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since 30/12/2005

16

Twycross Zoo, Atherstone 05/10/2009

Twycross Zoo... fun for all!

Twycross Zoo, Atherstone I was recently given two free children’s passes for Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire – well it all helps to fill those weekends! Pre-trip I’d never been to Twycross before, and thought I’d check their website before we went to get a feel for the place… The site is pretty well written, with many links for the kids to get their interest up front (including live webcams of the petting zoo… although I couldn’t see much happening…) There is also a live webcam of the new baby elephant (born August 2009), although this is only on 10-5?! Not too sure why… must be new privacy laws or something? The day itself Twycross was very easy to find, and for once Satnav was on the button, and only the cries of ‘our we nearly there yet’… made the hours journey from Staffordshire feel like a lifetime. Parking is ample (and free) which makes a change for days out nowadays! The first impression was a bit bleak, as there is a great deal of additional building work being carried out, I understand they are building a new visitors centre which looks very impressive, and should be completed next year. The noise from the Howler Monkeys was terrific when we got out of the car, and really brought the place to life. With £ 11.00 an adult (with the usual paperwork for tax relief…) completed, we decided to try and find the penguins for their 12:00 feed. I’ve got to be honest, we weren’t given a map, and thought we’d be able to find our way around… this proved much harder than we thought, ...

Haven Holidays 23/06/2009

Haven Rockley Park, Poole

Haven Holidays Overview We booked this family break last September, and whilst it has seemed a long time coming, was well worth the wait… This holiday is no center parcs break, but can be as relaxing, and as planned or as relaxed as required. There are things to keep all the family involved, heavily involved around sports, kids clubs/story time, a very packed arcade, and swimming pool area. The Caravan This is the second Haven site we’ve visited, and booking early meant we got a large 3 bedroom static caravan, one double room, and two twin rooms for £ 249.00 for 3 nights (Friday thru til Monday). I was planning to use Tesco vouchers to pay part of the bill, but be aware if you use the book early discount they cant be combined! The caravan had a very spacious living area, with a wrap around sofa that would seat about a dozen… included were a television and DVD player, and a pretty good kitchen area with oven, fridge, microwave and ample storage for groceries. All mugs, glasses, cutlery etc were included in the deal. The shower room/toilet was adequate and clean, and whilst the rooms were ‘snug’ there was sufficient storage for a long weekend. Unfortunately, we backed onto the main railway line, and at regular intervals, found the roof and walls shake... a little bit 'Mary Poppins' at times! Rockley Park during the day… The site overlooks Poole Harbour, and one of the main reasons I went here was the brand new luxury spa. Offering a number of luxuries, ...

Renault Grand Scenic 1.6 16v 27/05/2009

Grand Scenic ? Pretty good Scenic!

Renault Grand Scenic 1.6 16v Overview We bought the Renault Grand Scenic recently 2nd hand, as a weekend car to take all the family out together. Apart from the initial horror of having grandparents, children and my husband all in the car together… the actual practicality of the matter has worked very well. With 5 seats as standard, and the extended boot space, this is a very practical car for my usual weekly activities – shopping, trips to the recycling centre, school runs etc., and the ISOFIX car seat fittings make it easy to take the kids car seats in and out. The boot is enormous with plenty of space for luggage, pushchairs, golf clubs and shopping. The 2 additional seats are in the boot, and are hidden under the floor space. They are easy to pull up… just remove the floor cover and pull the red cord! The whole process takes around 10 seconds – really useful when it’s raining. I have never felt that comfortable putting the kids and seats in the boot, so this usually means that my husband has to squash himself into the back, leg room is very tight, and the luggage, gets packed around him. If the 7th seat is needed, the amount of space in the boot is minimal, and trips need to be on the short side, or have very regular breaks! Getting into and out of the ‘boot-seats’ is also tough. One can attempt to barrel roll out of the boot, or alternatively, the middle seats do fold forward, but you need to be a size 10 or less to shimmy through! Some Techs The car is more functional than a ...

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Wii) 22/05/2009

Wii Star Wars - More addictive than the dark side...

