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FridaysArePurple
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    • Lava Aquarium Fish Lamp / Lighting / 86 Readings / 84 Ratings
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      10.02.2014 22:07
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      A fun novelty light

      ~~~Why did I buy it?~~~
      A few years ago I was given some Argos vouchers as a leaving gift from a job. With some of them I was sensible and bought a duvet cover (something I needed) and with the rest I bought this Lava Aquarium Fish Lamp (something I wanted!) I bought it as I thought it would be nice to look at and I wanted to make the most of my vouchers and get something I would never actually spend my own money on.

      ~~~The lamp~~~
      To clear up any initial confusion, there is in fact no lava involved in this lamp. It is just named that as it shares the same iconic shape as an original lava lamp (and is presumably from the same brand).
      The body of the lamp is glass and the top and base are metal. The whole thing stands at a height of 41cm tall. It comes with a variety of variously coloured plastic fish and little balls which get caught up in the bubbles which float up out of the base of the lamp. They float to the top, and sink to the bottom as they get knocked around by the bubbles.

      The lamp requires distilled water and it does not come supplied with it. This is really not an issue though, as engine water for cars is distilled so most people will already have some of this lying around in the garage. If not, you can do as I did and pick up a bottle of it in Halfords for a few pounds. The top metal part of the lamp lifts off and underneath there is a black rubber plug which is removed so you can pour the water in and it's as simple as that.

      ~~~The light~~~
      What really makes this lamp pretty to look at is the coloured light that shines up from the base, illuminating the bubble column. There is a single silver button on the base which operates the different light settings and you just press it repeatedly to flick through the different colours which are: red, green, dark blue, light blue, yellowy orange and purple. The final setting automatically changes colour though all of them and repeats. I never tend to select that one as it changes very rapidly like some kind of crazy disco light and is quite distracting. The static colours, however, are very pleasant. If you wish, you can also run the lamp with the bubbles on and the light turned off which is a nice touch.

      ~~~The fish~~~
      My lamp has 6 plastic fish in it which are all different shapes and colours, although most of them are yellow. Each fish also has a hinged tail which can move separately from the body to add to the movement they undergo in the stream of bubbles. The lamp also contains 5 different coloured see-through plastic balls. Of course, you can add and remove these as you wish. For a classier look you can take all that stuff and just have the coloured bubbles to look at.


      ~~~The noise~~~
      I feel I should mention this as, although not an issue for me, I know that some people may be bothered by the noise. To create the bubbles, the lamp obviously has a pump in it which makes a humming noise much the same as an aquarium does. It also vibrates a bit if which you can feel if you put your hand on it. So it is not suitable as a bedside lamp or as a nightlight for example because it would be too distracting in a silent room. When I lived with my parents and had it on upstairs in my bedroom, my Dad used to say that it was like a helicopter hovering above the house! I think this is a monumentally huge eye-roll-worthy exaggeration but he genuinely felt that he could hear it on upstairs when in the room below because it vibrated through the desk that I had it on. At the time I put this down to my Dad having supersonic hearing but I have read other reviews where people have been bothered by the noise. So if some background humming would bother you, this is definitely not the lamp for you. Plenty of stuff hums in my house (fridge, boiler, water pipes, 2 fish tanks) so this really doesn't offend me being in the corner of the lounge!

      ~~~The verdict~~~
      This lamp costs £29.99 from Argos and although it may seem a bit expensive, the quality of the lamp does reflect the price so I feel that it was good value for money. I really like to watch it as it is quite mesmerising. I tend not to leave it on for too long as with all the bubbles and lights and movement going on in there it probably leaches a fair bit of electricity, although I have no information on its energy usage so I can't say for sure.

      This is a really fun novelty lamp which looks funky and is also a quality product. If you want something more silent and peaceful, get a proper lava lamp but if you want something more fun and lively, this is a good choice of novelty lamp. I'll give it 4 stars overall as I really like it but it does feel like a bit of a decadent use of electricity and the humming noise means it's not perfect for everyone.

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        08.02.2014 22:55
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        Attractive digital kitchen scales that look more expensive than they actually are

        I was given a nice cookbook for Christmas and I realised that my normal method of trying to guess the weight of ingredients (inaccurate) or trying to convert everything to number of table spoons (even worse) wasn't good enough. I wanted some accurate, but simple digital kitchen scales and I bought some of these from Argos for the very reasonable price of £9.99.

        As part of the Argos ColourMatch range, these digital kitchen scales are available in a variety of colours: jelly bean blue (pastel blue) bubblegum pink (pastel pink), tutti frutti green (pale green), apple green (the one shown in the picture above), poppy red and jet black. My first preference was jelly bean blue but unfortunately this colour was out of stock in the store I went to so I ended up with tutti frutti green instead. (However, you can check product availability on the Argos website and also reserve items if you are particular about what you want).

        These scales have a maximum capacity of 5kg (11lb) which means that you can place a mixing bowl on them, zero them and add ingredients directly which I like. There's no need to weigh ingredients in smaller bowls and transfer them afterwards. They are quite small (H23cm, W16.5cm) and are therefore easy to store when not in use. I usually put mine back in the box they came in, which is quite compact, to make sure they don't get damaged in amongst my pots and pans. They look quite smart and sleek so I would leave them out on the kitchen side if I had a bigger kitchen.

        They measure in both imperial and metric so you can select your preference. I use both depending on what recipe I am using and how old it is. It measures in graduations of 1g which is more than good enough for kitchen scales.

        The scales have a glass surface which covers the whole surface and is very easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth. The buttons are not really buttons at all, you just press on the surface of the glass and somehow it registers your touch. I'm not sure how it works but it's quite cool. It removes the problem of stray sugar and flour clogging up the buttons. It is also very simple to use - there are only 2 buttons, one to turn it on and zero it and the other switches from imperial to metric. The LCD display is easy to read and positioned well so you can still see it even when you have a bowl on the scales.

        There is no off button, they turn off by themselves so you don't have to worry about forgetting and the battery running low. Incidentally, they come supplied with a button battery which is replaceable if necessary. There is also a 10 year manufacturer's guarantee.

