Thursday, 28 February 2013

February Blog Review

February can be a strange month, with wintry weather still a big feature, but hopefully the odd glimpse of spring in between. It’s not just the weather that’s been a mixed bag; my blog posts have been very varied too.

Talk of food got off to a tasty start with thoughts of pancakes and suggested toppings. Did you make any? If so, I hope you enjoyed them, perhaps trying some of my suggestions. And did you, like me, vow not to leave it another whole year before making more? Time will tell if we do …

The food theme continued with a plea to use free range eggs and mentions of Tetley Tea Folk cherry scones and Asda Extra Special Extra Juicy Lemonade.

Amongst all the frivolity, I have once again covered some very serious issues on my blog, probably the most disturbing being the diagnosis of dementia (or lack of it). I was really shocked to hear that some GPs have been refusing to test for the condition, which means that sufferers may not be able to access certain services they require. I have just been through the whole dementia diagnosis scenario with a close relative and would encourage others to fight for a correct diagnosis, as it has opened up new avenues of support for us.

Longing for Spring
I also related the horrors of public transport (have been having lots of problems with local buses recently), direct debit payments and the underhand (in my opinion) way that some charities are touting for supporters.

I’m now looking forward to what I hope will be Spring just around the corner, so tomorrow you can read some of the things I’m suggesting to do in March.

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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Charity Postal Appeals

I’m a great believer in supporting charities and make a small monthly donation to Cancer Research (two of my sisters died of the disease), which is painlessly deducted from my bank account on a monthly basis.

However, it seems that there are an increasing number of charities competing for our patronage, some using, what I believe to be, some quite crafty (and costly) tactics.

It has become increasingly commonplace for charities to send items, such as greetings cards, stationery sets, coasters etc, through the post, often causing the recipient to feel guilty if they do not send a donation in return. Many people receiving these mailings are not in a position to donate even if they would like to; they may be elderly, on low incomes or ill themselves, for example. They may feel guilty at not being able to ‘pay’ for these ‘gifts’ – I know that this scenario applies to a couple of elderly relatives of mine.

Some of the worst offenders actually send coins through the post, which would be better added straight to the charity tin, whilst I’ve noticed a third world charity sending out baby hats and bootees, complete with a label to add your name and return with your donation. Yet again, these items are wasted when the recipients can not or do not respond.

I understand that charities need to make people aware of their existence and needs, but to my mind, the charities that use these dodgy mailing practices are the ones that I am least likely to support. Funds should be spent first and foremost on the charitable causes themselves, with a less expensive (and less underhand) form of marketing employed.

We do need to support charities, but we should all be able to choose which ones we would like to support, without feeling ‘swayed’ by ‘gifts’.

What do you think?

Monday, 25 February 2013

Rising Prices

When I write my blog posts I often try to include product prices, but with the current rate of price increases, these sometimes change in the time it takes for me to write and post the details.

On several occasions recently, I have bought a product, noted the price and blogged it, only to find a totally different (higher) price tag on display on my next shopping trip.

Over recent months some individual products have had their prices increased by 40-50p – or even more! I used to buy Tesco Drinking Chocolate 500g for £1.89, but it now costs £2.48 (at the time of writing, of course). I now buy Cadburys, which I can often find on offer for £2 for 500g.

The trend for sharp price rises spans a huge number of products across many shops and supermarkets. The increases are blamed on rising fuel costs (tell me about it!), large overheads (nice, loose term) and rising costs throughout the supply chain (whilst actually paying some producers mere peanuts). This reasoning can sometimes be hard to follow, especially when some companies go on to announce huge profits.

OK. The good thing about supermarkets thriving is that is means sustained employment, but as with many large organisations, running costs can be reduced by dispensing with superfluous ‘management’ tiers, whilst keeping ‘hands on’ staff employed, without the sharp price increases.

So whilst I endeavour to quote relevant prices in my blog, there are times when keeping up with the rises becomes a losing battle.

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Sunday, 24 February 2013

Kate Ellis – The Wesley Peterson Series

I love reading, with crime and mystery stories high on my list of favourites, and always have a book or two on the go. Over the coming months I’ll occasionally be sharing some of my favourite authors and books with you.

This week I’m looking at the Wesley Peterson series of books written by Kate Ellis.

