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Mog the Forgetful Cat, written by Judith Kerr, tells the tale of Mog who, as the title declares, is a forgetful cat. She forgets everything from the fact she has a cat flap to the fact she can't fly.
But it is this weakness which makes Mog the cat a heroine in the end, however unintentionally on the part of Mog.
Mog the Forgetful Cat is a book penned by the same author as the more widely-popular The Tiger Who Came to Tea. There is reason for this as The Tiger Who Came to Tea has a simplicity and a surrealism which instantly captures the imagination of readers. This is not to say that Mog the Forgetful Cat does not hold an appeal all of its own.
For me, as a little girl, the cat as hero of the tale was a very appealing one. Psychologically speaking, it represents the triumph of the maligned and ridiculed - essentially the triumph of the little guy - something which will always hold a certain sway with youngsters.
Mog is incredibly impeded by her personality flaw. She makes mistakes which lower her in the favour of her owners, the Thomas family, and even the little girl, Debbie, her one ally, is pushed to the limits of her sympathy towards the end of the book. It is at this crucial point that Mog carries out her good deed and wins back round her family and an award at the same time.
I get a real sense of nostalgia on opening up a copy of Mog the Forgetful Cat. In fact, it is my own well-read copy of the book that I now read to my own two-year-old daughter. My little girl is captivated by the colourful drawings of Mog and her family, particularly the one of Mog flying with the birds. She also enjoys the ending which sees Mog win a medal, and an egg.
I would say that there are some aspects of the book, which was written some 30 years ago, which haven't translated to the modern day such as the fact the book opens with "Mog lived with a family called Thomas" rather than "the Thomas family", which makes it instantly appear a little out-dated for today.
The other problem is the fact for a child to gain a full understanding of the story they need to be able to read the pictures as well as the words. This poses problems when reading the book aloud to little ones. For example, there is a scene where Mog accidentally sits on Mrs Thomas' hat. The fact she does this is not explained in the writing but purely shown as a picture.
Whilst young children will be interested in the colourful pictures, this aspect is perhaps a little too subtle for younger children to fully understand. Having said this, judging by how engrossed in the story my daughter becomes when I read it and how often she picks up the book to be read, this is by no means a problem for her.
Overall, despite there being some slightly antiquated aspects to this book, like all good classic children's books, Mog has a cuddly, warm and friendly aura about it. It captures that morality and sense of all things coming right which books today do not always grasp.
Reading it is a way to recapture that cocoon of innocence that children enjoyed in times gone by where they were shown that whilst there were dangers outside, all was well in the sanctuary of the home. This sense of there being nothing to fear could no better be expressed than in the fact the burglar, rather than being handcuffed, is given a cup of tea by the Thomas family.
Add to this backdrop short, snappy, easily readable sentences and the use of repetition, particularly through the phrase "bother that cat", and you have a great little story which will, I'm sure, be enjoyed by generations of children to come.
Monkey Puzzle, penned by Julia Donaldson, is a simple tale about a baby monkey who loses his mum and a friendly butterfly who helps him find her.
But the search is not quite as straight-forward as you would think because the butterfly does not understand that the monkey's mum looks just like him. Instead the butterfly repeatedly mistakes a host of other animals from an elephant to a bat as the monkey's mum. The reason for the butterfly's blunder is revealed later in the story.
Monkey Puzzle is written by the same author as the now widely known tale of the Gruffalo. This book is however by no means an inferior work to its more famous counterpart, despite being less well known.
This is because Donaldson is at her best in Monkey Puzzle at combining her unique mix of humour, sentimentality and instantly recognisable rhyming style to create a story which is suitable for children of all ages - and adults will certainly enjoy the story as well.
My daughter began to listen to this story read aloud just before her second birthday and the bouncy, rhyming style and the colourful illustrations by the talented Axel Scheffler ensured the book was an instant hit and requested again and again.
The repetition often used in Donaldson's books is alive and well in Monkey Puzzle, most obviously in the repetition of "No, no, no...that's not my mum" which is an excellent cue for youngsters to join in. Whilst the bold pictures of animals allow children of all ages to pre-empt what's coming next when the line begins, "that's a..." - for example elephant.
The comical descriptions such as "baggy knees" and "squabble and shriek" will raise a giggle from more understanding readers, whilst acting as a fun, educational tool for youngsters to start to identify the characteristics of animals.
The concept of the book of a young animal losing, and then finding, his mum, harks back to children's books of a previous golden era which ran along cautionary tales and instructional works to educate and comfort children.
But first and foremost, Monkey Puzzle is a great romp of a fun tale which will stick in the minds of all who hear and read it. A must have book for all children, which is even a pleasure for adults to read to their little ones over and over again - because you will find that that is exactly what you will be doing.
A Vintage Affair, written by Isabel Wolff, follows the story of protagonist Phoebe Swift as she embarks on opening her very own vintage clothes shop, Village Vintage.
We soon learn Phoebe is not a novice when it comes to vintage clothing having worked for an auction house valuing clothing for a number of years. But we also learn very quickly that the opening of this shop has not been borne solely out of a love of old clothes but because her best friend Emma has recently died - a death she blames herself for.
What follows is a tale of Phoebe's burgeoning success as a vintage fashion retailer, her entanglements with two very different men and most notably her friendship with an elderly and terminally ill Frenchwoman, whom she meets when called upon to value some of her old, but rather lovely, clothing.
It is this character, Mrs Bell, who helps her come to terms with her past and enables her to move forward after the death of her friend.
I came across this book purely by chance when searching for an author I very much enjoy reading, Eva Rice, on Amazon. Isabel Wolff's offerings were recommended by the online retailer as 'something similar' to Eva Rice which I may also enjoy.
I had never come across Isabel Wolff's work before but committing the cardinal sin of being enticed by the book's rather attractive cover, I decided to give it a go.
A Vintage Affair turned out to be a light-weight yet enjoyable read which keeps the reader wanting to know more, especially about 'that blue coat'.
There are also some rather compelling characters that Phoebe meets through the shop including a struggling actress and shop assistant Annie and the purchasers of the 'cupcake dresses'. Mrs Bell proves a riveting character whose tale brought a tear to my eye and the sub plot of Phoebe's parents marriage break-up, her mother's desire for a facelift and her father's newborn son, whilst in his sixties, add colour to the plot.
