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With a maximum budget of £500, we wanted to buy a sofa for our living room that would stand the test of time and also not be so unique that it would never fit into another property. We stumbled across a few designs at Ikea that ticked boxes, as well as trawling through several options at other retailers that had special offers but ultimately we chose the Ektorp two seater with chaise combination.
We paid £450 for our sofa, but roughly only £300 of that was for sofa and the rest was for the cover. Although we made it as an entire purchase in the shop, the items were split out and you can actually buy extra covers which is a great idea for freshening up the look of your sitting room, or just having multiples. We went for the red cover, which has served us well still a year on. There seem to be three price ranges in the cover selection. You can get plain white for the cheapest, a plain colour for a bit more (like ours) or some more premium ones that are a velvet sort of material or with a particular pattern. The cheaper ones are removable and washable, which we've done a few times. If you do this, I'd recommend putting them back on the sofa slightly damp so that they dry in the right shape and slip on comfortably. We've managed to keep ours looking quite fresh with this method. We've also recently invested in a blue and white striped ikea cover that was old stock, which we bought on ebay that was much cheaper than in Ikea, I'd certainly recommend looking there first. It was brand new and half the price.
The sofa is quite long at just over 2.5 metres, but with the chaise attached, it looks much smaller. You can also buy the sofa in a two seater format, or the three seater without the chaise. The cushions have lasted really well in the last year and I'm not somebody who plumps them up regularly. The only complaint would be that the covers have bobbled ever so slightly. The chaise cushion being so long does have a tendency to slide off the sofa with the way that we sit on this, but I've noticed in our more recent cover purchase, that there is an extra strap on this part of the cover, and a design where the cushion is attached to the base of the sofa, which really stops the slipping issue.
One reason we went for this sofa, or rather an ikea sofa in general, was that we could buy it there and then and take it home, which is not an option you'll often get with sofas that need to be built elsewhere and delivered weeks, or even months later. It took two car loads in a large car to get it home but it was incredibly simple to assemble. Although it's a big sofa, it's not hugely heavy and all the parts could be carried into the house without issue. I would estimate that it took us about an hour to put it together and the instructions were actually very clear.
Although it's a well priced budget sofa, I think it represents excellent value for money and we will be keeping our for several years to come. It accommodates a lot of people (probably five comfortably with the chaise) and it fits well in any room of our house really. My only complaint would be that it isn't quite deep enough when you're sitting upright (88cm apparently), so if you like to really lie back, you need to turn sideways, which is ok in a pair, but not when you've got a sofa at full capacity.
I recently treated my mother to this camera for Christmas because she had something rather old, which wasn't up to speed with the latest technology and quality. I did extensive research on finding a good, easy to use and high quality camera within a budget of around £150. This was my decision and after playing with the camera for a good week or two, I am happy with the choice we made.
At just over £150, the Nikon Coolpix isn't especially cheap in terms of point and shoot cameras, but it does offer a good range of features and strong megapixel count (18). The main selling point for me with the camera was the 18x optical zoom, which would allow my mother to do lots of close up shots that would come out in good quality. This is her preferred style of taking photographs, so it was important to me that the images wouldn't be too grainy or blurred when the camera was fully zoomed in. We immediately were able to see that there is a certain crispness with photos taken even at full zoom, although the images aren't, obviously, crystal clear. The enormous screen on the back also allows for a good look at the photos before putting them on a larger screen.
As the zoom is so powerful for such a well priced camera, it does extend a long way and the camera itself is actually a bit larger than I was expecting. It looks tidy, neat and compact but it's actually significantly bigger in the hand than one might expect. It also is slightly heavier than my mother's previous camera, which I had assumed it wouldn't be, given that it's more of a latest technology. We also struggled to fit it into a standard camera case due to its larger size. Once it has a battery in it, the camera weighs just under 200g, which doesn't seem like much but it isn't especially light. At its thickest point, the camera is 3cm or so, which again seems like a small amount but when you're talking about a point and shoot camera, it's significant! It was the width of the camera (some 11cm) that caused issues with camera cases).
