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I had a couple of months off. I didn't intend to; life just got very busy.

Reviews written

since 26/12/2005


e-Tourist Visa, India 31/08/2015

E is for EASY - the new e-Tourist Visas for India

Ravenhead Forum Rectangular Roaster 30/08/2015

There's more to kitchen life than Pyrex

Ravenhead Forum Rectangular Roaster Queen of Quiche Ever since I decided to become the Queen of Quiche and my husband subsequently became determined to be the King of Quiche (he’s a competitive soul), we’ve been in search of the perfect quiche dish. I’ve tried metal tins - round and square - in different depths, even with loose bottoms (that was a disaster and lead to the accidental creation of the ‘eggless quiche’ when all the egg fell through the pastry). I’ve tried ceramic dishes in various shapes and thicknesses. And finally I think we found the perfect dish - the ‘’’ Ravenhead Forum Rectangular Roaster ‘’’ Obviously it’s supposed - based on the name - to be for roasting stuff, probably meat. But we don’t eat meat so for us it’s a quiche pan and for you it can be whatever you want it to be. To the Maxx! We found this dish in TK Maxx, the Aladdin's cave of household goodies at knockdown prices. Bearing in mind the number of different dishes we’ve gone through in the last year and a bit in search of the ultimate quiche dish we picked it up, put it down and wandered off to think about it several times before making ourselves a promise that if this WAS NOT the ultimate quiche dish, it or one of the others had to go in the bin. So much thought, so much consideration about a £7 heat-resistant glass dish. Guess what? Turns out it really was the most amazing and close to perfect quiche dish. There’s more to life than Pyrex Anyone who has been on Ciao for a while will know that for a long time you could get a ...

Jobek Advant Vario Hammock Frame 26/08/2015

My short and painful experience of being a swinger

Jobek Advant Vario Hammock Frame Happy Hammock Memories I used to have an absolutely fabulous hammock in the garden. It was a great big wooden framed curvy thing with a massive expanse of suspended canvas which was big enough for several people plus any cats that were foolish enough to wander past without paying enough attention to their personal security. I would spend whole weekends curled up in my hammock under a tree, reading books, playing with my laptop or just snoozing in the sunshine. It was one of my absolutely favourite ways to spend time. And then sadly after several years of this indulgence, the hammock frame was featured in newspaper ‘recall’ announcements. Apparently people had been leaving the frames outside all winter (which was understandable - they were the size of a small caravan - and some had rotted, leading to people jumping in and falling out again as the frames crashed to the ground around them. I was resistant to taking it back, but my husband grabbed his wood saw, chopped it into several parts so it would fit in the car and took it back to the store for a better-than-full refund. No matter how much I loved it, he wanted me to be safe. The hammock had to go. I’d rather have kept the hammock and taken the risk. I was really sad to lose my summertime friend. Hammock 2015 Clearly all my mooching around struck home and my husband bought me a new hammock frame for my birthday back in March. Just the frame - sadly - so I then had to track down a hammock to hang on it. I bought an ...

All Boxed Up Summer Scents Collection 25/08/2015

Great Value, Stunning Products but VERY Slow service

All Boxed Up Summer Scents Collection Take the Waiting out of Wanting - or NOT! When I requested this listing way back in May, this box was still available online. Indeed another box from that time is still available on the website but this one is not. Unfortunately, for reasons that will become more apparent as you get further into the review, I’ve not been able to write it until now - more than three months later. You’ll no longer be able to order this, but there are many other boxes available from All Boxed Up and my experience may be useful to anyone who hasn’t used the company before and who wants to know what they might expect in terms of product quality, value and delivery. All Boxed Up All Boxed Up - or (note that’s co, not com) offers sets of highly discounted products from brands that are looking to boost their profile and get themselves more widely known. Hence, you may well find newly established brands or ones that don’t sell widely on the high street. I’m usually lured in by a good offer on the British brand Pecksniff’s which I adore but I won’t pay full price because their products are just too expensive. They tend to promote their boxes through newspapers and sometimes they theme them to a magazine or newspaper’s readership. Hence at the moment you’ll find a Telegraph Luxury Beauty Box (featuring stuff they presumably think Telegraph readers will fancy) and a ‘honeymoon box’ featured in the magazine ‘You and Your Wedding’. You don’t need to buy all these magazines and ...

