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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
"We murmur deep songs", 8 July 2013
(Apologies for the length!)
"Flow and change", the follow up to the beautiful "Talking with Strangers" by Judy Dyble, has been released.
I am not going to write a lot about who Judy Dyble is, as there is a glut of information available on the net but I will briefly list the bands that Judy has been involved with, to give an idea of her longevity in music:
King Crimson, Fairport Convention, Giles,Giles & Fripp, Trader Horne, Kings Cross, The Conspirators. She has also had a productive solo career and tends to appear occasionally at Fairport's Cropredy Convention, always receiving a very warm welcome.
SWIRLY, WHIRLY WORDS....
If I were to describe Judy's work to the uninitiated, I would paint a picture of quintessential "Englishness", a singer with fine enunciation and a crystal clear voice. Dig beneath the surface of the initial impression, and you will find a box of delights that surprise, and take you down unknown roads that afterwards you are grateful to have travelled. Amongst the home counties accent and finely woven words which are rich with imagery, there lies more than a sniff of the unexpected, coated in swirls of psychedelia, prog rock and a smidge of folk...
Judy is capable of embracing several genres in one song, as shown on the incredible and epic "Harpsong" from the very well received "Talking with Strangers" album. Her songs often draw you into a contented mellowness and then make you jump and start as a phrase, a solo, or a tempo change knock you out of your passive complacency.
Her ability to embrace so many genres has made her a versatile artist who often says YES to the unexpected, and it takes her to places that we would not expect an artist with her history to go. Her previous works Enchanted Garden, Whorl and Spindle all had elements of prog and psychedelia, but in her two most recent albums, Judy has returned to the singer songwriter genre, where the focus is on rich pictures formed from her stories and words.
Judy is somebody who makes music because she cannot not make music. It is who she is. As she finishes one album, she already has ideas and songs for the next, and although she does not always know who she will be working with or how it will happen, by some form of magic it does. I would suggest that the magic is within her, partly because of *who* she is (she is pretty much folk royalty) and also because of her flexibility. Although she has clear visions of where she wants each song to go, she is not restricted by one genre or one type of production. This gives her an edge and no album is the same.
At 64 years old, Judy shows no sign of stopping. There is no ebb in her songwriting ability and her voice is still crystal clear and beautiful despite her having health problems. She rarely tours, yet each album is eagerly awaited by fans. She is active on social media and various forums, and as a result has a candid relationship with a lot of her fans. Some of them become friends, of which I am one.
Although it could be seen that I am perhaps "influenced" by our friendship as I write this review, Judy knows that I am a very blunt person and if I did not like it then I would say so (but kindly). Regardless of our friendship, she never ceases to amaze me with what she manages to write and create, and seeing and hearing those songs start as demos and become fully fledged tracks is an honour. Judy has often emailed me tracks at their birth which then build and build with each mailing until the final song is born. Watching this process is fascinating.
"FLOW AND CHANGE"
The latest album "Flow and Change" is an emotional album, recreating delicate and emotive tales of lost love, new life and birth, the cycle of nature and the symbolism for loss and memory. Judy revisits her childhood with her sisters in the song "Featherdancing", where she recollects dancing with her sisters:
" Three little girls who danced like small birds, it ended in laughter and breathless disaster, Featherlight dancing to tunes no-one heard".
There is a tone of not only nostalgia running through this album, as well as more than a nod towards sadness. But within the sorrow there is often a little light, a word or a line that makes us feel that everything will be ok in the end. Judy pairs beauty with starkness, gentleness with harshness all wrapped up in the incredible music of Alistair Murphy.
Alistair is a man of many talents, who not only co-wrote this album but produced it too. The intuitive choice of other musicians featured on this, works exceptionally well and when combined with Alistair's excellent production skills, makes for a very beautiful piece of work.
CROWS, DULCIMERS AND ALMOST AN ORCHESTRA.....
