- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
You know when you wake up on a Sunday morning after a long lie-in and you fancy something indulgent for breakfast? Well look no further. Weetabix has the answer. In my humble opinion, Alpen fruit and nut museli with chocolate takes cereal to a whole new level. Owned by the Weetabix family, Alpen has been a familiar name for many years but it has seen a bit of a revival lately with some new varieties of its well known museli brand. This one has the addition of a luxurious ingredient, dark chocolate. Comprising of creamy rolled oats, dried fruit and mixed nuts with little curls of rich chocolate, this museli is full of flavour and texture. Gone are the days when museli resembled the sweepings from the bottom of a rabbit hutch! Delicious with cold milk, or on a winters day, warmed milk, it fills you up nicely, releasing its energy slowly throughout the morning so i'm not tempted to snack on rubbish before lunch. It also has none of the hard bits you sometimes find in the more high end cereals which have been known to break teeth. I once found walnut shell in a bowl of granola but luckily before I put it in my mouth and lost my filling. A box usually costs around £3 but it is sometimes on offer at two boxes for £4 in Sainsburys. They also do an apple and raspberry version and also a reduced sugar variety for the more health conscious among us, but as a weekend treat I don't think you can beat a little added chocolate!
I was always a loyal Nails Inc girl. I loved their polishes and found that they gave the best finish and had the biggest range of colours. Until I tried Sally Hansen. This Complete Salon Manicure range was on offer in Wilkinsons. They normally retail at £6.99 but were just £4.69 for a limited period. My daughter bought me a shade called Commander in Chic, a gorgeous mink grey which looks great on my toenails. As the name suggests, this polish does it all. It boasts of base coat, nail strengthener, growth treatment, long lasting colour and a top coat, all in one application. I don't actually know if it really has all those good things in one bottle, my nails don't seem to have grown any quicker, nor do they feel stronger yet but the polish covers beautifully. The colour hasn't stained my nails at all so I can conclude that the base coat element works and the best thing is that the colour lasts on my toenails for two to three weeks without a single chip which is the one thing I really want from a polish. Applying it is a doddle, thanks to the wide brush and the chunky design of the bottle is easy to hold while I'm painting. The first coat dries amazingly quickly and the finish is shiny. I think that this is a quality product, and even at full price represents very good value for money.
Since turning forty a few years back I began to pay more attention to what I put on my skin. I am lucky to have inherited decent skin from my mum. I have never suffered badly with spots, although I get the odd one now and again, but I do get dry patches around my nose and on my forehead. When I was twelve years old mum gave me a bottle of Oil of Ulay lotion, now known as Olay, and instructed me to apply it morning and night which I did religiously and so my skincare routine was born. Thanks to mums good genes and advice my skin has remained smooth with only a few lines around my eyes (I call them my life lines). I switched from Olay to serums and creams in my thirties when I could afford the more expensive brands but I always used whatever was on offer and looked for brands that I liked rather than for specific anti-ageing claims. Last Christmas my husband bought me a gift set from my favourite L'Occitane shop. He usually buys me body lotions and shower gels but this time the box contained Divine day cream and eye cream. I had a few pots of cream on the go at the time so only recently started using it. When I checked online I was not surprised to find that it retails at between £60 and £70 for 50ml. L'Occitane is a luxury brand but in my opinion it is well worth the money if you can afford it. The packaging is beautiful, a heavy glass jar which is golden yellow in colour with a gold lid. Inside is a tiny spoon for applying the cream, although I find that my fingers are more effective applicators as long as they are clean. The jar comes with a comprehensive instruction booklet which explains how to get the most out of the product while applying it. This included closing your eyes and cupping your ears so as to fully appreciate the fragrance. I followed these instructions a few times and it was very pleasant but is only practical if you have ten minutes or so to spare. I do think it is important to spend enough time massaging face cream into your skin, if only to improve blood circulation but sometimes I have to just slap it on and hope for the best! The product is a thick white cream with a floral fragrance. It contains Myrtle oil and L'Occitane's own Immortelle essential oil which apparently helps repair the elastic fibres in the skin which break down with age and reverse the adverse effects of the sun giving a more youthful appearance. It takes a while to become completely absorbed but once it has my skin feels wonderfully soft with no greasiness. My skin looks brighter instantly and the tone appears more even. The smell becomes more noticeable as the cream is applied but it is not overpowering and it dissipates quickly. Since I have been using it a few people have commented that my skin looks really good and that I look less tired which is all a girl really wants! Although I was fortunate to receive this as a gift I would definitely buy it again if I had the funds as I think it is well worth the high price tag. Put it on your Christmas list girls.
