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I love my children to play with toys that enable them to learn something rather than sitting and watching the television. I also like wooden toys as they tend to be able to withstand more of a 'battering' when it comes to playtime. Father Christmas bought this for my son a few years ago as he had a fascination with Peter Rabbit. He was 3 at the time and was immediately pleased with it.
It is aimed at 18 months plus and as it is Beatrix Potter, it is suitable for either boys or girls.
It is made from a light wood and even when all 28 pieces are inside, it isn't at all heavy. The lid slides in and out with ease and all the pieces fit inside without any issues. The box measures 17cm x 9.5cm and is 5cm high. I really like that the corners have a dovetail joint which gives it that quality finish.
Each piece has a cream background on one side with the individual characters and also blue spots to indicate the numbers like a traditional domino set. The other side is just plain wood. They are quite a small size measuring 7.5cm x 3.7cm with a thickness of 0.5cm. My children have no problems with picking them up and using them and I would imagine that for a younger child it would help with their hand eye co-ordination skills.
My children happily play with this and it appears it was a great choice from Father Christmas. Well done that man! I would thoroughly recommend it.
My daughter was bought this as a present for her 4th Birthday and as she is now 6, I think we have had enough use out of it to review it. I say 'we' as, oh yes, I love a bit of play with Sylvanian Families. They are superbly manufactured and really allow my children to create stories around them. It also helps that I encourage them to love Sylvanian Families as I did when I was young.
This set is simply called 'Canoe'. It comes with one figure, "Martha Mulberry" who is part of the Raccoon family. Her arms and legs move and also her head twists round. She is made from a slightly 'fuzzy' textured material and is very hard-wearing. She has the striped fluffy tail too to complete her character. She also has a little dress which can be taken on and off. Everything has been really well made as even the dress has a proper hem to it and a Velcro fastening.
It also has the actual canoe, a set of oars, a life jacket and also some picnic items comprising of a glass, bottle, apple and a sandwich. Everything is in scale so this makes some of the items incredible small. There is set of binoculars for example which is the size of a one penny piece. All of these items just come in bags that are torn open so, when my children have finished playing, I make sure all the small items are put away in a sealable container to avoid them being lost. I can really see why the packaging states that it shouldn't be given to children under 36 months due to the small parts.
This retails for around £10 but often Sylvanian Families sets are on offer so it is worth looking out for those. I personally believe that £10 is an excellent price for such a brand and a toy which will certainly last . When buying Sylvanian Families second-hand, they still make good money so I see these toys as a good investment too. I wouldn't hesitate in recommending this set.
My son loves to have a bedtime story and my daughter loves to read so they are a partnership made in heaven.We all sit in their bedroom around a book ~ possibly the only time during the day when there are no arguments and all is calm. Perfect.
We ended up buying this from the school book fair at a price of £5.99. It is the hardback version and can be found slightly cheaper online but I think that was a good price to pay for a quality book. The 16 pages are made from quite a thick, chunky cardboard so, even though we have had it for some time now, it isn't showing much sign of wear like some of the paperback books we have. It is A5 in size so it doesn't take up much room in their book basket.
Julia Donaldson has written a gloriously funny and thought-provoking book about a dragon called Zog. He has to learn different things from dragon school through the years and has to perfect his skills. Although he isn't very good at lots of things, he meets Princess Pearl and a friendship forms. What will happen though when it comes to his test to rescue a princess? Will Sir Gadabout hurt Zog? It all gets a bit concerning at times for us as we quickly turn the pages to find out what happens to Zog as he becomes such a loveable character.
It is written in a poetic form which makes the story flow as well as teaching my eldest about rhyming words. Very clever as it's teaching without them knowing and there is also repetition in it which both children can recite.
"Now that you've been shown, you can practise on your own." A life skill at an early age.
It's not too long but long enough to provide a 15 minute story and conversation before they get into bed.
Axel Scheffler illustrates the book with vibrant, colourful dragons and lots of background detail. Absolutely beautiful and I really wouldn't mind lots of the pages as posters for my children as there is so much to look at.
This is sure to be a classic book one day that every child will remember from their childhood. The Donaldson/Scheffler double-act has yet again triumphed. They were behind 'The Gruffalo' and 'The Gruffalo's child'.
I strongly recommended this book to anyone with children, no matter what age. My daughter enjoys reading it at age 6 and my 3 year old son enjoys it being read to him. There is also such opportunity with it to teach other things such as colours and new words.
It was the winner of the Galaxy National Children's Book of the Year in 2010. A fantastic achievement and I can thoroughly see why it won.
ISBN : 978-1-407132-33-4
I bought this on a whim when shopping instore at Tesco. There is a reason why I usually shop online as it prevents me from making impulse purchases. It is said that you shouldn't shop on an empty stomach as that makes you buy more food well I think the same applies for the beauty aisles....
