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I keep getting my hair cut and then I see these gorgeous long hair styles and miss my long hair. I’d been looking for extensions and happened to come across the Babyliss Styleable Extension Set 18” and after checking the various reviews decided to splash out the £29.99 (compared to the £140 human hair set I was considering).
I wasn’t expecting anything too great for the price but I was actually pleasantly surprised when they arrived. There are 2 sectioning clips (one of these broke the first time I opened it), a tail comb which is very handy for sectioning your hair off as well as combing through the extensions plus the two hair pieces – one 7” wide with 4 clips and the other 12” wide (both 18” long) with 6 clips. Each of the clips are hidden beneath the hair without bulking it out much and are as easy to use as kids hair clips but thankfully these actually stay in place!
Considering they are synthetic they don’t actually look out of place in my hair (although my hair is quite thick). I went for the dark brunette because I’d read the dark brown was more like black whereas this set has reddish hues rather than being a solid brown. One of the problems I have at the moment is my hair is about shoulder length and quite a blunt cut so it is very obvious where my hair ends – especially underneath the extensions. I can either wait until my hair grows longer or buy a second set which would bulk out the ends more. Another great thing about this set is there is very little shedding from them.
They do get tangled easily and although this is a styleable set up to 180 degrees, I’ve read other reviews and a lot of people have said it just doesn’t work – they’ve tried curling and straightening and it didn’t make a difference. There were also a lot of comments which mentioned the condition of the set worsened so for the moment, I am quite happy to wear them as they are – they are far easier to comb them as they are. I could also cut them but I quite like that they do have a slight curl to the ends.
To clean them it’s just a case of gently shampooing after each use. I then just leave them to air dry. I’m contemplating a second set just for a fuller look although would have preferred at least one other piece within the set. It still works out a lot cheaper than some other sets but I may wait until my hair is a little longer so it won’t need bulking out. If you’ve not got the money for human hair extensions they are worth considering.
Upgrading from a Colgate 360 manual toothbrush I went for the Oral-B Professional Care 600 in the limited edition pink colour with bonus travel case. I liked the fact that it would indicate when 30 seconds were up for brushing each quadrant of your mouth and again when the 2 minutes is up.
There''s not much to unpack from the box; the handle, one brush head, the base and plug (2 pin). I have a shaver point in my house and would recommend starting to charge it as early as possible because my toothbrush was still charging after 7 hours. The little manual points out you may find your gums bleeding as it gets used to the brush and changing from a manual I found there was a little blood but it did only last a couple of days.
The toothbrush head will vibrate and when 30 seconds is up it will stutter and this gives you time to brush each side and the top of each tooth. I do find that when using the electric toothbrush though when I have finished the 2 minutes I feel I need to do an extra quick brush all over. There''s also a pressure sensor to let you know if you''re pushing too hard.
From the first use I did notice a difference as my teeth felt a lot smoother even thorough the day. The head provided with the toothbrush was the Precision Clearn brush head but it can also be used with the Floss Action Brush Head, 3DWhite brush head and TriZone brush head. The heads also have blue indicator bristles which let you know when they should be replaced at around 3 months.
The Standing Polyurethane Origami Case was one of the first accessories I got my Kindle Fire HD 7". Available in a range of colours; Black, Citron Yellow, Grey, Pink and Purple I ended up going with the Purple (which is in fact called Royal). Originally priced around £30 it has come down a bit to £24.99 which I find quite respectable considering the Leather case of the same design was £50 now reduced to £35.
One of the most important details about this case is that it will only fit the new 7" Fire HD - not the old one with a camera as this has a larger frame around the screen and therefore slightly larger than the new 7". It is also available for the HDX 7" and 8.9".
The case took a little manipulation to fit the Kindle in but in a way this was good as I knew it wouldn't be likely to pop back out if accidently dropped. There's a solid backing to the case with speaker vent, power button and volume buttons which are easy to access whether the cover is flat against the back or in its standing position. There have been occasions though where I do accidently press them although this is more down to the fact that I had it in the standing position whereas had the cover been flat against the back I'd have had to lift a flap to access them. There's also easy access for the power cable and earphones. The only downside I've found to these is that when using some apps e.g. Spotify and the cable is plugged in you can't stand it up so have to have it on landscape where the screen doesn't automatically flip round. This is a design flaw with the Kindle itself though (or even the apps) rather than the cover.
The flap to the cover has a soft microfibre covering so that when closed and the cover is flat against the screen it isn't going to scratch it. In theory this is absolutely perfect and actually in reality too but you really do have to watch where you are placing your Kindle if lying it flat when open as I find my case can pick up crumbs and dust which then transfer to the screen so I may have to invest in a screen protector for a little extra protection. The Kindle itself is a little weighty but I don't find this case adds a lot of extra weight to it. It's also very comfortable to hold even if the flap is flat against the back although it does add a little extra chunkiness to it.
The origami to the flap is very easy to master - there's even instructions provided but it will only bend one way so you can't really go wrong (although I often tend to!). Initially it did take a little time to loosen up but after a few weeks it's easy to fold into position. There are magnets in the cover to hold it in it shape then another to hold it to the back of the case so even when picking it up and shaking it around it isn't going to flap about (very important during a game of Boggle). This lets you place the Kindle in landscape or portrait at a very comfortable angle for viewing. The biggest problem I've found in portrait though is it will want to fall to landscape if not on a flat surface - even placing it on the sofa causes it to tilt. Sometimes you can counteract this by turning it 180 degrees but that doesn't always work. This really hasn't been a huge issue for me though.
When I'm not using the Kindle or if out and about and I have it in my bag I am thankful that there's a magnet to keep the cover closed - a feature missing on many other covers as this protects the screen getting scratched by keys etc. One of the things I'm not a huge fan of is having 'amazon' emblazoned on both the back cover and inside cover. Great advertising for them though as if having the Kindle itself wasn't enough. There are times though that I find the 'amazon' has printed itself on the screen if it is slightly dirty - easy enough to wipe though and is more down to having a dirty screen than anything being transferred from the cover.
In terms of protection, yes I find it does protect my Kindle well but I probably wouldn't recommend this one if it's a child that has the Kindle. When the case is empty you'll see why as there's no rigidity in the flap to hold it flat so this will cause it to cave in. When the Kindle is in the case this is held flat by it lying on the screen but if a sudden weight was placed on it I don't think it would offer a great deal of protection against smashing the screen. There are no sharp points though in the origami but I just wouldn't want to take the chance.
I love the colour of this cover. It's perhaps not quite as bright as it looks on the website but a lot of that is just down to lighting. In a yellow light it takes on a slightly brownish hue but is definitely a purple cover. My cover has not scratched or marked but I do try and take care of it.
Overall I have to say I am very happy with this cover. It's versatile and protects my Kindle. It benefits a lot from having the magnets to keep it closed which I didn't realise how much it helped until using a cover without them. There are a couple of flaws in terms of it standing in portrait while on an uneven surface but it's not been anything that really annoyed me and most importantly it's still very comfortable to hold the Kindle for long periods of time. I also find it's at a decent price point and a good quality item so I expect to keep this case for a long time.
