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Emma Cooper (Oxfordshire, UK)

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InstaNatural Dead Sea Mud Face Mask - Facial Cleanser, Pore Reducer & Moisturizer - 100% Natural Remedy for Dry & Oily Skin, Acne, Blemishes & Complexion - Reduces Wrinkles, Fine Lines & Aging - 19 OZ
InstaNatural Dead Sea Mud Face Mask - Facial Cleanser, Pore Reducer & Moisturizer - 100% Natural Remedy for Dry & Oily Skin, Acne, Blemishes & Complexion - Reduces Wrinkles, Fine Lines & Aging - 19 OZ
Offered by InstaNatural EU
Price: £49.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ten minutes of pampering for healthy looking skin, 15 Nov. 2015
For most of this year I have been dealing with chronic stress, and it has taken its toll on my skin. So when I was offered the opportunity to review Insta Natural’s Dead Sea Mud Facial Mask, I thought it couldn’t hurt to try, although I knew it wouldn’t be a magical, instant cure-all.

What you get is a 19oz tub full of grey, gloopy mud. The instructions are to apply a thin layer to clean skin - avoiding the eye and mouth areas - no more than once a week. You then leave the mask to dry for 10-15 minutes.

During those minutes, the mask gradually dries out and tightens up. If you’ve applied it a little too liberally it remains gloopy in places. It has a very cooling effect on the skin, which is lovely on a hot day, but a little less comfortable if you’re already chilly! When it’s time to remove the mask you’ll have that familiar tight face mask feeling.

The mask is easily removed with warm water and a face cloth, leaving you with lovely clean skin and possibly a bit of a tingly feeling. A good covering of moisturiser and you’re set for the day!

After over a month of using the mud mask as directed, in addition to my normal skin care routine, I can safely say that my skin is much happier, and continuing to improve. Applying and removing the mask is quick and easy, and gives your face a lovely pampered feeling. Given the directions to apply thinly, once a week, a tub this size will last one person for many months, so the price seems entirely reasonable given that this is a high quality product.

Note: I was given my tub of facial mask by the manufacturer for review purposes, on the basis that I would provide an honest review. This opinion is entirely my own, and I continue to use the product.

L'herbier érotique : Histoires et légendes des plantes aphrodisiaques
L'herbier érotique : Histoires et légendes des plantes aphrodisiaques
by Bernard Bertrand
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £27.16

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book, 3 Mar. 2014
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Plant geeks will appreciate this book, which shows (potentially) aphrodisiac plants in all their herbarium-sheet glory. Combined with the history and ethnobotany of aphrodisiac plants, it's a must-have for the bookshelf. Except it won't fit on the shelf, because it's really tall :)

6 x 12" Grow Your Own Vegetable - Christmas Crackers with a difference!
6 x 12" Grow Your Own Vegetable - Christmas Crackers with a difference!

4.0 out of 5 stars Strong arms required, 22 Mar. 2013
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These crackers look lovely, and the seeds, hats and jokes they contained went down well. However, they are made of strong paper and it was hard work to pull them. OK for people in their prime, but too much for anyone young or infirm or just plain puny!

Making the Most of Your Glorious Glut: cooking, storing, freezing, drying and preserving your garden produce
Making the Most of Your Glorious Glut: cooking, storing, freezing, drying and preserving your garden produce
by Jackie Sherman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.95

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious Grub from your Garden, 25 Aug. 2011
Jackie Sherman's new book ably fills any gaps in your inspiration when the novelty of the first courgettes has worn off and you're struggling to convince your family that courgette cake really is tasty.

Chapter 1 is all about storage methods, so you can keep your harvest in tip top condition for as long as possible. Chapter 2 looks at the list of common crops and gives you ideas on how to use them.

Chapter 3 beings the recipes portion of the book with starters and salads, and includes fruit soups. Chapter 4 is side dishes, and chapter 5 is main meals. Chapter 6 is desserts, chapter 7 is bread and cakes. Chapter 8 is preserves, chapter 9 is on bottled fruit and vegetables, and chapter 10 on dried fruit and vegetables. Chapter 11 has recipes for sauces and spreads and chapter 12 deals with drinks (alcoholic and otherwise). An index at the back helps you find a specific recipe.

