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Having just finished this most amazing, compelling book, I was telling a friend about how much I enjoyed it. "Oh yeah!" she said, "everyone's been talking about it. It's basically just sex, right?" I sighed. No, this is not THAT book, despite it's pretty similar title. This one came out last year and I could only wish it would get so much attention. I was somewhat appalled to see that it had so far received no reviews on here, while its counterpart had masses of them, so let me introduce you to something I feel is actually worth reading!
I'll start with a disclaimer: Between Shades of Grey is a very depressing book. Very. But if you stick with it the ending is well worth it.
The story's narrator, 15-year-old Lina, is a Lithuanian girl who, along with her mother and younger brother Jonas are being sent away in a cattle car by the NKVD. They do not know where they are going, or why they have been put on Stalin's list. Their father, Kostas, has been separated from them and is on board a different train.
Lina, a promising artist, sneaks out of the train car before departure and finds her father, promising she will somehow send him secret messages by way of her artwork, which he is sure to recognise.
We follow Lina's family throughout the next couple of years, and the hard times they endure, unraveling bits of their past and learning about the other residents of the train car. Although times are tough and conditions brutal, with them starving, becoming ill due to malnutrition and working until their fingers bleed, the group never lose hope and never lose their sense of humour.
This is what kept me reading. Although times were so desperate for the family and those around them, and in my mind all the time I knew these things really happened to others, scenes such as them celebrating a makeshift Christmas or birthday were so heartwarming, and made me root for the characters all the more.
It's been a long time since I've devoured a book as quickly as this one. I love how it was written from the point of view of a young girl, as so much of the book was about uncertainty - where they were going, if their father was alive etc - and this confounded it all the more. It reminded me a lot of Markus Zusak's "The Book Thief" which is another of my favourites, with Lina mirroring Liesl at times. The language is as simple and sparse as the landscape of Siberia, where they end up, and it can almost be read as a young adult novel, despite the bleak themes. I find books like this, such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which describes the war from a child's point of view, much more impactful.
The ending of the book made me cry, which I don't believe has ever happened, and it was perfect, especially the epilogue.
I was most interested to read the author's note, where she explains her family ties to very similar events, and how she had researched by travelling to Lithuania and speaking to survivors and their families. What's even MORE interesting is that, although this is a work of fiction, one of the characters, who ultimately brings the story to a close, is completely real!
If you're at all interested in fiction set in war times, especially if you'd be interested to learn about a country such as Lithuania which doesn't get a lot of attention with regard to this era, I'd HIGHLY recommend this book. Heck, I'd recommend it even if you aren't!
Sometime last year I went on a bit of a scented candle kick, and somehow one day went into Clinton Cards to buy a birthday card and came out having compulsively bought a medium-sized jar of this candle, Garden Sweet Pea by Yankee Candles.
Yankee are definitely my brand of choice as far as candles go, as they have a huge range and the scent is quite strong, which I like, as let's face it you buy scented candles to smell and there's nothing worse than having one that you don't notice in the room.
This particular scent is, obviously, part of the floral fragrance family which normally aren't one I tend to go for. Whilst I will admit to not being all that sure what a real life sweet pea actually smells like, I can vouch for the fact that this scent is definitely sweet! It is vaguely floral, but the most overpowering scent is of sweetness, and it reminds me of fabric softener a little. In fact, I'll admit that even though I loved the scent when sniffing the jar in the shop, having used about half of this up I've found I have to be in the mood for this one, and can't burn it too long, as it is a tad sickly. The scent is perhaps slightly more "mature" than the bakery or fresh fruity ones I tend to choose.
As I've said, all Yankee Candles have great scent throw and they also burn very evenly. The top layer of the candle becomes clear upon burning, and sets evenly so there is no "tunnelling" which I find with cheaper candles and of course means that you end up wasting a lot and not using the entire thing up. The higher quality does come at a price, with Yankee's products ranging from about 90p for a wax tart up to approximately £18 for a large jar candle which will last FOREVER, trust me! Because they burn so nicely, I do feel that it's worth the money because they last so long and I have repurchased a couple of my favourite scents.
Unfortunately this isn't one I'll be buying again. While the scent is nice, it can be a bit overwhelming in its sweetness. I think perhaps a smaller jar may have been better as I've found with a couple of other scents that they give me a headache in large jars, due to them being so strong. If you really like floral and very sweet scents, I'd recommend trying this one, but maybe in a small jar or wax tart first! You can find Yankee Candle at Clinton Cards, Hallmark Stores or online, but I mostly buy mine at a Hallmark Outlet shop where they are generally half price.
I've been using Mitchum deodorant for several years now, as I do tend to sweat quite a lot and need a heavy duty anti-perspirant which Mitchum seems to lead the pack on. Over the last year or so, however, I've begun to notice that the formulation must have changed, and I've been frantically searching for an alternative so I can stop using it!
First of all, why have I been using it for so long? Well, it really does work. The bottle claims 48-hour protection, which I've never tested because, well, I still like to wash every day regardless of whether I'm sweaty or not! I do find though that it lasts a day of work, sports, dashing about a city on holiday, whatever. It really does work.
The specific version I'm using at the moment, Advanced Control, also claims to minimise white marks. I'll say that it does, but it doesn't necessarily leave clothes unmarked, the marks just aren't white. That's strike one, as far as this goes. It does take quite a while to dry and feels a bit tacky and gross for a couple of minutes, which means I can't dash out of the door quite so quickly, and it does somewhat spoil the shower-fresh feeling. Once it is dry, however, it's not noticeable. I've noticed a few marks on some of my tshirts, which rather than being white are somewhat greasy-looking and dark. Not that pleasant but mostly do wash out.
