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Do-Ahead Christmas: Stress-Free Cooking for the Festive Season
Do-Ahead Christmas: Stress-Free Cooking for the Festive Season
by James Ramsden
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Interesting Festive Cookery Book, 25 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a cook book packed full of festive and party food and drink recipes that are just a little bit different to your normal traditional Christmas foods. The idea of this book is to make entertaining at Christmas less stressful with plenty of hints and tips on which foods can be made ahead of time, allowing more time to enjoy being out of the kitchen (if that is your sort of thing). Some of the recipes are good if you are planning on having some pre-Christmas parties - with quite a selection of cocktails and canapés to make from scratch - along with some cheats if you are short on time - like buy pre-made pastry and use store bough mayonnaise. The section that was of most interest to me is for the Christmas day dinner which usually I have to be super organised and the have a Gantt chart in order to get everything ready before the relatives descend upon us, but even then, I will have been stuck in the kitchen literally since about 6 am. It would be nice to be able to spend some time with the family on Christmas morning, so I am hoping that this book will help. Useful hints such as partially cooking the roast potatoes the night before and roasting and making the stuffing in advance and then cooking it separately to the turkey are good ideas. The different ways to cook a turkey also inspire the will to experiment - very tempted by the idea of a 'sous vide' turkey, which sounds fantastic. The best bit about the book I liked the best were the baking recipes and what to do with the left overs. Overall a fun book with some interesting recipes - stress-free, however, I am not sure, perhaps less stressful?

Officially Licensed PS3 COMM-PLAY Stereo Gaming Headset CP-01 - Red
Officially Licensed PS3 COMM-PLAY Stereo Gaming Headset CP-01 - Red
Offered by Media Trade Giant
Price: £19.82

3.0 out of 5 stars Adequate - but not without issues, 21 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I thought these earphones looked nice as soon as I saw them, with their rather fashionable red gloss finish. And indeed when you see them in person they are pretty good looking.
Unfortunately they are however let down by two main factors -
1 - Fit. They don't fit an adult's head (meaning my head) very well at all. The headband is narrow and this means once on your head the ear cups point outward at the bottom and you cant get a "seal" on your ear at all. Well, I can't anyway. A child or teenager would probably find them fine in this respect
2 - Noise. There's always a notable background "fuzz" whenever the set is powered which is basically when you plug the usb in. This happens on ps3 and on a laptop. Unless you turn the sound up pretty loud you're always going to hear this white noise always. It's been a while since I heard something like this on audio gear - so I am surprised. Perhaps it's just my unit?

In other respects - well, they sound pretty good with the volume cranked up, very clear audio with good bass thanks to the seemingly giant drivers for the size of the ear cans.

The individual chat/game volume sliders are a great addition and they work well. I was a bit puzzled why you need to plug into the tv instead of the console - I guess this is the path of least resistance and doesn't require you to "break out" the av port to get the sound from there - something I guess that would add to the cost. But if your TV has no headphone socket then you might come unstuck here.

It should also be noted that unlike some (but not all!) other gaming headsets I've used in the past - no usb, no sound. The phones wont work without power and this comes from usb. So good for a PC, or a laptop, but no good for an mp3 player or phone.

Overall I would say if you're looking for an extremely low price headset that absolutely must have a microphone and individual volume controls then you're probably going to go with this, and for occasional use then it's fine - it does the job. But if you're only playing single player games then consider normal headphones instead, or if you're a hardcore multiplayer gamer who needs headphones all the time, well, consider how annoyed you'll be by the sound and comfort issues and whether it's worth spending more.

Corelle Vitrelle Glass 12-Piece Winter Frost Chip and Break Resistant Dinner Set, White
Corelle Vitrelle Glass 12-Piece Winter Frost Chip and Break Resistant Dinner Set, White
Price: £52.71

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice elegant and compact dinner set for everyday use., 21 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This dinner set arrived in the post by mail and its box was well designed to ensure that the contents didn't rattle about and the plates and bowls arrived in perfect condition. The whole set, when emptied out of its box did not take up very much room. The plates and bowls looked deceptively delicate, but were suprisingly robust even after I dropped one of the plates in the sink when I first washed them by hand. Not a scratch or chip - so all good. The plates also fit easily in our compact dishwasher and take up very little space in the cupboard for storage. There is no problem using them in the microwave. The design of these plates is a frosted white with a high gloss finish which gives them a minimalist look. Overall, very happy with this dinner set, and would happily use this dinner set for everyday use.

