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A Peony was one of the first plants I bought when I first acquired a garden. I remember choosing it because it was in flower at the time and I thought the bloom was amazing. It's very much a 'classic' flower shape, blooms the size of a large fist and an array of colours to choose from. My partner had always been a keen gardener and he tried to put me off, saying that Peonies were not easy to grow and maintain, (he had never succeeded) and the cost wasn’t cheap – I think around £15 for a small fairly young plant with a few blooms/buds on it.
However, I found that the plant must have loved the soil at my property – later discovering that contrary to my partner’s advice, they are quite hardy plants and flourish in most soils!
The time of year I purchased was summer, and it was the following year that it really came into its own. My birthday is mid-August, and the Peony was the star of my birthday celebrations. It was absolutely full of beautiful large flowers – mine were a georgeous deep dusky pink. This became a theme for the plant, every year it became bigger with more and more blooms, until by the time I was moving house, it had actually become a bit overly dominant of my relatively small garden. Fortunately I had planted it as a centre-piece in a large planting area, and I'd definitely say that is a good idea – it grew to around 70cm high and easily the same diameter in the end – which was around 8 years. It makes an excellent focal point of a flower/shrub display.
Each autumn when the blooms had finished, the plant would be quite unsightly – I guess due to the size of it, but I would cut it down to ground level in the autumn, and this, seemed to give rise to good results the following year.
One thing I would say about the Peony is that I was always surprised by how quickly it would grow tall in the spring. One day it would be starting to grow above the ground and within a week would shoot up considerably. Also, the buds are quite weighty and I did lose some when fragile stems would get damaged by sudden bad weather or something, and I invested in a support frame for it to grow through. This proved a good purchase and helped the plant to maintain its shape too.
When I moved house, my partner advised against moving the Peony, having been told that they don’t take kindly to the disruption, but based on what I’ve learned since, maybe I was too quick to take his advice! That said, my current garden is more borders than beds, so I don’t think I have the right spot for such a superstar plant.
Peonies aren't cheap, but they certainly deliver the wow factor if you have the right sunny spot.
Among my relatively limited make up collection, Rimmel is a brand which features a lot. I find their products to be ideal for my needs – reasonably priced for a good brand reputation and good quality make up. I will usually use Rimmel Stay Matte foundation and then finish with this powder.
The powder is pressed into a plastic circular base pot, around 5cm diameter, with a clear plastic lid so you can easily see the exact colour you are selecting. When applied, the colour stays very true.
I like to apply using cotton wool balls or pads, as I find I get better coverage than if I am using a soft brush. In this method, the powder needs to be rubbed fairly hard in order to transfer a quantity onto the balls, but this represents a good cosnisistency for the powder, it is not too light or dusty, and for someone like me, relatively inexperienced in applying make up, it means it’s easy to apply evenly.
The other use I have for this powder is as a cover up for spots, I will rub a cotton bud into the powder and then apply to the spot, and the shade I have offers superb coverage which is long lasting.
A tub of this powder goes a long way, and lasts me over a year before I will replace it, and even then it is usually down to the plastic lid becoming cracked or just getting grubby. The current retail of this powder is only around £4, which represents great value for money, bearing in mind how pleased I am with the results and how long it lasts me.
I had been looking for a docking station for a while, and finally got around to buying one a couple of months ago. I was prepared to spend a significant sum, but even then, I was surprised to see that a Bose Sounddock was within my budget. I always had an opinion of Bose that they were top quality matched with a top price. At £180 for the Soundock Series 3, it still represented the top end of my budget, but my search was over and I decided to purchase.
The dock is basically a rectangular mesh-covered speaker approximately A4 landscape size, with a semi circular base attached to the front where the ipod docks. The silver Bose logo adorns the front of the semi circle base, which looks classy against the shiny black appearance of the dock.
I have an ipod touch 5th generation, and this dock is only suited to ipods with the lightning charger, there is no adaptor included, nor would one fit, as the ipod sits very snugly back to the speaker itself. For the same reason, an ipod or iphone would need to be removed from a case to sit on the dock.
Importantly, the sound from the sounddock is absolutely great as far as I'm concerned. I am not a musician or particular connoisseur, but I do know decent sound and this is more than enough for anything I would ever need. There is no adjustment to be made on the unit, any tweaking of the sound is done through the settings on the ipod. The range of volume is huge, certainly if I was to play on full volume it would be too loud for my living room.