The one character who actually left me wanting was Phoebe herself. Though it is through her voice that the tale is told, she remains a rather two dimensional character. We know the reason she is where she is in her life and we know where she wants to be - in a happier place - but her actual personality is rather an enigma, as Isabel Wolff uses her purely as a vehicle to drive on the story without embellishing on the deeper reasons why things are happening in Phoebe's life and who she actually is.
This is not to say that this book is not an enjoyable read but while it will keep you gripped as you turn the pages, once you put it down, it will have very little lasting impact on you.
Read it for a nice bit of Sunday afternoon escapism, especially if you are a fashion lover as one thing this book is rich in is detailed descriptions of vintage clothing. It is just a shame the same attention to detail is not given to the main protagonist.
I find that you can't beat the cleaning power of an electric toothbrush. A manual toothbrush never gives you quite the same polished, squeaky clean feel, no matter how good your brushing.
I was at the same time feeling quite tired of my electric toothbrush. It was big and chunky and I missed having a proper toothbrush head. That little round circular thing just did not seem to cover as much area and really get as deep down into the gums as I liked.
Therefore I was quite taken aback to realise there was indeed an electric toothbrush on the market which had all the power of an electric toothbrush but had the form of a manual brush. I had to try the Oral-B Pulsonic Slim toothbrush to find out if this was indeed the answer to my tooth brushing prayers.
As I said, the most striking element of this toothbrush is its appearance. It stands out from the other toothbrushes on the market because it looks like a normal brush. It is also much lighter weight than a normal electric toothbrush. And whilst the handle is slim it is easy to grip even whilst it is vibrating in your hand.
In the toothbrush box you have the toothbrush of course, one replacement toothbrush head and a stand and two way adapter to allow you to charge the brush.
This two way adapter can be plugged into those electrical shaving points you get in some bathrooms. Otherwise you can use a European plug adapter and plug it into a normal plug socket. This is what I do.
The toothbrush takes 12 hours to charge so generally it is better to charge it overnight and then it will last for 30 minutes of brushing. This does not seem long but when you calculate the specified ideal brushing time by Oral-B is two minutes you get a lot of brushings out of it before it needs charging again. I find it lasts between 10 days and two weeks between chargings. The only down side is the brush has no warning before it runs down. So you could actually be in the middle of brushing your teeth. You can detect the brush is starting to slow down, however, so you can beat it to it and get it on charge before all the power is gone.
The brush has three lights on the front of the handle. One is to indicate clean mode, which is for regular brushing. Underneath is sensitive mode, which is useful if you have sensitive teeth or gums, and under this is the charging light. You switch the toothbrush on and off using the main button just above these lights.
The brush has a lot of force behind it. This is replicated in the slightly louder noise it makes to some other electric toothbrushes, but you can really feel it powering around your teeth which is reassuring as it gives the impression it is giving them a good clean. When I run my tongue over my teeth afterwards they do feel very clean. If the power was too much for you, you could turn it down to sensitive mode instead.
The brush is easy to clean. It is essentially one unit so there are no annoying crevices where toothpaste residue can build up. You can simply run it under the tap and there is no worry about damaging the electrical components as they are all hidden well inside.
The toothbrush comes with a two year warranty form the manufacturers Oral B if you should have any problems with it.
The main downside is the replacement heads are quite expensive. They cost around £20 in Boots for a pack of four. Baring in mind the toothbrush cost me just £30 under a Boots half price offer it almost makes you want to buy a new brush. However, you would be out of pocket quite considerably that way in the long run. The brush has a retail price of £60 but do check out Boots because they seem to always have half price offers on their electric toothbrushes.
The final down point, but it is minor, is because the toothbrush is so light it is hard to stand it up on a shelf or by the wash basin. It becomes a bit of a balancing act to get it to stand upright. There is no harm in laying it down or placing it in a glass but this is a down side compared to other electric toothbrushes which are wide enough and sturdy enough to stand up on their own.
All in all this is a revolutionary toothbrush. It works just as well as a normal electric toothbrush, if not better as it is very powerful, but is more appealing to the eye as it looks like a manual brush. I would be surprised if in future more electric toothbrushes didn't follow suit and ditch the rather clumpy, round headed, look they currently have and take up the Pulsonic Slim look instead,
I do a lot of running and I find musical accompaniment absolutely essential to while away the time and also to motivate me when the going gets tough.
I have had a few iPods before, all iPod Nanos, which have come to a similar fate, namely being washed in the washing machine with my running kit. This was not intentional. It all comes with putting everything in a heap on the bed once I get back from my run.
Anyway, I couldn't keep splashing out over £50 a time on iPods so decided to go for the cheaper iPod shuffle instead. They cost around £35.
I was a little disappointed I would no longer have a track list to look at but the plus side was the Shuffle is a lot smaller and discreet and so ideal to take out running.
I can just clip it onto my waistband and cover it over with my t-shirt and the only sign I have it on is the earphones coming out the neck of my top to my ears.
The iPod Shuffle is very simple to use. It has an on/off switch on the side along with a switch which moves left and right depending whether you want it on playlist mode, which will play all your tracks in order, or shuffle mode, in which case it will mix all the tracks up.
On the front of the iPod is a main play/pause button and around this, forming a circle, are four buttons. The top and bottom buttons turn the volume up or down while the side two buttons move the track forward or back - or is it the other way around?
That is one of the problems, I always forget which and sometimes as I'm running I attempt to turn the volume up and instead move the track on. But that is probably down to my poor observational skills. This would not be a problem if you had the iPod in front of you and were not trying to work it blind. Having said that I can quite easily detect all the buttons through the material of my top and so move tracks on or adjust the volume whilst on the move, even if it can be a bit of trial and error at times.
I find the shuffle mode is very useful when running. If you are covering a long distance it is actually quite useful to keep being surprised by which track comes up next rather than have the predictability of an album playlist. When this doesn't work is when you have downloaded a new album onto your iPod as it is slightly more difficult to work out if this is a new track you are listening to. Also I find as there is no display on the iPod you get to the stage where you have no idea what the names of the tracks you are listening to are, and I would even struggle to tell you what the title of some albums are.