I love this series of books featuring Devon-based detective, Wesley Peterson, giving an insight into his home life as well as his crime solving.  One of the elements I particularly enjoy is the way that modern day occurrences are tied to historical events, with many current crimes bearing a link to the past. This gives a lot of depth to the stories, making them both intriguing and enjoyable.

I can really get lost in these books, with their credible plots and believable characters. They’re the kind of stories that once I start reading them; I don’t want to put them down until the end. From the descriptive writing, I have formed a strong picture in my mind of what Wesley, the area where he lives and many of the characters are like.

These are great stories, very well told and I recommend the Wesley Peterson series to lovers of crime fiction everywhere.

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Friday, 22 February 2013

DS Games – The Last Window & Phoenix Wright

For the latest in my DS reviews I’m looking at two games that combine searching for items with interviewing characters,

The Last Window: The Secret of Cape West
In this game you play as Kyle Hyde, ex-cop turned salesman, trying to unravel mysteries from the past, connected to the apartment block (formerly Hotel Cape West) where he now lives. In the very early stages of this game I got a little bored, as the conversations seemed a bit slow and the tasks few and far between. However, once the characters and storyline had been established, the game became more enjoyable. In addition to finding and using objects and selecting questions to ask fellow residents, you get to play an ‘arcade-style’ game, a bar game, draw a portrait and solve puzzles. As you complete each chapter of the story, you can read a detailed version in the ‘book’ section of the game. I actually really loved this game in the end and am off to find a copy of Hotel Dusk, the forerunner of The Last Window.

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations
The idea of this game is to collect evidence and question suspects and witnesses, then produce the evidence and further question characters in court. The concept of this game is really good, as it takes thoughtful consideration to produce the correct items and choose the right questions at the appropriate time. Some characters totally ‘lock up’ when quizzed and you have to endeavour to break open their defences. However, what really annoyed me about this game were the irritating mannerisms and reactions of certain characters. In fact, many of the characters were painfully annoying. Prolonged sneezing, contemplation of coffee, exclamatory shrieks and repetitive phrases really detracted from the game itself – it would be greatly improved if a lot of these quirks were removed. There are more games in this series, but despite it being a good, long game with some nice ideas, I’m not sure that I can stand any more of the craziness!

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Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Ins and Out of Direct Debits

I’ve previously mentioned that paying household bills by direct debit can save you money, with many companies offering a discount for doing just that.

In addition to this it ensures bills are always paid on time without you having to remember to see to them.

But there can be a downside to some kinds of direct debit. I pay all our household bills by this method, with three different variations in use:
Paying the bill in full by direct debit. This applies to my phone bill, for example, for which I receive a quarterly statement, informing me how much will be taken from my account and when, usually giving me 10-14 days notice. Although this doesn’t spread the cost, it does give me a small discount on the bill and ensures I don’t forget to pay.
Paying in equal monthly instalments by direct debit. This is used to pay for services for which a set sum is applied for the year, as with Council Tax. The yearly bill is broken down into equal monthly payments, spreading the cost.
Paying a variable amount (changeable with notice) by direct debit. This method is used by energy suppliers, for example, who set a monthly amount and then review it on a yearly basis, putting it up or down depending on your usage. However, EDF have recently started reviewing our payments with greater frequency and, we feel, quite unnecessarily. We’ve had to argue the point that the idea of this form of direct debit is that the balance is cleared over the course of a year, as opposed to being permanently in credit! The idea is to spread the cost, not only pay in advance.

If your direct debit payments do get raised unexpectedly to an amount you consider inappropriate, then do challenge this. Theoretically direct debit payments and only be taken from your account if you are a) aware of the amount (reasonable notice must be given of a change) and b) have agreed to the amount. If you tell a company not to take a certain amount, they are not supposed to and payments taken in error can be reclaimed. Don’t be persuaded to pay more than you need: it’s better that extra money sits in your bank account, as opposed to the account of the company you’re paying.

Direct debits can be a convenient, money-saving way to pay your bills – but do be aware of the pitfalls.

How do you get on with direct debit payments?

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

February’s Random Thoughts

I’m always bewildered by cafés that offer on their menu a ‘large’ tea for a higher price than one in a smaller cup, when all they do is add a bit of extra hot water. What all places should really offer however, is a pot of tea, much nicer.

