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    • Nestle Aero Caramel / Chocolate / 59 Readings / 57 Ratings
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      16.10.2011 23:23
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      A nice snack to fill a chocolate craving

      I always enjoy an Aero bar, its the bubbles that do it, making the chocolate nice and light. So when I saw an Aero Caramel by the check out desk in my local supermarket I waved away all thoughts of trying to lose a few pounds and popped it in my basket.

      The bar is enclosed in a foil wrapper and tearing off the end exposes the chocolate bar which has lines across at intervals dividing it into 5 chunks. Biting into the bar reveals a thin layer of caramel on the top which I found to be quite firm, not runny as in the Cadbury's Caramel bar. The bottom layer of the bar is the light and airy chocolate with plenty of bubbles that is the Aero trademark. This dissolves in the mouth really quickly so that I wanted to immediately bite into the next chunk!

      I quite liked the fact that the caramel was firm as I find the runny caramel in the Cadbury's bar a bit annoying when it runs out as you eat it and ends up dripping on my clothes or down my chin! I also find that the caramel isn't too sweet, another gripe I have with Cadbury's. I love the light bubbly chocolate at the bottom of the bar which makes the whole thing feel as though it isn't too calorific.

      The bar was 59p in my local supermarket so a little expensive for the size but so yummy that I will definitely buy again.

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        01.10.2011 23:52
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        A lovely story with romance, mystery and history

        This book was lent to me by my sister in law as, although not really her type of book, she thought that I would enjoy it. She was completely right - I loved it.

        **The story**
        Julia Forrester was brought up around the large country house and estate of Wharton Park where her grandfather was the gardener who took a special interest in the orchids in the large greenhouse, looking after them with tender care. When we first meet Julia she has been brought home from France by her sister, Alicia, to try and come to terms with a family tragedy. She is drawn to Wharton Park where she had spent many happy days as a child and meets the new owner - Kit Crawford. When Kit looks after Julia during a bout of flu they form a deep friendship. During renovation work at Wharton Park a diary is discovered and Kit encourages Julia to ask her grandmother about it. As Julia's grandmother relays the story of the diary to her, Julia is transported back to the world of Olivia and Harry Crawford who married at the beginning the Second World War, just before Harry was posted to East Asia with his regiment. Harry's story continues through his time as a prisoner of war and later his release at the end of the war. As the story unfolds it is clear that there are parallels between Harry & Olivia's story and Julia and Kit's and that Harry's actions have had an effect on Julia and other members of her family.

        **The Characters**
        I loved all the characters, they were brilliantly brought to life by the author and each one was believable and likeable. I could empathise with all the main characters as Lucinda Riley made it so easy to understand their feelings about the situations they found themselves in. For example; Julia comes over as a bit hard and very mixed up at first but as her story unfolds it becomes very clear why she is like this and I liked and admired her very much as the book progressed. Harry made me irritated with him at times but he finds himself in such a difficult situation that I had to sympathise with him. Every character is rounded so that the reader gets to see both sides of each of their stories.

        **Summary**
        I loved the historical side of the book. I always enjoy books that are set around the 2 World Wars and like the fact that history can be learned whilst enjoying a novel. I didn't know much about how the war affected Thailand and so found this part of the book especially interesting.

        I liked the way that the book switches between the future and the past and Lucinda Riley does this so well that it passes from one to the other seamlessly. She writes the book in such a way that the mystery running through it unfolds gradually with bits of information becoming apparent fairly early on and then making the reader wait eagerly for more. It kept the suspense going throughout the book and made me want to keep reading right up to the end. However, when I got to the end I felt sad that I had lost friends made through the book and I will probably read this story again in the future. This, I feel, must be the sign of a good book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of romance entwined with a bit of mystery and some historical facts thrown in for good measure.

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          20.08.2011 17:03
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          A nice creamy shampoo that leaves hair feel rehydrated

          My hair is always on the dry side but at the moment, having just returned form Greece, it feels rather like straw! Flicking through my copy of Good Housekeeping magazine I was pleased to see a sample sachet of VO5 "Give Me Moisture" hair shampoo. After trying this I was pretty impressed by the results so decided to invest in a full bottle.

          The packaging
          The bottle is bright pink and so stands out nicely on the shop shelf. The bottle has one of those lids that you press down on which flips up part of the lid and reveals a gap to squeeze the shampoo from. I quite like this kind of opening as it means I don't end up dropping the lid in the shower and having to grapple around for it!
          The shampoo
          It is a pearly white colour which surprised me, I was expecting pink like the packaging. A small amount seemed to produce a good creamy lather (I would add that I have short, fine hair so more would be needed for longer or thicker hair). The perfume is pleasant although I couldn't say that it smelt of anything in particular. The lather itself felt soft and creamy which gave me hope that this shampoo would be good for moisturising my hair.

          The result
          When I rinsed out the shampoo my hair did feel nice and smooth. Some shampoos leave it feeling dry and squeaky. After I had dried and styled my hair it still felt nice and soft and the styling was much easier due, I suspect, to the fact that my hair was now nicely hydrated and not all dry and crispy.
          Price
          A 250ml bottle is usually £1.99 in Boots but at the moment they are selling it for £1, so a bit of a bargain.

          Do I still need a conditioner?
          I think that I can get away with not conditioning every day but, as said before, my hair does get incredibly dry, due partly to medication that I have to take. I therefore do use a conditioner 3 or 4 times a week. VO5 have thoughtfully brought out a conditioner to match the "Give Me Moisture" shampoo and so, as Boots were doing such a good price on this product I bought the conditioner as well.

