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Recovering from the lurgy but normal service will resume shortly - I have an anniversary coming up!

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since 07/02/2006


My Ciao'ing 07/02/2016

10 Year a Ciao-ing

My Ciao'ing Yup. 7th February 2016 is the 10th anniversary of my joining of Ciao. I can hardly believe I have been here ten years, (admittedly with some breaks). Early reviews My first review was of the book the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith and I wrote a staggering four lines! Having written previously for Amazon I was used to a book’s synopsis being part of the page, so didn’t grasp, at first, that Ciao needed a little bit more. I dabbled a bit more with short reviews on books, film, music CDs and travel, taking me a few months to get my first overall VH review – for a review of Highgate Cemetery. My activity was sporadic and I would dip back in every few weeks or so, post a couple and disappear again. My Ciao addiction had not really formed! I still managed 56 reviews up until the end of 2006. It may have been newbie naivety, and whilst some members did write longer reviews, it wasn’t really the norm back then. Overall Exceptional reviews were, well, exceptionally rare and more than likely Café pieces where people shared personal advice and tips. E ratings were more limited then (regardless of dot colour), so everyone was more discerning. As 2007 dawned I was getting into the groove and posting reviews most weeks, but became more sporadic as the year came to an end, mostly due to a romance with a fellow Ciao member (not telling, so don’t ask!). In total I think I posted just over thirty reviews, rarely straying from Books, Travel and Films (I had a Love ...

Clinique Turnaround Daytime Revitalizing Moisturiser 25/01/2016

When is a Moisturiser not a Moisturiser?

Clinique Turnaround Daytime Revitalizing Moisturiser Introduction Some time last year I bought some goodies from the Clinique counter in a larger branch of Boots, it was during their Bonus Time promotion (something that happens twice a year in each store – if you buy two full sized products, including one skincare, you get some free gifts)and I received a pretty tin with a selection of Clinique skincare and make up products. One of the products inside was this daytime moisturiser. I’d always liked their moisturisers but found them too expensive. I was slightly put off my the Turnaround aspect, as the few Turnaround creams from Clinique I had tried during previous Bonus Times were disappointing. Clinique Clinique are an American company and have been going since the 1960s. They are a subsidiary of the Estee Lauder group. They were an early market leader in allergy tested, dermatological skincare which were not tested on animals. I have been using their products for almost twenty years and I have tried lots of products through bonus promotions and complimentary samples. More recently I have made a conscious decision to shop elsewhere for most of their products due to what I see as their change in their ethical stance (see below but I am still ‘re-sourcing’ some products. If you wish to try this product or any of their others than it is worth keeping an eye out for their twice-yearly Bonus Time promotions where get a cosmetic/toilet bag of assorted products for free which often include mini moisturisers or cleansers (travel ...

Go Stationery Banksy A5 Notebook 21/01/2016

You can Bank on this Notebook

Go Stationery Banksy A5 Notebook Introduction As part of the Amazon Vine program I was offered one of these A5 notebooks. Things like this are always handy, so even though I have plenty of notebooks at home (some I don’t use because they are too nice!) I decided to accept it. I like the quirky Banksy design on the front. GO Stationery GO Stationery are a British firm and their products are designed and made in their London factory. They produce diaries and various notebooks of varying designs including licensed products for The Woodland Trust, as well as William Morris prints, and a wide selection of bespoke products for museums and gift shops . Their own designs are bright and generally quite modern. As well as notebooks, they also product gift wrap and bags, and various files and folders. Products are available through Amazon, John Lewis and other independent stationers. Of the Banksy (a Bristol born, internationally renowned street artist) designs, they also do Girl With Balloon and Man With Flowers. My thoughts The notebook has a durable plastic printed cover of the Banksy painting featuring Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, having her basket searched by a policeman. Toto, the dog, waits patiently beside her. This cover gives the notebook some protection. It looks wipe clean and won’t bend easily if knocked about in a bag. The Amazon page claims is has an elastic closer, but it doesn't. The pages are spiral bound, so easy to tear out – there are no perforated edges. The notebook is A5, but the ...