I have found this iPod is very durable considering how small and lightweight it is. It has been thrown in a drawer, been dropped, and it still works very well. It does not even have any scratches or scuff marks on it.
The weakest point of the product is the earphones they supply. Whilst the iPod itself is still going strong after a few years, I have had to replace the ear phones as the ear buds started to fall apart. I have also found the Sony ear buds I have replaced them with are much better quality than those provided.
You can store 300 music files on this iPod, which I find is more than sufficient for my needs but I know a lot of people store all their music on iPods these days and other iPods have much larger memories.
The iPod comes with a USB cable which allows you to connect it to your computer to download tracks or to plug it into the mains to charge. It takes about three hours to charge and you then have about 15 hours play time.
You need Microsoft Windows 7 or later or Apple MacOSx10.5 or later for it to be compatible with your computer or laptop. You also need to download iTunes.
In conclusion I am very happy with my iPod Shuffle. It is small enough just to clip onto my waistband and off I go running, barely realising it is there. I do miss not knowing what tracks I am listening to, but for this facility I would require a bigger iPod and on this basis I wouldn't swap what I have. It is a runner's companion and is as much a vital piece of kit whilst I am pounding the pavements as my running shoes.
I should warn readers that I am not technically minded. I break into a sweat trying to work a fax machine. Therefore this netbook review is not going to include much about megabytes, RAM and the like.
At the same time, this review will explain what it is like to use this netbook day-to-day, in language hopefully any layman novice can understand.
I needed to purchase a laptop swiftly as my husband's work laptop, which he had kindly loaned to me to use during the day, was soon to be unavailable to me. Basically he was going to be out and about a bit more and so needed to have his laptop with him.
As a result I was faced with the daunting task of finding a laptop on which I could surf the internet, check my emails and type articles, all on a small budget of about £200.
Enter the netbook. One of my friends happened to mention she used a netbook rather than a laptop on days when she worked away from the office. I wasn't sure what a netbook was - my lack of technical awareness again - but a search on the internet filled me in. It seems netbooks come in two main sizes, seven inch and ten inch. They also come in a range of prices. You can still spend hundreds of pounds on the more advanced ones.
At first I was attracted by the idea of having a seven inch netbook. I was certain a small screen wouldn't be a problem and it would also keep the price down. My husband had a look in Tesco and he said a seven inch was too small. I reluctantly took his word for it and settled on a ten inch instead. Now I have my ten inch netbook I would say the screen is not too small to be able to do all I want with it but I would not want to go any smaller.
A seven inch netbook I would guess would be OK for using as an equivalent to an android phone on the go to check emails and browse the internet. It would be too small for typing which was one of the main functions I required.
The first thing which strikes you with the netbook is its visual appeal. I chose red as it is slightly different to the usual laptop colours of black and grey. It looks very stylish and when the lid is shut it makes for a very tidy, compact and sleek unit.
You lift the lid up by putting your fingertips just under the rim. There is no release button or catch.
I was lucky that my husband took my new netbook into work to have a Word style programme installed on it for typing. If you also wanted to type on your netbook you would have to invest in a similar programme as it does not come with this facility built in.
While talking about typing, the keyboard size and ease of use is not compromised by the compact style of the netbook. I touch type and I can still do this easily as all the keys still fall easily under my fingers.
The mouse is also as easy to use as any laptop mouse. It has the two standard left and right click buttons and the cursor pad is nicely disguised to meld in with the rest of the laptop base.
The netbook is easy to get up and running. The main thing you need to do is to connect it up to the internet. This is easy to do as long as you have some kind of home Hub as the internet works on Wireless Bluetooth. You search for it in the settings page and then type in its password and it should connect. You only have to do this once to be able to use the internet at home.
I have found the internet works fairly quickly considering the smaller size of the netbook. It is slightly slower than the internet on my husband's laptop but the only time I find myself really left waiting to open a website is when it contains a lot of images.
I have also found it can take a while to open a word document and I often find myself clicking on an item twice in impatience when it is simply taking a little longer to load. I must stress this by no means affects my use of this machine. It only takes a little more patience and I think you have to keep remembering this little machine is not going to have quite as much power as a big laptop.
The real plus with this particular netbook is the battery life. As long as you charge the netbook initially overnight you should, from then onwards, get a good ten hours of use out of it at a time. From then on you can generally charge it for about two hours to get it back to full battery power. I tend to have it plugged into the mains a lot at home anyway. However, I have used it all day sitting on the sofa and it is lightweight enough I have held it in one hand whilst cooking in the kitchen.
I have installed iTunes on it and now use it as a portable music player for use in the kitchen and bedroom. The only downside with the music facility is there is no slot for CDs so you cannot copy your existing albums onto iTunes but have to rely on downloads. You can apparently buy a CD adapter to connect into one of the three USB ports on the netbook. It also has a port for earphones.
Other features include an integrated webcam, a memory reader and software including Adobe Flash Player, Windows Live, Windows Live Messenger, Quick Sync and Adobe Reader.
My netbook cost around £230 from Argos.
Music Magpie works on a simple premise. You send them your old CDs, DVDs and games and they will turn them into cash. This is not an original idea. In these cash strapped times you can turn all sorts of goods into cash from mobile phones to gold.
Where Music Magpie likes to show it is slightly different is it recycles all the CD, DVDs and Games you send into them and turns them into everyday objects. They boast on their website that in the last 12 months they have made 1.2 million coat hangers and one million car headlamps.
Thousands of people use their service every day according to Music Magpie, to de-clutter their homes and make a little extra money for themselves.
Using Music Magpie is very simple. All you have to do is get all your unwanted CDs, DVDs and Games into a pile and go through them entering each of the bar codes into a special box on the Music Magpie website. The website then calculates how much money they will give you in turn. You can enter all your CDs and so on at once and it will calculate the total there and then. Alternatively you can set up an account into which you can save the bar codes of some of your items and then come back to it later.
Once you have entered all your bar codes you submit your list for completion and it gives you an option of whether you would like your special Freepost label emailed or posted to you. Along with the label you will also be provided with a full list of the items you are sending to them so you can tick them off before placing them in the box.
