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Not only is dry, chapped skin uncomfortable, undernourished skin can make your hands look older than they really are. Over the years I have tried a number of handcreams to try and combat the drying effects of wipes, washing-up liquid and Winter, and until now, Nivea Age Defying Q10 Plus was my favourite. However, I've recently been converted to Myroo Skincare's Geranium Hand Treat. Geranium? Musty greenhouses, the horse-racing on, a hot sunny windowsill at your Nan's? I thought so too, until I tried it. Unlike the plant, the hand cream is not over-powering, and the geranium oil is wonderfully nourishing and good for poor circulation. It also contains Vitamin E to increase elasticity, reducing that unpleasant "tight" feeling, and acting as an anti-oxidant. Rachel Dunseath of Myroo Skincare makes all her products by hand, using only the best natural ingredients: no phthalates, synthetics, SLS, palm oil or parabens at all. Rachel has created a brand which looks good on show in the bathroom but also appeals to our ethical side; her shea butter is fairly traded and all her packaging is recyclable. Not only that but she's local, and a mother of two, so she knows what it's like to be a busy mum with not enough hands! The Geranium Hand Treat is so luxurious and intensive that a little goes a very long way. You just need a dab - much less than with any commercial creams I've tried- and it has a lovely buttery texture and colour. It goes on a little greasy, but rubs in well, and it doesn't shout "GERANIUMS!" Last night I used it as an intensive repair treatment, put a bit extra cream on, slipped on cotton gloves and left overnight; I really noticed the difference when I woke up. It's such a treat; divine-smelling and ethical! Often, I've tried natural products, such as eco-washing powder or cleaning products, and - although for ethical reasons I've wanted to like them - I've ended up going back to my old chemical-filled favourites, because they still perform better. With Mryoo I'm pleased to say, natural is best.
The whole point of a reusable bag is to reuse it, but so many eco-bags are lumpy and unwieldy and just not practical to carry around on a daily basis. As we know, they end up piling up in the boot of a car or stuffed in a cupboard at home and never actually make it on the shopping trip. Some of them are, let's face it, a bit "knit your own muesli" and holier-than-thou hessian, whereas others advertise supermarkets (which you might not want to do). The bonus with Fizbags is not only their unique patterns and designs, but most importantly they are easy to keep with you at all times. They are so small and compact yet strong and durable enough to be practical that you can have them with you every day, and hardly notice they are there at all. The shopper folds down to be small enough to fit in your handbag, or anorak pocket. Shoe Heaven is the version I chose, as it will go with anything. Although it would be great to fill with (vegan) shoes, you can use the shopper for groceries, days out, and holidays, and it costs under £5.00
Malmaison in Leeds is where DH and I celebrated his recent birthday, and what a treat it was. Thanks to a very generous offer from Psychologies magazine, we were able to stay in a standard room with breakfast included for £100, and, given how relaxed and pampered I felt only moments after checking in, it was worth it. The hotel is equidistant from the train station and the bus depot, and is just on the edge of the Aire, where it meets the canal - a part of Leeds that was new to me. With very much a Canary Wharf vibe, the riverside is full of fantastic archiecture and - best of all - is deserted after rush hour, as every human soul is working. DH and I loved the friendly atmosphere, so rare in 5star hotels. The staff were attentive and professional; clearly they have recruited people who have something about them and know what excellent service actually is. When I asked for fresh milk to be brought to our room (you know what a coffee addict I am), it was no problem, and a note was made profile for future stays that I would like fresh milk in the fridge. Woah! I've got a profile at Malmaison! I also like the little touches like the fact that the hotel encourages guests to take the toiletries away when they leave, and they are generous-sized Aran Aromatics toiletries too. We had such a great meal in the brasserie. Starting off with delicous bread and tapenade (which I could've grazed on all evening), we ordered Kronembourgs and studied the Homegrown & Local Spring menu. DH chose sole and mine was the Malburger. I loved the folded cone of miniature fries and the tiny copper pan of Bloody Mary sauce. Generous portions, locally sourced, expertly cooked and presented, and the bill came to under £55. Later in the evening, calling reception for clues as to what channel the DVD player required, was no trouble; unfortunately there was an intermittent fault on the player which meant we didn't get to the end of (rather nasty) Training Day (Snap Case), but no matter. I am just not keen on 18certs any more. Maybe I am just too grown up these days.
