- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
I recently had to attend a black tie function, my dress was navy blue and at the time my toe nails were a lovely bright turquoise colour which had been the last of that particular bottle of polish so needing to tidy up my toes I went out looking for a cheap dark blue varnish.
My first stop was Superdrug where I found this Miss Sporty Atomic Blue polish. A near navy blue colour in the bottle it cost me £1.99 for 7ml. Claiming to last up to 10 days I figured it ought to survive a night out in peep toe shoes!
The polish is quite a thick consistancy, and but goes on quite smoothly. I used two coats of the polish on my big toe but just one on the others which left all with a nice even coating and colour.
It was touch dry when I tested it after a couple of minutes.
As to how well it lasted I'm reasonably pleased the night out in question was a pretty good test as I spent much of the night on and off a bouncy castle and space hoppers (yup I did say it was a black tie function). There were one or two small chips on the ends of the nails thanks to stumbling over after a little too vigerously space hoppering - seriously space hoppers in high heels, not easy. But since then there have been no further chips or scratches apparent and I do tend to wander around barefoot whenever possible.
Overall for the money I think this is a decent polish, the depth of colour is good, there are very few chips or marks on it even after over a week of wearing it. I'd not prehaps wear it on my finger nails as I suspect it wouldn't survive as well but since my job prohibits nail polish the only time I do wear any is on holiday when I prefer lighter colours anyway it is unlikely to be a problem.
I've recently changed jobs and my office is one of those places where objects go to die. After I got fed up with the fact that posters wouldn't stay on my walls with blutack or even cellotape and the plasterboard falls apart if you try to pin things I decided to give glueing stuff up a try and picked up this PVA glue from the shop next door.
It cost me £1 for a 60ml tube.
The tube is a fairly standard shape, cylindrical, with a screw on nozzle whch has a clear cap to prevent the glue escaping and to minimise the likelihood of it drying out.
I'm sure as kids we all played with PVA glue, so the distinctive scent and that it goes on white and dries clear and is surprisingly satisfying to peel off things needs no explaining.
Since buying the glue and using it liberally on the posters they have stayed put, however attempting to use it to glue the sole of a shoe back on failed miserbly, so it's fair to say that for static application this stuff works very well, however for use when movement is likely I'd not rate it too highly - that said it doesn't say it's suitable for sticking rubber to rubber while paper, felt, and foam are mentioned specifically.
Other than my use for it as an alternative to blutack this is designed for crafting, the nozzle is a long and very fine one, though this does mean that it blocks easily, it makes it quite easy to apply small amounts of glue with precision.
The diameter of the container means it would be a good size for both adult and small hands to keep a firm hold of, and is a nicely squeezy bottle to make it easier to get the glue out.
The initial 60ml bottle I bought is still going strong and other than needing to clean out the nozzle when I need to use it the glue is still perfectly usable and there is plenty left for my purposes.
Over the hottest part of summer I was working in a glass office block, needless to say I was often feeling the effects of dehydration, but company policy was that open drinks containers were banned outside of the break room. So I decided to look for a bottle which would fit in my handbag but still be big enough to hold enough water to last a few hours.
The winner of the search was the Bobble bottle, initially I just liked the shape, I didn't think there was much point to the filtering system as I live and work in a soft water area but frequently visit hard water areas and object to paying £1 or more for a bottle of water so figured I'd just carry it when I travel too.
I paid £10 for my bottle and filter, which seemed an awful lot of money for a mere water bottle. Replacement filters can be purchased in singles (£4-£7) or twin packs (£6-£13) my last purchase of filters was from John Lewis at £6 for two.
The bottle is a fairly thin and somewhat flexible plastic, it contains up to 550ml of water so can range from very light to rather weighty in the handbag. It's shape is a rather pleasing hourglass curve, making it easy to hold on to - I've taken to using it when running as well as at work as it's so easy to hold on to.
So the real test is does the filter work? For me in my home region the filter is rather pointless, the water from the tap tastes good at any time, but I've visited friends in London and found that the taste of the tap water was vastly improve by the filter - though nothing will ever make London tap water taste good when it's not been chilled first.
Keeping the bobble clean is simple, I merely unscrew the filter and chuck the rest of the bottle in to a bowl of soapy water and give it a good rinse, you can buy a Bobble branded bottle brush but well....why would you?
I've been using my bobble now for around 4 months, changing the filter once a month this has cost me around £24 for an almost unlimited supply of filtered water - I do get alot of use out of it refilling my Bobble two or three times a day most days, the cost of the same quantity of bottled water would be far far greater than the cost of Bobble so far. The recommendation is to change the filter every 300 refills or no less often than once every 2 months. There are a few small scuffs on the body of the bottle but nothing unexpected for an item which lives in my handbag.
The reception area and restaurant are in a small standalone building apart from the hotel block itself, alongside the carpark which is a good size given the number of rooms.
