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This spring, I decided that my garden needed brightening up so I dug a little border and filled it with flowers of all shapes, sizes and colours! It certainly had the desired effect, and I've really enjoyed having the flowers as a focal point when I'm out in the garden. While it's been very low maintenance, my mum, who's a much more experienced gardener, suggested that I should deadhead the flowers to prolong the flowering life of the plants- apparently, removing dead flowers in this way helps conserve the plants' energy, encouraging it to continue flowering throughout the summer. It's also not a great look to have a flowerbed full of withered, wilting flowers, so it serves an aesthetic purpose too! To encourage me in my deadheading endeavours, my mum bought me a little pair of these deadheaders- I think she bought them at a National Trust property, as they're often available in their gift shops, but you can also get them online through the Artel website for £3.99 each. They're available in three colours- pink, yellow and blue, and I have the latter. These little snippers are very simple in design, consisting of a sturdy plastic spring action handle with carbon steel blades attached. They are very compact, at around 10cm long, and come in a small plastic sleeve that's handy for storage. They're very easy to use- the sides of the handle can be gently squeezed to bring the blades together, snipping off the dead flowers with a clean cut. Their small size also makes them ideal for getting to the dead flowers without disturbing the rest of the plant. The blades, however, aren't particularly sharp, so you can't really use them for anything other than deadheading flowers. This is their intended purpose, but it would be handy if they were a little more powerful as there are plenty of plants around the garden that need cutting which these just aren't strong enough to handle. I recently tried to use them to trim the roots of some garlic I'd grown, but trying to cut through even a small bundle of roots with these resulted in the blades becoming disaligned, making it impossible to cut with them. They soon snapped back into shape, but it did make me realise that the all-in-one handle design limited their usefulness for tackling other jobs around the garden. The other downside to these Deadheads is that I'm not sure they're even necessary in the first place! The kinds of flower stems that these can cut through could be easily severed with a pinch between fingernails, without the need for a tool of any kind. I did read that a clean cut was somehow better for the plant, but I wasn't totally convinced. I have been using them despite my doubts, however, partly because I don't want them to go to waste, and partly because there's something strangely satisfying about snipping away! For me, that's the main advantage of these- because I enjoy using these Deadheads, I'm more likely to remove the dead flowers than if I was just pinching them with my fingers. So, while they're not strictly necessary and have limited usefulness, they do make deadheading a bit more fun, and certainly provide a quick, clean cut. For the job they're designed for, they're sturdy enough, but don't expect them to be up to any tougher jobs around the garden. Overall, I'd give them 2.5 stars, but I've been generous and rounded it up to 3.
I decided to take up the guitar for several reasons- it's easy to teach yourself the basics, it's relatively inexpensive and it's a lot of fun to sing along to, either by yourself or with friends. One downside I hadn't bargained on, however, was the toll it takes on your fingers. Although I soon developed tough little callouses on my finger tips that prevented any more pain while playing my classical guitar, when I branched out to electric it soon became clear that I'd never be able to play without a fair amount of discomfort- the strings were just too sharp. So a pick became absolutely essential, both for pain-free playing and for the added volume it brought. My little local guitar shop didn't have a great range of picks to choose from, which actually turned out to be a good thing as I'd have been completely baffled by a wide choice. As it was, it was easy to pick out (ha ha) a couple of Ernie Ball picks, priced at around 40p each. I went for good old black and white, although as you can see from the pic (ha ha again) there are a wide range of other colours available if you're more adventurous than me. These picks are available in different thicknesses- thin (0.46mm), medium (0.72mm) and heavy (0.94mm), depending on your preferences and requirements. I went for thin, as the man in the shop told me that these would be good for beginners, being well suited to strumming. The picks I have are made from cellulose acetate nitrate (plastic, in other words!), but you can also get them in nylon. There's really not a lot to say about their appearance- they're standard pick shape, and bear the name Ernie Ball in a bold, modern font on the front with a letter denoting their thickness underneath. My thin picks are quite bendy, and I initially feared that they would snap easily under the pressure of the strings, particularly on my electric guitar. Fortunately, this hasn't proved the case and I've now had them for around 6 years. Admittedly I haven't used them very often- a broken amp that I've not got round to getting fixed means that I haven't played my electric guitar for a long time, but I'd say the two picks I own have seen a couple of years' good use between them with no signs of damage. I tend not to use these picks when playing my classical guitar- it's not really necessary given the nylon strings, and although using a pick does give a much clearer, crisper sound, I generally prefer the softer, smoother sound I get from playing without a pick on this guitar. For my electric, however, these picks are a must- as well as saving my fingers from being torn to shreds on the sharp strings, I love the clarity and volume of the sound that the picks provide. The only problem is with the thinness of my picks- it means that they can be hard to control when picking as they bend annoyingly against the strings, so I think that once I start playing my electric again I'll try a medium pick instead of thin. I would certainly be happy to buy Ernie Ball picks again, however, as they've proved great value for money over the years I've had them. The cellulose picks I have are comfortable to hold and slide nicely over the strings without slipping or catching, so I don't feel the need to change. Available online from around £4 for a pack of 25, these picks do the job without breaking the bank.
