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    • Panasonic SD255 / Bread Maker / 86 Readings / 84 Ratings
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      12.06.2013 22:28
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      Reliable and quiet bread maker with a good range of options but stick to the bread reciipes

      About 10 years ago, my brother gave us a bread maker for Christmas. I remember being a bit nonplussed, thinking it was something we'd try a few times then end up storing it in the garage. I was wrong. We grew to love the bread from this basic appliance. By the time it gave up the ghost we knew we'd buy another. We looked at what was available and we ended up with the Panasonic SD255.

      ** What does it make? **

      Bread! And dough and cakes. There are lots of recipes in the recipe book which came with the bread maker. I've tried quite a few but tend to most often make the 70% wholemeal rapid bake loaf.

      As well as the basic setting, there are wholewheat, rye, French, Italian, sandwich, gluten free, pizza and bake only settings.

      ** What ingredients are needed? **

      For most breads the main ingredients are strong flour, water, salt, fat, sugar and yeast.

      The recipe book which comes with this machine says to add dairy products as well but this is not really needed. In our last machine we didn't have to add milk or milk powder and as I try to avoid dairy products I wasn't keen to add them. I called the Panasonic helpline and they said it was an optional ingredient and only included for extra nutrition. So why add it then, you may well ask. It would have put me off buying this model if I'd read the recipe book before buying the machine and I suspect I wouldn't be the only one. Anyway, I've never added any milk or milk powder to any of the recipes and nothing seems amiss with the bread.

      ** What is the bread like? **

      Very good actually on either the basic setting and the rapid bake setting. The crumb is quite dense but soft (you can tell I've watched Paul Hollywood on the Great British Bake Off.

      A large size 70% wholemeal made on standard setting (not rapid) is 14 centimetres tall. An extra large size 70% wholemeal made on rapid setting is 16 centimetres tall and the medium size is about 12 centimetres tall. All decent sizes for sandwiches. I get about 12-14 slices per loaf but I like my toast quite thick so you could probably squeeze a few more slices out of this if you were less greedy than me.

      There is a little hole in the bottom of the loaf. This is because there is a metal paddle in the tin. This paddle does a lot of the work but there's no way of removing it from the dough once it starts to bake (unless you make dough only).

      We often make pizza dough in the bread maker as well as standard loaves. We've had to tailor the recipe a bit as it made a very floppy base when baked which meant the toppings fell off when you lifted the pizza. I think we've got it right now though.

      From time to time I've experimented with making various fruit and nut loaves. Unlike my last machine, this one has a fruit and nut dispenser on top and it drops these ingredients in at the right time so I don't now need to stand beside the machine waiting for a 'bleep' to tell me to throw them in. Pecans, walnuts, honey, sunflower seeds, raisins and cranberries have all found their way in to a loaf at one time or another. They've all worked well and the fruit and nuts have been well dispersed through the loaf.

      ** Any problems? **

      My one real disaster was an attempt at a banana and walnut loaf. This was from a recipe in the book. It was horrible. Very wet and squishy and the bananas seemed to have oozed out from the other ingredients. The cake wasn't brown on top either and I will never make one of these again!

      Other than another time when I put all the ingredients in except the water (made everything very toasty but unsurprisingly not like bread), everything hhs been fine.

      ** Cleaning **

      The bread tin and the paddle are the only bits that need cleaned. They are easy to clean as the bread comes out of the pan quite easily. The exterior just needs a quick wipe down as it doesn't seem to attract stains and marks.

      ** Cost **

      When we bought this bread maker, it was around £100.

      The main cost of a loaf is the cost of the flour. An extra large loaf uses 450g of strong bread flour. I use Doves Farm organic strong flour which is £1.99 per 1.5kg pack. So the flour cost is about 60p. The other ingredients cost pennies. The electricity to operate the machine must be another few pennies. So, overall I get good value for making loaves at home.

      ** Overall **

      We use this bread maker 2 or 3 times each week. This machine has a timer which is really handy. I can set it up when I go to bed. The machine operates very quietly (unlike our last machine) and when we get up in the morning there is a fabulous smell of fresh bread in the kitchen and a fresh loaf staying warm in the machine. A loaf stays warm for up to an hour after it's finished baking.

      I like knowing exactly what has gone into my bread and I do when I make it myself. But I've not got time to make it from scratch so this bread maker is perfect. The bread tastes really good too.

      If this machine ever packs up then we'll be getting another Panasonic. Very impressed with this model as long as I don't attempt to make another cake. I'd give this 5 stars instead of 4 stars if it wasn't for the unnecessary milk products in every recipe, and the cake disaster.

