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Being a slightly OCD type when it comes to most things, I am really frustrated buying cosmetics and skincare most of the time, because I long to have everything from the same brand, all lined up on my dressing table like a department store counter. But years of make-up trial and error means that I know the best products don't all come from the same manufacturer. I totally love Chanel for example, but can't live without Touche Eclat and Beauty Flash Balm, so I can't always be loyal to the brand.
Guerlain Bronzing Powder is one of those products, like the two I've just mentioned, which stand out over all over brands, and provide simply the best version of what it is. It was launched in 1984 and has been a bestseller ever since - when I was growing up I always saw it recommended in my Nana's glossy magazines, but never had the cash to splash to give it a go. I was lucky enough to get one for Christmas about ten years ago, and I have never been tempted to buy any other sort since (though I have tried loads out at friends, and coveted Chanel Special Editions quite a lot) because its basically perfect for me.
There are actually eight Terracotta Bronzing Powders currently available from Guerlain, including a powder spray, and one for men (!). The one that I am reviewing, is in a luxurious brown faux-tortoiseshell compact, with the swirly Guerlain logo on the top. It has a single shade of powder, which looks a lot deeper in colour than it actually ends up being of your face, like most bronzers I suppose. I say this because I have very pale skin with a tendency to freckle rather than tan, yet the product adds a healthy glow rather than a Dale Winton tan to my cheek. The texture is absolutely gorgeous - really velvety and if you use a decent quality brush you get a perfect finish with the absolute bare minimum of effort. The effect is luminous at the same time as being matte, if that is possible, and I have always been impressed at the fact that it lasts pretty much all day at work without re-application.
It's really expensive compared to others you can buy - I get mine online for around £28, and the RRP is a few quid more - but it lasts for years, literally (I've only ever had three, and I wear it every day), and in terms of quality of the actual product and its end result, I don't think anything else comes near.
Aaaaaah... 1994. Kurt Cobain shot himself, Richey Edwards was still in the Manics, and I entered the Sixth Form. I also got my first ever pair of Doc Marten Boots bought for me by my Nana, whilst on holiday in Wales. The source of my boots was not something I broadcast at the time, but looking back, I am particularly flabberghasted at the fact that one of the most stylish women ever to have walked the planet could bring herself to spend her money on such items. I must have really really wanted them...
Haha. I'm saying that like I can't remember! The truth is, I had been desperately pining for some since I was about 12. I'd bought myself some horrendous old army boots out of a surplus store, that were about five sizes too big and completely lacerated my ankles every time I wore them, but proper Doc Martens was what I really wanted - 14 holes, black, and cool as f***
When I did actually get them, I bore my blisters with pride for months to wear them in properly. I wore them to the school gates and back, and once managed to get a note from my doctor when I injured my foot to say I should wear the boots at school as they provided excellent support. At the poncey school for young la-di-das that I attended, that made me the instant object of everyone's envy, and resuted in a spate of "copycat" injuries.
Once worn in they were the most comfortable boots in existence. They are made from leather, and have special bouncing soles (not literally, though that would be hilarious) which have little cushions of air that buffer you as you walk. I wore mine year in year out till I was about 20, they came to Reading Festival with me, did a 20 mile sponsored walk, with no hint of any deterioration whatsoever - they were waterproof in knee-deep mud and yet breathable enough that they never stank, despite the 24/7 wear they got.
I really loved them, and I did genuinely believe that since the boots had been the No1 "alternative" footwear since about 1976, they would never ever go out of fashion, and that I would never wear anything else. I wore them with jeans, dresses, skirts, everything, and I liked the hard, I-don't-care edge that they brought to every outfit. They were part of my shell, and also part of a uniform worn by my contemporaries that helped us know who "we" were, as opposed to "them".
My Doc Marten were discarded pretty much overnight and forever by the time I was 20, in favour of brothel-creepers (YES!), etnies and eventually heels... I have never worn them since my teens, and I don't think I ever will again. I don't seek to send messages via my footwear anymore - I am tough but I don't need my shoes to tell people that. And I definitely don't have any of that tribal need to identify and be identified anymore either.