Tattoos came up in the pub some weeks ago, in the same breath as 40th birthdays. In the meantime, a good alternative to a permanent tattoo is henna. The bonus of henna is that you can get body decoration without pain and with very little comittment. However, to create a traditional henna tattoo does require a lot of skill, practice and time. In the traditional form, it's a bit like icing a cake. So I was pleased to find out at Hennapens.com that Curiosa of Sweden have created a pen filled with henna ink, enabling you to create your own designs, with or without a stencil, as an alternative to the commitment, time and pain of a traditional tattoo. Henna pens are available in original (and longest-lasting) henna colour (rust-brown to red-brown, depending on your skin colour), ruby, emerald and jasper brown, so you can match your tattoo to your mood and clothes. Henna is a natural substance and the pens contain no artificial additives colours or PPD; I have not experienced any irritation or skin reactions. Breaking with tradition, my henna pen is emerald green and I have found it to be as quick and simple to use as fibre-tip pens. It is a lot cheaper than having an actual tattoo, of course, and only takes a few minutes. I would recommend you moisturise the area of skin well, before applying, as this allows a sharper finish. To allow higher precision when designing, the pen has a thin tip and a thick tip, and the tattoo can be made darker by reapplying colour regularly. It's best to start simple and go for the more intricate patterns once you've got the hang of it. You can wash it off straight away if you make a mistake. I managed to create a unique and smudge-free design within minutes and what I like most of all is that it really doesn't matter when I change my mind.
As the years have gone by and children have appeared, my trusty denim platforms have been consigned to the back of the wardrobe, and, along with my dress size, my handbags have changed somewhat. No longer do I carry round a cute heart-shaped satin coin purse, or a heavily customised mini rucksack. For where would I store a pack of drying-out wipes, various broken wax crayons, and my son's second favourite dinosaur? The answer is...the Fizpouch Handbag Organiser! Fitting neatly inside your handbag, with pockets for make-up, purse, mobile, coins etc., the Fizpouch enables you to move the contents of your handbag easily from bag to bag, without losing or forgetting anything in between. So you can move from Glum Mum to Glam Mum of an evening, without leaving your mobile or purse in your day bag by mistake. Echoing this season's trend for all things safari, it comes in a zebra print, or you can choose from fuschia or turquoise faux snakeskin (probably didn't need the faux there) or a polkadot print. It's 22 x 14cm, so fits neatly inside a typical handbag, and has a magnetic fastener to keep everything secure. The dimensions of the Fizpouch have been carefully calculated to maximise capacity whilst being compact and practical, and the lining of my zebra version (the Lulu) is bright pink which makes it easier to see its contents. On the downside, it's around £17.95, although a bit less on amazon. The is unfortunately very pricey, even though it does work. I would be tempted to try and make my own instead. Furthermore, it may not fit into your handbag - check the dimensions before you buy, or you could be very disappointed. Also, it depends on the size of your phone, wallet etc - the pockets may not be the right size, so it is better to check instore than buy online. A nice idea, a good quality product and a good present for the Woman Who Has Everything (But the Kitchen Sink in her Handbag)
There are many good things about giving birth in one of this nation's great NHS hospitals, and one of them, obviously, is the dear baby you get at the end of all the bother. Another one is free stuff. You get samples of all kinds of baby products, and money-off coupons, because big companies want to sell you their wares while you are in this addled state. Sudocrem was one such freebie. Tiny little grey pots, only an inch in diameter, full of non-descript thick white cream. Nothing glam in appearance, but Sudocrem suprised me. Not only effective in treating nappy rash, it also tackles my blemished skin as well (if not better) than specialist "problem skin" products. Only a small amount is necessary to achieve the desired soothing and spot-reducing result, and although the cream is greasy, it does rub in after a while. For that reason, I tend to use it as part of my night-time skin care routine. Even the small pots last a long time, so I would recommend buying a small size for personal use. Sudocrem is relatively cheap even though it works so well - no guilt trips about overspending. If, like me, you have been on a quest to find the perfect product to treat your acne-prone complexion, spending £££s in your search, than Sudocrem may just be your holy grail.
The Book of Rubbish Ideas is anything but. It is FULL of excellent tips to help eco-newbies and hard-core Greens see rubbish as a resource, cut down on waste, and save time, money and resources as a result. Don't be put off by the quirky cover; author, Tracey Smith, a contented downshifter, aims to take the freaky out of eco, and her book is accessible, practical and positive. There's no holier-than-thou attitude to reusable nappies, washable sanpro and chicken-keeping; we are encouraged to ditch the guilt for what we are not doing and start feeling good about what we are doing. Tracey takes you on a tour through the average family home, from bedroom and bathroom through to the kitchen and out into the garden, including the Usually Male Domain of shed and garage, which so often get missed out where decluttering's concerned. Tracey's project boxes at the end of each chapter include creating an art/craft box for your very own "Blue Peter" moments, a luscious His & Hers body scrub for a sticky night in, and (back down to earth) how to clean all sorts of household items - from grubby grout to wooden chopping boards - without using chemicals. Her practical advice is backed up with case studies from every day folk who are making their personal contribution to waste reduction through their own downshifting initiatives, and there are contributions from several celebrity greens, such as Wayne Hemmingway and Kim Wilde. But this is more than a book of eco tips. It also helps readers get politically active and involved in environmental issues, by providing templates for letters to supermarkets, local schools and MPs. There's even an invite to send to your friends when hosting a Clothes Swap Party. So not only can you make changes within your own home, you can take steps to affect the wider world. The resources section is thorough and will have you hooked to the internet for days - there are websites, organisations and eco-products galore and a bibliography that is bound to fill up your amazon wishlist. One person's rubbish may be another person's treasure, but The Book of Rubbish Ideas is a gem for everyone.