Yankee Candle Silver Scroll Candle Snuffer 23/08/2015

An attractive but fairly silly bit of candle paraphernalia

Yankee Candle Silver Scroll Candle Snuffer Candle addiction I resisted the lure of scented candles for many years. I politely read and commented on Ciao and Dooyoo as the dozens of smelly candle reviews flooded in, thinking all the time that it was all a bit daft. And then I fell. And when I fell, I fell hard. It only took a short time to get me addicted to hard-core scented candles. I blame two people: my American friend Lorna who bought me two Bath and Body Works triple wick candles back in April, and my Ciao buddy Nar2 who sent me some small candles in the post. The two of them have much to answer for but I’ll not hold it against them. As with any new interest, be it hang-gliding, stamp collecting or scuba diving, there’s a plethora of companies out there trying to push their particular gizmos and accoutrements your way. One such gizmo is the Yankee Candle Silver Scroll Candle Snuffer which I bought in a fit of determination to get all the gear as quickly as possible. As tends to be send in many circumstances, this was a classic case of “All the gear but no idea!” Snuff Said My first candles came with labels telling me not to blow them out. It seemed puffing on your candles is simply not the done thing. You should ‘snuff’ them. I think it’s something to do with reducing the amount of smoke that they give off when you put candles out. I didn’t want to be getting my ceilings all sooted up so I thought I’d better prepare myself. When I was younger - back in the days when candles went in candlesticks and were ...

Latest in Beauty Get the Gloss Summer IT Kit 22/08/2015

Putting a Gloss on it

Latest in Beauty Get the Gloss Summer IT Kit Not just another box site is a website which will be familiar to many Ciao members who enjoy the hunt for cut-priced premium beauty brands. Unlike the so-called ‘box scheme’ sites such as Glossybox, Birchbox and others, Latest In Beauty (or LIB) won’t surprise you with what they think you want to have, nor will they take money from you every month and send you a box full of stuff you probably wouldn’t have chosen in a gazillion years. Instead they sell you what you want (from a limited selection), when you want it (if it’s in stock). See, I think I’ve covered the advantages and disadvantages in just that one sentence. There are two basic ways to buy from LIB. The first is to make your own box by going through their list of available items and picking whatever takes your fancy. At the time of writing they have more than 50 items available, although I should say that some of them have been on the list as long as I’ve been using the site - so 2-3 years already. The other way to buy - and the way that’s relevant to this review - is to buy one of their ‘collections’. A collection is a box filled with selected goodies, all offered at what’s normally a significant discount. Sometimes the items are full sized, often they are smaller samples. In each case, you’ll be able to see how much you’re going to get before you buy. At the moment they have eleven different kits on offer which is far and away the most I’ve ever seen available. Several, including the box ...

Hollowell Steam Rally, Northamptonshire 29/06/2015

The most fun you could have this Saturday and Sunday

Hollowell Steam Rally, Northamptonshire A timely review It has been eleven and a half months since I requested that the Hollowell Steam and Heavy Horse Show should be added to the Ciao database. Logically, I should have written about it just after I went last year - for the second year in a row. However, if I’d done that then lots of you would have said “Wow, sounds great, I must go” and then you’d almost certainly have completely forgotten about it. So instead I am going to write about it just a few days before this year’s show so you can be prompted to hop in your cars and come over to see it. Just be aware that it takes place the same weekend as the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, so if you’re coming from the south, stay well away from the A43 as it will be closed to anyone who doesn’t have tickets. The 2015 Hollowell Steam and Heavy Horse Show takes place in the small northern Northants village of Hollowell, easily accessed from the A14 or M1 and well sign-posted for miled around. It’s this coming weekend - Saturday the 4th and 5th of July - and it is easily my favourite event of the local calendar which makes it all the more frustrating that I can’t go as I’m heading off on holiday on the 4th. We went the last two years and absolutely loved it. I recommend that if you have the choice go on the Saturday as the show is a bit less busy . In previous years, there were OAP discounts for my parents on the Saturday but not on the Sunday but this year I noticed that they pay £2 less than other adults on both ...

VWC Argan Oil Cuticle Serum 27/06/2015

Have you got cute cuticles?

VWC Argan Oil Cuticle Serum Nailed it! I am not the sort of person who fusses over their nails. I buy the odd nail polish, more often than not remove it almost as soon as I’ve put it on, and I have never had false nails or gel polishes or anything the slightest bit technically challenging. I’m lucky in having nicely shaped long nail ‘beds’ and nails that grow quickly and quite strongly but I keep them very short for keyboard use (computer, not piano). I’m happy with my general nail apathy in all respects except one; I hate getting dry and raggedy cuticles and hangnails. They look ugly and they can get quite painful. For this reason I keep buying cuticle creams that claim they will solve my problems. Barmy Balms I should save my money. I can’t get the hang of creams and balms for my cuticles. They tend to be thick and sticky - take Badger Balm cuticle cream for example - and I neither like the smell nor the texture. When the owner of Valerie Widman Cosmetics offered to send me some of her argan oil products, I tried to not be greedy. I took an anti-ageing face cream (which I’ve already reviewed) and this tiny bottle of Argan Oil Cuticle Serum. If you are interested to try it, you can find it on her website at where a bottle will cost you a little under £8. I’ve been sitting on this for a while - not literally, that would be stupid, but I wanted to give it a good long test before I wrote my review. I’ve gone through periods of using it, then ...

