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I'll say straight off the bat that I'm a hard-core coffee fan! So hard-core that I'd somehow managed to get myself up to about 20 cups a day in the not so distant past. I'd started to find myself a bit jittery and also a little rounder in the stomach; hardly surprising given that I drink it with milk and sugar. Time for a rethink! My previous experience with Green Tea was not the best, having been offered a cup in my local café by resident healthy person Irish Joe. That particular cup was full of 'floaty' things and tasted like dishwater. An experience I didn't particularly want to repeat! I was looking in Tesco for a nice coffee when I came across Twinings Green Tea and decided to give it another try, swayed mainly by the 'With Pineapple and Grapefruit' proclamation on the front. In the trolley it went (with a rather large jar of Douwe Egberts to keep it company). At home I took a closer look at the packaging and was pleasantly surprised with what I read. I won't bore you with every little detail but things I think are worth mentioning are 1 calorie per 100ml (yes ONE calorie), only a trace of fat and lots of good sounding things like antioxidants. I've since read elsewhere that Green Tea can help with weight loss. Bring it on! The instructions on the packet are to allow one bag per person (I've never been one to share a teabag anyway - cost cutting a step too far in my opinion!), add freshly brewed water and leave to infuse for no more than two minutes. I pretty much follow these instructions to the letter and have got to admit to being pleasantly surprised with this tea. When made, this tea still doesn't look particularly appetising with its green sewer like appearance but it smells pretty good. And now it comes to the taste test! For me, it tasted a little strange at first but I could definitely taste the citrus element and it was a whole lot nicer than my café experience. I've taken the slowly slowly catchy monkey approach to my transition from coffee to green tea but make sure I have at least 3 cups a day thus saving myself in the region of 200 calories from what I add to my coffee. It's been a bit of an acquired taste for me overall and I've had to nag myself a fair bit not to add sugar to make it just a little bit nicer but all in all, a surprisingly good experience for me and I hope one day to ditch the coffee all together. Don't hold your breath though! Twinings Green Teas are available from Tesco (and probably most other supermarkets). A pack of 20 teabags usually cost £1.26 working out at just over 6 pence a cup. I've just checked on the Tesco website and until 21st June 2011, these teas are on offer at 3 packs for £2.50 working out at just over 4 pence per cup. Bargain! I'm giving this tea 4/5 because although it's taken me a while to get used to it, it's actually pretty nice and you feel healthier just for having drunk it at all! Additionally anything with anti-oxidants, obvious health benefits and a price tag like this can't be bad!
--- The Claim--- On the website: "Over time, skin starts to sag and lose elasticity. In just 1 week this advanced gel formula makes the bust feel firmer and more toned and gives a lifted look." On the packaging: "This luxurious gel works like a 'liquid bra' to help firm and tone the skin around your bustline for irresistible curves. Allergy tested. Hypoallergenic. Suitable for sensitive skin. ---The Basics--- Cost: £10 (occasionally available half price) Size: 150ml Availability: From your Avon Representative or online at www.avonshop.co.uk ---Worth Mentioning--- This product replaced Avon Firm & Sculpt Bust Contouring Cream. I haven't actually tried the previous product but from all accounts it was rated highly by consumers, coming second in a consumer poll featured on Gok Wan's "How To Look Good Naked". With that in mind, I had high hopes for this product. Also it clearly states on the packaging - CAUTION: Keep out of the reach of children. I'm not one to leave any products within reach of my curious four year old but just a reminder for others to stay safe! ---The Packaging--- This product comes in a squeezable tube with a stand up lid on one end. This makes it easy for the product to stand on your bathroom shelf and has the added bonus that there is always product right at the lid end for easy access. Think the opposite of most tubes of toothpaste! Other than that the pack design is fairly uninspiring to be honest. ---The Product--- Instructions as per packaging: "TO USE: Every morning, apply to bust in an upward motion. Wait 30 seconds, or until product absorbs completely, before dressing." The gel looks slightly pink when you look at it at the top of the tube but loses that appearance immediately when squeezing some out onto your hand and instead looks clear. It is lightly scented with a fragrance I can best describe as similar to hairspray! ---Application--- I applied as per the instructions on the packaging and found the gel to be quite cold, this can be pleasant on a hot day but I would recommend warming slightly on your hands if it's a bit chilly! The first time I applied the product I waited 30 seconds but the product still felt very wet. After a couple of minutes it felt tacky and it dried completely after about 5 minutes but still felt ever so slightly tacky. Furthermore after a few hours it started to flake which was definitely not the result I was after! I persevered and after a bit of trial and error over the next few applications I did manage to get drying time down to a few minutes with no flaking; I do think it's a matter of how much you use. Think minimalistic as opposed to liberal application and definitely not something to do in a rush! ---Results--- Don't expect an overnight miracle as you'll be sorely disappointed. The gel does give a tighter feeling to the skin but there are no visible results immediately. After one week I felt the same. After 2 weeks, it's fair to say that there appeared to a very slight difference to my bustline. After 6 weeks any improvement noticed in the second week did not really get any better and stayed about the same. I'm a 32E and in pretty good shape anyway but I had hoped for a more noticeable difference. ---Recommendation--- I'm going to give this product a rather miserable 2/5 because I'm just not that impressed really. As stated it lasted about 6 weeks so in that respect it is pretty good value especially if you manage to get it half price. Results though which, at the end of the day, is what this product is all about are so minimal that the faffing about every morning is just not worth it. I'm not planning to buy this product again and my recommendation would be to spending 5 minutes doing exercises that will strengthen your pectoral muscles instead. Easier, less messy and free! That said, the reviews on the Avon website are very much a mixed bag with some people feeling similar to me and others reporting decent results, so it may be the case that this will work for some people and not others.
