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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.
I bought my Dr Weil eye serum as part of a box of mixed Origins 'top sellers' in the USA a few years ago and have recently used the Dr Andrew Weil Plantidote Mega-Mushroom Eye Serum.
According to Wikipedia Dr Andrew Weil is “ an American medical doctor, teacher, and best-selling author on holistic health. He is founder, professor, and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona”. I have no idea quite how Dr W got together with Origins but they do seem to be a good combination.
I wouldn’t buy this range again because it's designed for people with problem skin, particularly focusing on those with extreme sensitivity, redness, and even scarring from acne and similar conditions. I don’t have any of those problems but I still happily worked my way through a bottle of facial serum and I’m now slowly dragging myself through this eye serum but without any great sense of commitment to it.
Both products contain Dr Weil’s special ‘mega-mushroom’ blend which combines enough different mushrooms to make an interesting risotto. What this means is that the Mega Mushroom products are rather ‘mushroom’ coloured - an unattractive sludgy beigey brown. They also SMELL quite mushroomy which can be a bit off putting. Fortunately with the eye serum, I was already used to the Mega-Mush smell so I wasn’t too disturbed by it when I started to use it.
As well as the mushroom extracts, Dr W squeezes in some ginger, a dash of turmeric and holy basil and some grapeseed extract. It’s a very ‘culinary’ scent. What all these goodies are supposed to do is to calm overly sensitive skin and reduce puffiness under the yes. There’s also some yeast extract that should relieve dark circles.
My problem with this product is that I don’t have the problems it's trying to fix but if you do and you want an eye cream for sensitive skin that’s prone to redness, it may be worth a trip to your Origins counter to ask for a small sample.
My product is in a 15 ml green tube which stands on its cap to ensure that the product comes out easily when I squeeze the tube. I squeeze the tiniest possible blob onto a finger and dot it around my eye area - underneath first and then across the top. I don’t put it directly on my eye lids. It feels pleasant and cool but I don't know what else I should be expecting.
I won’t buy this eye serum again and I wouldn’t have bought it if it weren’t part of a 10-product ‘deal’. A small 15 ml bottle of this will cost you around £40 from the Origins website and for that sort of sum, I’d need it to work miracles.
As we age our hair changes not just in colour or in texture, but also in volume. Hair thinning happens not only for men but for women too, especially when they reach the years leading up to menopause. Plantur 39 is so called because they recommend you should start using it in your early 40s.
The packaging on the Plantur 39 products tells us that women’s hair roots are protected by the female hormone oestrogen but around 40 the levels of oestrogen start to drop and testosterone levels start to raise smf hair gets thinner and falls out more. According to Dr Wolff, the manufacturers, the way to stop this happening is to use caffeine products. They claim that the caffeine penetrates the hair follicle and somehow helps the scalp to hang on to the hairs.
Dr Wolff recommend we wash our hair every day with their shampoo and leave the product on for at least two minutes to give it a chance to do its magic. In the real world, you can’t always do that nor will it suit all hair types to do that. If that’s the case, they recommend that you apply the tonic direct to the scalp on the days when you don’t wash your hair (or don’t wash it for long enough). Even if you do wash every day, they still claim that applying this - though I’m unclear whether it should be to dry or wet hair - will encourage ‘vigorous hair growth’
A bottle of this costs around £7.50 for 200 ml from the site I use which is called Pharmacyfix.co.uk
The tonic is a thin, quite watery liquid that comes in a bottle with a nozzle dispenser. You should apply it direct to the scalp and then massage it into the scalp and leave it for a few minutes to dry before you style your hair in the usual way.
A couple of months ago I decided I really should give it another go but it seems to take more time than I can really spare in my daily routines. When I use it regularly, I have the impression that it might be helping a bit but not so much or so vigorously that I can manage to do it every day.
This product is apparently designed to be optimally effective for pre-menopausal and menopausal women and like many products, it’s quite hard to know whether it’s working or not because you can’t know how much worse it might have been if you’d not bothered.
I would suggest that if you can’t get on with the shampoo you could use the tonic every day and keep up your normal shampoo.