The Delonghi Vintage Icona Storica KBOV3001.BK Jug Kettle is expensive but over the last year I've been really glad I went for quality rather than a cheap substitute. Priced around £74 the price hasn't changed much over the last year but I can honestly say it is worth it.
My kettle rather than being fully black with stainless steel also incorporates brown. I wasn't actually that keen on it as I would have preferred it just to be black/silver but it has really grown on me. There's a brown knob to lid, brown handle and base while the main body of the kettle is in a matte black. The only downside to the colour is actually the matte black and stainless steel show up marks (so not advisable to keep it near the cooker) but is easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth.
The kettle itself is functional but there are a few things I would change about it. Starting from the top the lid is difficult to pull off and even after continuous use hasn't loosened any. This isn't bad if the water is cool but after having to fill/refill numerous times to get hot water to wash the dishes after the dishwasher broke, I found that the condensation on the lid produced large and hot water droplets which fly off with the force of removing the lid. Occasionally this can fly onto the skin so I am glad I don't have kids nearby and will always try and remove the lid over the sink.
The big handle is comfortable to hold although the kettle can get very heavy when filled to its 1.7 litre capacity. The slightly textured design probably doesn't add an awful lot of grip but it's never slipped out my hand. The handle is only attached at the top of the kettle and it's never felt of cheap quality so I'm always very confident it will hold the weight if the kettle is full. The only problem I have with it is it obscures the water level so I will lift it to gauge how much water is in it. The water level actually only registers 1 litre plus so for one to two cups it won't register the level with its wider base design.
A huge plus point to this kettle is the hidden element so you don't have to put a lot of water in it - there's less chance of it over heating. A lot of kettles I've used end up with brown staining inside but this one is still the stainless steel it was when it was bought. I also like that this kettle has a sharper spout to it (rather than round) as you can be more precise with your pouring. There is also a filter in spout (hence why it should always be filled from the top rather than spot).
In terms of heating up water I couldn't actually say it is any quicker than cheaper kettles. Boiling a full kettle can take around 3 minutes with one to two cups taking about a minute. This kettle will hold its heat quite well though which was very handy when having hand wash dishes as it meant I didn't have to keep reheating the water.
The base is probably the cheapest part of the kettle. Just a brown plastic disk which allows the kettle to swivel 360 degrees (actually very handy as we have both left and right handed people in the house). The base isn't flimsy though so it has taken quite a battering from my uncoordinated placement. There isn't a huge amount of flexibility in the cord though so it will choose to move of its own accord where I'd rather have the cord to the wall. It should in theory wrap around the inside of the base but it's only about 1 metre long so depends where you're placing it.
Even with all it's downsides I'd still have to give it 4 stars as I know this is a good quality item that is going to last. It does it's basic function well and it looks stylish.
For what it is, I do have to say that the Leifheit Varioline M is expensive but at the same time maybe only mid priced when comparing it to other clothes airers. It's also really not the most stylish of things to take up a good portion of the living room but when the weather is miserable and the central heating or wood burner is on, it is an essential and an extremely good one at that.
I already own an over bath airer and a 3 tier airer but they just never seem to be enough and with clothes overlapping or bunched too close together means the air just can't circulate so I can be left with damp clothes for 3 or more days. This is where the design of the Varioline benefits as it has a 15m drying length claiming it takes one to two loads of washing at once - I'd have to agree but I wouldn't put more than one and a half on it.
The name Varioline refers to the adjustable lines which lets you leave a larger gap between clothes or lets you place two lines closer together e.g. for towels so its not folded in half and allows the air to circulate between. The lines are very easy to move and there are little grooves along each side if you really want everything to be the same distance apart. The only downside is heavier items like towels can cause the lines to move closer together so it can be a bit of a balancing act. With both the over bath and 3 tier airers I'd always have everything draped in half over the lines so they're not overlapping but the Varioline also benefits from being tall so hand towels don't have to be hung in half and you can use pegs easily to hold items in place. The Varioline also has some rather handy sock holders on one side which means they can hang singly rather than be folded over a line saving a lot of space.
Although the design of the Varioline is quite lengthy - it is even longer than our largest radiator - it is still very light so not to be so cumbersome for placing outside to make use of any dry days we do get. The top sections will fold inwards to help and the legs fold easily too if needing it flat to move around. Another benefit of the design for outside use is it won't topple over where I found the 3 tier arier would easily with a gust of wind.
When I got my dryer it was just over £40 and currently just under. It's really not something I want in the room if we have guests round but thankfully it can be moved to a spare room and if not in use, can be folded flat (although it is still quite long for storing). However compared to the various airers I've used over the years it has been one of the best and I would have to say is good value for money.
Updating our old manual scales to the Hanson H1040 5kg Touch Sensitive scales was a fantastic idea. Having lost the bowl to the old set I was always left trying to balance ill fitting mixing bowls onto the manual scales, having to manually reset the scale to zero and guessing smaller weights. These scales are very slim and light with a wide weighing area (20cm x 20cm) fitting a large range of bowls/plates/cups etc without problem.
I bought these scales from a local shop in the sale - reduced from £30 to £16.99 but they can be found around £13 online. They are also available in a range of colours - red, cream, silver and black. I went for the black and because the top is glass the colour isn't going to get scratched. The base is not solid with a large rectangle cut out which is quite handy as when moving the scales it gives you something to hold onto. There are also four rubber feet which stop the scales sliding around but which activate the weights - so basically if they break off (unlikely) or fall out the scales won't work.
There are only two buttons on the scale - Unit and On/Off Tare but it basically works as a touch screen as these are not raised so you'll notice that any time you do press down (to reset or switch off) the number on the scale will rise. On only takes a second to switch on, tare (automatic zero) will work almost instantly when pressed and to switch off takes around three seconds. What I like most about these scales is you're not restricted to solid weight - pounds and ounces and grams (up to 5kg/11lbs), it also gives you fluid ounces and millilitres and it's very easy to switch between them all.
There is a huge flaw with these scales however. They do state that after a minute of no activity they will automatically switch off. No problem there as it saves on battery life. However these scales will automatically switch off after two minutes whether they are still being used or not. This isn't mentioned in the instructions and something I was really glad I found out before using them for baking as normally I would have one bowl and continue to reset for each ingredient where possible which could have caused problems so now I know to switch it on and off between them.
Cleaning the scales is easy as it is just flat glass so incredibly easy just to wipe with a damp cloth. There's no rim around the glass either so you don't have to worry about crumbs getting caught in it if weighing directly on the scale itself. It will show up fingerprints but this isn't a problem for me. The scales take a Lithium battery and I've found this lasts months but obviously just depending on how often they are used.
With a 10 year guarantee I feel very happy with my purchase and wouldn't hesitate to buy another. They are a great price if you do get them under £15 - I perhaps wouldn't have gone for them at £30. I am a little worried I drop them as it would smash so perhaps not recommended if you're baking with kids but for my house they are ideal as it's very slim, light but still compact. Another step closer to being a fantastic baker!
