Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Valeur Absolue 'Sensualité' Eau De Parfum* - Review - Exclusive to House of Fraser

It's hard to explain the bubbles of excitement that fill you when you get one of 'those' emails - An email giving you the opportunity to trial something fabulous and really rather special. The email offering me the chance to try out 'Sensualité'* from Valeur Absolue, which is exclusive to House of Fraser, provoked that exact feeling.


The moment this fragrance arrived I knew that my excitement was entirely founded - Even just the box is absolute luxury. As you can see, above, the card that the box is made of has a beautiful additional dimension to it and, in the light, it looks like it's glowing with rainbows - Utterly stunning.

I've never, actually, heard this Oscar Wilde quote before so it was really nice to come across in this way - The quote is the absolute perfect fit for the ethos and inspiration behind this fragrance.

There are three fragrances available from Valeur Absolue, all of which can be found on the HoF site, which are 'Harmonie', 'Joie-Eclat' and, the one which I received, 'Sensualité'

Again you can see the beautiful sheen to the card - I think this rainbow effect, which brings even the packaging to life, is a fantastic mirror to the luxurious quality of the product that you find inside.

The square edged, chunky bottle is something that I wouldn't, ordinarily, link with femininity but the design of this bottle has a fantastic boutique feel to it - It's exactly the sort of bottle that you want to have sat on your vanity. You may get bright colours and quirky shapes from other companies but the simplicity and sophistication of this bottle is something else. As well as this, of course, your eye is naturally drawn to the pebbles in the bottom of the bottle. These are Mother-of-pearl and they're there, as the symbol of love and femininity, to embody the spirit of this eau de parfum; an 'intoxicating sensuality'.

I can, honestly, say I've ever seen anything like that inside a bottle of perfume, before, and it definitely captured my attention. For a very long time I use to collect semi-precious stones, and I still have a huge collection. As such, things like this are likely to really strike a chord with me because I know how strongly many people associate certain stones with certain things and the way in which they can act as a visual representation of a feeling or an idea. And, even if the meaning of the stones doesn't matter to you, there's absolutely no denying that they are beautiful and make the overall appearance of the product just that little bit more striking than it already was.

Ok so I've waxed lyrical about the appearance of this product so it might be a good idea to move on to the scent... what with it being a fragrance (yes, I may have got a little carried away, but I'm sure you can see why!). The scent of this eau de parfum is described as 'super-feminine, super-bright with a very luminous sensuality' which is something I can agree with. Although it's very floral and musky, which I normally class as heavy, it's still an incredibly light, bright fragrance which is an impressive thing to achieve. 

I'm not good at describing the notes in a perfume so I'm going to copy this from the site as they know far better than I do! 

 'floral, woody and musky notes, Valeur Absolue Sensualité was created around the femininity of Rose de Mai and the exotic sensuality of white flowers. Soft tones of cedar wood are combined with a mysterious blend of amber and musk.'

More recently I've not been able to use more floral fragrances as they've been bringing on headaches so I tried this, for the first time, with trepidation. But, very thankfully, despite the floral aspects to it this has never given me even the hint of a headache! And I really am very grateful for this as I absolutely love this product - The balance of the notes in this one is just perfect, none of them are over powering, they just blend perfectly and the smell that's left behind after the earlier notes disappear is delightful.

As well as the fragrance aspect of this eau de parfum there's a whole additional dimension - All three of the scents, available, contain essential oils and other, additional, elements which are supposed to help lift your mood. In 'Sensualité' there is the essential oils of Rose de Mai and white jasmine and, as well as that, there is the active minerals of potassium and calcium which are supposed to have a stimulating effect. Finally there is Areaumat Perpetua which is said to stimulate the release of beta-endorphins. 

These additional ingredients are something that I've not encountered within a fragrance, before, so I was intrigued to find out what effect they'd  have upon the product. Now, in the essence of being totally honest, I decided not to look up what beta-endorphins do until now so that I could say, without any preconceived ideas, how the fragrance makes me feel. Whenever I apply it, I really breathe in the scent, and the overwhelming feeling that I get is of relaxation - Now there's a high possibility that this is because I've just taken a deep breath and also because I really enjoy the scent but, what I've just found out is, beta-endorphins are supposed to be something which have an analgesic effect and that does fit with the way that it makes me feel. Ok, so don't buy this assuming it's going to suddenly make you happy and relaxed, but it's definitely worth keeping in mind that the more unusual side of its claims seem to have some effect, even if it's just due to the balance of the different notes!

All in all, it's safe to say I quite love this eau de parfum. I've worn is a lot, the scent sticks around for a really long time, and it just smells good and makes me feel good. What more can you want from a fragrance?