Gecko Cafe, Mahabalipuram 23/06/2015

Geckos for dinner and breakfast

Gecko Cafe, Mahabalipuram I love Geckos The hotel I chose for a two night break in the southern Indian seaside town of Mahabalipuram had no restaurant. Most likely if it had done we still wouldn’t have wanted to eat there. The town has lots of cute little restaurants and I’m a firm believer in only eating in hotels when there’s nowhere else nearby. That applies doubly so when the hotel has very few guests and there’s no knowing how long the food’s been hanging around the kitchen. Fortunately for us, just across the road from our hotel was a restaurant called the Gecko Cafe. Undoubtedly one of the least grown-up reasons to choose a place to eat is because it’s named after your favourite small lizard. I love geckos and I like brightly painted buildings with open air seating. I also like avoiding going past too many shops whose owners all want me to go inside and do the whole ‘just looking’ routine. Proximity and a lizardy name was enough for me. We headed inside on our first evening, went back again on our second and had our pre-departure breakfast there too. We loved it. Our first visit Gecko Cafe is on Othavadai Street, a road that runs perpendicular to the beach and is lined with plenty of shops and restaurants. We were there in October last year, perhaps a little ahead of the busy tourist season but it was still shockingly hot and humid. Access to the restaurant is up a flight of stairs on the outside of the building so it’s probably not a natural choice for anyone who has mobility issues. We ...

Molton Brown Apple Pectin Exfoliating Hydra-mask 21/06/2015

Grab this one whilst you can still get it

Molton Brown Apple Pectin Exfoliating Hydra-mask From hair to body to face Once upon a time, forty-odd years ago Molton Brown was a swanky hairdressing salon in a trendy part of London but they reinvented themselves as a cosmetics firm and soon grew well beyond their roots. I remember them in the 1990s as a brand that turned up in business class airline ‘amenity kits’ and I once visited them in my days selling toothpaste ingredients when they were slapping their name on everything they could think of. More recently, I’d say they have been best known for their handwashes and hand creams which come in a dazzling array of different scents - some nice, some not so - as well as some very expensive scented candles. For a while Molton Brown had a good go at skincare products but their website now confirms that they have discontinued this range. This did not come as a surprise to me for two reasons; firstly their products had been very expensive without being them having the credentials to be convincingly ‘worth it’ and secondly, my local outlet shop has been selling off all their stock at heavily discounted prices. Hence my recent success in picking up not one but three 75ml tubes of the Apple Pectin Exfoliating Hydra-Mask for the grand sum of just £5 a tube instead of the original RRP of around £50. So what’s the point in reviewing a product that’s been discontinued? There are two good reasons. Firstly it’s still widely available at discounted prices and secondly it’s fantastic stuff. Go chase some down and fill your boots. ...

Fastenmaster Timberlok Wood Screw 20/06/2015

Why a screw from Timberlok would beat a screw from Timberlake

Fastenmaster Timberlok Wood Screw You have to write about this Like the non-reviewing partners of many Ciao members, my husband is pretty indifferent to what I get up to on the site. He doesn’t read my reviews or show any particular interest in what I might be writing about. That’s fine with me. I’m not going to push him to do so. Consequently I was pretty surprised a couple of months back when he told me “You HAVE to write about this on that site of yours” and waved a long screw under my nose. No. Stop it. No smutty comments. It really was a long screw and he had been very impressed by it. “People need to know about these”, he said with a degree of excitement I hadn’t seen him express about much that wasn’t expensive and electrical or had a big engine. The exciting product I had to tell you all about was the Fastenmaster Timberlok Wood Screw. And I have to admit, even I - a novice in the world of wood screws - could see was really quite exceptional. Have you ever given any thought to how to screw big chunks of wood together? Last summer my husband took a saw to a whole row of pyracantha trees in our garden. He hated them and decided that they had to go. This then left a very ‘exposed’ and rather beautiful old wall. Since our house is a converted stone barn that was built over 400 years ago, the stone wall could quite easily be nearly as old. It’s pretty. It should be seen, not hidden with pyracanthas. And now it is. I asked if we could have a couple of raised beds and take advantage of the sunny aspect ...