The Braun Oral-B Trizone 5000 Six Mode toothbrush to me has a few novelty features which really didn't need to be included however having tried a variety of different electric toothbrushes it is one I buy replacement heads for.
My toothbrush is the Limited Edition in a sleek black and silver design (quite manly) with blue charging light and red pressure sensor. If several family members are using the same handle the brush heads can be distinguished by the coloured ring supplied with the heads. It comes with a travel charger and includes an attachment which slips onto the charger to hold any extra brush heads in a covered compartment but as this takes 4 heads it can make the kit bulky so not something I use. There's also a wireless SmartGuide which can be wall-mounted (more on that a bit later). There are three heads provided - 2 x TriZone brush heads and a PowerTip for hard to reach areas. These have the indicator bristles so you have a good idea of when they need replacing. One thing I find this toothbrush is missing is a travel case. I was hoping it would fit in one of my old cases but the handle is a little longer and much bulkier than the previous Oral-B / Philips ones I've had.
Compared to the Professional Care 600 (also by Oral-B) I prefer that the TriZone 5000 has a much larger head. I was a bit worried that to begin with the head would be far too big and by manually moving the brush tip (which moves separately to the rest of the brush) felt it would probably push on my gums too much but this isn't the case and I think some of the features of the toothbrush help against this. The pressure sensor has been a big plus for me and when initially using the toothbrush found it would light up quite often but after continued use this doesn't happen as often. Although I do have a mirror in front of me the vibration will change too (to Sensitive mode) if pressing too hard as you can't always see the red light while brushing as it's on the back of the handle.
The six modes of the toothbrush are Daily Clean (2 mins), Deep Clean (3 mins), Sensitive, Whitening, Massage (for gums) and tongue cleaning. The Daily and Deep Clean modes have a constant vibration whereas the others come in more of a wave. The main problem is that unless you're using the wireless SmartGuide you can't be sure which mode the toothbrush is on until you've got used to the various vibrations and go through each one until you find the one you want. A good point however is that if you do need to switch the brush off it will remember the time and not start from the beginning when switched back on again.
I can see why the SmartGuide is a good idea - it tells you when your two minutes is up (however so does the toothbrush by various vibrations for each quarter), it will give you an unhappy face if you're pressing too hard (however you know that by the red light), it fills in each quadrant so you know to move onto the next area and it will tell you with the various icons which mode the toothbrush is on (but you learn these after a while). This has meant that the SmartGuide quickly became redundant for me and I don't actually know where mine is now. I'm quite glad it's not required as that's saved having to buy replacement batteries for it. There are various counters on the SmartGuide for 2 minutes and professional and count up/count down for 30 to 45 second quadrants but again with the toothbrush itself indicating these out they are a bit of a novelty to have. The toothbrush is suitable for kids age 3-14 so this feature is more something for them.
The tongue cleaner is a good idea but I wouldn't want to use the same brush head as I'm using for my teeth. My previous electric toothbrush was the Philips Sonicare with a UV light to kill bacteria so I'm slightly missing that feature with this toothbrush. It says you can use it with or without toothpaste but my tongue can get quite tingly depending on which toothpaste I'm using. It also follows the 30 second quadrant where it's only recommended to brush the tongue for 20 seconds and they suggest using a sensitive brush head but this has to be bought separately.
One of the things I don't like with Oral-B toothbrushes is the length of time they take to charge. This one takes about 24 hours to fully charge where I'm not happy to leave it charging overnight. It's not just for safety but considering it only lasts about 10 days fully charged means it regularly needs charged which all adds up on the electricity bill. This is better than the Professional Care 600 though (which only lasted 7 days) but the Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum lasts 3 weeks with the same charge. However there's really no comparison with a manual brush - the TriZone leaves my mouth feeling far cleaner.
The Trizone 5000 Six Mode is currently available for £99.99 with 4 replacement heads about £12. One of the good things about this handle is it will work with older Oral-B heads including FlossAction, Sensitive, Precision Clean, 3D White, PowerTip as well as the TriZone brush heads so you're not restricted if you find the TriZone head is too big. There are some negatives to this one but I'd still give it 4 stars.
Holiday Garden is a 3 star hotel in Playa de Muro, Mallorca. The main reason we decided to head there was because of it was adults only and its location - easy enough to walk to Port de Alcudia and not far from Port de Pollenca. Actually the main reason was it wasn't that far from the beach with its white sands and if I was basing my review solely on that I would definitely recommend it. However, regardless of its location and its good points there were a few things that would really put me off recommending Holiday Garden.
Having booked the hotel and flights through Expedia we had to book transfers separately. We spent about £28 return for 2 including 1 suitcase with Resorthoppa which took around 1 hour 15 minutes by the time we left the airport (had we gone with a taxi which would have only taken about 50 minutes it would have cost £80 one way). I think it is possible to book transfers through the hotel but shortly after booking the English section of the website disappeared and the Spanish translation wasn't that easy to follow/didn't always work so no idea if it would have been any cheaper.
We were dropped off right in front of the hotel (perfect!) and almost didn't get in because the woman at reception wanted a print out of our booking which we didn't have. She did let us fill in the form but wanted us to email the booking as soon as we got into the room. I'm not sure what would have happened had we not brought the iPad because neither of us have Smartphones. They obviously had our booking though and we could prove who we were from our passports. We were however given an 'upgrade' (I say that lightly) from a standard King Size to what I'm guessing is a superior room with our own little garden with sun loungers and parasol as well as the standard table/chairs. I will also say here that all of the reception staff had quite good English for all our queries but didn't appreciate the woman booking us in being so curt.
What I loved most about the hotel is that it's not a high rise building but little buildings surrounding the stage and pool. I think they are all the same which means there are 4 rooms on the ground floor and 4 on the first floor each with little balconies (not all of the ground floor rooms have gardens).
On entering our room (231 - ground floor) it was nice and cool but did have a smell about it (a little damp perhaps) but cosmetically it looked OK but in need of modernising. There was plenty of storage for clothes, a safe available for Euro17,50 a week or Euro2,40 a day. I was quite glad the room was air conditioned although I ended up switching it off even though it was still in the 20Cs at night as I woke up quite a few times feeling cold. The King size bed was comfortable enough although quite a small pillow (no pillow menu as listed on the website). There was a matching sideboard, table, chair and bedside tables (not my taste really) as well as a comfy little sofa. The large flatscreen TV only had one English language channel - BBC World News. The little garden outside was well maintained with shrubbery border, 2 sun loungers, parasol as well as the table and chairs. We had a fridge which was invaluable for keeping bottles of water and juice in although the freezer compartment needed defrosting and there was a towel in it which couldn't have been very hygienic so I wouldn't have liked to keep anything other than bottles in there.
