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justathought

justathought
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      12.10.2012 18:32
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      A sad but realistic book that will stay with me and be reread

      A while ago, I was watching a series that celebrated world book day; 'My life in books' (presented by Anne Robinson!), where various well known people in the public eye talked about their favourite books. One of the ones I put on my 'to-read' list was this; A fine balance. The person referring to it talked about how great the writing was. My sister and mum read it before me and said that I definitely HAD too read it, so I took their recommendation. When they were reading it, they couldn't resist making references to it, and from their reactions when they had finished, I inferred that overall it was a sad book, so I prepared myself mentally!

      My copy is a free world book night copy.
      The novel tells the story of four main characters: a widow, two tailors and a student,who all end up trying to help each other survive the trials and tribulations of life in the underclass of Bombay during the state of emergency imposed by then-president Indira Gandhi. It is set in the 1970s

      As someone with a South-Asian background, this book was of interest to me. I am quite ignorant when it comes to history, so had to do some background reading about 'the emergency' and asked my mum to give me some insight too.
      I think it would help to have some background before reading the book, so here's the wikipedia link (since everyone doesn't have access to a history book :) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emergen​cy_(India)

      Other information
      Paperback: 614 pages
      Publisher: Faber and Faber
      First published: 1997
      ISBN-10: 057123058X
      ISBN-13: 978-0571230587
      Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.6 x 4.6 cm
      A kindle edition is available for £5.12 at the time of writing. The kindle version is good for this book as you can search (e.g for characters, if you have forgotten who they are or where they were mentioned before) and obviously, as the book is over 600 pages, it's a bit on the heavy side to carry around.

      I've tried to include excerpts of the book to give a flavour of what it's like but rest assured, I haven't given it all away!

      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
      The author
      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

      Rohinton Mistry was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India in 1952. He graduated with a degree in Mathematics from the University of Bombay in 1974, and emigrated to Canada with his wife the following year, settling in Toronto, where he worked as a bank clerk, studying English and Philosophy part-time at the University of Toronto and completing his second degree in 1982.

      All of his novels have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize; A Long Journey (1991), A Fine Balance (1995), and Family Matters (2002). All are set in India's Parsee community.
      in 2012, he won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature..

      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
      Who would enjoy the book?
      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

      Anyone who:
      *is interested in learning about the dark side of the real India
      *can appreciate dark humour
      *wants an easily readable but well written book that will get them thinking
      *has a stable state of mind, as parts of this book are really distressing and depressing!

      I think it was Toni Morrison who, when speaking about her book, 'the bluest eye', said she wanted people to be not just touched, but moved (into action) by what they read. I have a feeling that this is what Mistry wants people to get from this book too.

      The epigraph prepares you for what you are going to read:
      Holding this book in your hand, sinking back in your soft armchair, you will say to yourself: perhaps it will amuse me. And after you have read this story of great misfortunes, you will no doubt dine well, blaming the author for your own insensitivity, accusing him of wild exaggeration and flights of fancy. But rest assured: this tragedy is not a fiction. All is true."
      - Honoré de Balzac, Le Père Goriot

      ~ ~ ~ ~
      The plot
      ~ ~ ~ ~

      'In 1975, in an unidentified Indian city, Mrs Dina Dalal, a financially pressed Parsi widow in her early 40s sets up a sweatshop of sorts in her ramshackle apartment. Determined to remain financially independent and to avoid a second marriage (at the urging of her controlling brother), she takes in a boarder and two tailors to sew dresses for an export company. As the four share their stories, then meals, then living space, human kinship prevails and the four become a kind of family, despite the lines of caste, class and religion. When tragedy strikes, their cherished, new-found stability is threatened, and each character must face a difficult choice in trying to salvage their relationships.
      (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)

      The plot is definitely a strong one, though a lot of people might not like it. Looking back, there were a lot of clues that indicated what would happen at the end, but there were still a lot of surprises, and some unexpected coincidences.
      The chapters are separated to concentrate on the different characters. There are a lot of flashbacks and flash forwards, but I didn't find the structure of the book confusing

      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
      The characters
      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

      I don't think I've ever read a book where the characters are so realistic. They have all really stayed with me, and each character changes and develops very definitely throughout the book, through becoming older and through their experiences. This is even true of the sub characters.

      The main characters are:

      Dina Shroff (Dina Dalal after she marries) - an attractive, headstrong, middle-class widow who has rebelled and become independent Her brother is the only family she has left. She depends on him in times of need, but starts a life of her own as an independent employer of tailors whom she has hired to make clothes for an export company. She really dislikes her brother. She also finds it difficult to know exactly what her boundaries should be with the tailors: The evolution of Dina's relationship with the tailors is one of my favourite aspects of the book

      Ishvar Darji (a soft hearted, wise and cheerful soul) and Omprakash "Om" Darji (Ishvar's nephew, who is almost perpetually angry and resentful), were born in what is considered the lowest caste of chamaars, or tanners/leather workers - 'untouchables' which is transgressed by their family by them being trained in the neighbouring town as tailors. They end up heading to the city to find work, and eventually find employment with Dina Dalal

      Maneck Kohlah, a Parsi teenager from an idyllic childhood in a mountainous village in northern India. moves to the city to acquire a college certificate as a back-up in case his father's business can't keep up after a highway is built near their village. He eventually moves into Dina's flat as a boarder for the duration of his studies. Maneck starts off life innocent and naive, and the transition to city life, and being sent away by his parents, and his consequently feeling they wanted to get rid of him is hard for him. He becomes quite bitter:
      'Memories were permanent. Sorrowful ones remained sad even with the passing of time, yet happy ones could never be recreated - not with the same joy. Remembering bred its own peculiar sorrow. It seemed so unfair, that time should render both sadness and happiness into a source of pain. So what was the point of possessing memory? It didn't help anything. In the end it was all hopeless (...) No amount of remembering happy days, no amount of yearning or nostalgia could change a thing about the misery and suffering - love and concern and caring and sharing come to nothing, nothing. Maneck began to weep, his chest heaving as he laboured to keep silent. Everything ended badly. And memory only made it worse, tormenting and taunting.'

      There are quite a few subcharacters too. Some of the ones I found interesting (I won't tell you all of them, as it's interesting to discover them throughout the book)
      were

      Rajaram, a hair collector (his job title). He is Ishvar and Om's neighbour in the slum. His story throughout the book is really interesting.

      Shankar, also known as 'worm' - a beggar with no limbs, who gets around by wheeling himself on a gurney type contraption. Shankar is a character who I really liked, as he was cheerful and amusing. 'Beggarmaster' is in charge of him.

      Beggarmaster, who wears his briefcase chained to his wrist (powerful symbolism again), He is like the pimp of the' the beggars in the city. He makes what he calls 'professional modifications' to them to make the most money out of them, which is really horrifying, but something which I know goes on in South Asian countries, as when you go there, you see a disproportionate amount of beggars with their limbs amputated in the same place. Really terrible, but true. It is interesting that we never find out Beggarmaster's name. The sub-plot with Beggarmaster and Shankar is absolutely fascinating

      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
      Quality of writing
      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

      The book reminded me a bit of 'animal farm' by George Orwell, but the political comparisons and references are not so clear cut, though definitely present. In forum discussions about the book, some people have suggested that Dina represents India (with her struggle for independence), there is reference to a partition in part of the book, and one of the characters is called Narayan, whose role seems representative of he Gandhian socialist Jayaprakash Narayan, who sought to direct action against the government through non violent civil resistance. There are many more comparisons to be drawn, but I'll have to gen up on my Indian history, and read the book again to see them.

      It was also reminiscent of Dickens' storytelling in the length, the number of characters, the way the story flowed, amongst other aspects. Not in optimism, however!
      Let's just say that books as exquisitely written yet easy to read and understand as this are few and far between. In style, I would compare it to 'The book thief' by Markus Zusak maybe.

      The very first passage demonstrates this well:
      "The morning express bloated with passengers slowed to a crawl, then lurched forward suddenly, as though to resume full speed. The train's brief deception jolted its riders. The bulge of humans hanging out the doorway distended perilously, like a soap bubble at its limit"

      I also liked the passage containing the title of the book:
      "You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair."

