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Siuz

Siuz
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Member since: 19.07.2008

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    • More +
      10.09.2008 23:28
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      Not shabby chic, just plain old shabby

      Some friends were getting hitched in Northop in Flintshire, and although we're not a million miles away, we decided that we'd book a hotel for the night so that we didn't need to bother to drive (and also have a couple of celebratory drinks...).

      If you've ever tried to book a hotel in this area, then you'll know that they're not exactly overrun with choice. We didn't want to spend too much, given that we'd be pretty much dumping our bags, going to the wedding, then crashing out. Just a clean room for the night with good shower facilities would be fine.

      I booked the hotel via Late Rooms after skim reading the reviews on Trip Advisor (a fantastic website). The reviews were lukewarm, but I figured it was a step up from the local Travelodge. It was about £50 for the Travelodge for room only, but about £75 for the 'nicer' hotel - and with breakfast to boot too.

      The hotel itself is located on pretty nice spacious grounds - quite pretty surroundings for a wedding, I thought (although the wedding that we were attending wasn't held there). The drive in is quite pleasant... and the car park is free. A good thing. I hate it when you have to pay to park at a hotel.

      After the pretty views of the grounds, my first impressions of the hotel were... um, very average. This is not a grand hotel (it's 3*, incidently). It looked a bit on the run down side. A little bit shabby, but not 'shabby chic', sadly.

      As we entered the main entrance, we found that we couldn't move any further. There was a bridal party having their photos taken on the staircase! Unfortunately, there aren't any alternative routes to reception, so we waited patiently until the wedding party had dissipated a little to allow us room to slink through. Not that I was bothered - I love weddings!

      The check in process was easy enough and the receptionist was very friendly and polite, giving a warm welcome. We were given our key card and we went up to our allocated room.

      From reading some reviews, I think that some of the rooms had been renovated and others hadn't. Seeing the wedding party dashed my hopes of getting a decent room. I was sure that the wedding guests would get the best, newest rooms...

      This was confirmed when I opened the door. Shabby. It was decorated in 'country hall hotel' style, but it looked like the décor had seen better far days. For example, the carpet looked worn; there were marks on the walls, everywhere looked like it needed a damn good clean. The bathroom also looked the same - a bit grubby looking. I noted the smears on the mirror... Hmm, I knew looking at it that I'd wait until I got home for a shower.

      Fortunately, because of the wedding, I didn't need to spend too long in the room, basically just crashing and then waking up in the morning and getting ready.

      In fairness, the restaurant area where you have breakfast is nice... airy, bright.... this is a new addition to the rest of the old hotel (which actually dates back to 1872). Service was very average and some waitresses seemed to lack experience. If you're veggie, don't expect any 'special' treatment (me: 'Can you do a vegetarian cooked breakfast?' Waitress (after checking with chef): 'no'. Me: 'right'.). Then, I noticed that there was a table with silver tray thingys on. Ah, that'd be breakfast then. Coffee and toast is brought out to your table, but most of the cooked breakfast options are offered as buffet-style. In the end, I had scrambled egg and toast with beans.

      Checking out was a smooth and painless process, but by then, I couldn't wait to get out to the fresh air. Partly to do with the after-effects of booze, but also to do with the gloominess and 'oldness' of the place.

      I was pleased to get in the car and leave.

      In fairness, my opinion of the hotel might've been different if I'd stayed in one of the better rooms. However, all in all, I would say this is one to avoid.

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      • Rimmel French Manicure / Make Up / 24 Readings / 24 Ratings
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        09.09.2008 00:15
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        Average to just above average nail varnish

        Nowadays you can buy nail varnishes in any colour that you can possibly imagine. Every brand seems to offer a whole plethora of different colours... from subtle feminine shades through to fun, funky neon brights.

        I, myself, quite like to try different colours, but I do tend to limit these to my toes as they're not so easy to wear on your fingers. If you have long-ish nails like mine, heavily painted talons can look a bit garish. Not a look that I try to foster!

        One look that is classic and easy to wear is the French manicure. They can give your hands a touch of elegance, and is an appropriate look for both the office and for nights out (and everything in between). Or, for a more natural look, a coat or two of pale polish - without the white tips - also gives a nice clean look to finger nails.

        ... Which leads me onto the subject matter of my review: Rimmel French Manicure with LYCRA® + Minerals... I have this in French Ivory (433).

        I apply it in three strokes (middle, side, side). It goes on smoothly and doesn't take long to dry. I normally apply two coats, irrespective of whether I'm painting the tips white or not. Sometimes I will add a clear coat of varnish on top too for protection and extra shine.

        Once my handiwork is done, I'm always pleased that I bothered making the effort. Pretty fingers for very little work! That's one great thing about pale polishes - they're very easy to apply - you don't have to be so careful, compared with, say, deep red. (unless of course, you want the white tips.... if you want these, your work suddenly becomes somewhat more fiddly). French Ivory is a nice, glossy pale pink colour - quite translucent. It makes your nails look healthy.

        Rimmel claims that it "boasts up to ten days shine, thanks to the never-before combination of shock-absorbent LYCRA® and nail perfecting micro minerals".

        Hmmmm, Rimmel's claims for this are a bit on the extravagant side, I must say. This is in common with the 60 second nail varnish that I've reviewed separately. Sadly, the performance always falls somewhat short of the promise...

        After several days, the nail varnish has pretty much always chipped on at least a couple of nails. I'd say that, after a week, it really needs re-doing. As well as the chips, I'd also disagree that the shine lasts ten days...

        It's funny.... I've bought Rimmel nail varnishes for ages, choosing them on the basis of price, availability (pop one into the trolley while at the supermarket) and 'the better the devil you know'. However, I've never stopped to consider whether they're that great. In fairness, I think they're probably fairly good value for money and they're okay performance-wise. However, they don't really live up to their grand claims....

        Hmmm..... Anyone know any really great nail varnishes that aren't expensive?

