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Hello there! I hope to get around reviewing, reading & commenting as much as possible in 2012 and get to know some of the community, so please feel free to mail me or 'circle' me to say hello! I also post my reviews to DooToo under 'PlaysNicely'!

Reviews written

since 09/02/2011


Starting with Chickens (Starting with ...) - Katie Thear 16/10/2012

Starting With Chickens: A Beginners Guide ~ the title tells all!

Starting with Chickens (Starting with ...) - Katie Thear Yes, the next step in our aim to simplify our lives and to be a little more self-sufficient is to get chickens. They are due to be with us in a couple of weeks and in the meantime this book is proving to be something of a gem ~ at least in the theoretical sense. Once we actually get the chickens I suspect that this book will be firmly by my side and not see a lot of shelf life! ~ What I love ~ * Author & writing style: This book is written by an enthusiast who actually remembers what it was like to be a beginner. So many experts (on any topic) assume too much about what you might already know and, if they don't, tend to have such a patronising tone within the information they are passing on, that it's hard to stick with the book long enough to get the info you want. Not so Katie Thear. She writes in a concise, factual tone which is hard to take offence from, even when she is passing on something which is basic common sense. Katie Thear's expertise is well recognised: she is a regular writer for the monthly magazine Country Smallholding. * Content: The book is well planned, to ensure that nothing is forgotten. Basic information is arranged across 14 sections: ~ Introduction This is very concise, factual and easy to read. It points out several issues which are vital to know when considering whether to keep chickens, so you don't have to get half way through the book before finding that your plans might be thwarted! There is also a very sensible 'Are Chickens for You?' Pros ...

Argos Value White Power Hand Mixer 15/10/2012

A budget buy you can't beat (but you can beat with it)!

Argos Value White Power Hand Mixer One consequence of some recent health difficulties is that my love of cake making had to slide because it became just too difficult to get the old butter / sugar / egg beating done properly without causing myself problems ~ much to the family's dismay. Without the cash for a complete food processor, my light-bulb moment came when I realised that this little hand mixers are now available without cumbersome bowls and stands (as in my mum's old food mixer from days of yore, which seemed to take up most of her cupboard space). The reduced size of these appliances has happily led to a reduced cost and, joy of joys, require me to do no more than just hold onto the thing whilst it makes up my cakes! So, I snapped up this value brand option from Argos during their recent sale and put it immediately to the test! Good points: * Arrived from Argos Direct well packaged, so no damage (not something to be taken for granted with many 'direct' purchases from a variety of companies). Housed within a box, with each item within plastic. There are four different parts: the hand mixer, two separate beaters which you attach to the mixer by hand, and a well insulated electric cord which is attached to the hand-mixer at one end and is secured to a three point plug at the other. A comprehensive instruction manual also comes with the mixer. * White 'no frills' basic appearance which is fine ~ nothing there to dislike at all! The hand mixer has a plastic body which feels reassuringly solid (not ...

Argos Value Slow Cooker 09/10/2012

1.5 litre Value Slow Cooker ~ ideal budget buy for meals for two

Argos Value Slow Cooker After years of using my hefty 6 litre slow cooking monster to feed an extended family, the numbers in our household had diminished, but my desire for the convenience of using a slow cooker had not. Having hunted around a bit and been horrified by the prices of some of the smaller, branded slow cookers, I had a quick check on Argos Direct. The item arrived boxed, with additional internal packaging and arrived undamaged from transit, which I was very pleased about considering the breakable nature of the pot and lid. This 1.5 litre slow cooker is one of the more basic in any range, but at under £9 it was just right for us in terms of budget and function. It's a no-frills budget buy (as you'd expect) ~ this version has just a light to show that the power is on and there are no heat settings such as HIGH, LOW or KEEP WARM, this cooker just completes the job on a single heat setting. As with all slow cookers, ingredients need to be hot when they are put into the cooker and, with the speed with which the casserole that I put into it started bubbling merrily away to itself, I'd say that this single setting seems to be of a general HIGH temperature. The heating unit does feel flimsy ~ I get the feeling it could easily be dented if you were a bit heavy handed with it, so I always stow it away carefully when not in use so that it can't be knocked. Additionally, whether because the unit's a bit flimsy or because the heat setting is relentlessly 'HIGH', the unit does seem to get a bit ...

