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Indian Prince tea bags
I am fussy about tea, and often don't like the usual default PG Tips, Tetley or supermarket's own standard tea very much. I enjoy some of Twinings' range, and Yorkshire Tea is another favourite, but I do like to have a change now and again, because I tend to get bored of one type of tea after drinking it daily for a couple of months.
The Co-Op's Indian Prince tea bags caught my eye because I had previously tried the English Breakfast tea under the same 'truly irresistible' branding and found it to be very nice. The 'truly irresistible' range is presented in a black box with white text and a photographic image. In this case, the photograph is of a tea plantation. The tea is also Fair Trade, which is definitely a plus point.
I had assumed that the Indian Prince tea was a fairly new item, because of its Fair Trade status and its luxurious image portrayed by the packaging. The Co-Op doesn't offer online shopping, and when I was trying to find a 'photo of this tea for my Dooyoo product request, I happened to stumble upon a Flickr account mainly consisting of Co-Op packing, old and new. I found pictures of boxes of Indian Prince tea dating back to at least 1980, and the packaging suggests it was a premium product then, too; a "fine blend" of teas.
A box of 80 Indian Prince teabags costs £2.52, currently, which is more expensive than some other teas, but not extortionate.
I have brewed this tea both in individual mugs, with one teabag in each mug, and in the proper way, using a teapot, again with one teabag per person. The teabags are round. The infusion time is around 3 minutes for the pot, and 1-2 minutes when made in a mug (with some stirring and squeezing of the teabag to accelerate the process).
I always have a small amount of milk in my tea, and I have seen on a price-comparison website that this tea has been deemed to have "too many tannins to drink without milk".
This blend of tea is not remarkably different in taste from a standard English Breakfast blend (Assam and Ceylon, I believe); there's no obvious difference of ingredients. However, it has an extra-refreshing element, and a full flavour that is far superior to many brands of tea; it is not flat, or disappointing in any way. The tea also has a nice, fresh aroma, which is a very important element. Tea that doesn't smell of anything, or smells slightly of milk, is off-putting to me in the extreme.
I would recommend this tea to anybody. It is not so different from PG Tips or Tetley that it becomes outlandish or unusual, but it has a better flavour and aroma, and is a wonderful everyday blend to serve. The fact that it is Fair Trade is an added bonus; it's nice to know that decisions made over which products to purchase can have a positive effect on people's lives.
I've almost always had instant coffee before now, rather than 'proper' coffee, which is odd, in a way, because I'd never wish to drink instant tea. I'm very fussy about tea, and I've found that the more I've got into coffee, the more fussy I have been about what brand of coffee it is. However, I've never really branched out into the realm of 'real coffee', with its unfamiliar range of equipment and rules of preparation.
I saw the Lyons 'fresh ground coffee in one-cup bags' in my local Waitrose. I had read a review of Sainsbury's own 'coffee bags' the week before, and had wanted to try them. Lyons seemed like a good alternative, and they're a well-known brand in terms of cakes and so forth. I felt like it was an extravagance to buy them, as they were priced at around £2.19 and I wasn't sure how many coffee bags would be contained therein.
I chose the 'medium blend' variety.
When I got home and opened the box, I found that the coffee bags were in individual foil wrappers, for freshness. I felt a bit bad about the somewhat excessive packaging, especially because the wrappers are not recyclable, but I can understand that they are necessary to retain the freshness of the coffee. You must take care when tearing the foil sachet; on one occasion I was a little heavy-handed and ended up ripping the coffee bag itself.
The instructions state that one bag should be used per mug, and that the bag should be allowed to infuse for 3 to 5 minutes in order to achieve the optimum flavour. I used boiling water, rather than letting it cool at all. After 3 minutes was up, I decided to remove the coffee bag, as I thought a 5 minute duration might lead to a too-strong drink for my tastes. I then added milk and sugar.
The aroma of the drink was very much like I've experienced with 'proper coffee' - I think the term I'm looking for is filter coffee. It was quite a rich scent with an almost tobacco-ish edge, but not in an unpleasant way. The flavour was very smooth and pleasant, with none of the nasty 'burnt' element that can occur in some brands of instant coffee. The taste was a bit too mild for me, and so I increased the brewing time to 5 minutes with subsequent mugs of coffee.
At the bottom of the mug, there was a slightly sludgy sediment, which was not pleasant to drink. However, it was easily rinsed out, and didn't present a problem.
I enjoyed the coffee from the bags so much that I purchased a second box. These coffee bags are marketed from a convenience point of view; you can easily take them to workplaces, holidays etc., because of the individual wrappers. It is a fast way of enjoying 'real' coffee.
