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J. Dawson (Edinburgh, UK)
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Road to Referendum
Road to Referendum
by Iain Macwhirter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.79

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative portrait of politics in Scotland - but may not help undecided voters!, 13 Aug 2014
This review is from: Road to Referendum (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The nearer the referendum draws, the more desperation there is behind the pleas from both sides, and yet it seems there is still very little substance to back up any of the visions of the future which voters are being offered. I hoped reading this book would help me to make a choice between a much-reviled status quo and putting Scotland, at least temporarily, in the hands of a man who showed no regard for his own constituents when Donald Trump brought his billionaire bully-boy tactics to Scotland. Sadly, this book does not paint either option in a terribly flattering light so in terms of my own desire for clarification, it offered little.

It is, however, a well-written and relatively accessible account of Scottish political history that debunks much of the romantic mythologising of Scotland's folk heroes and goes some way towards making up for the failures of the broader UK educational system in teaching Scottish history. As someone who moved to Scotland from abroad 20+ years ago, this taught me much about my adopted homeland and how it is perceived both in Scotland and the rest of the UK. It also brought home to me, in a way few other sources have, the devastation of the Thatcherite years and the fallout which many communities are still suffering.

Iain Macwhirter's book is an ambitious one, and not a light read, but he has done the job remarkably well. It might not make our decision easier next month, but if everyone who was voting took the time to read this first then at least we could feel confident in making an informed choice when we cast our ballots.


Eat Istanbul: A Journey to the Heart of Turkish Cuisine
Eat Istanbul: A Journey to the Heart of Turkish Cuisine
by Andy Harris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.60

3.0 out of 5 stars Recreate the flavour of holidays in your home, 17 July 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If you are looking to recreate the flavours of a Turkish holiday back at home, this book is probably a good starting point. It's well-balanced between the practical stuff and the role of food in Turkish culture, heavy on recipes (each with its own large, lush photograph) but the background info is also beautifully illustrated with photo collages of market scenes, coffee shops, etc, and broken into easily digestible tidbits that never intrude on the recipes.

The ingredients used are mainly standard stuff, but it may be necessary to visit a Turkish or Middle Eastern shop if you don't feel comfortable with substitutions on things like sumac and Turkish red pepper paste. However, these ingredients crop up again and again so if you're planning to use this book lots, it will be worth tracking down the specialist ingredients.

I've tried a couple of recipes so far: chickpea wraps with onion, parsley and sumac salad and spicy cheese and yoghurt dip. The dip was very nice as a quick and easy alternative to the usual, but none of it set the world alight. My biggest test for a cookery book is whether it makes me feel desperate to actually get cooking, and this one didn't. It's fine as far as it goes, but for me it works better as a reminder of happy hols than culinary inspiration.


Fresh Prints: 25 Easy and Enticing Printing Projects to Make at Home (Simple Makes)
Fresh Prints: 25 Easy and Enticing Printing Projects to Make at Home (Simple Makes)
by Christine Leech
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.69

5.0 out of 5 stars Inventive and inspiring craft book, 4 July 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I must admit, I'd held off on ordering this book as printing is one of the view crafts I've never been that interested in. But even a quick flick through this was enough to getting me itching to get started! It's nicely produced and illustrated, of course, but what really stands out are the designs, every single one of which looks like something you'd be thrilled to have in your home. The techniques are also great, including a quicker, safer version of the classic linocut process but also potato (and sweet potato!) and leaf printing, prints from string, lace, doilies, PVA glue, knitwear, even convincingly retro-themed tea towels printed with kitchen utensils. For a process that can seem dull or limited to the uninitiated (think rubber stamps and stencils), Christine Leech has made this most simple decorative technique into a truly inspiring and aspirational craft, and she's included many great projects that really do show off the prints to amazing effect. There's even 12 pages of gorgeous templates and a list of (blessedly mainly UK-based) suppliers. I have to go now, I am off to collect some feathers....


