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Very sad to discover that almost half of my COT list haven't posted in the last 6 months - so I had a clean up. All still on alerts though.

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since 26/12/2005


Meierei, Bremen 27/02/2015

Like the Curate's Egg - Good in Parts

Meierei, Bremen There’s a good reason the Germans aren’t famous for their food This week I’ve been in Bremen in northern Germany where I didn’t get to indulge in too many great culinary experiences. The food in the office canteen is frankly pretty scary for anyone who doesn’t like mountains of meat and once we’d looked at the lunch menu for the week, my boss declared that we definitely needed to go out one night and have a decent dinner. Normally we both lean towards spicy and oriental food but this time we opted for a place called Meierei which is located in the city’s Buergerpark. We’d been once before and had a bit of a mixed experience. We’d liked the setting, the building and the look of the place and some of the food, but the overly salted main course had been a bit of a disaster. I was willing to give them another chance. Any chef in any restaurant can have an off day so I was hoping to see if this time there might be more of the good and less of the bad. To the park! We arrived around 7.30pm and we didn’t have a booking but that wasn’t an issue as the place was almost empty on a Wednesday evening. The name ‘Meierei’ is apparently some kind of old German word (maybe a northern old German word) for a dairy. This beautiful old building must once have been the local dairy that collected and processed the milk from the cows that grazed in the city’s park. It’s hard to imagine such a lovely building being used for something so down to earth. From the outside, it reminds me of a grand ...

Organic Surge Fresh Ocean Body Lotion 26/02/2015

Lotion from the Ocean

Organic Surge Fresh Ocean Body Lotion Oceanic Odours The smell of the ocean is something we island dwellers in the UK can all recognise. If we close our eyes and imagine the complex cocktail of smells that contribute to that instantly recognisable smell of a day at the seaside, there’s plenty to think about: the scent of salt breezes, hot tarmac, warm sun-tan lotion, greasy chips (watch the seagulls don’t get yours), sweet pink candyfloss and half-fermented seaweed in rockpools all come to mind. Perhaps that’s not the ‘ocean’ that Organic Surge had in mine. My imaginings are maybe more Weston-Super-Mare than Pacific Californian beaches. The strange thing is that my Organic Surge Fresh Ocean Light Body Lotion doesn’t smell of seaweed or chip fat or even freshly caught fish. It smells of something completely different - and yet against all the odds, I can get where they’re coming from with the Ocean theme. Perhaps it’s just the power of suggestion but I do pick up something I can recognise as the ocean from their Ocean range. I’ve used the shower gel - but can’t review it as I left the bottle on my holidays - and now the body lotion, and I love them both. My Body Resolution I am in the middle of an unofficial new year’s resolution to be kinder to my skin and have been working my way through an impressive (or intimidating - depending on your viewpoint) stockpile of body lotions and body butters. My Organic Surge lotion was one I’d already been using before I started my skincare campaign so you can tell I liked it ...

Neal's Yard Remedies Neal's Yard Geranium & Orange Hand Cream 25/02/2015

Is it geranium or pelargonium? Who cares - it's handy

Neal's Yard Remedies Neal's Yard Geranium & Orange Hand Cream Not quite free - but close I love Neal’s Yard products but I don’t think I’ve ever bought any at full price. Instead, I tend to loiter in the women’s magazines section of the newsagents, carefully keeping watch for them to appear as ‘gift with purchase’ (GWP) items. On average, I’d estimate that a Neal’s Yard GWP comes round at least once and sometimes twice a year. It’s often something that those who are subscribed to the moneysavingexpert newsletter will also pick up on. If there’s a Neal’s Yard item available for the cost of a magazine (that I probably won’t read), then you can count me in. My most recent Neal’s Yard GWP which I got last summer was the Geranium and Orange hand cream and it’s absolutely fantastic. I generally find that hand creams either smell wonderful or feel wonderful but rarely both. I’m happy to say this smells great and feels fabulous although perhaps a little lighter than some of the heavy shea butter creams. I forget which magazine I got this with – and it’s not relevant as it was many months ago – but I was surprised to discover that the tube I got is the standard sized tube for this product. It’s a 50ml ‘stand on its cap’ tube which would cost £10 from the stores or the company’s website. I thought this price was pretty reasonable - perhaps because I’ve seen many much more expensive creams with credentials that are no more impressive. Who are Neal’s Yard? Neal’s Yard has been around since 1981 when the first of their stores opened in Covent ...