Finding indestructible toys for my two dogs is not easy. Anything stuffed or squeaky is instantly 'killed' and dismembered by my Jack Russell Milo and my little Staffie Elsie will swiftly shred rope toys as if she were pulling pork for a sandwich. The Kong Classic is a different breed of tough toy. Made of solid rubber and seemingly bulletproof, it is shaped a bit like a snowman with a small hole in the top and a larger hole in the largest bottom section. The shape means that it bounces around at all different angles when thrown or dropped and the hollow middle allows it to be stuffed with treats when you are going out for a while or want a few minutes peace and quiet. There are Kong fillings available in squirty cans from pet shops in a variety of flavours like liver and peanut butter but these are expensive. My dogs love cream cheese so if I have to leave them home alone for a while I put a few small biscuits into the Kong then fill the hole with cheese and it takes them ages to get to the treats at the bottom so they don't get bored or anxious. In the summer I sometimes tape up the small hole and fill it with water then freeze it to make ice lollies, great for in the garden. Kongs come in a range of sizes to suit all breeds of dog, and various bright colours. The large one I bought for Elsie was £10 from Pets At Home and Milo has the smaller size down which was around £8 which might seem expensive but as they have outlived all the other toys I have bought and they double as treat dispensers, I feel they are great value for money. There are other toys in the Kong range but the Classic is by far the most durable and versatile. They can be washed in warm water to refresh them and are great for a teething puppy.
This is a film only review. I am a big fan of Vin Diesel. Huge. Ever since I saw him in Pitch Black many years ago I have followed his career with drooling interest. The Fast and Furious saga has had its fair share of highs and lows. After the brilliant first film in which we were introduced to an eclectic mix of characters who formed a dysfunctional but ultimately caring 'family', the films lost their way a little. I didn't really bother with the second or third editions as they didn't even star Vin Diesel. I think there was some kind of disagreement between the actors and director, however Vin and most of his crew return for the fourth and fifth films much to my delight. Fast and Furious 6 was eagerly awaited by fans in the UK and when news broke that some of it would be filmed in London I couldn't wait to see what crazy stunts they would think up next. As luck would have it the film premiered on my sons birthday so I had the perfect excuse to book everyone tickets at our local cinema. The film opens with a montage of all the important bits from the last five Fasts. We see the intense love affair between the bad-but-good really criminal Dominic Toretto played by Vin Diesel and his tough, poke-your-eyes-out-quick-as-look-at-you girlfriend and sidekick Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). We see impossibly pretty boy racer and police officer Brian (Paul Walker) who can't quite make up his mind whether he is on the side of the law or the cool new friends he made while working undercover on a large-scale theft case, falling in love with Dominic's little sister Mia despite the disapproval of Dominic. We see epic street races, multi-cultural disagreements and lots of girls wearing very little and gyrating to hip hop music. Then we witness the team fracturing under the pressure of their dangerous lives, culminating in Letty being killed in a revenge attack. All this information would be really handy if you hadn't seen any of the other films but then I doubt that you would be sitting in the cinema watching Fast 6 unless you had been privy to the other ones. We catch up with Dom and Co, seemingly happily retired around the globe in various glamorous locations having become millionaires during the last big job. Dom is living with the beautiful police officer Elena from the previous film. Brian and Mia have a baby boy and are settled on a cloud of domestic bliss. Gisele and Han are living it up in Hong Kong and the comedy duo of Roman and Tej, played by Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris have become minor celebrities in their secret location. Out of the blue, Dom receives a visit from his old arch-rival Hobbs (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson) and he isn't just after a muscle-flexing competition. He wants Dominic to help him catch an evil bad guy who is terrorising the world with his own unique brand of vehicular warfare. Owen Shaw has so far eluded capture and seems to be taunting the police with his dastardly doings. Seriously he is brutal and properly villainous and Hobbs thinks that the only people capable of stopping him are Dom and his gang. At first Dom is reluctant to help out but then Hobbs pulls out his trump card, a photo of Letty, alive and well and working with Shaw. Once Dom gets all the team together they quickly agree to leave behind their peaceful lives to bring Letty back into the bosom of the family. Hobbs offers them immunity from prosecution, a chance to finally be free to return to America if they help him capture Shaw. From this point