Having reviewed nearly all of the perfumes in the sets I was given at Christmas, it's finally the turn of Givenchy Amarige. I have to admit, this is the perfume I've left till last because it's only with the greatest reluctance that I can bring myself to wear it for the purposes of writing this review! Yep, I'm laying my cards on the table straight away with this one- I don't like it. Read on for my reasons! At first glance, this perfume is innocuous enough, although its old-school yellow tint, clearly visible through the colourless glass bottle, does give it the look of a urine sample that all the other perfumes I own have managed to avoid. Still, the bottle itself is quite attractive. It has a simple curved shape, which gives it quite an elegant and classical appearance, while its striated cap adds interest and character to the bottle. Overall, it's definitely old fashioned but this adds to its appeal rather than detracting from it, and this is a bottle that I'm happy to see sitting on my dressing table. When I received this set, the first thing I did was to smell each bottle in turn to see which of the scents, if any, would stand out to me. The first few bottles were nice enough, but didn't inspire any particularly strong feelings one way or the other. As soon as I lifted the lid on this, however, I was overcome by a strong wave of nostalgia- this scent was very familiar to me from some point in my childhood, and smelling it again took me right back to that time. It's frustrating that I can't remember who wore this perfume, or something very like it, but a quick look online revealed that Amarige was launched in 1991, when I'd have been about 7 years old, which is definitely the era of my childhood that this takes me back to. It's amazing how evocative a scent can be, and how ingrained in your mind it can become, without you even noticing. The familiar safeness of this scent made it hard for me to tell whether I personally liked it or not- it's hard to be objective about something that gives you such a warm, comfortable feeling! It wasn't until I actually wore it that I made my mind up, and unfortunately my sentimentality quickly evaporated! I've heard that this perfume was designed to reflect romance (Amarige is an anagram of mariage, French for- you guessed it- marriage). If that's the case, I can only assume that love in the early 1990s was very different from love today! Before I describe the scent as I see (or smell) it, here's a list of the different notes: Heart notes: Gardenia , Mimosa Top notes: Neroli Base notes: Cashmerande I have to admit, these don't mean very much to me- for one thing, I've never even heard of cashmerande! Apparently it's a synthetic compound with a musky scent, that's used as a base note in quite a lot of perfumes. There's definitely a musky side to this perfume that combines with the floral notes to make a scent that's sweet, rich and heavy at the same time. It's this heaviness that I really don't like about it- while I can see it working on a more mature lady with enough presence to wear this perfume without being overshadowed by it, it's just far too overpowering for me to wear in my twenties (and probably thirties and forties too!). When I do put it on, I feel like the perfume's wearing me, rather than the other way round! This perfume's staying power is pretty good, which would usually be a plus point, but with this one I'd rather it vanished into oblivion as soon as possible! It does tone down a lot after the first couple of hours, and become much more subtle, but the unpleasant muskiness is definitely detectable for a few hours longer. To me, this is an oppressive perfume that I'd feel very self-conscious about wearing out. I could just imagine people around me catching a whiff and looking around for some well turned out lady in her fifties! But while I'm not a fan, even I can't deny the distinctiveness of this scent- it stands out from any other I've tried and would, I think, be as memorable for someone today as it was for me 20 years ago. There's certainly something classic about it; while I wouldn't say it was ageless, it does have a certain old-fashioned charm that I'm sure would appeal to people looking for a more mature fragrance. However, as I can't see that being me any time in the near future, I definitely won't be buying this for myself, and probably won't even use up the rest of my little bottle! If you do think this would be a perfume that you could carry off, then it's available for around £40 for a 100ml bottle of EDT. It's definitely one to try before you buy though!
I'm no perfume expert, and was even more clueless about the world of fragrance when a friend gave me some miniature bottles last Christmas. I had, however, heard of Ghost and been intrigued by the name and advertising for the brand I'd seen in the past, so I was really pleased to find this bottle of Deep Night in amongst the other perfumes. For one thing, the bottle looked lovely- a little purple moon, with a black cap forming its tip. The Ghost logo, in its simple, bold font, is at the base of the bottle and its silver colour contrasts nicely with the deep purple of the glass. I love the simple, smooth shape of the bottle, and while it wasn't the classiest in the set, its distinctive design made it stand out from the other bottles. At 10ml, it was also one of the largest bottles, so I really hoped that I would like the scent as much as I liked the design. This is definitely a scent which wears its heart on its sleeve- with a name like Deep Night and a moon-shaped bottle, you can be left in no doubt that this a perfume that's specifically designed to be worn at night. I was intrigued to see how this sense of the nocturnal would be manifested in the scent, if at all. The notes of this perfume are as follows: Heart notes: Apricot, Peach, White Wood Top notes: Cereus, Rose Base notes: Amber, Vanilla I'm ashamed to say that my untrained nose can't pick out any of these individual notes, but even I can detect an element of fruitiness to it, along with a sweet softness that I assume comes from the vanilla. It's a heady yet subtle combination that's sensual and romantic- perfect for a warm summer's evening. There's definitely something intriguing about it which fits well with its night time theme. Its subtlety makes it hard to determine the staying power of the scent; from the moment I put it on, it smells like it has already had time to settle in. It maintains this level of scent for a few hours before fading to a hint, so I'd say it's about average. Deep Night won't last the night, but it will get it off to a good start! I love this perfume, although I haven't worn it very often- I don't think it's an everyday perfume, despite the fact that this a word that some of the perfumes shops selling it use this word to describe it. This is perhaps its only drawback for me- the fact that it only seems suited to specific occasions and might smell out of place if worn in the day. Then again, I'm not sure that this is a drawback; there are plenty of other perfumes that are more versatile, so it's quite nice to have something distinctive like this to save for special occasions. The other good thing about this perfume is that it's reasonably priced at around £30 per 50ml bottle of EDT. I'd definitely consider buying this again, but as I won't be wearing it that often, I don't think I'll need to any time soon.
