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Alexander Chambers (Rugby, England)

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SEBO FELIX NAVY Twin Motor Upright Vacuum Cleaner
SEBO FELIX NAVY Twin Motor Upright Vacuum Cleaner

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reliable, well made, efficient portable domestic cleaner, 31 Dec. 2012
Having just replaced the filters on our 7 or 8 year old Felix it prompted me to write a review having seen a couple of negative comments which could do with putting in context.
We bought a Sebo Felix after having numerous 'free' Dysons on 'test', one Miele semi-compact and one one 1960's cylinder Hoover which is still going strong in the garage and car cleaning department. We researched the purchase and, having had a 3 storey townhouse with a carpeted spiral staircase, was looking for something that (a) picked up the dust and does not block (b) is lighter, more portable and bits do not break off and (c) has a powered head. The Felix ticked al the boxes and got a good Which! review by all accounts - that was 8 years ago.
The first thing to remember about the Felix is that it is a portable which doubles as an upright so it is 2 machines in 1 so that puts the purchase price in context and makes it a good first buy or one to replace two old duffers or Dyson's not economic to buy yet more spares for (which are badly designed and break in our experience). The powered head works efficiently and makes the Dyson ball system look cumbersome. The Sebo gets into corners and under low tables or units where a ball will not go. 10 out of 10 for articulation.
Remove the powered head and you get a stair, stairwell, curtain and car cleaner. There is nothing out there that does the same job. It is not obvious that the Sebo does this but it makes battery portables look bad value since this is a real cleaner. However, the Sebo does require bags but the trade-off is that the Sebo is a better cleaner and definitely scores on taking up pet hair and mites where the only similar performance is obtainable from a professional Nilfisk which I used at work in the days of typesetting and film make up (where dust was really an issue). If you want hypoallergenic then look at a Nilfisk and get a Felix for portability and doing ceilings and curtains. Where the Sebo really scores is that it becomes an easy to handle portable with one click AND you have the option of using it with a flexible hose and tools to do ceilings, curtains and crevices.
Arguably, the articulated head is the drawback of the Felix if you want to give it hard handling and like ramming it up against a wall or vacuuming garages when you should be using a wet-and-dry cleaner. If you have a country house with miles of skirtings get a conventional stand-up Sebo. For a normal 2 or 3 up and 2 down with kitchen and cars the Felix is ideal, especially if you have limited storage space or weak wrists. How another reviewer managed to break a pipe or damage the articulated joint I do not know as our Felix has suffered children and teenagers for years.
So far the Sebo scores where Dysons and Miele's have broken or parts are not easily obtainable which make the Sebo a good long term buy. All Sebo consumables are readily available on their website and Sebo easy to contact (no push button 3 and wait 20 mins at 10p.min) with so ordering other spares sounds easy.
Cable storage is external so there's no springs or mechanisms to break and the cord will not get twisted or snap through wear unless you try tugging at it. Cable is a good length compared to a Dyson or Hoover and is better quality (having replaced a number).
The powered head beats a Miele of similar vintage and the bags are a fraction of Miele price and you can buy online direct from Sebo one-click.
Tools are well designed and have simple external storage but they do not click into the body. The plus is that they are designed to do the job and are not compromised by being designed to fit the body. The floor crevice tool could do with a brush but to be honest that was a non essential extra since the power head is so efficient. The hard floor set does the job but is hardly ever used since the powered head is so easy to use. The powered brush is relatively easy to clean compared to a Hoover but removal could be easier. Hoover lovers of old note that there is no belt to break on a Sebo!
The handle is adjustable which my 4ft11in mother likes (she now has a Sebo) and the Sebo is like a Baywatch lifeguard's float to carry. Being well-balanced compensates for the extra weight compared to an old Hoover dustette (our 50's/60's dustette is now retired because of the Sebo).
All in all the Felix is a well made and efficient machine which does the job it is designed for. After 8 years no complaints but plenty of praise for a good all round vacuum cleaner which see's off all the brick-and-tube portables we have seen or tried. If you need an upright look no further than a Sebo but consider the Felix as an all-in-one. Younger readers may not appreciate this but the Sebo has all the virtues of German build quality and no Chinese parts. X-Factor and Pop Idol fans note that the Sebo has a choice of designs or colour schemes.
After several Dysons in quick succession there is no alternative to a bag and filter machine if you have pets or an old house. In the long run the cost of ownership and performance of a Felix make it a good buy. It is the vacuum equivalent of an iPad or Mercedes estate - well made, easy to use and for most jobs excellent.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 3, 2014 8:41 AM BST