onwards the action begins and is pretty relentless throughout, hardly giving the viewer time to take a breath between jaw-dropping car chases through the streets of London with absolutely no regard for human life, although no one ever seems to get mown down or even slightly winded during the madness! There are plenty of bare knuckle fights too, including a spectacular catfight between Letty and Hobbs' partner Riley in the London Underground. The two girls get downright dirty, throwing each other around like rag dolls yet walking away afterwards with a few cuts and bruises and maybe some internal bleeding. It turns out that Hobbs was right and Shaw has indeed met his match in Dominic Toretto and his team of wayward petrolheads. When Dom and Shaw come face to face on a patch of wasteland the testosterone level is almost palpable yet nothing actually happens and Shaw lets him drive off into the sunset, apparently satisfied that he will never be stopped in his pursuit of world domination. But he doesn't count on Doms' enduring love for Letty and his penchant for incredibly stupid stunts. There are twists and turns throughout the film which keep the audience on their toes and if you can overlook the absurdity of some of the stunts, which if you are familiar with the Fast films you will have learned to love, you can see that the films all link together very nicely through subtle clues and I found myself having a few lightbulb moments which were unexpected. Stay put until the end of the closing credits and you will get a surprise glimpse of the next episode in the saga, featuring a new character. I for one will be staying tuned for news of Fast and Furious 7. This could be a franchaise which will snowball in popularity thanks to this action-packed film. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
My husband travels around the world with his job and loves to bring me gifts when he has been away. After 20 years together, he knows me very well with handbags and shoes guaranteed to make me squeal with happiness, but I also love perfume and make-up. After a recent trip to France I was presented with a beautiful black and white Chanel bag filled with goodies. There was a new Coco Madmoiselle Night fragrance and a handful of nail polishes. My favourite colour was Blue Satin, a gorgeous dark navy, but there was also a pillar-box red, a fuscia pink and Peridot, a shimmering metallic green which turns to gold in certain lights. Naturally I was delighted with these beautiful treasures and decided to try out the blue colour straight away. I always use a base coat under polish to prevent my nails becoming stained and my favourite is Nails Inc. Caviar base coat. Chanel are the best looking polishes I have ever seen. The packaging is gorgeous, a sleek heavy base with a shiny black lid embossed with the Chanel logo in gold. The lid comes off to reveal a smaller, ridged lid which has a brush attached. The brush is a good size and the colour goes on well. The blue was stunning but even better after the second coat. My nails were dry after about 10 minutes when I applied a top coat (also Nails Inc. Caviar). I was going out for a drink that evening but while I was getting ready I noticed that the colour had chipped on a few of my nails already. I was really disappointed because I can't bear chipped polish but didn't have time to re-do them so off I went. I got a few comments about how lovely the colour was but by the end of the evening the polish was literally peeling off in big clumps. I have used it since on my toenails and it lasted for a few days but the slightest knock and it chips off easily. I usually buy Nails Inc. colours and these last really well at a good few quid cheaper than the £15-£18 Chanel ones. I had expected a high quality product from Chanel and they certainly look good but I'm afraid they just don't perform as well as other cheaper brands. I would not buy them for myself as they do not even last for one evening.
From what I can remember, starting Secondary school was the catalyst which triggered my IBS. Before that I had been a normal, healthy child. I was, and still am, painfully shy and socially retarded. A born worry wort and a total pessimist, I had a handful of friends and tried my best to be invisible at all times. After the nurturing, safe experience of a small infant/junior school, the huge, scary Comprehensive I found myself in at 11 years old was the stuff of nightmares. I began to suffer agonising stomach cramps and nausea during lessons and this was made worse by the fact that the toilets were kept locked to prevent students from sneaking a crafty cigarette or shooting up in them. (I kid you not, this was a rough school!) In order to use the toilets you had to first attract the attention of the teacher and obtain permission to leave the classroom, then find the Deputy Headmistress who held the keys. If you could locate her she would then accompany you to the toilet block and wait outside until you were finished so she could lock up again. This was bad enough if you just needed a casual wee but if, like me, you are experiencing crippling cramps which can only be relieved by a vicious bout of the runs, it is mortifying. I began to go to great lengths to stay off school, not easy when my mother only considered