Although my rational brain knows that in 2010, I will not look cool in my 14-hole DMs, but rather like an aggressive lesbian lecturer; I do still think every time I see a young person wearing them, that they look cool. And then I feel really old. I won't wear them again, but anyone reading this that is considering buying a pair should do it. These boots are a rite of passage.
I first became aware that this kind of item was available when I saw a cheapo brand version on price-drop tv the year before last. I hadn't ever bought anything off the telly before but I got one for my dad for Christmas, and was quite pleased with myself for finding him the best present ever. He was really excited when he got it, and I decided to have a "borrow" and convert some of my old vinyl to mp3, but when I tried it the sound quality was awful, and the volume of the converted tracks was about half that of normal mp3s. Rubbish! I miserably packed my records away back up to the loft and returned the offending object to my dad. I was slightly embarrassed that I had got him it to be honest!
This Christmas, almost as if to completely shame me, he bought me the Sony version. To be fair, it wasn't even that much more, I don't think. I paid £70ish for the crap one and these are available for around £125 - almost twice the price admittedly but around a million times better quality.
It comes with a usb and a lead for attching to your computer or speakers, and a disc with the software for converting the tracks. All of this was very easy to use, my only complaint with the computer program being that it doesn't automatically name tracks for you, but since there's zero digital information stored on vinyl, I guess it would have to be psychic to do that anyway. You have to tag everything yourself, but if you're a control freak like me, thats ok cos you can do it your way!
The best thing about it was the sound. I had forgotten about the special organic quality vinyl has
compared to digital music - little "moments" in the background that invariably get cleaned up nowadays, and a softer edge generally. Somehow, this machine manages to capture that whilst converting the music to a format you can put on your ipod, and it sounds kind of crystal clear at the same time as having the warm fuzzy vinyl atmosphere. Really good. The volume is also at the right level, so you don't end up having to reach for the clickwheel when you're out jogging, just because an ex-vinyl song has come on, and then get ear-bleed from the usual digital tracks if you don't turn it back down in time.
As I find all turntables fiddly and slightly nerve-racking because of the whole scratch risk issue, I won't complain too much about this one - the needle and arm are very light, which means its easy to handle, but it can also mean that tracks jump when you close a door too hard or otherwise disturb it.
I would recommend this turntable to anyone who has vinyl - although I must stress that I am an ageing indie-kid rather than a super-hot dj, so I use it to play records rather than doing whatever it is that djs do.
My mother's boyfriend has a random habit of buying Chanel toiletries for her and my sister and I. I cannot complain in anyway about this, as the gifts are usually completely unexpected, and no-one minds getting a Chanel gift box for no reason, do they? I'm convinced he's done some dodgy deal with the lady at House of Fraser - at Christmas I got Allure perfume, soap and body cream, and then just randomly he bought me a nail varnish and a massive bottle of Allure Sensuelle.
I have always worn Chanel, mostly No19 and No5, and veering off into Coco Mademoiselle every now and again when I feel a bit "frilly". But I'd never tried Allure, and quite liked the stuff I got for Christmas, so I was very pleased to get a big Purple box with that word on the front.
Chanel describe Allure Sensuelle as " Modern, magnetic and different... created to draw a woman into a more sensual universe with a voluptuous Oriental note and a bright spicy accent." I would describe it as stinky, overbearing and frumpy.... created to make people step back when they're talking to you, with a note of men's Joop and a toilet cleaner accent.
I am frankly shocked to have found a Chanel frangrance I so dislike. I thought everything Chanel was lovely, even if not for me. But I'm yet to recieve a positive comment when wearing this stuff - I wore it to a meeting the other day and the guy opened the window, despite it blowing a freezing gale outside.
It kind of smells of hippies, but not in a good way (is there a good way?), mixed with teachers. It contains patchouli and vanilla, which I previously thought I liked, but I must have been mistaken. And it pongs for hours even if you only put a tiny bit on, and lingers on your clothes for weeks especially coats and jackets where it seems to rub off from your neck most.
If you like heavy orientally scents, you might like it... but if you're a Chanel fan looking for a new angle, I wouldn't bother with this one.
I know, I'm such an ungrateful cow!
I love my Dyson.
I've had it for about eighteen months, and before I owned it I had insisted that buying crappy "value" vacuum cleaners for £18 was better than shelling out loads of cash when they all break anyway...