OxyLED Cree 500 Lumen Bright LED Flashlight Torch, Light Lamp for Emergency / Safety / Security (Adjustable Zoomable Focus, 3 Brightness Levels plus Strobe, Battery Included)
OxyLED Cree 500 Lumen Bright LED Flashlight Torch, Light Lamp for Emergency / Safety / Security (Adjustable Zoomable Focus, 3 Brightness Levels plus Strobe, Battery Included)
Offered by Thousand Shores
Price: £15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Very, very bright torch and nice even light pattern too!, 19 Nov 2014
Disclaimer: I was given one of these torches in exchange for an honest review.

Now, I know a thing or two about torches, being what I'd call a "passive collector" of torches, not as serious as some but still an enthusiast and owner of many torches. So I was excited to try this torch, with its claim of 500 lumens. Which in case you're not familiar with the lumen scale - that's bright. The average torch you might buy on the high street seems to be around the 100 lumen mark for a good one, as low as 15 lumens for a keyring style torch.

As evidenced by my photo attached, the torch is indeed bright. On the left in the photo we have a "4 watt" bicycle light/torch combo which I considered to be one of my brightest torches. In the centre, a 127 lumen cree headlight I've had for a year or two - again, a bright torch in itself. As you can see - this torch, pictured on the right, blows them both away.

Note also the light diffusion pattern of the torches. This is every bit as important as the raw brightness - a torch that has a ring of bright surrounded by a very dim circle is not that useful. This OxyLED torch has a massive lump of convex glass on the front which the other two lack - and you can see what effect that has - the light is absolutely even across the whole range. And that I like most.

It is powered by either the included battery (optional) or AAAs. It works well with both. At this brightness I imagine it will burn through AAAs though so I'll use the rechargeable battery - it charges in just 4 hours according to the manual.

Overall this is definitely one of my favourite torches, in fact I think due to the even light output I think it will be my outright favourite. I think it also fits my bike clip so I'll use it while cycling too. Definitely recommended!
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Airfix 1:72 RAF Benevolent Fund BAE Hawk Gift Model Set
Airfix 1:72 RAF Benevolent Fund BAE Hawk Gift Model Set
Price: £12.22

5.0 out of 5 stars A real challenge but good old fashioned fun!, 16 Nov 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Construction of the set was fairly simple, but painting is actually incredibly tricky.

A confession - I haven't actually done any Airfix since I was a child and I distinctly remember that I messed it up back then.
It took around 4 hours to complete assembly, and the parts fit very well, I didn't need sandpaper although if I'd been a perfectionist or going for the professional finish I probably would have. Most of the sprue remains were easily removed with fingernail or scissor edge.
Build didn't go smoothly though - in the photo you might spot the cockpit glass is frosted because I had a blocked glue tube that suddenly burst and spurted glue all over the plane - its all part of the fun I guess! There were a couple of paint spillage incidents too. I'm not exactly talented with painting.

Painting - now this is hard. I never painted any models as a child. The challenge with this model is that the designs are incredibly hard to "map" onto the plane. Thankfully you can pretty much get away with guesswork and cover most mistakes with the transfers - the plane looked awful without the transfers on.

I've got a bit bored of the smaller transfers so I've missed a few of them out - may put them on later.

There's a pot of gloss finish "enamel" which you have to paint over the red and blue parts to make them shiny. Otherwise it will be matt. You can see this on my photo but it's only just been applied - I'm hoping it will dry to a clear nice flawless finish but its going to take 24 hours for this to happen. Meanwhile it's shiny but a bit patchy.

Final result? A bit amateurish and would be laughed at by most model makers but hey - it looks a bit like the one on the box - a lot better than I expected! I'm happy enough considering the accidental spillages!

Would I recommend it? Sure. I might even do some more..
But it's not "skill level 1" in my opinion due to the painting required.
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Sarah and Duck Cbeebies Plush (Large)
Sarah and Duck Cbeebies Plush (Large)
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for Duck Fans - Quack!, 14 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
We got this duck for our toddler who is a massive Sarah and Duck fan, and Duck is his very favourite character! It is a good size for a toddler to snuggle up in bed with and perfect for a small child to carry around (about the size of a small real duck). It is well constructed, with a nice squishy hug-gable body and very soft. Perfect for Duck fans!

