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Off to Vegas for some sunshine...back soon :-)

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since 04/05/2009


Apple iPod Touch 64GB 5th Generation 29/03/2013

That "5" Stands for Five Stars

Apple iPod Touch 64GB 5th Generation Technological progess scares me sometimes. I remember getting my first iPod 8 years ago and marvelling at this small device - the first iPod to have a colour screen no less - and thinking it would look stunning for years to come. Fast forward a few years and the iPod Classic is no more, having been usurped by the iPod Touch in terms of design and usability. I recently decided to upgrade my iPod Touch - not because I hated my 3rd generation iTouch but because I was seduced by the larger screen and the fact it had one thing my old iTouch lacked - a camera. General Information The 5th generation iPod Touch comes with three sizes of hard drive - 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. I have a huge music library and enjoy having movies stored to watch on the go, so there was never any doubt I'd be getting the 64GB version. This costs £329 at the Apple Store - but can sometimes be picked up for a little less online. The 5th generation iPod Touch comes in a range of colours - you can choose from white with a silver back (which is what I chose), black, pink, green, blue and red. The dimensions have changed a little - certainly I immediately noticed how much thinner the 5th generation iPod Touch is in comparison to my old 3rd generation one - and even my daughter's 4th generation iTouch. The device measures just 12.3 cm in height, 5.8 cm wide and a pretty miniscule 0.6 cm in depth. It's incredibly lightweight too, weighing just 88 grams. The screen is noticeably larger at 4 inches (10.16 cm) ...

Samsung Galaxy S III i9300 16GB 3G 24/10/2012

The Perfect Phone

Samsung Galaxy S III i9300 16GB 3G When I was due an upgrade on my phone contract a couple of months ago there was no doubt in my mind what phone I was going to get. I had been using the Samsung Galaxy S for the past 2 years and loved it. Despite owning an Apple iPod Touch and an iPad, the iPhone doesn't particularly interest me - I far prefer the Android operating system for Smart Phones. Add in my love of Samsung phones and it won't surprise that I was only ever going to get a Samsung Galaxy S3. The S3 is, like its two predecessors, a smartphone which means you can use it to surf the internet, take pictures and shoot video, listen to music, watch videos, play games and even make phone calls and send text messages! Where the S3 differs most obviously however is in size. This is a much bigger phone in terms of length and has a screen which is a massive 4.8 inches while being less than a centimetre thick. The phone also has a quad core 1.4 Ghz processor and runs on the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android. Other basic information you need to know if considering this phone is it weighs just 133g, measures 70.6 x 136.6 x 8.6mm and has an 8MP camera capable of recording full HD (1080p) footage. It is wifi enabled and Bluetooth ready and also has GPS installed. In the Box The box for the S3 is small but perfectly formed - you get your phone, a charger, USB lead and headphones. You can get the S3 in either white or pebble blue, which is a shiny metallic blue with a hint of silver. I opted for pebble blue when ...

United Airlines - UAL 26/09/2012

A New United Airline

United Airlines - UAL I flew with United Airlines transatlantic with my husband over 10 years ago. The experience was so bad we made a concerted effort to avoid flying with them again. I particularly remember surly and downright rude cabin crew, a battle to ensure at least one of us could be seated with our autistic daughter on all flights and a complete lack of concern from the cabin crew when my daughter woke up with a night terror on an overnight flight back to the UK. I generally fly British Airways these days but for flights to New York the easiest way for me to go has been from Glasgow to Newark on Continental Airlines. In March this year however Continental merged with United. The airline became known as United, with planes bearing a livery almost identical to the old Continental one. I booked a flight to New York for May 2012 six months before the merger occurred and I must admit I was worried about how it would work out, especially in light of reviews on the Skytrax website which were overwhelmingly negative after the merger happened. It became apparent early on that there were some major teething troubles with the merger which led to cancelled flights, lost bookings and the familiar complaint of unconcerned staff rang out loud and clear. Booking I booked my flight as a package with a hotel on the Expedia website. You can of course book via United's website and you can also check your booking and check-in online via the United website. Much of the confusion at merger time was due to ... 20/09/2012