Why do I always start reading a magazine from the back and work forwards? I wouldn’t do it with a book, so why with a magazine?

Virgin Media have sent me so much (junk) literature in the past year, I could have wallpapered my whole house with it. I AM NOT a Virgin Media customer; I HAVE NEVER BEEN a Virgin Media Customer and DO NOT INTEND TO BE a Virgin Media customer. Thank you for asking, but can you just leave me in peace now?

Do you remember when we used to get a second postal delivery each day, and even that usually came before midday. Now we only get one delivery a day, and in my case I’m lucky if that arrives much before 3pm! So much for progress.

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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Online Shopping – My Way

I’m a big fan of the actual ‘shopping experience’, i.e. browsing the shops, touching, trying and comparing potential purchases, before making my eventual choice. However, I have been known to buy a few things online, if only selectively.

When buying toiletries or make-up that I have used before, so that I don’t need to try out the colour/texture/fragrance, I have made the odd online purchase. I’m a big fan of DS games (see my DS game review blog posts) and find that Amazon is the best place to find all the titles I want at really good prices, so I always get these online.

But when it comes to clothing, I have a different approach. I do order some garments online, but I just hate having to search through a multitude of internet pages in a quest to find something suitable. That’s why I’m a fan of the good old-fashioned catalogue.

I love to curl up with a mug of something sweet and hot and browse the glossy pages of a catalogue – it’s a really comfy way to shop. Once I’ve made my choice I’ve nothing against actually placing the order online, in fact it’s extremely convenient, as I can instantly find out whether an item’s in stock and when I can expect delivery. It just wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t have the chance to peruse those glossy pages first. It’s much the same as me preferring to hold a book in my hand rather than read from a Kindle.

Now it has been reported that Argos plan to reduce circulation of their catalogue and overhaul their ordering system. A bad move in my book (pardon the pun).

So please home shopping companies, don’t ever dispense with your lovely catalogues, (I do recycle them) – online shopping just wouldn’t be the same without them!

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Monday, 18 February 2013

Half Term Holiday Ideas

With half term now well underway for many children, you may be looking for places to take them for a fun day out. Following last week’s suggestions, here are a few more ideas.

The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent – admission adults £17.50, children £11.00, (you can use Tesco Clubcard vouchers) with tickets valid for 12 months from date of purchase (excluding entry to a couple of their big events). The Dockyard re-opened on 16th February following its winter break, and from now until 24th February is offering visitors the chance to produce artwork for its current art project. The Dockyard has some great exhibits and activities: explore the lifeboat exhibition; take a tour of a submarine (one of our favourite bits); board the HMS Gannet and the HMS Cavalier; get involved in rope-making at the Victorian Ropery (we still have our piece of rope). This makes a great day out for all the family.

Framlingham Castle, Suffolk (English Heritage). A stunning castle that is well worth the visit, with the added attraction of a ‘Family Fun Trail’ during half term. Follow the clues and solve the puzzle to win a prize. Entrance to the castle is £6.50 adults, £3.90 children, £16.90 for the family. Don’t forget that you can get a couple’s annual membership for £82, allowing free entry to EH properties (and discounts on entry for some non EH attractions, including The Historic Dockyard above) for yourselves and up to 6 children (under 19) per adult. Other membership packages are also available, visit

Oceanarium, Bournemouth, Dorset – adults £9.95, children £6.50, family of 4 £25.50 (other family deals available), with a 15% discount for online bookings. Marvel at the great collection of sharks, turtles, clownfish, otters etc. During half term week there are also special “Meet The Creature” and “Feed The Turtle” sessions as well as competitions and quiz trails.

For more ideas of places to visit during the half term go to

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Friday, 15 February 2013

Half Term Holidays – Again!

Once again we’re on the brink of another half-term holiday, with our thoughts turning to how to entertain the kids. February half term can be a bit of a tricky one, as many attractions don’t reopen their doors until the Easter Holidays, so there are fewer possibilities to choose from.

If you’re familiar with my winter outing series, you will know that the majority of wildlife parks and zoos, many castles and a large number of museums do stay open all year. Some of these do operate reduced opening times until the main season kicks in at Easter; so do check out relative websites, tourist information offices etc when planning your visit.

