within the week of me contacting them (And it was over the Christmas holidays). This was my first time using Dyson customer services and i have to say i was very impressed with their response and prompt action. Now that i had my adapter i was ready to clean.

              ~The Mattress Tool~
              Made entirely from silver colour plastic, it looks like a larger version of the little triangular flat adapter that comes with most vacuums but it is so much more. I vacuum my mattress with the Dyson every month or so and get quite a few dog hairs and muck off, not a great amount though. with this adapter I could literally see the difference in the see through muck cylinder. It collected a lot of muck much to both my fascination and horror, I'd only just cleaned it a few days ago with the regular adapter. Normally and adapters placed on the Dyson pipe will suck too hard to move over surfaces like a mattress but the adapter gave less resistance whilst collecting a lot more muck so it is easy to go over a large area. I don't know what it does or how it does it but I am very impressed.

              ~The Soft Brush~
              This bush goes the opposite way to most other tools, sticking out of the front of the pipe rather than from side to side. It's main body is clear plastic and lots of little angled brushes as well as a soft felt like bottom. The accessory is designed for dusting. I was slightly dubious about this tool, thinking that surely if i try to dust the mantle with this it would suck everything off as the Dyson is pretty powerful (I once got a blind cord stuck in the pipe, was not pretty). I tried it around a windowsill and picture frames first, thinking they're too big to be sucked up completely. All I can say is wow, i will never need a duster cloth again. It's gentle and doesn't suck everything into it and yet at the same time it gets everything very clean. I even used it to polish some glass ornaments.

              ~The Up-top Tool~
              This is very similar in purpose to the soft bush except it goes around corners. No... it really does. The tool twists and rotates in on itself to help you get in corners and on high furniture. It is brilliant for getting dust off the top of door frames on the wall TV without having to contort your arms to get the vacuum pipe up there. Because it is quite gentle I've also found it works really well on glass lamp shapes, especially the upright ones that i always avoid cleaning as the dust gets everywhere.

              ~Ease of Use~
              For those who don't need the adapter, it's as simple as clicking it on as you would with your normal accessories. If you do need the adapter, yes it is a little bit of a pain sticking the adapter and then the tool on but it is so worth it. To get around switching i do all the dusting first with the adapter then take it off and do all the normal hoovering.

              ~Conclusion~
              Ok, technically this piece of kit is not essential, i could stop being lazy and get the polish and good ol' yellow duster and do the job myself (Whilst couching from the smell of the polish and sneezing coz of the dust flying around). For £20 though I can make my life so much easier (and cleaner!!), is a bargain really.

              This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
              January 2013

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            • More +
              04.09.2012 20:51
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              Will make you think but may leave somewhat frustrated without knowing the reason why

              Winner of the 84th Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best supporting Actor (Max von Sydow), I was originally not tempted by this film as I thought it would be the over sentimental type that Hollywood does best. However it was directed by Stephen Daldry who also directed two of my favourite films (Billy Elliot and The Reader) and I'm a fan of Tom Hanks so I thought I'd give it a go. I'm still not entirely sure if I like the film or not.

              Please note, this review is of the film only.

              ~The Plot~
              Oskar Schell is a nine year old boy living in New York with his parents Thomas and Linda, his Grandmother living in an apartment opposite. Oscar comes across as slightly autistic, in that he has set patterns and doesn't understand social norms (He reminds me a bit of Christopher from Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). In order to attempt to overcome Oskar's shyness and difficulty relating to other people, his father invents little adventures for Oskar to complete, exploring the people and places of New York in order to discover the mysterious 'sixth borough' which disappeared many years ago.

              When Thomas dies in the collapse of the World Trade Centre in September 2011, Oskar uses a key he finds as a link to his father a way to deal with his grief and resist facing the emotions that risk tearing him apart. The only clue given is the word 'Black' printed on the envelope and so Oskar must overcome his many fears (Which have increased considerably since 9/11) to start a new adventure to track down Black, to find the lock that the key fits and thus feel closer to his father. Through his adventure, he discovers new experiences and people across New York, builds a relationship with 'the renter', the mysterious man who cannot speak due to his own childhood trauma of death of his parents during World War II.

              ~Characters/Actors~
              Oskar Schell - Thomas Horn (First film, currently in two movies to be released in 2013)
              Thomas Schell - Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan, Forest Gump, The Terminal)
              Linda Schell - Sandra Bullock (Crash, The proposal, The Blind Side)
              The Renter - Max von Sydow (Minority Report, The Exercist, Shutter Island)
              Abby Black - Viola Davis (The Help, Doubt)
              Stan the Doorman - John Goodman (Roseanne, The Artist)
              William Black - Jeffrey Wright (Source Code, James Bond)

              Thomas Horn is an amazing find and acts brilliantly in the role especially considering this is his first acting job. After a national search to find the right boy to play Oskar Schell, Horn was discovered due to an appearance on a Kids Week version of the US game show Jeopardy! (He won $31,800). He really gives the character an emotional depth and is believable in doing so. For someone at his age who has never acted before to hold a film together as well as he does is very impressive.

              Although I am a big Tom Hanks fan I have to say that I don't live him in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. He's not in the film long so it really isn't that big of an issue but to me he seemed like an amalgamation of previous roles, I kept expecting him to get stuck on an Island or start looking for Dan Brown to ask what his character does next. Although a lot of his previous roles have been similar I normally forget previous roles and get immersed in his currently character but in this film he remained Tom Hanks to me, not Oskar's father Thomas Schell.

              I have to say that I love John Goodman as Stan the Doorman, a small but genuinely funny role that provides for some light entertainment in the film. Casting Goodman as this character was genius. Sandra Bullock pretty much takes a back sit in this film, when she is evident her acting is pretty good (It's great that she's not afraid to look old or tired, it annoys me when film stars refuse to look their age). Max von Sydow is excellent as 'the renter', it's clear to see why he won his award for best supporting actor. His face can tell you all you need to know without him having to speak a word. The actors who play Mr and Mrs Black are also very good.

              ~Other Information~
              The film is based upon a novel by Jonathan Safran Foer which has won a number of awards. As of yet I haven't read it, I've just ordered it for my kindle. He has also written another novel called Everything Is Illuminated, about a young American Jew who journeys to Ukraine in search the woman who saved his grandfather's life during the Nazi liquidation of Trachimbrod, which I've just ordered to as it sounds really interesting.

              I do generally like to read a novel first before watching any film adaptations as I always find that characters are provided with much more story in the paper version. I'm hoping that The Renter is more developed in the novel as although Max von Sydow portrayed him brilliantly I don't fell as if we were given the full story.