There isn't a huge choice of scents as far as Mitchum goes, which isn't a problem for me as I prefer mine to be either unperfumed or shower fresh, both of which are within the range.
So the deodorant works, smells inoffensive and doesn't completely ruin my clothing, so why am I desperate to change it? Well, it has started literally burning my armpits! I noticed this a couple of times after chopping and changing deodorants, and finally linked it to when I've been using Mitchum. I recently picked up a newer version, hoping they would have sorted it, but no, it's definitely this deodorant.
I mentioned this to a colleague who confirmed she had also suffered this, and a quick Google proves we're not the only ones. I believe the culprit to be the aluminium zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly. While I couldn't tell you what half of that means, I do know that I have suffered reactions to metals in the past before and have heard of it causing irritation in deodorants. Yes, it causes them to work, but sadly at a cost.
To say that this irritated me would be a vast understatement. It wasn't even a case of it burning after shaving. No, this would appear innocent enough upon application but throughout the day I would get an intense itching which, frankly, was quite embarrassing when I had to constantly scratch my armpits. I once made the mistake of bringing Mitchum with me on holiday, having not used it for a while. As I had nothing else to use, by the end of the week I had been scratching so I was almost bleeding and there were visible chemical BURNS on my armpits.
I've switched to the aerosol now, having not found a suitable alternative to Mitchum yet that can keep me fresh and dry, and do find that the aerosol doesn't cause me to be irritated...yet! Interestingly the spray does not contain as much aluminium, and of a different form.
If you suffer from heavy sweating and need a good strong deodorant, I would recommend this, but if you suffer at all from skin sensitivity please be forewarned! You can find these deodorants from supermarkets, Superdrug, Boots etc and they are generally priced at around £3 with deals often on such as BOGOF. I find that a bottle will generally last me about two months.
As part of my most recent Glossybox I was pleased to receive a Figs & Rouge lip balm. It is something that I had been meaning to try out for a long time but, like I'm sure most women, I seem to have amassed so many lip balms that they are not something I really justify buying any more until I use some up.
I will admit that I'm quite fussy about lip balms. I don't like anything too sticky, thick or greasy, and I'm especially not crazy about balms with drying, tingly ingredients which trick people into thinking their lips a favour but make them more chapped in the long run. So I was really pleased to try out something 100% organic with no nasty ingredients at all.
The balm I received was Peppermint & Tea Tree, which I admit was a little disappointing as I liked the sound of some of the other flavours much better, but I don't dislike peppermint so I still looked foward to using the balm. As it happens, the scent is quite mild and even smells organic (rather than the candy-type peppermint often found in lip balms) and I don't really notice a flavour as such when the balm is on my lips. I can't comment on whether the other varities are stronger but if you're not a fan of strongly-scented/flavoured balms, don't be put off by the fact that this contains normally pretty pungent extracts.
The first thing that struck me about the balm is the consistency. It transfers easily onto the finger and is almost grainy, at first I used way too much by accident because I'm used to having to rub at a balm much harder to get any out. With the right amount, the balm sinks in quite easily and doesn't feel greasy on the lips. After a couple of minutes it has sunk completely in, so it doesn't interfere with eating and drinking, but I still feel as though my lips are moisturised.
Besides the fact that it really does its job, and the fact that it is natural, my favourite thing about this balm is the beautiful packaging. The tin is small enough to slip into a pocket, and has a pretty vintage-style design on the lid.
The Figs & Rouge range can be found at larger Boots stores, and numerous websites. The balms are all completely natural and can be found from around £3 each, which I feel is great value for something of such good quality. Apart from being used on the lips, they can act as a moisturiser for dry elbows, cuticles etc and are handy to have in your handbag. I'll definitely continue to use these balms - maybe in a more fun flavour next time!
This Christmas one of the things I had dropped hints for was this scratch map, having seen it somewhere and thought it was a SERIOUSLY COOL idea. Happily enough Santa brought it for me and I had a lot of fun scratching off countries, before sticking it to my bathroom door where I can ponder my future travels whilst sitting for a while!
There are two versions of this map, a smaller one which can actually be taken travelling and this which is a poster presented in a smart tube and more aimed at travellers who want to have some kind of visual representation in their home of their gallivanting.
When unrolled it is pretty standard poster size, and is of a laminated plasticy-feeling paper so it won't tear. It lies fairly flat whilst you are scratching off countries and although it was rolled and is thicker than standard poster weight will stick fairly easily with just Blu-Tack.
The basic idea is that when you have visited a country you scratch it off the map, scratchcard style, which then colours in the map rather than all the countries being the gold foil. From what I've scratched off so far, it seems to be coloured according to continent with Europe green, North America blue and so on. You also reveal some major cities and things such as mountain ranges are also represented.
Because of the slightly shiny surface of the poster, it is easy to scratch off countries cleanly, so it looks really smart once you've revealed a little portion of the world. I did notice, though, that a couple of little scratches have come off unintentionally, so I would advise covering the rest of the map with the tissue that it comes rolled up in whilst doing the actual scratching, and either framing it or sticking it somewhere that you aren't likely to bump into/touch a lot.
Some countries are also a little hard to see so you have to be careful when scratching that you are doing the right country, especially in Europe where there are a lot in a small space, and the printing on the foil is a bit smudged in places on mine. I would like to think, though, that if you have actually been to a country you should be able to locate it on a labelled map without too many problems anyway!
Whilst scratching off my travels I did get a bit confused around Canada because in some areas where there are a lot of islands, the sea is also covered in foil. I scratched this off too around countries I've actually been to because it makes the map look much nicer, however I didn't want to accidentally scratch off major islands that I'd not been to so I had to kind of scratch off the mainland and leave the sea half done which wasn't as satisfying as countries with a more definite border! On the plus side big countries such as Canada and America aren't divided by state on the foil itself, so you can scratch off a huge part in one swipe!