Check in is from 4pm, I was able to check in early, but there were cleaners still working on rooms in the other half of the block. My observation from the rest of the weekend was that this is pretty typical, as long as the room is cleaned they're happy to check people in as they arrive.
The rooms keys are thick plastic cards more substantial than the electronic credit card style cards alot of hotels use and I found that it fit in my wallet.
I booked a double room, the beds are twins which can be pushed together to form a double. The mattress was a little harder than I like but comforatble enough. The quilt was fairly light weight but warm. There were two pillows, a third in the wardrobe. On either side of the bed were small bedside tables, big enough for essentials.
There's a small heater on one wall.
The bathroom is the bed, it contains an over bath shower, sink, toilet. There is a long mirror, with a wide shelf, and a towel shelf on the wall. There was just one towel on it.
The overall decor of the room is tired, the carpet felt thin, worn and freying at the edges. The bathroom tiles had a patina effect on all the tiles, unfortunely this made the bathroom look dirty.
The bath again looked old but was clean, the taps and shower head were clean and well polished.
In the bedroom theres a flatscreen tv, a small kettle with standard brew kit. Sadly again this showed its age.
Theres only one double plug socket in the rooms - the one the TV is plugged in to, so for most this would be a problem.
The wifi was easy to connect to and was actually pretty speedy.
The lighting in the rooms is quite poor, two reading lights and an uplighter, but no other lights, as the 'main' light was diagonally across from the door left the corner where the bathroom was in darkness. In the bathroom there were two lights either side of the mirror, giving plenty of light to do make up and wash by.
The ground floor has rooms which are suitable for the disabled with wet rooms not bathrooms.
Due to the low cost of the hotel it is a popular place with people on nights out.
Due to the walkways and stairwell being painted concrete with some fuzzy green fabric on it there were plenty of eye level signs warning that in wet weather it was likely to be more slippery than normal.
The standard room rate for a walk up is £44 per night, but I would highly recommend booking in advance as deals can be found.
Meals are available in the restaurant.
On a recent trip I found that I had caught the sun slightly and had run out of aftersun so popped in to the nearest shop I could find to buy a moisturiser, that was Lush and I found that I preferred the scent of the Karma over the other moisturisters on offer.
Of course in store things seem to smell very strongly, but then in store it is a competition to get the consumer to pick one product over another. I found on returning to my hotel and slathering on some of the Kream that I smelled very strongly of the product, and it was a little over powering so I washed it off and reapplied far more sparingly.
The Kream itself is light and creamy in consistancy and sinks in easily, and it definitely did help my skin to feel less dry and tight after my minor sun mistake.
A pot of Karma Kream will set you back around 13.50 for a 225g pot which I've found does last quite a long time if used sparingly to prevent the overpowering scent becoming just too much.
The product scent is advertised as orange, patchouli and pine, for me I would say the patchouli is by far the predominent part of the combination. As with all Lush products it is advertised as being fairly natural (though not perfect Lush does still use some more chemical ingredients) and this one contains a mere 6 safe synthetics. The moisturising properties come from the use of almond oil, cocoa butter and glycerine.
Living at 'home' again with my Dad has thrown up some interesting arguments over the last few months, one of the most recent being over custody of my laptop bag on a weekend when Dad was going to be away with work and I was planning a trip to visit friends. The disagreement eventually devolved in to a simple case of its mine and I won't share (on my part) ultimately trumped by you live in my house and will do as I say (on my Dads). But it did show that one of us really does need to think about introducing another laptop bag to the household.
The bag we were so keen to retain for ourselves was this Targus Messenger. I've had it now for over 8 years, originally inheriting it from an ex boyfriend when he bought a laptop and bag without checking that the bag would be the right size for the laptop - as it turned out it was far too big and being a lazy bloke with no concept of money simply bought a smaller bag and was planning to throw out this one. At the time I was a little large for my laptop of the time but as I now have both my main laptop which has a 15" screen and a 10" netbook the larger capacity is much appreciated.
Looks wise it really isn't anything to shout about, a grey and black tough woven fabric exterior which is ever so slightly shiny, and I believe has some water resistance as even in the worst of the weather the items inside the bad have suffered from very little water damage - some dampness in the outer pockets but not as bad as I had expected - a removable shoulder strap and carry handle, all in the black and grey colour scheme with small splashes of yellow where the brand name is embroidered. The outer zips are operated with rubbery tags which again are black and yellow.