What the Ladybird Heard sees the fantastic Julia Donaldson team up with illustrator Lydia Monks. This is a beautiful book with illustrations in a different style from those of Axle Scheffler but endearing nonetheless. The ladybird lives in a farm with a duck in a pond, a goose in a pen, a woolly sheep, a hairy hog, a handsome horse and a dainty dog, a cat that miaows and a cat that purrs, and not forgetting a fine prize cow. The ladybird is not known for being talkative; in fact the ladybird 'said never a word'. But one day the ladybird overhears Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len concoct a dastardly plan to steal the farmer's prize cow. The little ladybird comes up with the most surprising and ingenious plan to foil the two bad men. But will the ladybirds plan work? Will the other animals in the farm live up to the ladybird's fine plan? You guessed it; I'm never one to ruin a plot so you'll have to read it to find out! Notwithstanding Julia's wonderful rhyming writing style and the excellent illustrations of Lydia Monks, there are two points I would like to make about this book. Firstly, there is a page of animal noises that repeats throughout the book. My four year old absolutely loves these pages as she can really interact with them and make her feel like part of the story telling; genius on Donaldson's part! Secondly, watch out for the game within the book. Children have to find the glittery ladybird on every page, because Mums are rubbish at finding glittery ladybirds - didn't you know? This is yet another expert way to engage your child in the story. A softback copy of What the Ladybird Heard is available at £5.99 from Macmillan. "A terrific and witty adventure" according to The Guardian. I must agree!
"Me, you and the old guitar, How perfectly, perfectly happy we are. MEEE-EW and the old guitar. How PURRRR-fectly happy we are!" Tabby McTat is a busker's cat. He spends his days happily singing along to the old man's tunes. One morning Tabby McTat takes a stroll and meets a gorgeously glossy and green-eyed cat named Sock. But while they are chatting, something terrible happens to the busker when he is injured in the course of trying to stop a thief and gets carted off to hospital. Of course Tabby McTat doesn't know this and is horrified to find the busker gone upon his return. His friend Sock invites him to live with her and whilst Tabby McTat has a wonderful life with his new people Prunella and Pat and even goes on to have kittens with Sock, he is never able to forget that he was once a busker's cat. One day Tabby McTat can stand it no longer and sets off to find the busker. Little does he know he is being followed by the noisiest of his kittens Samuel Sprat. Will Tabby find the busker, and will he even want to be a busker's cat again if he does? What will become of Samuel Sprat? As can be expected from a book from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, Tabby McTat is a heart warming tale that will engage children (and their parents) again and again. My four year old daughter soon learnt the song that repeats throughout the book, offering a wonderful opportunity to engage her in the story telling process. I am often treated to a rendition whilst she takes a bath which is always nice and tells me the story is memorable even when the book is not in front of her. Look out for a guest appearance by The Gruffalo, a wonderful touch that reminds us that this book is yet another winner for the Donaldson Scheffler pairing.