              ~Conclusion~
              I try to not watch films that have the events of 9/11 as part of a subplot as I think it's difficult to create films that deal with the aftermath of high profile horrific events, such as 9/11. So much is known already and the result is often a movie that is over sentimental or unsympathetic rather than realistic. I do think that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close manages to come close to the right balance, perhaps achieved through using a child as the key perspective and through having such a good actor playing that role.

              The film is gritty and realistic and yet at times I did feel as detached from the film as Oskar does from real life. The acting is exceptional, with a few exceptions, it has a great story and it deals with grief, loss, love and relationships in an insightful and thought provoking way and yet for me there was something not quite right. All of the pieces were there for an exceptional film and yet it is like someone put some of the jigsaw pieces in the wrong place. Hopefully reading the novel will complete some of the gaps, I would recommend watching it though.

              ~Technical Details~
              Rating: 12A
              Runtime: 129 Minutes
              This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
              September 2012

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              • Dark Shadows (DVD) / DVD / 25 Readings / 25 Ratings
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                04.09.2012 15:09
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                Truly enjoyable if it's your kinda thing

                I love funny films that make you laugh and keep you entertain, but lately comedy has turned into road trip or slapstick style humour where you find yourself cringing rather than falling off your seat from the humour. There seems to be very few intelligent funny films anymore, instead we're usually presented with 90 minutes of lowest denominator toilet humour. When I heard of Dark Shadows my first response was oh no, not another vampire movie but Tim Burton and his impressive cast list enticed me. I'm glad it did as this film is both funny and clever with superb acting, one of the most entertaining films I've seen for a while.

                Please note, this review is of the film only.

                ~The Plot~
                The film begins its journey in 1752. The Collins couple, with their young son Barnabas, travel from England to create a new live (and a town named after themselves) in America to lead a life of affluence. As Barnabas matures, his actions prompt heartache and revenge which brings with it a curse upon of his family and series of events that result in him 'sleeping' for a couple of decades. When he awakes, Barnabas (Johnny Depp) not only has to learn to deal with the modern living concept of 1972 but also a ruined estate and a dysfunctional bunch of family members and staff including a few ghosts from his past. There are quite a few twists and turns as the film progresses but it's not a standard action film but instead takes on the feeling of a soap opera, in keeping with it's predecessor.

                The film is based upon a type of dark gothic soap opera of the same name that ran in the 1960's. It ran from June 1966 to April 1971 on the ABC network in the US. I have to admit that I'd never heard of it but apparently it was very popular (Michelle Pheiffer asked for a part in the film as she was a fan of the original TV series). There are moments in the film where you think "Ah, this must be an in-joke" to the original series, but having never watched it I can't say this ruined my enjoyment of the film even though I didn't get the joke. If you have watched and enjoyed the original series then these moments are likely to enhance your enjoyment of the film but do not take anything away from those who are coming to Dark Shadow's afresh. According to IMDB, Jonathan Frid, Lara Parker, David Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott from the original series make cameos in the film, during the Ball scene.

                ~Characters/Actors~
                From past history, films with a combination of Tim Burton as director and starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (Married to Tim Burton) have always been an enjoyment to watch. Alice in Wonderland, Sweeny Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Although still not as good as the original) and Corpse Bride (As well as Edward Scissorshands, Sleepy Hollows and Planet of the Apes which each star one of the two) all have that have Tim Burtonesque type feel which Dark Shadows also entails. His films always seem to connote good quality acting with a strong cast and Dark shadows is no exception.
                Barnabas Collins - Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean, Edward Scissorhands and lots lot more)
                Elizabeth Collins Stoddard - Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns, Grease 2, What Lies Beneath)
                Dr. Julia Hoffman - Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, The King's Speech, Planets of the Apes)
                Angelique Bouchard - Eva Green (Casino Royale, Camelot TV Series)
                Willie Loomis - Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Shutter Island)
                Roger Collins - Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting, Hackers)
                Victoria Winters/Josette du Pres - Bella Heathcote (In Time, Beneath Hill 60)
                Carolyn Stoddard - Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Hugo, 500 Days of Summer)
                David Collins - Gulliver McGrath (Hugo)
                Silas Clarney - Christopher Lee (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars)
                Alice Cooper as himself

                ~Other Information~
                The costumes and sets (built at Pinewood studios) are also noteworthy, combining a gothic feel such as Monsters of the Adams family with a 70's style New England small town that feels like it is from a Steven King novel. I also love some of the 70's outfits worn by Carolyn Stoddard and the shirts that Dr Hoffman wears (can we have 70's inspired clothing back in stores soon please).

                Although not one who generally notices soundtracks, I did enjoy the music in the film from the likes of Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper (who makes an appearance) and The Carpenters.

                ~Conclusion~
                Although not really sure what I was coming into (I've learnt a good lesson in life is to never watch movie trailers otherwise there's no point watching the film) I loved this film. On reflecting on other Tim Burton films however I've realised that I've enjoyed them too and therefore maybe Tim Burton films are like Marmite, you either love the stuff or absolutely hate it with a fiery passion (I can't even stand the smell). I really enjoy the gothic film to this film, the intelligence behind the humour, the framing that gives homage to those classic black and white vampire films and staging. I think the acting level is very good, specifically from the younger members of the cast. Yes, the actors are playing similar roles to previous but I don't think abolut that when I'm watching, I get lost in the story which to me suggests that they are playing them well. If I had a choice between watching 90 minutes of comedy that includes some kind of car chase and a case of the runs or dark shadows, I'd choose Dark Shadows every time.

                ~Technical Details~
                Rating: 12A
                Runtime: 113 Minutes
                This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
                September 2012

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                • Russell Hobbs 14773 / Iron / 42 Readings / 39 Ratings
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                  09.08.2012 19:07
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                  A great iron and can be found quite cheaply sometimes if you can overlook the flaw

                  I bought this iron for half price, at around £25 six months ago. I have to say that i love this iron yet it has a major design flaw.

                  ~The Brand~
                  Russell Hobbs is a name I trust with irons, I've used quite a few of them and always go back to them when i'm shopping for a new one. Based in Failsworth, Greater Manchester, the company has been around making household appliances since 1952, when Bill Russell had a disagreement with Donal Morphy (Of Morphy Richards) and joined Hobbs to form Russell Hobbs Ltd. Sadly Russell died in 2006 aged 85 and Hobbs died two years later but the company lives on, making toaster, kettles, food processors and a number of other household goods including irons.

