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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


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

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. ...
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