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square88

square88
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Member since: 25.03.2012

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      09.04.2012 21:06
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      A handy holiday option.

      I bought Boots' Conditioning Nail Polish Remover Pads one day when I worked at a cafe and suddenly realised on the bus to work that I'd forgotten to take my nail polish off after my day off - and polish was absolutely forbidden. So I rushed into Boots, and decided that these would be the easiest and quickest option. They definitely were, and there are certain situations in which they are very handy, but I wouldn't pick these as an everyday option purely due to the price.

      These remover pads cost £1.50 for a pack of 15 - this isn't much cheaper than brandname ones, as Boots charge £2.10 for a pack of 20 Quickies brand pads. Still, it's at the cheaper end of the remover pad market.
      The product basically seems like ordinary cotton wool pads - perhaps more densely packed than usual - pre-soaked in nail polish remover. It's quite a simple concept! These ones come in a small round plastic tub, with a screw-off lid, and are acetone free which should help with the 'conditioning' claim in their name. They've changed the packaging since I got my pack, but the instructions on the bottom of my tub explain that you should "firstly wipe each nail with a single stroke of the pad. Then work back through each nail with a firm rubbing action to remove all traces of varnish." I actually didn't notice this until I got the tub out to look at just now! I've always just done one finger at a time, and never had a problem removing the varnish, but perhaps it would be slightly easier using the suggested method. The main difference I noticed from using ordinary nail polish remover on cotton wool was the smell! These pads don't smell at all like standard nail polish remover, and are actually reasonably pleasant - they have a fruity smell, like some kind of shampoo or soap. This is definitely an advantage.

      The pads do remove nail polish quite quickly and easily. I did find it quite difficult to only pick out one pad at a time, as they are just stacked on top of one another in the tub and stick together, and as they are thin it is easy to think you've got one when in reality you have picked up two! It's quite annoying, as there are only a few per pack and you don't want to waste them. I do think they're very effective though, and I haven't had to use more than one or two per hand (depending on how thick a layer of polish I had on, and whether it was glittery, which always makes it more difficult to remove). The scent is quite pleasant, and they certainly don't dry out my nails and cuticles. However, my fingertips do feel a little odd - maybe oily? - after I've used them, and the residue does still taste bitter as usual, so I always wash my hands afterwards.

      Overall, I would say they are a handy product to take on holiday, or have in your bag whenever you think you'll need to take your polish off. There's no risk of spillage with these as there would be with carrying a bottle of remover with you! Due to the high price compared to using standard remover (The remover I get is £2.20 for 200ml, plus £1 for 100 cotton wool pads at the pound shop, and I could probably soak every pad with that much remover), these pads aren't a great choice for everyday use. I keep them around for when I'll be going away though, and I'm glad to have them!

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      09.04.2012 18:52
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      I'm quite happy with this lip balm, but I'll probably be trying out some others when it runs out.

      The Vaseline Lip Therapy range is very popular, and you'll often see the tins strategically positioned near the tills at chemists and supermarkets. I'd been tempted by the Rosy Lips variety for a while, and decided to give myself a little treat. One thing to note is that, at least at Boots, Rosy Lips is the most expensive of the Lip Therapy range - Original and Aloe Vera are only £1.80, though Cocoa Butter is £1.99. Still, this isn't a bad price, considering that you get significantly more in a tin like this than in a stick-style lip balm - those usually contain about 5g, compared to Lip Therapy's 20g.

      Rosy Lips comes in a pink and white painted tin, in the same style as the others in the range. The tin is neat and slim, easily slipped into a pocket or bag. It's fairly solid, but you will find that it will become a bit dented if you carry it around in a handbag a lot - mine has also discoloured a little, becoming a bit grey, but I've had it in my bag for months now. It's definitely not a luxury product, but the presentation is nice enough. The tin is easily opened, and you can dab on the lip balm with your finger (or a brush, if you prefer). The balm itself is much like the original lip therapy - translucent and reminiscent of ordinary Vaseline. It feels a bit lighter than standard Vaseline though, and seems a bit more solid, which helps to avoid accidentally picking up too much with your finger. Rosy Lips contains rose and almond oils, and does have a subtle rosy scent. These are supposed to help provide moisture as well.

      Rosy Lips is, as you'd expect, tinted pink, and this does transfer well onto your lips. It's not a strong colour, but just helps to give your lips a little boost - good for a natural look. It also leaves your lips looking nice and shiny, though not as much as a lip gloss would. Lip Therapy feels much lighter than a lip gloss, and isn't sticky at all, but smooth and light. The shine isn't particularly long lasting - about an hour on me, I'd say, and I think this is because of the balm soaking into the lips. The colour sticks around for longer, perhaps 3 hours if you aren't eating or drinking. You don't need to worry about the colour coming off unevenly though, as it it subtle enough not to be obvious.