If you are receiving these bits of paper work by email you can obviously pack up your box straight away. Otherwise the mail version will take a few days to arrive. You then take your box into the post office and wait for the cheque to arrive.
Music Magpie endeavour to make the postage of your items as easy as possible. Not only do they provide Freepost labels but they also offer a free courier service to those people who are sending in more than 50 items in one go. You do not have to use this courier service, but if you choose to, you select a time which is convenient to you and they will come out to your home and take your box away for you.
There are also a few ways in which you can be paid for your items. They will either send you out a cheque, email you an e-voucher - currently the e-vouchers are for Marks and Spencer - or you can donate your cash to charity. There are a few charities flagged up on the Music Magpie website if you do not have any favoured ones of your own.
You can also download the free Music Magpie app. This enables you to scan your items and check the status of your order all on your phone.
Music Magpie send you an email once they have received your items and another email once they have been through your items to check they are all in good condition, to let you know your cheque is on its way. They do warn you that you may not receive exactly the same amount of cash as originally totalled on the screen when you entered all those bar codes. This is because they may find the items are of poorer quality than they would have liked.
I decided to use Music Magpie because like a lot of people I have a lot of CDs which I don't listen to any more and it seemed silly for them to be taking up valuable space when they could be turned into cash. I had heard about Music Magpie from commercials on the TV.
I found the website easy to use. I got all my CDs together in a pile and went through them one by one entering the bar codes into the box on the Music Magpie home page. I had about 30 CDs in total and most were only valued at around 30 to 40 pence. There were a few - compilations mainly - which made as much as £3 but don't expect to get a lot for each one.
I stopped halfway through entering in my bar codes and checked to see if there was any way of saving the bar codes I had entered already so I did not have to start from scratch later. There is a facility which enables you to set up an account, with a username and password, and into this you can save your bar code list. When you return to your account page you click on your saved list and it is all ready and waiting for you to add the rest of your bar codes. In total, my pile of CDs made me about £25. This is not a lot considering how much those CDs would have been worth new but it is a bonus bit of cash considering I had no plans to listen to those CDs again.
I opted to have my Freepost label and item list posted to me. This took about four days to come through. I also noticed they had sent me an email version anyway. Your batch of CDs, DVDs or Games, is given a serial number and the Freepost labels carry that number so you have to apply for more labels each time you use the service. They do send you out two labels at a time encase you are sending your items in more than one box.
The only real hassle is having to find a box for your CDs. I used an old shoe box in the end but I also had to invest in some brown parcel paper. Next I took the box into the post office and as there was nothing to pay they simply took the box off my hands and the CDs were on their way.
It took about ten days to receive an email from Music Magpie saying they had received my CDs and were checking their quality. It then took another fortnight before I finally got an email saying my cheque was on its way in the post. By this point I had actually almost forgotten I had sent the CDs off.
Music Magpie said the cheque could take up to seven working days to arrive and I finally got it about six days after getting the email. I was pleased to see they had not deducted any money for poor quality items but the whole process had taken almost a month to complete.
Music Magpie is a good way of making a small amount of cash and clearing some space in your home. The process is simple and cost free but does become a bit of a test of patience. It would be no good if you needed extra cash in a hurry but is a good website to use if you take the attitude that any cash you get is a bonus for items which would otherwise be sitting in your house unused.
Visit www.musicmagpie.co.uk to cash in yourself
Johnson's is the forerunner when it comes to baby products so when looking for a baby bath which would help moisturise my daughter's dry knees and elbows, I didn't look any further than switching her usual Johnson's baby bath for the extra moisturising version. But does it have extra moisturising properties and live up to 'what it says on the tin' or is it an empty promise?
Johnson's baby moisturising bath comes in a simple white bottle with a blue flip-top lid. The most striking element of the packaging is the light blue tear drop on the front of the bottle. This tear drop forms the backdrop for the Johnson's brand name and the name of the product, which comes below in blue lower case writing. One of the most important elements of this product is written underneath this - it comes 'with baby oil'. The only other detail is the recognisable red tear drop logo at the very top of the bottle with the 'no more tears' slogan inside.
Turning the bottle round, there is plenty more information about the product on the back label.
It reads 'We love babies. And we understand that babies' delicate skin can lose moisture faster than adult skin. That's why our Moisturising Baby Bath containing baby oil gently cleanses and moisturises the skin. The unique No More Tears formula is as gentle to the eyes as pure water. Ph balanced."
The label continues on with directions for use. This involves adding the baby bath to running water and swirling it with your hand. 'Gently lather, rinse, dry and snuggle'. The general impression is this is a company which cares about your baby and has put the utmost thought and effort into creating a product which will give you peace of mind. If this isn't enough for you, the fact the bottle states Johnson's has been trusted by mums for over 100 years should sway you.
The first thing which strikes me when I uncap this bottle of baby bath and squeeze it into my daughter's bath water is just how similar it is to Johnson's baby bath. The liquid is blue just like the original baby bath and it even has the same smell. I have described it as Ribena in the past but I'm starting to think it's a little more like Vimto now - but you get the picture. Just like the original baby bath the product tends to just sit on the bottom of the bath unless you give it a good swirl with your hand.
This is when the differences with the aforementioned product start to emerge. The original baby bath will produce a small amount of foam when you mix it with the water. The moisturising baby bath produces next to no foam at all but what does happen is the water starts to turn a milky colour. It feels oily to the touch. I discovered this by rubbing the water between my fingertips - as you do.
The water has very little scent once the baby bath is added but with this absence of smell comes the comfort this is an extra mild product on baby's skin.
My daughter has had no negative reaction to this product. It is mild enough that you can use the bath water to wet her hair and even when the water drips down her face she has not shown any signs it has stung her eyes.
Most importantly her skin has been well-moisturised and even after just one use, I noticed the dry patches on her knees and elbows had started to improve.
The one negative is I noticed on putting a blob of the baby bath on my daughter's sponge in order to give her a more thorough wash, the product did not foam up at all so gave me next to no lather with which to wash her. Even the original baby bath produces an adequate amount of foam for this method of washing.