In terms of the ease of use, I would wholly recommend this camera to an all round user of cameras that needs something to take on holiday/to social gatherings. It has a nice range of features that are simple enough to use, for instance changing a photo to black or white or setting up a multiple photo shot on timer. The logos used on the camera are also very universal and easy to get to grips with. Speaking of grips, there's a nice holding pad on the back of the camera that's helpful for steadying yourself when you take a photo.
Now for the negatives: The flash on this camera is a pop up, the software is slow and the camera isn't that responsive. The flash being a pop up may be considered quaint by some, but frankly I find it to be a little frustrating that it just gets in the way and whenever you pass the camera to a new person to use, you have to exclaim "don't put your finger there, it's a pop up flash!" so lots of photos need to be taken multiple times and I think this could be annoying on a holiday situation where you might ask a passer-by to snap a family photo. The quality of the flash etc, is absolutely fine. I also found that when pressing the button to take a photo, especially when focussing hard on something, the camera took longer than I might have expected to respond and there was a lag between pressing and the shutter going off. It's not a huge issue, but in a world where we expect everything to be instant, it's frustrating and may lead to missed split second moments. As for the software, I found it a bit tedious to delete multiple photos and scroll through options, it all just seemed to take a bit too long.
On the whole, if you're a professional photographer, you aren't going to be impressed here really. There's nothing especially new or fancy, it's just a very good value for money option for those who take average photos and want something to show for themselves. There are some awkward features, but they aren't as awkward as some of the others I've witnessed on others in this price bracket.
Like many other pet owners, we are constantly battling against the fur that our cat leaves over just about everything we own. We own a hoover and have tried other handheld vacuums, but nothing has come close to this product for ridding our possessions of cat hair.
At around £30, the Bissell pet vacuum isn't expensive at all, it's very good value for a sturdy item. Although on first appearance, some may consider the fact that it's corded a negative, it actually means that the power isn't limited like other handheld cordless devices, which is clearly where we were going wrong before. The wire is just under five metres long, so your range of movement isn't restricted and the vacuum itself is compact with a very convenient switch on the handle where your thumb rests.
The best thing about this product is the nozzle that comes with it. There is a standard hoover attachment, a bit like one you'd use to do your stairs, which is perfect for doing a quick whip around the kitchen floor or even the interior of the car, but the real star is actually the rubberised nozzle that has little bumps on it. When removing pet hair from a fabric, the usual issue is that it sticks on so well that you can't get it off. This nozzle drags over the top of the hair and loosens them from the fabric, making it much easier to hoover up. The result is that everything is left virtually spotless of hair.
Because it's quite so effective, it's important to clean the product, which fortunately comes apart very easily. I empty mine after every use because I don't want any kind of build up and the fluff and hair pulls off very easily. My only complaint is that at 2kg, this isn't an especially light item and it can cause a slight wrist ache after extended use and it does become quite warm after extended periods. I also dislike that there is no stand that comes with it, as it doesn't need to charge on one. It tidies away nicely, but it's at a slight loose end compared to hand held ones that clip onto the wall for example.
I was lucky enough to get myself one of these toothbrushes during an Amazon sale for just £12, which at just under ten pounds less than what it's currently being sold for feels like a real steal. I've been so impressed with this purchase that I would pay full price for it in a flash.
As a trusted brand, it's not a surprise that this Oral-B toothbrush delivers. It comes with a charger that isn't huge and ugly, and sits happily on the side of our bathroom. One thing I will mention is that for some reason this plug didn't fit into our shaver socket, and we can only plug it into a normal UK socket, using an EU>UK adaptor. I normally leave ours to charge overnight, so it's hard to say how long it takes to do a full charge, but I'd estimate around 2 hours. Two of us use the same brush for two minutes twice a day and a charge will last us around 4-5 days.