I've tried most of the Room & Linen Sprays from Avon and found all of them to smell divine with the exception of Lavender & Chamomile which actually smells a bit revolting. Moving swiftly on, the other scents in the range are absolutely gorgeous, in particular the black cherry and nutmeg smells divine. You can either spray them into the air or use them on pillows, sheets, fabric sofas, clothes etc, all of which I've tried without any disastrous effects such as staining (please don't take my word for this and spot test anything expensive or much loved first!). However, smell isn't everything and to review this product properly I have to consider some other factors. Firstly the smell doesn't last very long at all. I find myself continually spraying them as it wears off so quickly. Secondly, the price tag is not that great. It normally retails at £4 and given the bottle is only 125ml and I have to spray it frequently to maintain the scent, it doesn't really offer any significant value for money. The best way to use these products is to spray just before guests come into your home so it smells gorgeous when they come in. Other than that, given the disadvantages discussed I would tend to stick with Febreze for a longer lasting (and equally if not more gorgeous scent). I've also found that Avon discontinues the scents quite frequently and offer new ones which is all well and good, but don't you dare take my black cherry and nutmeg away!
Avon Gold Strength is a nail treatment that supposedly helps to make nails feel stronger and appear more even with a natural looking glow. It even contains real gold. Well, I'm afraid even that's not enough to convince me of the value of this product. Firstly, it only makes nails 'feel' stronger. When selecting a nail treatment I want my nails to actually be stronger not just feel stronger! As for the natural looking glow, I can't even agree on that. The result this product gives is kind of a speckled gold type scenario - since when was that natural? The speckled look just doesn't look natural - a bit like putting false tan on after a hot shower when your pores are still open - leopard print anyone? The application is easy enough and it dries within a few minutes but it doesn't feel all that smooth when dry. If it's a natural look you're after, I would suggest a good buff and polish with a good manicurist is all you need for a super and truly natural shine. Failing that there are many other products on the market that look better than this and offer a whole heap more benefits to boot. The only real use I can see for this product is over a colour polish to give a slightly sparkly effect but again, there are much better products for this. Avon Gold Strength retails at £5, although is regularly available at half price suggesting the real gold content must be exceptionally minimal given it's current value. Available from your local Avon rep or online at www.avonshop.co.uk - but seriously, save your money!
Love love love this! A stick lipstick contained within a black casing; there's a little slider on the outside which you push up and voila out comes the lipstick at the top. Push the slider down again and the lipstick disappears back into its casing. It all makes for an extremely simply, truly one handed application. I'm a bit funny over lipstick and try loads of them in search of the perfect one. I'm the same with pens :) Common complaints I have with lipstick is that they can feel sticky when applied and even worse can taste a bit weird. I'm happy to report that Pro-to-Go has none of these issues and it's a great lipstick for everyday wear. The colour is pretty darn luscious and this particular shade looks fantastic with a tan AND makes my smile appear brighter - result! The one downside to this lipstick is probably that it's not as long lasting as lipsticks from the likes of Chanel or Clinique but this is Avon we're talking about so I suppose that's to be expected. It's easy enough to reapply (with one hand!) so it's not a major issue. Pro-to-Go is available in six different shades and normally costs £7.50 from your local Avon rep or online at wwwavonshop.co.uk
This is one of my all time favourite Avon products. It's a dual purpose product containing eyeliner at one end and powder eye shadow at the other. It comes in a variety of complimentary shades but my absolute favourite is Onyx closely followed by Steel Smoke. Onyx is a very dark shimmering grey perfect for creating a smoky eyed look whereas silver smoke is most suitable for a day time look or as part of a very dramatic look when blended with the Steel Smoke shade. I should say that I'm not a huge fan of the eyeliner on this product. The colours do compliment the eye shadow shades beautifully but they are nowhere near as good as other eyeliners from Avon, in particular the Glimmersticks. I find the In a Blink eyeliner to drag the skin a fair bit so I prefer to use a different liner, but the eye shadow more than makes up for the eyeliner so this still ranks as one of very favourite products from Avon. You get to the eye shadow by inserting the sponge applicator end into the lid where the powder is housed in the well of the lid. Twist the pencil to coat the sponge applicator and take it back out to find the applicator coated in the perfect amount of polish. It's incredibly easy to apply and the sponge glides effortlessly over the skin. I prefer to go over the eye shadow I have applied with a proper eye shadow brush to properly blend the product but this is matter of personal taste and not strictly necessary. I'm giving In a Blink 4/5 and that is simply because I don't like the eye shadow. I patiently wait for the day when Avon brings out Onyx as an eye shadow shade on its own. Put me down for several please! In a Blink costs £6.50 and is available from your local Avon rep or online at www.avonshop.co.uk
I'm a sucker for mascara's. I've tried a LOT of them! Always in Black (Think Henry Ford - you can have any colour you like as long as it's black!). As you can therefore imagine I was keen to try out one of L'Oreal's latest offerings. It promises to max out and fan out your lashes and comes in an Extra Black shade to give a really dramatic look. Ok, so I really liked this mascara, the packaging was nice in black and gold and made it look more expensive than it actually is (around £10 depending where you shop). There seemed to be more brushes than usual and also comes complete with an in-built excess wiper so that there is no overload on the brush and no clumps. This actually worked really well and I have to agree that clumping was not a problem. The colour is indeed Extra Black and gives a really defined sultry look even without eyeliner. Because it's so dramatic I'd only recommend it for evening wear unless you're the type that gets dressed up to go to the local shops! It wears well throughout the evening and doesn't flake - which is particularly important if you're a contact lens wearer like me. It takes a bit of effort to remove, a cleansing cloth is not going to do and you will need to use a specific eye make up remover with cotton pads. Either that or you wake up with panda eyes - not the best of looks. Overall it's a really nice product for evening wear. One of my new favourites .... Until of course they bring out another!