In the future, I might try to steer towards proper coffee made by the proper method, with all the paraphernalia that entails, because I do think the coffee bags are somewhat expensive. However, I found them to be a nice treat, and would certainly recommend that people try them.
Plain chocolate digestives used to be my favourite type of biscuit, but I had become fairly disenchanted with them recently, often finding them disappointing. When I was in Waitrose, I was deliberating in the biscuit aisle as usual - there is almost too much choice available in supermarkets, and it always takes me ages to decide which type of biscuits I feel like - when I decided to try the Essentials digestives, reasonably priced at £1.08 for a 400g packet, which is considerably cheaper than the branded equivalent.
The 'Essentials' range is Waitrose's answer to the Tesco Value or Sainsbury's Basics type of line, and I have found the products, whilst not nearly as cheap as Tesco Value etc., to be of very good quality.
The biscuits are presented in a white plastic packet, with an illustration of the biscuits, and the product name in an elegant typeface. It is worth mentoning that the biscuits are suitable for vegetarians. Digestive biscuits often used to contain gelatine, but it seems like that is no longer a common ingredient.
Although if I am eating chocolate on its own, I much prefer milk chocolate, on digestive biscuits I feel that plain chocolate is much more enjoyable, as milk chocolate on top of a sweet biscuit can be slightly cloying.
I tried the first biscuit alongside a cup of tea, as I feel that is the perfect combination. I was very pleased with the texture and taste of the biscuit. It was nicely crunchy. I have had some digestive biscuits that taste stale as soon as they come out of the packet. The flavour was much nicer than any digestive biscuit that I have had for years. There was a nice malty, complex taste to it - not too sweet, and not too salty. The chocolate was also good quality.
The packet of biscuits disappeared rather quickly, because they were so nice. When I tried a different brand afterwards, thinking that perhaps all digestives were this nice and I had been under a misapprehension, I was disappointed - they were nowhere near as nice as the Waitrose Essentials type. I will definitely buy these again, and I feel that they are are far superior to any other brand I have tried!
In the past couple of years, I have started wondering about the safety of certain substances found in toiletries and cosmetics. I must admit I still use normal moisturisers and shower gels containing parabens and sodium laureth sulphate, etc, a lot of the time, because I've not really been able to find products that are as nice to use, and still affordable, that are entirely 'natural'.
I bought some Balm Balm from LoveLula.com, a website that sells a large range of organic/natural beauty products. I had read a lot of praise for the product, with people talking about its multiple uses on dry skin anywhere on the body, and even as a hair gloss. Balm Balm is described as a face balm, which reassured me that it would be suitable for use as a moisturiser. I thought it might make a good night cream, as it doesn't contain an SPF, but had very nourishing-sounding ingredients. I like Rose and Geranium scents, which informed my choice as to the variety I bought.
I received my Balm Balm in its pretty, pink, tasteful box (other varieties come in different coloured boxes). Inside the box was a pink and white tube, with a twist-on white cap. The packaging is understated, and very pleasant.
The balm is quite difficult to squeeze from the tube, because it has a thick consistency. It comes out in a very thin line, but you don't need much. Initially it has a rather grainy texture; you have to warm it up in your hands so that the oils melt, and then it can be easily spread onto the skin.
I thought that the balm contained both rose and geranium oils, but in fact it contains a 'rose geranium' oil, which explains why it smells of geranium, rather than rose!
The ingredients are as follows: butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), helianthus annuus (sunflower oil), pelargonum graveolens (rose geranium essential oil), cera alba (beeswax), calendula officinalis (calendula oil), simmondsia chinensis (jojoba oil)
I put the product on my face overnight, hoping that all the natural ingredients would be good for my skin. However, I developed a slight bumpy rash on my jawline. It wasn't too unsightly, but it felt lumpy, and took a few weeks to go away. Evidently, this didn't agree with my facial skin, despite being a face balm. On other areas of my body, it seemed to be fine, although not as good as a normal body butter or hand cream.
The balm costs £6.15 for 30ml. You're supposed to use it within six months of opening, but I've found that it's still all right after about 18 months (I hasten to add that I had the reaction to it when it was brand new!).
I feel that this balm is somewhat over-rated, and it really did not live up to my expectations. I suppose that the unscented variety may have been more suitable for me, but I don't think I'll be buying it in any form again.
Vaseline is a very familiar product, and it has a number of different uses. The inventor of Vaseline allegedly ate a spoonful of it every day, but that is certainly not a use I would recommend for anyone, as it's a petroleum by-product, and there's nothing nutritious or beneficial about consuming those!