==Do not buy hair dye to try and make up for a poor hair cut!==
It was getting extremely close to my work Christmas party and I hadn't managed to get my hair cut into an actual 'style' so I *stupidly* thought I would try to dye my hair to at least look like I had made an effort.
The theme was to 'dress to impress' so I opted for a vibrant shade. The packaging showed a pretty model with long, shiny hair with a vivid pink. The shade is number 91 Raspberry rebel. Brilliant! I could be transformed. The packaging shows an example of what the results could be like on different shades of hair. My natural hair colour being dark blonde, it should come out a darker pink.
It costs £5.47 per pack but it was on offer within a 2 for £8 range so I went for that. (Not tried out the other colour yet!) On further research, this dye can be found much cheaper online so definitely pays to shop around.
I applied Vaseline around my hairline and ears before I started to try and avoid the dye making me come out with a pink 'glow'. This did work well so I would advise doing that! Plenty of it though.
A tube contains the dye so there is no mixing up various bottles like other hair dyes which is always a bonus.
The dye was very easy to apply even with the use of the plastic gloves that they provide. They are always far too big for me buy I suppose one size is meant to fit all.
I would also like to comment that it does dye your scalp a bright shade of pink so I did make an effort to attempt to remove the majority of that from my parting line with a damp cotton wool bud. A little scrub and it does come off, don't start panicking like I did!
You simply have to rub it onto towel dried hair, wait half an hour and then rinse out until the water runs clear. This can take some time so I strongly advise you put at least an hour aside to complete this activity.
Lots of hair dyes have quite a strong smell to it and some in the past have given me a headache. This dye smells more fruity and does't have that strong chemical smell which I liked. It also didn't leave that lingering scent in my bathroom either.
===Effect to my hair===
I have used many hair dyes in my past and quite enjoyed that they left my hair feeling moisturised, This kit does contain 2 15ml sachets of conditioner yet these had minimal effect on my hair. I found my usual condition helped to make my hair look and feel moisturised.
Immediately you could see a change in hair colour and I loved it ..... until it dried! It looked quite patchy and you could see that the dye had taken better in certain places than others. this could have been down to my rushed application.
Having said that, I did start receiving compliments for the colour and people even commented that they liked how i hadn't just applied it as a flat colour. Now whether that was down to trying to be polite or that it actually did look reasonably ok, who knows.
I still have pink hair but it is fading now after 5 washes. It is supposed to last between 6-8 washes so it is living up to those claims. I will certainly try it again in the future but doing it when I have more time and another pair of hands to help.
I would recommend this as it does create an effect BUT I would strongly advise to get a few boxes of the dye as one tube just wasn't enough even on my short hair. I would also suggest pre-lightening the hair to start off with to get a better result and possibly having a friend to assist to make sure the whole head is covered. I would also suggest shopping around for a better price than I paid.
*** Like with all hair dyes, follow the instructions and do the strand and allergy tests beforehand***
"Mummy, I don't feel very well." "Achooo!" ****cough cough cough ***** "Yuk! What is that?!"
Like many people, I hate being ill and, in a bid to try and deep clean my house, i bought Dettol disinfectant spray. It was an impulse purchase after both of my children had been ill and I was prepared to try anything to avoid it happening again in the future. I know it sounds very silly but it puts me at ease when I'm cleaning and trying to avoid passing the germs around us. This claims to kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses on surfaces so I thought it was worth a go.
It kills :
E. Coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Staph. aureus, Campylobacter, Streptococcus, Athlete's Foot fungus, MRSA. Also, Rhinovirus, Rotavirus, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Pollovirus type 1, adenovirus type 2, Herpes simplex virus Types 1 & 2, Hepatitis A virus, Influenza Type A H1N1.
(Hardly any of that means anything to me but using long words when it comes to illnesses often makes things seem bad I guess and make you want to buy this to avoid getting them.)
The spray can be purchased for £3 from supermarkets which is quite a reasonable price for the 400ml bottle from a prominent brand.
It comes in a metal container with a plastic lid. The spray nozzle on the top is one of those that you have to press at a slight angle. There is no locking mechanism on this so I do keep it on the top shelf of my cleaning cupboard well away from children.
I've used it quite a few times but mainly use it on door handles and the house phone. It is suitable for using around toilet areas, under sinks and kitchen bins. I use bleach and an all-purpose cleaner in those areas though so would consider myself become quite obsessive if I then started spraying this around too. You simply spray the surfaces from a distance of 15-20cm. The nozzle has never clogged and a fine mist is produced. It does coat the surface extremely well and seeing as you have to let it air dry, the surfaces remain wet for at least 20 minutes in my home.
It has quite a potent and 'hospital-like' smell to it which isn't unpleasant but it is certainly noticeable. It lingers around too for a while. The scent is "Spring Waterfall" but to be honest they may as well have called it "A&E Deep Clean".