      The text is full of language devices and symbolism, and even though the book is a decent length (614 pages), it didn't take me long to read, as I really wanted to know what happened, and none of it felt unnecessary or forced.

      For example, the conversation between Maneck and Mr Valmik on the train:
      'But too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart, as my favourite poet has written'
      'Who's that?'
      'W.B Yeats. And I think that sometimes normal behaviour has to be suppressed, in order to carry on.
      I'm not sure. Wouldn't it be better to respond honestly instead of hiding it? Maybe if everyone in the country was angry or upset, it might change things, force the politicians to behave properly.
      The man's eyes lit up at the challenge, relishing the opportunity to argue. ' In theory, yes, I would agree with you. But in practice, it might lead to the onset of more major disasters. Just try to imagine six hundred million raging, howling, sobbing humans. Everyone in the country - including airline pilots, engine drivers, bus and tram conductors - all losing control of themselves. What a catastrophe. Aeroplanes falling from the skies, trains going off the tracks, boats sinking, buses and lorries and cars crashing. Chaos. Complete chaos.'
      He paused to give Maneck's imagination time to fill in the details of the anarchy he had unleashed. 'And please also remember: scientists haven't done any research on the effects of mass hysteria and mass suicide upon the environment. Not on this subcontinental scale. If a butterfly's wings can create atmospheric disturbances halfway round the world, who knows what might happen in our case. Storms? Cyclones? Tidal waves? What about the land mass, would it quake in empathy? Would the mountains explode? What about rivers, would the tears from twelve hundred million eyes cause them to rise and flood?
      He took another sip from the green bottle. 'No, it's too dangerous. Better to carry on in the usual way'

      The dialogue is all very realistic too. Mistry's philosophy background is apparent in the writing. The characters are all obviously Indian, and being able to speak the language, I could appreciate the strength of how Mistry managed to convey the Indian manner of speaking, while not making the characters sound like they lacked articulacy. The style of language is beautiful, almost poetic.
      There are a few terms that people unfamiliar with the language may not understand e.g 'haahnji' means yes, puja is a type of prayer ceremony, paanwallah is a person who sells paan (a preparation of betel leaf combined with areca nut and/or cured tobacco)

      Overall
      I would recommend this book to almost everyone. I now intend to read the rest of Mistry's books!

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        09.10.2012 13:52
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        A great synthetic haired foundation brush

        Recently, I used an offer at the body shop to get 40% off. This brush, whose normal price is £12, was one of the items I used it for.

        The body shop description is:
        This flat, tapered brush works brilliantly with liquid foundation. It gives an even, flawless finish.
        Gives a flawless finish
        Super-soft synthetic hair
        Cruelty-free

        The entire length of the brush is 160mm. The length of just the bristles (at the longest point) is 35mm.

        I can't remember how the brush was packaged. I think the brush is nice and professional looking. One side of the handle has the text 'FOUNDATION/FOND DE TEINT' and the other has 'THE BODY SHOP', both in white. The text has faded a bit after a few months.I like the handle, as it's chunky enough to hold and control properly and not be unwieldy. Also the base is flat so you can stand the brush up, which is good. The bristles fade from brown (at the root) to black, which adds to the professional look, and means it doesn't look dirty once it's been used. It is also good as you can see how much foundation you have on the brush

        The bristles on the brush are silky soft against my face. The first time I used it, and each time I use it just after I've washed and dried it, I had to use more foundation than normal because the brush absorbs a bit - not an alarming amount though!

        I've found that I get the best results by squeezing a small amount of foundation onto the back of my hand, dipping the tip of the brush in and using downward and outward strokes, spreading the foundation to cover my face. Compared to my old brush (the elf professional foundation brush), I need less foundation with this brush as it spreads the foundation a lot more thinly.

        It gives an even and smooth coverage, and doesn't leave lines or streaks of foundation once you have finished blending. This can take a little bit of time Blending is very easy with this brush as the bristles are soft and malleable, and don't clump together. The bristles are also longer than some other foundation brushes, which also contributes to the fact that it spreads foundation further.

        At the silver part of the brush, there are quite a lot of bristles, and these thin out towards the tip of the brush. The tip of the brush is quite rounded. Both of these things mean that the brush can be manoeuvred into awkward spaces to properly apply foundation, like the sides of the nose and under the eyes.

        I have had this brush a few months now and really like it. It is really good quality as the bristles haven't shed, either when I've used it or when I've washed it. I used brush cleaner once and that made the bristles harden and clump together, so I'm going to stick with shampooing it, even though it takes ages to dry

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        08.10.2012 14:50
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        ethnic chick lit

        100 shades of white (not to be confused with 50 shades of grey(!), is a book I read a few years ago. The story stayed with me, and I remembered it being a heartwarming book, so as I had been feeling a bit down, decided to re-read it. I read another book by Preethi Nair; 'The colour of love' but didn't enjoy it.

        I bought it used on amazon.co.uk for 1p plus £2.80 postage. A kindle version is available for £3.99.

        Some info:
        Paperback: 304 pages
        Publisher: HarperCollins; first published 2003
        ISBN-10: 000714346X
        ISBN-13: 978-0007143467
        Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm


        === The author ===

        I learned from http://www.preethinair.com/ that "Preethi Nair worked as a management consultant but gave it up to follow her dream and write her first book, Gypsy Masala.

        Working under the alias of Pru Menon, Preethi managed to gain substantial coverage and subsequently signed a three-book deal with HarperCollins. She won the Asian Woman of Achievement award for her endeavours and was also short listed as Publicist of the Year for the PPC awards. When the author couldn't find a publisher who could publish her previous book, 'Gypsy Masala', she reacted by publishing and distributing the first run of copies herself. This fact really impressed me! I would recommend visiting this website if you are interested in the book or the author as it contains some interesting information.


        === Who would enjoy the book? ===

        In my opinion, the book is definitely a girly one. I would recommend it to people who want to read something on the less superficial side of 'chick-lit' (I really hate that phrase!) and people who want something that is an easy and relatively short read but still gives you some food for thought after reading it.

        As with many books, the inside page contains praise for the author. I agree most with the following (from The Guardian) "She writes evocatively about childhood and there are passages of tight and lyrical immediacy"


        === The quality of writing ===

        The standard of writing in the book is generally good, but oscillates between passages that are almost poetic in their beauty and depth of feeling, and those that are very simplistic and a little stilted. Some of the dialogue is a bit like this too. It was a very easy and quick read. I feel like the book would have benefitted from being fleshed out as it felt like it went too fast

        === The plot ===

        The book is has two main characters, Maya and Nalini. Nalini starts off life in a village in India with a troubled childhood, where her father abandons her mother, who is a wise, warm and loving person, who she is extremely close to. Her mother supports them by being the village cook. Nalini's meets Raul when her mum is cooking for events before his wedding, but he falls in love with her and they elope and marry. They have an idyllic life at first, as Raul is charming, doting and seems to be very rich and successful.They have 2 kids (who call him Achan). He seems to always be away working, and eventually gets a job in London, and eventually gets Nalini and her two kids to move abroad too. Nalini struggles to adapt to the new lifestyle in a foreign land with an unfamiliar culture and language when her husband abandons her and their children. It's understandable that she decided to lie about his disappearance to protect her children's honour and self esteem, but it changes the course of everyone's future, and their relationships.

        A lot of the book centres around relationships; blood relationships and that are formed and made, and the sacrifices each person makes (or doesn't make) in life, including those that go unappreciated and those that aren't appreciated enough. Looking back, I can see that the author was also exploring how history repeats itself. The experience of living life as an immigrant, fitting in and adapting is also explored (with a bit of humour thrown in!).

        As the title of the book suggests, the main theme is truth and the need for it (truth in what we tell people, and being true to yourself, and who and what you are), and that intentions are so important with regards to this. As Nalini says at one point: 'Maybe there are one hundred shades for explaining truth, a spectrum of light to dark, depending on the vulnerability of those who have to hear it. Things are not always so clear-cut, they are not either black or white, life just isn't like that. I know my mother would disagree, arguing that there is one immutable truth and it is just a question of facing it.'

