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This Russell Hobbs Marco Pierre White Thermolon pan set consists of five pans: 16cm, 18cm and 20cm pans each with a lid, a 14cm milk pan and a 24cm frying pan. I bought it from TJ Hughes for about £80 a couple of months before moving out of home and was super-pleased with my bargain. Here are a few specifications taken from the Russell Hobbs website:
* exceptional non-stick capabilities
* quick and even heat distribution
* non PTFE non-stick
* easy clean non-stick
* oven safe
* suitable for use with standard gas, electric, halogen, ceramic, solid fuel or oil-fired hobs
* specially pigmented painted to prevent discolouring
* this cookware is one of the first in the world to use the unique, new, non-stick technology ThermolonTM
* Thermolon non-stick is heat resistant up to 450°C
The pans are very modern- and stylish-looking - slightly unusual in white and with a pleasing rounded shape, but as well as them looking good I was also pleased that they are what's known as Green Pans - made with Thermolon, which uses up to 50% less CO2 at the point of application than other non-stick materials, and does not release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
I've been using them for about three months now and am very, very impressed with their non-stick capabilities. You can cook pretty much anything, and even if it LOOKS totally caked on, you can almost always just rinse them with water and they're clean, you barely need washing up liquid and a sponge. One day I had a bit of a daffy moment and left a pan of pasta boiling whilst I went and did something else. My excuse is that I wasn't familiar with electric hobs. But anyway, by the time I came back the pasta had boiled dry and the pan was smoking and looking very black and I thought I'd ruined it. But no! The burnt stiff just sort of peeled off the non-stick and I was able to wash it as normal and it was as good as new - I couldn't believe it and that's a massive point in the pans' favour.
That said, while the non-stick coating is very impressive, its lastability is NOT. As I said I've only been using these pans for three months - not heavily either, only cooking with them about four times a week and always being careful to use only wooden utensils and sponges rather than scourers - and yet still the non-stick coating is already starting to chip away in places. Not only that but the paint is wearing away on the bottoms of the pans as well, making them look very shabby - it's only cosmetic but certainly not what you'd expect after only three months.
I wouldn't recommend these pans on the basis of what I've already said, but there are a couple of other minor niggles too. As the handles are steel, I had initially worried that these would heat up and be too hot to handle but to their credit they don't. The metal lids DO heat up however so you have to use an oven glove or tea towel just to lift the lid to check on your sauce (you have to lift it because of course you can't see through steel). Glass lids with a plastic knob would have been much more practical on all levels.
The handles are a slinky looking curved sort of shape, which looks fabulous but means that they're difficult to get a grip on - they just slip through your hands when you try to tip the pan to pour out the contents. And once you do manage to pour out your soup, that lovely aesthetic curved shape of the pan that I was so fond of causes its own problems. Because there is no 'lip' around the edge of the pan, anything liquid being poured from it just dribbles straight down the side and onto whatever surface you then place the pan on, causing more mess than necessary all round.
Finally, these pans are quite weighty. I like this because it suggests quality and durability but it's something to bear in mind if you have hand or wrist issues - once the large pan is full of stew or whatever it does become really quite heavy!
So in conclusion, I'm not very happy at all with my lovely pan set. I feel partly at fault because I just loved the look of them and didn't consider some of the practicalities like the shape of the handle or the material of the lid ... but then if I can pick up on these design faults within a few uses, surely the manufacturers should have??
I'd been getting more and more into baking and cooking, and last Christmas I chose this Kenwood K-Mix in Almond as one of my presents, based purely on its looks. It doesn't disappoint in real life - it is certainly one of the most stylish hand mixers out there, with a very appealing, slightly retro shape.
It is made from painted metal rather than plastic and this means that the whole 'feel' of the mixer is one of durability and good quality. Good Quality and Durability, however, are heavy in comparison to Plasticky and Cheap - this mixer is noticeably weighty when having to use it for prolonged periods. And if I find it heavy at 28 then 82-year-old Doris certainly will! (Still preferable to whipping up those egg-whites by hand though!)
It comes with both beaters (whisks) and dough hooks - I confess I wouldn't know what to do with a dough hook so I've never tried them! But the beaters are great - it's worth noting that it can be used with either one or both beaters which is handy if you only have a small bowl of something to mix.
There are five speeds plus a 'pulse' setting - this is really handy for when whatever you're mixing is *almost* there ... we all know what cream goes like when it's over-whipped! I've noticed other reviews of this mixer stating that it was noisy but I haven't found that at all - in fact I've found it quite quiet, but that is compared to my Mam's one which is older than me, so perhaps it IS loud by today's standards!
The mixer is supplied with a nice stand for counter-top storage, with a space for each of the attachments. The cord wraps around into a space in the base of the mixer for neat storage ... however it is too long so you're left with a trailing bit of wire and plug, which then has to be wrapped around the base of the stand itself so it doesn't look as tidy as it should. This is a minor thing but a niggle nonetheless - why go to the effort of having the facility to wrap away the cord, but then not do it properly?
