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Oddbodd

Oddbodd
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Member since: 16.06.2010

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    • Powergear Anvil Lopper / Garden Tool / 89 Readings / 84 Ratings
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      29.08.2011 14:04
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      Excellent, lightweight and powerful cutters. A good purchase.

      A couple of years ago I had some seriously heavy duty cutting to do and the shears and loppers I owned just weren't up to the job. After hacking away and sweating for a couple of hours I decided it was time to purchase a proper tool which could hopefully make this job a lot easier for me.

      So off we went down to B&Q and returned with these rather mean looking loppers and about £35 less in the wallet.
      I couldn't wait to try them out on the huge laurels that needed chopping right back. When we moved house, the mature garden hadn't been trimmed for around 5 years. These loppers certainly had their work cut out! The laurels were like trees and we wanted them gone completely and that was just the start. Well, what a difference a decent tool makes! They cut through those laurel branches like a knife through butter. After having struggled with my old loppers, secateurs and shears, this was a delight!

      That was their first job - since operation laurel they have been used for the removal of many a mature plant. The manufacturer says they have a cutting capacity of up to 50mm, I would say that at that thickness they can cope but you might have to do it in a couple of goes, whereas up to about 30mm it's a piece of cake (or, like cutting a piece of cake!)
      The handles are long - the length of the entire tool is about 70cm - so it is easy to reach fairly high branches although of course if you need to go very high you are going to need telescopic loppers (or a ladder!)
      Because they cut so easily I find it relatively easy to cut at awkward angles since it is only necessary to get a vague grip - because they are so sharp and strong they will cut from all sorts of angles if need be.

      They grip securely and give a powerful cut due to the gear action mechanism which 'increases cutting power and distributes it evenly throughout the cutting action'. Well I certainly find them less strenuous to use than previous loppers I have had.
      They are made of fibreglass reinforced polyamide which makes them lightweight as well as strong. The grip part of the handle is made from a slightly softer material which makes them quite comfortable to hold. I have used these for hours of cutting at a time and have found them a pleasure to use - in fact I find myself a little disappointed when I've done the big branches and the time comes to put them down and switch to the secateurs or shears!

      After a couple of years they still do just as good a job as when we first bought them. I have never had to adjust or tighten them, they remain just the same.

      (Review also appears on Ciao)

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      23.08.2011 12:16
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      A lovely daily moisturiser, not sure about whether it actually 'energises' though!

      I am not normally a lover of Clarins, simply because they don't have an anti-animal-testing policy. However, when I got given a small sized tube of this morning moisturiser for free I decided to give it a go to see what all the fuss is about.

      Actually I was rather pleasantly surprised at what is a nice product.

      It is certainly a daytime cream as it is a lighter cream. I found it absorbed immediately very easily and left a very smooth feeling on my skin. I am usually wary of applying a new cream just under my eyes as my skin can be very sensitive in this area. Indeed, after a few minutes of applying the cream to this area I was feeling a slightly stinging sensation there so made sure not to use it there again. However, this does happen with quite a few moisturisers so I am quite used to applying them to the rest of my face and just using an eye cream for under my eyes.

      Disappointingly, there is no sunscreen within this cream, which is something I prefer to have if possible in a daytime moisturiser. So on a hot day I need to apply sun cream over the top of this. However, it does score well in warm weather as I do find a lot of moisturisers will make my face sweat in the heat of the day, but this one didn't.

      The product contains vitamins and minerals (including vitamins A, B, C, E and K) and claims to 'wake up dull skin' with its many fruit and plant extracts. These include kiwi, papaya, pineapple, orange, sesame, peach and cashew. Sounds like quite a nice fruit salad in fact! I would expect it to smell fresh and fruity but in fact I think it just smells of a bland cream. Not unpleasant at all, just a very bog standard 'cream' type of smell which is almost impossible to describe. Think of an unscented cream (which invariably smells of something) and you will be closest to what this is like. So I find it to be completely inoffensive, but the scent does not help towards the 'wake up' claim.

      In fact, I'm not sure what the 'waking up the skin' is all about. This is a very nice, good quality, daytime moisturiser that applies easily, absorbs easily, softens and smooths the skin, and lasts well throughout the day. Later in the day my skin still feels smooth and soft especially as compared to when I have used some other moisturisers with which a few hours later I can't really feel that I have applied them at all.

      Due to the lightness of this cream, I did not find that it gave me spots or greasy skin over time, and I still remain impressed with its moisturising ability when you consider that it isn't thick and rich.

      Having done a little research online, it looks as if Clarins have slightly updated this product and rebranded it as........ wait for it....... 'Daily Energizer Cream' which, having read the ingredients and claims, looks to be a very similar product. This retails for around £30 for 30 ml. Wow! Another reason that I would never buy this for myself, despite it clearly being a very good quality moisturiser.

      I will give this 4 out of 5 stars, the reasons for losing that one star being that
      a) this company still test on animals and it's time they stopped,
      b) the lack of SPF which is very useful in a daytime cream,
      c) the fact that in my opinion there is nothing more energising about this than any other moisturiser, and
      d) the price!

      Apart from those things I have to admit that despite my reservations about Clarins, this is an excellent daily moisturiser.

      (Review also appears on Ciao)

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        19.08.2011 17:06
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        An efficient, user-friendly and reliable tumble dryer. Recommended.

        Around four years ago we had the need for a new washer and dryer and we came home with a couple of Boschs (see my separate review for the washing machine). The reason that we chose Bosch is that, although they are at the higher end of the price bracket, they have a good reputation and, in our experience, their products perform and last well.

        Additionally, the space we had for a tumble dryer did not have a connection to the outside which I had been under the impression was completely necessary to install a tumble dryer. However, I was to embark upon a journey into the world of condenser dryers, a world I hadn't even known existed!
        For anyone as ignorant as I was, the condenser dryer is a clever piece of kit that simply needs to be plugged in, with no air venting necessary at all. It works by removing the moisture from the clothes and depositing this moisture neatly in a plastic container which the user then empties from time to time. Cool huh?!

        So, how does this particular condenser dryer fare?.....

        == PRICE, DIMENSIONS, CAPACITY ==

        To be honest, I can't remember exactly how much we paid for it but I have seen them recently for around £450.

        The dryer measures 60cm wide by 60cm deep by 85cm high. It has adjustable feet so you can alter the height to an extent.

        It has a fairly large maximum drying capacity of 7kg. We needed this since the washing machine we bought at the same time has a capacity of 8kg so it seemed silly to then get a dryer with a much smaller capacity! So they work quite well side by side.

        == FEATURES - SO WHAT DOES IT DO BESIDES JUST DRY? ==

        This is not just any old tumble dryer. Oh no, this one can tell how wet your clothes are and will accordingly adjust the drying time to get them just right. This is obviously an energy-saving feature as it means you aren't wasting drying time on clothes that are already dry. So it earns its keep to an extent.

        There are two main drying options, split into categories:

        == Cottons ==

        You can set cottons to be Extra Dry, Very Dry, Cupboard Dry or Iron Dry. These range in dryness from the driest being the extra-dry setting to the iron-dry which leaves the clothes/towels etc slightly damp. In practise I almost always use the very dry setting as I have tried the cupboard dry and find the load is not quite dry enough to put away. Since there are only two timed drying facilities - one at 40 mins and one at 20 mins (a shortfall covered below), it is not possible to just give them another 5 minutes, so this has put me off using the cupboard dry facility which is now completely ignored on my machine.