      Lip Therapy does provide a decent amount of moisture and protection for your lips, and definitely helped to keep mine from becoming chapped. It's not particularly heavy-duty though, so if you already have very dry and cracked lips, you might want to try something stronger first! It's a great everyday balm though.

      One tin lasts a long time, and I've still got about half of mine left after about a year (though I only use it when I'm out and about, not at home).

      Overall, I'm very pleased with Lip Therapy Rosy Lips, especially as it's not an expensive lip balm at all - my favourite lip balms are the Body Shop's Lip Butters, but those are £4 for less than half as much!However, I have noticed that Boots have an own-brand lip balm that looks suspiciously similar to Vaseline Lip Therapy Rosy Lips. Boots Essential Lip Balm in Rose also contains almond oil (I'm not sure about rose oil), and tints your lips. It comes in a similar tin, also containing 20g, at £1.45. I haven't tried this myself, but it seems to have generally good reviews, so if you're feeling strapped for cash (or just like to get the best bargain possible!) you might like to give this version a go.

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    • Hendricks Gin / Spirits / 30 Readings / 29 Ratings
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      28.03.2012 19:20
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      A must-try for gin lovers

      Hendrick's is a relatively new gin, having apparently first been made in 1999. It's made in Scotland in small batches, and, as Hendrick's like to say themselves, is a very unusual gin!

      First of all, the bottle rather stand out on the shelves: it's an "apothecary-style" bottle in a very deep brown, and has a lovely traditional paper label and a cork stopper rather than flimsy screwcap. It feel nice and solid, and rather sophisticated. The style of the bottle reinforces the message that Hendrick's is carefully distilled and blended by experts, and not just mass-made in any old factory - Hendrick's is made with care.

      The flavour of Hendrick's is what really makes it special. As well as traditional gin flavourings like juniper, Hendrick's is also infused with Bulgarian rose and cucumber. This results in a fragrant and aromatic drink, and makes ordinary gins seem incredibly dull to me now!

      Hendrick's make the unusual suggestion to serve their gin with a cucumber garnish, and I am absolutely a convert! I don't even like cucumber, but the combination works so well that I buy them just for my drinks. I have a massive sweet tooth, and drink Hendrick's with lemonade rather than tonic: I dice up about an inch length of cucumber, add it to a glass with some ice cubes, put in the Hendrick's and swirl it about a bit before adding the lemonade. The result is a deliciously refreshing drink full of complex flavours.
      The Hendrick's website is full of other drinks ideas, from simple combinations to unusual concoctions ideal for showing off to your friends. I've decided that I absolutely have to try a Hendrick's cucumber martini, so I'll be buying some vermouth soon to give it a try!

      Hendrick's is available in good bars and at the supermarket - Tesco sell 70cl for £24.50, and it is available on special offer occasionally. I'd absolutely suggest you give it a try if you enjoy gin at all! It's also a great gift, especially as it's bottled so attractively.

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      • Seche Restore Thinner / Make Up / 22 Readings / 20 Ratings
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        28.03.2012 18:53
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        Very happy with this product.

        Seche Restore is marketed as specifically a thinner for their wildly popular Seche Vite fastdry topcoat - Seche Vite often thickens over time, and the second half of the bottle can be gloopy and hard to use. Seche Restore is designed to literally restore it to its original state.

        Seche tell us that this is the only product you should use to return Seche Vite to its original consistency. It's quite common to hear people talking about using nail polish remover to thin their gloopy old polishes, but this actually isn't very good for the polish quality and is absolutely a no-no for Seche Vite! Using nail polish remover for this purpose affects the colour and finish of the nail polish, and though it does thin it, your nail polish will never be quite the same again; Seche Restore claims not to "diminish shine or dull colours". Seche Restore has a short ingredient list, consisting of butyl acetate, toluene and isopropyl alcohol, which are apparently the ingredients that evaporate out of Seche Vite leading to that annoying thickening. These aren't very nice chemicals, and I think you should avoid breathing in too deeply when you've got the bottle open - toluene in particular is one of the "big 3" chemicals traditionally used in nail polishes that many now think should be avoided. To be honest, I'm not all that bothered about using these chemicals, as I'm not applying them every day and I make sure to do my nails in a well-ventilated room.

        As well as thinning Seche Vite, you can use Seche Restore to sort out any nail polish that has become thick and unusable. I've actually heard of people use it on nail polishes that have totally dried out and become solid, with great success!

        Seche Restore comes in a 14ml bottle (I got mine for £6.50 on ebay), which looks like a slightly larger than usual nail polish bottle: a cylindrical clear glass bottle, with a screw on cylindrical black plastic cap. Unlike a nail polish, there is no brush attached to the cap. Instead, it comes with a glass dropper with a rubber bulb, to let you carefully adjust how much of the product you want to add at once. Together, these are packed in a small cardboard box in silver and white.