        Another theme in the book was forgiveness, and some of the passages about forgiveness are really touching, e.g 'My mother used to say that it was forgiveness that worked magic on the soul and made miracles possible. According to her, forgiveness from a broken heart combusted energy that made insurmountable obstacles just dissolve. So if she found Luxmiammayi gossiping about her, she forgave; if a servant boy stole whatever little she had, she let him take it; if I hurt her, and I know I did, she just forgave me. Not the forgiveness that belongs to a coward - he who sees but refuses to believe and so pretends nothing has happened - but the kind of forgiveness which belongs to a courageous heart, the heart that accepts and says no matter what anyone does, or whatever circumstances are thrust upon it, it will always, always be all right. It does not become embroiled and constrained in anger and bitterness, but moves forward and grows'

        The plot is good overall, with twists and turns to keep you interested



        === The structure of the book ===

        The book is written in chapters of narration alternating between those written from Maya's perspective and from Nalini's perspective. This makes things interesting as some of the same events are told from a different point of view.

        The structure, I think, makes things a bit confusing, as you would think the book would start with Nalini's beginnings, what she did and why, to set the scene. Instead, it starts off with Maya talking about her own birth (which I found weird) and then describing her life and her take on it. I had to read the book twice to fully understand everything that happened, because I got a bit mixed up. The actual course of events comes out in drips and drabs because of the alternating narrative.


        === The characters ===

        The characters in the book are believable, varied and well developed. We see them change with time and events.

        Maya starts off feisty, rebellious and keeps a distance from her mother, because of the hurt she suffered from her dad leaving. She blames Nalini for this.

        Nalini starts off really naive and lacking in confidence.

        The rest of the characters, I won't tell you about as it might give things away, but it is good to see how everyone changes by the end of the book, and the different effect that secrets and misconceptions have on different people.


        === Overall ===

        I would recommend this book to most of my female friends. There were a lot of quotes that I took from this book and saved, because they were so touching, and this is what made me re-read it. I think a glossary would be useful for some of the Malayalam terms used, and the different Indian dishes mentioned

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        05.10.2012 13:05
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        Recommended if you like the fragrance!

        === Background ===

        To be honest, I'm not a very perfume-y person - I wear perfume because I have been given it as gifts. This set was no exception - a recently-met friend of mine presented it to me as a surprise, which I thought was so lovely! Who does that nowadays?!

        Anyway, I had never heard of Carolina Herrera before (apparently she's a successful fashion designer), or any of the perfumes, so for this review, can safely say I was not conditioned by any advertising or images beforehand!

        The perfume for women seems to come in the eau de parfum form only.

        Apparently there are 9 other Carolina Herrera scents out there - including men's and women's. There is a Carolina Herrera 212 sexy for men - I can't say anything about these as I haven't tried them

        The perfume comes in different sizes (30ml, 60ml and 100ml). Tester sized bottles can be bought on Ebay and other places.

        The 30ml perfume costs around £20, and the gift set (again I'm talking about the 30ml one) - there are a couple of differently packaged ones out there, sells for around £30, although debenhams has it on sale for £21.50 just now (there are lots of places that sell online, so I'd advise shopping around for the best deal)

        === What you get in the gift set ===

        In my gift set (from internet research, I can see there are some options for different gift sets), there is a 30ml bottle of the perfume (eau de parfum) and 100ml of body lotion.

        === The scent ===

        I don't know much about perfume notes, but here is what the scent consists of apparently:
        Top Notes: Fresh citrus, bergamot and rose pepper.
        Middle Notes: Pink pepper and fresh petals.
        Base Notes: White musk, sandalwood and vanilla.

        Here is the official description:
        212 Sexy reflects the personality of a vibrant, confident woman. The satiny citrus of the top notes, echoing the freshness of the original 212, are shot through with the warmth of pink pepper and stimulating bergamot. Slowly, the middle notes of gardenia and geranium reveal themselves. The lasting impression is created by the depth and warmth of the base notes, where the delicious aroma of cotton candy blends with tempting vanilla, a spicy hint of sandalwood and the mysterious sensuality of musk.

        === The perfume ===

        Ahh - having read this, it makes sense that I like this as gardenia, geranium, vanilla, musk and sadalwood are all scents that I tend to favour individually

        I definitely love the scent, and it's a unique scent too in my opinion. To me, when I spray it on, the words that come to mind are: warm, exotic, spicy, sweet, oriental, blossom, feminine, floral, powdery, sexy and successful. I would say it is a heavy scent (if you prefer lighter scents, you may find this cloying) and that it smells expensive and of good quality. I tend to spray it once inside my top, and once under my hair. This way, I can smell it all day, but everyone else doesn't have to! I personally hate it when people wear strong perfume so that when you walk past them, you can basically taste it. Because of this, only people who get close to me can smell it, and I have had compliments on it. If I spray it on in the morning, I can still smell it on my skin at the end of the day, and on my hair the next day if I don't wash it. The fragrance lasts on any clothes it has come in contact with too.

        When I spray this perfume on, I feel happy, beautiful and successful (I realise how cheesy this sounds, having never changed my feelings about myself because of a perfume!). Maybe it's because I've worn it to parties where I've been complimented, and interviews I have been successful in, but I'm not going to fight the feel-good factor I get from this perfume!

        I would say this scent would suit anyone who wants to smell feminine and pretty, but still grown up. I think if you spray a little bit and keep it subtle, it can be suitable for daytime wear, but it is definitely more of an evening or night-time scent in my opinion.

        === The hydrating body lotion ===

        The lotion has the same scent, except that it's a bit less sharp. I find it more convenient to use the spray. I'm glad I have the lotion as a back up, but I don't use it very often. Sometimes it's nice to use after showering, to smell nice all over. I'd say the smell of the lotion fades to a musky fragrance much more quickly than the spray, and doesn't last all day on the skin. Someone would have to be right up close to your skin to smell the lotion on you - after a few minutes, it is quite subtle and delicate compared to the perfume

        The consistency is very runny - The hole in the tube for the lotion to come out is not very big, yet I don't have to squeeze the bottle for some of the lotion to come out, as it's so thin. It is a white milky liquid. I definitely use normal moisturiser first (unscented, so it doesn't clash with the fragrance) as the lotion is not very moisturising at all. When I first rub it into my skin, it feels a bit greasy. A little bit of the lotion spreads to quite a decent area with this lotion. After a few seconds, it feels tacky, then once it dries in, it feels like a layer over my skin. I don't mind this too much but I know that feeling can bother some people.
        The lotion is find on my body, but I find it irritates my hands and meks them a bit itchy.

        Overall, the lotion is okay - I wouldn't especially buy it on its own, but in the case that buying the set that includes the lotion is better value that buying the perfume alone (which often happens in the post - Christmas sales), I would buy the set with the lotion included. I don't think the lotion lives up to its 'hydrating' title. I just think of it as liquid fragrance, rather than a lotion.

        === The packaging ===

        My gift set came in a matte metallic pink coloured cardboard box, with a striated looking background, and '212' in large shiny lettering across the box (as shown in the picture above). The box is really pretty and sturdy (even though it's cardboard) and I leave it on display in my room (I store hairbands in it!). I seem to remember there being a nice pink satin bow on the box too.

        I think that the inside had a standard plastic tray with spaces to hold the perfume and the lotion in place separately, but don't quote me on that!

        The perfume bottle is a capsule shape. At one end is a removable dusky pink matte metallic plastic cap, and at the other end, a matching non removable cap to make the bottle symmetrical and round ended on both ends (the shape can be seen from the picture dooyoo has included). The middle part of the bottle is mauve-brown (maybe sepia would be a better description) coloured glass with a slightly mottled looking texture. It has the text '212 sexy' in large dark red lettering and 'Carolina Herrera New York' beneath this. On the other side of the bottle is the information 'eau de parfum, 30m'l and 'Made in Spain by Antonio Puig Barcelona', plus some other small text.

        Overall, I like the look and feel of the bottle - the colours are attractive too, but I find it annoying that you can't stand the bottle up. When I put it down on a surface, I have to put something in front of it so it doesn't roll off onto the floor. This has happened a few times - sometimes it has rolled away and I can't find where it went and forget about it for a while, and sometimes I'm scared the bottle will hit a hard floor and break - which would be really upsetting! The extra cap also takes up more space, which is not good when you're taking this perfume along with you somewhere and have limited space. Even though it would look less unique, I'd prefer if one end had a flat bottom, or the whole thing wasn't cylindrical, and had a flat surface part so it could stay put.

