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MagdaDH

MagdaDH
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Member since: 14.04.2004

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    • More +
      30.08.2012 01:35
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      well made town backpack with an integral laptop compartment

      Wenger is a reputable (and thus fairly expensive) brand of luggage and accessories. They also sell kit under the ''Swiss Army'' label. I normally buy cheap to medium priced luggage and I could not imagine spending thirty or more pounds on a small day-pack type rucksack (the RRP on this bag is £39.99). However, during the summer Tesco were running a promotion which gave substantial discounts on a range of Wenger luggage and thus I was able to buy one of these for about £11.

      At 22 litres it's a fairly typical day-sack type of thing, and size-wise it would fit into a cabin luggage easily.

      The pack has three compartments, of which the main one has an extra padded divider which provides an integral laptop pocket. Initially it seemed like a good idea, but since then I decided it's a bit wasteful of the bag space and I never really use it for a laptop. I like to have the option of leaving the laptop let's say in the boot or wherever I am going, or passing it on to another person and thus I will always take it in its own case. I don't necessarily want to always lug it with me in my day-pack, and using the integral pocket would force me to do just that. It does come in handy for keeping squashable items like bananas a little less squashed though.

      The middle pocket is medium-sized and has a cloth holder for all kinds of things (there is a narrower one for a phone, and a wider one possibly for a passport or wallet, as well as place for pens and - a fantastic idea - a clip-in widget which you can attach to your car key (or any other key, obviously, but I tend to lose the car key in my bag most of all) as a key-ring and then clip it in to prevent the thing disappearing into the depths of your bag.

      However, there is no zipped small pocket suitable for keeping loose coins, notes, cards or another set of keys. You can put these into one of the cloth holders/pockets, but none of these have zips or even poppers, and thus your only option is to use the smallest compartment (which is still fairly big) or to carry your change in your pocket.

      The whole bag is made of rather ugly, thick-woven, plasticky material which, however, appears extremely thick and sturdy. I have not had it enough to make such a judgement but it feels like this pack will last a long time without falling apart. The zips are very good, big-teethed and easy to slide. All this solidity is probably responsible for a noticeable weight of the bag, nothing to terrible but noticeably more than some other good day-packs I had.

      The shoulder straps are fairly comfortable, with a bit of padding. They sit well on my back even with the bag full of heavy shopping, but a person of a slight build would find them too wide I think (they slide off my daughter's shoulders for example, and she is a 5-foot tall, well-built 11 year old).

      There is no hip belt and no sternum strap which is fine for me for such a small pack, though somebody who wanted to use it hill-walking might want those. This is, however, strictly speaking a town bag rather than a hiking one.

      There is also none whatsoever external straps for attaching additional items. This (as well as lack of a small, zipped internal pocket for change and other small items) is my main complaint about this Wenger pack. I like to be able to carry my jacket and if there is no straps, I have to allow space inside the day-pack. With straps, the waterproof can be attached to the bag and there is no need for leaving space for it inside, and this bag lacks such straps. There is a carry/hang up handle which is a Good Thing.

      At the price I paid, or anything less than £15 or even £20 this is a great small backpack, particularly for town use. At the RRP or even the normal online price of around £30 it is, in my opinion, too expensive for what it is (and what it lacks), although if you are specifically looking for a well-made day-pack with an integral laptop pocket, it will probably do you very well.

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    • Honda HRG 415PD / Lawn Mower / 13 Readings / 12 Ratings
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      30.08.2012 00:53
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      great entry level petrol lawnmower

      This is an entry level lawnmower from Honda's Izy range. The range is, apparently, designed to be '' easy to start, easy to use and easy to look after''. I am not going to say much about the looking after part (frankly, I expect my appliances to kind of self-service, and anyway there is a man around to deal with anything that is powered by an internal combustion engine) , but comment on this machine as a user of about three years.

      This is the first petrol lawnmower I have ever owned, and thus I am unable to make comparisons with others. Before buying this one, we had a sequence of electric ones, both hover types (aka flymos) and wheeled. My first impression on using the Honda for the first time was a simple ''wow''. While I still understand the advantages of a hover mower (better on rougher ground, essentially, though I think this feature is overrated), as far as wheeled ones go, I am now convinced that petrol is the way to go unless you really, really can't afford one or you have a lawn the size of a handkerchief.

      The main reason for that is that petrol mowers are simply bigger: the biggest of the electric ones are two-three inches smaller than the smallest petrol ones, and in this case the size definitely matters.

      The 415PD has a 41cm (16 inch) cutting width (there is also a next-one up with a 46cm blade) which I find is perhaps just a little too small for our medium sized garden, but it's still not a huge task. Still, a 46cm one would be handier.