The bag itself has numerous pockets inside the main section under the flap are the large laptop slot, which is very well padded with additional removable padding which velcros in to place, leaving this section divided in to two, I often have my laptop secured in the padded section with my netbook in its neoprene slip case in the less secure section with the assorted chargers slung in on top, in previous lives I regularly carried my laptop, charger, text books, and a ring binder (of the smaller variety) in this section. In front of this is a section which unzips to fold out featuring card slots, a zip up net pen section and two slightly padded pockets secured with velcro, one larger one and a smaller one with a small embroidered symbol suggesting it would be suitable for a PDA or I suppose these days a smartphone, in addition to an open topped net pocket, the front of this flap has a large zip up net pocket, which has the capacity to fit a fairly large quantity of loose A4 papers (generally known as my university assignments). Closing the flap over the top of this interior you'll find there is another zippered pocket on the top of the flap, and a relatiely open slot at the back which is loosely secured with a square of velcro in the middle, I tend not to use the pocket on the flap as I have a tendency to forget what's in there, while the pocket at the back is unused as if I'm carrying the bag with items in it they bounce uncomfortably off my legs, something which becomes rather an issue if I have as I typically do alot of things in the inside pockets.
In addition there is on one side a concealed zip which when opened out provides a net pocket which Targus suggest as a place to keep a water bottle, personally it has seen more use as a place to put a wet umberella, regardless it is a decent size pocket which can be tidied away when not in use, and once upon a time there was a removable phone case I could clip to the other side, but it has become lost in the years since I first got the bag, though the fixing points on the bag itself are as with all the other plastic elements to this bag undamaged. Carrying it for long periods of time on one shoulder I find does become uncomfortable quickly, but as mentioned when I'm using this I typically have alot of 'stuff' packed in to it so it is heavy, but extending the shoulder strap I can wear it across my body which helps to redistribute the load considerably.
The flap is secured by a chunky plastic clip which over the last 8 or so years has stood up to some horrifically rough treatment without cracking or splitting. The shoulder strap is secured to the body of the bag with plastic carabiner type fasteners and is fully adjustable, the padded section is around 6 inches long and 2 inches wide and movable to ensure that it sits in the right place over your shoulder. The handle on top of the flap is of the same type of tough woven fabric as the rest of the bags exeterior with the brand name sewn in to it in yellow.
Over the years I've thought about replacing this with a more attractive looking bag but all the ones I've bothered to look at in person when I've been in the shop have simply looked to be lacking in robustness of construction by comparison to this model. Yes after 8 years of none too gentle usage there are scuffs on the corners and it's looking a little mucky which my typical cleaning method of a wipe with a damp cloth won't get clean but those scuffs are yet to become holes and frankly short of being made of teflon coated plastic most things which get used on a regular basis in and out of the home are likely to pick up some grubby marks over such a long period of time.
It isn't a sleek slimline bag, but then thats a compromise you would have to make between looks and its protective properties, and obviously being built for larger screens this adds to the bags necessary dimensions.
If you were looking to buy a messenger style bag for a laptop with up to a 17" screen then if you can overlook its rather dull appearence then you can't go wrong with this one, looking online they can be bought for between £20 and £40, though more recent reviews suggest that the newer ones possibly have a little less padding on the interior pockets. If you have a smaller laptop then I would highly recommend looking for smaller bags in the Targus range to minimise unecessary bulk.
Sometimes I wonder what I'm getting myself in to before I do it, others I just launch in to it without a second thought. This latter habit is one which has found me preparing for two charity swims over the next few months, one being the Sport Relief Swimathon at the end of March (indoors), the second being the Manchester Great Swim in July (outdoors, in Salford Quays).
After a few weeks of swimming for between 60 and 90 minutes at a time I've found that while I'm not bored I tend to find that at the ends of the pool I'm stopping to rest for longer than I need to so I can evesdrop the gossipy conversations of the other women "swimming" so decided that as when I'm out running listening to music it helps me keep pace and distracted from the scenery around me it was worth looking to see if water proof MP3's were in my price range yet.
Happily for me they are and there are plenty of options, being slightly overwhelmed by the choices available I narrowed it down to the Sony product and this Speedo Aquabeat. I figure that Speedo are an expert in swim wear so chances are their product would be suitably water proofed.
I bought mine from Amazon for around £40 for this the original model. The MP3 comes with earphones - over hear bud styles ones which should help to make them more secure in the ear whilst swimming, three sets of different sized buds to make sure you have the ones which fit best, a USB charger/data cable, a net bag to keep it all in and an extension cable for the ear phones in case you need to secure the MP3 away from your head or shoulders.
Opening the box I find a small - large matchbox - rubber feel unit, grey buttons set in to a curved red 'frame'. One end has the headphone jack/charging port, the other is simply a smooth curved surface, the back has the clip enabling you to fix it to the strap of your goggles or costume.
The initial set up is very simple, plug it in to a computer and charge it up, I found that the first time this took just over 2 hours, the player automatically installed the appropriate drivers to my laptop. When it is fully charged the small LED on the front glows green, while charging it's red. Adding music to it is a very simple drag and drop process, either direct between folders or using the 'playlist builder' software which comes with the MP3. the box includes instructions to convert music purchased on itunes to MP3 so it can be played on this too.
