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** This is a review for Nestle Heaven Milk Truffle Chocolate. ** Nestle have been doing a big promotion for their new range of Heaven bars lately, with free bars of chocolate being sent out to internet users, taste tests in supermarkets around the country and an advert played on all major television channels. As the UK's most boycotted brand, Nestle are clearly trying to get people hooked on a new range of choccy and back eating their products. Nestle Heaven chocolate bars retail at £1.39 each, or you can buy two for £2 at Tesco at the moment. If you signed up for Nestle's "Heaven Can't Wait" promotion online, you might have even received one of these full size 100g bars for free. That's how I got my sample to taste test for Dooyoo! The flavours available are dark truffle, milk truffle, hazelnut crème, milk orange truffle and café latte. Each chocolate bar is divided into twelve squares of milk chocolate with the "V" symbol from the Heaven logo embossed on each, all wrapped up in gold foil, and inserted into an indulgent thin cardboard box, dominated by a luxurious creamy background. The packaging is a bit wasteful really, but does the job well of looking like "posh choc". With the milk truffle version, inside each square of milk chocolate, there are bits of cocoa solids, which give a mildly satisfying crunch and add a richer, darker flavour to the product. The chocolate itself is however distinctly average. It's also worth pointing out, that although this product bills itself as "creamy, Swiss milk chocolate with a gorgeously rich truffle centre and real cocoa pieces", one of the main ingredients is hazelnut. Yes, along with the cocoa pieces, are bits of hazelnut. If you look on the back of the box, it does actually say this in charming size 6pt print, but seeing as it wasn't mentioned on the front in the little blurb, I stupidly managed to overlook this. For an average tasting chocolate, the price of my throat closing up and me feeling like I was dying, really was a bit too high to pay. Nestle promised I'd taste Heaven, and if I hadn't taken medication immediately, I might well have done. However, for your average person in the street without nut allergies, I doubt any form of Heaven would be close. Looking beyond my quite obvious new contempt and irrational dislike for the product, it's really just an okay-ish chocolate bar packaged up to look like it's something so much better. £1.39 will buy you a 150g twin pack of Galaxy Milk Chocolate, which tastes a damn sight nicer, and is safe for nut allergy suffers (well, in my experience, anyway). Not all of the varieties of Heaven contain nuts, but seeing as they're all probably made in the same place, I'm willing to believe that the possible "traces of other nut" described on the back probably are worth being cautious of, if you are a nut allergy sufferer. The conclusion? If you're not allergy to nuts and someone buys you one of these, it's worth eating. If you have to fork out £1.39... it's not so much. There are quite simply better products available on the market for this sort of money, and the packaging is a bit unnecessary. If you missed the "Heaven Can't Wait" promotion and live in England, it's worth having a look at the following link to find out if there are free tastings anywhere near you: http://specials.uk.msn.com/heaven/sample.aspx
Roughly ten years ago, I first met one of my friends. She was absolutely lovely, very pretty, the kind of person everyone wanted to hang out with at parties, but she did have the frizziest hair ever. I always thought this was nice, as it showed that even the happiest people weren't 100% perfect. However, back in 2002, I met her for coffee, and her hair looked absolutely amazing. It wasn't frizzy anymore: it was smooth, sleek and shiny. Damn her. Despite having acquired beautiful hair and making her worthy of immense hatred, she was still a nice person, and as such, confided the secret of her transformation. GHD, she revealed, was the magic codeword, and after getting my hopes up, she delivered a crashing blow: details of the £100 price tag. Apparently she had her hair cut, the stylist straightened her hair as standard, and blown away by the results, she asked what had been used. The stylist tipped her off, and sold her a pair of GHDs right there and then. Although I knew that the straighteners were magical things, I knew I wouldn't be buying them for myself, as they cost a stupid amount of money, but I do remember quite clearly thinking, "If only I had a pair of GHDs, my life would be complete." Slight exaggeration maybe, but guess who was a happy girly in 2006 when Santa brought her GHDs? So, boys and girls, Santa does listen to what you want, there's just a bit of a time lag at the moment, with so many children coming into the world. Have a little patience! =x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x= THE HAIR SCIENCE BIT =x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x= An ion is a molecule which is either positively or negatively charged. Frizzy, dry and damaged hair carries a positive ionic charge, which makes it stand up and give you bad hair. The ceramic plates in GHDs emit negative ions, which neutralise the positive ions and thus the frizz. Ceramic plates are also especially good for straightening, because they diffuse heat evenly through your hair. The heaters underneath the GHD plates are aligned to help boost this plus point, and make sure there are no odd hot spots. GHD swear that the infra-red heat seals in moisture, but I find it hard to believe any hair straighteners can be good for your hair. What I will say though, is that these straighteners have to be the least damaging on the market, if nothing else. =x=x=x=x=x=x= USING YOUR GHDS =x=x=x=x=x=x= My GHD straighteners came out of the box with the cable folded in a zig zag and tied up, which apparently is how you're meant to keep it when you're done. Curl the cable round the irons and you do them no good. I have a special heat mat which I rest my straighteners on when I'm playing with my hair, and where I leave them to cool down when I flick the off switch and wander off and get distracted. I didn't use a heat mat with my last straighteners, but they were a bit rubbish, and GHDs heat up to around 180 degrees, so I think it's definitely worth investing in one. There's a little on/off switch on the irons themselves, so you can leave the straighteners plugged in at the wall and have them off. The straighteners heat up very quickly, and are very easy to use. For general hair straightening, they're a good size. Apparently you can use GHDs to create flicks and curls, but I haven't tried curling my hair with them, so I can't vouch for that aspect. =x=x=x=x=x= DO THEY WORK? =x=x=x=x=x= I haven't really tried sectioning my hair off yet, but even my half-hearted attempts have led to excellent results. After using my GHDs, my hair has been poker straight, shiny and the frizz has gone away. I do have "naturally straight" hair, but what this really means, is that my hair is sort of straight, with a huge kink in it, if left to do its own thing. I think my hair looks best in proper curls, or poker straight. It looks a bit dishevelled in the in-between stages, so I'm really pleased with the results I get from my GHDs. As any other lady with long hair will confess, no matter how hard you try to look after your lovely locks, broken hair does happen from time to time, and this can result in a few random looking strands sticking up along the parting and ruining the effect of smooth and sleek long hair. GHDs do something magical to these annoying bits and make them vanish. I might have straight hair, but I have been waiting to own a pair of these straighteners for a very long time, and now I have them, my faith has been proven. They give even regular straight hair an extra edge. =x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x= WHERE CAN I GET SOME? =x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x= As my GHDs were a Christmas present, I have no idea where they came from! Having looked around though, I can't seem to find them anywhere on the high street. You can buy them online from GHD direct, or I did find a couple of other sites offering them for sale. I know that my friend bought her GHDs from her salon, so it might be worth enquiring at your hairdressers if you're interested in picking up this magical magical invention. Links: http://www.ghdhair.com/go/shop-uk/ http://www.beautysleuth.co.uk http://www.handsomedevil.co.uk/ =x=x=x=x= CONCLUSION =x=x=x=x= If you can afford to buy straighteners, and dream of smooth and sleek hair, I would definitely recommend these. The good news is, that if you're unsure if they're worth the money, you can get pretty much any hairdresser to straighten your hair using a pair of GHDs. I haven't seen a salon without them so far. Depending on where you live, you might even be able to use them in your local club. I thought I'd include the link to the 'Straight Up' vending machine for fun, because it's such a great idea. However you style your hair girls, stay beautiful!:-) Thanks for the read. Link: http://www.beautifulvending.com
Following 3D animated insights into the lives of fish, ants and chickens, you might think that Happy Feet was a Pixar production, but it's actually from the studio of Animal Logic, the people who did the amazing effects in the first Lord of the Rings movie, the Matrix, and in Babe: Pig in the City. Happy Feet is their first computer animated production, and fortunately for them, they've really pulled it off. Before Christmas Day, Happy Feet had already made over 60 million USD worldwide. Not a bad project to get involved with. I saw the trailer for this film a very long time ago, but I suppose that's not unusual, as films like this take a very long time to make. Recently, all of the Persil adverts for the free little Mumble penguin have been reminding me to go see the movie, and here's my take on it. =x=x=x= THE PLOT =x=x=x= When I first saw the trailer for Happy Feet, I immediately thought, "I want to see that!" But even at that stage, I couldn't really figure out what the story was. The trailer consisted of penguins dancing. That was it. Pretty cool to look at, but how do you get 109 minutes out of that? Well, the film is set in the Antarctic, and focuses on everyday life in a colony of Emperor penguins. Apparently, and I didn't learn this in biology, Emperor penguins all have their own special song and they sing to attract their mates. The more successful know numbers such as "Kiss" or "Heartbreak Hotel", but the less fortunate try songs like Ricky Martin's deep and meaningful "Shake Your Bon Bon". At the beginning of the film, we see the courtship between vocally gifted Emperor penguins Memphis and Norma Jean, followed by their subsequent egg, who hatches into Mumble, an adorable little penguin. Although his parents are famous for their singing abilities, poor Mumble can't manage to hold a single note. To make matters worse, he loves tap-dancing, an unheard of activity for a respectable penguin. Whilst his mum Norma Jean thinks this is cute, Mumble's differences from the tribe rapidly make him an outcast. Following some particularly harsh winters, Mumble gets made a scapegoat for the dwindling fish presence nearby. To prove that being different doesn't mean bringing misfortunate for the tribe, Mumble sets off on a mission to find out where the fish have gone. For the story to flow smoothly, you could actually cut out the majority of this film. The plot is very slow to kick off, and the ending, although clearly thought out, does seem to be rushed. If you're after a film with a well constructed story, you might be disappointed. However, the film does have its redeeming points. The animation of an entire colony of penguins singing and dancing is pretty amazing, and effects such as aurora australis are done well. The arrangement of music throughout the film is very enjoyable, weaving together lots of modern and well known songs together in a rich pop tapestry. If you like movies with music in them, this film is for you. There's a clear moral to the film, but I wasn't decided as to whether this was pulled off effectively or not. At moments, I thought it was a good moral and put across effectively, but at others, I worried it was too contrived. =x=x=x= THE CAST =x=x=x= In my opinion, Robin Williams really shone here, voicing the character of Lovelace, the fat guru penguin with a mystical necklace, and also Ramón, one of "the amigos" from the Adélie penguin tribe. I thought he was excellent. Some other big names are behind this movie, with Elijah Wood cast as Mumble, Brittany Murphy as love interest Gloria, and Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman voicing his parents Memphis and Norma Jean. Hugh Weaving from the hugely successful Matrix trilogy voices Noah, one of the leaders of Mumble's tribe, and Miriam Margolyes, who has done some excellent stuff I'm sure, but who I remember as Professor Sprout from Harry Potter, voices Mrs Astrakhan, a penguin singing coach. Anthony LaPaglia from Without a Trace has a small role as Boss Skua, one of the nasty birds who wants to eat baby Mumble. Steve Irwin has a cameo as an Elephant Seal called Trev, and it felt natural that one of his last camera roles had involved playing a big ugly animal that only he could love! The film was in post-production when he died, and has been dedicated to his memory. A fitting tribute. =x=x=x=x=x= THE AUDIENCE =x=x=x=x=x= Happy Feet is rated U, and therefore suitable for most people, including young children. Adults won't find it in the least bit scary, but there were a few moments which upset some younger viewers when I saw this film. A bit of caution therefore should be exercises with any extra sensitive wee mites! =x=x=x=x=x= CONCLUSION =x=x=x=x=x= I enjoyed this film, and despite the slow start, I would recommend it. You can forgive the scriptwriters for taking so long to get to the action, as this has allowed plenty of opportunity for some very enjoyable music scores. There are some heavy environmental themes brought in towards the end, but no real politics, so don't worry about the film brainwashing little minds! Definitely a great family film. In my review about Flushed Away, another recent animated film release, I warned it was probably more for the adults than the kids, but Happy Feet strikes a better balance.