stroke or death viable reasons to have a sick day! Soon I dreaded going to school so much that I would actually vomit in the morning and eventually my mum took me to the doctor. He was completely unconcerned by my symptoms and proclaimed that it was "all in the mind". My mother was satisfied with this diagnosis and I returned to school. During that afternoon I suffered my first full-blown panic attack. I thought I was going to die. I couldn't breathe, I was sweating and shaking and I was sent home. My mum was sympathetic but without a medical diagnosis she was at a loss. She contacted the school and explained that I needed access to the toilet during the day and the Deputy Head was luckily very understanding. She arranged for a key to be kept at reception so that I could access the toilets more easily and the other teachers were instructed that I was to be able to leave the class if I felt unwell without question. The fact that I knew I could get to a toilet easily helped enormously to control the panic attacks but my stomach cramps just got worse and I was singled out by the other kids because I got this special treatment. Somehow I got through my school years. Exams were a nightmare. I would refuse to eat anything until I got home in case I felt ill and I spent many long hours in the exam hall praying just to make it to the end without mishap. During my teens things got worse. I suffered bloating, extreme pain, bleeding, migraines, back and leg pain and frequent panic attacks and almost never went out with my friends. Family holidays were a nightmare because they invariably meant long periods in the car and lots of stodgy food which made my stomach worse. I had a terrible relationship with my mum and stepdad and left home at 16 to live with my boyfriend. He was sympathetic about my problems but I hid much of the embarassing stuff from him. My younger sister began to have similar problems in her teens and was later diagnosed with Ulcerative Collitis. She became very ill in her early twenties and had to have extensive surgery which involved the removal of her colon which was replaced with a colostomy bag. This ultimately saved her life and although it was drastic, she now leads a normal life, free of pain and stress! In her late forties my mother was also diagnosed with Ulcerative Collitis which is thankfully controlled by medication. I have since learned that my maternal grandmother suffers from IBS and my paternal grandmother died of bowel cancer so I guess it runs in the family (pardon the pun). After numerous visits to the doctor during which I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and hypocondria I think the doctor finally lost patience and referred me for a series of tests which included a scan, blood tests and a colonoscopy, where a camera is passed into the stomach via the rectum! I was found to have a spastic colon, where the colon goes into spasm for no apparent reason. All the other symptoms were put down to IBS. A friendly but dismissive specialist advised me to keep a food diary and eliminate any trigger foods and avoid stress. I was told this wasn't a life-threatening condition but I just had to learn to live with it! At the time I was using Immodium tablets on a daily basis just to be able to leave the house and asked him if this would cause me any harm and he confessed that some of his patients were taking 20 per day and that if they worked for me I could take as many as I liked! This put things into perspective for me and I left the hospital determined that I would not be dependant on Immodium to live. Over the years I have learned to manage my condition fairly well. I still have pain on a daily basis but I have learned what foods trigger bad attacks such as cream, cheese, chocolate and eggs. I don't drink too much alcohol as this seems to make things worse, I try to get plenty of sleep and do some exercise each day. I still keep Immodium with me at all times but don't use them unless I absolutely have to and my sister recommended Buscopan tablets which are a lifesaver when my cramps are bad. I often get the worst pain during the night which wakes me up and I have to spend ages on the loo. I have an app on my phone which I use to help me deal with a panic attack if one suddenly comes on. It uses breathing exercises and calming colours to keep me focused and is very effective. I still find going on holiday difficult but I cope with the support of my family and it certainly helps that I can talk openly to my sister and she understands completely. I have a card which was issued by the hospital which states that I have a medical condition and need to use the facilities urgently. This is a godsend if I am in a shop or somewhere which doesn't have public toilets and people are usually happy to help if you show them it. I have had to become more open about my condition because it is still relatively misunderstood but this is because people don't like to talk about bowels and toilet stuff but I am hopeful that this will change in time. Meanwhile, I am optimistic that my condition will remain stable and not develop into anything more serious. I just wish the medical profession, and in particular GPs would be more supportive towards the many people who suffer from this life-changing affliction.