I think it fair to say that Judy likes experimenting, exploring different musical genres and often merging them in one song. This could be messy under less skilled hands, but Alistair and Judy nail it totally. This ability is shown in the delicate "Crow baby", the portrayal of innocence and nature with some twist and shock added. In this song, the fledgling life of the baby bird is paired with a sweetly sung lyric:
" Rotting death, will make a feast, Young of others sweeter, Have to grow, you need to eat, feed on little creatures".
The brilliant "Crows are made for staring" is so simple but sums up the bird who sits and watches with an almost sinister unblinking gaze, before it swoops off into the sky. Such a gentle song at first glance, Crow baby is a classic example of a Judy Dyble song, sweetness, vivid imagery and then the crunch that makes you startle. The scratchy intro is uncomfortable and slightly ominous; you expect something nasty to happen. Instead you get a gently building and musically pretty song. The lyrics contrast heavily with the music and I think this is why Judy is so good at creating the unexpected. You just do not expect something so pretty, sung by somebody with such a cut glass accent to sing of rotting death and carrion. But that is Judy, expect the unexpected.
The album features piano played by Alistair Murphy (who is also featured on dulcimer), soaring strings from Steve Bingham and Brenda Stewart, with Pat Mastelotto (He of King Crimson and Mr Mister) on drums. Julianne Regan (All about Eve) also features. Instrumentation includes electric guitar, French horn, cello, lap steel, double bass and the woodwind family.
ALBUM ART (and the sisterhood):
The stunning album art is provided by Jackie Morris and Catherine Hyde, two of the women who make up the "Sisterhood of Ruralists" on the album (the other two being Tamsin Abbott and Hannah Willow). As with most of Judy's songs, there is a story attached and this one is no exception. Judy herself says:
"The Sisterhood of Ruralists came from a gathering of the four artists at my house where the sisterhood was formed after wine was taken... I wrote each of the artists a poem and music was created by Alistair and hence the song was born"
Judy lives in Oxfordshire, in the most beautiful house which befits the musician entirely. The old stone walls wrap around the contents- the wall of vinyl records in the music room, the greyhound statues and autoharps, and the big snuggly sofas. Outside there is a "crystal tree" where many suncatchers hang and spin in the breeze. The garden is cottagey, the house is old enough to remember many stories and there have been many greyhounds living there. In the song "Sisterhood of Ruralists" each artist is given a verse (or two) which captures their essence, all building up via a very "folkie" rhythm to a crescendo of jubilant strings. It is probably my second favourite song on the album (Crow baby being my first) and is a long epic journey suited to the album finale.
Alongside Crow baby, Featherdancing and The Sisterhood of Ruralists, there are 7 other tracks which fit together individually to create a rich tapestry of themes and experiences. The album at times verges on orchestral, such is the presence of the strings, which often take centre stage in a song. These elements seem to emphasise parts of the song at the exact time in which they are most needed, for example breaking the sadness of a verse. Everything about this album is carefully chosen, from the chord changes to the phrases used.
The thread of sadness running thorough the album is palpable.
There is loss portrayed wistfully in the song "Wintersong" which is one of the tracks that made me cry even when I heard it in a demo form. It still does! In this song, we can all relate to the loss of something or somebody that we loved. The song evokes pictures of great longing and the yearning for the touch of the departed loved one. The bass, horn and cello add to the melancholy but as with most of Judy's "sad" songs, there are chinks of hope.
Loneliness is described in "Silence", the tale of a lady who lives alone but yearns for companionship. In the song the person says goodnight to her online friends - "the friends she has never seen". The rich string section appears to be trying to fill the void felt by the protagonist in the song.
"Driftaway" also has an element of sadness, and yet most of Judy's songs could never be described as remotely depressing. The sad and painful themes seem softened by the qualities of her voice:
"We knew that time stood still to let us be, Together in that moment, calm and free, Just a timeless kiss of gold among the grey, That we have shared till we drift away"
When you consider that Judy lost her beloved husband Simon some years ago, the songs take on a new meaning. But even those regretful words and that poignant theme seem to become tolerable in the mixture of music and vocals which lull and comfort the listener.