Armani Diamonds is another perfume that was in a set of miniatures that I was given last Christmas. Although its name sounds very grand, the bottle didn't really stand out when I first looked at it and the other perfumes in the set looked more tantalising. However, I didn't want to judge a book by its cover and soon got round to trying it out. Before I get to the actual scent, I'll give an overview of the bottle, as this is definitely a factor that I take into consideration when I'm picking out a new perfume. Looking at it now, it's still as underwhelming as it was when I first saw it. Although its general shape is oval, its surface is like that of a cut diamond, made up of dozens of flat sides angled together to give an overall rounded shape. The Giorgio Armani eagle logo is placed in the centre of the front of the bottle in the middle of a flattened octagon. It's faint and subtle, which I definitely prefer to some of the in-your-face brand logos you get. This is one bottle that's obviously trying to be about more than just branding. Its lid is a plain silver cube, slightly concave at the top, which fits well with the look of the bottle and the diamond theme. While there's nothing unattractive about the bottle, I don't really like the cold look of it; it's obviously appropriate for its theme, but there's something quite clinical and masculine about it and it's definitely not one I'd be drawn to on a shop shelf. Judging by its appearance, I was expecting the scent itself to be quite cold and aloof, and on first sniff, it seemed I was right. Once on my skin, however, the scent did develop and grow on me, although it's still not one I'd call warm or sensual. Here is a detailed breakdown of the scent: Heart notes: Rose, lily of the valley, patchouli, freesia Top notes: Lychee, raspberry Base notes: Vetiver, amber, vanilla Described on the box as 'sparkling and audacious', the words that spring to mind when I smell this are confidence and sophistication- it's a bold, driven scent that I feel would be most suited for daytime wear by a woman in her twenties onwards. It's definitely not one to wear if you prefer subtle, romantic scents, although the floral notes definitely add a softness that comes through after about an hour of wearing it. I definitely prefer this perfume once it's had a chance to calm down on my skin , although by then the scent is quite faint- its staying power isn't great. Out of the different perfumes in the sets I received, there are a few that I love, a few I loathe and a few that I'm neutral about- this is definitely one of the latter. Objectively, I'd say it's a pleasant scent that I probably ought to like, but subjectively, it really doesn't excite or intrigue me and I feel it lacks character. Perhaps this is just because it doesn't really reflect my own personality, or perhaps Armani wanted to keep the scent fairly neutral to give it a wider appeal- either way, it's not one I'll be buying for myself, although I'm happy enough to wear it occasionally until my little bottle is used up. Armani Diamonds costs around £45 for a 50ml bottle of EDP which I'd happily pay if it was a scent I loved, but as it is, I feel it's slightly overpriced.
Armani Code is the signature scent of my younger sister, so it was with a sense of reassuring familiarity that I discovered a small bottle of it as part of a set I was given for Christmas. I did feel slightly like I was encroaching on her territory by wearing it, but after years of wardrobe raiding and mascara 'borrowing', I suppose that's part of the job description of being a sister! Besides, I had heard that perfumes don't smell the same on different people, so I was interested to see if I would see this in a new light once it was on my own skin. Packaging isn't usually a big factor for me when it comes to making buying choices, but perfume is definitely an exception- I think that an attractive bottle can draw you to a scent, and the most well designed bottles can capture something of the essence of the fragrance inside. This bottle is certainly attractive; tall, thin and curved, with a distinctive royal blue colour overlaid with a pattern of black flowers, it looks simple and elegant. It's definitely feminine, but there's nothing girly about it- rather, it's mysterious and sophisticated. This bottle is certainly one that makes you want to smell what's inside. The miniature bottle I have also features a pull off cap with a stopper attached, although the larger sized bottles (30, 50 and 75ml) are standard sprays. Before I give you my layman's opinion of the scent itself, I'll list the notes as I've found them online (cheating, I know, but my nose really isn't refined enough to pick out these subtle scents yet!): Heart notes: Orange Blossom Top notes: Jasmine, Orange Base notes: Honey, Vanilla According to the same website, this is a 'floral oriental scent', which, if I'm honest, doesn't mean a lot to me. From my point of view, as soon as I open the bottle and catch a whiff, I automatically imagine a busy, modern woman- someone full of energy and drive, juggling work with a thriving social life. She's young but, like the bottle, feminine without being girly. I suppose this mental image reflects the fact that I feel this scent is well suited for either wearing to work or on an evening out. Even my untrained nose can detect the strong, floral elements of this perfume, but it's not overtly sweet or flowery- the scent is deeper and warmer than that. The combination of the different notes draws you in, making this perfume quite intriguing. The scent's staying power is average- it's easily detected for the first few hours, then fades to a pleasant undertone for a few more. Armani Code isn't the cheapest perfume out there, costing between £43 and £52 for a 50ml bottle. Personally, I feel this is slightly overpriced; although it's a scent I like, there are several others in the set that I prefer which cost less, so I probably wouldn't buy this unless it was discounted. Price aside, this is a perfume that I would happily wear throughout the year, and I'm sure that its youthful but sophisticated scent would appeal to the vast majority of young women.
