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since 31/07/2002


Agent Provocateur Maitresse Eau de Parfum 28/10/2008

Sexy, Sophisticated and Grown-Up

Agent Provocateur Maitresse Eau de Parfum There's no doubt about it - I own far too many perfumes. I think it's bordering on an addiction (Dior Addict + Addict Eau Fraiche - check). I don't understand how people live without perfume - I find that with one squirt I can transform my mood. Feeling low? Spray on a happy perfume like CKIN2U, O Oui by Lancome or Daisy by Marc Jacobs. Going out clubbing? A spritz of Addict or Baby Doll by YSL will do nicely. Missing the summer? Some rosewater will perk you right up. Out for a meal? Stella by Stella McCartney or Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle are grown-up and relaxed enough to cope. Planning a great seduction? Time for the Agent Provocateur Original. My name is Louise and I'm a perfume-o-holic. I was a huge fan of Agent Provocateur's first perfume offering - the self-titled beauty in the pink and black packaging, which smelt spicy and sexy, and probably had something to do with my netting of Mr Right. It was with high expectations, then, that I first sniffed out Maitresse, their second perfume offering. Maitresse comes in a beautiful bottle. Red glass overlaid with shiny gold, it bears a picture of a glamourous looking lady wearing nothing but stockings, long gloves and heels, looking away from us; and the name of the perfume. There is no lid, with a red PVC ribbon attached to a clip being used to stop any inadvertent spraying instead. It's simplistic, classy (even with the nude chick on it) and timeless - three things Agent Provocateur aspire to in most of their ...

GHD Thermal Protector For Dry Hair 150ml 21/10/2008

Oh! So Thermal Protectors Do Work!

GHD Thermal Protector For Dry Hair 150ml I don't know what I'd do without my GHDs. Recently, I've stopped straightening my hair all the time as I'm trying to crack the winning formula that keeps it nice and well-behaved without resorting to straightening. This is work in progress, and I will be sure to report back to ciao when I find it, but even in this period of minimal straightening I still feel a little bit lost when I don't have my GHDs readily available. The last time a pair broke on me I went into hiding. It's quite a dependancy. Heat styling is really important for me to get my hair looking acceptable. Left to dry naturally, my hair plays up - looking smooth for the first few inches and then turning into a riot of frizz from the ears down. To wear it unstraightened is to wear it either scrunched and diffused, tonged or scraped back so no-one can see it. It's fairly important, then, that I use a good thermal protector. You'd think this would be obvious, right? It may surprise you to learn, then, that I hadn't used one for ages before being given this free by my hairdresser (yeah, I'm still trying to work out why they gave me freebies too!). There is a reason for this - all the ones I'd tried had been rubbish! I'd had ones that made me greasy; some that made no difference whatsoever; some that made me static, but none that worked to stop my hair getting damaged. The worst one I'd ever tried was GHD's Iron Oil - this horrible product had left my dry hair like an oil slick, hanging limply around my face. I ...

L'Oreal Loreal shine blonde 13/10/2008

Bye Bye Brassiness!

L'Oreal Loreal shine blonde As I believe I've mentioned on here before, I'm obsessed with my hair. It costs me a fortune. I get it done at great expense every other month at a great salon near me; I use GHDs, the top of the range straighteners to tame it; all of my other electric appliances are similarly overpriced; and I use the best products I can find to take care of it. Sometimes, though, it still looks rubbish. I sport a rather fetching blonde dye job which always looks fantastic when I step out of the salon. As my hair is naturally a rather unattractive shade of brown, however, it tends not to stay this blonde for long. No, as with most dyed blonde hair, it can get brassy after a few weeks. For the non-blondes out there, brassy blonde is what you get when your hair begins to become more yellow or golden (or orange!). I categorically do not suit golden hair, favouring a more ash blonde finish. Brassy blonde is a big disaster for me. As I take good care of my hair, brassiness is fairly minimal between salon appointments, but even minimal brassiness looks pretty bad on me, as I only really suit "cool" tones, and brassy hair is very "warm". When I spoke to my hairdresser about my brassy hair one appointment, she suggested I try this shampoo. She explained that this shampoo contains some of the toner that they use in salons to combat brassiness but is safe to use at home to keep my blonde hair looking fresh. I was warned off of using it more than once or twice a week before parting with my £7 ...