Putting Online Opticians in the Frame I was recently due a routine eye test. I usually choose an optician for this purely on the basis of what frames they have on offer. This time round however I struggled to find any optician with anything I liked so I opted for Specsavers purely because they were the least worst option. My prescription had a slight change so I bought a cheapish pair of rimless glasses but when they arrived although I liked them they weren't as nice as my old glasses or as lightweight because they weren't made of titanium. Having lost a pair of these glasses not long after getting them and having to pay a lot of money for a replacement pair I had considered buying a second pair of glasses in Specsavers utilising their buy one get one free offer but eventually I ruled that out because I didn't like the glasses enough. Instead I decided to look online to see if there may be a cheaper option available. A Google search revealed a site called which just so happened to be selling the very frames I had just reluctantly given up. These were very competitively priced and upon exploring the site more I decided I would purchase my second pair of glasses there. The Site & Ordering The homepage contains a lot of information regarding what the company offer and how to use the site to buy glasses. The first thing I did was e-mail them for a copy of their guide to pitfalls in purchasing online and how to avoid them. I would advise anyone considering using the site to purchase ...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 15/09/2012

For Simple Shots

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 I've owned digital cameras now for about 10 years, and have got through a few in that time. The last one I bought for myself was a Panasonic DMC-LZ7, which I have owned for four years now. This camera could be considered dated now but as it has served me so well in those four years I haven't felt the need to replace it in that period. The Camera If you are looking for an ultra small camera, then this Panasonic probably isn't for you. It's not massively bulky but is significantly larger than the Fujifilm camera I bought for my daughter last year and for a point and shoot does seem big four years after purchase. The camera was available in black or silver casing - the black camera is the one I own but it has a silver top panel and the lens casing is silver metal too. The camera measures 9.85 x 6.2 x 3.3 cm and weights 184 grams. The camera megapixel capability is 7.2 MPs, and it also boasts a 6x optical zoom and a 2.5 cm LCD screen. The camera also incorporates Panasonic's Optical Image Stabiliser which is designed to minimise camera shake. The camera is powered by 2 AA batteries and unlike some newer models doesn't come with a rechargeable battery pack. You can use normal alkaline batteries or rechargeable batteries with the camera. Internal memory is pretty paltry, with just 28 MB - which is roughly enough space for 6 pictures. As such an SD card is a must for this camera. The camera can also shoot video footage although it's fairly low resolution VGA quality. My ...

Hampshire Hotel, St. Helier 13/09/2012

The Definition of "Meh"

Hampshire Hotel, St. Helier I recently spent a long weekend in St Helier, and having absolutely no prior knowledge of the Channel Islands at all had no idea where to stay. I had booked my trip with British Airways and upon checking the hotels they offered I decided to book the Hampshire based on both price and location. Location The Hampshire Hotel is located on Val Plaisant, which is about a ten minute walk from the centre of St Helier. There is a small Co-Op Locale store next door to the hotel and a couple of restaurants nearby but the area is generally residential and quiet so if you want to be in heat of the action, the Hampshire isn't going to be for you. The hotel is about a 25 minute taxi ride from Jersey Airport, which cost us just shy of £15. First Impressions The hotel is a period property which has a modern extension but the façade is, I suspect, Edwardian or Victorian and has stucco features. We arrived at the hotel in the early evening, tired after a delayed flight and also without my daughter's case, which BA had mislaid. We were met by a bright and airy lobby which although not particularly large had a small seating area with tables. The receptionist was very friendly and helpful but I was only given one key card and never asked if I wanted another one or not. As it happened I didn't need another one but it would have been nice to be asked. We were told we were in room 2, which was located directly across from the reception desk on the ground floor. The Room I had decided to ...