"Beautiful Child (Freya's song)" - is a stunning dedication to Judy's young granddaughter, full of love and the wonderment of a whole life to explore. How lovely for Freya to have a song written by her Grandmother! The song is an innocent declaration of love and hope.
"Black Dog Dreams" is the album opener, and is of course about depression, the black dog that sits at our heels in our darkest times. Despite the title and theme, the song is far from miserable, with the reassurance given that the Black Dog is perhaps not to be feared:
" Let me sit at your feet, While you pour out your tears, There is no one around, Who will laugh at your fears. You can call out my name, in the depth of your pain, You know I will answer, Black Dog is my name".
"Head Full of Stars" is a song which depicts two characters, each beguiling for different reasons. It is one of the songs which features Julianne Regan on backing vocals, the perfect duet of clear voices. The chorus is optimistic and catchy and reminds me of some of the songs that appeared on "Whorl" and "Spiral".
Finally, "Letters" features Matt Malley sharing the vocals. The song begins with Judy speaking as if she were writing to a hoped-for lover. Gentle piano accompanies the vocals which then swap to Matt. The man in the song never receives the letters, and so the romance remains unrequited. Both sing of their hope, their loss and wait for the other to contact, assuming that neither is very interested. "Would be lovers" that never had the chance to be. This song is reminiscent of "Grey October Day" from the Talking with Strangers album.
The album finishes with the epic "Sisterhood of Ruralists", rounding off another work of art in which you get to know many parts of Judy's life, hopes and dreams.
ORDER OF TRACKS:
1/ Black Dog Dreams
3/ Beautiful child (Freya's song)
4/ Crow baby
6/ Head full of stars
10/ The Sisterhood of Ruralists
This album would appeal to anybody who enjoys woven words and stories, gentle songs with soft strings that rise up to fill the room with exuberance, and those who have a soft spot for a "proper song" ie built up from bare bones, birthed by various musicians and then produced by a very skilled man who seems to intuitively know what each song needs. The finished product is polished, fragile in places and abundant in others. It is a musical journey in the true sense of the word and one that requires real listening to absorb all of the various elements and layers. I recommend darkness lit by candles, a roaring fire, a squishy chair and then put this on. Close your eyes, and you will be taken on a journey that is unpredictable and joyous.
The album is beautiful and is another treasure from Judy. I cannot imagine this receiving bad reviews, instead I think it will delight many. Like its predecessor "Talking with Strangers", Judy manages to capture scenarios that we can all relate to, and convey emotions to us so that we feel the words. 10/10 for beauty, creativity and production.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Halva load of this then..., 28 May 2013
I am amazed that there are still so many people in the UK who do not know what halva is, let alone eat it. This crumbly, sticky and delicious traditional sweet is perfect when served after dinner with a strong black coffee. I first found out about halva when I was doing my A-levels. There was a little health food shop that had a display cabinet full of unappealing looking slabs of cream/grey coloured substance that I was told was "halva". I had never heard of it. There were many types to buy from pistachio to chocolate swirled vanilla so I chose the latter out of curiosity.
My first taste was an eye-opener. The sweetness hit me first, halva is very very sweet. Then the texture which is gooey and crumbly all at the same time. Then the sesame seed kick of the Tahini which leaves a beautiful aftertaste. Having broken myself in via the more easily accessible chocolate type, I went back for the vanilla, the pistachio and the hazelnut. I loved them all. To this day, halva reminds me of good quality coffee because the bitterness of the coffee cuts through the sweetness of the halva (and removes it from your teeth).
WHAT IS IT?
Halva has many names (halawa, alva, xalwo, haleweh, hulwa, halvah, halava are just a few) and is a popular food in many countries across the Middle East, India, parts of Africa and Eastern Europe. It is a thick and very sweet confectionery product and can be made in a few ways, some of which include flours and some which include nuts or seeds. Basically halva is a sweet dessert food which is eaten in other parts of the world the way we would eat chocolate here. Halva is an ancient ethnic food which along with dried fruit is one of the first desserts on record.