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        09.06.2013 18:01
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        Gorgeously scented moisturising body wash, worth keeping all for yourself

        Last month I came home from a run, virtually crawled upstairs to the shower, started the water, climbed in, and then discovered I'd run out of my usual shower wash. At the end of the bath there was only a bar of soap or a shower wash my husband had been given for Christmas but had never used. Decisions, decisions....

        I knew the soap had no scent so husband's shower wash it was. I like a scented product to wash the sweat off! This gel was REN's Seaweed and Sage Body Wash according to the label.

        The chunky plastic container was easy to hold while in the shower. I was tired but the bottle didn't drop out of my hands as the plastic wasn't slippery when wet. There was a pump action top making it easy for me to get at the contents when weary.

        With the first whiff of the scent, I totally loved it. Think warming days by the seaside and you've got it. Gentle, fresh clean ocean breeze, slightly woody and herbal undertones. Gorgeous. And it strongly scented the bathroom for about 20 minutes afterwards, wafting through the upstairs rooms in my house. Not so good if you don't like the scent but a bonus if you do.

        The body wash lathered well without excessive bubbles. I needed a few squirts of about 5-10 pence each sizes in that one shower but that is about normal for me and the amount I use of any shower gel.

        My husband was out that day so the scent had gone by the time he returned. So, meaning to mention to him that I'd used this body wash but somehow never quite remembering, I kept using it. I noticed that my skin was soft and hadn't its usual dried out texture after a shower. A couple of times I was in a hurry and was even able to skip using a body moisturiser as my skin felt comfortable enough after washing with the REN product. Seaweed is supposed to have a toning effect on the skin so I don't know if that is what helps but it feels good anyway.

        Looking at the REN website afterwards, it said that this body wash is a stimulating and reviving body wash. I'd agree with that. REN products appear to be natural and organic with no parabens or petrochemicals. They don't contain any synthetic dyes so this product is clear with no colour to it. There are no synthetic fragrances so the scents are naturally derived too. I have quite sensitive skin and have had no problems with using this body wash. The bottle label is plain white with a blue band. It's a fairly unisex look which is the appearance of most REN products.

        This body wash costs £14 for a 200 ml bottle from M&S, John Lewis or REN's own website. I've had to find this out because now I've almost finished the bottle and, because I really love the scent, I need to buy another. I still haven't mentioned it to my husband....

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          31.05.2013 18:32
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          Effective but expensive and not as natural as it implies

          My hands tend to be fairly dry so I make an effort to keep them in good condition by applying hand cream at least twice each day. I have tried many different products over the years. I have some favourites but I'm always open to trying others. When I got a free gift of the Cowshed cow pat hand cream from a magazine, I was interested enough to try it.

          This hand cream is available from stores such as John Lewis and House of Fraser as well as online from Cowshed themselves. From Cowshed the price is £8 for a 50ml hand cream, and £16 for the 300ml size. The creams are therefore quite expensive (although I have been known to spend that much on a hand cream if I really like it). On this occasion I was just pleased to be testing this 50ml one for just the price of the magazine.

          The Cowshed company opened a spa in the old cowshed of Babington House hotel about 15 years ago. This is why most of their product names have a cow theme (Grumpy Cow, Slender Cow, etc). I can see the logic but the "cow pat" name didn't appeal much to me.

          This size of hand cream comes in a tube and the larger size is in a bottle. The tube is dark brown with white and coffee writing. It doesn't look as expensive as it is. It is a handy size for carrying around in a handbag. The lid has a flat top so the tube can also be stood upright on its lid upon a dressing table or wherever at home. It is a flip top lid and it easily flips up. It is only necessary to squeeze the tube a little to squirt out the cream. The cream itself is white and a fairly thick consistency. Only a small amount is needed to cover both hands so I would typically use about the size of a five pence piece.

          This hand cream had a scent which was immediately noticeable when I first squeezed it out of the tube. The scent is refreshing and a change from the florals often found in this type of product. It is a faintly citrus and spicy scent so I was not surprised to see that it contains essential oils of grapefruit and coriander. The hand cream rubbed in easily and it dried within a few seconds - I didn't have to wave my hands around waiting for it soak in and dry which can be quite annoying. The scent remained on my hands for about 15 minutes after applying which I think is quite long for a hand cream.

          After applying, my hands felt well moisturised, comfortable and smooth. This hand cream is very effective. I take it with me now in my handbag and apply it when my hands get a bit dry. I think it is helping my hands to remain in good condition.