Father's Day - Buzz Bissinger 11/09/2012

A Journey of Discovery

Father's Day - Buzz Bissinger Buzz Bissinger is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer who has a mentally disabled son called Zach who is now in his late 20s. Zach is the younger of Bissinger's twin sons who were born 13 weeks early. Zach was born a mere 3 minutes after his brother Gerry but the difference between them in adulthood is stark. Gerry is a student at Penn University and plans on becoming a teacher. Zach has spent his childhood attending special schools and retains a childlike innocence well into adulthood and has an IQ of 50. This is painful for his father to deal with - he's a high achieving, intellectual titan who is faced with a son who speaks as if punctuation doesn't exist. Zachary has one incredible gift however - he is fascinated by maps and has an acute sense of direction, along with a memory as reliable as a good quality computer hard drive. His navigational skills are so good that his father suggests a road trip from Zach's home city of Philadelphia to Los Angeles, taking in places that have meaning for both father and son along the way. Zach is initially reluctant as he would prefer to fly but Buzz gets his own way, planning a trip that takes in places that both men have visited in the past. Buzz Bissinger is an incredibly gifted writer, and this memoir is both searingly honest and captivating. What struck me most about the book is the almost reversal in roles between Buzz and Zach. As the parent of an autistic child I had expected "Father's Day" to feature meltdowns from Zach and Buzz ...

British Airways - BAW 09/09/2012

Flying the Flag

British Airways - BAW In the past year I have flown BA on several flights - three times across the Atlantic along with several domestic flights on the airline. It wasn't always thus - for many years British Airways were too expensive for transatlantic flights - although my very first flight to the US was on BA I didn't actually get round to flying them there again until 12 years later. Similarly the regular BA flights I used to take from London to Brussels when my husband worked there in the late 90s ended up giving way to cheaper alternatives courtesy of Eurostar and the now defunct Virgin Express airline. Moving back to Scotland is the main reason I find myself flying them again. There are only a couple of airlines which fly direct to the US from Scotland and they charge a lot of money for the privilege. It used to be I turned my nose up at connecting elsewhere for a flight but with the advent of Terminal 5 at Heathrow I have changed my mind and have flown enough sectors on BA over the course of the past year that I now have enough status to make them more attractive than the opposition. The Airline British Airways is the UK's national flag carrier but as regional departures have shrunk over the years they are sometimes described as "London Airways" in light of the fact all their long haul flights depart from either Heathrow or Gatwick. The airline has domestic connections within the UK to Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester and Jersey. The airline has been in existence in ...

Am I Black Enough For You? (DVD) 07/09/2012

Voice or a Puppet?

Am I Black Enough For You? (DVD) A few months ago Billy Paul turned up on an episode of Top of the Pops which was part of BBC4’s repeat run of the show. It turns out it’s the only surviving performance of Paul from the TOTP archive and he was singing Let Em In, his cover version of the Wings hit. It was a memorable performance, showing off the jazz influence in Paul’s voice never mind the fact he had turned a pop song into something of a message song. Soul music in the 70s didn’t have protest songs – it had message songs, and Paul performed on one of the most famous, Let’s Clean Up the Ghetto. His involvement in this song which was released under the banner of the Philadelphia All Stars was down to the fact he was not only Philly born and bred but he was also signed to the Philadelphia International record label, which was the brainchild of songwriting and production partners Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Billy Paul isn’t famous amongst mainstream audiences for message songs however – his biggest hit is the classic make out song Me and Mrs Jones, which was a massive hit for Paul, hitting the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1972. The song is still well known 40 years on but the title of this documentary comes from his follow up single, the much less heard Am I Black Enough For You. The Film Am I Black Enough For You was released in 2010 and filmed by Swedish director Goran Olsson. The film features some indepth interviews not only with Paul and his wife Blanche but also with Kenny Gamble , ...