Mixed feelings then with this I feel. It's hard to actually say whether it has killed all the germs as I don't go around testing for such things! Who does?! my children and myself have still had colds even whilst using this in my home. We haven't had some of the viruses that it claims to kill though either but then we may not have got those even without using this spray.
I wouldn't purchase it again as I feel that my other cleaning methods suffice.
I'm a huge car fan and also like collecting unusual items so for a present I was bought this as it combines two of my passions. Diesel for the car part and a distinctive bottle for the unusual part. Like they say, it's the thought that counts and a lot of thought was put into this gift.
=== Bottle ===
I love the shape of the bottle as it doesn't stand up like a traditional bottle of perfume. There are many flat edges to the bottle but the 'base' allows it to stand perfectly well at the angle shown in the picture. It is in the shape of a heart and there is a black, plastic part running through the inside of the bottle. This is meant to represent a dagger. There's a smokey purple tint to the fragrance which is highlighted in the glass.
A black lid simply pushes on and off to reveal a silver pump action. One spray is more than enough as it produces a wide mist of the fragrance.
=== Fragrance ===
I've never been good at trying to describe smells ~ I always have an image of Jilly Goolden, the wine 'guru' trying to describe it for some reason.
According to basenotes.net
Star anise, Mandarin
Sambac jasmine, Liquorice, Gardenia (See! Jilly Goolden...."I'm getting essence of liquorice!)
Amber, Vanilla, Woody notes
None of that makes any sense to me but it may to one of you. I prefer to describe it as a light and sweet kind of smell. It's unlike anything I've had before. It certainly is a feminine fragrance and just one squirt lasts the entire day. Obviously fragrances are different for everyone but people have complimented me when wearing this. (New Year's resolution ~ wear perfume everyday.)
=== Price ===
Diesel is a well-known designer brand and as such, often attract a hefty price tag. I was surprised to see that a 30ml bottle (like the one I have) costs around £28.99 from Boots.I find this extremely reasonable for a perfume as a little really does go a long way. If you shop around too I would expect you could find it cheaper too.
You are also able to purchase this in a 50ml bottle (£38.99) and a 75ml bottle. (£48.99) but for me this size is more than adequate.
=== Recommendation ===
I have no problem in giving this 5 stars and recommending it. Would make a lovely gift for someone or indeed, why not treat yourself? It originally came out in 2011 but it is still in production now so there are no problems finding it.
You can also get the same scent in body lotion which I own and love.
When I moved into my home 5 years ago it quickly became quite clear that I wasn't going to be the next Nigella and be a domestic goddess in the kitchen. For that Christmas my mum asked what I would like for a present so I opted for a slow cooker in the vain hope that i could create some nutritional meals with minimal effort. It can be bought very cheaply brand new for around £40 from Tesco but I'm sure if you research you can get them much cheaper.
=== The basics ===
The slow cooker arrived all packaged up with an instruction booklet which is always handy for the likes of me especially. Mine is a 6.5 litre sized which is more than adequate for my family (family of 4) and often means there is enough left to freeze if I don't intend on being incredibly greedy at that particular meal time.
There is the metal base unit with the long plug cable attached to it. ( Don't you just hate those gadgets that never let you put them where you want them to be because the cable doesn't stretch?! ) Mine is brushed aluminium so it was in keeping with the rest of my appliances.
The ceramic pot then fits into that but it's not a tight fit. The glass lid then places on top of that. The dial on the front is easy to operate with it either being off, high low or medium in that order so be careful when using it to make sure it's actually on the right setting. There is also a red light that comes on when in use which I like. I don't want to get home and then realise that I hadn't actually switched it on!
I like that it is fits in with the rest of my kitchen as I leave it out on the worktop all the time. The front base unit is very easy to clean if things get splashed up onto it so it looks brand new still.
=== Instruction Booklet ===
Inside it gives a little bit of safety advice like not touching the outer enclosure during use of before it has cooled and using oven gloves when removing lid or the ceramic pot. I like that it gives clear instruction of how it works and then a few "do's an do not's for the ceramic pot". There is also a cooking guide and a table to give the equivalent cooking times for the low, medium and high settings.
Recipes are also included in the book and I have tried a few out. There are also numerous slow cooking recipes on the internet and a particular favourite site of mine is a Facebook group called Slow Cooker Saddo's as it is 'real' people giving recipes and how they worked out with lots of hints and tips.
=== Use ===
I love to use my slow cooker during the winter as there is nothing better than walking through the door and smelling a hearty meal all ready and waiting to be eaten. I get the meal ready in the morning and then put it on low for the time I am out so a stew, for example, I would leave cooking for about 8-9 hours. This creates an amazing succulent stew and means that i can use a cheaper cut of meat.