Dualit DAB Kitchen Radio  Radio
Dualit DAB Kitchen Radio Radio

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good kitchen radio, good DAB reception but a big fault, 28 Aug. 2011
I bought a DAB kitchen radio for my wife who is a professional chef and small producer for Christmas two years ago. She like nice things and the Dualit fulfills the promise of robustness of our 1970's Dualit toaster which has outlasted flashy gadgets that have been and gone. Being a girl she likes smart design. Being practical I like something that will survive the kitchen and not need replacing in 5 minutes.
Having seen a tried a number of friends DAB radios I avoided them until the reception quality improved since we live in a country area near a big church which plays havoc with mobile reception. This is where the Dualit scores - it's good, but not bulletproof, in DAB. What counts is that it has FM and SW backup which is great. As a Radio 5 and Radio 4 listener I appreciate this and the speech reproduction which is helped by what appears to be a horn speaker underneath.
I bought from John Lewis and tried the sound of several radios including Pure Audio on which the Dualit seems to be based. The John Lewis own came out miles ahead on sound quality whilst the Dualit is mono in standalone mode. However, the Dualit has a socket to output to spare speakers if you have some on top of your kitchen cupboards or an Apple remote wi-fi connector for example. This is a major plus other DAB radios do not have. Also digital optical input we don't have and a normal socket to connect an iPod which we do.
Other handy features are a kitchen timer with snooze button, wake-up and alarm and a very easy to use rotating knob to select other stations by frequency or search or genre - handy if you've had enough of non-stop disaster, political scandal or royal wedding coverage. Unfortunately, there is no feature to block out Chatty Man, politicians or Simon Cowell so civilisation will have to wait for a 'taste' button.
Construction is robust and ergonomics are excellent. Knobs are better than buttons and the black trim is rubberised and non-scuff so the price premium for a 'mono' radio is justifiable if you do actually want a kitchen radio (the same could not be said of it's cheaper brother I think). If you want a DAB radio for your mum or are technophobic the Dualit kitchen radio is pretty much a no brainer.
However, there is one serious drawback which I suspect is common to most DAB radios - the battery is four letters beginning with s and ending in t. So, don't plan to sit in a hammock and tune into Gardener's Question Time or Liverpool in Europe. Battery charge with a new battery is around 30 minutes in DAB and hours in FM mode. We have now had two batteries. The original lasted about 3 months before dropping off in performance and dead in 9 months. The replacement from Dualit was dead in 2 months. So much so that you cannot unplug the radio without it cutting out. No point in going back to Dualit customer service again since it is an eBay-it-or-forget-it problem.
This brings me to the 2nd design fault which like most modern gadgets is the ubiquitous transformer that plugs into the wall. This is not desirable in a kitchen radio where bulk is an advantage and cables a safety risk.
On the whole the Dualit is the best kitchen radio out there but DABs have a long way to go in reception before the bureaucrats turn off analogue )not that they care about voters out of town). The drawbacks of most other DAB radios are not there. Construction is robust and the Dualit kitchen radio is easy to use and clean with doughy hands. What would be hand is an elbow accessible mute or one operated by resistance drop from touching the handle. The timer is also a fiddle to use so really a third matching knob would be easier. Stereo speakers would be a major benefit.
If you want something that doubles as a DAB and works with your stereo then the Dualit is worth considering. As a portable radio the battery problem rules out the Dualit DAB since you cannot buy 3rd party NIMH batteries elsewhere. I also question the safety of transformers in a radio supposedly designed for kitchen use. It was certainly a disappointment to find one in the box so really Dualit need to think about making different voltage models for different markets. Really, the only DAB radio worth looking at is one with normal rechargeable batteries or a built in transformer.
A kitchen radio is a niche product and nobody is going to pay the price premium of a Dualit without good stereo or the connectivity add-ons the Dualit has. This model needs revising to be as good as a Dualit toaster. Bearing in mind how many professional kitchens there are you think Dualit would look to their core market. If Dualit added a means of using Listen Again Dualit would havea product that would outsell their toasters 10-1

Firestone Deluxe Electric Knife Sharpener
Firestone Deluxe Electric Knife Sharpener

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good for straight knives but too small for 12" steak knives, 5 July 2011
I bought a Firestone Delux as a small kitchen sharpener since my wife makes food for Farmers Markets and puts her knives in the block blade down which blunts them. I do a bit of butchery once a week using a 12" Victorinox steak knife.
All in all the Firestones does what it says on the can but it is more suited to cooks knifes and flat bladed knives below 12 inch in length. Everything needs a tickle with a steel or carborundum to get really sharp but the Firestone does get the profile right and it is suitable for keen amateurs and chefs if not butchers (I would use a £600+ Dick sharpener if I had the space).
For what it is the Firestone is a better bet than a swanky steel and a lot better than high priced celebrity sharpeners, diamond steels (RUBBISH!!) or cross shaped sharpeners. It measure roughly 8ins x 5ins x 4ins and has suction cup feet to stop it moving around the worktop e.g. it was designed by someone who can cook!
The best feature is that the carborundum wheels are replaceable for about £25 from Scobies in Glasgow so that makes the Firestone a practical option for working kitchens without space or budget for a professional butcher's sharpener