I find that the player clips easily on my goggles when I wear them but unless placed in exactly the right place on the back of my head the extra drag from the unit pulls my goggles out of place making it rather uncomfortable, so usually I clip it on to the shoulder strap of my swim suit, I'm not particularly tall and don't have an unusually long neck so the ear phone cable is long enough to reach without pulling the buds uncomfortably while I swim, this is helped by the cable having a coiled section so it is kept fairly taut but still has some give to it. That said having bought a second costume lately I find that it's almost impossible to attatch securely to the newer one as it has thicker stitching on the straps so I prehaps need to get used to the more annoying goggle fixture.
One of the male swimmers who borrowed it said that for him the irritation of having it on his head was worse than listening to the gossipers, and even with the extension it wasn't the most comfortable fit when clipped at waist level - though Speedo do also sell an armband I would imagine that this for me at least would be even more of an annoyance due to the wires being so very much in the way of your arm movements.
The sound quality dry is decent, its not stunning but it's acceptable through the provided earphones, in the water as long as you manage to keep your earbuds in place the quality remains great, if however one comes out the water in the ear canal and in the bud itself will cause it to sound muffled - just like when pools used to play music through loudspeakers and you were listening to it from underwater. As these are designed for use in the water once they have got wet it's not a problem I tend to rinse the whole unit in the sink when I get home - obviously it would be a bad idea to let it all get wet without the earphone jack firmly in place!
For me the big downside to the unit is the earbuds, they fit comfortably and feel secure when I have the right size of covers on them, but the hooks which are designed to keep the buds more securely in the ear are too loose over my ears and are not solidly fixed to the bud so can move independently of the bud which means that unless I'm wearing a hat I'm uncomfortably aware of them moving around as I swim - if I tumbleturn I tend to find it pulls one of them out more often than not. If I don't get more used to them I plan on looking for an alternative set of water proof ear buds without the hooks. I also feel that this join is most likely to be the weak point in the set, the cable between the hook and bud must be under some strain with the two solid surfaces either side so I would guess it'll be the bit that splits, I'd actually have liked if the hook part was removable so you could choose if to use them or not.
The Aquabeat is advertised as having up to an 18 hour battery life, as yet I've not used it for longer than 90 minutes at a time and due to being fussy about my swimming music end up plugging it back in to my laptop to alter the tracks on it thus recharging it.
Operating it is very simple the front has two buttons, forward/on and backward/off, when turned on it has a green flashing LED, if the battery is low the LED flashes red and green. On the top is the volume control. To make turning it on easier in the water the forward/on button is textured with small raised dots while the other half is smooth. If you want to repeat a track you can do so pressing the backbutton for a second or two after the track as been playing for at least 15 seconds - but pressing it too long turns the whole thing off.
As I also scuba dive I would like it if this unit was rated as suitable for withstanding pressure but among the literature in the box with it there is no mention of its ability to accompany me on dives so I won't be risking it.
Overall I really like my Aquabeat, the sound quality is good, it helps me focus on what I'm supposed to be doing and strangely when I'm using it people seem to keep out of my way more - presumably because they think I'm less aware of my surroundings and more likely to swim in to them. The netbag is far bigger than it needs to be for just the MP3 and headphones, so I use it to keep my hat, goggles and locker token together instead of them being loose in my kit bag. My minor gripes about the ability to fix it to my swim suit reliably and the hooks on the ear phones have lost it that one star.
Aside from reviewing I do quite a bit of product testing and one of the recent products I was sent to trial was a Head and Shoulders Apple Fresh Shampoo and Conditioner set after Head and Shoulders made some changes to the scent formula. This is the review of the Shampoo.
I'm lucky I have mid length dark blonde hair, which is on the whole slightly wavy and shiny no matter what I do with it, so I often wonder at the assorted claims which are made by the manufacturers of hair care products, but I do come from a family for whom dandruff seems to be a common problem - thankfully one which doesn't affect me as yet - so anti dandruff shampoos are a product which seem to have a permenant presence in the bath and shower rooms at home.
So after recieving this pair of products in the post I was somewhat indifferent to its anti dandruff abilities but it was sent due to the change in scent formula, and surprisingly I couldn't find a bottle of the original formula in the house to check against so this is only my observations on this new varient without the benefit of knowing about the older one.
Opening the flip top I found that there was a slight apple scent but nothing too strong nor was it one which I found myself still noticing even a minute after opening the bottle. In the shower I found that opening the bottle and pouring it on to my hand even holding it close to my nose the apple scent was barely perceptible.
The product itself is as seems to be the norm for Head and Shoulders products a creamy texture in the colour associated with the scent -in this case no so surprisingly light green.
Washing my hair was a typically easy process, and the shampoo seemed to rinse out just as easily as my usual shampoos, with a nice lather - some shampoos seem to have no lather at all while others it seems to be too thick.