I have also created lovely snacks and puddings in my slow cooker. Nutella swirls was a particular favourite and took just 2 hours.
Jacket potatoes were also made recently and although it cooked them to be lovely and fluffy, I would still use my oven to crisp up the skins next time as obviously the slow cooker doesn't brown things. Possibly a downside for some people. It's all about finding out what works for you.
=== Eek! Washing up ===
I love that it is just one pot to wash up and because it is ceramic it is incredibly easy to clean with just normal washing up liquid. Make sure you allow the pot to cool before washing up and also don't subject it to an extreme change in temperature else you could crack it. Mine has lasted 5 years so far and no signs of wear. It is quite heavy to lift so be careful when moving it around as, when wet, it will make it more prone to be dropped.
=== Final thoughts ===
I absolutely love my slow cooker and it is an item that gets lots of use rather than becoming one of those fad gadgets that gets put to the back of the cupboard. I strongly urge you to get one if you can as it creates a variety of meals and will save you time and money.
I enjoy entering competitions as a hobby and recently there has been one where I have to keep trying to mention popcorn on my Facebook page. Not only has this been helping me go up the rankings for my competition it has possibly made most of my family and friends think that I am obsessed with the stuff!
I admit it, I am.
My mum showed up with these for me to try. Made by Cadbury's, it is a bag of toffee popcorn with each "generously coated in Cadbury Milk Chocolate". The image of gloriously fluffy popcorn coated in toffee and then smothered in chocolate was instantly pleasing. These feature on a gold bag with the Cadbury purple which gives a luxury feel to the product.It also comes in a resealable bag although that is just pointless for a chocoholic like myself.
She picked these up from a petrol service station so no doubt paid a bit more than other places , (naughty Mum!) but from a quick supermarket search shows it can be bought for £1 a bag from Asda and £2 from Tesco. I find this an acceptable price as there is plenty in the packet ~ even enough to share if you really had your arm twisted.
I am in love! The popcorn is divine with the chocolate and you really have to have strong will-power to not keep shoveling it in. (Good image I am creating here I feel.) What I'm trying to say, is that Cadbury have created a very tasty product. The toffee on the popcorn isn't too sweet yet the taste lingers in your mouth for sometime afterwards.
There is a warning on the packet that it may contain hard pieces but luckily I found no un-popped pieces. This may have put a dampener on my experience if I had.
I have now finished off the 130g bag whilst writing this review so only now will I dare look at the nutritional value. The table shows that a 1/4 bag contains 160 calories, 18.5g (21% daily allowance) sugars and 7.6g fat. (11% Guideline daily allowance) Not the healthiest of things in the world but then these are designed to be more of a treat rather than a normality. From reading that, and the notice that it should be enjoyed "as part of a healthy, active lifestyle" I shall get off bum and go and do some sit-ups.
Who am I kidding? I'm off to put them on my next shopping list. 5 stars.
I'm a big fan of taking plenty of photographs and had literally hundreds on my computer. I'm quite a tactile person so parted with some of my hard-earned money and had some of the photographs printed so I had 'actual' prints to look at. These were then put in a draw and not looked at again UNTIL I came across this on eBay.
I bought it for a grand total of 99p + £8 postage which is a fantastic price as it usually retails around the £25-£30 price range. It is made by Umbra who make similar quirky and unusual statement pieces for your home.
The idea of this photo display is that the photos look like they are on some kind of plant or tree. They are easy to put into place as a simple peg/ crocodile clip style system is used. Mine has a daisy design on them and I like that it is so easy to swap and change the photos. Unlike the picture displayed with this review, mine has a white plastic flower pot at the base and then wires come straight out of that. It holds 15 photographs at the various levels. It really does make an impact in my home as people are urged to pick it up and look at all the photographs that seem to hide under one another as you can just catch glimpses of some of them.
The only negative that I have found is that it can become a bit unstable at times and tip over. I did use it to display cards but they were simply too heavy and it kept falling over.
I would have no problems in recommending this to others even at the full retail price. All too often we keep photographs that are never to be seen again ~ well display them with pride and in style with this Umbra fotofalls display.
We have 2 children together and when he decided to up and leave, he thought his responsibility towards them also ceased. I let things go for a number of months until eventually I decided to go down the CSA route as why should my children have to go without whilst I had to strictly budget on just my wage? They had 2 parents so surely a little help from both should be available?
The paperwork was really easy to fill in but that is about all that is easy with the process. I have to keep ringing to chase updates about the case and it often takes at least 10 minutes to get through to actually speaking to a human. They then take a further 10 minutes trying to scan read the case as the number you have to call goes to some kind of call centre and not your own individual case worker.
I did eventually receive 2 payments from their father after a number of months when it was confirmed he was working for a company. The money came directly from his wages before he even received them. This was his cue then to leave and become 'self-employed'.