Despite these little technical difficulties (and I find using a retractable ballpoint pen works well for smaller countries), this is such a cool idea and a wonderful gift for the seasoned traveller. I imagine it will make quite a good talking point to visitors of my home who need the loo! One small word of warning though - it will make you want to go to completely random countries based on their size - never has Russia seemed so appealing to me! It is also making my upcoming visit to Costa Rica seem a bit of a let-down, it's really tiny!!
These maps are REALLY easy to find online, on Amazon, I Want One of Those, Play.com to name but a few, and they cost around the £15 map. A really fun, unique gift for the traveller that has everything!
I love having a fresh manicure as much as the next girl but I'm often put off by how annoying I find it when it starts to chip. I've tried lots of different nail polishes, some with more success than others, but generally speaking I find that I am getting chips after a day or two even with the more expensive brands, and honestly I just can't be bothered to take the whole lot off and start again that quickly!
My mum recommended I try Double Duty, and I picked this up quite a while ago but wasn't all that impressed. For some reason I am always more moved to paint my nails in the winter, so I decided to give this another shot and now I'm not exactly sure what I didn't like about it in the first place!
Double Duty as the name suggests is a two-in-one nail product from Sally Hansen, who are pretty much the leading name in nail care. It works as a base and top coat, and contains nourishing ingredients such as vitamin B5 to help care for the nail. I'l be honest, I really don't think that one little vitamin is going to make a nail healthier when you consider everything else that goes into a nail polish, not to mention removing it again, so whenever anything claims to be "strengthening" I simply don't believe it. I prefer to think of it as "less potentially damaging".
The first times I used this product, and hated it, I was applying simply as a top coat as I'm pretty lazy and don't like to wait around waiting for base coat, 1-2 coats of polish and top coat dry. I almost always smudge my manicures, so for me one extra coat is just asking for trouble.
I was wrong! If you use this just as a top coat, you must wait a LONG time for your polish to dry. As in absolutely-not-a-single-chance-of-it-smudging-ever before you apply the top coat. Being lazy, as mentioned, I waited until my nails were dry to the light touch and applied the top coat. This makes it incredibly difficult for the top coat to dry and as such the polish becomes a kind of sludge which will smush (technical word) right off the nail and look awful. I was always finding that my nails would have the imprint of whatever fabric I was wearing, and be a weird texture, and it was so awful I'd have to remove it immediately - which in itself was more difficult because the whole shebang had never thoroughly dried and was sticky goo.
Lesson learned: either be patient or use as top and base coat. Now, as you can imagine I was kind of skeptical when I first used this as a base and top coat, because if I needed to wait that long for one coat, how long would I be waiting for two? Well, actually, not that long. If you don't mess with it, a thin layer of base coat dries within a pretty reasonable time. It also makes the nail feel more matte and as such quite a sticky base for polish to cling to. I would not say that this is one you could wear as a clear polish, because it's not high gloss on its own and feels weird, but it does provide a nice base for the polish.
As the base it leaves is not slick, it can make polishes apply a tad less smoothly than they would on their own. Personally I don't mind this, as I find thinner layers tend to wear better anyway as they are less prone to peeling. The polish itself dries pretty quickly over the base coat.
Once it is completely dry, the Double Duty becomes super glossy as a top coat. I have no idea how it can manage to be matte on the bare nail, and glossy on top, but it does! I like to leave this really quite a while to dry as I am wary of getting those awful imprints again, but once dry it really does feel hard as (pardon the pun) nails. It is slick so that if you accidentally bump your nail it kind of repels the impact rather than chipping. The gloss effect does look nice although at first after applying I find that it feels absolutely awful to touch things that are plastic, especially cling film. I've had this a lot with certain nail polishes, and it totally makes me cringe, although fortunately it does seem to wear off after a few hours, maybe some kind of strange static thing?
I've had my current manicure on for three days now and have only chipped one nail, the rest are looking perfect so I'm absolutely thrilled. Touching up one nail, that I don't mind. What I will say, though, is that with one layer of base coat, in this case one of polish, and one of top coat is really quite thick. I've found that when the nail chips, which generally happens right at the bottom if you catch it and lift up the entire layer, a huge chunk will peel away. In fact, it is really easy to peel the entire nail's colour off cleanly if you wanted to. This means that one little chip normally leads to an entire ruined nail, as it is either left flapping around or will come off by itself. Still not the end of the world if there are so few chips anyway, but a little annoying.
Removal-wise, though, this does mean that everything comes off very cleanly. In fact, dare I say too easily - I have just redone my chipped nail, smudged it (told you I'm useless!), used nail varnish remover to try get the offending stain off my duvet, and ended up with two nails on the hand I was wiping with missing their tips of colour and with cotton wool stuck to them! Definitely no staining of brighter colours and effortless removal.
A bottle of this costs £4.95 and I think that is pretty decent value if it will prolong wear so much. My mum swears she can get a week's wear from manis done with this. The brush is a really nice size and it is very easy to paint on, although it tends to load up with a lot of product so you have to be careful not to overdo it.
I will continue to use this now that my patience has proved to me how good it is, but would definitely recommend that you do use it for both its roles intended!
Whenever I visit my local outlet centre, I always look forward to rummaging through the half-price Yankee Candles. I love having a variety of different candles to scent my home with, and Yankee are my favourite brand. Although they are great quality, they are also a little expensive, so I look forward to picking up a couple of small jars at a discount.
As soon as I smelled Orange Dreamsicle, I knew I had to have it! As the illustration on the jar shows, a dreamsicle is, apparently, an ice cream. I always thought they were called creamsicles, so maybe there is some copyright thing going on! Anyway, if you've never eaten frozen treats in America, a creamsicle is pretty much just a ice cream split lolly, eg a fruit-flavoured ice lolly with creamy vanilla ice cream inside.
