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Buddleja is a woody shrub that’s very commonly found in British gardens, partly because it’s a super-easy plant to have around which thrives on very little attention and partly because it’s almost impossible to kill one unless you are really determined. The largest one in our garden grows to a spread of about 8 feet every year, despite being cut back to little more than a tiny stump each autumn. But if that’s too much for you to handle, take some advice from a nursery and buy a smaller species.
Buddleja are often referred to as Butterfly Bush because their flowers attract a lot of butterflies and masses of bumble bees. This is the main reason we plant these in our garden as we’re trying to be bee-friendly. The other common name for them is ‘bombsite plants’ because they were widespread across the bombsites of the London Blitz.
We have buddlejas with the typical spear-shaped flower heads as well as one with beautiful golden flower balls. This latter is most likely Buddleja Globosa and it’s golden ball flowers smell strongly of honey which is why the bees like them so much.
There are a hundred different species available and they vary greatly in size and flower heads. We bought a set of small buddlejas for a bed where not much else grows (due to some rather thirsty Leylandii trees on the border between our house and our neighbours. We planted them to bulk out that bed where little seems keen to grow.
After a long cold winter, there are few things more guaranteed to raise the spirits than the sight of early daffodils and their close cousins, the narcissi. They’re also always a welcome arrival in the garden because they pop up year after year without the need for much effort on our part. Daffodil bulbs are widely available at very reasonable (and sometimes very low – check out places like Poundland) prices and yet once you’ve put them in the ground, they will come back year after year without any substantial effort from the gardener.
Whilst dafs are really cheap and easy and well within both the financial means and the gardening skills of pretty much anyone, you can of course spend a lot more money if you want to buy fancier bulbs from specialist nurseries. My personal favourite sites for buying bulbs and plants are Thompson and Morgan and Haloft Plants. Taking a quick look even at this totally unseasonable time of year, T&M have a wide variety of bulbs available from as little as a few pence each up to a couple of pounds per bulb for rare fancies.
You don’t need an enormous garden to grow dafs – in fact you don’t really need a garden at all as bulbs will grow happily in a planter on the patio or in a window box. Some will even grow indoors. If space is limited, there are lots of miniature varieties that take up less space than the standard size.
When I was a child, the habit of most gardeners was to twist and tie the stems after the flowers had finished blooming but these days I don’t see that being done very much at all and I’ve never done it myself. The most recent news this year on dafs was that supermarkets had to be instructed to not put their daffodils anywhere near their vegetable sections because people who didn’t know what they were had been trying to cook them.
I had a small tube of this from a beauty box but I managed to get four treatments out of it before writing this review.
A 50 ml tube of this stuff will cost you GBP54. To my mind that's way beyond the amount I'd ever consider spending on a product of this type – not just off the radar screen but in another time zone.
My tester was a small screw-top tube but if you buy the full sized product you'll get a pump bottle. Murad is an American company named after a Dr Murad. They make products with strong scientific credentials and claim to be " America's first authentic doctor developed brand".
The recommendation with this facial mask is to apply it generously to your skin, sit back and relax for 10 minutes or so and then wash it off. It's not complicated. They claim that the mask will "restore skin's natural contours and recapture youth's glow" and that it "Instantly tightens, firms and revives dehydrated skin while smoothing lines and renewing resilience".
My first impressions, straight out of the tube, were that it was a surprisingly white and bright cream but it smelt very 'earthy'. Checking the ingredient list as I waited for it to do its magic and erase the years from my face, I realised that the earthy smell was probably due to bentonite being the biggest ingredients. That's the stuff they put in cat litter to soak up the pee and it's one of the earths used as 'fuller's earth' which was originally used to remove the oil from sheep wool. I would expect these earthy masks to be good for oily skin so I was a bit nervous that it would be too drying for my skin. Then I spotted that shea butter was in around 6th place on the ingredients list and that reassured me somewhat. I love shea and it's a powerful moisturiser.
Despite its highly 'earthy' recipe, the product remains light and white. I don't look like a clown or a horror freak when wearing this as it's not an opaque mud mask at all. It smells delicious with a light, fruity scent that I quite enjoyed. I left it on my face for about 15 minutes and then washed it off then I dabbed my skin dry with a towel and applied a light facial oil and followed it up a half hour later with a nice night cream.