Boots Aqueous Cream 01/05/2012

Calling all gardeners - a soothing salve for 'outdoor' skin!

Boots Aqueous Cream *** What it is & what it does *** Aqueous cream is a pharmacy-based moisturiser - a "dermatological cream for the symptomatic relief of dry skin". Aqueous cream is non-perfumed and lanolin-free and can help to soften and soothe dry skin conditions. The product comes in a sturdy tub with a screw on lid. My most recent purchase from Boots was a 500g tubs for just £4.05. So, if you are out in your garden a lot now that Spring is properly here, and are finding that your hands are suffering from your hard-work outside, forget fancy, perfumed hand-creams - Aqueous cream is the over-the-counter alternative which will give your hands the equivalent TLC that they have been giving to your plants! *** What's to love *** * Because it's unperfumed, this cream acts as a 'unisex' handcream, great for gardeners of both genders! * Unlike many perfumed handcreams, Aqueous cream is not sticky and a little goes an awfully long way. * Because a little goes a long way, you really don't need much - the 500g tub offers real value for money because it really does seem to last forever. * Because of the size of the tub and therefore the size of the lid, it's fairly easy to manage the lid even if your hands are still wet from washing. However, we tend to loosen the lid before tottering up the garden, making it easier to manage once we are back in and have washed our hands - just dip into the cream and you're done! * Again because of its size, this tub is easily stowed under the sink ready for ...

Avon Naturals Energising Ginger and Mango 2 in 1 shampoo & conditioner 01/05/2012

Avon's 2in1 that's a bargain buy for your barnet!

Avon Naturals Energising Ginger and Mango 2 in 1 shampoo & conditioner *** What it is *** I purchase the larger 750ml bottles of this product when it is on offer, so as well as its shampoo qualities, I'm also reviewing the cost-effectiveness of this larger bottle! This Avon product is a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, suitable for all hair types. This product is part of Avon's Naturals range and it offers the essences of mango and ginger whose properties help the product to not only "cleanse and revitalise" your hair, but also to smell pretty darn good too! The bottle is a sensible design, particularly given that the 750ml bottle's a large one. Heftier around the bottom then tapering in upwards towards the top, the bottle (not me!) then has a flat top so that you can stand it on its top as needed for getting the ends of the bottle out - maximising value and minimising waste! The opening is a flip top and there's a surprisingly small hole through which to squeeze the product onto your hand. The scent of the product is more mango than ginger, in my opinion, there's a real fruitiness but with just a hint of the warmth of the ginger, both when you smell the bottle and when it goes on your hair. *** What it does *** The combination of shampoo and conditioner in this 2in1 seems to work very well - you get the lather that you would want from a shampoo, to give that fresh clean-hair feeling, but you also get a surprising amount of conditioning. With other brands of 2in1 I have often had to put on additional conditioner in order to be able to get ...

Sony Walkman NWZ-B162 2 GB 21/02/2012

A good value walkman that delivers expected Sony sound quality!

Sony Walkman NWZ-B162 2 GB This was a gift purchase for my husband as he's never had an MP3 player to call his own! I wanted specifically to buy him a Sony model because my own mp3 is an older model Sony NWD B105 and I love both its reliability and its sound quality. I chose this Sony NWZB162 model for my husband principally because it has a clip facility, which is the one thing that I wish my own mp3 had! As you know, I'm not technically minded, so I'll just give you the basic blurb and then speak for how we have found this mp3. Product: Flash-based digital player with voice recorder function. Size: HWD = 2.3; 9; 1.5 cm Weight: 28g Colours: Main enclosure is black, but model is available in black, red, blue varieties. Memory: High speed USB with Flash memory of 2GB. Sound: Stereo output; bass boost to audio plus 5 band equaliser. Display: LCD display and illumination. Features: USB memory; Zap feature (to whizz you through song selection); Quick Charge; Power Illuminator; detachable clip and binaural headphones. Manufacturers given run time is up to 18 hours and recharge time is 70m mins. *** Playing preparation *** * The mp3 comes in a kind of boxed / plastic packaging (for rack display) which is protective, but also easy to open. Because this was a surprise anniversary / Valentine's gift for my husband to take on a trip he was making, I wanted to charge up the mp3 and add some of his music to it before giving it to him and the packaging was ideal for allowing me to do this - it was possible to ...