Johnson's Moisturising baby bath does live up to its promise. It does have extra moisturising properties compared even to the other products available in the Johnson's range. This is chiefly because of the added baby oil. Otherwise I would struggle to state any real differences between this product and the original baby bath. However, with the added baby oil comes very little foam and lather to wash your baby in. It does however, save on using a separate baby oil after you have bathed your baby, as I have found baby oil can produce a little bit of mess.
I love Original Source products. I like their simple packaging and organic and natural credentials which separate them from so many other brands on the market. It is rare to find a cheaper end cosmetics brand caring so much for the smaller details such as making sure they are vegan friendly. This is usually the domain of higher end products. But Original Source has a real eye for detail despite its products selling for just a few pounds. I usually have an Original Source shower product of some description on the go but tend to buy one from the citrus range. The Vanilla Milk and Raspberry version is a slightly different scent for me.
The Original Source Vanilla Milk and Raspberry Shower comes in Original Source's typically angular bottle with a black flip top lid on the bottom. The bottle is frosted to allow the colour of the product to show through. Original Source shower gels tend to be bold and rich in colour. This particular one is white with ever such a subtle hint of pink.
Original Source shower product labels are usually free of images and just consist of block capital letters describing the contents and a little slogan at the top describing such and such a number of - and what ever the main ingredient of the shower gel is - went into making this product. This milk and raspberry version is slightly different as it states 82 British sunrises helped make one moisturising bottle of this Original Source Vanilla Milk and Raspberry packed with natural fragrance Shower. It is a slightly different take on their usual style but still stresses the natural and organic nature of the product. The final detail on the front of the bottle is a little Vegan label.
Turning the product around the reverse of the bottle reads the shower gel has 100 per cent natural fragrance. The blurb has a friendly, conspiratorial tone. "We've waited 82 British sunrises for these raspberries to ripen before we squeezed them with vanilla milk into this recyclable bottle. This moisturising shower will leave your skin soft and smelling sweet."
Next comes a black box with a series of cartoon-like images on, which is dubbed the Original Source Guide. This further emphasises the natural fragrance, it is tested on us - humans I assume - it is recyclable, it is vegan, made in the UK and packed with natural stuff.
The directions for use are similarly quirky - "Original Source and Water equals one softened you." The bottle contains 250ml of product. The only thing I don't understand is why they insist on calling this product a shower rather than a shower gel or shower crème.
The shower gel is rather thin on squeezing it out onto my hand and some of the product gets lost on the bottom of the shower when I start to spread it over me. The smell is very much like raspberry milkshake. It is not an unpleasant smell and bathing in milk didn't seem to do Cleopatra too much harm - though I suppose that point is debatable - but it wouldn't be my top scent of choice. I was hoping the scent would be a stronger fruity smell and less like a milky drink.
I am also slightly disappointed that it is not as creamy a shower gel as you would perhaps expect. In this way it is not as indulgent as other similar products.
I do rate Original Source for the healthy and well moisturised effect their products have on the skin and this product is no different. In fact the added milk is extra moisturising if anything so it does live up to its big moisturising claims.
The only other problem is because the cap is on the base of the bottle, if you leave it in the shower, the bottle does slowly fill with water and the product start to get a little diluted.
I am a big fan of Original Source shower products and I still am, but the Vanilla Milk and Raspberry version is not my preferred scent. It is a little too like milkshake and the thinness of the product seems at odds with the creamy look and colour of the product in the bottle. I think I will stick to my citrus scents in future
I bought Alberto Balsam Mandarin Shampoo for one reason - it was cheap. Bottles of this shampoo, and the matching conditioner, usually sell for £1 in Tesco which is cheap anyway, but recently the Alberto Balsam shampoos were all on offer for just 80p - a steal. As this is a cheap end shampoo I did have my doubts over how effective it would be but I felt I had little to lose at this price.
Alberto Balsam Mandarin Shampoo comes in a tall, thin frosted bottle which allows the muted orange colour of the shampoo inside to show through. The bottle is topped off with a flip style cap in black.
On the front of the bottle is a gold edged label with a black background onto which has been placed an eye-catching image of mandarins cut open - even though to be fair if you didn't know you would think they were oranges. Above the image comes the Alberto Balsam brand name, and beneath the image are the words limited edition and mandarin. We are informed by a little sticker in the corner of the label however that this limited edition shampoo is now here to stay.
Under the main front label are the words shampoo in gold-brown writing, the information 'with mandarin and papaya' follows, along with another band of gold right at the bottom informing people the shampoo is aimed at normal to dry hair. The bottle contains 400ml of shampoo.
Turning the bottle around there is a blurb boldly stating that consumers liked this limited edition shampoo so much they have added it to their permanent range. It continues that the shampoo is infused with mandarin and papaya to strengthen the hair and add a deep shine. It also includes many of the ingredients used in higher priced brands, it says, but at a price which means 'you can afford to look glamorous everyday'.
Using this shampoo will make your hair as good as it feels apparently. Then comes three white boxes to highlight the shampoo's main credentials - infuses moisture, gently cleanses and strengthens with pro-vitamin B5.
Directions of use and ingredients follow.
I have to say I took the big claims this shampoo made with a pinch of salt. I doubted it was really going to give my hair a deep shine and whilst it may have similar ingredients to more high quality brands there had to have been some serious cut backs somewhere to be able to sell this shampoo so cheaply.
When I squeezed a small amount of the orange liquid onto my palm I expected this to be the first and only time I was going to use this shampoo. The scent is initially a little too like mandarin yoghurt but within a few seconds the smell starts to warm so it has a deeper and richer scent more akin to satsuma bubble bath from the Body Shop which I love.
Rubbing it through the length of my hair and onto my scalp wasn't too easy. I found on my hair meeting with the shampoo it became quite tangled and I struggled to give it as thorough a massage into my hair as I would have liked.
It rinsed off nicely as the shampoo was quite thin and did not lather up too much but all in all I had not been overly impressed so far.
When I came to dry my hair off I didn't expect my hair to look particularly good but this is when the surprise came. I found that as I dried my hair, a head of shiny, glossy and silky to the touch hair started to emerge. I could hardly believe it. Not many shampoos give me an obvious shine to my hair that you can see when the light catches it. I don't think my hair is the type to be able to radiate a mirror shine. This shampoo is the closest I have ever got to being able to achieve that look. All day I kept catching glimpses of my hair in the mirror and backtracking to have another look to see if that shine was really there - it was. I also enjoyed touching it to feel how soft and silky it was.