At around £45-50 this is certainly not one of the cheapest hand-mixers on the market but I do think it's worth the extra money if it's something you'll get use out of, because it is a very good mixer and great quality, and sexy too! Only knocking off one star for the weight and the wire.
Much as I would love to be all sophisticated and have a 'signature scent' which I wear all the time and which close friends associate with me, I am unfortunately far too tempted by the Boots perfume counter whenever I pass, so I'm constantly finding new perfumes that I love and I end up having 'perfume phases' instead. This is interesting as I can sometimes smell a perfume and be instantly transported back to when I was seeing a particular ex-boyfriend or when I was studying in France, which is a weird sensation. Anyway, I had smelled the Stella perfume and fallen in love with it, and after a few months managed to save up enough Advantage Card points to make the purchase (it took a while as this is not the cheapest of scents!)
Stella was the first foray into fragrance for the successful British fashion designer Stella McCartney and she has since released four more, so she must be doing OK with them! I only had enough points for the 30ml version at £33, so rather than the beautiful vintagey bottle shown above, which I think would look fantastic on any dressing table, my perfume bottle is more like a large gem stone, all amethyst in colour and multi-faceted. It is a deep, translucent and rich purple colour which fades into clear glass at the bottom, and it looks equally lovely stood upright or lying down like a stone. Not only does it fit into the palm of your hand, it also fits nicely in your handbag which is handy! The bottle comes in an elegant yet understated irregular octagonal box made from thick textured card with just a band of deep purple across it.
The scent itself is that rare thing - deep without being musky, strong without being overpowering and feminine without being too girly. According to the blurb, this perfume 'opens with' rose essence and peony, which sounds to me like a granny's perfume, but really it isn't too floral. It also contains mandarin which I hadn't realised until I read that, but I can detect the slight orangey scent - don't be put off by that though, this is not a citrus perfume. The base note is supposed to be amber, which I have to say I don't really understand - surely that's a solid resin and doesn't have a smell?!
This is not a perfume I would wear to work, it's too special for that, it should be worn to romantic dinners, to trips to the theatre, to bed. It's an evening perfume alright, sexy and strong, yet subtle ... I actually didn't realise how much I liked it until I started writing this review - there's not a single bad thing I can say about it. It is a bit pricier than some scents but it's worth every penny!
*Just as an aside, I would have said this belonged in the Travel category rather than the Internet Site one, bloody new points system, means I've just spent an hour writing this for precisely nothing!*
I've used budget airlines more or less since they started out back in the days of Buzz and Go - remember them? As long as you know that you get what you pay for and know how to ensure you don't end up spending a fortune on the 'extras' I think they're grand for what they are and give you the opportunity to see places you wouldn't otherwise be able to, and my boyfriend and I still use them a couple of times a year when visiting cities around Europe.
As well as our culture vulture trips though, we do like to have a cheap week in the sun for a bit of R&R (city breaks are wonderful but exhausting aren't they?!), and we normally book these as packages with a tour operator, so that all we have to do is turn up at the airport on time and the rest is taken care of. This year however we were having trouble finding something with any of the big tour operators that suited; due to weddings and work we only had a 10 day window in which to have our holiday and being in the North East we don't have as many options of airports or destinations as some of the bigger cities. And then we thought about Jet2 Holidays - they fly to a wide variety of destinations from Leeds and are ATOL protected. So we booked a week in Menorca at the end of June.
The booking went smoothly and I was sent all the information we would need by email and printed it out. They give 22kg luggage allowance which was more than ample for a week so there were no worries on that score. Everything went smoothly at the airport and we were given allocated seats when we checked in so there was no crush of people trying to get on the plane so they could sit together. So far so good.
Realisation dawned when we landed in Menorca and walked into arrivals. I was (reasonably I think) expecting to see a Jet2 rep, wearing a red Jet2 uniform, who would tell us what to do next. But nothing. We wandered out to the front of the airport but still nothing. So I approached a random lady who just happened to be holding a clipboard, saying "Jet2?" and making a sort of shrugging gesture which I hoped would be international for "Where the hell are they?" She asked our name and there we were on her list! She gave us a map of the island and told us what number bus we needed outside, and sure enough there were a fleet of little mini buses waiting to take holidaymakers to all four corners of Menorca. I was surprised to find that it was a third party operator and that no-one had so much as a Jet2 logo upon their person but nevertheless we were transported safely and without incident to our hotel.
