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So what happened whilst I was gone? Did a lot of people just stop writing?

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since 26/12/2005


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 ...

e-Tourist Visa, India 31/08/2015

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

e-Tourist Visa, India Happy Independence Day The 15th of August 1947 was a big day for India when they finally won their independence from Britain. On the 15th of August 2015 the Indian government granted British holidaymakers a long awaited and much anticipated Independence Day gift. They finally added the UK to the list of nations eligible to use the Indian e-Tourist Visa system. The change has been a very long time coming with introduction dates put back again and again over the past couple of years. The arrival of the very popular new Prime Minister Narendra Modi seemed to kick things into action. He stated that he would stimulate the tourist industry by removing one of the biggest hurdles faced by holidaymakers - the arduous and complex visa application process. The first 45 countries were given access to the scheme in November 2014 with a further 31 added in May. The UK finally got added in August. just in time for me and my husband to become some of the first Brits to use the system. British Indiaphiles have jumped through hoops and over hurdles a-plenty in recent years with new Visa processes and systems introduced, withdrawn, modified and fiddled with time and time again. Past visa application processes have been nightmarish and prepare the traveller for the type of chaos they are likely to face once they get to India. I have always told myself that if you can’t get through the visa process without keeping relatively sane, then you are unlikely to survive a trip to India. The ...

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 ...
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