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One of my new year's resolutions was to take better care of my skin. I have a very good skin care regime for my face and hands but I am ashamed to say that this does not extend to the skin on the rest of my body. I tend to rely on the moisturising properties of the shower gels or creams that I use without topping it off with a moisturiser. As such I was on the lookout for some body cream I spotted the Garnier Body Tonic lotion in Superdrug at £6.99 for a 400ml bottle. This was one that had been highly recommended by my sister and so I was keen to give it a go. The lotion comes in a bright yellow plastic bottle with a flip top lid - it certainly something you don't miss when it's sitting on the shelf and instantly looks very summery! The lotion has seaweed extract and claims to be a hydrating and firming lotion with phyto-caffeine and seaweed extract as key ingredients to stimulate and tone the skin. The label promised smoother looking skin from 7 days. This claim is made based on tests on a sample of 52 women (rather a small sample set) of which 69% agreed with this claim. I tend to apply this cream at night before I go to bed so that it can soak into my skin and work its magic whilst I sleep. The cream itself is white in colour and has a nice consistency in that it's not too thick so that it takes forever to work into the skin, nor does it feel too thin to be effective. As I rub this into my skin it is hard to miss the delicious, fresh and fruity citrus fragrance. The cream contains a unique blend of fruit essences; grapefruit, kiwi and apple, which have skin smoothing properties. It is quite a summery fragrance and would probably be more suited to day time use but I don't have enough time in the mornings to apply this before heading off to work as every extra minute spent in bed is precious! The cream is light and absorbs into my skin with minimal effort. I have made a conscious attempt to apply this every night for 7 days to test its firming claims. Once absorbed into the skin it leaves it feeling soft and smooth without feeling at all greasy, which is a bonus. The effects of this cream are long lasting and my skin still feels soft and supple in the morning, even after I have showered. As for its claims to tone and firm the skin, I can't say that I have noticed a major change in the tone of my skin, but that's probably down to my skin not needing much firming or toning anyway. I tend to lead a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and plenty of exercise so my skin is in pretty good condition and I see the use of a body lotion as more of a long term protection of my skin to try and maintain its good condition. Having said this I do have a couple of problem areas - my knees and elbows tend to be dry and using this cream regularly has made a real improvement to these areas. I do also agree with the claims that this leads to smoother skin. After regular use my skin does look smoother and it looks a lot more radiant after a week of applying. Overall I am quite impressed with this cream. It is easily absorbed, has a non-greasy formula and smells lovely. It leaves my skin feeling smoother and looking radiant. Recommended.
When it comes to shampoos I do tend to stick to the brands that I know work well; however there are occasions when I spot a bargain that is too good to pass up and I am tempted into trying something new. A few weeks ago whilst shopping in the Poundland I spotted the Palmolive Brilliant colour shampoo selling for, you guessed it, a pound for a 400ml bottle and with Palmolive being a reputable brand (it's part of Colgate) I thought I would see how this product would fare. Although I am in my early thirties, unfortunately the white hairs started to appear a few years ago and I have taken to dyeing my hair at home every few months. In an attempt to make this colour last longer I make an effort to go for hair care products that promise to maintain and care for dyed hair. The shampoo comes in a bright red coloured bottle that has an oval shape and a flip top lid. The shampoo is part of the Palmolive 'Naturals' range and contains pomegranate and jojoba oil and is also enriched with a UV filter to protect hair from damage from the sun. This combination of ingredients will, according to the claims on the packaging, protect and nourish your hair, helping it keeps its brilliant colour shine. The shampoo itself is white in colour and has quite a thick consistency, which in my opinion indicates a quality product as it doesn't appear to be watered down like some of the cheaper brands. Once applied to wet hair it forms a good lather with lots of bubbles. The smell too is pleasant - I would describe it as quite fruity with a bit of a tang, rather like tart berries. The shampoo rinsed out of the hair quite easily leaving my hair feeling clean and refreshed. I was suitably impressed and feeling pleased with myself that I'd bagged a bargain! However my opinion soon changed once my hair had dried off. As I have mid-length hair and don't tend to use a hair dryer my hair can take a few hours to dry. Once it started to dry off I noticed that my hair was feeling a little heavy and was not its usual wavy self. Running a brush through it again I noticed that it felt as though there was a layer of coating on my hair which left it looking limp and there was certainly no shine to it. I tend to wash my hair every other day but by the end of the first day my hair felt greasy and unclean. I thought that perhaps I had not rinsed out the shampoo properly and so when I used it again the next day I took extra care in rinsing my hair out but unfortunately had the same result. I also thought that perhaps the results I was seeing was due to the conditioner in the same range but trying it by itself on another occasion left my hair in the same condition, albeit with more knots. In the end I had to conclude that this shampoo was simply not suited to my hair and I gave the rest of the bottle to my mum to try. It turns out she really likes it - it cleans her hair well and makes it look shiny and vibrant, although she's not convinced it makes her hair colour last any longer than normal. In fact I noticed the other day that she'd also been to Poundland and bought a few more bottles of this so she obviously likes it! Overall I was not too impressed with this shampoo as it didn't suit my hair, leaving it feeling heavy, limp and dull looking and I won't be purchasing again.