Halva is generally found over here as a slightly crystalised slab in a little tray. To look at, halva is unspectacular. You will find it in little packets (sold by "Sunita") in health shops or if you are very lucky you will find it in blocks which are cut to the weight you require. The smell is delicious, think burnt sugar combined with sesame, and the experience of eating it is not comparable to anything else. It is a paradoxical substance which is healthy yet fattening, super sweet yet has a sharpness and it has a dryness to it despite being oily. You will have to taste it to see what I mean. A good halva melts in the mouth leaving a slightly grainy sweetness. It is very very moreish and as I said, goes great with a good quality strong coffee. You are meant to eat it in small quantities, I cut mine into little squares because it is so rich you really do not need to eat much of it.
TYPES OF HALVA:
The grain based halva is more gelatinous than the nut one, and is created with some type of flour as an ingredient, usually semolina. The main ingredients of a flour based halva would be clarified butter or Ghee, flour of some kind and sugar.
The nut/seed based halva is the one that you will find in health food stores and Holland & Barrett. It is crumbly and sticky and contains tahini which is a sesame seed paste. Sunflower seed, hazel and other nut butters can also be used. The main ingredients for nut based halva are tahini, and some kind of sugar, usually honey.
In parts of India and Africa, halva is found with many added ingredients such as beans, nuts and even carrots and yams. In the UK you will typically find chocolate, pistachio and vanilla halva unless you are lucky enough to know somebody who makes their own.
HOW TO STORE IT:
Due to the oil and sugar content, halva does not need to be refrigerated. During the summer though the halva will start to separate and melt under hot conditions so keep it cool. I store it wrapped in greaseproof paper in the fridge just to keep it solid. Storing it in cling film type wrap will make it oily and not allow it to breathe although a sandwich type box is fine to keep it in.
HOW TO USE IT:
Crumble it on ice cream. serve as an after dinner sweet (like mints but nicer), with a strong coffee (preferably black), crumbled onto yoghurt or just scoff it from the packet. I am still not sure how something so bland and beige can be so explosive and flavoursome but there you go.
High in calories and natural sugars, halva is a treat food to be eaten in small amounts. There is nothing nasty in terms of preservatives or flavouring in a traditional halva and it is packed with protein from the sesame seeds.
One of the first oils used by humans, sesame seeds are used for food as well as in traditional medicines for their many benefits. Sesame seeds are sources of omega-6 fatty acids, anti-oxidants, vitamins and dietary fibre. The seeds are especially rich in Oleic acid which helps to lower "bad" cholesterol and increases "good" cholesterol in the blood. Sesame is high in vitamin and mineral content, namely B-complex vitamins such as niacin, folic acid, thiamin (vitamin B1), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), and riboflavin. The seeds contain calcium, zinc, manganese, iron, magnesium, selenium, and copper so although halva is a very sweet food, it has a lot of healthy stuff packed into it.
Honey is a natural product containing 80% natural sugar, mainly in the form of glucose and fructose.
2% of honey is vitamins, protein and pollen and the rest is water. The vitamins found in honey include B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and certain amino acids. Honey is also mineral rich and contains calcium, copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and iron.
Halva is high in calories. 100g of halva typically contains around 480 calories and 30 g of fat (healthy fat though). This is compariable to chocolate in terms of calorific value. However the inherant richness and sweetness of halva means that to gorge on it would be very tricky indeed. Halva made with sugar and not honey is suitable for vegans but the Sunita brand most commonly found over here is not. It is vegetarian though and lactose free.
Halva is a delicious and indulgent food, very sweet and rich but also full of benefits. There are many varieties available and Holland & Barrett sometimes stock a range. The Sunita one which is the brand more commonly found in the UK, is a vanilla halva and they also do a dark chocolate one which is incredibly gorgeous with a very strong bitter cocoa taste.