        I am very pleased with these scales as they are accurate enough for my needs, are easy to clean and they look much more expensive than they actually were which is always nice! I have no complaints at all so it's 5 stars from me.

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          01.02.2014 17:02
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          A nice decent fridge-freezer which I would recommend

          Product: Hotpoint Iced Diamond RFAA52 Fridge-freezer

          ~~~Why?~~~

          Last summer my old fridge, which was part of a fridge-freezer combo, decided that the standard 4'C optimum temperature which it had happily maintained for years was no longer good enough. Interestingly, instead of it being too warm, I was treated to a chilly but constant -2'C. After a thorough defrosting and plenty of messing about with the temperature settings, the monstrous icy glacier reformed at the back, crystallizing my butter, turning my drinks slushy and freezing my milk solid. Inconvenient, to say the least. We parted ways and a new fridge-freezer was welcomed into my kitchen.

          ~~~What?~~~

          My shiny new fridge-freezer is a white Hotpoint Iced Diamond RFAA52. The fridge compartment is on the top and the freezer is at the bottom. Total dimensions of the whole combo are: 1740 x 454 x 580mm (H x W x D). The fridge is slightly larger than the freezer part with capacities of 150 litres and 75 litres respectively.

          A few of the most relevant specifications:

          - Energy rating: A+
          - Freezer star rating: ****
          - Annual energy consumption: 258 kWh
          - Power failure safe storage time: 9 hours
          - Door can be hinged on the other side
          - CFC free
          - Not suitable for outbuildings (only for heated environments)

          ~~~The fridge~~~

          The fridge has 3 removable safety-glass shelves that can be repositioned at different heights, and two plastic salad crisper boxes which sit at the bottom. The door has three shelves built in and are positioned at different heights. Large bottles of milk and fizzy drinks fit at the bottom well, the middle shelf I used for things like sauces and ketchup and I put jams and pickles at the top. I am yet to encounter anything that won't fit anywhere. The fridge also comes with a plastic egg-holder which fits 6 eggs - slightly archaic as I have never bought loose eggs in my life. The on/off switch is clearly visible inside the fridge and there is a single, simple temperature dial from 1 to 5. which is all very straight forward.

          ~~~The freezer~~~

          The freezer has 4 clear plastic drawers, all of which can be pulled out completely and removed. This makes it easy to see what's in there and to clean out the drawers. The bottom drawer is half the width of the others as is common with most freezers and you pretty much have to take it out in able to get anything out of it. There is no silly hinged door at the top which flips down which is a good thing as they always get snapped off eventually and fall out. Two of the freezer drawers also come with detachable ice cube tray things which clip back on the front of the drawer without taking up any extra storage space. This is a really nice idea but I have found that the only way to get the ice out is to give it a few hard whacks on the kitchen work-top. For some reason, this doesn't seem to be appreciated by other members of the household and it just results in randomly shaped shards of ice rather than cubes, so I would recommend giving that a miss.


          ~~~Where?~~~

          This fridge-freezer was purchased from Currys and it is currently listed on their website at £219.00. You can also pay and extra £20.98 for a silver one if you are so inclined. There are also jet black ones for sale if you are willing to part with £245.00. This fridge is also available from other retailers but the decision to purchase from here was due to the home delivery service and the fact that they deliver to 1st floor flats, which would otherwise have been a deal-breaker. It is worth noting that not all shops will do this and unless you want to wrestle all 56kg of it up the stairs yourself, this is definitely worth checking before purchasing. We also took advantage of their old fridge removal service, so they took my broken one away at the same time as delivering the new one which was great.


          ~~~My thoughts~~~

          I am very happy with the storage space and compartment sizes in this fridge-freezer. The magnetic strips around the doors work very well and the fridge-light is effective. The whole thing is crisp and white and looks nice. I have a fridge thermometer and the temperature is always static and exactly what it should be. I have had it for 6 months and there has been no ice build-up at all in either the fridge or freezer. It is not at all noisy (44db apparently) which is perfect for me as I have an open plan kitchen-living room and my sofa is actually about 2m from the it and it would drive me crazy if it started whirring and humming when I'm trying to watch TV. No such troubles encountered, thankfully. In conclusion, this is a very decent fridge-freezer and I would happily recommend it. 5 stars from me.

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            05.06.2013 22:50
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            A funky blue substrate for aquaria which doesn't fade

            I recently upgraded to a larger fish tank as my goldfish are getting bigger and this is the gravel I had in my old tank. I thought the upgrade would be a good opportunity to get a different type or colour of gravel to make a change but in the end I found my interest returning to this product, and I bought another bag of this blue aquarium gravel from Pets at Home. After looking at the other varieties of gravel in both Pets at Home and a couple of independent aquatics centres this was still the most attractive of all the different varieties I came across.

            I actually bought the Blue Mix Gravel which contains two different shades of blue, one of which is the same as pictured and the second is a slightly lighter shade. This slight contrast makes it more interesting to look at and the colours are quite vibrant so it looks really good when the aquarium lights are on. In addition to being attractive, gravel also provides a good substrate for beneficial bacteria which provide biological filtration for the tank.

            This gravel is made of silicate aggregates and is coated in a colourfast resin coating to stop the dye leaking into the tank water. This makes the individual stones slightly shiny upon close inspection which makes them look nice. I have been using this gravel for 6 months and the colour has not faded at all, is it still as vibrant as ever. It will not affect the pH of the tank water either. This gravel can also be used as a substrate for aquatic plants although I have not tried this yet as I only have ornamental plants in my tank so far. It is suitable for all types of aquarium whether it be coldwater like mine, tropical or marine. It can be dusty when new so it needs to be thoroughly rinsed a few times before it is used.