My case has now been sent to their 'self-employment' team. This brings up another heap of problems and still means that my children receive a grand total of nothing from him. They have to do traces with HMRC and investigate 'things' ~ I have no idea what these things are but every time I call they are still doing their investigations. In all this time, they have spoken to him a few times but the process seems so long-winded that circumstances change and they have to start from scratch again. For example, he moved so any letters they sent were being returned.
I have read many articles and comments from other parents about the CSA and in particularly if self-employment is involved. The power just isn't there for the CSA to act quickly and set up payment schedules if a parent decides they don't want to pay anything.
All in all, the CSA can only work on information that can be supplied or that they can slowly find out themselves. This leaves the whole system open to abuse by parents that are adamant they just don't want to pay for their own children. Many times I have felt like just closing the case and calling it a day but then this is the only route open to me for my children to ever receive financial support from their father.
I receive yearly a copy of the payments he should be making. Handy! It's a bit like Bullseye, "look what you could have won". My folder for CSA is getting full of random pieces of paper with empty promises on them including booklets saying what they can do if the non-resident parent doesn't pay. It mentions taking their driving licence from them and even a prison sentence. My case has been going for a good couple of years now and I still never get an answer to my question of just when will any of these further actions take place?
The CSA are firmly stuck here with me between a rock and a hard place. I know alot of people may assume that the parent left with the children are being bitter and money-grabbing and that may be the case for some. However, I now feel like I have to speak out for my children and show them that with family comes responsibility ~ both financially and emotionally. The CSA is supposedly meant to help with this but it just isn't at the moment for me and as such only receives a 1 star rating as it is barely doing anything in my case.
This is obviously a product that you will need to pack with you in your hospital as let's be honest, you are going to NEED them once your little baby is born. They can be used for before the birth too if your body decides it wants to challenge you then too!
For a pack of 10 pads, it costs £1.05 and they are often included in Boots various offers throughout the year which to me is a very acceptable price to pay.
The packaging ~ well, who cares really to be honest? It is 'floral' and feminine but then I don't know of any men that would need such a thing anyway. Once torn open, the pads are then exposed to the air as they aren't individually wrapped.
They are contoured and fit snugly into your underwear. I like that they are quite long so that any leaking that could incur is avoided. The sticky strip on the back holds the pad into place too to help with that potentially embarrassing situation. I have never had a problem with them not absorbing. I find that they are comfortable to wear and don't cause any irritation at all.
The only downside to the pads is that it can seem quite bulky and any tight fitting clothes clearly show what is going on down there. This is the only negative thing that I can find about the product and as such I will happily recommend these to put in a hospital bag.
I have had an account with Littlewoods now for nearly a decade as I initially liked that I could spread the cost of my purchases and pay just weekly amounts.The negatives about catalogue companies however is that the majority of the items can be more expensive than from elsewhere. I very rarely use Littlewoods these days due to this reason and tend to only use it during the sales as I am able to pick up a few bargains this way.
There are many items to choose from though which is a great bonus. Clothes for adults and children, toys, household appliances, bedding, audio equipment, anything it seems can be ordered.
I do my orders online as I can then go through a cashback site and get that little bit extra back from my purchases. I find this method really easy to do and it clearly guides you through the checkout process. You are also given the option to use any commission that your account may have obtained against your order as well as options for spreading the cost of your purchase.
You can also order using a mobile app now as well as the more traditional way straight from the catalogue and calling them up.
I find the website extremely easy to navigate and you can browse the whole catalogue. (I personally don't tend to keep the hard copy that is sent through the post but it too, is clearly set out into various categories.) The website also has everything you need on it from viewing sizing of clothes, enlarging photographs of items for details as well as reading reviews that other customers have left.
You are able to view your account online and track orders. I have also used it to arrange returns of items and find the process very easy to follow. I like to view my current level too on the site. Basically, when you order you go higher up their levels which gives an increase in the commission or reward money that you can use on future orders. Platinum for example gives 10% back. This seems like a good scheme but it is obviously there to entice you to place more orders each time a new season or catalogue comes out so use with caution.
I have needed the help from their customer services in the past when one of my payments wasn't made on time (bank error!) and I was charged a late payment fee of £12. I rang up to query and as I was a longstanding customer with no previous problems on my account, they refunded my charge with no further questions. I found this to be great customer service.
I have also had dealings with Littlewoods via e-mail as they kept upping my credit limit to what I thought was too high for my liking. At one stage it was over £2000 and I was concerned at the time at the amount of credit 'available' to me and that it may affect future credit applications etc. I asked them to reduce it to a level I was comfortable with which they did do immediately. However, the only problem I have is that I still have to keep an eye on it as it does automatically keep increasing no matter how many times I request this not to be done.
