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I've been here a very long time and even though I've been dormant the last year, I will miss Ciao enormously.

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since 26/12/2005


Heritage Walk of Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad 03/01/2017

Walk the Walk

Heritage Walk of Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad There’s more to Ahmedabad than Gandhi In 2015 we spent a few days in the Gujarat city of Ahmedabad, not a place that’s normally considered very much of a tourist attraction. Aside from being the home of Mahatma Gandhi and more recently, the home city of prime minister Narendra Modi, it’s more famous for being a city with no alcohol and - until recently - almost no non-vegetarian food. If you’re looking for a party city, it’s unlikely to be Ahmedabad that you choose. We weren’t looking for a party city - so that was probably a good thing. We were looking for architecture and local colour and were drawn to the city by the chance to stay at a place called the French Haveli. If you are interested, you can find my review here on the site. Ahmedabad today is a large, sprawling city but the original old city was founded way back in 1411. Some might argue that the number one ‘must do’ for tourists in the city is a visit to Gandhi’s ashram, I’d disagree and say that probably the best thing to do in Ahmedabad is the Heritage Walk that’s organised every morning by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. This aims to introduce visitors - both Indian and foreign - to Ahmedabad’s special community housing concept; the Pols. It runs 360 days a year - taking time off during Diwali - and costs foreigners 100 rupees per person. At the time of our visit, that was about a pound (today maybe £1.25) There are also walks organised by one of the city’s heritage hotels - the so-called ‘House of MG’ ...

Jawbone UP2 28/12/2016

What are you getting UP2?

Jawbone UP2 Farewell Old Friend I am just about to take my Jawbone UP2 to a local store which accepts returns for Amazon and before it goes, I thought it only appropriate to pay a quiet little tribute to my little fitness comrade who has fallen in action. UP2 was a noble little fellow but his recent injuries mean he’s being ‘retired’ (or recycled or more likely sent to landfill) to make way for a new buddy, the Jawbone UP3. I bought him back in July and on Christmas Eve the loop on his strap snapped, rendering him at risk of dropping off and getting lost. I was straight online to chat to the nice people at Amazon and within a few minutes had a full refund promised and a postage label to return it to them. It took another half hour of dithering about until I had ordered a replacement and that has now arrived. Me and my wearables I have quite a chequered past with wearable fitness trackers that dates back a year and a half and has seen me plague those nice people at Amazon on a fairly regular basis. I bought a Fitbit Charge last summer and returned it twice for different reasons (strap falling apart, failure to hold charge) before Amazon refused to take it back a third time, less than a year after the start of all this, and so issued a full refund. By this time the Fitbit Charge was - unsurprisingly given its terrible track record for falling apart or falling off - no longer in production so I then invested my returned credit in a Fitbit Alta, which failed 100% to sync to any of my ...

VegTrug Poppy One Tier 07/08/2016

Veg growing without much weeding and absolutely no kneeling

VegTrug Poppy One Tier Vegging about We have quite a good sized garden and once we finally - after about 8 years of feeling kind of ‘temporary’ - decided we were going to stay for good, my husband got stuck in to making the garden the way he wanted it to be. Now every bed seems to be stuffed with plants and there’s never a dull moment if you’re looking for a weed to pull or something to tidy up. The problem I have is that hubby is the boss in the garden and he doesn’t much like the idea of growing vegetables. As far as he’s concerned, he can buy veg at Aldi without fighting bugs and beasts and he’d rather grow flowers and trees. He tried a couple of times, but caterpillars ate his cauliflowers and his courgettes turned out to be some kind of weird gourds and he rather lost the will to experiment further. Faced with his reluctance to grow vegetables, I took things into my own hands and bought some Veg Trugs, rationalising that I could plant a few things without encroaching on his beds. I may have justified their purchase by claiming they’d make perfect Christmas gifts for my parents and my sister, both of whom have very restricted growing space in their gardens. Of course, it was never really my intention to give them away. So What IS a Veg Trug and what’s the Poppy? The original Veg Trug concept is a sort of wooden raised bed on legs and it’s something you’d have to think very seriously about buying because they don’t come cheap and they’re quite bulky. I’d have liked one (or two) but even a ...