I used the shampoo both with and without the matching conditioner.
With the conditioner my hair was noticably darker and heavier leaving me to believe that it doesn't as claimed leave no residue.
Without I found that the heavy residue was lessened but not entirely absent, meaning I really didn't feel that my hair was all that clean at all. After blow drying there was also a complete absence of apple scent - even the cheap £1 a bottle shampoo I typically use I find leaves some scent on my hair several hours after I've washed and dried it so I was rather unimpressed with the 'new scent formula' of this one.
Another concern was that the day after I first used this shampoo and conditioner combo I woke up to find one side of my face was covered in a rash, I'd changed no other product in my "beauty" regime (if my wash with water, and dry on a towel habits count as a regime), and hadn't been wearing any make up - though what little I do own and occasionally wear is meant to be hypo-allergenic, or other scented products. After giving my skin time to recover I found that the next time I used the shampoo without the conditioner the same thing occured but to a less noticable level so removed them from my bathroom and in to my Dads where he has said that he's suffered no similar after effects on his skin and hadn't even noticed it was a scented product!
Christmas '13 was a strange one for my family, my Nana is terminally ill, and has been living with my Mum and Step Dad since late October under the care of a team of carers and nurses trained in palliative care. As as a result the house feels at times like a public space not a home, so my Step Dad decided that my Mum needed a holiday as soon as he could find cheap flights to Tenerife where they have a second home, but he decided that Mum really didn't need a relaxing trip so he also booked my sister and I flights as a Christmas present. My packing tends to be on the light side at the best of times but I'd not long finished my last decent lip balm containing SPF so knew that it was pretty much the only thing I'd need to seek out before the trip, so on a visit to Tesco with my Dad I sougt out the section for lip balms and picked up the one with the highest SPF.
That one happened to be the Vaseline lip care cocoa butter stick with an SPF of 15 over the likes of Chapstick who these days have an SPF of only 10. My past experience with vaseline products has been on the whole positive so I was happy to try out the new to me product for which I paid £2.
The stick is a typical lipstick style tube with a solid stick of vaseline which twists up and down. The lid seems to clip quite securely over the top which is reassuring as I've lost several lipbalms to assorted dirt and muck in my pockets or bags after the lids have come loose.
So the product itself, is a creamy brown coloured stick, the scent is similar to traditional vaseline but with a slight sweetness to it. Rubbing it across my lips it feels quite greasy, in the same way that original vaseline does, and it is detectable on my lips for a fairly long period of time after applying as long as I'm not eating, drinking or swimming. Of course having bought this for my holiday I knew I would be swimming regularly and spending time on the beach where I find that my face in particular will come off worst in the battle between sun and skin so a lip balm which felt like it was staying put was a bonus.
The downside to the lip balm for me is that it has a taste - even breathing in through my mouth leaves a taste of it in the back of my throat which is not overly pleasant, not to mention the issue of being on a black sand beach on an usually windy day - my face was sandblasted, my lips just had sand stuck to them, and the taste of the salt stuck to the balm on my lips after a swim. The salt on my lips after swimming was one of my biggest bugbears, unlike most people I tend to get in the water and swim for at least 40 minutes so going in with no sun protection on my face and lips is absolutely not an option but with a balm which does stay put the accumulated salt is quite nasty to taste.
After a week of constant use the balm is barely used at all so I would imagine it will last me at least another month if I was to use it daily, of course in a warmer climate it felt lighter and greasier when applied but using it back here since I've been home although the stick is harder it still remains greasy feeling on the skin and hasn't really done much to moisturise my skin, since coming home my lips have suffered from tight dry skin despite using the lip balm regularly and having ensured that I have remained well hydrated throughout my holiday and since I returned.
I will say however that in terms of an SPF it has been entirely successful, most trips out to Tenerife I end up with a sunburned face and lips even in the winter months, this time out I came home with slightly tender shoulders but no problem with my face or lips so the Lip Therapy has at least lived up to that claim, however I think the next time I travel I'll find another product with similar or greater SPF to try as the general greasiness and lack of moisturisation provided by this product makes it low on my list of things to try using again.
My £2 bought a 4g tube of balm which is a pretty typical price, and its effectiveness in preventing my lips from burning in the sun gain it stars. But the greasiness, back of the throat taste and stickiness lose it stars leaving it with an over all of 3.
I love hot chocolate but was starting to get slightly bored of the typical hot instant hot chocolate, so while I was out shopping with my Mum she offered to treat me to a pot to keep at her house for while I've been doing over nights helping to care for my Nana.
We couldn't find a flavoured one we both agreed on then spotted this one on the shelf and thought it was worth a try.
Getting it home piercing the foil there is a definite scent of creamy chocolate, the chocolate powder is as you would expect the same soft light texture as most hot chocolates but a cream colour.