When I moved into my flat a couple of years ago my mum bought me a couple of recipe books, now that I had my own kitchen. One of the books that my mum bought me was the Three Sisters Indian Cookbook. Although I can cook quite well, I quite often like browsing through recipe books to gain inspiration for new dishes and to try out new recipes. Even though I have a Pakistani background and can cook 'Indian' food quite well, the cuisine is so varied depending on which region in India or Pakistan a dish originates from, it is good to have access to a few good Indian cookbooks to learn how to cook new dishes. The book itself is paperback and in appearance looks quite special. It has a pink and orange cover with gold patterns embossed on the front. It looks very glamorous and has an air of Bollywood about it! On the inside cover and the first couple of pages there is a bit of background to the authors; Serena, Alexa and Priya whose family originate from Kashmir but moved to the UK in the 1970s and these recipes are reminiscent of the traditional dishes that their mother prepared for them growing up. I think it's a nice touch to learn a bit about the authors and the personal insight continues throughout the book with personal memories and anecdotes that accompany several of the recipes. The book begins with some advice about spices and other ingredients that are regularly used in the book; how to store and what you should have as basics in your store cupboard if you're going to embark on serious Indian cooking. There are a couple of pages dedicated to the most common spices, what they are used for, what flavour they bring to a dish and most helpful of all pictures of each spice so you know what to look for! I found this last section very useful because although I cook 'Indian' food regularly and so have spices as a basic store cupboard ingredient I often struggle with the English names for spices (as my mum taught me the Urdu names) and so when they come up in a recipe I am sometimes unsure if I have the right spice! The rest of the book is split into sections depending on the type of recipe. The sections are 'Little snacks and starters', Chicken, Lamb, Fish and Prawns, Vegetable dishes, Rice, beans and lentils, Breads and Chutneys and Desserts and drinks. What I think is a nice touch is that each section and recipe has both the English and Hindi name (written in English characters) for each dish. Most recipes in the book takes a two page spread. The first page lists the ingredients and the method, whilst the second page has a full size picture of the dish to entice you to try the recipe and also give you something to aim for in the sense that you get an idea how the dish should turn out like. A few recipes take just one page but still have a small photograph of the dish which I find useful. I have tried several recipes in the book from each of the sections and all have come out a treat. The spicy butternut squash soup from the starters is amazing - sweet and spicy and very moreish. I'd also been on the lookout for a chicken korma recipe for a while which didn't rely too much on cream and as I am not too keen on coconut in curries one that would minimise or not use this at all. I have to say that the Chicken Korma recipe in the book is fabulous. It uses mainly yogurt and only a little cream and not a coconut in sight, so probably healthier than standard korma recipes. There are also several recipes for dishes that I had not tried before such as the Chicken Dhansak which although a little time consuming to make, went down a treat with the rest of the family as well. The Indian stir fried cabbage has become one of my favourite recipes - so quick to make, cheap, healthy and very, very tasty. In fact, I think I may have some cabbage left over in the fridge to make this again later this week! The recipe for apple, ginger and cinnamon chutney is also one of my mum's favourites and very easy to make. Not all the recipes have been great though - I tried the Kashmiri potatoes but that was not a dish that we enjoyed. I have generally found the recipes to be laid out clearly and easy to follow. The recipe page splits the list of ingredients into different categories - the main ingredients, the whole spices and the ground spices. This I find helps you sort out your ingredients prior to starting and make the long lists of ingredients look less daunting. The lists of instructions are also clear and easy to follow with the majority of recipes only having 6-7 steps. I think those who are new to cooking Indian food or not used to cooking in general would find that by following the recipes in this book they will be able to cook an authentic, fresh-tasting curry with confidence, without a pre-bought sauce jar in sight! Having said that I have had a couple of problems with the recipes - firstly I find that the timings are a little bit out but here I just use my judgement to adjust and is most likely due to having a cooker that heats a little slower. Also I have found that the amount of chilli used in some of the recipes is a little too much for me and as I am quite experienced with cooking Indian food I tend to use my judgement on how much chilli should be added to a dish and I guess, as with most recipes, it is just a case of trying a recipe out and then adjusting it to your taste the next time. Overall I am very impressed with this book. I have tried several recipes so far and the majority have come out very tasty and have been made more than once for the rest of the family. Even my mum's been impressed with some of the dishes we've not made before and she's not so easy to please, especially when it comes to traditional Indian cooking. A couple have not turned out great but I think that's just a matter of personal taste. I am still working my way through the book and have several recipes that I would still like to try. The cookbook retails at £16.99 although it can often be found cheaper if you look online. Highly recommended!
I've never been much of a tea or coffee drinker, preferring hot chocolate when it comes to hot drinks. However I am conscious of the fact that this is not a particularly healthy habit so over the last couple of years have made the effort to try other, healthier hot drinks options such as herbal and green teas. One of the options that I recently tried was the Lemon and Ginger tea in the Twinings range. I must admit this was not a tea that I selected for myself as it was one that my mum bought for me to try. I am not the greatest fan of ginger - I like it in desserts but not in savoury foods and even then only in small doses, so this would not have been a tea that I would have selected for myself. I believe this currently retails at around £1.30 for a box of 20 tea bags, although the Twinings range can often be found on special offer. The tea comes packaged in a yellow and white box with a pretty swirly design on the front. According to the description on the packet the tea is a reviving combination of citrus flavour and spice. The aroma of lemon and ginger is not only reviving but ginger root has traditionally been used to aid digestion. The tea is naturally caffeine free and has no added sugar, although it can be sweetened with honey or sugar once brewed. This tea is best enjoyed without milk. Due to its digestive properties this is a tea that is often drunk after a meal as an alternative to coffee and I too tend to have it after lunch at work. To make the tea simply pour on boiling hot water and brew for two to three minutes. In my experience, any longer makes the tea quite strong and a little bitter. As it starts to brew the aroma of the lemon and ginger becomes noticeable and there is an underlying spiciness that I can detect too. It certainly smells appetising! As the tea brews, the colour of the water changes to a milky yellow colour. I have to say that this is not the most appetising looking drink! Taking the first sip the first thing that hits me is the tanginess of the lemon, which is very zesty and refreshing, and then a few seconds later 'bam!' the ginger explodes in your mouth. It surprised me how strong the ginger actually tasted and it really gives the tea a bit of heat and a spicy kick. It certainly is a warming drink for cold winter days. Not being the greatest fan of ginger I did find that it was a bit too strong for my liking. I have tried it with sugar to try and balance some of the heat but then I think it tastes a bit medicinal and a bit like lemsip, which I don't like the taste of either! Overall I think this is an *ok* tea. I'm not a huge fan of ginger so am not surprised that I didn't fall in love with this one. It's certainly not one that I would go out of my way to avoid in the future but I doubt that it will become a regular item on my shopping list. 3 stars from me.