      The ''easy'' (or izy, as Honda would have it and I would shudder) designation is certainly true as far as my experience is concerned. I always had a had a vague idea of petrol mowers as temperamental and difficult devices that have to coaxed into obedience by proficient gardening people. Well, this mower is nothing of the sort. It starts first time, every time, and apart from one time when my other half turned it over the wrong way which resulted in flooded filter which took a while to dry, so far it never failed, even after a year's long break.

      The whole machine has a solid, sturdy feel. The dome under which the blade moves (I think it's technically called a deck) is solid steel, and all the parts of the machine appear to have a lot of life in them, unlike many electric mowers that are built mostly of plastic and tend to have bits that break off in many non-critical areas.

      The cutting height can be adjusted using two levers, and although it's not a one-finger task, it's not too difficult with a bit of a push. The levels available are sufficient for our purposes, though

      I cannot comment on the aesthetics of the cut much as we never had an immaculate lawn for which it was an issue. Essentially, it cuts the grass to a desired level, though I feel that if you had a really level, thick, short carpet of grass, the lowest cutting hight would be a little too long. At the other end of the spectrum (the rough and overgrown one, with sticks and stones, essentially) it copes really, really well. Long grass, wet grass and weeds of all sorts don't scare this machine at all. Its maximum cutting level is about three inches (75mm).

      It doesn't have a roller, so the resulting lawn doesn't have those stripy stripes. I like it, because it means that my erratic tracks are not too visible, and I can easily go back to do the bits I missed without spoiling the pattern.

      The grass bag is pretty capacious, and easy to put on as well as unhook. It partially collapses for storage too.

      It is a push mower rather than a self-propelled one, but it really moves quite easily on its four sturdy wheels. I was always under an impression that wheeled mowers are particularly hard to push around, but this one isn't. It is fairly heavy though at 30kg, and if your garden has two levels separated by a steep bank or steps, this Honda might need two people to carry it across the bit that it can't be wheeled across. It's not so heavy as to make it impossible lifting one set of wheels to put it into a shed or another single step, though.

      The handle is fairly comfortable to use, although you can't adjust the height. Both my other half and I find it an OK level, but if you are a short woman or a very tall man you might want to check if it suits you before buying.

      At around £300-£350 it is a fairly expensive piece of machinery (though still in a lower range for petrol lawnmowers), but if you are contemplating buying one, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Honda Izy, either this one or the 46cm one.

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      • More +
        29.08.2012 15:21
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        value for money basic laptop

        Since my work-inherited top-of-the-range (for that time) Toshiba died a rather violent death around 2005, we lived without a ''proper laptop'', making do with desktops and a netbook. The price premium on a laptop has always seemed too high for the benefit of not-quite perfect portability, and anyway, that requirement was fulfilled by the Asus Eee PC netbook.

        We did live out of our bags for quite a few months though, with the desktops stowed in storage, the fighting over the netbook (which was, I hasten to say, nominally at least, MINE) started to get to us. It was also a tad to small to properly view and edit all those lovely photos we took when travelling, and a tad to weak to process the 10 Mb RAW files that my other half insisted on using as output of choice from his camera.

        And thus a Toshiba Satellite Pro C650-13D appeared, purchased from Amazon for around £350. This is certainly a good budget price for a full sized laptop and we were a little worried about the machine's performance and quality.

        We have had it for over a year now, and I can safely say although it doesn't quite dazzle with its performance (and even less with its design), it is a decent workhorse which offers fantastic value for money.

        It is advertised (which is reflected in the model name) as aimed at the professional rather than consumer market, but it is essentially an entry-level laptop for any purpose.

        I will not list all the technical details here, nor provide speed results, because the spec is available in just the next tab, and I am not a professional IT person. This is definitely a user review.

        Starting with build and design, it is a fairly large laptop, measuring 38 by 25 cm and weighing 2.4kg. This size allows it to accommodate a large (almost 16 inch) monitor and a wide-screen display with 16:9 image aspect ratio. This is fantastic for photographs or watching films, and very good for browsing web pages that tend to get a lot of clutter in both vertical side bars. It is less useful (in fact, almost a nuisance) for word processing for example, where the page, when used fully, is too wide to be accommodated without moving eyes from one edge to another. This is easily fixed by adjusting the display though, but anybody that doesn't use image/video functions much might prefer a narrower display. The screen quality is good enough for my non-discerning eyes, and in the sunlight it performs a little bit better than my Asus Eee PC (meaning it's still pretty poor, really, and one needs to cover one's head and the screen to see much for example in a car on a normal day.

        I don't object to the weight either, as we don't really move around with this computer much, although again, if you wanted to carry a laptop with you, and not in the car, a lot, you might want a smaller, thinner and lighter one.

        The build quality is fairly solid but crude, the plastic is mostly textured and doesn't appear to be brittle. It does have a fairly cheap feel to it, if it's a kind of thing that bothers you - think a Nissan, not a BMW.

        Thanks to the width, the keyboard is very reasonably sized and easy to type on, the numerical pad is also very handy and all the normal keyboard keys are present in normal positions.