You can of course make your own Halva so I am including a recipe:
700g good quality honey
Choice of flavour (coffee, cocoa, vanilla)
340g light tahini paste -- well shaken or beaten to mix in any excess oil
Optional extras include chopped nuts, dried fruit etc
You will need to heat the honey slowly, stirring lots to prevent burning. If using a sugar thermometer, heat until the thermometer reaches 240 °F (115 °C) otherwise use the "soft ball" test used for toffee. Once you reach "soft ball" temperature, let the honey cool for a couple of minutes. Warm the light tahini and fold it into the hot honey. At this point add your nuts, cocoa etc.
Pour the mixture into an oiled tin or tray and leave it to cool. Then place in the fridge for a couple of days to allow the sugar crystals to form, giving halva the texture that it typical. That is it! You will need to cut it into smaller pieces with a sharp knife. I wrap mine in greaseproof paper and leave it in the fridge.
Summary: A delicious alternative to chocolate.
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Nature's valium., 28 May 2013
Valerian is a plant native to Europe (including Britain) and parts of Northern Asia, which is used medicinally and magically (if you are so inclined). There are two species of this plant native to the UK but the genus comprises over 150 species. It is used primarily in the UK as a natural sleep aid and muscle relaxant. When utilised for medical purposes, the valerian used is usually the root stock of "Valerian Officinalis", an inconspicuous little plant with delicate frond-like leaves and a pink/purple flower. The root of the plant also honks... badly. There is no mistaking the smell of valerian root. More about that later...
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Valerian is a central nervous system relaxant and is prized as a remedy for short term insomnia. Unlike the effects of Benzodiazepines (valium, temazepam, lorazepam etc), this herb is not addictive nor are there any nasty side effects of note to worry about. Such is the efficiency of valerian, it has been used as a sleep aid for over a thousand years. When taken, valerian does not have the "hang over" effect that other sleep aids give you neither is it contraindicated with alcohol. Herbalist John Gerard stated in his writings that valerian was "held in such esteem as a medicine among the poorer classes in the northern counties and the south of Scotland, that 'no broth or pottage or physicall meats be worth anything if Setewale (the old name for Valerian) be not there." I love old English....
Valerian has a wide range of uses in the home, the main one being for insomnia. It is also a very effective stress reducer and many people with anxious depression and nervous disorders find it useful.
Valerian also has some very physical benefits when used with conditions such as sciatica, multiple sclerosis and neuropathy where it aids the numbness, tingling and pain associated with such conditions.
I have found it very helpful for the pain that I experience in my back and pelvis and also for the nerve pain that I suffer from as part of my M.E.
Valerian seems to have a part to play in assisting with migraines, rheumatism and behavioural issues. It also affects the stomach and can be taken as a digestive aid, being helpful for cramps and digestive issues. As a general relaxant it is easy to see how it would help these issues and I have found it to be effective and non invasive in terms of feeling hungover the next day.
This plant was held in such high esteem in medieval times that it was known as "All Heal" and some products bear this name today. For a plant that effectively allays pain and promotes sleep, I am amazed that a drug company or Government has not tried to ban it...
Valerian is also known as all-heal, set-well, English valerian, Belgian valerian, common valerian, German valerian, wild valerian, heliotrope, garden heliotrope, fragrant valerian, vandal root, phu (Galen), amantilla, and capon's tail.
Magical Uses and folklore:
Valerian is used ritually in water magic and rituals that are focused upon mercurial energy. It is also a traditional constituent of dream magic, love and harmony spells and for focus upon a wish or need. Valerian is used freshly cut in a pouch for dream magic and also for sleep protection. It can be burnt as an incense with charcoal blocks in a burner for harmony and protection of the home and family. Just a warning though, from one who has burnt it as incense, even when mixed with a nice resin like copal it still honks....
Valerian is contraindicated in pregnancy and technically breast feeding women, however I was given the go ahead to breastfeed and use Valerian. The herb should be used when needed but on a reasonably irregular basis, not because it is physically addictive but because it could become a prop which disguises the real issues behind sleeplessness or muscular pain etc. It is advised that you seek medical advice for any new conditions that you have just to check that it is not something that needs medical help.