This candle smells exactly like that! It is orangey without being overpoweringly citrus, which can often hint of cleaning products, and you can smell the sweetness and just a tiny hint of vanilla. It's quite a refreshing, summery scent and not overly powerful. I find that some fruit scents can give me a bit of a headache if they're too strong, but this is just right.
The candle itself is a light yellow-orange and along with the graphic on the front, and of course the scent, is quite summer-themed, although I am enjoying it perfectly fine on these chilly days we're having! It's worth noting that scents like this are often found at outlets during the winter months, so it's a good time to stock up while they're not so in-demand.
Yankee's scents come in several formats, including room sprays and car air fresheners etc, but their main attraction is, of course, the humble candle. The most common of these, which are available in pretty much all of Yankees vast scent collection, are housewarmer jars in small, medium or large. They are quite attractive jars with a lid, which keeps the scent in. This both stops the candle from losing its scent, and stops the room from smelling like it when you don't want it to, so I much prefer lidded candles.
All Yankee Candles burn very evenly, and this one is no different. I find with a lot of cheaper candles that the wax tends to tunnel and burn down the middle, leaving a lot of leftover wax and therefore wasting money and reducing the burn time. Yankee's formula is quite unique in that the entire upper layer of the candle melts very quickly, so that it all sets evenly once you put out the flame. The wicks are also of good quality and don't tend to "mushroom" like some cheaper brands which constantly need trimming.
I generally go for small housewarmer jars they are the cheapest, and it allows me to try out more different scents. The recommended retail price of small jars is £7.99 and these burn for 25-40 hours according to the label. I would say that they definitely last towards the 40 hour mark, as my all-time favourite (Clean Cotton) lasted me around a year of heavy use before I had to replace it. Medium jars retail at £15.99 and large at about £18-22. These really ARE big and I think would be a real challenge to ever use up! Yankee Candles are very easy to find for a discount on several websites, although I have found none as good as Hallmark Outlet stores where they are generally half price, although of course there isn't as huge a scent range. Otherwise they can be found at Clinton Cards, department stores, and gift-type shops. As the small jars last such a long time, and I get so much enjoyment from this quality product, I wouldn't mind paying full price for a small jar if I found a scent I loved and couldn't find it any cheaper.
Whilst doing some price comparison for this review, I did notice that I couldn't find this particular scent on any UK sites. I bought mine last week at Hallmark Outlet, and have also seen it in a specialist candle shop in my city, so it's definitely out there, and I daresay would be on eBay, although with scents it's probably always best to try before you buy!
I'm a huge fan of scrubs of any kind, but I especially like using a good facial scrub. So I was really pleased when I received a little tube of this Thermafoliant in my Glossybox a couple of months ago. I hadn't tried Dermalogica products before, as I am admittedly the laziest girl there is as far as skincare is concerned, so quite frankly it would be a waste of money to spend a lot on it.
That said, I really like Dermalogica's take on cosmetics - that it's better to take a scientifically-backed, proactive approach to tackle whatever issues your skin may have than slather your face with makeup. Their product range is extremely extensive and there are various tools on their website which can help you decide what is right for your skin, so I'd really recommend checking it out.
It's worth pointing out this product is in the Age Smart range, recommended for mature or prematurely-aging skin. Mine is neither - I'm 26 and look a lot younger - so I probably wouldn't have selected this given the choice of their vast range, but I guess it's never too early to start protecting your skin for the future!
The scrub can be used either after cleansing on wet skin, or on dry skin for a slightly more effective/"harsher" scrub. It is a very thick paste-like consistency, although it does spread pretty easily onto the skin, so you really don't need to use a lot of product. When I get to the price, you might think that's just as well!
My skin isn't overly sensitive, but I have found some scrubs harsh in the past. This has a lot of granules, and they are quite harsh and sandy, but it's not uncomfortable at all. It heats up on your finger before you even get it onto your skin, and the heat lasts for about five seconds or so which is a little longer than I have experienced with other scrubs which cool down almost as soon as they touch the skin.
I'm not really sure what I think about thermafoliants. While it is pleasant and makes skincare slightly more fun, I can't say that I'm convinced it adds anything to the effects of the product. I realise that warming opens your pores, but as the effect only lasts a few seconds, I really don't think it would make much of a difference.
The scrub rinses off very easily and doesn't leave a slick, greasy, feel to the skin which I hate in some scrubs which are trying to rehydrate the skin with over-oily formulation after sloughing off dead skin with something too harsh. After rinsing my skin feels completely clean and very peachy and fresh.
The scent is very mild and natural, not especially pleasant but it's not that noticeable so it's not a big deal. I would much rather have no fragrance than too much which could irritate my skin.
I have been using this a couple of times a week in the shower for about a month, which is pretty consistent for me skincare wise, and I think that's because I really do love the way it makes my skin feel! My skin tends to get very dry and flaky especially in the winter months and this does help to make it feel much smoother and healthier. I can't really comment on the anti-aging effects, however I do believe that any time you remove old dead skin to reveal fresh new skin underneath you will look more radiant and young!
Now for the downside. Dermalogica's high tech custom skincare does not come cheap, and this has an RRP of a whopping £40.50 for 75ml which really isn't a huge amount, although it will go far. It is pretty easy to find it online for around £25, however for me that is still way too much to shell out for something which isn't exactly an essential. Offline you can find Dermalogica in a lot of salons and spas and it really does feel more of a luxury product with the pricetag I'd expect.
If I'm loaded when I'm old enough to be the target demographic for this, I'll definitely purchase, otherwise it's a fun treat until my sample is used up!