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        • diamondgeezer.com / Online Shop / 34 Readings / 33 Ratings
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          05.09.2008 14:49
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          A diamond in the rough - highly recommended

          I consider myself a bit of a bargain hunter, and enjoy the thrill of the hunt of tracking down those lovely finds. That's not to say that I'm a complete cheapskate or anything, I can be quite fussy about quality and, occasionally, the brands that I buy. It's more than I believe in getting maximum value for money from my hard earned pounds.

          The internet is an absolute wonder for shoppers like me. I can spend hours researching and comparing products and prices. When we moved house to our current home, we pretty much redecorated and refurbished every room - much of the stuff was sourced from ebay or elsewhere from the internet. Fab!

          When it came to planning our wedding, the internet was my friend once again. While the dress came from a shop, I bought what I could online... including my wedding ring.

          I'd been shopping around in shops for ages and had a clear idea of what I wanted. A half eternity platinum diamond ring with princess cut diamonds...that would sit with my engagement ring. Like I said, very specific... I wanted my ultimate ring!

          I spent ages looking both on and offline and eventually found Diamond Geezer at www.diamondgeezer.com.

          *** The brand name ***

          Diamond Geezer is an online diamond jewellery retailer. If you watch Dragon's Den, then you might remember the director's appearance on the show. (He turned down an offer from one of the dragons!).

          The name is a catchy one... it certainly sticks in your mind.

          *** The website ***

          The website is fairly simple to use - although it's not the most slickly-designed lush-looking site. Compare this to the websites of high end jewellers with beautiful photography and gorgeous models... and, well, it simply doesn't have that glossiness.
          However, look before the surface and there's more to this site than initially meets the eye...

          They sell diamond rings, wedding rings, other diamond jewellery and silver jewellery. So, within each of these categories, you can search and browse through the products. They have a lot of products against each category - but I was able to easily find the kind of thing that I was looking for. As well as the information on their catalogue of products, the website contains a hell of a lot of information about their service, their company, independent valuations etc. etc.

          For me, what I really, really liked about the site is that you can view different quality versions of the same item of jewellery. So, when I was choosing my ring, I was able to view 'good', 'better' and 'best' versions of the same ring. So, what's the difference between the different versions? Well, it's the quality of diamonds used. Gents, not all diamonds are created equally! And, it's not JUST about the carat weight (although, you could say size is also important - ooer, etc.)... it's also about the colour, clarity and cut. The 4 Cs of diamonds... Anyway, I loved having these options displayed. Fantastic for someone like me who is quite particular about stuff! (Naturally, I went for the 'best' version of my ring...).

          This feature is something that makes it unique to other online jewellers. Okay, so pretty much every jeweller worth their salt can make jewellery to order and make rings from bespoke designs (which, incidentally, this co can do also) ... however, it's nice to be able to see the costs of different options when you're browsing through and not have to ask for individual quotes.
          Of course, an expensive diamond wedding ring is not something that you'd just order willy nilly. Oh no. Naturally, I rang them ... and spoke to a very helpful woman, who was able to give useful advice and guidance on the rings. I was planning to wear my wedding ring with my engagement ring, so it was very important that the two sat neatly together in harmony.

          I found them extremely helpful - they didn't push me towards buying the most expensive rings. Instead, through several emails and telephone calls, I eventually settled on *my* ring.
          Once I'd satisfied myself that the company was bona fide and that I was confident in making such a big purchase online, I then went ahead and purchased the ring. The website uses Google Checkout.

          Then, it was just a case of waiting.... eeek!


          *** The prices ***

          As you'd expect, the prices are quite a lot cheaper than the high street jewellers. They probably aren't the cheapest online, but for me, their proposition was the most attractive... (e.g. there was a 7 day money back guarantee, they don't use conflict diamonds, they have various accreditations, they provide INDEPEDENT valuations... etc.)


          *** Online tracking ***

          After checking out, I received a confirmation email with my estimated date of arrival for my ring. The ring was made to order, and all along the way, I received emails to say what stage my ring was in production/valuation, etc. etc. I was also able to track the progress online too. This part was SO exciting and really helped to build the anticipation. I can't remember how long the whole process took, but it was at least several weeks.


          *** The ring ***

          The ring arrived on the date promised, and................................ I loved it! Hurrah! The ring itself was exactly as imagined and was sized perfectly. The diamonds... yes, they sparkled and glittered. Exactly as I'd dared hoped!

          The ring came in an attractive ring box. A nice touch as I think that a cheap quality one would've spoilt it somewhat.
          The valuation certificate arrived later.... with a figure that I was pleased with... (I'm not being deliberately vague here about figures by the way. It's just that I can't remember!)


          *** Conclusion ***

          In conclusion, I would say that, based on my great experience, I would wholeheartedly recommend this online jeweller. Their service was impeccable and I love my ring so much! I feel that I got a pretty good deal, and every time I look at my ring, I feel happy : )

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          • More +
            31.08.2008 20:10
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            A pleasant product

            I recently rediscovered this skincare product, Olay Daily Regenerating Cream Wash, when I redeemed a £5 Boots voucher against this purchase.

            It'd been on my mind to get a new facial scrub, as my skin had started to misbehave (again). Despite being safely out of my teenage years, my skin is still woefully prone to the odd spot or three. I had wondered if a facial scrub would help in removing the old skin cells that were perhaps causing blocked pores, etc.

            I have used quite a few of the products from the Olay Regenerist range before and remembered that I had enjoyed using this particular product. While it is marketed as a 'cream wash' rather than a facial scrub, I remembered this product containing plenty of bits to slough off those pesky old skin cells.

            Now, I didn't recall this being a 'miracle' product as such, but reading the product information, it stated that it was suitable for my (combination) skin type and that it was also 'gentle'. Of course, I didn't want anything to aggravate my skin condition, so this sounded ideal. With £5 off, it only cost £1.50 of my hard earned cash. Can't grumble at that, I thought!

            It's worth pointing out that the Olay Regenerist range is aimed at the anti-aging market and the products are often in the 'most loved' magazine lists.