Once there, we were left to liaise with the lady on reception. It was a small hotel and luckily she was there at the time - I noticed during the week that sometimes the reception wasn't manned and there was a telephone number to ring if you needed anyone - I wouldn't have been happy having to do that on my mobile roaming tariff upon arrival! But the lady was very lovely, spoke excellent English and we were happy in our room ... until later that day when we tried to take a shower and found we had only a dribble of water. We went back to the lady and she gave us the keys to another apartment and the water was OK, but no electricity. We went back again and third time lucky, it was fine. Now I know that problems in the hotel are not the tour operator's fault, but my point is, what if every room we went to had something wrong with it? Who could we have complained to?
We were lucky that our holiday ran smoothly from then on, but what if one of us had fallen ill/needed to get home/been robbed? We had also researched the island and had an idea in our heads of the things we wanted to do while we were there and how to get around the island, but not everyone does this and there was no welcome and orientation meeting. I imagine families with young children will find it easier to go on tour operator excursions, although I don't myself, but there was none of this.
The last thing that I was not happy about was that we were given a slip of paper with a number on when we arrived at the airport, and were told to ring up the day before we departed to ask what time we would get picked up. Luckily, the lady on reception was a good friend by this stage and when we asked if we could use her telephone rather than one of our mobiles, she offered to make the call for us. This was really helpful as I didn't fancy having such an important conversation in bad Spanish/bad English, knowing as a former language student how easy it is to make mistakes with numbers and times.
As I keep saying, we were lucky on this holiday in that we are quite independent travellers anyway, and we had no major issues during our stay, but I wouldn't go with Jet2 Holidays again because you just don't get the same support as you do from a real tour operator.
Although I don't use a hand cream very regularly, I find the soap in the toilets at work really dries my hands out and had been thinking I'd have to buy some to keep in my desk drawer, so I was pleased when I saw a free sample of the La Source Hand Therapy on the front of a magazine a few months ago.
I'd been aware of Crabtree and Evelyn for a while through magazines and always liked the shabby, vintage French feel of their products, and this is no exception. It comes in a white metal tube, like the old-fashioned toothpaste tubes, with a minimalist blue sketch of a seashell on the front, and text in both English and French on the back. The top is a screw top, and not the best - it's an octagonal shape rather than a ribbed type lid, and only very small so it's difficult to unscrew and even more difficult to screw back on once you have the lotion on your hands!
The cream itself is a very thick, almost solid, white cream and a little goes a long way. Contrary to the fresh 'breeze' type scent I was expecting because of the shell picture, I find the scent quite a heavy and overpowering herbal aroma and something in it reminds me of being at the dentist (!?). Upon looking at the ingredients list to see if I can discern what's creating this strange smell, I'm surprised to find a lot of long chemical names, whereas I always had Crabtree & Evelyn down as a natural products type of company.
The cream spreads easily across your skin, but I hesitate to say it sinks in because it feels more like it glides over and sort of sits on the skin greasily. Long after I've applied it, I feel the need to keep trying to rub it in, but still it just seems to float there, with a visible sheen on the skin. It does stop my hands feeling dry but to be honest I'm not sure what's worse, the dryness or the greasiness!
So to conclude, nice packaging but a disappointing, greasy and weird-smelling product. At £11 for a 100ml tube, you can get much better for your money.
I woke up this morning feeling rotten so went to the supermarket on the way to work to ransack their cold & flu aisle. Whilst in there I thought I'd get myself some soup for lunch - nice and warming and cosy for a poorly girl!
I normally go for tins of soup as I find the fresh ones quite overpriced, and often quite full of rubbish, but today I noticed that some Covent Garden Food Co fresh soups were on offer for just £1 each. Having tried the Carrot & Coriander variety before I'm aware of their quality so immediately snapped up five flavours in order to take full advantage of the 50%+ saving.
Covent Garden soups come in square Tetra-Pak type cartons and their packaging looks quite simple and wholesome, the sort of thing you might find in a farm shop. The Carrot & Coriander variety is predominantly white and orange, with painted image of carrots and coriander leaves plus small sketches of a snail and spade, which give the packaging a nice quirky feel. The carton reminded me of the ones milk used to come in a few years ago, and I was worried it would be as difficult to open as they were, but by following the instructions given I managed to open it without ending up covered in soup. Tetra Paks are also fully-recyclable.
The 600g packs are a bit of an odd size. It states on the side that each pack makes two portions but half the pack would be nowhere near enough for me unless it was a starter to a bigger meal. So I heated up the lot for myself but I did find it quite a bit too much (although I did manage it all!). They have brought out some of their most popular flavours in a 300g size, though I can't say I've ever seen any on sale, and as this is smaller than an average tin I think it would be too small. I don't know why they don't just to 400g tin-sized cartons, as that seems to be the perfect amount for soup.