          Summary
          Overall I am very happy with VO5 Give Me Moisture shampoo, it does what it says:
          "restores, softens and improves manageability and leaves hair luxurious to touch". The conditioner finishes the experience well. Well done Alberto VO5!

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            12.06.2011 13:38
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            A brilliantly written an very moving and thought provoking book

            There are no spoilers in this review.

            **The Story**

            Mal and Nova have been close friends since childhood so when Mal's wife, Stephanie finds that she cannot have children Mal suggests they ask Nova to be a surrogate mother for them. Nova agrees to help them even though it has a detrimental effect on her own relationship with her partner, Keith.

            Four months into the pregnancy and Stephanie is struggling with the closeness between Mal and Nova and fears that she is losing her husband to his best friend, who is now carrying his baby. She gives Mal an ultimatum - Nova and the baby or her. Mal chooses Stephanie and they both walk away from Nova leaving her alone and scared with the prospect of a baby that she hadn't planned on keeping.

            That was 8 years ago and now Nova is waiting for her son, Leo, to wake up from a coma following an accident. As the story unfolds, so the secrets and lies that have shaped the characters lives come to light, explaining how they came to be in the situation they now all find themselves.

            **My Opinion**

            At first I found the book a little difficult to understand as it is written from the viewpoint of both Stephanie and Nova and alternates between the past and the present. However, after a few chapters I settled into it and actually found it really interesting to find out what they were both thinking about a given event.

            Having a baby for your best friend would have to be an act of unselfish, deep love for that friend and for that friend to then reject you and the baby would be devastating. I liked Nova as she is portrayed as a strong but sensitive woman who always tries to do the best for her family and friends, often putting aside her own feelings. Her strong love for Mal is palpable and enduring and her hurt at his rejection of her is all consuming. However, she also loves Keith who comes over as a less complicated and stronger person than Mal and he helps to ground her in a loving, strong relationship. I felt so sorry for her being left "holding the baby" but admired her strength in dealing with the situation and going on to have to deal with Leo's accident and his resulting coma. As a mother I found this part of the book incredibly moving and I could identify with all the emotions she goes through in not wanting to see her little boy in this condition and just wanting life to go back to "normal".

            Stephanie initially comes over as the villain as she makes Mal choose between her and Nova and the baby but as the story unfolds I found some sympathy and understanding for her and the way she acted. In making Mal choose between his best friend and herself she creates a whole new set of emotions and problems that she doesn't at first foresee and Dorothy Koomson uncovers these with an incredible insight into the human psyche.

            Mal shocked me with his decision to abandon his best friend but on the other hand he showed great loyalty to Stephanie who he had promised he would never leave and in fact makes a great sacrifice of his own happiness.

            The story showed beyond doubt that outsiders should not judge relationships based on one side of the story as there is nearly always more than one side and quite often there is a catalogue of decisions and emotions that happen before the final result.

            I found Dorothy Koomson to be an excellent author who dealt with the often difficult and emotive subjects of surrogacy and mental illness with so much empathy and insight, provoking me to think deeply about these subjects in a way that I hadn't before. Her style of writing conveys the feelings of the character as if they are talking directly to the reader in a heart to heart chat. I have never read a book with this style before and found it incredibly powerful.

            This is Dorothy Koomson's fifth novel and I will certainly be reading more of her books. She is brilliant at describing feelings and empathising with human emotions and I found the whole book cleverly written as the layers of the characters are revealed and very moving. Thoroughly recommended.

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            • About a Boy (DVD) / DVD / 76 Readings / 75 Ratings
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              14.05.2011 15:32
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              A lovely amusing film which is well acted

              Film only review

              I had vaguely heard about this film when I noticed that it was on television last weekend. Having quickly read the blurb I decided to watch it. I love Hugh Grant so my decision was swayed by him being in it!

              About a Boy started off as a best selling novel by Nick Hornby and was turned into a film in 2002. Not having read the book I had no preconceptions about this film and was able to enjoy it without having to think "they didn't do that it in the book".

              **The story**
              The film is set in London and centres around the relationship that builds up between 12 year old Marcus Brewer (Nicholas Hoult) who lives with his slightly eccentric mum, Fiona and Will Freeman (Hugh Grant). Fiona suffers from chronic depression which makes life very difficult for Marcus. Marcus tries to do anything that will make his mum happy even if he doesn't want to do it himself and as a result finds that he is often the target of bullying at school. Will is 38 and has never had to work as he lives comfortably off the royalties of a song written by his late father. He likes to keep himself to himself and not get too emotionally involved with anyone. However, he does like to go out and have fun and at his age, meeting a nice uncomplicated female is difficult as most of his circle of friends are now married. He hits on the idea that dating single mothers might be the way forward and so decides to visit the sort of places they would attend, such as Single Parent groups. It is through one of these meetings that he is introduced to Marcus and Fiona and the scene is now set for an amusing yet poignant film.

              **My Thoughts and Opinion**
              Nicholas Hoult plays the part of Marcus very well with just the right amount of quirkiness and compassion, a very promising young actor. Marcus loves his mum and tries hard to understand her depression but sometimes feels very alone as he has to carry the responsibility of making sure that she is ok when she is having one of her bad spells. He sometimes thinks that he is the reason she gets depressed and will do anything to make her happy. He dresses in offbeat clothes the same as she does and tries to like the same music she likes in order to make her feel happy. As a result he is bullied at school and feels even more alone. When he meets Will he isn't really interested in getting to know him until there is an incident in the park which Marcus gets told off for by the park attendant. Will stands up for Marcus as he realises the boy didn't mean any harm and Marcus looks at Will with new respect.