            Being a Regenerist product, therefore, it doesn't JUST scrub off old skin cells... oh no. Like the other products in the range, this product purports to do a fair bit. This product claims to be inspired by professional oxygen mini-treatment, and contains 'oxygenated particles' for removal of impurities and exfoliation. It also contains an amino-peptide complex, which is for long lasting hydration of the skin...

            Using the product is simple. You splash your face with water, apply the product to face using a massaging action and then rinse off. If I'm wearing make up, I will use another facial wash first, as this is not designed to be used around the eye area.

            The product feels quite rich and luxurious to use. It has a lovely creamy consistency and is quite heavily scented with a pleasant floral perfume. I like the smell, but I suspect that this might put off those with sensitive skin. I like the texture of the bits too (sorry... 'oxygenated particles') as the bits are fairly small and not too coarse, compared with some 'natural' scrubs on the market which can be a bit rough.

            Immediately after use, my skin texture feels cleaner and smoother. Daily use has taken care of any minor dry, flaky patches. It also makes my foundation go on smoother... good stuff, eh?

            And what about the spots? Well, sadly, the product has been a less successful on that front. I'm still getting some of those, alright. Damn!

            I've never had an oxygen mini-treatment, so I would be interested to find out how this compares to the real thing. (Anyone?)

            All in all, while it hasn't reduced my breakouts, I do quite like using this product and would recommend it for most skin types (especially for those 30+) if you are looking for a facial scrub/face wash in one product. It gives visibly smoother skin and makes skin feel lovely and soft. Do try and get this on promo though as I wouldn't buy it for £6.50.

            Therefore, on balance, I would say this is worth a very good 3 stars.

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          • More +
            29.08.2008 18:51
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            I love weddings, but more importantly, I love being married. Hope YOUDOO too.

            This discussion asks 'is marriage outdated'?

            Well, with 210 reviews on this discussion already and counting, it seems to me that there is a definite opinion about this out there amongst the Dooyoo community.

            Now, I'm somewhat biased, having celebrated my first year anniversary a mere 2 months ago, and so it's still all fairly fresh. However, all in all, we've now been together 8 years so we do know each other very well. So, it's not like we're in the first throes of romance, or anything.

            As a little girl, I never bought into the whole big white wedding dream, complete with H-U-G-E dress and all the trimmings to do with the whole wedding affair. To be perfectly honest, I thought then (and do still now) that there are healthier things to aspire to and dream about. For example, education and careers - how you can make a mark on your life, people!!

            Yet... yet.... for me, my wedding was just the ULTIMATE day of my life. Not just mine, but also my husband's. It was the most amazing high - totally electric - with our loved ones around us celebrating our declaration of love. We got married abroad and we did everything our way, without compromise.

            For the anti-marriage crew, they often denounce marriage as... Nothing but a piece of paper, too expensive (why waste your money?!!) and... also that it's no longer relevant in a modern society.

            To be fair, I can see both sides of the argument. However, there is one side that wins hands down for me. Yep, you guessed it.... * waves the marriage flag (made from a veil - ha) *

            Marriage has been around for centuries. A long time ago for most, marriage probably meant something very different. Women married for status, married for money, to have babies, security... or even more depressingly, out of duty or obligation. In modern society in the UK, this has (by and large), totally changed. This is now a voluntary decision, where the parties are entering into a lifetime romantic partnership out of choice. We are choosing to make that commitment to our mate and declare our vows.

            Okay, I admit that you can make a personal commitment 'to be together forever' in private - just you and 'the other half'. Yes, that is the case, sure... but what does this mean... really? For as long as we humans have been roaming the land, we have been using ceremonies to bring people together and to reinforce meaning. Birthdays, Christmases, Easters, New Years... all highly symbolic and loaded with meaning. So, by the same token, we can always 'celebrate' these privately, but y'know, most of us don't choose to do that...

            Yeah, weddings can be expensive, that's true. I know we spent more than we had originally planned. Having said that though, everyone knows that you don't HAVE to spend a fortune.

            However, what other important things are you going to spend your money on? You can't take it with you, that's for sure.

            As I've said, society's changed... sisters are now doin' it for themselves. However, what hasn't changed are our dreams to find the perfect someone to share our good and bad times (in sickness and in health). The wedding, and consequently, the marriage, affirms, crystallises and focuses a couples' commitment for each other.

            Weddings and marriages? 5/5

            **Highly recommended**
             

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            • Morrisons / Highstreet Shopping / 42 Readings / 38 Ratings
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              28.08.2008 14:37
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              Like a pair of old slippers

              Morrisons has been undergoing a bit of a revamp recently. There's been all those adverts on TV, with the likes of 'regular shoppers' Denise Van Outen, Nick Hancock and Alan Hansen. You might also have seen that their logo's also had a bit of a facelift too, which I only noticed during a recent visit. So, Morrisons is finally going upmarket and modern now, hey?

              Well, they might be trying to move in that direction, but all the changes that I'm seeing at the moment are mainly superficial things (their ads, logo).... and if you have stepped inside one my local store recently, you will know what I mean...

              Morrisons is my main supermarket for my weekly shop and it's also mum's. It's the closest main supermarket for both of us... being a 5 minute drive or so for both of us. There is a Sainsbury's Local down the road from me, but I only go there for last minute groceries/booze/magazines - for obvious reasons! As well as Morrisons, we also have a Tesco Extra (15 mins drive away) and Asda (10-15 mins drive) and Sainsbury's (15 mins).

              Apart from the convenience aspect, there are things that I like about Morrisons, which means that I choose it over the other supermarkets ... and also, things that I don't. In my review, I'd like to offer my personal opinion on the shopping experience and the pros and cons of the store.


              *** Carparking/trollies ***

              There's always spaces in my local Morrisons ... I can always claim a decent spot close to the entrance. Although I know they do have parking for mums/babies and disabled customers, I can't really comment on whether they have enough spaces or not.
              Trollies... well, these do the job, though you do need to still put in a pound to release a trolley before starting your shopping. I would prefer it if I didn't have to do this though (like the Tesco) as I don't always remember to bring a pound coin....