        The lotion comes in a tube that's a bit like a giant toothpaste tube, with a plastic screw cap and a hole in the tube for the lotion to come out. The tube is opaque, and a similar colour to the plastic cap on the perfume bottle. It also has '212 sexy, Carolina herrera New York' in red lettering on the front of the tube, and tells you it is 'hydrating body lotion' at the bottom. The back of the tube tells you it's good for 12 months. It also tells you the amount in the tube (100ml or 3.4 fluid ounces), the website (www.carolinaherrera.com) and some other small print. I find the lotion too bulky to take with me anywhere, and don't like the pointy edges on the top of the tube, as if I put it in a bag, they can jab my hands as I reach in to get the tube, or damage the lining of my handbag if it's delicate.

        Overall, the packaging is pretty but not very practical.

        === Final verdict ===

        I would probably not buy this as it's a bit expensive for my budget, but if I run out and someone asks me what I'd like as a gift (I have some very generous family), I might just suggest this! I would recommend it to some of my friends, but people have very definite opinions about perfumes, and they can smell different on different people, and last for different amounts of time on different people too, so I don't know if they would like it!

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      • More +
        01.10.2012 14:00
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        a decent mini brush kit

        A while ago, there was a 40% off offer on the body shop online, so I decided to get this set as part of my stash. It's currently priced at £14.50. The main reason I bought it was that I needed another eyeshadow brush and also a good blusher brush - I prefer a round one, rather than the flat ones that come with some other mini sets, so buying the mini set was cheaper than buying those 2 brushes full sized.

        The set comprises:
        a nylon pouch with a velcro closure and a pocket for each brush, and a tiny mirror built in
        a blusher brush
        an eyeshadow brush
        a slanted brush
        a lipstick/concealer brush

        The brushes have synthetic hairs

        My verdict:

        I really like the size of the pouch and brushes (maybe I should point out here that I have really small hands) - the handles are long enough to grip, and feel sturdy, and the fact that the pouch has a flap closure with velcro - it's nice and simple and easy. I also like the way that the pouch and brushes look - sleek and simple and easy to clean (the pouch is wipe clean). I hate the feel of the pouch - it feels really cheap. Also the mirror that's built in is too small - I tried to do the eyeliner of just one eye in it but it was just too small. The pouch also doesn't have enough width from the side, so the brushes bristles tend to get flattened when the pouch is closed

        The blusher brush is nice and soft and spreads my blusher evenly, and I can blend the blusher in well too. I'm not a big blusher wearer, and I do like it to be quite subtle, so this brush is good for that. The blush brush is a bit taller than the others, so does tend to get a bit bent and squashed in the case

        The eyeshadow brush is okay - it does the job, but isn't brilliant; I prefer my screenface eyeshadow brush as its head is a lot more compact and it's better for blending.

        The slanted brush is the one I like most - I use it for lining my lower lashline with powder over kohl pencil - it's really nice to use and doesn't make my eyes itchy after applying the powder, whereas my other slanted brush does. I also plan to use this for gel eyeliner, but haven't done so yet.

        The other brush is meant for lipstick or concealer and comes with a clear cap. It is a firmer brush than the others and I haven't really used it

        I would say that overall, I really like these brushes and would recommend them. They all have soft (but not too soft that you don't have control) bristles and are good quality - with minimal shedding (so far). I would say that this was a good product, but not a 5-star product - I'm sure there are other mini brush kits out there that are just as good or even better

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        • Fitness First (Glasgow) / Spa / 17 Readings / 15 Ratings
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          06.06.2011 19:11
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          only worth it if you go regularly!

          ***UPDATE***
          This gym has been closed for a while now, and the other fitness first branch in Glasgow (on Cathcart Road) has also closed. I'm really disappointed as there is now no ladies only gym, or even a gym with a ladies only area in Glasgow. I hope someone else opens one soon!
          -------- -------- -------- ---------

          I first registered with Fitness First for Women on Sauchiehall Street more than 3 years ago to lose weight in time for my sister's wedding. I decided to go for this Branch, and not the mixed one in the South side of Glasgow because I felt I would be more comfortable, and because when I had made enquiries at the other branch, the staff were really aggressive in trying to force me to join, and they took my phone number and proceeded to pester me with phone calls for months, until I complained formally! To be honest, I didn't use the gym much until about a year ago, when I started to get serious about my health.

          It was not difficult to join - there are often staff outside the gym, handing out leaflets or promoting discounts and deals, but if not, it's easy enough to go in and enquire - a member of staff usually takes your details and if it's a busy period, will give you a day and time that suits you, to be shown around the gym and discuss the different options for membership. I currently pay about £27 per month, but many people pay more - it's difficult as they often have different deals and a shorter membership is more expensive per month.

          THE LOCATION
          The location, for me, is great as it's in the city centre and is on the main shopping part of the street - this is great because if you forget something, you can pick it up from the shops. It is not so great for parking at peak times, but this is not an issue for me as I take the bus, which drops me off very close. The signage outside is quite clear and distinctive, and when you enter, you have to go up a flight of stairs, which is well lit, and which you can hear music from, which is nice :)

          THE FOYER/LOUNGE
          When you enter, you see a reception desk in front of you, where you can buy sports drinks/protein bars etc, or pick up studio timetables or leaflets about the gym, and a member of staff swipes your card through. I find the reception staff are really friendly and helpful - there are usually 1 or 2 at the desk. There are also some sofas here to relax on, and members also have access to coffee (and milk and sugar and polystyrene cups of course) an dvds which can be rented for free - to be honest, the selection is dire! There is also access to a disability-friendly toilet from here.

          THE GYM
          There are about 18 treadmills and a few cross trainers, step machines, rowing machines and exercise bikes. The quality of these is good and the machines have very rarely been out of order since I joined. There is also a free weights area, with access to a wide range of weights, weight machines, an abs area, with mats etc to do sit-ups etc on, and a power plate machine, which the gym use to charge extra for, but can now be used for free

          THE STUDIOS
          There are 2 studios - one for spin classes (I've never been to one:/), and one for most other classes. The range of classes is very good compared to what it used to be - the class timetable can be accessed from here (http://www.fitnessfirst.co.uk/fitness-first-timetables/FF_Timetable_141.pdf). I like that some of the classes happen at times that make it possible to go after work. My current favourite classes are zumba and legs, bums and tums. The quality of the class often depends on the helpfulness of the instructor though. Most of the classes do not incur any extra charge.

          THE CHANGING ROOM
          The changing room has benches to sit and put your belongings on, and a great many lockers, for which you need a padlock. Since the gym revamped their lockers, I've not had a problem having access to a locker when the gym is very busy. From the changing room, there is access to the toilets - there are 3. The toilets are usually fairly clean but are quite dingy, and only one of them has a mirror in it! The toilets all contain a hand dryer too. The changing room also has hair drying areas with (surprise surprise) hairdryers, stools to sit on, mirrors and sockets (to plug in straighteners etc), and space to put your belongings on.
          THE SHOWERS are accessible from the changing area. At the entrance to the shower area is a slip-proof mat, and a carrier bag dispenser for belongings. There are 4 shower cubicles. Each has a frosted glass door and a hook outside - this is useful to hand your belongings on instead of letting them get soaking wet on the floor! The doors are slightly annoying as they don't have locks and don't close properly. The showers, although they are cleaned regularly, have a mouldy, dingy feel about them :/. Each cubicle has a shower gel and shampoo dispenser. There is often a small queue for the showers after classes, and 2 of the showers never have hot water, so to avoid them does require some waiting too.

          THE SAUNA
          The sauna in the gym used to be a steam room; I prefer the sauna as it is not wet - so less of a safety hazard, and it just feels more hygienic. I would say though, beware of the old ladies that seem to think it's ok not to wear clothes or a towel in the sauna - bleurgh. I really feel the benefits of the sauna - I feel that when I spend 10 minutes there after my workout, my body doesn't ache, and it has made my skin a lot clearer.

          CLEANLINESS etc
          In general, the gym is kept quite clean - cleaning staff can usually be seen, cleaning the toilets, the machines, the showers, or vacuuming the main gym area, which is reassuring. However, the soap dispenser in the toilets is often empty - yuck!