        The touch pad, as touch pads go, is pretty good, not too sensitive, but not too clunky, and the buttons work well.

        The laptop has a DVD/CD ROM drive that takes up pretty much all of the right side (although the power socket is also there). This means that there is no USB port on the right hand side which for a right-handed wired-mouse user like your reviewer means that cable always trails across the machine in one way or another.

        In fact, the USB ports are one of my main qualms about this laptop. There are only two - why?? - and both of them are on the left side, together with a network socket, audio ones and a parallel printer one. I know you can use a hub, but it doesn't always quite work and even with a limited number of devices I own, I end up having to unplug the mouse frequently simply to connect a printer and a phone or camera; not even speaking of an external hard drive (mine needs two USB ports for power).

        The speakers are located on the top of the main laptop body and they do fine for individual use, but their maximum sound level is a little low for, for example, watching a film by a few people who would need to sit away from the machine - headphones or external speakers would be needed for this.

        It has an integral camera which I never used because I don't do web cams.

        The wi-fi adapter is pretty good, although not quite as good at picking up the signal as some can be (better than my HTC phone, though). I only used the Ethernet cable port a few times, but when I did, it seemed to work fast and well.

        This Toshiba comes preloaded with Microsoft Windows 7 Professional, which would not be my weapon of choice (I still, stubbornly, stick to XP) and a pile of essentially useless Toshiba and Windows related software/apps that just clogs up the disk. I don't like this kind of stuff and would much rather install everything (apart perhaps from the basic operating system and drivers).

        The actual operating spec is pretty good for such a cheap laptop, as it runs a pretty impressive Intel Core i3 330M (2.13 GHz) processor and comes with pre-installed 2 Gb of RAM, expandable to 8 Gb. I am neither a gamer nor a CAD designer and this is satisfactory for all my computing needs (including those big picture files mentioned at the beginning), though a bit more RAM would probably help with some tasks.

        The 250 Gb disk is, again, pretty big (it took two years of use and a A LOT of pictures) to fill it up, unless you want to keep a vast video library at your fingertips. More would be nice, but indulgent.

        There is a card reader, apparently, which I have only now discovered reading the spec - I usually use a cable to connect the camera, but I suppose it can be handy.

        The nominal battery life on this Toshiba is 3.8 hours, and after over a year of use it gets about 3 hours which isn't particularly impressive but not bad considering the size of the display.

        All in all, a good entry-level laptop, particularly for those looking for a larger display, at a very good price.

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      • BagBase Gym Bag GymSac / Rucksack / 11 Readings / 9 Ratings
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        29.08.2012 13:08
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        great basic gym bag

        I bought this bag from Amazon as a gym bag for my daughter to take (and keep) her gym kit at school. At the price of less than £4 including delivery it seemed like a reasonable bargain, although I am sure big supermarkets offer such things cheaper every so often if you keep your eyes peeled and go to one anyway.

        It's a typical, fairly standard gym kit bag, made of nylon and with a drawstrings that could be used to make shoulder straps if somebody wanted to carry it on their back (I have seen kids do that).

        The sack comes in a huge range of colours which is a big advantage for tween girls and other people for whom such things matter, but even for normal people, the choice of colours means that you can buy one in a unique colour so it will be easier to tell apart from others at school (in school shops such bags usually come in couple of colours like blue and black). Also, fairly virulent shades are available for people who want high visibility for a bike for example. Ours is Kelly Green and a very nice, bright colour it is. There are at least seven shades of green, numerous variations of blue and so on. What I also like about the design is that there is no logo, writing or corporate message of any kind, just straightforward plain colours.

        The bag is made of strong nylon. It really is fairly sturdy item, not only the material is quite thick but the drawstring tunnel is double stitched and the corners where the drawstrings knots are fastened are reinforced with not only metal eyelets but also sawn-on triangles of fake leather. The seams are double-stitched too, and taped over. My daughter had this as a gym sack for at least two years and it shows none whatsoever signs of wear.

        These bags are advertised as water-resistant and this can be a little misleading. The material might be water-resistant but only in the sense of repelling an odd drizzle. It will not keep your gym kit (nor anything else) dry in the rain and it is not suitable for carrying wet kit like swimming suits after use, even if they are spin-dried. You will still need a plastic bag for that.


        The BagBase gym sack is approximately 45x34cm (17x13 inches) and flat-sawn, which should easily fit a basic gym kit, especially for a child (top, bottoms, shoes, maybe even a sweatshirt). It is NOT large enough to fit a large towel as well (although it might work if you just wear the shoes) and this is the main reason why I would not recommend it as an adult bag for going to the gym or pool (although men, who I think tend to use smaller towels, might find it sufficient).