Aerolite Trolley Suitcase 06/09/2012

Sturdy Cabin Suitcase

Aerolite Trolley Suitcase Generally when I buy suitcases, I buy Samsonite suitcases. The brand has never let me down, but there is no denying their products can be expensive. I've been fortunate to pick some pieces up whilst on holiday in the US at far more competitive prices than in the UK but sometimes it can be hard to justify paying the RRP. Last year I found myself in need of a small cabin size case. I decided not to get Samsonite on this occasion as this was a bag which wasn't going to be checked in at the airport often and as a result didn't have to endure the rigours that involves. I went to my local Watt Brothers Store in search of a case. Watt Brothers is a Scottish department store and they usually have a decent selection of competitively priced luggage in stock. I was drawn towards the Aerolite 19.5" cabin trolley case by the price tag of just £35 and the fact the case is expandable. The Look The case is black and made from what Aerolite describe as "pebble suede" material which is soft and durable. The case has four wheels on the bottom and a telescopic handle for pulling the trolley at the top. There is also a traditional case handle at the top of the case in conjunction with another handle on the side of the case. On the opposite side of the case are four feet to protect the case if you place it on the ground. The dimensions of the case are 49.5 x 21 x 34.5cm which is within the accepted dimensions for cabin baggage with airlines and has a capacity of 35 litres. It weighs 3.9kg ...

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Chelsea, New York 04/09/2012

Comfort in Chelsea

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Chelsea, New York Booking a hotel in New York City can be a bit of a minefield...there are many to choose from but finding one at the right place in the right location can be tricky. When I planned my latest trip to New York last year I opted to book a package via Expedia which included flight and hotel. This enabled me to get a better rate on hotels and after browsing what was on offer I decided to stay at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott Manhattan Chelsea as the price was right and so was the location. Location The hotel is located on West 28th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, meaning it's just a short walk from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden on 7th Avenue and an equally short walk to the Empire State Building and the shops at 34th Street on 6th Avenue. The area is known as the Flower District due to the number of wholesale plant outlets in the vicinity. There are two subway stations nearby - on the corner of 28th Street and 7th Avenue you can catch the number 1 subway or you can walk across 6th Avenue to Broadway and catch the N and the R line. Both stations are local stops meaning you have to make sure you get on the correct train - for instance if you take the red line only trains numbered 1 will stop at 28th Street. Buses run up and down the avenues too - you can take the M5 bus from 6th Avenue uptown or walk along to 5th Avenue to take it downtown. First Impressions & Check In I mentioned the hotel is located in the Flower District and during the day the front entrance ...

Disney Cinderella 3-Movie Box Set (Blu-Ray) 02/09/2012

A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes

Disney Cinderella 3-Movie Box Set (Blu-Ray) As a child, my very favourite fairy tale was Cinderella, and I can still recall seeing Disney’s interpretation of the story when I was about 9 in the cinema and not being disappointed in the least. Of course we grow out of fairy tales but the joy of being a parent is having the opportunity to pass on to your child stories or films you loved yourself. My daughter first saw Cinderella when she was six and immediately took the film to her heart, giving me the chance to rediscover this classic. Two direct to video sequels were produced in 2002 and 2007 which my daughter lapped up. Over the years I have seen all three films many times with her and when all three titles were released in a BluRay box set this year it was a natural choice for me to purchase them as I am replacing the Disney favourites my daughter has on DVD with the BluRay counterparts. The Set Although this set comprises three films, you only get two discs in the box set. The first disc contains the original 1950 release of Cinderella and also has a stack of bonus features including a short sequel to Tangled. The second disc contains Cinderella 2 and Cinderella 3 with just a couple of music videos as bonus features. Unlike some of the more recent Disney classic releases, the BluRay release of Cinderella doesn’t have a regular DVD included. My Thoughts Cinderella By the time Cinderella went into production in the late 1940s the Disney studio was in the doldrums and there was even talk of the studio closing ...