Covent Garden describe the Carrot & Coriander variety as their crown jewels and according to the side of the pack they were the first company to 'marry the sweetness of carrots with the peppery coriander leaves' - I can't quite believe this somehow, I thought Carrot & Coriander was a classic?! Anyway, the soup is a lovely orange colour and mostly of a pureed consistency though there are some chunks of carrot to chew on. I was surprised and pleased at the creamy taste, it is rich and moreish, rather than rich and sickening. Although it smells quite peppery, it doesn't really taste it.
According to the pack, all their soups are made with 'natural ingredients', but I'm not entirely sure what this means - no E-numbers or preservatives I guess - I should hope all the vegetables are natural! A quick examination of the ingredients list shows that I was right and this soup does indeed contain cream. It is suitable for veggies with allergy advice for milk, wheat and gluten. May also contain nuts. There are 129 calories per ½ carton of soup - so it's not TOO bad then if you eat 2 portions (I don't think 260 calories is bad for lunch). There is however 6.6 fat and 2.1g salt per portion! Scary stuff, especially considering it doesn't even taste salty.
One disadvantage to fresh soups, especially when buying in bulk like I have, is that the expiry date on them is usually fairly soon. I had seven days in which to eat this one, and once opened you're supposed to eat within 24 hours. They can be frozen but is still to be used within a month so you don't get much extra time by doing this. To heat up the soup, simply heat on the hob for 5 minutes or put it in the microwave for 7 minutes. One small niggle is that they only give guidelines for a 900w microwave - which I've never seen before - so you have to guess at timings and this can result in soup that's not piping hot.
Overall though, it's definitely a luxury soup - much nicer than anything that comes in a tin. Recommended!
I got my Soap & Glory shower puff in the big hatbox which was available before Christmas, it costs £3.50 when sold separately but I have to say I've never seen them sold in my local Boots. I would never normally pay this much for what I see as an item with a very short life, I normally buy shower puffs in Wilko's for about 29p! So I was intrigued to see whether the higher price would be reflected in such a simple product.
A shower puff, for those of you who don't know, is an item which can be used as an alternative to a sponge, flannel or loofah in the shower or bath. It is made of a soft plastic netty-type material which is all scrunched together and tied, and has a loop to hang it up in the bathroom. You apply soap or shower gel to the puff and rub to form a lather - all the folds and the holes in the net produce lots of little bubbles, much more than the alternatives mentioned. The nets tend to loosen and pull out after a while and that's why I normally buy the cheaper ones - because they need replacing often.
This Soap & Glory shower puff is particularly big - the size of a cauliflower as opposed to the size of a pomegranate which most are - and that lovely Soap and Glory pink, and it has a pretty 'Soap & Glory' ribbon to hang it with rather than a plain but of string which is a nice touch. It looks lovely hanging there in the shower.
The sheer enormous size of the thing makes it a little bit unwieldy but you do get a good lather, even with cheapy own brand shower gels as opposed to the 'proper' S&G stuff. However I find it that the vast amount of net makes it more spongy and less exfoliating than a smaller puff and so I find myself having to scrub harder to get the required exfoliation, and this makes showering quite a tiring process! Although one could argue that it doubles as a workout! The fact that it's so big makes it harder to get in and around the toes too and I do feel as though they're only being skirted over. I also find that it takes a while to subsequently rinse the puff of all suds, which I like to do, don't know if that makes me a bit anal!
I've been using this for a few weeks now and the net is only just starting to come loose and look bedraggled so I can't deny that this is a very well made shower puff, however I have to mark it down because I just find it way too big to use with any efficacy and so I won't be buying it again.
Oh dear, I can see I'm going against the grain with this review but I really didn't like this deodorant! I'm not a very sweaty person by nature so I normally use whatever fragrance-free antiperspirant deodorant is the cheapest, usually Simple and at the moment Boots own brand, but I read a review of this one on here and it sounded lovely - fresh and clean - so I decided to give it a go next time I needed to buy some.
The packaging is certainly very appealing and fresh looking with the white container and spring green cap, and a fresh green image of a cucumber slice and green tea leaf on the label. It is different from most roll-ons with its almost conical shape and the fact that it stands on the cap, so this makes it stand out from others on the shelf.
However, this 'innovative' packaging is one of the things which let the product down for me. Although I think it's a good idea for roll-ons to be able to be stood on their heads towards the end of the bottle, so that the liquid goes to that end and you can actually get some out, it's no good doing it whilst the bottle is full because it will all leak out and go all over you when you unscrew the lid, which is what kept happening to me for the first couple of weeks. The conical shape means that it cannot be stood on its bottom end, and I was honestly thinking of binning it and buying something else. If I was less of a tightwad I probably would have!
According to the packaging this is a 24 hour, 0% alcohol deodorant and I can confirm that the effects were long lasting, and it could indeed be used after shaving without stinging or burning. I also found that unless I put my clothes on instantly, I did not get problems with white marks.