Bizarrely, the reason the Dyson came into my ownership in the first place is that my mum had it, and decided on inspecting it when she first came to empty it, that it was broken, due to there being a large "crack" in the ball, and the fact that the thing "comes apart in my hands", as she said at the time. She abandoned it at my house like an unwanted child (obviously made sense to put them all in one place, LOL) and I shoved it in the cupboard and forgot about it, until my own cheapo hoover gave up the ghost.
On closer inspection, I found the"crack" in the ball was simply the compartment for you to open it up should anything go wrong, and that it "came apart" only when you pressed the required button to free whatever component you need to look at. The silly mare had thrown away a fully-operational prestige marque household appliance, and I was the beneficiary!
I kind of know how she got confused, because it does look like its made of meccano - all big ugly plastic parts and coloured buttons and knobs. And it does kind of clunk about in quite an inelegant way. But does it pick up dirt and hairs? I can only say that I have never experienced anything like it - it was like one of those ads from the eighties where someone combs through a head of flaky horrid dandruff, revealing clean clear freshly washed hair, only on my carpet. I don't have pets, but I do have what my old boss called "an abnormal amount of hair" (on my head!) and its thick, black escapees used to be an absolute nightmare to pick up without using a brush beforehand. Being able to hoover without first grovelling around the whole house on my hands and knees was quite an emancipation. The ball element means that you can get it into really awkward spots too which is handy if you're lazy like me and can't be bothered messing about with the extension hose.
Being a woman, I have an inbuilt intuitive ability to be able to use any domestic appliance (apparently) but I was pleasantly surprised to note that even my boyfriend could master the intricacies of attaching the hose and the little brush. He even empties it (! KNOW!!!!) because I think he secretly likes taking it apart and building it again. At least now I know why its designed like meccano.
In the eighteen months we've had it, I have to say it did break once - a part broke inside it because I'd vacuumed up a chair or something. My boyfriend was able to work out over he phone with Dyson what was wrong and they sent a part out within two days, then called to tell him how to fit it. I was really impressed by this - the most amazing part was the fact that when he rang them, the first person he spoke to sorted him out from start to finish, and it was the same guy that phone back to check the part had arrived and offer advice on fixing it. Almost unheard of, I reckon.
If you need a vacuum cleaner, you'd be well-advised to get one of these. They are expensive, but I can see mine lasting me years, and it makes hoovering a lot less of a hassle than anything else I've used.
I have been on a big fitness kick since Dec 30th last year (I couldn't wait for New Year).
Apart from watching what I'm eating, I have also been on a mission to improve my physique. My fat-controller job has resulted in a couple of stones of ugly porridge-wobble making its home on my otherwise gazelle-like frame. So I bought a rowing machine and a heart monitor, and got to work. By controlling my heart rate during exercise, I have managed to increase my (initially pitiful) stamina and strength over just a few weeks, and I've lost over a stone. Hurrah!
The Polar range seem to have HRMs pretty much sewn up. There are cheap ones out there, for as little as £40, and they go right up to £500 if you want GPS and all kinds of other bells and whistles. This was about £65 online, and I picked it because it was generally well-reviewed elsewhere. It also comes in a ladies and a gents version, which is useful because a lot of the others on the market look decidedly masculine. I wouldn't wear it on a night out, but at least if I'm wearing it while I'm shopping it just looks like a watch, not some kind of robotic wrist-clamp.
If you have ever read any of my previous reviews you will know I am not a technical person, but nevertheless I will attempt to explain some of the features:
- obviously it measures your heart rate. It also stores personal information and uses it to compute realistic calorie expenditure. Being a total control freak when it comes to these things, I have been monitoring my calorie intake and usage via a spreadsheet, and compared to my total weight loss, the numbers seem to stack up. I've lost around 3lb more than I "should" have but I can't complain about that. The calorie measuring aspect of the HRM was really the whole reason I bought it, and I have to admit its brilliant.
-it also times your exercise, and once you have set up your own personal heart rate zones, it will create exercise programs tailored to your needs. To be honest with you, I haven't used this at all, as I have to admit I get a bit confused when using the instructions - this is mostly my fault not the manuals, but I wouldn't say its idiot-proof. I mainly use it to make sure I'm exercising at the right intensity for fat-burning - you can set it so it bleeps at you when you're too fast or too slow. At first it was quite difficult to do, but now I'm used to it I can tell without looking roughly what my heart rate is, so I can maintain a constant steady effort.