This mask both feels and smells lovely and it's a pleasure to use. It hardened in use and dried out but not in a harsh or unpleasant way that I've found typical of cheaper clay-based masks and it left my skin feeling soft and very clean.
Back around Christmas time I bought a Korres 'sleeping beauty' set of four products, one of which was the Basil and Lemon shower gel. The set contained a small bottle of this - suitable for travel or for testing out the product.
Korres is a Greek firm, one of the few that seem to be surviving that country's economic crisis. It started life as a pharmacy shop in Athens and hired an expert cosmetologist and toiletries formulater called Korres, after whom the brand was named.
I've tried many of their products and had very mixed experiences. Some are great, others rather unimpressive but this was my first experience of one of their shower gels.
I was expecting that the basil and lemon shower gel would smell more of basil than lemon but it doesn’t. In fact it’s much more of a lemon - albeit a rather sweet and not so zesty lemon - with just a hint of basil to take it out of the ordinary. It’s pleasant but I’d not go out of my way to get it.
A 250 ml bottle of this product would cost you around 7 to 8 pounds which is cheap by Korres standards but still rather expensive for a shower gel. I don't love the scent enough to pay that much and I don't find the effect on my skin is any different from my cheaper and better smelling alternative products.
I'm glad I tried it, I'm sure I'll finish the bottle but it won't be going onto my wishlist any time soon.
Chromebooks aren't for everyone but I love mine dearly. You should consider carefully whether one offers what you need before you buy. I'll describe the whys and wherefores of my purchase and hope that helps you to decide.
After getting yet another virus on my old ASUS netbook, I decided to spend some 'proper money' and buy a 400 quid Acer laptop. It was a disaster - check my list of reviews for the details. When Amazon threw me a lifeline and said I could have a refund, I grabbed it with both hands and then I bought a Chromebook.
A Chromebook is different from most laptops or netbooks because it works through the Google Chrome system. You can't download stuff onto it - which means you can't get viruses, you can't clog your discs up with stuff you don't want and don't use, and the speed doesn't decrease over time. That all sounded good to me - particularly the virus avoidance.
Of course there are downsides. You can't plug it into a printer although there's some clever way to make printers work, I've never bothered to find out. You can't use it with Amazon Prime television programmes and films and it misses some of the usual keys you'd expect to find on a full sized laptop - notably a 'delete' key. I use this as my travel laptop and my 'sitting in bed on Sunday morning or on the sofa' laptop. I have other back ups - a 1 TB desk PC and my high powered work laptop.
I don't recommend at Chromebook as your 'only' laptop. It won't store your photos, it won't generally even open stuff off a memory stick so it won't suit anyone who doesn't have a second computer as back up. It will go anywhere at a weight of something like 1.1 kg. It's 11.5 inch screen is good enough for travel use. It's often commented that the screen is a little less 'bright' than many and I have to admit that's true. To balance that, the battery life is excellent at up to 7 hours.
People told me I should buy a tablet when I was looking for this Chromebook. I have a Kindle Fire now and I use the two products side by side. I wanted to be able to type on the go, to be able to access the internet but not to be able to store or download files. It does everything I need and it cost just 200.00 two years ago. I should also mention that I thank this Chromebook for introducing me to Google Docs which are now my software of choice for most of my reviews and spreadsheets since I can access everything I want from any computer.
I'm happy. It does everything I need it to.
In May 2013 I bought my Acer Aspire S3-391 laptop computer as my home laptop to replace a series of netbooks which had been slowing down and getting buggy.
I had high hopes when it arrived. It was a beautiful looking things - all slender brushed metal and elegant looks. It's screen at 13.3 inches was a step up from what I'd got used to with the Netbooks and I loved the way it felt under my fingers. I bought a 500 Mb version with Intel Core i3 3217U and 4GB RAM. What can I say? I'd done my homework, read zillions of reviews, and like someone who'd been told that the computer dating agency had found my perfect match, I was hoping for a long and happy relationship.
I didn't get one.
Two and a half months later I heaved a great big sigh of relief when the angel working the Amazon helpline told me I could send it back for a free replacement or a full refund. The words 'Full Refund' flew out of my lips. I didn't want one of these again.