            The size of the stones in this gravel is quite fine. The size and shape is slightly variable but I would say they are all roughly between 2mm and 5mm. My goldfish really seem to like foraging around in this gravel and they will suck a few stones into their mouth at a time and then spit them out somewhere else after they are sure there is no more food stuck on them. They would not be able to do this with larger gravel which would be a shame so this is perfect for them. In fact, when I come to clean the ornamental plants in the tank, I always turn them upside down in the tank first and give them a shake to get rid of the gravel that has landed in there before running them under the tap to clean them. This saves gravel from being lost down the sink.

            It is sold in 2kg bags which are £4.50 and also in 8kg bags which are £14. There are also a variety of other colours available including white, black, brown, red, a blue/green mix, and a black/white mix. One and a half inches of gravel seems to be the general consensus on how much to have in a tank (variable depending on the fish). I have found that 2 x 2kg bags covered the base of my 65L tank where the dimensions of the base are 50cm x 35cm so this can serve as a guideline as to how much may be needed for your tank.

            In summary, this is a great aquarium substrate with a lovely vibrant blue colour that my fish seem to like as much as I do. On that basis, it's 5 stars!

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              02.06.2013 22:19
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              Cheap laundry gel which smells nice, and does the trick

              ~~Why?~~

              After some problems with liquitabs not dissolving properly in my washing machine I decided to switch to laundry gel instead as I can use the quick-wash function on my washing machine without getting partially dissolved bits of liquitab sticking to my clothes. The other advantage of using a gel is that you can alter the dosage depending on how many clothes are in a wash and how dirty they are which can be useful.

              ~~Where?~~

              I happened to be in a Tesco when I needed some so I picked up one of these bottles of Tesco own brand Non-Bio Landry Gel. The decision to choose this particular brand was pretty much just down to price as it costs a very reasonable £2.25.

              ~~What?~~

              The gel is comes in a white 630ml bottle with a blue cap. The gel itself is blue and there is a see-through strip down the side of the bottle which lets you see how much of the product is left which is a useful feature. Under the blue plastic cap (which is not recommended for use in dryers) the bottle has an easy to open flip-top. As expected this product is dermatologically tested and claims to be 'gentle on your family's skin'. It is not recommended for use with wool or silk and also not recommended for handwashing.

              The ingredients are: 15 -30% nonionic and anionic Surfactants, 5 - 15% soap, <5% Phosphonate. Also contains optical brightener, perfumes, benzisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, hexyl salicylate (which may cause allergic reactions). It is an irritant and should obviously be kept out of reach of children.

              ~~How?~~

              The cap on the top of the bottle detaches completely and doubles up as a 'dosing device' so the gel is measured out into it and the cap with the gel it is placed into the drum of the washing machine, on top of the clothes. On occasion I have put the full cap of gel on top of my clothes and it has tipped over and gone on to the clothes but this has never caused any issues. The gel should not be placed in the washing machine drawer, presumably as it is too gloopy to be flushed out properly.

              As with all laundry gels and powders, the recommended dosage varies slightly based on the hardness of the water in the area where you live and the level of soiling of the clothes but for medium harness/normal soiling there is enough gel for 18 washes. I have a habit of just randomly putting in as much as I feel like but as far as I can tell this guideline seems about right!

              ~~So?~~

              I have found that this gel has a general clean and fresh smell which make my clothes smell good without having an overbearing, perfumed scent. This means that the gel can be used alone or combined with a scented fabric softener and clothes will smell good either way (I have used other products in the past which, when combined with fabric softener, creates a horrible scent combo!). My clothes are clean and fresh after using this product and do not feel rough on the skin at all. The results I have had when using this product are just the same as when using more expensive brands of laundry gel so I am very pleased with it. I will definitely be buying this again in the future so it comes recommended by me.

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              • Optrex Itchy Eye Drops / Medicine / 80 Readings / 79 Ratings
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                20.05.2013 21:03
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                Soothing eye drops for itchy eyes

                ~~What does it do?~~

                I have suffered with hayfever every year since I was a teenager and have tried various tablets, nasal sprays, eye mists etc. over the years and haven't found anything that is effective enough to be worth bothering with. The exception to this are eye drops which I find to be a cheap, simple way of offering immediate relief to itchy, puffy eyes.

                ~~What are they like?~~

                These Optrex Itchy Eye Drops are available from chemists (without a prescription) and supermarkets and are suitable for adults and children. The drops come in a small 10ml squeezy plastic bottle which is packaged inside a blue and yellow box. The bottle is small but easy to hold and comes with a twistable cap. The bottle is easy to squeeze to release a single drop - I have never had a problem of getting more drops come out at a time than I bargained for. The drops themselves are clear and look and feel just like water. I bought mine for £3.16 from Tescos.

                ~~Why might they be needed?~~

                As I mentioned, I use these eye drops in the spring/summer to relieve itchy hayfever eyes. However, these drops are also suited to people who have sore eyes from other issues such as irritation from house dust or chlorine from swimming for example. I have also used them in the past to soothe my stinging eyes after cutting a particularly evil onion and another time when I got a face full of smoke when I opened the oven to check on some smokey BBQ Ribs. And yes, they were smokey.

                ~~How do you do it?~~

                Not everybody likes the idea of putting drops in their eyes as it can seem a bit unnatural. I used to struggle with it when I was younger but now I can do it with no problems. I come from a family of allergy sufferers so here are some of the approaches I have witnessed over the years:

                My mother

                My Mum pulls open her bottom eye lid and using a mirror she aims for the drop to go in there rather than on the eye itself. She is very good at doing this but I find it very hard and I usually miss and end up getting the drop somewhere on my face instead. It is for this reason that it is a good idea to put eye drops in before doing your make up!

                My brother

                My brother stands in front of a mirror and tips head back and to the side and drips a drop in from above, letting gravity do it's thing. He can only do it with the help of a mirror. I once inquired 'What do you need a mirror for? You know where you're eye is don't you?'. But he obviously decided this was an annoying-big-sister-comment which wasn't deemed worthy of an answer so I never did find out. The issue I have with this technique is that you can see when the quivering, shiny drop is about to fall from the bottle and it is really hard not to instinctively blink just before it gets there.