Crabtree & Evelyn Somerset Meadow Hand Therapy Cream 18/01/2016

Why not an Essex Meadow?!

Crabtree & Evelyn Somerset Meadow Hand Therapy Cream INTRODUCTION I received a 25g tube of this in a beauty box (Glossybox) sometime ago, and ended up taking the hand cream to work and leaving on my desk. I had used some of their products in the past and find them to be good quality, and hand creams are always useful. The Hand Therapy cream is available in sixteen different scents. CRABTREE & EVELYN I always thought of Crabtree & Evelyn as a long establish brand with a bit of an ‘old lady’ reputation. I had been gifted some of their bath and shower products in the past and really liked them, as their floral scents can be very modern. However I was still surprised that the brand was only established in 1972 by American Cyrus Harvey. The name was inspired by 17th century British naturalist John Evelyn and the Crab Apple Tree, which is also British, and the tree that founded all other cultivated apple trees. This is to represent natural goodness within the brand. They now have over 500 stores internationally. In spite of their implied Britishness the company has been owned by a Malaysian company from 1996, and a Hong Kong based one since 2012. At the end of last year it was taken over by a Chinese investment firm Ethically their website claims that they do not test the finished product on animals nor use during the ‘formulation process’ (whatever that means). They do not specify regarding individual ingredients being tested. They also use the ‘cop out’ clause of “we do not submit our products for animal testing by third ...

Philosophy Purity 13/01/2016

Pure and Simple

Philosophy Purity Introduction I received a 30 ml bottle of purity cleanser by skincare brand Philosophy in a beauty box that I ordered last year. I had never tried any of their products before so was keen to see what this would be like. It is a 3-in-1 cleanser, so can cleanse, tone and remove make-up in one. This suits me as I prefer to keep the number of products I bung on my skin (and wash into our waterways) to a minimum. I think I good cleanser should be able to remove make up too! It also claims to be suitable for eyes, as well as face, so I imagine it to be fairly gentle. The Philosophy website claims that it uses natural oils to help condition the skin and is fragrance free, Philosophy The brand was founded in the US in 1996 by an American business woman with much experience in the cosmetics and skincare industry. Her background was in medical skincare, and products sold through dermatologists and plastic surgeons. The idea of Philosophy was to bring similar healing products to the mainstream. 'Purity made simple' (to give the cleanser its full name) was one of the first products sold by the brand. Philosophy claim to be cruelty free and my own online research seems to confirm that. It is a legal requirement that skincare products sold in the EU are not tested on animals, but Chinese laws require animal testing on products sold there. As far as I can tell Philosophy do not sell in China and genuinely do not test on animals (although this could change). They use a few animal ...

Too Faced Better than Sex Mascara 11/01/2016

Better Than Some!

Too Faced Better than Sex Mascara Introduction I received this from a lovely fellow Ciao member who received it in a beauty box, but wasn't a mascara user. I was delighted to try it as my favourite Chanel mascara was at the end of its life, and the price didn't suit my economy drive. The product comes boxed in pink and gold packaging. My bottle was 4.8g. I had never used anything from Too Faced before, so was looking forward to trying a new mascara. The Claims Well, for a start the mascara's name 'claims' to be better than sex, so somewhat dubious to start with! However I may let that one slide as more of a marketing ploy. It also claims to give '1944% more volume'. I'm not sure how this is quantified or whether their maths is a bit dodgy. It also claims, that in a consumer study, 100% saw dramatic volume, 100% longer lashes and 90% saw a dramatic look with just one coat. Who? Too Faced was founded in California in 1998 by two guys who had worked on department store cosmetic counters, and were frustrated by how seriously the cosmetic industry took itself at the time. They wanted to bring femininity and fun back in to make up – with girlie packaging, crazy product names and a pink website – and have fast grown to be an established brand in the UK, Ireland and North America. Ingredients and Ethics Water/aqua/eau, Synthetic Beeswax, Paraffin, Glyceryl Stearate, Acacia Senegal Gum, Butylene Glycol, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Wax, Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Polybutene, VP/Eicosene Copolymer, Cera ...