Parks Aromatherapy One Wick Candle 17/06/2015

Park your nose over here

Parks Aromatherapy One Wick Candle Spoilt by Quality I think my introduction to the world of smelly candles was a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it made me realise what I’d been missing for all the years that I’d dismissed scented candles as an unnecessary extravagance and a curse because the ones I started with were so good that they spoiled me for candles that followed. I jumped from being candle-agnostic to candle-snob without pausing for breath. My first candle was an American Bath and Body Works lavender which is still going strong despite burning at every bathtime since I got it, and then the full on corruption of Parks Candles left me unwilling to settle for anything less. I bought Parks Candles from Secret Sales, an online shopping site which was selling their single wick candles at £9 each with further discounts that brought mine down to less than £8. The regular prices is £30 each. I bought examples of three of their ranges - one each of the ‘exclusive’ candle (already reviewed here on Ciao) and the ‘fragrance’ candle (reviewed by Nar2) and three different variants of the ‘aromatherapy’ candle. The one I’m writing about today is the Parks Aromatherapy single wick candle in a scent called Hyacinth. The Range The aromatherapy range from Parks Candles comes in an astonishing choice of 37 different fragrances, most of them fruity or flowery but with a few culinary versions smelling of teas or alcoholic spirits, and a few woody ones too. There are even ones that smell of frankincense or ...

Korres Sleeping Beauty Set 15/06/2015

Sleeping Beauty probably wouldn't bother to wake for this set.

Korres Sleeping Beauty Set Korres The Greek natural beauty firm Korres makes products that are quite tricky to find and seldom very affordable. Their range includes one of my all time favourite night creams - their Black Pine night cream - as well as some very disappointing ones - such as their allegedly near-iconic Wild Rose day cream which I don’t rate at all. With a company whose products are quite polarising, there’s a lot to be said for getting smaller trial sizes if you can before you risk blowing a lot of money on something you might regret. One way to access some of their products is via their sets such as the Sleeping Beauty set. These sets are normally offered around Christmas time and mine does have a rather strange drawing of a reindeer and some snowflakes on it. Despite this, the sets are still widely available even at this time of year and a quick google will throw up several companies who still have the product in stock. The RRP is just £12 for the four products which would normally have a nominal value of £19.90. That’s not the biggest of discounts but it’s still pretty good. I bought this and another set from Birchbox with the ‘points’ that I’d earned filling in ridiculous surveys about the products they had sent me in my monthly boxes. The points were burning a hole in my pocket and had to be spent before I cancelled my subscription so I opted for some Korres items. As a tip for next year, Debenhams overstocked on these and had them significantly marked down in the January ...

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk - David Sedaris 14/06/2015

A modern Aesop with fables of manners and human behaviour

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk - David Sedaris Meet David Sedaris David Sedaris is a hard man to pigeonhole. He’s not a comic, he’s not a stand-up but he has elements of both. He’s a writer - but much more than just a writer. He’s a performer - but one so understated that you could be forgiven for not immediately spotting how incredibly funny he is. So what does he do? He writes stuff and then he reads it out. This sounds like it shouldn’t be funny, clever and often utterly disrespectful but you’d be wrong to underestimate him. You may well have heard him if you’re a Radio 4 listener as he gets a series most years in the 6.30 pm comedy slot. David Sedaris is a comic genius. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk ‘Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk’ was published in 2010 and marks a temporary change of direction for Sedaris. Most of his books contain a series of essays and reflections on his day to day life and the strange things that he, his family and friends have experienced. He’s a guy you’d be nervous (and very lucky) to have as a friend because you’d always be worrying that something you did or something you told him would crop up in one of his essays. His partner Hugh and his close relatives must all fear each new book for all the dreadful things written about him. However, ‘Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk’ is a book that doesn’t contain any personal stories - or at least not in a way that’s too obvious or too clear. I would suggest that these stories of shameful and stupid behaviour may well contain the experiences too dreadful to be attached ...

Yankee Candle Floral Wax Potpourri Tart Burner 11/06/2015

Don't melt my heart - melt my tart

Yankee Candle Floral Wax Potpourri Tart Burner Candle Addiction This whole scented candle malarky is a slippery slope. You start thinking you can ‘dabble’; that you’re in control and you can stop whenever you want to. It all seems so simple. Then you start buying a few more candles, probably a few more than you really need. Next thing your candle guru is telling you that wax tart melter would be a good idea for your leftover wax and then suddenly you’re hanging out in the Yankee Candle shop buying ‘accessories’. And if you aren’t careful, it can all happen so quickly. That’s the problem with candles; sometimes they are a gateway to ‘harder’ stuff. I went from cynic to convert far too quickly. Waste Not Want Not I hate waste and scented candles have a naughty habit of burning irregularly so that the wick runs out before the wax does. My guru told me that when that happens, you should bung the leftover wax into a tart burner and there’s no waste. I was so hooked that I went onto Amazon and ordered one for next day delivery. I had seen a few of the Yankee tart burners in their outlet shop at Cheshire Oaks and I knew I didn’t want most of them. I find the stench of the shop so overpowering that I can only manage to run in and out for slightly longer than I can hold my breath before I fear the onset of breathing difficulties. A quick glance through the tart burners showed me that most were too fussy, too clumpy or too ugly. Hence when I saw the simplicity of the Floral Wax Potpourri Tart Burner on Amazon and spotted that it ...
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