Imagine if you could log onto Facebook and see into your future. Would you do it? And what if you weren't happy with what you saw? That's the situation Emma Nelson, high school senior, finds herself in when she is sent a computer from her estranged father and is given a free trial for AOL.
It's the 90s, Facebook wasn't even INVENTED and the majority of teenagers didn't even have an email address. So when Emma's neighbour and former best friend Josh, who she has grown distant from, brings over a CD Rom for AOL, she's slightly puzzled when the first thing that pops onto the screen is Facebook. And puzzled soon turns to panicked when she realises that she is looking at herself, in the future.
Asking Josh to come and have a look, and discovering that he has a Facebook page too, at first they believe it has to be a prank. That someone has Photoshopped a few pictures and somehow planted them onto the CD Rom. It's not until the following day when everything on Facebook has changed that they realise this is far too elaborate to be someone else's doing, that they actually ARE seeing into the future.
And do they like it? Josh's future, although it alters slightly with each log-in, is pretty idyllic. Yet Emma never seems to be happy, no matter who she ends up marrying or where she lives, and she sets about to change the future as the little ripples of her every action alter the course of her future life, which she learns about as status updates and pictures. Ultimately, she learns a lesson about the way she is behaving in the present day.
Although Jay Asher has only written one other book, I really enjoyed it and was looking forward to this coming out as the concept is really different to anything else I've read. I've heard talk that they will be making a movie, too, and I think it would be a really great idea for one. This book is co-written with Carolyn Mackler, although I'm not too sure on the details of that. The chapters alternate between Josh and Emma, so I'm not sure if one was taking over each character, but they really have similar writing styles. I honestly wouldn't have been able to tell that there were two authors if it didn't say so on the cover. This is great, as I hate reading something that is disjointed, even if that does mean that both characters have pretty similar voices in their chapters.
Although the book is centred around Emma and Josh, we do get to meet their best friends Kellan and Tyson, and their love interests, and their families. I'll admit that I wasn't overly keen on Emma, and found her quite selfish, although this is ultimately reflected in the book. There are several nice subplots drawing all of the characters in to the story, so it was an interesting read that wasn't solely about two people, but rather how everyone's lives intersect with each other.
I found the book to be extremely smart and a great idea, not to mention how thought-provoking it is. It's a pretty mindblowing idea to think about what would happen if this really existed, and what one might find. I found the ending to be meaningful and I was pleased with the way it ended, which I'm relieved about, having read the whole thing in a day it would have been quite disappointing for it to fall flat.
My only minor niggle is that this book is set in the 90s, and there are a lot of cliches. Yes, it is remniscent of that time and it does remind me that I was listening to some of the same music, or watching the same movies, around the same time as the internet was first taking off. So I can relate, but at the same time it does feel slightly gimmicky at times. I do think that this would perhaps be more understandable through the media of film, so we'll see when that comes out.
This is such a cute book, and despite being an easy, quick read does have a thought-provoking message and is really interesting. Although it's in the young adult genre, I'd recommend it for adults too but especially Facebook-addicted teens. Unfortunately this is not yet released here in the UK (I read an ebook version) but will be out on 5th January so is one to watch for. Amazon have it on pre-order for £5.24. A unique, interesting book, and I look forward to Jay Asher's next offering.
Having unfortunately not been riding on a regular basis for some time, I somehow never got around to reviewing these chaps which I had submitted as a product proposal ages ago. Although I'm still not in the saddle as much as I'd like, I have had a chance to get loads of wear out of these on various holidays and working breaks, and I'd say they're pretty hit or miss if I'm honest.
I originally wanted a pair of full chaps because I do ride western quite a lot, but I have also worked around horses a lot in settings where I am living at work and it's so much easier if I don't have to get changed tons of times if I want to go for a quick ride, but rather pop some chaps over what I'm already wearing. I will admit that I am even sometimes lazy and do this in the summer over shorts if I really can't be bothered to get changed.
Although most of my boots are black I ended up with brown because they were the only ones in my size that I liked/could afford, although the dark brown doesn't really look that bad with black boots. Obviously full chaps of this nature are never going to be show attire in the first place!
I am quite short and about a size 12-14, and often find that things that fit the rest of my legs end up trailing on the floor, but somehow I got away with a size medium and they weren't overly long. The zip finishes a little higher than the bottom though so they could be trimmed if they were a little long. I did find that they would fit over any trousers I wanted them to, and were admittedly a little loose on the thigh, but it's much better than riding in something too restrictive. They definitely weren't too baggy or annoying where it matters in the lower leg. At present the Robinson's website (these being their own brand) doesn't have anything larger than an adult's large, and I think tall or big men would struggle to find a good fit.
The material is quite thin faux suede. Although it's thin and you can tell it's not the most expensive, I don't think they would rip or tear in normal wear and I have definitely worn them in a variety of situations without them looking remotely worn. For me a huge plus is that they are fully machine washable, which I have done and they end up as good as new.
My main issue with these is the fastenings. There are buckles at the front and back which can cinch these in to a variety of sizes, and you could always put in extra holes. The straps are a little thin, especially the one at the front, although that does mean it's comfortable to ride in. The zips, however, are quite poor quality and have caused me a few problems. I have worn these a lot of times on all-day rides where we stop for a picnic lunch, during which I like to take off my chaps and use them to sit on. On several occasions the zip has failed to correctly zip up afterwards, causing me to hold everyone up and often taking several people to fix it again. This has also happened a few times before rides, and I have had to give up on wearing them at all on some occasions. The only way to fix the zip when this happens, I have found, is to painstakingly push every tooth of the zip comb into place with some force, which is really quite annoying and takes a while! Although these are a good price for full chaps, I don't think that using a better quality metal zip would have been such a problem.