I don't keep a diary. I really should, but I hate writing things down. I used to buy diaries, start using them, then mysteriously lose them. It was never intentional, it just always happened. A bit like how I could buy an alarm clock, but it would mysteriously stop working. The clock would be fine, the batteries would be full, but the clock wouldn't keep time. Organisation is not something I like to use in my personal life, and the Universe agrees. New Years Resolutions therefore haven't ever really worked for me. I don't normally like having a schedule mapped out and it doesn't normally work. However, I know that if I'm determined enough to do something, I can. It's not an admirable quality - it all comes down to pig-headed stubbornness. So this year, I've made a few resolutions. We'll see if I've kept them by the end of the year! 1. LEARN SOMETHING NEW I've always been able to fingerspell in BSL, but for the life of me, I don't know how or where I picked that up. I'd love to learn some actual words, as finger spelling everything is clearly not a practical way to communicate with a deaf person! I realise that for deaf people lip-reading must be second nature, but I suppose my wanting to learn BSL to talk to deaf people, is a bit like me learning French to speak to French people. The majority understand my native language, but I want to make the effort to speak their native language. Through random googling, I discovered that there's a sign language course running in my area in February, so I've made enquiries and hopefully they'll let me on. As I've found it really hard to find a BSL course that fits into my free time, if I can't sign up for this one, I'll try learning a different language instead. Maybe even Arabic! 2. STOP BEING SO LAZY I used to practise t'ai chi ch'uan, but when I moved down to England to study, I couldn't find a class near me. I do fuzzily remember the 24 step form, but I would have to do it with someone to do it properly. I've managed to track down a video of someone practising the form, and although this would be a rubbish method to learn for beginners, I think it's going to work for me. Blow the video up to full screen on my laptop, and go through the form at the same time. Easy. I did briefly considering running, but I think that would be an unrealistic resolution for someone of my great level of laziness... 3. GET A CAREER I graduate in June this year, which is both exciting and scary. As a languages student, I've had a year of study more than most of my friends, and when they graduated, I felt as if I should have been able to leave university too! So for me, finishing this degree feels long overdue. The only bad thing is that I now have to find a job! I've applied for lots of different things so far, and I estimate I've typed roughly 50,000 words so far in my search for a job. In my opinion, this is bloody ridiculous, as I've done more writing in my job search than I've done as part of my degree this year, but the ends will hopefully justify the means. Ever since I've been a wee lass, I've wanted to go out there and get myself a career, so I will keep sending off those applications. One company must love me, I'm sure! I just have to find it... 4. FORGIVE MY ENEMIES Like most people, although I'm perfectly nice 99% of the time, I do have a nasty streak that can surface when provoked. If someone treats me badly, I'm capable of returning the favour. I've got in touch with the people who have hurt me the most, forgiven, and asked to be forgiven, and I'm feeling very positive about it all. People can be right jerks, but if it takes more energy hating them than liking them, you might as well let go and try to get on. 5. BE LESS FAT This one sounds misleading, as I don't look obviously overweight. But I am carrying around a few kilograms that I don't need, and I know I could shift if I had the determination to do so. I've lost weight before, I know it can be done, but the desire to lose weight has to be there. I resolve to want to lose weight - to find that determination. The rest will follow. 'Be less fat' is a mental thing, as much as it is a physical thing. I often refer to myself as "having greedy eyes". If I eat out at a nice restaurant and have an unexpectedly huge main course, I see the pudding list and want to over myself a gorgeous sounding dessert. However, I'm full, not in the least bit hungry and don't need to eat dessert. My eyes see the dessert and force my stomach to deal with it! 2007 is hopefully going to be year that I train my eyes to like vegetables rather than chocolate! Those are my five resolutions - good luck keeping yours if you've made any! Happy New Year everyone, and have a great 2007:-)
Whilst working in France, I had to set up a bank account in order to get paid, so it was in my interests to find a good bank and open an account quickly so I could send off a stack of RIBs (statements with your bank details on that you need for official paperwork). I received lots of advice from friends and colleagues, which was more confusing than anything else. I was told I would need a billion different pieces of paper to open an account (not true), that it would be really difficult to get an account set up (not true) and that to understand anything, I should talk a French person into coming with me (again, not true). As I received numerous recommendations for different banks, I decided to just follow my own instincts instead, and ended up opening an account with Crédit Mutuel, a decision I have never regretted. -x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- WHY I CHOSE CREDIT MUTUEL -x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- I chose Crédit Mutuel for several reasons. Firstly, there was a branch located within a short walking distance of my home. Secondly, the bank operated on a national level and I knew I would have no problems finding another branch whilst travelling around France, should I have any urgent problems. Thirdly, when I walked into my local branch, everything seemed well organised and the staff were polite. -x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT -x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- You don't need an awful lot. I needed something to prove I had a job (an official piece of paper signed by my employer), something to prove I had an address in France (a piece of paper signed by my landlord which took all of five minutes to knock up), and something to prove I was who I was (my passport). None of these documents were particularly difficult to get hold of. Opening an accountant with Crédit Mutuel was a very simple process. I walked into the bank and made an appointment to see a conseiller the next day. He was a lovely young guy in his early 30s who had studied English many years previously, and remembered the difficulties of trying to communicate in a foreign language. The appointment was conducted entirely in French, but he did obviously take care to make sure he was making himself understood, which I appreciated. My conseiller asked me what I needed my account for, and after explaining that all I really needed were the means to write cheques and take money out of an ATM, he set me up with a Eurocompte 18/25. In France, you have to pay a monthly charge for the privilege of having a bank account (if you've never had a French account, this concept is difficult to get your head around!), and in this case, I paid the grand total of 3,83 per month. I pointed out that I wasn't likely to receive my first payment for a while as my employers would need to sort out the appropriate admin on their end, but he didn't think this was a problem, and waived the monthly charge for the first three months as a goodwill gesture. -x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- MY EXPERIENCES -x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- The staff were very helpful, and after my first few visits, they began to recognise me on sight and I stopped having to show proof of identity. This may have been partly down to the fact I was one of very few foreigners in the town, but I think it mainly because it was a small town (40,000 residents). Whenever I had a problem or query, the staff were very helpful and efficient. Although it was easy enough to make deposits using one of the special machines in the bank, when I first started depositing money, I went to the front desk and got the conseiller to do this for me! They weren't really supposed to do this, but kindly obliged anyway. When I realised I had been issued a cash withdrawal card instead of a debit card (carte bleue), I popped into the branch and they ordered me a debit card straight away. This was by no means their fault, I have to make clear: when asked what I needed my account for, I said I would need a card to take money out of an ATM. I did in fact mean I wanted a debit card, but never actually asked for a carte bleue. Apparently you can get cash withdrawal cards in the UK too, but as I'd never heard of one, I didn't realise this was a potential option! Anyway, they sorted it out quickly. My cards were issued promptly, and my chequebook too. I had to pop into the bank to check if they were ready as I never received a letter to advise me they were ready for collection, but this wasn't a major issue for me, as it was convenient for me to just pop into the bank on my way home from work. On one occasion, I asked for help sorting out an international money transfer, and the conseiller kindly sorted this out for me, despite having never been asked to do one before and not knowing exactly what the procedure was! He made a few calls, looked up some instructions and arranged the transfer without complaining. Learning curve for both of us! -x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- OPENING HOURS -x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- These do vary slightly, but in my départment, all branches were closed all day on Monday and Sunday, and on Saturday afternoons. These hours are fairly standard for France, and you should bear in mind that none of the towns in my départment were that big. In large towns such as Aix, you can find branches that open on Mondays, and in Paris, there's even a branch that stays open until 4pm on Saturdays. Crédit Mutuel has a presence in most places, and can even be found on the islands (outre-mer). Outside opening hours, you can get in touch by email, and often by telephone too. You can book appointments online, and organise bank transfers without leaving the house. Internet banking is readily available. Even when the bank stops, you don't have to. -x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BANK? -x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- With my account, I could withdraw money from any country in the eurozone without getting charged. As a frequent traveller, I found this very useful. I knew people with accounts at different banks who were charged every time they used another bank's ATM (even within France!) and I found this ridiculous and restrictive. The staff at my bank were always polite and helpful, and managed to find solutions to complicated questions that my friends just couldn't get answered at their different banks. To give you an example, I asked a conseiller for advice when asked to write a guarantee cheque for an Italian hotel, and was advised that any sort of cheque would be expensive for someone to cash in Italy, and the best way to pay for anything would be to wire money, or just take out the appropriate sum via an ATM, getting my withdrawal limit temporarily raised if necessary. I could write a cheque for the hotel owner to hold onto, but should advise him not to bother cashing it as part of my payment when I left, but rather to give it back to me and I should pay the total by other means. A friend of mine went to Crédit Agricole, and was advised to go to the post office. That was the full extent of the advice she was offered. Not exactly great customer service, is that? A friend of mine with a Crédit Lyonnais account opened her account, was told her carte bleue and chequebook had been ordered, then when she popped in to complain one month later because she hadn't heard anything, it transpired that the original conseiller hadn't bothered to order anything, so there was a further delay for her. Whilst waiting for her carte bleue to come through, she had to rely on a UK card (not touching her French salary!) and had to pay bank charges every time she took money out. I realise that these are all isolated episodes, but everyone I know who had a Crédit Mutuel account, like me, never had any problems. Based on that, and the fact that my experiences with Crédit Mutuel have always been positive, yes, I would recommend this bank. I'm in the process of closing my account as I have sadly admitted to myself I'm not likely to return to France anytime soon, and I'm wasting money in bank charges as I'm not actually using my euros, so I don't get any referral gifts for recommending new clients! A friend of mine recommended a Crédit Mutuel bank account to her sister, and she got a shiny new MP3 player for her trouble, so if you're moving to France along with your family, it's probably worth trying to sign up together. If there's a branch near you, I would definitely recommend Crédit Mutuel.