The problems can be summed up with two words - Windows 8. What a nightmare. It had not long been out on the market and Microsoft were still claiming it was perfect and the users were stupid. It was incompatible with my chosen free virus protection, it only worked if I could persuade it to 'pretend' it was doing Windows 7 and after two months it started freezing. The help from Acer was less than useless which is why I'd always buy again from Amazon because they were 'acer than Acer'. They gave me the full £400 back without quibble and I bought a Samsung Chromebook instead.
The Dr Hauschka cleansing cream was one of the products in my tin of small tester products which I got in the Picture Perfect Skin collection. My set was for dry to normal skin.
It took me a while to work out what I was actually supposed to do with this stuff and a lot less time to come to the conclusion that life really is too short for so much messing around.
The cleansing cream is a really odd, brown, sludgy paste type concoction that looks a bit like a finely ground version of an Aapri cleansing scrub. To me it smells frankly disgusting. Texturally it’s a bit like crumbly biscuit dough and it smells like it could be the base of an apple pie that’s been burnt. I really don’t know what to make of it.
This is designed to be used on wet skin, squeezed into the hand to make a thin sludge and then spread on the skin. Ideally you should do this twice but I find the scent so strong that once is more than enough. It’s not intended to be used like a scrub even though it looks like one. After spreading it on the skin, the product can then be rinsed off with warm water and then again with cool.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? What a palaver? Yep, it’s bizarre especially when the recommendation is to do that twice a day. As someone with dry skin who doesn't wear make up, I don't even wash my face every day and I can't help thinking that adopting this Dr Hauschka regime would both bankrupt me and leave my skin over processed.
The Dr Hauschka range of moisturisers includes seven different day creams to cover all skin types. To be honest, I think that’s a bit extreme. However, since each of them is around £25 for 30ml, it’s worth testing them out to find the one that suits you and I was able to test several of them by buying the Picture Perfect Skin sampler tin. Even though this gives you the tiniest of 5g tubes that's actually plenty enough to work out if you like the creams or not.
Rose Day Cream is a light cream, slightly beige in colour, thick and rather tacky in texture and very very rosy which is not surprising since it has rose water, rose oil, rose petal wax, rose petal extracts and rosehip. Like I said, very very rosy.
For me this is just a bit too smelly to put on my face regularly and I find the scent can be almost eye-wateringly strong. However, I used it on long haul flights to and from the USA where the nasty dry conditions of the aircraft cabin were quite a challenge to my skin, and in that setting, the smell was much more bearable. The richness of the cream and the good spreadability meant I was able to keep my skin well protected despite the conditions.
There's a slightly acrid, sour, off-note to this rose which I notice the more I use it and I probably wouldn't buy it again unless I got a great deal on it. I was using an Aromatherapy Associated Rose face cream at the same time and found that a much nicer, lighter scented alternative.
I'm a long time fan of Elizabeth Arden and have been using their products for decades however one of the few ranges I've struggled to get into is the 8 hour range. The original 8 hour cream has the colour and consistency of ear wax but allegedly has near magical properties. I probably would not have paid good money for the 8 Hour Cream Lip Protectant but got it in a bumper beauty box from Latestinbeauty around Christmas time. I'm glad I did.
Whilst I wouldn't pay the GBP 17 or thereabouts that EA charge for this, I'm happy to have it as it's a very nice product. It's not worth ten times what you'd pay for a standard lip balm though.
On the plus side, it's nicely presented in a branded tube covered 8s with the Elizabeth Arden name round the waist of the lipstick tube but in my case, the lettering has rubbed off. It's a light tan in colour - not like the pink in Dooyoo's photo - and is quite firm to the touch so it doesn't melt the moment the temperature rises.
It's better than an average cheap balm and does have quite a soothing feel to it. There's a slight taste to it but it's not strong and it's not unpleasant - I'd say it's not been 'flavoured' but just tastes of whatever is in it.
My lips got badly dried out by air conditioning and long haul flights a couple of weeks ago and my Arden 8 hour lip balm has fixed them within a few days. Not 8 hours, admittedly, but within a few days.
When my husband decided to upgrade my old Sony SLR to a Nikon D7000 camera, this is the lens he bought for me as my original 'do everything' option. I have since been given a spectacular 18-300 Sigma lens so this one is now seeing a little less action than it was but it saw me through thousands of shots before it went into semi-retirement.