Clarity CPF7-15 7'' Digital Photo Frame 10/02/2012

A budget buy that's a real gift!

Clarity CPF7-15 7'' Digital Photo Frame I'm a great one for having my photos around me and the move into the digital age has made me shift from traditional frames and photo albums to more digital means of both storage and display. As such, this frame was given to me as part of this shift and, although I have to say that I haven't made the maximum use of it, it gave me the idea of an on-going gift for someone else which has benefited her no end, so let me explain ... *** What it is *** * Comprises of a basic plastic frame: 7 inch visible screen with resolution of 480 x 234 and facility for either memory card and / or USB memory for photo storage. A power adaptor and instruction booklet also come in the box. Do be aware that you need to purchase a memory card or USB memory stick separately - although these can be sourced incredibly cheaply now! * Compared to some of these frames available out there, this Clarity model is a basic brand, which does little apart from store and display your photos, although it does have a calendar and clock facility. However, for a value brand, the display quality of the images and the additional features of clock and calendar actually make this a good value item. *** Using the frame *** * The frame itself can be wall mounted (the holes are moulded into the back unit for fixing onto screws) or there is a flap that pulls out so that the frame can stand onto a flat surface. The whole unit does need to be plugged in to run, so this needs to be borne in mind if you do want to wall mount ...

Trust SP-3150 UK 10/02/2012

Good sound quality - even it's own humming!

Trust SP-3150 UK This review is on the speaker set which we have in our living room. To get this review in the right context, you need to know that we don't have a TV so all of our entertainment (DVDs, music etc) is played on the laptop, with the sound being played through this speaker system. Therefore, we not only rely on this set for improved sound quality of our audio / visual (as everyone knows that laptop speakers are not the best) but we also give this speaker set very regular use - daily in most instances I should say. This set is my husband's set (my own Logitech speaker set is in the dining room) and this Trust set came to us because he purchased it for his eldest daughter when she went off to uni. Interestingly, she did not get on with it - could not get it to work properly with her laptop set up. As a gift, he swapped it for something else for her, but he kept this set to use with his PC and since we've been together we have used it with our laptop, as described above and it has it worked fine for us, so this review is on how we have found this set in daily use. *** What it is *** This is a three item set: * A wooden sub-woofer, HWD: 19.5; 16; 18.5 cm (approx) which houses all of the controls. Power output 15 watts. * Two speakers, HWD: 9; 8;8 cm (approx) - slightly abstract cubes! * The usual input / output wires are attached to the wooden control box * All items are black and all speakers / box have four little rubber feet at their bases to help stability and to avoid marks ...

Canon PowerShot A400 10/02/2012

A stalwart camera - but already something of a dinosaur!

Canon PowerShot A400 If you've read my other review on the Sony Cybershot camera that I've ended up using lately, then you'll know that this Canon PowerShot A400 has been the digital piccy-taking love of my life in recent years! Now I'm not a technical person, so the fact that this camera has 3.2 mega pixels was not a criteria for me for choosing this camera, although it has helped with the image quality that I have enjoyed from it! So, this review is not a technical know-how review, it's purely on how I have found this camera in everyday use! *** What's to like *** * Although this has all the digital components that you would expect, overall this camera is a very basic digital model, but this does mean that it's very easy to use. For me, it made the transfer from 'film' cameras to digital very easy, from the logical and well designated buttons on the back to the very easy set up and transfer of digital images to your PC or laptop. * Image quality has been absolutely fine. There is the facility to zoom in or widescreen your photos, which makes having the right set-up very easy. I like the fact that you have to do this manually for yourself - the automatic settings I have been subjected to with other digital cameras have led to some very disappointing results from those one-off moments. With this camera though, I felt in control and that the pictures reflected what I felt I had seen and 'set up' rather than the camera doing an alternative 'thing'. - particularly where an automatic setting may ...