Galt Knitting Case
Galt Knitting Case
Offered by a1 Toys
Price: 12.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Great value for money craft kit, 2 July 2014
This review is from: Galt Knitting Case (Toy)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The first thing I noticed about this kit is just how full the laminated cardboard carry case was packed. So often, craft kits mean a big container with very little inside it, but that is not the case here. Indeed, when I dug down to the bottom, beneath the wool, to find instructions, I had trouble fitting everything back in and closing the box. So purely in value-for-money materials, this is a great kit. It includes 20 x 10g balls of wool (5 x lilac, 5 x hot pink, 4 x orange, 2 x yellow, 2 x mint green, 2 x pale blue), a short pair of 4.0mm metal needles, pompoms (3 large blue, 1 smaller hot pink), buttons (4 lime green, 2 baby pink), a sheet of lilac felt + assorted precut felt shapes, a bag of stuffing, needles (2 for sewing and 1 larger one for using with yarn), and of course the cute carrier case (which has a metal handle and clasp and a designs that is girly without being too obnoxious), and the instructions. These materials should be sufficient to make all the projects shown on the packaging: a cupcake cushion, a felt flower handbag, small stuffed owl and cat toys, and a pair of fingerless gloves. Again, lots of (not too girly) projects that should appeal to lots of kids and teach them some basic knitting and sewing skills. I know I keep harping on about things being "girly" or not, but I work with an awful lot of young creative girls who get very frustrated by obviously-gendered toys and don't actually *like* pink, so I am always a fan of products that break this particular mould.

I've docked the product one star because whilst I, as an adult, find the basic instructions good, I don't think a child would manage this without the help of an adult knitter. I also don't like the format of the instructions, as there is a smaller insert with diagrams and written instructions in a separate booklet with the "how to knit" diagrams, which seems unnecessarily fiddly.

If you know a child who is keen to knit, this would be an ideal place to start - but make sure they have an adult helper nearby!


Melissa & Doug Flower Power Bead Set
Melissa & Doug Flower Power Bead Set
Price: 7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Melissa & Doug products are always beautifully presented and very appealing, 30 Jun 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Melissa & Doug products are always beautifully presented and very appealing, but this must be one of their best items. It looks so appealing that children (and adults!) won't be able to wait to get stuck in, and a lot of thought has gone into the little details that make it particularly child-friendly. I loved that the beads - many really large and with a flower theme - are not `the usual pink, pink, and more pink. There are touches of pink but overall the colours are citrus-bright orange, yellow, and greens. As well as a good mix of co-ordinating beads in different shapes, I love that the makers have included plastic clasps for a neat finish, and nylon laces in matching colours even have shoelace-style ends to make threading simple even for the smallest fingers. And of course it's all constructed of sturdy wood, including a presentation tray perfect for storing little treasures when the beads have all been used. Left this kit sitting on a side table and it was the first thing a visitor remarked on, asking where she could get one for her grandchild! A wonderful gift idea and great fun for kids and parents to do together.


Melissa & Doug Wooden Handle Stamps Deluxe
Melissa & Doug Wooden Handle Stamps Deluxe
Price: 9.79

4.0 out of 5 stars this is really nicely presented and its chunky wooden design will appeal to ..., 30 Jun 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As with all Melissa & Doug products, this is really nicely presented and its chunky wooden design will appeal to parents as much as children. The stamps have a comfortable turned handle that's perfect for little hands and a selection of designs that print pretty clearly. The set also includes a multi-coloured ink pad and coloured pencils, and the whole thing is presented in a shallow wooden tray that would make useful storage/work area for crafty items. A couple of minor complaints: whilst not overtly "girly", overall the stamps are going to be more appealing to girls (flower, butterfly, bows, cupcakes). It's a shame, as it would be very easy to make it totally gender neutral. Also, the lid on the ink doesn't fit tightly so could easily be lost or dry out, and there's no lid for the wooden tray so it can't easily be carried around with contents. But overall a lovely, nicely presented set and would make an ideal gift for a crafty kid.


Finish Power and Pure Quantum (Pack of one, Total 40 Tablets)
Finish Power and Pure Quantum (Pack of one, Total 40 Tablets)
Price: 12.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Exactly what one might expect, 19 Jun 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Unless they are a total disaster or so spectacular they practically do the washing up for you, it is always going to be difficult to review dishwasher tablets. As one might expect, these fall firmly between the two extremes. They seem to work fine, but I can't say that I notice any unusually impressive effects. I still occasionally have to run dishes through the washer twice if there's stubborn food dried on, and my partner likes it that the wrappers dissolve so he doesn't have to fiddle with unwrapping them (although it's a mess if you grab a tablet when your hands are wet). At the moment they are selling for 7.72 as an add on item. The RRP is listed as 16.00 for 40 tablets (which surely no one would pay) so I'd say they represent decent value for an item that always strikes me as ridiculously expensive. But I'll still likely be sticking to cheaper own-brand versions since I can't see much difference in performance.