Epson AcuLaser C1100N - Printer
Epson AcuLaser C1100N - Printer

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Epson c1100 review, 5 July 2011
I bought our first Epson C1100n in 2007 after a lot of research and replaced it with a USB only C1100 in 2009 after we got a printer cartridge jammed and needed to print some marketing material urgently. This is now my parts since replacement fuser units are as expensive as a new printer allowing for a spare cartridges.
The quality is excellent compared to other lasers even 4 years later but, more importantly, you can get third party toner cartridges for under £20 per colour which makes all the difference to print per page costs.
We use our C1100 for printing on 80-100gsm paper and thicker self adhesive labels with colour pictures and fine text reversed out of colour which is pretty demanding use qualitywise (I used to be an Indigo print manager for a big digital print company btw). For mono we have an HP all-in-on scanner printer with document feed which is not as good on mono as the C1100 funnily enough.
The Epson c1100 is not as fast in four colour mode as other CLCs but that is due to the four pass system and a rotating carousel (see above) which means it is 1/4 the speed of others. However, the quality seems to be related to the lower speed of the four pass system. Registration is good but the XY position from top left varies a couple of millimeters and the printer does not print edge to edge which is a problem for A4 bleed leaflets.
Overall, a good printer with excellent colour reproduction on a variety of paper stocks and thicknesses. Pretty easy to unjam but I have still not got round to releasing the spare set of toner carts jammed in my other machine.
Both my fuser units are at the end of their working life so I am thinking of buying another new C1100 rather than 'upgrading' to an Epson c2600 or C2800 because of the cost of new consumables.
My advice, if you are a business user, is to replace the printer every 12 or 18 months whilst it still has mileage in it because of the cost of replacement fuser units and drums which seems to be a general tactic to get people to buy new printers. Generally, I have used 3rd party printer cartridges which are often of equal quality but I would take care with replacement drum or fuser units. I would use OEM consumables if it were not for the absurd cost and replace the printer with Epson every 12 months were there a 50% trade-in on consumables. Really, Epson should do a deal with Amazon or Tesco because they would clean up!
We have learned that C1100 drums (developer units) can scratch the print because they warp when warm so turn your C1100 between sessions. The scraper blades really need to be a cheap and replaceable item. Similarly, the twist lock on cartridge replacement needs to have a 'click' so the carousel cannot rotate and jam (see above).
In this case it doesn't work since I fancy a Kyocera and I can't be sure that the drum, fuser or cartridges of a C1100 will fit a newer model. On the other hand, if I find a cheap C1100 I will buy another. That is a recommendation bearing in mind I was a digital print manager for over 10 years!
All in all a 'best buy' for under £300

Sicilian Food: Recipes from Italy's Abundant Isle
Sicilian Food: Recipes from Italy's Abundant Isle
by Mary Taylor-Simeti
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.48

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, well researched and authentic Sicilian recipes, 25 Dec. 2010
Mary Taylor-Simeti's book has one major advantage over all the other English language books on Sicilian food I have read - she knows what she is talking about. First published in hardback in 1989 as Pomp And Sustenance: Twenty-five Centuries of Sicilian Food the paperback brings her reference work to a wider readership. It is the 5 star book.

Another review criticised Sicilian Food as being :gossipy". It's not. What Mary Taylor-Simeti combines is her historical and social knowledge which is what makes Siclian food so different from other regions, particularly the influence of Sicily's many invaders.

The usual failing of celebrity chefs writing cookery books about regional food is that they have little knowledge of the area and it's food traditions - the reason that food exists in the first place. Mary Taylor-Simeti does not have that problem. She married a Sicilian and as an American went to live in Sicily in the 70's so she did not parachute in with the intention of writing a cookery book.

Of particular interest is the section on street food. As any visitor Palermo and the Vucciria market will testify, it is the street food and not just cannoli or cassata which distinguish Sicilian food. True, there are things 'missing', but that is my experience and not hers.

A book for educated cook and food traveller. If you read Mourjou by Peter Graham and enjoyed it and like your history, Mary Taylor-Simeti is for you. If you want entertainment and pictures then buy a celeb chef book. Otherwise, read 'Sicilian Food' and buy a flight to Palermo or Catania.

by Jennifer Joyce
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A valuable panini resource book, 7 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Panini (Hardcover)
I have not read 'Hot of the Press' yet but I am a 'panini professional' with an Italian deli which makes it's own bread, salami and pesto. I would say that Panini is a valuable resource book for any café or delicatessen making upmarket snacks and light lunches (a) because of the photography (since you can chop them out and use them as product identification in the window) and (b) because it is inspirational and gets you thinking about the combinations as well as the look. Most people buy with their eyes so you have to get there first.