Towards the end of last year I was asked to go to South Africa for work (it's a hard life, I know!) and decided to spend some time afterwards visiting some of the national parks out there. As I knew I'd be trying to photograph lots of wildlife, often at a distance, I was wary that my Canon Ixus point and shoot camera, as much as I love it, may struggle with capturing animals that were in the distance. For this reason I was on the lookout for a camera with a much bigger zoom but I did not really want to spend super amounts of money on it as I really consider myself an amateur photographer and didn't think I would make efficient use of a camera with lots of advanced features and settings. Other than the zoom, I didn't have much of a list of criteria except that I wanted one with a rechargeable Li-ion battery as opposed to disposable batteries. During the course of my research into which camera to buy I came across the Canon SX500 IS in the Argos catalogue. Now this camera caught my eye because it had a massive 30x ultra optical zoom plus a 60x digital zoom on top of that, was powered by a Li-ion battery and was reduced to just £139.99 from an original price of 299.99! This camera also had decent reviews from others who'd purchased it and from experts in the field so I decided to go for it. The SX500 IS is described as a bridge camera. Up until I purchased this camera I had no idea what this meant. It turns out that a bridge camera fills the gap between a point and shoot camera (like my compact Ixus and a more expensive and powerful SLR. One of the main differences between a bridge camera and an SLR is that SLRs have lenses that you can change depending on the conditions and objects that you are trying to photograph whilst a bridge camera has just the one lens. The camera only comes in one colour - black, has a plastic body and is shaped like a cube. I would describe the camera as fairly compact for one that comes with such a large zoom, coming in at 10.4 x 6.9 x 8.0cm and weighing just 341g including battery and memory card. It's small enough to not take up too much room in your travel baggage but too big to slip into your pocket. There is a deep groove at the front of the camera which I find helps me to hold the camera steady and also allows me to shoot single handily if I need to. As someone who has a petite build and quite small hands I think this camera is great and very easy to hold, though I can see that someone with larger hands may struggle a bit. All in all I would say that this camera is very well built. The lens, which pops out a little when the camera is switched on, is covered by a lens cap which is attached to the body by a short cable so that you don't lose it - a great feature for me as I do have a habit of dropping/losing things and I can see that this would be the first thing I'd lose if it was not securely attached. The battery compartment is located at the bottom of the camera along with a slot for an SD card and the usb port. Unlike other Canon cameras this is solidly designed and doesn't feel like it's going to come off in my hand when I open it. The camera also comes with a neck strap in the box but a camera case has to be purchased separately. At the back of the camera there is a large 7.5cm LCD monitor on which to view your shots. This large screen makes it easy to view pictures that you have taken or to frame the picture you want to take before actually take the picture. Rather disappointingly the SX500 does not have an optical viewfinder. Despite the large screen, this would be useful in certain conditions e.g. bright light, where I find there is often too much glare on the screen and so taking photos is a bit difficult. There is the option of varying the brightness of the screen although I think when you're trying to get a quick shot it's not always practical to fiddle around with the screen settings as in the case of animals what you're trying to capture may have moved or disappeared! The lack of a viewfinder seems to be the norm now amongst all new cameras as manufacturers try to make their cameras ever more compact, which I think is a shame really. The other buttons on the back of the camera and at the top I think are standard for most cameras these days. There is a dial which allows you to move backwards and forwards through your photos by either rotating it or pressing down on one of four points, adjust the settings and scroll through the various menu options which I will discuss later in the review. The camera menu settings are quite similar to my more compact Canon Ixus IS which meant that it didn't take me a long at all to get the hang of using this camera, which is a good thing as I only bought it a couple of weeks before flying out. The camera has a 16 megapixel sensor, which seems standard for this type of camera. In fact even most compact cameras on sale these days have megapixels in the 10-14 range. This however wasn't really an important requirement for me as I believe the megapixel count is only really important if you're going to be blowing up your pictures to poster size or if you want to crop them without losing too much detail. However, I just want to print standard 6x4 photos and perhaps at a push 7x5 so I didn't pay too much attention to this. So enough about the appearance of this camera, what's it like in action?! I don't really like to work my way through user manuals before using an item, preferring to test it out myself first to see if I can get it going. In this regard the camera is exceptionally user friendly and intuitive to use. All the menus and settings are logically laid out so things are easy to find. However I am sure having used a previous Canon model also helped. I should point out here that the camera comes with a paper-based quick start guide with a more comprehensive menu on CD. I guess from an environmental point of view this is a good thing as it saves a lot of paper, but sometimes, especially when travelling, it would be useful to have a paper guide to refer to. There's nothing stopping one from printing this up though so it's good to have the choice. The CD also has some photo editing software on it along with the PhotoStitch program which enables you to take several shots that have been taken with the camera slightly moving and then turn these into a panorama. When it comes to taking photos I would describe myself as an amateur photographer. In this respect the SX500 is great in that it has inbuilt scene detection technology features which automatically determines the brightness of the subject, the contrast, the distance from the subject and the overall hue. It then searches its inbuilt library of 32 different settings to select the perfect one for the scene. This is great as it takes the guesswork out of taking the shot and I get a great picture every time. I'm pretty snap-happy especially when on holiday and this means I can just point and shoot without fiddling around trying to work out what settings I should choose. However if you are more technically minded there is the option to manually select which setting to take pictures with and these include low light, night, beach, snow and underwater. The camera has image stabilisation technology which ensures that pictures do not come out blurry. The colours of the pictures taken with this camera are true to life - I have found some cameras that I have used in the past tend to make things brighter than they actually are, for example making the sky bluer than it actually is, which is not a problem in this case. If however you like your skies bright and blue and other colours to appear brighter than they actually are then there is a 'super vivid colour' setting to enable you to take shots with brighter colours. For those fun shots the camera also has an inbuilt fish-eye lens and a miniature effect. It is also possible to take shots in black and white and sepia. The camera is quick to respond and take a picture once the button is pressed which is great when trying to take pictures of animals which have a tendency to move quite fast! One annoying feature of the camera is the flash. This is one that sits at the top of the camera but requires you to pop it up manually before taking a shot. It took me some time to work out how this worked as I'd set my camera to automatic flash, so that it would decide if a flash was needed depending on the light conditions. However when I pressed the button to take the picture there was no flash! It would be better if there was a mechanism for the flash to automatically pop up if it was needed. The need to manually lift the flash also defeats the purpose of having an automatic flash setting as it still relies on the user to lift the flash up. As I explained at the start of the review, my main reason for purchasing this camera was the zoom. So how did it fare? In a word 'brilliant!' I set the zoom to be the maximum 30x optical, as I found whilst testing out the camera that shots became a little blurry with the digital zoom. The zoom is operated by a lever at the top of the camera and as it is turned the lens comes out. At full 30x zoom the lens comes out about 5cm from the body of the camera. Using the zoom I have managed to take crisp, sharp pictures of objects that are a good 500m. From my living room window I took pictures of the chimney of the house that is about 3 roads away and the image has come out