French Haveli, Ahmedabad 02/08/2016

Step back in time

French Haveli, Ahmedabad Some places move your soul I spend more nights a year in hotels than many people will spend in a lifetime but when I think really hard about the places I've been that really moved me, I can count the truly remarkable hotels that linger in the mind as probably no more than a dozen in my lifetime. The world is full of faceless chain hotels, so interchangeable that you wake up without a clue where you are but knowing exactly where they'll have hidden the hairdryer and what the shower gel will smell like but it doesn't always have to be like that. Sometime you really get lucky (or I like to think it's not so much luck as good research) and you find a place so perfect for you and so sublime that it seems like an enormous privilege that you got the chance to stay there. These are not always the really expensive and swanky hotels that cost a fortune and make you glad you're on expenses and my most recent 'find', a place I'd go back to in a heartbeat even though the city where it's situated is a bit low on normal 'attractions', is the French Haveli in Ahmedabad. Why Ahmedabad? I had pretty low expectations of Ahmedabad before I went there. I'd read a fantastic e-book about a guy following the England cricket team around India which utterly slated the place, perhaps most notably for having terrible food, no alcohol and a sense of open hostility – admittedly that's perhaps not entirely unexpected when the Barmy Army roll into town. When I told Indian friends that we were planning to ...

Philips HP 6522 Satin SOFT 31/07/2016

Fighting the Fuzz

Philips HP 6522 Satin SOFT Hair Today, Hair Tomorrow A particularly hirsute friend of mine once declared that past the age of forty, life was pretty much dominated by a battle to control hair that's growing where you don't want it to grow. Oddly, this was a male friend and at the time I thought to myself "Try being a woman. The whole fuzz-fixation starts somewhere around 14 and keeps going the rest of your life, the only difference being which bit of you is furry at different times!" I'm actually quite fortunate because despite having very dark hair, I'm the daughter of a woman with the least hairy legs you've ever seen and I'm not aware that my mum has ever done anything to shave or otherwise remove her leg hair. I can't put the absence of a lot of leg hair down entirely to genetics though as my sister looks like a little bear when she gets her legs out and is only known to shave them if she has a job interview. My nearly furless legs are down to the early adoption of epilator technology. After half a life time working my way through half a dozen different epilators, from the near-iconic 'Epilady' that was born on a kibbutz in Israel through to my latest Phillips epilator, my leg hairs have given up the fight and decided not to bother coming out to play much anymore. I can't blame them really. I never liked shaving and had a tendency to leave my ankles looking like I was self-harming and blood all over the bathroom, rejected Veet and Nair as smelling worse than week-old baby puke, found waxing ...

Belkin SurgeCube Surge Protector 27/07/2016

Made with Me in Mind

Belkin SurgeCube Surge Protector Small Objects of Desire There are some things in life that you only have to see to know that you want them and even though I get ribbed mercilessly whenever my colleagues see it, I love my Belkin SurgeCube Surge Protector. There will come a time, probably very soon - maybe it's already happening – when every new house will be built with wall sockets that will have both three pin plugs and USB charging points. If you're nifty at electrical DIY, you can even buy such sockets now and install them in your home. My parents just took delivery of their new camper van and even THAT has USB points. But since I'm highly unlikely to rewire my home (or ask my husband to rewire it), the closest I can get is my SurgeCube. The primary purpose of the cube SEEMS to be to protect your computer equipment from electrical surges. This is a bit like protecting your shoes from being robbed as you walk down the street; theoretically it could happen but in reality it's very unlikely that it will. I've never (touch wood) had surge damage but Belkin offer a £10,000 Connected Equipment Warrantee and 306 Joules of surge protection. You can get Belkin surge protection technology in a wide range of socket combinations from one socket up to eight, but the 'SurgeCube' format which combines 3 pin and USB sockets is only available in one or two 3-pin versions. Actually, even that's not entirely true because there is a one plug version WITHOUT the USB ports available too. Surge protection of convenience? So ...