          One concern I do have however is the ingredients. Cowshed highlight that their botanical formulations are free of parabens, petrochemicals and sulphates. This gives the impression of a natural product free of 'nasties'. I then looked at the list of ingredients which are:

          Aqua (Water), Caprylic/capric triglyceride, Cetearyl alcohol, Glyceryl stearate, PEG-100 stearate, Glycerin, Gluconolactone, Stearic acid, Aloe barbadensis leaf juice, Sodium benzoate, Parfum (Fragrance), Citric acid, Butyrospermum parkii, Theobroma cacao seed butter, Tocopheryl acetate, Citrus paradisi oil, Styrax benzoin gum, Panthenol, Citrus aurantium amara oil, Coriandrum sativum oil, Cinnamomum zeylanicum leaf oil, Lavandula angustifolia oil, Calcium gluconate, Potassium sorbate. Benzyl benzoate, Benzyl cinnamate, Cinnamal, Citral, Citronellol, Eugenol, Geraniol, Hexyl cinnamal, Hydroxycitronellal, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde , Butylphenyl methylpropional, Limonene, Linalool.

          There are several ingredients in there which don't sound very natural to me. I like to use natural products where possible and this doesn't seem to fit the bill entirely.

          Overall, this product is effective, smells refreshing and makes my hands less dry. But I would only partly recommend this hand cream. It's got fewer nasties in it than many similar products but, I felt, not as few as it would like to give the impression it has. It's also quite expensive. I'll finish the tube but this isn't a hand cream I'd actually buy.

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            27.05.2013 17:56
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            Doesn't deliver Max Colour Effects on quality or colour

            ~The product~

            Max Factor is an established make up brand. The products from this brand are usually fairly reliable and their nail polishes are inexpensive compared to something like Nails Inc. Currently Max Factor appears to have three ranges of nail polish - Colour Effects, Glossfinity, and Nailfinity. This review is for the miniature Colour Effects product called Max Colour Effects Mini Nail Polish.

            The Max Factor Max Colour Effects Mini Nail Polishes are sold in Boots and Superdrug. There are 36 colours in the range so the choice of colours is well covered. Most are quite bold and bright. The darkest colour in the range is Lacquer Noir and the palest is Ivory. I bought the Sunny Pink colour. This colour is a sort of bubblegum pink with a gold shimmer effect.

            The mini bottle contains 4.5 ml of polish. This bottle is a small square bottle with a black screw top. The nail polish colour is clearly visible as there isn't much writing on the bottle.

            Once the lid is opened, the applicator brush is visible. The brush is quite flat and narrow and the bristles are not very long. Despite the small bottle size, the lid is a fairly normal size and it's certainly long enough to get a good grip on.

            ~Application~

            Nail polish can be used on both fingernails and toenails. It is often suggested that nail polish is applied after buffing nails then applying an clear base coat. I have had this done during a salon treatment but have never bothered at home for any polish. I do usually cut my nails beforehand though to make sure they have an even edge and will look presentable. If you use a base coat then it needs to be thoroughly dry first before starting to use this polish. I have assessed this polish on my usual home application process.

            To apply, first take the brush out of the bottle. The wand needs to have enough polish on it to be visible but not a large dollop because it will then be harder to control when brushing it onto your nails. If there is too much then dab the brush on the side of the bottle to dribble some back into the bottle.

            Brush one stroke down the centre of the nail then one down the nail on each side of that centre stroke. All strokes should be done in the same direction and I do them in the direction of my cuticle to the tip. If I get any on the surrounding skin, I use a cotton bud to remove it before the polish hardens.

            After leaving the nail polish to set for about 10 minutes, I apply a second coat and let that set for 10 minutes as well. I don't usually bother with a clear top coat as I have usually run out of patience by then.

            ~Availability and price~

            A bottle containing 4.5 ml of this polish will cost you £3.99 from Boots or Superdrug both in the stores and online. Occasionally I have seen some of the colours in the range being sold on Amazon and they are a little cheaper there.

            ~What I think about this product~

            I don't wear a lot of nail polish in winter. I paint my fingernails from time to time. However I love to paint my toenails when good weather appears. As we don't generally have good weather for long periods and I get bored easily, I often end up with an assortment of half used bottles in all sorts of colours. I have reds, pinks, metallics, blues, purples and a few other impulse buys. When out shopping I am often attracted to the latest colours.

            When I saw these Max Factor Max Colour Effects Mini Nail Polishes I thought they were a great idea. With this small bottle I thought it'd be perfect for a few applications before I got bored with the colour. I was wrong!