                Myself

                I just tip my head right back and hold the bottle above my eye. I then look the other way with my eyes, whilst keeping my head still and squeeze a drop out the bottle. This way, you won't see the drop coming so there is no blinking in anticipation but it is still easy to get it in the eye. After years of hayfever, I personally think this is the easiest and most accurate method. It probably looks the most weird though...

                My father

                My Dad is 'not an eye person'. Anything on TV to do with eyes or surgery has to get turned over right away. This is so bad that he denies he even has hayfever (even though he clearly does), to stop the rest of the family trying to talk him into trying eye drops. Instead he seems to get a 'cold' every summer which strangely seems to get a lot worse when he cuts the grass.... This is a shame as they really do relieve itchy eyes and it is frustrating he suffers with it when something can be done about it!

                My Nan

                My Nan uses a hand mirror to see what she is doing. The problem is that she needs to wear glasses to see things that close. And to put drops in you obviously have to take glasses off. She asked my Dad to do it for her once but as you can imagine I don't think that went particularly well...

                My boyfriend

                New to eye drops until last year, I offered to try and put drops in for him as he was too freaked out to try it himself. I got him to lie down and tried it but he kept scrunching his eyes up without knowing he was doing it and blinking too much before I had even done anything. I think it worked in the end but it wasn't really worth the effort! Now whenever he complains of itchy eyes, I make the same offer and strangely, all of a sudden, he decides actually he is fine and they don't itch that much after all...

                My Grandma

                My Grandma often declares quite loudly in the presence of the rest of the family, that she doesn't believe in hayfever and it all a fuss about nothing. Strangely enough this never seems to goes down very well so the less said about this, the better!

                ~~Do they work~~

                It is recommended that you use between 2 and 4 drops per eye as needed. I find that one drop goes in nicely. Two drops is quite a lot and when you blink, your eye lashes will be all wet like you have yawned. Three drops is too much and when you blink it will roll down our face like a tear. Four is just silly. They feel cool and refreshing when you put them in and I find them to be effective. The longevity of the relief will really depend on the exact scenario in which you are using them and how irritated your eyes are. Adding the eye drops when the itchiness first starts, avoiding touching/rubbing your eyes and keeping away from the trigger of the itchiness will result in the best outcome. It usually feels nice to keep your eyes closed for a couple of seconds afterwards although it is not necessary to do so. These eye drops are used to soothe itchy eyes rather than prevent the itchiness in the first place but in the height of the hayfever season I often put some in before leaving the house anyway as it doesn't do any harm. Also, the bottle should be discarded after 28 days of opening and should not be shared with any one else for hygiene reasons.

                In summary, Optrex Itchy Eye Drops are a quick, simple way to soothe sore, itchy eyes. I buy these every year and they last well. It can take a bit of getting used to deliberately putting drops in your eyes at first as it feels natural to blink to stop them going in but practice makes perfect and it is worth it if you suffer with itchy eyes as they do soothe the itch.

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                  13.05.2013 22:12
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                  Pretty, delicate, outline stickers for paper crafts

                  ~What are they?~~

                  Anita's Outline Stickers are a range of different craft stickers for card-making and scrapbooking. They are available in dozens of different varieties including words and phrases, letters, numbers, boarders, shapes, and themed items such as birthday cakes, flowers, animals etc. As they are outline stickers, when peeled off the backing sheet they are not a solid shape but a delicate-looking outline which makes them pretty embellishments for arts and crafts. They are most commonly available in metallic gold, sliver or bronze. I have also seen matt red, green and white Christmas themed stickers for sale in the winter.

                  ~~ Ease of use ~~

                  Most of the stickers are quite easy to peel off the backing sheet although you may find it more difficult if you don't have very long finger nails. I usually bend the sheet of stickers a bit to encourage the corner of the one I'm interested in to reveal itself. Things like individual letters and numbers are quite simple to do however some of the larger designs or phrases such as 'Happy Birthday' are more intricate and can get stretched when being removed. This is not an issue, as you just stick it down on your card or scrapbook bit by bit, carefully patting it down with a finger as you go so it is no longer stretched. I sometimes use tweezers to place my stickers as it is easier to position them so they are straight, especially for the longer phrases and boarders.

                  Sometimes little bits of sticker which are inside enclosed letters such as 'd', and 'o' etc. stay attached to the sticker when it has been peeled off, instead of remaining on the backing sheet. So instead of having a perfect outline sticker, some of the letters may look filled in. The only way to get these out is to poke the unwanted bit out with tweezers which is a bit fiddly and annoying. It doesn't happen with all of them though. I think it just depends on how small the sticker is, how intricate the design is and how loopy the font is. So these stickers are probably not that suitable for children due to their slightly fiddly nature.

                  ~~ Oops, I've put it on wonky~~

                  Unfortunately, there are occasions, despite my best efforts, when I manage to stick things on completely crooked. If sticking on card, as long as you remove the sticker as soon as possible, it is easy enough to get it up and it will retain enough stickiness for a second attempt. If not, then dabbing it on a glue stick does the trick. The longer the sticker is left in its incorrect place, the harder it is to remove it and sometimes I have ended up ripping the card/paper when I have pulled a sticker off, ruining my card in the process. The motto of the story is: make sure you do it properly the first time around. I have never had any occurrences where a sticker has fallen off of its own accord so the adhesive on them is of a good quality and they will not fall off your card when it's in the post.

                  ~~ Varieties ~~

                  I have quite a few different sheets of outline stickers but I find the the most useful to be my silver 'Happy Birthday' and 'Merry Christmas' ones. The stickers are small, pretty and elegant. I can do calligraphy so in theory I could write this myself, but it takes me so long to do it would be impractical for making lots of Christmas cards, for example. I would also find it very hard to write as small as my preferred size of outline sticker too so these stickers are incredibly useful. I have a sheet of 'Handmade' stickers which I put on the back of cards I have made - it looks better than text printed on a plain white sticker and it cannot smudge like a ink stamp can. I have a few sheets of different silver and gold boarders which are useful as you can cut them to the size you want and use them for all sorts of things. I use these in my scrapbook to underline titles add nice edges to photos. I also have a few sheets of mixed phrases which include a variety of sayings on the one sheet such as 'Congratulations', 'Get well soon' 'A baby boy' etc. These are phrases that are needed less often so instead of having to buy a whole sheet of them which will not be needed, these mixed sheets are a good idea.