I can discern neither cucumber nor green tea in the scent but the overall effect is a fresh one, however it is also very strong and quite heavy for a deodorant and I don't like how you can smell it on yourself all day. Although it is a fairly pleasant smell - it IS still deodorant and I'll definitely go back to using unscented one after trying this.
To give it its dues, it DOES do the job as an antiperspirant deodorant - I don't find that I sweat doing day to day things, and I don't smell of BO but I do find that the scent can rub off on clothes making me have to wash them whereas I might have got another wear out of them with an unperfumed deodorant.
Despite the fact that it does the job as a deodorant though, the smell and the packaging are enough to put me off buying it again.
I always use Tampax tampons because although they are more expensive than other brands, I think the price reflects their quality. I normally go for the Compak variety as I like their handy and discreet size, but I came across a promotional pack of Tampax Pearl recently and thought I'd give them a whirl.
There are a few subtle differences between the Pearl and the other Tampax varieties; the first one I noticed was the individual wrappers. The Pearl comes wrapped in a thickish waterproof plastic wrapper which rather than having a 'tear' open function, has two small tabs of plastic which you pull apart, opening the wrapper along the length of the tampon, meaning that you don't end up opening at the wrong end thus having to touch the 'business' end - you can make sure you only touch the applicator meaning that the end that enters your body remains sterile.
I've found the wrapping in this type of plastic is quieter and doesn't rustle as much as the paper wrapper of the classic Tampax or the cheaper plastic of the Compak, this is nice as it makes trips to communal loos more discreet and the wrappers won't rustle when you're rummaging about in your bag. The wrapping also features a really rather lovely swirly floral design in pale green on white - nothing too loud - and it's a nice touch. (Presumably each absorbency has its own colour, green for Super, yellow for Regular and so on, but I've only tried the Super).
The main difference with the Pearl is the applicator. It is packaged as 'long' with the applicator in position ready to be used, rather than condensed down like the Compak, where you have to pull it out in order to push it back in. This means that it's not as small to carry about as the Compak, but I guess no one really believes the Compak is a sachet of sugar anyway so it doesn't matter too much! It is packaged like this because the 'push' part of applicator is thinner than normal, with a sort of plunger head at the top , which pushes the tampon more easily, rather than having a small tube inside a larger tube which sometimes doesn't push quite right and you can end up wasting a tampon because you haven't been able to insert it properly. The top end of the applicator has the flappy bits covering it, which the tampon pushes through (as do most varieties now) meaning that it gets minimum exposure to anything before entering the body. The plastic of the applicator is extra smooth, tangibly smoother than the Compak, and is a pearlescent white (of course!).Because of the smooth plastic this really is one of the easiest to insert tampons that I've tried, the whole process is very smooth and comfortable.
The Pearl also has a Perfect Fit feature, meaning that it expands widthways rather than lengthways to "naturally fit your unique body shape". I have to agree that these are really comfortable tampons - I sometimes find that others 'slip' slightly after an hour or two meaning that you can feel them in there and it's uncomfortable, but I didn't experience this at all with the Pearl. Upon removing the tampon I found that it is indeed a very short fat thing compared to what I was used to (Perhaps another reference to pearls, as it's almost round?), and one drawback to this was that it was slightly uncomfortable to remove.
I won't go into too much detail about absorbency (!) but suffice to say that I've never had any problems with Tampax and the Pearl is no exception. Likewise the quality - no dodgy applicators or loose strings here.
Prices of Tampax Super tampons on the Boots website today are as follows:
Classic box of 20 = £1.99 (9.9p each)
Compak box of 20 = £2.85 (14.2p each)
Pearl box of 18 = £2.99 (16.6p each)
So if you normally buy the Classic then to switch to the Pearl would be a 50%+ increase, but for people like me who use the Compak it's not too much more expensive ... I guess it depends on how much of a difference the little differences make to you. I'll definitely consider them in future.
I'm a massive St. Ives devotee and normally nothing will lure me away from their Invigorating Apricot face scrub, but I treated myself to one of the Soap & Glory hatboxes when they were on offer for £20 before Christmas and one of the products inside was The Greatest Scrub of All facial exfoliator.
It comes in quite bland packaging by Soap & Glory's standards - it's neither bright pink nor bright blue and has no pictures of vintage-esque ladies in shower caps giving amusing, pun-packed bathing advice; it's just a standard 125ml plastic tube in a pearly white colour with the 'Greatest Scrub of All' logo which has a sort of shining effect coming from it to suggest bands of angels singing Hallelujah on high. It stands upright on its cap which is great as it means all the product is always close to the opening making it easier to squeeze out, but it's a screw cap rather than a flip top which makes it very fiddly to replace with wet fingers and a blob of face scrub in one hand, especially as the cap is smooth plastic and not ridged for ease of gripping.