        It's really quite easy to use: simply use the dropper to add some Seche Restore into the nail polish you want to thin down. Then, firmly attach the nail polish's lid and shake to incorporate fully - some people say you shouldn't shake nail polish, but I've never had a problem so long as I leave it to settle for a while before using it again. You can always just roll it between your hands if you prefer! Either way, you mix the Restore into the polish, and this is enough to improve the texture greatly, letting you get far more use out of your nail polish - no more having to throw it away when there's still half a bottle left. If it's still a bit thick, just add more and shake again. If you do end up adding too much, apparently you can just leave the lid off the nail polish bottle for a while to let some of it evaporate.

        I'm pleased I bought this product, as I hate throwing away lovely nail polishes that have become a gloopy mess. So far I've used it with great effect on my Seche Vite, and a L'Oreal and a Rimmel nail polish, all of which I'm now very happy with.

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          28.03.2012 18:27
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          A great option for those who want something a bit more than a standard digital camera.

          The Olympus PEN Mini (E-PM1) is a compact system camera - a relatively new breed that I think of as basically a cross between a DSLR and a standard little digital camera. This model is the smallest of Olympus' compact system cameras, and has a RRP of £449.99, but is available from Amazon.co.uk from £356 - some colours are more expensive.

          This model provides 12.3 megapixels, and has a 3" display screen - full specifications are available on Olympus' website. Mine is the E-PM1 14-42mm Kit in Brown - other kits are available which come with other lenses etc.
          The E-PM1 14-42mm Kit comes with:
          -The camera body
          -zoom lens (14-42mm f3.5-5.6)
          -detachable flash
          -battery and charger
          -Olympus Setup CD
          -USB cable
          -Audio/Video cable
          -shoulder strap for carrying
          -velvety pouch to hold flash - can be attached to strap
          All neatly packed in a sturdy cardboard box.

          Appearance
          The PEN Mini is not an unusual looking camera - actually, it looks very much like a standard digital camera, except for the lens on the front. I like to think that it makes me look a little bit more like a real photographer! One main advantage over a full-on DSLR is that it's a lot smaller and lighter. I can fit it in my handbag, which is great for me. It means I'm much more likely to take it with me when I go out, and therefore I'm much more likely to actually have a camera handy when I want to take photos, rather than missing the moment. The E-PM1 comes in a choice of six colours - black, white, silver, a very pale pink, a purpley fuchsia, and, the one I chose, a chocolate brown. They all have a brushed metal finish, except, I think, the white. The lens that came with mine is silver-coloured, as is the trim - a strip along the top including the on/off and shutter buttons, the strap connecters, etc. It looks great - very smart.

          Controls
          Another advantage of a compact system camera over a DSLR for those of us who aren't photography experts! The controls on the PEN Mini are so much simpler than DSLRs I've tried. Of course, you can't do everything with this that you can with a DSLR, but, to be honest, I never used all those features because I couldn't be bothered to actually learn how to use them properly. I love taking good photos, but not quite enough to spend ages figuring it out! Bit lazy that way. With this camera, I've basically managed to figure out everything myself. It came with a quick-start guide, and a full manual included on the Setup disc. Set up was simple, and the brochure leads you through this: first, attach the lens! It's just a matter of removing two protective caps and twisting it into the housing. Then you can put in a memory card and turn it on. Mine came partially charged so I could have a fiddle about before setting it aside for a full charge. It's pretty simple.
          On top: there's the on/off button (labelled), the shutter release button (which is a decent size and raised so that you can find it easily without looking), and there's the "accessory shoe" where attach the flash. It has a little slide-in plastic cover to avoid damage when not in use.
          On the front: There's just one button here - it's to release the lens if you want to change it.
          On the back: This is where the display screen is: it's great! It's a 3" screen - bigger than I've seen on other similarly sized cameras - and it has a great resolution. To the right, there's a dial for navigating the menu and changing settings, the menu button itself, an 'info' button that shows you light levels and so on as you are shooting, the playback button to view your images, and a button that lets you quickly switch between taking still photos and shooting films. These buttons are quite small, but they do stick up a bit above the fascia which helps clumsy fingers! I found the dial system a bit confusing, as I've used Nikons in the past, which have a very different navigational system. I'm getting the hang of it though, and I understand this menu system is the same as on other Olympuses, so if you've already used them you'll be fine.
          On the bottom, there's a point for attaching the camera to a tripod and so on, as well as the compartment for the rechargeable battery and the memory card. These are easy to insert and remove.