            I liked the colour in the bottle. The Sunny Pink colour in the bottle looked like it would be a good pink base and the gold shimmer through it would catch the light. When I applied the polish, the pink colour was initially not very noticeable. The colour looked sort of bronze rather than golden or pink. After a few days the sheen faded and I was left with a dull pink which I didn't find appealing.

            On application, the product's consistency was quite runny and I think that maybe three coats would be needed for a lasting polish. With just two coats my nails started to chip within two days which I think is far too quick for polish on my toenails. If it was on my fingernails I doubt it would last the day. As the polish was not very thick the brush marks were quite noticeable with the first coat of polish although they weren't so bad after the second coat. Again, maybe a third coat (and therefore plenty of time for application!) would be a good idea.

            So I will not be buying this polish again. It didn't deliver on the Max Colour promise and it didn't last. Even though the small bottle was cheaper than a large bottle of many other polishes, the other polishes would probably be better quality so I'd use them more often. This one is heading for the bin.

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            22.05.2013 11:00
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            Mostly works well, a good price, and doesn't send me to sleep

            ** Why do I use these? **

            Every spring I view the arrival of good weather with mixed feelings. It's lovely to walk in the sun, visit the countryside for a picnic or sit in the garden. Unfortunately I am pretty much guaranteed to start to feel lousy. Exhausted, sniffly and itchy - nice! I have hayfever and it's not fun.

            Over the years, dealing with my allergy, I've tried pills and potions and even local honey (no idea why this is supposed to work but it didn't for me) and nasal sprays (I just couldn't handle squirting this up my nose).

            I've now settled on these pills from Sainsbury's as my main treatment. The packet states that they provide relief from the symptoms of hayfever and allergies such as pet, feather or dust mite allergies. With hayfever I get the unpleasant symptoms of a runny nose, itchy eyes, dry skin and a dry throat. At other times I get occasional itchy eyes and a runny nose symptoms from feathers if we travel somewhere and the hotel has feather pillows.


            ** Do they work? **

            Pretty well for most of the time. My symptoms are kept under control with the tablets for most of the hayfever season and they easily help with the feather pillow problems. However I find that in the peak of the hayfever season these aren't quite enough to keep my allergy under control. I have to then switch to the other main type of tablet (primary ingredient of cetirizine hydrochloride) which is the one more likely to cause drowsiness. As I have to try another type of tablet when my hayfever is particularly bad, I've rated these as 4.

            Fulfilling the claims of "non-drowsy" on the packet, these don't make me feel sleepy so I'm happy to drive as normal when I take these.

            However it is worth remembering that these, like all allergy treatments, only provide temporary relief. Sadly for me, taking these won't ultimately actually cure my allergy problem.


            ** What is in this product? **

            The main ingredient of these pills is 10mg of Loratidine. Loratadine is one of a type of medications called anti-histamines. The substance in the body which gives me allergic symptoms (such as my runny nose) is histamine. So an anti-histamine works by blocking the effects of histamine.

            The pills also contain lactose monohydrate, maize starch, pregelatinised starch and magnesium stearate.

            They are now sold in a blue and green cardboard box. A few years ago they were sold in packaging which was green and white but I noticed that the packets changed last year. Inside the box is a white blister pack of pills and an instruction leaflet.


            ** How to take these? **

            Each tablet is in a separate blister pocket in the pack. I pop one out each day and take it with some water. It doesn't seem to matter if I have food with them or not. The tablet itself is about the size of a small sunflower seed so it's really easy to swallow.

            One tablet is supposed to be taken around the same time each day but if I miss one, it can be taken as soon as I remember.


            ** Are they OK for everyone? **

            If you have liver problems, are pregnant or are breastfeeding then the instructions say not to take these. If you have any other medical issues, I'd check whether these are OK to use with the Sainsbury's pharmacist.

            For children it depends on the child's age and weight whether these can be used. A child must be over 2 years old and with a body weight of more than 30 kilos.

            Otherwise it looks like everyone else is able to use these (but please check the box or ask the pharmacist for information as well if you are unsure as I'm not a medical expert).

            As usual there are possible side effects listed in the instruction leaflet. I've not had any side effects but, as with all medicines, I'd suggest that if anything out of the ordinary occurs when you start taking these, consult a pharmacist or a doctor.