There used to be a lovely restaurant called LSQ2 at my local shopping centre The Oracle in Reading. They did a fantastic Sunday roast for a tenner and always had live music, which set it apart from the other mediocre food outlets in the area. Unfortunately, probably due to the recession, it disappeared a few months ago and was replaced by a Handmade Burger Company. I'm not a big fan of burgers so I had given this place a wide berth until last weekend when we took our son to the cinema for his birthday treat. After a thrilling evening watching Fast and Furious 6 we emerged blinking and slightly deaf into the fresh air and our son announced that he was starving (not an uncommon statement from him to be honest). As it was his birthday he got to choose where we ate and he chose the new burger place. The restaurant itself is fairly small and we joined a queue for a table with about six people in front of us. A member of staff handed us a menu to look at and informed us that we would be seated in five to ten minutes. My husband is not good at waiting for anything and suggested that we try somewhere else but our son wanted a burger. So we waited. After about five minutes the people in front of us gave up and left so we were next to be seated. I was unimpressed to discover that we had to order our food and pay for it in advance, I don't think that you should ever have to pay for food before you eat it, but I kept my thoughts to myself and we were shown to a table in the middle of the room. The kitchen is at the end of the building and the smells coming from it were quite appetising so we perused the menu and decided what we would like. The menu was extensive with almost thirty types of burgers and a range of sides. The only option for dessert was ice-cream which was disappointing. The restaurant boasted extensively about its hand-cut chips, twice fried to be crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. There were two versions to choose from, regular and seasoned. Now I am a fan of a good chip so I was looking forward to trying them. The burgers ranged from the usual cheese and bacon to more unusual varieties such as lamb and mint or chicken tikka. There was also a range of soft drinks, milk shakes and alcoholic beverages. Typically it fell to me to go to the desk and order our food. The staff were all young and enthusiastic but it was very noisy in the restaurant so I had trouble making myself heard. I ordered a chicken breast burger with cheese and bacon for myself, a cheese burger with no salad or relish for my son and a blue cheese and bacon beef burger for my husband, along with three lots of chips and a side of coleslaw. Our drinks were "refillable" but I was simply handed three plastic beakers and instructed to fill them myself from the machine in the corner! Again, not impressed! The bill came to just over £40 which is reasonable I suppose. After navigating the ice machine and filling my three tumblers with Fanta I found my table, inserted the number I had been given into the wooden holder on our table and we waited for our food. Everything is cooked to order so we waited roughly 25 minutes whilst sipping on watered-down fizzy drinks and trying not to eat the napkins. A waiter eventually brought the food to our table, we had to ask for cutlery and we were not offered any sauces but he was pleasant enough. The food was served in cardboard boxes but we were given proper plates as well. The burger was good, nice soft bun and the chicken was chargrilled. There was plenty of fresh salad in it and it was huge! My son's burger was plain as requested and he managed most of it and my husband polished his off without complaining. The chips though were a major let-down. They hung forlornly over the edge of the box as if contemplating chippy suicide, pale and limp. Some of them were undercooked, meaning that they were soggy on the outside and hard on the inside. Not good. There were enough chips in one portion for all three of us but none of us ate more than a handful each. Cooking chips is not rocket science, they just need to be crispy and golden, even I can do it! Overall, the burgers were okay, and the coleslaw was really nice. I used the toilet after our meal and it was clean. It was just average but I won't be visiting again.
Incredibly lucky girl that I am, my husband bought me one of these stand mixers for Christmas. I used to watch baking programmes and sigh wistfully at the television. If I had a KitchenAid mixer I could make the most wonderful cakes, I would think to myself. Well, hubby must have read my thoughts because on Christmas Day I found a large and incredibly heavy parcel under the tree. As it was a gift I don't know exactly how much it was but I know they retail at around £450. This may sound expensive, and it is, but these things are made to last for years. They are beautifully crafted in Michigan, USA, in fact I think mine looks like a piece of art standing majestically on my kitchen worktop. I have a fairly small kitchen but it has to be displayed, it would be sacrilege to hide it away in a cupboard but bear in mind that it will take up quite a lot of space if you are thinking of buying one. My model is a shimmering cream colour with glittery bits in the paintwork but it comes in a huge range of different colours from silver to red to bright orange so it will match your decor. It has a stainless steel bowl with a sturdy handle which simply twists on or off the machine. This can be done easily with one hand which is handy when you are juggling ingredients in a small kitchen. There are ten speed settings. You start on the slowest to incorporate the ingredients then move up to give your mixture a good beating/whisking. I don't think I have ever used speed 10 as 6 or 7 is usually fast enough and if you leave it on and do something else it will sometimes overbeat and split the mixture so you need to keep one eye on it. The machine is also fairly quiet when it is going which surprised me. With your machine you get a balloon whisk for whipping egg whites or cream, a paddle for beating cake mixtures and sauces, a dough hook and a visor attachment which protects from splashing while you add liquids to the bowl. On the whole, mess can be kept to a minimum unless you add all the flour/icing sugar at once and hit speed 8! The dough hook makes baking bread a doddle. You can throw in all the ingredients and leave it to work its magic. I had never made bread before but I make it all the time now and the results are amazing. My cakes and puddings always come out wonderfully light too. When I registered my mixer to validate the guarantee I was also sent a free hardback KitchenAid book full of unusual recipes and tips on how to get the most from your machine. Using the mixer is simple. There is a knob on either side of the arm which you pull across and this enables the whole arm to lift up away from the bowl. The attachments go on easily with a push/twist action, a bit like fitting a lightbulb and then the arm can be lowered into the bowl using the knob to unlock the hinge again. Easy peasy! All the removable components can be washed by hand or in the dishwasher and the main body only requires a wipe down if it has been splashed. The base is weighted so that the machine never moves when it is working, even when it is kneading bread dough but it does take two hands and strong arms to move it anywhere! I would recommend this model to anyone who cooks regularly, it is like having an extra pair of hands in the kitchen, and it looks stylish too.