Shangri-La Restaurant, Darjeeling 24/02/2015

What's a girl got to do to get a beer round here?

Shangri-La Restaurant, Darjeeling Fishing for a Kingfisher One thing that might surprise you about the fabulous Himalayan town of Darjeeling is that it can be really quite difficult to get an alcoholic drink. Tea? No problem - there’s a lot of that about. Bottled water and soft drinks? Lots of those too. You can even get a pretty decent cappuccino if that’s your beverage of choice but getting a beer can seem like a challenge of Everest proportions. We spent 6 days there last October and fell foul of a bank holiday ‘dry day’ (Gandhi-ji’s birthday) and were staying in a hotel that had no alcohol either. Both the restaurants in the same building as our hotel are also ‘dry’ and most of the ones on the main street near our hotel were teetotal and I don’t think we ever managed to find an off-licence. For our final night we decided that we were going to go out and find a place with an alcohol licence, regardless of how long it took. On Nehru Road, the main pedestrian street, I know of only two restaurants that serve alcohol although I suspect that many of the hotels also have bars and may have alcohol in their restaurants. The famous Glenary’s bakery has a bar and restaurant upstairs but we’d been completely ignored in there the night before and walked out after fifteen minutes so I wasn’t going to give them my money. We had tried to go to Shangri-La once before for a drink in the bar but it had been Diwali and another ‘dry’ day but at least we knew they had a bar so we tried there instead. The Leader of the ...

Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Lift And Firm Night Cream 23/02/2015

Lift and Firm - for your face, not your other saggy bits

Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Lift And Firm Night Cream Lift and Firm I have long liked and respected Elizabeth Arden’s skin care products and have reviewed many of their products over the years both here and on ‘another well known consumer review site’. Last year I bought some of their gorgeous Ceramide serum capsules (already reviewed here) and wondered if I’d get even better effects if I matched them up with a moisturiser from the same Ceramide range. I probably would have done no more than just wonder but I saw a great online offer on the Elizabeth Arden Lift and Firm Night Cream on a website called last summer. I paid £19.99 for a 50 ml pot. That’s towards the top end of what I’m willing to pay for a product of this type, but compares well with the full store price which is around £59 a jar. That said, it’s not difficult to find it at around the price that I paid and if you’re interested, I’d happily recommend who have it today at £19.95 with free postage and packaging. Looks good, feels good Anyone who’s ever bought an expensive perfume or cream will know that nice packaging makes a bit difference to how you feel about what you’ve bought. When a product comes in a glossy box with thick card and a nice liner, it ‘feels’ right and helps build up your expectations. I long ago threw away the box for this but recall that it was ‘reassuringly expensive’ (as they used to say in the Stella Artois adverts). The jar inside is a gleaming golden delight. The gold coloured lid is decorated ...

Hot Stimulating Cafe, Darjeeling 22/02/2015

Hot Stuff!

Hot Stimulating Cafe, Darjeeling Show me the pandas! Ever since we’d booked our flights to go to Darjeeling, there had been one key ‘must do’ on our list and that was to return to the town’s amazing zoo and hang out with the red pandas. The zoo is always closed on Thursdays so we didn’t bother trying to visit that day. The thursday was not only the zoo’s closing day, it was also the anniversary of Gandhi’s birthday. We assumed that the zoo would be open as ‘usual’ on the Friday and so we set off to go and see the pandas. Along the way we ran into Don, an elderly man from our hotel and invited him for a hot drink and to join us on our walk to the zoo. Sadly when we got there, the place was closed - they’d clearly decided that the animals should also have an extra day’s holiday. Walking back we met Jeff and Jen from Colorado who were on a gap year honeymoon. They were heading to the zoo as we were heading back. We told them the zoo was closed and invited them to walk back with us. We were feeling a bit like the Pied Pipers of Darjeeling as we gathered waifs and strays along our route. On the way down we had spotted a tiny wooden hut clinging to the hillside and I recognised its name from reading Tripadvisor reviews. The place is called Hot Stimulating Cafe and it’s more than a little bit crazy. It also has the astonishing honour of being rated 9th out of 85 restaurants in Darjeeling despite being a hillside hut that looks like a garden shed on stilts. It even has one of Tripadvisor’s ‘Certificates of ...