            ** Are there other similar options? **

            This Sainsbury's product is produced by Galpharm. Galpharm appear to make similar allergy tablets for Waitrose and I suspect for other supermarkets too. A branded Loratidine product is one called Clarityn but this is much more expensive that the Sainsbury's option. I've found that these all Loratidine tablets appear to work in a similar way.


            ** How much is it? **

            A pack of 14 is found on the supermarket shelf in Sainsbury's and costs £1. A pack of 30 is only from a Sainsbury's pharmacy counter and it costs £2.

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              13.05.2013 18:09
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              A good natural alternative to a sweaty problem

              The problem?
              One weekend I was heading onto a plane for a short break. With liquids being restricted in hand luggage I was struggling to fit my toiletries into that little plastic bag. It was no good - I had to buy something in a smaller size or leave something behind.

              The solution?
              In Boots I came across the Salt of the Earth deoderant. I had a brainwave - surely this was truly solid so could go in my hand luggage but not count as a liquid. So I bought one. This was about 4 years ago and I'm still using it. Not the same one of course - they do last a while but 4 years would be pushing it!

              Why?
              So why have I stuck with it? Well, benefit one is that it isn't a liquid. So it can go in hand luggage with no problems. Benefit two is that it's free from nasties such as preservatives. Benefit three is that it does work. It's effective at stopping me sweating and I don't get damp patches under my arms even at the gym. However, for some reason I don't fully understand, there is the odd day when I do seem to noticeably sweat and this product isn't fully effective. It's only the odd day - maybe only one out of every few months - but annoyingly I don't know why it works less on those days. But this is the reason I've deducted one star, because it's not perfect.

              What is it?
              The deodorant is a stick. It looks like a big chunk of crystal. It's sort of translucent white colour and the surface is smooth. It's made from alum which is a natural antibacterial mineral salt. The Salt of the Earth website says it's free from aluminium chlorohydrate, parabens, alcohol, perfumes, CFC's, triclosan, mineral oils, and propellants.

              How do I use it?
              Pretty much like a normal stick deodorant except it must be wet to work. So I dampen the top surface and smear it under my arms. By the time I get to putting my clothes on, under my arms are dry and they stay that way. The stick should be dried afterwards so it lasts longer but I usually forget to do this. It doesn't sting on application unlike some of the roll ons or sprays I've used before.

              Any other information?
              It's unscented. I'm not allergic to it. It's not tested on any animals. I bough the travel size first then the normal size. I can't remember how much Boots charged but on the Salt of the Earth website the travel size (which is 50 grams) costs £2.58 and the standard size (which is 90 grams) costs £4.62. The standard size easily lasts for about a year so it's not too costly.

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                06.05.2013 10:57
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                Dull but highly effective. I wouldn't be without it now.

                Perhaps life was getting too much for me and it was showing on my skin. I'd developed cracked skin on my elbows and heels as well as dry patches on my shins. The cracks were painful to touch and becoming itchy. Summer was (supposedly) coming up and my heels in particular looked really bad.

                I asked friends if they knew what I could do to repair my skin. I also went to Boots and asked what they'd recommend. A Boots pharmacist suggested aqueous cream.

                There are two sizes of this product in Boots stores - a 500g tub and a 100g tube. Online they only appear to sell the tub. I bought the tub. I was initially a bit put off by the containers. The packaging is plain and looks quite medical. This is not a product with pictures of shiny happy people enjoying life or information of how it will change your life. I liked to think I'm not that susceptible to marketing but, having looked at these dull and plain containers, perhaps I am.

                The ingredients aren't also as pure as I would like. However having tried purer products which had no impact on the problem I was ready to try the tough stuff. The ingredients are listed as purified water, emulsifying wax (containing cetostearyl alcohol, sodium laurilsulfate), and chlorocrescol 0.1%.

                The cream itself is very thick and white. It becomes soft quite quickly as you apply it. As this is a water-based cream (which is what aqueous means) it does rub in to skin quickly or, if your skin has become as dry as mine, a thin layer will even soak in by itself. There is no noticeable scent.

                After applying this for about a week in thin layers and letting it soak in, my elbows and heels became soft and smooth. The irritation and cracking had gone. This cream was much more effective and much cheaper than the more glamorous products I'd previously tried. It helped my skin feel so comfortable that I still use the cream now as a preventative measure if I feel my skin is getting too dry.

                As well as moisturising, this cream can be used with water for washing skin. For the purposes of this review I therefore tried this as a cleanser. I applied a thin layer over my face, rubbed it gently over my make-up and took it off with a damp warm face cloth. It easily removed the lot and left my face feeling soft and clean. However due to the moisture content I'd be a bit worried my skin would become greasy if I did this too often.