                  ~Digital Iron Age~
                  This is a digital iron, which was a key selling point when i bought it. The buttons on the top of the allow you to change the settings on a digital screen, also at the top of the iron. Rather than the standard heating system using one to three dots to determine how hot the iron should be, this iron allows you to select the type of fabric the garment is made from. There are nine fabric settings available and once selected the iron with adapt to these settings changing the temperature and options available (On wool setting for example you can not select steam). This works incredibly well, you no longer have to try and guess whether you are about to ruin your clothes because the setting is too high. I've used this iron quite a lot and i have to say that it always gets it right. The digital display is very easy to use, with just a couple of buttons, and the display screen also has indicators for steam and to tell you when the iron is at the right heat. Quite usefully, unlike other irons, you can also turn this iron on and off using the button on the iron (So that you don't have to keep unplugging it from the socket) and will turn itself off if it's been stood on its end for a while I(Not sure how it knows this but it's still very clever). It's sturdy, well built and I've never had any technical problems with it so is very reliable.

                  When using the iron on clothes, it literally does glide. There's no resistance from the stainless steel soleplate and the iron is the perfect weight to make ironing (almost) enjoyable. It's precise with ironing which is difficult to explain, creases for example are ironed nicely, they are sharp and don't drop out but they are also not pushed downed or flattened which is what i generally find happening with other irons. You can iron over the same section of clothing several times without the material taking some damage. The automatic steam technology, which generates a combination of steam and heat for each setting, combined with the design of the iron make it very easy to use and gives great results. I tend to let my ironing pile up and then do it in one go, resulting in me standing there for hours watching back to back Judge Judy or Come Dine With Me whilst i get the creases out. My arms never hurt after my ironing marathons. I tried using my boyfriends iron for a little while and my arm really suffered from the strain even though I didn't use it long. It also claims to be anti scale (which I've never had a problem with) and the self cleaning mode works really well. It also has a cord that pretty long.

                  Yet there is a downside to this iron, a flaw that is so stupid it could have been corrected if they'd tested the product better before putting it out there for us to buy. The main body of the iron is purple which is very pretty but is pretty dumb as it makes it absolutely impossible to see the water level contained within. If you contort your body, squint and have just the right combination of light levels from the sun (Little chance of this in England) and bulb you can just about make out a line. It's very frustrating but as the rest of the iron is so good I can't bring myself to replace it. After using it for a while it does get easier to make educated guesses about how much water you need to put in. If only Russell Hobbs had made this section of the iron lighter so that we could see the water level, then it would be the perfect iron.

                  ~Stockists/Price~
                  As of last week it was available from Amazon at £25 but it is unavailable to confirm the price at the time this review was written. Ebay often have it listed in an auction and i have seen it in some larger actual Sainsbury's stores (It is not on their website) but the price fluctuates. Depsite the flaw, it is an excellent iron and is worth the price if found cheaply but i wouldn't pay more than £25 for it (If you can overlook the water issue).

                  ~In The Box~
                  Iron
                  Water Jug
                  Instruction Booklet
                  12 Month Guarantee Card

                  (P.s. Battery life is marked as excellent, as i had to choose something, but is non-applicable for this product)

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                  • More +
                    08.08.2012 21:40
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                    I want to read it agin now and i only just finished it

                    Last week I read a review of this book by dawnymarie, the review was so good I bought the first book (In a series of three) on Kindle straight away and subsequently read all three books in the series within four days. Suzanne Collins is an amazing writer and the plot is so interesting that I found it really difficult to stop reading.

                    The stories are aimed at young adults, but at the age of 32 (A young adult by no means) I found that this book, and the two that come after, are the best things I've read in a long time.

                    This book is for the Kindle edition although it is also available in paperback and hardback and as a trilogy box set.
                    Kindle - £3
                    Paperback - £4
                    Hardback - £12
                    Trilogy Paperback Set - £14
                    (Prices are approximates based upon Amazon, you may find them cheaper if you look around)

                    ~The Plot~
                    It's some point in the near future, we're not exactly sure when, following a apocalyptic event that wiped out a lot of the world. Panem, the Country central to our story and the only one wee here about, is positioned somewhere within the area of where North America used to stand. Panem, is a wide divided, quite literally, it's split into 12 areas (There used to 13 but one was destroyed during a rebellion) with all power and wealth held by the Capital (Called the Capital). The further you move away from the Capital, through districts 2 to 12, the amount of resources and the standard of living decrease. Each district is responsible for a certain type of industry, zone 11 for example is responsible for agriculture and district 3 produces electronics. Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old girl, lives with her mother and sister in zone 12, a sparse location with little wealth or resources, that is responsible for the production of coal. Life is pretty grim in district 13, people are generally quite poor and struggle to survive, living day to day. Luxuries like electricity and food are sparse and employment opportunities are pretty much limited to working down the mines.

                    On to the games. In order to keep its citizens in place, each year a Hunger games is held to remind people of what happens if you choose to dissent. Each year two contestants from each district are chosen via a lottery, one girl and one boy from all children that are aged 12 to 16. They then become the stars of a most watched and entertaining tv show (The only thing their TV's are used for other than more media controlled propaganda news bullitins) and as all citizens of Panem watch, these 24 children must fight to the death until only one victor remains.

                    When Primrose, Katniss' 12 year old sister, is chosen you can probably guess that big sis is not too pleased at this idea. She volunteers to take her place and so the 74th annual Hunger Games begin.

                    ~Characterisation~
                    Katniss Everdeen - Katniss is our main protagonist, highly affected by her father's death in a mine collapse when she was 11, she has become the sole provider for her family. She hunts illegally (Through a hole in the electric fence that they can't even afford to electrify) and trades her wares on a black market, using the hunting and survival skills her father taught her before he died, and manages to keep her family on the edge of being comfortable. A somewhat perimistic person, perhaps from having to grow up so fast, she sees the world from a unique perspective. Whilst she has a hard exterior, she'll do anything to protect the people she loves. She's also pretty apt with a bow and arrow, which proves useful later on in the story. Collins based the character of Katniss upon Theseus, of Greek Mythology, and it is clear to see the influence.

                    Primrose Everdeen - In opposition to her big sister, Primrose she's the world as various shades of yellow, with an idealised and nieve point of view that sees the best in everything. As Katniss does everything she can to protect Primrose, she's led a more sheltered existence for 12 years and therefore it is unimaginable that she would be able to survive very long when being hunted by older and faster children. You experience the same turmoil as Katniss when the name Primrose is read out for the Hunger games selection.

                    Peeta Mellark - An acquaintance of Katniss who is in the same class as her at school but not someone she knows well. Peeta is the chosen boy, from the Hunger Games lottery, to represent district 12 in the games. His fate becomes entwined with that of Katniss but I can't really say more without giving away too much plot.