              *** The atmosphere ***

              Enter the local Morrisons and the general mood is a bit ... urm... drab and gloomy. At least it is in my local one. This can be explained by the dated decor, the types of customers (often scruffier people, more pensioners...), and the really old-fashioned staff uniforms.


              *** The choice and range ***

              The range is not anywhere near as comprehensive as the other local supermarkets. It's quite adequate for my mundane weekly shop. I know what's on offer there, and I can quite happily choose all my basics from there. The fruit and veg is a case in point. Yes, you can pick your Gala apples and your iceberg lettuce. All these staples are present and correct. However, if you're looking for globe artichokes or shitake mushrooms, well, you had better go to Sainsbury's or Tescos.

              On the food front, this means that if I am following a recipe or something which calls for very slightly 'exotic' ingredients, I know I had better drive the extra minutes to Tesco.

              I have bought products from all departments, both food and non-food before, and the range is adequate to nearly good (thought hard about that one!). They stock both branded items and their own brands. I must admit that, apart from the fresh food, I mainly buy branded items from here (mainly on offers), but I have bought quite a lot of the Morrisons own items before and they've been absolutely fine.

              The range of the flowers/plants is quite nice, but do not anywhere equal the range offered at, say, Tesco.


              *** The quality ***

              I've often heard people say that the fruit and veg is lower quality than other supermarkets. A girl I used to work with commented once that every time she bought a bag of apples, there was always one that she had to throw away immediately....

              Well, speaking from my own personal experience, I would say that's not true. The quality of the fresh food is average to good, compared with other supermarkets.

              I must say, though, that the house-y stuff's quality is not great. Nothing is particularly 'on trend'... the vases, cushions and candles etc. are probably on par with Au Naturelle. At least other supermarkets offer a range of cheap and cheerful to the more expensive/better quality ranges. Not at Morrisons, sadly. Same applies with the seasonal stuff.


              *** The prices ***

              The prices are one of the reasons why I choose to shop at Morrisons... or the PROMOTIONS, should I say. I LOVE Morrisons for its BOGOFs and deals. Like a reflex, my eyes scan those shelves from top to bottom looking out for those lovely special offers, and my walk always gathers pace as I head towards the aisle-ends, where those offers are always prominently displayed.

              Products I always buy on BOGOF include toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, sandwich meat and choc biscuits for pack lunches (both for OH). I always resent paying full price for these items if we run out.

              There seem to have more of these offers per m2 than any other supermarket.... it's great! I do go BOGOF mad when I go to Morrisons.

              On the promos side, they don't have any incentive cards. This is a negative if you like using these.


              *** The staff ***

              As is always the case, some individuals are always going to be more helpful/polite/efficient than others. However, if I must generalise, I'd say that the staff at my local Morrisons are definitely less enthusiastic compared with other supermarkets. Do these people not get training?? Most don't seem interested in the customer. They must get a lot of mystery shoppers in the other shops (and not in Morrisons).

              And... while I'm at it, sorry, but there do seem to be a lot of checkout women with tattoos on their forearms/hands?

              Combined with those horrid uniforms, it's not the best look, sorry.


              *** Conclusion ***

              In concluding my review, I would like to compare my local Morrisons to a pair of comfy old slippers.

              They're easy and what you see is what you get. However, they're not particularly glamorous and you can't depend on them for every (shopping) circumstance.

              Despite the cons though, the BOGOFs make it the clincher for me... and that's why I choose Morrisons.

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              • Stabilo Boss Highlighter / Homeware / 29 Readings / 29 Ratings
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                27.08.2008 18:48
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                If you're looking for a highlighter, I don't think you can go wrong with this one

                In school, note-taking tended to be a linear business. From my (fast-fading) memory, I wrote line after line of rows of writing in exercise books and, later, on A4 lined paper - usually copying word for word from the teacher's blackboard.

                Later on in life, as an adult, notes now seem to be a more chaotic affair. 'Proper' writing now seems to be done via the keyboard, with emails and electronic documents. I mean, not many people now send patiently handwritten letters... instead preferring the convenience and speed of email.
                From my own point of view, my note-taking happens at work, at home and at college. I am a busy person, and notes and lists help me to plan, remember and document stuff. Okay, anyone looking at my notes probably wouldn't have a clue what I'm noting down; my notes can look a mess! However, my notes are useful to me and there's one thing that really helps me...

                The highlighter!

                Now, there's a grand-daddy of highlighters. It's called the STABILO BOSS Original. I'm sure we've all seem them and have all used them... they are v popular. In fact, launched in 1972, they have remained the best selling market leader of the highlighter market!

                Available in a variety of colours (9 of 'em in fact), they are water-based and refillable. Admittedly though, I have never refilled one or seen anyone even attempt this (perhaps they should try and push this for environmental reasons... maybe a missing opportunity here?).

                My favourite version is the girly pink one. Yes, I do find it quite satisfying crossing off the tasks on my to-do list with this highlighter. And, to a lesser extent, using it to highlight key phrases/points on my college notes.

                STABILO also have tried to capture other customer groups with variations on this best selling theme. Some are quite useful (such as the STABILO BOSS INK JET GENERATION for people that have to highlight photocopied or inkjet printed documents) while others are quite amusing (yes, I'm talking about the STABILO BOSS MINI MONSTER, which has a silly graphic of a monster on the stubby barrel).

                So, to conclude, this is a best seller around the world for good reason. It is a highlighter that performs well, and at £4.99 for a pack of 4, while not the cheapest, it certainly won't break the bank.

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                • More +
                  26.08.2008 13:35
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                  In my top 5 albums of all time

                  Screamadelica was Primal Scream's first venture towards dance music. Working with Andy Weatherall and Terry Farley, Primal Scream created an album that perfectly captures the dirty, pulsating vibes of the hedonistic/psychedelic cultures of acid rock/acid house.