Benefit 10 10/10/2008

A Clean Sexy Sweep For Benefit!

Benefit 10 Predictably, I'm a bit of a benefit fan. I say predictably because I'm a girly girl and in my experience, most girls of my persuasion are ardent benefit-o-holics. I am so ardent that I'm still a benefit fan that even after I've used some of their products and not been completely happy with them, I still want to buy more. This is almost entirely attributable to the range's kitsch and cute packaging. I didn't take much convincing, then, to part with £22.50 worth of Debenhams vouchers for a box of Benefit's new product - 10. 10 is a bronzer and highlighter in one, with the box split in half - half bronzer, half highlighter. On the box it encourages you to do the "sexy sweep". I had no idea what this might entail, but I was excited anyway and left the shop with a spring in my step. Oh the wonders of shopping. Naturally, I opened my 10 up as soon as I got home and set about trying it. The square box isn't a great design for the travelling person, with there being nothing in place to hold the lid on. This is more of a dressing table item than a make-up bag one. Having said that, it will stand up to being in a make-up bag for a little while before the lid breaks completely. It does look good though, with the enticing two blocks of powders and the included brush making application really easy. On reading the enclosed leaflet, we discover that the "sexy sweep" is the suggested method of application - to do it, take the enclosed brush, sweep it lengthways over the powders, ...

Verona (Italy) 08/10/2008

A Lot More Than Romeo And Juliet

Verona (Italy) It could be said that in the past year I've gone to Verona a little too often, especially considering I don't live in Italy. That said, I'd go back tomorrow. This beautiful city has got so much to offer a visitor and even after three visits I don't think I've scratched the surface of it, but I'm going to try and talk you through some of my highlights of this great place. Perhaps most famous to Brits as the city where Romeo and Juliet is set, Verona lies in Northern Italy, in the Veneto region. Verona is the capital of one of the seven Veneto provinces. The Verona province includes a number of gorgeous little surrounding towns, including Soave, which is my pick of the bunch - a little walled city, complete with castle on the top of a hill, a 1000 year old church, plenty of places to go of an evening for food and drink, and home to the Soave wine region - and trust me, the Soave wine you'll get there is very different to the rubbish you'll see in tescos! On a "holiday geography" front, Verona lies about an hour's drive from Venice and an hour and a half from Milan - both of which have big international airports that are served by budget airlines and BA, who will generally sell you a return from Heathrow for about £100. Verona also has its own airport, which is served by BA, but will cost a little bit more. Beware Ryanair flights to Verona though, as these are actually to Brescia, which is a very small airport which is effectively a shed in a field about 40 miles out of ...

Frank - Amy Winehouse 08/10/2008

To Be Frank - Get Off The Drugs Amy!

Frank - Amy Winehouse It's hard to believe that a few years ago, Amy Winehouse was known more for her attitude-filled jazzy music than for her drug and drink problems. Frank was her first album, which I really loved. I've only just dug it back out and I was suprised by how witty, clever and talented Amy used to be before drugs got to her. Frank opens with "Stronger Than Me", a scathing song directed at a boyfriend. Amy throws insults at him in a witty and unforgiving fashion, questioning his manhood and sexuality, spelling out in no uncertain terms that she doesn't view theirs as a serious relationship. Amy makes it clear that she is a talented lyricist by making the focus of this album the frank and honest lyrics rather than the subdued jazz accompaniments. "You Sent Me Flying", the second track, is a highlight of the album for me - there is a certain vulnerability in the lyrics as she sings about being rejected by a romantic prospect for being too young. The same gutsy attitude and honesty is still evident, though, with Amy singing about how her "pride is not easily disturbed". This track also includes a bonus track of sorts, where Amy sings a little ditty about her new guitar - it's pretty good, and shows that she is capable of injecting some sweetness into her voice when she wants to. The album then moves on to "Know You Now", which is a bit of a weak link for me - it's pretty repetitive and doesn't really contain the cutting-edge lyrics Winehouse has penned for the rest of the ...