Best Western Reigate Manor Hotel, Reigate 05/01/2016

To the Manor Born

Best Western Reigate Manor Hotel, Reigate INTRODUCTION I recently stayed at the Best Western Reigate Manor Hotel for the second time. Both times were to attend a Christmas Party/Ball in one of their function rooms and a stay over. The area began life as part of a late eighteenth century family estate, whilst some land was acquired and others sold, the part that is now the hotel was first opened as such in 1924 as Brokes Hotel. It was requisitioned by the War Office during the second world war to house troops from the South Eastern Command who at one time were led by Lt. General Sir Bernard Montgomery (later Field Marshall and something of a national hero after his successful campaign in Egypt). Post War the hotel was in severe disrepair and changed hands a number of times, before being renamed the Reigate Manor Hotel in 1974. CQK Ltd took the hotel over in 1999, I am unclear when it came under the Best Western banner, but all BW hotels remains independently owned and run. The hotel has 50 rooms and various conference facilities. LOCATION The Hotel is situated on the A217 just a few miles from the M25 Junction 8. Although I have never had cause to go into Reigate, I understand it is jut a mile or so down the hill. The nearest railway station (Reigate) is also here. It is not far from Gatwick Airport, so this could be a good stopover if you want to avoid impersonal airport hotels. It’s also driving distance from Epsom Downs racecourse, Chessington World of Adventures, and the North Downs with a range of ...

Roberts Radio Stream 217 23/12/2015

Rockin' Around the Radio

Roberts Radio Stream 217 Roberts Radio Stream217 DAB/FM/Wi-Fi Internet Radio with Music Player and Spotify Connect INTRODUCTION My previous digital radio was a Nectar points purchase about ten years ago, which gave me limited scope for choice. As it was a promotion I got it for the equivalent of £45 in points instead of £90, so I wasn’t too worried but it was an ugly, bulky looking thing cluttering up my sideboard, and not one of the modern or retro designs. Connection to DAB was unreliable and I am unsure if this was the radio or if it was because I lived in a dip. In the process of decorating and replacing furniture at home, I did think about getting a nicer radio, but there always seems better use for my funds. As luck would have it a marginally more attractive Roberts radio came up on my Amazon Vine* list and I snapped it up. ROBERTS The Roberts Radio Company was founded in 1932 to make portable radios and has been going strong ever since with two Royal warrants to its name (the first awarded back in 1942), although now is a subsidiary of the Glen Dimplex group. There ‘Revival’ DAB radios channelled their now iconic 1950s box radio. My mum had one in orange from before I was born. It became redundant as it didn’t have an FM receiver, let alone a DAB one (it could only receive programmes on AM or LW), but it still worked if you could find a programme that broadcast on those frequencies. Thus I was confident that this radio was going to be reliable at least. PRICE AND AVAILABILITY The radio ...

Nails Inc Gel Effect Nail Polish 17/12/2015

Effective Gel

Nails Inc Gel Effect Nail Polish Introduction I received this Nails Inc Gel Effect nail polish to try from Amazon. I have used the brand before and they are pretty well known. Previously I had only used their regular polish and had been a bit disappointed with how it had lasted. For special occasions I like to get my nails done professionally and have been getting gel nail polish applied as this lasts a lot longer then regular polish. Of course, getting it done professionally can cost money and as my work Christmas Party was quite early this year I was happy to use this for the party and get by nails done properly for the more fun parties later in the year and over to New Years Eve. I was interested to see how well this would last, both in comparison to professional gel colours, and regular nail polish. Nails Inc The company was founded 15 years by a former fashion editor for Tatler who felt that there was a gap in the market in the UK for American style nail bars. As well as there own stores, you can buy their polishes in various other high street stores such as Boots, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer. Online suppliers include Amazon, and My 14ml bottle retails for £15. About the Polish As mentioned, professional gel polish lasts a lot longer then a normal polish and it also usually has a higher shine. When done professionally you need to dry them under a UV light and they also need to be soaked off, which is time consuming. This product can be applied just like any ...