Mr Magnolia is written by Quentin Blake whom you may know as the illustrator of the Roald Dahl children's books. I bought the copy with the accompanying audio CD which is read by the wonderful Richard Briers. It is published by Red Fox at £6.99 (www.rbooks.co.uk). Mr Magnolia is a wonderful rhyming story about the marvellous Mr Magnolia who has a trumpet, two lovely sisters, a pond, some green parakeets, some fat owls and a dinosaur. He can march and juggle but poor Mr Magnolia only has one boot. Join your children on this fabulous and humorous look at the life of Mr Magnolia. Such a kind fellow deserves to have two boots doesn't he? Will he ever get a second boot? The audio story which accompanies the book is really good and has my four year daughter marching round the lounge in delight. All in all, it's a wonderful story to read to your child, and handy to be able to get five minutes whilst they listen to the audio version. Mr Magnolia is the winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal and the Children's Book Award. 'An all time great' says the Mail on Sunday.
I came across the wonderful Jack Canfield when reading (and later watching) The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes. I'm pretty sure that a lot of people who read this review will of heard of The Secret but if not, essentially it is a book/movie that explains how you can get anything you want from life if you only believe that you already have it. Its well worth a read and in my humble opinion even those who dismiss it as mumbo jumbo will come away enriched for having read it. Jack Canfield is one of the people featured in The Secret as he explains how he used the method to make a specified sum of money in a given time. He achieved this magical sum through the publication of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Chicken Soup for the Soul is essentially a collection of short stories of heart-warming events that have taken place in people's lives. It's one of those books that you can sit down and read it one sitting as the stories are so enthralling or conversely you can take your time and dip in and out of the book when you feel that your spirit needs lifting. Each story is very different to the others yet you can take something from every one and make it your own by relating it to your life and that of your family and friends. There are wonderful stories of bravery, courage and determination and others which will simply touch your soul and perhaps even make you cry as you read. I'll be the first to admit that this book left me with tears streaming down my face on more than one occasion. It is with great respect to Jack Canfield and his co-author Mark Hansen that I relate to you one story which particularly touched me. It is a story of a little girl named Sachi who persistently pestered her parents to be left alone with her new baby brother. The parents eventually relented and let Sachi go into her brother's nursery alone. Yet Sachi left the door open a crack and her parents were able to watch and listen as she put her face close to her little brother and said very quietly, "Baby, tell me what God feels like. I'm starting to forget." Not all the stories are of a religious nature, in fact the majority are not, but due to my beliefs, this one resonated with me as did many others. There really is something for everyone in what I like to call, this little book of hope. If you get the chance to read it, do so, you won't regret it.
You're not so scary Sid is a wonderful tale of a rather scary monster named Sid. He lives in a dark cave and just loves to eat noses, toes-es, fingers and thumbs! But is Sid really as scary as he seems? What would he do if your child roared at HIM? This book is wonderfully designed as a mobile puppet show. There is a circle cut out throughout the whole of book and parents put their hands in the back to move the actual hairy mouth of Sid the monster. Each page is beautifully designed so that Sid's mouth is always in the right place. The story itself is quite short but wonderfully told and illustrated and due to the puppet nature of the book, is incredibly interactive. Young children will absolutely love it when you move the mouth of the monster and love to have a go themselves too. My daughter got this when she was two years old and it was a firm favourite for a long while. She gets it out from time to time even now (at the ripe old age of four and a half!). You're Not So Scary Sid is a companion title for Calm Down, Boris, winner of the Richard & Judy Best Book for Children award in Christmas 2006. It is published by Templar Publishing and carries a retail price of £8.99.