          OTHER
          There are usually personal trainers around. For a 1:1 session, you have to pay extra, but when they are not doing personal sessions, they are happy to answer questions or give advice on your workouts. The gym also has other facilities that incur extra costs, like a sunbed and a hypoxi-therapy room (I'm not sure what this is!)

          OVERALL
          I really enjoy using the gym for its friendly atmosphere, great location and facilities. Some of my friends have had problems where the gym overcharges them, or keeps charging them after they've left, but I've never encountered this.

          Thanks for reading!

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        • Myface Mymix Foundation / Make Up / 28 Readings / 28 Ratings
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          28.09.2010 16:05
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          excellent foundation, especially if a powder is applied over it

          ---------------------
          ABOUT MYFACE
          ---------------------
          The creative director for Myface cosmetics is make up artist Charlotte Tilbury, whose clients include Kate Moss, Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham, Gwen Stefani and Drew Barrymore, among others. The range itself is the brainchild of Gail Federici, who used to run John Frieda's global haircare company.

          The range is sold exclusively at Boots locations throughout the UK, at http://www.boots.com and at http://www.myfacecosmetics.com and was launched in October 2008.
          ---------------------

          I first came across the Myface brand while looking for a new foundation in Boots. What attracted me was the way the make up was split up into categories - fair, medium and medium/dark - with a range of foundation, concealer and lipstick for each.

          I find it difficult to get a mid range foundation (I don't want to pay like £30 for the likes of Bobbi Brown's!) for my dark Asian skin as most foundations either look chalky or red on me. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried on the Myface foundations as the tone was nice - there are 3 shades in the medium/dark range and Myface claims that each shade in a category will blend to match you. I found that this was true but that shade 2 looked the most natural ( there are 3 shades, with 1 being the lightest. I tried on all 3 and walked about town like that, then went home and looked in the mirror to examine the results and decide which one looked right).

          The foundation is sealed in a plastic cover that is perforated for easy opening. I like my make up to be sealed when I buy it so that I know nobody has used it!

          It comes in a flattish, dark beige/light brown plastic 'bottle' that can stand upright. The medium/dark range foundation has a silver lid with 'myface.cosmetics' on it in black. The front tells you the shade and that it is
          'professionally mixed and matched by experts according to skin tone, delivers a modern, retouched finish, instant image upgrade'

          The back has a sticker on it that tells you it is 35ml, the website address, barcode and ingredients.

          I think the packaging is average to be honest - I don't love or hate it. The lid screws off and the foundation is dispensed through a hole in the plastic nozzle. Compared to other foundations I've used, I do like the way this can be dispensed - you can definitely control how much comes out and when it's almost finished, you can get most of the last bit out, so there's not too much waste. It also hasn't ever leaked in my bag. The text on the lid tends to fade after a while and I don't think the packaging looks very imppressive coming out of the makeup bag! The foundation itself has a clean soapy smell - I would imagine this makes it easy to tell when you have had it for too long and it's gone off!

          The consistency is quite thin, like that of a watery moisturiser, or maybe a tinted moisturiser.This is not surprising, considering the foundation is water based. This means that it spreads easily. I apply it to the back of my hand then pick it up a little at a time with a foundation brush as a little goes a long way. As I don't have great skin though, I tend to apply 2 layers. Although it gives a sheer, medium coverage, the effect is lovely - it makes you look as if you have smooth, glowing, dewy skin. When wearing this foundation, I often get compliments on how my complexion looks healthy and my skin looks in good condition - and people don't believe I'm wearing foundation! It also feels lightweight and absorbs quite easily, a bit like a tinted moisturiser. I have found that it doesn't crease throughout the day.
          One disadvantage when wearing this is that it does rub off e.g if you blow your nose, and can transfer e.g if you have white pillowcases! It does wash off though. This happens slightly less when wearing a powder over it. I think its lasting power is acceptable; if I apply it in the morning before I leave for work, my skin isn't completely bare by the end of the day but at the same time, most of the glowy effect has disappeared - this is much less the case if I use a primer under it and take time to buff powder over it (but I usually don't have time!)

          Another is that the bottle has not lasted me that long - maybe 6 months or so - I apply it in the morning almost daily though. Personally, I'm not sure how long foundation should last - as until this year, I have never found a foundation that suits me so haven't ever used one on a regular basis - I usually end up only getting a new one because the old one has gone off. Yes, that's disgusting, I know.

          There is also not a perfect shade to suit everyone - my sister is slightly more red toned than me and didn't think any of the shades in the medium dark range looked right (I'll take her word for it - she's very fussy!) but one of the shades in the Maybelline range did. I think that it is down to your own personal opinion, but more shades would be great.

          I have found that for heavier coverage, and to make the foundation last for more hours, applying a powder on top works wonders - I use Urban Decay surreal skin mineral foundation, which really complements this.

          UPDATE: I still really like this foundation and have repurchased it a few times. I also like myface in general - I have bought from them online (they sometimes have 25% off offers - keep checking!) and found that their customer service was great. I'll probably continue to repurchase this, unless I suddenly get rich and can afford high end makeup :p

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          • More +
            20.09.2010 20:39
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            recommended but try it on first!

            As someone with dark (South) Asian skin, I have never found, or in fact considered a powder foundation to suit me. I decided to try and find one to go over my liquid foundation, to seal it in and for the occasions when I want buildable coverage for a more made up look.

            It was in Debenhams one day when I spotted this - Urban Decay Surreal Skin Mineral Foundation. I decided to ask the sales assistant to apply it, as I have never used powder, then left it on till I got home and had a look in the mirror. I was pleasantly surprised at the range of shades available (though none for very dark skin). The shade I chose was mirage and it cost £17. Since then I have found that Watt Brothers, a shop in Glasgow, sells it for £10; the packaging is slightly different though - I hope it's the real thing!

            When I went back to buy it, the sales assistant gave me some freebies - including a mini lipstick and a sachet of serum for mattifying the skin, which was a nice surprise. As the Urban Decay is a brand I trust and can only usually window shop at, I went away happy!

            Boots only had the lightest 4 shades available and no testers :(.

            I did try on the cream to powder compact of the same name, but they did not have the same shades available as the powders, so couldn't find one to match my skin tone.

            There are actually 12 shades available, and it is a bit annoying that they are not all available to try on in stores, as it's not easy or recommendable to choose a shade based on a picture, as it never gives a true representation of how the foundation will look, and there are not that many places for people with darker skin to get appropriate make up. Sorry, rant over.

            Illusion: Fair
            Nirvana: fair/light
            Dream: light
            Supernova: light/medium
            Trance: medium
            Hallucination: slightly tanned
            Vision: olive
            Mirage: dark olive
            Trippy: deep golden
            Destiny: Deep Bronzy Brown
            Fortune: deep reddish-golden
            Fantasy: dark copper brown


            THE PACKAGING

            The foundation comes in a lovely lilac box with swirly embossed patterns all over it in the same colour but a shiny finish. The top has the name of the colour and shows the shade it is supposed to be. Mine therefore says 'mirage' on a brown background.

            The side of the box tells you to 'Experience the transcendental effects of this amazing mineral makeup. The innovative application system puffs and buffs on with zero mess and leaves skin looking so flawless, it's surreal. With a silky, weightless feel, micronized minerals finish skin beautifully, and wear all day. Get a sheer effect or complete coverage with this innovative, luminous foundation alternative - it contains a range of protective elements AND allows the skin to breathe.' The opposite side has the same text in French. Other information on the box includes the weight (8.5g), the ingredients, the fact that Urban decay 'don't do animal testing - how could anyone?', the Urban decay website (www.urbandecay.com) and address.

            This appealed to me as the box was taped shut, so I was reassured that it hadn't been opened and used before. The pot inside is surprisingly big (55mm high and 47mm diameter) and in 3 parts. The lid is purple plastic and has raised designs on it, along with the Urban Decay logo. Once you lift this, you'll see there is a sponge attached to a plastic base, which can be unscrewed from the pot of powder, which is transparent with pretty purple swirly designs on it. Underneath the base is a sticker with the name of the shade on a background that is supposed to represent the colour, the weight and the Urban Decay addresses. This is useful in case you lose the box and forget which shade you have been using. I kept the box as it's pretty, and I can use it to put the pot in while travelling. I like the way the packaging looks - I'd be happy to take it out and use it in public, but it's not that practical and mess free for me (see below).