The display can be quite hard to read, as it displays tons of info at once, but I suppose the benefit is that you don't have to keep pressing buttons to get the info you need.
The strap that comes with it is made from a soft fabric rather than hard plastic. I cannot compare the two as I've never had a plastic one but it was one of the features that made me pick it, so probably worth a mention. You don't exactly forget its there, but its not uncomfortable in any way.
All in all, I'd recommend anyone keen on getting in shape to get themselves a heart rate monitor. My only niggling doubt is that since I don't use many of the features, I may have been better off getting an even more basic one, and saving a bit of cash.
I was bought this netbook as a birthday gift last year. I picked it out myself, due to three major characteristics:
(a) its size. I looked at lots of laptops before I considered a netbook, but decided that I wanted something a bit more portable - laptops seem to be getting bigger and bigger these days, and I sometimes used to struggle to lug my old one about the house, let alone take it our with me! When I first opened the package for the 10.1" HP mini, I have to say I was initially a bit worried it was too small, but one I got it on and adjusted the browser magnification on it, it was fine. Wierdly, I now find my other half's laptop way too much to take in! Its like going online in a cinema in comparison!
(b) its weight. Again due to laziness issues and the fact I have a dodgy back. The HP Mini weighs just about 1.2kg - you can carry this in your handbag all day and not even notice it, which is brilliant. Its also much lighter if you use it plugged in without the battery, although then obviously you have to carry the charger around.
(c) battery life. I actually couldn't find the official information on this anywhere, but I assumed that as a netbook it would be decent, and far better than a regular laptop. Mine goes for up to ten hours if I'm just surfing the web or its just sat downloading stuff for me, and the minimum I've noticed was at least five hours when I've been using heavy gaming software. This is brilliant for me, as my partner's from Glasgow, and we regularly drive up and down. Now, with the help of a dongle, I can check traffic and book hotels on the way there while he does the driving - and then I can play Zoo Tycoon to pass the time!
I have not come across any major drawbacks to my netbook - its a little slower than I'm used to when its running lots of stuff at once, but thats only to be expected I guess. It's never crashed on me yet (touch wood) and the only time I've had a virus get in it only took a system restore to make everything right again.
You may have guessed that I am not a techno guru, but I hope I have explained why I would recommend this computer to prospective purchasers. If you're hovering over the netbook/laptop conundrum, please be assured that size doesn't matter!
I have deducted a star for the fact its only available in boring colours (silver and black).
Holidays Uncovered is an internet site which offers consumer reviews on packaged holidays and hotels. In some ways, it is similar to TripAdvisor, but I would say the content generally is of a much lower standard, although the range of reviews is enormous, and there are very few corners of the earth untouched!
The design of the site is an aggressive holiday orange colour, but it's easy to navigate, and the pages load up quickly so it's not frustrating like sites with presumably higher traffic. There are tons of slightly annoying sponsored links and ads, so it's easy to see how they make their cash, but once you get used to it, you can kind of zone them out.
The main reason I'm posting a review on this site is because they are currently offering £1 for each review posted - and I'm guessing many people on here might be interested in that! To get the cash takes some time, as you need to go through the Topcashback in order to get paid, but I can confirm it does happen - mine are taking on average five weeks to become payable. You can only post one a day and they are only paying for reviews on foreign destinations visited in the last two years. They have a 100 word minimum, and this is split between paragraphs on the hotel and then the resort. You also rate each of these on various criteria, and there are options for additional info once you've finished the main body of the review, but they are not compulsory. You need to enter a few basic personal details, but there is no registration process as far as I can see.
Overall, I would stick with Tripadvisor when researching my own hols, but as an earning opportunity, Holidays-uncovered via Topcashback is a winner in my eyes!
It had never occurred to me to buy a portable DVD player. I have a laptop which will play DVDs, and on long journeys I am usually the driver, so I never felt the need for one. I came to acquire this Sony model through my work - it was bought for me by my boss as a reward for some good results - a totally unexpected gift which delighted me completely. To be fair, I love praise, so he could have bought me a box of Roses or just thrown me a Bonio with much the same effect!