For sporadic use as a sleep aid or muscle relaxant though, valerian is fine to use and safe.
EFFECTS ON ANIMALS:
Have you ever seen a cat on catnip? The roly poly intoxication is well known amongst cat lovers. Valerian has a similar effect on the nervous system of many animals, especially cats, and it is very hard to grow valerian in your garden if you have cats as I learned to my cost. I tried many ways to keep them off of my plants to no avail so I gave up and I now buy it. Valerian is fragile and does not like being jumped on and chewed by over-enthusiastic felines. Interestingly it is also very appealing to rats and folklore suggests that the Pied Piper of Hamelin secreted valerian about his person to lure rats to him. Luckily it does not seem to have this affect on humans, can you imagine the chaos down the pub if it did? Think the Lynx effect x 10.
Dosages vary according to the type of product that you use, so follow the instructions. If you buy the root dried and entire then I use a teaspoon of dried herb matter in boiling water as a tea which I steep for 5 minutes before straining and drinking. I try to disguise the taste as it is quite horrible. The dose can be altered and overdose is very unlikely, so it is advised that you try it out and find the right amount for your needs. Very high doses of valerian are not dangerous but it can give you a headache and make you feel groggy.
I have used Valerian for many years, in raw tea form, tinctures and in capsules. This is a herbal medicine that once smelled is never forgotten. To say that the herb smells of rotten socks is being complimentary, it really is that disgusting. Therefore I have become adept at disguising the smell. The taste luckily is not as offensive as the aroma and can usually be hidden by using either alcohol in a tincture (I use brandy) or in a tea with lemon juice and honey.
I use valerian for times when I cannot sleep and also as a muscle relaxant which works very well. This is a herb that has been used for centuries and there has been a lot of research conducted into the effects, safety and properties of this plant.
This amazing and versatile plant has been the focus of both medicinal remedies and folklore for a long time. From Chaucer to The pied piper, valerian root features and it is steeped in history. It is especially interesting to read the old botanical herbals to read what it was used for. It has plenty of modern day uses and is safe and effective. I have found it to be easy to take (once I get past the taste) and very effective for what I use it for. I have experienced no ill effects and consider it to be an important home remedy.
Summary: A wonderful little native plant with many uses.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Growing old disgracefully!, 28 May 2013
I have used Stargazer colours on and off for a long time. Initially when I was younger they were the only unusual colours that you could buy in my very staid and traditional Bucks town and so we all bought these. The colour range was not as impressive as it is now though. Before we managed to get our mitts on Stargazer colours, we used to use electric blue and green mascara to dye the sides of our cropped heads (a bunch of us had mohicans). Additional colour could be added by growing dreads and weaving in bits of bright wool or ribbons but we were limited as to how freaky we could look. At the time I used to wear a mohawk with long dreads at the back and big spikes on top, a tie dyed wedding dress and army boots. To be honest my clothes taste is still pretty tragic but I have toned down a bit since I have got older, mainly because I have a small child and cannot be bothered with the faff of a high maintenance look. I do though still LOVE having stupidly coloured hair and I enjoy the psychedelic tramp look.
I am coming up to 44 and I have lots of white hair starting to come through. Unfortunately it is not enough that I can apply Stargazer neat, I still have to bleach parts of it. My hair is very long and I am loathe to trash it any more than I already have by bleaching it all so I tend to do chunks and streaks of bleaching which means my hair is usually multi-toned. Stargazer is very effective on light or bleached hair.
Stargazer semi-permanent colour comes in a plastic tube in a cardboard box. It contains full instructions and some gloves. There are a range of truly wonderful and vibrant colours available to buy from lime green to bright red, violet to pale pink, but the ones that I have used most are the bright reds, violet, magenta and cobalt blue. I did at one point use all three colours in stripes all over my head. It looked far better than it sounds honestly....