Stoneglow Modern Apothecary Reed Diffuser 19/07/2016

Stone the Glows!

Stoneglow Modern Apothecary Reed Diffuser Stoneglow Apothecary I used to be very scathing about people who filled their homes with scented candles and diffusers. It seemed like a terrible waste of time and money to me and some smelled like cheap toilet cleaner. I really couldn't see the point. And then I got 'turned' about 15 months ago. I blame my friend in Massachusetts who gave me a couple of Bath and Body Works candles and started me off on this addiction, and of course Ciao stalwart, Nar2, who encouraged me to branch out and move on from candles to diffusers. I quickly came to several useful realisations. Firstly that it's actually quite nice to have your house smelling fragrant and secondly that if your house smells nice, people oddly seem to assume that it's probably cleaner than it is. See, once a slob, always a slob. And since my cleaner is currently having a bit of a breakdown (not caused by me or my house, I hasten to add), I've now got diffusers in all the bathrooms at home and at my flat. Oddly and inexplicably, my flat always used to smell of onions but now it smells of something much nicer. With the exception of one Shearer diffuser that really stank horribly and had to be thrown out because it was giving us headaches, I've pretty much got away without too many objections from my other half about the march of the diffusers. It probably helps that I put the most 'manly' one that I could find in his bathroom and didn't subject him to rosy flowery nonsense. Instead he has the Stoneglow Sandalwood and ...

Fitbit Charge 17/07/2016

How my Fitbit stopped being Fit after a Bit

Fitbit Charge Everybody's doing it Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past twelve months, you've probably not been able to miss the boom of fitness trackers – or as I like to think of it, in true Terminator style, 'the rise of the machines'. Many of us who'd balk at the thought of anybody knowing even the least private things about us, have effectively signed up to voluntarily have our activity tracked – a bit like volunteers checking out Group 4's capabilities in keeping an eye on prisoners on probation. Why do we do it? In the hope of finding something that will encourage us to be fitter, maybe to lose some weight but mostly just to make us MOVE more. I bought my Fitbit Charge last year in July from Amazon. They totally screwed up the delivery so it was late in arriving – earning me an extra month of Prime membership and a £5 discount voucher. When it comes to Amazon, it pays to complain – but MUCH more about that later. Why Fitbit? Nobody wants to back the next Betamax when everybody else is going VHS (middle aged reference that may mean nothing to the younger folk), or buy mini-discs only to find out that the industry skips to downloads. So when everybody around me was buying and raving about Fitbits, I followed like a sheep. Sometimes it does pay to jump on the bandwagon of the industry leader – and nobody really wants to explain that they're wearing a £19.99 cheap knock off from Group-on, do they? Why the Fitbit Charge? At the time of buying, the Fitbit Flex was the ...

UrbanVeda Reviving Day Cream 03/01/2016

Ring a Ring a Roses

UrbanVeda Reviving Day Cream Never look a bargain in the mouth A couple of years back I had a bunch of small sample tubes from Urban Veda which I bought through the website Latest in Beauty. I hated them and most went straight in the bin. I didn’t even give them away as I’d have been embarrassed to do so because they really were that awful. Then back in the summer another site I subscribe to - Youbeautydiscovery - had their day creams as an option for the monthly box. There wasn’t anything I fancied more so I picked the Rose + Botanics ‘Reviving Day Cream’. I wasn’t paying a lot and if I hated it as a moisturiser, I could always use it on my feet. Yes, that’s my approach to life. If I don’t want something on my face, put it as far away as possible. The product I received was a full sized jar and I have just finished using it. It’s not that it lasts an exceptionally long time - it’s just that I loved it SO much that I’ve been rationing it. Whilst I got it as an item in a box that was £6.95 delivered, it will cost me £18.99 to replace and I just can’t justify that when I have boxes and boxes of face creams already in the cupboard. The product is an “Ayurvedic botanical infusion to pamper tired and mature skin” but to you or me, that’s a nice smelling face cream. Ayurveda After 20 years of going to India, I have been spun so much blah blah about Ayurveda that I’m naturally quite sceptical about the claims given to many ayurvedic products. For those unfamiliar with the philosophy, it's a type of ancient ...