Cath Kidston Hampton Rose Haberdashery Scissors 09/02/2012

Cath Kidston scissors in a case: not just for happy haberdashers

Cath Kidston Hampton Rose Haberdashery Scissors OK, I make no secret about my love of all things pretty, pastel and floral! No surprises then that my household scissors of choice are my CK haberdashery scissors! However, whilst these are marketed as 'haberdashery' scissors and indeed are useful as part of your sewing case or knitting bag, they also have a wider use for all of those little snipping jobs around the house. What you are buying is essentially a pair of handy-sized scissors within a PVC cotton coated case. The pictured item offers the lovely Hampton Roses design, but CK also offer a range of other designs, for example they are currently selling Chelsea Roses as well as this Hampton Roses design. Seasonally, CK also offers a 'fun' version of the case and scissors - this season it's an owl, with the rings of the scissors forming the eye-outline to the eyes on the case - very cute! The floral designs also tend to change seasonally and these often match a range of other sewing or knitting accessories, useful if you want to build up a set. The case measures 18.6 x 8.4 cm and accommodate the scissors perfectly. It's easy to slide the scissors in and out but the scissors don't necessarily slide out of their own accord - perfect to help avoid accidents if you are carrying them around! The case is well put together and seems very durable - certainly I've been one of my sets of these for approximately two years and the case is showing no signs of wear or tear. It probably helps that the case has a PVC coating, making it ...

Laura Ashley 2 Arm Trailing Floral Hurricane Lamp 08/02/2012

Laura Ashley Hurricane lamp: lovely looking but not lovely to use

Laura Ashley 2 Arm Trailing Floral Hurricane Lamp This was part of my Christmas gift from my hubby, because I've wanted something more substantial (and pretty) to use as part of the dinner table setting and general household use - we like candles! Although we have a faithful old candelabra, our house is very draughty and the candles blow out easily, so I was really drawn to the hurricane lamp design of this Laura Ashley model because it would not only be more effective against our indoor draughts, but would also make the lamp useful for having meals out in the garden in the summer (weather permitting)! ***** What it is ***** * A cream coloured two arm candle holder with decorative florals trailing along the arms. There are two glass hurricane lamps, with fluting-type shape, which clip around the candle holders, to protect the candles from draughts and knocks. * HWD: 45; 31; 12 CM (max) * Sturdy circular base, which is covered in a rubber-like material, to help add stability. * I'm not sure of what the actual candle holder is made of, but it is a metal type, which has been painted cream. The fact it is metal means that it feels very solid (quite substantial in fact) and is less prone to being easily knocked. ***** What we've found .. ***** Looks: Good, both when it is being used and not. It's certainly decorative enough to have on your table / mantelpiece even if you're not into your candle-lit dinners - it could certainly be used to accessorise a room if you wish. The arms & base are easy to wipe clean, so don't ...

Logitech S-220 06/02/2012

Logitech S220 speaker system: plenty here for your money!

Logitech S-220 These speakers were purchased as an 'add-on' to my old desktop PC system, to help improve the sound quality and overall audio experience when using the PC. It has to be said, that not only did these speakers do exactly that, and improved the sound quality immeasurably, but they have also proved particularly durable, outlasting the PC and now working very well with either mine or my husband's laptops. Now I'm not a technical expert, so I will just be commenting on our experience of these alongside the basic technical information that came with it, asterisked as follows, and of course the value for money that the set offers: * Logitech 2.1 stereo speaker system which offers 17 W RMS The system comes as four basic items: 2 speakers, each HWD: approx 15; 7; 6 cm (max); amplifier HWD 19;9;26 cm (max) and round control pod - 5cm across; 2.5 cm high (max). All items are black and are very discrete when set amongst your computer hardware. The amplifier is just the right size to tuck out of sight on the floor and the wires supplied are long enough that you can have everything else at desktop level if you wish. We don't have a study or anything so we use this set in the dining room. We have the box on the floor, speakers on top of my husband's grandma's bureau (not really an antique, but lovely dark old wood) and the control pod inside the flap of the bureau. One of the things we love about this set is that although it has several components, the technology doesn't 'take over' - ...