        == Easy-Care ==

        This has categories of Very Dry, Cupboard Dry and Iron Dry. In fact I rarely use this setting as I don't tend to tumble dry anything apart from cottons - I hang all T-shirts etc. The Easy-Care setting has a maximum load of 3.5kg, which is half of the machine's total capacity.

        In addition to these two main drying categories there are also 3 other options:

        - Woollens (finish) - this will fluff up the textiles but not actually dry them and they need to be hung afterwards.

        - Short Programme - this is intended for washing which is to be dried quickly eg synthetic fabrics or cottons.

        - Timed Programmes - there are only two timed options, a 40 minute cycle and a 20 minute 'freshen up' .

        I must admit this took a bit of getting used to, as I was used to just chucking my washing in the dryer and choosing a time based on what it was and how much of it I'd put in there. Once I got used to this though and started to trust it, I didn't miss being able to choose the time much at all. The only problem I find is that there are sometimes times when I just want to pop something in there for 10 minutes, or maybe 30 minutes, and I don't want to choose a programme. The restriction here is that you simply can't do that, unless it happens that you want to tumble for either 20 or 40 minutes exactly. However, it does seem very quick to ascertain whether something is already fairly dry, and will therefore adjust its drying time accordingly - it has simply been a matter of learning over time what the best option to choose would be for what I want to achieve.

        In addition to these drying choices, there is also an option to select 'low heat' which is something I use if I am tumble drying something a little more delicate.

        There is a buzzer option which you can choose to have on or off that will tell you when your load is ready.

        The digital display shows the time remaining in hours and minutes, but this will change according to how long the sensors within the machine thinks it needs. So for example, if you were to put in a couple of towels that were already part dry, and select 'cottons extra dry' the display would immediately show something like an hour or more. But then as the machine realised the towels are already almost there, that time will rapidly decrease. So it's not always a good indication but usually will give you an idea as to how long the drying will take.

        == Anti-Crease Function ==

        If you haven't removed the load from the machine once your drying has finished, the dryer has an anti-crease function which will continue to turn the washing at specific intervals. This will keep the washing loose and fluffy for an hour after it has finished drying. Very helpful.

        == PRACTICALITIES - IS IT USER-FRIENDLY? ==

        The programme selector is a nice, chunky, user-friendly rotating knob, with satisfying clicks so you know when it's in place. The other buttons (of which there are only three - the on/off, the low heat on/off and the buzzer on/off) are touch sensitive and, like with my washing machine, I find that with my very dry hands they don't always notice when I touch/tap them so sometimes I have to do it two or three times for it to register.

        This has been a very easy machine to use and take care of. Like any dryer, it has a fluff filter which needs regular cleaning. This really couldn't be simpler - you just lift it out, open it up and run your hand over the filter to remove the fluff which is always in a nice easy layer anyway. Then close it up and put it back. That's it!

        In addition, as this is a condenser dryer, the water container needs to be emptied. I find the frequency with which I need to do this is totally dependent on the type of washing I am doing. Three towel washes and it will need an empty. Shirts and sheets, it would probably go for five or six washes before it's full. To empty it is easy and quick, you just pull it out (being careful to keep it horizontal as there's a hole in the top!) walk to the sink, pour the water down the sink and then put it back. Easy peasy. No problem if you forget to empty the container - the machine will simply stop if there's no room for any more condensation and a light will come on to tell you why.

        From time to time (every six months or so) the air cooler needs a clean. The machine has a handy light to tell you when this is necessary. Again this is quite easy and takes a matter of minutes. Some water can spill out so I do put a cloth on the floor underneath before I remove this, but then it's just a case of removing the soggy fluff that has built up and then replacing the cooler.

        The machine has a status display to tell you what it's up to. Using a column of lights, it will let you know what stage the drying is at from a choice of four - it is either:

        - Drying
        - Iron dry
        - Cupboard dry
        - Anti-crease mode

        So if you feel the need to keep a constant check on your load and want to know just how dry it is without having to open the dryer, then your Bosch will let you know. Personally I can't say I've ever looked but I'm sure there are many people out there who would!

        As above, we've had this tumble dryer for around four years now and (touch wood) I have never had the need to call an engineer as it hasn't given me a moment's trouble. A Bosch through and through.

        (Review will also appear on Ciao)

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          10.08.2011 14:24
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          A lot of money but worth every penny and pays for itself over and over again.

          .........I'd Haemmerlin in the morning and the evening (and in fact I do!)

          I consider myself to be a heavy user of wheelbarrows as I use them for horses. Currently I only have a couple of horses to care for but at one time I had a few and I was finding that the wheelbarrows I was using just weren't up to the job.

          Not having tools that are up to the job can be very counterproductive and although it is easy to just go out and replace each broken barrow with another cheap one, there came a time several years ago when I decided to bite the bullet and fork out (pardon the pun) on one of these Haemmerlin beauties. I believe they currently sell for around £160 which is lots of money, but mine definitely cost under £100, about £75 from memory. As I mentioned, that was a good while ago though!

          Since I bought the Haemmerlin, I have never looked back. There are a few things that are great about it:

          == Capacity ==

          For a single wheeled barrow, this has a huge capacity of 150 litres. Most regular sized barrows take about 90 litres so I instantly noticed the difference when using this one - far less trips to the muck heap! You can get two wheeled barrows which are enormous and have even bigger capacities, but I particularly wanted a single wheel as:

          a) They are lighter
          b) They are more manoeuvrable, and
          c) Sometimes I need to wheel it up a single plank onto a muck trailer and this is an impossible feat to achieve with a 2-wheeler!

          This large capacity is achieved through a wider and slightly deeper pan than the regular ones. This is in preference to a deeper narrower one which some people might rather have but for me this is easier to manoeuvre, once you get used to it, and also gives you a bigger area to aim for when chucking muck out from the stable to the wheelbarrow!

          == Weight and Load ==

          Being made from metal, this barrow isn't quite as lightweight as the popular plastic ones. It is far more hardwearing though. It is still much lighter than you'd expect however, weighing in at 21.5kg, and I don't find it heavy to handle at all.
          Because of its sound construction, it also has a strong load-bearing capacity of 200kg. I have never tested this to the limit (I'm not sure I'd be able to push it along with 200kg inside!) but I have certainly put 60 -70kgs on it extremely regularly, which is a lot, and it has never baulked.

          == Wheel ==

          The wheel is a spoked metal wheel with a 4-ply pneumatic tyre. It is very well made and definitely assists with the light handling of the barrow. This wheel is clearly a large part of why the barrow survives as well as it does as the wheel has to bear the load a lot of the time. I can honestly say, in the 8 years or so that I have owned this barrow, I think I have had to pump up the wheel maybe two or three times, and that is with daily use. The wheel is sturdy and robust and really assists in being able to bounce the barrow along when it is full of, well how best to put this, erm..... horse poo?!

          == Handling ==

          Being larger than average, this barrow is wider than your normal barrow so the handles are slightly further apart than regular plastic barrows. This doesn't bother me one bit and, as the pan is wider to accommodate the extra capacity, this makes the whole barrow wider which I think gives it more stability. It does take a short time to adjust to the different size and balance of it but, once you've used it a few times, you will be hooked!