There is also a feature now online where you can have a 'live chat' with an advisor which I find particularly useful seeing as my children always seem to want to talk to me when I am on the telephone!
=== Offers ===
I always seem to get offers from Littlewoods to encourage me to spend with them so if you are planning on a purchase, it is wise to research to see if there are any promotional codes you can use.
=== Recommendation ===
I would recommend Littlewoods to a friend but only if they struggle to pay for things outright as the pay weekly feature and Buy Now Pay Later is the main reason for this catalogue. The prices are just too high if not. I wouldn't recommend it to people who may struggle with paying their bills as the charges can soon mount up if late payments are received or when the BNPL offers finish. Also, on the topic of recommendation, with every friend you refer to Littlewoods, you do receive £20.
Awarded 4 stars due to the higher prices and increasing my credit limit all the time.
I've been using a Dylon Colour Catcher sheet in every wash since I had a box given to me that someone no longer wanted. The variety I have is a double action box containing 24 sheets. It is supposed to prevent the colours from running which allows a mixed load. Also, they are meant to protect colour intensity "wash after wash". A box like this cost around the £3.20 mark but are often on offer. This makes them about 13 pence per sheet which I think is good value if it is going to save me doing more loads of washing and thus use more electricity, detergents and water.
These are white sheets which come folded in 3 measuring about 9.5cm wide x 21.5 cm long. You place the sheet into the back of the washing machine drum and then loads your laundry.After the wash has finished, stare in awe at the sheet at what it has achieved (ok, maybe that's just me) and then discard. The sheet is biodegradable.
My household gets through about 3 loads of washing a week and includes my daughter's school uniform compromising white socks, polo shirts and a dark green cardigan. My son has dark trousers and vibrant red polo-shirt for his pre-school uniform. These sheets had never let me down and I would put everything in together and all the clothes would come out clean and fresh. Any dirt or dye that had 'run' would be visible on the sheet. I was always impressed that it had worked its magic so to speak and was confident and proud that this hadn't gone back onto the garments.
Now, I would have undoubtedly awarded this product an outstanding 5 stars if it hadn't been for the load of washing I have just done! I have just washed my red and white spotty bedding and like usual, placed the Colour Catcher in the drum. Somehow a white vest and one white sock emerged when I was taking this out and are now a dappled pink colour. This, I have no doubt, was down to some felt tip pen that had marked my sheets...(don't you just love children sometimes?!) and that had possibly been the cause. The sheet that came out with that load was unusually pale too so whether this was a "one-off" or a fluke, I do not know but it has made me reluctant to be confident in putting absolutely any item of clothing in with one another now.
I haven't noticed any fading to my laundry so I do believe the claims that it keeps the colour intensity. I shall continue to use these myself and i would recommend these to a friend but with a sign of caution re the felt tip pen incident. I have awarded it 4 stars as it isn't 100% reliable with all stains and dyes.
I was given this carpet washer to trial from VAX to see if it lives up to the claims that "you really can have dogs, kids and cream carpets." I have 2 children and once-was cream carpets that now look as if they have had better days. My carpets have been down for 5 years and even though shoes aren't worn inside, they seem to have gathered a few stains.
It is a new model V-026PTS which includes a way of pre-treating your carpets to get a better result. The one I have is very similar to the picture showing here but features red detailing rather than the traditional orange.
=== First thoughts ===
On arrival, the box seemed quite small for the amount of accessories that this machine was supposed to have. After finding the machine in the heap of packaging, I realised that it needed some DIY skills to get it fully operational. You have to push the centre piece onto the base but being careful not to crease a cable that runs through them both. This needed quite a bit of force and I was worried that I was going to snap part of it as the plastic that this part is made from does seem quite flimsy. 2 screws are then inserted either side and held in place with a nut at the back. You do need a screwdriver to get this to work as you have to hold the nut and tighten the screw.
You then have to move on to putting the handle on. Again, this is held on with a screw and nut as is the tool caddy at the back of the machine.
The machine does come with an instruction booklet which includes a "getting started" section but I would have preferred it to go into slightly more detail as it really is quite basic. For example, there are only 2 diagrams for assembling the hose together yet there are lots of spaces and holes on the machine where the hose could potentially go ~ the instructions just don't live up to the quality reputation that VAX has in my opinion.
===Using the machine===
I already own a carpet cleaner so had an idea of how this was going to operate. The added feature of this machine though is the additional on/off switch for the brushes at the front as well as the usual on/off switch. This is because this machine is extra clever and you can use the wand to pre-treat any stains. Handy! You can pretend to be a ghost-buster and walk-around your home with the 'pressure-washer-type' wand spritzing any stains that you may have. You have to make sure you attach the tube to the water supply port on the bottom of the tank AND turn clockwise to secure it. You simply mix the pre-treatment solution with warm water and put into the clean water tank (the one on the front of the machine). I liked that I only had to leave the liquid on the carpet for up to 15 minutes before carrying on with the next task of the actual cleaning.