The unit comes with a small remote control which has simple volume, track forward/back controls and on / off. This means you can't fully control your ipod with the remote, just the basic controls. The unit also constantly charges my ipod when it's plugged in. The only issue is remembering to unplug from the mains when not in use as there is no visual signal that the unit is plugged in by means of a power light. Also, there is no option for batteries so this is better suited to a fixed location. That said, it's lightweight and easy to move from room to room, it just needs to be plugged into the mains.
All in all, this represented a major purchase for me, but it was certainly money well spent and I would recommend it as a main music unit for any medium to large sized room.
I've recently needed to restock my hair styling products and I bought some VO5 gel wax which did not really do what I needed. I followed this by buying this styling wax, looking for a firmer hold and believing that a hard wax was probably more what I needed.
The appearance of this product is exactly that, a hard white wax product which needs to be rubbed with the fingers to soften up in order to pick some up to work into your hair. I worked a small amount onto my finger ends, about 5p piece size, just enough to rub between my fingers to coat them so that the wax could be transferred onto my hair.
Immediately I knew that this was the product I needed for my short, fine hair because it gave an instant feel of hold and firmness which the other gel-style product had lacked. Also I could easily define individual strands and work a very precise tidy finish and create the look and style I wanted. It also gives a shine to my hair which I also look for in a styling product. The only downside is that it does leave very slightly too much shine for me, bordering towards wet look if you aren't really careful with the quantity.
The other thing which has proven to be a real benefit of this wax is that my hair keeps the style throughout the day. Also, if you touch your hair in the day, it doesn't feel sticky or tacky.
All in all, this has done what I needed it to. I'm not overly fond of the smell of the wax, it's all a bit "teenage boy" - if that was a fragrance, but fortunately it's not strong or overpowering and it certainly doesn't linger beyond the initial application stage. The only other downside for me is that the packaging is absolutely IDENTICAL to the tub of gel wax I bought a few weeks ago - all apart from the actual words "styling wax" which is in letters approximately 3-4mm high. The main thing - the "Groomed" branding is dominant, and if I am styling without my glasses, I was often picking up the wrong product! For these two points, I'd say this is definitely marketed towards a younger audience, but it does a great job for me.
Over Christmas, my cats have been deprived of their usual foods, as I hadn't been able to get out to my usual shops and I had to shop more locally, which meant Asda. This has given good results, in that my cats have seemed to enjoy various food I've given to them, whereas I have usually considered them to be quite fussy.
One thing that was certainly not a hit for us, was Asda's own brand dried food, Tiger, and I bought the variety Chicken Turkey and milk. I was drawn to buy it because of the mention of added milk - my cats have never drank very much in terms of water, so I was keen to try this for them, believing it would give them some benefits in this department. The product does state the usual cats' dried food requirement that it's important plenty of fresh water is available, but importantly it has milk and milk derivatives within the ingredients, which I did not see in the other brands on sale.
The claims of the food are common to most 'complete' cat foods, containing essential nutrients for healthy gums and teeth and a healthy coat, whilst making a big deal of no artificial colours or flavours too.
My cats' reaction to the food was very indifferent and underwhelmed. A sniff and a nibble was about it. The kibbles are all quite small and they are of a uniform colour making them quite unappealing visually as well - not that this should matter to the cats of course. There isn't much of a smell to the food when you open the box and empty into the bowl, which adds to my perception of the unappealing nature of this food.
At 95p for a large 950g box, it represented really good value in principle but unfortunately in our case most of this was thrown away, so it was false economy.
I buy these tissues from Poundland, for 10 packs, it represents great value as its hard to find anything to fault with these tissues.
Each pack contains 10 3-ply tissues, which open up into a generous size tissue, about the same as a standard size one from a box, although square rather than rectangular. The tissues claim to be “super soft” but I would say that super soft is probably stretching it a bit. For me, super soft would refer to the Kleenex tissues which are infused with oils etc, but these are just standard tissues.
The tissues are folded tightly into a plastic pack, which is perforated around the top which is easy to open and then they can be resealed by a small sticky tape to enable you to reseal and keep the tissues clean and fresh. I like to keep these in the car because they fit in the glove box or door pocket, the packs are so small yet easy to locate and get to when driving.
Around the edge of the tissues there is a feint dotty pattern, but other than that they are plain. The 3 ply nature of the tissues means that they are nice and strong, they stand up to a number of uses (without being too unpleasant, sorry!) and a good strong blow of the nose won’t blow a hole in one! They are certainly more towards a hanky than a tissue.
For 1p a tissue, there can be no question over the value for money on these tissues and I’d have no hesitation in recommending picking a pack of these packets up next time you’re in Poundland.