          == Durability ==

          Eight (or maybe a bit more) years of daily use and:

          1) The plastic handles are still in place
          2) The metal pan is in near perfect condition (and I rarely wash it down, although you can do this if need be)
          3) The tyre has had to be pumped up 2 or 3 times
          4) The wheel is in perfect condition
          5) One bolt came loose and got lost, which I had to replace
          6) One of the cross bars on the metal frame has broken just recently. This doesn't affect usage but does slightly affect the balance of it when it is resting on the ground as it is no longer holding the legs in exactly the right place. I will get around to having this re-welded at some point which will certainly be worth it.

          One final point - my barrow is left unattended at the yard while I'm not there. I have reason to believe that it is regularly kidnapped and returned in my absence. In fact, another shiny and new one just like it turned up just recently. This barrow coveting speaks for itself!!

          Money well spent.

          (Review will also appear on Ciao)

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            04.08.2011 12:32
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            It does the job but I'm not a huge fan

            I will start by telling you that we have had this washing machine for just under 4 years now, so a fairly good test period I'd say. It cost around £650 and we chose this particular one for a number of reasons:

            1) Bosch is a good, reliable make in our experience
            2) Large wash capacity of 8kg (very handy for horse wear as well as human!!)
            3) High spin speed of 1600rpm
            4) Varied choice of programmes and temperatures

            It has many different wash options which I won't list here as there are 14 of them and I think that would just be unnecessary, but suffice to say they range from delicate/wool to cottons/stains and include a super-quick wash and a couple of spin only programmes.
            Each wash option, when selected, has a default temperature and spin speed which may be adjusted for most of the programmes. There are some restrictions, for example you can't change the spin speed or temperature on the super-quick wash option, but for the most part it is quite a simple process to select a different temperature or spin speed.

            If you want to delay the start of the wash there is a button to do this by hourly increments up to a maximum of 24 hours.

            There are some additional functions which I do find useful:

            - Wash plus extends the washing time for a more intensive wash. I use this for filthy dog towels and it does seem to do a good job on them.

            - Prewash, again for heavily soiled washing but I have never used it as I don't use the powder drawers therefore as I use a liquid detergent ball, all the detergent gets used in the main wash.

            - Reduced ironing is a special spin sequence with subsequent 'fluffing' (don't ask me what this is, I doubt it has anything to do with the similarly named activity that I'm told takes place when filming rude films!!!) Apparently this function will include a gentle final spin, leaving slightly increased residual moisture in the washing. I have used this for shirts, but haven't really noticed much of a difference between using this and an 800rpm spin to be honest.

            - Aqua plus increases water level and includes an extra rinse cycle, again I don't use this as we have very hard water and it is therefore unecessary but I should imagine if you had soft water it might come in handy.

            *** Firstly the positives: ***

            As mentioned above, I've had this washing machine for a number of years and it gets used day in day out, week in week out. I would say I use it for around 10-15 washes per week.

            It does seem to get the clothes clean, and the spin works efficiently. It is very straightforward to use and there are a number of options so I can usually find the right wash for what I need.
            Some of the more intense washes, like the cottons and the dark wash, do have a long run time - cottons for example is around 1hr 20mins (depending a bit on what temp and spin you choose). But over time I have learnt the different lengths of the washes and can choose what I think fits best.

            I tend to use the 'power wash' and 'mixed load' washes the most. These take 1 hour and 50 mins respectively and both offer a thorough wash. The 'super-quick' is especially handy for when I've washed some horsy or doggy stuff and I want to run a quick empty wash through the machine to clean it before I put my lace undies back in there!

            Until it has finished and alerts you (see below) this is a fairly quiet washing machine compared to others that I've had.

            *** And the negatives?: ***

            We've had a few problems with the machine resulting in having had an engineer to visit a total of 6 times, so I wouldn't say it has all been plain sailing. The door release mechanism broke which meant the washing kept getting stuck in the machine. This was fixed under warranty with no charge. The heater element repeatedly stopped working so all my clothes were getting washed cold. Initially this was done under warranty but the next time we had to pay for it. When it went a further time, they informed me that the recurring problem was due to the machine being kept close to a microwave oven and that we had to purchase a special shield lid which would put an end to this problem. After some discussion, they eventually agreed to provide this part free of charge for us, since we were never advised of this limitation at the time of purchase. Fair enough, but a lot of hassle and I could have done without the argument. Touch wood, it has been fine since.

            I miss a creaseguard option which a couple of previous machines have had. This was an option where, when selected, the washing machine would hold the wash in water until you gave it the nod to continue with the wash, whereupon it would drain and spin the load. Really helpful if you want to start a wash but won't be there when it finishes to get the stuff out before it gets all creased. This Bosch doesn't have that option sadly.

            Also, whilst the selector knob handles fine, I find the touch sensitive buttons are a pain to use. They often don't register on first touch and I have to try several times before I can get them to accept my touch. I find this very frustrating, particularly when I'm in a hurry (ie most of the time) and I do long for normal 'pressy button' type buttons!

            And while I'm having a moan about it, the alert to tell you the wash is finished (which is a high pitched long beep) is incredibly annoying and I have not as yet discovered a way to turn it off in advance so I don't get alerted! I think there should be a simple on/off option for the finished wash alarm.

            In general it does the job but I'm not a huge fan and wouldn't rush out to buy another one the same.

            (Review will also appear on Ciao)

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            • Jason Cocao Butter Cream / Skin Care / 78 Readings / 73 Ratings
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              28.07.2011 12:23
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              Good value, but the sickly sweet smell put this one to bed for me.

              As some of you will know from reading my previous reviews, I am always on the lookout for companies who manufacture skincare products (or any products for that matter) and who also adhere to a strict non-animal testing policy.

              Upon browsing a listing of approved manufacturers, I happened upon 'Jason' - a strange brand name but nevertheless boasting products that are organic in addition to not tested on animals. The prices seemed very reasonable so I decided to give a few of their products a try. (See earlier review for information on the handcream I tried).

              == The Product ==

              I was looking for a facial moisturising cream which I could use at night, so I particularly wanted an intensive one. This one is described as 'ultra-intensive' and purports to 'impart luxurious softness'. The full product name is actually 'Cocoa Butter Ultra Intensive Moisturising Creme'.

              It contains cocoa butter and vitamin E to create a 'high performance moisturiser'

              == Packaging and Price ==

              The cream (or creme, if I'm to be more accurate!) arrives in a plastic jar/pot with a screw top lid. Fairly cheapy feel if I'm honest, but then it is a fairly cheapy price, at £6.50 for 125g (4oz). In case you are unaware of sizing, 125g is a fairly large size for a moisturiser - the jar is about 7cm in diameter by 5cm high.

              == My Experience ==

              Well the first thing to strike me when I unscrewed the jar was the smell of the stuff. It smells like chocolate. Really like chocolate though - sweet and sickly and quite strongly of chocolate.

              It applied okay - didn't absorb brilliantly and left a slightly greasy film on my skin. Although it seemed to absorb after a little while and didn't leave me all 'shiny', I still felt as if it was 'sitting on top' of my skin rather than my skin drinking it in, which is something I prefer in a moisturiser. I have sensitive skin around my eyes and I was able to use this there - on the thin skin just under my eyes it was fine and didn't cause them to sting at all like some products do.