Wrigley's Wrigleys Extra Fusion 21/08/2008

Fusion Cuisine - on the Cheap!

Wrigley's Wrigleys Extra Fusion I was never much of a chewing gum fan until I gave up milk in my coffee. (I've since given up caffeine in it too - coffee now is a truly joyless experience for me!) I found that after a black coffee, my mouth tasted so utterly disgusting I just needed something to cut through it. This was why I turned to chewing gum. I don't know about everyone else, but I view chewing gum as a pretty boring essential daily item. Yes, it was exciting when I was a kid - purely because my Dad disapproved of it - but back then I didn't drink coffee and only chewed juicy fruit, because other gum tasted of mint, and that reminded me of toothpaste - which no kid likes. Peppermint chewing gum is just a bit, well, dull. I love a novelty though, so the recent influx of "exciting" chewing gums has been quite expensive for me. I think Wrigleys started it all off with their Fusion gums, and then Trident have started bringing out all manner of crazy flavours, and suddenly it's almost impossible to buy gum in those thin soft sticks we used to have as kids. It's all in crunchy tablets now, with or without liquid centres. Over-packaged and over-priced, but exciting and new. I can't move for chewing gum stands in my local Sainsburys. Needless to say, I've tried a lot of the ones on offer. A lot of the flavours are pretty much "hubba bubba for adults"-style, which I must say doesn't really appeal to me any more. So after trying around and getting bored, I settled on the slightly more conservative ...

Calvin Klein CK IN2U Her Eau de Toilette 03/06/2008

Lesson 1 - Don't judge a perfume by its bottle

Calvin Klein CK IN2U Her Eau de Toilette I want to get one thing out in the open straight away: I love perfume. Because of this, I have far too many bottles, but always feel like I want more anyway. I go through perfume phases, where I become obsessed with one scent and won't wear anything else. On the flipside, I sometimes get so fed up with a perfume that I just can't wear it anymore and my bottle will be confined to the back of the shelf. If it wasn't for perfume and shoes, I'd be a very rich lady. As I've got older, my perfume tastes have matured a bit, and I've been moving into stronger, headier perfumes such as Agent Provocateur and anything by Chanel or Dior but shunning my younger scents - the Lancome O Oui, the Cacharel Anais Anais, etc. So naturally, I was horrified when I unwrapped my birthday presents last year and I discovered a bottle of CKIN2U perfume. Of course, I was polite. I acted thrilled. I should be on the stage. Inside I was cringing. Everything about this perfume made me want to hate it: - I've never liked any CK perfumes. Ever. - I hate text talk. The fact this was called IN2U wound me up a LOT. Eats Shoots and Leaves is my bible. - It looked really summery and fresh - not quite Agent Provocateur-y. - I'd been given a massive bottle of it - with no receipt. It was clearly quite expensive. - I'd never smelt it before - I'm quite precious about perfume, and my dad had got it - without even giving it a sniff - because it was on offer in a duty free shop. Charming. But it was my ...

The Body Shop Bath Gloves 02/06/2008

A Shower time Staple

The Body Shop Bath Gloves I'd had it with exfoliating scrubs... I didn't like the feeling of having sand-like stuff in the shower tray, I liked it even less when I'm in the bath and I have nasty grittiness swimming around with me. I did, however, love the feeling of being nice and exfoliated - the smooth skin; the improved circulation leading to the clearer, less blotchy skin; the feeling of being really really clean and fresh... It was a tough problem to work around, until I found these little beauties. These exfoliating gloves don't need much explanation - they are gloves, which you wear in the bath or shower, and use to exfoliate your skin. They are one-size-fits-all, and they come in a wide variety of colours - naturally, I got mine in pink. To look at, they are like normal gloves, but loosely knitted and made of an abrasive material. Using these is probably one of the easiest things you can do: use a sponge/flannel/loofah in the shower? Bin it. Stick the gloves on your hands (do it while they're wet to minimise unpleasant scratchiness), squeeze some shower gel into your palm and rub yourself down all over, paying special attention to the bits that need scrubbing. Keep the gloves on while you're in the shower, take them off when you get out. Have a feel of your skin and it should feel nice and smooth. Unlike some exfoliating gloves I've tried (oh yes, I've done my research), these last for a long time without losing their abrasiveness, and they seem to retain their exfoliating properties ...