very clear with the brickwork clear and sharp. Whilst in South Africa I was able to take pictures of a herd of Rhino whilst perched on a rock about 300m up and these have come out as clear as if I'd been standing next to them! I was also able to take numerous pictures of the brightly coloured birds out there which is very difficult to do without a decent zoom on the camera. There is also a very useful zoom framing assist feature which enables you to zoom out and zoom back in to the same place at the press of a button. This is extremely useful where you have lost track of the subject and you need to reassess by temporarily zooming out. I did find at times that the camera had trouble focussing on the right thing, for example if an animal was hidden behind some trees it would focus on the trees rather than the animal. However this was a problem that those I was travelling with with SLRs also encountered. The camera also has the option for you to shoot short movies though these take up a lot of memory and so it's not something I have done very often. However during testing I have found the movies to be clear with good sound quality. The camera is powered by a Li-ion battery and a charger is supplied with the camera. I think the battery has a decent life lasting a couple of days when being used normally. Whilst away I was taking pictures every few minutes and then I found that I needed to charge the camera every day. In this case it would have been good if a spare battery had also been included in the box. Transferring photos is very easy via the usb cable which is supplied in the box or by inserting the SD card into a laptop with an SD card reader as I tend to do. If you've made it this far well done and thankyou for pursuing! Overall I am very pleased with this camera and think I have bagged myself a real bargain. Others that I was travelling with had far more sophisticated and expensive cameras and I have to say that to my untrained eye there is very little difference to the shots that we took with the different cameras! I love the zoom on this camera and the zoom framing assist feature is one that is really useful when trying to shoot subjects far away. I am also impressed by how compact this camera is which makes it easier to carry whilst travelling around. There are a couple of features that I was not so impressed with including the lack of viewfinder and the mechanical flash. For these points I've knocked off a star but I still think this is a great buy for the amateur photographer. This review will also be posted on ciao with some example shots.
I've suffered from dry hands for a number of years now and have worked my way through many hand creams on the market. I find the ones from L'Occitane are the most effective for me however they are quite expensive so I do keep a lookout for new creams that may be just as effective but cheaper. A few months ago the Body Shop had an offer where if you presented them with a code through vouchercodes.co.uk you could pick up a free 30ml hand cream worth £5 so I, of course, had to snap one up. I hadn't actually used any hand creams from the Body Shop range so was curious to see how they'd fare. The hand cream that I decided to go for was the Hemp hand protector as it is formulated for very dry skin and claims to restore the skins moisture and suppleness. As the name suggests this cream contains hemp seed oil which is community fair trade, which is reassuring as the farmers who grow the seeds get a fair price for them. The hand cream comes packaged in a silver foil tube with a green and brown label printed on it and a black screw on lid. This style of packaging is very similar to the L'Occitane cream and makes the cream look like a classy, high end product. However I find that the metallic tube is a little thicker than the L'Occitane one and can quickly become misshapen and dented. The cream itself is very thick and pale green in colour. I squeezed a 5p sized blob onto my hand and then rubbed into my skin. Despite its thickness I found that the cream absorbs into my skin with each. It is one that I would describe as very rich and once absorbed it does tend to leave a bit of a residual stickiness on my skin, which is not at all pleasant. If I use this as a day cream then for around half an hour after applying I have trouble gripping things as my hands are slippery. For this reason I tend to use this cream at night applying just before I go to sleep and when I wake in the morning I have lovely soft hands with skin that looks hydrated and healthy rather than dry and flaky. With regular application of the cream I have noticed that the skin between my fingers, which usually becomes dry very quickly is noticeably improved and doesn't become dry quite so quickly. A little really does go a long way with this cream - a small blob is plenty to moisturise my hands. When it comes to creams I am quite particular about how the cream smells as well as how it affects my skin. As I rubbed the cream into my skin I noticed the rather strange and pungent aroma of the cream. It really is quite hard to describe - I would say that it smells very natural, almost grass-like. I have to be honest and say that this is not a scent that I like at all. I find that the packaging of this tube is a little awkward. Firstly the screw on lid is quite fiddly and can be difficult to screw back on particularly after applying the cream! I also find that even though the cream is quite thick a small amount tends to squeeze out of the tube once I have finished using it and accumulate in the lid causing a bit of a mess, especially if the cream is being carried in a purse or pocket. I thought that perhaps I had a dodgy tube but after having mentioned this to my mum who'd previously used this cream she too commented on how a small amount of the cream would leak out once used. Overall, I think this hand cream does its job well. It moisturises my skin very well, leaving it looking healthy, smooth and noticeably softer. However the cream does have several downsides for me. The first of these is the smell which I really dislike. There is also the stickiness issue once applied which makes it difficult to grip things for a while after application. I also find the packaging a bit awkward and the leaking cream is not great either. Once I finish the tube I'm not sure that this will be one that I will be repurchasing.
Towards the end of last year I received a thankyou gift from O2 for being with them on contract for a year. I had a choice of £10 gift vouchers and one of these included Debenhams. Having recently discovered Yankee candles I decided to head down to my local branch and pick a selection. I tend to burn wax tarts rather than the candles themselves as they are cheaper and mean that I can experiment with the different scents and if I don't like one it's not an expensive loss. One of the ones that I added to my basket was the wild passion fruit scent. If you're not familiar with Yankee candles, wax tarts are basically small circular pieces of wax with a fluted edge, rather like a tart you'd bake in the oven. Unlike conventional candles they have no wick and so have to be placed in a tart burner to melt and release their fragrance. At around £1.20 Wax tarts are much cheaper than full sized candles and allow you to try fragrances without making a commitment. Each wax tart releases around 8 hours of fragrance. The wild passion fruit tart is a dull pastel green colour with a picture of passion fruit and oranges hanging on a tree. I usually try to get an idea of what the tart will smell like when burnt by smelling the tart through the cellophane wrap. In this case the scent seemed really promising - very fruity but sharp, with a hint of citrus. I have a strong preference for scents that are sharp and citrusy rather than sweet and so I popped this in my basket but I only got around to trying this one out a few weeks ago. I often tend to burn tarts for a couple of hours in the evening whilst relaxing in front of the TV or straight after cleaning the flat I live in. Once placed in the tart burner it took around 10 minutes for the tart to melt and start releasing its fragrance around the room. The scent is one that I would describe as tangy, sharp but with a sweet, fruity undertone. Yankee describe the scent as bright and vivacious with exotic passion fruit blended with melon and mandarin. I would certainly agree with this description of the scent but I couldn't help but think that the dull pastel green colour of the tart in no way reflects how strong and vibrant a scent that this tart produces. I know the colour doesn't really mean anything but based on the scent I would have expected this tart to be a bright colour, perhaps an orange or yellow. Lesson learnt here - don't judge a book by its cover! The scent in my opinion is very fresh and absolutely delightful. I think that perhaps it is one that is suited for the spring and summer months. In terms of longevity, I have burnt this candle for around 6 hours now and it is still going strong and I am confident I will get more than 8 hours burn time out of this. Once I stop burning this tart the scent lingers in the room for a couple of hours which I think is great. Overall I am really impressed with this scent and as someone who likes fruity but citrusy scents this one hits the spot! I'll definitely be buying this one again.