It's Christmas Eve. Have you put all of your presents under the tree? Unless you're the poor hapless person in charge of cooking dinner tomorrow, you should be feeling pretty happy and stress-free. Unless you've committed the terrible crime of forgetting to buy someone a Christmas present! Homemade gifts can be quite lovely, especially the ones you plan in advance. Knitted scarves in colours and styles to suit the recipients, felt animals for children or felt 'ugly dolls' for quirky grown ups, handmade photo albums full of specially chosen pictures, the list goes on and on. However, with only hours to go until the big day, you've left it a bit late to get started on a beautiful quilt to last generations. This review is dedicated to last minute gift ideas, for those of you who are even less organised than me. If you're already sorted and your plans for tonight consist of watching bad Christmas television programmes, you could even make a few of these gifts to bulk out stockings. After all, everyone loves a few extra things to unwrap;) Based on the assumption that no one wants to hit the shops tonight (they were bad enough during the week, let alone in the last few hours of Christmas panic!) these gift ideas can be made using bits and pieces that can be found in most homes. ^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^ IDEA 1: RETRO GAMES What you will need: * An internet connection * A blank CD * A sheet of paper * A printer / felt tip pens * Scissors Do you remember the really old Sierra and Lucasart games? I'm talking about the classics like the first Simon the Sorcerer or Monkey Island... The type that ran in DOS! 2D adventure games have made a comeback, and many people are having a bash using Adventure Game Studio, a freely distributed program that allows you to build point and click games. A word of warning though, it's really designed for the people who know 'hard' computing languages like C++. Since AGS is free to use, most people have entered into the spirit of things and made their games built using AGS free to use as well. Some are not brilliant, but there are some good ones available to download if you look hard enough. I've just finished playing the Deluxe Edition of "Ben Jordon Case 1: In Search of the Skunk Ape" which is game one in a series of eight. The first five are available to download, but from what I can tell, case 1 deluxe is the best one, as it makes use of better graphics and technologies. Took over an hour to play from start to end, and it was mildly entertaining. There is a bit of violence in the game, but bear in mind, this is 2D cartoon violence, so not terribly traumatising. It's a detective series where you talk to different characters and figure out different puzzles to get to the end of the game. If you miss a clue, you don't mess up the game as it's been designed so that you can try again and thus not lose. Have a hunt around for the good AGS free games, download them and bundle them up onto a CD, and you have a nice retro package of 2D games that not many folk will have heard of, let alone tried. Whilst you're downloading your chosen games, make a nice insert for the CD case, and you've got yourself a nice little stocking filler. This gift is a nice one for any computer enthusiasts who remember the 90s. Links AGS (lots of games here to download): http://www.adventuregamestudio.co.uk Gundislav (download all the Ben Jordan games here): http://www.grundislavgames.com ^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^ IDEA 2: EDIBLE JIGSAWS What you will need: * Basic biscuit mix * Icing (optional) * A sharp knife * Paper * Scissors * Felt tip pens * Cardboard * Wrapping paper / tinfoil * Clingfilm / cut up bag (clean!) Jigsaws have long been one of the staples of Christmas, along with socks, slippers and oranges. Combine the fun of a new game with the glorious gift of food, and you're onto a winner. With the exception of diehard dieters (and at Christmas, there seem to be few on the ground), the gift of food is always appreciated. And who doesn't secretly like to play with their food? To make an edible jigsaw, you will need all the ingredients for a type of biscuit. The seasonal thing to make would be gingerbread, and in fact this would work the best, but if you don't bake an awful lot in your home, you may be lacking in the special ingredients like nutmeg. Making chocolate chip cookies is probably more attainable, as this requires less exotic ingredients. Chocolate chips are not to be found everywhere, but big bars of chocolate are at this time of year. Attack one with a knife, and you have some rustic looking chips. I actually always make my chocolate chips this way as the chocolate used tends to be better, and you get a more 'homemade' feel due to the uneven size of the chips. Failing that, there's always shortbread. My basic recipe consists of 250g flour, 175g butter and 75g sugar. This is possibly the most basic biscuit recipe in the world, so if you can't drum up those ingredients, you're onto a loser. Make up your biscuit mix according to instructions and roll out flat on either a greased baking tray or one lined with greaseproof paper. Roughly half way into cooking, take out the tray and cut up the biscuit into a jigsaw puzzle! The trick is to make simple jigsaw pieces not the traditional ones that you find in puzzles of 500 pieces or more. If you have too many little sticky out bits, your jigsaw puzzle is inevitably going to break before anyone finishes it. Put the jigsaw back into the oven, finish cooking it, and then when it's done, attack it with that knife again. (I say this because with most types of biscuit, the mix tends to spread out when cooking and you will have to attack it one final time to make sure nothing's stuck together.) If you're lucky, you'll have access to icing sugar, butter and milk (or even just icing sugar and water), but if not, don't fear, the gift of the edible jigsaw is still pretty neat without icing. Putting the 'puzzle' into a bag is probably not the best option to keep all the 'pieces' intact. I would suggest getting a nice thick piece of cardboard (maybe one of the delivery boxes your online present shopping came in?) or failing that, a couple of pieces of cereal box taped together, and covering it in wrapping paper or tinfoil. Place the puzzle pieces on top and secure with clingfilm on top. If you can get hold of a plain huge freezer bag, you could try cutting it up, putting it under the piece of card, gathering it up top and securing with ribbon or an elastic band. Make a little tag saying "EDIBLE JIGSAW" and secure into place. Lovely little last minute gift that will appeal to all! Links Gingerbread recipe: http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/recipes/baking/1039884/ Rum & raison cookies / peanut & cinnamon cookies: http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/recipes/baking/1017892/ Chocolate cookies: http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/recipes/baking/368676/ Shortbread (my version): http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/recipes/baking/1035844/ ^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^ IDEA 3: REINDEER POOP What you will need: * Chocolate * Raisins * Paper * Tin foil / clingfilm * Scissors * Printer / felt tip pens * Freezer bag I'm sure you've all seen those tasteful 'pooping reindeer' in the shops, but it's too late to go and buy one of them. This idea is slightly less offensive and because it's homemade, you can argue it has a little bit of charm. To make reindeer poop, you will need some raisins and some chocolate. That's the entire recipe. My preferred way of melting chocolate is the old fashioned way, with the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl sitting on top of a pot of boiling water. I have also tried putting chocolate into a tall mug and placing it into a wok of boiling water, but I don't think this method is as commonly used. If you own a microwave, that would be a more viable alternative to bowl and pot of water method. Dip the raisins into the melted chocolate and carefully place onto tin foil or clingfilm to harden. Whilst you're waiting, prepare a gift tag with a special poem on it. "Santa checked his list not once, but twice, and he found out you've been naughty, not nice! Since coal is so expensive, here's the scoop: he's filled this bag with reindeer poop!" If you're using a printer to make the tag, you can add a nice reindeer picture. Alternatively, you can always draw one yourself! Links Toy reindeer photo: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/209559 ^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^ Merry Christmas everyone! Have a lovely holiday season:-) Shona xxx
Founded in 1968, Clinique is actually a part of the Estée Lauder family, so it's not surprising if you mentally group the two together. If nothing else, they're both very expensive! Clinique claims to cater for people like me, who have tons of allergies and/or sensitive skin. Being the world's biggest sceptic, I have merrily crushed the spirits of practitioners peddling alternative therapies, so when one of my doctors recommended I try Clinique or Estée Lauder products, you have to realise my first thought was to wonder if they were giving him commission. My skin is very honest though - if it doesn't like something, it turns ugly. If it likes something, it gets pretty. The results speak for themselves, and after four years of absolutely loyalty, I am a Clinique Convert. Or at the very least, my skin is. THE STAFF I have always found Clinique staff helpful, but you should bear in mind that I haven't made it round every counter out there, and my experience may not be representative of your one. A long time ago, when I was out shopping with a friend, we stopped to look at some Clinique products. A sales assistant quickly appeared and asked if she could help. I was about to politely get rid of her when my friend started asking questions. I was immediately annoyed at this, as I'm the type of person who won't go into a shop if there's no one else around, in case all the sales assistants pounce on me and try to take all my money, but I quickly realised that the assistant was giving good, honest advice to my friend, not necessarily trying to make a sale. Before a special occasion, I decided to take my doctor's advice and try