The recipes themselves are a good range of basic ones that you can adapt (pies, curries and soups, for example) to whatever you have on hand, to more unusual ones. They're nicely laid out, easy to follow and very few have long lists of ingredients or instructions - the idea being that you can make them with what you have on hand rather than having to head out with a shopping list. There isn't a photo for each recipe, but the book has enough to whet your appetite.

Having tried out a few of the recipes they are easy to follow, and easy to adapt, so this is well worth having on hand for the harvest season.

Greenfingers Guides: Fragrant Plants
Greenfingers Guides: Fragrant Plants
by Lucy Summers
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A handy guide to heavenly scents, 9 Aug. 2011
Those of us who are not visually impaired tend to plant for colour and design, utility or wildlife value - scent is often an afterthought, a fortunate by-product of our choices. In contrast, all of the plants in 'Fragrant Plants' have been chosen for their scents.

The book has a short introduction and then leaps right into the plants, with fragrant flowers divided by the season in which they flower. Each plant has a column headed with a photograph and containing everything you need to know to be able to grow it, including how easy it is and where the plant is best used. Many of the plants chosen have been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit, meaning that they are easy to find and should grow well in most gardens.

Between 'Spring' and 'Summer' there are several pages on choosing and growing scented roses, which are a perennial favourite. And once you're past 'Winter' you'll find a section on aromatic plants - plants which don't necessarily have scented flowers but which release a scent when touched or crushed. Many of these are culinary herbs, and are marked as such; these entries are shorter and there are fewer photographs.

The back of the book covers the basics of gardening and growing plants. It reminds us that flowers with pleasant smells are aiming to attract beneficial insects (bees, butterflies, beetles and moths). The topics covered include planning and sourcing plants, caring for them, hardiness, pest and disease problems and propagation.

Four pages at the back list plants that are useful in different settings and for different things - e.g. groundcovers, full shade or with flowers in particular colours. One omission seems to be a list of plants that release their scents in the evening, a topic that would be of interest to gardeners who aren't fortunate enough to be in their garden most days.

Organic Vegetables & Fruit Growing & Preserving Month by Month
Organic Vegetables & Fruit Growing & Preserving Month by Month
by Alan Gear
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A substantial reference book for the organic kitchen gardener, 29 July 2011
'Organic Vegetable & Fruit Growing & Preserving Month by Month' is written by Alan and Jackie Gear, who used to be directors of the HDRA (now known as Garden Organic) and who certainly know a thing or two about organic gardening.

Although the introduction states that this is 'a handbook you can pop into your pocket for easy reference', it is no such thing. Nor is it a coffee table book with lots of lovely photos but no substance. Instead, this is a real gardening manual for anyone who wants to know about growing their own food organically. I do not claim to have read every word - it's not that kind of book.

The first chapter is on gardening basics, and assumes that you're starting from scratch. If you already have some experience you can skip it and move onto chapter 2. Although this is titled 'Healthy food basics', and the opening pages talk you through basic human nutrition, you may become bogged down in the later pages if you're not a fan of scientific words. There's a whole section on phytochemicals, which while useful and an unusual find in a gardening book, would be too much to absorb in one go. But if you can manage to read through it, it will give you an understanding of why some fruits and vegetables get labelled 'superfoods' in the press - and what effect they will actually have.

The first two chapters form the first part of the book. The second part is 'The gardening year', a robust guide to the jobs you'll need to undertake at any given moment, and what you can expect to be harvesting. Each season also has a handful of 'features', which are short pieces on gardening basics that will bring new growers up to speed.

Part 3 is 'A crop-by-crop guide', and takes you through over a hundred pages of vegetables, fruits and herbs and the details of their cultivation. Unusually, each entry also contains nutritional information and so this book is ideal if you want to grow and eat your own super-healthy diet. All of the crops commonly grown on allotments and in large kitchen gardens are covered, with recommendations of good varieties to choose. There are a few some less common plants included (such as sea kale, cardoons, medlars and mulberries).

Part 4 is 'Preserving the harvest' and walks you through the basics of food preservation methods from clamps to canning. It tells you how to make your own fruit leathers, and there's a number of jam and jelly recipes.

The Resources at the back include all the usual books, magazines, seed and sundry suppliers as well as suggestions of good gardens to visit for kitchen garden inspiration.

This is an information-dense, but not dry, reference book that would be great for anyone serious about starting a vegetable garden or improving their diet by growing their own. It has impeccable organic credentials, and is a nice antidote to some other gardening books that have lots of pretty pictures, but very little substance.