I first came across Givenchy's Ange ou Demon- le Secret last Christmas, when I received it in a set of miniatures. These little bottles have proved a great way of familiarising myself with different scents, which I wouldn't normally have tried- I'd certainly never heard of Ange ou Demon before, so there's no way I would have picked it out myself to try. My first impressions were mixed- I was intrigued by the name, but the bottle looked slightly tacky. Its angular, elongated pentagonal shape is reminiscent of a cut diamond, which is a nice idea but doesn't have the effortless elegance of some of the simpler perfume bottles I've seen. It also has a faint pink tinge to it, which again doesn't look particularly classy. The overall appearance of the bottle didn't seem to have any connection with the name, not a particularly important factor in choosing a perfume, but if I was going on appearance alone, I certainly wouldn't be drawn to this in a shop. On smelling this perfume for the first time, I was fairly neutral about it. It was pleasant enough and I knew I'd be happy to wear it, but it didn't stand out or have the wow factor that some of the other bottles in the set did, and it took me a while to get round to actually wearing it. When I did, I was a little more impressed, although still not blown away. While the scent was pleasantly sweet, with a fresh hint of citrus, there was nothing really distinctive about it. From the name, I'd expected quite a striking fragrance, but there certainly isn't anything epic or supernatural about this scent in my opinion! For those of you who are more clued up about perfume than I am, here are the notes as listed online: Heart notes: Jasmine sambac, white peony, aquatic flowers Top notes: Winter lemon, cranberry, green tea leaf accord Base notes: Blond woods, patchouli I'd say that this perfume is quite youthful- I know I'd have happily worn it in my late teens and early twenties. It's also versatile, and seems equally suited to day and night, summer and winter, which is the plus point of its nondescript scent. As for its name, if I had to plump for one of the two I'd say this is much more on the angelic side of things thanks to its sweet fruitiness. The staying power of this scent isn't great- it quickly loses its initial punch and is virtually undetectable after the first couple of hours, leaving nothing but a hint of fragrance. It's hard to know how to rate this perfume; while there's nothing that I hate about it, it just lacks the memorability of a lot of the other scents I've tried and certainly isn't one to wear if you're looking to stand out from the crowd. On the plus side, it's completely inoffensive and could work quite well if you're after an everyday scent that's light and versatile. However, for its price (around £55 for a 50ml bottle of EDP), it's definitely not one I'll be buying for myself in the future.
I bought my guitar about 10 years ago, having decided to take up a new instrument. I opted for the guitar primarily because it was cheap- my classical model cost just £40- and I figured it would be relatively easy to teach myself. Since then, I've been playing it on and off- it's a great instrument to just pick up and put down whenever the mood takes you. The other advantage of playing classical guitar is that you don't need a lot of expensive equipment, and can get by with as many or few extras as you want, really. Having got by for years with nothing but my trusty guitar, I finally decided to buy a capo a few months ago. I had no idea what to expect when looking up capos on Amazon, but was pleased to find that they were pretty inexpensive- the vast majority were under £20, and there were several for just a few pounds. I knew I would need a flat capo for my classical guitar, but had no idea whether to go for an expensive metal clippy one, or one of the dirt cheap wraparound ones. In the end, I decided on the latter- not being a serious guitarist, I was more than happy to get a very basic model, as long as it did the job and didn't fall apart on me too quickly! This Stagg capo cost just £1.99. When the capo arrived, my lack of knowledge became glaringly obvious- I had no idea how to put it on! After a couple of false starts (including trying to put it on upside down!), I eventually figured it out. The rubber pad on the underside of the notched metal bit (see pic) is designed to sit against the strings, while the thick fabric strap wraps around the fretboard and the attached T-shaped metal bar then slots into one of the notches on top. It's a lot simpler than it sounds, and once you get the hang of it, it's very quick to put it on. It also works quite effectively- once on, it stays put. There are, however, a couple of drawbacks to this capo. The first is that the strap has to be frequently readjusted to ensure you get a very tight fit against the strings- if it's not tight enough, the guitar sounds muted, buzzes and is out of tune. Because the fretboard is wider at the top, moving it down several frets means that it will become loose and need to be tightened up to get the best sound. Having several notches to clip the T-bar into sounds like a good idea, but I find that it's more effective to just tighten up the strap. Unfortunately, this isn't easy when the capo's on, so I have to unclip it first and then estimate the adjustment needed to get the perfect fit for each fret. On the plus side, the simple buckle on the strap makes adjusting it fairly straightforward. The other downside is that the capo doesn't seem particularly hardy or durable. In the few months that I've been using it, it's become slightly curved, making it harder to get an even pressure on all the strings when it's in place. The only way around this is to ensure that it fits very tightly, but I suspect having to wrestle it forcefully into place might just be making the problem worse. While I can't foresee this capo having a particularly long lifespan, I've been happy with it overall- it does the job and, despite a couple of niggles, is well worth its low price. I'd recommend this to anyone who just wants a capo for light use, although I don't think it would be suitable for a serious guitarist.