I mainly use Vaseline when I have an area of very dry skin that moisturiser can't seem to heal. That sort of dry skin occasionally develops around my nose. The last time I experienced it, I realised that my pot of Vaseline was a couple of years old, and shouldn't, ideally, be used any more. I needed to purchase a replacement, and decided to buy a small tin of it, because I don't use much, and it doesn't keep forever.
I don't use Vaseline on my lips, usually, partly because it's too greasy, and also because I do not like applying lip balm with my fingers. I prefer a lipstick shaped stick of balm, because it's more convenient.
For a change, I thought I'd buy the Aloe Vera variety, as that has skin-calming and nourishing properties. It's presented in a half-green, half-white, rather stylish looking tin, and it is priced at a reasonable £1.32 from Boots.
The Vaseline isn't sealed against prying fingers, but it has a flat, smooth surface, and it will be apparent if it has been touched by anyone else. The tin is easy to prise open.
The aloe-vera Vaseline treated my dry skin as usual Vaseline does, but I didn't feel the aloe-vera provided any further benefit, and I really didn't like the smell of it. It smells, to me, like a cheap car air-freshener - artificial and unpleasant - and having it around my nose area wasn't terribly pleasant for me!
I'll go back to standard Vaseline next time, or try one of the other varieties ('rosy' or cocoa butter).
Mum is a brand of deodorant that's been around for a long time; apparently, in fact, it was the first commercial brand of deodorant, developed in the US in the 1880s. The scent range hasn't changed for years and years, seemingly. Fresh Pink always seems to have been available, and it tends to be the one scent from the brand that is stocked in small chemist's, and supermarkets with a small range of deodorants.
I don't usually buy Mum, but I decided to purchase it because I needed a deodorant, there wasn't a great deal of choice in the shop, and I also had a slight nostalgic impulse to buy it, as I remembered using it many years ago. It's also very good value; it only cost me £1.
The Mum roll-on bottle is the type with the roller at the top; in recent years, brands such as Dove and Sure have begun to produce an 'upside-down' bottle, so that it's easier to get the last bit of the product out. To recreate that convenience, the Mum bottle could be stored upside down when it's nearly empty, which is not too much of an inconvenience. The Mum bottle is also glass, which is unusual now. It's completely transparent, so you can see how much is left. I haven't yet finished the bottle, so I am not yet sure if it is recyclable, as I've not checked yet. It has a pink plastic lid, and I am not sure what the rollerball is made from; it actually feels very hard and slightly uncomfortable on the skin. I doubt that is glass, though.
The scent is not really my favourite; it certainly is a 'pink' smell, and is quite floral and quite sweet, with a powdery element to it. It's not a bad fragrance, and it's not very obstrusive, so it shouldn't interfere with any perfume you're wearing. It doesn't irritate the underarms. It is not quick to dry, but it doesn't take too long; I haven't ended up with any marks on my clothes since using it.
I don't think it's the most powerful anti-perspirant out there, because I do sometimes feel it's stopping working by the end of the day. It does do what it is designed to do, however.
I wouldn't buy it again unless I need a deodorant in a hurry, because I don't really like the scent, it's heavy because of the glass bottle, the ball feels quite uncomfortable, and it's not the most effective antiperspirant that I have used. I'm pleased that it doesn't irritate or dry out my underarm skin, however.
Soap & Glory Make Yourself Youthful serum is available from Boots, Harvey Nichols and Asos online. Its usual price is £13 for 46ml, but I managed to get it for around half price - it was around a year ago, so I can't quite remember!
Serums are a relatively new addition to the skincare market, I think, having only been around for the last few years. I'm not sure if they're completely essential, or a bit of a gimmick, but I remain open-minded.
The Make Yourself Youthful serum is presented in a box, printed with a nice 1950s photograph of a glamorous woman, with pink accents, as is the signature style of the Soap & Glory range. The container itself is a nice, white plastic pump with a lid. It's easy to open, and the bottle has a nice, subtle appearance that would suit anyone's dressing-table. I think a pump is a good way of dispensing a serum, because it avoids wastage from getting too much out, and also prevents the remainder of the product becoming contaminated with anything.
The serum itself is a white, mainly opaque liquid, of a medium consistency; not thin, not especially thick. You need slightly more than a pea-size of the product to cover your face, and you can also apply it to your neck, and your body and your hands, if they need a bit of extra moisture and protection, according to the packaging.