        For what it is, the Bag Base gym sack is a real bargain, and I would highly recommend it to anybody. They are available from Amazon for prices that vary between £1.25 and £5 (most colours are either £2 or £3, the £5 ones have a contrasting stripe) and delivery of £1.10, which I consider a great price for a sturdy, quality item that should work for years.

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      • Plantronics .Audio 310 / Headset / 13 Readings / 12 Ratings
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        29.08.2012 11:38
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        decent starter headset for voice applications

        I bought this headset when I was exploring the possibilities of using voice recognition software to write instead of having to type everything up. I don't mind typing straight into the word processor as my speed of thinking is comparable to my speed of normal typing, but when copy-typing from notes or longhand pages, the fact that I can't touch type slows me down terribly.

        Voice recognition software has advanced considerably in recent years and a package is included as a standard on in Windows 7/Vista. At less than £15, and with fairly positive reviews on Amazon, this headset seemed to be a good one to try voice recognition with.

        It looks and feels reasonably sturdy, and so far it has not broken (but then it has not had much use) even though my family go through headphones and earphones faster than through pens and pencils. It sits comfortable on my head anyway, the ear element where it should be and without rubbing and the mike, which is adjustable, appears to be sensibly positioned too. It's easy to adjust as well, on a telescopic, flexible rod that can be moved to the right position in relation to the speaker's mouth.

        It's also worth saying that this is a typical HEAD set, not one of those neck-brace type things that I just completely fail to see the point of.

        The experiment with voice recognition ended with a degree of moderate success, and although I have so far given up on it, I have a feeling that the problems were mostly to do with the software and my accent rather than microphone (essentially, the Windows software was incapable of learning my way of pronouncing the little but essential word ''the''). The microphone picked up everything I said (I did have to speak fairly loudly, louder than even my normal voice level) and the fact that it was often 'mistyped has to be down to the software. I might buy a specialist package if I get serious about this at some point in time.

        Since then I tested the mike for making normal voice recordings and even a VOIP call, and it works fine, although the sound could be a little louder. The microphone claims to have noise-cancelling design and in my experience it is fairly good at picking up the speech and NOT picking up other noise, but then I always used in a quiet environment with no noticeable distractions. I am not sure how it would work in an office for example.

        The mono-headphone part is pretty good too. For the reasons mentioned above I never buy any ear or headphones beyond medium price as the risk of destruction is too high and anyway nobody here is a connoisseur of sound quality. With this caveat, the quality of the sound that emerged from the headphone element of this headset is perfectly satisfactory for any normal headphone use, i.e. calls, watching films or videos on the computer or background listening to music (though I am sure those who know about such things would baulk at the idea of losing the stereo effect). The ''monaural'' design means that you don't lose contact with the reality which has, obviously, both positive and negative sides. One bonus for me is that I can more easily hear how loud I am taking if VOIP calling anybody.

        All in all, in my (admittedly completely non-expert) opinion, it's a decent headset for calls, using audio on the web and possibly even voice recognition typing by native speakers (with a decent software).

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      • More +
        26.08.2012 10:32
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        reasonable alternative to standard repellents

        We recently moved onto the west coast of Scotland, straight into the heart of midge-land and although it has been a drier summer than anybody remembers, the midges are still occasionally a nuisance.

        We equipped ourselves with a selection of repellents, among them this Avon product that works out the cheapest by volume and is also slightly pleasanter to use than some.

        Until the arrival of Smidge this was the locals' repellent of choice (it's hard to walk around permanently covered in DEET not least because it destroys many plastics you might touch), and as I said it can be cheaper than others especially ordered online.

        It is primarily a dry-skin oil, and the moisturizing effect is one of the bonuses of using it as a repellent. I can't however imagine using it for that purpose alone as I find oils unpleasant on the skin - a bit like Vaseline based lotions for example, especially when rubbed in. But when just sprayed on it feels OK, and certainly doesn't dry the skin out.

        It smells like a cheapish perfume or a decent room freshener, not a scent I am keen to wear on my person, but not as bad as to put me off using it.

        As far as repellent action, it does appear to work. I am not sure if it's the scent (it does contain citronella) or the fact that a layer of oil acts as a barrier: midges are small and kind of drown in the oil if you can imagine it, but it certainly has some effect - I get less bitten with this stuff than with nothing.

        However, it's greasy on application and doesn't last that long, you need to reapply.

        In summary, it's not a bad repellent and it's not a dreadful moisturiser, but not particularly brilliant at either of these functions. If you can't stand the smell or consistency of other repellents, it's a good choice and I would also put it on the face and hands more readily than DEET or even smidge (both of these taste very bitter even if a tiny amounts gets on your lips).

        For casual use it's also a good value for money (you can get it for less than £4 a bottle on eBay) but if you are outside long enough to need to reapply, you will need to do it more often than with smidge or DEET.

