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since 02/07/2003


Epson Stylus C64 11/12/2003

If anyone can Epson can

Epson Stylus C64 Our Canon BJC-6200 was finally binned this week. Whooppee! The Canon BJC-620 died about two months ago and was replaced with an Epson Stylus C64. We liked it so much we bought... no, not the company, but we did buy another one! The new one arrived today, and I thought it would be good to write the review of this printer as I unpack the box and plug it in, then tell you a bit about why I like it so much. Here goes... THE PACKAGING The first thing to notice is that as the sellotape is removed from the top of the box, a good amount of the pretty green external colouring comes with it. This reassures me that the box hasn't been opened before. The outer carton is sturdy, and inside there is a small piece of cardboard and the usual unrecyclable polystyrene packaging. The packaging was good enough to see the printer delivered to me in perfect condition. The printer itself is wrapped in polythene, and all the extras are individually wrapped in polythene bags or bubble wrap. This should keep everything dry in our damp climate. THE CONTENTS - in the order they emerge... A sealed sample pack of 2 sheets of 4" x 6" photo paper (I'll play with that later...) A CD labelled "Printer software for Epson Stylus C64 series" (glad that's there!) A mains lead with a standard 3-pin plug. A sealed small package of documents containing an A2 printed Setup sheet (printed in English on one side and French on the other), and a warranty. The Setup sheet has instructions for unpacking the ...

Brother T86 20/10/2003

Brother FAX Facts

Brother T86 Our office fax machine gave up the ghost recently. It was a BT Paperjet-60, and while we had been fairly happy with it, it lasted less than two years. Wanting something a little more reliable, and being very pleased with our two Brother laser printers, we opted for a Brother T86. WHY A COMBINED FAX - ANSWERPHONE? Before the BT Paperjet 60, we owned a fax machine without an answerphone built in, and went through 5 different answerphones trying to get a combination that worked. Frequently, the answerphone would collect faxes on tape, and the fax machine would try to receive answerphone messages, or neither would work at all. In the end, we chucked the lot and opted for a combined machine. Like our previous machine, the Brother has a built in answerphone. For some reason the elctronics industry like to refer to an answerphone as a "TAD", standing for "Telephone Answering Device", so both the BT and Brother fax machines have an option labelled "TAD" which is how you turn the answerphone on. DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN FAXES & 'PHONE CALLS Both machines have been good at distinguishing between incoming calls. You could set the BT machine to manual/ fax only (auto)/ fax/telephone or TAD/fax with one button switching between all the options. The Brother has a large pink button at the top labelled "DIGITAL TAD" which switches the answerphone on and off and enables you to check messages, and a smaller button further down labelled "MODE" that switches between fax modes (fax/tel, ...

Brother HL 1440 15/09/2003

Brotherly Love

Brother HL 1440 We run a small office, and originally bought two Kyocera FS-600 laser printers for printing the small quantity of technical manuals that we produce. The Kyocera drums are supposed to be super-environment-friendly and last for 100,000 pages. Sadly, this proved not to be the case. After our fourth drum at a total of only 60,000 pages, the first printer was out of guarantee and we looked around for something else. Cost is of course important, but to us, print quality is a number one concern. After comparing lots of print-outs in PC World, we opted for a Brother HL-1250. This printer ran wonderfully for a year, but when the drum needed replacing it turned out that we could buy a brand new Brother HL-1440 for just £20 more than the cost of a new drum. Thus my computer now has a one-year old Brother HL-1440, and I thought I would tell you a little about it. WEIGHT (or mass if I'm feeling pedantic) According to the packing sheet that came with my printer, the mass is just over 12 kilogrammes (that's nearly two stone). INSTALLATION The printer was supplied in the usual polystyrene-packaging filled box, and arrived in perfect condition. Installation was incredibly easy. I chucked the CD in the drive, and followed the instructions. The CD autoruns when placed in the drive, and you are presented with a screen asking you to choose which printer you have (HL-1230, HL-1440, HL-1450, HL-1470N). From there, instructions were simple and the printer was going in less than ten ...