REN is not a brand I know well. I bought two so-called ‘Skincare Essentials’ Kits and a Sensitive Skin kit full of REN goodies from the website Achica.com. The Essentials kit contains a small - to be honest ridiculously tiny - pump bottle of REN Keep Young and Beautiful SH2C Serum.
Stockists in the UK are rather few and far between if you don’t want to buy online and the website claims you can find REN products in Liberty, Space NK, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and ASOS as well as some select independent retailers. At the prices they charge, you won’t find them in Poundland or Aldi.
The company claims to make very ‘natural’ products free from the usual (alleged) nasties. The product contains no parabens, sulphates, petrolatum, mineral oils, synthetic fragrance or colours, T.E.A., D.E.A, glycols, PEGs or ‘et al’.
The bioactives in the recipe include hexapeptides derived from yeast which are supposed to stimulate skin renewal and the production of skin-firming proteins. There are also native peptides which they claim are a ‘safe alternative to Botox’, glycosaminoglycans to provide long lasting hydration and (my personal favourite) Hyaluronic Acid which helps the skin to hold onto moisture and stay plump.
The scary fact is that this stuff costs £46 for a 30 ml pump bottle.
I was hoping for something special. I read a lot of online reviews which were distinctly ‘marmite’; people either loved it and claimed the wrinkles were disappearing in front of their eyes or that the serum gave them shocking break-outs of spots. In my case I can honestly say I was underwhelmed by the effects, not spotting anything good or anything bad either.
It’s a creamy yellow fluid that doesn’t pump out terribly well. Once you get it out of the pump, the liquid spreads very well and two small ‘squirts’ are enough to cover my face. The fragrance in this is apparently natural but it’s sadly not terribly pleasant. I find it smells a bit dirty and earthy which is usually a sign of argan oil but it doesn’t seem to include any.
My bottle gave me a week's worth of applications and now it’s almost done I’m not too sad because I really didn’t warm to the product. It left my skin feeling unpleasantly slightly tacky and rather tight. I try to let it sink in fully before applying one of the REN moisturisers on top.
REN claim this serum will make your skin look firmer and more ‘toned’, will reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles and give your skin a healthy glow. I can’t recognise any noticeable difference in my skin.
I can buy plenty of great serums stuffed with hyaluronic acid and peptides for a lot less.
These were an impulse buy in last November’s Black Friday deals. They have a regular price of around £150 but briefly appeared on offer for just £49.
Sara is a much more casual and manly boot than I would normally choose. They are saved from the risk of being a bit too like ‘bovver boots’ by being slim on both the foot and the leg. I wouldn’t want to look like I was too friendly with Doctor Marten.
I bought my boots in a colour called ‘Charcoal Black’ which is a non-shiny textured leather. The over-stitching on these is tan. They have a chunky ribbed sole that grips well. There is no heel on these - instead it’s a very low, gentle wedge that’s just 3 cm in thickness. At the back the gum rubber sole is cut into a shallow wedge. In length they reach to about 15 cm below the top of my knees. Obviously the length on other people will vary according to each person’s leg length. I’m five foot eight.
The boots have a zip up the inside of the calf and a strap over the front of the ankle which attaches through a branded brass buckle on the outside of the ankle. The lining of the boots is a very comfortable slightly sueded fabric with a design of flowers and flies in black and tan. This fabric prevents the boots from making your legs sweaty when it’s warmer outside. The insole is similarly patterned and is very soft and comfortable.
I’ve read a number of reviews of this model of Fly London boots from people who’ve bought them and then found that they couldn’t zip them up because they were too narrow on the calves. I suspect this can be more of a problem for shorter women who might find that the boots end at a wider part of their calf than for taller women. I don’t consider that I have particularly skinny calves but these fit really well. The boots do stretch a little the more you wear them as the leather relaxes so don’t panic if they are a little tight at first. They have a an elasticated ‘gusset’ at the top which will give you an extra centimeter or so of stretch which is handy if you want to wear them with skinny jeans tucked inside.
The other aspect of size that really matters is the foot. I am a narrow size 5.5-6 (or a Euro 39) and these fit absolutely perfectly in the 39 that I bought and were almost ‘snug’ when I first got them. I’d not recommend these for people who have wide feet or for people who want to wear really thick socks inside their boots.