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Hi everyone. I joined Ciao in the early days and, now I'm back, am delighted to see it's still the same great community. Spellings seem to have got worse though!

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since 17/10/2000


Whole Earth Smooth Peanut Butter No Added Sugar 18/07/2011

Worth the extra cost

Whole Earth Smooth Peanut Butter No Added Sugar With a few pounds to lose, I decided to embark on a low-carbohydrate diet. I didn't really need to go the whole hog, I just need to stop overdosing on roast potatoes at the weekend, but I don't like to do anything half-heartedly. But being vegetarian makes low-carbing a touch tricky. While others can munch on a steak or pieces of chicken, I don't have that option. Vegetarian foods tend to be high-carb - protein substitutes are either based on soya (which I don't like to eat too much of) or gluten (which makes me bloat so much people think I'm taking up Sumo wrestling). Enter peanut butter! Sclooped onto delicious crispy celery sticks (that wasn't facetious, I actually like celery, and not just because its virtually zero-calories, it tastes like it's doing me good) peanut butter is a perfect snack for vegetarians and normal people. But when I looked at some of the ingredients of the popular brands I was horrified. Peanut butter should contain peanuts, salt and a bit of oil. So why do so many manufacturers feel the need to add about 50 other ingredients? To cover up the taste of cheap, rancid oil and less-than fresh peanuts? Surely not, food manufacturers are usually totally moral aren't they?! My nutritionist (a real one, not someone in the gym extoling the virtues of living on lettuce leaves and cigarattes) recommended Whole Earth. She said it was worth the extra cost and helps weight loss because if you have paid a bit more you don't over-consume it (she doesn't know me ...

TalkTalk 27/08/2007

You will TalkTalk - to their complaints department

TalkTalk TalkTalk HISTORY ~~~~~~~~ Aren't there a lot of reviews on TalkTalk? That is either a very good sign or a very bad one. I'll leave you to judge. I was impressed with them when they were 'got' by the BBC consumer programme 'Watchdog'. There was a long saga concerning them and the head of TalkTalk was rather impressive. In early 2006 they began offering free broadband if you signed up to a telephone calls package. They were so inundated with people signing up that they couldn't meet the demand and got a reputation for poor service and appalling customer relations. The broadband service was patchy and lots of people never managed to get online. Hundreds contacted Watchdog, who took up the cause. Watchdog got lots of information - including non-contact from TalkTalk when customers complained, billing continuing after cancellation, ignoring official letters, bringing in debt collectors unnecessarily, etc. TalkTalk's many customers were furious. The Watchdog guy at the time - Nicky Campbell I think - met with the guy in charge, Charles Dunstone. To Nicky's challenging style, Dunstone put his hands up and admitted fault - literally, it was wonderful to watch, he put his hands in the air in surrender and said they had messed up. Well I forgave him on the spot, I was really impressed with that. But that was easy to do, because I wasn't a frustrated customer then. ABOUT DUNSTONE ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~ If, by any chance, you are looking for an expensive ...

Spatone Daily 100% Natural Iron Supplement 26/08/2007

Does your child need this?

Spatone Daily 100% Natural Iron Supplement UDPATE - 26th August 2007 My daughter - a grade A student if ever there was one - started slipping in her work at school. She began to be inattentive, disorganised and her teachers were concerned. So were we, obviously. We couldn't work it out. Nothing was obviously wrong, no emotional traumas (apart from having a brother - Legolas2), no time of life changes. Then I happened to read an old health book that was lying around the house (there are lots of books hanging around our house, I can't bear to part with any). In the section on iron deficiency it mentioned my daughter's symptoms. A lightbulb went on in my head. We bought a box of Spatone and - honestly - within a week she was starting to get her old spark back. She is now back on top form but still taking the iron, because apparently it can take 6 months to rebuild your iron stores in the body after a deficiency. She dislikes the taste of the stuff in plain water and tends to have it in pineapple juice, which disguises it brilliantly. It can't be taken in grape juice apparently (don't know why). It is best taken in a juice with vitamin C in it, because C assists in the absorption of iron. So why was she deficient? I don't know. She isn't menstruating (too much information?!) and has a good diet. She has grown taller recently, though, and deficiency can be caused by growth spurts. It could be just that her body doesn't absorb iron efficiently. We will be buying her a box of these every 6 months or so to ensure ...