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        • Karrimor Bobcat 65 / Rucksack / 20 Readings / 18 Ratings
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          26.08.2012 00:01
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          good 65 litre pack

          I bought the Karrimor Bobcat 65 when my £25 rucksack from Aldi gave up the ghost after five years of service (I had hoped for one so it was pretty good).

          I normally buy cheapie walking equipment (apart from boots) as I think there is a lot of snobbery and ''statement making'' about all those brands that are perhaps offering added advantages for serious mountaineers or at the advanced age when every bit of technological help one can get is important but are just a way of showing off for most people who climb an odd hill and use the kit for ''normal'' travelling and walking around. It never ceases to amaze me how an unfit 20-something or a child can go up a hill in trainers and jeans but a 60 year-old, even a fit and experienced one, needs hundreds if not thousands of pounds worth of kit.

          I am digressing though, or being jealous of those able to afford £400 waterproofs. The point I was trying to make is that at £50 (reduced from about £70, and bought in an actual high-street shop due to leaving the next day), this Karrimor rucksack was by my standards quite expensive.

          I am pleased to report that it performed well, and I used it extensively during about a 14 months' worth of travel (of which about 6 was by car though, so the rucksack didn't have to do much) in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

          65 litres is the perfect size for me, anything bigger and when I stuff it too much it becomes to heavy to walk any distance, anything smaller and it's just not enough. We travel as a family and when travelling by public transport we tend to have two rucksacks for the adults, a small (maybe 20-30 litre) for the Big Child to carry which acts as the on-board bag as well as a day pack for all the important documents, electronics and similar. This means that all the clothes as well as any other items like sleeping bags, mats and similar have to fit in the rucksacks. The 65 litres holds basic clothing for me and the children for autumn/spring/summer travel without too much problems, resulting in a weight of about 14-18kg depending on stuffing and the number of books sneaked in. This is just about the weight I can carry around for a while when walking between stations and terminals, to meetings, accommodation or on public transport, although anything above 2-3 km would become a little bit of a struggle.

          The fit is important with any rucksack but is also largely individual and if you have a chance it's good to try, especially if you are uncommonly short, tall, or otherwise non-standard in body shape. I have big boobs and I like to have the sternum strap that can be moved fairly high to prevent the shoulder straps digging into the armpits and yet allowing me to breathe. This pack has just such a strap, which slides up and down easily.

          The shoulder straps on the Bobcat are excellent: very well padded and wide, and again, the adjusting straps (two sets of them as usual) allow them to be made just right. I do think, however, that men, especially bigger ones, might find the straps less comfortable fit. I am fairly broad-shouldered for a woman, but my other half (of average built) finds this pack less comfortable than his very old, fairly thin-strapped Berghaus one (he doesn't use sternum straps or hip belts much though). The hip belt is also fine, very well padded again, and with a buckle that's fairly easy to adjust and easy to clip on and off.

          The rucksack consists of two main compartments, the bottom one is accessible through a zip (nicely covered with a flap which I suppose prevents minor rain getting in and things get caught) but also through the main one - you can in fact have just one internal space if you want to.

          The main compartment is accessible only through the top, which is not so good. I like the ability to pull out things from the middle through a side zip that some rucksacks have, but it's not a huge issue.

          The side pockets are excellent, really roomy but without sticking out too much. The top flap cover has two pockets, one underneath (good for papers and similar) and one externally accessible. The well padded back (does nobody use external-frame packs now?) has also a space for one of those hydration bladders and there is a hole to thread the pipe through. As I don't use this pack for longer-distance walking I never tested the arrangements (and I don't have - and don't wish for - a hydration thingy anyway). There are also net pocket at the bottom, ideal for things like sun screen, insect repellent, wipes and a smallish water bottle.

          The straps, toggles and buckles are strong, sturdy and east to clip on and off (and believe me, anything that survives with intact buckles and straps in this family must be sturdy). Numerous loops and straps allow attachment of external loads like foam mats and even a sleeping bag, and there is also a large, flat pocket along the front side of the main compartment presumably for a map.

          This map pocket brings me to my only real complaint about the Bobcat. I think the zips are on a slightly weak side. I am making this statement with a caveat that I tend to stuff bags and packs too much, and that both I and the children yank the zips badly. In the light of such treatment, the fact that ONLY the map pocket zip is completely gone, and that the bottom compartment one became temperamental, may be taken as a compliment, but I still think that if the teeth were a wee bit bigger, the issue could have been avoided.

          Apart from this, I have been very happy with the Bobcat, and I can recommend it as a lower-priced branded choice, available online from around £40. It's very comfortable to carry, well padded, with good compartments and quite light for a rucksack of this size.

          NB. Dooyoo picture that goes with this general category actually happens to show the Bobcat 65.

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        • More +
          22.08.2012 22:35
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          colour your brows

          I am a very pale natural blonde, and despite the fact that I generally like my hair colour, and some practical advantages (it's much easier to hide the fact that one doesn't shave), there are disadvantages. The main one is that without having my eyebrows and eyelashes tinted (which tint doesn't last more than a few weeks) I look like a small-eyed, pink-skinned creature - a blind hamster perhaps.