I was excited to win this face wash in a prize draw, as I prefer to use facial wash that lathers up and make me feel squeeky clean in the shower, rather than cleansing lotion. This foaming face wash is an anti-blemish cleanser, so it ought to suit my problem skin down to the ground. And the more I read about Green People's eco-credentials, the more I wanted to like this product. It is certified organic, suitable for vegetarians, is fairly traded and is soap-free. Even the packaging is recyclable and non air-freighted.What's not to like? The first problem for me was the fragrance. Green tea I love and witch hazel is fine - it's a refreshing combination often found in deep cleansers like this one - but the addition of rose geranium was a turn-off for me. http://www.greenpeople.co.uk/ stocks this facial wash for £9.80, which is a lot of money for 100ml. However, maybe it would sort out my blemishes once and for all. Alas, more disappointment came when I applied the foam to my face. I felt like Father Christmas with my bubble beard. Because it was already foam, I could not get it into a lather, which was very unsatisfying. I didn't feel like the product was doing anything, certainly not deep cleaning or refreshing. I used two or three pumps of foam to get a good coverage of my face, but I can imagine it would be a temptation to keep using more product in the hope of getting that "really clean" sensation. Massaging the foam into my skin made no difference. I couldn't wait to wash it off. Gentle, yes; effective, no.
When I first tried this 2 in 1 Gel, I had a bad cold and so I couldn't smell anything at all, not even this lavender and chamomile fragrance. However, my husband said the clothes smelled "freshly washed" and my four-year-old daughter said they smelled "washed and clean". I found the detergent washed our familiy's clothes effectively, leaving them soft and pleasant to wear. Once my sinuses cleared I realised just how strong the perfume is, and it does smell rather synthetic. The lavender overpowers the chamomile and it feels like you are using a very artificial, chemical product. The fragrance lingers in the clothes ( unless you use a tumble drier) at a level which is pleasant. I particularly liked using it to wash bedlinen. However, the strong lavender accent may not appeal particularly to the menfolk out there. I was going to spend my £1 off Bold voucher today to try another scent in the gel range, but it is very expensive, even with a discount. I cannot afford to spend this much on laundry detergent. Furthermore, I do worry that it might exacerbate any skin conditons, such as my daughter's eczema. I liked the shape of the bottle and the colour of the gel. The detergent dispenser, which pulls off the top of the bottle, and can be put back at the end of the wash, is a clever invention. As you squeeze the gel out, it is easy to use without spilling. The touchy-feely colour scheme and high parfum content makes this detergent feel like a treat product but that maybe just the novelty of a non-supermarket brand.
A'kin products are about as pure as they come, and this body wash is no exception. Vegan, and not tested on animals, A'kin's products are made in Australia, and are particularly suitable for those with sensitive skin, such as babies and the elderly. A'kin's packaging is fairly no-nonsense and contains a lot of detail about the ingredients. The push-down cap is easy to use but there is no hook to hang the bottle up in the shower. A real plus-point for this body wash is that it is sulphate and paraben free, so essentially, it cleanses without containing soap. It is non-drying so there is little need to moisturise your skin once out of the shower (ideal if your bathroom is chilly like mine). The bottle, although plastic, can be recycled. A little goes a long way, especially if you use a shower puff, but this is a pricey, if effective shower treat. For me, the jasmine essential oil it contains is over-powering, but it would be heaven if that's your favourite fragrance. Not only can the body wash be used in the shower, it works as a bubble bath, as hand-soap, or even for washing delicates. Mind you, at this price, I wouldn't even waste it on my Very Best Special Occasion pants.
De'Longhi Icona CTO4003.R 4 Slice Toaster - Scarlet Red Bought for £56.45 (incl. VAT & postage & packing) from amazon.co.uk After our last smart-price toaster (which cost less than a large jar of Marmite) went on strike, we decided to treat ourselves to this glamorous model. Male viewpoint: The metal outer casing has a pleasing rigidity, so rarely found in plastic casings. The browning control dial enables you to select how your want your toast done, whilst making you feel like you are operating a slick, industrial 1950s coffee machine in some cool bar. Toasts the toast well and the lever emits a satisfying clunky click when lowered. Female viewpoint: I have faith that this toaster will outlive its predecessor by many years as it is much more solid and expensive! I love its bagel function, and it will also warm toast that has popped up but gone cold (very useful on chaotic mornings), as well as defrost bread from the freezer (a lifesaver when the breadbin's empty). Very impressive-looking, cheerful, eye-catching and retro-styled, this toaster is the smartest item in my kitchen. Including me. In a word: starlet.