teeez Head Over Heels Nail Lacquer - Smoking Gun 21/02/2015

Goldfinger - I'm the girl with the golden nails

teeez Head Over Heels Nail Lacquer - Smoking Gun Girly? Moi? Whilst I love skin-care products, the whole girly gene that’s interested in colour cosmetics (aka ‘make-up’) seems to be missing in my DNA. I’ve never been able to get into face paints of any kind but I do have a bit of a weakness for - now and then - doing my nails. As a member of rather more beauty box schemes than is probably good for me, I acquire quite a lot of make-up, most of which I give away, but I hang on to the nail polishes. My Teeez Head Over Heels nail polish in the strangely named shade of ‘smoking gun’ was something I chose for my Youbeautydiscovery box shortly before Christmas. The choices were a bit limited that month and I was drawn to the two metallic nail polishes on offer - this bronze/gold one and another in a silvery shade. I hadn’t heard of the company Teeez before, but thought a touch of gold in the run up to Christmas might be seasonal. When the box arrived and I found my nail polish, I was delighted. It came in a really pretty cardboard outer box with a tear-around strip. In a fit of uncharacteristic self control, I resisted the tear strip and carefully picked my way in through the bottom of the box so as not to damage the box. Once inside, the bottle is quite different from many nail polishes and looks rather more like a lip gloss or an eyeshadow. It’s a tall bottle, square in footprint with a gleaming golden cap. The cap carries the brand name ‘Head over Heels’ and some orange embossed flowers, whilst the bottle is printed with the ...

Baghsu Waterfall, Dharamsala 20/02/2015

Is this where the Dalai Lama does his laundry?

Baghsu Waterfall, Dharamsala McLeod Ganj The town of McLeod Ganj is just up the hill from Dharamsala in the Indian Himalaya. Whilst most people think that the Dalai Lama’s home in exile is in Dharamsala, it’s actually McLeodganj where his temple and his home are and where most tourists who are looking for a little bit of Dalai Lama ‘magic’ head. It’s a scruffy place of overpriced and not very good hotels, nice and not so nice cafes, and plenty of places to learn yoga or get your chakras rebalanced. In short it’s a place you should go to because it’s so important to Buddhism, but it’s probably not a place you’d want to stay too long because there’s not that much to do unless you’re trying to find yourself in Buddhism or meditation. Just following orders On our main day in the city we kicked off with a visit to the Dalai Lama’s main temple which was a really great experience. After a period of holy contemplation, there’s nothing to beat a good bit of exercise. When we left the temple and found our driver, we hopped into the car with Mr Singh and left our fate and our itinerary in his hands. He set off up steep, narrow streets, squeezing between parked cars and around corners so that we were quickly disoriented and not too sure where we were going or even how far we went. Dharamsala has a lot of one way streets and the route between two points is rarely a straight line. After about 10 minutes in the car he dropped us at a small car park. We climbed out of the car, he wobbled his head and pointed. ...

Poundland Macadamia Oil Extract Conditioner 19/02/2015

Phenomenal value conditioner

Poundland Macadamia Oil Extract Conditioner Nutty Offer at Poundland I have very ‘easy’ hair and it’s no great challenge to look after. I don’t get wild fly-aways or frizz or uncontrollable curls and I don’t use straighteners or hair dryers or do anything that’s likely to damage my hair. I have no split ends and I don't get tangles. See what I mean? Easy hair. That said though, it doesn’t actually ‘do’ much. My hair grows, it sits there, it hangs down over my shoulders. It doesn’t split, it doesn’t puff up, it just hangs around. I always use conditioner and I have done for many years. In an emergency conditioner ‘outage’, I will survive as my longish straight hair is in really good condition so it’s still just about combable but I would not choose to go without conditioner unless I absolutely had to. I recently conditioned my hair with what I thought was a bottle of decanted conditioner but it wasn’t (I’m thinking it was another shampoo but it could have been shower gel) and I got a massive attack of static, but on the whole my hair behaves itself. Despite my dedication to the use of conditioner, I was never a snob about what type I use until fairly recently when I chucked out all the cheap Alberto Balsam stuff my husband kept buying for me and upgraded to Aussie. On a December trip to Poundland (I know, living the dream!) I bought a bottle of their Macadamia Oil Extract Conditioner for - obviously - the grand sum of £1. 100 of my pennies bought me a rather generous 400 ml bottle which is 100 ml larger than the ...