I definitely think this should be popping up on some Christmas lists, this year, and if you get the chance to pop in to House of Fraser then I would recommend giving all three of this a sniff and seeing what you think.

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*I was very lucky to have been sent this item for review purposes - All opinions, though, are honest are entirely my own*

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Beautiful Fairy Lights from Blaze On* - Review

Pretty things make me smile, a lot, but pretty things from a company with a strong ethical code makes me smile even more. The moment I read about Blaze On I just knew I wanted to work with them - Firstly their products are beautiful and secondly they use fair trade, ethically sourced products as much as possible as well as working with a number of home-run businesses in Thailand which means they're working with people to help better their lives. How's that for a first impression?!

If that's not enough for you then how about This for a second impression? Oh yes, just look at these beautiful, beautiful floral fairy lights! It was really, really tough to decide which of their products I wanted to try (there's so many beautiful lights as you can see HERE) but it came down to the 'Romantic Roses'* (£22.90) quite quickly based upon the flower as well as the colours - I didn't want just white as I like splashes of colour, but I also didn't want Just pink as it can be too much - The mix of pink, purple and white is just perfect for my tastes as it gives colour without being too in your face. These are the lights on the site: *

The lights came really nicely packed - I don't normally like it when there's lots of empty space in packaging as it suggests waste but in these it shows that they've been packed in the safest way possible; giving them the space to not get crushed.

You can see each of the colours, here, and I think they're just beautiful. The purple and pink are both bright but with slightly muted tones - I love how they emulate the sorts of colours you'd see on plants such as orchids and I think that this means that they would be beautiful as a decoration in their own right, not just as lights.

As you an see in the photo there's a few flowers which aren't connected to the string of lights - At first it seemed as though, maybe, some of them had come off in transit but when I checked they were, actually, stuck to the string. They're, actually, spare flowers - There's one of each colour so that if any of them get damaged over time you can replace them, what a lovely idea! The string has 20 led lights on it, so you're getting 23 of the roses to go along side that.

Don't they look beautiful when switched on! They absolutely transform when lit up, the white looks more cream, the pink becomes a more dusky shade and the purple becomes more of a plum colour - They're just beautiful. As you can see, the led lights, in these, aren't too harsh and that's  because they're soft white LEDs. I was very, very impressed when I read that they have up to 10 years (100,000 hours) of light in them, absolutely amazing! As well as this they come with a 1 year electronic guarantee and UK technical support which is really reassuring.

I took these pictures in the day light as I felt like it'd be a better way of capturing them, they'd have been very difficult to photograph them in the dark. We've been given permission to use the photos from the site and I want to show you the picture that made me fall in love with them, this how they look in the dark.

As you can seem from the photo above, which is from the Blaze On site, these fairy lights look so beautiful in the dark - I love that they're really nice without being light, they're stunning lit up in the day time and then even more beautiful in the dark; they work in any situation!

And, just to prove my last point, here they are, in the day light, unlit. I think they're easily the sort of thing that you can leave up all the time if you want to, they aren't something you have to put away between uses (unless  you want to of course). They're beautiful for the every day, they'd be stunning for a wedding (as would many of the other colours and designs), fantastic for a party and just amazing for a whole range of instances. When we move out, and get the new type of bed frame that I want, I think these will live on our headboard (I'd like one that's metalwork) as they'd be a beautiful way of adding a little colour and lots of pretty! 

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I was sent these for the purpose of review but all opinions are entirely my own and are honest*

Monday, 27 October 2014

Ozeri - Green Earth 8" Frying Pan* - Review

We were sent this frying pan quite some time ago but it's taken a little while for us to have a chance to review it ourselves. My Mum and her husband were able to start using it almost straight away and gave me great feedback but I needed to use it myself to be able to really tell you My thoughts! So my apologies on that.

My Mum and I have both wanted to try a ceramic coated pan for some time so this was a great opportunity for me to take up. The 'Green Earth' pan comes housed in this cardboard packaging (yay, recyclable) but with the added protection of a plastic bag - I normally prefer it if a company uses only cardboard but with an item like this I can really see why the added plastic bag is a necessity.

I considered spending some time writing up the claims that Ozeri have for this pan but when it's written on the back of the packaging it seems just a little bit silly! I was really impressed by a lot of these points, though, which was a very good first impression. The idea of the eco-friendly, non-harmful coating was definitely a real plus, for me, of course we all want pans to be as non-stick as possible but when this is done with chemicals it's always a bit of a concern.