The directions suggest to use three teaspoons of powder per mug, generally I've found using slightly less two and a half is typical is more to my liking.
After boiling the kettle the first problem I found with this is that no matter how carefully you stir while pouring the water there it is very difficult to actually get to mix properly, there always seems to be small lumps floating in the surface. Once I've either fished out the bigger of the remaining lumps or accepted that I can't get rid of them the overall appearance of the drink isn't too bad, there is a thin layer of what in normal hot chocolate is light coloured foam on the surface. The drink under this layer looks very thin and watery, regardless of how much of the powder you use.
The scent is quite sweet and creamy as you would expect from white chocolate.
Taste wise this is quite disappointing, white chocolate is usually very sweet and creamy, the drink version is mostly very sweet, there is a some creaminess to it but not very much. As with the Tesco cheap hot chocolate I reviewed previously I found that the addition of a splash of milk does help the flavour but then with an instant product you really wouldn't expect to be needing to add anything else.
It's a chocolate product so the drink isn't overly healthy but as it's part of the Options range it is meant to be lower in calories than others. The guide suggests that for 11g of powder made up with 200ml of water will contain 44 calories, but a very high 5.4g of sugar which explains that it is very sweet. A 220g pot of Options will cost between £2 and £3.20 depending on the supermarket and any offers available so it isn't too bad price wise. But given the disappointing flavour I would say that if you want to swop your usual chocolate drink I would be thinking about the flavoured varieties in the Options range rather than this one.
My sister really needs to take better care of her cider...another bottle managed to fall in to my hands on a recent trip to the fridge. This time it was a bottle of Brothers Strawberry which elected for its end of life in my glass.
Each bottle of Brothers contains 500ml of cider, this one is Pear cider with strawberry juice and comes in at a fairly usual 4%ABV.
So opening the cap there is a sweet and distinctly strawberry scent coming from the bottle. Pouring it in to a glass the cider is a rich red colour, and ever so slightly cloudy.
The flavour in the first mouthful is rather blandly sweet, there is an aftertaste of strawberry but this is gone almost immediately. Swilling a mouthful of cider around in my mouth brings out hints of the pear base to the cider but the strawberry remains a rather disappointing weak flavour. That said it is nice to find a strawberry flavoured product which isn't immediately identifiable as artificially flavoured.
Allowing the cider to warm up slightly I found that the sweetness just became too much for me and didn't do much to improve the strength of the strawberry flavour.
Getting toward the end of the bottle I found myself struggling to finish it, bored of the lack of flavour and aftertaste it just started to taste sweet but of nothing in particular.
Overall I won't be allowing any more of these to find themselves in my glass, I prefer my cider to have a sweetness to it, but I also like for it to have a distinct flavour where it is advertised as flavoured, with this one the only real flavour was to be found when you swilled it around your mouth a little and at that point it was the pear flavour which was brought out not the strawberry. I think for fans of strawberry flavours there are plenty of other cider brands making strawberry flavoured varieties which actually do taste of the soft fruit itself making it rather feel that Brothers have missed a trick with their offering.
Cost wise it seems that typically you should be paying between £2 and £2.20 for an individual bottle but often there are multi buy offers and Brothers sell their products as multipack cans also with 4.550ml cans costing around £5 where they are available.
I like the occasional alcoholic drink. I'm also a big fan of Rekorderlig ciders so when my Sister brought home a case of their limited edition Winter Cider I was keen to sneek a bottle out and give it a try.
According to the label Winter Cider is their Apple cider blended with cinnamon and vanilla. On the whole I prefer my cider chilled but this one they suggest can be heated up with a slice of orange for a warming winter drink.
On opening initially there was little scent from the bottle, after a minute or so (yup I really did wait that long before trying it) there was a hint of the cinnamon and vanilla scent from the bottle.
My first taste was pleasing, the typical Rekorderlig apple flavour was nicely enhanced by the hints of cinnamon and vanilla. The after taste is light and not overpowering with stronger hints of the vanilla. There is a level of sweetness to the cider which is to be expected from the addition of the vanilla but it is not perceptably sweeter to my taste than the plain apple cider. The cider is slightly sparkling and the combination of fizz and fairly delicate flavours is lovely chilled. In the glass the cider looks just like the regular apple cider, being a light yellowish colour.
Deciding that it would only be fair to try the cider both warmed and in the chilled state I poured 2/3 of the bottle in to a glass and the remaining 1/3 in to a mug. They recommend warming it on a hob but as I don't have any small pans I left mine to wam to room temperature in the mug and then microwaved it for 30 seconds.