Not being a great perfume expert, I was really pleased to receive nine miniature bottles of perfume for Christmas last year. Trying out these different scents has proved a great way of deciding what I like in a perfume, and has introduced me to several brands that I know I'll be buying for myself in the future. One of these is Amor Amor, by Cacharel. I'd heard of this perfume and seen it advertised before, so I was eager to try it out, and I'm pleased to say it didn't disappoint! One of the first things that struck me about the perfume was the appearance of the bottle. Made of bright red, transparent glass, it really stood out from the others in the set with its bold, vibrant colour. The shape of the bottle is simple- classically rounded, with a silver top which you push down to spray. I was really pleased that they'd included this even on the miniature bottle- most of the others in the set featured a simple stopper set in their caps, so I had to dab rather than spray them on. It's nice to see that this is simply a smaller version of the standard sized bottles. The one thing I didn't like about the design was the fact it features a funny metallic ring sticking up in front of the spray top. It doesn't seem to serve any function and actually gets in the way a bit when you're trying to push the top down. I suppose it does make the bottle look a bit more interesting, but it would look just as nice without it, in my opinion. This scent is described on the box as 'a dazzling fruity floral love potion'- an enticing description that made me curious and excited about trying it out. The name of the perfume and the red colour of the bottle both spoke of heady romance and I hoped that the scent would too. My first reaction to spraying this scent onto my skin was one of slight disappointment- it smelt strongly citrussy, with other elements to the scent that just didn't seem to go well together. However, after a few minutes it settled down and I was able to get a much better impression of the scent as a whole. The citrus scent was toned down and I could definitely make out the floral notes blending with it. It was a warm, exotic combination that reminded me of summer and I felt it would be equally suitable for wearing by day or night. Here are the notes as listed by someone cleverer than me online: Top notes: pink grapefruit, apricot, mandarin and bergamot. Heart notes: Tahitian tiare, orchid and peony. Base notes: vanilla, jasmine and musk. The fruity and floral notes make this a vibrant and distinctive scent, which is sweet and rich without being at all sickly or overly girly. The warmth and passion of the perfume really do live up to its name and description as a 'love potion', and go very well with the colour of the bottle. The one slight drawback is the fact that its staying power isn't great- the first punch of the scent fades very quickly, leaving just a faint whiff of the perfume's former glory. This subtle hint does last for most of the day, but I wish the initial burst of fragrance would stick around for a bit longer. Needless to say, this is one perfume I'm very glad to have discovered, and I'd be happy to buy it for myself once my little bottle is used up (which it probably will be soon, as I'm wearing this scent more and more as summer approaches!). Selling for as little as £14 for a 30ml bottle of EDT, this is one fragrance that won't break the bank, and, when teamed with its lovely smell, it's a perfume I'd definitely recommend!
For Christmas last year, I was delighted to receive a couple of boxes of miniature perfumes, one of which was Anais Anais. I'd seen plenty of advertising for this scent over the years, so it was one of the few bottles that looked familiar, and I was eager to try it out. The mini bottle I have is simply a scaled down version of the standard bottle. Unlike most perfume bottles, it's made from opaque white glass- it actually looks more like a little bottle of body lotion than a perfume. While it's not the kind of bottle I'd choose my perfume to come in, it's certainly distinctive and instantly recognisable, and in some ways looks more accessible than the fancy glass bottles you usually get. The lily design on the front does look dated and a bit mumsy, but it certainly couldn't be accused of being pretentious, and at least it makes it clear that this product is going to be unashamedly floral. The silver cap on my miniature bottle acts as a stopper, and can be pulled off to get to the perfume inside. When I opened this perfume set on Christmas day, the first thing I did was to pull off all the lids in turn and get first impressions of the different scents. On sniffing this, I was immediately struck by how different it was to all the other scents, and not really in a good way! I probably should have guessed from the pink lilies on the front of the bottle, but I just wasn't expecting it to be quite so sweetly floral The notes of this perfume are listed online as follows: Top Notes: Orange Blossom Middle Notes : Lily, Hyacinth, Carnation Base Notes : Sandalwood, Incense As a perfume novice, these really don't mean a lot to me, and I'd never imagine this combination of notes to add up to the scent of Anais Anais! For me, smelling this really was like burying my face in a huge bunch of lilies, and although I generally like this smell, it just wasn't something that I wanted to smell of myself. The strongly floral scent was far too overtly feminine for my liking- it reminded me of something a very sweet natured, fifty-something housewife in a pink cardigan would wear! On the plus side, once on, the floral elements of this fragrance lose some of their potency, and the scent becomes a bit more subtle and rounded, with new notes coming through. For me, it's still a scent that would be much more suited to someone in their fifties, which seems strange because it has an undeniable warmth and optimism to it which you'd usually associate with a more youthful scent. Perhaps the sweetness captures an old-fashioned ideal of youth, which is why it makes me think of someone from a different generation. I'd say that the staying power of the perfume is pretty good, and I can still smell a hint of it on my skin after a good few hours. It's just a shame that I don't like smelling it! This is definitely not a perfume that suits me, although I can see how it could suit other (older) people, and maybe I'll be coming back to it in a few decades' time! But from my perspective now, I can only give it 2 out of 5 stars. If you do like the sound of Anais Anais, by Cacharel, it's widely available, and at very reasonable prices- around £20 for a 30ml bottle of EDT.