The bathroom was a decent size with shower (no bath), sink, toilet and bidet. When we arrived I don't think the bathroom had been cleaned as there was still a towel on the floor and no towels for us. We did find some in the room later on though. If that had been it, I would have said for a 3 star room (albeit an upgrade from the standard room) it wasn't bad. Unfortunately we noticed a rather large hole which constantly dripped through the night on each side of the ceiling just above the shower head so we reported this to reception the next morning. Apparently they knew about it so would send someone to have a look at it. A couple of workmen did turn up later that day while we were sitting outside and they ended up cutting a hole in the plaster and stuffing it with a towel - as though that would help stop the dripping!
The dripping soon started again and even after one of the workmen handed boyfriend the phone with reception on the end telling us they'd be back the next day, it didn't come as much of a surprise that no one turned up next day and even at the end of the week it still hadn't been fixed.
1. When we went for a shower you ended up getting a cold drip every minute or so from the ceiling.
2. Was this even clean water?!
This pretty much ruined the holiday for us so we tried to not spend much time in the room but obviously still had to use the toilet and shower.
Another thing I wasn't happy about was never knowing when they were coming to clean the rooms. All of the staff - whether the cleaners or workmen just gave a knock and walked in so you could never really relax. One day the cleaners were knocking at 9am and on another day they didn't do the room until about 6pm.
Our stay was all inclusive and having read many reviews before our trip I had such a low expectation of the food that I was actually really pleasantly surprised. Everything was a buffet so at breakfast you had a choice of cooked food, breads, rolls, jams, fruit juices etc. Lunch and dinner were quite similar with a range of salads, pasta and sauce, pizza, chips, lots of fish and meat dishes but then a choice of wines, cider and fizzy juice. At 4pm there was even free cake at the pool bar although when we went on Thursday it wasn't open. I think we did get our moneys worth (about £13 a day extra for all inclusive compared to one lunch out which was Euro30). On one plate I had pizza, chips, pasta, sauce, paella, potato salad, beetroot slices and savoury rice. A lot of the dishes were overcooked and some of them were not very hot but this wasn't enough to put me off. Boyfriend usually went up for 2 or 3 plates before even considering dessert. The waiting staff were very quick to clean plates away - sometimes a little too quick but couldn't really complain.
Thursday evenings offered a romantic meal and it was nice to see people making an effort to dress up a little more (well some didn't) and we got a glass of champagne and a red carnation. This was just in the restaurant though so you still felt like you were eating in a canteen. There was supposed to be live music but think we were a bit early as we didn't hear any music until later that night - likely from the stage. Fridays offered a BBQ but we left just after breakfast. The hotel has quite a good range of facilities with the pool, Jacuzzi (we were confused as to whether this cost as it mentioned 1 euro on the board but free on the welcome leaflet), crazy golf, golf, bar, pool bar, giant Connect 4, Balinese beds, dance classes, bike rental etc
Mid September seemed a great time to stay at the hotel. The hotel does seem to cater more for Germans than Brits (we seemed to be the only ones there) and on researching I was worried about the mosquitoes but can happily say we were not bothered by any even when sitting down by the lake. There was very little noise except for the neighbours coming and going and flushing their toilet/shower dripping but very few drunks. The hotel is on a one way street so little traffic, next door to the hospital (although no noise from there at all), and very close to the shops - every second shop seems to be a Spar. The area definitely seemed a lot nicer than Port de Alcudia although still very touristy.
I will never be booking a 3 star accommodation again and will never be staying at Holiday Garden again. Still really rather grossed out at the dripping water even over a month later. I wouldn't have been overly impressed with it had there not been a drip either. For a 4 night holiday I was glad to get home although I did miss the weather, the beach and the variety of food. I could only give it 2 stars though.
P.S. One thing you may see is the poor ponies tied up as you're walking to the beach. Honestly one of the most heart breaking things I have seen. They looked like they had been sedated as they barely moved and didn't look like they had food or water in the hot weather. Shame on the parents who actually paid for their children to ride them.
Normally when out and about I'll have the DSLR in a camera bag and depending on the weather, have this inside a backpack or carry it in my hand. When you're on the lookout for wildlife this is rarely practical but at the same time handier than carrying the heavy camera around my neck (especially if on uneven terrain). The Vanguard Kinray Lite 48Bk has changed all of this (unfortunately still hasn't guaranteed that amazing shot).
The 48Bk is the largest of the Kinray Lite Bags holding a DSRL with medium lens attached plus 3-4 extra lenses (where the smaller bags are only 1-2 extra lenses). There's additional space for accessories, a monopod/walking stick or travelling tripod. Although this is a 'large' bag it's not that wide but tall (280x205x490mm outside - 240x130x240mm inside) - a daypack rather than a rucksack so it can be used as an everyday backpack too.
Priced at £90-£100 you are getting what you pay for. It's high quality and very well made - you can see that thought has been put into not only its practical usage but also protecting valuable equipment. You're not restricted to using it as a DSLR bag as it offers that versatility with removable padded camera insert. This can be taken out altogether or turned around to offer padded protection to something larger like a spotting scope with additional compartments for equipment and binoculars etc. There is a lot of Velcro so each of the 3 compartments can be divided to suit which I find incredibly handy as I can stop some items dropping to the bottom of the bag for easy reach. There are pockets inside and out so plenty storage space and very handy mesh pocket for a water bottle which I do use constantly.
The base of the backpack has a slightly harder wearing material and hidden compartment with an attached grey rain cover which easily slips over the front of the backpack. This is incredibly light so it's not something you'll find yourself compromising with over its weight or amount of space it takes up. You don't even have to fold it up carefully to put it back in - my method is basically just to scrunch it up and shove it back in. Even this barely causes the base to bulge and it doesn't hold creases either.
When on my back, having that slightly stiffer back which keeps its tall shape hasn't made it uncomfortable to wear. There is a thick meshed pad which when using the waist strap up nestles comfortably against the base of my back. Again, thought has gone into the design as the harness can be tucked into the pad if not being used which even though has its plastic clips, really isn't something you can feel through the padding. There's mesh padding again on the shoulders and the full length of the straps providing it's 'air system'. If it is a hot day I do find these areas get sweaty most but no more than other backpacks even though this is far more comfortable to wear.
The harness system offers a huge amount of stability to the bag and to me. I often find myself clambering over fallen trees or walking along ridges by the river so having the backpack harnessed means I'm not worrying about it slipping causing me to lose my balance which basic backpacks can do. I love that you're not restricted to the waist and chest harness but can have one strap across body and fastened with the chest harness. This lets me whip the bag across my front to access the side panel to get my camera out quickly rather than having to take the whole bag off to take it out the top.
If I'm not using the bag for the camera I can easily take the padded camera insert out. This in itself isn't heavy but does take up a lot of space. The bag then loses its shape from the front with just the stiffer back to keep its tall shape. If I'm going on a trip I have found myself using this bag more than my regular backpack just for its comfort and streamline design. You do lose the ability to find things easily as you're piling everything on top of each other rather than having the wideness of a suitcase but I find it far more practical.