I was quite surprised at the consistency of the product at first, I found it much thinner than I am used to for face scrubs. It is a pearlescent white colour, with not many discernible scrubbers. According to the tube, this scrub contains "smooth-boosting spheres that pop open when you press on them!", and on closer inspection I found that there were some largish scrubbies, which do seem to pop upon being pressed, releasing an orange coloured liquid, but they just look like sharp bits of scrubbiness and I wouldn't have realised that's what they were if I wasn't actively looking for them.
The packaging advises you to use a pea-sized "splodge" and "smooth around from place to place (your oily chin, blackhead blocked nose, a flaky forehead)", massaging in circles for 30 seconds. Firstly I would have said that a pea sized amount is too little, I use about an almond sized amount (I sound like I'm splitting hairs there don't I but it is quite a difference!), and as suspected when I saw how smooth the product looked, I don't find it scrubs very well. I couldn't feel the exfoliation unless I really scrubbed hard with the heel of my hand, and that is a lot of effort first thing on a morning! I certainly could not feel the "smooth-boosting spheres" popping.
Soap and Glory advise that oily skins can use it 2-4 times a week, but drier skins less often. But I use face scrubs every day and made no exception with this one, and I saw no adverse effects on my skin - it didn't feel sore or anything, but then I don't have very sensitive skin at all and it may be different for you.
Despite not being able to really feel the scrub doing its job whilst I was using it, I have to say I was impressed with the results. My skin felt as smooth and as glowy as it normally does (but no more than normal). I was worried that I'd get that feeling of 'build-up' in my pores, especially around my nose, which I get if I'm not able to use a scrub for a day of two for whatever reason, but there was none of that at all which was a pleasant surprise.
The best thing about this product is definitely the smell. It is minty with a hint of a fruity undertone which I guess comes from the orange stuff inside the poppers. The menthol in this feels cool on your face and really wakes you up and makes your skin feel refreshed.
The Greatest Scrub of All normally retails in Boots for £7.87, but it's currently on offer for £5.25. It's a decent enough face scrub, but I'm knocking two stars off for high price, annoying screw cap and just not being rough enough!
*I found 'Flake Away' to be the best scrub in the Hat Box
Books are very much on my mind at the moment, I recently counted up and of the 182 fiction books on my shelves, 95 remain unread and I'm working hard to lower this figure a bit! It's been really interesting reading other people's responses to these questions and I couldn't resist a go myself!
* What is your favourite genre?
I think if you need a specific 'genre' most books I read would fall into contemporary fiction. I love 'slice of life' type books, where nothing really happens but you get a real insight into a character's life.
* Do you read the classics, i.e., the great authors of the 18th and 19th century?
To be honest I think the closest I've come to reading a classic is Little Women! I do want to read them, and have started collecting a lot of Austen, but I find I have to totally concentrate on the old-fashioned language otherwise I don't really take in what's happening.
* Are you interested in thrillers?
I'm not really interested in them, but I find if I pick one up I usually get really into it - The Firm was a good example of this.
* What about horror stories?
I haven't read horror stories since my Point Horror days; I tend to just watch horror films now. I'm trying to get my hands on The Shining though as I've fancied that for a while.
* Do you read science fiction?
Not science fiction per se, but I'm reading His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman at the moment and they're in that sort of vain, and things like The Handmaid's Tale which count as sci fi but without you really realising it!
* How many Harry Potter books have you read?
All of them twice! I think they're fantastic, and the use of language really interests me, the way the spells link back to Latin and the characters' names all mean something.
* Have you ever read and enjoyed biographies or autobiographies?
The only one I've ever enjoyed is Boy by Roald Dahl; I just find that with a lot of them you get the history of the whole family tree before you get to the juicy stuff and that just doesn't interest me, no matter how interesting the subject.
* Do you remember any of the books you read and loved as a child?
The Very Hungry Caterpillar was definitely one of my faves, as well as the Mog the Forgetful Cat series and anything by Roald Dahl. I also used to like reading the ancient Janet & John books my Mam had got from jumble sales.
* Have you re-read these books as a grown-up?
* Is there a book of which you can say it has influenced you?
Not really, or not that I know of. There are lots of books that 'stay with you' in a way though, your mind keeps drifting back to them long after you've finished reading: The Book Thief, The Time-Traveller's Wife, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, there are loads.
* Which are your favourite authors?
Margaret Atwood - despite not really enjoying The Handmaid's Tale at A-level, I've read most of her books and love them; Bill Bryson, he's so funny and observant; Maggie O'Farrell, I find her really engaging ... I've read a few of Iain Banks too but find him a bit hit and miss, he just annoys me sometimes!
* Which book would you take with you on a desert island?
Probably A short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson as I might finally get past the geology chapter if it was the only reading matter I had!!
* What is your attitude towards translations?
I've never come across one that I thought was badly translated. It's never been an issue, I just read them as I would a normal book. I speak French and Spanish and keep meaning to read something in one of those languages but it always just seems too much like hard work!