                  Released in 1991, I first bought this on cassette album, and loved it, loved it, loved it. 17 years later, I now have this classic on CD and rate it just as highly still. In the car or in the house, it's great music that I can get lost in.

                  Although it's nearly two decades old(!), it still sounds fresh to my ears... it just doesn't seem to have dated.

                  The album opens with Movin' on up, a joyful, gospel powerhouse. How can you not like this? The next tracks then take you through a blissful, tripped-out journey with Slip Inside This House (a remake of psychedelic rock band 13th Floor Elevators' song), Don't Fight it, Feel it (vocals also by Denise Johnson), Higher than the Sun (produced by none other than The Orb, the kings of ambient house), Inner Flight, Come together, Loaded, Damaged, I'm coming down, Higher than the Sun (Dub Symphony in Two Parts), and closing with the most glorious and lush Shine Like Stars.

                  I won't go into detail on describing every track, as I think it'd be better if you listened to it. I don't think my superlatives would do the songs justice!

                  I have to say that there's not one duff track on here. For me and my low boredom threshold, that's saying something! I am probably faster than most to jab that 'forward' button. However, that's not to say that I do not have my favourites. In my mind, the most notable tracks are: Movin' On Up, Slip Inside This House, Higher Than The Sun (both versions) and Shine Like Stars. Fantastic. Just fab.

                  Now, of course, I'm not alone in my adoration for this album. Over the years, Screamadelica has received critical acclaim, reaping lots of prizes, including the first Mercury Music Prize. (I note that U2's Achtung Baby lost out to Screamadelica... if it'd been up to me, I'd have awarded them both prizes!!).

                  I got my CD from Amazon, which is priced at a mere £5.97 at time of writing. (The original cassette album that I had was probably from either Woolworths or WHSmith!!).

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                • Rimmel Nail Varnish / Make Up / 25 Readings / 24 Ratings
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                  25.08.2008 18:30
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                  Above average... just.

                  Although I know of many girls that go for regular manicure and pedicures, I am definitely not in that category. Although I'm not averse to trying new skincare products and do admit to having the odd beauty treatment over the years, including a few manicures (using gift vouchers and for my wedding day) I'm not a huge treatments kind of person, preferring instead to pamper myself in the comfort of my own home.

                  Some beauty and cosmetics products I don't mind paying a bit more for if I think they're worth it (not a plug for L'Oreal, incidently...!), but nail polish is not one of these. On my fingernails, I tend to stick to the Rimmel and No 7 french polish varnishes. Easy maintenance, flattering and economical enough. If it chips, it's not too obvious and I don't need to think about them very often.

                  On my feet, however, it's a different story. There's no way I'd do a French polish on the nails on my plates of meat. I have bruised toe nails from when I was doing regular running/jogging. These babies need cover! (Fortunately, I have now totally minimised this risk as I have not been running for ages. Phew!).

                  So, I do like bright colours for my toe nails. For both the cover and the pretty look. The one that I'd been using for while is LYCRA® Wear 10 with Xtra Life LYCRA® in a red colour, which has been absolutely fine.

                  I recently bought 60 Seconds Nail Polish as a change. I was looking for a vibrant colour that was a bit fresher than the red I was using on my tootsies. Whilst perusing the Rimmel make up in Boots (many colour options in nail varnishes), I saw this product in 420 Sunrise and loved the look of the colour. A lovely coral colour with some subtle shimmer. Fresh, pretty and it looked like it would be flattering to my tanned olive skin tone.

                  It was the summery coral colour that got my interest, but then when I was reading the product info on the packaging, I read that it dries in 60 seconds and only needs one coat. Sold!

                  In Boots, this is £2.99 for an 8ml bottle, but they do also currently have a 3 for 2 offer on Rimmel products.

                  It was straight forward to apply. No better or worse than other nail polishes. I used three strokes on each nail, ensuring that I returned the brush to the bottle, screwed it back on, and shook it up, every 3 nails or so.

                  Looking completed the first coat, I loved the colour - exactly what I was looking for! (I think this might be a new colour to the range as it doesn't seem to be on the Rimmel or Boots website). However, the colour and coverage were not intense enough...

                  Having now used the product, I would say that it doesn't quite live up to its claims. I've used two coats on both toes and fingers... so not quite the full, colour coverage in just one coat as they claim. Unless you pile it on, I don't see how 1 coat could be enough really. Secondly, it takes far longer than a minute to dry... and seemed to be tacky to the touch for a while. A tad misleading really since this performance claim is the actual name of the product!

                  In terms of chipping, yes, it does chip after a couple of days. Probably about average compared with other varnishes. I guess it might remain chip free for longer if you use a layer of clear varnish or overcoat over the coloured polish.

                  So, would I recommend this product? Well, I'd definitely recommend this colour for a fresh, funky summery look (5/5 on colour). However, do not try and apply this 60 secs before the taxi arrives as you'd end up with an awful finish (2/5 for performance against the product claims).

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                  • Quidco.co.uk / Internet Site / 34 Readings / 34 Ratings
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                    24.08.2008 13:13
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                    An easy way to to shop clever. A very good cashback site.

                    I first heard about Quidco through a work colleague when we were talking about a new project that we were both working on. My colleague was using the site as an example website where you need to create an account and log in. Quidco is a cashback site. I hadn't heard of cashback sites at that point, and, didn't pay too much notice to the actual site itself.

                    Then, do you know when you hear of something new and then just can't stop hearing about it? Well, Quidco was one of those! I was checking out the moneysavingexpert.com website and it was all over that, and then I read about it in a few papers (I think one was the Sunday Times).

                    Anyhow, I decided to check it out. Free money? Yes, I'll have some of that! From what I read, it was a win-win-win situation. Win for the business, win for Quidco and, crucially, win for us... the Quidco member!

                    So, how does Quidco work? Well, it works on the basis of affiliate marketing, whereby businesses (the merchant) pay compensation to the affiliate(s) for sales, registrations or clicks. In cashback sites, some or all of this compensation is passed to the member.