                  Finally I have a few patterned outline stickers such as presents with ribbons, santa and reindeer, and Christmas puddings. These types of outline sticker are great for beginners to use and also useful when you don't have enough time to come up with you own design completely from scratch. There are loads available with various themes including sports, flowers, weddings, butterflies, cars etc. so there are plenty to choose from. Also, some of the patterned stickers can be stuck on acetate and you can use paints or coloured permanent markers to fill in the gaps in the sticker to make a stained glass effect which looks really nice.

                  ~~ Price and Availability ~~

                  Anita's Outline Stickers are usually 99p and are sold in a variety of places including Hobbycraft, Colemans and Ebay. They are sometimes on offer in bargain bins, especially they say something less popular like 'Happy Christening' or if there are stickers missing from the sheet they will be discounted. Joblots of different varieties can often be found on ebay for a reasonable price too. I have also seen people selling them at markets.

                  In summary, these outline stickers look great and are a must-have item for anyone interested in card-making or scrapbooking.

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                  • Banana Guard / Household Product / 93 Readings / 93 Ratings
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                    29.04.2013 23:03
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                    A really useful gadget to stop bananas getting squashed

                    ~~The Problem~~

                    It is so annoying when a banana gets squished inside your bag. This horrific phenomenon presents a double edged sword as not only is your banana bruised, resulting in a disappointingly substandard lunch, but all your stuff is covered in sticky banana mush. Admittedly, this isn't exactly a life or death situation, but if it happens often enough it might just push you to the limit and leave you no choice but to fight back with a Banana Guard.

                    So why not use a simple lunch box? Well, I walk to and from work everyday and carry my things in a cross shoulder bag. If I put a square lunch box in there it knocks uncomfortably against my leg as I'm walking which ranks even higher on the scale of annoying-ness than a squashed banana. So in my Pre-Banana Guard days this was simply not an option and countless bananas were left with no other option but to optimistically enter my bag solo. Sadly not all of them made it.

                    ~~The Solution~~

                    The Banana Guard is a protective plastic case which clips shut around a banana, protecting it from bruises. As the photo clearly demonstrates it is banana shaped and a violently bright yellow colour. It has small holes along the length to stop the banana getting stuffy in there. This is a good feature in case you forget about your banana and leave it in there for a day or so before remembering to rescue it. As it is plastic it can easily be washed or wiped clean if need be.

                    The shape is straight at one end and curved towards the other end as it has been designed to fit all sorts of different shapes and sizes. You just place your banana towards whichever end is most appropriate. I have used my banana guard most weekdays over the last few months since I got it and have only encountered one stubborn banana which didn't want to fit. And yes, it was a rather large one but it was more an issue of girth than length. However it was only just slightly too big so I managed to force it in anyway. In this situation it probably would have worked just as well to leave the Banana Guard unclipped as it probably would have worked well enough like that anyway.

                    ~~The Niggles~~

                    To open and shut the Banana Guard there are two clips at each end and another larger clip in the middle. It is a bit fiddly to get in to and I don't think little children would be able to do it themselves. As it looks the same on both sides, it is not clear which way round you have it and therefore which way you need to push the middle clip to open it. It opens on plastic hinges which seem to work fine.

                    The brave and carefree among us would remove the Banana Guard from a bag at lunch time, remove the banana from its bright yellow slightly immaturely amusingly shaped casing and loudly snap the clips back into place to close it back up again (it doesn't seem possible to do this quietly). I have to admit that this is not my personal approach in the staff room at work. I usually fiddle around with it in my bag, trying to discreetly free the banana without drawing too much attention!

                    ~~The Verdict~~

                    Since I have owed my Banana Guard I have not had a single squashed banana and I have also never come across a banana that is too impossibly shaped to fit in it. It also fits in my bag much more comfortably than a lunch box would. So on that basis it deserves the 5 stars I shall award it.

                    I you are interested in buying one they are available on Amazon from £3.20 and upward, depending on the supplier. I have noticed that you can also get blue ones but somehow that just seems wrong. Yellow is the best.

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                      24.04.2013 17:15
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                      American TV at it best

                      Dissatisfied by the slim pickings offered by my freeview channels and currently in the middle of the long wait until the summer when the final series of Breaking Bad is aired, I went in search for a new US TV boxset which could keep me entertained. My search led me to Dexter which has glowing reviews on Amazon, IMDB and of course Dooyoo so I was convinced enough to buy a copy of Dexter season 1 from Ebay and try it out for myself.

                      The lead character Dexter Morgan is a good-looking thirty-something blood spatter analyst in the homicide section of the fictional Miami Metro Police Department. Dexter puts a lot of effort into appearing normal and he carefully portrays a perfectly crafted nice-guy image to his friends, family and colleagues to the extent that most of them have no clue that it is just an act. He brings donuts to work for his colleagues. He regularly goes out to dinner with his sister. He is incredibly understanding of his girlfriend's duties to her two young children. The problem is that Dexter doesn't ever feel genuine emotions. His whole life is a carefully constructed cover story to hide the fact that he is, in fact, one of Miami's most prolific serial killers.

                      At all times Dexter carries with him what he refers to as his Dark Passenger - the urge to kill which he has had for as long as he can remember, stretching right back into his childhood. So when he is not trying to please those around him and appear as normal as possible, Dexter pleases himself and hunts victims according to a strict code of conduct - only those who have killed others. He might be a serial killer but he has standards. Dexter only kills murderers because they deserve their fate and who better to be able to track down murderers who have evaded capture than someone who knows exactly how to get away with it?

                      The opening credits of Dexter are fab. Even though I have this on DVD and can easily skip the credits I often don't as I really like to watch them. It shows Dexter's morning routine of getting dressed, having a shave and eating breakfast but each of these are shot in a way to suggest different murder methods. For example cutting a blood orange with a sharp knife and squeezing it, a drop of blood on the sink from a shaving cut, tying shoe laces extra tightly with white knuckles. At the same time the quirky theme music is happily lilting along in the background. It is a great opening.