              After meeting Marcus' mum, Will realises why the boy is different to other boys his age and feels a little sorry for him. However, he doesn't want to get involved as that is not his style and he is frightened of emotional involvement - " Once you open your door to one person anyone can come in." Marcus, however, has other ideas and latches onto Will as someone he can spend time with as an escape from his Mum's depression.

              It is interesting to see how the relationship pans out and how Will gradually lets Marcus into his life and helps him and eventually his mother to have a better relationship.

              However, it is not all about how Will helps Marcus. Without realising it, Marcus helps Will to grow up at last and take some responsibility for how his life will turn out. Marcus helps Will to grow emotionally and not be so afraid of commitment and letting people into his life. Hugh Grant gives more depth to this character than perhaps he has in previous films and portrays the journey from selfish, commitment-phobe into a more rounded character, allowing some emotional involvement into his life. The two help each other and become good friends.

              So far you may be thinking that this film is all a bit serious. It isn't though. There are lots of amusing moments, especially between Marcus and Will and also whilst Will is trying to find a single mum! On the whole the film has an upbeat feel to it as it is clear from the outset that things will improve for both Marcus and Will. I liked the way there were voice overs for some of Will's and Marcus' thoughts as these added amusement to the film.

              Other Characters
              Some other actors that I knew popped up, Sharon Small (Mistresses on BBC1) a girlfriend of Will's and Cathy Murphy (Eastenders) a nurse. Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener and Mummy films) but weren't the main characters.

              **Summary**
              I really enjoyed this film and so did my 16 year old daughter. It made us laugh and made us think. There are a lot of people like Will who find it difficult to let any emotional commitment into their lives which results in a rather lonely life as they get older. There are also a lot of people suffering from chronic depression (like Fiona) who find life very difficult at times and there are a lot of children (like Marcus) who have to cope with the problems and emotions that result from living with a depressed parent. All these points come across in the film and gently reminded me of these situations. However, it was all dealt with in a gentle way and with appropriate humour that made an excellent film.

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              • Royal Canin Urinary S/O / Cat Food / 119 Readings / 114 Ratings
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                23.03.2011 00:04
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                An excellent way to medicate cat by food

                When my cat was 4 years old he was diagnosed with crystals in his bladder. I took him to the vet following an hour or so where he had been crouching over the litter tray and not being able to wee anymore than a slight dribble. The vet advised that my poor lad had a small stone blocking his penis and he was catheterised to drain his bladder which was in danger of bursting before successfully flushing the stone through. I was advised that he would have to be on a special diet for the rest of his life as he was more than likely to suffer from this condition again - apparently some cats are more prone to it than others. So for the last 10 years he has been eating Royal Canin's biscuits for urinary tract problems.

                **What does the food do?**
                The food is designed to dissolve existing struvite stones that form in the bladder as well as provide an environment where it is difficult for new stones and crystals to form. It does this in two ways 1)by diluting the urine, as less concentrated urine decreases the concentration of struvites and calcium oxalates that form stones. The larger amount of urine also ensures that the bladder is washed out regularly so not giving the crystals time to form 2) by making urine more acidic so that it dissolves the stones and crystals and makes the environment more difficult for the stones to form in the first place. The food contains increased sodium chloride to encourage drinking in order to increase urine volume. As all you cat owners will know, cats generally don't drink a lot so when they have this particular medical problem they need to be encouraged to drink in order to help the condition and the added sodium helps achieve this. I have to make sure that Barnie's water bowl is always topped up and when he takes his annual vacation to the cattery he takes his own food and I make them aware of his condition and need for plenty of water to be available.

                **What are Struvite Stones and Calcium Oxalates?**
                I had not heard of struvite or oxalates before my cat was diagnosed with urinary stones but my vet explained the basics to me and I have since learned more about it from reading up on my lad's problem. Struvite is formed from a combination of magnesium, ammonium and phosphate and is the most common mineral found in urinary stones which are also known as uroliths. Calcium oxalate is the second most common crystal found in dogs and cats' urinary stones. Calcium Oxalate cannot be dissolved by diet and the stones usually have to be surgically removed but the diet can help to reduce their recurrence.

                **Does Barnie Like The Food**
                I have to say that he wasn't keen to start with and I had to persist and turn a deaf ear to his protests and pleas for his old Felix biscuits and tins of meat. My vet suggested that I introduce the new food gradually in order to help him accept it and also to reduce the possibility of a tummy upset. I must admit to giving in to him on occasions and letting him have some "normal" food but my vet advised me that I really wasn't helping the situation and it would be better for Barnie if I slowly but firmly increased the Royal Canin biscuits until that was all he was having. He assured me that despite Barnie's protests he wouldn't let himself starve and would eventually eat the new food. I have to say he was right and Barnie has now been on the Royal Canin Urinary diet for nearly 10 years.

                **Amount to Feed**
                The directions on the packet of biscuits says about 6/8 cupfuls a day for a cat of Barnie's weight, 4kg, but actually Barnie isn't a big eater and he probably has about 2 cupfuls a day plus some tinned urinary diet meat.