            USAGE

            As I bought the foundation after doing some research (I've never bought a foundation as expensive!), one of the things I'd heard about the puff applicator was that it didn't give great results. Also, I'd imagine you'd need quite a lot of product dispensed into the puff before it could appear on the skin. For this reason, I pulled off the puff! Where it used to be, there is an indentation and 3 holes. To use the foundation, I use a large powder brush (I use the body shop mineral foundation brush, which I love), dab it lightly into the container of powder and swirl it into the upside down part of the lid. This is great as the excess falls into the lid through the 3 holes and every so often, I empty the contents of the lid back into the pot. I then sweep the brush over my skin a few times, and repeat the process as many times as I need to to achieve the coverage I want. This for me, means that my real skin can still be seen and the finish is slightly matte, but with a glow. For everyday wear, this would be twice, bearing in mind that I have already put concealer over the dark circles under my eyes and liquid foundation underneath the powder. The powder gives a sheer, even coverage this way. It is neither chalky looking on my skin nor red looking. On its own, it gives the same effect but does not stay on so long, but it does still give a nice glow, which I wouldn't expect from a powder. I have found that it is best to put a very thin layer on at a time as otherwise, the powder tends to settle into creases e.g under the eyes and at the sides of the mouth. I have also successfully built up coverage in thin layers to achieve an almost flawless look for heavier coverage for an Asian wedding (everyone wears lots of glamorous makeup and clothes and it is a long day for everyone!). Once in a while, I swirl the excess onto the amputated puff and use it to buff my face after applying the foundation to get rid of the extra powder on my face and give a smoother effect. I ALWAYS put a hanky or hand towel on the surface I'll be using the foundation on as if you spill a little powder and try to rub it off, it spreads like mad. It's the same on clothes, but does come off with soap and water. Beware of dropping it on a light coloured carpet as it stains - saying this from experience.

            REMOVAL

            Because my foundation now lasts longer, removing it at the end of the day is a bit tougher - this is the biggest drawback of wearing makeup for me. I like to remove all my makeup properly as I hate having any make up marks on my towels and pillowcases, and it's a lot better for my skin. I have found that using a cotton pad with soap (a gentle one for the face such as Australian organics - it usually costs under £3) and rubbing it gently in small circular motions over my face removes a lot, then using a cotton bud with make up remover, and rinsing, toning and moisturising the skin afterwards gives the best results. It really is a drag though - I'd prefer a tap of a magic wand to remove my make up!

            OVERALL

            I'm really pleased with this powder. The tub lasted me over a year, I think, and I liked it enough to repurchase. The powder itself feels lightweight and not cakey. I usually put it on in the morning and it lasts till early evening. If I go out in the evening, I usually apply a little more. The disadvantage of a powder foundation is that you can't quickly just put it on in a hurry with your fingers without a mirror as it would be messy and look terrible!

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            • More +
              17.09.2010 18:10
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              You'll be surprised where you can get great books

              Ever since childhood, I have loved books. The fact that my Mum used to be a library assistant and take books out for us as a treat may have helped towards this! However, my Mum has always disagreed with buying books as she thinks they should only be borrowed! It's taken me a while to get over the guilt of buying books but I'm coping...

              When I was a young and impressionable student, I thought that textbooks could only be bought brand new from book shops - this meant spending between £30 and £65 per book on required textbooks as they were rarely available in the library, and we had required reading almost every day. After a while, I discovered the on-campus second hand book shop that sold textbooks for a fraction of the price - great news! The bookshop had many titles available in lots of interesting subjects, so I spent large amounts of time browsing, and selectively buying.

              Later, I discovered charity shops! Now, the prices can be great but sometimes there is just no order, so one can end up with a blinding headache after squinting at titles for a long time. One shop that is amazing for its organisation is the Oxfam bookshop on Byres Road in Glasgow - the books are organised into subjects AND alphabetically by author - there are also chairs dotted around for when you have some time to sit and read a book. The staff are friendly and helpful and there is a really relaxed atmosphere. The books are not as cheap as some other charity shops as I think they take a fraction off the RRP (maybe 1/3), then reduce the price of the book every week it's sat on the shelf not being bought.

              Another excellent bookshop I recently visited was one in Inverness - Leakey's, located in an old Gaelic church. Books are roughly separated into subjects (the shelves are crammed from floor to ceiling and there is no alphabetical order) - it's chaotic but beautiful. I spent hours in this shop as there was so much to see (original prints and art for sale and a gallery style cafe) and the staff were lovely. Eventually I bought a hardback book on the history of science for £10 - even cheaper than Amazon.

              Amazon.co.uk is the site I usually go to if I want to buy books online, as they are usually quite cheap and offer free shipping (shipping is £2.75 if you buy from different sellers on Amazon), and there are usually reviews - I like to read all the reviews as I've heard that some authors put lots of good reviews of their books there themselves, and some competitors will write bad reviews, so it's good to have a balance. There are also lots of specialist books, and it's interesting to see 'what other people who viewed the item bought', and the recommendations that Amazon suggests. I also like the 'wish list' feature, which allows you to make lists of books etc that you want (surprisingly!) but can't have right now.

              I also sometimes shop on other websites e.g www.whsmith.co.uk (they have free shipping to your nearest store, so you can have a proper look at the book and return it there and then if you want, rather than going to the hassle of posting it back yourself) and play.com, which are sometimes cheaper. I love the anticipation of waiting for a package of books to arrive in the post!

              One shop I like to buy books from sometimes is 'The Works - Publisher's Outlet'. They sell arts and crafts item, some tat, some trashy books, and some decent ones. They have a large selection of books for sale at 3 for £5, some are £1 or less! A lot of these are classics, which I have found useful, as I missed reading some of these when I was young. They sometimes have really good deals e.g they had Cassell's chronology of world history, a hardback, 780 page, good quality history book for sale at £4.99. I'm still kicking myself for not buying this at the time because I didn't feel like carrying it home! I'll buy it with my Amazon voucher though :)

              The last place I sometimes buy books from is the library. My local library has a section of discarded or sale books for 10p - 50p - sometimes there are really good books in there. When I was at university, my mum got me a massive (in size and usefulness) biochemistry textbook from this section - it was a very hard to source book and really helped me - I then passed it on to someone else when I graduated and they used it to bits too! There are often really interesting (and ancient) books in this section, so it's worth a look.

              I hope you've found this useful!

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              • More +
                15.09.2010 18:49
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                overall - recommended

                The Epson Stylus DX8400 is an all in one printer, scanner and photocopier which I have had for a couple of years I think. It's currently available for about £100 on the Epson website.

                It was quite quick and easy to set up - there was some software with it to be installed but there were instructions, and nothing went wrong!

                The printer can print directly from an XD, SD or MS card, without a PC - I have never used this function.

                The print quality is good and sharp, even on lower settings (except for the draft setting). I have only printed photos a couple of times - the quality was great but it did use up a lot of ink.

                The printer comes with a black cartridge and 3 colour cartridges which means you only need to change the colour cartridges that are empty. I have found that the cartridges don't last very long and the printer does not print (not even black and white on the lowest quality setting :(...) if any one colour runs out. This can be really frustrating. The cartridges are available on Amazon, usually a pack of all 4 colours costs between about £25-40. I would recommend using the genuine Epson cartridges as using not doing so invalidates the warranty, and I have also found that they can be quite dodgy (e.g not working at all or not lasting very long, or drying up). One annoying thing is that if you don't use the printer for a while, then try to print something, the ink dries up an you have to buy new ink for the printer to print.

                The machine is quite sleek looking and attractive with a glossy grey top and matte gray sides. The top has buttons that are easily accessible and clearly marked. There is a display screen that can be lifted upright.

                I like the copier function as you can photocopy pages when the PC is off. It is very slow though - even in black and white (you can do colour photocopies too)

                The scanner function is good too - there is no scan button; instead, scanner controls come up on your pc. Once you have scanned, there are lots of extra options. There is a preview mode, which I find really useful.

                The printer is quite noisy and a little bulky but I have never had problems with it.

