Monday, 23 December 2013

New York Bakery Company - Orange And Cranberry Bagels

Happy Christmas Eve Eve everyone - the hours and minutes are ticking away for all the last minute shoppers out there, but that doesn't mean you can't still snap up something nice if you're quick, or plan your next post Xmas shopping trip.

I thought now would be an ideal time to bring back 'Freelancers Snack Time', my feature where I review something yummy which may (or may not) be right at home on my home office desk. This time I was lucky enough to have the chance to review New York Bakery Company's Orange and Cranberry Bagels.

I am a fairly recently convert to bagels as the taste of a plain bagel doesn't really do it for me, I hate onions with a passion so an onion bagel was out, and to be honest I couldn't be bothered with any special fillings. But thanks to Mum I now have a thing for New York Bakery's Cinnamon and Raisin Bagels, and they are until now, the only brand/make I have eaten on a regular basis.

I was intrigued to taste the orange and cranberry bagels, wondering how much taste and flavour they would have, and if I'm honest I expected the orange to be quite over powering. First impressions were good, they didn't smell too strong, although I was a little disappointed to have a 4 pack, instead of the 5 I was used too. The four bagels didn't last long though!! In some ways eating them was a little like demolishing a hot cross bun, but without the spice. Both flavours were there in a homely kind of way, but not over powering, so if I had been in the mood I could still have spread jam over them and it not taste funny.

A moister treat than some bagels I've tasted, but well cooked and a good balance of flavour. Unlike a certain home brand supermarket make which was verging on burnt, with this festive bagel pack the New York Bakery Company have maintained their quality and consistency. I'm not normally a fan of the limited edition flavours that come out at Xmas, and find them a bit too predictable, but if you want an alternative to Christmas pudding and mince pies, or are fed up of toast for breakfast, then this is a good option.

4 bagels eaten in 4 days, but if you want to grab a pack you best be quick, Orange and Cranberry packs are limited edition. Search for them in your local supermarket or online shopping portal.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Quinessence Muscles And Joints Bath Soak

It's a week full of last minute shopping ideas for Christmas here on These City Days, but these products can be bought all year round, so here's an idea with that in mind. I was recently given the opportunity to pick a product from the Quinessence Aromatherapy range. I am a big fan or aromatherapy for relaxation, and have long had lavender products to use, but this time fancied something a bit different, so like a kid in a sweet shop I browsed and came across the Muscles and Joints Bath Soak.

The bath soak comes in a 200ml bottle and appealed to me because along with Cardamon, Majoram, Sea Lavendar, Irish Moss and Seaweed, it also contains Chamomile. I have never been able to stomach tea or coffee, so don't drink Chamomile tea, but have often read of it in association with relaxation and stress relief, so I figured, if I can't drink it, why not bathe in it.

The bottle arrived and I tested it out that same night, and for a few nights following. Although the branding on the bottle wouldn't stand out on a shop shelf among bath products, if I was browsing, I think the fact that it uses organic essential oils, and is SLS and parabens free would appeal.

The bath soak smells quite strong and herbal in the bottle, but once poured in the bath bubbles up nicely (love a proper bubble bath), and while the scent was wafting around the bathroom enough to make an impact, it wasn't quite as strong.

It's been tried and tested a number of times now and I can safely say These City Days gives it the thumbs up. Some products on the market claim to be relaxing but don't really make a difference, this one however genuinely did help relieve some of my pre-xmas stress, and although at 6.99 it does cost more than I expected, as a treat I would buy it for myself, and use it occasionally when I need to pamper myself. I don't normally spend much on bubble bath unless it's a gift set, but this has converted me to the Chamomile cause.

Quinessence sell their range of aromatherapy products online, and also have a showroom where they welcome business enquiries. Click the link to find out more.

What are your favourite pampering treats, have you had results with aromatherapy? leave a comment below and let us all know!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Nutra Nail Gel Perfect Review

Me and nail polish don't always have the best relationship. I am one of those who loses patience when waiting for the polish to dry, or thinks it's dry, then gets ready for a night out, or gets on with some work, and hey presto it isn't quite dry or it chips easily. But I do like adding some colour to my nails, which is why I accepted the Nutra Nail Gel Perfect challenge, when offered the chance to review the product.

Nutra Nail Gel Perfect offers a gel like manicure without the need of a UV lamp and curing process. I was sent a box containing Sugar Plum gel colour, an activator and brush cleaning solution (which I was to discover is very important). It all came in a neat little box, emblazoned with the words "sets rock solid in 5 minutes to a patent leather shine". All sounded good on first impressions, and purple is one of my favourite colours, so I was eager to see how tough the product really was.

For each nail you go through a quick process of applying layers of activator lotion and gel colour, sealing the tips of your nails as you go, which helps prevent chipping. You have to wipe clean the gel polish brush after each colour application, and dip it in the cleaner so you don't get a clumpy brush and lumpy nail polish. The instructions are quite easy to follow, but on my first go I did forget to wipe clean the brush, so you do have to concentrate to get it all done properly.

Just as with normal nail polish, I think there is an art to applying gel perfect as well. It's not just about remembering the stages, it's learning to properly seal the tips and trying to angle in the polish to the sides so its not raised which comes with practice. If, when all the layers are set, it's slightly raised, the polish can catch on something and chip.

So yes it did chip, and is not entirely chip proof, in fact I had my first chip after a few days, and a week or so later only had a few nails left in tact. Although considering in day to day life I am working, and coming into contact with any number of tasks that could chip my polish, this is still pretty good going, and partly down to not being used to gel polish, and how to apply it to get the best results.