This half term we are planning to visit the Norwich Castle Museum and Gallery. As we have not been before I can’t vouch for it personally, but have heard some very enthusiastic reports. Norwich Castle is reportedly “packed with treasures to inspire and intrigue visitors of all ages”. Housed in a Norman keep, exhibits include Anglo-Saxon and Viking displays, Queen Boudica’s story, and Natural History and Egyptian galleries. You can also visit the battlements and dungeons. Open Mon-Sat 10-4.30, admission is £4.90 for children and £6.80 for adults. I’ll let you know my comments on a future blog post.

Hoping for some fine weather to get out and about
What I can recommend is the Castle Museum in York. Tickets are valid for a whole year once purchased (£8.50 adults, children FREE) and highlights include the Victorian Street, ‘Toy Stories’ Exhibition, Half Term Fun including gingerbread making and playing 100 year old games, and a great collection of historical exhibits. We’ve always thoroughly enjoyed our visits here.

Other favourites of ours open this holiday include Dover Castle, Kent Time & Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth www.museums.norfolk and Colchester Zoo, Essex

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Thursday, 14 February 2013

Happy Valentine’s Day

Well another Valentine’s Day comes around. For those of you who had forgotten until now, it’s not too late to do something special for your loved one. Shops will no doubt continue selling appropriate cards and novelties for the next few days (there will be stock to clear after all) but you might like to come up with something today that doesn’t actually smack of last minute panic.

More on that in a bit, but first, how did this day come about anyway?

There have been conflicting stories, but the popular line seems to be the tale of how it all started with a certain Roman priest by the name of Valentine. In the 3rd century AD he performed secret weddings for couples, after the practice of marriage for soldiers was forbidden by the then emperor, Claudius II. Predictably he was found out and sentenced to a gruesome death in 269 AD, involving beating, stoning and then beheading – brutal lot those Romans. “So where was the romance?” (secret weddings aside) I hear you cry.

Well, prior to his death, the doomed priest reportedly sent a note to his jailer’s daughter, Julia, signed “From your Valentine”.

Fast forward to the Middle Ages and Chaucer’s era, when the whole Valentine’s Day idea became popular, marking the day as a celebration of ‘romantic love’, exchanging tokens such as flowers and confectionery.

So does this help if you’ve forgotten to offer a token of affection to the love in your life today? Well, you could always cosy up together while you impress them with your Valentine’s knowledge. Failing that you could try one of these:

  • Create a tempting dinner for two – if cooking’s not your forte, buy a ‘meal for two’ deal at your local supermarket, and prepare a perfect romantic evening indoors. Sainsburys are offering a £10 Valentine’s Deal consisting of a Taste The Difference dish, bottle of wine/cava and a dessert.
  • Book some tickets for a forthcoming show/event. You may be lucky enough to find something for this evening, but that’s not strictly necessary, as the promise of an evening out in the near future will be greatly appreciated. For short notice bookings visit  
  • Don’t just rush in with a last minute bunch of roses, for a more lasting impression buy a whole bush! Planted in the garden it will be a gift that can be appreciated for years to come. Check out your local garden centre or nursery.
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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Book Bargains

I’m an avid reader and especially enjoy books with mystery, crime and historical themes, although I do like to try books of all genres. This is why I’m a big fan of shops that offer great deals on books, allowing me to try titles that I might not otherwise consider if I had to pay top price for them.

One of my favourite book stores is The Works, where I often buy paperback books on a ‘3 for £5’ deal, but have also found deals there for ‘2 for £3’ and ‘3 for £4’. It’s always worth taking a look at current offers, you may be inspired to try something new.

Supermarkets also offer some good book deals. Tesco sell current paperbacks ‘2 for £7’ with some older titles on a ‘3 for £5’ offer. Sainsbury’s paperback chart includes books for £2.99, £3.49 and £3.99 each, with a selection of older titles sold at 2 for £3. So why not give a new book a go with your weekly shop?

If you prefer to order your books by post or online, then try The Book People They have some great value fiction and non-fiction books at very reasonable prices and there is free delivery on orders over £25. They also offer a Points Passport loyalty scheme whereby you earn Book Points, which you can save and exchange for chosen books.

And of course, don't forget a trip to your local library, where reading really is accessible to all! Many libraries have been closing of late, so let's support the ones we still have.

There’s no excuse for not trying a new book today!