                Some specifications:

                Dimensions (WxDxH): 45 cm x 34 cm x 17.9 cm
                Weight: 5.9 kg
                Max Copying Speed: Up to 29 ppm (mono) / up to 29 ppm (colour)
                Max Printing Speed: Up to 32 ppm (mono) / up to 32 ppm (colour)
                Max Printing Resolution: Up to 5760 x 1440 dpi (mono) / up to 5760 x 1440 dpi (colour)
                Scanning: 1200 x 2400 dpi
                Display: 2.5"
                Standard Media Capacity: 120 sheets
                PC Connection Availability: Built-in
                PC Connection: Hi-Speed USB, USB host
                Office Machine Features: Print from memory card
                Power: AC 230 V
                Manufacturer Warranty: 1 year warranty

                It came with the following software:

                Epson Creativity Suite
                Epson Web-To-Page
                Epson Easy Photo Print
                Epson Scan Assistant
                Epson Attach to Email
                Epson Copy Utility
                ABBYY FineReader® 5.0 Sprint Plus (Mac)
                ABBYY FineReader® 6.0 Sprint Plus (PC)
                It has all the latest Epson technology that includes...
                Epson Micro Piezo Print Head
                Epson Exclusive DURAbrite Ultra Ink system
                Epson Cartridge technology
                Epson Printer Drivers and Software

                It supports Windows 98SE, Me, 2000, XP, XP-x64, Vista, Mac OS 10.2.8 or later with USB.

                Thanks for reading!

                This review will also be on ciao

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              • More +
                15.09.2010 17:49
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                recommended

                Recently, I bought a couple of items from L'occitane from Debenhams as there was a free gift of several items. I opted for this toner as it was the cheapest (that's how classy I can be!) at £14 for 200ml.

                The actual packaging is as pictured in the photograph a blue bottle (plastic) with a screw cap. When unscrewed, there is a plastic cover with a hole in it to dispense the liquid from. When I bought it, the hole had foil over it - reassuring me that it had not been used before! I quite like the packaging - it is unobtrusive and looks quite sophisticated.

                I only knew this was a toner because the sales assistant told me so - it doesn't say so on the front label; it is labelled
                'visage
                eau essentielle
                a l'eau florale d'
                immortelle
                biologique
                essential water
                face

                on the front. Hmmm. The back tells you in French and English that it is 'essential water for face - immortelle has an exceptionally long life; it will never wither or wilt, even after being picked.

                The essential water for face is an alcohol-free toner. It is enriched with immortelle floral water, a moisturising agent, toning green tea extract and firming Centella asiatica.

                Pleasantly refreshed, the face is toned and firmer for a prolonged youthfulness.

                Apply every morning and evening on the face and neck with a cotton pad after cleansing.'

                The fragrance of the toner is hard to describe - it's a bit like lavender but more leafy? I don't find the smell to strong and I think it's quite pleasant - it doesn't linger on the skin for too long either. The consistency and colour of the toner is that of water. The first time I used the toner after my cleanser, I was surprised to see lots of makeup come off onto the cotton wool pad - I had used make up removing wipes to take off my make up and had thought I'd removed it all! So I have realised how effective this toner is - it leaves my skin feeling soft, cool and clean. I've noticed an improvement in my skin since using this - I think it's because I'm now removing all my make up properly so my skin can breathe during the night.

                I can't really comment on the firming effects as I'm 25 and don't yet have a problem in that regard (yet!)

                Overall, I would recommend this toner as it is effective, gentle (contains no alcohol - which usually irritates my skin) and has a pleasant smell. Since it doubles up as a make up remover (you only need about 5 drops on a cotton pad), the value for money factor is not bad either.

                UPDATE: after I hadn't used this for a while, the remaining liquid evaporated - gutted :(

                Thanks for reading!

                This review will also be on ciao

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              • Numatic Henry / Vacuum Cleaner / 13 Readings / 11 Ratings
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                15.09.2010 00:32
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                overall - recommended

                'Henry' is the name of the red/orange vacuum cleaner made by Numatic. There are other colours, which have different additional functions.

                Recently in the house, our Electrolux hoover started to get a bit dodgy so we decided to get Henry, as my dad uses him (ok, it) in his shop. I think it was about £90 from Costco.

                The box contains the main body and top part of Henry, the flexible hose, three pieces of metal tube, the floor tool, a brush, a crevice tool , a small tool for stairs etc, and a small connector to connect tools straight to the end of the hose. The curved tube has a black twistable part to open a hole to decrease suction. There were also instructions but I don't think I used these, as Henry is very simple. I think a few bags were supplied (each holds 9 litres), as well as a red Canvas Henry shopper bag. The bag was easy to put in - just had to lift up the top part of Henry and a filter, and clip it in, and put the filter and top part back on.

                The top section contains the motor inside and a rewindable cable and flip up handle. It is attached to the body by two flip up clips which are quite sturdy. There is an on/off switch and a hi/lo switch.

                I have found Henry likeable and easy to use (I admit to saying 'come on Henry', encouragingly, when vacuuming!). However if you're sleeping in a not quite dark room with Henry in front of you, his smile can look ominous :o

                Henry is great for use on wooden floors - I use a low setting and he glides across the floor (he has 4 wheels). On carpet, Henry is slightly less effective - I usually have to go over carpeted areas for them to be vacuumed properly. The hose and wire are quite long, so Henry doesn't have to keep being plugged into different sockets like my old vacuum cleaner, which is great. On stairs, the hose doesn't reach all the way to the top so I usually have to put Henry on a step and stand behind him, but this is not too bad as Henry isn't very heavy, and doesn't get too hot.

                I have found that the bag needs to be changed about every month or so, depending on the amount of filth in the house! The process is easy and Henry doesn't start to smell or spew stuff out when the bag needs changed - I usually know when to change the bag because the suction becomes weaker (there is no bag change indicator). So far, Henry has never been blocked - my old vacuum cleaner used to constantly get blocked with hair but Henry doesn't do this.

                I personally don't really use the attachments - if I want to get into small spaces, I usually just disconnect the head - think that's just laziness.

                Henry can be a bit awkward to store as there is no way to make everything stay together - I have had a few frights when I hear the hose part sliding across the floor at random times when it's quiet!

                The good thing about the bags are that they are easy to spot - you don't have to faff around with remembering the model number. The bags I have were bought from Costco in bulk (can't remember the price!) but on looking around, you can get a box of 10 for around £5 - not bad considering they are made of fabric annd not paper so could theoretically be reused (I've never tried this though)

                I've only had Henry for a few months so will update this review if anything intersting happens with Henry, good or bad.

                Thanks for reading - I'll also post this on ciao.

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              • GPs / Local Service / 7 Readings / 7 Ratings
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                14.09.2010 19:30
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                recommended

                I have always been at the same GP surgery, even since moving house in February.

                Getting an appointment is quite simple - you just need to phone up and ask. Because I have been with them forever, there are a couple of doctors I try to stick with. There is also the option of getting an emergency appointment (on the same day) - I had to do this for my mum recently as her fever was getting worse and worse throughout the day and she could hardly move - I was so grateful that I could get an appointment for her within a few hours. It turned out she had a urinary tract infection and needed antibiotics - the infection had travelled to her kidneys so it was a good thing she got an appointment so quickly. There used to be one receptionist who was very rude and almost always said that the Doctor I wanted an appointment with was on holiday - when I eventually got my appointment, the doctor told me I should have come sooner and that she hadn't been on holiday! Thankfully that receprionist retired! I understand they have a hard job but I don't think it's right when the receptionists are rude or when they insist my results are fine when I'm supposed to speak to a doctor!

                The waiting room is clean and spacious. There is a section for children with toys in it - I wish they would put quieter toys in there sometimes as it is not good to hear lots of noise when you're ill and waiting half an hour in the waiting room.

                The toilet is also clean and easy to access.

                Most of the doctors I have seen are patient and understanding, and take me seriously (I don't have to go very often thankfully). There was one doctor who seemed strange, and when I had a stomach problem, kept insisting I was pregnant!

                After I had squint surgery, they were quick to refer me to eye specialists when there were any problems, and were happy to write me letters which I needed to inform my university.

                There are sometimes bureaucratic issues when it comes to getting certain injections e.g when my sister had to get the Hep C injection for uni, the surgery insisted that the university should do it until a few letters were sent back and forth, and they eventually agreed to give it.