Member Advice on Snoring 24/08/2007

Not anymore!

Member Advice on Snoring The first bit of this review is about an anti-snoring product sold by Lloyds Pharmacies, the second bit about Lloyds themselves, who I think deserve a mention and there isn't a category for them. STOP SNORING DEVICE I read a quote years ago, where an old couple who had been married for a very long time (or did it just seem a long time?!) were asked about their marriage. The man was asked if he had ever considered divorce. He replied, "Divorce - never. Murder - often." If he was serious I think it was probably due to snoring. My husband is perfect is almost every way: considerate, talented, witty, excellent with animals and children (in that order). So I suppose he had to have one fault or he would be too sickeningly wonderful. His particular fault is a tendency to do rutting pig impressions through the long, dark hours of the night. It's got worse since he put weight on. Apparently, losing weight is the best way to stop snoring. But that's not easy. This little device is. We've tried other things - like the springy strips you put on your nose (not very sexy), a dig in the back, threats, nothing worked. Then we passed a Lloyds Pharmacy and noticed this device. At a mere £9.99 we thought it was worth a try - and boy, was it. It works! Peace and joy are restored to the world and I'm smiling again. It is a rather cool-looking watch, that's all it is. It's a bit like something James Bond would wear, so my husband was rather pleased with that. Until he switched it on ...

All About Me 23/08/2007

All About Me (well, all I'm prepared to divulge)

All About Me 01.What time is it? 09:00 - I'm late up and should be getting the smoothies done but couldn't resist a quick (!) email check, etc. 02. Name Michelle (Mich) 03. Number of candles that appeared on your last birthday cake: 43 04. Hair colour: Copper-flecked brown 05. Tattoos: No, loathe them with a passion. I have a cousin with very old ones that he got in the Air Force and he hates them now so that always put me off. 06. How much do you love your job on a scale of 0-5: 5. I teach ICT (I love computers) in a small school (53 kids in the whole place) where the kids are great and don't mind my disabilities and remind me to sit down when I start to look tired. 07. Favourite colour: Blue or purple (depending on my mood) or yellow (for very good moods) 08. Home County: Lancashire 09. Current Relationship Status: Very married, very happily. 10. Favourite food: Brown rice and adzuki beans - love it, nutty, filling, low fat, gorgeous. 11. Been to Africa? No but have known lots of people who have been/grew up there so would love to go. One friend was a nurse missionary who was near Victoria Falls - fabulous. She had a pet mongoose, which I suppose is a good idea in snake country. She says it was amazing - but gruesome - to watch it in action. But other than that it was friendly and docile. It lived in the outside toilet because that was where most snakes hung out. So if you have an outside toilet …… 12. Been to Camden? Where? 13. ...

Waterpik Cordless Dental Irrigator 22/08/2007

Flossing is not for flossies

Waterpik Cordless Dental Irrigator Waterpik Cordless Dental Irrigator (we call it the water thingy) WARNING: This review contains gory information that may leave you rushing for the nearest pharmacy. ~~~~ PERSONAL BIT - scroll down for the technical stuff There was a programme on TV a couple of months ago. One of those 'World's worst' or 'Something from Hell' things. It was about people with bad teeth. Not just bad teeth, but rotting, stinking, barely-there stumps. They showed one poor chap who had what they termed 'apple-core' decay. His teeth were decaying at the sides. It was pretty disgusting. Now this made me sit up (I'm normally slumped on the sofa) and take notice (I usually go into a trance-like state when watching TV, it could be anything flickering away there, except sport). We had been on one of those stomach-churning family excursions to the dentist just days before and I had been given the dread news that both I and my daughter had some decay - at the SIDES of our precious teeth. (They're precious because I know how expensive crowns are.) Now I think I look after my teeth pretty well. I brush for ages, use a good electric toothbrush, don't eat much sugar and don't drink sodas and fruit juices (except when I am visiting people in hospital and there is little else to buy). But I can't floss because the stuff gets stuck and I can never get it out from between my teeth. They are a bit close together (did you know that's because of too much sugar in the Western diet? Apparently it is ...

Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish 04/11/2003

Made to share

Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish Liz Earle didn’t so much as bounce onto our TV screens in the ‘80’s as glide serenely. There was a health & beauty programme filmed in her house, often in her ideal kitchen, surrounded by her perfectly behaved plants (my kitchen then always looked like an explosion in a flour factory – I was learning to bake bread - and my plants were brown and pleading for help). Liz beamed from my dusty television as a shining example of healthy living, making it seem easy and practical. Slightly irritating? Perhaps, but only because I generally watched while sitting with my feet up scoffing chocolate. It was oddly compulsive viewing. Years later and now firmly in the healthy living camp myself due to illnesses and allergies, I was pleased to see Liz’s unruffled appearance alongside the hypercharged presenters on QVC. She’s older but doesn’t look it, with beautiful skin, clear eyes and a mesmerizing tranquillity of expression. She lives what she preaches – healthy eating, plenty of water, sensible exercise and avoidance of chemicals – and it shows. So much that I found myself ordering her flagship product: Cleanse & Polish. The idea of a cleanser that you remove with a hot cloth was popularised by Eve Lom ( Eve is a skincare consultant and one of the early chemical-free skincare pioneers. She developed her own oil-based cleanser using natural products such as essential oils. She suggests using a muslin cloth which has been warmed in water (muslin because it is a ...

On Writing - Stephen King 22/04/2002

Essential read for wannabe writers

On Writing - Stephen King I could waffle on for thousands of words about 'On Writing' and Stephen King but if you haven't got the time or inclination to wade through to the end of this review, just read this bit: if you want to be a writer, READ THIS BOOK. I’m almost tempted to stop there (almost, but not quite!), as I don’t feel any review can do it justice. I have never been a Stephen King fan, as I’m not into horror. When I came home from the library carrying this book, my husband saw the name of the author and gasped in dismay, wondering how he was going to cope with my nightmares after reading a Stephen King horror (he’s read a few). He was very relieved to learn it was book about writing. This is a well-written book, packed with interest, information and advice. It isn't your usual text book on how to write, this is written almost as a mini-autobiography. It sounds such a cliche, but I did find it unputdownable - I read it cover to cover in 2 days. One of the best snippets I liked (which I have put on a card by my computer) is about writing courses : “It is the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters.” Classic. He doesn’t slate other books on writing (well, not all of them anyway), and recommends ‘The Elements of Style’ by William Strunk Jr & E.B. White King has a few themes/golden rules that he has stuck by and which have brought him success. These condense down to: 1. Read a lot - obvious really, but ...

Free 22/04/2002

NOT too good to be true

Free UPDATE 22-04-02 : Still going strong. Things have changed at Free24-7 - they have introduced bands according to how much Internet time you want each month, starting at £7.99. I have stayed on the £7.99 package and haven't been cut-off yet. It's sometimes difficult to get on in the evenings but usually makes it if I am prepared to be patient (usually I'm not, and wait until next morning!). What would we do without Ciao? I was paying £25 a month for my Internet service with BT. OK, I got free evening/weekend local telephone calls in with that, but the lure of the Internet wins every time over telephoning and I wasn’t getting value-for-money. I looked around for something cheaper and saw some reviews of It seemed too good to be true, but once I saw ops by Broksababie and Squiggles (trustworthy characters!) I was prepared to take the plunge. Their site is simple. Very simple. In fact, it looks like it has been done by a primary school child. It is in bold primary colours, with no fancy java stuff. Very much a case of what you see is what you get. What you get is an unmetered Internet service for a mere £7.99 a month. That means no call charges and you can surf all day and all night. There is a cut-off time of 4 hours – which isn’t bad at all. If your connection has been inactive for 15 minutes they also cut you off, so no sneaking off to the toilet for a quiet read while your Internet connection is open. The cut-off isn’t a problem, as you can reconnect ...