              It did smooth the skin a bit, and my skin was still smooth in the morning and certainly not dried out. However I did get a couple of spots soon after I started using it, and I don't generally get spots, so I'm afraid I have to associate this with the slightly greasy feel it has to it and the fact that it doesn't feel as if it absorbs straight in.

              == The Problem ==

              But the overriding factor here, and most of the reason that I rate it so poorly, is the smell (I would rather describe it as a stench, but that is a personal opinion so I will stick to 'smell'). As soon as you put this product on your face, you can then smell it for the rest of the evening. Well it's on your face, which is situated very close to your nose! Some people might like the smell of sickly sweet chocolate on their face but I don't. My husband doesn't like it either and he can't help but smell it when he's sitting on the couch next to me. My pillows ended up smelling of it, my nightwear, my hands from applying it. Yuk.

              I did persevere for a while - partly to give the product a chance and partly because I am one of those people who HAS to use a product right to the end before I will allow myself to start another one. But really, when I got to the point when I was dreading applying it because - whether it worked well as a moisturiser or not - it was quite literally making me feel a bit sick, I realised that this was silly and time to call it a day. I'm afraid to say that I have had to break a rule and the rest of the pot will be consigned to the bin.

              (Review will also appear on Ciao)

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                05.07.2011 12:28
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                Good idea, but needs a re-design before it's worth spending all that money on.

                Several weeks ago we purchased the Nina Ottosson Dog Brick interactive toy (see earlier review for this one). This turned out to be a success, but as per the review, after a while my dog had it so well sussed out that it only occupied her for a couple of minutes at a time.

                Having been pleased with the entertainment factor and also design/durability of the first one we decided that it would be worthwhile to buy another. This time I looked for one which was a higher level of difficulty in the hope that it would keep her occupied for that bit longer, as she does seem to enjoy playing with these toys.

                After looking at what they had on offer I decided to buy the Dog Casino which looked as if it was a more interesting and more complicated version of the brick.

                == WHAT IS IT? ==

                The toy is a rectangular shaped blue plastic enclosed tray of approximately a foot by a foot and a half. In the sides there are little drawers - two on each side so eight in total. These drawers have a small rounded handle to enable the dog to grip onto them and pull the drawers open. In each drawer, of course, they will find a treat of some sort.

                On the top of the tray there are small white bone shaped pegs. There are eight of these and each one is responsible for 'locking' one of the drawers. So the dog needs to remove the bone shaped peg in order to be able to open the drawer. The bone shape on the top of the pegs are made from a hard, solid plastic and the 'stem' part of the pegs are made from the same plastic but hollow rather than solid. You can also put treats under the pegs on the top to encourage the dog to remove them.

                == USING IT ==

                Having used the dog brick, my dog could see that this was a similar type of thing, so she was immediately interested. Firstly, we left the pegs out altogether so she could get the hang of opening the drawers without the added complication of them being locked with a peg.

                We started by putting a treat in each of the drawers and leaving one completely open, another mostly open, another half open etc so she could learn what was within and how to open them to get to it.

                (I will add at this stage that the treats don't need to be big - we just use one piece of her kibble food for each treat, which is hardly anything. If need be, you can reduce their dinner slightly to make up for these extra treats should weight be a consideration).

                With us sat on the floor to help and show her how to use it, it didn't take long for her to grasp the notion of getting hold of the little drawer handles to pull open the drawers. She used her teeth at times and sometimes her paw to achieve this.

                Then we added the complication of the bone shaped pegs in the top which lock the drawers. Having seen something similar in her other toy, the dog brick, it didn't take her long at all to grasp the concept that these needed to be removed. However, they are much smaller than the ones in the dog brick and therefore more difficult for her to push out with her nose or paw. Also, because they are pegs, with a stem, they do not come out all that easily for a dog. It didn't take her long to find a way though - she dislodged them slightly with nose or paw and then used her teeth to grasp them and pull them out.

                Then she was able to open the drawers. I think it may have taken several uses of the game for her to realise that the pegs are actually linked to the drawers and that once a peg is removed, the corresponding drawer can be opened. But we didn't get that far (see below) and for now just removing pegs and opening drawers which would or wouldn't open seemingly at random was still very entertaining and great fun!

                == THE PROBLEM ==

                The pegs were quite tricky to remove, so when she successfully managed to get one off, delighted with her success, she would go to trot off with her 'prize'(the peg). As these are not meant for the dog to chew however, I asked her to leave it, which she did immediately. But we noticed that in the short time the peg was in her mouth (probably 3-5 seconds) she had bitten down on the stem part and misshapen it. Unfortunately, the stems are made from hollow plastic so are easily 'squished' which I believe to be a design fault, given that the very nature of the game encourages a dog to take them into their mouth!

                Our (small) dog is exceptionally good natured and well behaved and, if asked to leave something, will do so immediately. So we carried on playing with the game but found that she clearly like the 'hard but squishy' feel of the bone stems and, on removing them (for which she had to use her teeth by necessity) she would immediately bite down on them before dropping straight away as requested.

                This happened on the first use of the game. We were able to put the pegs back into the holes but it was difficult as a couple of them were now slightly misshapen and the holes are made to exactly fit the pegs.

                When we played with the game again, she would remove these pegs using a combination of her nose, paw and teeth (as per the instructions, this is the idea and is to be encouraged). But when she was again able to misshape the pegs within a couple of seconds of removing them, we decided that this was just going to render the game unusable so we should stop using it. A couple of them were getting almost impossible to put back into the holes.

                At £30 we decided this was most certainly unsuitable so I contacted the retailer to return it as it clearly wasn't tough enough for the job.

                == WHAT A FLIPPIN' CHEEK! ==

                I explained to the retailer (Pet Planet) what had happened and the girl I spoke to was very helpful and said she'd get in touch with the manufacturer about it. She emailed me with contact details for the UK agent (Company of Animals) and advised me to contact them direct regarding this problem. So I called them, explained the problem again, and was advised to return the product with a covering note.

                This was a bit of a pain to be honest, as I'd disposed of the original box, not expecting to have any problems, so I had to go out and get some packaging to send this awkward item back. I put in a note to briefly explain (for the 3rd time) how we had used this and why I considered it unsuitable. Job done, I awaited my refund.

                Instead, however, I received a patronising email which basically insinuated that I was lying, because 'the dog has had some time to chew on the insert' and 'the inserts have been chewed at quite a severe level'. They went on to advise me (twice) that play with this product should be supervised, and even went as far as recommending me some products that were suitable for unsupervised play. All this despite my having explained that we were sitting on the floor with the dog when she was playing with this!

                I was incensed (to say the least) and wrote a rather cross email back which made no secret of the fact that I was not impressed by their implication that I was a liar or had used this game in any way other than its intended use. The pegs should not be able to be damaged so quickly and easily, rendering them useless, and that's that!

                I did eventually receive a refund but it was reluctant and it took me a while to get it - I had to make several more calls and speak to sulky 'customer service' team members. The refund actually came from Pet Planet in the end but my postage costs (which I of course had to push for) had to come separately from the UK agent. Let's make things easy for the customer........ NOT!

                So I was left with a bitter aftertaste as I think the service I received was appalling. At those prices I certainly won't risk buying any more Nina Ottosson dog toys, as if they are in any way flawed its such hard work to get them to admit it that it's just not worth it. I will be looking for other brands of interactive dog toys, or making my own!