Again, you fill the clean water tank with the correct dosage of the carpet cleaning solution with warm water. The cap is tightened and the tank goes back on the machine. This is a very simple process and it makes a reassuring 'clunk' when it is clipped back onto it.The red trigger release is easy to operate too. The machine needs to be switched on and also the brush one as now it is used like a regular vacuum cleaner. There is a a big release pedal at the back of the machine. Also good to notice that they've made it so the brushes will only start to rotate once the machine starts to recline. The basis to cleaning is that you press the red trigger on the handle when walking forward with the machine and then on the backward stroke, you release the trigger so that it 'sucks up' the water and dirt from the carpet.
It was easy to use as it is quite light to push and pull around the room.
The tank at the bottom of the machine is where all the dirty water is collected. This is emptied by simply removing from the machine with the carry handle and then the front part lifts off and you can pour the dirty water away. Make sure you keep it level as if not dirt water comes out of the front and then dribbles on the carpet defeating the objective of the day!
I was always really impressed with how dirty the water was when I was emptying the tank. Ok, that sounds odd but it was strangely satisfying to see that dirt going down the plughole rather than lurking on my cream carpets. Once the carpets had dried and I'd gone over them again with the 'normal' vacuum cleaner, I was impressed with how much cleaner they looked. It wasn't as cleaner as the pictures advertised on the box but for my first attempt with a new machine, I was pleased. It had taken a long time to get those results though and i'm confident that I will feel the need to have another go in the not so distant future to see if I can improve the results. It had managed to shift a stubborn pen stain that nothing else had managed to move. It had saved a lot of elbow grease too.
=== The good, the bad and the ugly ===
The power cord is incredibly long and I often found myself tripping over it but then i suppose the right attire would have helped in this case. A maxi dress isn't suitable so lesson learnt there. It meant however that I could potentially clean the entire ground floor level of my home without having to change sockets.
When switching it on for the first time, I noticed that it was quite loud. After using it to clean my rather small living room and then turning it off, I had realised just how loud. My ears were ringing! I would strongly recommend that you do a few cleaning sessions rather than trying to do it all at once. It is also important to note here too not to saturate the carpet as it will just take forever to dry and also it won't work as effectively.
The machine looks like a traditional carpet cleaner but it seems to have a mass of hoses,cables and tools that just don't fit around the machine at all well. Even though VAX has attempted to create space for everything, it just hasn't worked. The grey plastic that it is predominantly made from also looks quite cheap and seeing as these machine are quite expensive to purchase, it isn't in-keeping.
=== Final thoughts ===
Overall, I would award the VAX Rapide Deluxe PT pre-treatment carpet cleaner with 4 stars. It was easy to use once eventually set up but would need several applications to get my carpets sparkling again. Also, the noise was a big issue for me.
I was very lucky to win an award at work which gave me 3 nights stay at locations around the world or anywhere in the UK. As I have 2 small children, I opted for a 'staycation' and went for Bristol. I was given the 4* Marriott Hotel in the City Centre and was delighted. It was easy to find and, although it isn't a 'pretty' building, it has a great central location of being near a big shopping centre. It was also opposite a park and next to car park. A busy main road ran right next to the hotel though which was still quite busy during the evening and night.
*~*~*~*~*~*~* Check-in *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Immediately on arrival at 5pm, we went through the automatic rotating door at the front of the hotel and were in the elegant foyer. We were approached instantly and asked if we needed a hand with our bags. My children had a Trunki each and then we only had one other suitcase so we declined but it was lovely to be offered. He made conversation with my children whilst we waited to see someone at reception. He was very polite and courteous and made a real effort with my children ~ they had had a long journey and I think they loved the attention and talking about the hotel whilst they had to wait. He is a real asset to the hotel and a great first impression.
We had to wait about 8 minutes to see someone who then turned out to be a trainee. She spoke English but it was quite forced in a sense so some things were difficult to understand. Initially, she said we had only paid for one nights dinner which I politely said wasn't the case. She then did some more tapping on her computer and carried on with issuing key cards. (I was then none the wiser as to if she had made a mistake or what had happened.) I also had to ask about the car park as I had parked in the multi-storey next to the hotel. She kept saying to hold on to the ticket and they would validate it to make the cost cheaper. Again, I'm someone that needs a proper explanation of the order to do things as I didn't know if that meant they needed the ticket before I paid or after. Very confusing and we just left that for the time being as could sense she didn't really know for sure.
(Just for the record ~ you can parked in Broadmeads for over 24 hours and then the amount is just added onto the ticket until you check out. The check-out clerk will then take the ticket, pay off the amount from your credit card with the discounted rate and give you the ticket back. You then check that the ticket is showing NIL to pay at one of the pay stations, then you have 15 minutes to exit the car park.)