I never considered owning a dog of my own. We had a Springer spaniel as children because my sister nagged our parents into submission, and although I was fond of him and occasionally took him for a walk in the park, I never felt the need to have a dog as an adult. My daughter, however, had other ideas and from the moment she could make herself understood she begged us for a puppy. For her sixteenth birthday, we surprised her with a tiny Jack Russell puppy. The whole family quickly became smitten with this cheeky chappy, and after a while I couldn't imagine what I did with my time before we had Milo. When I gave up my part time job last year I decided that Milo needed a playmate. We deliberated for a long time about whether getting a puppy was the right thing to do. I was worried that it would put Milo's nose out of joint, or that he wouldn't tolerate another dog. I was keen to adopt a rescue dog but my husband and the kids wanted a puppy that they could all get involved in caring for. Eventually we agreed that a female puppy would be the best option but we needed to choose a breed with a similar energy to Milo's, one that could keep up with him and match his tenacious personality. I knew a few people with Staffies and a few friends in America who worked with pitbulls so I researched the breed and found lots of conflicting advice. All the information suggested that Staffies adore their humans and are excellent with children but many sources advised that some are not tolerant of other dogs, so I began to talk to people who owned these dogs and met as many of them as I could and I was reassured that, in the right hands, Staffies make great family pets. I also fell in love with their smiling faces and affectionate personalities. What I wasn't prepared for was the reaction of other people when I told them I was planning to get a Staffie pup. The overiding response was "what on earth do you want to do that for?" Now, I'm pretty stubborn once I have my mind set on something so I began to search in earnest for the perfect puppy to join our pack. After a few false starts I spotted an ad for a Staffie pup and it leapt out at me. There was no cute picture to catch my eye but something just seemed right. I emailed a response immediately and waited all day until finally I got a call from the owner who had been inundated with replies to his ad but was seemingly picky about who got their hands on his puppy! He seemed satisfied that I knew what to expect from the breed but confessed that another person had promised to get back to him before he had spoken to me so he wanted to give them first refusal. After a nerve wracking wait he finally called back and said that they had called back but had wanted the pup for their eighteen year old son and he had not been happy with that scenario so, if we were still interested, we could come and visit her. She was just four weeks old and little more than a black and white ball of fluff but I knew from that first visit that she was the one for me. Both her parents were family pets and had lovely temperaments and seeing them all interact was very special. After that we visited Dotty, as the owners had nicknamed her, every few weeks and they sent pictures in between so we could see how she was getting on. By the time she was ready to leave her parents, Elsie, as we had decided to call her, was paper trained, weaned and had been vaccinated and had grown into a pretty little lady with her mums small frame and her dads black and white/brindle colouring. Once she got over her initial nervousness at being in unfamiliar surroundings, Elsie quickly found her feet and was delighted to find Milo in the garden playing with his toys. She approached him respectfully and backed off when he warned her not to take his toy but after an hour or so they were playing tug of war with a rope and later that evening Elsie climbed into Milos bed and lay beside him. We could not have asked for a better outcome. She is fearless and loves to be the centre of attention while he is unbelievably tolerant but will not let her get away with too much! I, on the other hand, find it easy to overlook her less desirable puppy behaviour because she is so sweet and loyal. The biggest problem is her chewing. Most puppies love to chew things but Elsie will chew seemingly inedible things like garden brooms, keys, mobile phones and tissues, in fact nothing is safe and the family have quickly learned to hide any possessions they value for fear of their total destruction. Luckily Elsie is a greedy piggy and training her has been relatively easy with the help of tasty treats. She is almost a year old now and incredibly strong. She can pick up half a tree without breaking a sweat and outrun Milo with it in her jaws, in fact she once swept me off my feet when she ran into the back of my legs and literally "bowled me over". It's like being hit by a bulldozer, she has no concept of her own strength, but she hates it if I disapprove of something naughty she has done and will sulk under the table until I give her a cuddle. My husband is away from home often with his job and she assumes the role of our protector in his absence, standing guard at the window in case of uninvited guests, and at night she curls up at the foot of my bed, watching me sleep. Then when I wake up she will express her joy by licking me mercilessly. We were careful to socialise her with as many other dogs as possible from the time she was fully vaccinated but I do find that some people are reluctant to let their dogs play when they see a Staffie. Unfortunately, this breed is still seen by many as agressive due to media hysteria and their history of being used for fighting. Sadly, this barbaric practise still goes on