* Do you buy your books/get them from the library/borrow them from friends/steal them?
I don't tend to borrow books from friends or the library as I'm a slow stop-start reader, and also I like having a lovely shelf of books that are mine all mine! I very rarely pay full price though, I usually get them from charity shops or car boot sales, or I swap them with others on the book swapping website readitswapit.co.uk. If I ever DO pay full price for a book, I get it with Dooyoo Amazon vouchers of course!
* When you buy books, do you prefer hardcover editions or pocket books?
I prefer paperbacks as they're lighter to carry about and less cumbersome to hold.
* Have you ever tried Audio Books?
No, I don't think I'd be able to concentrate enough. I'm quite a slow reader and think I need that time to take everything in. I have friends who read to their boyfriends and vice versa which sounds so romantic but I always thing if I did that I'd get to the end of the book and not know what had happened!
Hope you've enjoyed reading; I'm raring to get curled up into bed now and find out what's happening in Lyra and Will's world!
When I opened this birthday present from a friend and saw the Body Shop packaging, I was quite surprised to find that it was a home fragrance as I didn't realise they did a home range. I was eager to try it though as I always find Body Shop products to be great quality and smell lovely. I'd also never heard of the concept of a reed diffuser before and was intrigued.
The reed diffuser is basically made up of a small square glass receptacle (vase?!), a flat wooden lid with holes in, and 12 reeds which are placed in the holes. The pack includes an 80ml bottle of scented oil, which I poured in all at once (not sure if you're meant to!). According to the packaging "the reeds will absorb the fragrance and release a delicate cherry blossom scent" ... and they do!
The scent is described by the Body Shop as: "subtle, delightful, radiant and pretty" and I'd say this is an accurate description - it's definitely a flowery smell, but with a slight fruitiness that stops it being too floral and old-ladyish. It's a gentle perfume that doesn't catch the back of your throat like a lot of air freshening products can, nor does it smell at all synthetic - it's a very natural aroma. Although in the bottle it seems overpowering, it is indeed a subtle scent once the diffuser is in place. Subtle but noticeable - I placed this in our hallway and the scent greets you when you walk through the door.
We are advised: "to get best results invert the reeds regularly, avoiding contact with skin". I'm not sure whether this is because the oil is harmful to the skin or just because it's so greasy to touch. I was, perhaps a little naively, surprised at how greasy the reeds and even the wooden lid got, this would put me off inverting the reeds to be honest, and they could have done with designing the lid so that the whole thing could just be turned over, rather than have to switch each reed individually. The fact that the lid just sits on top of the vase is a worry too, as I imagine the oil is a bugger to get out of upholstery or curtains if spilt!
I know you're not supposed to look at the prices of gifts but for the purposes of this review I went online and found that this reed diffuser costs £14. I'd say that's a bit of an extravagance but really not THAT much more expensive than some of the plug-in products (especially when you factor in the electricity!), and it's certainly more attractive, even in a neutral, minimalist home. Judging by how much the oil has gone down in the last week and a half, I'd say this will last about 6-8 weeks. 90ml refill bottles are also available for £9, but I'm not sure how long you could keep refilling the original before the reeds start to look grubby.
Also available are diffusers in Satsuma and Moroccan Rose. Like all Body Shop products, they are not tested on animals.
Perhaps because of a winter spent beneath multiple layers and an excess of chocolate and alcohol at Christmas, I began the new year with distinctly horrible upper arms. They felt dry and bumpy and looked dull and grey. So I dug about in my Soap and Glory hatbox for a suitable remedy, and Flake Away is the product I pulled out.
Flake Away is a product from Soap & Glory's pink range and comes in either the mini (50ml) or maxi (300ml) version (priced at £2.25 and £6.50 respectively). Whichever size you get, it comes in a robust pink tub with a screw top. I personally prefer tubes of things to use in the bathroom so you can just flip the lid rather than try to faff on screwing the top back on when you've already got the product on your hands and there's water everywhere (I did try leaving the open tub on the edge of the bath once, won't do that again). However, with this particular body scrub, you can see why they've put it in a pot - it's so thick it would take all your strength to squeeze it out, and if you hadn't had your morning cuppa before you got in the shower you'd be done for!
According to the packaging, this is a Shea butter, sugar and peach seed body polish, which is specifically designed for flaky legs and bumpy skin - perfect for me then! The scrub itself is a dark beige sort of a colour and you can see little specks of brown which must be the peach seeds. The smell is amazing. I have to say I don't get notes of bergamot, mandarin, oakmoss, amber and woody drydown(!) mentioned in the blurb, to me this smells like "Soap & Glory" - that sweet, sugary, slightly artificial scent that you can't get enough of. Yum!