I think I have found my cheap shampoo of choice in Alberto Balsam Mandarin Shampoo. I love the shiny, silky effect it has had on my hair. After all, the big claims on the back of the bottle have certainly come true on my hair. I would still intersperse use of this shampoo with a higher end shampoo as I can't believe it would be as good on my hair long term as a more expensive brand. However, I would urge everyone to give it a go as you should be surprised at the results. I certainly was.
Johnson's baby lotion is one of those products you associate with newborn babies. Just flipping up the cap and taking a sniff of the cream inside the bottle fills you with feel good associations of little fingers and toes and joyful giggles.
It is an absolute must for any baby's cupboard and in many ways barely needs reviewing, so well established is it in the mother and baby psyche. And yet it is probably worth looking at just how effective this baby lotion is in moisturising skin as that is what it is geared at, as well as raising a smile.
Johnson's baby lotion comes in a powder pink bottle. The overall effect of the packaging is simplicity as it has the Johnson's logo at the top, followed by the words 'baby lotion' in lower case underneath. In the centre of the front label is a clinically proven mildness emblem with the words 'rediscover baby softness' underneath, followed by the Johnson and Johnson brand name at the very bottom.
If you turn the bottle around there is further information about the product. The slant taken in the blurb on the back is encouraging the user to rediscover this baby lotion which has been used by mothers both on their baby's and their own skin for generations. It continues 'the creamy formula has our unmistakable baby fresh smell and is clinically proven mild for moisturising and cleansing baby's delicate skin."
This bottle also includes the "original Johnson's baby softness trusted by mums for over 100 years", it continues.
To use, apply directly onto skin to perfectly moisturise or apply on cotton wool to effectively remove oily substances that water alone cannot.
The baby lotion, when you squeeze it out of the bottle, is creamy in consistency but just thin enough to be able to rub over your baby's skin with ease. This is what you want as you do not want to have to spend to much time rubbing the cream in as a baby can get fractious.
The smell, as I have already stated, is that archetypal baby smell - a mixture of talcum powder and floral notes. It is a warm and comforting smell and I associate it with security. I guess my own mum must have used this cream on me. That is what is so nice about it, the images of all those mums over several generations who will all have been rubbing this baby lotion onto their babies and onto themselves. It is like you are part of history even using a bottle of this and I think it is important to continue this usage on as so many big brand names seem to be disappearing or being merged with others these days. Johnson's is one to protect.
My daughter seems to really enjoy this cream being applied to her skin. It has quite a cooling effect and must feel nice after coming out of a warm bath. I think the smell combined with a little massage is also calming for her as she comes up to bedtime.
The after effects of the cream are obviously that she smells wonderful but also her skin does always look and feel healthy and smooth.
She has never had a negative reaction to this cream in way of rashes or spots in over 12 months of using it.
The only thing I would point out is while this is a good day-to-day moisturiser you may find you need something with a little more intensity to help ease any really significant areas of dry skin. Recently my daughter has developed dry elbows and knees and just using Johnson's baby lotion on her skin has not been enough. We have had to top these areas up with a bit of a more heavy duty moisturiser.
I have used this lotion on my own skin and I have also found very satisfactory results on just how soft and smooth it leaves my skin feeling.
I have not tried using the product as a cleanser on my baby's skin as I tend to use baby wipes to clean her up if she gets particularly messy but it is good to know that facility is there should I choose to use it.
Mothers have been using Johnson's baby lotion on their baby's skin for generations and there is a reason for this. It not only moisturises but is a lovely indulgent and feel good product which actually goes as far as to help the bonding process between mother and child. Who wouldn't want to cuddle their baby close when they smell of this lotion. It is worth purchasing a bottle to keep the tradition going but keep a more intense moisturiser to hand if your child should develop any more severe patches of dry skin as Johnson's baby lotion won't help there.
I wish I'd looked after me teeth - proclaimed quirky northern poet Pam Ayres in the poem of the same name.
This is a phrase I don't want my daughter to ever have to utter and so my campaign to keep her teeth as clean and healthy as possible started as soon as her very first teeth appeared. The toothpaste of choice has been Aquafresh Milk Teeth from the very beginning thanks to a sample of the paste I received in one of the many goody bags I was plied with on her birth just over a year ago now.
The toothpaste comes in a white tube with an image on it of what looks like a water drop with a face and hands, displaying a sign with 0 to 3 years written on it.
Underneath is the word 'milky' in childlike writing. I don't know if this is meant to be the name of the water drop or a reference to the toothpaste. Either way, underneath this comes the typical Aquafresh logo and under this the words 'milk teeth' in colourful bubble writing. Right under this comes the more serious information 'fluoride protection 1000ppm'. This figure of 1000ppm means little to me I have to admit but I'm guessing it is supposed to be a selling point in favour of this toothpaste.
Turning the tube over there is more information about the toothpaste and how to use it.
It reads; "gentle fluoride toothpaste for baby teeth and gums".
Then come the directions 'brush twice daily' followed by different instructions according to the child's age. Under threes should use a smear of toothpaste for supervised brushing and under sixes should use a pea-shaped amount for supervised brushing'. All well and good but confusing on the basis I thought this was a toothpaste for 0 to 3 year olds, as old milky the water drop tells us on the front?
Then comes the warning we are all too aware of about the danger of too much fluoride intake. Interestingly it also explains a dentist may recommend a 1400ppm fluoride toothpaste if your child has cavities and needs extra protection against tooth decay. At least that sheds some light on that fluoride number on the front. It's to do with the strength of the toothpaste then.
The ingredients in the toothpaste follow.
As anyone with young children will know, brushing a babies teeth is no mean feat. At first I started off using just my finger with a blob of toothpaste on but we have progressed to a toothbrush. One thing is clear. My daughter loves the taste of this minty toothpaste as she does her best to swallow most of what is on the brush. She gets upset when you try and move the brush around her mouth too much when she is desperately trying to suck the paste off it.
So that's a plus in the taste department then. This is good as I didn't want to have to resort to the more child friendly synthetic flavours such as strawberry you see on the market as I can't shake the notion they must come with some sugar added and defeat the object of brushing teeth in the first place.