If there was something I had to change about the bag it would be the inside pocket. Although it's not that deep (which isn't a huge problem) I would have preferred a zip closure rather than just the elasticised band. This is where I'm most likely to keep valuables such as my purse, keys, spare change, phone etc if out walking rather than having these in my clothing pockets but tipping the bag would easily cause anything to fall out and it would have given that little extra safety precaution if out travelling. Someone could far too easily open the external front zip pocket without me noticing, the side opening doesn't open into a pocket and then you're only left with the mesh pocket on the other side. The top loading zip could of course also easily be opened without me noticing but it would then take a thief far more effort to then unzip the inside pocket than just reach in. Thankfully this isn't something I've had to worry about or have experience of but it is something I have to consider when out and about. At least the bag is inconspicuous so it's not obvious the camera is in it.
Overall, this bag is well worth the money and it is something I'm getting value for money from. I know my camera and equipment are well padded and easily accessible which for photographers can be the difference between getting and missing that perfect shot. It's a high quality and very well made bag which offers great versatility so you can get a lot of use out of it. The streamline design is very practical and with the 48BK gives me that extra space if needed. The inside pocket isn't that big a deal but something I would have preferred so even without that, I'd still rate it 5 stars.
Spotting British wildlife can be incredibly easy but it's rare to get to see animals in their natural habitat, not on edge and learning about those characteristics unique to each. The Acorn LTL-5210A 12MP Scouting / Game / Trail camera has really piqued my interest in learning more about the wildlife around me. Bought for £130 the price hasn't come down much over the last 2 years but can be bought now for around £100. It's certainly not top of the range in its features but it is fascinating to see what it will pick up.
There are a couple of varieties in the Acorn LTL range including the 5210 which is only a 5MP camera and one offering MMS but my 5210A 12MP camera has a camo branch/bark design which does camouflage itself rather well against our trees. There's also a fuscous cover which I think would also work just as well. The only part of my camera which does stand out on the tree is the strap which is a deep green colour and can be noticeable around light bark.
The reason for going for this camera over some of the others was mainly down to the site it was bought from showing the results the camera could get in both video and picture for the budget and it being recommended as a good starter camera. At the time of buying the MMS feature cameras cost well over £200 and although would have been a great feature to have, hasn't actually been something I miss out on. I like the fact I can put the camera out in the forest and come back a few days or weeks later not knowing for sure if there is anything at all although this can also add to the frustration.
The camera itself is about 5.5" in length, just over 3" wide and about 2" deep when taking in the protruding side PIR sensors. This makes it very portable and surprisingly isn't that noticeable when on a tree unless you're specifically looking for it. There's only been 2 occasions when we've had to spread out in the forest to try and find it - we do have to make sure we make a note of where we've put it! Taking 4 batteries the standby time of 3 months is incredible (there's a battery pack with it taking another 4 batteries to extend this to 6 months) but you do soon find that it really does mean standby time and as soon as it does start filming, taking photos or viewing back they can deplete quite quickly. We can still leave it out for about a month (or in days/weeks amounting to a month) without needing to replace the batteries.
Setting up the camera is very simple (and the user manual is incredibly easy to understand). There's not actually much to the menu with options for taking photos only, video only or photos and video, 12MP or 5MP photos, 640x480 or 320x240 videos, set the clock, number of photos to be taken (up to 3), video length (AVI anything from 1 second - 60 seconds), intervals from 0 seconds to 60 minutes, Sense level - low, normal or high, time stamp, timer, password set, serial number, time lapse and side PIR. Although we started off just taking photos we quickly changed this to only taking videos finding a huge difference in quality between the two. It is set to 12MP and 640x480 but it can be quite slow to react at the higher settings which is annoying for wildlife but having the sense level at normal ensures we cut down on it being set off the by the wind moving foliage but not enough that we miss out on movement from animals. The side and main PIR (passive infrared sensors) set off the camera/video with changes in ambient temperature.
As the camera works in both daylight and at night there are big differences too in quality. In daylight the photos are rich in colour and detail but honestly I could take a better quality photo with my 10MP digital camera. At night the picture changes to black and white which in a photo can be quite clear but loses a lot of detail. In contrast, in a video during the day I find videos to look quite pixelly whereas the night shots are far grainier. The small display on the back of the camera makes playback look quite impressive in terms of detail and quality but when viewing on the laptop and viewing in full screen the quality really depletes. Having said that, I'm really not that disappointed in what I have managed to capture. The videos may not be that good quality but the majority of the time it's easy to see what you've captured whether it's just a few seconds of a badger walking up a hill or a rabbit or deer happily munching away on grass right in front of the camera. You can tell that they sense something is there (it does make a small ticking noise as it starts to capture) but of course they can't see the infra red light so they will happily continue to sit/stand/walk past at ease (a very recent video however caused a deer to run away after staring straight at the camera).
At night sometimes there are only the bright tell-tale sights of two eyes looking in the direction of the camera - quite creepy! Of course being in colour during the day you're pretty much guaranteed to know what you're looking at even if only spotting a tail or back end of an animal but the night shots are really not quite so easy and have caused quite a bit of discussion in the family. Is it a fox, is it a badger or is it a rabbit? The good thing about the 30 second videos is when the next video is set off you usually get to find out for certain with the same animal returning or walking away but a lot of the time we can watch a video numerous times and be none the wiser.
The camera will take up to a 16GB SD card. I've only tried a 2GB and 8GB SD card and both have been absolutely fine. Videos of 30 seconds are all around 20,000KB so are really not huge files. Unfortunately the majority of the time this is just the first few seconds of movement from an animal before it disappears and the rest just a view of the surrounding area so placement of the camera should always be considered first. The length of the videos can be set - I think 30 seconds is ideal though as there was one video where we captured deer walking past and then about 10 seconds later two of them came running back towards the camera which we probably would have missed. The most annoying thing I find when putting the camera out is not knowing if it's angled correctly to see along a path, up a hill or pointed towards a hole. The LCD is flush against the tree when switching it on so it's just a case of trial and error.
The camera has been out in all conditions and actually states on the box it will work from -22F to +158F (i.e. -30C to 70C). It doesn't state though that it may not work in the rain which has been the biggest problem for us. Occasionally if it has gotten too wet it's shut itself off and when trying to view photos or video will say the image can't be found. If we then leave it to dry out, it works again. There have been water marks in the LCD and dirt seems to get under the plastic far too easily but we can't get into it to clean it. We always view everything on the laptop though so doesn't really cause a huge amount of disruption. The other problem is trying to actually attach it to a tree as the plastic rectangle adjustable fastener on the strap is very hard to thread through in cold/wet conditions. This can be more of a problem on very thin trees more than fatter trees. The strap is a good size but there have been a few occasions where a tree is also too big to attach it to.