                    Haymitch Abernathy - A victor of the games 24 years ago, who has since become very dependent upon alcohol. As the only ever victor from district 12 he serves as a mentor for Katniss and Peeta. He reminds me of a drunken Hagrid for those Potter boy stories for some reason. The character of Haymitch provides the comedy in this novel but does become more prominent in the following two books.

                    There are a lot more characters than the four mentioned, but the list could go on and on as we are introduced to quite a number of people. I'm rubbish with names yet I can remember every character in this novel as they are so well developed. Even minor characters have fully fledged personalities with numerous shades of grey (Maybe even more than 50, in your face E. L. James, this is how books should be written) and Collins lets you build relationship[s with them, making it very hard to stop reading.

                    ~The Author~
                    Suzanne Collins truly is an exceptional author, the Hunger Games series is the first I've read of her work but I'm very impressed so far. She presents alien lands and situations in a way that not only makes them fully comprehensive but also allows you to see the connections with our own time. She also provides a fully fledge sense of the characters wet she does so with simplicity and without the need for tedious over descriptions. The words just flow which makes the book very easy to read and you can gain a lot of knowledge about what is going on in a very short space in time.

                    There is no pomp and circumstance or literary tools just for the sake of it to try and be pretentious; it is just a beautifully told story. I didn't have to go back and read sections that I didn't quite understand which I do sometimes have to do in other future or scifi based novels. I'd rate her very highly in my list of favourite authors and I'm obviously not the only person who thinks so as the book has won a number of awards including Publishers Weekly's Best Books of the Year in 2008, The New York Times Notable Children's Book of 2008, 2009 winner of the Golden Duck Award in the Young Adult Fiction Category, 2008 Cybil Winner for fantasy and science-fiction, School Library Journal's Best Books 2008, Booklist Editors' Choice" in 2008 and 2011 winner of the California Young Reader Medal. She's also written five novels that make up the The Underland Chronicles about a land under New York City (Have put this on my list to read) as well as a couple of other novels and she wrote for the TV series Clarissa Explains It All (Am very impressed, I loved that show).

                    ~Wider Context~
                    There are so many wider issues raised by the Hungar Games that I can not possibly cover them all in one review. The themes central to the book are oppression, dissent, helplessness and survival. It also raises a central issue regarding the role of violence in the media. I find some TV shows today very uncomfortable. I don't watch X Factor auditions or variations of 'You've been framed' as I find the concept quite horrible, taking pleasure from the misfortune or stupidity of others, watching somebody suffer. Where do we draw the line between entertaining tv and a train wreck in action? The scary thing about the Hunger Games is that I don't think it's beyond the realms of possibility, which is both incredibly scary but also something that needs to be talked about. Would we become desensitised to real life death an violence in the same way that fictional violent films lose their impact the more you watch them (I can't watch violent films, I don't want to see violence in real life and therefore don't understand why people would want to watch a fictional version of it). What happens when the actors are no longer actors? We know from many examples thought history that propaganda can be used in order to control a nation. We know that people imearse themselves in the suffering of others in order to make themselves feel better (Just look at how many viewing figures Eastenders and Coronation Street get).


                    ~Additional~
                    The film has been adaptered into a film which has already finished at the cinema but is available on dvd and blu-ray from the 3rd September. It starts Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson & Liam Hemsworth. I haven't seen it yet so I can't comment.

                    ~Technical Details~
                    * Format: Kindle Edition
                    * File Size: 542 KB
                    * Print Length: 454 pages
                    * Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1407109084
                    * Publisher: Scholastic Fiction; 1 edition (3 May 2011)
                    * Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
                    * Language: English
                    * ASIN: B005EGXTEE
                    * Text-to-Speech: Enabled


                    This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
                    August 2012

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                    • More +
                      07.08.2012 23:37
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                      Substance over style

                      I bought an Archos 101 (Please see separate review if you want more details of the original model) last year and fell in love until a few months ago when it died. I had a great time at the wake though as Archos (being the amazing people that they are) sent me an upgrade as a replacement, a shiny new Archos 101 3G. Whilst waiting in anticipation for computers to be added to the product suggestions list so that I can write all about it, I've fallen in love really this time (Making the Archos 101 seem like a school girl crush).

                      ~Archos~
                      A French consumer electronics company that was formed in 1988, Archos is apparently an anagram of the surname of its founder, Henri Crohas. They make internet tablets and also release other low cost Android tablets under the Arnova brand, which shares the same designs and some production and distribution facilities. That's all that I can tell you really (They don't have an 'about us' page on their website) other than that their customer service is really good.

                      ~Design~
                      A slim and light tablet at 276 mm x 167 mm x 12.6 mm cm and 649g (the ipad is 18.6 x 0.9 x 24.1 cm and 653g) that is a nice size to hold in in the hands and the rectangle shape is great for watching films in widescreen. As with the 101, the only buttons actually on the tablet are the on/off button and volume control. Remaining buttons are permanently on the screen, change with the screen orientation and are utilized actually within the apps as function buttons (E.g. when in a web browser the back button takes to your previous page). The Search, Home, Menu and Back buttons that were displayed on the previous version now have a handy addition of a applications button which allows you to switch between apps and close with a swipe (I love the swipe). The rotation of the screen changes as you rotate the device, something that has become standard in most devices now but I still find it impressive). Whilst viewing angles were limited to pretty much straight on in the 101, the G9 has remedied this flaw and is viewable from lots of angels which is good if more than one person wants to look at it at the same time. The stand on the back of the device has also received an upgrade, it's been moved to one side so rather than the middle so that it can be used in both portrait and landscape. The tablet also has a slot for a micro sd card, which means you can expand the capacity (good for if you have a lot of ebooks, music, tv shows and films. It also has a headphones socket, microUSB and a mini HDMI port. Sadly the USB port, that was very useful, is no more on the G9 version but you can buy a micro USB adapter for a few quid on Amazon. I highly recommend buying on to use with this tablet as it will make your life so much easier. The multi touch screen supports gestures such as pinch-to-zoom and doesn't really get hot (some people have complained about this but I've used it for hours at a time and it's gotten slightly warm).