Swordfish (DVD) 05/02/2002

Blown away

Swordfish (DVD) To say I was blown away by this controversial film would be understating it. I suggested it to my husband after reading PhilRoots’ excellent review here. I didn’t expect to like it myself, with it being an all-action, car chases, explosions, bursting with testosterone type of film. But I was hooked from the first minute - and I agree with Phil that the explosion scene was one of the most dramatic in cinematic history. The plot, put simply (which is hard because there are a lot of twists, turns and sub-plots), is this : a world-class computer hacker has been released from prison as long as he agrees not to go near a computer and stays away from his daughter (his drunken wife has custody). So obviously what is he going to do? Try to get back custody of his daughter. The way to do that presents itself to him when a rich stranger offers him $100,000 just to meet him. At the meeting – which is not for the faint-hearted – the hacker demonstrates his abilities and the criminal offers him $10 million if he will pull off a job for him (hacking into military bank accounts). Saying any more about the plot than that would spoil the film for you, so I won’t – other than to say it keeps you guessing and keeps you watching. It did very well at the box office, going straight to the top position as soon as it opened in June last year. It is just as well they released it before the Word Trade Centre attacks. If it had been after them it probably would ...

Abbey 23/01/2002

Getting out of the Abbey habit

Abbey My husband and I had bad experiences with Abbey National that put us off for life. If started off OK, we banked with them for about 14 years. We had a current account, savings accounts, TESSAs and a mortgage. We went to them for financial advice and trusted them. But after they changed into a bank, things went downhill. It was partly our own fault, we didn't keep a close enough check on our accounts. We discovered that they had been taking our mortgage payments out of our current account twice a month (instead of once a month) for a year. When we pointed it out to them, there was quite an argument, not even a hope of an apology. Also, we were in the habit of keeping our mortgage payments at the high rate whenever the interest rate went down. We hoped to pay our mortgage off early this way. We accumulated £4,800 extra in our account this way. However, when we were moving house, the Abbey gave us the wrong figures as to what we owed. We thought we would be £4,800 better off than we were. We felt cheated and disappointed by the Abbey. We approached Smile, the Internet Bank, to see how easy it would be to change our current account. Smile made it very easy, they handled most of it for us. The Abbey National again caused problems, though, because they didn't provide all the information they should have done to Smile on our behalf. Here is a brief rundown of their services, in case you are interested : They have a full range of banking services – ...

HealthAid Glucosamine Sulphate Tablets 22/01/2002

Important Discovery

HealthAid Glucosamine Sulphate Tablets Glucosamine is found naturally in the body. It is an amino sugar (aminomonosaccharide – amino = protein; monosaccharide = simple sugar) which contains sulphur and is used for growth and repair of connective tissues, joints and cartilage. It is found actually in the cartilage, but less so as we age. Glucosamine isn’t the only substance in cartilage that diminishes though). The cartilage gets thinner, leading to onset and/or progression of arthritis. Glucosamine, when taken either orally or by IV injection, goes into the blood stream and then is taken up by the tissues. There it helps rebuild the cartilage. Like MSM (review coming up soon), a close relative, glucosamine was discovered by horses long before people jumped on the bandwagon (and forced the price up). Horses and dogs have known of its effectiveness in osteoarthritis for years. Osteoarthritis is the one that older people get – it can also set in after an injury or break. It is where cartilage is lost from the ends of the bones and they rub together, causing pain and loss of mobility. Don’t let health food shop staff try to talk you into taking glucosamine for minor aches and pains. It is for osteoarthritis suffers (where there is cartilage loss/damage) and has very little effect on other conditions other than to decrease your bank balance. ~ SIDE-EFFECTS ~ There are very few OFFICIAL reported side-effects of glucosamine – the main one being problems reported by ...