Actually getting footage of animals is completely hit and miss. There are occasions where it can be out for a week and we're lucky if we get 2 videos. On other occasions (like the last week) it was only out for 3 days and we ended up with 51 videos - a lot of wind/rain/foliage but a surprising number of animals too including grey squirrels, badgers (all different as noted by their markings and tails), roe and muntjac deer, foxes, pheasants, plenty of rabbits and even a couple of birds hopping along the forest floor. It makes you realise just how active animals are at night (helped of course by the time stamps on each video). Occasionally we do capture a few people walking their dogs but out of the last 1000 videos this would be no more than 20. Of course of this I'm glad as I'd hate for someone to spot it and steal it as it's not like it's an inexpensive piece of kit.
Living in Britain there's not a whole lot more you can capture really so having had the camera for 2 years now it does get a bit samey capturing deer, badgers, foxes and rabbits over and over again. If you can find a good spot and keep putting it out in the same place you get to understand their habits and figure out if you've seen that specific animal before. I am starting to look forward to taking this out of the country and seeing what else we can find.
The LTL Acorn 5210A has been a great piece of kit for spotting wildlife. Ok so I'm not going to win any photography awards or have David Attenborough hiring me to do camera work but I do find it fascinating to see just how active and just how much wildlife is so close to me. It's incredibly easy to understand and use, practical in that it's not huge so easy to carry through the countryside. It does have its negative points but for its price it's still a great introduction to remote cameras without spending a huge amount. Even having discussions and trying to find out what a mysterious grey object is in a night shot is a great way to learn and get others involved.
Having previously owned the original Tassimo machine I really wanted a coffee machine for my new house and decided this time to try the Dolce Gusto Melody 3 (made by DeLonghi rather than Krups - EDG420.B). Priced at £69.99 in November 2012 it's was one of the cheaper DG machines (although I now see it's closer to £100) but still looks very stylish with its ball like body and head (although this one is a little bulky). Available in black and a deep blue, I went for the blue.
Setup of the machine is very easy although the Quick Start instructions are all pictures which guide you through the initial cleaning and setup, preparing a drink, troubleshooting, cleaning and descaling and could have benefitted from a little description to go along with the pictures. At first I couldn't get any water to come out the machine but switching it off and on again and holding down the power button seemed to fix that. I wondered how the water was supposed to go through the pod then realised there's a pin to pierce it. The main thing I was disappointed with compared to the Tassimo is that that the DG is manual so although it tells you on the box/on the pod how much water is to be used for each pod, you have to guess how much 200ml and 40ml (for a cappuccino) should be and switch the water flow off yourself whereas the Tassimo uses the barcode system and automatically knows when to stop itself to create that perfect cup. To be fair though they do have a diagram on the pods to show how full you should fill the cup but I have cups of all sizes so it's never really accurate.
The capsule bin provided with my machine is also the wrong shape - I received a square one whereas the picture shows a rounded one. This square one doesn't sit properly on the rounded base and when initially cleaning the machine and having to use the bin which had to be filled with cold and hot water I found the hot water would splash out but I wanted to keep a hold of the lip just in case it did fall off the base. Thankfully the hot water wasn't scalding hot.
Filling the water tank is very easy although it feels a bit flimsy but it won't take a huge amount of water so it doesn't get too heavy. It's very easy to change the water from cold to hot although I've only ever had hot drinks and it seems to heat up the water quicker than the Tassimo does. The drip tray can be placed at different heights depending on the cup size e.g. Espresso Intenso 40ml or Cappuccino 240ml which is handy to reduce the splashing. One thing I have noticed compared to the Tassimo though is when the water level gets very low, there is no automatic shut off on the DG - it will continue to try and filter water through which can lead to some spluttering and could end up damaging the machine as it continues to try and heat the water. The Tassimo would always shut off mid flow if the water level got too low.
There were 6 pods included free with the machine which was very handy to try out a few of the flavours as they're not that cheap so I received Lungo, Espresso, Latte Macchiato (2 pods) and Cappuccino (2 pods). The only T-disks I'd really buy for the Tassimo was the Cappuccino and the only thing that disappointed me initially was that the Cappuccino pods were sweetened. I found from the first attempt at making one that the sugar would quickly sink to the bottom so it became very sweet towards the end of the cup. One of the leaflets provided gives you information about each pack of pods including whether they are sweetened or unsweetened so I ended up going for the Skinny Cappuccinos after that. After having a Tassimo Milka last Christmas it made me realise how plastic those drinks taste compared to the DG (and it is definitely not down to the Tassimo being new as it is nearly 5 years old now). The DG pods with milk are creamy but you still don't lose the taste of the ground coffee. I do wish though that the DG would know how much water to put in each as I can sometimes make them too milky or too strong with coffee.
Cleaning the machine is very simple as the drip tray, water tank and pod holder can all be removed from the machine. You do have to keep the capsule bin handy to do this to fill the bin with water to clean the machine through. I do like that it comes with the bin though as there's one inside the other with holes so the used pods can be discarded and can drip dry so they're not leaking in the bin. Quite a few of the pods end up full of water - not a good idea to squeeze them if taking them straight out the machine as they are rather hot!
One thing that my boyfriend really likes is the water, although hot, always leaves the drink drinkable without much blowing to cool it down compared to a kettle boiled coffee which seems to take much longer. The Tassimo is very similar although I always found I had to drink them very quick before they got too cool. The Dolce Gusto really gets them just right and as I'm not a fan of black coffee, I will often add milk to e.g. the Lungo (long espresso) and even that doesn't cool it down as much I would have thought so I still don't have to drink it straight away.
I can be a bit lazy when it comes to using the machine and quite often I'll just switch it off without removing the used pod (bad I know). For some reason this ends up causing a lot of trouble than removing it straight away as when you lift the silver top to remove the pin from the pod, it always gets stuck. This is never a problem if removing the pod straight away and I just know that one of these days I'm going to end up snapping the pin.
At just under £4 for a box of pods they do vary in value. Basically each box provides you with 16 pods BUT e.g. with the Cappuccino you get 2 pods per drink - one coffee and one milk so really you're only getting 8 drinks out of it. Compared to instant coffee it is poor value - you can get 20 x Nescafe Cappuccinos for £4 but at the same time you could easily pay £2-£4 for one Cappuccino at Starbucks or local coffee shop. Tassimo pods seem to be a bit more expensive at the moment compared to DG pods (usually was the other way round) but I can honestly say that the DG pods taste far better than the Tassimo pods and of course, instant coffee so I don't begrudge paying a little extra and see it more as a treat. My local Tesco and Sainsbury's don't stock a lot of varieties though so usually end up hunting out new (well new to me) flavours in larger stores.
The Melody 3 isn't quite as all singing and dancing as I would have hoped but if I did accidently break this one I would definitely replace it with another DG machine. It looks nice (you may want to consider a different machine if you don't have a lot of space) and it makes a great cup of coffee fast. I don't like the fact that it is manual but that's just me being lazy/wanting to multitask. I do love that it makes a hot cup of coffee which I don't have to drink straight away and although the local supermarkets have a low selection of pods, still have the varieties I do like. Pods are mid priced between instant and buying from a coffee shop so I do see these as a bit of a treat. As it's priced at the moment, I wouldn't spend £100 on it - I would wait until it comes closer to the £70 mark again.