          General use
          One thing I hadn't thought about at first was that this lens is built to 'twizzle' a bit further that usual to make it more compact when not in use. You can't actually take photos with it like that, so the camera prompts you to extend the lens if you haven't already. That's simply a matter of turning the band that you also use for zooming; when you are finished though, there's a little switch thing to hold while you put it back into position. While we're on the lens: zooming in and out is simple - you don't use a button, but turn the a band on the lens back and forth. It's really easy to move without being easy to accidentally nudge out of place.
          I found the controls simple - you can use this just like a point-and-shoot type camera if you can't be bothered to fiddle with settings, using the "iAuto" mode. You can also choose to set the aperture and/or shutter speed manually or automatically, and you can choose different 'Scene' modes to suit your subject (I was impressed by the selection - all the usuals, plus settings for documents, candlelight, wideangle, nighttime portraits and one for a portrait with a stunning landscape behind!). One of the big touted features of this model is the variety of 'art' settings - these basically apply a filter to your photo so that you can achieve a desired effect easily. They include: Pop Art (lots of bright, vibrant colour), Soft Focus (slightly fuzzy and romantic), Grainy Film (in black and white), Pin Hole (with a pin-hole photography style dark circular rim fading in around the photo), Diorama (with a short focus length to make landscapes look like scale models!), and Dramatic Tone (which looks like it's good for emphasising variations in dark and light). Helpfully, when you scroll to each option you get to see a couple of sample images for each one so that you have an idea of what you'll get. A small symbol will show at the bottom left while you're shooting to remind you which setting you are using. The button to quickly switch to making a film is really handy! No more searching through menus while the exciting moment is passing in front of you.
          I wasn't sure if not having a built in flash would be annoying, but I haven't minded it yet. It's not hard to attach the external flash, though a little fiddly so that you wouldn't want to do it on the move. If you know you'll be out on a bright day you can leave it at home; if you know you'll want it, you can leave it attached (it folds down a bit do that it doesn't catch on things, and that also acts to automatically turn it off); or you can put it in the little velvet pouch that comes with it, which then handily attaches to the carry strap. When using the flash you have the usual settings (automatic, redeye, totally off, always on), but also some handy options when those aren't right: three 'slow' settings, including one for redeye, and six intensity settings - great for when a full flash is just too much.

          Accessories
          My kit came with one lens and one external flash, along with the velvet flash case and the carry strap. Other kits with different lenses etc might be available, and you can also buy other types if you want. There are 9 suitable lenses listed on Olympus' website, alongside remote control cables and flashes, a macro arm light which sticks out in front of the camera to light up close-up images, a choice of straps, cases and replacement chargers and batteries.


          Overall, I'm very pleased with this camera - it's not the cheapest around, but it takes great photos without much effort, and it's easy to use all the features. I haven't used the art filters much yet, and I doubt you'd want to be using them all the time, but they are a lot of fun to mess around with and are quite effective. The display screen is gorgeous and really shows off your photos well.
          I'd absolutely recommend this camera!

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          27.03.2012 06:38
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          Overall, a good affordable brand to try - great for a little treat to yourself!

          I've got NYC In a New York Color Minute nail polish in 'Manhattan' - this is a very deep burgundy colour. I did wonder what that had to do with Manhattan, but it seems every colour of this polish is named after a place in New York. So, my bafflement is over.

          Considering the low price of this polish, I wasn't really expecting much: it's available at Superdrug for £2.59 (9.7ml), though at the moment it's on sale at £1.79 - I got mine ages ago when this offer was on previously, so I expect they'll be running it again in the future too.

          Nail polishes in this price range are very variable - I love Barry M ones, at £2.99, and Rimmel and 17 ones too, but I absolutely hate the Natural Collection nail polish I've got. Still, worth a try, I thought!

          I was actually reasonably impressed. It doesn't beat Barry M to my affection, but I might well buy a few more of these in other colours. First of all: the packaging looks really good - more like one around the £6-7 mark rather than under three quid. It's a clear glass bottle with sides tapering to be a little narrower at the bottom. The lid takes the form of matte black plastic in the same shape upside-down and narrower. It's not the greatest lid for accurate painting, quite average. NYC's website says that this comes with a "control-flow brush", which they claim "dispenses just the right amount of color for perfect application". To be honest, I hadn't even noticed that. The brush seems just like any old nail polish brush to me. Their claim that it means you can do your nails in a taxi dashing across the city is completely laughable, unless you don't mind painting the rest of your finger at the same time.

          The polish itself is a bit thinner than many, but not so runny that it goes everywhere. I think this is actually an advantage, as I've had this for several months now and it hasn't gone all gloopy as many other brands have. It has that usual nail polish smell, but not overwhelmingly strong, and it goes away after it's dry.
          Application was quite normal, with no problems. I definitely needed two (maybe three) coats of this polish to get an even colour across the nail. I was expecting that though, as I nearly always do when I use a dark colour, as I'm very pale so any gaps show up easily.
          The first layer certainly dries very quickly - touch dry in the minute they claim. Layers after that definitely take longer though, more the more thickly it's layered up! At that point, it dries only a little quicker than ordinary polishes in my experience. If you're using a shade closer to your nail colour, then, and can get away with one layer, this polish is a great choice. I do use the Seche Vite fast dry topcoat though (which actually works and dries all the polish underneath too!), so I haven't let this polish dry on its own for ages. This dries with a nice shiny finish as you'd expect.
          I got decent wear out of this polish, lasting probably 3 to 4 days before chipping (though obviously less if I start scrubbing out pans with metal scourers and things like that). Not too bad!