It's quite a hefty lens, especially when combined with the D7000 body which is no lightweight either. At its lowest range (18) it's wider angled than I ever achieved with my Sony whilst the 105 is a fair zoom in normal usage. This one lens replaced two that I previously needed to cover the same range on the Sony. Distortion at either end of the range is not noticeable to an amateur like me.
It has the feel of a well-made lens from a company who know what they are doing. It's a dependable favourite and I would still use it if I were going somewhere where the 18-300 was too long for comfort. For example when going to an indoor athletics event in Birmingham last year, I was asked to prove that my camera was not fitted with what they called a 'professional' lens - I fear the zoom on the 18-300 would have got me thrown out.
The lens comes with Nikon's vibration reduction technology which works well but has to be switched off when used with a tripod.
I love the scent of roses and I'm very fond of the cosmetics company L'occitane. I've a few bottles or rollers of their Rose 4 Reines perfume and I've had several bottles of the handwash in the same range so you would suppose that I'd love the hand cream. Sadly it's not the case. The range takes its name from the use of four different rose oils, each representing one of the daughters of a wealthy French man all of whom married princes and went on to become queens - hence 4 reines (or 4 queens). It's a nice story but I believe that L'Occitane have withdrawn the four queens range and now replaced it with one of their other rose ranges. They seem to tweak the rose products every few years.
A friend gave me a small tube and whilst I am now down to the final couple of squeezes, I find it rather disappointing.
It delivers an intense blast of rose impact - more than you'd probably expect and possibly more than I'd really like. What it doesn't deliver is the high degree of rich moisturisation that I associate with most of the L'Occitane hand creams. I wondered at first if this one didn't have shea butter - an absolute must for any hand cream - but it does. Perhaps it's just at a much lower level than would be typical for this company.
Either way, once that last squirt's out of the tube, it'll be in the bin and I won't bother to replace it.
Apparently Aldi is one of Europe's biggest computer sellers these days, pushing the more conventional businesses we used to go to aside with their simplistic, no messing, no fuss approach to selling electrical equipment. I've had my Medion Akoya 6110 D for about 4 years now, buying it for less than £400 from my local branch of Aldi. I'd been tipped off by a friend whose IT-industry son had already bought one and rated it highly. I watched the weekly Aldi 'deals' mails and when this came up I grabbed it.
I'll have to be honest, it's far and away the biggest bill I've ever had in Aldi and at that time they didn't take credit cards so I had to move cash around to cover the payment.
I wanted a computer with a big memory (a terabyte) for storing thousands of photographs and I wanted one that was quiet - its predecessor was like an asthmatic old man in the corner of the room. It didn't need to be extraordinarily fast as our broadband is so slow that it would have been holding it back and I had no interest to play computer games. I also wanted to be able to buy JUST the box and not all the extras. I had a great widescreen monitor, I had a printer, I had a keyboard, speakers, mouse and all the rest and I just wanted the heart of the computer. The local recycling centre didn't need another load of cast off gizmos.
I've been using it regularly for the whole time I've had it without any problems. Unlike my many netbook computers, I've not even had an annoying attack of the nasty viruses (touch wood).
Out of the box it was easy to set up, easy to get started. We didn't need any IT-geeks to help us. Plug all your wires into whichever hole they fit into and get going. There are 4 USB ports on the back and two extras and two little round ones (headphones, microphone, whatever) on the front of the computer for easy access. It has a CD / DVD drive and a range of memory card slots.
I can't tell you exactly what sort of processor it has as I long ago 'filed' all the paperwork and quite honestly even if you wanted on, you'd be unlikely to be able to find it now that it's 4 years old. However, what I can tell you is that I'm very happy and I'd recommend that anyone who's been thinking 'Hmm, Aldi for computers? Is that a good idea' should put those doubts aside and give them a go. Aldi's complaints and returns policy is better than most UK retailers - I think 2 years guarantee is standard on electricals.
Weleda is a lovely company that was into 'natural' long before most of the rest of the beauty industry jumped on the bandwagon. They have impeccable credentials but their products can sometimes seem a bit 'dowdy' and old fashioned compared to their more techie competitors.
I was sent several sachets of the Weleda Calendula face cream a few months ago. If I remember correctly they came in one of my many beauty boxes but I forget precisely which. I had enough to try the product for about a week and it was very gentle and very pleasant, and I'd definitely want to buy a tube for those days when you just want something that's calming and gentle.