The first thing that I noticed about the serum is that it smells lovely; it's quite a sweet scent, and it's a sort of citrus-mixed-with-cake fragrance. It's not a sharp, acidic orange. It reminds me of the Club orange cake bars that you can buy, if you've ever tried those. It's refreshing, yet comforting. The serum is easy to spread over the skin, as it glides nicely (probably due to a silicon derivative) and it absorbs quickly. It doesn't sting my face, at all. The serum doesn't pill or rub off if you put too much on, and that is definitely a positive for me, as I absolutely hate using moisturisers and creams that do that! Moisturiser goes on top of it very well, and foundation on top of that, with no problems.
I don't know if the serum really makes your skin look younger over time; I didn't really notice a difference. I did feel it was nice for my skin, but I've moved on to the Protect & Perfect serum from the No.7 range now, as that's sort of scientifically proven to make a difference. I also wonder if serums really are necessary, as surely they stop you from absorbing moisturiser. Having said that, it's debateable whether we should want to absorb moisturisers that have parabens and such in them (as does this serum).
In conclusion, I found this serum really nice to use, and felt that it helped moisturise my skin, but I'm not entirely sure that it is an effective skincare product in terms of anti-aging, etc. It smells absolutely lovely, though, and I think it would be suitable for all skin types, because it's very gentle and doesn't sting. I'm going to give it four stars!
Although I have quite dry skin, I do have some blocked pores. In addition, it is good practice to exfoliate your facial skin at least once per week in your 20s, according to a magazine I read a few years ago. Those with very sensitive skin should probably avoid rough exfoliants, however. I have used several brands of exfoliator over the years, from the traditional Aapri to more recently introduced products, inncluding Scrub Your Nose In It by Soap & Glory. I have used several Soap & Glory products, as I think a lot of people have; they've been a very popular brand over the last few years. I have been especially pleased with the bodycare range, but I have bought skincare products from them too.
Scrub Your Nose In It has the usual Soap & Glory combination of pink packaging and a punful name, and it is available from Boots for £7.40 for 125ml. You can also purchase the range from Asos online and Harvey Nichols. The packaging looks very jolly, and matches well with other Soap & Glory products, as you'd expect.
I use the product a couple of times a week in the shower; I find it too messy to use outside the shower. The product is easily squeezed out of the flip-top tube, and it is pleasantly thick. It smells slightly minty and menthol-ish. You can apply it over your face and leave it for three minutes to use it as a mask (it contains clay, like many pore-unclogging formulas), but I haven't found that especially beneficial, so I usually just scrub in circular motions over my nose, cheeks, chin and forehead, being careful to avoid getting it in my eyes. It doesn't irritate my skin, despite being pleasantly grainy. I am not left with dry skin after using it, either. The menthol/mint makes it feel cooling and refreshing.
My skin does feel quite smooth after using this exfoliator, but it doesn't seem to be efficient in unblocking or minimising pores. It may work to a better extent on other skin types. I will probably choose a different facial scrub next time I need to purchase one, but I certainly don't mind using this one in the meantime.
I received a sample tube of No.7 Lift & Luminate Day Cream with a No.7 free gift I received after spending £22 on No.7 products, a couple of months ago. I very much enjoy the No.7 gift sets, because they give you a good opportunity to try out quite a few products each time, and the sample sizes are generous, so you get enough usage of each item to decide whether it's something you'd like to buy, or not.
The No.7 Lift & Luminate Day Cream contains SPF 15, which is very important to me in a daytime moisturiser, as it offers protection from sun damage.
The sample I received is in a tube, but it seems as though if you purchase the day cream, it's contained in a pot.
The cream is thicker than a lotion, but not as thick in texture as some moisturisers I've used. A little goes a long way; I tend to put a dot in each area of my face and then rub it in using upward circular motions, as the tube suggests. The 'lumination' effect is immediately apparent; there's a pearlescent quality to the moisturiser, which makes your skin look bright, if slightly shimmery or shiny. I tried putting quite a bit of the moisturiser on my face, so I could test it for the dreaded 'pilling' phenomenon, whereby moisturiser rubs off into eraser-rubbing type particles and looks and feels dreadful. I am happy to report that the moisturiser didn't disintegrate into 'bits', even when a lot was applied, so it passed the test!
I didn't really feel that the cream was rich enough for my dryish skin, and I didn't notice any anti-aging effects. The cream has a slight scent to it, but nothing obtrusive. I found that the cream did make an acceptable base for foundation, when I used my Bourjois 10-Hour Sleep Effect foundation. However, when I used my Max Factor Colour Adapt foundation, it didn't seem to settle well on top of the Lift & Luminate cream, and the foundation didn't seem to sit well or last long on my face.