Writing novels 11/01/2002

Write a bestseller

Writing novels I’m not a published novelist (yet!), so it has taken me a while to pluck up the courage to write in this category. First my qualifications for doing so – I have written for a living (in PR), I have done creative writing courses, I was an only child with few friends and an over-active imagination, I have written a children’s book which has been favourably assessed by a publisher and I have been taken on as a prospective author by that publisher (they like to commission books rather than take them on spec., and they are going to commission me). So here are my – amateur – tips on writing a novel. READING Check any author’s biography and you will quickly see that they read a lot, and advise would-be writers to read, read and read some more. The recent television documentary/interview with J.K. Rowling showed her giving some advice to a child who asked for tips on becoming a writer. She said to read because it gives you ideas and it broadens the vocabulary. I always have a few books on the go. A novel (I like crime mysteries, Mary Higgins Clarke in particular. Her characters are beautifully developed and her plots and excellent), a biography and a non-fiction book. It is good to read the types of books that you want to write (if you do know which sort you want to write, you may not yet), but don’t stick to one particular author so you don’t limit yourself. Actually, you might want to read some really, really BAD books (I ...

Billy Elliot (DVD) 07/01/2002

Didn't do it for me

Billy Elliot (DVD) I suppose other pudgy people with a history of clumsiness are masochistically drawn to ballet. I hope so, anyway. I’d hate to be the only one. I have always had a fascination for elegant things and people – ballet, yoga, sculpture, the blonde stick insect with perfect posture who pinched one of my early teenage boyfriends. So I was more than a little interested in the Billy Elliot film, having heard it was about a working-class, rough and ready boy who makes it in the world of ballet. Unfortunately, I couldn’t interest my husband in it and didn’t fancy going alone with the other gauche wannabees, so waited for the video. I sat on the sofa with a bag of hip-upholsterers and prepared myself for a pleasant couple of hours. Hmm. Apparently the writer produced the first draft of the film in three weeks – and I think it shows. The plot is frustratingly under-developed. The company behind the movie is Working Title Films, the same one that was behind the other British biggies such as Four Weddings and Notting Hill. So a good pedigree then. Maybe it is just me. I’m not wild about gritty Northern stories. I didn’t like The Full Monty. I know I’m in the minority, and the funny bits in that outweighed the sad, vulgar stuff, but I couldn’t get past the swearing and depression. Billy Elliot is similar. Billy Elliot describes itself as a heart-warming tale. It is set in a gritty Northern mining town during the miner’s ...

Barton Grange Garden Centre, Preston 06/12/2001

Its enormous

Barton Grange Garden Centre, Preston Once upon a time in a galaxy not far from here a young couple fell in love and agreed to be manacled together for the rest of eternity. He had been a speed freak, and agreed to abandon his love of trying to kill himself in mobile metal coffins. She had been horse-mad and agreed to stop watching ‘Horse of the Year Show’, etc., and shouting at the riders for not treating their horses properly; she further agreed to never again pull the handbrake on to stop the car he was driving so she could jump out and bawl at a man who was whipping a horse. They both decided they needed a new hobby together. Once the novelty of that wore off they picked another one. And the gardening bug was born. He discovered the joy of turning a patch of barren earth into a fountain of colour and life; the pleasure of the feel of the rich, black loam in his fingers; the delight of discovering a rare plant on offer; the orgasmic glee of picking the first fruit from his first tree. She found out that garden centres don’t just sell boring old plants and she could get away with sitting sunning herself in the garden while he worked if she pretended to be interested in what he was doing. That was a long time ago. Since then we have had two children and my husband, Ray, takes less pleasure in the garden. For the first few years of parenting he decreed that no child, visiting or resident, was to so much as touch his plants, let alone kick a ball near them. When we heard about a ...
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