Weeds: How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation and Changed the Way We Think About Nature
Weeds: How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation and Changed the Way We Think About Nature
by Richard Mabey
Edition: Hardcover

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enthralling, literate look at the history of weeds, 29 July 2011
In 'Weeds', Richard Mabey has shown himself to be a true Renaissance Man. As he explores weeds and their history with man (for without man, there are no weeds), he effortlessly combines history and myth with science, art, literature and architecture. And he does it using language that makes no attempt to dumb itself down to the lowest common denominator, and yet to the literate reader is as enthralling and readable as mass-market paperbacks are to the masses.

The book itself is divided into twelve chapters, each given the common name of a plant that is considered to be a weed. But the chapters aren't mere discussions of the virtues (or not) of that plant, they have wide-ranging themes and touch on many plants and their stories. They are all tied together by the main story arc of how our perceptions of weeds have changed through the ages, and scattered with entertaining anecdotes. In 'Adonis', for example, we discover that Edward Salisbury raised more than 20 species of plant from the debris he found in his trouser turn-ups!

'Knotgrass' looks at the way weeds and theology have become entwined through the ages and how that has coloured our view of them. It's all caught up with the development of agriculture (before which 'weeds' as a concept did not exist) and the simultaneous advent of a life of toil and strife, before which we lived free and easy lives as hunter gatherers and weren't cursed by pestilent weeds.

'Self-heal' discusses the different ways that medicinal plants have been selected since history began, including the Doctrine of Signatures that professes that a plant's medicinal qualities (and the ailments they cure) can be seen in their form by an experienced practitioner. There's an echo of these ideas later on in 'Burdock' when Mabey revisits Ruskin's attempt to classify plant species on the basis of their aesthetic qualities, at a time when our understanding of botany and evolution was beginning to give us a real understanding of why plants grow in the way the do.

I got bogged down in 'Love-in-idleness', which is about the presence of plants in literature. Shakespeare I can cope with, but as I have no appreciation of poetry the latter half of the chapter was heavy going. I skipped it and moved on to 'Gallant Soldier', which is fascinating because it talks about the ways in which weeds are transported around the world, and also because it mentions locations with which I am more than familiar. Mabey makes it clear that the biosecurity genie is well and truly out of the bottle. We have been transporting plants around the globe - on purpose and unwittingly - for as long as we have been on it.

Mabey rounds out the book with a glossary of plant names, a bibliography and an index and his hope that whilst our concept of weeds is an indication of our separation from the natural world, their habit of refusing to accept or acknowledge boundaries could show us the route back to a life more in tune with nature. If you have even a passing interest in plants and their impact on our lives, this is an essential read.

The Time-Saving Garden (Readers Digest)
The Time-Saving Garden (Readers Digest)
by Reader's Digest
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A time-saving approach to the traditional garden, 29 July 2011
If there's a perennially popular topic in gardening, it's how to spend less time gardening and yet still have a good garden - we're all so pressed for time. Or perhaps it's more about how to cut down on the chores, so you can spend what time you have doing the gardening jobs you enjoy. If you're a fan of traditional horticulture, but want to save time in the garden then you may find 'The Time-Saving Garden' useful.

It's a weighty tome, hard-backed and over 300 pages. It's full colour, with photos and clear illustrations, but it's more of a reference or coffee-table book than something you might read in bed.

Divided into six sections, the book begins by laying out the 10 golden rules of the time-saving garden. Then there's a chapter of Inspirations - photos of different gardens (e.g. nature gardens, terraced houses, slopes, modern designs and cottage gardens), with their time-saving features pointed out.

Chapter 3 explains the importance of careful planning, with information on hard landscaping and understanding your soil.

Section 4 is about planting solutions for different areas, and covers attracting wildlife, tree maintenance, lawn care, ponds and water features and growing plants (including edibles) in containers.

This is also the section with the most information on kitchen gardens, covering fruit trees and bushes and herbs as well as vegetables. There's some information about growing undercover and pest control.

Section 5 shows how you can redesign a garden to a more time-saving design. It has reasonably detailed plans, but no costings.

The final section may prove to be the most useful, as it is a selection of 200 easy-care plants that have been divided into types (e.g. small trees, shrubs, climbers, ground-covers, ferns, bog plants, edibles). They have some care notes in terms of shade, size and water requirements, but nothing on soil preferences.