                      I have to be honest and say that after watching the pilot episode, I was not sure if I was going to continue and watch the rest of the series. I was worried the whole series would just be about Dexter catching and killing bad guys and that would be it. I am happy to say that I was wrong. After watching a few more episodes, I was hooked! The pilot episode is obviously very much focused on Dexter himself and showing what he does and what he is all about and is a necessary introduction to the show. After this, the series really comes alive as you get to know more about both him and the secondary characters and the various conflicts going on between them.

                      The major plotline running through this series starts with the discovery of a body which has been drained of all blood. Dexter has a strange fascination with blood and this case both horrifies and morbidly fascinates him. Dexter's sister is a young officer working in the same police department as him and is eager to crack the case and make a name for herself. Dexter is torn between using his murderous insights to secretly help her with the case or just letting the serial killer evade capture so he can confront the man himself and dish out some justice Dexter-style. Throughout the series we learn more about Dexter's past via flashbacks to his childhood and imagined conversations he has with his deceased father and the advice he might give him if he were alive. As more and more bloodless body parts appear over Miami, Dexter can no longer deny that he killer is sending him a personal message - one that is somehow linked to a traumatic event he encountered as a child, the memories of which are starting to return in small fragments. Where did Dexter's fascination with blood start? How does the killer know about him when he is always so careful to cover his tracks? Can Dexter stick to his code of killing murderers or will he unleash his Dark Passenger and show the new serial killer in town that he can be just as creative? How long can Dexter maintain his cover before he gets caught?

                      It may sound like a very bloodthirsty subject matter but as a viewer you do not get bogged down by this or get depressed when watching as there are some great moments of black humour throughout. Dexter might be in the middle of trying to dispose of a body when his girlfriend phones him and asks him to pick up milk from the shop, for example. Also, as Dexter (played by Michael C. Hall) narrates the episodes (which is a great touch), you are able to gain insights into his opinions on things and the issues he faces. The individual episodes tend to have little themes throughout such as family relationships or friendship and Dexter has often learned something new from his experiences allowing him to reflect on things at the end of the episode in a different way than he would have in the beginning. His sister Deb has a loud, bubbly personality and has a compulsion to just say pretty much whatever she is thinking which more often than not involves a lot of swearing and is completely inappropriate for the situation she is in, which is often quite amusing. She is probably my favourite character. All of the acting is excellent and cannot be faulted.

                      As you may have already gathered, this is an 18 certificate due to violence, swearing, and some sexual content in places. The series consists of 12 episodes which run for 60 mins each and are spread over 4 DVD disks. The boxset also includes some additional extras including commentary on a couple of episodes and a mini documentary on real blood spatter analysis. You can buy a new copy of Dexter series 1 on Amazon for around £10 or do as I did and get a secondhand copy from ebay for considerably cheaper. This series can alternatively be rented from Lovefilm or streamed online on Netflix. For those who are interested (and after watching series one I suspect most people would be), there are also a further 5 series of Dexter released on DVD with I have watched and also highly recommend. A seventh season is due for DVD release this summer and an eighth and supposedly final season is in production and yet to be aired. There are also a number of Dexter books available written by Jeff Lindsey which were the inspiration for the TV series. The first, called Darkly Dreaming Dexter follows the same basic plot as this first TV series.

                      In summary, I really enjoy watching Dexter. It is a refreshing change to have an antihero as the main protagonist and there is a perfect blend of normal life, murder, dark humour, cop action and suspense to keep me thoroughly entertained. From the quirky theme music, to the narration of the episodes to the excellent acting this is top notch US drama at its best and makes me more than a little embarrassed at what British TV has to offer in comparison. Dexter is quite violent and graphic in places so may not be to all tastes but it is so much more than that too and it is really a character based show. I suspect my Nan would find it horrific, my Mum would find it slightly too much and my brother would love it. If you like things like CSI, Breaking Bad, American Horror Story etc then I recommend giving Dexter a go. I can't give it anything less than 5 stars!

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                        22.04.2013 22:32
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                        Bog standard shower gel, not at all luxurious or creamy

                        This Creamy Coconut shower gel with added moisturiser was an impulse buy from Marks and Spencer as I spotted it on a shelf and remembered I could do with a new one. Prior to this I had never tried toiletries from in there before so I was interested to see what I might be missing out on. This is a M&S own-brand product and is part of their Nature's Extracts Collection.

                        The shower gel comes in a white, squeezy 250ml bottle with simple but nice drawings of coconuts on the front. There is a flip cap at the bottom which opens and closes easily. The first disappointment was that even though the packaging uses phrases like 'experience daily luxury', 'with added moisturiser', and 'creamy coconut' the shower gel is actually just a very boring clear-coloured gel. I was expecting something white in colour and a bit more creamy as the name suggests, but that isn't what I got. My bathroom isn't well lit and the lack of colour also makes it harder to see how much has been squeezed out of the bottle so I probably end up using much more of it than necessary, which is annoying.

                        This shower gel does have a nice coconut scent but it is not very strong at all, which is the second disappointment. I have to say that I don't really notice the smell of it very much at all when I am using it in the shower unless I deliberately smell it as it is quite faint. It foams up fine and cleans just as well as any other shower gel so I have no issue with it in that respect.

                        I just don't understand how this can be called a creamy coconut shower gel when it is just a boring clear gel with a low fragrance intensity Really this is just a bog standard shower gel in nice packaging. In fact, I have noticed on the M&S website that they sell a similar shower gel called Essential Extracts Coconut Milk Shower Gel which is a clear coloured gel in a more basic looking clear plastic bottle which retails at £1 rather than the £2 my shower gel cost. I haven't compared the ingredients lists but I can't help but feel these two products are basically the same thing but just in different bottles. I feel like I have paid £2 and just got a boring £1 product so I think it is a bit of a rip off.