As it has become a little cooler in the last couple of weeks I have found myself turning to hot drinks to keep myself nice and warm. I'm not a huge tea or coffee drinker but do like a lot of the herbal or green tea ranges. I love the taste of fennel and quite often make fresh fennel tea on the hob, but sometimes a tea bag is more convenient! One of the teas that I spotted on a recent visit to Tesco's was the nettle and sweet fennel tea in the Twinings range and as it was one that I had never tried before I decided to pop a box into my basket. The teas come in a green coloured box with a picture of some nettle leaves and yellow flowers on the front which I presume are what produce the fennel seeds. Each box contains 20 teabags and costs around £1.30. Nettle is particularly known for its cleansing properties and fennel aids digestion. In fact whenever I have indigestion or a generally dodgy stomach I make my own fennel tea on the hob and this has me feeling better in no time at all. Due to its cleansing and digestive properties this is a tea I often opt for after an evening meal to help my meal digest properly. It is also worth noting that the teas are caffeine free which means I don't have to worry about not being able to sleep once I've drunk this! On opening the pack I was surprised to notice that the teabags were not individually wrapped like most of the ones in the Twinings range are. This isn't a particularly big issue and in fact in some ways is probably a good thing as it is better for the environment. However I often like to take teas to work with me and in this case transporting these teas around is not really practical. Making a cuppa is really simple. Just pop in a mug, pour on boiling water and allow to brew for a couple of minutes. The resulting tea is a dark golden brown colour. I usually let this cool down a bit before taking a sip. Most fennel teas that I have had in the past give a strong aniseedy smell whilst brewing but I was disappointed to note that this was not the case here. Taking my first sip I was expecting to taste the refreshing mintiness of the aniseed but to be honest I really couldn't taste anything other than a faint herby taste which I suppose was the nettle. As I swallowed though I did get an aftertaste of the fennel which was nice but far, far too weak for my liking! Having said that they do live up to the clean that they are cleansing and I find that If I have had a particularly heavy meal they do help with the digestion and make me feel less bloated. Overall then I can't say I was overly impressed with this offering from Twinings. I have had pure fennel tea in the same range and have found that to be quite pleasant but in this case I think the nettle drowns out the flavour of the aniseed. I think in future I shall stick with pure fennel tea or perhaps if I'm feeling a little more adventurous try fennel with something else other than nettle added.
My sisters and I are huge Harry Potter fans and have been so for long before the media hype, which really took off after the 3rd book. Whilst I enjoy the books much more I am also a fan of the films so when the Warner Brother Studio Tour opened at Leavesden I promptly booked tickets for us and we visited on a cold Sunday in February this year. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour (in fact we're thinking of doing it again!) and on our way out browsed through the gift shop. As would be expected, the gift shop was very expensive so we didn't buy much, however my sister sneakily managed to buy a book entitled 'Harry Potter Film Wizardry' as she'd seen me browsing through it, which she presented to me on my birthday a couple of months later. The book has an RRP of £26. The book has a red hardback cover with a raised design and is decorated with gold stars and photos of the actors who play some of the main characters including Harry, Ron, Hermionie and Dumbledore. The book is 165 pages long and is packed with behind the scenes images, stories from the set, character insights from the actors who played them and explanations on how some of the special effects worked. The book is a revised edition, covering all 7 films. There are chapters on the characters, the set, film locations, props and special effects. Each topic has a dedicated two page spread with detailed explanations and photos from the film and behind the scenes, designed very much like a scrapbook. There are interviews with the cast members and their memories of making the films, but also more interestingly for me there are also interviews with the crew, screenwriters who talk about their memories of making the films, how they went about filming some of the more complicated scenes and how the special effects went from paper to screen. You can learn how they made the Ford Anglia fly in the Chamber of Secrets, how the Knight bus was created, why the Yule ball ice structures never melt, how they designed and filmed magical creatures such as Dobby and Fawkes, how they filmed the Quidditch scenes and much, much more. The actors also include their own stories from the films such as the occasion when Helena Bonham Carter got a bit carried away with her wand in Order of the Phoenix, when she had Neville in her grasp, and she managed to rupture his ear drum! Each page is a delight to read and crammed full of details and interesting snippets from the actors, crew, set designers and producers. It really is breath-taking the amount of effort, thought and attention to detail that went into these films. The best bit of all though is the little additions that are made for each topic. For example the chapter on Privet Drive has attached to it a real envelope, complete with Hogwarts seal containing Harry's invitation to Hogwarts which he received as a 10 year old living with the Dursleys. Other treasures include sticky labels for your potion bottles (you'll never know when they'll come in handy!), the programme for the Quiddich World cup, an intricately cut invitation to the Yule ball, Weasleys' Wizard Wheeze's product catalogue, a photo album with snapshots from the set and best of all your very own Maurauders map! Each of these items were replicas of those that had actually been used on set and the attention to detail made by the graphic designers is astounding considering many of these items were only on the screen for a few seconds and mostly just in the background. I felt like a young child again as I worked my way through this book, eagerly anticipating the next pop out treasure and the addition of these made the book highly interactive. It's not a book that I read in one go - it's one that I found myself dipping into every few days but on each occasion I felt completely immersed in the world of Harry Potter that the film producers, actors and crew created. As you've probably gathered I love this book and it's one that I can see myself continuing to dip in and out of for the foreseeable future. The book is a little expensive but the amount of detail that is included in it makes it worth every penny! A must for all Harry Potter fans both young and old!