The product is sold as part of Weleda's baby products range and is priced at a very reasonable 7.95 for a 50 ml tube. Compared to just about every other face cream from Weleda, it's an absolute bargain.
I expected a thin, runny lotion but it's not like that at all. This is a rich, quite thick cream and it has a gentle, subtle scent of calendula daisies. I like it a lot. It's surprisingly indulgent and left my skin feeling soft and soothed. For a thick product it soaks in very quickly but leaves a slight tackiness on the skin.
It's 100% natural and 96% of the ingredients are organic. The ingredient list is a lot shorter than many and it includes sesame seed oil, sweet almond oil, lanolin, beeswax and calendula flower extract.
I tend towards buying more 'chemical' and more 'high tech' products than this but I still rather like it. It's comforting to know it's gentle enough for babies and so unlikely to give me any sensitivity issues.
If you want a basic, gentle and rich cream, this one is well worth a try.
My skin is doing pretty well for my age and I put that down to not smoking, eating well and the use of skin serums with hyaluronic acid. This clever ingredient can absorb more than a thousand times its own weight in water and it occurs in the human body in the joints, nerves, skin, hair and inside your eyeball. I look for this ingredient in skin care products such as the Nourish Relax Peptide Serum. I bought this for just 10.00 in the Debenhams online sale for a 30 ml bottle, down from 20.00.
Nourish is a UK-based company founded by cosmetic scientist Dr Pauline Hili and it’s quite a new company which has been selling skin care products since 2012. The range includes products for body and face using natural ingredients and “advanced bio-actives” to create effective but ethical recipes. As you’d expect, there are lots of things they don’t put in their products such as alcohol, synthetic colours, parabens, mineral oils and the usual stuff. They make recipes full of organic ingredients and plant extracts and avoid anything that would make the products unsuitable for vegetarians or vegans and of course they don’t test on animals.
The Nourish skin care products may be quite technical but they seem to have put a lot of effort into trying to make them relatively understandable. Nourish group their skin care products into four ‘families’ depending on the issues being addressed. I've used the 'Protect’ range for dry skin, and ‘Relax’ products are for sensitive skin.
The serum contains some interesting ingredients such as carrot root powder, ginger root extract and lavender oil and the scent of lavender is pretty powerful. The powerful bioactives include Palmitoyl tripeptide-5 and sodium hyaluronate. The ingredients are 85% 'organic'
The product comes in a clear pump bottle with a label wrapped around it and the pump dispenses well.The label doesn’t go the whole way round the bottle which means you can easily see how much is left which is a small but significant improvement over the majority of products in pumps.
A little goes a long way and one ‘pump’ is enough to cover my face and a second will cover my neck. The serum feels slightly sticky and it smells wonderfully of lavender - a classic 'relaxation' ingredient. As it soaks in and dries, it gives a noticeable tightening effect on my skin but after a couple of minutes my skin is ready for a moisturiser to be applied.
I love serums, especially ones with hyaluronic acid, and if they smell wonderful it's a bonus. I like the practicality of the packaging which enables me to see how much is left and I prefer the pump format to the more typical ‘dropper’ bottle that many companies use.
We have two of these Genus DAB radios and have had them for about 8 years. We bought them at a time when digital radios were still quite expensive and I tracked the first down as a Christmas present for my husband who wanted an easy to use clock radio for the bedside. I recall it was pennies under 30 pounds at a time when the fancier brands were almost twice the price. He liked it so much he got another for the garage a year later.
It's a triangular shaped radio - a bit like a Toblerone in a tube - with a wide base and narrow peaked top. It's very stable which is important if you're flailing around trying to turn off an alarm. It's easy to tune to different stations and to set your favourites in the memor but most importantly for a radio alarm clock, it's really easy to set the time and to reset it.
Why do I mention this? At my flat where I stay during the week I have a swanky Pure clock radio. It wakes me exactly the same time every morning because I never figured out how to reset it. With the Genus my husband typically sets it for himself, gets up and then resets it for me. He's an expert and it takes him just seconds.
The sound quality is not as spectacular as some of the fancier branded radios but we are talk radio listeners rather than music fans and it's perfectly good enough for us. The sound is clear and crisp across a wide volume range.
The only annoyance - and it's a slight one - is that the display is quite bright and can annoy at night. We keep a postcard propped across it at night to cut out the glow.