Friday, 1 January 2010

Dr Who's Not so Special Christmas Special

Three Words to describe Dr Who - The End of Time Part 1
slow, padded, boring

Did anyone like me sit down after Christmas dinner with the family and a nice glass of wine looking forward to watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special on BBC1? Only I found myself falling asleep! No it wasn't the large dinner I had just eaten or the glass of wine that was putting me to sleep, it was the painstakingly slow plot of Dr Who - The End of Time!

It wasn't the acting that was poor, David Tennant and John Simm were brilliant and I'm sure the actual basic plot was good. I felt however that there was clear "padding" of the storyline, which let it down. I'm sure that the BBC could have easily fitted the whole plot into a single episode rather than stretching it out into 2. Although... they couldn't then ensure viewing figures when the second episode airs tonight.

In addition, what is it with keeping viewers in suspense for a whole week anyway? Even I have forgotten most of what happened in last week's episode! Oh wait... maybe it is so that the BBC can "pad" tonight's episode with a 5-10 min re-cap? If it can be summed up so easily why draw it out for a whole hour in the first place?!

Overall I'm not impressed. However, despite my whining and complaining I'll still be watching it tonight! Me fickle? :)

Happy New Year!

So it's now 2010 and it is the time where many people make New Year's Resolutions for the upcoming year - to lose weight, stop smoking, drink less or maybe learn something new...

The concept of New Year's Resolutions has been around for many years, the New Year seen as starting with a "clean slate" or even promises to God with the hope that favour will be granted in return (e.g. a good harvest).

It's only January 1st but how many of the resolutions made will have already been broken? Sneaking a left-over mince pie having vowed to diet? Waking up and lighting the first cigarette of the day, having promised to quit?

Think back to the resolutions we made for 2009... How long did these last? 3 months, 1 month, 1 week, 1 day?

Here are 5 tips I;ve found to help us stick to our resolutions throughout 2010: -

  1. Make your resolution attainable - the more realistic your goal the easier it will be to achieve

  2. Don't make too many resolutions, concentrate on the most important and stick to it - trying to do too much at once could be frustrating and feel like too much hard work

  3. Work towards a goal that can be accomplished - e.g. if you want to lose weight set a reasonable weight loss target for 3 months time. This will give you the motivation to continue through the rest of the year

  4. Don't be too hard on yourself,reward yourself - If you're dieting, allow yourself a treat every now and again, going cold turkey (sorry!) will make you want that thing you're craving even more, if you're giving up smoking save up the money you would have spent on cigarettes and buy yourself something nice

  5. Don't be afraid to slip up, just make sure you get back on the horse! If you're giving something up that you're used to it is easy to slip back into old habits. Drinking/eating too much one night doesn't have to mean that your resolution has been blown for the whole year

My resolution is to put up more blog posts! There it is in black and white now I've got to do it!

Good luck with your own resolutions!

Happy New Year and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2010 from me!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Save Money On Your Weekly Shop

This post follows on from my earlier one recommending the substitution of higher price 'branded' products for cheaper alternatives. There is however an alternative! Check out what offers your supermarket has on and use them.

For example currently at Asda, dried pasta is on special offer - buy 2 500g bags for £1 (usual price 70p each). Therefore if you choose this option rather than say buying a single 1kg bag (at £1.08), you can save money.

However, you have to watch out because these "special offers" are not always the cheapest option for the product you want.

For example: Coke Zero - special offer 2 packs of 8 x 330ml cans at Asda are 2 for £6, which works out as 37.5p per can. However alongside this special offer Asda sell a box of 15 x 330ml cans for £5.50, which works out as approximately 36.67p per can.

Okay I know these examples only save you pennies here and there but it all adds up and there are occasions when the offer can save pounds.

My tips to saving money on your shopping over time would be: -

  1. Always check the cost per can/100ml/100g of a product (usually highlighted on the price label). Check around on the same shelf and see whether you can save money by buying a different size product (like with the pasta above).

  2. When a supermarket have a special offer on, stock up! This works best with dry packet foods, cans and frozen goods, which can be stored in the cupboard/freezer and use as and when you need them.
    For example; I always buy Quorn Mince, at the moment it is currently over £2.50 per 350g bag, however about a month ago it was on special for as little as £1! Needless to say I bought 3-4 bags and put them in the freezer. Another good saving I've made is on Batchelors' savoury rice, supermarkets have in the past had offers such as 4 for £1 whilst these are currently at 50p each.

  3. Shop around! If you have the time or patience consider which supermarkets have the best deals on which foods. For example, Aldi have their "Super 6" fruit and veg at 49p each - this week including 49p for 1kg bananas and 49p for 500g grapes - conversely 1kg bananas when checked at Tesco are 84p, with 500g of grapes at £1.44.

  4. Watch out for the offers each supermarket has in any given week, it is common for supermarkets to 'follow' each other with special offers (e.g. one week Asda have Mullerlight yoghurts on offer and then the next Tesco will have the same offer when Asda's offer ends).

  5. Try internet shopping. The first time you use it, you may find it confusing and yes it could take a little longer than you would like to start with, however as time goes on the quicker it will become and it can save you money! I've been using online shopping for years now and find that I always spend less when doing this than when I go to the local supermarket. You know what it's like, you pop to the shop for one thing and come out having spent over £20 on things you didn't really need. Internet shopping prevents this, you get what you need and you aren't attracted to what's on the next shelf, ergo you buy less and save money. Finally it also leaves you time to do other things and completely takes the stress out of shopping (who hasn't wanted to ram their trolley into someone in a busy supermarket on a Saturday afternoon?!)