Yeo valley Organic, Fat Free Yogurts 11/09/2003

Yay for Yeo Valley

Yeo valley Organic, Fat Free Yogurts We get through quite a bit of yoghurt. I know what certain of you are going to say "why don't you make your own?". Well, I'll have a go soon (promise), but before I get hooked on home-made, I wanted to tell you what I like (and don't like) about this shop-bought version. THE TECHNICAL BIT Anyone who's ever read a woman's magazine probably knows by now that certain yoghurts contain live bacteria that are good for the digestive system. The yoghurts in question are usually called "bio" or "live" yoghurts. The bacteria they contain (e.g. Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria) are very good at outcompeting certain nasties in the digestive system, the main nasty being a yeast called "Candida albicans". Now Candida albicans is a normal organism that is present in everyone's gut, but in some people under some circumstances it can cause symptoms commonly referred to as thrush. The yeast grows very well in the guts of people that eat a lot of sugar, or are taking antibiotics. Eating some live yoghurt every day helps because the bugs in the yoghurt outcompete the Candida albicans in the gut, so it can't grow as well. All Yeo Valley's yoghurts are live yoghurts. ORGANIC Yeo-Valley yoghurts are produced to the highest organic standard (that is, they are approved by the Soil Association). Products produced to Soil Association standard have the Soil Association logo, or are labelled UK5. VEGETARIANS All Yeo-Valley yoghurts (like most yoghurts) are suitable for ...

Clinique 3 Step Skin Care 05/09/2003

Smooth Skin

Clinique 3 Step Skin Care A few years ago I hit a milestone age and I thought it was about time I started paying some attention to my skincare ((Ok, then, it was 30). We were shopping in Lakeside and I was feeling a bit free with my credit card, so wandered around all the make-up counters in one of the department stores. I noticed that the Clinique counter was very busy, and then saw their advertising. They were having a "Bonus Time" - buy two products and recieve a free bonus gift. The bonus gift had about 6 different product samples and I thought it was worth a go. Being a bit of a bargain hunter, I bought 2 products, got a free gift, then went back later to a different member of staff for another go. This strategy has served me well over the years :-)) I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, so let's back-pedal a little. THE "OVER-THE-COUNTER" ASSESSMENT I was dreading this bit. I'm not all that keen on those heavily made-up counter assistants and their condescending attitudes, so I was quite nervous and picked on a young looking one (I thought she wouldn't be able to patronise me too much :-)). The assistant was quite green behind the ears and genuinely very enthusiastic about the Clinique products (it transpired she had just got back from a training course that they put all their sales staff through), but went through the skincare consultation and demonstration. The skin typing was a series of questions and answers that these days you can do on-line (see below). The demonstration consisted of ...

Shameless - Various Artists 03/09/2003

Sensational Simon...

Shameless - Various Artists This is my first attempt at a music opinion and to tell you the truth it's a bit scary! I'm going to rave about one of my favourite perfomers, Paul Simon. He's the talented one from Simon & Garfunkel (some of you will like Art Garfunkel I suppose, he's just not my cup of tea). I say talented because in my dad's words "he can write songs, sing AND play the guitar - it's not fair!!"). He does all those things, and he does them all superbly well. INTRODUCTION TO THE ANTHOLOGY CD This CD is an anthology of songs from Paul Simon's albums. There are a few songs from the Simon & Garfunkel days (1964 - 1969), then the songs proceed through his first solo album (imaginatively titled "Paul Simon" 1971) and others until the Rhythm of the Saints (1989) and Concert in the Park (1989). MY OVERALL FEELINGS ABOUT THIS CD When my husband first bought me this CD a couple of years ago, I had been a fan of Paul Simon's for some years, and had even been to see his Graceland concert at the NEC in Birmingham. I owned most of the Simon & Garfunkel records, and quite a few Paul Simon solo ones too, but there were still excellent songs on this Anthology that I had not come across before, such as "Gone At Last" from the album "Still Crazy After All These Years". It was nice that the editors/producers picked some less well known songs as well as the more poular ones. This CD was so well put together that it made me go out and buy all the missing CDs from my collection! When I'm feeling in a ...