I have suffered from dry skin on my hands for many years now. I had tried practically every cream on the market but none were particularly effective as they were too thin and runny and my thirsty skin would suck up the cream like a sponge and be covered in dry patches within minutes! That was until I discovered the L'Occitane range of hand creams a few years ago and I haven't looked back since! The ones that are formulated with shea butter really seem to help my hands and leave them soft, smooth and supple again. I have been trying out the different scented hand creams over the last couple of years and have come across some real winners, including this one. Although they are great for my hands, I do find that the L'Occitane creams are a little pricey at £8.00 for a 30ml tube. For this reason I tend to wait for the sales around Christmas or visit my local outlet village in Bicester to stock up on reduced price hand creams. On a visit to my local branch of L'Occitane during the Christmas sales last year they had small packs of 5 30ml hand creams on sale for £20 - at £5 a hand cream this was a bargain I could not ignore! I am quite fussy about scents that creams have so when I noticed that the packs had 2 Magical Leaves hand cream, which I hadn't tried before and there was no tester around, so I was a little wary of buying a cream that I may not like. Luckily the helpful sales assistant offered to swap one or both of the Magical Leaves hand cream for another scent. I decided I would just swap one tube and give the Magical Leaves cream a twirl - and I am really glad I did! I only got around to using the Magical Leaves hand cream a couple of months ago as I worked my way through the other creams first. Like all other L'Occitane hand creams this is housed in a silver metallic tube with a black screw on lid. This does distinguish it from other hand creams on the market and makes it look like a classy product, but I have found in practice that the lid can be a little fiddly to open and close, particularly immediately after the cream has been applied. Unfortunately it also tends to come undone when I carry it around in my bag. The front of this particular tube is coloured light green with a silver wand on the front and has the product name written in both English and French. The cream is enriched with shea butter, along with other skin softening ingredients including sweet almond oil, sunflower seed oil and coconut oil. What are the magical leaves I hear you ask? Well there are several leaves in the list of ingredients including verbena, hazel tree leaf, rosemary and citriodora (lemon myrtle) all of which have skin nourishing properties. Squeezing the tube releases a white coloured cream. In comparison to some of the other varieties of L'Occitane creams this is thinner, but not particularly runny. I was a little sceptical as to how effective this was going to be as it didn't look rich enough for my dry hands. I massaged a 5p sized blob onto my hands which absorbed into my skin effortlessly and as it did so released its delicious lemon, zesty scent. It really smells light and fresh and is one that is perfect for summer months. Once absorbed, my skin feels soft, smooth and supple, and quite surprisingly this effect lasts for a couple of hours - no parched skin within a few minutes of applying, which is great! It doesn't leave my skin feeling heavy or greasy and I can get back to my everyday tasks within seconds of applying this hand cream. I always like to know a little about the company that I purchase cosmetics from in terms of their ethics and 'naturalness' of their products. L'Occitane was founded in 1976 by Olivier Baussan, at the age of 23, who wanted to create products that captured the tradition and values of his childhood in Provence. They pledge to use natural, active ingredients that are organic where possible and are sourced largely from Provence or the Mediterranean. Having said that, the list of ingredients on the back of the tube still contains a fair amount of chemically sounding names, so it's not as natural as I would like! The shea butter however is sourced from Burkino Faso in Africa and L'Occitane have been working for a number of years with the women of the village as part of a co-development programme. As part of this L'Occitane purchase shea butter directly from the women in the village which ensures that they get a fair price for it, which is an initiative I am quite impressed with. L'Occitane also state that none of their products are tested on animals and neither are any of the ingredients that are sourced to make their products. All the products are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, with the exception of the beehive products containing honey or Royal jelly. Further information is available on their website. This deserves a special mention as I found the site extremely interesting. There is a section which contains details of each of the ingredients used in L'Occitane products, what their role is and which products contain them. Overall I am very impressed with this hand cream from L'Occitane which does a great job at keeping my hands soft and supple, without being too greasy and smells amazing too. The only downsides are the cost - at full price this is quite expensive and the fact that this is a limited edition product, and is already quite difficult to get hold of. L'Occitane if you're reading this 'Please bring this one back (and my other favourite the Hibiscus flower one too!)!
If you've read my previous review you'll know that in the boxing day sales last year I picked up the Champneys citrus blush handwash. Accompanying this product was the Citrus blush hand lotion. I suffer from very dry skin on my hands and am constantly moisturising so having a bottle of cream in the bathroom which I could apply after washing and drying my hands seemed like a good idea. I'd received some Champneys goodies for my birthday previously and I'd been impressed with the brand so when I spotted the handwash and handlotion for just £5 (reduced from £10) in Boots I quickly snapped these up. Champneys products have been available in Boots for a few years now. If you're unfamiliar with the brand Champneys are a company that offer a series of spa breaks across the UK in addition to selling a range of skin and bath products. Further details can be found on their website www.champneys.co.uk. The hand lotion comes housed in a cylindrical plastic bottle very similar in appearance to the hand wash, through which the white coloured cream can be seen. The cream is dispensed through the pump at the top of the bottle. Each bottle contains 250ml of hand lotion. Like the handwash the Citrus blush hand lotion is according to the product description scented with uplifting lemon, orange and cardamon. I am a fan of citrus scented toiletries so had high hopes for this product from the outset. I was also curious about the cardomom as it is a spice that I am quite fond of in my food, but not one that I've come across too often in toiletries. To use I apply this to hands that have previously been washed with the accompanying citrus blush handwash. The hand lotion has quite a thin consistency, which I was fairly disappointed with. As I suffer from dry hands runny hand creams have little impact on my skin - they just get sucked up and within minutes my skin is dry again and I'm afraid to say that the Champneys citrus blush hand lotion was no exception. I actually found this quite surprising given that the list of ingredients contain skin nourishing ingredients like shea butter and sweet almond oil - ingredients I tend to look out for in my favourite (and expensive) hand creams from L'Occitane. At this point I should also mention some niggles that I have with the packaging. The pump at the top of the bottle does not have the best of designs. The nozzle through which the cream comes out faces straight out rather that facing down with a small dip at the end like a lot of other similar bottles. This meant that the first few times I used the hand cream a lot of it ended up squirting over me (the thin consistency certainly didn't help here!) or over the bathroom wall! I have now got over this problem by ensuring that my hand covers the nozzle completely before pressing down on the pump to ensure that any cream that is dispensed comes into my hand and not elsewhere. Back to the cream itself. As I rubbed the cream on my freshly washed and dried hands I noticed that the lotion had what I would describe as a silky feel on my hands, like a thin layer of the lotion was sitting on top of my skin. This wasn't the nicest of feelings, although it didn't make my hands greasy which would have really annoyed me. It did leave my skin feeling soft, although that feeling didn't last long. As I rubbed the cream on my hands I noticed the scent of the hand cream, which I thought was delightful. It is similar to the hand wash in the same range so the two products compliment each other. I would describe the scent as quite sweet but with a spicy undertone. The scent is predominantly of cardamom but I can also smell something similar to cloves, even though the ingredients do not list this as an ingredient. Like the hand wash there is not in my opinion even a hint of "citrussiness". Ordinarily I might have been a bit disappointed but in this case I really like the subtle spiciness of this scent. The scent also has decent longevity and lasts a couple of hours after applying. I have to say that I am not overly impressed with the hand lotion. As someone who has very dry skin, I need something that is richer and this hand lotion just didn't cut it. For someone with more 'normal' skin I think this is a great product, with a lovely scent, although there needs to be some improvements made to the bottle design. Overall a middle of the road 3 stars from me.