Obviously in a mug the colour is roughly the same and the scent rising from the warmed drink is somewhat stronger than that of it in its chilled state. I don't have any oranges handy (we're not big of fruit as a family) so I can't say if the orange would enhance the flavour further or not. But warmed the flavours are pretty much the same, again the sweetness from the apples with the hints of cinnamon and vanilla, though the cinnamon comes through as a stronger aftertaste when warmed. I suspect that warming it on the hob with slices of orange in the pan would add a subtle citrus hint to it which I would imagine is equally pleasant this is merely a guess.
The flavour is pleasant both hot and cold.and I found that the one smuggled bottle didn't last anywhere near as long as I would have liked it to.
One bottle contains 50cl (or 500ml) or cider, and has an ABV of 4%, which works out to be just over 2units per bottle.
I quite often see Rekorderlig on offer in supermarkets where you would expect to pay roughly £10 for a mutipack of 6 or £2 individually (often 3 for £5). It is also available in pubs and bars where it tends to have a price comparable to Magners and Bulmers products.
One of the problems with letting your parents move house for you is that those last little bits of packing you planned to get done while things were being taken out to the van suddenly get done for you before you get home from work (or at least that's what happened to me) and has led to my spending a few afternoons lately rescuing things from my Mum garage before the weather turns any colder or damper.
One of the things I rescued this afternoon was the box containing my 'packing day brew kit' as much of it was contained in cardboard containers, including this hot chocolate.
I'm a big fan of chocolate drinks but find it hard to justify the cost of buying the high end brands, so decided a while ago to see if it was worth buying really cheap hot chocolate or if I should stick to the mid level brands.
Like much of the tesco value range this has undergone a restyle lately and now comes in a heavy cardboard cylindrical tub and has been renamed Everyday Value. The packaging does look much more appealing now than the plain white label of the previous version as it is now cream with red lettering and red and maroon images of cups, mugs, kettles and spoons beside a photo of a mug of the drink.
Opening the lid and removing the foil seal the chocolate powder looks much like any other - its a light brown coloured fine powder. The smell is quite definitely chocolatey.
The instructions suggest you should put five 28g measures of powder in to a mug to make a 200ml drink - when following this direction I found that the bottom of my mug contained a sludge of undissolved powder so since I have tended to use only 3 teaspoons of powder for a mug.
So the all important taste test and scent test.
Adding water to the powder it looks a rather insipid thin coloured drink but this could be down to my using 2 spoons less than the recommended quantity of powder. The smell rising from the hot drink is a warm chocolate scent, not a particularly rich scent but pleasing enough. Taste wise I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed it, the look of the drink left me expecting it to be somewhat tasteless but it was actually a lovely chocolate flavour, not particularly rich and very sweet but definitely comfortingly chocolatey.
Generally I now add a splash of milk to my drink it makes the colour look slightly less watery and does add a slightly more luxurious dimension to the flavour, I expect if you wanted to you could make the entire drink with milk but as it already contains dried milk I don't see that there is much point in that.
In terms of the allergens present the obvious one is milk, there should be no nut products present but they won't guarentee it and it is suitable for vegetarians. When made up according to the instructions it contains 110 calories, and 15g of sugar which explains the sweetness. The calorific content is one reason - another being my poor teeth not liking the sugar - I don't drink hot chocolate all the time but as an occasional treat.
This 400g tub will cost you a whole 58p.
Overall I am perfectly happy to keep buying this particular variety of hot chocolate, it's a good compromise between my enjoyment of money saving and my enjoyment of a comforting hot chocolate on a cold day, the flavour is a little weak compared to the more expensive brands and it is very sweet but as I have a sweet tooth I don't mind that so much, and the addition of milk does help to bring down the overall sweetness. But this definitely won't be a product for those to love dark chocolate but then very few chocolate drinks suit those who prefer the darker more bitter styles.
Today October 26th is the start of this years Period of Rememberance, the time of year when people start weaing paper Poppies, which we lose, or spend half our time redjusting and sticking pins in to our fingers or flesh in the process - or is that just me?
For the last 5 or 6 years I'd chosen to buy one of the small metal pin poppies so save myself the blood loss and potential infections but in 2010 I started to see people wearing very pretty sparkly Poppies. I didn't think anything of it until 2011 when I decided to have a look and see if I could get myself one. I found it on the poppyshop website, and was pleased to see that there were three different sizes.
I made my selection and ordered the small brooch for £12.20 inc postage.
When it arrived I was pleased to see that the brooch is made of reassuringly heavy gold coloured metal with the red and black crystals securely inlaid. I'm not a girl who likes a lot of bling so while it is pretty and has some sparkle it isn't overly bling.
As a reference the small sized brooch is 3.5cm long from the tip of the stem to the highest point of the poppy petal.
Two years on the Poppy looks good as new, the crystals are still firmly in place, and the red colour applied to the bare metal between them has not lifted away despite my having put the brooch through the wash on more than one occasion.
The clash of the brooch is a very solidly constructed hinged pin with a twist securing device.