  6. If you do your shopping online, don't always rely on your saved favourites. Whilst it is quick and easy for you to just select the usual items you need, it can mean that you miss out on offers. Using my example above, if you usually buy the 1kg bag of pasta, you wont necessarily know that it's infact cheaper to buy 2 500g bags instead. Look at what offers are on that week!

  7. Plan your meals around what is on offer, for example make a curry/stir-fry using vegetables from Aldi's "Super 6".

  8. Try the cheaper option. If you don't like it fair enough but if you do you could be spending less every week. - for example I would have Smartprice Digestive Biscuits any day over McVities.

For more money saving advice go to

All prices stated are correct online as of 11th July 2009

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Francais s'il vous plait!

Do you know what is really annoying me on TV at the moment? The advert for Stella Artois !

The guy walks up to the bar (supposedly in France) and asks for a "Stella Artois four s'il vous plait." If they are going to have the dialogue in French, the least they can do is ask for a "Stella Artois quatre s'il vous plait"!

(The same goes for La nouvelle 4).

If you want to watch the ad click here

Monday, 8 June 2009

The local Council - do they think we are that fickle?

Has anyone else noticed that their Council has very recently started doing work or repairs that should have been done ages ago? Tarmacing a road full of potholes for instance...

Such repairs/works starting around about the time of the local elections maybe?

Or just call me a cynic... :)

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Big Brother 2009 - Can't Wait or Can't be Bothered?

So Big Brother is 10 years old! Was it really that long ago that reality TV took off? It would seem that these days you can't turn on the TV without finding one 'reality' show or another, ... Big Brother, Britain's Got Talent, X-Factor, Come Dine With Me... the list is endless. Are people really interested in watching 'ordinary' folk? It would appear so!

With Big Brother starting its 10th run this week, isn't everyone just a bit fed up with it? I know I am! Don't get me wrong, I couldn't miss an episode of Big Brother when it first started and for the first few years, but you can only see so much of the same thing!

When Big Brother started it was an original concept, unpredictable with real and ordinary people. However it now seems to be the same bunch of early 20 somethings, looking for fame no matter what it takes! You will also usually find 1 or 2 "older" contestants and 1 or 2 who have a different culture or beliefs (either in an attempt to cause controversy or attract a wider viewing audience I don't know which). Watch it on Thursday and then tell me if I'm wrong!

If you see the auditions of those chosen it is clear that the Big Brother chiefs choose people who will be controversial, clash with other housemates or cause a stir hoping their actions will increase ratings. It reminds me a bit of Wife Swap really, you always see a switch between a really strict family and a laid back family, or a workaholic and a housewife. Well let's face it, who would want to watch real-life, 'ordinary' people going about their daily life with no controversy? We watch the Soaps after all!

What also gets me is the pressure on people to watch these shows just to fit in at work/school. I know from experience that you can feel totally left out if you did not see 'what happened last night'!

We all remember the romance of Paul & Helen, what Stuart & Michelle did (or didn't do) under the table and of course Jade's anticis, but how much more of the same can we take and who actually remembers who won last year anyway?!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

My Fan Oven Doesn't Heat Up! (How to Fix)

We have a built in fan oven and a couple of months ago I went into a panic... the fan was turning, the thermostat light came on (and stayed on) but only cold air was circulating around the oven. I left it for nearly an hour hoping it would heat up, but nothing happened!

At this point I was thinking it was going to be a very expensive job. The cooker itself is built into the kitchen units and therefore I couldn't simply buy a new one if needs be. I was also worried about how much time I would need to take off work to wait in for a repairman - not to mention the extortionate call out fees some can charge!

So as we do in this technological age I Googled for a solution. I found out that the cause was likely one of two things; either the thermostat had gone, or the fan element had. Searching further I established the following: -

  1. If the thermostat light doesn't switch on - the thermostat is likely be the problem - this was not my problem - sorry I can't offer any advice on this

  2. If the fan itself is working and the thermostat light switches on, but doesn't go out - it is likely that the fan element is faulty - this was my problem - keep reading for a solution

Before you remove the fan element or start any repairs to your oven make sure that it is turned off at the wall. For additional safety I would also recommend turning off the electricity.

If the fan element is faulty, there may be visible signs of burning or splitting.

If the fan element is faulty, it can be replaced. We found a replacement fan element for as little as £10 from a reputable ebayer. If you use ebay however make sure you choose the correct element for your oven make.

Once you have found your new fan element follow the below link for a detailed step by step guide we used to replace our fan element. Thank you to ransomspares for their easy to understand guide and who also stock many oven fan elements!

How to Replace a Faulty Fan Element

Things to watch out for
  • Do not attempt any repairs to your oven until the electricity is disconnected
  • Do not touch the fan when it is spinning
  • Make sure you use the right replacement fan element for your make of cooker
  • Some cookers (like ours) are built into the kitchen units and cannot be accessed from behind - luckily our fan element could be accessed and removed from the front - make sure yours can too
  • Some cookers will have very short leads running to the fan element - be careful not to let these slip down behind the cooker when removing/replacing the element
  • I would recommend wearing a mask to prevent breathing in of fumes which may linger in the oven
  • Make sure you tighten the screws attaching the element to the oven - to prevent the slippage or the element coming away

It could cost you as little as £10-£20 to fix your oven rather than around £100 for a repairman or a new cooker!

Disclaimer: Information given either on this blog or via the above link is for information purposes only. No liability is accepted for any loss or damage that may occur from attempting the advice.