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          27.03.2012 01:23
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          I like this enough to convince me to spend more on it - I'll keep buying it.

          I've been using this product for a couple of years now - it used to be called mattifying moisturiser (or something to that effect), but I don't think the product itself has changed. It's a gel moisturiser with tea tree; it's supposed to reduce spots, give you a shine-free finish and avoid oiliness.

          It's quite pricey from my point of view - I don't usually spend more than £3-4 on this sort of thing, and this one comes in a smaller tube than many. Tea Tree Skin Clearing Lotion is £7 for a 50ml tube. However, it's worth watching out for special offers - The Body Shop often have 3 for 2 deals and so on.

          The tube itself is pale green with the label printed directly on it, and has a clear plastic flip-up lid. The nozzle works well - it's easy to control how much product comes out, and it doesn't drip if you leave it open. One advantage of the small tube is that this is easy to fit in an overnight bag or a desk drawer if you need to moisturise more often.

          This lotion is cloudy-looking, and you can definitely smell the tea tree - it's not an overwhelming scent, though, and it's not noticeable once applied. It's very easy to apply - just smooth it over your skin with your fingers. It soaks in quickly, and it really does give a matte finish. I really love this feature, as I am prone to getting shiny. It won't keep you matte all day on its own, but it does last a few hours, and you could reapply quickly and easily if you don't want to use another product or makeup.

          It's got a nice cool feeling as you apply it, and soothes sore spots nicely. This is designed for oilier skin, so it's not an intense moisturiser - it's very lightweight, and feels lovely.

          While it doesn't keep my skin completely clear, it is very soothing on spots, does help to reduce them a bit, and certainly doesn't promote them by clogging my pores like many moisturisers I've tried! I think the mattifying effect also reduces the appearance of spots - no obvious shiny bumps.

          Overall, I'm very pleased with this product. The Body Shop products are usually pretty good, and this has lived up to expectations - worth the slightly higher pricetag!

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        • Swatch Color the Sky GS124 / Watch / 20 Readings / 17 Ratings
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          26.03.2012 21:23
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          Very pleased with this watch - looks great, feels great, tells the time.

          Another quirky offering from Swatch, Color the Sky is a version of their "Originals" gents watch design - however, in my opinion these are pretty unisex. The face has a 34mm diameter, so isn't too chunky. According to their website, it was part of the 2004 Fall/Winter collection, but I got it in 2010 and it appears to still be available on their website, for £38.

          The watch has a flexible plastic strap, which is soft and free of scratchy edges, and a simple plastic buckle. There are plenty of holes in the strap, so it should accommodate most wrists, including children's. The casing and face are also plastic, transparent but tinted a turquoisey blue (as is the buckle). You can see some of the mechanism through the back, and there's a metal battery compartment cover. Helpfully, they've etched the battery type on the back too, to help when replacing them, though I haven't had to do that yet. There's also the usual knob on the side of the watch for changing the time. This model is listed as water resistant - usually that means it won't stand up to swimming or going in the shower

          What makes this watch special is its sheer colourfulness! The strap and face are covered in the same multicoloured pattern - it's not exactly a rainbow pattern, as the colours aren't in even bands in quite the right colour order. It looks a little like a watercolour painting, with unequal stripes of colour across the width. These include reds, deep pinks, oranges, turquoises, greens, and purple, repeating down the length of the watch. It's a beautiful effect, and I've had many compliments while wearing it!

          From a practical point of view, this watch works well - it's easy to read, with white numbering on the face (in a 'handwritten' font - it's still very clear though and a good size) and white hands, which stand out well on the vibrant background. I was pleased that this watch has a second hand, as it does come in handy on occasion. I have never had a problem with it running slow/fast - it's been very reliable. One thing I have noticed is that the ticking of the watch is fairly loud. I don't really notice this myself unless it's pressed right up against my ear, but others have commented on it when the room has been quiet!

          My watch is now looking rather worn; I've had it for about two and a half years, and I wear it every day - it's been subjected to quite a bit of wear and tear, and, as these Swatch watches are really designed as a fashion piece, it is showing its age.
          The face itself is fine, with just some minor scratching and scuffing - nothing obvious. As with Swatch watches I've had in the past, the strap is the part that has aged badly. First, the protective top layer of shiny plastic started to peel off, and I ended up pulling the rest off as it was getting annoying. This didn't damage the pattern underneath, but without that protective layer, the colour is now starting to wear off in places. However, it still looks great at a distance, and really no one is inspecting my wrist too closely.

          Overall, I'm really pleased with this watch. I've enjoyed wearing it, and the compliments I've been given! It's comfortable, very lightweight, and, as a daily watch-wearer, I don't really feel it on my wrist unless I'm thinking about it. There's still some wear left in it, and I think it will last at least until the three year mark without looking too bad - considering the price (I actually got mine for £30 - prices have since increased to £38) I'm happy with the length of wear. If you want a watch to last decades, though, I don't think a plastic watch is a good choice; for that, stick to metal with a glass/crystal face. This is obviously a fashion piece, and, honestly, as much as I love this one I will enjoy picking out my next Swatch!