The DVD player remained in its box for a couple of months, and I shoved it to the back of a cupboard with the mercenary intention of selling it on Ebay, or re-gifting come Christmas. I kept the "Well Done" card pinned to my kitchen notice-board, as to me that had been the best part of the package.
A few months ago, however, my boyfriend's laptop broke, and he bought a new one which crashed whenever you play video. I used to watch episodes of Lost and Dawsons Creek while he watched football on the telly, so this annoyed me a little, until I remembered I had this bad boy stashed away.
I dragged it out and unpacked it from its box - tons of different bits and pieces came out, which made me quite daunted, and I expected to have to get my boyfriend to set it up for me. On reading the instructions, however, I found that most of the stuff in the box was just accessories, such as headphones, and a USB connector, adaptor etc. In fact, it took me very little time to set up, and since doing so I have had no issues wth operating it - its intuitive, and doesn't seem to go wrong (touch wood)!
The design of it is surprisingly sleek - mine is a deep glossy blue and they are also available in white, pink or red (my boss is a Chelsea fan, so that would explain his choice). It is nice and compact, 20cm x 15.5cm, so roughly A5 size, and about 4cm thick. It weighs 0.84 of a kilogram, which is not much, but it feels pretty heavy in your hand because of its small size. You certainly notice it if you put it in your handbag, let's put it that way.
Unfortunately the convenience of the compact design means that the screen is measly - only 7", and 480x234dpi. This makes for a slightly uninspiring viewing experience. Its too small, really for more than one person to watch at once as you need to be quite close to it to see what's going on. The colours and sharpness are ok but nothing special, and overall I find watching DVDs on it is a far inferior experience to watching on a proper laptop.
The sound quality isn't brilliant either. Its clear and sharp, but the volume doesn't go very high. You couldn't for example, use it in the car on a motorway without employing headphones. Obviously as a driver, I would prefer not to hear the latest High School Musical blasting over my shoulder as I cruise the M6, but there is only one imput for headphones, so if you have two little darlings in the back, they'll have to squabble or split the headphones and stick their fingers in their other ears! That's if they can both sit close enough to each other to see properly without the temptation to pinch, bite and poke overcoming them.
You can use the player for photos and music as well as video, and if you connect it to a laptop it will play MP3s, MP4s, DIVX and JPEG files. It doesn's support WMV format though, and if you have a laptop, I'm not sure why you wouldn't just use that to play files rather than go through the rigmarole of sending them to a much smaller screen.
Full Spec and manuals are available from:
Overall, I can't say this is a bad product, because it is what it is, and it's reliable and easy to use. If you have a need for such a thing there is no reason not to buy this, but personally, although I use it now and again because the laptop's dodgy, I wouldn't bother spending my own money. It costs upwards of £120.
I was given this tube of foundation by my little sister, who has just returned from a jaunt in San Francisco (lucky girl!). Whilke she was out there, she bought this from some dodgy drugstore for $5, as she is an Avon Rep in the UK but hadn't seen this before. Personally I would have had alarm bells ringing at the discount and place of purchase (I didn;t think Avon was sold in stores) - but she's a serial make-up addict, so it didn't bother her. And seeing as how she and I frequently give each other make up when we buy the wrong shade or something, I didn't automatically assume that it was some rubbish she was seeking to ruin my beautiful sisterly complexion with!
The packaging is smart enough - seethough so you can see the colour of the make-up inside, with a black lid, and not too much lettering on it. It kind of looks like a big fat paint tube, and in fact if you unscrew the lid, there is a brush applicator fitted over the tube, so when you squeeze it, it dispenses through the brush onto your face, supposedly easing application. This is a brilliant idea, and not one I've seen before anywhere else. But in practice, it doesn't work - it's very messy, and it is difficult to control how much is coming out meaning a great deal of wasted product. I don't know if it is the design of the brush or the consistency of the foundation, but after an initial try, I found it completely unusable, and ended up using my fingers instead.
Even then, I found the liquid, which is water-based and very runny, seemed to gather in streaks and patches all over my face, and no amount of blending, brushing or sponging would even it out. I tried using it without moisturiser underneath, and with make-up primer, but it continued to streak whatever I did. The claim by Avon is that this is a light, non-clogging foundation for a fresh complexion, whereas I ended up a sad-eyed freaky clown! Horrible stuff!