I think the 'luminous' effect created by the moisturiser doesn't really blend well with foundation, and is perhaps best aimed at people who wear moisturiser but not foundation. It enhances the appearance of the skin on its own, to an extent. I have used a moisturiser by Sanctuary before which had a very similar 'pearlescent' quality; I think it created a better effect, really, and for a lower price. I think it's been rebranded since I last purchased it, but I am fairly sure what I used is now the Sanctuary Illuminating Moisture Lotion SPF 15. It's available in a 75ml tube for £13.27 (actually currently on offer from Boots for around £10), whereas No.7 Lift & Luminate costs £21.00 for a 50ml pot. I'd suggest that the Sanctuary product is the better option, even though I'm a very big fan of some No.7 products.
This moisturiser is okay, and I'll certainly use the rest of my sample tube, but I won't be buying it. It may be good for people who don't wear foundation but like their skin to look subtly enhanced, and perhaps it is more suitable for those with normal skin, whereas mine is slightly on the dry side. Even then, I would probably encourage people to try the Sanctuary product first, especially as it's available in a small sample tube for around £2.50, which makes a handy trial.
I always have to use medicated shampoo to keep my scalp healthy, which is rather frustrating; I feel I miss out on trying all the nice fancy new shampoos! I don't really like Head & Shoulders and the similar own-brand supermarket anti-dandruff shampoos because they often either don't work very well, or leave my hair not looking as clean or grease-free as I would expect, directly after washing.
I quite like the idea of 'natural' hair and bodycare products, avoiding sodium laureth sulphate and parabens and so forth - mainly because my mum has told me that those substances might be harmful or irritating to the skin. I tried a 'natural' anti-dandruff shampoo before this one, that left my hair very clean, but smelling awfully of old tyres, because of the sulphur in it which is apparently good for one's scalp.
Optima Australian Organic Tea Tree Oil Anti-Dandruff Shampoo (what a name!) is 'natural' in terms of not containing any parabens or sodium laureth sulphate, and its ingredients are largely 'organic' (the word organic used in this context annoys me slightly, as it just means 'containing carbon' to me). I found it in Holland & Barrett and decided to try it. Its active ingredient is piroctone olamine, rather than the usual anti-fungal used in medicated shampoos: the rather more familiar zinc pyrithone.
The shampoo comes in a green plastic bottle, which is itself in a cardboard box, which is slightly excessive in terms of packaging. The bottle is easily squeezable (I have had some shampoo bottles which are almost impossible to squeeze) and the cap is easily flipped even with wet hands. The shampoo is a transparent, lime green, viscous liquid, and despite the lack of sodium laureth sulphate, a foaming agent, it lathers very nicely. It smells of tea tree oil, which is not really my favourite scent, but it is a clean scent, and it does not linger on your hair for long after rinsing, in my experience. Tea tree oil itself has anti-fungal and other antiseptic qualities, so perhaps this adds to the effectiveness of the shampoo, although I am unsure.
After using this shampoo my scalp feels healthy and my hair looks very nice and clean. My hair needs washing every day and can sometimes look dirty quite quickly, but this shampoo keeps it looking clean for over 24 hours at times, which is great.
Because you only need a small amount of the Optima shampoo for each wash, I find that a bottle lasts me a couple of months with daily use. I've only seen it for sale in Holland & Barrett, and then sometimes only in the larger branches. It's available for £4.75 for a 250ml bottle, currently, and there are frequent offers enabling you to save money on multiple purchases.
If you're fortunate enough not to require medicated shampoo, the Optima Australian Organic Tea Tree range also comprises a non-medicated version.
I would definitely recommend this shampoo to anyone who likes the tea tree oil scent, 'natural' products, has hair that needs frequent washes, or to anyone who is looking to try a new medicated shampoo.
I have quite sensitive skin on my hands, which are prone to extreme dryness, which can lead to cracking and bleeding, especially in winter. That's not especially pleasant, so I try to avoid any products that exacerbate the problem. Some liquid soaps are too harsh for my skin. I also avoid any anti-bacterial soaps, because the act of washing your hands properly with soap and water removes bacteria and other pathogens faitly effectively; they are washed down the drain. There's no need to kill them using an anti-bacterial soap in that situation, and it may be that the overuse of anti-bacterial products could lead to harmful bacteria becoming resistant to some disinfectant substances, which would not be good at all!
Pears handwash comes in an elegant bottle, with an oval, curved area and a sturdier base. It is transparent, and displays the amber liquid inside it. The only decoration of the bottle is in black, matching the pump at the top, so it has a rather tasteful, understated appearance. It's narrow enough to perch on small sinks.
The bottle is easy to open. Often I have difficulty in getting the pumps on bottles such as this to work, but the Pears handwash always seem to open with twisting the pump in the required direction just once.