Clinique Liquid Facial Soap Mild 03/12/2015

No Soap Opera - A drama free face wash.

Clinique Liquid Facial Soap Mild Introduction A while back I treated myself to a couple of Clinique bits during their Bonus Time offer at Boots (they have them twice a year in all stores where there are Clinique counters). This time I got a pretty patterned tin (which I told myself will be useful – I just haven't decided for what) and a range of Clinique make up and skincare items. One of those items was a 30ml tube of liquid facial soap. I had use the facial soap bar before, but not the liquid version. I liked the bar, but it got slick and mucky in the soap dish and although it lasted forever, I tended to throw it away before then as I was fed up with the space it took up on my sink. Clinique Clinique was founded in the United States in the late 1960s, and was a subsidiary of the Estee Lauder group. It was one of the first allergy tested, dermatologically based skincare brands, and was no tested on animals. I have been using their products for a very long time now, and I have tried a variety of their skincare and cosmetics products. However, with a few exceptions, I am not really loyal to them will all products and mix and match between Clinique and other brands. It is worth keeping an eye out for their twice-yearly Bonus Time promotions where you purchase two items (one must be skincare and sometimes foundation) and get a bag of assorted products for free which often include mini moisturisers or cleansers (travel sized) or eye shadows and mascaras. Ethics: According to their website “ We do not ...

AEG AG3103 Ergorapido BRC 25/11/2015

Sticking it to my Floors

AEG AG3103 Ergorapido BRC Introduction I had for many years a Dyson animal cylinder vacuum cleaner, which I used around my flat. I kept to a cylinder as I only had the storage space for a short cleaner. It was good at picking up all the unseen bits of dust, but used to frustrate me at failing to pick visible cotton threads or bits of fluff. If any of you, like me, have long hair, you’ll also know that it was a challenge to pick up my lost hairs with any vacuum. I used to collect by hand and feed manually into its jaws, or into the bin. It was also very heavy and was a pain in the bum to manoeuvre the cleaner behind the hose, without bashing into a table leg or skirting board. Mostly my flat (currently) is carpeted, with lino in the kitchen and tiles on the bathroom floor. I was very fortunate to receive this vacuum cleaner to test free of charge. AEG Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft (which is German for General Electricity Company), or AEG as it is better known, was founded in Berlin in 1883 as a manufacturer of electrical products such as motors or generators.. After the turn of the century they changed their philosophy to be more innovative and to make form play as big a part as function in their products. After various takeovers in the 1980s, the company was closed in 1996 and brand rights were taken over by Electrolux in 2005. Goods can be manufactured by any other company under the AEG brand name, under licence. Products produced today include domestic goods such as fridges, ovens ...

Duracell Mobile Back-Up Battery 18/11/2015


Duracell Mobile Back-Up Battery Duracell 10200 mAh Power Bank Back-Up Battery for Smartphones INTRODUCTION I am fortunate that my smartphone (a Sony Xperia Z3 compact) has a decent battery life, although my usage sometimes (on weekdays for example) is generally low. However I find when I am out and about and take lots of photos, read on the Kindle app or listen to music then it can drop, and I've had a few close shaves (New Year's Eve for example with a billion blurry photos of people pulling faces, and mis-aimed selfies). When this product popped up on my Amazon Vine* list, I thought it would be a worthwhile product to have. It says it is also suitable for tablets. DURACELL Back in the 1920s scientist Samuel Ruben and manufacturer Philip Rogers Mallory combined their ideas and expertise to develop a specific requirement of Rubin’s. They went on to develop the first alkaline battery and form the Mallory Battery Company. Whilst the Duracell website is hazy on the details of how this became Duracell, I was interested to read that the iconic Duracell bunny first made it’s appearance in 1973. Other sources inform me that Gillette bought the brand, and subsequently Proctor & Gamble, the current owners. For me, Duracell seem to be a very established and respected brand who are renowned for making quality batteries that last that little bit longer. My ‘battery box’ under the kitchen sink has plenty of half packs of Duracell batteries (usually AA or AAA) bought on offer as they tend to be a bit pricier. This ...