                    So, in practice, how do you benefit? Well, it's simple. Basically, you sign up as a member and then every time to you want to purchase something, you then go via the Quidco website. There are lots of participating merchants (over 1200 of these) that operate an affiliate program that Quidco works with. Once the transaction has been completed (e.g. completed check out), the merchant then tracks the transaction (this is done via cookies), followed by a series of other stages: pending (cashback pending), added (where cashback is added to you account), declined (where the merchant pays back the cashback on the transaction), received (where Quidco have received payment from the merchant) and finally... PAID!!

                    The amount varies depending on the merchant/transaction. It might be a percentage or a set amount. Typically, online shops will pay a percentage of the sale, but then the likes of insurers/credit card providers will offer a fixed sum. This site, I believe, comes into its own for the latter as the amounts are quite high (e.g. £60). As mentioned, you can also be compensated for clicks, and newsletter and subscription registrations too, but I don't really tend to bother with these.

                    It can take a while to receive cashback and it's also worth noting that it's not guaranteed earnings either, as the merchant can decline the cashback, for whatever reason. Where you have any queries or problems with tracked earnings, you can query this through an online system with Quidco. This system has resolved two tracking queries that I've had in the past and, in both instances, these were successfully resolved for me.

                    Since September of last year, I have received about £230, with about £90 pending. This is for very little extra effort on my part. Basically, when I'm buying anything online, I check here first. Importantly, when I need to renew insurers or when taking out new credit cards, I go through Quidco.

                    Once you get your head around how it works, it's really simple to use. The website is well designed (quite slick indeed compared to other cashback sites) and is user-friendly.

                    So, where's the catch?

                    Well, there is a £5 annual admin fee, which you pay as soon as you start earning cashback. I can't quibble about this though as, without it, I can't benefit from this free money. Y'know, I guess these guys aren't a charity!

                    Also, you need to make sure you don't forget to go via Quidco to benefit. If you don't do this, you can't benefit!

                    So, in conclusion, this is one of my favourite websites. It works. If you haven't used it before, give it a go! After all, it's free money for very little effort.

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                    • More +
                      23.08.2008 23:46
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                      Convenient skin care for oily skin

                      Much to my disdain, my face is still a little prone to break outs. If I fall asleep with make up on for just one night, you can guarantee that I'll be peering at a nice spot or two a few days later. Not that I think anyone would look at me and think "ooh, acne", but I when I get a few spots, they do tend to be very obvious to me and my blemishes do tend to lead to scarring. So, obviously I want to try and minimise the risk of getting breakouts. I think a good skincare regime that's suitable for my skin would contribute to minimising this risk (but, really, I've realised that diet, water intake and exercise also goes a long way to help... which is where I've been going wrong lately methinks). Anyway, I'm babbling, but I think you can get the picture of the type of skin that I have...

                      For a while now, I hadn't used or bought any face wipes for cleansing my face. I'd been using Dermalogica Anti-Bac face wash (have reviewed this separately) which has been great for controlling oil and feeling like it's giving my face a good old clean. However, the reason that I decided to buy some face wipes was so that I could take them to a 4 day festival. Face wipes are really convenient for quick and lazy face cleansing - perfect festival skincare companions!

                      Now I'd bought lots of different types of skin wipes before, mainly for removing make up before a gym session, and have got on with some more than others. Some felt too rich and oily, not too great for my skin - especially in the humid summer months. However, more recently, I've really avoided using these as I don't think they are quite as effective as the more labour intensive methods of face cleansing. Basically, I believe, you're trading off effectiveness for convenience.

                      Looking at all the face wipe products at Boots, it can be said that there are plenty of brands and options to pick from! Interestingly, none of the higher end skincare counters offered wipe-based face cleansers. So, if you're looking to buy wipes, don't go to the counters... walk straight past these and to the skincare shelves.

                      After a bit of mooching around, I spotted these. I thought to myself - perfect! You see, most face wipes seem to be more formulated for normal/dry/combination or sensitive skin. These seemed to be better suited to my skin type. They claim to control shine and thoroughly cleanse. They are also supposed to revive, tone and remove make-up, leaving skin clean and fresh.

                      Some listed ingredients also caught my eye:

                      Zinc (gently absorbs excess oil for pure clear skin)
                      Natural Antibacterial helps reduce blemishes and freshen skin
                      Witch Hazel helps tone and tighten pores

                      Also, the wipes are 100% alcohol and oil free. They are pH balanced.

                      At £2.99 for 25 wipes, they weren't the cheapest but weren't the most expensive either. Based on the packaging info and Simple's reputation, I decided that these ticked the boxes for me and dropped a packet into my basket.

                      So, how have I found them? Well, very convenient for one. Perfect for festivals and going away anywhere. Using the wipes, they left my skin feeling suitably clean, removing make up and leaving my skin feeling soft without a greasy residue. There was no drying either.

                      Now that the packet's finished, will it replace my Dermalogica Anti-Bac skin wash? Well, in a word... no. I did seem to get a few more spots than normal once I'd returned from the festival. However, I suspect that this could have been due to a number of factors, other than the wipes (e.g. increased alcohol intake/poor diet seems to make my skin worse), so I don't think that I can pinpoint it to this product.

                      Also, another minor niggle is that the reseal tab loses its stickiness so the wipes can dry out a little.

                      Although these won't replace my skin wash, if I needed to buy skin wipes again for the convenience factor, then I would probably choose these ones - unless, of course, something even better comes on the market!

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                      • More +
                        22.08.2008 20:51
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                        Read this book!

                        According to various websites and newspapers, camping has increased in popularity over recent years. Perhaps it's to do with the credit crunch (aargh!), the exposure to camping at festivals or just that 'it's in fashion' (just like tartan)...

                        I started camping earlier this year, and, like anything new that I pursue, I research! Quite sad, I know. I can spend days and weeks on forums, looking through books...

                        Since reading up on stuff about the leisure activity that is camping, I have found out that there are two distinct breeds of campers that sit at the opposite ends of the camping spectrum: the hardcore super efficient and brave any weather camper (a la Ray Mears) and then there is the other type... the glamper. The glamper is the camper that loves a more luxurious camping experience. You can imagine what the former type of camper thinks of the latter type...