In terms of ease of use, it is simple to squeeze a small amount of paste onto the brush. It doesn't all spurt out at once. The only tricky part can be because the lid screws on and off it can be difficult to screw it back on when you have a toothbrush in one hand and are trying to make sure your child doesn't roll off the changing mat or just crawl off with the other. A flip up and down lid would have been better.
It is hard to gauge how good the toothpaste is on a baby's teeth but so far my daughter's teeth appear to be lovely and clean with a white, sparkly finish. She has had her teeth looked at by the dentist and he was pleased with how they were coming on.
It is wise to use this paste twice daily as recommended as it is hard to do the most thorough of brushes in just one sitting when, as I say, your child is trying their best to eat the paste.
Because you only have to use a tiny amount each time, the tube, which contains 50ml of paste and only costs about £1.50, lasts a few months so you barely realise you are spending any money on it.
The toothpaste does foam around my daughter's mouth quite a bit whilst I am brushing and I do have to do a bit of a clean up operation with a baby wipe afterwards but I think that is quite normal when they are sucking away and at other times fighting the brush.
The only point I would raise of real concern is making sure you pick up the right paste. Aquafresh produce three different children's toothpastes - milk teeth, little teeth and big teeth. I have made the frustrating mistake of picking up a tube of little teeth toothpaste off the supermarket shelf thinking this was the correct paste for my daughter's age only to get home and find it is for little ones aged over three. I may be being stupid here but I don't see why the youngest aged paste is called milk teeth because all children's teeth are milk teeth - it is nothing specific to baby's teeth, therefore that is why I must have thought little teeth would be the correct paste to buy, before I learnt different.
I have never used any other toothpaste but Aquafresh milk teeth on my daughter's teeth as I am so happy with the job it is doing and I won't be swapping to anything else. Just make sure you check what age range the tube you pick up from the shop shelf is geared at before purchasing it as that aspect of the children's Aquafresh toothpastes is a little unclear.
'I like this tea, I also like this tea' - just thought I'd channel the old lady in the Aldi advert for a moment. But I won't continue to the punch line, as unlike the old lady, I don't prefer gin.
In fact tea is my all time favourite drink. Give me a cup of tea any day over any kind of beverage. Yes, I am 29-years-old not 89 but I do have a little daughter now and my days of drinking out on the town are over, so it's tea all the way if I had to choose one drink to live on for the rest of my life. The only other contender would be Ovaltine but I think I would become a little bit parched after a while living on that.
I've always had a little bargain with myself when doing the weekly Tesco shop. I'm prepared to buy the cheapest options on a host of products but there are a few things which I deem my little luxuries and one is a decent brand of tea. Yorkshire Tea and Twinings are my favourites but I'll also settle for Tetley or Typhoo for a change. So how did I end up purchasing Tesco's own tea bags. A bit of a mad moment I think. But have I gone on to regret that rash decision or not?
Tesco Quality Tea Bags come in a big red box. The design seems overly simple on first glance but on closer look you see that superimposed onto the red background is a line drawing of a map of the world.
Over this comes a label which reads Tesco Quality Tea. The label has been made to look like it has been written on an old, worn piece of paper and stuck onto the box. I think the aim here is to make the tea seem well-established and therefore of premium quality. Underneath the main title of the tea comes the blurb "quality teas from around the globe, expertly blended for a full flavour and refreshing taste, perfect for any time of day" further compounding the fact Tesco is trying to make out this tea is rival to any of the top teas on the market.
If you turn the box around anti-clockwise, the same Quality Tea label is displayed on this side and if you turn it around again you come to the storage details and additional information, which is basically that you can recycle the box when you're done, and also a strength guide. Strength one is mild, strength two is medium and strength three is strong.
According to my box I picked up medium strength which is good but also lucky as I didn't realise when I was whisking around Tesco that this tea came in different strengths. I may have been tempted with strong if I'd known but I'm glad I didn't pick up weak.
A final turn of the box brings us to Richard Thomas. He is Tesco's tea consultant apparently. There is even a picture of the grey haired chap in his shirt and tie, white apron combo, consulting with some tea, or perhaps just pouring some milk into a cup, I'm not completely sure.
According to the bit about him, he has worked as tea expert at Tesco since 1999 and has spent his working life in the international tea trade as taster, buyer, blender and exporter in Kenya, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malawi and India. An impressive CV.
He then kindly tells us how to make the perfect cup of tea. I won't bore you with that bit, I think it's a little unnecessary. Finally in the corner of this side of the box is another label which reads: "Every batch of Tesco tea is carefully blended to give a refreshing full flavour from its base of great African teas. Tesco is passionate about the environment and this box is made from recycled cardboard, please recycle it again..."
The greatest accolade I can give this tea is I only remembered I had purchased Tesco tea in the weekly shop after finishing off my first cup.
The fact as I was drinking it I didn't recall this fact is evidence that it is an all right tea.
I like my tea to have a good strong taste, with not too much of milky edge and to have a full-rounded flavour, without that bitter after taste which can leave you with a slightly dry feeling on the top of your palate.
I found Tesco tea has a good strength without being too overpowering and is a refreshing drink. It looks a little paler than some teas once you have added the milk but luckily this is not reflected in the taste, as it does not seem too milky.
It is not a very indulgent tea - the kind you take a sip from and sit back luxuriously on the sofa in pleasure, but the tea bags make a good every day kind of cup of tea, which quenches the thirst well and does the job, as they say.
I wouldn't purchase this tea regularly as it doesn't come across as quite as high quality as other big brand names, despite Tesco's assurances on the box of its premium credentials. I would however buy it to have in the cupboard for those cups of tea you have on the go when you're not exactly paying too much attention to the tea but are looking for a nice warm drink to quench your thirst. It would also be good 'office tea' if you want to save on the work's coffers and buy some biscuits instead of branded tea.
I am pleasantly surprised with how good Tesco Quality Tea is. It could have gone miserably wrong when I decided to take a gamble on it however it is really quite palatable and a great money saver at around £2.80 for a box of 160 tea bags. However, it won't sway this tea fan away from her branded tea full-time.