I got to try this product as a freebie on a BzzAgent campaign. Great news for me, as I use Dove products a lot. The body wash comes in an attractive maroon coloured teardrop-shaped bottle with a matt finish, overall a classy looking product.
The wash contains sunflower and olive oil, which sounded odd to me but these ingredients are there to "maintain the skin’s moisture barrier". The claim on the front is that I can look forward to “vital luminous skin”; it will “nourish [my] skin as it cleanses”… Who wouldn’t be happy with those things from a body wash?
The consistency of the wash is much like a soft cream. The bottle is squeezable and it is easy to control the quantity you wish to dispense into your hand. Immediately at this point I was hit by a quite pungent, overpowering fruity smell, bordering on sickly. It’s really heavy in summer fruits, and I was tempted to wash off and start again for fear of spending the day walking around with a raspberry waft in my wake. But the smell calmed down quickly and significantly softened when I continued to rub into my skin.
Continuing to use the wash, it really did feel lovely and silky when I was rubbing it over my skin, and I found that a relatively small amount went a long way.
After the shower, the smell certainly lingered on my skin, but by now it wasn’t pungent at all, although still a bit too fruity for me, and the feeling of cleanliness and the feeling of my skin outweighed any negative opinions I still had. I imagined that the smell might linger on me all day, but it didn’t, although my bathroom retained the fragrance for a few hours, which was not unpleasant at all. After I’d dried off I ran my hands over my legs, which I’d shaved the previous evening, and they really did feel gorgeously soft and moisturised.
After using this body wash, there is no doubt that it is beautifully cleansing and genuinely leaves skin feeling moisturised and not at all greasy afterwards.
Sadly, the overwhelming fragrance of the products means that I would definitely not be buying this again for myself, or recommend anyone to buy it without taking the opportunity to smell it first - it certainly won't be to everyone's taste. However, should the range introduce different fragrances, I would buy it in a heartbeat as it was beautiful to use and left a fantastic feeling.
*Version of this review also posted on Bzzagent.co.uk*
My cats have turned out to be fairly fussy eaters, and in terms of dry food they have an out and out favourite of Brekkies, other dried foods being nibbled at but never apparently enjoyed. The other odd thing about their tastes is that in variety packs of wet food, they are not keen on fish varieties.
So I was not optimistic when we ran out of dried, and this variety was the only available option at the local co-op. However, they have been a real surprise hit, and both may cats have ate the food with enjoyment, even to the point that the box (340g) has only lasted 5 days - on a par with Brekkies.
The kibbles in the box are Tuna, herring and a rather unfetching green vegetable variety. To me there is no noticeable smell to these, certainly not fishy, but as I say, the flavour is clearly there for the cats.
The food claims to offer protein for toned muscles, essential minerals and vitamin D for healthy teeth and bones, and the right balance of minerals for urinary tract health. It boasts to offer "100% complete and balanced nutrition", even suggesting it will add to my cats' overall happiness! Not sure I have seen any evidence of that, but maybe we haven't given the Go-Cat experiment long enough!
I feed this alongside wet food which they get twice a day, and as I say, they are eating around 40g each per day (if they are sharing equally). This can be fed as a sole complete food for cats, however I believe that this is reliant on them drinking plenty of fluid, and my cats are not big drinkers, hence my preference to feed wet food alongside.
This has really been a surprise hit which my cats obviously enjoy and it gives me the reassurance that they are getting their essential goodness from this additional food source.
Neutrogena hand cream is a thin almost gel -like consistency product which claims to give instant and lasting relief to dry and chapped hands. I have just spent a weekend in freezing temperature, and having this to hand (sorry!) was an absolute godsend.
Even with wearing two pairs of gloves, my hands were still cold day and night, and somehow became dry and rough to the touch. I would rub this cream in regularly and it has meant that no damage actually came to my hands in terms of cracking or chapping whilst I was away.
The consistency of this cream is like a clear gel, and it claims only to need a very tiny amount. In the past when I've used this I have been careful to follow this rule, but over the weekend I did squeeze 2 to 3 centimetres into my hand at a time to rub in, due to the therapy I thought my hands needed. I found that it rubbed in easily without leaving greasiness, however, the 'instant relief' claim was not entirely true in terms of my rough hands. On the first day, it would take a couple of applications for the roughness to subside. My partner suffers much more than me with dry and cracked hands and even he commented on how good he thinks Neutrogena is among all the other products he has tested over the years.