I like to stock up on toiletries during the boxing day sales and one of the few items I bought this year was the Champneys citrus blush handwash. I'd received some Champneys goodies for my birthday previously and I'd been impressed with the brand so when I spotted the handwash and handlotion for just £5 (reduced from £10) in Boots I quickly snapped these up. Champneys products have been available in Boots for a few years now. If you're unfamiliar with the brand Champneys are a company that offer a series of spa breaks across the UK in addition to selling a range of skin and bath products. Further details can be found on their website www.champneys.co.uk. The handwash comes housed in a cylindrical plastic bottle through which the golden coloured liquid can be seen. The liquid is dispensed through the pump at the top of the bottle. Each bottle contains 250ml of handwash. According to the product description on the front the scent is a combination of uplifting lemon, orange and cardamom. I am a fan of citrus scented toiletries so had high hopes for this product from the outset. To use I apply this to wet hands and rub all over. The handwash has a fairly thick consistency - it's not too thick that it's difficult to dispense but not too runny that you have to use a lot of it. As I rubbed I noticed that the handwash produced a decent amount of bubbles and the scent that wafted up was delightful. I would describe it as quite sweet but with a spicy undertone. The scent is predominantly of cardamom but I can also smell something similar to cloves, even though the ingredients do not list this as an ingredient. There is not in my opinion even a hint of "citrussiness". Ordinarily I might have been a bit disappointed but in this case I really like the subtle spiciness of this scent. The soap rinses off easily and leaves my skin feeling clean and soft. The skin on my hands is quite sensitive and some soaps can leave my skin feeling dry and tight. I am pleased to report that this is not the case here. The scent also lingers on for about an hour after use, which is great, as I am really quite fond of the scent. Overall I am quite impressed with this and really pleased that I picked it up in the sale. At full price it is a little on the expensive side so I shall be looking out for a replacement bottle in the sales at the end of this year. If you've not tried this before then it comes with a high recommendation from me.
For a number of years now I have made a conscious effort to take good care of my skin and have adopted a regime of regularly exfoliating, toning and moisturising my skin as well as using a face mask a couple of times a week. I tend to use a different moisturiser for daytime and night time as they both need to work in different ways. I expect a daytime cream to be light with some SPF protection and to keep my skin hydrated throughout the day whilst a night cream should be richer providing deep moisturisation through the night. I am not particularly loyal to one brand of skin-care product. Not only is this because I like to try out new products that may have appeared on the market but also because I think that using the same product for a continuous period of time makes it less effective as the skin gets too used to it. I recently ran out of night cream so I headed over to Boots to see what would take my fancy. Whilst browsing the aisles I spotted that the Nivea skin care range was on offer with the Pure and Natural regenerating night cream costing just £3.50 for a 50ml pot. Ordinarily this retails at £5.35, which I consider still to be a reasonable price. What also attracted me to this project was the claim on the packaging that this product had 95% of its ingredients from natural origins. It also claims that there are no colourants, mineral oils, silicones and parabens in this cream, which I saw as an additional bonus. The cream comes in a small glass pot with a dark blue plastic lid which is itself housed in a small cardboard box. According to the packaging the cream is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin. The cream contains argan oil which is a natural source of vitamin E and aloe vera which is known for its moisturising properties and acts to hydrate the skin. Used daily this cream will support regeneration through the night and provides intensive 24 hour moisturisation. This all sounded great, especially for a cream that is so reasonably priced. The cream itself is white in colour and has a fairly thick consistency. I usually apply this last thing before going to bed, after I have cleansed my skin. Despite it's thickness the cream just melts into my skin. It has a scent that I would describe as light and delicate and altogether quite pleasant. To use I apply a small blob of this over my face and also try to remember to apply this onto my neck as this is an area that often gets neglected. My skin feels immediately hydrated and due to the richness of the cream I find that I can still feel a thin layer just under the top layer of my skin. If this was a day cream I would probably complain about this but as this is a night cream I think this is fine. When I wake in the morning, my skin looks great. It feels soft, and looks fresh, plump and deeply hydrated. As my skin can be a bit sensitive I am pleased to note that this causes no irritation and there is no blotchiness. The only slight downside to this cream is the packaging and the fact that it comes in a pot rather than a tube. I think this is less hygienic as all the cream is exposed to air everytime the lid is unscrewed which can't be a good thing. Also I think it's less hygienic to put my finger into the pot rather than squeezing out of a tube. I have been using this for around 6 weeks now and I can't really find fault with it. It does the job, moisturises my skin leaving it smooth and supple. The only downside for me is the packaging for which I am knocking off a star but other than that it comes with a strong recommendation from me.