Nivea Soft appears to be a very canny buy. It promises to moisturise face, hands and body and so in theory should save you having to fork out for three separate products. But does it work on three very different areas?
Nivea Soft comes in a bottle, tub and tube variety. The product I purchased was in tube form.
The tube is white in colour with a flip top lid. The Nivea logo is emblazoned on the front with 'Soft' written under it. There is an unidentifiable image which forms the backdrop to the tube's label which I guess is aimed at conjuring up thoughts of incredible softness, and it works. Then comes the information this product can be used on face, body and hands. The words 'Refreshingly Soft Moisturising Cream' follow underneath along with the additional information that the product includes Jojoba Oil and Vitamin E.
I bought this product predominantly as a facial moisturiser as I had just run out of my previous one.
I found the Nivea Soft cream to be a lot thicker than usual moisturisers geared at the face so was careful to use only a small amount. The cream is white and quite gloopy and cold to the touch. It needs a good rub in, but it left my face feeling refreshed and thoroughly moisturised. My skin had a pleasing glow to it and looked vibrant and full of life. I was pleased with the effect.
It was only after using this product for a week on my face that I started to notice the negative effects. I started to get a bit of spot breakout around my chin. I am prone to the occasional spot but nothing quite like this and the only change I could pinpoint was the use of Nivea Soft as a facial moisturiser. I decided to continue to use it for a couple more days and the appearance of my skin did not get any better. If anything my skin was starting to look as though it was a bit too moisturised. It had lost its natural glow and looked quite saturated with product. It looked shiny in a sickly, unhealthy way. I was forced to discontinue the use of this product on my face because it was just too intense.
So how did it fair on my body? I found on applying the cream to my legs the consistency was more appropriate for this larger and more durable area of skin. I could use a fair amount to really give my skin a good moisturise. After using for a number of days I found my skin was very soft and free of dry patches and looked healthy. It had even helped to ease a little patch of shaving rash which had been causing me persistent irritation. Again, the cream was cold to my skin and invigorating to use in the morning to wake me up. A success on the body front.
And now for the hands. I have moisturised my hands with this cream by rubbing in the remainder left on my hands after moisturising my body. My hands feel soft and some patches of dryness caused by the cold weather look a little improved. The cream is generic in fragrance and so does not leave a distinctive scent on my hands that I can enjoy throughout the day. Therefore it is not a cream I would buy specifically as a hand moisturiser as I would probably purchase something a little more luxurious and heavily scented.
So that's one out of three then.
Nivea Soft boasts it is an effective moisturiser for face, hands and body but I think I would only use it to moisturise my body and perhaps my hands, with the residue left over. The cream is far too intense to be used on my face and I consider myself to have 'normal' skin and so therefore many people may find they have the same experience. It is a shame as this product could have been a great way to save some pennies.
Johnson's is the leading producer of baby products in the UK and as a parent you feel you are purchasing a premium product when you buy anything carrying the Johnson's logo. Would Johnson's Baby Bath live up to the same high standards though?
Johnson's Baby Bath can be identified from all the other baby baths and body washes produced by Johnson's by its powder blue coloured bottle.
The packaging is altogether very simple.
The Johnson's logo is on the front of the bottle. Underneath is written 'baby bath' in simple, darker blue letters. Under this is the 'no more tears promise' in its customary red tear drop and right at the bottom it states 'mildest ever'.
Turning the bottle around, on the back are more details about the product divided into two clear categories - Best for Baby and Best for You.
Under Best for Baby it reads 'This no more tears formula is as gentle on the eyes as pure water and mild enough to clean a baby's skin without drying it'.
Under Best for You it says 'Mild enough for sensitive skin. Use regularly to gently clean and keep your skin baby soft'.
This baby bath is mild enough for babies, soap free, pH neutral and tested by dermatologists, the label continues.
Then follow the directions for use. For baby it says add one to two squeezes of baby bath product to running water and swirl with hand to mix evenly. For You it reads 'add to running bath water. Swirl with hand to mix evenly'.
Then follows a list of ingredients. The bottle I have contains 200ml of baby bath.
As the label states, this baby bath is multi-purpose as it can be used on both baby and you.
I have only used it to bath my daughter and my experience of how effective this product has been at doing this follows.
I have been using predominantly Johnson's Baby Bath in my daughter's bath water since her birth just over a year ago. We have dabbled with other varieties of Johnson's bath products including bedtime bath which I found very effective but have always returned to this one.
The main draw to this product is its mildness. Whilst the bedtime bath has a lovely lavender fragrance it seemed as a result it would be a little harsher on my daughter's skin. Johnson's baby bath has very little fragrance, and also produces very little froth and foam in the bath so it is the mildest baby bath you can use from my experience, short of using just water alone.
To use I squeeze some of the baby bath into our main bath at the tap end whilst the water is running. I squeeze in the contents for just a couple of seconds. I find you need to give the baby bath a good swill around to produce any kind of bubbles in the water otherwise it tends to sit as a blue coloured splodge on the base of the bath.
The baby bath itself is a runny, almost oily consistency and as mentioned is blue. It has very little scent. There is a sweetness that comes from the bottle which almost reminds me of Ribena but I think this is triggered in my mind somehow by the colour of the baby bath.
I usually use just the product in the bath water to wash my daughter all over, including her hair, but on messier days, especially when she has got more food than usual smeared over her, I will put a small blob of the baby bath onto a sponge and wash her over like this, in addition to the product already in the bath water. With this method you can get quite a good level of foam built up on the sponge and it feels like you are giving your baby a thorough washing.
The baby bath does not appear to sting my daughter's eyes as she has never cried when the bath water drips onto her face. Her skin, though free of any real fragrance after her bath, seems fresh, clean and soft. However, she does still suffer from some dry skin on her knees and elbows. I cannot categorically say this has been caused by the baby bath but the product has certainly not made any moves to ease this dryness for her even if it wasn't the original cause of it.
This is without doubt the mildest baby bath on the market and so is the perfect first baby bath for your child. It can be used well beyond those first few months in a baby's life for the peace of mind it is unlikely to cause any irritation to baby's delicate skin, however as your child does get a little older you may wish to change it for something with more scent and foam to make bath times a little more exciting. All in all though a very good product yet again from Johnson's and one I intend to continue to use for some time to come.