I was delighted to be given two sets of miniature perfumes for Christmas, which have proved a great way to familiarise myself with different scents that I wouldn't otherwise have come across. Rather than making a snap decision in a shop, miniatures mean that you can really get to know a perfume without having to spend a lot of money on something you might later regret. Unfortunately, there are also bound to be a couple of duds in there, and this, for me, was one of them. I have to admit, I was put off by the brand name before I'd even smelt the perfume. I'm always suspicious of clothing manufacturers branching out into other markets, and often assume that they're just banking on their name to attract customers, rather than creating a really reputable product. To be fair, some of the perfumes in the range were by Armani, and I didn't bat an eyelid at those- I guess there's something about the name and its reputation that lends itself much better to the world of perfume than Ted Baker! The appearance of the bottle didn't help matters- it's a boring, square shape that looks serviceable rather than attractive, with a pale purple lid. There's a strange, beige coloured block of plastic on the base, which I think is supposed to look like wood. It just looks really out of place with the rest of the bottle- almost like it's been stuck on by mistake. The perfume inside the colourless glass is the same pinky purple colour as the lid, which I found very offputting. It's not a colour I like in any form, but in a perfume, it just looks cheap and tacky. Even the XO logo didn't appeal- taken from the word 'extraordinary', it seemed quite gimmicky. Despite being thoroughly turned off by the name and look of this perfume, I was resolved to keep an open mind with regards to its smell. Pulling off the cap (the little bottle I have combines the cap and the stopper), I was greeted with a pleasant enough fragrance, followed by a strong blast of alcohol- not good! I got very similar vibes from this perfume as I did from a selection of dirt cheap miniatures I had when I was about 14. At the time, I thought they were the bees knees, but I certainly wouldn't want to smell like that now! For this reason, I was a bit reluctant to try it out, but eventually took the plunge (on a day when I was slobbing at home!). Fortunately, this perfume does improve a bit once it's on. The smell of alcohol fades immediately on contact with the skin, and you're left with a youthful, sweetly feminine fragrance that's probably best suited to daytime wear, and the spring or summer. I found the following list of notes online: Top notes: Sparkling Orange Blossom. Heart Notes: Gardenia, Jasmine, Tuberose, Green undertones. Base Notes: Sensual Heliotrope, Powdery Musks. The description on the back of the box calls this 'a sensual and sophisticated fragrance', a statement I completely disagree with. Obviously everyone's opinion of a perfume will be subjective, but I definitely don't think that many people could miss the youthfulness of this scent. Even at 27 years old, I feel that this perfume is a bit too young for me- its upbeat freshness would have suited me perfectly 10 years ago, but now I feel I'm verging on mutton smelling of lamb when I'm wearing this! For this reason, it's not a scent I'll be wearing very often, although I might just get away with it on a warm summer's day when I'm feeling particularly exuberant! The staying power of this perfume isn't great, which would be a downside in most perfumes, but with this one, I wouldn't want to smell of it all day, so a quick squirt that lasts a few hours is more than enough when I do feel like wearing it. Priced at around £30 for 75ml (EDT), it's fairly inexpensive as perfumes go, but I definitely won't be buying a larger bottle once my little one's finished. At 10ml, the miniature I have is twice as large as some of the others in the box, and it does make me think that they're trying to palm off more of the lower quality perfumes! To me, this does smell a bit cheap and sort of...obvious- there's nothing subtle or intriguing about it at all. While I'm sure I'd love it if I was 16, it just doesn't cut it for me now, so I can only give it 2 out of 5 stars.