          And thus although with growing age (and giving up career/office work) I lost most of my make-up habit, I still use mascara and eyebrow pencil on most days.

          I am not very choosy with the latter, in my experience most will do the job form me (in fact, an eyeliner will as well), and frankly I look for price. This Rimmel one, despite being called ''Professional'', is pretty cheap (you can probably get one for around £2-3 in shops) and does the job very well.

          As I am very fair, I use a brown one (though I find that the shades normally recommended for blondes are too light and make my hair look reddish), and in this case one called ''dark brown'', which, when applied sparingly, does the job well (though is perhaps a little to dark for my colouring).

          It is easy to apply, and as it's soft (this is the biggest advantage of eyebrow pencils over eyeliners for this task, they tend to be softer) it's easy to avoid drawing a silly sharp line on my eyebrow arch. The softness also means that I get decent coverage of the hair, not just a line on the skin underneath, and blending it all together as well as getting rid of mishaps is very easy.

          The staying power of this pencil isn't very impressive, and you need a couple of applications a day to keep the colour on.

          The little brush that is included on the pencil cap is very handy for giving the the eyebrows a sleeker look, mine are not particularly bushy but fairly unruly and if I remember to give them a quick brush they look distinctly better.

          In conclusion, I had various eyebrow pencils in my life, and this one isn't the best, but it does the job well enough and for the price is recommended.

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          • Dove Daily Care Shampoo / Hair Care / 18 Readings / 18 Ratings
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            22.08.2012 22:16
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            decent everyday shampoo

            I am not particulaurly particular about my haircare choices. Occasionally I splash out on something more expensive, but most of the time I just but whatever is on special offer, although I tend to pick mid-range brands (sort of Marks and Spencer of hair care).

            Dove is a one of these and the Daily Care shampoo is a perfect example of a good, no-frills, everyday shampoo that does just what it says on the tin.

            It comes in a reasonably sleek bottle, easy to use even one-handed and in a normally-sized bottle. I don't know about others, but I don't like those enormous shampoo bottles that are common nowadays, heavy in a gym/pool bag when you carry them around, heavy to manipulate when in the bath or shower and if children get their hands on them, you lose more! Anyway, Dove comes in a reasonable 250ml bottle which is good.

            It has a thick but not too thick consistency, pearly-white colour and that Dovey's scent that is generally pleasantly inoffensive, though it makes me feel like I was about sixty five and probably slowly turning into one of my female in-laws, but this is just my subjective impression and the scent is really quite nice.

            The lather is good, but not excessive, and the results are good. I have fine, dry hair that despite being dry gets quickly greasy and lifeless and thus wash my hair every other day (I know that many people wash hair daily, but to me even every other day always seemed extravagantly often), with this shampoo and any not too heavy conditioner I can sometimes last three days.

            All in all, a good shampoo from a reputable if boring brand.

            Recommended.

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          • More +
            15.08.2012 22:47
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            BNTBTBB selection

            When Be Never Too Busy to Be Beautiful ceased to trade, I was worried that all the lovely BNTBtBB scents will disappear and only the more pedestrian Lush ones will stay. But the good people at Lush have good business sense too and they know that although expensive makeup might not be their forte, the perfumes were worth keeping. Thus Gorilla perfumes, now available online and in a haphazard fashion in Lush stores.

            There are two sets of Lush perfume samplers, and although neither is perfect this one is by far the better (the only really interesting scent missing - instead included in the standard Gorilla set with all the more boring Lush ones - is Breath of God).

            These come in 2ml glass vials, each with a very good rubbery dosing nozzle which means you can easily apply without risking spillage or having to spray.

            The fragrances included here are:

            Love. With apple and cinnamon, fresh, fruity and innocent - quite a young scent really, playful but surprisingly wearable in the day, my children like me smelling of this, especially th 6 year old boy.

            Cocktail. This is a sexy Lush classic and one of my favourite fragrances of theirs, hard to capture, compelling smell which to me always seemed quite intoxicatingly head turning; Cocktail soap was deep sparkly purple and this smells deep sparklily purple. It has ylang yland, jasmine and rose; what else is needed?

            1000 Kisses Deep. I was surprised that I didn't quite like this one as much as I hoped, it's flowery and a bit musky and leaves me a bit cold.

            Ladyboy. Very weird, banana based fragrance, with seaweed, violet, chamomile, labdanum and oakmoss; I should have hated it and I kind of did, but I kept wearing it until it run out, as it was bizarrely compelling. Lush say that it feels like ''a surreal beach party'', and it does.