Carapelli Olive Oil 01/09/2003

O Live a Little

Carapelli Olive Oil I use so much Carapelli extra virgin olive oil that I prefer to buy it in 3 litre tins rather than the smaller 500ml bottles that are also available. The tins work out cheaper too! Carapelli produce a good quality olive oil at a reasonable price that is suitable for everyday use (and believe me, I really do use it everyday!) BACKGROUND Extra virgin olive oil is made from the first pressing of olives. Other olive oils are made from later pressings and are cheaper to produce. Oils should always be stored in the dark, since sunlight breaks down some of their chemical constituents, causing them to go off more quickly and lose colour, taste and smell. THE HEALTH BIT Olive oil has oleic and linoleic fatty acids, but it's the oleic acid in olive oil that is supposed to be particularly beneficial. Quantities of oleic acid are much higher in olive oil than in other seed oils, which are mostly made up of linoleic acid. These monounsaturates make up over 70% of the fat in olive oil, compared to about 32% in butter. Many people are aware that high cholesterol levels in the blood are bad for you, but this is only half the story. there are two types of blood cholesterol - HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low density lipoprotein). Basically, HDL is good and LDL is bad. What is important isn't the amount of cholesterol per se, but the ratio of HDL to LDL in the blood. Olive oil promotes the levels of HDL and reduces the levels of LDL, so increasing the HDL/LDL ratio. This ...

Bridge 19/08/2003

And they say heroin is addictive!

Bridge Bridge should come with a health warning. Something along the lines of “Warning. Psychosis alert!” Some years ago I became involved with a group of twenty somethings who were exploring the game’s every possible nuance. It nearly ruined my life. THE FIRST DAY IN A NEW FLAT The flat wasn’t too dirty. The flatmates were friendly enough. After unpacking, I wandered into the Lounge to see what was going on. There were 4 other people in the flat and they were playing a card game. I heard strange phrases “two hearts”, “three no trumps”, “finesse”. It sounded intriguing. For two or three days, I watched and learned and when someone went off to shop, or to cook, I would play the occasional hand. THE BASICS What is so great about this game is that all you need is a pack of cards, a pencil and paper, and three friends to play with. Bridge is a game for four players, but it is played in two teams of two players each. All the cards are dealt out, so that each player has thirteen cards. A bidding process ensues where players declare how many “tricks” they will make (see below for definition of a trick). The winning pair (basically the pair that decides they can make the most tricks) get to “play” the contract. One of the winning pair plays, and the other member of the pair (called the “dummy”) lays their hand out face up on the table for everyone to see. Imagine the four hands now sitting at the four points of the compass. The person playing the contract is South. The dummy’s ...

Sacla - Roasted yellow pepper & garlic gratinata 17/08/2003

It has to be pasta.

Sacla - Roasted yellow pepper & garlic gratinata Sacla have four different gratinata sauces in their range to choose from. They are: Spinach & Gorgonzola Sauteed Sweetcorn & Rocket Tomato, Mushroom & Red Chilli and this one, which is Roasted Yellow Pepper and Smoked Garlic. BUYING My previous experience with a Sacla Gratinata sauce was not a pleasant one. I had bought the Tomato, Mushroom & Red Chilli sauce to use when cooking for some friends and we all found it too hot to eat (even my partner, who is a chilli fiend!). There was no warning on the packaging, so watch out for that one if you're shopping. I am happy to report that the Roasted Yellow Pepper and Smoked Garlic gratinata sauce was much more successful! The jars retail at £2.29 in Safeway. Our local Asda and Tesco do not currently stock this sauce, although they are quite small stores and it might be available in the larger stores. I think £2.29 is quite expensive for a sauce of this type, and often make my own as a cheaper alternative. PACKAGING It is really refreshing to come across product packaging that is so easy to reuse or recycle. The sauce is contained within a large glass jar with a plain metal lid. The glass jar has no labels stuck to it, making it ideal to wash and use again or recycle. Instead of labels, Sacla have used a minimal cardboard outer wrapper, which again is easy to recycle. The idea of the outer wrapper also allows much more space for product information, and on the inside of the cardboard Sacla have thoughtfully provided a ...