Curasept Mouthwash 18/02/2015

Don't Get Bitter - Get Better

Curasept Mouthwash I've been a good girl Earlier this month I wrote about my half-yearly visit to the dentist and about how for once in my life I didn’t get told off for not flossing enough because I’ve been using Piksters flossers. Today’s review is about the other weapon in my battle against gum disease and plaque/tartar build up - Curasept mouthwash. My dentist’s surgery sells this for around £6 for a 200ml bottle and it’s remarkable stuff. Me and my teeth and gums I have rather lovely teeth but they are quite tightly squeezed together which makes them prone to plaque build-up. If I don’t floss regularly, this turns to tartar and needs to be chiseled off by the dentist in my six-monthly ‘scale and polish’ appointments. Flossing is essential but sometimes - even when I’m trying my best - I do still get some bleeding and I’ve been using the Curasept mouthwash at weekends or when I get bleeding. I don’t like mouthwash and it has never been a regular part of my oral care regime. I worked for many years for companies which provided ingredients to the oral care industry - thickeners, abrasives and flavours - so I know a lot about the products on the market and I never considered that there was really a need for mouthwash in the purely ‘freshen and sloosh’ sense. I’m an Aquafresh girl so I tend to pick toothpastes with strong and intense flavours that rather wipe out the need for a supplementary mouthwash. Hence I only consider mouthwash for therapeutic rather than cosmetic or ‘fresh mouth’ ...

Neom Luxury Organics Real Luxury Organic Body Lotion 17/02/2015

Nom Nom Neom - It's Delicious

Neom Luxury Organics Real Luxury Organic Body Lotion Knowing Neom I first discovered the organic toiletries brand Neom just over a year ago when I bought a Youbeautydiscovery advent calendar which contained one of their hand creams. I’ve also seen some of the products - usually the candles and reed diffusers - on the Achica website but had always been put off by how expensive they were (and by not really being a fan of candles). On one of my occasional trips to TK Maxx in search of fancy bargains, I came across a Neom body lotion and a hand cream and snapped up both. I paid £9.99 for the body lotion which TK Maxx claimed had an RSP of £26 although I’m a little sceptical that it’s really quite that expensive. The same sized bottles on the Neom website are currently priced at £20 for a 250 ml bottle and sadly the variety I’ve now fallen in love with no longer seems to be in the range. My bottle was the Neom Complete Bliss Organic Body Lotion in the ‘Moroccan Blush Rose’ scent. I bought it because it was the one that was available rather than through a great desire to buy a rose product. I was a little nervous in case it should turn out to be a bit too flowery and ‘old ladyish’ but I need not have worried - this is a rose with bite and attitude. Packaging and Promises My bottle may well be last year’s model as it’s in a different packaging from the current range. The new packaging is more floral whilst my box has a squiggly line drawing rather than a pretty picture of a rose. The box is tall and narrow and quite heavy on ...

MicroSolar LED Motion Sensor Security Light 16/02/2015

Tonight the Super Trouper Lights are Gonna Blind Me

MicroSolar LED Motion Sensor Security Light Living in the Dark We live on a small ‘unadopted’ road which means that the council wash their hands of any issues related to this short stretch of tarmac. It also means that if we want any lighting, that’s our problem not theirs. Mind you, in our village they long ago turned the lights off to save money so perhaps we shouldn’t be so disappointed at being left in the dark. There are just five houses and we are at the end and on a dark winter’s night, the short walk from the main road in the dark could be a little tricky. Not any longer though since we’ve discovered solar floodlights. My husband was the first. He bought a MicroSolar LED Motion Sensitive Security light for the top of our driveway. The neighbour, Big Dan, was so impressed that he bought one for his house. Unfortunately Big Dan has the DIY skills of a polar bear wearing mittens so my husband installed it for him. Big Dan loved it so much he then bought another for the fence at the bottom of his garden so he can watch the dog when he’s running around in the dark. My husband fitted that one too. These are the joys of country life! We already had two motion sensitive lights on the house. There’s a short flight of stone steps down to our front door and the bottom one is ‘tricky’ and led to my step-father breaking his leg in a couple of places a few years ago. Hence there has to be a light there. The other is on the garage. Both are normal electrically wired in lights but at the top of the drive, it’s just a bit ...