The pump dispenses a generous amount of handwash, so you may wish to avoid wastage by only pressing the pump gently. The handwash is a fairly viscous, thick liquid, which lathers easily and has a really lovely scent. I can't remember what the Pears bar-soap smells like, but I remember not liking it particularly. The handwash, however, smells sweet and very pleasant. I think it smells a little bit like Chanel No.5 - sort of aldehylic! That could be my imagination running away with me, though I'd be interested to hear if others agree. The scent doesn't really linger on the hands, but that's not really something you want from a hand soap anyway.
I wash my hands for around 20 seconds, ensuring that I clean the palms and backs of my hands, fingertips, between fingers and under nails (I have short nails so scrubbing them into the other hand's palm with lots of lather tends to help), and then rinse properly and dry. My hands do get a bit dry unless I use hand cream overnight, but that's not the fault of the handwash. I've had some very expensive hand washes cause bad reactions on my skin before; and this one doesn't!
Pears Handwash costs £1.90 for a 237ml container, and is available from Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose.
Boots Natural Collection make-up products are one of the most affordable cosmetic ranges available, with no product retailing over £2 (not applicable to body care range of the same name), and frequent 3 items for £5 promotions.
I have been pleased with some of the items under the brand, including blusher, lip-gloss, powder, nail varnish and even mascara, and somewhat disappointed with other products; their lipsticks aren't fantastic, and the eye-pencils rather too smudgy at times.
I purchased the Duo Eyeshadow, at an affordable £1.99, in the Plum/Blossom variety, which provides an equal amount of pale, delicate pink eyeshadow, and a pleasant purple - very much a plum shade, in fact, rather than lilac or violet. I bought it quite a while ago, and the compact then had a small indented channel between the eyeshadows, with an applicator provided. This has now been removed, owing to a slight packaging redesign. Although applicators provided with eyeshadows aren't the best, and they often need replacing after a while, I find it useful to have a little area within the packaging to keep an applicator; I don't always use make-up brushes; just little foam applicators are usually enough for my purposes.
I was very pleasantly surprised when I used the eyeshadow.
Both shades proved easy to apply to my eyelids. The Blossom shade was a very subtle light pink and didn't look at all jarring, and the Plum shade was excellent to use in the eyelid crease, or towards the outer edges of the eyelids, providing a very flattering look. The powder felt very soft and smooth. The colours seem to suit me very well, and I feel that they'd flatter anyone. The result was unobtrusive and fairly natural. I applied it over a grey, brown or black pencil eyeliner and then added black liquid eyeliner to the upper lid, and mascara, afterwards.
I decided to try the eyeshadows in other colours, and bought the Frost/Aqua Shimmer duo. This had a sparkly quality to it, but was similarly good quality. The attributes of make-up can vary by shade, with texture differing along with different coloured ingredients, but the shades I have tried seem fairly consistent. I also tried the Rosemary/Thyme duo a few years back, but felt that the colour was a bit too bright-green for me.
The packaging is very simple and neat; it has a white casing, and a transparent flip-hinged lid. The product seems quite durable, with none of the eyeshadows becoming unseated, and a generous amount of eyeshadow is provided. The staying power of the eyeshadow is good, certainly for the matte shades; there's no creasing, and it remains on the eyelid for around eight hours, I would estimate.
I actually found this product a lot better than a No.7 eyeshadow compact, despite that being Boots' premium brand, and a few times more expensive; although this may vary by shade, I'm reluctant to buy another No.7 eyeshadow knowing that it may be a pricey disappointment. The Natural Collection Duo outranks the No.7 one I tried in terms of pigmentation and the transference of enough colour to one's skin.
I would like to see a bigger range of Duo Eyeshadows in the Natural Collection line; there is no blue option, for example, and the choice is a bit limited. However, it's a really great find for a very reasonable price. It's certainly worth a try. I've also posted this review on Ciao.
I have had the Sony Ericsson Z520i handset for 5 years now, although I haven't used it constantly over that time for reasons I will explain later. I have recently been using it again, and I have found that several handsets of this model number are still available on eBay; therefore, it seems to be worth reviewing, despite its age.
I bought the Z520i for £100 from O2 as a Pay & Go handset; it was to replace my Nokia 3310 which had begun to show its age. Of course, the Z520i would now be available for a much cheaper price, as any handsets for sale are likely to be second-hand, and its features are somewhat dated.