                **Are there any other makes of food that do the same thing?**
                Yes there are and we have tried other ones to ring the changes. Eukanuba do biscuits and tins for cats with urinary stones and so do Hills. There may well be others out there but these are the ones I have tried (or rather Barnie has). Royal Canin also do pouches of meat and gravy and little trays with minced smooth meat and I have bought these before but Barnie just licks the gravy off the meat in the pouches and leaves the chunks of meat so that proved to be a bit of waste of food and money! He does quite like the little trays but they are quite small and work out more expensive than the biscuits. Out of the 3 makes we have tried Royal Canin is definitely his favourite, especially the biscuits.

                **To feed dry or moist food?**
                I feed Barnie a bit of both. He has biscuits during the day and some wet urinary diet food at night but in fact my vet said that it is fine to give him just biscuits if I wanted to as they are a complete food for this condition and it is also better for keeping his teeth free of tartar. However, Barnie seems to like some wet food so we go for both dry and moist.

                **Where to buy this food**
                Originally I bought this food through my vet and he would order it in for me if I gave him a couple of days notice. This worked fine expect that my vet surgery is across town which although not far was a bit of a pain to get to due to traffic delays sometimes. I also learned from reading on the internet and talking to other people that although this food is a "vet food" and is supposedly bought on prescription that it is possible to buy it on the internet without a prescription. I started to do some research and found several websites that sold Royal Canin but plumped for www.petsupermarket.co.uk as I had read good reports on it (see my review on petsupermarket) The price of this food on the internet is considerably cheaper than from the vet, I save up to £7/8 on a 6k bag of biscuits and postage and packing is free over £29. Petsupermarket also give a 5% discount if you sign up to their newsletter.

                **The Cost**
                This food doesn't come cheap but I couldn't risk Barnie getting a blockage again as it can be life threatening if the bladder bursts so hence I have tried to find the cheapest way of buying it. A 6k bag of biscuits costs £37.15 at petsupermarket. The recommended retail price according to the website is £47, so quite a saving.

                **My thoughts**
                This Urinary diet food from Royal Canin has definitely helped Barnie. He has, thankfully, had no further problems with his waterworks and is a healthy and happy cat. The dry food stays nice and fresh as the bags have a foil interior which if sealed effectively at the top keeps the biscuits from going stale. The smaller 3kg bags have one of those tops that can be pressed together to reseal but the 6kg bags don't have that which is slightly annoying, I don't know why they don't have it as well. However, I decant some of the biscuits into a Tupperware container and that lasts Barnie about a week and then I fold down the top of the bag to exclude the air and fasten with a couple of clothes pegs. There is no doubt in my mind that if Barnie hadn't been given this special food he wouldn't be as well as he is now. We now realise with hindsight that he had probably been passing some small crystals before the blockage because sometime he meowed when doing a wee but as he seemed happy and healthy in every other way we didn't pay much attention until the day he couldn't seem to pass hardly any urine and was really meowing pitifully and looking distressed. However, since being on the Royal Canin food there have been no further incidences of this.

                Apart from the dietary benefits I also like Royal Canin because there is loads of information on the packet about urinary crystals and how much food to feed. There is also lots of information on the Royal Canin website to help owners care for pets who have this problem.

                I would, therefore, thoroughly recommend Royal Canin urinary diet for keeping cats with urinary tract problems happy and healthy.

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                  20.03.2011 14:45
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                  Does a good job of removing grease and grime

                  Needing some more all purpose spray cleaner I looked along the shelves at my local supermarket to see what was on offer that particular week. Now I do like Proctor and Gamble's Flash products as they usually do the job well and smell pleasant but they do tend to be a bit more than my budget can afford right now so I often go for supermarket own brand cleaners which I find do work very well. However, on this occasion Flash with febreze and lavender was on special offer at £1 for a 500ml spray container so I decided to buy it. I haven't used products with Febreze in before although I have heard a lot about the odour elimination qualities of this for clothes and soft furnishings.

                  **The packaging and product**
                  The product comes in the usual shaped spray bottle and is clear so that you can see how much is left. It has a bright blue top with the usual trigger spray and a nozzle that can be twisted on and off to stop accidental spraying or spillage. The trigger and nozzle can't be screwed off the bottle it would have to be prised off which is a bit of a nuisance as I do sometimes like to reuse the bottles to put vinegar and water in to clean windows and I find the screw top nozzles best for this. However, I have a couple of these at the moment from Tesco's own brand cleaners so not a major concern.

                  The liquid is a pretty pale mauve in keeping with the lavender perfume and does smell nicely of lavender giving my house a pleasant perfume which lingers for quite some while after use.

                  There are the usual reminders about keeping away from children, your eyes and rinsing hands after use.

                  **Using the product**
                  The instructions on the back of the bottle say to spray surfaces liberally and then wipe with a dry or damp cloth. For tougher soiling the spray should be left on for 3 minutes before wiping. I have used this spray in the kitchen and downstairs cloakroom and have found that it tackles grease on the hob and worktops with no trouble even if they have been left for a while before cleaning and I haven't had to scrub or use much effort, just a wipe with a damp cloth usually does the trick. It brings my stainless steel sink and drainer up to a nice shine with a couple of squirts and a wipe and leaves the cloakroom smelling fresh and nicely perfumed with lavender. I have also used it in the bathroom and shower room and it easily removes soap scum and tide marks around the bath leaving everywhere nice and clean and shiny. My chrome taps and shower head also come up to a nice shine. I also like the fact that the liquid is coloured and so I can see where I have sprayed.