out Clinique myself for the first time. When an assistant came over, I stopped myself from automatically declining any assistance, and asked for help in picking a shade of foundation. After working out my skin type, she decided on the best foundation for me, then tried out a couple of shades, before telling me she'd found the right one. She showed me the different shades on my jaw line in the mirror so I could see for myself that she was right. Whenever I try a new product, I do ask for advice. Often, I'm told it will do wonders for me, but not always. I remember clearly that on one occasion, an assistant dutifully tried out all shades of a particular lipstick before admitting that none of them seemed to suit me. She did suggest an alternative Clinique line though, and she was bang on the money. If you ask for advice, it tends to be good stuff. If the first sales assistant to come over and offer help seems to have a makeup style that scares you (I have unfortunately once seen one who had her slap caked on, but she seemed to disappear from that store fairly quickly), you're not obligated to accept her help. Wait a tactful five or ten minutes, then approach another assistant - this time one who looks really pretty. What, you think pretty people are naturally like that? Even the best of us need a bit of help from makeup from time to time. During busy periods, you may have to wait to get served. This might seem frustrating at first, but I do really like it. Clinique staff never hurry along a customer if they're busy - everyone gets the attention they need. The world can wait until the customer they're serving has discovered the perfect product. VALUE FOR MONEY Clinique is bloody expensive. I'm not going to deny it costs a small fortune because I know you're all not that daft. So why buy Clinique? Well, I like my face. I don't think I'm particularly vain. (You should know that I'm basing this on the fact that one of my male friends takes two hours getting ready in the morning and won't leave the house if his hair isn't just so, and using him as a benchmark possibly skews the accuracy a little.) But it's a nice face in my opinion, and, well, I don't want to destroy it. People are pretty judgemental when it comes to looks, people tend to look at your face when they're talking to you, and your face is made up of rather thin skin, which is more sensitive than say the skin on your foot. It's very easy to damage the skin on your face. So why would you buy cheap cosmetics, full of nasty chemicals, and slap them on? Think about the percentage of your face that foundation covers. Now, imagine it's not actually a nice product that evens out your skin tone and makes your skin look flawless, but household cleaner. Ooh, not a nice thought, is it? Well, I'm allergic to most cleaning products and I'm allergic to most cheap make up brands. I'm guessing you're starting to see my logic behind spending a small fortune on this brand when I'm perfectly happy to live on Tesco Extra Value. Yes, Clinique is a brand. Of course you're paying more for the brand - but that's just one aspect of it. Clinique products work. Isn't it nice to put on makeup and notice it still there at the end of the day? Clinique products aren't tested on animals. I believe that statement because I know someone personally who used to test products for the company when she was younger. Clinique products come beautifully packaged. What, you aren't going to admit to liking it when companies make with the pretty outer stuff? Then why do you prefer the immaculate presents your mum wrapped to the sellotaped mess that your dad thoughtfully wrapped and put under the tree? I always buy Clinique at Bonus Time. For those who aren't in the know, Bonus Time is a magical time of year, when if you buy two Clinique products, you get lots of goodies free. This makes the pain of parting with money for the two products you were going to buy anyway, a little less reach-for-the-morphine-excruciating. The freebies are normally small versions of Clinique products such as mascara, lipstick and eye shadow. Bonus Time varies from store to store, and so do the goodies. Boots for example tend to offer a good all-rounder, but John Lewis tends to pack in "age defying" products, so pick your Clinique counter carefully depending on your age and thus your skin needs. Harvey Nicks and Harrods do of course always offer really good Bonus Time sets, and given that Clinique costs the same wherever you shop, if you live near one of these big expensive looking stores and there's a Bonus Time on, for heaven's sake do pop in. You're bound to get a better deal. In case you were curious, Clinique does men's products as well, and does offer a men's Bonus Time set rather than a female one, if you are purchasing men's stuff. It tends to be packaged in a manly shade of grey, with practical bits like small size post-shave healer and nail scissors up for grabs. WHEN TO BUY In my experience, Christmas is not a great time to buy. If you shop at Boots, you'll get loads of advantage card points, but that's only an incentive if you're a card holder and you actually use your points. At Christmas, Clinique do put together some very nice sets you can buy for the people you really like, but they're expensive, and the counters get really busy. Plus, bonus advantage card points are only helpful if your Clinique counter is actually within a Boots store! I've never noticed any unique offers to other stores such as John Lewis. I recommend visiting a counter for advice in the week before Bonus Time kicks off, as you won't have to fight with anyone else to get time with an assistant. You can spend as long as you need going through the different products that work best for your skin type and tone. Get the assistant to write down your choices for you, and come back when Bonus Time kicks off. You may actually find that the assistants whisper to you to come back in a week's time when you'll be able to get the freebies along with your two purchases. Isn't that sweet? Depending on the Bonus, it might get a little crazy when you come back, but all you'll have to do is waltz in, pick up your pre-selected products and buy them. In the unlikely event that your Clinique counter is out of a product, you can pay for your two items, get your free Bonus, and come back in a week or so to collect the missing item which they will order in for you. It's not a problem. Bearing in mind how long makeup and skincare products last if unopened, it's definitely worth timing gift purchases with Bonus Time. If you're unlucky enough to get this wrong, if you mention you're buying for a friend, an assistant will normally take pity on you, wrap up your purchase and throw in whatever free samples are lying around. MY RECOMMENDATIONS Foundation. If there's only one product you buy from Clinique, this should be it. I personally use Superbalanced Foundation as I have combination skin, but your Clinique Advisor will be able to suggest a specific type of foundation that will work best for your skin type. Mine costs £17.50, which is the average price of most foundations in the Clinique range. Pore Minimizer T-Zone Shine Control. This magical product comes in a tube, and you squeeze it out (a little goes a long way, don't be too enthusiastic!) and apply to your t-zone. It works best if you put it on under everything else, and if you wait a bit before applying anything on top (such as foundation). If like most women you start to look shiny during the day, this could well prevent that happening for you. I love it. Costs £11 for a little tube. Anti-Blemish Solutions Clear Blemish Gel. I don't break out often enough to justify buying this, but if you have regular skin problems, definitely try this out. It costs £9.50 and makes spots go down so much quicker than if you leave them to sort themselves out. It won't make a spot go away instantaneously, but in my experience, if you use this stuff, in 24 hours it's small enough for makeup to successfully hide it. Moisture Surge Extra Thirsty Skin Relief. If your skin is really dry, this will make a huge difference. It costs £27 for a little pot, so I only recommend it for those of you who really need it. You can buy the same amount of product of Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion for £15 if your need for moisture isn't as severe. Again, ask an assistant for help. Tip: DDML is often given out in Bonus Time, so if you only have dry skin from time to time, you can get by without purchasing the full size bottle if you seek out the best Bonuses. Larger patches of dry skin will appreciate Deep Comfort Body Moisture, which costs £13.50 for a 200ml tube. Good for legs and arms! WHAT I DON'T RECOMMEND Rinse-Off Eye Makeup Solvent. Oh, it works amazingly, but it costs £11.50, and you can substitute this for the much cheaper Johnson's Baby Lotion. That costs 63.6p per 100 ml, whereas this costs 920p per 100ml. I do like the Clinique product, but unless you really are made of money, you have to draw the line somewhere, don't you? You might wonder why I haven't suggested using Baby Lotion as a substitute for the expensive moisturisers I mentioned before, but it's quite simple. Baby Lotion hurts like hell on broken skin, whereas Clinique is more forgiving. You probably shouldn't use it on broken skin, but hey, if you let your skin get to that state, you're probably desperate enough to use the moisturiser anyway. The Clinique will soothe, but the Johnsons will hurt. Happy. I don't like the scent. I do like Aromatics though. Get that instead! I don't recommend buying soap, unless it's the kind for your face. I don't use soap for my face, but if I did, I would use Clinique. The rest of me can put up with something mild like Simple. Again, here I am drawing the line! CONCLUSION If you have allergies or sensitive skin, Clinique could well be your saviour. If you can't argue that you need Clinique for medical reasons, you can argue you need it because everyone deserves a bit of pampering every now and again. In times of poverty, I would buy perhaps eye shadow from Almay, who are also good for sensitive skin but charge a fraction of the price, but I would always buy my foundation from Clinique as there are some things you just shouldn't compromise on. Clinique is pricey, but it's also very good. Recommended for those who can afford it!