            Smell of Weather Turning. One of those lovely Lush perfumes that nobody else (at least on a High Street and at such affordable prices) seems to be doing, this is apparently based on a smell of after-rain greenery, but for me the dominant notes are smokey: like bonfires in the autumn. Very herby, rich, interesting. Contains oakwood, hay, beeswax, nettle, mint, chamomile and you can actually just about smell them all.

            Ginger. One of old Lush classics, apparently inspired by old movies. Flowery but not fruity, thanks to the ginger note (FRESH ginger not ground dried one) and with some ylang ylang for sexy undertones, it's still a girly rather than very grown-up scent, but better than I expected.

            Superworldunknown. Sweet and complex with things like vanilla, tonka, rose and cocoa and more, this is supposedly fairground inspired. It isn't bad as far as sweet scents go, but not my favourite.

            B Scent. The best in the pack and in fact a good contender for my all-time-favourite fragrance, this flowery rose with a lemon note and a fennel flourish never ceases to bring joy, both sexy and fresh, I hardly ever tire of this scent.

            ***

            At a little over £2 per sample, this is pretty good value if you want to seriously try a selection of the rarer Lush perfumes. Good for collectors, too. I am very glad I bought it as the ones I knew I was glad to have again (especially the B Scent) while the new ones were almost all worth trying and I actually found some fragrances here that I wasn't convinced I wanted to buy after just a sample spray in the shop, but which really grew on me while I wore them over a few days, particularly the Smell of the Weather Turning and Cocktail, possibly also the bizarre Ladyboy. The 1000 Kisses were definitely the biggest disappointment, while Ginger was just a tad boring.

            Highly recommended to Lush fanatics, collector perfumistas or those who like to have fun with unusual fragrances.

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            • Tesco Value 2T07 / Toaster / 16 Readings / 16 Ratings
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              15.08.2012 21:58
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              basic super-cheap toaster

              If you need a toaster that will cost you less than three loafs of decent bread, here it is: at less than £6 it's just about disposable, and yet it can be used for years. The price of ''stuff'' never ceases to amaze me - and although undoubtedly there is some seriously underpaid sweatshop labour behind this, I somehow don't think that labour behind many more expensive brands is any more ethical and less exploitative.

              For that roughly fiver you get a very basic, white plastic toaster that will basically toast bread. There is no defrost or warm up button (though there is a cancel one) and the size of the bread space is rather small, so I tend to set it at low level and toast twice, turning the bread round. This is a problem on many other toasters too, which seem designed for a standard square sliced bread (Sunblest???) and rarely fit bloomer or farmhouse type slices, nor Mothers' Pride for that matter.

              The spring doesn't work perfectly and with a thicker hand-cut slices you might need to gently manhandle it into the slots. For some reason once it heats up this problem disappears.

              All in all, very basic and just about workable, but fundamentally OK.

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                15.08.2012 00:51
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                disappointing quality

                I bought this as a basic but nice looking (in a bare wood and sackcloth kind of way) laundry bin, and in many ways it is just that, but if you want it to last, you need to treat it more gently then perhaps one wants to treat a laundry bin.

                The assembly after purchase is simple, and as long as you keep it as it was when you first put it together, it will work fine, the wood cross-pieces tensioned by the rectangular, button-on bag. I was worried that the wood frame would be a bit flimsy, but it actually wasn't and the hinge stays in as well.

                The cover was made from fairly sturdy calico cloth and fastened with large buttons.

                So far so good.

                However, when I washed it (machine washed but not on a particularly hot wash) the material shrunk quite a bit which put the whole item out of frame so to speak. It needed to be stretched very tightly, then the trim started to fray, then then buttons couldn't be done up at all, then the strips that are used to fasten the bag onto the frame didn't work and so on. I stitched it back together, but the fraying and shrinking meant that a lot of material was lost and it just didn't hold the frame in a right place in a right way.

                After that it was prone to collapsing and thus didn't last much longer.

                One solution would be to not to wash it, but it seems unrealistic proposition for a dirty clothes' bin. Another would be to use a plastic bag inside the cotton one, but this kinda defies the purpose. Washing by hand might be an option, but frankly who wants to bother?

                I was disappointed because it's a kind of item that one would expect to age gracefully, but it didn't.

                Unless you are prepared not to wash it (or possibly wash it by hand), not recommended.

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                • Argos 3 Tier Indoor Airer / Furniture / 9 Readings / 9 Ratings
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                  14.08.2012 23:32
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                  OK buit not fantastic budget clothes horse

                  Unlike other reviewers of this drying rack, I didn't really find it that excellent. Although the setup was easy and it does fit in small spaces (which was the main reason we initially bought this rather than one of the fold-out ones), it very quickly started to collapse and bend when fully loaded, with the rods bending out and leading to gradual disintegration of the whole lot.

                  Also, threading clothes onto all of the rails is quite fiddly and they hang very near to each other which means longer drying times.