                A great toy, but absolutely not recommended due to the design flaw making it far too easy for the dog to damage it within seconds and render it unusable.

                (Review also appears on Ciao)

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                • More +
                  03.05.2011 23:22
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                  Incredibly comfortable from the word go which is pretty special for a long leather riding boot.

                  When competing horses in showjumping, dressage or eventing, it is a requirement that you wear long leather boots. This is partly due to tradition and partly for safety reasons as long leather boots offer more protection and stability. However, many riders (including myself) do their day to day riding using half chaps. These are like the leather full chaps that you see cowboys wear, but start just under the knee rather than at the hip or waist. The thing about half chaps is that they are COMFORTABLE - usually made from tough suede, they offer the support and protection us riders need on our lower leg, but without the stiffness and discomfort often associated with long leather boots. The other thing about half chaps is that they can be worn with any type of short riding boot so you can use your most comfortable pair of short boots and just pop on a pair of half chaps and off you go.

                  But I do a lot of competing so, on a competition day, the half chaps have to go and instead I have to don a pair of long riding boots. Not my favourite item of riding wear. So I set about finding a pair that I liked. Not easy! Most of the long boots are of a certain type which looks very very elegant but doesn't really suit my tastes. The soles are generally quite thin and I like a thicker sole for riding.

                  My favourite brand of day to day short riding boots are Mountain Horse (see my other reviews on their footwear products) so I was delighted to discover that they also made some competition boots. These boots are like a posh, refined version of their 'normal' boots, made to remain in keeping with the distinctive Mountain Horse style, yet suitable to be worn for competition.

                  Long leather boots can often be very uncomfortable when you first wear them (this applies to any boot not just riding boots). These however are incredibly comfortable when you first put them on. This is due in part to the softness of the leather but mostly I think they are this comfortable immediately thanks to the extra padding around the ankles. This is an area where the leather will always crease and if it is stiff leather, can create painful pressure points. The leather here is soft and padded and totally avoids that horrible 'new boot' feel.

                  ----- Features -----

                  Elastic material inserts along the calf for improved individual fitting.

                  Full length leather walls along the zip to prevent from chafing and to protect your saddle.

                  Removable EVA insole with shock absorbing pads.

                  Forged steel shank for stability.

                  Stirrup control system built into the sole to help maintain stirrup position.

                  The padding around the ankle along with shock absorbing pads in the heel and ball parts of the insole help to make this boot comfortable to walk in as well as ride. They have a sturdy zip to make getting into and out of the boots easy. The sole is thicker than you will find on a lot of long leather riding boots but this is a big part of what appeals to me about them as I do like a good thick sole for riding in. This also makes walking in them better as they don't feel every stone or lump and bump in the ground as much as a traditional riding boot does. It also gives them a slightly more rugged appearance than your traditional Italian style long boot and, although this doesn't appeal to everyone, it definitely appeals to me.

                  In practise it's not possible to use competition boots solely for riding - when we are showjumping we have to walk the course first as well as generally walking about to the show secretary, or tending to the horse etc, and these boots are fine for all of this. I would draw the line at walking a cross-country course in them though (usually 1.5 - 2 miles) because, comfortable as they may be, they are not what you want to be wearing for marching through fields in all weathers. So for this I do change back into walking boots.

                  I clean these boots mostly just using a damp cloth and they come up fine. Every few uses I clean them with saddle soap and this brings them up looking almost good as new.

                  My only gripe would be that the zip, although sturdy, does not stand the test of time. The zip went on one of my boots after a year or so and I had it replaced at a cost of £25. Friends have also had their zip go on these boots and, as they are not getting excessive use since they are only used for competition, this is not really ideal. I would probably give them 4.5 stars because of that, but with no half stars available I will give them the benefit of the doubt and rate them as a 5.

                  Cost: about £150.

                  Easily the most comfortable long leather riding boots I have ever worn.

                  (Review will also appear on Ciao)

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                  • More +
                    27.04.2011 12:44
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                    Excellent quality basic fleece.

                    Being an 'outdoor' type, I am a fan of fleeces. They are a great, versatile piece of clothing that can be used in lots of situations, therefore I have quite a few of them which I will gradually review.

                    One of my favourites is the Berghaus Spectrum Interactive fleece. You may wonder how it is 'interactive' and this is simply because it can be zipped into any compatible Berghaus jacket. In fact I don't have a compatible jacket so I don't actually use it for this, I use it as a fleece on its own and it is more than suitable for this purpose.

                    == The Material ==

                    This is described as 'AT classic double sided velour fleece with a thermal insulation of 0.6-0.7 CLO'. I'm not exactly sure what this means(!), but to the layman this is a nice, soft fleece which is fairly thick - not the thinnest fleece but also not one of those very thick ones which are more like a jacket. So I would describe this as a medium-weight fleece. It is very warm and has done a very good job of keeping me cosy in the cold weather. It is not windproof though (you have to pay a lot more money for windproof fleeces) so if you wear it as an outer layer on a windy day, the wind will bite right through this fleece and really you need some sort of windproof jacket instead or as well. That is pretty standard for fleeces though, as they offer breathability, and is not a fault of this particular one.

                    == Colours ==

                    Lots to choose from! Mine is burgundy but it is from last season and I'm not sure you can get it in that colour any more. Looking at the Berghaus website it is available in several lovely new colours:

                    Grape compote (this is a pretty lilac colour)
                    Eclipse (a dark, charcoaly blue/grey)
                    Cashmere Blue (very pale almost baby blue)
                    Mauve Wood (a dusky pink)
                    Black
                    Palestone (very light cream - lovely but maybe not the most practical colour!

                    == The Fit ==

                    I tend to buy some fleeces in my correct size and some in one size bigger so that I can wear a sweater underneath if I want to. This one is one size bigger and still fits nicely. It is slightly fitted so offers a flattering shape, but not so fitted that it is tight or restricting. There is a drawstring at the bottom which sits about on your hip. I don't tend to use the drawstring as I prefer the bottom to hang rather than hug, but it's there if you want it as some people prefer to close it up, especially if it's being worn under the interactive shell. The cuffs are elasticated, but not ever so tight so they are very comfortable and easy to get on and off over your hands. It has a high neck like most fleeces which is great for a chilly morning as I can zip right up to under my chin to keep the chill out, then when it gets warmer I gradually unzip to allow a bit of air in.

                    There are two fairly small zip pockets which are referred to by the manufacturer as 'hand-warmer pockets' - presumably called this as they are quite small and not designed to hold much more than your hands! They are plenty big enough to hold my phone, a couple of tissues, door keys etc though (as well as my hands if need be!) and I like the fact that they are zipped as this means everything is kept secure.

                    The main front zip is well made and easy to grab and do up/undo, even with gloves on.

                    == Protection ==

                    Part of the reason that I like fleeces so much is that they do a great job of keeping you warm but are also breathable, so they are incredibly handy for outdoor active use. This one is no exception and is a great piece of clothing for changebale weather, like recently where we've had chilly mornings followed quickly by the sun appearing and making it much warmer. So if I'm out on a long ride and I pop this on it will keep me warm while it's still chilly, then as it warms up I don't feel overhot due to its breathability.