Pecksniff's Room Diffuser 01/01/2016

What does my house smell like? Like this

Pecksniff's Room Diffuser Soft and hard smellies Like so many addictions, scented candles start out as something you think you can ‘control’. You burn them for an hour or so ‘now and then’ for a little blast of scent and then suddenly, you’re buying them all the time and burning them for extended periods. And like so many addictions, those candles can be a ‘gateway’ to something harder - in this case the constantly whiffy diffusers that daintily (or not so daintily in some cases) scent your home. I resisted scented candles for many years but once I’d got hooked, it didn’t take long before I was onto reed diffusers. My first - and best so far - was the Pecksniff’s Iced Tea and Fig diffuser. I love it so much I have three in the cupboard because I’d hate to run out. I got my reed diffuser in a mixed box of Pecksiff’s goodies from the website (previously reviewed here on Ciao) which contained a couple of toiletry products, a scented candle and this diffuser. My box had problems due to being delivered in the middle of a heat wave which caused the candle to melt, flow out of the beaker and leak all over its box. I eventually managed to negotiate a replacement and suggested that if they didn’t have another candle handy, I’d be more than happy to take a diffuser. They agreed and sent me another. A few months later they offered a box with four products from the Iced Tea and Fig range for £19.99 and I bought two boxes. It lasts and lasts I’ve had my reed diffuser in the kitchen, carefully ...

Bahoma Ambiance Candle 15/11/2015

I'll draw a veil over the Lavender Veil candles

Bahoma Ambiance Candle Another Achica ‘find’ Bahoma is a brand I know only from seeing it on the online shopping site where it’s one of the manufacturers of fancy scented candles that pops up infrequently on special offer. I had never been tempted to pay quite as much as the site were asking - even when discounted - but a few months ago I spotted a pair of Bahoma candles in their so-called outlet section. At £11 for the two candles, I thought it was worth a try, especially since the regular price for these is £34 for each single-wick candle. If you are interested, hurry over to Achica where they are currently available for £9.50 each. Bahoma The founders of the London-based company did not originally plan to actually make their own candles. Like many before them, they thought they could just magic up the blends of fragrance oils and then let a contract manufacturer do the rest. Unfortunately - or fortunately depending on your perspective - their chosen contractor let them down just before their first big trade show and they were faced with making their own candles on the kitchen table. Subsequently they realised that if they made them themselves, they could have total control and so they gave up on the earlier model and started making hand blended and hand poured candles in London. From their base in London they grew and expanded the business and now export to 34 countries around the world from the UK to China with something like 40 different fragrances. They also branched out into ... 29/09/2015

Middle Class Bargain Hunting Bargain Hunters Knowing just how much the good folk of Ciao LOVE a good bargain, I was baffled to discover that nobody had ever reviewed the website here on the site. It’s not a new site, nor is it particularly ‘exclusive’ or understated. Looking at ‘another similar site that starts with D’, I was less surprised to find more than 30 reviews. So people know it but for some strange reason, they’ve not been writing about it. Let’s put that right now. Achica is a so-called ‘members only’ selling site but the membership criteria are not very exclusive. If you want to join, you’re in. Simple. What it does mean is that people who haven’t signed up to getting flooded with daily (or more) emails don’t get to browse the site. You can have a look at what’s on offer but the prices are only shown to those who are logged in. My title is a nod to my online buddy thedevilinme who regularly condemns the things I buy with the words "So middle class" and it's fair to say this site is a bit that way. It's not 'bargainous' in the Matalan or Poundland type way. It's not a bumper bottle of shampoo or babies' nappies for a quid - it's more £600 hand made rugs for £250 and discount Alessi and Bodum kitchenware. A lot of their bargains are only bargains if you know how ridiculously stupid the prices are 'supposed to be'. I’ve been a member of the site since May 2012 and I’ve had a total of 16 orders from them. I was really surprised it was so many when I checked my account as I tend ...