                  It's quite possible that you are not meant to use as many of the rail lengths as I tried to, but then why are they there? They certainly get counted in description. I am sure that, unlike Argos claims, it doesn't hold two wash loads (unless they are two small machine loads of small synthetics or something like that).

                  On the plus side, the coating was very good and appeared thick and it seemed to show no signs of rust during the time we had it.

                  The feet are suitable for all sorts of floors, though generally drying clothes indoors is not advisable as it can cause condensation and damp inside. But this rack will work fine in any utility area, on a patio or balcony too.

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                  • Tesco Value A4 White Paper / Homeware / 8 Readings / 8 Ratings
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                    14.08.2012 23:18
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                    the best everyday paper

                    The economy brands of various supermarkets are roughly the same (I often think they are made in the same factories and just have different labels stuck on) but within the economy range I find that some products are appallingly bad, and however cheap they are they are still not good enough for the purpose (washing powder comes to mind). Others are acceptable basic versions, and occasionally some are simply decent products with no need whatsoever to buy anything more expensive.

                    This Value paper belongs firmly in the last category. It is plain, everyday paper that in my experience will work in most printers (I tried it in several inkjet ones, all by HP and in a Brother laser) and will deliver acceptable results.

                    It is called copier paper, but it is fine for printing everyday documents, letters and all kinds of notes and drafts - basically anything that needs to be printed but doesn't need to have a ''quality'' look. The black is reasonably crisp and the colours are OK if you have to have colours.

                    The budget quality manifests itself in the not entirely brilliant-white colour and particularly in the paper's thickness, or rather thinness. At 75 gsm (while standard paper is 80 gsm) it is indeed a bit thin - but not so thin as to jam the printer. It obviously isn't suitable for prestige reports or printing CVs for a higher-level job, but for normal , daily uses it will do just fine.

                    Incidentally, it's also just about the cheapest paper you can buy for children to draw on (though as all copier/printer paper, it's not ideal for painting as it's a bit too slick and doesn't absorb, especially watercolours, very well) as you get a full ream for less than £3 which has to be as cheap as you can possibly get.

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                  • Rugs / Furniture / 15 Readings / 12 Ratings
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                    14.08.2012 20:47
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                    rugs rule

                    I am not quite sure how one is supposed to review ''rugs in general'', but let's try.

                    How about, rugs are great?

                    When I arrived in the UK for the first time (back in the early 1990s) from what was then freshly-post-communist Poland I was surprised by several aspects of day-to-day life in this country, some delightful (you don't have to carry any documents on you even when driving a car) and some, let's say, less so. Domestic routines were often among those, chief of them the separate hot and cold water taps.

                    What appeared to be an almost obsessive love affair with wall to wall carpeting was another. Not only almost all rooms everywhere appeared to be carpeted, and that included even upmarket living rooms in middle class houses, but I was astonished by carpets in bathrooms (including bathrooms that had toilets and showers in them) and even sometimes carpets in kitchens.

                    This trend has somewhat diminished in the intervening 20 years while I started to appreciate advantages of carpets in the notoriously underheated and drafty British homes and bathrooms in particular.

                    Still, I still think that wall to wall carpeting shouldn't be used as a default option. There is nothing that screams ''cheap rented flat'' then the same cheap (usually cord) carpet laid in all rooms, halls, bathroom and sometimes even kitchen.

                    Carpeting has advantages through. It's soft underfoot, muffles sound and makes rooms and floors warmer. There is no reason however why this should be achieved by covering the floor with a permanent, unmovable, fixed covering.

                    A much better alternative is a rug: from small area/scatter rugs to large almost-whole-room rugs, there is a rug for every room and occasion (and, incidentally, for every pocket).

                    You can use smallish cotton rugs (often rag-rug style) as bathroom mats and in kitchens and childrens' rooms as these can usually be machine washed and often tumble dried (they are also very cheap).

                    Other cotton rugs (particularly chenille) work well as larger centre-pieces for kids' rooms. Vertbaudet do really nice ones.

                    Grown up rooms can have pretty much anything, from sheepskin to fluffy chenille, and of course the massive range of artificial fibre rugs on offer. Some acrylic rugs are very good indeed.

                    There are also rugs that are more mats than rugs, for example sea=grass, jute and the like, good for halls and similar areas.

                    But the best rugs are still woolen ones, or woolen and silk ones; and among those the rugs from Asia - Turkish, Persian and similar - are worth seeking out. You can buy these second-hand for very good prices, though if buying online it's worth carefully examining the photos for condition. If traditional patterns are not your thing, you can buy modern rugs made from natural fibres too, though I find that as I get older my distaste for swirly and ornate patterns diminishes a lot.

                    Square foot per square foot, rugs are often better value for money than wall to wall carpets, and if you buy a big one you don't have to have fantastic parquet flooring underneath but half-decent floorboards will do. I even occasionally put rugs on those horrid rented house cheap beige carpets to decent effect.

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