Overall I do like wearing these, they are very comfortable and a good price. They are also reasonably waterproof. I didn't expect them to be amazing quality, as they cost only £33.28 at Robinson's in store or online, but I am really disappointed with the zip. Considering the small range of full chaps that are usually available, I would probably still buy them for an everyday work chap that can be thrown in the washing machine, but if I was going to do significantly more riding again and had the money I would opt for something of a little better quality.
As a big fan of scented candles, and generally making my home smell nice, I snapped up several of these when I spotted them on sale at my local Discount UK store for just 99p apiece. Bakery scents are probably my favourite anyway, and as I like eating Betty Crocker products I figured I couldn't go far wrong at that price!
Cinnamon Bun is actually one of the most recent acquisitions from the range, having not bought it on my first trip and kicked myself, only for it not to be there again on previous visits until last week when I grabbed the last on the shelf. Out of the 7 candles from the range I have now amassed, I would say that it is probably my second favourite, behind chocolate fudge brownie which isn't yet available to review.
If you're not familiar with Betty Crocker, the brand specialises mainly in hassle-free baked goods - eg the boxed type that you add water, an egg etc to and pop into the oven. They are long-established in America and over the past couple of years have grown in popularity in this country too. I have personally only tried the chocolate fudge brownies, as I like baking too much to use boxed products too often, but the equivalent candle really is spot on in scent, so I imagine the cinnamon bun is a pretty good match too.
The candle's packaging is also very similar to the baked goods. Each candle comes in a glass container around which there is a box in the same style as the baking mixes, this one having a huge picture of a scrummy-looking cinnamon bun. There is a hole so you can see the candle and of course smell it too. I do think that the packaging is very smart and it would therefore make a really nice gift idea - at 99p they would make a cute extra gift to have on hand at Christmas just in case or stocking filler, as it does look like you'd have spent more.
As I mentioned, the scents are quite true to life and this really does smell like a cinnamon bun. It's not an overpowering spicy cinnamon scent like some candles which are supposed to smell like the red-hot sweets for example, but very sweet and reminiscent of the icing too. I do think that if you didn't know what "flavour" this candle was supposed to be, you could probably guess.
Out of the packaging the glass container isn't quite as impressive as I'd like, as it's quite thin and flimsy with a ribbing which cheapens the look somewhat. I would prefer if it was in a sturdier container and I definitely would prefer if it had a lid to preserve the scent, although saying that I don't think it would necessarily break if you were to drop it (hopefully unlit)! Once the candle is used up you could use these for tealight or maybe even votive holders.
The scent is not overly strong and I have often found, particularly with cheaper candles, that I'm not able to smell them once they are lit, only when actively sniffing the jar. I do notice this candle when lit in a relatively small room, although it is definitely not as strong in scent as other brands I have tried such as Yankee Candle. I also find that the scent doesn't last as long once I stop burning the candle. For the price, though, I am pleasantly surprised.
My other common disappointment with cheap candles is when the wax burns down the middle and leaves a big "tunnel", so when it's used up there's a lot left over that I can't do anything with. I always try to burn a new candle for the first time until the whole of the surface is melted, although this still sometimes doesn't help. With all of my Betty Crocker candles so far, there has been minimal "tunnelling" (does anyone know what the real word for that is?) and my first one has been burned for quite good while now and still has just less than half left. Although the Cinnamon Bun packaging doesn't state how long it is estimated to burn for, another of my candles from this range says 25 hours and I'd say that is probably pretty accurate.
Overall these candles make a great little extra gift, or even just something to treat yourself with. I am really enjoying going through the range and there are even some Christmas-themed scents. I can't find an RRP for these online, but they sell for 99p at Discount UK stores and honestly, I'd say that as a gift item I would probably pay about a fiver for them, so it's money well spent. Stay tuned for more from the range!
As someone who is plagued by greasy hair, the last thing I imagined myself writing a positive review about is an OIL for my hair, but that's the great thing about monthly beauty sample boxes. I never would have chosen this product ordinarily, but it has made such a difference to the appearance of my hair.
A little background, my hair is naturally quite straight, and in its current cut I allow it to air dry before straightening/styling. I'm all about low maintenance hair, although as I said it is prone to greasiness so I do find myself washing my hair more often than I necessarily enjoy. It is generally quite well-behaved although since I got my most recent haircut I noticed that it is quite fluffy and when newly-washed, which doesn't look that great on my sleek bob, and on the second day it is already limp and ready for a wash. So, basically, I wasn't getting the same enjoyment out of my lovely cut and feeling frustrated that it never looked the same as when I'd stepped out of the salon!
I got a 30ml sample of this in my Boudoir Prive box a few months ago, and a couple of weeks ago remembered it and decided to give it a shot. At that time I hadn't read too much about the supposed benefits, I just read the directions on the bottle and decided to see what would happen. It's easy to apply. My bottle is smaller than the standard retail one and doesn't have a pump, but as I'm prone to greasy hair I just tip the bottle over with my fingertip stopping it then spread it evenly between my finger and thumb and comb through my hair when it's damp. I do this once per side of my parting, so I really use barely any product and my little sample should last me absolutely ages. It is thick and I feel as though I need to wash my hands afterwards as it's a little slick, but it has a lovely sweet (all natural) scent.
After the first use I let my hair dry before straightening and it looked really great, a lot sleeker and more smooth, less fly-aways, etc. The only thing I will say is that you should definitely make sure to use a heat protectant while heat styling after using this (well, you should anyway) as it is an oil and does make the hair get MUCH hotter. It's a frying pan effect pretty much. I've got used to it now but I did have to change the way I handled my hair a little during heat styling so I didn't get burnt fingers! My hair is really strong and resiliant to heat styling 2-3 times a week, but if you have thinner, more delicate hair, I'd bear it in mind.