Originally founded in 1991, Gadgetshop was a household name in the newest, quirkest gadgets and gismos. Our local store was full of funky bits and pieces, with electronic toys whizzing around the shop and battery operated birds attached to the ceiling and flying in circles. School children loved it and would often wander in, have a poke, then leave. (As one of them at the time, I can certify this happened on a regular basis!) As some of the best pieces were the more expensive ones, I can't say an awful lot of purchasing ever went on. Our Gadgetshop was great to look at, but I personally never bought anything as the products on sale mildly appealed to me, but not enough for me to part with money. It's probably not surprising therefore that in 2005, the chain went into administration. Since 2005, Gadgetshop has been trading as an online store (with different people in charge), probably because it's less expensive to run! With stiff competition from more established online retailers like Firebox and IWOOT, can Gadgetshop keep up? EASE OF USE The site is divided up into the following sections: urban living, fun stuff, retro, books, games, party!, as seen on TV, activity days, eco friendly gadgets, techno toys, big boys toys and accessories for ipods. At the moment, there's also a special Secret Santa section. There is no option to view all gadgets, but you can view everything within one category. You can search by name or product code, if you know it. The site is fairly easy to use, but I have found at times it loads rather slowly. SECRET SANTA At GadgetShop.com, there are currently 77 products in a special Secret Santa section. If you order one of these items, delivery is free! However, if you order something else that's not in this section, you do have to pay a delivery charge, so watch out for that. Prices range from £3.95 to £17.95, and at the time of writing, 59 out of 77 products were still in stock. You have until Tuesday to order Christmas presents, so it may be worth a look for some last minute stocking fillers (probably too late for the office Secret Santa though). Some of the items, such as the "Poo Pooing Reindeer" are quite frankly rubbish, and you will have seen them for sale on the high street everywhere for the past ten years or so, but there are a few gems if you look hard enough. The USB powered vacuum for example, at £5.95 looks to be a useful addition for anyone with a computer (the cable is long enough to use with desktops by the way!) and the special Jack Daniels gourmet coffee and mug set for £7.95 would be a nice present for any JD drinker. For £6.95 you can pick up a set of salt and pepper retro dice shakers, which is a quirky little stocking filler that I haven't seen anywhere else. VALUE FOR MONEY The Secret Santa section definitely offers the best value for money across the site, so if you're currently at the panic stage, where you still have loads of presents to buy and not enough time in which to find them, it's worth going straight to the Secret Santa part of the site and skimming for ideas. Online discounts are hard to find, but a 10% discount on products can be found if you look hard enough. Try hotukdeals.com for the latest discount codes. I used Quidco.com for a further 10% cash back, but there are probably lots of other cash back sites offering a similar deal. CUSTOMER SERVICE This year is the first time I've ordered from GadgetShop.com, so I can't comment on this. They do have a phone line open from Monday to Saturday (9am to 9pm weekdays, 9am to 5pm Sunday) if you need to get in touch about anything, and although it's an 0870 number, a quick search on SayNoTo0870.com reveals a geographical number you can call for a more reasonable price. DELIVERY Standard delivery costs £3.90, which is pretty average for an internet gadget retailer. The Scottish Highlands and Islands attract a higher price, which I thought was a bit rubbish, but after checking the T&Cs of other sites, realised this was actually pretty standard. Express delivery starts from £5.95, and again, this is on average. My order arrived when it said it would, but I was disappointed with the packaging. With one of my orders from IWOOT, my items obviously didn't fit neatly into a standard box, so they had been put in a large box and padded with air pockets to ensure they didn't get knocked around in transit. With my Gadgetshop order, everything had been crammed into one box, and consequently some of the individual product boxes had been squashed and looked a bit like they'd been pulled out from the bottom of a pile. I checked everything to ensure it was all in one piece, and my goodies do look in good nick, but I was disappointed with the state of the packaging. I think good presentation always makes something look that little bit nicer, and this was therefore a let down for me. Because everything had been crammed in, I damaged the packing of one item slightly when trying to open my order. This may not be a major issue for most people, but if you're a perfectionist like me, this is something to bear in mind! CONCLUSION The site works fine most of the time, but I feel it's missing a bit of personality. Firebox for example has very touch in cheek descriptions of their products and invite customer reviews, pictures and videos. The descriptions on Gadgetshop aren't particularly funny, and as all you get is a photo (or at best, a couple of photos) it can be hard to figure out what you're getting before you order it. I suppose that was the best part of their high street stores - you could have a play before actually buying the item. I would consider using Gadgetshop again, but it wouldn't be my first choice stop for shopping. I'm used to emailing questions to IWOOT and getting a quick response, and opening my orange Firebox parcels to find free sweeties inside! There's nothing seriously wrong with Gadgetshop, but it doesn't seem particularly special.
Founded as long ago as 1998, Firebox is one internet retailer that's managed to ride out the burst of the Internet bubble and grow from strength to strength. I've recently ordered a few bits and pieces from my Christmas shopping list from this site, but I have been a semi-loyal customer for a good couple of years now. I suppose the best way to describe Firebox's range of products is to call them all gadgets. I don't know about you, but every time I walked into The Gadget Shop on the high street, my friends and I would coo over the different items but never dream of buying them for anyone. With Firebox, there is a wow factor about many of the products, but the difference is that you can actually picture them being really great presents for people you know. I guess the company must have better buyers! PRICE RANGE If you have money to blow, £2,195.95 will get you a Space Invaders Arcade Machine. Recreate a bit of childhood fun in your own home and dent your bank balance all at the same time. For those of you watching the pennies, items generally start from £4.95 (a bit cheaper in the sale, sometimes). For this price tag you can get yourself a MoPod, which is a funny-looking creature sitting in a dome, that spins and flashes every time a call comes in on your phone. It's a key ring too. Nice stocking filler for someone? RANGE OF PRODUCTS A lot of new gadgets appear on all of the big players' websites, but a lot of them appear on Firebox first. Every time I've visited, I've always found something new that's made me think, "Wow, that's a brilliant idea!" Unfortunately, this year a lot of the fun products have been sold out already and new stock isn't due to arrive until next year. Some of these products can be found on competitors' sites, but a lot have just sold out properly everywhere. Firebox has been around for a long time, but it's only this year that I've heard people in the street talking about it, and it's only this year that I've found things I want to buy aren't necessarily available to order. One of the items I wanted to get, for example, was a special 'dunking mug'. You can drink your tea out of it, and the base has a special slot for you to store your yummy digestive biscuits, rather than leaving them on the office table to get nicked by a passing greedy colleague. Unfortunately, this is now out of stock until January. The pink i-dog is out of stock too, but you can still buy a white i-dog or one of the i-pups for either roughly £30 or £15, depending which version you get. If you haven't heard of the i-pet, it's a special electronic creature that works with your iPod as speakers and also as a cute animal! £29.95 will get you a 'beerbelly' - which is the funky new modern version of the 90s beer hat. Rather than walk around like a bit of a muppet with cans stuck to your head, the beerbelly is an ingenious way of hiding your drink as an extra layer of fat - it's a fab novelty present for the serious drinker in the family (not to be bought for someone with drinking problems though). There are lots of funny ideas like this on Firebox, but if you can't make your mind up, you can buy gift vouchers. I personally wouldn't though, since these are only available in the e-voucher format, and they do expire (a year after purchase). Each to his or her own though! VALUE FOR MONEY If you see something on Firebox, chances are that the same product is up for grabs on IWantOneOfThose.com, and it's worth comparing prices as sometimes one site will be a couple of quid cheaper. Firebox tends to be reasonably priced - you'll rarely find a bargain up for grabs (unless you're shopping in the sale!) - but it's not exceptional value for money. So so. There are a few tips to make your purchase smarter though. £5 gift vouchers are a-plenty: you can either send off for a free catalogue and use the voucher code on the back (they normally include a £5 voucher code on their catalogues; if you get a £1 voucher you're really unlucky) or have a hunt around on the internet. MoneySavingExpert.com is a good place to go to hunt around for Firebox codes. There are usually special promolinks on Firebox where you can type in your email address and have a £5 voucher sent to you, and MSE is normally a good place to find out details of these. £5 will cover standard delivery and give you an extra quid off your purchase, so it's worth tracking down one of these vouchers before ordering. I've also recently started using Quidco.com to get cashback, and this is the equivalent of 10% of what you spend at Firebox. I haven't been using the site long enough to comment if they'll pay out, but there are lots of other cashback sites on the internet, and since Firebox is a big name, it's definitely worth signing up for one of these schemes, if you're not already a member. EASE OF USE The thing I like best about Firebox is the "Show Me Everything" feature. You can see every single item for sale on one page - yes, it does take some downloading, but I find it really useful. If I have a person in mind, but not a specific gift idea, I like to open up this page and scroll down until something catches my eye. Not all the other gadget sites have this feature - you have to look at things in a particular category or price bracket. Here you can just see everything. If too much choice is off-putting, the site is divided up into categories too: gadgets, boys toys, tech toys, lifestyle, radio control, audio, edible, retro, games, work:play, party and gifts. Alternatively, you can browse by price bracket (ranging from "Under £10" to "how much?!") or search by keyword. If you're really stuck and don't want to try my method of skimming the everything page, there's a handy gift finder feature on the site. It's currently linked to under the search options as "Christmas gift finder", but it's there all year round (without the "Christmas" part, obviously!) if you get stuck. You can add items to your basket, take things to checkout and apply your voucher code to calculate the final price, before being forced to input your details. With some sites you have to sign in or register first, and I find this quite annoying sometimes. CUSTOMER SERVICE I've never had a problem with an order, so can't really comment on this aspect, as I've never had to get in touch to dispute an order. What I will say though, is that everything I've ordered from Firebox has always been dispatched fairly quickly and arrived when I've expected it to. DELIVERY When placing your order, there are four options. The first is standard delivery, and costs £3.95. For £5.95, you can request express delivery, and for £7.95 you can request an a.m. or p.m. express delivery slot. The site quotes standard delivery as taking roughly 2 to 4 working days. In my experience, it takes a couple of days for your order to be put together, then after it gets dispatched, it pretty much turns up the next day as it's done by Royal Mail 1st Class. For those of you who can't wait to get your hands on your new gadgets and gizmos, express delivery is only a couple of quid more, and it's done through Citylink. I've never been tempted by either of the two £7.95 options, but then again, I'm normally good and order my gifts for other people in time for the Royal Mail to send them to me by normal post! It's always quite obvious that you've ordered from Firebox as the packaging matches their bright orange site colour. The boxes tend to be quite sturdy and usually have some free sweeties inside! CONCLUSION If you find yourself stuck trying to think of a present for a friend or family member who seems to have everything already, this site is definitely worth a nosey. There are loads of interesting presents to be found for the young at heart, or actual young children. I've used Firebox countless times without problems, and I would definitely recommend them.