As much as I'd like to be a sophisticated lady with an extensive knowledge of perfumes, I have to admit that I'm exactly the opposite! Perfume shops and counters freak me out a bit- the pristine ladies behind the counters always make me feel like a scruffy little girl! So, having discovered Coco Chanel Mademoiselle a few years ago, I stuck with it, unsure how to branch out. Fortunately, I received two sets of miniature perfumes last Christmas, which have really helped me to get a feel for different scents, and what I like and dislike about them. And this bottle by Stella Mccartney is one of my favourites. The miniature bottle I have the same as the standard larger one- it's made of purple glass, in an attractive flattened octagonal shape. To be honest, being such a novice in the world of perfume, the appearance of the bottle seems really important to me- if I'm going to fork out for a bottle, I want one that's going to look pretty on my dressing table! This certainly fits the bill- it's very elegant and classy, with an old fashioned look to it. The lid, also octagonal in shape, is black with a silver band underneath. The lid of my miniature 5ml bottle pulls off to reveal the neck of the bottle- there's no spray mechanism, unlike on some of the other miniatures, which is a shame, but this wouldn't be a problem with the larger bottles. The top is also quite difficult to pull off and requires a fair bit of tugging, which can be a bit alarming as I always think it's going to suddenly come off and spill everywhere! Again, this is probably just due to the fact that the bottle I have is so small. On smelling this perfume for the first time, I was instantly taken with it- it smelt deliciously mysterious and subtly sophisticated, unlike any of the other perfumes in the box. It was a scent that matched its bottle very well, and the dusky purple of the glass seemed the perfect reflection of the perfume inside. I'm definitely not at the stage of being able to identify the notes of a perfume yet, but this is what is says online for anyone who does understand them: Top notes- rose, peony and mandarin essence. Middle notes- rose absolute. Base notes- amber. It's described as a floral perfume, which conjures up in my mind sickly sweet, overtly flowery tones, but it's not at all like this. On the box in which it came, it's described as 'a timeless blend of the softness of a Rose and the dark sensuality of Amber'. I'd say this is an excellent description, as there are definite contrasts within the scent which really set it apart from the other perfumes in the set. Because of these, I find it hard to decide whether this perfume is more suited to the day or the night- so I wear it for both! It's great to find a perfume that's just as well suited to everyday wear as a night out. While I don't have a very wide knowledge base to draw on, I'd say that the staying power of this perfume is average, when compared to the other nine I own. Within a few hours, this has usually faded to just a very subtle whiff, and within another hour or two, it's usually imperceptible. While I think this is fairly standard, I'd love this perfume to last for longer as it's smells so gorgeous! When my miniature bottle runs out, I'll definitely be buying a larger one- having discovered this perfume, I can't get enough of it! Available in three different sizes, a medium sized 50ml bottle of EDP spray will set you back around £40, although prices vary widely, so it's a good idea to shop around. It's not the cheapest perfume around, but for me, it's definitely worth the price for such a delicious, stand-out scent.
I'm a big fan of all things bath/shower related, so I was delighted to receive this Foaming Shower Mousse for my birthday back in November. The fact that it was from the Sanctuary range was a bonus- I love the distinctive scents and luxurious feel of this brand, and am always keen to try out new products. The Sanctuary is actually a spa in Covent Garden, but they've also been selling a range of skin and beauty products in Boots for a good few years now. There are several different lines within the range, one of which is Spa Essentials, easily distinguishable by its orange and white colour scheme. This mousse is no exception, coming in a white, plastic bottle with an orange push pump at the top, protected by a pull-off cap. It's a clean, fresh look, that certainly wouldn't seem out of place in a real spa. The different products within the Spa Essentials range share a mysterious, exotic scent, with elements of essential oils. This particular bottle contains orange, patchouli and sandalwood oil, although the ingredients list also mentions fragrance, so I'm sure this is largely responsible for the product's scent. It's a very pleasant one though, with all the essential oils vaguely distinguishable, although none particularly standing out. Unlike a lot of Sanctuary products, however, the scent is quite mild- perhaps this is due to the fact that it's foam, rather than gel. When I'm applying this in the shower, it only gives off a faint whiff, and certainly isn't powerful enough to linger on my skin, which is a shame given the fact that it's a scent I like. The pump top works well with the foam- a gentle push on the pump releases a dollop of white, airy foam into your hand. It's not at all bubbly, but rather very light with a creamy consistency that makes your skin feels moisturised as soon as you apply it. This is perhaps due to the Vitamin E in the foam, which is known for its moisturising, skin protecting properties. The foam glides easily onto the skin, and is easy to rinse off. I do find, however, that it takes quite a lot of foam to cover my body- unlike shower gel or cream, you need almost a handful of this stuff to cover all your skin, as it doesn't spread as well as most shower products. I think being foam, it's quite bulky but with a lot of air, so it gets compressed as soon as it comes into contact with skin. For this reason, I suspect I'll get through this 225ml bottle quite quickly. This mousse is priced at around £5 per bottle, which I think is reasonable. I can see this being a product that a lot of people would love, particularly because of its foamy consistency- it certainly makes it feel more luxurious than an ordinary shower gel. The other big plus point for it is the fact that it leaves your skin feeling very soft and moisturised. For me personally, however, this isn't one of my favourite Sanctuary products, and I probably won't be buying it for myself. Its moisturising effects are good, but I prefer a shower wash with a stronger scent, and don't like the fact that you have to use a lot of foam every time you shower. Still, it certainly hasn't been a chore to use, and I'll enjoy this bottle while it lasts!