Country Life English Butter 31/07/2003

Real butter wins the taste test every time

Country Life English Butter Country Life is my favourite butter and is available in two different types: a standard butter in a block, and a spreadable butter in a tub. PACK APPEARANCE Both pack types have the distinctive gold and green packaging with a splash of red. Country Life make a big selling point of the fact that their butter is English on the front of both packs. PACK SIZE - The Standard Butter The normal, everyday block of butter is available in two pack sizes. The 250g pack is 64p in Asda and Tesco or 63p at Sainsbury’s, and it only saves you a penny buying the larger 500g pack size, at £1.27. With a small family, I prefer the small packs because they stay fresh longer. For me, it’s not worth buying the bigger blocks for our small family because they sit in the fridge opened for too long. (Please note, my prices are based on fairly small “local” supermarkets. Internet grocery shopping is not available for any of the large stores at my address). PACK SIZE - The Spreadable Butter The spreadable butter is also available in two pack sizes of 250g and 500g. Each comes in a tub with an easy to remove lid and a piece of greaseproof paper on top of the butter to help keep it fresh. The greaseproof paper comes in handy for greasing cake tins and stew bowls before filling and baking in the oven (it saves getting your hands greasy J). The spreadable butter is significantly more expensive than the normal block, at 89p for 250g in Tesco and Asda (99p in Sainsbury’s). Again, buying the large ...

Beko 28426NDS 30/07/2003

Good value for money

Beko 28426NDS Our last TV was a Fidelity 28”, but not a widescreen. When it gave up the ghost after less than 3 years, we were sure we didn’t want a widescreen TV. The old TV only just fitted in the gap in our lounge, and we were worried that a 28” widescreen would be too big. Looking around the shops, we realized we didn’t have much choice but to get one, there just isn’t much else around! PRICE We paid an amazing £229.99 in Tesco for this 28” widescreen Beko 28426ND about 6 months ago. We had never heard of Beko, but the price was half that of other models. The same model is currently on sale at for £239.00 with free delivery (and you get clubcard points too). SIZE The narrow speakers meant that the TV would fit in the gap vacated by our old telly - 71cm (28 inches)wide, 50cm (20 inches) deep. No other 28” widescreen we looked at had the small width of the Beko. If we hadn’t found this model, we would have had to buy a 24” widescreen (but that would have meant a smaller picture than our previous TV). Also, the set is very heavy. You need a good, strong person to lift this set even when unpacked from the huge box. (If you're thinking that 28" wide is odd for a 28" TV, then so did I. Apparently it's because the screen size is measured diagonally.) PICTURE QUALITY Outstanding. The picture quality is as good as much more expensive branded TVs. There were twelve different TVs being demonstrated in our Tesco store, and this one had by far the ...

Sainsbury's D' Isigny AOC Crème Frâiche 30/07/2003


Sainsbury's D' Isigny AOC Crème Frâiche Oh, the joy of Sainsbury’s D’Isigny crème fraiche! I generally try to buy British foods where I can, and often buy Yeo Valley crème fraiche (just because it’s English). But occasionally I get to shop in Sainsbury’s and treat myself with a pot of D’Isigny. THE PACKAGING the packaging is fresh and easy on the eye. Being a Sainsbury's, there is plenty of consumer information (such as fat content, etc.). The top is easy to remove and the product has a fairly long shelf-life, so it's possible to stock up a couple of weeks before you need it. THE LOOK It has a lovely thick set consistency, a promising creamy colour and smells of good cream. It really gets my mouth dribbling! It looks more yellow than other crème fraiches. THE TASTE Divine. A lovely smooth creamy taste that has a deep flavour and complements rice dishes incredibly well. It is much more flavoursome than comparable English crème fraiches. PRICE At 89p for a 200ml tub, this creme fraiche is the same price as the Yeo Valley and Sainsbury's half-fat creme fraiches. Yeo Valley creme fraiche is 20p cheaper at Asda though. When I'm making something where the quality of the creme fraiche is really important (such as the recipe below), I buy this one. Otherwise (for sauces, etc.), I get the cheaper one from Asda. USES I use it mostly in sauces and tarts. Add a pot of creme fraiche to the same quantity of milk, 100g (4oz)gruyere and an egg for a great quiche mixture. You can also use creme fraiche as a ...