A couple of Saturdays ago, two engineer friends of mine persuaded me to see Flushed Away with them. Although clearly promoted as a children's movie, this didn't stop us from going without any kids in tow! The film was only released on the first of December, so it is pretty recent, and when we went to see it, the screen was packed with very young children, armed with buckets of popcorn. At first we were a bit concerned that the kids were going to spoil the film for us, but I have to admit we probably made more noise than them! THE PLOT Roddy St. James (Hugh Jackman) is a posh rodent living in Kensington in his own beautifully guilded cage. He has all the food a rat could want, his own car (well, a toy car) and plenty of friends (if you count toy dolls as playmates). One day his comfortable existence is interrupted by an unexpected visitor, and he finds himself flushed away down his very own toilet. Not a very dignified way to travel if you're as well bred as he is. Stuck in an underground parody of London, Roddy attempts to find his way back up to the surface. Having never visited the sewers of London before, he is forced to seek help from the feisty Rita Malone (Kate Winslet) and finds himself tangled up in her very complicated life. After nearly getting them both killed through sheer incompetence, Roddy finally persuades Rita to help him get back to his home up top in return for some expensive jewels that will help keep her very large family in luxury. THE CAST The main characters have all been voiced by people you've heard of - Roddy St. James is voiced by Hugh Jackman, Rita Malone by Kate Winslet, The Toad by Ian McKellan and Le Frog by Jean Reno. Bill Nighy and Andy Serkis star as bad guys Whitey and Spike, and if you can't quite place the name Andy Serkis, he's the actor who played Gollum in Lord of the Rings. Shane Richie formerly from Eastenders makes a few short but funny appearances as decidedly blokey boy rat Sid, and Kathy Burke and David Suchet feature as Rita's parents. Definitely an expensive sounding line up. One of my favourite castings is Bill Nighy as Whitey, whose delivery is very funny indeed. AND THE PRIZE FOR BEST PERFORMANCE GOES TO... ...The sewer slugs. If you haven't seen the film, you might wonder why I've picked a couple of extras over Hugh Jackman or Jean Reno, but the slugs kept us laughing non-stop. This in itself was slightly embarassing, as we were practically the only adults watching the film and the children weren't laughing nearly as loud as us, but the slugs do deserve some praise. To be honest, I'm not sure how the makers of Flushed Away got away with introducing these characters, as they appear to be an exact copy of the orange blobby things that promote BBC Three, just in different (more slug like) colours. They are however genius. At the start of the film, the introduction of the slugs is a genuine plot device, but then the script writers appear to give up on sense and stick a slug in at every possible moment. Just when you're least expecting them, the slugs wander into shot, floating through the air clinging to balloons or sitting on top of a boat, singing classics such as "Don't Worry, Be Happy". FOR THE ADULTS The slugs are undoubtedly one of the funniest things about this film and kept us laughing even when the younger viewers weren't particularly amused. Slugs aside, you'll get a big kick out of the hidden references to Finding Nemo, Lady and the Tramp, Mary Poppins, I Know What You Did Last Summer and the X-Men, to name but a few. The film is rich with cultural details that provoke laughter from the adults. Some are less obvious (e.g. X-Men) but others are hard to miss (e.g. the Finding Nemo reference). FOR THE CHILDREN The film references are often too subtle or just not recent enough for the younger viewers to really get. That said, there's lots more to keep their interest. For the children who like adventure and sport, the film is packed full of action with high speed boat chases, and one of the bigger storylines revolves around the World Cup. For the children who believe in happy endings, there's a blossoming relationship between two of the lead characters. And did I mention it's a film about rats? Get in. CONCLUSION If your family has a mixture of ages in it and you're always struggling to find something that will appeal to everyone, it might be worth taking the family to see Flushed Away, as it does have something for everyone. It's a good film, worth seeing, but I don't think it's going to turn out to be one of the classic CGI movies. Good Christmas compromise for the family though!
At the weekend, I came to the sad conclusion that I had no food left, I was quite hungry, and that it was far too cold, windy and dark to venture out of the house to buy some. Now, I don't live far away from my local supermarket, but the relatively short walk is complicated by a busy roundabout and many steps, which when combined with bags of heavy items like milk and tinned food, does become a task that no self-respecting lazy girl wants to undertake. Unfortunately, Tesco don't deliver food instantaneously, but I did have groceries delivered in less than 24 hours, which is not bad going. And, I didn't pay for delivery. How fab is that? USING THE SITE The online shop is divided up into three main departments, and each department is made up of different aisles. Although clearly structured, the site can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but no less so than any traditional large supermarket. In the "Food & Drink" department, there are four aisles: "Fresh Food", "Kitchen Cupboard", "Frozen Food" and "Drinks". Each aisle is divided up into sections and shelves, e.g., if you were looking for a bagel, you'd go to the "Food & Drink" department, then the "Fresh Food" aisle, the "Bakery & Cakes" section and finally the "Bagels, Pitta, Croissants" shelves, looking specifically for the "Bagels" one. Although simple when you know how, if you're struggling to find your favourite product and need to ask for a bit of help, there's a little search box where you can type in what you're looking for and with a bit of luck, it'll come up on the screen. Apart from "Food & Drink", there are "Toiletry & Baby" and "House & Pet" departments too. Handy if you want to do a big food shop but also bung in a couple of essential toiletries into your virtual trolley along with the food, just as you would do in a real supermarket. When you put items in your basket, you can leave a short note for your shopper and advise them not to substitute the item if it's out of stock and you're particularly fussy, tell them what to substitute the item for if it is unavailable or leave a note telling the shopper exactly how you want your items picked! E.g. if you like your fruit a certain ripeness, just let them know. Shopping is really simple, but the one thing I will criticise is the "guide price". I understand that with certain items, the price is always going to vary, as loose vegetables and cheese always go up and down by pennies. However, if there is an advertised promotion going on and it's clear that the promotion will still be on when you have your shop done, I think they should factor in the promotional price to the guide price. Just a small criticism, but anyway, it is made clear that the guide price is likely to be more expensive that the price you will actually get charged. DELIVERY Once you've checked that Tesco deliver to your area, choosing a delivery time is very simple. You can book a slot up to three days from the day on which you're placing your order, and there are lots of times available. From Monday to Friday, you can pick a 2 hour slot between 9am and 11pm; on Saturday the last slot is slightly earlier, ending at 8pm; and on Sunday the slots run from 11am to 4pm. Delivery from Monday to Wednesday in my area, at least, costs £4.49, with Friday deliveries costing £4.99 and Fridays to Sundays costing £5.99. I booked a 5pm to 7pm slot on Monday and the driver actually turned up early, ringing the doorbell at 4.40pm. He apologised for being too early, and I'm sure he would have waited if I hadn't been in. In any case, the driver is given your contact phone number to ring you on, so they can try to track you down before giving up and going off with your shopping. All of my items were packed according to type, e.g. all of the stuff to go into the fridge was in one bag, all the stuff to go into the freezer in another, and all of the "ladies items" were in a bag tied in a knot and discreetly passed to me by the poor delivery man! I hate getting my bags packed when I'm at the supermarket, but in all fairness, they divided my items up in a very thoughtful manner. They did use a lot of bags, but the driver advised without prompting that the next time I did my shop with Tesco Online, should I want to do so, he could take the plastic bags back and recycle them at the nearest local recycling point. According to a leaflet attached to the receipt he gave me, Tesco are also going to take Christmas cards for recycling too, after the festive season. Bonus points there for thinking about the environment! FRESHNESS Many people complain that when they order food online, it comes with a rapidly approaching sell-by-date. A couple of the food items I ordered were about to expire, but they were mainly bakery items and as such, a short expiry date would have been pretty normal. Items like eggs and milk had at least a week left in them, which was perfectly reasonable. I did have a few dodgy looking green oranges, but the rest tasted lovely, and that was a big plus for me. I find that fruit can be really hit and miss, depending where you shop, and when it's a bit off, you just don't want to eat it, and it's money down the drain. Overall, I'd give Tesco a thumbs up for freshness. CONCLUSION My food arrived when I wanted it to, was in a reasonable condition and the delivery man was helpful and friendly. I would advise getting a shop done during the week, to save a couple of pennies, and look for a discount voucher online first, to save that £5 odd delivery charge. If you google in the right places, there are lots of discount codes to be found. For a big shop, it's definitely worth using Tesco Online rather than a traditional supermarket as it saves doing your back in, and also saves on petrol money, as the delivery can cost as little as £0 if you have the right code! I think I now have enough food to see me through to the New Year, as I might have got a little carried away, but I would definitely use Tesco Online again. PS I got clubcard points too!