My favourite feature about this brush is that is buzzes in your mouth after every 30 second stint, and a quadruple buzz after two minutes, which means you can always be sure about how long you've brushed your teeth for. I find that the actual brushing motion, where the head of this just spins continuously, does a much better job on my teeth than the 'sonic' style of electric toothbrush. I'm not sure if this is because of some psychological reason, but I genuinely feel like it's cleaning the whole time. The length of the toothbrush head is also a great positive as it really gets to the back of your mouth and cleans around the wisdom tooth area. I used to have lots of issues with wisdom teeth when using a manual toothbrush, but this has really helped to clear up that issue significantly, probably because I'm getting a cleaner tooth.
My only negative to this brush would be that it needs frequent cleaning as the toothpaste can get all over the body of the toothbrush and the charging hole can become gunky if you don't keep on top of it!
If you find yourself in Amsterdam you're going to be confronted with several things that we don't commonly find in England, and this Sex Museum is one of them.
The Sex Museum is a cheap attraction compared to many others in the city, but it's also quite small and full of rowdy groups of youngsters finding every mention of a body part absolutely hilarious. It's also slightly shadowed with similar groups of people using this visit as an experience to gloat about sexual experiences they themselves might have been in while in Amsterdam. If you can look past this you'll probably find something interesting here to look at, but it's a quick visit.
The route around the museum and the layout doesn't particularly lend itself to the quantities of people that go in there at once and there are several bottlenecks or just areas where people seem to cluster together and you can't see anything. There are lots of photographs from previous decades, which, while interesting, could do with more information as it seems people are happy to just look at this stuff without really knowing what it is as long as there are naked people in it. Similarly, there are some interesting pieces of artwork that really lack any useful information. The final bit of the tour downstairs in the museum is the most interesting and there are some really creepy models that jump out at you.
I wouldn't consider this attraction even remotely accessible to people with disabilities as there are many stairs and it is very busy, probably not lending itself to a wheelchair user in particular. If you're in the area and need to lose an hour, I'd recommend it, but it's not a necessity for a trip to the Dutch capital.
As part of the Joseph and Joseph range, you expect this chopping board to be both innovative in its design and also highly functional, unfortunately I found that this didn't really deliver.
I bought this item for £15 from my local kitchen shop, which seems to be a bit more than others have paid, probably because it was very new out when I got it. Several colours were available and I went with black, although I have to say that was a bad idea as the bends in the board, which I'll come to later, are only highlighted by that choice. The premise of this item is that you can chop your items on the board and then not have to perform some sort of magic to get them into the frying pan to stop from spilling them all over the hob. The board does live up to the bending promise but that's about as far as it goes.
My biggest gripe with this item is that after time the bending means that you can never have the board flat on a surface again, it's just not possible The sides curl up slightly and it causes an uneven surface, which isn't practical for chopping. It's also annoying for storage as it doesn't slot in nicely with other chopping boards... similar story with the dishwasher. I've also found that the material it's made of isn't especially resistant to knife marks and after a while really does look tatty.
In all, I think the idea is great and there's definitely room for it in my kitchen, but the execution is poor and I don't think it'll be much longer before my board snaps along one of the bend lines as it's becoming quite flimsy. Nice try Joseph and Joseph but it needs a bit more work!
If you've not encountered a garlic twist before then you're probably wondering what on earth it does and how it's different to other similar products out there.
The garlic twist is a compact little tub with some 'teeth' inside it - all made of plastic, that you fill with peeled garlic and then twist to product a great hunk of crushed garlic. The product comes in a variety of colours, ours is green, and you can buy them for £14.99 in our local kitchen shop, so I can't imagine the price varies that much!