                    Another great benefit is that, although not totally waterproof, this fleece will certainly keep you dry in a shower and as well as that, it dries ever so quickly. So if I get a bit of an unexpected soaking, I only have to hang it up somewhere dry for an hour or so and it totally dries out again.

                    == Washing and Durability ==

                    Like my experience with all Berghaus products, this is very good quality and washes extremely well, at 30 or 40 degrees. I hang it to dry and it dries out very quickly as mentioned above, even after washing. It has not lost its shape or colour at all and there is minimal pilling on the fleece which speaks volumes about the quality of it as I have worn and washed it tons of times.

                    == Value for Money ==

                    RRP is £45 and that is what you will find it for on the Berghaus website, however I have seen it for £30 in several places so I think it would be quite easy to get it at that price. This is a good, basic, quality fleece which is very well made so I think it offers excellent value for money.

                    Thoroughly recommended, even if you don't want to use its interactive feature, as this is a great fleece just on its own.

                    (Review will also appear on Ciao)

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                    • Bubba Keg Mini / Crockery / 68 Readings / 67 Ratings
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                      20.04.2011 13:07
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                      Chunky, robust mug flask which is lovely to handle and keeps drinks hot

                      In the mornings, I like a cup of coffee to keep with me when I'm on the go. I usually make a hot drink very early, and whilst I'm at the yard doing stable duties, I will pop the drink on the nearest wall or ledge and grap it for a gulp every so often.

                      == What Was I Looking For? ==

                      I wanted a mug flask which would keep my coffee hot, or at least warm, for longer than about 20 minutes. I have a couple of thermos style mugs and they would keep it warm for a bit, but after about 1/2 hour it would be little more than lukewarm. If I went for a ride and returned to my drink, it would be stone cold.

                      The other problem I have with those type of mugs is that they're quite good if you want to take them in the car with you, as they have the slender bottom that fits nicely into a car drinks holder. But this slender bottom also makes them a bit unstable so if you are just popping them somewhere while you work, they have a tendency to fall over with the slightest knock. Factor in a curious horse's nose and you have a hot drink which spends more time spilling on the floor than it does going where I want it - down my throat!

                      As well as this, the 'standard' ones are tall and thin which means you can't get a teaspoon all the way to the bottom of them. This is a pain when I make instant hot chocolate, as you always get the powder gathering at the bottom and it needs a good stir or you end up with a thick sludgy bit when you get to the bottom of the drink.

                      == What Did I Find? ==

                      So I had a look on Ebay for a mug style flask which didn't have a narrow bottom, and I came across the Bubba Kegs. I was a bit thrown by the size descriptions as this one is described as a 'Bubba Keg Mini' but in fact is far from mini if you're talking about mug-flasks. It is huge for a 'one-drink' style flask, which suits me perfectly as I do like a large mug of coffee to keep me going for a while. They come in various sizes but this one is 20oz, which is equivalent to about a pint - plenty for a mug of coffee!

                      They are available in various colours too. The one pictured above is pink, but mine is in fact blue. You can also get them in red and black.

                      The price was only £7.95 plus £2 p&p so I took a punt and ordered one.

                      == And What Did I Get? ==

                      Well I must say I was very pleasantly surprised when it turned up. Exactly as I wanted, it was large and wide. This makes it stable and means I can get my teaspoon all the way to the bottom - no more sludgy hot chocolate at the bottom! It is very robust (yes, I've dropped it a few times already) and has a nice, sturdy feel to it.

                      The lid fits nicely with a satisfying 'plup' when you put it on. It has an easy to grasp second lid which you can flip up to access the drinking lip. This second lid can be popped back securely to 'lock' it open and is very easy to flip open and shut - even with gloves on - if it's very cold and you want to keep even the drinking hole shut all the time. It has a massive grab handle which has rubber on the inside so again easy to grasp with gloves on. And it looks nice! I didn't really think I could get excited about how a mug flask would look but this is actually a great looking flask, the colours help to make it look fun.

                      == But Does it Work? ==

                      Yes, it works! It keeps my hot drink hot for far longer than they others I had been using. It doesn't work miracles, and on a freezing cold day you will still lose some heat from the drink in time. But when I went out for a ride, leaving half a cup of coffee behind, and returned over an hour later to find my coffee was still fairly warm - warm enough to be able to drink anyway - I was delighted.

                      Like most flasks, it will work to keep your drink cold too, but I haven't used it for that yet.

                      == Are There any Downsides? ==

                      Not really. Because this is a wide-based mug, it is not going to fit in any standard car cup-holder so I can't use it to transfer from yard to car. But then I wanted a wide base so it can't be both things.
                      It has to be hand washed but I have yet to find any thermos flask which can go in the dishwasher so I can't count this as a negative point.

                      I love it - it is chunky, robust and stable, looks nice and works well. And very reasonably priced too.
                      Throroughly recommended.

                      (Review also on Ciao)

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                      • Bronx Ripsaw Ankle Boots / Shoes / 59 Readings / 58 Ratings
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                        16.04.2011 16:58
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                        Versatile and smart boot, probably best worn with jeans or trousers.

                        "You should definitely buy them. You're the only person that's tried them on who's been able to walk in them so far"

                        Ok, that wasn't the only reason I bought them, but when the girl in the shop said that to me, I said 'Sold!'

                        I do like high heels. Being slightly 'vertically challenged' and not blessed with a slender and svelte physique, I do find that a good heel improves my posture (you have to stand up straight to stay upright on the things) and gives me a slightly more elegant look if I'm off out for the evening.

                        == The Heel ==

                        The photo doesn't quite do it justice - if you have a look at Vivaladiva.com there are other views of the boot which give you a better idea. In fact I wish I'd given Dooyoo a different picture as I think the boots look a lot better in the second photo (not sure if I can give a web address in a review but if you look on Vivaladiva.com you will find them under Bronx Ripsaw Ankle Boots).
                        Measuring at the very back of the heel from the top to the floor it's 12.5cm, or 4.75 inches high. It's high! The base of the heel, ie the bit that's in contact with the floor, is just under a centimetre square. So if you're not keen on high heels, or not practised in walking in them, probably best to steer clear of these boots. I am used to heels and find it no problem, so I love the fact that these heels are so high, I think it gives a really elegant look to the boot.

                        == Materials ==

                        The upper and lining of the boot is leather. I have also seen the same boot in a suede upper. There are contrasting elasticated side panels which give the boot a bit of detail and also have the added benefit of making it quite easy to get onto your foot. I did have to use a shoe horn the first few times I wore them but now I can put them straight on without one.
                        The sole is made from rubber and is called a 'tracker' sole. Again you can't see it very well from the picture, but it is a slightly rugged sole, with an irregular and fairly thick, ribbed tread. Again this has a dual purpose - it adds to the look of the boot and also makes it easier to walk in them as it gives you a good bit of grip. The sole, including tread, is about 3/4cm thick.

                        == Colours ==

                        Mine are brown, it is a lovely rich mahogany type brown and not a completely solid colour which is quite easy to see from the picture. The leather ones also come in black and I've seen suede too which I have only come across in black.