Yes, I agree with the other reviewers comments about bread types but if you are going to product test every recipe and modify them to suit yourself then that is not an issue. 99.9% of cafés would buy their bread in so that is more of a comment for the bread enthusiast who bakes and makes at home.

Panini makes a great present and we are giving a panini grill and a copy to my wife's goddaughters as a going-to-University-present since Panini is perfectly pitched for the ordinary home user who wants a panini that is much better and more interesting than you would get even in Jamie's Italian.

Buon appetito!

Pork & Sons
Pork & Sons
by Stéphane Reynaud
Edition: Hardcover

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real nose to tail recipe book, 21 April 2009
This review is from: Pork & Sons (Hardcover)
I came across the French version Pork & Sons whilst doing a charcuterie course at Auberge de Chassignolles in the Auvergne. As professional cook and pig lover I cannot say that I have seen a better book for range of country style pork recipes, with everything from black pudding, apple, potato & fennel tart to stuffed pigs ears and a few wild boar recipes and a dozen or more terrine besides. The sausage in brioche recipes is inspirational.
What Pork & Sons lacks is recipes to make the sausages and cured meats used in the recipes although with a bit of wit and Google you can make your own, which is probably for the best, since this is a book for the artisan cook rather than the TV dinner cook. If Reynaud writes a book about making sausages and salami then I'll be first in the queue since there is no reference of similar quality.
Pork & Sons is beautifully designed and bound so it would make an excellent present for any foodie.

JBL Encounter II Audio Speaker System
JBL Encounter II Audio Speaker System

4.0 out of 5 stars Cheap PC or Lifestayle speakers, 19 Dec. 2006
I have had a pair of JBL Encounters for a coupls of months and have a pair of Mk2 Creatures and the Apple Hi-Fi speakers as well, my daughter having had the original Creatures. The Encounters are a better bet for power than the Creatures and an ideal 2 channel option for the TV which is what we bought our first set of Creatures for. The only drawback that the base unit is quite tall, a bit bigger than a magazine so won't fit under most units or between shelves. That said, it is a good quality sound and better still if you can get a deal. That said, there is not a lot of difference between the Encounters and the Creatures for sound. If you want to listen to AC/DC, a piano sonata or just have a party go for the Apple Hi-Fi which can make your ears bleed and can take batteries (1/2 hr top whack at volume btw). However, the Apple is very directional being a 1 unit box whilst the JBLs are better for stereo which is an issue for TV use. Unless you want 5 channel, JBLs are all good even if the knobs on the back of the Encounter bass unit are a bit tacky.

Netgear DG834PN RangeMax MIMO-G Wireless ADSL Modem Router with 4-port 10/100 switch
Netgear DG834PN RangeMax MIMO-G Wireless ADSL Modem Router with 4-port 10/100 switch

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It does get rid of blackspots and is user friendly, 3 April 2006
I have now bought two of these and set them up for friends, one of whom has quite a few grey engineer's bricks in her cottage which really mess with her reception, even with Netgear DG824 which I tried first.
My friends think I am an expert but in actual fact Netgears are easy to use as they do not require drivers and setup is carried out from a normal internet browser page (including security and setting access times if you want to stop the kids browsing porn or the internet full stop whilst you are at work!).
The RangeMax is as small and neat as other Netgears but does not have a USB port for printers or a 3mm mic socket to connect speakers but it works transparently as a hub if you want to share your iTunes, speakers or USB gadgets with AirTunes. If you look under the bonnet there is a pretty good range of security and access lists. Can be bought with a free PCMCIA or USB card - great value.

NETGEAR DG834GUK DG834G 54Mbps Wireless ADSL2+ Modem Firewall Router with 4-port 10/100 Switch
NETGEAR DG834GUK DG834G 54Mbps Wireless ADSL2+ Modem Firewall Router with 4-port 10/100 Switch

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reliable and easy to use and easy setup via web browser, 3 April 2006
I have had several Netgear wireless routers having moved from ADSL to cable broadband and can say that they are simple to setup, pretty much idiot proof and work fine with Macs, PCs and other wi-fi gadgets. Small and neat you can hide them under a desk with a bit of Velcro or stick them in the loft or a cupboard.
What makes Netgear routers so easy is that they can be configured by a normal web browser so there is no fiddling with drivers or command lines. If you are a PC novice think about this!
I have called Netgear tech support a couple of times for buying advice and find them knowlegeable and helpful. A five star company with range of five star products.
How about a wi-fi router which combines the features of Apple AirTunes pls Netgear?

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