Cailler L'Art du Brut Milk Chocolate 16/11/2015

Posh Fruit & Nut

Cailler L'Art du Brut Milk Chocolate Introduction I love chocolate. Whilst in most other situations I prefer savoury to sweet (I’d rather have a starter than a dessert for example), I make exceptions for chocolate. I am no brand snob however and am just as happy with a bar or Dairy Milk or a Wispa as I am with a fancy flavoured bar of Green and Blacks. I’m not a big biscuit eater either, but I will eat biscuits if they have chocolate on them. Basically I have to try very hard not to eat chocolate all the time, and to be fair, I’m usually quite good. I was recently sent this Cailler L’Art Du Brut Milk Chocolate (they also do a plain/dark version) to try through the Amazon Vine programme. Cailler The company was founded by Alexandre-Louis Cailler in 1898, in Switzerland. The claim to use only the best ingredients and use the Nestle Cocoa Plan to ensure plantations are ecologically sound and sustainable, as well as benefiting the producers through a fair price (according to them). The milk comes from local cows on their doorstep. There are videos on their website if you want further information : They manufacture boxed chocolates as well as tablets/bars. Nestle are not a popular brand due to their aggressive marketing of their baby milk formula in countries where clean, fresh water and sterilisation equipment is not always available (not to mention they miss out on the natural nutrients and protection from their mother’s milk) and for that reason many people choose to boycott ...

Wacom Bamboo Spark Gadget Case 10/11/2015

Spark Your Imagination

Wacom Bamboo Spark Gadget Case WACOM BAMBOO SPARK GADGET CASE INTRODUCTION As a member of Amazon Vine* this product came up on my list. I had heard of these type of products before, through friends who are designers, but had not used them. For the unfamiliar, this is the blurb on Amazon: “Bamboo Spark Pocket is a Digital Notebook designed to capture your handwritten notes in digital form that will work with cloud services enabling you to share and/or edit your notes”. Basically it is a grey plastic wallet with a notebook, pen and Bluetooth that transfers your designs or handwritten notes from the pad onto your phone or tablet by magic (or Bluetooth most likely). WACOM Wacom are an established technology brand that work towards making the world more creative (according to their website) as far as digital technology goes (movies, photo editing, mobile and tablet accessories) since 1983. Their head office is in Japan and they have subsidiaries in a number of other countries, their European HQ has been in Germany since 1988. My only experience is with their design pen/tablet tools through a graphic designer ex-boyfriend and through my own workplace. We do Computer Aided Design (CAD) in my workplace, and even though I am not a designer myself, I have had some basic on-the-job training to be able to use/amend some of the end results. I was briefly provided with an electronic pad and pen, but it wouldn't ‘talk’ to each other and was sent back and never replaced (I used a mouse after that), I have to say I ...

Cath Kidston Rose Manicure Set 04/11/2015

Everything's Coming Up Roses.

Cath Kidston Rose Manicure Set I received this product as a gift. I do love Cath Kidston products, and generally like rose scents so I was pleased with this. CATH KIDSTON Cath Kidston is a British designer who has been inspired by her English country chintz filled childhood. An early job working with antique fabrics helped develop her Modern Vintage concept which featured in her first shop, in London's leafy suburb of Holland Park in 1993. She developed her first range of home textiles and the range has since expanded to include stationery, china, toiletries, fashion and accessories as well as now being established in eighteen countries, mostly in the Middle and Far East where such quintessentially English designs are increasingly popular. I have often admired her range, but generally find the housewares to be a little pricey. THE PRODUCT An attractive shiny cardboard box with a plastic window. The box has a base in a traditional style pink rose design. Inside is a moulded plastic tray containing a neat 50ml tube of hand cream, a 30ml jar of cuticle cream and a small floral patterned nail file. As soon as you take the plastic casing off you can smell the rose scent, so all is good so far! The box should be recyclable (according to the base), but I am assuming the plastic part will have to go to landfill, it isn't clear. HAND CREAM The 50ml tube has a matching pink rose design to the outer packaging, and Cath Kidston's logo on the front. It is quite small, so would work well in your handbag and ...
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