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            26.03.2012 19:38
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            A gorgeous perfume, well worth a try.

            I first tried Stella eau de parfum when I was given a bottle as a Christmas present by my Aunt, several years ago. I'd actually been looking for a perfume that would suit me, and really struggling - my friends all seem to wear fruity ones which just end up smelling vinegary or odd on me! I hadn't a clue where to start. Turns out, my aunt has brilliant taste! I loved it so much I bought another bottle when I ran out, and, though I've currently got a different perfume, I'm planning to return to this one - it's the one for me!

            The packaging for this product is lovely - it feels really luxurious, though it's really quite a normal price for a perfume. My bottles have both been 30ml ones, which look a little different pictured on this listing (which is the design for the 50ml/100ml bottles). The 30ml comes in a very similar cardboard outer sleeve/box, in a nice off-white, slightly textured card, with a deep purple horizontal stripe and minimal text - just enough to let you know you've picked the right one! It feels quite classy, and elegantly simple. The 30ml bottle is a sort of elongated octagon, with the cap forming the top third or so of the shape, with 'faceted' faces - it reminds me of an emerald-cut jewel. Really, I think that's the effect they were going for here; the bottle definitely has a luxury feel to it, particularly the rich purple shades they've chosen. The cap is a very deep purple, with "STELLA" stamped in white dots at the front, and the glass bottle is the same dark shade at the top, fading down to the bottom where the glass is colourless. The bottle really does feel lovely - it's definitely high quality, with a good solid weight to it, and a well-fitting cap that 'clicks' on and off nicely. Under the cap, there's a fairly standard spray button thing. Altogether, it feels very solid and high quality, and certainly made a good impression on me as a gift. The 30ml one is actually a great size for fitting into a handbag, so it would be great for going out straight from work.

            The fragrance is obviously rose-based - John Lewis say that it "blends fraikle rose and sensuous amber. With top notes of rose, peony and mandarin essence; middle notes of rose absolute and base notes of amber". So that's three types of rose in there! (Though I've no idea what fraikle rose is...) The scent is very rich, and I think the amber adds some depth that might otherwise be missing with a purely floral scent. The peonies could be hiding in amongst the roses here, but I really can't say I detect any mandarin essence! I'm quite glad about that, what with my aforementioned problems with fruity perfumes.

            I absolutely love how it smells - it is reminiscent of rosebushes laden with heavy blooms on a hot summer evening. The added luxury of the amber suggests a sophistication that I've found lacking in some floral perfumes - they can be a bit little-girly, but Stella is definitely one for grown-ups!

            I found this perfume to be quite versatile - during the day I would apply just one spray from a few inches away, to keep the scent lighter and not too intense. For the evening, though, you can definitely layer it up, and it instantly make me feel like I'm off to some elegant soiree, rather than just a bar with some friends!

            I'll definitely be buying this again as soon as I finish the perfume I've got at the moment - I decided to try Chloe eau de toilette for a change and, while it's nice, I just don't feel it lives up to Stella.

            Stella by Stella McCartney is available at Boots and John Lewis, among other places, so it's easy to give it a go and see if it's for you - I'd definitely recommend having a go with a tester, as perfumes often do smell different on each person.
            At both Boots and John Lewis, Stella is available in three sizes: 30ml for £35, 50ml for £47, and 100ml for £63.

            Stella is currently also available in three "fashion edition" bottles - each 30ml, these are the same shape as the one I described above, but are covered in a print of one of three floral artwork designs. They look really cool - very striking - and are the same price as the standard 30ml bottle, so definitely worth a look.

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              25.03.2012 16:18
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              I'm really pleased with this - definitely recommend it!

              Having suffered through years of rubbish vacuum cleaners (ones previous tenants had left in houses I was renting!), this Christmas I decided it was time to finally get a decent one, and my mother-in-law helped me research some good options that wouldn't break the bank.
              The Miele S2111 came up a few times, with good reviews by Which among others, and at a price of £149 seemed like a good option - especially as Miele products have such a good reputation for lasting!

              I actually managed to get the S2111 for the bargainous price of £99 in the sale at Comet.co.uk, and I was really happy with their service overall, with a really quick delivery, not to mention the £50 I could now spend on Christmas treats!

              The first time I got it out to use it, I was astonished. I'd forgotten vacuum cleaners could actually suck so well! This is so much better than the hoovers I've used in recent years that I actually got excited about cleaning.