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                          16.04.2013 21:59
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                          Nice tasting multivitamins but kind of expensive

                          On my latest supermarket shop I decided that maybe I should get some vitamins as I am a bit of a slacker on the 5 a day side of things. A lot of cereals have vitamins added to them but I only eat breakfast a couple of times a week so I thought I would give vitamin supplements a go.

                          After spending a while reading the boxes of all the different varieties available I decided to get a box of these Bassetts Soft and Chewy Active Health Multivitamins with Zinc. This decision was mainly down to the fact that I am not very keen on swallowing big pills and I was not convinced I would like the taste of the tablets which dissolve in water and you have to drink. These pastilles are quick and easy, don't require water and can be taken on the go and are therefore perfect for my needs.

                          ~The Target Market~

                          According to the packaging "Bassetts Soft and Chewy Active Health has been specifically developed to support the nutritional needs to teenagers and young adults, containing a selection of multivitamins and zinc to help support a healthy and active lifestyle". They are suitable for ages 12 and above and not suitable for children below that age. They are also not suitable for pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant as they contain vitamin A.

                          ~Vitamin Content~

                          If you take the recommended one multivitamin a day you will receive 100% of your daily recommended allowance of vitamins A, C, D3, E, B2, B5, B6, B12, biotin and folic acid and 30% of your daily recommended zinc. They have no added sugars but do contain natural sugars and sweeteners. It may also be of interest to know that they contain something called maltitol which can cause a laxitive effect if taken excessively (hence the one multivitamin a day advice). These pastilles also have bovine gelatine in them so if you are a strict vegetarian then you might want to avoid these.

                          ~Packaging~

                          These pastilles come in a shiny silver box of 30 and inside they are packaged in sets of 10 in plastic trays covered in foil so you can pop one out at a time. As they are squidgy you can push them out as forcefully as you like - unlike pills where you have to be careful not to snap them in half or caplets where you can dent them and the powder can spill out. The pastilles themselves are deep pink/purple in colour and are slightly smaller than a fruit pastille sweet.

                          ~The Taste~

                          The pastilles are all raspberry flavoured and are soft and chewy as promised. They are very similar to wine gums in both taste and texture. I was worried that I might not like them as I hate cough sweets and things like that but these are actually really nice. It doesn't matter if you suck on them or chew them, but I think they are nice to chew on. The flavour is quite strong and I have never dared to clean my teeth right after eating one from fear of the dreaded fruit/mint clash. I can't comment on whether that is an issue as I have been taking these in the evening when I get home rather than in the morning before leaving the house instead.

                          ~Other Info~

                          These multivitamins should be stored in a cool, dark place below 25'C and kept out of reach of children. In case we didn't know, Bassetts also remind us that food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balance diet and a health lifestyle.

                          ~The Verdict~

                          Although it is hard to quantify the benefits I have received from these multivitamins, it is obvious that vitamins are good for you and if you don't have a particularly brilliant diet then, in my opinion these can only be beneficial. They taste nice and fruity, are quick to eat and it is a much more pleasant experience than taking a pill (or eating broccoli!). So they get the thumbs up from me.

                          ~Price and availability~

                          I bought my active health multivitamins from Morrisons for £4.15 which I consider to be reasonably pricey. I was happy to pay more for these compared to multivitamin pills as I prefer the idea of fruit flavoured pastilles. I will use my current box everyday as recommended but I will probably not buy these every single month but just every now and again as I feel like. If they were cheaper I would be more inclined to use them on a more regular basis. So overall I will rate them 4 stars.

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                          10.04.2013 17:32
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                          A cheap, nice smelling hand sanitiser gel

                          Last year when I was picking some last minute bits and bobs before going on holiday, I spotted this hand sanitiser gel in my local Wilkinsons. Hand sanitiser is always a handy thing to have with you when travelling so I decided to get some. I already had a basic unscented alcohol hand-spray at home but I was attracted to the nice colour of this and the fact that it is fragranced of red berries which makes the whole prospect of sanitising your hands slighty less boring.

                          The gel is a nice deep red colour and it comes in a little clear bottle with a black flip-cap on the top. The bottle is 50ml which means that it is small and a handy size to carry around with you. It also means that you can take it on the plane in your hand luggage without getting it confiscated at customs for trying to bring on too much liquid. Of course they still make you put it in a little clear plastic bag because in the event of an emergency this means the difference between... erm, I have no idea. But the important thing is you can get it on the plane. When I am not on holiday which, unfortunately, is more often than not, I put it in my bag and use it when out and about so this product gets year-round use (unlike the suncream which I bought on that same shopping trip last year!). The last time I used this product was when I had lunch out last weekend after shopping and the food arrived before I had time to go and wash my hands. I didn't want my lunch to get cold so I just used some of this sanitiser instead so it is a useful thing to have.

                          On the label it says: "Cleanse and protect your hands from nasty bacteria with a fabulously fruity berry fragrance". I do agree that it smells quite nice. The fragrance stays on your hands even after it has dried which helps make your hands feel nice and clean and fresh. It does have a slight alcohol smell to it as you would expect but it is not at all unpleasant. Note that, as with all alcohol hand sanitisers, it is flammable and should therefore be kept out of reach of children.

                          The gel itself is quite runny and always seems to come out of the bottle faster than I am expecting it to. I am always concerned that I am going to drip it on myself and stain my clothes red when I am rubbing it in but I have thankfully had no such incidents so I can't comment of whether it stains or not. It is boarderline as to whether it could really be classed as a gel or not. On the upside, this runny consistency means it is easy and quick to rub in and a little bit goes a long way so the bottle lasts well. However, I would prefer it overall if it was a little bit more gloopy.

                          As a Wilko product, it can only be purchased at Wilkinsons stores on on their website. They also sell a Fruity Citrus varity in the same range. Both can be purchased for the absolute bargain price of 50p! So in summary, this is a cheap, nice smelling, practical product but is a little bit too runny for my liking but I am being slightly picky here as for that price you can't really complain. 4 stars.