                I have since used this cream to add rapid moisture to my hand after I burned it on steam from the kettle. Ran my hand under cold water first but my hand still stung. The cream helped soothe the stinging and added moisture. I understand from friends that it is also sometimes recommended for patients undergoing radiotherapy to keep the skin in better condition.

                This has been a really effective cream. It's not glamorous, natural or trendy but it works and it's really cheap compared to the branded products for dry skin. I now keep some in the house all the time and at the first sign of trouble, I slap some on.

                The aqueous cream costs £4.09 for the 500g tub in Boots. I think the tube was about £1.75 for 100g.

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                  29.04.2013 08:40
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                  Effective mascara if you prefer natural ingredients

                  I've been on a quest to find a good mascara from a brand that doesn't use parabens and other nasties. It feels like it's been a "panda-look-a-like" quest as I've tried mascaras that run and smudge, mascaras that smell bad and mascaras that flake. Trouble is that all those chemicals in the mass market mascaras do actually seem to make the mascaras work better.

                  But now I think my search is over. I've found the Volumising Mascara from Green People. I've been using it for about a month and will buy probably another when this one is finished.

                  The company which makes this is called Green People. They say on their website they are committed to offering products that are natural, gentle, organic and highly effective. None of their products are tested on animals. I've used some of their skincare products but this is the first of their make-up products I have bought.

                  This mascara is certified as organic by Eco-cert. It's not a completely organic product though as only 15.4% of the products are organic. However Green People say that 98.4% of this mascara's ingredients are natural or derived from natural sources. The full list of ingredients is listed on their website (http://www.greenpeople.co.uk/volumising-mascara-black-7ml.aspx). I have several allergies and none were triggered with these ingredients. But if you are vegan, you need to know that there is beeswax in the ingredients so this product isn't any good for you.

                  The container is sleek and black with gold lettering. It doesn't look any different from a less natural brand. The wand is thin and long. The brush itself is about an inch long with lots of thin bristles. The thin bristles seem to help the liquid go on to my eyelashes evenly with no clumping. The colour is a true black. Although it's a volumising mascara it looks quite natural as it's not really heavy and thick with just one coat. It's thick enough for me though. It does make even the ends of my eyelashes a nice black colour and my eyelashes definitely look longer when I wear this.

                  My eyes don't water or itch throughout the day when using this mascara. Both are problems I've had with less natural products. I don't get "panda eyes" from smudges or streaks down my face either. It's water resistant but not waterproof so not suitable for going swimming (not that I think I have ever gone swimming wearing make-up). I think it'd probably be fine for contact lens wearers.

                  To remove this product I use a light and gentle eye cleanser. As it's not waterproof it does actually come off with lots and lots of water but it's quicker and easier to use a cleanser.

                  There are two colours available. I have the black colour. The other colour is brown/black and I think I'll try that one next.

                  The product contains 7ml of mascara and on the Green People website it costs £14.75. It's a better deal at the moment on the Naturismo website though where it costs only £12.75.


                  Updated 12/6 to add that I have now bought the brown/black colour. The product is just as good but I like this colour better than the black. The shade is very dark but seems less harsh. Makes me look a bit less tired I think!

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                    24.04.2013 12:59
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                    Only for the experienced cook

                    A year ago my Dad gave me a copy of "The Silver Spoon" cookery book. Before I unwrapped the present I wondered if he had bought me a brick because this book is really heavy! I know it's odd to start a cookery book review with this but it has had a bearing on how often I have subsequently looked at the book. I like cookery books that I can idly browse n the kitchen while the kettle boils or my toast is in the toaster. I can't idly browse through this book. I have to lug it through to the living room and sit down properly to read it at the table.

                    On the upside there are a lot of recipes in here. There are over 2000. And the recipes are tried and tested. The book is an Italian book now translated into English. It was first published in Italy in 1950. At the beginning of the book they explain that there are differences in Italian cookery books from English speaking ones. Typically Italian ones don't contain many instructions and English ones do, so they had to add in some details in the instructions while trying not to lose the Italian essence of the book. Therefore, each recipe name is in Italian as well as English.

                    To give an idea about the breakdown of recipes in each section:
                    - sauces are pages 45-90
                    - antipasti, appetizers and pizzas are pages 91-200
                    - first courses are pages 201-350
                    - eggs and frittata are pages 351-396
                    - vegetables are pages 397-586
                    - fish crustaceans and shellfish are pages 587-734
                    - meat and offal are pages 735-874
                    - poultry are pages 875-946
                    - game is pages 947-986
                    - cheese is pages 987-1000
                    - desserts and baking are pages 1001-1120
                    - menus by celebrated chefs are pages 1121-1200

                    Many pages have two recipes on a page. There are not many pictures throughout the book so if you need a picture to check how something should look then this is definitely the wrong book for you.