Here you can see the elevated structure which is listed  on the packaging - I thought the idea of creating air pockets underneath the food was a really interesting one and made a lot of sense so I was interested to find out how this affected how evenly the food cooks. The handle a really strong, feeling rubberised material which means that you don't need to worry about it getting too hot but, also, it's much more comfortable to hold - With my silly, sensitive hands/wrists it can be very uncomfortable to lift pans and, although this doesn't alleviate any discomfort caused by weight, this means that the plastic or metal, that pans are normally made of, isn't there to dig in. I still struggle to lift even a small pan like this but these little details to help. Along the same lines the length of the handle is of note, I have to lift even the lightest of things with two hands and, although it's a small pan, the length of this means there's enough space for my to hold it with both hands.

I think the photos really do show how good quality this pan is, it really does scream well made - I've been very impressed.

The pan is quite deep, which I like, it, obviously, means that it's easier to move food around the pan without worrying that you'll push it up the edge and on to the hob (yes, this happens to me a lot), it also increases the amount of food that the pan can hold and makes it less likely that you'll accidentally splash yourself with oil or any other liquids that it contains.

My Mum and John have used the pan for frying eggs, a lot, and have been very impressed with how non-stick it is. The pan they used to fry eggs in has lost a lot of its coating and has been difficult to use for a while now so this new pan makes a really big difference. We've also used it for things like chicken and it cooked really nicely with, again, no sticking in sight - Which, obviously, makes it easier to clean (no scrubbing with a rough product needed!)

I thought that pancakes would be a great way to test how evenly the heat is distributed in the pan as it's something that covers the whole surface. Sadly we didn't make them from scratch, all the whisking would make my wrists very not happy - I did, though, find some pre-made ones in a local store (in the fridge section so they're a fresh type of pre-made) and I thought they'd be a good size to use in the pan (I didn't expect them to be That good a fit though!) - The pancakes needed a good time to cook through as they were much nicer when they had more time than the packet listed and they cooked really well. The heat was distributed really well, there was no singed edges and everything ended up cooked just right, all the way across.

I think I've definitely been converted to ceramic pans - This Ozeri one is a very good example of one, too. We have used it loads, already, and we'll be taking it with us when we move out which I'm glad of, it'll be nice to start out with such a good quality pan.

You can buy this 'Green Earth' frying pan from Amazon and it comes in three different sizes. At £19.99 it's not cheap but it is very good quality so you can understand the price. 

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We were sent this product for the purpose of review but all opinions are honest*

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Book Review - 'The Lost Hero'* by Rick Riordan - First of 'The Heroes of Olympus' series

I was sent a copy of 'The Lost Hero'*, by Rick Riordan, to read and review in order to, also, let you know that the latest, and last, book in the series, 'The Blood of Olympus'*, had recently been released. I've never reviewed a book in order to drum up interest in a later book in a series and I wasn't sure how it'd work but, now that I've read them, I feel Perfectly capable of doing that!

When the book arrived I began reading it almost straight away but by the time I reached the end of the first or second chapter I knew I needed to stop. Before I started reading 'The Lost Hero' I knew that it was a continuation of the Percy Jackson universe but, as someone who reads this type of series already, I wasn't sure if this was going to be a totally new set of characters and story lines or if it was going to lead on from the first series - Within the first couple of chapters it became Glaringly obvious that this was a direct continuation (even if in a small way) from the previous 'Percy Jackson and the Olympians' series.

Now if you're someone who doesn't obsess over reading things in the right order, or isn't too bothered about reading the previous series then you wouldn't need to worry but, the stickler that I am, I couldn't continue reading this book until I'd read the previous, five book long, series because I knew that One Day I'd want to read them and I didn't want to learn any more than I already had! I already had the Percy Jackson series so I, immediately, started reading it... it took less than a week. The books weren't the longest but the most important part of the speed at which I read them is down to the fact that they were so easy to read. There's no getting away from the fact that the series was written for a younger audience (the leads begin the series at the age of 12) but I didn't find that that detracted from the story or the characters and I was quickly immersed in this universe of Gods and heroes, of Greek mythology and terrifying quests.

If you've not read the 'Percy Jackson and the Olympians' series you could easily decide to ignore the younger years of the novels and read from this newer series, with it's older characters and, thus, slightly older story lines (Still firmly YA but 15-16 year old YA compared to 12). If you're not sure whether or not you'd still like to read the original series first then I urge you to pick it up first - The 'Heroes of Olympus' series is great as a stand alone series but you'd definitely not want to read it and Then read the Percy Jackson series as you'd already know far too much about what's going to happen.