It's a slight pain that you have to put the garlic in peeled, but you can also use the sturdy piece of kit to whack down onto cloves on a hard surface and peel their skin off. I usually fit around four cloves into the tub and then put the top half on and twist. Sometimes the first twist can be a bit stiff and it's admittedly tough to get the twisting action going, but once you've broken through that barrier it's really very easy to get the garlic crushed very finely. I prefer having a crushed and coarsely smashed garlic rather than chopping it up into tiny pieces because it feels like I'm getting some of the oils out, and it's certainly very potent when it comes out.
The only negatives I would consider in this review are that if you don't wash it immediately, garlic can become stuck on, and if you are weak wristed, then you may struggle to get this going. It'd also be good to see a larger model that could hold more garlic for us garlic lovers!!
I bought this headphones for my job, where I am often required to be on Skype calls, but also to listen to the odd bit of music or video.
I found this model in Argos for £14.99, which I felt was a reasonable price for the brand and also the sturdiness of the headset. I've had many issues with other headsets, where they are flimsy and don't really last particularly long. This pair came in a heavy duty plastic bubble (the sort you can never open easily), with ample instructions. The headset has a really long lead compared to other similar models and I am able to move around my desk freely when plugged in.
The headset also looks very smart in a black and light grey design, although some might say this was boring. One of the best features it he soft padded bits around the ears as they are snug on your head but don't press on any uncomfortable areas and allow you to wear the headset for some time without any sign of discomfort. The width of the headband is also something I appreciate, as it stops the headset from sliding around too much. One issue I've noticed with a lot of other headsets is that the microphone 'stick' remains in position and 'stiff' if you like, for a month or so, and then the whole thing goes loose, but so far so good (6 months) with this pair. The microphone stick is also bendy so you can put it into a position that suits you.
My only criticism would be the controls that are half way up the wire. They have useful functions - volume and muting capabilities, but I find that it's really easy to accidentally mute yourself on a call, which is awkward. The volume isn't quite as sensitive as I would like, but for this price it's a fantastic headset.
We wanted to buy a frother that was separate from the Nespresso machine as we'd heard horror stories about the integrated ones going wrong and being hard to fix, and I have to say on that front, we made a good decision. We were however slightly disappointed with this frother considering the money we paid for it (£60).
Although the product looks very stylish and fits the range of Nespresso machines, it's not particularly large. Although this is great because it doesn't use up lots of space and is easily stashed away, it means you can only prepare milk for one drink at a time. If you're treating yourself to a nice coffee, it's quite reasonable to think it might be for an occasion with someone else. A bit like a kettle, the frother slots on to a socket, which is connected to the mains and it also has a power switch on the side of the machine.
To get the machine going, you can select one of two frothers, one is more suited to a cappucino style of froth, and the other to a latte. You can also choose whether or not to heat up the milk, which brings me to my next point... the temperature. Although the milk is well frothed, we just found it to be too cold, even when heating milk before putting it into the frother (although I don't think heating the milk and then putting it in is especially recommended). Once you've put the coffee in it does a bit to raise the temperature, but overall, this was quite disappointing.
Although it's made of non-stick materials, I didn't find it especially easy to rinse out the aerocino, meaning that to do two coffees and avoid a burnt milk incident, you have to wash it properly between uses. It produces a constant hum while it's working its magic, but it isn't offensive, it's just loud enough to let you know it's working! It's also quite fiddly to get the one of two frothers onto the little nub in the bottom of the tub. I would also be very concerned about losing these in the washing process, which is definitely a disadvantage.
On the whole, I think it's a good product and it does froth the milk, it's just definitely not worth the money as you can achieve the same affect with something less expensive and probably get a warm coffee out of it.
After a lot of research, we finally decided on this model as a gift for my father, and ultimately I feel like we made the right decision.
The small design of this (and having a separate milk frother) and the interesting colours were immediately appealing to us. The machine comes with a large range of nespresso capsules, so you can work out what you like without spending lots of money. Overall the packaging seems quite thorough, everything has been well wrapped and you don't feel like you're buying something cheap. Extensive instructions come with the machine and we were soon plugged in ready to go.