              The S2111 looks like a fairly standard cylinder vacuum cleaner, though relatively sleek and tidy looking. It comes in a few colours, including red, but I got a dark grey one as that was the only one on sale! It's quite compact and light, and has a really handy slot to hold the long nozzle neatly in place when it's in the cupboard, as well as a holder for the attachments that come with it: a long thin nozzle for getting into crevices, a small 'normal' shaped rectangular nozzle with a bit of lint-collector-type grippy that I use for my narrow stairs, and a circular brush nozzle. The holder is really handy as it keeps the parts from falling all over the place! The light weight and small size is great for carrying it upstairs and so on - not too cumbersome.
              The main hose is a good length, so you don't have to be constantly pulling the cylinder about, and the head has a retractable brush, for using on carpet or hard floors. The head also swivels easily, which is great for getting round furniture.

              I'm also really pleased with the length of the cable - I think it's 5.5m long, and plenty long enough to cover a whole room in my house. This is particularly handy as we have a chronic lack of power sockets here! The automatic cable rewind is also really handy so you don't have to deal with loops and loops of cable getting tangled.

              I haven't had to replace the bag yet, but it looks relatively simple, and replacement bags are widely available, including on Amazon.co.uk. It also has a light to remind me to empty it.

              As I said, it produces really good suction, but it also lets you adjust it, which makes it much easier doing rugs, etc - there are six suction settings, adjustable with a really simple big dial on the front of the cylinder. The diagrams indicate that, from low to high, the settings are for: cleaning curtains, upholstery, rugs, a "quiet" setting for normal hoovering, then carpets and finally hard floors. It's quite a big range, with the suction level changing a lot from lowest to highest, so you can find the right level.

              Despite the presence of a quiet setting, I've never had a problem with the noise levels on any setting - this is a remarkably quiet vacuum cleaner, especially if you're used to rubbish old ones like me!

              I'm really very pleased with this vacuum cleaner, and can't think of anything negative about it - the only thing I'm not sure about is how good it would be at pet hair, as we don't have any pets. However, it does seem to get our floors very clean.
              It's really easy to use, with a nice big on/off button - it's easy to just prod it with your foot. The only other controls are the dial for suction strength, and another big button to activate the automatic cable winder.

              Even at the full price, I think this is a good choice. It's available through quite a few retailers, including Comet and John Lewis, so it's worth checking if any of them have an offer on though!

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                25.03.2012 15:46
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                My new favourite nail polish remover :)

                I've always used the bog-standard own-brand nail polish removers, but I won't be doing so any more! This Cutex Strengthening polish remover has really impressed me.

                First thing first: it's a great price. I paid £2.20 for a 200ml bottle at Boots, which isn't much more than the basic ones and certainly not so much that I can't justify the step up!
                The bottle is nothing special - it's the distinctive Cutex shape that they always seem to use, so it does stand out a bit from other brands, but it doesn't affect the usage, really. It still just looks practical, really, if a bit nicer than own brand ones!

                Now, most importantly, it removes nail polish! This is pretty much a given, but at least it seems to do it well, getting a thick layer of polish off pretty quickly (I used it on cotton wool pads).

                What I really liked is that it doesn't leave much residue on my nails afterwards - I've had some nail polish removers that left a sort of oily-feeling coating. You should still give your hands a wash after use, to get rid of the bitter flavour of the remover though - it's awful if you eat a biscuit after and accidentally taste it! Horrible.
                It also leaves my nails in great condition. I've been painting my nails a lot lately, and in the past with other removers my nails have ended up getting dry and brittle - flaky too! All of that was avoided with this remover, so I was really pleased.

                I haven't tried the other varieties in Cutex's nail polish remover range, but I think it's worth taking a look at the different varieties if you have problem nails as they have a few different sorts.

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              • Barry M 3 in 1 Nail Paint / Make Up / 16 Readings / 16 Ratings
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                25.03.2012 15:13
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                A decent choice for a basic clear polish, at a nice price

                Barry M 3-in-1 Nail Paint is described as a combined basecoat, topcoat, and nail hardener. I've used it as all three, but on the whole I stick to using it as a basecoat - it's not completely amazing, but I'm happy with it given the price - £2.95, and easily available and Boots and Superdrug.

                Barry M products are usually a good bet, especially given their low prices, and their nail polishes are some of my favourites for that very reason! This one is only so-so, though, as it completely fails to stand out from other similarly priced equivalents, in my opinion.

                It comes in the standard Barry M nail polish bottle, and has an okay brush - not too small, thankfully, so it doesn't take long to apply this. It's got quite a thin formula, so you can only apply a thin layer at a time - this can be an advantage if you are going to use several coats of colour as well though! This also helps it to dry more quickly.
                As I said, I mostly use this as a basecoat: basically, I put it on before any other nail polish in order to stop my nails from getting stained with whichever colour I chose.
                It works well just on its own as well, if you just want a neat, shiny plain nail.
                As a topcoat, it gives a nice shiny finish and doesn't affect the colour you put it on top of - no yellowing.

                I've never noticed this having a nail hardening effect, so I'm not convinced on that front, and I don't think it is particularly good at prolonging your manicure, compared to similar products.
                Basically, if you're looking for a basic clear nail polish, then this is a good choice, as it's cheap and lasts a long time - I've had mine for over two years now, and it hasn't gone all gummy as some polishes do. It's not terribly exciting though, and I wouldn't recommend it if you need something heavy-duty to stop chips, etc.