                  **My Opinion**
                  I wasn't sure if I was going to like the lavender smell of this product as I think sometimes lavender can be a bit overwhelming but Proctor and Gambol have got the perfume about right, it is a pleasant smell without being overpowering and it does linger for some time which is nice especially in the bathroom and cloakroom. Its cleaning ability is up to the usual Flash standards that I have been used to and grease and grime don't seem to cause it any problems. I am not sure about the Febreze ingredient as although I know that it is supposed to eliminate odours I can't really tell as the lavender probably masks any odours anyway but hey, I don't really care as this product leaves my home smelling lovely for whatever reason so all is good.

                  I will definitely buy this again if it is on special offer, in fact I have heard that is in Poundland so as I have nearly finished my first bottle I think I will be heading there tomorrow.

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                    18.03.2011 23:51
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                    A good antiperspirant/deoderant although not as effective as some

                    I use all different makes of deodorant/antiperspirant both branded and supermarket/Boots own brand depending on what is on offer at the time. I really like Sure Crystal as it doesn't leave white marks on my clothes but recently I noticed that Dove do a similar product with their Invisible Dry Antiperspirant/deodorant roll on so decided to give it a try as it was on special offer at the time.

                    **The product and my thoughts**
                    This product comes in a similar package design to a lot of roll on deodorants at the moment ie all curves and the ability to stand upside down so that the liquid is ready to come out when required. It is all white with the Dove logo and Invisible Dry in pale purple.

                    When I use it the roll on ball is smooth and the liquid comes out easily with a nice delicate perfume delivering just the right amount to my skin with a couple of rolls. It dries quickly and doesn't sting even if I have just shaved my underarms, the product information tells me that this is because it has 0% alcohol but whatever the reason it is good news. I am always in a hurry in the mornings for work and don't have time to hang around while the deodorant dries so I have definitely tested the "anti white marks" claim and haven't had any problems with this even on black tops. In this regard it certainly lives up to Sure Crystal.

                    **Effectiveness**
                    Dove claims to work for 24 hours but I am not sure that it is that effective on me. It definitely works well for quite a few hours but sometimes by late afternoon, especially if I have been rushing around I find it sometimes needs reapplying. In this respect I find Sure Crystal better as it really does seem to last all day so I was a little disappointed with Dove in this respect.

                    **Price**
                    For a 50ml roll on I paid £1 on special offer but it is currently £1.99 in Boots, still not a bad price though.

                    **Would I Buy Again?**
                    Possibly, if it was on special offer but the fact that I sometimes need to reapply it does put me off slightly especially with (hopefully) warmer weather approaching and because of this I have knocked one star off an otherwise good product.

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                    18.03.2011 21:32
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                    A lovely light facial moisturiser

                    My daughter wanted to replace the Avon eyeliner she had for Christmas and as we don't have an Avon rep in our area at the moment we had to order it online. To make the most of the postage and packing price I had a look through the other products and noticed this face cream and decided to try it as it was half price.

                    The tub is quite large at 200ml and the usual price is £4.20 but as mentioned it was half price when I bought it so I considered it very good value. The website boasted that the cream leaves the skin looking matt whilst feeling hydrated so it seemed just the thing for my skin. My No.7 face cream tends to leave my skin looking a bit greasy especially as the day goes on.

                    Although it is listed as a cream and indeed looks like a cream it actually feels more like a gel, a very light gel. It contains cucumber and green tea and the gel definitely smells of cucumber, which I quite like in a face cream. It is also quite cooling and will be lovely in the summer when I have been out catching some rays. It is very light and only a small amount is needed for the whole face and neck as it spreads really easily and soon disappears into my skin. As I smooth it on I can feel it going matt if that makes sense as it seems to dry off as I spread it over my face and neck and doesn't leave any sticky residue.

                    I have used this product for a couple of weeks now and find that it really does as it says, moisturises whilst leaving the face with a matt finish. My usual foundation goes over it perfectly. Apart from the fact that I like this face cream/gel I also like the fact that the tub is quite large and has a wide opening so that I can get my fingers in easily, some other products I have had tend to have narrow tops or come in tubes and I am not so keen on that.

                    I recommend this product if you are looking for a daily face cream that is light and disappears into your skin easily without leaving any residue.

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                    • (500) Days of Summer (DVD) / DVD / 76 Readings / 74 Ratings
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                      16.03.2011 23:18
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                      an unusual rom/com that made a change to the normal format

                      We had this film come through from our Love Film subscription. I think that my daughter had logged in and tweaked the list as this wasn't something myself or my husband would have chosen. However, we decided to watch it on Saturday evening as a family as so this is my review of the dvd.

                      This 2009 film was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber and directed by Marc Webb and stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel both of whom are actors and musicians.

                      **The plot**
                      When I first saw the title I presumed it was a rom/com about a relationship during 500 summer days but in fact it is about the 500 days of the on/off relationship of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel). The film is a simple story about their friendship/romance through 500 days but not in a chronological order. It actually starts near the end of the film and then it jumps backwards and forwards through the 500 days to show their relationship at different times. The days are announced by a banner on the screen before each change so it is necessary to pay attention otherwise it can be a bit confusing! Tom meets Summer when she joins the greetings card company where he works and eventually starts going out with her although she tells him that she doesn't believe in true love and only wants things to remain casual between them. Tom accepts this at first but eventually finds it hard that she won't make any commitment towards him and the film explores the feelings Tom has about this - both the highs and the lows and culminates in an ending which is both satisfying but different.