The first use of the machine was something which I felt required a bit of practice. Filling the machine up with water was easy enough, but I feel like more attention should be given to how to put the capsule into the machine. I knew because I've used one before, but my father was less sure and you could easily waste capsules here by not pressing them down or doing it at the wrong time. The general idea is that you pop in the capsule and pull the handle down to pierce it inside the machine. This is quite a stiff handle, but the machine is weighty enough that it stays in place while you do this. You then select a short or long coffee and pop your cup underneath the spout.
I was impressed at how quickly the water came out hot of here, but it wasn't absolutely boiling. I suspect that this is largely due to an ideal coffee temperature or similar, but if you like your coffee piping hot this may not be for you. You can also of course heat your cup before you fill it, but this removes a bit of the easiness of this machine. One other issue we encountered was that you can fold up the drainage tray to fit in a larger cup for a long coffee, but it doesn't seem to stay up. You'd hope that there would be some sort of catch here, or at least a magnet to hold it up but I found it a bit disappointing. Filling up the water in the back of the machine and emptying the used capsule tub is very easy an intuitive.
Once you've got the knack of it, I would praise this machine for being very easy and not dominating the work surface, but due to the temperature issues and slight difficulty in accommodating larger cups, it loses a point in my book. A fantastic product for the price in any case.
At about £20, this little branded hand mixer from Kenwood is quite the steal. You have the assurance that it's from a company that produces quality kitchen products but at a very reasonable price.
I've had this mixer for a couple of years now and it's still as good as the day I bought it. It came in a very compact box, with two sets of accessories - the whisks (obviously!) and the hooks. I've never used the hooks so I can't really comment on them, but they feel sturdy. The whisks slot into the machine very easily, and there isn't a big whisk and a small whisk situation like you get with some handheld items, these fit into both slots making it easier and less fiddly. They click firmly into place.
There are three speed settings on the mixer, but I don't find the difference between them to be that great. Sometimes you need a really slow mix when a recipe calls for it, but this one doesn't really offer it. It's either fast, faster or fastest. The mix is always very even with this mixer, but I do find that the motor can struggle with thicker items, for instance some cookie doughs. When this happens, the mixture creeps up the whisks and gets all caught up in the part you hold, which is both annoying and really difficult to clean. On the whole, the whisks are easy to clean as long as you do so straight after using them, because as soon as they've got something dried onto them, it's a nightmare.
The cord of the product has an irritating habit of curling up really tight and making it impossible to stretch the lead out completely. I'm not sure how to avoid this, but I assume wrapping the cord around the mixer after ease use for storage could be to blame. If this is the reason, it's a shame, because there's a groove just for this purpose on the mixer!
This is a good value for money product, but would need a few more tweaks to get five stars from me. I also think the design is a little boring and could be jazzed up with some coloured plastics.
If you've read my review of the large Kenwood food processor, you're probably wondering why I would need a mini-chopper like this one, but actually I use it all the time!
The chopper is about the size of two jacket potatoes and half of it forms the motor and base (white bit) and the rest is a mini food processing bowl that slots onto a spindle that's attached to the base. The blade is the placed over the top, and there's a lid that slides on top and clicks in when it's at the right angle. You can't press the on button until the lid is in place, which is a good safety option. I've found that when I press down on the power button I can get a variation in speed, but I'm not sure if this is an official feature.
The bowl itself doesn't fit a huge quantity, but it's perfect for whizzing up some garlic and a chilli for a stir fry, or a bit of chocolate to make some chocolate chips. The motor isn't really powerful, so I've found that it will struggle when there's a full bowl of stuff, but doing it in small batches isn't too much of a pain. This really fills the gap between needing to chop something fiddly and not wanting to lug out the massive food processor. It sits neatly in the cupboard and it really easy to clean, we just bung it all in the dishwasher.