Having loved the effects this oil brought me I decided to research some of the proposed benefits and see whether I achieved them.
- Improved shine. - Definitely! My hair does look noticeably shiner and I have actually received compliments on this from people who had no idea I was doing anything special.
- Softer hair. Hmm, this one I'm not sure about. I can't say I've noticed a huge difference. Then again due to my hair type I only use a very small amount so it doesn't get a huge opportunity to sink in and soften.
- Frizz free. Definitely! It looks so much sleeker and is easier to style.
- Reduced drying time. I honestly didn't notice this at first but now I'm looking out for it, I think it may have improved, which is great for someone like me who hates blow-drying!
- Nourishes hair. Hard to measure, especially as I only use a small amount and have relatively healthy hair in the first place!
- Extends colour. I don't colour my hair, but it's a great natural product to help if you do.
- Natural UV protection against sun etc - Well, we're not getting a whole lot of sun here up north at the moment, so I really couldn't comment!!
The best part for me, besides it obviously giving me the lovely haircut I had when I left the salon, is that despite being an oil it doesn't make my hair any more greasy than normal.
Obviously I'm really enjoying this styling product. I think given my experiences it would suit most hair types, but perhaps people with curly/frizzy hair or damaged hair would love it even more.
Although I'm sure you could find this product at some pharmacies or perhaps even health food stores, I would recommend going online for a good price. The standard bottle seems to be 125ml which retails for about £17, although I have seen 30 and even 10ml sample-size bottles for much less and these would last quite a long time/be good for travelling which is a great idea as I feel that this product will be even more handy in the summer months/holiday season. Besides this healing oil there are also a number of other products containing macadamia oil, such as a hair mask, shampoo, conditioner, and even brushes infused with the oil. I don't think I will be trying those out though as I've found a shampoo that I'm happy with and conditioner usually leaves my hair too greasy.
Living in a large apartment building, one problem I keep having is other people's smells making their way into my space. My neighbours across the hall seem to cook the same dish every evening, by the smell of it, which while I'm sure it tastes great isn't something I want my own home's signature scent to be. However yesterday returning home to find the shared hallway stinking of illegal substances, and consequently my own hall to a lesser degree, I made it a priority to pop out and buy an air freshener today. (For the record, it seems that someone else - either the offender or someone else sick of the smell - seems to have sprayed the hall with a horrific air freshener today to cover up, delightful!)
Whenever I need to buy a cleaning product or general home consumable, I generally tend to head to Discount UK or the pound shop because the brands are the same at a fraction of the price I'd pay at the supermarket. So faced with a huge selection of air fresheners and room sprays (is there a difference?), I opted for Glade's Fresh Laundry as I am generally a fan of "clean" scents over floral or fruity etc. Yankee Candle's Clean Cotton is a firm favourite, and I was hoping that this would smell somewhat similiar. Ironically I never find that my actual laundry detergent smells as good as laundry-scented things, does anyone else find this?
The 300ml can cost me 99p and is a good size. The packaging is basic and as you would expect. There isn't a lid nor a spray lock but as I don't have kids wandering around that might meddle with it, and I'm hardly about to carry it around with me, so it's not really a problem.
Coming home I gave the hall and living area a quick spritz and found that a small amount does go a long way. It's easy to dispense product, ie you don't have to push very hard, and you can dispense as long or short a spray as you want. The spray is a fine mist that doesn't settle on surfaces or hang around like a cloud making me choke.
I was pleased with the scent and it is definitely what I expected from a laundry scent. I really do enjoy clean scents, as I find that whilst my home generally LOOKS and IS clean, the added scent makes me really believe it. The can describes it as as "white flowers and rose". I definitely wouldn't have bought this if it was only described as that, without the clean laundry description, and I honestly can't smell rose whatsoever which I'm glad about, as I find it very old lady! It also doesn't smell overly floral from whatever mystery white flowers they may be.
My only real negative is that the scent doesn't seem to last very long. I know that we can become used to scents over time, so perhaps if I was to reenter the apartment, or someone else was to come in, it might be more noticeable, but I have had to have a respritz. I might add that the respritz was because I wanted to enjoy the scent, not because my house smelled bad! Although it doesn't claim to have any odour banishing properties, I do find that the scent is strong enough to mask anything unpleasant, without being overpowering, and I am someone who gets headaches from scents at times.
Overall I do enjoy this scent and would repurchase or another room spray from Glade, especially at only 99p!
Around the end of last year I wrote a review about a product that I found pretty disappointing - a Too Faced palette consisting of blush, highlighter and bronzer. I officially take it back! After not really finding much use for any of the three powders, I have become besotted with the Pink Leopard bronzer.
Although I've been using it daily for several months now (due to the cold weather I'm retiring it now in favour of more wintry blushes), I think the reason I put off this review for so long was a little confusion over its name. In the Complexion Perfection palette, it clearly says "Peach Leopard", however the standalone bronzer (and indeed the same one in the palette) is really called "PINK Leopard". I spent quite a while not sure if it was the same thing, however looking at it in Boots I can confirm that they are. So now I know what to repurchase!
The bronzer is a nice mix in leopard print shape of pink, peach and brown, which combine to make a very wearable and natural bronze. I'm quite fair, so I'm wary of bronzers which are too brown or, worse, orange, but with this it is more an enhancement of my regular skintone than a fake-looking glow.