                      **My Opinion**
                      At first I didn't think I was going to like this film, it seemed disjointed and a bit slow to start with. However, as I learned more about the characters I started to enjoy it and felt that it really did empathise with how people feel when they are in the different stages of a relationship - the highs and the lows, the fun times and the disagreements while learning about each other. I am sure we can all remember a relationship that was one-sided and how we felt at that time and so have some sympathy with Tom and his feelings.

                      I thought that it made a refreshing change that it was Tom who was portrayed as being the one in the relationship who was having a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that Summer wanted their relationship to not be too serious as generally speaking films like this tend to make the female character the one who wants more commitment. I really felt sorry for Tom as he falls in love with Summer and can't understand why she is giving mixed signals - at one moment happy to spend time with him and sharing her thoughts with him, such as when he takes her to his favourite spot overlooking the city with all its interesting buildings (he had been studying to be an architect) and then on another distancing herself from the relationship and reminding him that it is only casual.

                      Although the film had some serious points to make about love and relationships it also had several comedy moments and Zooey Deschanel showed a talent for playing these comedic moments which had me laughing out loud.

                      It was amusing that Tom had a couple of male friends who he confided in to some degree about his relationship with Summer but they weren't a lot of help when he was feeling very down about the situation and it was ironic and amusing that it was his adolescent sister who had a much better insight into the situation and how he felt and what he should do about it than either Tom or his friends.


                      The script is perfect at involving the viewer in the characters lives and feelings and is very real to life - I could imagine the conversations they were having in real life as the film simply depicts the highs and lows of a romantic relationship which may sound boring but is in fact clever, funny and heartbreaking all at the same time.

                      I had never come across either of these actors before as I don't watch that many films but I was quite impressed by them. They were able to portray the funny moments and the touching moments in a very believable way and they had a genuine chemistry between them that made me believe they were in a relationship.

                      I have a friend who when we were teenagers and started going out with boys would philosophically put failed relationships down to "experience", it became her mantra and this message comes across in this film in that Tom and Summer learn a lot of things about each other and themselves through their relationship together.

                      **Last Thoughts**
                      After a shaky start I enjoyed this film because I quite like a film that I can relate to experiences I have had in life and I found the characters and the storyline totally believable. My daughter (16) found the film quirky and different but enjoyed it. My husband, who usually enjoys a rom/com fell asleep after about 20 minutes and said it didn't move forward quickly enough for him in the beginning. I would quite like to watch it again as now that I know what to expect from the format I think I would enjoy the film more.

                      **Extras**
                      There are deleted and extended scenes on the DVD

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                        13.03.2011 17:03
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                        A good value laptop bag and carry case

                        We bought our daughter a laptop for Christmas as our PC had finally died and she needs a computer for school work. I thought it would be a good idea to have some sort of sleeve or carry case for the laptop for both protection when not in use and transportation if necessary. The laptop has a purple lid and so I searched shops and online for a bag with a purple theme. There was much more choice online than in the shops and I eventually found the Roxy Laptop Pouch Sleeve bag in "Geek Purple Flower" design. We have had Roxy rucksacks before and always found them to be sturdy and of good quality.

                        **The Design of the Bag**
                        The bag measures 31 x 3 x 40 cm and is advertised to fit a 16inch laptop. My daughter's is a Dell Inspiron 15inch and fits the bag easily. The bag is black with large purple and pink flowers with large yellow stamens and white leaves. It is very colourful in the way that Roxy products usually are and in one corner it has the embroidered Roxy heart symbol just in case there is any doubt. The bag is made of polyester and, although this is a soft bag, it is nicely padded all round to protect the laptop. The bag has a zip at the top which extends to half way down both sides to create a large opening for the laptop to slip into without problem. There are two small carry handles, one each side, at the top of the bag and a detachable shoulder strap which is also adjustable in length to fit all heights of person. There are no additional pockets on the bag and with hindsight it might have been nice to have a separate pocket big enough to take the plug and lead if required although this does just about fit into the bag if needed. There is a label inside the bag stating that it can be hand washed which is useful to know if it gets grubby.

                        **Price**
                        Whilst looking for a bag I found that they can be very expensive, even the soft ones like this so I was pleased to find this bag on Amazon for £14.99, recommended retail price £19.99. This was definitely one of the cheaper options but we have not been disappointed with it.

                        **My Opinion**
                        My daughter was very pleased to receive this bag, partly because it complimented her laptop in colour but more importantly because she had somewhere to store the laptop when not in use with the added advantage of being able to carry it safely to a friend's if required. It seems to be sturdy and suitable for the job and I imagine that to some degree it would be shower proof if she was caught out in the rain (although Roxy do not mention this).

                        **To Summarise**
                        A good value laptop bag that does the job it is intended for. I am tempted to give this 5 stars but have decided to knock one off for lack of an additional pocket which might have been useful. Not a major concern for us though.

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                          09.03.2011 21:22
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                          An easy and safe form of hair removal

                          How to remove unwanted hair is always a problem for women. I started off using depilatory creams to remove the hair from my legs and underarms but that was back in the days when the cream smelt disgusting and I soon started using a razor instead. However, over the years I have moved between razors, waxing, depilatory machine (painful!) and back to creams again. When my teenage daughter asked the best way to remove the hair from her under arms and legs I suggested hair removal cream as I thought that there would be less accidents than with a razor and less painful than waxing. Whilst buying it for her I decided to try it again too.

                          As her skin can sometimes be sensitive we decided to try the Veet Sensitive but this actually irritated her skin so we tried the ordinary Veet and this proved to be better. Now, my skin is as tough as old boots so both types were fine for me.