                The nurses who have given me injections for holidays have always been helpful, cheerful and competent.

                Thanks for reading!

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              • Working in the NHS / Employment / 23 Readings / 19 Ratings
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                14.09.2010 15:48
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                think carefully before committing

                I thought I'd give everyone a treat with my bad experience of working for the NHS. First I'd like to say that I only worked for the NHS for 4 months and the main issues I had were to do with travelling (my issue) and the people that worked in my team, which was very small.

                After I graduated in microbiology, I had a difficult time trying to find a relevant job. I decided to apply to posts in the NHS.

                The application process was simple, if lengthy. I have had quite a few interviews for NHS lab based roles and they have all been quite similar - fill in an NHS application form (which can be downloaded on the same website where all NHS Scotland vacancies are posted - www.jobs.scot.nhs.uk. I think there's another site for vacancies in other regions), wait a couple of months for an interview letter, then attend an interview with a panel of 2-5 people. Most interviews have had a similar format - the panel introduce themselves, ask a few questions to make you feel comfortable, tell you a bit about themselves and the department, and ask you about your strengths, your expectations of the job and why you think you could do the role, then sometimes a tour. Most of the time, the panel have been very nice, but a couple of times, people have sniped about their colleagues to me!

                Anyways, in the interview I was successful in, all of the above process happened. Afterwards, I was introduced to one of the lab workers - who said 'I'm sorry - very busy right now - can't shake your hand' in a bit of an uppity way - I should have taken this as an indication of what kind of person she was! The guy who also worked there then gave me a tour of the labs - he was very open and friendly. The staff consisted of the director of the hospital, my boss, my supervisor, a colleague with the same job as me, and a lab assistant who worked in a different lab from the above 3.

                The day after the interview, I received a phone call from HR to say I had been successful, and later in the day, a phone call from my boss.
                My boss was very accommodating about my start date - it was my sister's wedding so I had asked to postpone my start date for a week and a day and she was fine with that.

                When I started however, my boss was off for 2 weeks as it was her wedding and honeymoon, and there was a lot of extra samples in so I was left to read journals and protocols for most of that time - I did get to observe a couple of times. When I did start getting training, my supervisor was very intimidating, and I was told to practise screwing and unscrewing lids with one hand, and pipetting water into tubes as my 'manual dexterity abilities were lower than expected' - this is what I was told in my first evaluation meeting for the probationary period (which was 3 months - there was a meeting every month).

                Over the course of the probationary period, my supervisor began to be more intimidating and patronising, and as this happened, I became more nervous and exhausted. This was partly because the journey to and from work took me about 2 and a half hours - a bus to the train station, a train to the city centre and a bus to the hospital, then a 10 minute walk to the building. Work unofficially started at 8.45 as all the surfaces had to be cleaned before any procedures could take place in the lab.

                A couple of small examples of the kind of things my supervisor said.
                Supervisor; 'we'll probably have a break in about 10 minutes'
                Me, a couple of minutes later 'did you say 10 minutes?'
                Supervisor 'look, it wasn't a statement. All I wanted was a rough guestimate of whether you'd be ready in that time - do you think you can do that?'
                I was also told on several occasions that a person on the street should know certain things, that they were 'just common sense'.
                On one occasion, I was microwaving something for 10 seconds - my supervisor came in and said it sounded like I had been microwaving it every 5 seconds, and I said that I hadn't. She then came back and watched me for a while and said that I might not want to stick my hand in the microwave until after all the beeps had finished, as that is when the microwaves stop. She then asked 'did you not know that? And looked at me in disbelief. Of course I now know that microwaves stop when the door is opened!
                I was also told to do all the cleaning jobs as I wasn't capable of doing the procedures properly.

                After several incidents, I decided to talk to my supervisor privately. I said something like 'Look, I'm sorry if I've been a bit slow to pick up on certain things - I know that must be frustrating for you, but I think that sometimes comes across as intimidating'

                After this, my supervisor said that whatever I had said to her, she would tell the boss. My boss then talked to me and said that whatever I said to her would be relayed back to my supervisor (outside work, they were good friends too). My supervisor refused to train me the day after this happened and thereafter. The boss then had to try and train me, and found this difficult due to her time constraints.

                The probation period was extended to 4months as my boss thought this might help. HR were involved and I was asked if I had been supported properly.

                After approximately 4 months, I decided to hand in my notice, as I was a physical and emotional wreck. My boss accepted my request to use my remaining holidays for the notice period, and said she believed I had made the right decision.

                I had a very bad experience during my time working in the NHS. I felt bullied and ganged up on, and wasn't supported very well during training. I think this was due to the people who worked there, as I have never had any issues like this in employment before or since. I think the time pressure and strain of working in an environment where any small mistake could lead to people being ill does not bring out the best in people either! After my experience, I realised that working in an NHS lab was not something I'd want to do in the future, even though the pay, pension and holiday scheme is quite good (28 days plus 7 public holidays I think). From talking to other people who have or do work in NHS labs, I think you have to be a certain type of person - you have to really care about small details - a squinty label etc can cause an uproar! You have to accept that certain people need to feel very important, and you have to be emotionally strong - as there is a lot of stress. Most people have said that there is a certain amount of bullying that goes on. I think in my case, this was especially bad as the department I worked in was very small, so any dissent caused the staff to gang up to save their own skins.
                My advice to people thinking of working in the NHS (or any other job!) would be to apply and go for the interview, and really try to gauge the people and environment to see whether you would fit in there.

                If there's any important information you think I've missed out, please let me know!

                Thanks for taking the time to read this.

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                • More +
                  24.03.2010 15:26
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                  worth a read

                  The reason I read this book was that there had been a lot of hype about it and because my sister bought it!

                  ----------
                  THE PLOT
                  ----------

                  Taken from the interview on amazon.co.uk because I don't trust myself not to give too much away:

                  Child 44 is a thriller set in the terror of 1950s Stalinist Russia, a brutal regime that executed anyone who disagreed with its dogma. It proclaimed to be a perfect society. So, when a series of brutal murders take place, no one is permitted to say that these are the work of a serial killer. In a perfect society there can be no crime.

                  One man, Leo Demidov, a State security agent, a man who has spent his entire career arresting innocent men and women, decides to redeem himself by catching this killer. To do so, he must buck the system, risking his life and the life of everyone he loves.

                  I really enjoyed reading this book - it was very much page turner and none of it dragged - there was a lot of suspense.

                  --------------
                  THE SETTING
                  --------------

                  Because my knowledge of the history of Stalinist Russia is not great, I would not be able to say whether the portrayal was completely correct, but the author did a great job of setting the scene and gives a lot of descriptive and evocative imagery, and portrays the bleakness of the weather and the surroundings well.

                  ------------------
                  THE CHARACTERS
                  ------------------

                  Because there were not too many characters, the book was easy to follow.

                  The main character was Leo, who I could sympathise with but didn't find completely believable.

                  The killer is slowly revealed throughout the book and is described quite a lot but I felt there were a few contradictions in the character.

                  Leo's wife, Raisa is another character who is revealed slowly throughout the book. At first she seems very quiet and passive but is revealed to be quite feisty, which I liked - but towards the end of the book, I think the author forgets this and seems to make her boring again!

                  Vasili is an agent who Leo has to work with - he takes great pleasure in being sadistic and inflicting physical and emotional pain on others - at times he is so villainous though, that he turns into a bit of a caricature.

                  ---------------
                  OVERALL
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                  If you wanted to read something that you could finish quite quickly and that would keep your interest, I would recommend this book.

                  However, I found the style of dialogue a little irritating - each line of dialogue has a hyphen at the beginning, and is in italics - I felt like everyone in the book was talking telepathically! It did give emphasis and seriousness to the dialogue though, which I suppose was the author's reason for doing this.

                  Reading the book, I felt like it had been written with the intention of being made into a film (which it is).

                  I also felt like some of the 'scenes' in the book were a bit too gory and sadistic - I suppose this is true of a lot of thriller books, but I sometimes wonder if it is wrong to encourage detailed descriptions of torture etc.

                  I liked this book for its description of Stalinist Russia - such a contrast in comparison to the justice and right to free speech we have now, and for the interesting story.

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