If you've ever seen the adverts for Carphone Warehouse, and sympathised for the poor little mobile who was cast aside and forced to live on the streets when his owner bought a flash new phone, you will probably really feel for my old Dell Inspiron 1100. At the moment, it's tucked away on a shelf in a cabinet, far enough in so that no light falls upon in. It can see out, but it's shrouded in darkness, forlorn and rather grumpy at times. No one has played with it since February and it seems that no one is likely to play with it again, seeing as its A/C power adapter managed to break twice, and at £50 a pop for a new one, it hardly seems worth it. Most definitely not hiding away in the shadows, is my lovely new Sony Vaio VGN-SZ2HP/B. I say new, but I bought it in August, and the new SZ3HP/B is already available to pre-order from Sony, at roughly the same price. The Sony Vaio range is cutting edge stuff, and keeps evolving to combine technical wizardry with aesthetic appeal. My little Vaio, or "my baby" as I have been heard to call it, is a thing of beauty. If you thought that iBooks and MacBooks were the only pretty laptops that had been invented to date, the newer Vaio series will change your opinion. My particular machine is made of a lightweight magnesium alloy, which is beautiful to look at and also practical. Before buying this laptop, I did visit one of its siblings in the shops and spent a good ten minutes trying to scratch it, carefully avoiding the wrath of the sales assistant, all in the name of research, and this proved impossible. Granted, if you try something like a sharp blade, you'll probably be able to injure this lovely creature, but in daily usage, you're going to find it hard to scuff or scratch. The lid, when closed, displays the instantly recognisable Vaio logo. It's in a silver colour, contrasted with the brushed black lid and base. When you open up the laptop, you'll notice that the main part of the laptop housing the keyboard is of a silver colour, and the black and silver combination really is quite stylish. The lid itself is very thin - about half a centimetre, I'd wager. This doesn't mean that the monitor is rubbish, far from it - using Sony's X-black LCD technology, the screen delivers a sharp, accurate image with spot on lighting and contrast. If you turn the computer to an angle, you can still read what's on the screen - the colour doesn't seem weird and the picture doesn't blur. What this translates to really, is that if you're having a night in watching a DVD with friends, everyone can watch the movie properly. If the picture looks bizarre, then you know it was meant to look that way! The monitor is 13.3", which equates to a 1280 x 800 resolution. For most people, this is big enough. I would ordinarily prefer a bigger screen area to work with, but for the sheer joy of having a beautiful featherlight machine, I've made that sacrifice. This computer is seriously portable - it comes in at a piddly 1.69kg. I can carry my Vaio everywhere without getting sore arms. Definitely designed for travel. The keyboard is a regular Qwerty one, with a couple of buttons above it - S1, S2, power settings, wireless switch and power on/off button. S1 and S2 are just spare function keys to which you can assign a command; the power settings have two options, stamina (for longer battery life) and speed (self explanatory); the wireless switch enables or disables the wireless adapter and the on/off button, quite surprisingly, turns the computer on or off. I find that the keyboard is easy to use - I have a typing speed of around 80wpm and using this keyboard has not put any sort of dent in that speed - but you should be aware that it's one of those keyboards that favours flatter keys to the big fat chunky ones. If you're not a brilliant typist, you might prefer the slightly clunkier ones that other models may offer. On the right side of the computer, there's a dial up point, ethernet point, 2 USB points and a DVD-RW drive. On the left, microphone, earphone, memory stick and card reader slots all feature. I don't personally use the card slots as I don't currently use that sort of media, so can't comment on those. Useful feature for some people though, I'll wager. The battery life is supposed to last up to 5 hours, and I can just about agree with that. It seems to me that it does take a good while longer to charge the battery to 100% than with other machines, but I suppose that's the trade off for a longer lasting battery. If you know a thing or two about computers, you might think that a processor speed of 1.66Ghz, 80Gb hard disk and 1Gb RAM don't really tally with the hefty price tag that this model demands, but that's partially because you're buying into the brand. If you decided to ditch Sony and find comparable specs elsewhere, I'd expect you to maybe save a £100 or thereabouts. However, I doubt you'd find something as compact and portable. To give you an idea of what this laptop can do, I like to watch TV on it, whilst having a million windows open in Paint Shop Pro (a graphics editing program) and surfing the internet using two different browsers (with lots of tabs open in one of them). My little Vaio doesn't complain; it just gets on with the job. In terms of software, this does vary depending on who you buy the Vaio from. Sony Style tend to give you a better selection, but they're also the most expensive retailer (which is a bit odd, given that they make their own laptops). Mine came with Windows XP preinstalled, some Adobe software, Google programs, a few months free of Norton antivirus and various trial programs. All in all, not a generous offering (and the choice to install Google Earth was a trifle random, I felt) but I did make the choice to save a couple of hundred pounds by going elsewhere. Another little feature of the SZ2HP/B is the inbuilt webcam, which is just above the monitor. The picture quality is not terribly flattering, but that's to be expected from a webcam! It's a little bonus for those of you who use Skype or similar, to keep in touch with friends and relatives around the world. Anti-shock technology (G-Sensor HDD Shock Protection) comes with the Vaio, which means that if you handle it a bit too roughly, the hard disk protects itself and you don't lose any data. If you'd like to get your hands on one of these lovely creatures, I recommend waiting for the SZ3HP/B to come out, as it does come with a few minor improvements (an extra 20gigs of hard disk, amongst others) and the price will be comparable. Wait for Vista if you can - I had to buy my laptop when I did, because I was in desperate need of one, but it's worth timing your purchase to co-incide with the newest technology releases. I paid roughly £1300 for my Vaio, and I'd do the same again (albeit using a different company - as you can tell from my review of Comet Online, they're not worth using!) as I'm really pleased with it. "My VAIO is more than just a PC. It's a means to access and interact with the world through the web, DVD, music and video. My VAIO is part of me," claims Gavin from the UK. "My VAIO is my right hand and left hand. It's my main business tool for which I demand reliability and it's at the same time my most important creative tool," raves Justin. Just a couple of quotes from Club Vaio, and ones that I can empathise with. If you want a practical PC laptop that is also portable and stylish, definitely go down the Vaio route and get yourself something from the SZ series. Recommended.
When I was a wee quine, I watched a pretty lady pull a coat stand out of a rather dull looking carpet bag. Now, I imagine many of you watched the exact same film and dismissed the notion of fitting such a large object into such a small bag as a load of nonsense. I never questioned Mary's ability to fit all of her worldly possessions into a handbag and ever since I've been of a handbag carrying age myself, my bags have all displayed the same magic powers as that carpet bag. I did go through a phase of carrying little bags everywhere, and I'm sure the ladies reading know the kind I mean. Just enough room for a mobile phone, purse and maybe even a sample size lip gloss depending on how lucky you are, but no space for the random odds and ends you seem to acquire between going out of your bedroom and going out of your front door. That phase is long over, since I can't be doing with any of that packing light rubbish when it comes to handbags. I've been forced to learn how to pack suitcases with the bare minimum inside, due to me surprisingly not being able to carry twice my bodyweight up those long twisty stairs in the Métro, and in protest of this, I've started filling my handbag with everything instead. Everyone knows that a handbag will not weigh very much, even if you fit a coat-stand in it. So that's why my handbag contains an awful lot of STUFF. My current weapon of choice is a big black bag in a short of overweight stubby banana shape. Perhaps I empathised with its fat areas when I rescued it from the last Monsoon sale. It's made of a shiney-ish floppy man-made material; the kind that gives so generously when you try to overpack the bag. It's a quality that I do appreciate. The strap is big enough for the bag to fit nicely on my shoulder, braided for extra strength and load-bearing capacity, and it's connected to the bag with two silver coloured O-rings. This means that I can hook my thumb into the ring for extra "I'm- bloody- well- holding- onto- my- lovely- bag- see- if- you- can- wrestle- it- off- me- you- two- bit- criminal" value. There are two outside pockets which are closed with a push button, so they aren't terribly secure sounding places to leave important things, although I did find a set of house keys there which I had presumed missing a long time ago. I also discovered a pair of earrings in the same pocket. Lovely things. I don't have pierced ears and I think clip-ons normally look ridiculously ugly, but a friend of mine brought back some spring-loaded hoops from South Korea, which cost tuppence over there, and work amazingly well. I haven't found anything like them in this country. They stay on, don't irritate my skin and have a tiny little hoop at the bottom for me to attach the dangling part of earrings to them. Basically, I have to buy regular earrings, ply off the pierced hoop and reattach the decorative part to the tiny hoopy bit on my fake earrings. I can't imagine what they're doing in the outside pocket of my magic black bag though. Hmm. There are some tissues and lip balm in the other pocket, there presumablely because of the effects of Scottish weather. I don't claim to know where all of the things in my bag come from. They just ARE. Continuing with the practical theme, there's a few plasters there. I may have walked out on the Girl Guides due to me thinking they were as dull as dust, but that's pretty prepared and practical, isn't it? There are also some O/Zone mints in the same pocket, which are quite genius. Originally picked up in Norway, you can get these from Costa everywhere now. At least, I think it's Costa and not Starbucks. I get mixed up with those two a lot. But, I digress... Unzipping the main part of the bag, this is where it starts to get interesting. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a coat stand, but I suspect it was underneath the umbrella and full sized hair brush. Apart from the hairbrush, there's also a practically full pack of what I call bobby pins and Boots the Chemist long-windedly called "waved tipped hair pins". I think I spotted a couple of hair bands floating around, and there was also a Ficcare style hair clip. You know those magical hair clips that look like a curved beak? I don't mean the claw shaped things, I mean the beaky things. I'm making a gesture with my hand to demonstrate, but unfortunately it seems Dooyoo hasn't managed to add that to this review. It would be helpful if there was an actual name for this style of hair accessory, but we'll plod on. Now that's something I knew was in my bag - it can transform a mess of hair into a beautifully groomed French twist in 5 minutes, tame hair into a chignon and inflict pain on anyone who mocks the clip. Well, I did say that the bag was a weapon. Stands to reason that it also contains other weapons. There's an old Nokia camera phone at the bottom, which seems to object to sitting in the pocket specially designed for it. It's quite a stubborn creature. I've dropped it from the top of various flights of stairs on many occasions over a period of several years, and it refuses to die. It wears its battle scratches in a proud sort of way and beeps menacingly at me. I do quite want one of those funky new phones which magically turn into a proper camera, as I think that would fit in with the magical theme of the items in my bag, however until my existing model finally gives up the ghost, the dream remains a dream. Sigh. Currently trying to aid me in my quest to kill that phone is a Papermate Flexigrip pen, desperately trying to scratch the phone into submission. When it's not doing that, it's quite handy for attempting the daily Suduko whilst sipping a coffee in Starbucks before work starts. There is a notepad somewhere in the bag, possibly next to the coat-stand, but as it has no puzzles in it, it is currently not of much use to me. Various food items are fighting for space. I hope they're still edible by lunch time. In the zipped up compartment of my magic bag, there are some happy pills, or ibuprofen as the qualified health professionals call them. There is also some allergy medicine tucked away to prevent death. Always a good thing to have. Now, I am pretty convinced that there are other items in my bag, but until I actually have use of them, they won't magically appear. After all, there's a perfectly usable coat stand in my current office, so why do I need to pull one of out my bag right now? Exactly. Mary needed one because her room was empty. If I move into a new room to live and work in that house as a governess from the past, I'm sure I'll find a coat stand in my bag. Until then, it'll stay in the bag where it is. I'm pretty sure that this is my least useful review on Dooyoo to date, but hopefully it'll be interesting to the person who actually suggested this topic, whoever that might be. ;) Thanks for reading!