The Kitchen Revolution - Rosie Sykes 03/02/2012

The Kitchen Revolution: nothing revolting here!

The Kitchen Revolution - Rosie Sykes Ok, so my headline was a little play on the words in the title, because a revolution usually implies something (or someone) revolting in some way and trust me there's nothing 'revolting' in this book, which is probably my most used cook book! The idea: The book is based on several current issues surrounding household meal planning: a) To save time (both in organisation, shopping and time spent in the kitchen). b) To save money (through being organised; through buying seasonally fresh and therefore cheaper fruit and veg; through avoiding waste). c) To avoid wasteful behaviour: both of the reputed third of food which is thrown away weekly by UK families, including wasting left-overs and of money / pollutants, by purchasing locally to avoid wasteful transport miles. Discussions between three friends, Rosie Sykes, Polly Russell and Zoe Heron - a cook, a foodie and a documentary producer who hated time spent in the kitchen, to address these issues through trial-and-error recipes and menu planning resulted in the creation of this lesser-known but extremely worthy 'cook book' (I've used quote marks because to me the book is much more than your run-of-the-mill recipe book in many ways)! The content: There's a useful introduction at the front of the book, which is not only useful because it gives you lots of tips about the reasons for creating the book, following the structure of the book, organising a store-cupboard and shopping, but also because it isn't overly long! I found many ...

Thermos Rome Carafe Chrome 02/02/2012

Thermos Rome Carafe - table-top elegance and hot drinks on tap!

Thermos Rome Carafe Chrome This is the one item that I'd be hard pushed to be without in my day to day life: my Thermos Rome Carafe - I've been using it every day since I purchased mine just over a year ago and it's still going strong, being used every day as my on-the-go tea pot! What it does: keeps hot drinks hot for up to 6 hours and cold drinks cold for up to 12 hours. What I like about it: * It's not one of those ugly push-top table-top 'airpot' monsters! This carafe actually looks like an elegant jug / carafe and not like a flask with a tap on it. Does not look out of place in the working environment, nor does it look ugly if you take it out into the garden for a picnic or if eating at an outside table. * It's easy to use, fill up, cap on and then press the button and pour when you want a drink! I just stick my red-bush tea bag in there, fill it up and enjoy my tea 'breaks' as I work. * The chrome design means that it's easy enough to give it a wipe around to keep it clean, so it stays looking good over a considerable period of time even if it's being kept on the busiest kind of desk. * The large spout is actually quite useful for me as I'm quite clumsy and shaky handed, anything smaller and I'd possibly miss the cup, whereas I can ensure that this spout is clearly in place before pressing that button. To that end, I'd possibly suggest that someone who's not very dexterous might be able to use this carafe without difficulty. * As with all Thermos items, you don't submerge it in water for ...

Timotei Vivid Colour Conditioner 01/02/2012

Also good on 'natural' coloured hair - but watch out for tangles!

Timotei Vivid Colour Conditioner I was drawn to trying this product because I am currently experiencing a whole new head of hair thanks to Timotei's 'Golden Highlights' shampoo. Normally I'd buy 'matching' shampoo and conditioners but due to the substitution policies of online grocery shopping, I've not yet been able to match either shampoo or conditioner across both of these Timotei 'colour care' products. Still, Timotei is a trusted brand and I do like the emphasis that is on the natural ingredients of their products. This one is no exception, with the blend of acacia oil, camelia extract and rooibos leaf extract, for anti-oxidant and colour care protection, presented through a thick, creamy textured, pale pink conditioner. Now, my hair too is all natural: it's going through the not so subtle change from auburn to grey, to the extent that my fringe now has a whole grey / silver / white section (depending on the light) and, after the success with the 'Golden Highlights' shampoo, I felt that a colour care conditioner might support the shampoo's good work in calming down the coarse greys that are naturally highlighting my barnet. In addition to this, these greys need protecting from the elements as much as salon coloured hair, as they seem very porous of pollutants, seem to frizz much more quickly in hot / dry environments and seem to have no natural shine of their own. So how has this conditioner performed? SCENT: From the bottle: The camelia scent is pretty dominant, but I'd say that it comes across ...
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