I'd recommend this for people who avoid using fresh items because they think they are too much effort - this product takes away the effort and gives you many more kitchen options. Great for the keen chef and newbie alike!
I was bought this food processor as a Christmas gift, and being the foodie that I am, it was a great choice. This can currently be bought for somewhere between £100-125 depending on where you look but I believe my mother got a good deal!
In terms of the initial opening, it's easy to be overwhelmed with all the bits that come in this box and immediately I was thinking "where on earth am I going to store this all?" but actually it can all slot quite compactly into a large tupperware, which is where I store the bits and then keep the unit separate. This also comes with a blender/liquidiser sort of deal, which is easier for milkshakes as it just slots on the top. I've also been using this for soups and it works well and pours better than the main unit. The spatula that comes with the machine really is custom made for the shape of the bowl. It effortlessly fits into every bit and you won't waste a drop. I have unfortunately ruined this by putting it in the dishwasher though, you have been warned!
The most annoying thing about this item is that to get things working you have to put this extended large 'cog' onto the base of the unit then slot the main processing bowl over the top and then attach the relevant gadget to the cog. There are a variety of attachments that you'd expect, grating, slicing, juicing etc. but mainly we used the dough hook to do pastries and the traditional blades. It would be much easier just to slot these in like our old processor. The only advantage to the weird cog is that the whole thing comes apart much easier and it's a breeze to clean. One comment I would make is that became of the chrome like finish, be careful what you use on the chrome parts as I'd manage to damage the finish using an anti-bacterial wipe. It's also been quite hard to clean in between the cogs where the long stick fits into.
My favourite part of the processor, and a feature I wouldn't really expect is the spice mill, which I've actually been using to grind all sorts of things but it's great for coffee as we actually don't have a coffee grinder.
On the whole this is a really sturdy and varied machine that cuts the mustard in more ways that one. I'd recommend it to anybody who is into cooking, but would probably consider it overkill for the occasional chef with limited needs.
I always seem to buy different sun tan lotions depending on what's on offer, so this year we tried a range of these tan and protect lotions in a variety of factors from 15-30. I got mine on BOGOF at boots and they were about £13 for both.
The bottle itself is quite appealing as it looks like an oil rather than a cream, and it's also handy to have a clear spray so you can see what's still left in the bottle. In terms of how easy it is to apply, it's fine, but once you start spraying and rubbing it, your hands get quite slippery and it becomes hard to push the button down. It's also a fairly greasy oil, I would probably describe it as a traditional oil more than a dry oil like the similar Nivea product.
It spreads very easily over the skin as it is so greasy, which is a perk, but I found it hard to know how much I'd actually put on and just adopted a 'if it looks greasy, it's fine' approach. Even though the factor thirty should be a reasonably high protection factor, I didn't consider it to be quite as strong as a traditional cream. In part this was due to it coming off in the water, when really I feel it should be a touch more water resistant. It's definitely more of a tanning and sunning yourself lotion than a protection.
In terms of whether or not I went browner than usual? Honestly I don't think so. I tan relatively easily regardless of what I use so I was expecting this to make me browner than usual but I don't think it does. It makes you glisten nicely on the beach though!
Currently you can obtain these scales for just over £12 on Amazon. Just because they're cheap however, doesn't mean they're poor quality!
The scales are about the size of a CD case but thicker, and look very neutral in a black design with chrome style buttons. There are rubberised pads on the bottom of the scales so they don't slip around all over the place. As these are electronic, it's very easy to plonk your bowl/dish you're weighing into on top and press the button to reset the scale to zero. This removes the need for a special dish and cuts down on washing up, but some might find this annoying.
The button responds well, although sometimes I find I need to push it several times to reset the scales to zero, it's a slightly clunky button design.
As the scales are flat, they are super easy to clean and you can put them away in a drawer, so they don't need to be out all of the time. I'd really recommend these scales for somebody limited on space and money as they are a quality product.