This dye is gloopy and slightly thicker than it used to be when I were a lass. This is a good thing because dyeing your hair a stupid colour will also mean you end up dyeing your skin , ears and bath so be sure that you *really* like the shade that you choose. You get 75 ml in the bottle which is JUST enough to cover my hair (focal bleached bits and a tone to the rest which is dark) but really if you have long hair I suggest that you buy two boxes.
The bottle has a little silver foil seal which you remove and then replace the pointed lid. It has a special tip than you snip off with scissors and then you apply it. Sounds easy? It is. Technically. But no matter how hard you try you will make a mess.
This is a semi-permanent colour and is a stain rather than a dye really. The reds and magenta tend to last a long time but the violets and blue hues are high maintenance and fade fast. A weekly top up is needed to keep the blue tones looking good. I use a residue free shampoo and something gentle like Dr Bronner's to try to make it last longer.
There is no real smell to the product because it is a stain. There is no peroxide or ammonia either but then you would probably have bleached the life out of your hair beforehand if you really want your hair to stand out.
There is no conditioner in the box but I use coconut oil and it seems to seal it in very effectively.
You WILL need the gloves. You will need bleach to rescue your bath. At least a few old towels will be needed too and do not forget the floor... this stuff does drip.
HOW TO USE IT:
The box contains good and clear instructions on how to use this. I use it like this:
I wash my hair with a residue free shampoo - there is no point coating the hair shaft with vitamin whatever with b6 and x, y and z if it stops the dye from staining your hair. Use a good shampoo, different to your usual one to strip your hair of products and build up. I use Lush solid shampoo (Seanik), Dr Bronner's or a Weleda body/hair wash. Do not condition your hair... again this coats the shaft. Then towel dry your hair and prepare yourself for a huge mess.
If you have long hair you can section it but I find that my hair knots when I do this so I just start at the crown and work it through. If you have a parting then try to part your hair differently because this stains your scalp for a bit and you will look like a) a plonker or b) like you have a rare and fluorescent skin disease. Work it through your hair by massaging it in. Sigh as you see the tips of your ears changing colour. I usually shove a plastic bag on my head with my hair piled up under it and then leave it to do its magic.
At this point you will survey your bathroom with a sinking heart. There will be blobs of colour everywhere. This is the time to bleach the bath especially if you have an enamel one. It will NOT come out of a bathroom carpet ( does anyone really still have those?) so you will be glad of the old towel that you stuck under your feet. You did remember that didn't you? Oh....
Baby wipes are good for getting excess stain from your forehead, hairline, shoulders, ears and everywhere else that this damn stuff has sploshed. Milk helps too funnily enough. But no matter how hard you try, you will still look somewhat stained in places that really should not be that colour naturally. It does fade though... (eventually)...
The box says to leave the dye on for 15-30 minutes but I usually leave it on for an hour. It is a stain remember not a proper dye. The box states that this will not cover white/grey hair but it does with me.
I have had some mad hair colours thanks to Stargazer dyes, bright blood red, cobalt, violet, magenta, bright pink.... and they really are very very bright. The bleaching makes the colour vibrant and having bright stripes in amongst darker tones of the same colour is eye-catching. The dyes vary in terms of how long that they last, as I said the blues/ purples are the shortest lived, and the reds/pinks tend to last much longer. I have managed to get the red to last 8 weeks with one top up but that was being careful and washing my hair very gently etc. The colour can be patchy if you do not massage it in enough so be careful to do that.
After using Stargazer I rinse until the water is clear and then condition it. When dry my hair is shiny and soft as usual. This dye will leave a colour on your pillow, especially if you are hot so I use dark pillowcases most of the time to avoid this. I top up the colour as and when I can be bothered. If you are more fussy than me then I would do it weekly for the purple/blue/green shades and fortnightly for the reds/pinks etc but you would not have to do a full dye job, just a top up.
The dye is high maintenance but so is having silly hair. Despite this (and the mess) I love the stuff and I enjoy having bright and unreasonably loud hair. I hope that eventually I go entirely white so that I no longer have to use bleach. I fully intend to be a pensioner rocking a Harley Davidson and stupid hair.