                        However, I have since discovered a third type... the happy camper.

                        The happy camper has a bible: The Happy Campers. This book is by Tess Carr and Kat Heyes and has been a faithful companion this summer. I love this book. Why? Basically, it encapsulates everything that I love about the camping experience. Let me start my explanation by talking about the front cover. This features a photo of the two authors Tess and Kat in relaxed camping mode, chilling out under canvas in lovely countryside. The words at the bottom of the cover read:

                        CAMPING - FUN - LIFE - FIRE - FOOD - LOVE

                        Well, that says it all really...

                        For the hardcore campers, the above might sound a bit frivolous. I guess they might ask where SURVIVAL is!

                        With over 280-odd pages, despite being littered with many gorgeous, inspirational photos and images throughout, this is not a vacuous, glossy coffee table book. I found it to be a really informative read. The book covers:

                        1. Before you go
                        I have referred to this section every single time before I load the car before heading off. Why? It's got really useful checklists for main essentials, main kitchen essentials and extras. There's also a festival checklist and one for kids camping too.

                        In addition, there's info on why, where and when of camping as well as info on practicalities.

                        2. setting up camp
                        This covers various aspects of setting up camp including pitching your tent, laying out your tent, laying out your site, health and safety, keeping clean, and so on.

                        3. Food glorious food
                        Recipes and tips/hints.

                        4. Play
                        For the big kid in us all, this has 46 pages on HAVING FUN.

                        5. Wild world
                        This covers nature, the weather and even nature's remedies.

                        6. Food for the soul

                        For me, there's something really inspirational about being in natural surroundings... it's good for the soul. This is what this section is about... about sunsets, campfire magic, shooting stars and sleeping on the beach etc. Oh, and camping yoga. All stuff that's 'food for the soul'. (Admittedly, I haven't done any of this yet, I have to say though...although I do now know about it!.)

                        This book is well written and such a useful guide for both the novice and the camper that's been before (when I went camping last weekend with two other couples, OH and I were the most prepared - *beams a bit too smugly*)

                        The first time I read it, I was so inspired. And I couldn't wait for my first camping trip! You too will also want to experience the same sort of camping as described in the book. Okay, so it's a tad 'lifestyle', but hey, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. It's a great looking book, that's for sure, but the pretty pics kinda belie the usefulness and level of info in here. I have read and reread this book.

                        So, hardcore camper or softie glamper? Nah, I'm neither. I'm a happy camper. I like double duvets and campfires. But don't mind insects (too much), and love getting my wellies muddy.

                        It's £14.99 and the ISBN is 978-0-7475-8666-1. It's published by Bloomsbury.

                        Incidently, I also have a couple of the cool camping books which have also been very accurate on their recommendations (I will review these separately).

                        Despite the gushing, I'm NOT in any way connected with the publishers or authors, or whatever. I just really rate this practical yet lush book. A definite 5 big stars out of 5.

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                      • More +
                        21.08.2008 22:22
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                        Pricey product that doesn't really deliver the promises - sorry

                        In my eternal quest for dewy, oil free and clear skin, I keep an eye out for new products that other people love and rate highly. After reading fab reviews about Le Blanc De Chanel and its wonderful, mattifying but subtle light reflecting properties, I thought to myself that I would remember to take a look the next time I was near a Chanel make up counter.

                        Fast forward a couple of weeks and I was shopping with my husband. Walking at speed in a department store (my OH was on a mission to buy some specific items of clothes - hence speed walking with great purpose to procure these items). Suddenly, I remembered that there was this wonder product that I wanted to try out!

                        The lady at the cosmetics counter placed a very small quantity on the back of my hand and blended this into my skin. Comparing the left and right hands, I noticed that there was a subtle but good improvement in appearance of the skin. There was a subtle sheen - not a lurid glittery effect, but a more radiant effect.

                        Feeling bold, I decided to make the purchase. It's not a cheap product (about £30 for 30ml - £1 per ml! from Selfridges), but I thought that it would be a nice treat. After all, you can easily spend £30 on a night out to the pub... without it being special at all.

                        The next day, I decided to give it a whirl, and use the base underneath my foundation. Opening the box, the bottle had an accompanying instructions leaflet and a little white spatula. I spooned a little amount of the white liquid base onto the foundation and onto the back of my hand. It has quite a strong but pleasant fragrance. I then duly applied the base onto my face and peered expectantly into the mirror. Not sure what I was expecting, but there wasn't much difference at all.

                        As well as a base, the product is also designed to be used as a subtle highlighter. Once I'd applied my other make up on top , I tried highlighting my cheekbones and nose.

                        Sadly, the first time I used this on my face, I did feel a bit underwhelmed. Not sure what I expected really, but this did not seem to perform any better than other cosmetics that I own. It's a nice product to use, but it's definitely not WOW!

                        I've used this about 10 times now. Enough to get a feel of a product. It doesn't make up break out in spots, which is good. And, it does illuminate, but it seems to make me look a bit sallow. Not quite the look I'm aiming for! Perhaps a more golden version of this would suit my olive skin more... perhaps.

                        To be fair, I think there could be a couple of reasons why I'm not loving this product as much as I could. First of all, my skin is very tanned at the moment and I imagine that it would work better on lighter skin. Secondly, I had been using a new, matte foundation, which felt and looked a bit heavy/matt and perhaps this was cancelling out the illuminating properties of the Le Blanc base.

                        Comparing this with another primer product that I've used, Smashbox Photo Finish, I would say that the Smashbox product is superior. However, to give it a fair test, I will give it a whirl again once my tan has faded.

                        On the positive side, you do not need a lot. A little goes a long way. It is quite good at shine control, although my t zone was definitely shiny by midday - although without it, my skin would have been oilier, I'm sure. The glass bottle/packaging is also lovely and feels nice to handle (ergonomically designed???!!)

                        I really wanted to love this product, but, so far, am somewhat disappointed.