For my birthday last year, one of my friends made me up a lovely goody bag, which included several Sanctuary products. Being a big fan of the brand, I was really pleased and couldn't wait to try them out. One of the first I used was this Body Wash, and it didn't disappoint. It comes in a plastic bottle, with a pull off cap, under which is one of those flip type caps which you push down on one side to reveal the opening on the other. To be honest, it seems a bit pointless having two caps on the bottle- the flip one would be fine on its own for keeping the gel inside safe and waterproof, so I assume the outer cap is only there for aesthetic reasons. The clear bottle shows the gel inside, and it looks very appealing- transparent orange in colour, with tiny orange beads suspended in the gel. According to the back of the bottle, these are 'moisturising capsules of sesame oil and jojoba'. The product's scent is typical of the Sanctuary range- very exotic, full of mysterious essential oils and spices. It's a deliciously rich smell, that's very distinctive with none of the sickly sweet floral or fruity tones you get with a lot of shower gels. This is definitely a scent I'm happy to have lingering on my skin all day, and, luckily for me, it does stick around for a while after showering, albeit faintly. It's easy to squeeze the gel out, and the cap's opening is perfect for getting just the right amount out, without slopping it everywhere. Applying this to my skin, it always glides on, and I hardly notice the tiny capsules- being soft, they're not scratchy, so don't think of this as a scrub. Whether it's the capsules or the gel itself, I'm not sure, but my skin certainly feels moisturised and hydrated after using this, as well as smelling yummy! At around £5 for 250ml, this isn't the cheapest body wash out there, it has to be said. But if you like your showers to be indulgent and luxurious, then this will definitely fit the bill! I probably wouldn't buy this for myself on a regular basis, but would certainly get it if I wanted to treat myself, or as a gift for someone else.
As anyone that reads my reviews will know, I'm a big fan of face masks, and the Montagne Jeunesse range in particular. These little sachets are a fun and inexpensive way to treat yourself to a few moments of relaxation, and, for the most part, provide a quick boost to your skin. One of the masks I hadn't tried until recently was this passion peel-off. It's probably not one I'd have picked for myself if I'd seen it in the shop, having had bad experiences with the cucumber peel-off mask. But as it came in a mulitpack I bought from Amazon, I was happy to give it a go. Like most Montagne Jeunesse masks, this one comes in a brightly coloured sachet, with a photo of a woman sprouting some crazy foliage from her eye sockets on the front. While not exactly subtle or classy, it's certainly distinctive- there's no way you could miss this range in the shops! The back of the sachet contains the instructions, ingredients and a little bit of hype about the mask (or 'masque', according to the blurb!). In this case, the 'pure and passionate deep cleansing' properties of the natural ingredients are extolled. Pulped pomegranate, passion flower, raspberry, grape, cranberry and vitamin E are hailed as skin-protecting anti-oxidants, although a quick glance at the ingredients list shows that these natural extracts are surrounded by a host of less promising names, such as 'polyvinyl alcohol'. One corner of the sachet is perforated, making it easy to tear it open and get to the contents. Which, in this case, take the form of a thick, red gel, that will ooze out all over the place if you're not careful! The trick is to go gently, giving the sachet a gentle squeeze and catching the gel as it slops over the edge. With any face mask, the scent is quite important as it's going to be near your nose for a good few minutes! Unfortunately, I'm not a big fan of this mask's smell- it's sickly sweet, with strong 'fruity' overtones that are are fake as its gaudy colour. I just hoped that it wouldn't linger on my skin once it was washed off. Applying the mask wasn't quite as simple as easy- the instructions recommended covering your skin in a thin layer, but the clear gel was hard to see once I started putting it on, so I think I overdid it a bit. It certainly wasn't anywhere near dry by the time the recommended 10-20 minutes were up (although the instructions did imply it might take longer), so I left it on for at least another 10. Even then, parts of it weren't completely dry, and came off in slightly slimy patches when I started peeling them. To be fair, the dry patches did peel off well, so I think thinness is the key here. The fact that this mask peels off (after a fashion) means that removing it is a lot less faff than usual- no need for scrubbing with a flannel to get the remnants off. However, I did feel the need to wash my face after, as my skin felt quite sticky and had retained some of the fake fruity smell. Once I'd got rid of the sticky feeling (which took a fair bit of washing), I had a look in the mirror to see if there were any noticeable effects of my 'deep cleansing' experience. My skin didn't look any different, just a little flushed, which I put down to the vigourous washing it had just undergone. There were certainly no remnants of the mask left on there. However, the next morning, I was surprised to see that my usually vampiric skin still looked quite red, like I was blushing in a big way! I didn't really think more about it until I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror later in the day. Asking my friend if I looked red, she replied without hesitation that I did! As soon as I got home, I went straight for my clarifying lotion (which is basically like white spirit for your skin!) and gave my face a long scrub. The cotton wool came away pink, a sure sign that this mask had deposited colour on my face that plain water wasn't strong enough to remove. Fortunately, several applications of clarifying lotion did the job, and my face was soon back to its usual pallid tones. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed by this mask! Anything that stains your skin like this is a big no-no in my opinion, and adding into the equation this mask's weird smell and lack of noticeable effects on my skin, this is definitely not one I'll be buying again!