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C. Parkinson (London)

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Surprise: A Book of Christmas Shapes (My Little World)
Surprise: A Book of Christmas Shapes (My Little World)
by Jonathan Litton
Edition: Board book
Price: £5.58

2.0 out of 5 stars So, so dull, 18 May 2015
Such a dull book, and for so many reasons! The text limps along in a terrible rhyming doggerel. The pictures are bright but without contrast, so it's hard to work out what to look at, or for a child to recognise objects. The words suggest the animals are all so very excited to be unwrapping decorations, but the in the pictures they're characterless and virtually expressionless. And the surprise? They find some crayons. Even by the standards of baby books, that's a pretty weak ending.
All in all, it feels like a book written by a committee (notice there's no author named).
Positive things? The pages have holes in. A baby might enjoy sticking their hand through a few, before you both get bored and put the book down.

Tefal RK302E15 8-in-1 Multi Cooker, Stainless Steel
Tefal RK302E15 8-in-1 Multi Cooker, Stainless Steel
Price: £44.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life changing!, 14 May 2015
For the impact this has had on our life, 5 stars. We're a busy family with a very hungry toddler, and needed something that would help us have breakfast and dinner ready with no waiting, and this has been just the job. It's very robust and easy to use, and after 5 months of very heavy use the non-stick pan is looking as good as new.

I think if you just want a slow cooker and have no interest in the other settings, then there may be better options out there. But if you want one machine that can do a lot of things, then it could be ideal.

Notes on the settings:
White rice & Quick rice - both produce perfect rice every time. I've also managed to steam vegetables and dumplings in the steaming basket while cooking rice. It just takes a bit of trial and error with timings.
Brown rice - the only setting we've never used
Grains - quinoa comes out far better than I've ever managed in a pan following the pack instructions.
Oatmeal Porridge - we use this every single night to have porridge ready in the morning. In my opinion the porridge comes out slightly less creamy than if we'd cooked it in a pan, but far nicer than microwaving. If it stays on the keep warm setting for any length of time it can go a bit glutinous, so it's best to try getting the timer delay fairly accurate to when you'll want it in the morning. Also we get the best texture if we use a lot of fluid compared to pan cooking - almost 3:1
Slow cooking - I've never had another slow cooker so it's hard to compare results. Where slow cooker recipe books talk about high and low settings, I think this is closest to 'low'. If I want the food to come up to temperature more quickly I put it onto the Steaming setting for a couple of minutes.
Steaming - I mainly use this to boost the temperature when slow cooking, rather than actually steaming.
Dessert - makes a perfectly adequate (flying-saucer shaped) sponge cake. You're never going to buy the machine for the dessert setting, but it can come in handy if you don't want to switch the oven on.

My main niggle would be that the rubber seals are a bit fiddly to clean, and definitely taint after slow cooking something strongly flavoured. A few reviews have suggested that this doesn't affect the flavour of the cooking - not so! Goulash flavoured porridge is repulsive, as our toddler discovered. That said, the taint isn't permanent - we've found that soaking the removable parts with bicarb will do the trick. It's just a bit more of a hassle than I'd like for what should be a labour saving device.

Berlitz: Italian Phrase Book & Dictionary (Berlitz Phrasebooks)
Berlitz: Italian Phrase Book & Dictionary (Berlitz Phrasebooks)
by Berlitz
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Where is 'thank you'?, 1 Jun. 2011
I have the Berlitz French phrasebook (2003 edition) and found it excellent, so bought their Italian one without any hesitation. But after a few days of vainly flicking through to find the words I wanted, I gave up and used the pages at the back of my guidebook instead.

The problem is that the basic expressions seem to be entirely missing. So while my French book starts with 10 fantastic pages of starter vocabulary (hello, thank you, good-bye, excuse me, here, there, good/bad, large/small, less/more, now, soon, why? and so on), the Italian book starts with 'I'm on vacation' and other crucial phrases to get through customs.

The whole book is organised like this, entirely by vague scenarios, as if everything you might ever need to say will fall under one of 'Shopping' or 'Internet and Communications' or whatever. This means that 'where is...' seems to occur in every section, but 'thank you' almost no-where - as if it didn't occur to the writer that you might want to say this in their scenario. So from my list above - I did eventually find 'hello' and 'goodbye' (on page 106 under 'Talking'), but I'm still looking for 'thank you'.

The Rough Guide to Tuscany and Umbria
The Rough Guide to Tuscany and Umbria
by Tim Jepson
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent...once you're inside the museums, 1 Jun. 2011
From experience on our trip to Tuscany:

- almost every significant museum and church is described on a room-by-room (or chapel-by-chapel) basis, which makes a huge difference given the information provided by most museums is scanty at best. For that alone, the book gets 4 stars.
- the practical information on public transport, opening times is very detailed and seemed to be pretty much all still correct.
- the language section at the back was considerably more helpful than the Berlitz phrase book I took along.

- although there is a colour section of 27 'highlights' at the front, there is very little attempt to give even a subjective list of highlights for each of the major towns. Maybe Rough Guides try to leave that kind of thing to the more didactic guide books, but in Tuscany plenty of towns have more to see than some small countries. And given the text consists mainly of picture-less descriptions of the inside of museums (see above), it isn't easy work deciding what to see without wading through the whole lot.
- we found that the restaurant reviews picked out places that were adequate at best, we did much better (and much worse) when we went off-book

Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2 ATB Lock with EZMount Bracket (Old Version)
Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2 ATB Lock with EZMount Bracket (Old Version)

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice lock, pity about the mount, 26 Feb. 2011
I've had this lock for about 2 weeks, and the lock itself seems great (so far). It locks and unlocks nice and smoothly and seems very sturdy.
But as other reviewers have said, it's incredibly difficult to get it out of the mount. At first I thought I just hadn't got the knack, but I'm not getting any better. I have to use a huge amount of force and try pulling from a lot of different angles, and sometimes I haven't even been able to manage at all. My husband can normally manage, but only just.
A bit harsh to give a 3-star review just because of the mount? Maybe, but I'm probably going to have to start carrying it in a bag just in case I can't get it out one of these days. And I probably wouldn't have bought it if I'd known that would happen.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 6, 2013 10:18 AM BST

The Elements of New Testament Greek
The Elements of New Testament Greek
by Jeremy Duff
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does what it says on the tin, 28 Mar. 2009
In the introduction, Jeremy Duff says that the aim of the book is 'to help you learn enough Greek to read the New Testament'.

I bought this book about 10 months ago, and from knowing nothing more than the alphabet, I have now worked my way through the whole book and am now slowly reading through the New Testament.

The style is excellent, with clear explanations that almost invariably seemed to clarify the points I found most confusing. And given I was learning by myself, it was a remarkably unfrustrating book to use - it genuinely is a self-contained course, and it was very rare that I wished for a human teacher to help clear things up.

One of the most useful things is the number of appendices, including grammar reference tables, answers, dictionaries and a subject index. Apart from a New Testament, the only other book I have needed so far is a dictionary (since the dictionary in the Elements only covers the 600 or so words taught in the book).

I haven't looked at any other introductory Greek books, so I can't say that this is the best textbook out there, but I can say that it worked for me.

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