She also asked if we wanted to pre-authorise my credit card incase we needed anything extra during our stay like, I assume, room service. We decided to do this and it was only later on checking my credit card authorisations that she had actually done the authorisation twice for £100 each time. Not impressed with that at all but both transactions have now disappeared on my card so it doesn't take too long for it to be returned if not used at all.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* The room *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
We had a room on the 5th floor with 2 double beds and also one of the few rooms that had a balcony. It was situated overlooking the park but of course, the busy main road was between.
Everything looked smart and as you would expect with a hotel such as the Marriott. My children loved looking around and finding what was in their room. Inside the wardrobe, (with large,mirrored sliding doors) you'll find a trouser press, hair dryer, iron and ironing board. There are also some hangers and the usual bags for laundry if you needed to use that service. There is also a small safe in there too. Next to that is a little alcove with tea and coffee making facilities. A choice of a couple of teas, coffees, variety of sugars and some milk were found near the small, yet adequate, kettle. Also, some little flapjack or shortbread biscuits would be left here too. This was replenished daily.
The bathroom was very small with a shower over the bath. It was clean though and hand large mirrors over the sink. There were also the usual complimentary toiletries of shampoo, soaps, bubble bath, shower cap and body lotion. The only issue with the bathroom was the water system as it was quite loud when flushing the toilet for example and then the noise would continue for a few minutes afterwards. We could hear the next room so they obviously could hear ours too.
There is air conditioning in the room but it is quite noisy and seems out-dated.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Cleanliness *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
My daughter was very impressed that when she got into her bed to 'test' it, there was a note from the maid to say if we needed anything else doing, to let her know. My daughter then left her notes to say it was all 'fabulous'. A surprise encounter in the corridor one day left my children amazed as the lady that had been looking after our room recognised my children and said thank you for the notes ~ she even remembered their names. They were overjoyed with that!
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* Breakfast *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
We only managed to get to have breakfast once during our stay. It ends at 10am and with a 3 year old, I didn't want to upset many guests just in case he messed around.
It is a buffet style breakfast offering. There was on offer a full range of goodies! A variety of different cereals were available in huge bowls with then choices of various milk to have on it. There were then a selection of fruit juices to help yourself to as well as tea and coffee initially served at your table.
I helped myself to a selection of fresh fruit, (various melons, kiwi and oranges) and yoghurt and loved it.
There is hot counter where you can have herby sausages, crispy bacon, scrambled and fried eggs as well as friend tomatoes and mushrooms. There is also someone on hand to make you omelettes if you want as well.
Very impressed with breakfast and you could easily 'fill up' on it and not need a lunch.
Dinner in the restaurant starts at 6pm so we were always the first ones there. (Again,the fear of upsetting other diners) On the first night, both my children attached themselves to the waiters and I loved that with every night that we went they would recognise them and talk to them as diners in their own right. For it being a predominantly adult hotel, their service towards children was exceptional. For example, the first night we asked if we they would remove the wine glasses and water glasses from the table, (small hands and glass are not a good combination), which they did. The next night they removed them immediately without asking. It really is the small things that show that they care for their guests circumstances.
Portion sizes were huge ~ even the children's menu I would have struggled with I feel. It is very heavily flavoured with herbs and spices I personally felt although obviously when it comes to food it always down to your own preference. There is salt and pepper on the table if you need it too. Presentation is always sublime although the wait is often around the half an hour mark to account for this. Food was always hot and nothing ever needed to be sent back for any reason. I'm not used to 'fine dining' so struggled with finding things on the menu that I would like ~ I stuck with the Marriott burger and fish and chips. The children's menu was vast though and they loved it. BEWARE ~ garlic bread is extremely garlic-y. At least you'll be safe from vampires for the rest of your stay.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Other things *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
The hotel does have a swimming pool and other leisure facilities but we never visited this so can't comment on how good/bad it may be. The one thing I can say though is that people getting to this have to walk along a corridor next to the restaurant so when we were eating at 6pm people were still going backwards and forwards in their gym gear and conversations and noise from them made eating less comfortable. Also, nearly everyone walking past would look through the glass wall ~ I now know what it is like to be a goldfish!
There is no FREE wi-fi in your rooms but I found out that you could pay extra to have it if you wished. I wasn't informed of this at check-in though. There is free wi-fi access on the Terrace level although I never used it. I found this to be quite a disappointment in a 4* hotel as I would have thought that Internet access was kind of a 'given' in this era.
*~*~*~*~*~*~* Check-out *~*~*~*~*~*~*
Again, we had a trainee to check us out but she was polite and knew exactly what to do. She helped with the car parking issue I had earlier in the week and asked if we had had a good stay. All very efficient and took less than 5 minutes.