The MagiX face perfector is one of AVON Cosmetics top ten selling products in the UK. If you already use it, then you'll know why. If you don't, then grab your nearest Avon rep and order some quick. You won't regret it! The product comes in a 30ml tube and I've found each bottle lasts around 4 weeks given daily application (I never go without it!). The product inside is white although it dries clear when applied to the face. It feels amazingly smooth on your face when applied and skin retains a soft feeling throughout the day. It's pitched largely as a pore minimiser and whilst enlarged pores are not something I suffer from, the other benefits are fabulous. I've found that it looks great on its own and really helps to balance my skin tone out, or alternatively provides a wonderful base for my regular foundation giving it extra staying power throughout the day. As an added bonus MagiX carries as a SPF of 20 so it also provides daily protection for your skin from the sun. I get loads of compliments about how good my skin looks when I wear this product and thus it will always remain a staple beauty item for my makeup collection. Try it - it's Magix :) The usual retail price for Avon Magix Face Perfector is £10. Available online or through your local Avon Representative. 4/5 - losing out on 5/5 only because of the extra packaging it comes in. I like to be green, what can I say?
The Snail and the Whale is yet another glorious adventure brought to us by Julia Donaldson, the much loved author of The Gruffalo. Beautifully illustrated by Axel Scheffler, this picture book is bound to bring an enormous amount of joy to young children and their parents. In Donaldson's usual rhythmic writing style, The Snail and the Whale tells the story of a rather endearing little snail who, sick of life on the rock with the other sea snails, hitches a lift around the world on the tail of an equally endearing humpback whale. Readers get to follow the unlikely pairing as they explore far off lands with icebergs and fiery mountains until one day disaster strikes and the whale becomes beached. Can the tiny little snail save the enormous humpback whale? Will they ever make it back to the rock to tell the other sea snails about their adventure? This book really is a wonderful tale that should take pride of place on the bookshelf of any young reader. As, is the case, with other books produced by Donaldson and Scheffler, there are guest appearances from other characters in their catalogue. My daughter and I spotted Tabby McTat and the monkey from Monkey Puzzle. Can you spot anymore? My copy of The Snail and the Whale is softback with a cover price of £5.99, although it was purchased in a Buy 1 Get 1 ½ price offer at WH Smiths. A real bargain since it is guaranteed that this book will be enjoyed time and time again.
Ever since managing to grow my nails a few years back, I've been particularly proud of my talons and thus like to keep them looking good through regular manicures and a wide range of polishes; to match my outfit of course darling! I have built up quite a selection of different polishes and tend to favour Nails Inc and China Glaze products, but also have quite a fondness for AVON nail polishes mainly because they are cheap and cheerful. The AVON matte nailwear range was brought out relatively recently as a nod to the catwalk where matt nail polishes have become commonplace. The polish comes in a square shaped bottle and the size is 12ml. This Inky Blue polish looks quite glossy when first applied, but dries to a beautiful matte finish. It actually dries in seconds although it's not pitched as a quick drying polish. For this reason I find this a great polish to use if you're short on time when getting ready to go out as it really is a quick fix. You can start applying the second coat of polish as soon as you have finished the first coat without fear of causing smudges or uneven application. The only downside to this product is that one coat is never enough, although it looks okay at first, it chips and peels within a day or so. Definitely not as long lasting as other nail polishes from Avon but this can be combatted with the use of a base coat and two coats of polish. I would advise against using a top coat because these are usually shiny and take away from the desired matte effect of the polish. Conversely, if you can get hold of a clear matte top coat then you should consider applying this to make your polish last even longer. This polish comes in several different shades and normally retails at £6 per bottle. **EDIT** I felt the need to edit this review because I suddenly remembered another point worth mentioning about this polish - it can stain your skin when you take it off. Always always use a small cotton wool ball and try to only touch the nail. Change 'balls' regularly (I'd go so far to say every 1/2 nails) or you get blue on the sides of your nails which takes a fair bit of effort to get off. Pretty common with most dark polishes I'd say but ladies - you have been warned! Still 4/5 from me though :)