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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Please Buy Free Range

I am quite disturbed that supermarkets are stocking an increased number of eggs collected from caged hens. I think this practice is totally unnecessary and as consumers we need to act responsibly and insist on free range.

There will now be those of you who are arguing that it costs more to buy free range, but this needn’t necessarily be the case. Iceland sell free range eggs for £1 for half a dozen: Sainsburys stock Ella Valentine Baking Eggs, which are a good size for £1.50 for half dozen; Tesco are selling 18 Farm Pride free range eggs for just £3.09! You can also often find reasonably priced local, free range eggs in greengrocers, butchers and farm shops.

Maybe it is just lack of thought that makes customers reach for the eggs from caged hens, as opposed to a cost issue. If this applies to you, do please stop and think about the life thousands of caged hens are experiencing due to the careless shopping habits of so many.

If you’re still jumping up and down, ranting about it being a matter of choice, remember: a choice is a privilege which should be used wisely – the hens don’t get one!

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Monday, 11 February 2013

This February I’m Loving …

Tetley Tea Folk Cherry Scones, a tasty, tea-time treat. Great tasting, crumbly scones with yummy cherries, £1 for 6 at Tesco.

Sainsbury’s Live Well For Less magazine, not just because it’s free (pick it up in store), but because it’s packed with useful, healthy, tasty recipes for the whole family.

Asda Extra Special Extra Juicy Lemonade, made with real lemon juice and spring water, 78p for 2 litres. This has a really good flavour and has lower sugar content than some of the big brands.

The Mothers’ Day cross-stitch bookmark kit with the current issue (dated March 2013) of Cross Stitch Crazy magazine (£4.99). Get crafty for Mothers’ Day and show mum you care.

Colgate Sensitive Pro-relief Enamel Repair toothpaste. I found the original pro-relief toothpaste really effective for calming sensitive teeth, but was torn between using that and an enamel repair toothpaste, but now I don’t have that dilemma – this toothpaste does it all!

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Friday, 8 February 2013

Valentine’s Gifts

With Valentine’s Day approaching now’s the time to show your love and appreciation for that special person in your life – although I do hope you let them know you care all year round!

As Valentine’s Day draws nearer the shops become awash with fluffy teddies sporting sentimental messages, socks with corny slogans, rom com DVDs and 101 things that you didn’t even know you needed (and in all honesty probably don’t) emblazoned with pink and red hearts.

Gestures and treats can speak volumes (one of my favourite Valentine’s treats was a trip to the ballet), but a card and a small gift are always much appreciated.

Marks and Spencer always seem to come up with novel cards for any occasion, offering some unique designs you don’t find anywhere else. If you buy any cards from M&S be sure to pick up a greetings card loyalty card, buy 6 cards, get your card stamped for each one and when your loyalty card is full, get a seventh free.

Sainsburys are offering a range of fun and tasty Valentine’s goodies including Love Hearts Valentine's Tube (£1), Mr & Mrs Gingerbread Valentine's Bears (£1) and a bunch of five chocolate roses (£3). They’re also selling single, long-stemmed chocolate roses at £1 each, ideal for popping into a bouquet of fresh roses for an extra treat.

Meanwhile at Tesco you can pick up an 'engraved' chocolate heart for £2 or a Thorntons hollow chocolate devil for £3, amongst their selection of Valentine's treats.

If it's cake you're after, go for a pack of two decadent cupcakes (£2) from M&S to share with your loved one, or for a really sweet tooth plump for a chocolate brownie heart for £3.

More on Valentine's next week.

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Thursday, 7 February 2013

Public Transport – A Sorry Tale

With congestion, poor air quality and global warming being poignant issues, the theory is that public transport should be accessible and affordable to all, in order to reduce traffic on the roads.

However, as many of us know, this is not always the reality with services often unreliable and fares costly. Of course, there are some more reasonable transport operators out there, but many of us have public transport related tales of woe to tell.

My local bus operator, Arriva, have been increasing fares at an alarming rate, whilst cutting out buses on a whim. Their latest trend is to take out of service buses that are running late – carry on with that approach and we’ll have no buses left on our roads!