The Poppy is presented in a simple black card box with Buckley on the lid and the website address on the base in discrete silver lettering. Inside the Brooch is pinned to the black foam inner which has a small sticker on it stating that it is a Royal British Legion product.
I have to say that prior to ordering my Buckley Poppy I'd never heard of Buckley but have since picked up several of their pieces second hand and all seem to be constructed with the same attention to detail and high quality finish.
My Buckley Poppy lives on the lapel of one of my jackets year round but during the period of Rememberance it will be transferred between outfits, and it has garnered favourable comments by most people who have seen it regardless of the time of year.
This year I have decided to retire my original Buckley and have ordered the new for 2013 design Buckley Poppy (medium £15, large £25) but I will no doubt be wearing both at various points over the next few weeks.
After my original move down south I quickly began to put on weight due to having stopped running and started eating more of the junk food readily available at my new work place, for a while I ignored it until my favourite dress wouldn't zip up. For the next couple of years I would walk in to town weekly to weigh myself on the large scales in a branch of Boots, eventually I got bored of this and gave up. The result has been than I let the weight creep back on but having moved back up north I'm living too far from town to walk in so decided the time had come to invest in some bathroom scales for the house in an attempt to keep myself on track.
I had some Love2Shop vouchers which were close to expiring so while in town running some other errands I popped in to Argos to see if they had any digital scales which would suit me.
These ones stood out on the page as they were a reasonable price, a brand name I am familiar with (having used Salter commercial weighing devices at previous jobs) and in a nod to my female genetics the fact they are my favourite colour!
Out of the box the scales are surprisingly slim, roughly the depth of a 50p coin. Being mainly of glass construction they are clear with the teal sections where the ciao photo shows them as silver with the exception of the silver coloured metal area you need to place your feet on to,
Initially setting up the scale is quick and easy, remove the tab from the battery compartment ad tap the top to activate - though they say 'tap' I find that you do have to be rather firm with it.
At this point you can either set up the user data or just get a weight reading. I set it up with my own data so you can input sex (male/female), height, and age. The height can be input as either cm or ft and inches, but this depends on the setting you have for weight. Setting the data is simple, press the middle button until the number blinks, use the buttons on either side to increase or decrease the blinking value and press the centre button to confirm and select the next user defined value - so user number, sex, height and age are alterable in that order.
Altering the output unit is easy, there is a switch on the base which allows you to select lbs, stone, or kg. If you do alter this the scale automatically converts the data already input, so for me I initially input my height in cm but on changing the weight display option it converted it to feet and inches.
Stepping on to it the weight is displayed quickly, if you have set up the user data after displaying the weight reading for a couple of seconds the scale will show you the body fat %, this is displayed on screen as a 'o' figure in one of four locations to indicate low, normal (there are two possible locations for normal) or high - this is when it doesn't then cycle through and show the value numerically.
According to the instructions at this point it should cycle through your weight, body fat and BMI readings but more often than not it doesnt do this but turns itself off, on the whole the only times that these do display all the possible information seems to be when I have just got out of the shower and my feet are damp - if my feet are completely dry the scale will only show me my weight and won't even attempt to analyse my body fat.
Obviously this isn't a big problem for me as my main priority is knowing my weight, as if you really need to know the BMI there are plenty of places to access the charts online to calculate this for yourself.
The display screen is a good size, and the values shown are in large clear digits, which suits me, though my very short sighted father has said that he struggles to see the numbers - though he tends to also suffer from selective hearing loss when his Dr tells him he's over weight so it could be a part of the same condition.
I find that the scales are easily cleaned, being glass they simply wipe down, and there are no cleaning fluids which the instructions suggest should not be used (which is nice, should I ever actually bother to clean them with something other than a damp cloth).
I use mine on a hard tiled floor but for those who have carpetted bathrooms or wish to use these in any other room they do come with 'carpet feet' these are necessary, as an experiment I placed mine on a rug and discovered that I had lost almost 1/3 of my weight in seconds!
Overall I would say these seem to be accurate scales, for the basic how heavy am I question, but the additional features are somewhat hit and miss, I would be disappointed if I had bought these specifically for those features. If you are part of a family its easy enough to set up the four user modes but since I'm the only one who ever really uses it this isn't something which worries me overly.
Salter give their products decent guarantees, in this case 15 years, and they not to be used by anyone weighing more than 23 stone. The battery seems to be easy to change and is the relatively common CR 2032 button cell, but as yet I haven't had to change it so am unsure as to how long to expect it to last.
I paid £24.99 for the scales at Argos but paid using vouchers I had earned from doing surveys, they can be bought for around £20 on amazon and a variety of other retailers carry them for similar prices. I would suggest that they're not the best value given the hit and miss nature of the BMI, and body fat analysis features but given they do seem to be reliable for weight readings I am comfortable to recommend them to anyone who like me fancies having pretty coloured bathroom scales.