Rather than pass it on so it can offend a fourth international user, I have decided to throw this away. Its a shame, as I have never tried anything by Avon before, despite my sister's haranguing, and now I am unlikely to again. To their credit, Avon seem to have discontiunued the product in the states, as it's available on their website there for $6.99, a clearance price. You can still pick it up online in the UK, but not from Avon. Its on Ebay for about £5 if you're barking mad and wish to buy some.
All in all, a terrible product. But they still get one star for the idea of the brush applicator, even if the execution is poor. Hopefully some-one else will copy it, and do it much better!
I am not one of those strange people who get excited as soon as they see a karaoke machine - I'm not a great singer although I'm not tuneless, just a bit dirgey. I do however love to sing when I'm by myself - in the shower, in the car, when I'm cooking etc. I guess its mainly shyness which means I don't like karaoke down the pub, though I do quite enjoy watching everyone else making fools of themselves!
I have played Singstar and Lips round at friends houses over the last year, mostly when drunk, and quite enjoyed them. A few glasses of wine and the security of my best mate's front room can usually be relied upon to bring me out of my shell, and I have been thinking for a while that it would be good to get something similar for my Wii, mainly for when people come round.
The other half clearly had the same thought, and on Christmas morning I excitedly unwrapped We Sing. It was in a pack with two microphones, and my lovely boyfriend had also bought an additional pack of two microphones, as this is currently the only singing game which four people can play at once (without sharing!). This is a pretty cool feature, and we put it to the test round at my mum's later that day, with her, my sister, my nana and me all pouting and posing along to the Pussycat Dolls!
The actual competitive part of the game, ie being measured on your singing quality in comparison to others, is really bad. The microphone seems to pick up any old noise and award points on a random basis, and you can score highly by humming a monotone into it, or even burping, as my little sister so delightfully proved. Now, I am an extremely competitive person, and this aspect of the game did annoy me at first, especially as it sometimes seems that the more effort you put in, the less you score. Eventually though, I just had to let it go, and accept that really this game is more of a general-purpose karaoke experience.
As such, its ok. The songs are (except in a few cases) accompanied by the original videos to the songs, and the music featured is actually that of the original artists, which makes for a more realistic sound. The songs on the disc are quite far-ranging, and I would say there is probably something for everyone: Madness, Lady Gaga, Blondie, James Morrison, UB40, Duran Duran, Chesney Hawkes, Aqua, Kaiser Chiefs and Lily Allen to name a few. But, and its a big BUT - 30 songs is what you get, and there are no more. You cannot buy extension discs or download new tunes at the moment, and the downside of having something for everyone is that everyone won't like everything. There's at least six songs on the disc that no-one in my family at all has sung yet, and only about ten that I would sing myself. So for this reason I can see this getting boring before too long.
Which brings me to value for money. The game on its own is £29.99, and the microphones on top a further £29.99. So you could pay up to £90 for the four-person set-up, and have only a few songs you want to sing along to. There is no online facility like Singstore where you can download new tracks, although there is a website where you can download wallpapers (boring) and make suggestions for future product development. The website has little on it right now, and doesn't seem to be updated much, which doesn't bode well for upcoming additions to the franchise. The address, should you wish to have a look, is
All in all, I may sound like an ungrateful imp, but this game is not great. It can provide a few laughs when you have friends and beers in, but until they provide more content, it's looking to me like its going to have a short lifespan.
In a bid to increase efficiency, the company I work for recently invested millions of pounds on a large-scale upgrade of its computer equipment. As a field user, I was presented with a new laptop, router and printer for use at home in my spare bedroom office, and whilst out at meetings.
To help you understand just how important and life-changing an event this was as an end-user, let me describe my typical morning routine pre-upgrade:
6am Lean out of bed and boot up laptop. Use snooze function on alarm clock to check progress and enter passwords etc until finally "in" around 7am. Check emails (takes ages to send/receive), then print off reports etc, which takes until about half eight as machine is so slow. Check emails again then leave the house at 9am.
That's three hours to look at my emails and print off about six to eight reports, all because everything moved so p-a-i-n-f-u-l-l-y S--L----O-------W!