                        == Quality ==

                        These are really well made boots. The quality is evident from the moment you look at them with a robust but soft leather having been used and the stitching is exceptionally neat and tidy. Because there are a few panels on the boot, there is quite a bit of stitching and it is all tiny, tidy and uniform, not one bit has come loose. I have worn these boots quite a bit in the several months that I've had them, including dancing in them (yes, I can do that too - although not very well, but that has nothing to do with the boots!) and they still look great with really no signs of wear at all. Even the sole has stood up exceptionally well to use - the bit on the heel is made of much harder stuff than the sole under the ball of the foot, presumably as it has to take more pressure, and it has hardly worn down at all.

                        The toe is slightly rounded so it's something in between pointy and round. The boots are reinforced at the toe, so if you push on it, it doesn't give. The same goes for the heel part of the shoe (the part that your heel actually sits in, rather than the stiletto bit). This means that the boot has held its shape perfectly and I'm really impressed with this for a leather boot.

                        == So are they comfortable? ==

                        In a word, yes. Ok, if you're not happy with high heels then you're not going to find these comfortable. But if you are a heel person, then these are incredibly comfortable for what is in essence a stiletto boot. This is partly due to the sightly rounded toe, partly due to the slightly padded insole, and partly due to the sole being rubber with a thickish tread. It is also due to the fact that the boots are so well made. I try not to wear these if I know I'm going to be doing a lot of walking, but I have happily worn them for long evenings and, as above, have even done a bit of dancing (if you can call it that) in them too. After a particularly long night my feet might start to ache a bit, but then I could probably say that for almost all of my 'smarter' shoes.

                        == The Look ==

                        Again, I now wish I'd given a different picture as the one above doesn't quite do them justice. But to try and put it into words, in my opinion these boots give a look of elegance, but with a slightly 'rugged' edge to it. I'm not really one for pointy shoes but because I like heels, it's hard to find a more, shall we say, 'boyish' shoe which still has a good heel. These hit the mark which makes them that little bit different with their contrast of extremely high heel, yet with the elastic sides and rugged sole this kind of tones them down a bit. It also means they are quite versatile as they can look really smart with a pair of smart trousers, but they are equally at home with a pair of jeans and casual top - they just serve to 'dress it up' a bit.

                        == The Price ==

                        I can't remember exactly but I think I paid about £80 for these. I have seen them online recently for £67 which I think is an absolute bargain. I have seen the price you have to pay for a decent pair of designer boots and I think these are just as good but for less than half the price you might pay elsewhere.

                        Thanks for reading.
                        (Review will also be posted on Ciao)

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                        • More +
                          15.04.2011 16:40
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                          Does work, but takes a while

                          From time to time, I get corns on my toes - usually the little toe. Anyone who has had corns will know what surprising pain these pesky little things can bring. I can get some relief from a corn cushion or plaster but that's not getting to the root of the problem and removing them.

                          The Scholl corn removal plasters come in a little cardboard pack, with 4 plasters and 4 teeny medicated discs, little more than 1/2cm in diameter. The active ingredient in the disc is Salicylic acid which is a keratolytic (whatever that is!) which apparently breaks down corns.
                          The plaster bits are a padded circle with a hole in the centre of the padding, a bit like a polo with a skin on one side. They then have a narrow adhesive plaster strip coming from each side of the circle to attach more easily to a tricky place like a toe.

                          So, you place the medicated disc directly over the corn, then position the padded circle on top of this and attach firmly in place using the strips. Therefore, while the disc is doing it's work, the padded plaster is also giving relief from pressure points.
                          The instructions say to replace daily but I have found these take a while to work completely and if I replaced it every day I would be getting through packs of the things. In practise I generally replace it every couple of days as long as it has stayed in place, which it invariably does.

                          Each time I remove the plaster to replace it, I can see that under the medicated disc there is an area of dead skin which gets deeper and thicker day by day. I have found it takes around a week or more to get right in under the corn.
                          I am a little sceptical about this 'breaking down the corn' as to me what it seems to do is to deaden the skin all around the corn and then when eventually there is enough dead skin there, the whole thing comes off, corn and all. Difficult to explain in words, but in essence what you end up with is a small, but quite thick, circular piece of totally dead skin. It's obvious to me when it's 'ready' to come away as it can do this without affecting any healthy skin around it. Before it's ready you would be tearing healthy skin to get to the corn.

                          The first time I used one of these successfully it was a bit of a revelation to be honest. (Don't read if you're a bit squeamish). I removed the plaster for the last time, along with the piece of white, dead skin, within which was contained the offending corn. Upon inspection, I discovered a tiny, rock hard little 'nugget' dead centre of the bit of discarded skin. So hard, it's like a little diamond. No wonder it causes so much pain - this was in my toe!
                          This is the reason I'm a bit sceptical about them 'breaking down' the corn, as to me it seemed to break down the skin containing the corn to enable the corn to be removed whole. However, either way, job done so I'm not complaining!

                          As I mentioned earlier, there are just 4 in a pack which although not expensive at around £1.80-£2 are not enough to do the job in my experience. In the instructions on the pack it says 'do not use for more than 2 weeks except on medical advice'. If they expect it to take up to 2 weeks, why only put 4 in a pack? I have found it to take as long as that on a few occasions although sometimes it can be a bit quicker.
                          That's the only reason I give this 4 stars not 5, as I feel you should be able to buy one pack to get rid of your corn completely and so it's a bit misleading. Apart from that it's a great product and has worked a lot better than the couple of other brands I have tried.

                          (Also posted on Ciao)

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                          • More +
                            14.04.2011 11:45
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                            Wonderful at first, but don't stand the test of time whatsoever.

                            I do a fair amount of riding and when you're in the saddle for a couple of hours a day, it is an absolute must to have boots in which your feet are comfortable.
                            I like a boot to be quite chunky with a good sole, as well as supportive - particuarly around the ankle. In addition to this they must be waterproof as there is nothing worse than soggy feet which then stay soggy for hours.

                            I have found that Mountain Horse boots fit my feet really well and have tried several of their different styles, of which there are many. The ones I am reviewing today are the Mountain Rider II which is a slightly updated version of the original.

                            ----- Materials -----

                            The upper is made from a thick, robust leather and there is an 'ergonomically designed removable EVA insole' which has shock absorbing pads in the heel and ball of the foot. They are lined with a soft 'Nylx' lining which is basically a kind of mesh to stop your feet from sweating. There is also a built in forged steel shank for increased rigidity and stability whilst walking or riding. The ankle has extra padding around it and the boots are marketed as completely waterproof

                            ----- Comfort -----

                            These are lovely, comfortable boots. The ankle padding is a nice touch and they are padded both around the collar of the boot and also a little lower down at the sides of the ankle. This is very helpful as when riding horses your ankles are usually flexed and they take a lot of the strain as we absorb the movement of the horse through having our own joints soft and flexible, particularly the knees, ankles and hips. Therefore having support and padding at the ankle is certainly noticeable and appreciated when riding. The boots are sturdy and give a feeling of support. When walking in them, the padded and shaped insole is also noticeable and, when I first put these on they really did feel extremely comfortable and supportive. However......

                            ----- Durability -----

                            I tend to use these boots more during the warmer months, as they are not particularly built for warmth. This is not to say that they don't get wet though, not only do we obviously get plenty of rain whatever the time of year, but also when it's hot, the horses always need washing off immediately after riding. This, as you can imagine, involves the rider getting a fair amount of washing off too - after years and years of practise I still haven't mastered the art of washing off my horses without getting my feet soaking wet! So the waterproofing ability of these boots was well and truly tested. When I first wore the boots I was really impressed with their ability to keep my feet dry even when I had totally soaked the boots. They remained comfortable and waterproof for about ....... oh a month or two maybe? Hmm. This is where it starts to go downhill.