I did love the colour and the shine on my nails when I'd finished, and it definitely feels different, and tougher than normal nail polish - I'd place it somewhere in between normal nail polish and false nails. All good from that point of view, although I don't rate the 'No Mess Express' remover pad I was also sent (sold separately) When my nails had chipped a little the polish came off cleanly, but I found it a lot more difficult cleaning my nails with this pad. It took ages, and did leave some residue. I think I'd stick to normal acetone polish remover, or picking it off myself - this is supposed to be the easy task!

Although it's tempting sometimes, I don't think you can sit on the fence when it comes to product reviews, so I don't think I'd buy this product if I saw it in the shop. The colour range is very tempting, and as it claims, the polish does set rock solid in 5 minutes, but to part with more money I would want to see more of a difference between this and a good quality nail polish, and I'm afraid I just didn't see enough of one in this trial.

Nutra Nail Gel Perfect Manicure sets have an RRP of £14.99 and are available from Boots online and in-store.

Have you tried a gel effect manicure? do you have nice shiny nails now? why not share your stories below. Meantime I am off to put my purple polish away (just for now) and exchange it for a festive red).

* this product was kindly sent free for review, but all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Pottery Painting At Make Do And Mend

My first ever attempt at pottery painting
I would apologise for the Christmas craft overload, but I am not sorry, because there are so many great ideas about, and crafting keeps me distracted from the stress of Christmas. The other week I went along to Make Do and Mend in Chelmsford, as they had a pottery painting session on, and having been twice before, I couldn't resist painting something else festive for the tree.
The sessions are run by ceramics teacher, and expert painter Mell from Potters Bar Paint Your Own Pottery, and she does a great job of teaching little techniques such as dotting, stars, and hearts, and letting everyone know what colours can be layered up together, and generally encouraging those who weren't sure what to do, and lacked the confidence to touch their chosen pottery pieces with some paint.

It's pretty addictive, and relaxing sitting there coming up with my ideas, and watching what everyone
This year's decoration
else is doing. Even better when you get to pick your painting up afterwards and see how the colours have transformed after firing and glazing. This year I picked out two cute snowmen decorations to paint, and set about giving them little gloves, hat, buttons, and a face. The decided to paint a little design in each corner. I had no idea how my little holly and robin would turn out as they were quite fiddly to do, but I'm pretty pleased with the results.

My only slight criticism was there needed to be some quality control on the holes in the decorations, one of mine didn't have a hole right the way through, and fixing it, meant a piece snapped off and had to be glued back together. Apart from that, there were a good selection of things to paint, and help there if I needed it.

It genuinely is something all the family, or any age can get involved in, and you don't need to be artistic to have a go, anyone can do it. Make Do and Mend often have drop in pottery painting
Another cute snowman at home on the tree

sessions, and a whole host of other workshops throughout the year, so if you feel like getting creative in 2014, why not have a look at their website.

In the meantime I'll leave you with a few pictures of my efforts. Happy Christmas crafting everybody.

If you've done something crafty for Christmas, why not connect and share below!

* I paid to take part in this workshop and all opinions are my own.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Kerfuffle Game Review

One of my favourite things is playing board games, right from when I was young and my parents introduced me to games such as Build A Ladybird, Snakes and Ladders, and Guess Who. Some of the family favourites me and my sister we even played some games when we were long past the age they were aimed at. With my sister having flown the next, and Mum and Dad spending nights in front of the television, none of them are quite as willing as me to play, especially when it involves anything that is too long or complicated. Luckily Paul Lamond Games is pretty good at satisfying the tolerance levels, which is why I was happy to get the chance to try out Kerfuffle, part of their family games range.

Kerfuffle is a dice based game suitable for 2-4 players. If you play with 2 players you use all the dice (half each), and with 3 or more players, you have one set of dice each. There's no set-up involved, you just take the game board out of the box, divide up the dice, and you are ready to go. There are two options available, either play just with the dice and the game rules, or you can add the cards into the game - picking one each turn and following the rules on each as you make your move. When Mum and Dad found out that some of these cards tell you to tap dance, or sing the ABC game, that option was swiftly discarded!!

You'll need a bit of patience when you play, as first time round we had to go through the dice placement rules several times, check our moves, and we did help each other out with this, as we got used to how to play. But I think once you get the hang of what makes a series of numbers and what makes a pair etc. it will become easier.

It took us 20 minutes to play our first game, and none of us lost interest, so all positive signs. It was a little like Scrabble in that you have to start on certain game squares, and think about what your placing where, but other than that it's quite different to play, and there's more to it than other dice based games, which to be honest I've got bored with fairly quickly.

Kerfuffle is aimed at ages 8+ and I think that sounds about right. I think you could introduce learning elements with younger children, and when you've all grasped the rules, a nice bit of family competition. We played as a three - I think the potential to play with a fourth person, and with the cards, will make the game longer and/or each move more difficult.

Different gaming options make Kerfuffle stand out in the market, and all the items that came in my box are durable and hard wearing, so I think we'll be enjoying this game for many years to come. I do have a couple of criticisms on the packaging and instructions. Although the box is sturdy and colourful, and would jump out of the shelves, it does have a die cut on the front, and all that lays between this and the game pieces etc. is a loose plastic frame. To me a sealed front would be a lot more practical. I'd also look at possible improvements in the instructions, as the example pictures could be clearer, and although it was pretty easy to play, relating each set of instructions to each other, well it was a bit of a mouthful for a newbie player. Apart from that it's a positive thumbs up to this game, and I look forward to trying out the other gaming options.

Kerfuffle has an RRP of £19.95 and is available from Amazon, and many independent and high street toy and gift retailers this Christmas and beyond.

Have you played the game before? tempted to give it a go? let me know below!

*This product was sent for review purposes but all opinions are my own.

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