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Wii) Overview I was ‘made’ to play on the Wii last night with my son, who had got stuck with “what to do next”… he went to bed at 8, and I finished playing around midnight!!! I’m not a big game player, but this is a really fun game to play, and despite my protestations about being too busy, cooking tea etc., I loved playing it. The Game You can either play this on your own, or as we did last night play two players working together, which is great with ‘smallish’ children. You initially start off in the “Cantina” with a number of doors to go through, which eventually (after completion of the intro/training level) allows you to access each of the six Star wars episodes. Each episode then has 6 levels to be completed firstly in story mode, after which you can play in free mode, or replay to beat your score. All of the episodes are from the movies, and the fantastically animated star wars Lego characters are beautifully created, and easily identifiable from the films. The ability to then be some of the more diverse (and evil) characters like Darth Maul in freeplay gives the game a real longevity. The main aim of the game is to collect lego studs (money), which can be used to buy and develop new powers, characters and vehicles etc, although my son seemed more intent on a ‘dash-for-the-finish’ line…which caused a few heated ‘hang on a second’ conversations. At the end of each level you can replay, or go back to the cantina and spend your hard earned money and ...

TomTom ONE V4 22/05/2009

One to rely on - generally...

TomTom ONE V4 Overview With a change of job last year, I suddenly found myself travelling to new areas, without a printer to print off AA roadmaps, and I was ‘forced’ to abandon my maps and trust in technology… I must admit I am on my 2nd Tom-Tom One as the first one ‘died’ when I was updating the maps on the tom-tom website, that being said, this one has been utterly reliable, and I wouldn’t be without it. The Product Technical’s With a very clear and easy to read 3 and a half inch touch screen, and pre-installed maps for the UK and ROI, this really doesn’t take any setting up… jump in the car, plug in the in-car charger, stick it to your windscreen (only issues here are on very cold days when it slides across your screen til the car warms up) and type in the full postcode, or address. Within a few seconds, the route is calculated offering an ETA, journey length (useful for those expenses!) and with the option to avoid toll roads as applicable. Along the way, you can find really useful points of interest (more of which can be downloaded from their website)… I downloaded supermarket sites, National trust and camp sites for family excursions, although the pre-installed POI are excellent. You can also add your own personal favourites, which is helpful for regular trips. The screen shows current speed, distance to go, estimated time of arrival and the road speed limit to keep you in check! (An audible beep can be set for if you are exceeding the limit!). There is a again ...

Volkswagen Golf 1.9 TDI 22/05/2009

Great drive

Volkswagen Golf 1.9 TDI I love this car, although I'm not sure it gives me the same 'buzz' as my first ever golf in 1992! Having owned it now for approx 3 months... and with 4500 miles on the clock, it has been a super addition to the family. With a reasonable punch under the bonnet, and an excellent MPG - its doing nearly 60 to the gallon... it is both comfortable and easy to drive. The cruise control is easy to use, although the standard 'gadgets' are satisfactory rather than 'exciting'. I took the family camping last weekend, and had plenty of room in the boot for tent, sleeping bags, and accessories for me, the wife and two (small) children. With a range of nearly 650 miles when filled, and a full tank costing £ 50/£55... it is also benefitting the family budget. Good car... just a little bit less excting than the older model?!

Bresser Hunter 10X50 22/05/2009

Great for bird watchers

Bresser Hunter 10X50 OVERVIEW As a keen bird watcher, in the spring I decided to replace my rather tatty old (but dearly loved) glasses. The local photography shop introduced me to the Bresser range, and despite my initial concerns over size and weight was 'sold with the Hunter 10x50. These are a very reasonably priced pair, costing around £ 40. They have fantastic light transmission, and their fully coated optics produce an ultra clear high-contrast image replication, this is particularly suitable I find when using the higher magnification. TECHNICALS... Objective Diameter (mm): 50 Magnification: 10x Field of View (m@1000m): 119 Exit Pupil diam. (mm): 5 Close Focus (m): 5 BK-7 Porro Prism design Fully coated optics Width (mm): 165 Length (mm): 192 Depth (mm): 60 Weight (gms): 750 They are coated in a very tough rubber 'armouring', with rubber fold down eye cups and I currently use them on a mounted tripod for ease. They are less portable than some of the smaller sets available, but if your objective is quality and high calibre zoom then I can thoroughly recommend them. SUMMARY Robust glasses, I find best used on a tripod because of their weight. Recommended.

Sony CyberShot DSC-W210 22/05/2009

Stunning quality!