My most recent unfavourable experience of my local buses occurred when I was attempting to get home from a nearby shopping centre, trying to use a supposed ‘every 20 minutes’ service. The bus arrived 15 minutes late and the driver was instructed to return directly to the depot without passengers (although he drove off without explanation at the time). However, the next bus due was also running very late, meaning that no bus ran on that route for about an hour. If only Arriva had allowed to the first bus that arrived (the 3.15pm service) to leave the shopping centre at the time of the next bus due (3.35 service) then passengers would not have been left stranded for so long.

An email of complaint to Arriva resulted in a call from a very unsympathetic, somewhat disinterested individual, who stated that my comments had been noted, but basically ‘tough’. Ok, that’s not exactly what she said, but it certainly was the sentiment.

Since the original incident with Arriva, I have since experienced the same scenario on a larger scale (and spoken to others encountering similar problems) this time involving two differently numbered bus routes and longer waiting times. In Medway, Arriva appear to be struggling to fulfil timetables, some of the drivers are lovely (with a few exceptions) but organisationally the service is a shambles. Come on Arriva, you can do better!

I would welcome any comments from Arriva or fellow disgruntled passengers. We’re paying for a service which just isn’t being delivered.

And the good?
I often find that local journeys can be quite an ordeal, although when I have stayed in different parts of the country, served by different bus companies, I have experienced more reliable, cheaper services.

On a long haul journey, I have had a much better experience with National Express. Travelling from my home to London and then on to Bournemouth (visiting family) I found that services ran to time, were reasonably comfortable and were, with offers often available, more competitively priced.

What are your experiences of public transport?

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

DS Games: CSI

This series of games is based on the TV series by the same name (which I admit to never watching) and revolves around collecting evidence to solve a series of crimes. You use various forensic tools to connect suspects to the crime scene and are ‘marked’ on your performance.

I’ve played three CSI DS games with each following the format of examining crime scenes, collecting and processing evidence and interviewing suspects, although they all vary somewhat with regard to animation, employment of tools and interviewing technique.

Dark Motives The first game I played and the first chronologically too. The graphics are a bit grainy and not as clear as I would like. To move around the scenes you guide an arrow cursor, which turns green over items of interest. This can be a bit erratic to control, sometimes zooming in on objects that you don’t want it to. I really wasn’t keen on the menu setup on this game either, there are tabs at the bottom of a screen that you click on to reveal subheadings, which just makes the whole screen feel a bit crowded. Usage of tools is basic, just click on the one you want and hold it over the item you want to use it on, without actually doing anything with it – what is a pain is trying to put back a tool you don’t want to use! Another problem I found is that you only get one save file, meaning that only one player can save games at a time, which is a bit annoying. I liked the idea of the game, rather than the game itself.

Deadly Intent, The Hidden Cases I noticed a big improvement in this game, although I found the animation a little ‘cartoony’. You are given three separate save files, allowing more than one player to have a game in progress. The cursor system works better, you move a circular icon, a bit like a gun sight around the scene and it flashes over points of interest. In this game you feel that you actually get to ‘use’ the tools e.g. move the stylus across an object to dust for fingerprints, then blow into the microphone to remove excess powder. Processing evidence in the lab becomes more involved too, performing puzzle-type tasks. The menu setup is clearer, the interview technique better and the game generally has a nicer feel than Dark Motives.

Unsolved! This has all the best features of Deadly Intent, but with nicer graphics. This was by far my favourite version, combining all the best elements – three save files, ability to use tools, interesting tasks to process evidence and taking part in interviews where you can so easily go wrong if you don’t think things through carefully. If I repeat any of them, this will be the one.

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Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Dementia Debate

I was appalled to hear on the local news for my area that some GPs are refusing to take the necessary steps to diagnose patients with dementia, as they feel it ‘pointless’ due to there being no cure available.

As someone who has had to fight to get a diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimers for an elderly relative I am really shocked by this attitude. Admittedly there is no cure, however medication is available to slow down the process and support services exist, which will often only step in when there is a formal diagnosis.

I fought for a year to get the diagnosis for my relative,which was needed in order to access the right help. We saw different doctors, wrote letters etc and I would encourage others to do the same. Diagnosis, as with many things in the NHS can be a postcode lottery, but perseverance can pay off.

Indeed, television adverts advise that we do seek help as soon as we suspect a loved one is suffering from the condition and GPs and other healthcare professionals need to back this up.