                          **the packaging**
                          The non-sensitive ordinary Veet hair removal cream comes in a pink tube which is inside a pink box. It's marked up for "normal skin" and states that it contains lotus milk and jasmine fragrance and silk moisturising complex. The box looks very feminine with its shades of pink and flower decoration.

                          **the product**
                          This is a thick cream which is easy to spread with the plastic spatula provided. The smell of hair removal creams has improved over the years and this one isn't too bad.

                          **using the cream**
                          The directions explain that the cream should be spread thickly over the area to be de-haired and left on for 3 minutes. After the required amount of time a small area should be tested to see if the hair is removed easily. If it is then use the spatula to gently scrape the cream and, hopefully, the hair away. After all the cream has been removed the area should be thoroughly rinsed with clean cool water and then a moisturiser can be applied if required.

                          **our experience**
                          My daughter, who is 16, finds this product works very well for her and the hair is removed quickly and easily leaving her legs and under arms nice and smooth for about a week. However, I don't find that the cream works as well for me. It's quite good on my under arms but I find it only works patchily on my legs and I have to use loads of the cream to get anything near a good result.

                          **price**
                          Boots have this for £4.38 for 100ml at the moment with buy one get one half price. This is cheaper than Tesco which is £4.50 for 100ml without the buy one get one half price.

                          **conclusion**
                          In my opinion this seems to work well on young fine hair but not so well on coaser hair such as mine and can be expensive if need to use often.

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                          09.03.2011 18:43
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                          A beautiful story of love and friendship

                          I read Little Women as a child and again as a teenager and recently I felt the need to read it again.

                          **The Author**
                          Louisa May Alcott was born in Pennsylvania on 29th November 1832. She had 3 sisters and her father was a teacher and although they weren't destitute money wasn't plentiful. Her first book, Flower Fables, was published in 1855 however, in 1856 her sister, Lizzie, contracted scarlet fever and although she initially recovered she later died which put a temporary stop to Louisa's writing as she returned to the family home to help her grieving mother. In 1862 she served in the Civil War as a nurse, contracting Typhoid fever. Although she recovered from Typhoid she suffered with the effects of mercury poisoning for the rest of her life (the mercury came from drug called calomel which was used to cure Typhoid. In 1968 she wrote Little Women based on her life with her 3 sisters. The novel was an instant success and helped to resolve her family's financial problems. Little Men was published in 1871 and Jo's Boys in 1886 with other books in-between. Louisa died aged just 56 as the mercury poisoning finally took its toll.

                          **The story**
                          The story is based on Louisa May Alcott's own experiences as a young girl growing up with 3 sisters in a family where money was tight. The sisters in the book, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are young girls at the beginning of the story and the book charts their lives as they grow into young women with all the usual trials and tribulations that entails. This is compounded by the fact that their father is away fighting in the Civil War and their mother is struggling to provide for her girls.

                          **The characters**
                          Mother
                          Their girls' mother (they call her marmee) adores her girls and is always there to help them through the situations that arise as they grow up. She is the sort of parent we would all love to be, sensible, loving, always there to give the right advice whilst letting her daughters make their own decisions. She is obviously missing her husband but puts on a brave face for the girls and works hard setting a good example to her children both in the work she does as well as helping her less fortunate neighbours.

                          Meg
                          Meg is the eldest at around 16 at the beginning of the story and on the brink of womanhood. She works as a governess to help with the finances. She is sensible and as the eldest likes to be in charge of the girls especially when her mother is not there. She is also said to be the prettiest of the sisters. As the book progresses Meg grows into a young woman with feelings that at first she doesn't understand but as we follow her story she comes to terms with her new emotions and becomes a lovely young woman.

                          Jo
                          Jo is the tomboy, about a year younger than Meg but quite different in character. Jo doesn't like girlie things and is more at home with boyish activities. She is good at writing stories and writes plays for the girls to perform to their mother and friends. She is apt to be thoughtless and selfish at times because she acts without thinking first however she adores her younger sister, Beth and is fiercely protective of her. Jo finds it difficult to come to terms with Meg growing older and changing from child to young woman and mourns and resists the fact that she too will eventually have to grow up. Jo has a small job as a companion to her elderly aunt, she finds this quite boring but takes solace from the fact that she can read lots of books to entertain the old lady. I feel that Jo represents Louisa May Alcott in the story.



                          Beth
                          Beth is very shy and quiet and comes across as quite delicate. She almost seems too good for this world as she never sees any wrong in people and always looks for the good, always ready to help others, especially those more unfortunate than herself. She adores Jo and admires her strength of character. Beth's character seems to be based on Lizzie as they both contract Scarlet Fever.

                          Amy
                          Amy is the youngest and as such slightly spoilt. She thinks of her appearance a lot, especially the shape of her nose! Amy is probably the character that changes the most during the story as because of her age the reader sees her grow up from young child to young adult.

                          Laurie (Teddy)
                          Laurie is the boy next door who Meg and Jo meet at a party. Laurie soon becomes a friend of the family and joins in all the girls' games and plays. He particularly gets on well with Jo although he is a friend to all the sisters.

                          Laurie's Grandfather
                          The old gentleman also soon becomes a friend of the family and is particularly kind to Beth by letting her play his piano.

                          Father
                          As father is away at the Civil War for a lot of the book the reader doesn't get to know him as well but he is clearly devoted to his daughters and wife and when he returns the family is very pleased to see him.