Sony CyberShot DSC-W210 I have had this camera now for about 2 weeks, having been recommended it by my local camera shop (price £159). We probably should have searched for the cheapest available online - but I do like personal service and will pay for it. Available in Black or Silver and with an ultra high quality 12.1 mega pixel CCD lens, this is one camera that is more than ample for our 'family outings' and yet has so many features, I am sure would keep a professional photographer happy. The screen is approx 2 and a half inches across, and easy to view and internally, it has a 12 GB memory, which holds a huge array of (upto 4000x3000 pixel) photos. There are a wide arrange of settings allowing video, scene settings to try and look your best, or can be switched to auto to let nature take its course... It comes with a USB and HD attachment, and can be plugged directly into our television for easy (and immediate viewing to keep the kids happy!) We are delighted with it, and perhaps if you shop around should pick up a bargain on ebay or amazon

Usborne Children's Picture Atlas - Usborne Activities 22/05/2009

Will we ever read another book...

Usborne Children's Picture Atlas - Usborne Activities Overview If you know kids, you'll know that once they find a book they like... you could be reading it for weeks or months! They love this at bedtime... its truly colourful for my little 3 year old with some lovely pictures, graphics and a real 'usborne' feel. For my 6 year old... he is fascinated by facts, and the well designed maps, information and knowledge of other places in the world. It has maps of the whole world, with beautiful childrens icons and pictures of what lives there, what to see and facts and figures. My mum and dad travel alot now they are retired, and following Nanny and Grandad on their travels really brings their understanding and the book to life. The book offers excellent value for money, and is constantly being bought out at bed time. Summary This book is lovely to read, and i recommend it for your bedtime/daytime reads! The only issue we now have is that I am starting to get fed up with the same story night after night!

Panasonic DVD-LS83 22/05/2009

Pricey... but what value a quiet car journey?!

Panasonic DVD-LS83 OVERVIEW I bought the LS83 DVD player manufactured by Panasonic, not because I am a shocking parent, but to make some of our longer family journeys a little more peaceful... At £ 160.00, (with a little change!), it was quite an investment, but it does come very well packaged, with an easy to understand manual, and its sharp black finish makes it very pleasing to the eye. Prices do seem to vary, and with a little more time, and research, we could have bought it for around £ 125.00! This is a very easy to use product, and the kids are able to use it (probably easier) than we do. TECHNICALS It has a 8’5" LCD screen that can be used for keeping the little ones happy, or my husband uses it for his business presentations. The screen has a hinge that allows for both vertical and horizontal adjustment, to allow everyone to be able to view, and is very robust! The full dimensions of the product are 1.85" x 9.6" x 6.85" and it weights at 2.25 lbs. although I haven't put it on the scales! Sound wise its pretty good, although when the car is moving, it is a little hard to hear. It is fully compatible with a wide variety of disc formats including the usuals DVD, DVD±R/RW, DVD±R DL, DVD-RAM, SVCD, VCD, CD, and CD-R/RW. It comes inclusive with the headrest mounts, and a DC in-car adapter. The LS83 has got up to 6 hours of playback time with the included battery, which gets us through most journeys on the train or in the car. and you can also use it to play CDs ...

Samsung YP-Q1 4GB 22/05/2009

Better than my ipod!?

Samsung YP-Q1 4GB Dont get me wrong, I loved my ipod, but I bought one of these on monday, as it had finally gone to see its maker... With finances tighter, I thought I would look at the other brands/models were available, and see what I could get for my money. I have to be honest, I believe that for £ 58 you are getting an equally good bit of kit - just without the 'badge'. Able to store upto 2000 tracks i understand, although I'm way short of that at the moment, it also has an FM radio, which will be great when I go camping next month. With the usual high quality 3hr play of video, it also fully supports BBC iPlayer, which is great for downloading TV progs etc. MyQ1 has in 4GB, but is also available with 8 and 16 GB, with a 2.4 inch QVGA display, viewing is easy. It has support for MP3, WMA, OGG and FLAC audio formats, WMV and MPEG-4 SP video formats, and JPEG photos. All models are available in Black, although I like the touch and look of my matt silver one. Highly recommended if you want a good value product at a very reasonable price!

Dell Latitude D630 22/05/2009

'Dell'ightful to use

Dell Latitude D630 Overview I was given a Dell D630 at the end of last year, and whilst there were more advanced products available, I went for this one as it was a straight replacement for my previous Dell which I was delighted with. Technicals It has an Intel Core™2 Duo processors, with Intel integrated graphics for optimal battery life, and even when not plugged in, will allow me around 2/3 hours of serious work. It is built from a light magnesium alloy, and despite bashing it around on the train, never wears badly. With Wireless-N, based on 802.11n technology and up to 5X the speed and 2X the range of traditional Wi-Fi when used with a Wireless-N router... I find with my wireless G card, I can access the internet on the train - although there are black holes when I cant connect. The D630 combines a value for money and high performance machine, and with - high resolution screen easily runs my 1280 x 800, - Duo Centrio 4GB processor - Very fast booting, so now hanging around - and docking station, for when I arrive at work The Wi-fi switch is very good, and allows searching of local networks to be easily done. The keyboard is very usable, and although I hate mouse pads, I do use it when on the move, ...