Since receiving a proper diagnosis at a ‘memory clinic’, my relative has started medication, been assigned a nurse to monitor her and generally been given the chance to enjoy living at home independently (be it with a little support) for longer than probably would have been the case without that vital diagnosis.

So do follow the advice of the TV ad, don’t give up or tolerate being turned away by a GP and help your loved one as best you can. Dementia needs to be diagnosed, understood and managed to allow sufferers the best chance of carrying on with their everyday lives for as long as possible.

Let me know your experiences of diagnosis of dementia.

Monday, 4 February 2013

MUA Cosmetics at Superdrug

I’ve recently discovered MUA (Make-Up Academy) cosmetics, a great budget brand, with items starting from just £1 at Superdrug.

The first product to grab my attention was the Pro-Brow Kit, a handy mirrored compact containing tweezers, an applicator, 3 powder shades for brows and a taming gel. This product has certainly proved its worth (I paid £3.50) and is now shaping up (pardon the pun) to be one of my favourite cosmetic buys. A must-have for handbags everywhere!

A couple of weeks back I bought the Pro-Base Conceal & Brighten Kit for just £2.50, a creamy concealer/highlighter trio, which blend easily and glide on to the skin, evening out skin tone and boosting your complexion. This really does look and feel like a much more expensive product.

Most recently, I have bought the MUA Brush-On Concealer Pen with a built-in brush that is very reminiscent of L’Oreal’s Touche Magique product. The concealer itself is not as ‘liquid’ as some that I have tried, but that means coverage of under-eye shadows is more effective. Available in a number of shades to suit all complexions, it’s a great addition to any make-up kit at just £2.

On the basis of these great products, I will be trying, and blogging, some more products from the MUA range at Superdrug very shortly. Watch this space …

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Friday, 1 February 2013

This February Why Not … ?

Toss A Pancake
Pancakes are quick and easy to make and every year when I make them on Shrove Tuesday I say, “ I must make pancakes more often, not just once a year.” Yet every year passes without me making more.

Pancakes can be served with a variety of toppings and fillings, though I favour the traditional sugar and lemon, using the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon, as opposed to that out of a bottle or plastic excuse for a lemon. My son loves strawberry sauce (Tesco Strawberry Dessert Sauce, £1.49, which is lovely and fruity without being too sweet), whilst chocolate sauce or golden syrup (Lyles Pouring Golden Syrup 98p) are other favourites.

Don’t bother buying batter mixes, as pancakes are very quick, easy and cheap to make from scratch. To make 8-10 pancakes you need 275ml (about 1/2pt) batter. Place 100g plain flour in a bowl with a little salt, make a well in the centre and gradually add 2 beaten eggs, mixing well. Stir in about half of 275ml milk, beat, add remainder of milk and beat again. Batter should be smooth and creamy. Use a small omelette pan to heat a little oil, add batter a small amount at a time (I find a ladle a good measuring device), cook until firm, then toss or flip to cook other side. Serve with your chosen topping.

Ditch The Diet …
… in favour of ongoing healthy eating. Many of you may have made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, but once you find yourself using that dreaded word ‘diet’, you instantly feel deprived and more prone to give in to temptation. So instead of a rigid diet regime, gradually make some healthy eating additions and swaps to help reduce/maintain your weight.

Remember: eat 5-7 portions of fruit and veg a day; use small amounts of very lean meat, making up the quantity in dishes such as stews with lots of healthy veg; avoid deep fried foods, shallow fry in a little olive oil or ditch the fried stuff altogether; reserve creamy desserts, cakes etc as very occasional treats; serve meals on smaller plates, resulting in smaller portions that you psychologically believe to be the same.

Another tip is to keep a food diary. By writing down everything that you eat, it really makes you think twice about what you reach for and encourages you to choose healthier options that look more ‘respectable’ on your list.

Get Puzzling
Solving a puzzle is a great workout for you brain – I’m a big fan of all kinds including codewords, su-doku, logic problems and quizzes. It has been suggested that puzzle-solving may even help delay or lessen memory problems and dementia. A large number of puzzle magazines are available, ranging from weekly publications featuring prize puzzles that also contain articles such as Chat and Take A Break, to monthly puzzle only editions published by Lovatts, WH Smith etc. So what are you waiting for? Work that brain today!

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