Now, with my new Fujitsu Esprimo laptop, I can be in my email, printing stuff at the same time, within a minute or two of pressing the on button. In all my experience of using various laptops for both business and recreation, I have never yet come across one which does as its told quite so quickly and efficiently. I am not a techno-buff, so I cannot tell you which of its impressive specifications contribute to this, but I suspect its going to be down to the processor, which is an Intel Core Duo. I can now work on various different applications at once, whereas before if I tried to open more than one program, the whole thing would freeze, costing me hours in reboot time.
The other major advantage of this machine over alternatives is its highly impressive battery life. As well as printing off information for business meetings, I like to have my laptop as backup in case further info is required, or an adhoc email needs sending. In the past I would have no option but to seek a powerpoint, but now I can work parked up n my car if need be, or in cafes without endangering innocent consumers with my trailing wires.
Its not a hugely glamourous computer - its smallish and black, with a 14.1" screen that's fine for work purposes. Its very portable - weighing only 2.3kg - and again this make life much easier for me, as I have a rubbish back, and used to really struggle with my previous laptop, often having to carry it in front of me with both arms!
Although I don't use it for music or video very much, its more than capable when I do. The volume is quietish at its maximum, but if you are that bothered you can always get standalone speakers.
I have only two minor narks with it. Firstly it has an annoying wireless button which you have to switch on when you boot up - I'd far prefer for this to be automatic. Secondly, the power lead plugs in on the right hand side of the machine. As I am in the right-handed majority, I tend to have pens, papers, coffee cups situated to the right of my laptop when it's in use, and it would make more sense to me to have the wire trail from the opposite side so it doesn't knock things or get in the way.
Other than that, I really can't complain. Having had nasty accidents before with hardware, it reassures me to know this one has a special "spill-proof" keyboard (though I'm not going to test it for you!) and a strong casing making it less prone to breakage. It heats up a bit when its been on a while, but not excessively, and I have NEVER had the machine crash or freeze on me in several months use. How many laptop-users can say that?
So I'd recommend this very highly. It's made a huge difference to my productivity at work, and freed up hours of my day for such useful activities as sleeping and relaxing. I didn't pay for this, but have checked online and it's available from £580. This is quite a chunky price for a machine if you intend to use it just for fun, but as a business machine it saves invaluable time, and the price seems more than reasonable.
Full product specifications available at:
Don't get me wrong, I'm not normally in the habit of spending more on a toaster than I need to. Over the past fourteen years since I left home, I have owned a total of six toasters before this one, and every single one was a budget version from one of the supermarkets. I have never had huge complaints with any of these, after all toast is toast, right?
Well.....toast is toast but I can tell you now that all toasters are not created equal. This two-slice offering from Dualit was my dream toaster for a couple of years (though the design has modified slightly) - one for the wedding list, as I didn't see myself justifying the purchase price. It was only in a fit of wild abandon, brought on by actually earning a bonus despite the recession, that I randomly decided to actually buy it - as a treat to myself for being old!
It's beautiful. Its chunky in design and feels substantial, yet is actually compact and takes up very little surface space. It's lovely and heavy, like a prestige car door! I feel a warm glow every time I look at it, let alone make toast with it, probably due to the "spendorphins" brought on by its cost! Its funny how owning just one or two really high quality items can make a bog-standard fitted kitchen look really quite swanky - this does the trick nicely. It's available in pink, cream and silver. I chose the cream version as I'm hoping it will match with all my future kitchens as well as the current one!
This toaster doesn't have ridiculous amounts of features. It has insulated walls so you don't burn your hands, and adjustable slots (up to 28mm) for cooking muffins, accomodating sandwich bags etc. There is no hi-lift though, which makes it a pain for small items. It takes only around a minute and a half to produce hot toast, which is super-quick, far quicker than any of the other toasters I've ever had. This is because its actually designed for commercial use. I didn't choose it because it can make 60 odd slices of toast an hour, but it can, without conking out. For this reason I am anticipating this appliance will last me for years to come!
Which brings me to how this appliance has changed my view on mortality. I have realised that having rubbish disposable toasters never mattered to me in the past because then I thought I would live forever, so nothing else was permanent. This offering from Dualit actually has me thinking it could well outlast me, and the surprising thing is, the thought doesn't scare me, it actually makes me quite proud to have chosen it! I must be getting old.....