Galt Toys B Glam Fashion Designer Studio
Galt Toys B Glam Fashion Designer Studio
Price: 5.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The perfect gift for aspiring fashionistas!, 7 Jun 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This product is marketed as being suitable for children from 7 years up, but I suspect there are plenty of older "girls" who would be unable to resist it. Truth be told, at 38 years myself, I couldn't wait to get stuck in! It's beautifully packaged in a sturdy folder, the design is fairly well thought out, and there are enough materials for plenty of projects - 40 pages of "models" and lots of high quality glossy paper printed on both sides with photographic images of different fabrics, and loads of stickers to accessorise.

Once I started using it, I did find a few flaws. For one, the "model" images are not symmetric and there is nothing to mark out the "front" and "back" of the stencils, so it's very easy to make the mistake of carefully choosing a fabric, tracing your garment, and cutting it out only to find you have to use the reverse side which will be a completely different pattern. Very frustrating for a child, I'd expect, but easily remedied by using a permanent marker to label the front of the stencils. Also, the super glossy paper means the stencils tend to slide round while you are trying to draw. And the stickers are not very sticky and start to peel off almost immediately. I'd also like to have seen some pencils, pens or crayons included to encourage children to be a little more creative.

Negatives and girly stereotypes aside, this is great fun and mainly really well designed and executed, and any little girl with an interest in fashion will adore it.


STABILO Woody 3 in 1 Multi Talent Pencil Crayon Set with Sharpener and Paint Brush - Assorted Colours (Box of 18)
STABILO Woody 3 in 1 Multi Talent Pencil Crayon Set with Sharpener and Paint Brush - Assorted Colours (Box of 18)
Price: 21.82

5.0 out of 5 stars Best product this art teacher has ever bought, 30 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I run a very popular afterschool art club and work with up to 60 children each week. We rarely use paints due to the additional time it takes to set up painting materials and clean up afterwards, not to mention the potential damage to the classroom and children's clothing! We've occasionally used watercolour pencils but the cheap ones are useless and the expensive ones are poor value for money. These Stabilo pencils have solved all these problems once and for all. Yes, they are pricey, but they are too chunky to break and the colours are incredibly vivid so a little goes a long way. It's a joy to see the children's faces when I demonstrate how they work - it's like magic! My budget is too tight to buy multiple sets of these, but we have perhaps 30 in all and they have been used for about half a dozen lessons (60 kids each lesson!) over the last few months and they are still going (though obviously much shorter). Most of the kids prefer using them to poster paint and the colours are gorgeously bright whether they are used with water or not. Set up is a breeze - just a pot of pencils and paper on each table, then when they are finished drawing I give them a cup of water and a paintbrush. The water gets less saturated than with poster paints too, so they aren't constantly needing a fresh cup. They dry quickly, so no need to leave pictures overnight to dry, and cleanup is a breeze - just empty cups and a quick rinse of the brushes! And if the children don't have time to finish their pictures, they can always do the "painting" bit at home as they don't need any special materials, just water and a brush. Honestly, these are probably the best materials I have ever invested in, and I wouldn't hesitate to purchase again in future. They would also make the ideal gift for arty children, and would last a very long time when not being used by 60 of them!!


Rapesco Supaclip 60 Dispenser with 8 Clips
Rapesco Supaclip 60 Dispenser with 8 Clips
Price: 6.40

4.0 out of 5 stars Simple and effective, 20 May 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Rapesco bill Supaclips as an alternative to staples. I'm not quite ready to give up my stapler, but this is pretty impressive for such a small, inexpensive piece of kit. I was surprised at first that there were no directions included but I quickly worked out that the reason no instructions are included is that it really is that simple. Push clips in the back of the device, position the open end on your bundle of papers, slide the grippy bit along until you feel the clip clamp on the papers, and that's it. It's ideal for larger stacks of paper that couldn't easily be stapled, and the clips themselves are reusable so once you are finished with the paper they are holding, just slip them off and use them to refill the dispenser! Very simple idea but very effective. So why won't I be giving up my stapler? Well, staples are much cheaper, for a start. And it is much more usual for me to need to attach 2,3, or 4 sheets of paper together than a whole booklet, in which case I suspect these heavy duty clips would be worse than useless. So I will be using both, but I believe the Supaclip system is well worth investing in and I expect to get lots of use from mine.


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