but Staffies remain loyal to their humans, even when they are being subjected to terrible cruelty. A recent case in America saw the police entering a property where three people had been murdered and discovering seventy Pitbulls which had been used for fighting. Some had been bait, whilst others had long standing injuries from past fights. All were underfed and neglected but not one of them showed any agressive behaviour towards the police officers and became positively affectionate towards the veterinary staff who tended their wounds. Thankfully, a rescue charity came forward to offer them shelter and they are positive that they will all be suitable for rehoming. I can see why some people are wary of bull breeds but in most cases these dogs are sweet and loving family pets. Now that people are begining to realise Elsie will not hurt their dogs they are warming to her but I am still very cautious when out in public, especially around children in case she was to jump up and hurt someone accidentally, and I never let her approach a dog if that dog is on a lead but this is just common sense with any dog really. So, owning a Staffie has been a positive experience overall. Yes she is stubborn, she will take a mile if you offer her an inch and she is capable of creating a truly unholy, face-meltingly awful stink when you least expect it, but I wouldn't have her any other way. :)
I am the proud owner of quite long, very thick, wavy hair so naturally my ghd straighteners were my best friend. For almost five years we were inseparable, until the arrival of my staffie pup this summer. My daughter borrowed them and left them on her bed where the naughty puppy bit clean through the cable. Luckily the straighteners were switched off and unplugged or things could have got very messy! Heartbroken, but unable to justify the expense of new ones at the time, I reluctantly purchased an emergency replacement of an inferior make, however, this proved to be a huge mistake and I begged my husband to buy me some new ghds for Christmas. Well, I must have been a very good girl indeed because Santa brought me the Limited Edition Sahara gift set, comprising beautiful sparkly gold straighteners and a quilted bag which rolls out into a heat resistant mat to rest them on while they are cooling down. The straighteners are as you would expect from ghd. Well made, stylish and effective, they even have flecks of gold set into the plates! Heating to 230 degrees in seconds, they emit a beep when they are ready to use. I have found these straighteners much lighter and easier to use than my previous ones and they have a really long cable so that I can use them anywhere in my bedroom without having to stretch to the mirror, which is very useful. They make light work of creating a sleek, shiny style or, with a bit of practise, spiral curls and flowing waves. I find that a spritz of heat protection spray on the ends of my hair keeps them from going frizzy and adds even more shine. The mat has a zipped compartment for storing products or styling tools and the mat is so useful as somewhere safe to put the irons so that they don't damage the surfaces of your dressing table or desk. This was a gift, so I'm not sure exactly how much they cost, but they retail at around £130 and if I get five years use from them I would consider them to be excellent value for money.
With Christmas just around the corner, I found myself in my local John Lewis department store searching for inspirational gift ideas for my husband. He is really good at finding just the right presents for me every year. He never asks me what I would like, yet whatever he gets me turns out to be just what I have always wanted. This puts a certain pressure on me to find him some thing equally perfect, and as he is the type of guy who will happily buy himself something he desires, it poses a problem when it comes to finding that one thing he didn't realise he really wanted. Perusing the beauty and fragrance aisles, I paused at the Chanel counter and considered buying his favourite Bleu de Chanel aftershave, he loves the smell, I love the smell, but it's a bit predictable. Then a woman approached me with a tester of Aqua di Parma cologne. I had heard of the brand before and knew that it was Italian, but the smell was a revelation. It was quite simply the most wonderful smell my delighted nostrils had ever encountered and I realised that it was familiar. Just before I met my husband I was dating a rather gorgeous man called Antonio, who was from Milan and was a student at Oxford University. He always smelled incredible but I never thought to ask him what fragrance he was wearing. It was instantly obvious that it would be one of the most famous colognes to come out of Italy. The bottle is simple and classic, with a gold edged lid and feels nice and solid in your hands. The packaging is both understated and striking, in iridescent gold with regal lettering. It looks classy and expensive, of which it is both. A 100ml bottle is £72, but the sales woman offered me a gift set in a beautiful round box containing the cologne, body wash and lotion for just an extra £2, and I didn't hesitate. The scent is unisex and I would happily wear it, as I'm sure will my other half. At first it is quite strongly citrus, boasting of Sicilian lemon, jasmine and verbena but after about an hour it mellowed and I could clearly pick up rose and ylang-ylang. I had to keep sniffing my wrist as the smell changed all the time and lasted for hours. It might be a little floral for some men but it is also slightly spicy and fresh and unlike anything else I can think of. If you are looking for something special to give to your loved one this Christmas, it might be just the thing.