The product I've used this weekend is "unscented", however, it did not to me seem any different from the standard one I've used in the past - to me the range doesn't have a fragrance or scent anyway.
The other issue I had whilst away was dry skin on my legs, and this did cause some soreness after taking a shower. I rubbed some of this cream into my legs and this time, the relief was quick and lasting. I only needed to do this once.
Just back from a great weekend in Gdansk, having picked up a super-cheap flight deal, I have discovered a beautiful city, found an interest in recent history and gained reassurance that there are still some cities to visit where you can eat, drink and be entertained cheaply. Here are a few of my thoughts...
Gdansk Old Town is packed with wonderful, interesting pretty buildings and churches at every turn. This was made all the more incredible to me when I saw photographs of the city totally devastated - reduced completely to rubble - at the end of WW2. The city was lovingly rebuilt stone by stone into its original beauty... How this was achieved in such a space of time and to such effect is just incredible. The Old Town is compact and easy to navigate, with a glorious main street and square as well as many other pretty streets and a lovely waterfront.
Gdansk is rich in culture with dozens of museums. Without a doubt, the European Centre of Solidarity in the Shipyards area was the highlight for us. A brand new recently opened fully interactive museum detailing the historic events of the 1970s and 1980s, a fascinating and brilliantly devised museum. This cost 17zloty, which is around £3.50, which included lockers for coats/bags and the audio interactive guide. A full day could easily be spent there. We also visited the Town Hall and National Museum, but if you enjoy your museums, this is a great city!
Eating and Drinking...
Bars and restaurants are plentiful and in the main very reasonable. A large beer on average cost around £1.80 although we found it as little as £1 on our last day! Many bars have live music in the evening (Jazz in the main) and restaurants serve all kinds of food. As with any city, there's an element of hit and miss about locating a good restaurant, and we had a range of quality from the ones we went to, however all were cheap - main courses from around £5 up. The one thing that we found really expensive was wine... the best things to be drinking in Gdansk is beer and vodka! On average, our evening meals including drinks cost around £30 and we thoroughly enjoyed trying all the local food on offer
Winter in Gdansk...
Not surprisingly, the temperature in Gdansk in November turned out to be a maximum of -2 ! However, if you are suitably prepared as we were then we were still able to get out and about and see many sights. The time of year also meant short days, with darkness falling around 4pm. However, we were lucky to have beautiful sunshine and this made for a great trip.
I definitely recommend a visit to Gdansk, and we plan to visit again in warmer months. It can be reached cheaply and whilst there you can spend little and enjoy a lot.
I don't regularly buy Avon, but years ago my mum was an Avon Rep, and this is one product I have continued to buy from those days via a work colleague. Admittedly, I am going back 20 years since my mum sold it, and in that time I think I'm probably only on my third bottle, but still!
Over the years there has been slight changes to the packaging and branding, but the product is the same, and I find it a really effective product. In the main, I use baby lotion to remove most of my make up, but I have always needed this remover to shift my mascara.
The product is a white lotion, thinnish consistency, which is nowadays dispensed by a press down cap which enables you to squeeze it onto a pad or cotton wool ball. I only need a small blob to do my eyes as I don't wear heavy eye make up, but literally one or two firm wipe with this and my mascara will usually be gone. I don't find that it dries harshly on my skin around the eyes, it seems to just do its job then vanish.
The biggest problem I have had with this lotion is that if I ever get any accidentally in my eye, it leaves me with horrible blurred vision which lasts half a minute or so. There's no pain or discomfort, but all the same it is really unpleasant at the time. A quick browse of some of the other ratings on here seems to indicate this isn't a popular product, several people reporting unpleasant reactions, but over the years I haven't had a single bad reaction to using this, although again I need to balance that against the fact I don't use it every day or anything.
Last time I bought this remover, it cost just £2 for a 150ml bottle, and considering the extreme length of time it lasts me, that represents amazing value! Add to that, the time it takes me to get through a bottle - It doesn't change in its effectiveness however long it takes me to use it up, again this means a winning choice for me.
When I was looking for a replacement Mascara I was quite baffled by the choice now available. I don't really want super huge, super plump, everlasting ... my style of make up is as subtle as I can. That said, I do think that mascara finishes my look off, so it's important I find the right one. This "Extra Super" lash, still sounded a bit Over the top, but it was still one of the more subtle ones on the shelf. It was priced around £5, which rated well among the others, and also it was available in my preferred brown / black, rather than just dark black which is just always too heavy for my taste and my look. The other thing was that this was one of the few in a normal 'straight' bottle, most of them are in these chunky curvy bottles which just somehow seem as though they would be awkward to work with ... just my perception.