The phone is a 2G flip-phone with changeable covers, an unusual 'loop' shape aerial, external and internal colour displays, a camera, MP3 ringtone capability, an MP3 and MIDI player, games, themes, WAP mobile internet, and the possibility of downloading more themes and games. It also has Bluetooth, infra-red, customisable 'light effects' on the keypad, MMS (multi-media messaging), and it is Java enabled, meaning that Java applications and games will run on it. It also has a port from which it can be connected to a PC via USB, but I never used that feature, because the lead was nor supplied, and at the time I had a laptop with an infra-red data port, so the devices communicated using that medium. Infra-red ports no longer seem to be a commonly-included function on laptops or mobile phones, as Bluetooth is rather superior, not requiring line-of-sight positioning, etc.
I chose this handset because Sony Ericsson have a good name for quality, and also because it had so many features for a relatively small price at the time (late 2005). As a successor to my trusty and classic but dated Nokia 3310, itself purchased for £100 four years previously, the Z520i impressed me greatly with its colour screen, animated backgrounds, pretty themes and the ability to use MP3, wav and MIDI ringtones and alarm tones. My skill in inputting monophonic ringtones using the keypad of my Nokia suddenly seemed obsolete, but I was able to use ringtones that were less 'beepy' and far easier on the ear.
The flip mechanism is active, meaning that you can set the phone to answer an incoming call when you open it up. I found this feature very handy, especially because the external screen displays your caller's name (and picture if you so wish) so you're able to see who is calling.
My Z520i is white in general (not counting the changeable external covers) and the keys are backlit in a lovely blue colour, making it very clear and easy to use. Being a flip phone gives the keypad more room, so the keys are nicely-sized. The directional navigation key makes it easy to find your way through the menus, and the user interface is very intuitive and well-designed, so even if you're not used to SE handsets, you'll learn how to use it in no time.
As I had previously been limited to SIM capacity in terms of contacts and text messages, I was very pleased that I was able to store more SMS - I think it lets you keep around 100 depending what's in the memory. The contacts list enables you to list a mobile number, home number, email address, fax number and 'other number' for each contact, which is very handy. You can also input their birthday and receive a reminder on that day each year, which is rather a nice feature. A photo taken with the camera or picture file added to the device in any other way can form the contact's image, so you can see your friend's face on the display when they call or text you.
You can also customise the phone so that different callers have different ringtones and even different light patterns on the keypad, which lights up in a pretty, eye-catching way when a call or message comes through. I find that very useful when it is on silent mode, though I didn't bother assigning different light patterns to different contacts, as that seemed somewhat gimmicky.
The loop aerial was perfect for adding phone charms, which could be threaded around it.
You can switch from different sets of settings by using Profiles, which detail which ring tone you'd like to use in certain situations, and which volume of ringtone, so if you're at work you could have it on the Office profile with a more sedate ringtone. The phone also has a vibrate alert function.
The handset has the usual alarm/organiser features, meaning that you can set reminders and alarms. There's no recurrent alarm, so you'd have to set it each night, but that's not really a huge inconvenience. You can set any of your sound files to wake you up.
The camera is VGA - 0.3 megapixels - meaning that the photos taken aren't great, but they're certainly good enough for picture messaging or as a bit of fun. I found that the zoom worked really well so that the camera was very good at taking pictures of things on computer screens, or writing/drawing on paper. There is even a video function (with sound) but the videos are of such poor quality as to be somewhat pointless.
The MP3 player function wasn't very useful as there's no expandable memory, and no headset was provided, but it was still nice having MP3 capability for ringtones and so forth.
The WAP internet was fairly slow, and only very cut-down versions of websites appeared - far more cut-down than you'd see on today's phones. However, that made it extremely cheap in terms of data usage, and it is still useful for checking rail times and reading BBC News on the go.
The back of the handset is easy to remove, and access to the battery is therefore very easy. Removing the SIM card is slightly fiddly, which can lead one to worry that the card may become damaged in the process.
The only drawback of the handset I found is that it wasn't easy to tell if you had a message unless you were watching the phone when it came through; the little envelope logo on the standby mode of the external screen was very tricky to see, as was the missed call icon. Seperate LED lights probably would have been better to indicate them. The clock was also very difficult to see. Pressing the volume or camera button on the side of the phone is enough to 'wake up' the external display, so you can easily see the time, and whether any calls or messages have come through.
An issue I had with the handset, because it was on O2 Pay & Go, was that after I'd sent a message, I would get an O2 message a short while afterwards, stating my balance. This wouldn't appear on the external screen because it was not a standard SMS, and it would also stop any further text messages from coming through until I opened the handset up and got rid of the balance-message. This proved a real nuisance after a while, if I had not noticed the balance-message coming through, and led me to receive a lot of text messages quite a long while after they were sent. This was not necessarily a problem with the handset, rather with the O2 programming on the handset.