It's Not Me, It's You - Lily Allen 22/05/2009

At least its original!

It's Not Me, It's You - Lily Allen I should point out firstly that I love Lily Allen, I love originality and I'm not a prude! It's just that I'm not a big fan of explicit lyrics in music, but that's probably my upbringing, and also making sure the kids don't hear it when we get in the car! Lily Allen is a breath of fresh air in the UK music industry, and its just such a shame that great music tracks (like track 8) which could have made the charts on their own merit are destined to stay on album release only. I understand that she writes most of her material herself, and she is certainly a talent, and her lyrics (the non-rude ones) are beautifully written! She has a very unique voice, and whilst it's not the strongest in the land, is always nice to listen to and there is no doubting who you are listening to. The album has a wide variety of music styles within its 12 tracks, and I feel if Lily spent less time trying to shock her audience, I would have rated it 'excellent' 1. Everyone's At It [Explicit] 4:38 2. The Fear [Explicit] 3:27 3. Not Fair [Explicit] 3:21 4. 22 [Explicit] 3:06 5. I Could Say [Explicit] 4:04 6. Back To The Start [Explicit] 4:14 7. Never Gonna Happen [Explicit] 3:28 8. Fuck You [Explicit] 3:43 9. Who'd Have Known [Explicit] 3:50 10. Chinese [Explicit] 3:28 11. Him [Explicit] 3:17 12. He Wasn't There [Explicit] Summary Some great songs, excellent to play in the car (if the kids aren't with you) and very very british unique! ...

Snooper S3 22/05/2009

Ummmmmm...

Snooper S3 Overview Having been given one of these for my birthday, I finally got it into use the other day... Very easy to set-up, and works within the minute by plugging into my slightly over needed cigarette lighter. Technicals and views Ideally, you need to update this via the internet once a month, to enable it to update all the new static cameras that appear like new buildings overnight. The Snooper S3 GPS, Laser and Radar speed camera detector is one of the only systems on the market to combine all three technologies. In essence it detects: Gatso safety cameras, Specs camera systems, Truvelo cameras, Digital cameras, accident hotspots and Laser guns! The database seems fairly extensive (certainly round Stafford), and is updated every other day, so less of a worry with new cameras going up and leaving you slightly surprised! With my Satnav plugged in the main lighter socket, I am 'short' of being able to charge both at the same time... never mind charging mobiles etc. Technical stuff... Alerts for ALL types of fixed traps - Gatso, Truvelo, SPECS, DS2 Bright LED display Alerts to Radar and Laser mobile speed cameras Speed camera database covers UK Compact Radar/Laser (S100RLD) Detector Speed trap proximity warning user definable - from 100 to 500metres 'Easy fit' dash board or under-bonnet mounting systems Professional or DIY Installation options included Utilises AURA UK speed camera database Snooper AURA speed camera ...

LG 32LG5700 15/05/2009

Love it... !

LG 32LG5700 I bought this television just after Christmas, and as with all products I like to see what they are like after a little time! This is a stunning TV with automated screen calibration, that has made our lives very easy. Key benefits have been the ability to plug in the digital camera using its PnP features, with instant play on the HD features. Technicals... 4 Surround Sound Speakers Diagonal Size 32in HD ready 1080p Fully HDCP Compatible Built-in HDTV Ready Image Aspect Ratio - 16:9 VGA (HD-15) PC Interface maximum resolution 1920 x 1080 Component / Composite / HDMI / S-Video / SCART Viewing Angle upto 178 degrees Digital TV Tuner DVB-T Built-in TV Tuner Presence This is a great TV set, the picture is great, sound is first class and its very much a plug and play set up. I'm not IT genius (or indeed anything close!) but I had it installed in no time at all. Although nowadays all TV's look similar, this is a classic modern look, in sheer black and is beautifully designed. We have a modern light lounge, and the display and look is exceptional and really lifts the room. With the children, they can use it better than I can, and it does have parental lock if and when needed. For around £ 400.00, I think this is a fantastic buy, and would recommend to anyone who likes value for money and good quality
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