                      ~Functionality~
                      Where the G9 stands out is its speed of processing, it is twice as fast as the original. Gone are the days of waiting whilst the tablet has a little rest before it does what you ask it to do. In two months of use I have not had a frozen screen or delay. It responds fast and efficiently to commands. It has a 1 GHz Texas Instruments OMAPTM 4 smart multi-core processor (Apparantly). I have very little understanding of what that means other than my tablet is pretty powerful, can multitask better than I can and I can play full HD videos. Web browsing is a breeze, as is juming between apps. It also runs on the 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' operating system. Again, I'm no expert, so I'm stealing quotes from those that are, from the Archos website; "Specially designed and optimized for tablets, it gives you a full web experience for on-the-go web browsing, communication and applications. With Adobe® Flash® 11 support for the true web experience and the constantly growing number of apps in Android MarketTM, as well as Google's suite of Mobile applications your ARCHOS 101 G9 is your versatile tool for your connected life" (They said it better than I could anyways). It is also fully Flash compatible which means it can display all web pages and the internet looks the same as it does on my laptop. The keyboard takes some getting used to be is fine once you've used it for a while and if you do a lot of typing you can use a real keyboard (You can buy a case with a keyboard built in that turns the tablet into a mini laptop for £10ish on amazon) but you will need a micro usb adapter. The tablet also has a built in camera and microphone which I only use for skype but is a pretty good quality for that purpose, it's probably not so great for taking actual photos and is only front facing.

                      ~Connections~
                      The tablet is fully wifi enabled and I've tried it on several wifi networks and found it pretty fast. It also connects to my nas (via wifi) very easily and I've never had an issue when streaming videos. The tablet also has Bluetooth (But I've never used it) and is 3G enabled. In order to use 3G have to buy a specific Archos USB stick which is available from a number of places (Such as Amazon and play.com but I'm sure computer retailers would also stock it) which costs around £40. As I have a smart phone I've never found the need for it but if you did decide 3G is a must then there's a slot built in for the USB at the back of the tablet so that it's tucker away and hidden. Theoretically this USB port could be used for other things such as USB storage devices but I've never tried it. The tablet also has a built in GPS module, making it great as a satnav and allows you to utilize apps that use locations fully (Like google map). You can also connect the tablet up to your TV like you do with a pc, allowing you to watch whatever is on your tablet on a big screen.

                      ~Capacity~
                      The standard version, which I have, has 8GB of space. I have quite a few apps, a lot of photos, 20 ebooks, a number of films and TV episodes and quite a bit of random stuff stored on my tablet and I have 4GB free. You can also expand your available space through the use of the SD card slot. I tend to store the majority of my things on SD cards and the G9 makes it easy and quick to access these, due to a very good file management system supplied on the tablet. You can also buy a 'turbo' version of the tablet with a 250GB hard drive for £300 (RRP, I've found it for £250 in places). From what I've read the extra memory does drain the battery a lot though and also weighs 100 odd grams.

                      ~Battery Life~
                      The tablet last 7 to 10 hours if using it constantly. I've found that I can a number of days without needing to charge if I'm using it sporadically. I generally only use the tablet continuously when reading books on Kindle so to put it into perspective, I read to and a half books of the Hunger Games trilogy before needing to plug the power adapter in. Unlike other tablets, it will not charge when shut down completely however the battery never seems to drain much in power save mode. If I left the original 101 in power save for a couple of days I'd turn it on to find the battery had gone completely dead whereas it seems to have little effect on the G9. I'm very impressed with its battery life. The only downside is that it takes a while to charge when connected to a computer through a USB. It charges a lot quicker when it's plugged directly into a power source.

                      ~Apps~
                      The tablet comes installed with a number of useful apps. The multimedia apps to play music and video that are already installed on the tablet are really good and are well designed. I've found them very easy to use and play all formats I've tried, on my old tablet I needed several different apps to play different types of videos. It also comes with an app called BriefMe preinstalled, which lets you gather all your social network feeds in one place. Whilst it doesn't have Microsoft Office, Smart Office (also preinstalled) allows you to read and edit your Word, Excel and PowerPoint files however it is only a trial version but there are other apps available for free that do the same job. For apps that are not already installed, you also have access to the Android market (All you need is a gmail account). There are a lot of great apps on the Android Market that are free. The Kindle app is really good, allowing you to read pdfs as well as any kindle bought books and gives you everything a kindle reader does as far as i can tell. I use my tablet to read all of my uni texts books that i got in pdf format. There's also the standard apps such as twitter, facebook, youtube, angry birds, skype, bbc iplayer. The game Temple Run is great (and free) and shows off the tablet really well. Apparently the dual-core processor also makes the tablet an excellent choice for 3D but I tend to avoid games (3D games confuse me).

                      ~Freedom of choice~
                      One of the things I love most about the G9, and the plain 101 that came before it, is that I can make decisions. If I don't like the web browser, install another one (Dolphin is really good), want to put 50 ebooks on a SD card and decide what to read later, I can, I just stick it in the card slot. It actually has a card slot. I can transfer files to and from the tablet till my heart's content (and I don't have to use itunes to do it (Me and itunes have a troubled relationship). It has flash, I can look at whatever websites I want, I don't have to view an altered version adapted for my technology. I actually get the 'real' internet. I could also change my operating system if I can the inclination (or ability).

                      ~The Price~
                      The RRP stands at £300. Since I didn't pay for it I can't tell you how much mine cost but I have seen them on various internet sites for between £180 and £230. The price fluctuates a lot on Amazon. If you're looking for a cheaper deal then you can generally get the original 101 for around £150 (Again, this changes up and down quite often) but do lose the power and speed that the G9 has by choosing its much slower older brother. If you're buying it instead of a Kindle I'd go for the cheaper option but if you want a fully functional tablet I'd probably spend the extra cash.

                      ~Technical Details (Taken from Archos.com)~

                      Display characteristics * 10.1": 1280 x 800
                      Application Framework * Android
                      Processor * Standard version: OMAPTM 4 smart multi-core ARM CORTEX A9 at 1GHz.
                      * Turbo version: OMAPTM 4 smart multi-core ARM CORTEX A9 from 1.2GHz to 1.5GHz (at start of 2012).
                      * 3D OpenGL (ES 2.0)
                      Capacity * Flash Memory: 8 or 16GB* + microSD Slot (SDHC compatible)

                      Video Playback1 * MPEG-4 HD (up to 1080p)
                      * MPEG-42 (ASP@L5 AVI, up to DVD resolution)
                      * H.264 HD (HP@L4.2, up to 1080p@30 fps and 1080i/720p@60 fps)

                      With optional plug-in:
                      * Cinema: MPEG2 (up to DVD resolution MP/D1)

                      With the above codecs, the device can play video files with the following extensions: AVI, MP4, MOV, 3GP, MPG, PS, TS, VOB, MKV, FLV, RM, RMVB, ASF
                      Audio Playback1 * MP3
                      * WAV (PCM/ADPCM)
                      * AAC3, AAC+ 5.13
                      * OGG Vorbis
                      * FLAC