The pot instructs you to "apply a handful onto damp skin and massage in circular motions until most of the grains are gone." I find it really thick and heavy duty and a little goes a long way. I'm not sure if it really IS sugar in there (I'd have thought it would dissolve?) but the scrubbies certainly are the size and shape of sugar granules and they really do the job. I really feel like I'm getting a good scrub with this stuff and yet it's fairly gentle on the skin too (I wouldn't use it on my face though, it's not THAT gentle!)
I do find that because it is so thick, it tends to leave a residue on your skin that you can feel, particularly on your fingers, and I find that if I use this prior to shaving my legs the razor would end up filled with quite a surprising amount of gunk. Even after drying off I find that I can feel a slight tackiness on the skin, though this does sink in through the day. Despite this though I would still recommend using a good body lotion afterwards. More worryingly, it also tends to leave a greasy residue in the bathtub which can be quite slippery. As for results? It certainly left my skin feeling smooth and glowing, and after using it for about a week my arms were back to normal - pink and bump-free! I'll definitely buy this again.
My boyfriend bought me this rather mysterious looking object for my birthday, knowing how much time I spend cosied up in bed on Facebook and Dooyoo - he was worried I was going to overheat the laptop and set the bed alight one of these days!
The Belkin CushTop is, according to the packaging, "uniquely designed for comfortable laptop use on the couch, bed or floor". It is a sort of asymmetrical traezium shape made from what feels like that tightly-packed polystyrene stuff that is used as packing for electrical items and the like, slightly padded and covered in a hard-wearing fabric.
It is taller at one end than at the other so that your laptop is slightly angled, enabling you to see what keys you're pressing more easily when it's on your lap (for the non-touch-typers among us!), and one surface is much wider than the other, so it is suitable for both 15" and 17" laptops - just flip it over. Simple but ingenius!
The other simple-but-ingenius idea is the 'hole' - the CushTop is hollow in the middle, thus creating a handy storage area not only for the power lead as the packaging suggests, but also for all sorts of computer paraphenalia - external hard drives, CDs, mouse, camera whilst you download photos, MP3 player, biscuits... the list is endless.
The main purpose of the CushTop is to ensure that both the laptop and user do not overheat and it fulfills this purpose impeccably. I'd been faffing about on the internet for an hour or two before I started this review, and altthough my legs are pretty warm, if I hadn't had the CushTop I would have had to take the laptop off my lap by now. Lifting the laptop up, the CushTop feels warm, but again, nothing like it would have been had it been sitting directly on my legs. The other advantage I find with this product is that the fabric covering provides a non-slip element, meaning that I can move about (reach for things, etc) and my laptop stays put on the CushTop, when otherwise it might slide off my lap.
The only bad point I can see with this prodct is that it is rather large and cumbersome, and does not break down to a smaller size for storage, but this is a minor niggle. Overall this product is a brilliant idea which has been innovatively designed.
The Belkin CushTop comes in four different colour combinations and retails from under £10 on the internet.
Any regular readers of my reviews will know about my incurable lip balm addiction, I wear it every day and reapply regularly, and panic if I go out without one about my person. Well one day a few months ago I found myself in this very predicament - out in town shopping for a full day, with no source of dry lip relief!! I rushed straight to Boots looking for a lifesaver and spotted a cheap option I'd never noticed before: Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula lip balm. I'd tried their chocolate and cherry flavoured lip balm/gloss before and wasn't too impressed, but nothing else had caught my eye so I decided to take a chance on this one.
The lip balm comes in a plastic and card blister pack (as shown), on which is printed some information about the formula and benefits of the lip balm, in various languages. The packaging is pretty uninspiring to be honest, just the rather dated-looking Palmer's orange and brown logo on a pale blue background. This does make clear the association with the already much loved and respected Palmer's brand though. The lip balm itself is housed in an average tube, with pull-off lid and twist function to push the balm up as you use it. I find stick lip balms much more convenient than the pots as you don't have to get your finger greasy to apply them, so this was a big selling point for me.
Although it feels quite thick and heavy on the stick, I find this lip balm glides onto the lips and seems to 'melt' in, much like the Palmer's body butter does on the skin. I find it gives even, not-too-heavy coverage, albeit ever so slightly on the greasy side, that lasts for a good few hours. Even when it wears off it doesn't leave your lips feeling drier than they were in the first place, like some lip balms I have tried. It also smells really lovely - a delicate vanilla scent that isn't too overpowering.
According to the packaging, this 4g lip balm contains Vitamin E to help "prevent and protect chapped, cracked or wind-burned lips", and has an SPF of 15. I wouldn't say it's the most intensive lip balm though, so not brilliant for extremes of heat or cold, but definitely a good year-round all-rounder!
Palmer's Cocoa Butter lip balm is currently priced at £1.69 in Boots so is one of the cheapest lip products on the market and provides excellent value for money. It is not tested on animals.
More information can be found at www.palmerscocoabutter.com