As a product it's nice to use, with a thinnish bristle brush, and the mascara comes out of the bottle nicely coating the brush without being thick or sticky at all. The bristles are well spaced along, not thick and bushy which is ideal for my personal preference. In applying the mascara, it also leaves the brush easily and gives a good even coat to my lashes with a few light strokes. I haven't had any problems with it clumping and it seems to dry quickly, I have only had a few smudge issues.
When it comes to removing the mascara, it is quite resistant to my usual approach of baby lotion, and it requires my eye make up remover to remove all traces, but that's a sign of a mascara with good staying power, so it can't really be a serious negative point.
For a light wearer, I definitely recommend this mascara, and it is another Rimmel hit for me.
I like to have a box of tissues on our workstation at the office, and for that job I usually turn to Kleenex mansize. These tissues are larger in size than a standard boxed tissue, each one opens out into about 25cm square, big enough for the biggest man sized nose, I imagine.
The reason I will get these tissues for this specific purpose is that they are multi functional. Personally when I’m suffering with a cold I will treat myself to a softer tissue – a balm infused one, but one of the functions I want the ‘desk’ tissues for is to clean my glasses, and the balm tissues don’t do a good job at this – these tissues clean and polish well, not leaving streaks. The same goes for cleaning the computer screens.
The tissues are three ply, which also means they are thick and strong, making them ideal for wiping minor spills up. It also means that they will stand up to a powerful nose-blow when man flu has hit my colleague, and also (without being unpleasant) they can possibly be used a couple of times each if kept in a pocket.
The box has a perforated section on the top which is removed to reveal a plastic protected opening to remove the tissues, and they are folded within each other in the box to ensure the next one always pops up ready for quick accessibility in case of that emergency sneeze or spillage.
In each box there are 100 tissues, and a box will last us a couple of months, so I consider that to be good value, especially as I usually stock up when they are on multi buy deals, which my local Asda carry fairly regularly – 2 boxes for £3.
I bought this powder alongside the foundation of the same range. Whilst the foundation didn’t really suit my needs, this powder I really like. I find Rimmel cosmetics to be good quality and usually I can buy them at a reasonable price. I picked this one up as part of a multibuy deal in Boots (3 for the price of 2). I think the cost on its own was around £4 for a 14g pot. The pot contains the pressed powder and it has a totally clear plastic lid so you can clearly select your tone with no surprises when it comes to opening your purchase and applying it.
I apply this powder with cotton wool pads after having applied my foundation, and I find that it picks up easily and also applies to my face very well and easily. I’m not sure if this is down to a good foundation or a good powder, I guess it’s a bit of both. It blends nicely with no dust left floating around. Because it applies so easily for me, I will also use it occasionally even when I’m not wearing other make up as a cover up for blemishes or spots. It’s really effective at this and gives the powder added value for me.
The finish of the powder is really natural and subtle. I don’t really have an issue with oily skin so I’m not particularly buying this for its “matte” tag, but it certainly does give a smooth matt appearance, which I really like.
The product makes several claims in terms of its ‘natural’ qualities – free of fragrance and oils, and these aspects mean it is kind to the skin, I certainly didn’t have any hint of issues or problems using this whatsoever.
I don't buy a lot of make up, but this is a product I have found to be really easy to use and apply and therefore one I will keep coming back to.
When one of my cats recently had an attack of cystitis, I took her to the vets and one of the things my vet requested was for me to collect a urine sample. My instinct was "impossible!" but fortunately he had a plan... He sold me a bag of this Katkor litter which he advised should be used in place of her usual litter. It cost £3.50 for a small bag. The material looks like 'normal' cat litter , but it is like little hard white balls which are not absorbent. The idea is that the urine can then be easily collected from the tray beneath when the litter is removed.
The actual practice of trying to do this was a success for us, but not without some difficulties. The first issue with the litter is the small quantity in the packet. There is hardly enough to cover the base of our litter tray, however I did have a spare smaller tray which it gave a thin covering to. My cat likes to have a good scratch around before settling down to use it, so this was never going to be good for her.
Secondly, my cats are both outdoor cats and will only use a litter tray when they can't get out. Trying to keep one in whilst letting the other one out was a nightmare, but not the fault of the litter!
When eventually we did get her to use the litter tray, it did work. The liquid ran free and there is a pipette included to collect it. The litter is re-usable as you can wash the granules. However, I just threw it away as I didn't fancy this.
This is a well thought out design of a product with a clear use and does it's job.