                      With optional software plug-in:
                      * AC3 5.1
                      Photo viewer4 * JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF
                      Subtitles * .srt, .ssa, .smi, .sub formats supported
                      Webcam * 720p front camera with 720p encoding
                      Interfaces * USB slave: Mobile Transfer Protocol (MTP)
                      * USB host: Mass Storage Class (MSC) (Micro USB/USB Host cable sold separately)
                      * microSD (SDHC compatible)
                      * HDMI output6 (Mini HDMI / HDMI cable sold separately)
                      Communication protocols * WiFi
                      * Bluetooth 2.1+ EDR
                      Miscellaneous * Built-in GPS
                      * Built-in speakers
                      * G-sensor
                      * Compass
                      * Built-in kick stand
                      * Built-in Microphone
                      Power source * Internal: Lithium Polymer battery
                      * External: Power adapter/charger
                      Dimensions & weight * Flash series: 276 mm x 167 mm x 12.6 mm (10.86 x 6.59 x 0.50 inch) - 649g (23.8 oz)
                      * Hard Drive series: 276 mm x 167 mm x 15.6 mm (10.86 x 6.59 x 0.61 inch) - 755g (27.7 oz)
                      Battery life * Music playback time7: up to 36 hrs
                      * Video playback time7: up to 7 hrs
                      * Internet navigation time 7: up to 10 hrs
                      Scalability7 * Device automatically downloads latest firmware updates when the WiFi connection is activated
                      * Updates can also be downloaded at www.archos.com
                      Minimum system requirements * Microsoft® Windows® 7, Vista, XP or higher
                      * Mac OS. X with Android Transfer Files application (not included)
                      * Linux with android MTP tool (not included)
                      * USB 2.0 interface

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                      • Room 101 / Discussion / 50 Readings / 46 Ratings
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                        07.08.2012 00:51
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                        It's good to rant

                        I rant quite a lot, sometimes I rant about the sheer number of times i find myself being in a position where a rant is called for. I think it's time I put some in Room 101.

                        Please note that these rants are my own and are not intended to cause offence. I apologise in advance if they do.

                        ~Cars parked on pavements~
                        I've worked in highway and transport jobs for various councils over the years, I know that pavements are not designed for the weight of a car. Every time a car is parked on a pavement the life expectancy of it is reduced (The pavement that is, not the car, the law forbids me from kicking cars so they're safe). Pavements are damaged quicker than they should be and thus it costs tax payers more money for them to be repaired more often than they should be. It also causes accessibility issues, especially for the disabled and people with pushchairs, and I'm fed up of having to walk on the road as a car or truck has taken up all the pavement space. I don't drive, have never owned a car, but i generally am a law abiding citizen in terms of the highways. I wait for the green man, don't run out between the parked cars and tend to avoid walking down the middle of the road (Unless walking home from a drunken evening but that don't count as there's no cars driving around anyways). I do my part to keep the peace between drivers and pedestrians, I only expect the same courtesy. If you park on the pavement and obstruct the public right of way you are breaking the law under the The Highways Act of 1980. I'm claiming back my streets. (Living Streets have started a campaign against pavement parking if you want to know more http://www.livingstreets.org.uk/make-a-change/urgent-actions/pavement-parking).

                        ~Pointy Shoes~
                        Not to be sexiest, this rant applies to both men and women's shoes alike and refers to shoes that come to a point at the toes. Although not all shoe points are not created equal, some are longer than the others, i have a strong sense of loathing towards them all. I struggle to understand them. Like what I would think is the majority of people, my toes are pretty much in size order, littlest on the outside, bigger ones towards the inside, (armadil)toes. in my 32 years of life i have never seen a foot that comes to a point in the middle, if you can prove me wrong I'll gladly stand corrected. Therefore when you wear pointy shoes you're left with additional material and open space at the front that serve no purpose whatsoever other than to make you look like an elf.

                        ~Daytime Advertising~
                        For the record, I have never been miss sold PPI. Nor have i ever had an accident that wasn't myself and thanks for asking but no, I would not like a pay day loan with a gazillion % APR. I don't want £5 free to play bingo online. Advertisers, if you're listening, please stop asking me. They are seriously relentless, one after the other and there is what seems like hundreds of different companies all fighting to get my attention for something I have absolutely no interest in. I once watched six episodes of Judge Judy back to back (It's an addiction, it's not my fault), there was like ten commercial breaks and each one consisted pretty much of the four options mentioned, the same company rarely showed up more than once. Now, I'm all for freedom of choice but seriously how many online bingo sites and legal loan sharks do we need?

                        ~Sweeping Statements~
                        "The nation is on their feet"
                        "The Country has wept tonight"
                        "She's dragged us all into the world of gymnastics"
                        "The whole country is behind you"
                        "The whole world is watching"
                        "You'll always remember where you were when the gold was won"
                        "This is a day a the Country will never forget"
                        "She's a disgrace to the country"

                        I can go on and on. Generally used by the mass media and sports commentators, they can't just say "Wow, i thought that was pretty great", they instead have to imply that the whole entire population agree with what they are saying. In my opinion, sweeping statements aim to turn an opinion into fact for those who lack the courage to stand and say this is what I think. I frown at totality. I know what I think, I don't need someone helpfully telling me I am wrong (I tend to always be swimming against the tide) as the rest of the whole wide world disagrees. There are 62.6 million people in the UK, 6,973,738,433 people on the planet (Give or take a few), it would take a considerable amount of time to find out whether everyone agrees with you or not and therefore please restrain yourself from making statements on their behalf. Statistics are the same, I work with statistics a lot and you can bend and shape them to support any argument if you try hard enough. Statistics are not fact, they're a generalisation like sweeping statements. I'd like to sweep sweeping statements into the bin (Statistics can stay as long as they learn their place) but since I can't I'm putting them in my room 101 instead.

                        ~And finally... vegetarians who eat fish~
                        Controversial, but I really don't understand it. I stopped eating meat for five years, I had to start again when my gp was getting annoyed with me for being anaemic all the time but I can't eat meat that looks like meat, I haven't been able to since as long as I can remember. When I eat meat I have to force myself to forget that it was a living animal killed purely for me to eat it. I find it difficult to have that on my conscious as I don't like the idea of anything dying on my behalf. For me the worst possible way of dying I can imagine is to drown or suffocate, to lose the ability to breath. When fish die it's like drowning in reverse. Watching fish flop around when out of water is such a terrible image to me. No measures a put in place to prevent them from suffering. Yes, some research suggests that maybe they can't feel pain but people also thought the Earth was flat. Excuse me if I don't take your word for it. You'd have to hold a gun to my head in order to get me to eat a fish therefore I find it difficult to understand why people will refuse to eat living animals but do not include fish in this criteria. I also have serious issues with fishing as a sport. If a giant came along, put a hook in my mouth and then held me down in some water until I almost died I can't help but think that I'd be slightly traumatised by this.