                    At the front of the book there are some notes about the ingredients used, an explanation of cooking terms, and a description of tools and equipment required.

                    In some of the sections there are extra notes. In fish there is some information on types of cooking, suitable side dishes and useful herns. In meat there is information on the types of cuts used in Italy.

                    Overall I see this as a reference book rather than a using cookery book. I've only occasionally made one of these recipes, and usually for a special occasion when I wanted to make something different. The recipes have been nice - monkfish stew with turmeric rice was particularly good - but I'm not tempted to take such a hefty book off the shelf and work my way through it very often.

                    It's also a quite expensive book, selling at around £15 on Amazon. So I can only partly recommend it.

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                      11.04.2013 15:51
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                      Good to try something different

                      At Christmas I was given the "Wahaca Mexican food at home" cookery book. This was written by Thomasina Miers who won Masterchef 2005. She's a bit of an expert on Mexican food. She spent several years in Mexico travelling, working with chefs and running a cocktail bar in Mexico City. Now she runs the Wahaca chain of restaurants in London. So her credentials on Mexican food are pretty good I think.

                      The book starts by explaining the variety of Mexican ingredients, that Mexican food is not the same as TexMex, and a little bit too about how the Wahaca chain came to be set up.

                      Next is a section about the Mexican store cupboard. This explains the essentials for this type of food. It mentions a range of ingredients including dried chillis, tomatoes, avocados and limes. It also covers shortcuts such as how to freeze chillis (I had no idea I could do this) and what to do if I have spare tortillas go stale (make deep fried tortilla chips apparently).

                      Then there's a section on chillies. This is really useful as I had no idea of really hot varieties and which were not. Seven varieties are described, what they are used for, and what substitutions you can make if you can't get hold of a particular one for a recipe.

                      The recipes are next. They start with breakfast recipes. I'll be honest - I haven't tried any of these actually for breakfast. While I love Mexican food and spices, putting them together and having them for breakfast feels a bit too much for me in the morning.

                      In the breakfast section there's a great recipe for real Mexican hot chocolate. This is so, so lovely. It's made with dark chocolate, almonds, sugar and cinnamon. Also in this section there are some juices, breads, corn pancakes, huevo recipes (eggs!) and breakfast burritos. In total in this section there are 12 recipes.

                      Next there is a section on market food. This starts with a bit about different types of wraps - tacos, burritos, quesadillas, taquitos and tostadas. There are several recipes with different fillings. There are 14 recipes in this section but this isn't my favourite part of the book and I haven't actually made any of them.

                      The next section is called 'In the cantina' and this focuses what the book calls lunch recipes (though there's no reason why you can't have them at any other time!). In this section there are mostly soups and salads. In amongst the recipes are some hints and tips. I thought the tips on how to use dried chillies were good as it also explains how not to burn them too. There are 12 recipes in this section.

                      Then the book moves on to light dishes. This has a variety of recipes and some of them are meal items such as the queso fundido (cheese fondue Mexican style) and some are snacks. In this section there are 12 recipes.

                      The main items are next. These are larger meat, fish and vegetarian recipes. It includes my absolute favourite of the whole book - "grilled salmon in sweet, smoky tamarind sauce". This is so delicious - I think I'm addicted to it. The salmon is marinaded in the sauce. The marinade ingredients get chucked in the blender then spooned onto the fish. The fish soaks most of it up, then the salmon gets cooked by a combination of griddling and grilling, and the remaining marinade gets boiled down to a sticky sauce. There's a whole chipotle chilli in this. Initially I was worried about where to find a chipotle chilli but I found my Tesco actually sells them along with other dried chillies such as ancho. This feels like a healthy dish and it doesn't take long to do the cooking bit of it. In this section there are 13 recipes which we're steadily working our way through

                      Next up is a section on side dishes. This isn't a very big section but I've tried a couple of the recipes such as Mexican green rice. These would go well with some of the main items but I can only cope with one recipe at a time unless I have someone helping me in the kitchen! There are 8 dishes in this section.

                      After the savoury dishes are puddings and cakes. These include caramelised fruit and chocolate dessert recipes. I'd love to try some of these but I'm not good at making sweet things. I plan to give them a go if I ever do a special birthday meal or something like that at home. There are 14 sweet recipes here.