                        I think this deserves 2.5-3 stars, but have given 3 because the system doesn't allow for halves....

                        I'll update the rating and review later if I feel it merits a higher rating.

                        xxx

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                        • More +
                          13.08.2008 21:05
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                          Grazia is a decent magazine for less than £2

                          I normally buy Grazia midweek when I pop to the local convenience store (Co-op) to pick up a little treat, be it a bottle of wine or a packet of crisps. Basically, I buy it when I want a little treat that's not too expensive. You see, Grazia, at £1.90, is not an expensive thick 'glossy' (e.g. Elle), and fits quite nicely between the more 'sleb' mags (e.g. Closer, Heat) and the more upmarket advert-littered lifestyle magazines. You could say that it's a blend between the two.
                          I used to be a magazine addict, buying pretty much all the magazines that were available. I remember on several occasions buying the same mag twice by mistake. Ooops. It's obvious to me now that I wasn't very busy back then...
                          Now, I don't have as much time to read magazines. However, I do pick this one up probs about once every 4-6 weeks , for the reasons that I mentioned above - as a treat and it's quite a good read. I never feel 'cheated' once I've read it. This feeling can happen when you spend money on a mag and it's full of adverts and rubbish articles that say nothing (e.g. multiple choice quizzes on your love life - hate these).
                          The cover, as far as I can remember, always features a celebrity. This ties in with the key article inside the mag. Quite often it's Kate or Sienna... someone of that ilk. This week's magazine has Katie Holmes on the cover.
                          Inside, the editorial covers a mix of: celebrity gossip, features, fashion, health and beauty, decor, show, letters, horoscope and the back page always has a goodie bag giveaway.
                          There's no end of magazines to choose from, but this one does have appeal in that for me. Why? Well, first of all, it's not overly sensational or trashy, despite the celebrity news content. The subjects covered in the the articles and the style of writing also appeals. Some of the features are compelling and really interesting to read. I do like that.
                          It's not a high brow mag by any stretch of the imagination, but it fits in with my mindset and lifestyle at the moment. For example, my wardrobe contains a mix of cheapo stuff as well as more designer type items. So does this magazine!
                          So there you have it, decent flicking material for less than £2. Not an absolute must, but nice to chill out to.

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                          • Vango Venture 500 Tent / Tent / 11 Readings / 10 Ratings
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                            13.08.2008 14:14
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                            High quality tent from Vango - great for camper/glamper couple/small family

                            *A bit of background*
                            Still undoubtedly a mere novice, my camping career only started earlier this summer. My OH and I have always enjoyed weekends and holidays away, both in the UK and overseas. However, with money getting ever-tighter, it seemed absolutely frivolous to be spending £££ on weekends to expensive hotels. At the same time, I didn't want to give up my little breaks. I mean, it's not all about work, work, work... Am I right?

                            Enter our solution... camping.

                            Once the idea popped into our minds, it was hard to shrug off. We very quickly warmed to the idea and decided to buy the kit we needed to go for a weekend away.

                            *What's out there?*
                            As a product researching nut, I did tons of research online to see what tent I should invest in. There is a very popular site called www.ukcampsite.co.uk. It's probably the best site out there for campers/caravanners, etc. After trawling through this site and also looking at different tents both off and online, we settled on the Vango Venture 500.

                            We bought the Vango Venture 500 online from Go Outdoors for about £70-£80. It was on a special offer at the time (it's still on offer at time of writing this review, although it has gone up in price). I think the RRP is £120. So, I think we got a very good deal indeed.

                            There are plenty of recommendations out there for this tent. The reviews are all generally very positive, saying that it was a very high quality tent for the price - easy to pitch, roomy with enough headroom to stand up in. Vango is a reputable brand.

                            When the tent arrived, we had a go at doing a testing pitch. The tent is a dome design with a large porch and bedroom that can fit a double bed. The bedroom can also be divided into two spaces using an optional divider sheet.

                            *Key features*
                            To summarise the features, with this tent you get:

                            Vango Lifetime Guarantee
                            Fire Retardant
                            Waterproofed on inside- Protex 2000 (2000mm HH) polyester fly
                            Seam taped fly
                            Flysheet first pitching - also reinforced on the main pressure points where tent pegs hold tent down
                            Mesh ventilation on inner tent
                            Bathtub inner groundsheet
                            External continuous pole sleeves
                            Colour coded poles
                            Pre-angled poles
                            Front and side entry
                            Flysheet vents. 'Crystal Clear' windows

                            *What's the tent like up?*
                            Once the tent was up, I was very surprised on both the good quality - and the size. This is supposed to be a 5 berth tent, but there's only two of us, so we have plenty of room, which is great. I don't think I'd actually like to share this tent with 4 other campers, but I'm not really the 'rough and ready' type of camper. I like my space!

                            *The tent in use*
                            We have a double blow up bed and 'bedroom' space in the large roomy bedroom. I like to put down bright picnic rugs for carpeting and set up a lovely chill out space. Comfy duvets, plenty of cushions, and so on.... You can actually get very cosy!
                            We use the porch as the main living space for during the day, if we're not out and about, that is. The 'crystal clear' windows are very useful to peer out of - as are the array of zips/flaps, that allow you to open up the tent and roll up the 'doors', and so on. The design of the tent flaps/windows means that it is flexible for you to use in different light/weather.

                            I'm not sure how many seasons this tent is supposed to be used in, but I think it'd probably be best to use this tent in late spring, summer and early autumn at most. The main reason is that, due to the height of it (190cm at highest point), it can flap about a fair bit in the wind - as our experience has shown.

                            So far, we've used it on 3 camping trips and it's served us well so far. We've had a couple of minor rips, mainly due to freak gusts of wind on our first camping trip. Nothing, though, that makes the tent unusable.

                            *My rating and why*
                            I give this tent 5/5. All in all, for the price, I'm extremely satisfied with the tent and would not hesitate to recommend for a first time or even a more experienced camper looking for a really good quality tent for under £100.

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