                        Thanks for letting me share my rants, feel far calmer now (Well until a fisherman in pointy shoes parks his car on the pavement and tells me the 'whole world' loves bingo adverts, then I'll be off again).

                        Thanks for reading.

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                        • More +
                          06.08.2012 00:58
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                          Walkers are finally producing quality crisps (AKA Potato chips) but we're not supposed to know

                          We all have our little indulgences or bad habits and I'm no exception, for me it's crisps (I can never get enough). Walkers are generally my crisps of choice but sometimes I get bored of the flavours available, seek out greener pastures. When I came across Red Sky I fell in love so imagine my surprise when I discovered that these were in fact made by Walkers.

                          ~Walkers, who are they?~
                          Walkers is originally a British company (Now owned by PepsiCo) that have been making crisps since the 1880s. With a large range of flavours and varieties (Including Sensations, Baked, Max and Extra Crunchy) they are responsible for 47% of the British crisp market and the website claims that "11 million people will eat a Walkers product every day". Walkers have had Gary Lineker, formerly a Leicester City footballer, has the face of the company for quite some time, highlighting their links to the town of Leicester where the company was born by Henry Walker, a butcher originally by trade.

                          ~Walkers make Red Sky?~
                          Whilst you'll be hard pressed to find any evidence on the packet, Walkers are indeed behind the new brand but have omitted its more mainstream name and logo from the product in order to create a standalone brand and a move into the higher quality crisp market.

                          ~Why are they different?~
                          West Country Bacon & Cream Cheese are marketed more as a wholesome, fresh crisp. When you visit beer or food festivals they always have those farmer's fresh type crisps, made free from persavatives and packed with flavour and crunchyness (Think more Kettle and Burts Chips). Well this is the competition that Red Sky aim to take on with more 'life in the country' themed flavours (Roasted Red Peppers & Lime, Sour Cream & Green Herbs and Anglesey Sea Salt as well as West Country Bacon & Cream Cheese) and claim to be 100% natural. Whilst a red sky at night is meant to be good for shepherds (I've never really understood why) these crisps claim that "Red Sky potato chips (Potatoes chips? Wow, they are trying to be posh. Or American maybe.) are our promise of something just as good". "We only use the best incredients to bring you these beautifully crunchy potato chips (They like that term!) which taste as good as you would expect when made with 100% natural seasonings."

                          ~What's in 'em?~
                          West Country Bacon & Cream Cheese flavour crisps contain "100% natural seasoning" with actual incredients of British potatoes (They're really going over board to tell us that), sunflower oil, sea salt , natural flavouring, dried cream cheese, dreid yoghurt, milk, whey powder, cane sugar, colour (paprika extract) and are suitable for vegeterians. Words of warning to those with allergies, the crisps are made in a factory that also handles wheat, gluten, barley, soya, celery (Are people really allergic to celery?) and mustard.

                          ~What do they taste like?~
                          When I eat bacon sandwiches I like to put cheese on them (Have you figured out I don't understand the word diet yet?), it's a great combination and walkers have managed to capture this into a packet, it smells like breakfast to me but the nice kind, not greasy spoon. Walkers crunchy have the same consistency (Not as hard as kettle chips but still very crunchy) yet the flavour is far richer than run of the mill bog standard packets, with exactly the right balance. Whilst other crisps can leave a greasy aftertaste (I guess it's the artificial flavouring) you don't get this from Red Sky, I would liken it to the difference between Philadelphia and supermarket own brand cream cheese where essentially you know they're the same thing but the supermarket own brand is cheaper and tastes it. Walkers finally have a crisp that tastes expensive, sounds cheesy (And bacony! Hehe) I know, but words cannot do the taste justice.

                          ~Will they cost the Earth?~
                          With great indulgence comes a great cost, at approximately £1.79 for 150g (apparently meant for sharing but not in my house) and 59p for a 40g they are not cheap yet there are deals to be had. When Walkers tried to distance themselves from the Red Sky brand the supermarkets obviously didn't pay attention as they are always in the same deals as Walkers Sensations (Which cost around the same price) and if you look around you can often get two bags for £2.50 or 3 for £3, bringing the cost down quite a bit.

                          ~Will they save the Earth?~
                          Working in partnership with a number of other companies, Red Sky became a founding member of The Prince's Countryside Fund, which was launched by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2010. Walkers source their potatoes, oats and apples from British farms but the new commitment means a pledge that sustainable agricultural practices will be applied on farmed land used, funding, technical support and training will be provided to local farmers and promotion of environmental education and best practices will be shared among their associates and business partners (If even only a small amount of this is carried out it is still a big step in the right direction).

                          "We're committed to ensuring UK farmland can remain resilient for future generations of farmers. We have long standing contracts with our growers - this means we have a vested interest in their long term viability and can create sustainability strategies collaboratively" says the President of PepsiCo UK & Ireland, Richard Evans (Guilt free eating, give me more).

                          ~What about the nutrition stuff?~
                          When trying to tighten the waist band crisps are generally not the best thing to eat, at 140 kcal per 30g, 466 kcal per 100g and a whopping 700 kcal per bag (150g) these are no exception (I should probably learn to share). West Country Bacon & Cream Cheese (per 100g) also contains 7.1g of protein, 59.9g carbohydrate (Of which sugar is 2.1g), 20.9g of fat (1.7g saturates), 4.8g fibre and sodium at 0.49g (Equivalent as salt is 1.24g). When I finally get my brain from the Wizard I may begin to know what some of this means, until then you're on your own sorry.

                          ~Where can I buy them~
                          Waitrose stock Red Sky as well as Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrison's and local shops and supermarkets although they can be difficult to find other than in the larger stores.

                          ~Well... what's the bottom line?~
                          Whilst I'm never convinced when someone tries really hard to tell me that something is natural, there is a lack of E numbers in the ingredients list. When they were handing out brains they made mine incapable of seeing nutritional information as anything other than swirls on the package, but I'm pretty sure they're not good for me. Whatever, they taste great and as long as supermarkets keep putting them in deals to make them cheaper I'll keep buying them (Plus it's good for the environment, apparently, just in case I need an excuse to keep indulging).