TIGI Bed Head After Party 02/06/2008

After Party, Before Party, No Party... whenever!

TIGI Bed Head After Party My first encounter with this great product wasn't where you'd expect a product called After Party to be... on my mum's dressing table. Now, without wanting to be unnecessarily harsh on my dear mother, it must be said that the isn't quite the hard-partying type. When she goes out, it's usually for a country walk or for a civilised dinner with friends - not to a big all-night rave, a nightclub or even a bar. I'm not sure she's been out clubbing since I was born, and I'm nearly 25. The mere fact that this was to be found in amongst my mum's haircare products was enough to tempt me to give it a try though - like me, my mother has dyed blonde hair, which is naturally curly and frizzy but worn straight and as smooth as we can get it. I knew as soon as I saw that this was a Tigi product that it had been a recommended salon purchase, and with our similar hair types it didn't take me long to work out that this would probably work for me. So I had a quick read on the back of the tube - not that easy on the neon pink background that the tube has! After Party is a finishing creme and also doubles up as a good refresher for when your hair doesn't quite need a wash, but isn't quite perfect either (hence the After Party name I'd imagine...). As I was snooping around my mum's room with the intention of blow drying and GHD'ing my hair, I decided to use this as my finishing creme. Usually when I do my hair I'm a bit naughty and straighten and go, so if this stuff did what it said I was ...

TIGI Bed Head Dumb Blonde Shampoo 30/05/2008

Dumb Blonde? Clearly not that dumb!

TIGI Bed Head Dumb Blonde Shampoo I've always had issues with my hair. Naturally, it's a boring mousey colour, frizzy and wavy. I wear it blonde and straight. This, historically, has not been a great formula for healthy hair. I've suffered for years with horrible split ends and dry frazzled hair that I couldn't wear "natural" because it would look so horrendous that I would need to wear a hat/paper bag/balaclava. Considering that curls, waves and movement are meant to be coming back, and my hair naturally has a great wave to it, this was a great shame. So I'd had enough of having to straighten my poor locks, knowing that it wasn't helping the dryness, and I suspected that my haircare regime wasn't helping, when I decided to make the big change: from a high street shampoo and conditioner to salon products. And it was a great move! It was on a trip to a shopping outlet with my other half that I found some Bed Head Dumb Blonde on offer - buy the shampoo, get the conditioner free. Both were in massive 750ml sizes, for the bargain price of £14.50. This was far too good to miss, so I reached for the credit card and scuttled out of the shop. I would like to point out now that this was in September. I use this shampoo every other day, and it is still going strong - this will probably last me another 2 months. I tend to use more conditioner than shampoo, so I reckon I have only one month left of the conditioner, but still - 8 months out of a bottle is amazing. So while the price appears fairly high for ... 29/05/2008

Something about the Luck of the Irish...? I'm starting to think I might be a little slow. Let me explain. I've worked in the online betting industry for years and years now, and I've only just clocked on that my experience and knowledge might help me to write about some good and bad betting sites on here. Dear me. To give you a little of my background, I started off in a small Sports betting company, and a couple of years ago I joined the E-Commerce division of a very large betting company. While I was there I moved up to become their Casino and Games Manager, and I'm now in the process of moving to a much smaller company. I have a fair amount of industry knowledge and hopefully I can put some of that into a few betting site reviews on here - I hope it's useful! So anyway, I thought I'd start off by reviewing Paddy Power. Mr Power has been my online bookies of choice for a little while now, and I'm going to try to explain why. Setting up an account If you're used to online betting, you'll find this pretty standard. If you're not, you'll probably get asked the questions you'd expect anyway. Bring up the registration screen by clicking on the blue "Register" button in the top left hand side of the homepage. The account you set up will allow you to bet on anything under the Sports, Casino, Games, Lotteries and Bingo tabs. You will need to download some software to play on their Poker, and set up a different account to use their Financial Trading feature. Your account will contain 3 account balances - a ...

Bourjois 10hr Sleep Effect Foundation Beige Clair 28/05/2008

Oooh you look healthy!