'The Lost Hero' was a cliffhanger from the absolute outset - How? Well because you begin with a character who has no memory... that's a cliffhanger without any need for further plot. But more than that you're thrown straight in to the action, within the first couple of chapters your characters are battling unknown spirits and being thrown straight into a different world. We start the story with Jason (the amnesiac), Piper and Leo who all attend a school for children who've been 'challenging' in their pasts. On a school trip they're attacked by storm spirits and suddenly learn a lot more about themselves than they could possibly have imagined (Apart from Jason who's still left with a lot unknown).

Oh yes, we're sticking with the vague. I don't want to tell you too much because that's for you to read, and find out, but I will tell you that it's fast paced, it's full of intrigue and it's gripping. Sometimes writers of YA don't worry as much about the writing quality but there's none of that from Rick Riordan, the stories are well written and the language is evocative. I absolutely loved the Greek mythology in the first series and that continues with abundance during this newer series - It's amazing how much history Riordan has woven into this universe, how many well known Greek figures are brought to life and how many obscure ones are introduced to us, and we're able to learn about. 

And the fifth book? Well I've not reached 'The Blood of Olympus'* yet - The moment I finished the first book I bought the second, third and fourth - I didn't pick up the fifth as it's brand new and I thought I'd wait until I got to the end of book four. As it happens I'm not far off, now, I'm part way in to 'The House of Hades' - I had to slow down on the books, a little, as I had other review books to read and I'm trying to catch up on other things so I wasn't able to read them at, quite, the same speed as the previous series but I am still totally hooked. Whenever I get a few minutes I pick it up to carry on with the journey that the team of heroes has undertaken - The stories are still rich and beautifully written, there's no slowing down, as the series continues, with this author, it's going to be a gut wrenching adventure until the very end! I absolutely can't wait to see what happens in the last book, it feels like I've been on a really long journey with these characters and can't wait to see how the final chapter plays out. 
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*I was sent 'The Lost Hero' in order to write about it, but I've bought all 8 other stories that I own from these series' - all opinions are honest and are my own*

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A great way to share Spotify with your little one - The 'My Songs' app*

When we were asked if we'd consider writing about a child friendly app on Spotify called 'My Songs' I was instantly intrigued - So many people use Spotify now, it's everywhere so I wondered what this app would do to make it more closely aimed at those littler people in our lives.

I have, actually, never used Spotify myself but my husband has and he's used it to play songs to Ethan but, of course, it's not something where Ethan can get too involved because it's mostly Azii's music on there and where a lot of his music is child friendly, not all of it is.

It's really easy to find the 'My Songs' app, using the 'App Finder' app you just look for the one with the big yellow smiley face - You might not be surprised to find out that that stands out quite easily, haha.

The app, once you've got it, looks as you can see above - It's bright and eye catching, it'll really capture the attention of most children because they're going to know that it's for them and they're going to want to know why!

Again, as you can see in the pic, there's a long list of song types, within which there are play lists - Party, playtime, rhymes, pop, sports, learning and films are just some of the categories and then within these there's at least one, and often more, play list. It's all super simple to use and within each section there's a button to click -5 and +5 so that you can get songs aimed at either of those two age groups.

Ethan's favourite playlist is the 'Movie Songs' playlist - It starts with Frozen and then has Despicable me and Toy story, he was hooked. He loves his films but he has to be rationed otherwise he'd watch them all day so this is a great way of giving him a movie-like fix but not having him glued to the telly - That said, I think we both quite liked it too, haha. We both get Frozen stuck in our head a lot and other Disney songs are rather familiar to us too - In fact 'Happy' from Despicable Me 2 was put on Loads at our wedding as both Ethan, and Skye, went nuts whenever it came on so that song even has a bit of sentimental value.

Ethan was really excited every time we used the app, I think he really loved the idea that it was especially for him - He likes music a lot and if it's something that he recognises then even better. The good thing about the app is that you'll have songs that they recognise mixed in with ones that they won't, that way you're introducing them to something new as well. 

Maybe not the best quality picture ever but this is Ethan dancing, I tried to get him to slow down a bit so I could get a better picture but he was having none of it - I guess this one shows, quite well, how excited and happy he was about it, though, he really enjoys listening to music and bouncing around like a loony.

Considering that this app is free, and you can run it on a standard, free spotify account, it's a great idea. If you're having a children's party, looking for some seasonal songs (Halloween and Christmas sections are on there, too) or just enjoy listening to songs with your children then this is a great way for them to get involved and take a bit of ownership in what they're listening to without you having to worry that it'll be put on random and they'll end up listening to Slipknot on the next song (which is why I have to be wary when letting Ethan listen to my music haha). 

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*We weren't paid for this post but we were sent a children's CD as a thank you - This post is totally honest, though, we all think that this app is great*
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