                      Next there is a 'fiesta' section. This is sort of nibbles to go with drinks I suppose. It has stuff like guacamole, stuffed chillies and pork scratchings (which are apparently very popular in Mexico but spicier than those over here). There is some really good advice too on how to choose a ripe avocado. This section has 11 recipes.

                      The fiesta section leads into drink recipes. If you've ever wanted to know about margaritas and tequilas then there's advice on those. There are soft drinks like horchata (an almond milk) in here as well. There are 20 drinks recipes.

                      At the end of the recipes is information on growing your own chillis (very easy apparently) and tips on how to make killer salsas. This section had 14 recipes of salsas.

                      At the very back of the book there's a list of suppliers of Mexican ingredients. They look useful but so far I've found all I needed in large branches of Tesco and Sainsburys.

                      The book is hardback with a nice solid cover. It has 256 pages (including the index and acknowledgements at the back). It's nicely laid out with lots of pictures. The list price is £20 but I think it's selling at £12.80 on Amazon at the moment.

                      In summary, this is a great book. I've become confident enough to try many of the recipes because the instructions are straightforward. And these recipes that are a really tasty change from my usual cookery staples.

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                      • Clipper Jasmine Green / Tea / 42 Readings / 41 Ratings
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                        05.04.2013 11:47
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                        Great change from plain green tea

                        I usually drink green tea but sometimes I fancy a change. So I bought some Clipper Jasmine GreenTea. This is a green tea which is scented with jasmine blossom. I love the scent of jasmine and wondered how it would be in a tea.

                        This Clipper tea is from the central highlands of China. China is one of the major tea growing countries and it grows a lot of green tea.

                        The simple green cardboard box contained a foil inner bag with 26 teabags. The teabags are not bright white in colour as they are not bleached. This, along with the Fairtrade mark, shows that Clipper is aware of ethical considerations.

                        I used fresh water when making the tea (so emptied the kettle from pre-boiled water and put in fresh). I then boiled it and left the water for cool a bit and come off the boiling temperature as I think it makes better tea. The instructions say to add the water to the teabag and leave for 1-3 minutes to steep. I infused it for about 2 minutes but I wasn't standing next to it with a timer so it may have been a little shorter or longer.

                        The tea became a pale gold colour. It had a light floral scent which was clearly jasmine and not a generic scent. It tasted of a very light, slightly sweet green tea. It was quite refreshing and calming. I really liked it. I had previously tried a rose flavoured green tea and I didn't like that so I think whether you'd like this would depend on how much you like this particular flower.

                        A box of 26 costs £1.69 directly from Clipper and it's about the same cost in most supermarkets.

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                          30.03.2013 19:33
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                          Effective and does the job

                          About a fortnight ago I bought a tube of Weleda Pomegranate Firming Eye Cream. I had not tried a Weleda product before but I liked that this one was in a 10ml small tube so convenient for carrying around or for travel. It cost me £19.95. Apparently Weleda are well know for natural products.

                          The eye cream was a pale colour. It was easy to squirt just the amount I wanted to use from the tube - not too much or too little. There was a slight floral smell but not too much and I didn't find it irritating.

                          This cream absorbs really well and quickly too. I have quite dry eyelids and it has helped, so far, much more than any other cream I've used. I put a small amount on in the mornings on my eyelids, just under my eye and at the eye corners. The cream moisturises well. It doesn't make my skin shiny and my eye make-up stays on even after I've used it.

                          I don't have problems with dark circles so I'm not sure if this cream would help with those. However I think it has tightened up the skin under my eyes as well as adding moisture so I think it's a good cream overall.

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                            30.03.2013 18:58
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                            Worth buying for dehydrated skin

                            At the start of winter I bought the Neal's Yard Frankincense Nourishing face cream. It is for dehydrated skin and I thought it might help see me through the winter months. This product is also supposed to help with aging skin. Neal's Yard produce natural products and are an established brand.

                            The cream is sold in a glass jar. When I bought the jar, the assistant said that I would get a small amount of money back on the jar if I brought it in for recycling.

                            This cream is quite thick and it's a white colour. It is absorbed into my skin quickly and isn't greasy. I use it each morning though I think you could use it as a night cream if your skin wasn't quite as dry as mine. There is almost no scent to this product.

                            I think that using this cream has helped my skin through this winter. My skin has been soft and looks good. I haven't had any spots, dry or flaking patches which I often get in the winter. I think I will buy another jar for next winter.

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