Natraderm Moisturising Non Greasy Skin Treatment Lotion 30/07/2003

Natural is not necessarily good for you!

Natraderm Moisturising Non Greasy Skin Treatment Lotion Natraderm is marketed as a treatment for people with a range of skin conditions, including eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis. It is described on the manufacturer’s website ( as an effective alternative to hydrocortisone based products. I beg to differ. STEROID CREAMS As a long-term eczema sufferer, I have been on the look out for alternatives to steroid creams (hydrocortisone is one type of steroid cream, others include Eumovate, Betnovate and Synalar). When used long term, steroid creams can cause permanent thinning and reddening of the skin, and this is particularly the case for skin in sensitive areas such as on the face. As such, I try not to use them. Having said this, steroid creams are very effective in treating eczema and small areas of eczema can clear up after only a couple of applications. Natraderm is not a steroid cream. BUYING NATRADERM Natraderm was recommended to me by a shop assistant in Holland & Barrett, and was not cheap at £5.95 for 125ml. I had some small areas of inflamed, red and sore skin and was assured that the product was “soothing and anti-inflammatory”. The assistant claimed one of her relatives had used the lotion with some success, which is what convinced me to buy the product. Unfortunately, my experience was quite different. According to the website, you can mail order via the internet. Trying the link for Europe, it only gave prices in dollars ($9.48), which is not very helpful (especially when you consider ...

Canon BJC-620 29/07/2003

A good basic colour printer

Canon BJC-620 We bought this Canon BJC-620 colour inkjet printer to replace a black and white Canon printer in our small office. We had been through four different black and white inkjet printers, but really liked the last one (a BJ230), which is why we chose to purchase another Canon printer. COST & SEPARATE INK TANKS The main reason for choosing this particular model was the cost. We particularly wanted a printer with separate colour ink tanks. The BJC-620 has separate tanks for black, cyan, magenta and yellow ink. Having separate ink tanks reduces your running costs considerably, since you only need to replace each colour one at a time as it runs out. At the time of purchase (about 5 years ago) this was the cheapest model with separate ink tanks available, and cost a little under £200. RUNNING COSTS The printer is quite economical. Replacement Canon ink tanks can be found for £4.99 (Viking Direct) and last for a couple of months even with heavy office use and quite a lot of colour printing. SOFTWARE The Canon print software is easy to install, and quite suitable for home use. However, for office use the software is irritating. There are frequent low ink reminders well before the tanks run dry, and lots of popups that quite frankly would be better popped down, but no option to turn them off. My machine crashed on a regular basis if I had a couple of different programs open and then tried to print something. Our IT expert somehow managed to disable the software interface, ...

Dyson DC02 29/07/2003

The Dyson DC02 changed my life

Dyson DC02 As an asthma sufferer, cleaning the house has always been frought with dangers for me. For years I had to get other people to vacuum the floors because the dust produced was just too much for my lungs to cope with. Finally, we bought a Dyson and what a difference it made! MODEL The model we chose was the first DC02 to have a HEPA filter. HEPA FILTER DIGRESSION HEPA filters have been used for many years in microbiology labs to sterilise solutions, and have incredibly tiny pores (down to 20 millionths of a millimetre!). I was originally sceptical as to whether this type of technology would be suitable for use in a vacuum cleaner, since the filters are easily clogged. BACK TO THE PLOT... In our DC02, there is a pre-filter before the HEPA filter, that traps most of the dust, leaving the HEPA to cope with the really small stuff. It claims to remove particles as small as pollen grains, and it really seems to work. This is the first cleaner I have owned that doesn't give me asthma, and I am incredible grateful to Mr Dyson for that! FEATURES The obvious selling point is the see-through dust collector, which looks very pretty in the shop and seems like a nice idea, but it's not much fun looking at your dirt continuously. My favourite feature is the retractable lead. Just step on the button and the lead and plug coil away into the machine. Brilliant. The cleaner comes with an array of attachments. There is a large dust collector, with a strong metal handle, and ...
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