It's not often I buy a pair of heels but with a few weddings last year I wanted a pair of nude heels that would go with a few outfits and after spotting the Millada Lattice Platform Heels for £28.99 on Miss Guided, I jumped at their free postage offer at the time.
In my experience a lot of high heels do mean pain whether it's from rubbing or squashed toes but I can honestly say these are the most comfortable heels I own. With a 5.5" heel I knew I would be towering over everyone but that didn't bother me. The 1 to 1.5 inch platform helps to reduce the strain on the balls of my feet so the weight is more evenly distributed but if you're not used to high heels you probably will feel these are too high. I also found these shoes very true to size which is a bit of a relief when buying online.
The one thing I hate about buying shoes online is you never get a photo of the soles and the main thing that worried me was I'd take one step on the dance floor and end up on my bum. I was pleasantly surprised that the soles, although still rather flat actually offered quite a lot of grip on the polished surface - enough to let me do some Scottish Country Dancing. I wish they offered some steel toe-capped ones though as it still really does hurt if someone else in heels accidently stands on your foot!
The only time I do wear these shoes is with tights and I have gone through a lot. With the zip fastening up the back of each shoe it does make them incredibly easy to put on as you're just sliding your foot in and although it does have the flap so the zip isn't sliding against my heel I still always manage to catch my tights - especially at the top. So if I know I'm going to be wearing these shoes I always make sure I'm carrying at least one spare pair of tights. I always seem to have the problem of the flap getting caught in the zip but it's usually very easy to fix - just wastes a bit of time.
The idea of the nude heel is to create the illusion of longer legs. I certainly do look taller but I think this is just down to the size of the heel and platform. These are quite pale suiting my winter skintone more than summer so there is usually quite a difference in colour if wearing nude tights which detracts from the illusion. I love the lattice effect on the front providing more of a shoe boot effect with false button on the side but it doesn't add any extra protection from rolling my ankle even though the sides of the shoe sit on the ankle (without rubbing). The other problem with them being so light is they do mark very easily and I have black marks on the platform and scuffed the toes quite a bit but this can't really be seen when worn. The faux suede material also shows up light scuffing but isn't as noticeable.
These are shoes I'm far more likely to wear if I know I'm going to be indoors rather than out as the faux suede covers the heel too. I would always avoid wearing them on wooden floors as the stiletto heel is likely to cause far more damage to the floor than to me. I have climbed and descended an old tower in these shoes without falling but I probably was holding people up while taking my time.
These shoes were available in a mint green, pink and black as well as the beige but I'm glad I went for the beige as they do seem a little more timeless. I still have a lot of life left in these shoes so very happy with the price paid for them. Very comfortable, they go with everything and I don't fall over - can't ask for much more!
Over the last couple of years the one electrical beauty product I wanted to own was a Clarisonic but I couldn't really justify the £100 - £200 price tag. There are cheaper alternatives available (and even manual versions) but I always held out until Philips released their Visapure.
The Visapure (Blue system) is a facial cleansing brush priced at £120 so is still an expensive beauty item to buy. After charging (initially said it would take 6 hours but mine is usually done after 5 and a half hours) and wetting the brush head with water and adding your chosen cleanser, switching it on will rotate the brush head for 60 seconds which is just enough time to give your skin a deep clean.
I love the fact that the system breaks those 60 seconds up into 3 x 20 second intervals with a one second break in between. This makes sure that each section of your face (2 x cheeks/jawline/nose and 1 x forehead/T-zone) is cleansed equally but also stops you from overdoing it which could leave your skin very tender. Sometimes I don't find the one second break to be enough but it's not a huge problem. The system can also be used on the neck area and follows the same process of breaking it up into 3 areas for the 60 seconds.
When I first started using the system I did find the brush head to be a little harsh on my skin and if I work the brush in an anti-clockwise circular motion i.e. against the rotation I can feel it become quite rough. I've always found the apples of my cheeks to be more sensitive so will spend less time focusing on them. I have the blue system which only has the one speed setting - deep cleansing (the peach system has 2 - gentle and deep) and comes with the normal brush head but you can buy a sensitive brush head or an exfoliating brush (when registering the product they'll send out a voucher for a free one after 3 months).
So what are the downsides? Well unfortunately after spending the £120 on the system itself you then still have to buy a cleanser and then every 3 months you need to keep replacing the heads. Thankfully the heads are not overly expensive at £8 for the normal and sensitive brushes and £12 for the exfoliating brush however this does add up over a year. The main reasons for replacing so often are because they will build up with bacteria (although they are washed after every use) and similar to a toothbrush, the bristles can get damaged which can cause damage to the skin. It only took a couple of uses to find that most of the damage to the bristles can actually be caused by catching them on the stand so it's very important to place it in carefully.
Another thing I don't like is I always keep catching my hairline which although doesn't then catch my hair and get it caught in the system means I'm trying to cleanse over my hair on my forehead or down by my ears so I spend a lot of time trying to move bits of hair while trying to keep to my 20 seconds per area without losing much time. Finally the only area I'm not so happy with is cleansing my nose as you can't really get into the sides very well and I can find it sprays into my eyes when I am using it on my nose.
And the positives?
Well to start, charging it for 5+ hours I do get at least 2 weeks use out of it even when using it twice a day. With some electrical beauty items like my electric toothbrush or epilator I do find I get an incredibly poor usage time out of the long charging period so I was quite pleased with the Visapure.
The biggest positive actually has to be the result I get. If I have been wearing make up and remove it at the end of the day the Visapure really shows me how much make up is still left on my skin which can be quite a surprise. I know then that my skin really is clean where in my previous skincare routine there still would have been a lot left. I would still get breakouts (pre-Visapure) which have lessened over the last few months, my skin is far smoother and polished looking, my cheeks are no longer dry (which makes a huge difference when applying make up) and even when I'm not wearing make-up I find my skintone is far more even. The system says that 90% have reported that pores appear smaller which is probably the only thing I haven't noticed (although this really only affects my nose).
I'm glad that the system is waterproof so I don't have to worry about where I'm using it although I don't often use it in the shower. As long as I wet the brush head and give it a shake to remove the excess before applying the cleanser I don't find it drips at all. Surprisingly with the tapered shape of the system and the fact it doesn't offer any grip hasn't meant it has slid out my hand although I will often dry my hands before picking it up. The main downside to the system is probably its size as although it's tapered it's still about the same height as a deodorant aerosol so not very easy to travel with. There is a cap which can be placed onto the brush head to protect it while travelling as the charging/drying stand is not secure.