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                25.03.2012 14:56
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                Very nice polish, quality packaging and great brush. Lovely!

                I ordered Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in "Hidden Treasure" from ebay, for only £3, as I've heard lots of good things about Sally Hansen products in the past and the "Hidden Treasure" colour is a bit of a cult favourite! It's discontinued but still available here and there, and is a slightly milky clear polish full of beautiful little sparkly flakes!

                I was really impressed when the bottle arrived - it feels really good quality, having a nice weight to it, and an elegant shape. The weight definitely helps stability - it's not too easy to knock over in the middle of painting your nails! The lid is also nice - a chrome finish with a rubbery black ring which helps with grip and control while you're painting.

                The big stand-out for me was the brush! It's quite a bit wider and flatter than a standard nail polish brush, and feels flexible but firm. This really helps to make the polish easy to apply.

                The polish itself was smooth, not too thick or thin, and went on easily and evenly, and dries in decent time. I've used it a few times now and I've not had any trouble at all. Obviously I can't comment on the other colours, but this one was great, and based on this experience I'll be trying out some more from this range in the not too distant future!

                There are lots of colours available - discontinued colours in particular are often available cheaply on ebay, but you can buy current colours at about £7 from Boots.

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                25.03.2012 14:35
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                The benefits far outweigh the faults for me - I love this product!

                I absolutely love this product! It has really saved me from the tedium of waiting for my nails to dry.
                I came across it while reading blogs about nail polish and nail art - so many of the writers raved about it that I bought a mini bottle to try out, through ebay. The mini bottle (0.125oz) is a great way to try it out - mine was only about £2, which isn't such good value as a standard sized bottle (0.5oz/14ml) but it's cheap enough not to be too annoying if you decide you don't like it. I've almost finished mine and will definitely be ordering another!

                Seche Vite is a bit unusual compared to other topcoats. The bottle I got didn't come with any real instructions, so I was glad I'd found it through the blogs - there is lots of advice online for how to get the most out of it.
                The first thing is that you shouldn't apply it straight to a 'bare' nail - it goes on top of other nail polishes, so if you just want a clear, shiny finish with no colour then you'll need to use another clear nail polish first.

                The second was the most disconcerting thing - you should apply it over wet nail polish. This was a bit scary at first, as it goes against all my nail-polishing instincts, but it really is best to paint it on when the coloured polish is still tacky. I find it's best to give it 30 seconds to a minute between painting on the colour and the Seche Vite. If you've been arty and are painting patterns on your nails, I'd give it longer to avoid smuding your design.

                Now, the way you apply it! It's very odd. Seche Vite is thicker than most nail polishes, and it really does dry very quickly, so you need to be fast. First, gather a nice big bead of Seche Vite on the brush - enough to cover the whole nail. 'Lay' this down in the centre of your nail near the cuticle, and then quickly use the brush to spread and paint it over the whole nail (I do a stripe down the middle, then one on each side). I've found it levels itself out quite well, so it's okay if it's not the same thickness all over. You do want to cover whole painted area though.
                You do need to make sure to 'wrap' it round the tip of your nail - use the brush to paint it down over the front edge of your nail at the same time. If you don't do this, sometimes the layer of Seche Vite shrinks as it dries, leaving a strip at the tip that's not protected or shiny!

                It sounds fiddly, but I got used to the method after a couple of practice nails! I was absolutely amazed by how quickly it dries - this is why it's a godsend for me. I've always found that my nail polish takes ages to dry, and even once I think it's fine it easily gets dents and so on, for several hours. Seche Vite has saved me from all of that. Once you've applied it, your nails should be touch-dry within 5 minutes (so you can change the tv channel, read a book, etc) and completely solid in about 15 minutes. I've never had such quick drying, even with the usual so-called fast-drying polishes! It dries very shiny and firm, and I've found I can grow my nails a bit longer than usual without breaking them when wearing Seche Vite. It also stops my polish from chipping for a few days longer than usual - once it lasted 10 days, which is unheard of for me!

                As I said, you can get a mini bottle for about £2 if you want to test it out before committing, and the standard one is easily available on Amazon and ebay for around £7. If you find out you absolutely love it and want to stock up, you can also buy a 'professional'-size bottle (about 120ml?) for about £20!

                The only negatives I can think of are that it does smell stronger than standard nail polish, though it goes away once it's dry! The other thing is that it can start to get thick and gloopy as you get to the bottom of the bottle. This doesn't stop it working, but it makes it harder to apply. Seche have a product called Seche Restore which you can use to get it back to it's original consistency if it bothers you (though it's a bit annoying to have to buy another product!).

                All in all, though, I absolutely love this stuff, and I'd really recommend it if you like to paint your nails regularly - especially for impatient people like me!

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