The handset itself was pretty robust, with the keys being protected from being pressed by the nature of the flip phone's design. The thin plasticky cover over the internal screen area did begin to come off - it wasn't a protective screen, but an integral part of the phone. This looked a bit scruffy. However, the reason I had to stop using it was that it developed a fault; it would 'crash' and freeze, and often I wouldn't notice, as it didn't appear any different, although the hard-to-see external clock would often be stopped. It could only be revived by removing and replacing the battery, and it began to crash a couple of times a week, rendering it unreliable, so I purchased a K800i second-hand as a replacement. That has now broken so I have been using the Z520i as a stop-gap before buying a new phone, which reminded me what a nice handset it was to use - I especially like the blue backlighting, and flip design, protecting the keys - I think it's a shame that flip-phones seem to have gone out of fashion. I had really missed the big buttons, after constantly pressing the wrong keys on the K800i.
This handset will take a lot of pictures of the inside of your bag/pocket because of the side camera button, but that's not the end of the world!
In conclusion, if you have an opportunity to buy a Z520i that's still in working condition, for a very cheap price, consider it. I wouldn't pay much for one because I expect the crashing might develop in most handsets of this model, and that the screen area is likely to be peeling off in most handsets, too. However, it's a really nicely designed compact little phone.
I have also posted this review on Ciao.
I don't usually spend very much on blusher, as I find that cheap brands such as Boots Natural Collection do the trick perfectly well. I have to admit that I decided to buy this because Boots were offering a free gift of Max Factor samples when a certain amount of money was spent on Max Factor products. I needed a new blusher and mascara, so I thought I would buy them from the brand and then receive the lovely free gift, too; I've always found products from the range to be very good.
I purchased the Flawless Perfection Blusher in Classic Rose 220, which seemed to be a nice, healthy, natural pink to enliven my pale complexion. The blusher is arranged in a square, which is set into a compact with a small brush. There is a transparent hinged lid, with the brand name written onto it in gold. More information about the product is displayed on the sticker on the back of the compact. It looks very smart, and the letters haven't worn off yet, although I expect they might with continued wear and tear.
I like having applicators supplied with make up products. I know they're never of a brilliant quality, but I find it convenient having them within the compact. The brush supplied isn't terribly good, simply because it's too small, so it can lead to obvious stripes of blusher on your cheeks unless you're careful.
The blusher is easily loaded onto the brush, and easily transferred to the skin, without any crumbling. I apply it after foundation and powder. The rosy effect it gives is very nice; there is a slight shimmer to it, which is certainly not glittery or shiny, but gives a highlighted impression on the cheeks, which is very flattering. If you find that the effect is too noticeable, it can be toned down with face powder, like all blushers.The colour I purchased looks very natural and healthy, and I have been complimented on it. It seems very gentle on the skin and has not caused me any irritation.
Blusher never stays that long on the skin, in my experience, but this seems to have a few hours' wear, which is good.
The square tray in which the pressed blusher is set has come away from the compact, but that isn't a big problem for me; it still stays put, and I could reattach it with a sticky-fixer or Blu-tak if I wanted to.
There's plenty of product in the compact, so I am hoping that this will last me a good few months. I am very pleased with it. It cost me £6.99 from Boots, but there are often 3 for 2 type deals, or vouchers.
I received Protect & Perfect Hand Cream, in a sample size, with a No.7 free gift pack, after purchasing a couple of items. I do enjoy trying No.7 products; they're often rather too expensive for me to afford the full-size products.
My hands usually seem to suffer from dry, sore skin, especially during the winter, so I'm often interested in trying new hand creams to find a miracle cure that will make my hands comfortable and presentable again!
When I applied the Protect & Perfect hand cream, I found that it was absorbed by my skin quickly, which is certainly an advantage; some hand lotions stay on the surface of your skin for a long time, making your hands greasy, which leads to difficulty in daily tasks such as typing, cleaning, and so on. This hand cream also has a pleasant but unobtrusive smell, and instantly seemed to have improved the appearance of my chapped hands to an extent.
I found using the Protect & Perfect hand cream a luxurious experience. When I looked up the retail price of a full tube, I found that it costs £10.50 for 75ml, so it certainly is a luxury product rather than an everyday one! The product description claims that the cream will reduce fine lines after 2 weeks' use. I don't really have too many lines on my hands yet, so I am not sure whether it is effective in that way, or not.
Using this cream overnight for a couple of weeks helped keep my hands hydrated and looking healthier. It's one of the nicest hand creams that I have used, but I would never buy it, because it's simply too expensive; the Nivea Q10 hand cream is also fairly pricey, but an affordable equivalent of this product, and the one I usually choose to buy.