Normally I'm not a huge fan of shimmery bronzers, and in the packaging, yes, I will admit that this really does look rather shimmery. I do find though that it doesn't make my face look like a glitterball, and if anything helps to add dimension. As I use quite a high-coverage foundation, I do worry that my face sometimes looks a bit flat and two dimensional, so the shading the bronzer provides along with a touch of light-reflection from the shimmer does help. I find that it lasts reasonably well, although it does vary depending on what I'm using as a base, eg which foundation I'm wearing underneath. Obviously the longer the base stays put, the better chance a bronzer has.
Size-wise although I have a smaller version in a palette, the individual bronzer is perhaps a TINY bit smaller than others I have from different brands such as MAC or Benefit. I believe the packaging has recently changed and now comes in a cute little compact with a mirror, so it's possible that it has grown a little with this change. (It's been a while since I oohed and ahhed over it, because I'm too tempted to get a new one when I've still got the rest of the other to use up!)
Speaking of using up, one of the drawbacks of the cute leopard-print design is that the bronzer does tend to wear unevenly and form little craters. While it's not such a big deal at the moment, I do wonder if it will leave an strange mix of colour as it reaches its end, and whether I will still like it so much or it will be as useable. That said, I've used this daily for about five months and if it were wearing down evenly I doubt I would notice much of a dent. Considering that's a smaller version, I'd say it's worth the price, which is £22.00, in line with other high-end bronzer I'd say.
My only other complaint, which made me dislike this initially, is that it is sometimes difficult to get any colour payoff. I used two of my regular blush brushes at first, neither of which managed to successfully transfer colour from the pan onto my face. I now use a flat-top kabuki brush and find it much better, it really does need a dense brush, I think, to get a noticeable application. So I'd say that you do need quite a lot of product each application compared with other bronzers, however it also means that it is more buildable and you can avoid the dreaded Tango face look.
I am definitely going to repurchase this and am pleased to have not only found a good, natural daily bronzer, but also that the palette I was so disappointed with is starting to become a worthwhile purchase!
I've recently decided to stay more permanently in the UK after several years of gallivanting. Upon arranging work, an apartment etc, I realised something vital was missing. I'd become a billy no-mates. Somehow whilst I'd been away all my friends had moved, settled down or just become people I couldn't relate to any more. I needed a new social life, stat!
I can't remember what I Googled to end up at Citysocialising, but I'm sure glad I did! The site is established in about 50 of the UK's major cities, so chances are no matter where you live there will be socials reasonably close to you. I was pretty amazed that I'd never heard of it given how big it's already become, and as I became a member and got more involved, I was certainly impressed at how busy it is and how many members there are.
The idea of the site is that you pay a subscription (although you can try for free) to have access to events taking place in and around your city. You can also browse and contact other members and join interest groups.
Socials are the main attraction of the site. Some are hosted by official Citysocialising hosts, some by fellow members, and absolutely anything goes. Meals and nights out seem to be the most popular, but there are also comedy nights, hikes, cinema and theatre trips, pub quizzes etc etc. I particularly enjoy the completely random things that pop up - for example I just attended a psychic night and in a few weeks will be popping along to a Christmas card making class, next weekend it's a giant scavenger hunt in the park. That kind of thing I wouldn't think to do myself, would struggle to find someone to go with, or just couldn't be bothered to arrange.
For me that's one of the best parts of the site - it's okay if you just want to turn up to something and never bother to arrange your own socials. However, the more I attend socials, the more I start to think about what I might want to cook up for myself. If you ever find yourself wanting to see something at the theatre, or go to an obscure festival, you're guaranteed to find at least one person that wants to tag along.
I haven't looked at the other cities, although I believe you can attend socials in multiple cities. Speaking for Leeds, though, there is at least one thing going on every night of the week. Some things such as pub quizzes are weekly events, then there are monthly curry clubs etc. So far I've been to three socials and never met the same person twice, so that says something about how many members the site has. I think it's a fantastic, safe way to meet a lot of new people all at once. Most of the other members I've met have been in similiar situations to myself, or brand-new to the city. I will also say that even if you've been living somewhere your whole life like I have, you are guaranteed to find some new places you never knew about when attending socials!
Safety-wise, the site does appear to be well policed and if people misbehave on socials they are kicked out on no uncertain terms. Everyone seems to be there for the same reason - to be friendly - and it really is not at all awkward to go meet a load of new people all at once. I'm pretty shy, and I was nervous for my first social, but after that it was second nature and strangely I felt like I was going to meet friends even though I'd only seen their pictures online.
Once you've met people at the social, you can add them as friends, and see what they are going to attend next, or send messages.
Okay, everything sounds great so far, right? Well there is the money factor. It is a subscription site and personally I find it a little steep. There are three levels of membership technically, although one, "free", is pretty useless. The other categories are silver and bronze, and I am a bronze member. I feel that unless you are going to get REALLY into the site, bronze is perfectly adequate as it allows you free entry to all socials except those hosted by CS itself (which I'm not all that interested in anyway) and unlimited messaging. Most members hosting their own socials will set it for bronze and silver to attend, so you've pretty much got free rein. Bronze membership runs at around £13.99 a month with it being a bit cheaper if you buy three months at once. Silver is about £5 a month more, which I really don't think is worth it.
The good thing about the subscription is that it lasts a month from the day you get it, and you are under no obligation to carry it on after that time. So you can skip a month or two if you're too busy or just don't feel like it. I will probably have to do this from time to time, just because my financial situation isn't great and when you add on the price of food at eating socials, drinks at nights out etc it can be a pretty expensive thing to be a part of!
When you first sign up, you are allowed 10 days of free silver membership in order to check everything out. You are also able to attend your first social for free without paying any subscription to scope it out.
Overall I am really pleased I've learned about Citysocialising. It's fantastic to know that I can always find something to do that very night if I feel like it, and is encouraging me to get out there and be more social. Not to mention the instant humongous social circle and exciting things you'll end up trying!