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                          • More +
                            05.08.2012 20:33
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                            Not a bad place to stay if you're visiting Paris

                            I've stayed at the Hotel Avalon twice, once back in 2008 when it was pretty much exactly the same but was named Hôtel de Londres et d'Anvers, and the second time in July of this year. This review is mainly based upon a three night stay in July 2012.

                            ~The Hotel~
                            The hotel is placed in a traditional Paris tenement building, very close to Gare du Nord, with the metal balconies on the sides that make the city so pretty. It provides 64 rooms, all with en-suite bathrooms, and rooms are accessed via key cards. The hotel has a seating area (With very brightly coloured plastic chairs) as well as two toilets downstairs on the main level near reception and (slightly over-priced) vending machines are also provided close by. There are two (smallish) lifts and stairwells to access the different floors. Also behind the reception is a luggage room where cases can before before check-in or after check-out which is very useful if you want to explore Paris without lugging your cases around before an evening train or late flight. A further benefit of being so close to the station is that it makes the hotel a convenient place to travel back to before departing the city. I've used this room twice and have never had an issue. The reception is manned 24 hours a day. You're free to come and go as you please during the day but after around midnight(ish) the front door is locked and the person covering the reception has to let you in. We never experienced a problem with this as there was never a time when we found the reception unmanned.

                            The hotel also provides conference facilities for up to 45 people but as I knew very little about this I would suggest contacting the hotel of visiting their website if you need to know more rather than me trying to blag it.

                            ~Location~
                            A lot of hotels state that they are near things that you'd have to walk 50 miles and squint in order to see. When the Avalon states that it is in very close proximity to Gare du Nord (A main train station in Paris where the Eurostar kicks you out). The station is quite literally around the corner from the hotel and you can get between the two walking in a couple of minutes. As well as the Eurostar, Gare du Nord also provides links to the Paris Metro and RER trains as well as trains to other European destinations. The hotel is placed on Boulevard du Magenta, a fairly busy and active Paris street with restaurants, bars, a McDonalds and Subway close by and a few supermarkets. The closeness to Gare du Nord does have a downside through as places close by tend to be a bit touristy. We tended tyo walk down a few random streets to find places slightly off the beaten track and a bit more authentic Paris. Near Montmartre, you can walk to Sacré-Coeur within 15 minutes and the church of St Vincent du Paul (We found it by accident on the way back to the hotel on our first night), which is very pretty and interesting, is also close by and worth a look.

                            ~Price~
                            The cheapest option I found for the hotel was through Hostelbookers.com, with the cost of the room at £78.14 per night which works out as £39.07 per person per night. This was for a twin/double room, a triple room is around £30 per person and a single is approximately £60 (Obviously this is dependent upon time of year you wish to visit). The price is very reasonable for a hotel in the centre of Paris and as it was booked through Hosterbookers.com it included breakfast, many other websites have a higher cost per room and do not state that breakfast is included (therefore I assume it isn't). When booking through Hostyelbookers.com you only pay 10% of the room cost upfront and the rest upon hotel departure which I always find a better option. It is far easier to refuse to pay than demand your money back if you're not happy with the service, helps you retain a bit of consumer power.

                            ~The room~
                            Our room wasn't the biggest room in the world, size was pretty adequate and we could prabaly just about swing as cat (Although I don't think a cat would like being swung). The room contained a double bed, desk, bedside cabinets, wardrobe and one of those suitcase rack things What it lacks in size it makes up for in cleanliness, I checked as hard as I could to find dirt and failed. Yes there were a couple of small stains on the bathtub but neither the room nor bathroom was dirty. The corner rooms of the hotel have little balconies, with doors to access them, that look out over the busy Parisian streets. I've been lucky enough to have one of those rooms on different floors on the time occasions I have used the hotel. The balconies overlook the corner of Rue de Rocroy, which I've renamed wedding dress street, for the sheer number of wedding dress stops (Interesting but best not to stay there if you've just been jilted at the alter). You can also see into a number of apartments opposite (Maybe invest in some curtains people of Paris) and we could see what a couple opposite were watching on TV. Nettings and curtains are provided in the hotel rooms which stops the people opposite from returning the favour. The room was neither too hot nor too cold, suggesting they have the temperature right and therefore we slept with the doors to the balcony shut. On the previous stay a few years back Paris was a lot sunnier, causing room to be a bit warm at night requiring the doors to be open and traffic noises can be constant and annoying. When the doors are shut the room is pretty quiet.

                            Amenities in the room include:
                            Free wifi!! (Reception will give you the code for your stay when you check in. It logs itself out a lot but on the whole was quite a good strength and could use it anywhere in the hotel).
                            Little bottles (Of fairly standard) shampoo and shower gel and little soaps
                            Towels (Changed every day)
                            Bedding (Made every day but not changed in three days)
                            Spare bedding and pillows
                            A number of coat hangers (Think there was eight)
                            Combination safe (Large enough for handbags, passports and a couple of cameras)
                            Flat screen tv (We didn't use it much but saw news and music channels in English)
                            Hairdryer (The fixed to the wall kind like at a swimming pool but does the job)
                            One wall socket (Yes, that's it although there may be more in other rooms. We searched everywhere and couldn't find more than one which had a desk lamp plugged into it. We therefore had to do a lot of balancing in regards to phone and camera charging, not good for smart phones that don't make it 24 hours without a charge).

                            There are no coffee or tea making facilities available in the room which is a bit of a let down. A hot drinks machine is provided on the ground floor but you have to pay for this.

                            ~Breakfast~
                            The standard continental affair with croissants, those chocolate pastry things and the little crispy toast things in packets. Jams, butter , yogurts and cerial are also available as well as juice, tea, coffee and hot chocolate. I have no complaints about the actual food itself, it was all pretty standard. The problems arose in the layout for breakfast seating. A large number of tables are placed in a very small area, unless you sit very tucked in to the table (And lose the ability to breath) you block the aisle and you're constantly being knocked whilst eating. Whilst conditions are cramped, there's also not very many seats provided for the number of people and thus if you get there during a busy eating time then you may have to wait around for available seats. Breakfast was served between 8 and 10.

                            ~Staff~
                            All of the staff we had interaction with were very helpful and nice. The reception staff offered us maps when we checked in and knew what they were talking about whist being both polite and efficient. Check-out was also no hassle. The cleaning staff also does a very good job.

                            ~Conclusion~
                            Yes, there are few negatives about the hotel, poor breakfast seating, lack of power points, but on the whole Avalon is a nice, cheap and clean hotel that is great value for money and in an excellent location in the heart of Paris. I would have no issues with recommending this hotel as a great place to stay.

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