Desigual Treisy T-shirt 28/09/2015

Me and Tracey

Desigual Treisy T-shirt Do you Desigual? The Spanish clothing company Desigual is one of the most quirky and instantly recognisable fashion brands currently on the market. Those who know and love it can spot a Desigual item from a great distance. Those who don’t know the brand are likely to look at your new clothes and wonder what on earth has possessed you to buy something quite so bizarre. But isn’t that typical of fashion? I’ve always been rather fond of the quirky and I like to claim I ‘invented’ leggings before they ever were available in the market - although I did get ridiculed walking down the street in my tie-dyed old man’s thermals. The avant garde are seldom appreciated for their crazier mistakes and the greatest of those mistakes was to wear such things before the advent of Lycra. Saggy bum and crumpled knees (on the long johns, not on my body I should add) were never going to set the world on fire. In early July we went to Barcelona for a week and were lucky enough to find ourselves in the city in the middle of the Desigual summer sale. Barcelona is dripping in Desigual and I must have seen at least half a dozen branches of the store. Would I wear this stuff IN Spain? No, probably not, but outside Spain it’s fun and funky and likely to get admiring (or disbelieving) glances. Introducing Treisy My review today is of the Desigual Treisy T-shirt. I try not to pronounce that as Tracey but I fear it may well be just that. The challenge when shopping for Desigual is to find something ...

Lakeland Soup 'n' Sauce Storage Bags 06/09/2015

Getting Saucy in the Security Line

Lakeland Soup 'n' Sauce Storage Bags Scoring Points in the Security Line Frequent flyers come to know the joy that comes from the envy of others when they see your coolest and most innovative travel gear. There’s clearly no other explanation for the ridiculous money people spend on their luggage, gadgets and gizmos. I covet a set of Bose noise reduction headphones every time someone whips them out on a noisy flight but I’m just too mean to stump up the cash. The warm fuzzy feeling that goes with others giving your possessions a second glance is no doubt childish but still heart-felt. Rarely is it possible to have something that stops a fellow frequent flyer in their tracks and has them asking you to tell them where you got your covetable item. Even rarer when that very item cost you the grand sum of approximately 25 pence. As we zapped through the fast track line at Birmingham airport and waited for the X-ray machines to burp out our luggage, the lady behind me asked where I’d got my toiletries bag. She’d seen me put it into the tray and her “I’ve got to have that” antenna had started to twitch. She waited with me for my goodies to be returned to me so she could have a closer look at my almost unburstable, heavy-duty, resealable bag. I told her it was a Lakeland Soup ‘n’ Sauce 1 litre bag and that it really was every bit as fab as it looked. I handed it over so she could give it a poke and a prod and feel the quality. We parted with her vowing to get straight down to her local Lakeland as soon as possible ...

Beefayre Bee Garden Scented Candle 05/09/2015

To Bee or not to Bee

Beefayre Bee Garden Scented Candle Be Bee Friendly I love bees. I especially adore bumble bees but bees of all kinds are cute and hardworking. We’ve spent ages making our garden more bee friendly, putting up bee houses and making sure the flower beds provide a bee-feast for our furry friends. You should see the bumbles going crazy on our lavender; it’s most impressive. I’m also a fairly recent convert to the world of scented candles and a long-term believer in the joy of a darned good bargain. Bees, candles and bargains recently all came together to see me picking up two gorgeous candles from a bee-supporting and bee-promoting company called Beefayre. The candles were on offer on the bargain-hunter's favourite - the Achica website. Sensible people might believe you shouldn’t buy smelly stuff online but any bargain hunter will tell the sensible ones to take a risk and live a little. My Beefayre Bee Garden Rhubarb and Raspberry large candle has a RRP of £16.50 but I got mine for £11 which doesn’t sound like the most massive of savings but it was combined with a special deal with a further £20 off deal if you spent £60 or more which brought it down to about £8. Bee Local Much to my surprise, when I came to research the company I discovered that they are based in East Farndon, Northants, about 10 miles from where I live. To be fair, I don’t think I’ve ever been to East Farndon but it’s kind of cool to know that some lovely bee-obsessed people are working hard nearby to keep the bees happy. The company was ...
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