                          Hannah
                          Hannah is the maid who helps around the house and keeps an eye on the girls when their mother is out. She comes across as a kindly lady who is very attached to the girls and the family in general and they to her.

                          **My opinion**
                          I love this book. I love its old fashioned values but having said that I found myself thinking that the thoughts and feelings of young teenagers growing into older teenagers and eventually young ladies/and man in Laurie's case, hasn't changed so very much. Like Jo, I can remember being frightened of growing up with all the responsibilities and changes that meant and I recognise the same feelings in my 16 year old daughter today. However, I like the fact that the book reminded me of a time before computers and constant television when people played games together as a family in the evenings and children made their own entertainment by putting on plays or playing schools or "families". Also the slower pace of life where a summer day seemed to last forever and where children could go and play in the fields without their parents fearing they may be abducted. Also where the simple presents at Christmas were appreciated, a knitted or handmade gift or small book. I know that there were a lot of downsides to life during the 1800s, disease and illness that couldn't be cured, severe poverty in some cases and women often treated as second class citizens but it would be nice if we could incorporate the core values of family life and childhood of that time into our lives now with all its enhancements in medical and technical science. Maybe then we could truly believe that we had moved forward.

                          **Would I recommend it?**
                          Absolutely yes! It is timeless in its message to us and apart from that a lovely story of family love and experiences. It made me feel that I wanted to try harder to be a better mother, daughter, wife and person in general.

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                          • Ariel Excel Gel / Household Product / 51 Readings / 51 Ratings
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                            08.03.2011 16:55
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                            Good, nice smelling laundry product

                            I usually buy supermarket own brand washing tablets or liquid as I find they work just fine and don't see why I should spend more if I can get the job done for less!! However, I did see that Ariel had their Actilift Excel Gel on special offer in Tesco, half price in fact £4 instead of £8.17 so decided to give it a go.

                            **The packaging**
                            The usual white and green colours with red writing, I think Ariel has had this branding for years albeit the style is updated now and again. The bottle is all modern curves which make it quite attractive to look at and has a flat lid so that the bottle can be stood upside down, meaning that the liquid can be ready for use all the time. The bottom of the bottle has a natty dosing cap which is made of soft white plastic and can be placed in the washing machine meaning that the liquid can get to the centre of the clothes straight away. The product is made by Procter and Gamble and they are proud of the fact that this new product uses 45% less packaging than the "regular" Ariel bottle.

                            **The Liquid**
                            The liquid is blue and is quite thick compared to some other liquid detergents, probably why it is called a gel as opposed to a liquid!! The packaging boasts that it cleans brilliantly at 15 degrees centigrade as well as at 40 degrees, thus making a definite environmental statement. I tend to do most of my "normal" washing at 30 degrees as this is the shortest programme on my machine and find that the Ariel Gel does a good job at this temperature. I haven't tested its 15 degrees claims as my machine, being a few years old now, doesn't have that facility. The Excel Gel is a biological product so is really good on stains such as blood, chocolate, coffee etc even at the lower temperatures.

                            **The performance**
                            I have washed garments with greasy marks and also blood and these have come out completely at the 30 degree half hour wash. So it gets full marks there.

                            **The smell**
                            I love the smell of this product especially when the washing is drying on the airer - it is a lovely clean smell which lingers even after the clothes have been ironed and worn which I like.

                            **Others**
                            Ariel Excel Gel also comes in a product for coloured laundry and with added Febreze. There is also a smaller bottle at 667ml which at the moment is dearer than the big bottle at £4.52!

                            **Price**
                            At £8.17 a bottle for 1.04L (28 washes) I wouldn't be so keen to buy this product but at £4 I think it is a bargain. I tend not to use as much liquid as they recommend as unless the washing is particularly dirty I seem to get good results using less (I find this with any washing product) so I have probably had more like 38 washes out of my 1.04L bottle which I consider makes it a really good price.

                            **Would I Buy Again**
                            Definitely at half price, not so sure that £8.17 is justified. However Tesco have this at half price until 20th March so plenty of time to stock up!

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                              27.02.2011 17:08
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                              Good shampoo for dry lifeless hair

                              I bought this shampoo for two reasons, one because it stated that it was a moisturising shampoo and two because it was on offer in Boots as buy one get one free.

                              **The packaging**
                              The shampoo comes in a bottle with a flip top lid and is pale blue in colour with darker blue writing saying "moisture Soak" and white writing saying "Elixer and with white pearl". This is surrounded by a three quarters circle of water droplets emphasising the moisture content. Further down the bottle, in case the buyer is still in doubt, it says "intense hydration" "for dry and damaged hair" "with 5 vital oils". I think the packaging designers wanted to make sure we got the message!

                              **About the product**
                              The product boasts that it contains a blend of 5 non-greasy vital oils which are supposed to help hair look glossy and healthy whilst not making it greasy. The extract of white pearl is advertised as locking in moisture to help restore the natural balance of the hair. The oils are avocado, jojoba, apricot and almond and grape seed oil.

                              **My experience**
                              I found this shampoo to have a nice creamy quality when poured from the bottle and only a small amount was needed to make a good lather. When I rinse the shampoo off I find my hair feels moisturised and soft and doesn't appear to need a conditioner although I do still apply one every other day as my hair is very dry and fine and needs all the help it can get! The perfume isn't bad too.

                              **The price**
                              At the moment this shampoo is £2.34 in Boots for 300ml and is on a BOGOF promotion so very reasonably priced indeed.

                              I will definitely buy this again as it seems to be good for my hair and even when not on BOGOF is a good price.

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