Whether you're a guide or a regular member, being a part of Dooyoo brings benefits for all. The biggest advantage is being able to stuff your mouth full of wicked chocolately things and claim you're only doing so in the interest of the common good, and helping Dooyoo build up a database of helpful reviews. Some of you, I can tell, think this is a rather dubious claim, but I believe it's valid and I'm sticking to my story and my chocolate! One of the latest food products I decided to try (to help you, really!) was a delicious sounding chocolate truffle pudding with a raspberry compote, made by a company called Gü. Now, this was the first time I'd ever heard of these people, so I did a little digging, and apparently Gü make lots of other desserts as well. If I can find any next time I go shopping, I'll try and suffer the hardship of eating them all for you. =x=x= TASTE =x=x= These puddings are meant to be kept in the fridge, and when you take them out, you wonder if the chocolate is going to be hard. However, when you stick your spoon in tentatively, you're rewarded with a soft and creamy texture, and a taste of rich chocolate that stays on your palette after you've eaten it. Unlike some sweet treats, you don't take a mouthful and instantly forget the flavour; something which can lead to you not feeling full and consequently eating more than you should. With these puds, you definitely taste the flavour, which is reasonably strong and lingers for a while afterwards. According to the packaging, 53% of cocoa chocolate goes into this, which might explain why the flavour is so rich. When you reach the raspberry compote, you find yourself with a thick, almost "jam-like" texture. You can find whole seeds and bits of raspberry lurking in the compote - it's definitely made with good quality ingredients and isn't just a sauce made up of artificial flavouring. The compote is a bit too sweet and the chocolate a bit too rich, but together, the flavours balance out and both elements really complement each other. I'm not sure if either part would work individually, but together, the pudding really does taste scrummy. =x=x=x=x= PACKAGING =x=x=x=x= The chocolate truffles are sold in boxes of two. The side of the box is divided into two parts. The left has a simple black background with the word "Gü" contrasted against it in a simple chunky white text. Below this, in a much smaller gold font, are the words "CHOCOLATE PUDS". Further down, in slightly bigger silver text it reads "2 CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES WITH RASPBERRY COMPOTE". These are the words that are going to draw you in. To the right, there is a photograph of a ramekin containing the pud, with a spoon resting against it holding a big gooey spoonful of the desert. There are whole raspberries decoratively arranged beside the ramekin for a bit more visual impact, and rather naughtily, you can see chocolate dripping down the side of the ramekin. If you pick up the box and take it out of the supermarket chiller, you can see a blown up version of this picture on top. The way the photographer has arranged it reminds me of the Marks and Spencers "This is not just food..." adverts. Remember those? They were equally tempting too! Inside the box, there are two glass ramekins that have a transparent domed plastic lid, with "Güd" embossed on top. I had to fight with my box to get one of these out because some of the raspberry compote had managed to glue the ramekin to the bottom of the box, but it was worth fighting for it!;) The glass ramekins are made out of recycled products, and can be kept and reused. I haven't tried putting them in the oven yet, so can't comment on how strong the glass is, but I would imagine you could use these to make more desserts. Alternatively, if you wash and keep the lid, these ramekins would be perfectly sized to store little odds and ends like paperclips or buttons. =x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x= NUTRITIONAL & ALLERGY INFO =x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x= Each individual pudding contains 250 calories and 14.6g of fat, so this product is definitely designed to be more of an indulgence than a regular nibble! The puds are gluten free and suitable for veggies. The package advises that the puds "may contain traces of nuts". I didn't detect any when I tried this product (and I'm very good at picking out tiny traces of all nuts known to man), but having only tested this product once, I can't really give you any advice if this is the norm, or if the disclaimer is actually there for a reason. =x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x= AVAILABILITY & PRICE =x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x= According to Gü's website, you can buy Gü puds from pretty much anywhere. All the usual suspects such as Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Asda, Tesco, Somerflew, Co-op, Safeway et al stock them, and some less common stores such as "Shaws", "Nisa-Today's" and "Le Riche" do also. I picked up my puds from Sainsbury's for £2.49, which comes to £1.25 a pud. It's not terribly expensive, given that this product is going to be eaten as a treat and not as an everyday food, and you could even serve these up as dessert at a dinner party to avoid the hassle of making individual puddings for everyone. Take off the tell-tale Gü lids and say you made them yourselves. If anyone recognises the dessert, tell them that you're just recycling the ramekins and did in fact manage to recreate the puds perfectly ;) =x=x=x=x=x CONCLUSION =x=x=x=x=x When shopping for desserts, to be honest, I'm more likely to pick up something in the WeightWatchers range than something made by a brand like Gü, but I would probably buy this again if I saw it, was feeling thin (ish) and wanted to indulge myself. The taste is spot on, and I'd quite like to collect a few ramekins and bake something myself using them. Recommended.
Dooyoo is, and has always been, a site offering information for consumers. We can read and write reviews about various products out there, but it should be noted that the reviews are only written by those of us who can be bothered to give feedback on a product. A lot of the time, people only come online to write about things that have severely hacked them off (this is more true for the non-member reviews that have popped up of late). The companies responsible for these products never have a voice as they don't come to Dooyoo to review their own products. If there are a lot of reviews on something, it's easier to get a more balanced idea of how good or bad a product is. A glowing report or angry tirade may be an isolated case on its own, but if there are a couple dozen reviews agreeing on something, you can form a clearer idea of how the product performs in general. Everything should always be taken with a pinch of salt though. With new topics in Speakers Corner, the site has drifted away somewhat from offering advice and useful opinion to letting members (and non-members for that matter!) write about almost anything. So why not different medications? I think that it's always helpful to read about other people's experiences of the same medical condition from which you suffer, as some people have better coping strategies that you can borrow. For the newly diagnosed, discovering that you have a medical problem that will haunt you for the rest of your life can be hard to deal with, and reading about someone's account of how they dealt with the same thing and how life continued for them could be tremendously reassuring. However, are people going to look to Dooyoo for this? Would you run a google search for a consumer review site when looking for information on a certain drug? I think there is a need to have a big database of advice and support for people with medical issues, but to make this place Dooyoo does not seem appropriate to me. You cannot have a review on coping with epilepsy on the same site as coping with a ham sandwich. It trivialises health problems too much, and as human beings, this is a very sensitive area. Poor health reminds us of our mortality and few people are comfortable of spending time thinking, "I'm going to die. I don't know when, but I definitely am." Poor health and consequently death, are topics which can freak out a lot of people, and to discuss these topics along with the ordinary is an act of poor taste. It might be hypocritical of me to say that it's fine to discuss experiences of various medical conditions when these can vary dramatically person to person and say that it's not a great idea to discuss experiences of medications when these can also vary dramatically, but let me explain. If everyone writing about medication here on Dooyoo did so in a balanced manner, it would be fine. However, I have read several reviews saying "THIS IS HORRIBLEDONT USE IT!!" and not much more. With certain medications, you do need to try them for a set length of time before asking your doctor to prescribe you something different, and I'm not convinced that all of those writing reviews have followed this guideline. Not only are the reviews one-sided, but they're also based on incomplete information and the reviewers are not just passing on useless information but may actually not be doing themselves some harm by stopping a drug before it's had time to have an effect. It can be important to read about the negative side-effects of drugs, as doctors aren't always keen to discuss this side of treatment, preferring to keep you in an optimistic mood (with certain therapies, the more positive you are, the better the results). However, this should always be backed up with the statement that the drug may have better effects for someone else. Reading about the positive effects of drugs are also useful, as they give hope, however this too needs to be balanced. Hope is good to hold onto, but false hope can be soul destroying, depending on the situation. Perhaps what is needed, is a website that has information on medical conditions, written by qualified doctors and nurses, backed up with stories written by patients. That way there is something solid, that can be taken as read, to help counter any poor advice from general members of the public. This could be a huge database with the potential to help a lot of people, but it's not a project that Dooyoo should or would take on. Dooyoo should be, first and foremost, a site for consumers. By introducing more medication reviews, people would understandably mistake this site as an online support group and post questions rather than opinions. You can already see the potential for this to happen, if you read any of the Lipotrim reviews. (With the exception of lellagrace's one, it's actually quite helpful.) By asking us if Dooyoo should introduce more medication review topics, Dooyoo mean, should they introduce more medication review topics and leave the system "as is"? I think that the structure and ethos of the site right now are just incompatible with drug reviews. Factor in the legal issues and there seems little incentive for Dooyoo to continue down this path. The only people who would really benefit from unbalanced medication reviews would be those earning the 3 penny pieces. Or drug companies with advertisements in strategic places. Not on this site, please. Thanks for reading and I welcome your comments:)