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                            04.04.2013 00:32
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                            A nice smelling body spray that is a good price

                            This Samphire and Sea Minerals Body Spray is part of the Naturals Collection which is a Boots own-brand range and is therefore only available from Boots stores and www.boots.co.uk. As with the other fragrances in the collection, it is priced at a very reasonable £2.

                            It comes in a 150ml spray bottle which is clear so you can see the light blue spray inside. Mine differs slightly from the picture as it has a black cap rather than a transparent one but the label with white flowers on the front is exactly the same. On the back it says 'Get fresh all over with the breezy fragrance of samphire and sea minerals that leaves skin instantly revitalised.'

                            The fragrance is very fresh and pleasant but quite subtle. Personally I really like it but people who are used to bolder fragrances or more expensive perfumes which linger for longer may be disappointed by the overall effect. I would say that when sprayed on wrists it last a few hours. It is not constantly noticeable but I get occasional whiffs of it now and again which reminds me that I am wearing it which is nice. It is a spray and not a perfume so you can't have unreasonable expectations as far as staying power is concerned. I usually spray it every day on my wrists and sometimes on my neck and have found that the bottle lasts a long time - far better than a spray deodorant for example.

                            I never wear 'proper' perfumes as I can never get over the highly questionable prices charged for the stuff. I would feel like using it sparingly or only on special occasions and I can't be bothered with that. At £2 a pop I can spray this to my hearts content and not be concerned. I sometimes spray a little on before getting in bed just for the hell of it so I can smell nice when I'm drifting off to sleep. Instead of dreaming of sheep jumping over a fence I dream of samphires (some kind of flower?) floating in the sea... Well, not really, but you get the idea!

                            I always got the impression that the Naturals Collection range of body sprays is aimed more at teenagers due to its affordable price but it works well for any age as an everyday type of spray. I would say that some of the other fragrances in the range are very sweet and fruity smelling and perhaps better suited to a younger target market but this samphire and sea minerals one is nice and fresh and is one that I would recommend.

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                            • Ted Baker Body Lotion / Body Care / 53 Readings / 53 Ratings
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                              01.04.2013 21:07
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                              A nice body lotion with a suble floral scent

                              I received a Ted Baker skincare set as a gift and this Butterfly Wings Body Lotion was one of the items that was in it. It comes in a pink 50ml squeezable tube with butterflies printed on the label with a bronze-coloured flip cap at the bottom. I have also seen larger 200ml versions for sale which looks exactly the same.

                              The lotion itself in white in colour and is the typical consistency of a body lotion - not too runny but not difficult to rub in either. I mainly use this on my hands rather than all over my body as it is a small tube and will last me longer this way. I have found that a little bit seems to go quite a long way so it is lasting me well. It hydrates and moisturises my skin and helps sort out the roughness on my knuckles from the cold weather.

                              The lotion soaks in quite nicely but I do find that the palms of my hands feel little clammy for longer after using this lotion than I have experienced with other body lotions which I am not that keen on. This sometimes makes me feel like washing my hands but of course this would just ruin the effect of using it in the first place.

                              The scent of this body lotion is described as "A delightful and delicate infusion of bergamot, red fruit, tuberose and patchouli". I know what red fruit is but I would be fibbing if I said I could pick out any of the others in a line up so I will describe the scent simply as being pleasant, relaxing, floral and subtle rather than intense. It is a fragrance that I quite like as it is not too noticeable but it can be enhanced by using the body spray from the same range to layer the scent if you desire.

                              The Ted Baker Butterfly Wings Blossom Gift Collection containing 50ml Body Wash, 50ml Body Lotion and 50ml Body Spray is currently available from Boots for £7.50. A single 200ml tube of the body lotion is £5.50. Both are also part of a 3 for 2 offer.

                              In summary, overall I like this body lotion however I do think that it makes my hands a bit clammy after using it so for that reason it is not my favourite and I will knock a star off and rate it 4 stars.

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                                01.04.2013 14:34
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                                A useful tin for storage of small bits and bobs

                                I received this tin as a present last Christmas. It is one of a range of products produced by The Bright Side which produce gift items such as diaries, notebooks, calendars, tins, mugs and keyrings with quirky amusing writing on the front. I already owned a diary from the range so I recognised the font of the writing straight away as being one of their products.

                                A you can see by the picture, on the top of the tin it says 'Stuff that doesn't go anywhere else Tin' in black and gold. I happen to have a lot of stuff that doesn't go anywhere else, so this gift was perfect for me! The letters on the top are raised and textured and purposely uneven in places to add a more unique look to the tin. Around the edges of the tin it says 'Stuff Tin' in the same font but these letters are not 3D. The lid opens on two small hinges at the back. The dimensions of the tin are 75 x 155 x 205mm.

                                Although this has been classified in the kitchen category, it doesn't exclusively belong here as the whole point of the tin is that you can use it to store any kind of bits and bobs you want, the only limitation being the size of the tin. I was originally going to store cosmetics in mine but then I worried that if it regularly came into contact with water in the bathroom then it might go rusty so I decided not to do this just in case. I now use it to store things associated with my fish tank i.e. pots of fish food, spare parts for the filter etc. This is handy as I would definitely classify those things as stuff that doesn't go anywhere else. I really like this tin. There is something so much nicer about storing items in a nice tin rather than a boring plastic tupperware tub!

                                The Bright Side produce a range of other sized tins for other things but there are a few others that are the same size as mine, just with different writing on the front including:

                                - 'Man Tin - for leads, screws & other pointless stuff I must keep'
                                - 'Obsessive, Moi? Collecto. Maniac Tin'
                                - 'Grandma's Treat Tin'
                                - 'The Finishing Touch. Accessories, glamour bits and other glamour girl stuff'

                                Anyone who likes Michael McIntyre's Man Drawer joke will love the Man Tin! These tins are really nice items and also make really nice gifts too. I have seen The Bright Side items on sale in gift shops and independent stationery shops and they are also available online (including Amazon.co.uk) Prices vary depending on the seller but they are around £8- £10. I really like my tin so it's 5 stars from me!

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