If you've read my previous review you'll know that for Christmas this year one of my friends gave me a Mandara Spa gift set, containing a shower gel, shower scrub and cooling gel. I was really pleased to receive these and as they sounded quite summery in their description I waited until a few weeks ago to start using the products. I have reviewed the shower gel in my previous review and will now focus on the accompanying shower scrub. For those, like me, who had not heard of Mandara spa - they are a company who run luxury spas all over the world and originate in Bali, where they use knowledge of the healing arts which are passed down from generation to generation which are applied in their spas. Alongside their treatements they also sell some of the products which they use on their clients, which are all inspired by natural ingredients and can be used to create a mini spa experience at home. For a number of years now I have been using a shower scrub once a week to exfoliate my skin and sluice off any dead skin cells, keeping my skin smooth, soft and healthy looking. I was therefore looking forward to trying out this offering to see how it compares to others that I have used. The Island Paradise smoothing shower scrub itself is housed in a turquoise tube, which stands on a gold coloured flip top lid and in appearance looks very much like the shower gel that accompanies this. The tube itself is semi-transparent and the white coloured scrub can be made out through this - handy as I then know exactly how much product I have left remaining. The tube is decorated with watermarked gold paisley type patterns, which look rather like traditional Indian henna designs. I think the design of the bottle is quite elegant, and it definitely looks like a high end product. Each tube contains 150ml of shower scrub. The shower scrub is described as containing the revitalising fragrance of grapefruit and lemon -scents that according to the back of the tube will transport you to and exotic island where the stress and tension of daily life will melt away. The scrub contains naturally stimulating ginseng, exfoliating peach stone granules, moisturising kukui nut oil, sweet orange, lemon and patchouli. It all sounds quite exotic and very summary - I really like citrus smells and this product sounded like it would be one that I would like. The scrub is free from sodium laureth sulphate, parabens and mineral oils, which is good to know. The scrub itself is white in colour, has a fairly runny consistency and the peach stone granules are clearly visible as brown specs dispersed throughout the scrub. To use the product I applied to wet skin rubbing in a circular motion. As I did so I could feel the peach granules working away at my skin and they although they are quite fine, they also felt quite sharp and once rinsed off my skin was left tingling. Despite this sharpness once rinsed away there was no sign of redness or irritation and my skin was left feeling very smooth, soft and revitalised. The scrub has a pleasant smell, which is quite citrussy but it's not a scent I would describe as synthetic or artificial. The scent is quite delicate and I do have a preference for stronger smelling citrus products, particularly if I am using them in the morning as they do tend to wake me up! The scent has good longevity and lingers on my skin for a few hours after use which is good. The only downside to the scrub is that I have found that the peach stone granules do tend to accumulate at the bottom of my bath tub and it does take some effort to rinse these away. I have in the past used a lot of sugar scrubs and these exfoliate my skin just as well but have the added bonus of the sugar just dissolving in the water and therefore washing away with ease. It appears that the shower scrub can only be purchased at one of the Mandara Spas or via www.timetospa.co.uk/mandara-spa. It retails at around £6.50, which is a little expensive, although the price is in line with similar products. The scrub is currently on offer at £3.50, which is very good value in my opinion and at this price I wouldn't hesitate to purchase. Overall I am quite pleased with this product and would definitely recommend.
For Christmas last year I received a set of toiletries from the Mandara Spa range from one of my friends. The items included in this set were a shower gel, shower scrub and cooling gel. Like many women I am always delighted to receive toiletries and as I had quite a collection to use up already coupled with the fact that this actually sounded like quite a summery product I waited until spring to start using them. For this review I shall focus on the Island Paradise moisturising shower gel. Prior to receiving this set I had never heard of Mandara Spa nor seen any of their products in mainstream shops. I always like to know more about the companies who make the products that I use so I did a quick search on the internet to see what I could find out about this company. It turns out that Mandara Spa originates from Bali although they now run spas all over the world. Pictures on their website look fabulous and really paint a picture of a high end, luxurious company. They use knowledge of the traditional healing arts, which are passed down from generation to generation and are now applied in their spas across the globe. Alongside the spa treatments that they provide, Mandara sell some of the products that they use in their spas, which are all inspired by natural ingredients so that you can create a mini spa experience in your own home. The shower gel, which is the focus of this review, is housed in a turquoise coloured tube, which stands on a gold coloured, flip top lid. The bottle itself is made of transparent plastic, which I find convenient as it allows me to see exactly how much product I have left. The tube is decorated with watermarked gold paisley type patterns, which look rather like traditional Indian henna designs. I think the design of the bottle is quite elegant, and it definitely looks like a high end product. Each tube contains 150ml of shower gel. The shower gel is described as containing soothing aloe vera and hibiscus flower milk, stimulating ginseng, fragrant grapefruit, sweet orange, lemon and patchouli. The description sounds quite summery hence why I waited until around Easter time to start using this, not that we got any summery weather around then! It is also good to know that this gel is free from Sodium Laureth Sulphate, parabens and mineral oils. In fact it states on their site that all Mandara spa products are free from these ingredients and that they also don't use any animal ingredients except, honey, beeswax and milk. This is used as any normal shower gel. The gel is easy to squeeze out of the tube and has a nice consistency - it's not too runny nor is it too thick. It is transparent in colour and when rubbed over wet skin produces a decent amount of bubbles. As would be expected given the list of ingredients, this gel has quite a citrussy smell to it. I would say that the smell is predominantly of grapefruit, with some background zestiness of the lemon coming through. It's a light and pleasant smell in my opinion, although not quite zesty enough for me - one of my favourite shower gels is the lemon variety produced by Original Source, which really does pack a punch! I would say that the smell is quite 'realistic' and not one I would describe as synthetic. The gel is also easy to wash off and does not leave a residue on my skin, which I find some shower gels do. Once washed off my skin feels clean and soft, so I would agree with the moisturising claims of this gel. The scent has good longevity and lingers for a few hours after use. It appears that the Mandara range of products can only be bought through Mandara themselves at their spas or via www.timetospa.co.uk/mandara-spa. Overall I have to say that I quite like this shower gel. It cleans well and leaves my skin soft and without any dryness. I like the scent too, which is cirtussy, yet delicate. The shower gel ordinarily retails at £6.50 for a tube, which I think is a little on the steep side, although it is currently on offer priced at a more reasonable £4. At this price I could see myself buying this as an occasional treat as it is a nice product, but in my view a little too expensive for everyday use. 4 stars from me.