I got mine for £99 online, including delivery. You can pay more - up to £150 in the shops, so if you do decide to splash out make sure you have a god look around first.
Overall, this is an expensive toaster, but its a design classic that is built to last for years. Which makes it pretty good value in my eyes!
I have been a fan of Clinique skincare since my teens. My skin is quite sensitive, and cannot withstand many of the harsher ranges, and I have to be particularly careful when it comes to cleansing. I have found many products from Clinique which work very well with my complexion without causing irritation, and if this is an issue for you, I suggest you give them a try.
This product, the 7 day scrub cream, really came into its own when I was living in London, and commuting daily in the grime-ridden trains and streets. Having grown up on a farm, my skin had been used to a fair amount of fresh air and few pollutants, so it took a real turn for the worse at first! I seemed to get greyer by the day, and I mentioned this to a friend, who suggested a decent exfoliant might do the trick. I turned to Clinique as my trusted skincare brand of choice, and was not disappointed!
The packaging is sleek and fresh-looking, and matches other products in the range. Its in a light green tube with silver lettering on the front - a classic design which looks stunning and adds that "spa" feeling to your bathroom shelf!
The scrub is to be used once a week (hence the name!), and after thoroughly cleansing. On squeezing a blob onto your fingertips, you will see that it's a white substance, without any particular fragrance, and it's quite thick, so it doesn't run off your hands. You then massage it into your face for a few minutes - unlike many exfoliators this feels gritty but not too rough. You can feel it working, scrubbing impurites from your skin, but it doesn't feel like you're washing with gravel. Then you wash it off with water - this is easily done, as the scrub is not oily and comes off very quickly. There is no residue left behind, and your skin readily accepts moisturiser without it rubbing off in blobs.
When I first tried it, I was so excited by the positive effect it had on my city-ravaged cheeks that I started to use it every other day - this was not a good idea, and I started to become a little sensitised to it, so I would not recommend anyone do the same. I left it alone for a few months and recommenced weekly use with very good effect - I felt like I really was taking the week off when I used it, and my complexion was clearer, brighter and fresher-looking.
I no longer live in the city, but I will never give up my weekly scrub. It's part of a ritual to me now, an unconscious habit, but more than that, it really works!
RRP is £16 for 100ml, but shop around and you'll find it cheaper - its only £12 at the moment from Argos (!!).
My partner bought this TV a few months ago to go in our bedroom. He and I are at extremes of the spectrum when it comes to our viewing habits - prior to meeting him I didn't even own a telly for several years, preferring to cherry-pick from the internet things I really needed to see.
But when we saw this LG in Aldi (yes!) on a deal at £150, it was actually me that remarked first on the value. I'd quite fancied an LG for our main set, but at upwards of £400 for the size we needed then, they'd been a bit too expensive. At 19", this set was bearable to me for the bedroom, but enough to satisfy my partners desire for "Soccer am" in bed with bacon sandwiches on a Saturday!
I have to admit, I didn't set it up myself, so although I would say its quick and easy to do, that may well rely on the quality of help you have available! It took him only moments to get the wires etc in the right places and get a picture on the screen, and it was all tuned in (including the built-in Freeview) within about ten minutes. He didn't really use the instruction manual, as it was so simple - but the manual is not too bad, and I reckon I could have done it myself with the information provided reasonably quickly.
Perhaps it's just the comparison with our dodgy-brand main television, but the picture quality is awesome in my view - really sharp, vivid colours and no shadowing on the edges. This is especially apparent when you're watching nature programmes, as I like to - far better on the smaller screen with better detail and clarity. The sound is also very good considering the speakers are quite small, and there seems to be less variation in volume between channels, which I think is perhaps because the freeview is built in and therefore better balanced than with a standalone system.
One other thing I would mention, in a very non-technical way, is the tv's responsiveness to its remote. So many tellies I have known can be a right pain when it comes to getting it to change channel etc - they can take seconds to respond, which is frustrating. This one never forces me into waving my arm about trying to get the sensor to pick up my remote, and you can move smoothly up and down between channels, without the telly losing track of which buttons you're pressing.
Altogether a great buy. Especially if you can find one on sale for a bargain price like we did!