                            I do take care of my boots, keep them clean and from time to time apply a waterproofing spray. But I am not fanatical about it - I don't have the time or the inclination to spend ages caring for boots and, if I pay good money for them I do expect them to take care of themselves to some extent. These failed dismally on that front. After only a couple of months the leather started cracking and water was definitely getting through to my feet. A few months after that and the upper is coming away from the sole in a few places, as well as the leather looking very cracked, worn and tired. Unfortunately I have found this to be the norm with Mountain Horse boots - extremely comfortable and wonderfully supportive as well as waterproof, but only for a while.

                            This deterioration has made them far less comfortable, they are no longer a dream to walk on and the soles are not as supportive as they were. I don't feel I've had them long enough, or used them often enough for them to have worn this badly. And they weren't cheap either, which brings me onto.....

                            ----- The Price -----

                            I can't remember exactly how much I paid for these, I think it was about £80. Looking around now, I see they are for sale for anything between £70 and £100, mostly at around £90. For this price, if they are reasonably well looked after, I would expect them to last and to be waterproof for far longer than it turned out.

                            All in all this is very disappointing as they are lovely boots and would get a 5-star rating from me without any hesitation, based on what they were like for the first few weeks. But I don't feel I can give them any more than 3 stars as they are made first and foremost for riding, a riding boot is going to receive a good amount of wear and tear, and in my opinion they should stand up to this way way better than they do.

                            I would love to get another pair but there's no way I can justify getting any more at that price, they simply do not last long enough for me.

                            (Also posted on Ciao)

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                              09.04.2011 21:29
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                              A triumph for the Body Shop

                              I consider myself a pretty good tester when it comes to lip protection products. This is because I am out in all elements, all times of the day and all days of the year. For me, a lip salve has to protect against boiling hot sun as well as freezing cold wind, rain and sub-zero temperatures. When you're riding a horse in the middle of a windy field let me tell you lip protector has to be able to do its job. So I think I am well qualified to reiew this product!

                              ----- The Packaging -----

                              Bog standard plastic tube with pop off clear plastic lid. As per the norm you twist the bottom to get the lip salve to wind up. The twisty bit at the bottom has thoughtful grippy lines on it so I can do it with gloves on. One point. It's got one of those peel back labels on it so you can see all the info if you so desire. I have had a few of these and they are used and abused, usually carried in a pocket or bunged in a compartment in the car, both of which also pick up dog hairs, horse hairs, bits of mud, hay, you name it. After time, this doesn't malfunction which I have found to be the case with many others. I've had ones where the twisty bit stops working, or the main body of the product detaches from it's 'axis' and falls off, or the lid stops going back on properly so bits of dirt get inside etc etc. This one doesn't do any of those things - several weeks of constant use and it still works exactly how it should. Another point.

                              ----- The Smell/Taste -----

                              Hardly apparent at all, it has a very inoffensive and slight smell/taste of vanilla which is very slightly sweet. Nice. Three points.

                              ----- Ingredients -----

                              I won't list them all but the key ingredients are beeswax, coconut oil, vanilla flavour and (of course) vitamin E.
                              I will point out here that The Body Shop do not test on animals (one of my criteria when buying a product such as this). Four points.

                              ----- Does it Work -----

                              In a word: Yes.
                              I use it all the time, as above, in all weathers. I also use it when going out in the evening, under lipstick. Because it isn't slimy or grainy, it is easy to apply lipstick or gloss on top of it. On its own though it does create quite a nice sheen to your lips so actually looks nice even though that's not what it's billed to do. This, out of all the many I have tried, lasts the longest. I do have to reapply during the day, but far less often than any other I've found. I can put it on first thing on a freezing cold morning and it's usually a couple of hours before I feel the need to reapply. It is smooth to apply and is instantly soothing and moisturising and most certainly protects. I can feel it on my lips for ages after applying. it also has SPF 15 so does a great job of protecting from the sun too. Five points.

                              ----- The Price -----

                              About £4 which isn't much, particularly since it lasts over twice as long as most of the others. Six points.

                              ----- Other Stuff Which Doesn't Fit Into a Category -----

                              I find that a lot of lip care products melt in the heat. So I get them out of my pocket on a hot day, wind them up and all I have is at worst an oozing mess or at best a really really soft stick that collapses as soon as you try to apply it. The other thing I've found is that if I leave them in the car, when I go back to use them they have clearly melted and re-formed as the cylinder shape of the product has changed to a sort of flat shape with a slanted end. This one doesn't do that at all. It retains its properties and shape and consistency in ALL weathers and is always there, trusty little product that it is, to be applied when I need it. Seven points. But there's only 5 stars I can give!

                              In summary: By far and away the best lip care product that I have found - lasts, works really well, pleasant taste and smell and good price. Get one!

                              (Also posted on Ciao)

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                                07.04.2011 21:27
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                                They're ok, but I'm glad I didn't actually pay for them.

                                These earphones came with my iphone at no extra cost. I believe you can buy them separately for under £10 but I'm glad I didn't as even at that price I'd have been disappointed.

                                Don't get me wrong - they do adequately do the job they are supposed to do. If you want fantastic sound quality you're going to be looking at far more expensive earphones. These do not have the rubber in-ear noise isolation that you often find with snazzy earphones but to be honest that suits me fine as I'm not looking to block out any other noise, in fact I want to be able to hear what's going on around me whilst I listen to music. So these are fine for that.

                                They are the sort that you pop into the front part of your ear and they then just sort of 'balance' there, in contrast to the rubber or foam ones which slot right into your ear a bit like earplugs. Some people find them uncomfortable (my OH for one) but I don't, I find them unobtrusive, but I do find they fall out easily if disturbed.

                                The earpieces have a metal mesh speaker surrounded by rubber to make it more comfortable. They have a wire which attaches to the iphone, then splits apart about a foot from the end to the left and right ear. The remote is situated on the right ear branch and is a little high up so I find if I need to look at it this is hard to do while the earphones are in my ears. But after a while you get used to the controls so don't really need to look at it.

                                I found these earphones perfectly adequate for what I needed them for - this was to listen to music whilst walking, and also to take calls whilst walking or driving. To accept a call you still need to get the iphone out of your pocket and unlock it, but these allow you to adjust volume without having to do that which is pretty handy.

                                The mic, which is in the same place as the remote, seems to work fine - I haven't had any complaints from people not being able to hear me clearly. Of course they can pick up background noise but this is true of most remote mics. I had no problem taking calls or listening to music although, as above, the sound quality is just 'ok'.

                                However, the durability is very questionable. After a while (a couple of months probably) the remote wasn't working properly. I'd press volume up or down and the music would just stop. Then I needed to press randomly again and again and it would just as randomly start again. A bit of a pain but I could live with it.

                                Then the rubber around the earpieces started to split and break after another couple of months (I would add here that I do not use these heavily - probably for a total of an hour a day max, about 4 or 5 days a week).
                                And then one of the earphones just packed up completely so I was left with a left speaker only.

                                I am now looking to replace them (currently borrowing another pair the same) and will definitely be getting something else!

                                (also posted on Ciao)

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