Braun PRT2000EU Age Precision Stick Digital Thermometer
Braun PRT2000EU Age Precision Stick Digital Thermometer
Price: £9.85

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Technically very good but not easy to use on a squirmy younger child, 29 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Having a toddler means I'm no stranger to these sort of devices, we've been through quite a few different sorts over the past couple of years.

It's great to have a thermometer with a big readout and fancy colour display and it's great to be able to measure your child's temperature.

However it should be noted that this thermometer is calibrated for use under the armpit. I'm not sure if you've ever tried to put a thermometer in a 2 year old's armpit and hold it there for half a minute but I did, and I assure you it's not an easy task. I have yet to actually get our toddler to sit still long enough to measure accurately, and he does have a cold at this time so he's probably more irritable than usual. I've tried it on myself and it does work, so I can say with some certainty that the device does work, but that's no use if you can't implement it. Perhaps all toddlers aren't as wriggly as ours.

Luckily for us, we have a Braun ear thermometer that we bought a couple of years ago. Ear wax aside, these are so so much better. They take about three seconds and are incredibly accurate. This could be why the doctors use these ones!

And that's really my closing comment - sure, this thing works but if you have a baby you're going to have a much easier time investing the extra money now in the higher price Braun ear thermometer (I can't recommend other brands...we had another brand ear thermometer and it was wildly inaccurate!). The investment will pay off, you'll be surprised how often you need to use a thermometer on a child. For adults or children who are already old enough to understand that you aren't supposed to squirm around - this device is probably a cheaper but equally appropriate solution.

Tacwise Z3 Stapler 4-in-1 Nailer Kit
Tacwise Z3 Stapler 4-in-1 Nailer Kit
Price: £21.61

5.0 out of 5 stars A good all round strong and capable staple gun that also fires nails!, 28 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The kit comes in a fairly sturdy but cardboard box and is rather heavy due to the amount of staples you get. I'd say you could store the gun and staples in the box permanently but it's not going to take the same abuse that a plastic tool case would so that would have been preferable, but not to worry.

Inside the box there's a neatly arranged array of items: A bright orange staple gun, a black tool for removing staples and cable staples (but not nails - though since the nails have little or no heads, the only tool that would remove them is pliers!), and three boxes of various staples and nails.

I say "various staples and nails" because the nail box comes with two types of nail, both 15mm long, one with some tiny heads and one without. The staple box comes with two sizes of staples too - 8mm and 12mm. Alas, there's only one size of cable staple.

Allow me to briefly explain what a cable staple is - if you're putting some cabling up on a wall, you can buy those awful cable tack things from a hardware store that have plastic and a nail and they invariably fly off in a random direction when hitting them with a hammer, and/or you hit your thumb. You may have had a cable, sky or BT employee round to install internet and noticed they have a special gun that leaves behind these tiny metal curved things that look like croquet hoops. Those are cable staples. And sorry, that wasn't so brief!

So on to performance. Loading the gun is easy but you absolutely must put the staples on the black rail but from the inside, so it's a matter of making sure they are on the correct side. There's an arrow on the black rail to illustrate this but do pay attention as you might do yourself a mischief by getting it wrong. You will know when they're in right, it "feels" correct.
There's a grey lever that you have to flip upward to change to cable tacks. I have no idea what this does but I obediently flip it for cable tacks. There's also a tension lever.
Cable tacks go in very easily. I would definitely test the cable tacking before using it on actual cable for fear of biting straight into the insulation and shorting the wire. This is less likely on coax cable like satellite cable of course, but on LAN or speaker cable it's a definite likelihood if you have the tension too high.
Nails work fine - having only had an electric nail gun before I was hesitant but I guess the nails here are shorter. If you have a lot of nailing to do then it's a no brainer, get an electric gun, or your hands are going to seriously hurt after a while!
Staples...pretty standard. The gun has a lot of whack to you have to set the tension right, but nothing to say here other than it works.

The staple removal tool is also pretty nifty - it's simple but very sturdy and gives a lot more leverage than those crazy spiky teeth ones you see everywhere. I'm going to have to make a point not to lose this removal tool as it will be handy to have around.

My only criticism is the lack of a case to keep all this stuff together in, but that's a very minor thing really, I just like cases.

Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension
Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension
by Matt Parker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going in places but a worthwhile and compelling read nonetheless, 26 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A light read this is not. It's not the kind of book you can skim read while half watching the TV or surfing social media on your phone. This is in fact cleverly disguised hardcore mathematics and all but the seasoned mathematician will have to concentrate hard to keep up, right from the start.
Allow me to expand on this. A lot of the content of the book was vaguely familiar. Not from A-level or GCSE maths, no, but from the more wacky and obscure corners of my maths degree. Admittedly this was a few years back now and I don't often find myself mapping spherical objects onto flat pieces of paper much for example, it did all come flooding back on reading this book.
I must admit - I didn't find this book particularly "funny" in the conventional sense. It will likely not have you laughing out loud. Instead I'd prefer to call it "sly" or "witty" humour.

I actually found the book to become increasingly interesting in the later chapters, so if you find it a little dull initially, keep going (or perhaps even skip them!). The book is well ordered such that I think you could dive into almost any chapter and not really require knowledge from a previous chapter to understand. Indeed once you get on to the chapter named the fourth dimension it really starts to become interesting (no spoilers here!).

The book is not short either. The copy I am reviewing (not the final release) is nearly 500 pages long which, to attempt to put it humorously, is extremely good value for money. Seriously though, that's a lot of content. And I can't help but be impressed by the range of topics the author has covered whilst simultaneously managing to largely avoid breaking out into actual maths language (you know...those equation things!). I must say though that the absence of equations does not make this a "maths for dummies" book. If you like your maths to be easy then understanding this book might stretch you a bit. Doesn't mean you can't read it though, just skip the parts that look hard. I think you could get away with that.

All in all, it's certainly a more entertaining read than any of my text books from university, and it has a very good stab at making maths interesting, and "relevant" to the real world which is often the hardest part.

Philips E14 Small Edison Screw 25 LED Non-Dimmable Bulb with Frosted Lustre, Warm White (Pack of 2)
Philips E14 Small Edison Screw 25 LED Non-Dimmable Bulb with Frosted Lustre, Warm White (Pack of 2)
Price: £9.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Technically very bright...choose your bulbs wisely!, 19 Oct 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First up - the items I received are 3W and not 4W, but read on and you'll realise that Wattage is fairly irrelevant. But, hopefully the product info will be corrected at some point.

This is a pack of two SES (small screw) candle shaped bulbs which typically fit wall lights or "living room" lighting. They are screw in type and smaller than the standard, if you can even say there is a standard these days. This bulb size is a particular favourite used by a certain large swedish furniture store, and until recently low energy bulbs of this size were near impossible to get hold of for a reasonable price, so it's finally good to see the prices of these bulbs going down - and the brightness going up!

Brightness - this used to be measured in Watts, which is why everyone still holds on to this as a measure. However it's more useless with LED bulbs than megapixels with smartphone cameras. The light output is only related to the wattage AND the efficiency. This is measured in lumens per watt. So - a 1 watt bulb with an efficiency of 100 lumens per watt will give 100 lumens. A 4 watt bulb with an efficiency of 20 lumens per watt will be in fact dimmer. And believe me, there is a VAST difference between bulbs in efficiency.

So why does this matter - well the higher the lumens per watt a bulb has - the more efficient it is. According to Wikipedia, the old (now banned!) incandescent bulbs were about 13-15lm/W. Which isn't as bad as I'd have imagined. The LED bulbs I was using from said furniture store which are now pretty old have 35lm/W stamped handily on the side. That's pretty poor! No wonder they were dim.

So - you're obviously wondering what the value is for these bulbs. Well according to the side of the bulb, 3W and 250lm, which by a simple calculation gives you about 83lm/W. Which is actually very high for a consumer bulb. So for the same wattage I'm getting more than double the light output. Mad.

Unsurprisingly therefore - the bulb is a lot brighter than the old one I replaced it with.

So - would I recommend this bulb - yes I would. Even just replacing one of four bulbs in the room it's made a massive difference to the light levels.

Expect more of this in the future too - the efficiency of LED bulbs is still way off the theoretical limit, so a few years down the line we'll expect to see bulbs ten times brighter for the same power consumption I would imagine.

I also look forward to a time when bulbs are sold by lumen rating, like battery powered torches seem to more often be.

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