The Visapure is definitely one of the best electrical beauty items I own. It probably is worth the £120 although I'm not so happy about spending at least £32 on brush heads a year in addition to buying a cleanser too. There are not many difference on paper compared to the Clarisonic (C = 6x better than manual cleansing whereas V = 10x and the Clarisonic mentions it can reduce fine lines and wrinkles). The Clarisonic also has a bigger brush head but I think if the Visapure had been any bigger it would catch my hair more often. If I hadn't got the Visapure and had a spare £120 in all honesty I probably would have gone for a Clarisonic instead but I am actually pleasantly surprised with the Visapure and can't see any real reason to change (mainly for the fact that the Clarisonic replacement brush heads are £20 each!).
Compared with the peach system which is slightly more expensive I think I'd actually stick to the blue system. I can't say I've ever really wanted to reduce the speed for a gentle clean as the only area you can't use it on your face is the eye area which still wouldn't be possible with a slower speed. Whether I wear make up or not (and I'm far more the latter at the moment) the Visapure really has made a huge difference to the condition of my skin. I am more confident to go out with just some mascara on than a full face of make up.
Overall, just a star knocked off for the rolling cost of replacement heads/price of the system. Would have liked a free cleanser supplied but was happy to stick to one I know my skin likes.
I know that perfume atomisers have been around for a long time but over the last year or so I've always wanted a Travalo. The only thing I didn't like about them was the design with the small window as it wasn't really clear how much perfume was in it (and some of them looked quite tacky) but the Travalo Pure Essentials Refill Perfume Spray completely changed that.
Available in red (the one I have), gold and silver it's only the tops that are coloured with the clear refill base and delicate design on the bottle. Although Travalo's are perfect for men and women I think the filigree design is bit more girly than perhaps the previous design had. It does make it a great gift idea though and although I've found some atomisers to look a bit tacky I wouldn't say this one is.
There are really only two steps to use the Travalo - 1. Remove the spray top from your perfume bottle and 2. Place the bottom of the Travalo on it and push down so the perfume enters the Travalo. It's quick and easy and I didn't have any trouble with spillage although I did wipe the base of the Travalo once I was done.
The Travalo has a lot of benefits too. I would always carry either a rather large perfume bottle around (thankfully it never smashed) but it would also be quite heavy or those little perfume samples which may not have been one of my favourite scents but were a lot handier. With the Travalo it's about the same size as a lipstick and can be filled with any scent. The spray on the Travalo is decent and claims you can get 65 sprays out the bottle (definitely doesn't take that many to fill it).
I ended up filling my Travalo with my everyday perfume but then wondered if it would be possible to clean it to use with a new perfume as the spray top doesn't seem to unscrew. I ended up on the Travalo site and found they don't recommend cleaning it so best to stick with a perfume you're likely to have for a while although if needed, they say you can get a water bottle with a spray top and fill it the same way as you would with perfume then just keep spraying it to flush it out or when it is empty of perfume just fill it with a new one and the first few sprays will clean it out.
Priced around £7 it's good quality and should last years so it does seem worth the money as it would be a lot costlier to carry around a £30 glass perfume bottle wondering if it's going to break. The design is girly but would make an ideal birthday or Christmas gift. I would still keep it out of reach of children though as my 2 year old niece found mine and I had to convince her 1 spray was enough.
With the 3 colours you can buy one of each to have different perfumes in them but it's not as easy to distinguish which is which if buying more of the same colour.
When food starts to taste differently after cooking and it gets to the point where the self cleaning function of the oven doesn't remove ANY of the burnt on food, you know the oven needs something dramatic to get it clean. Unfortunately this was the state of our oven when moving into our new home. I bought Mr Muscle Oven Cleaner (the stuff that states 'No Scrubbing Required') but after 6 attempts in one night (I didn't want to use anything too abrasive to get through the layers of food) and inhaling some pretty toxic fumes, there was very little difference made. I ended up asking my mum for some advice and this is what she gave me.
Oven Mate is spectacular.
The 500ml bottle is very easy to use - it does have a safety cap but as per instructions, if you do have kids around to keep it well out of their reach as I can imagine this would do some pretty serious damage. It comes with a brush (pretty much a pastry brush) with nylon bristles and a pair of gloves although I just ended up wearing marigolds.
The oven cleaner itself is a gel which is like a thick bleach without the smell. It's not watery but at the same time incredibly easy to paint the surface of the oven. I had a large area of burnt on food so I made sure to test it first to make sure I wasn't going to ruin the oven surface and that it wasn't going to react with the Mr Muscle cleaner previously used (there was a 3 day break between them though). It also does state it shouldn't be used on self cleaning ovens but I was getting desperate!
After my first attempt of spreading the gel I found that it only took a few minutes for it to start working. The brush started staining dark brown but I left it for about 30 minutes as I knew it would take a few attempts to get anywhere close to being clean. Wiping the gel away with a damp cloth I could easily tell that it was doing a better job than Mr Muscle had in 6 attempts. The cloth was covered in brown goo. The brush and cloth were very easily rinsed under cold water for the next attempt. The second attempt I ended up leaving on for about an hour and again I could see it was making a huge difference. I was still left with a lot of baked on food/grease/oil but I was far more confident that I wasn't going to ruin the oven when I did choose to leave it on overnight. I think this was where the Mr Muscle failed as it could only be left on for a max of 30 minutes. So for the third time in one night, the gel was painted on and left for about 12 hours.
Wiping the goo away the next morning I was surprised at just how little was left of the burnt food. It did still need at least one more attempt but it was doing an incredible job of getting through all those layers of food. This was then left on for about 3 hours and wiped away easily. Thankfully the sides of the oven were only splashed with dirt so didn't take as much effort.
At long last the oven was clean! (Well the main oven anyway!)
Although you do still have to be very careful using the gel as it could cause serious burns, it was far less likely to cause injury compared to the Mr Muscle aerosol. I wasn't as worried about it splashing my clothing and there was absolutely no scent to it at all which meant when it did come time to use the oven I wasn't worried about food then having a citrusy taste. After those 6 previous attempts with Mr Muscle my throat was hurting from the fumes whereas Oven Mate caused no reaction. Also with my oven taking 400ml of water to self clean (which basically meant most of the burnt on food was pooled in the centre) the gel didn't run and gather in the centre so I could still easily clean the areas around it whereas Mr Muscle oven cleaner foams and then almost turns into liquid so would run to the middle.
From the instructions it seemed that the wire racks could be a little hit or miss as it can react with chrome so again I had to test the racks before cleaning fully. This wasn't as easy to do with the brush as you don't tend to get such an even application without some of it dripping. Thankfully they were not as badly caked on with burnt food so even when left on for a short time cleaned up incredibly well. Unfortunately with the design of them it's not as easy to get into all the corners when wiping with the cloth so did have to be rinsed in the sink.
As you can probably tell, the oven was pretty disgusting and I knew I would be cleaning it far more often than had obviously previously been done so there wouldn't be any chance of it getting to that state again to need to use the gel multiple times. I knew though that if I did need a little extra help than just water I wouldn't be going back to Mr Muscle. Oven Mate is priced at £7.99 which is more expensive than Mr Muscle but if your oven is as bad as mine was, it's very possible you'd use far less of the gel than the aerosol.
Mums really do know best!