Overall I would say this is an interesting and useful book if you've inherited a garden that you're struggling to cope with and would like to transform it to a traditional (but lower-maintenance) space. The advice is solid, the instructions are clear and the illustrations are helpful. But there's nothing much new here for an experienced gardener.

Digging for Victory: Gardens and Gardening in Wartime Britain
Digging for Victory: Gardens and Gardening in Wartime Britain
by Twigs Way
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh take on an old topic, 29 July 2011
Garden writing today still offers much the same advice as it did during the war year - this is quite obvious if you read through 'Digging for Victory', which is a very comprehensive look at home vegetable production through the Second World War period and contains images of much of the literature produced at the time.

I have a soft spot for the Home Front period, and so I very much enjoyed looking through this book, with its many images of life back then. Unlike some books, however, this one doesn't toe the patriotic line and is happy to admit that people weren't always happy to 'dig for victory' and that some of the propaganda campaigns fell flat.

Even though I have read several books on this topic, this one still had new information that I hadn't come across before. It goes beyond 'Mr Middleton' to mention other garden writers - I learned about Eleanour Sinclair Rohde, who had an interest in herbs and wrote 'Uncommon Vegetables, how to grow and how to cook'.

It sounds as though most of the garden writing of the time was aimed (as it is now) as amateurs and making life easy for time-strapped gardeners. It would also have had to advocate thrift and make do and mend, as many gardening sundries and products would have been in short supply.

Gardening advice crept into every walk of life, with vicars being given horticultural notes to work into their sermons, and gardeners being encouraged by pesticide advice dispensed at Boots the Chemist. Apparently 10 tons of pigeon manure were scraped from a church in Kensington and given to local allotment holders to use as fertilizer, which was otherwise in short supply.

There's an insight into the history of the compost heap and a rather disturbing chapter on pests and diseases. The gardening press acknowledged the existence of 'patriotic' beneficial insects, but pests were 'Hitler's Allies' and blitzed out of existence with chemicals that are no longer available for amateur use.

The book contains a chapter on livestock, covering hens, rabbits, pigs and goats - with some interesting snippets on what they were all fed on. Many gardeners were as squeamish then as they are now about killing their animals, and it's hard to imagine the effects of untrained people killing larger animals.

This is a lovely hardback book, packed with information and lovely pictures. If you enjoy reading about the Home Front and the Digging for Victory campaign, or the history of gardening, then it would make a great addition to your library. There's a lovely touch right at the back, as the second page of the index is printed on the inside of the back cover. Saving paper - how very appropriate!

Grow Your Food for Free (Well Almost)
Grow Your Food for Free (Well Almost)
by Dave Hamilton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.91

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good choice for a novice gardener with a limited budget, 29 July 2011
The introduction to 'Grow Your Food for Free (Well Almost)' reveals one of the reasons that this book is different to many of the others on the topic of frugal gardening - it's written from the perspective of people who are tenants, and who may not have access to any kind of permanent garden. There is therefore more information on finding space in which to garden, as well as the more usual topics of planning, wildlife, soil, and water. There's also good stuff on making use of waste and scrounging for wood.

After the introduction the book is divided into four seasonal sections. in Spring you will find everything you need to know about seeds, crop protection, compost mixes, propagation, and making your own plant labels and containers. There's also a section on adding to your harvest by collecting wild `extras' - as there is in each following season.

Summer covers plant support, weeds, feeding plants and a section on pests and diseases (although the only disease that is covered is blight and I couldn't see any mention of crop rotation as a healthy practice). There's also more on propagation and seed-saving.

In Autumn Dave turns to harvesting (including some great instructions for fashioning origami bags to help you carry stuff home if you've forgotten your containers) and storage. Once again there's seasonal information on propagation and seed-saving techniques, as well as making leaf mould.

When you get to winter you'll find details on soil and tool care, and construction projects large and small (including making your own green roofs).

Throughout the book there are useful additions from experts such as Nicky Scott, Pippa Rosen from Beans and Herbs, Mark Boyle and the Eden Project.

The plans for DIY projects are simple and designed to make use of salvaged wood. Dave uses anecdotes and humour to get his message across (apparently money is better spent on beer than gardening!) and has created a very entertaining, yet comprehensive read. A good choice for a novice gardener with a limited budget.

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