Lunar Restaurant, Darjeeling 15/02/2015

Three times in a few days - maybe we're Lunar-tics

Lunar Restaurant, Darjeeling Darjeeling Dining We’ve been to Darjeeling three times and always have at least one meal at Restaurant Lunar. During last year’s longer trip (we were there for about five days), we ate several times at Lunar and never had a bad meal. I’ll admit that one of the main reasons we go there is that it’s in the same building as the Dekeling hotel which is our favourite place to stay. Since there’s no lift and the hotel is right at the top of the building, some days the idea of just popping downstairs for dinner is very tempting. That said, convenience isn’t the only motivation because the food is really good. A few things you need to be aware of before you go. Lunar is entirely vegetarian and it’s also ‘dry’ - so no booze available. However, neither of those things is all that unusual in Darjeeling so it shouldn’t be a reason not to got. Another thing to be aware of, regardless of everything it says in the menu, there is no evidence that pizza has EVER been served or is anything more than a fantasy page in the menu. So get your potential pizza disappointment out of the way and skip that page. There’s now a major international pizza chain restaurant just up the road if that’s REALLY what you want. It’s not what I want. A fantastic building 51 Gandhi Road is at the end of the pedestrian area, just beyond the famous Planters Club where the old tea plantation owners used to get drunk and have a high old time, and close to the taxi stand and the car parking area. On the ground floor ...

Pecksniff's Grapefruit & Citron Caddy 14/02/2015

Juicy, Juicy, very very Juicy

Pecksniff's Grapefruit & Citron Caddy I love a bargain When it comes to toiletries I love fancy brands but I am far too mean to pay full price for most of them. There are a few exceptions and a few ‘can’t live without’ products for which I will pay full price, but mostly I like a good bargain. And one of the best places for finding fancy gear at knock-down prices is TK Maxx. On the plus side every visit is an adventure as you never know what you’ll find but on the minus side, if you find something you love, you’ll probably never find it again. Pecksniffs is a brand that I ONLY know via TK Maxx and you can pretty much rely on the stores always having something from Pecksniffs available. If you’re willing to be flexible then you can get some great bargains. I’ve been buying Pecksniff’s products from TK Maxx for many years but have rarely been able to find them online to request they be added to the Ciao database. With this one I got lucky. I suspect that most of the lines sold in TK Maxx are from previous years’ stock. Who are they? Pecksniff’s now have a website which makes it a little easier to find the products and stun yourself with how much you would have paid if you hadn’t found the stuff in TK Maxx. They also have a store - seemingly just the one - in Brighton so there’s no chance I’m going to be trekking down there just to find some nice expensive goodies. They are a British firm which has long been creating bespoke fragrances in Brighton at that store but you’re going to struggle to survive with such a ...

Fly London Women's Sara Boots 12/02/2015

Some of my best friends are footwear

Fly London Women's Sara Boots Boot love is good love There are few items of clothing that can change your life as much as a really good pair of boots. I have several pairs of boots that I’ve had longer than any job. I have shoes that predate my marriage (and I’ve been married 17 years this March). I also have plenty of shoes that I wouldn’t miss if they dropped off the face of the earth so I’m not one of those women who loves shoes in general - I just love the RIGHT footwear with a degree of loyalty that you only normally find in couples who’ve been married for 60 years. My latest newest best foot friends are my amazing Fly London Sara boots and they were an impulse buy in last November’s Black Friday deals. They have a regular price of around £150 but briefly appeared on offer for just £49. With Black Friday you can’t dither and consider for too long; you just have to push the button and hope for the best. That’s what I did. I took a risk and it paid back big time because I am in love. Flygirl! I’ve never bought Fly London before but I knew the name because my Portuguese colleagues all buy that brand of shoes from Amazon and get them shipped to Portugal. Bearing in mind how much they love shoes and how careful they have to be with money (you wouldn’t believe how lousy the salaries are in Portugal), I knew they must be something special. Ironically my boots were made in Portugal despite the London tag. I know very little about the company and their website doesn’t help. They have a few shops and a ...
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