Superdrug Optimum Super Antioxidant Grape 31/08/2012

Hydrates But Doesn't Iron Out Wrinkles

Superdrug Optimum Super Antioxidant Grape I have been using a Neutrogena moisturiser for the past couple of years now – it’s a favourite beauty product of mine as it keeps my dry skin at bay and also contains SPF to help protect it from the elements. Earlier this year however my head was turned in Superdrug by their Optimum Super Antioxidant Grape range. It was on offer at half price so rather than paying £12.99 for a 50ml bottle of day cream, I picked it up for the far more reasonable price of £7. The range also includes a night cream which I also bought at the time. The Cream The cream is actually more of a runny liquid. It comes in a glass bottle with a pump mechanism. It has a clear plastic lid. The bottle is packaged inside a cardboard wrapper which is recyclable. Superdrug claim this cream also helps firm the skin and lessen the appearance of wrinkles and help reduce the effects of ageing. The active ingredients are PhytoCellTec™ “Solar Vitis” Grape Extract which is a powerful antioxidant and Collaxyl®, a unique hexapeptide. It also contains shea butter, vitamin E and pr-vitamin B5. The cream is paraben free and dermatologically tested. As a day cream this is a UV defending product which has SPF 15. It is suitable for use by vegetarians and vegas and is BUAV approved. It has a shelf life of 12 months once opened. I found a 50ml pump lasted 3 months with daily liberal applications. My Thoughts As a moisturiser I have been rather impressed with this product. As an anti-ageing cream I have been less ...

Essie Madamoiselle 29/08/2012

Essie's Solved My Nail Polish Problem

Essie Madamoiselle When we holiday in the US my daughter loves to visit drugstores and beauty counters in department stores in search of cosmetics which are invariably cheaper there than here. She is a huge fan of Benefit and Urban Decay products but she checks out the cheaper brands too and as someone who feels naked without polish on her nails loves to check out the nail polish on offer too. When we were in New York City last year we were browsing the huge branch of Walgreens in Times Square and my daughter came across a brand of nail polish that was new to her - Essie. To be honest it was new to me too, despite the signs on the display stating Essie has been in business since 1981. She saw a pink polish she really liked and cost $9.99 plus tax, so I bought it for her. When we got back she started to wear the polish regularly and became a bit of a fan. Since then we have been back to the US a couple of times and she's bought several Essie products including a base coat. About six months ago she was delighted to see the nail polish was being sold in Boots, so she has steadily been adding to her Essie collection since then. I don't wear nail polish anything like as much as my daughter and when I do I am stuck in my ways and like to wear French Pink. I had been buying Aldi's version but they seem to have discontinued it so a couple of months ago I decided to buy Essie's version of this colour, which is called Madamoiselle. Like all Essie nail polishes in Boots, this retails at £7.99. The ...

Lady Gaga Fame Eau de Parfum 28/08/2012

You Got a Black Heart?

Lady Gaga Fame Eau de Parfum I must admit I am not generally a fan of celebrity perfumes. My daughter however loves them and owns almost the full complement of Britney Spears’ fragrances along with a stash from stars such as Beyonce, Avril Lavigne, Christina Aguilera and Katy Perry. The fragrance she has been most keen on getting her hands on of late is Lady Gaga’s offering, “Fame”. She is a huge Gaga fan but the bottom line is if she doesn’t like a fragrance she doesn’t buy it, which is why even although she loves Madonna she didn’t buy her perfume. Fortunately she loved “Fame” from the get go and as a result I bought her a 50ml bottle of eau de parfum in Superdrug for £29.99. The Bottle “Fame” comes packaged in a black and gold box and the bottle itself is oval and has a gold coloured plastic lid which has stars with long talons gripping the side of the bottle. Personally I think the bottle, which Lady Gaga herself is said to have designed, is a bit tacky looking but my teenage daughter loves it. Once you open the lid you can see lettering with the name of the perfume and Gaga’s name in black (natch), but that’s the only identification to be seen on the bottle. One thing you notice immediately when you take the bottle from the box is the colour of the contents – the liquid inside is jet black. Don’t be put off by this as the technology used by Coty in developing “Fame” means it turns clear when it’s airborne. The Fragrance There’s been a bit of a stir over “Fame” and initial reports claimed Lady ...
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