Bourjois 10hr Sleep Effect Foundation Beige Clair I don't like to think of myself as set in my ways, but when it comes to foundation I have been quite ashamedly set right in them for years. I found one I liked and I stuck to it. 3 for 2s in boots were my best friends as I knew I'd get through three tubes in a fairly short amount of time. It was only when (in true "I think I'm still a student but I'm not really"-style) I got a £2 boots voucher with a recent purchase that wasn't valid on my normal foundation that I decided to branch out and try a new one. After about an hour at the Bourgois counter I finally decided on the 10 hour sleep effect foundation. I think I was feeling a bit tired - 10 hours sleep sounded very appealing that day! This foundation comes in a 30ml tube, with a pump dispenser and a cap. The design of the packaging isn't anything special really, but the mere fact that it isn't black makes it better for me as I can find it in my handbag more easily!! The RRP is £8.95 for a tube, which makes it a fair amount cheaper than my previous foundation - even without the £2 voucher. It comes in 5 colours - I use the Beige Clair one, which suits my skin tone perfectly. I was a bit skeptical when I dispensed my first splodge of this foundation - it is very runny. I'm usually a bit dubious about very "liquid"-y foundations anyway (they tend to dry my skin out), so this didn't fill me with confidence. Nevertheless, I soldiered on and smothered it all over my face, then went to inspect myself closely in the ...

Tick Tock Original Organic Rooibos Tea 28/05/2008

What, no caffeine?

Tick Tock Original Organic Rooibos Tea So I've given up caffeine. I used to have a coffee addiction to rival Mr Starbucks himself, with a personal motto of "no caffeine, no point". Giving up caffeine was a big deal for me. I'm still not entirely sure why I did it, but I've stuck to it with dogged determination and hope not to fall back off the wagon. Anyone who's given up coffee will know that the first few days are horrible. Smelling coffee around the office and trying not to nod off or scream isn't easy when caffeine is your heroin. Luckily for me one of my MSN buddies (what do you mean I should be working?!) was giving up at the same time and pointed me in the direction of Rooibos tea. If he hadn't, I would currently be talking ten to the dozen and typing a good deal faster. Rooibos, he told me, is his coffee substitute of choice because it is quite full bodied in flavour and doesn't taste of wee, like green tea can. This all sounded good to me - I don't much like the face-adjusting, tooth-hurting bitterness that green tea brings to the table, and that's got caffeine in it anyway. So at lunchtime I trotted down to Sainsburys and picked up some Tick Tock Rooibos tea. Now for the science bit - concentrate! Rooibos (pronounced "Roy-boss" and sometimes called Red Bush) is a pretty rare plant which only grows in a certain part of South Africa's Western Cape. Attempts have been made to cultivate the plant in other areas, but it has stubbornly refused to relocate. It has been used in South Africa for ...

Agent Provocateur Eau de Parfum for Her 11/03/2007

Coming of age with perfume

Agent Provocateur Eau de Parfum for Her I'm becoming a little concerned that I am, in fact, marketing's wet dream. Now, I'm not talking about the marketing department in my office (although they do seem to like my shoes). No, I'm on about the fact that when I have money within around 10 feet of me I become very impressionable. Yes, I appreciate that everyone has a bit of this about them - we live in a consumerist society and all that - I do know this, I have a degree in philosophy and could probably bore you with consumerist society drivel for hours. My problem goes a lot deeper than most though, and how I came to purchase this perfume is a prime example of why it's probably a good thing that I don't earn more money than I currently do. The first time I sniffed out Agent Provocateur's debut scent (this one - the imaginatively titled "Agent Provocateur") it was being worn by my friend Hannah. "Blimey!", thought the 4-years-younger-than-I-am-now me, "That's a bit strong! There's no way someone as fluffy and girly as me could get away with something like that! I'll stick to "O Oui" thank you very much. But isn't Hannah quite the seductress wearing something like that? I wonder who she's after...". Shortly after, Hannah got a job in Ann Summers and so explained the sexy minx side of her personality to all who hadn't noticed her perfume. In short, I'd liked what I sniffed - a heady, spicy-yet-sweet and overpoweringly sexy scent - but thought I couldn't get away with it. Since then, obviously, I've changed ...
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