This nail polish is a revelation. Perusing the cosmetics aisle with my daughter in our local supermarket I spotted the perfect shade of nail polish to go with a new dress. Bourjois was a new brand for me but my daughter owns several items and she assured me that the quality was good. The colour was a stunning champagne gold, slightly metallic but subtle. We also loved a glittery granite grey shade which will be perfect with a LBD for the festive season. Unable to decide between the two we opted to take advantage of a 3 for 2 offer and buy both so we could share. We chose a shimmery pink shadow as the third item and felt very smug to be getting three great products for £12! The nail polishes were £5.99 each and I was happy to pay that for such a lovely shade but once I got it home it was clear that this was no ordinary nail polish. The packaging certainly looks distinctive but the long neck of the lid is functional too, making it a doddle to hold while painting your nails. The product boasts a unique fan-effect brush which is supposed to cover the whole nail in one stroke, in one second, hence the name. It also claims to be completely dry in just 50 seconds. Naturally I was sceptical but I shouldn't have been, it works brilliantly! The wide brush spreads out to cover the whole nail and deposits just the right amount of polish without smearing. Containing silicone, the polish is flexible, so less likely to chip. I actually got five full days without a single chip, even though I wash the dishes three times a day and clean the house. The staying power of this polish is amazing and well worth its £6 price tag. I applied two coats over a base coat but you could get away with one coat if you were in a hurry as the coverage was good and I was able to achieve a really neat finish with its clever brush. It was also touch-dry in under a minute but safe to rummage through your handbag dry in around five minutes. There are lots of really trendy and unusual colours to choose from and I will definitely be buying some more.
I don't like traditional foundation. It feels heavy and claggy on my skin and I want to scratch it off all the time. I prefer a combination of concealer and powder but sometimes I need better coverage and this is how I discovered Max Factor's Facefinity foundation powder. Like a magpie, I'm attracted to shiny things so the sleek gold compact had me salivating. It looks like a posh mobile phone with a metallic gold front and sits comfortably in your hand. Inside is a large mirror, handy when out and about, and a compartment for the square sponge applicator. I always take this out and keep it because, although it is useless for applying the powder, it comes in handy for erasing make-up mistakes! The powder itself is in a generous block and comes in many different shades from the palest to dark skins. I use No.3 Natural, and the next shade up in the summer when my face is slightly tanned. It has a delicate neutral fragrance, a bit like baby powder and feels soft on your skin. I use a large blusher brush and apply it in circular strokes for even coverage. The result is like I've been airbrushed or am being lit from above a la Mariah Carey. I usually cover any obvious imperfections with concealer first and the powder helps to set everything in place, giving a long-lasting finish. At around £10, this is not a budget buy but I managed to stretch my last one out for almost six months so I think it is worth every penny. I feel confident all day that my skin looks good and at bedtime it is easily removed. Because it is a powder it doesn't block the pores and cause breakouts. A must-have item for my cosmetic purse.
I have used an Oral B electric toothbrush for about five years now and find that the results are better than I get when brushing manually. However, the brush was no longer charging properly so I went in search of a replacement. As luck would have it there was a special offer on in Superdrug. A selection of Oral B toothbrushes were half price at £17.49, a real bargain when you actually need the item that has been reduced rather than buying something you don't need simply because it is half price, something I am often guilty of doing. The brush comes fully charged with the cleaning head of your choice and a recharging base which plugs into your electricity socket. The lead, however, has a two pronged head for shaver sockets so if, like me you want to charge it in another room you will need an adaptor plug. The cleaning head is detachable so you can replace it easily when it becomes worn. Packs of four replacement heads were also on offer for just over £8 which is also half price. I chose the precision clean brush which has shorter bristles in the centre and longer ones around the edge to reach all the surfaces of the tooth. I find that these need changing every four to six months. The handle is made of soft rubber which makes it easy to grip and it has a built in two minute timer which pulses to alert you that you have been brushing for the right amount of time. I found the brush cleaned my teeth perfectly, leaving the surfaces smooth and squeaky clean. The timer is a nice touch and would be handy for kids to encourage them to brush for longer. Overall an excellent product at a great offer price.