* Stargazer dyes contain 70ml
* For good results then bleach hair or pre-lighten.
* Blondes do not need to bleach...
* Gives a slight tint to unbleached hair but not enough.
* Many are vegetarian, some are vegan
* Can be mixed together with other Stargazer colours to create a unique tone.
* Box contains instructions and pair of disposable gloves.
* Use two boxes for v long or v thick hair.
* Dyes will last up to 12 months once opened with no adverse side-effects (if securely closed after each use)
Full of junk pretty much.... all of the colours listed below are not in every dye, it depends on the colour that you choose.
Aqua, Cetarly Alcohol, Distearoylethyl Hydroxyethylmonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth-20, Citric Acid, Methylparaben, Butylene Glycol, Clyceryl Stearate, +/- Basic Brown 17, Basic Brown 16, Basic Red 76, Basic Yellow 57, Acid Violet 43, Basic Green 4, Basic Red 46, Basic Orange 2, Basic Violet 4, Basic Violet 14, Basic Blue 7, Basic Blue 9, Basic Violet 2, HC Yellow 4, HC Yellow 2, HC Yellow 1, HC Red 1, HC Red 3, Acid Red 8, Acid Green 1, Inci 12251, Inci 12250, Inci 12719, Inci 60730, Inci 42000, Inci 110825, Inci 11270, Inci 42600, Inci 42510, Inci 42595, Inci 52015, Inci 42520, HC Yellow 4, HC Yellow 2, HC Orange 1, HC Red 1, HC Red 3, Inci 10020.
5.0 out of 5 stars
A beautiful guitar...., 28 May 2013
I am a) a collector of instruments and b) a guitar tart. I love them and have many types and styles all over the house. Before I became ill I spent any spare cash that I had on instruments, mainly old violins to do up and guitars. It got to the point that I had so many of the latter that I had to let a few go but in the end I decided that with a few guitar stands and some wall hangers I could get away with having loads of them. Training to be a luthier of course is an even better excuse.
My first guitar was a Yamaha dreadnought. I learned to play on this when I was a teen and then progressed towards electro-acoustic and electric guitars. As of now I have 5 Yamaha's in the house (classical, acoustic and electro) and this is the one that I have been playing a lot lately.
An electro-acoustic guitar has the benefit of being built like an acoustic instrument (with all of the tone and wood quality that you would expect from a good acoustic) and the ability to be connected via the jack to an amp of your choice. This makes an electro a good choice for versatility and fun. Most of the electro-acoustic guitars that I own have this lovely cutaway shape which makes for ease of playing and stylish looks. The CPX is a very attractive guitar with an impressive range of features and sounds.
The CPX is based upon the very popular APX series of guitars, they share similar electrics and build structure with the CPX coming in slightly larger than the APX. It is still easier to handle than a bulky dreadnought and the extra size gives it a tonal push. It has a tight grained top crafted from spruce which is braced underneath in a specific fashion, the bracing being X type in position, non-scalloped and close to the sound hole to bring out deep and resonant low tones and lots of volume.
This guitar has contrasting abalone around the sound hole and cream and black binding. There are the usual mother of pearl dot markers on the rosewood fingerboard and headstock. Yamaha's logo is tribal in appearance and it looks attractive on the front of the headstock, the chrome machine heads are well built and it suffers from no string slippage over time therefore it stays in tune even when you mess about with different tunings like I do.
I have never had a problem with any Yamaha, even the cheaper classical guitars that you can often pick up on Ebay for 20 quid. What I do like about them is the build quality, the choice of woods used and the little details. The fretboard for instance is as smooth as you could get it and easy to move around on. The fretwire is brass and not plated either. The finish is perfect and shiny and the shape is very appealing. The nut and bridge are both perfectly aligned and formed and these have no shabby rough edges.
Of course looks are not everything but this guitar matches its looks in terms of sound and manages to be many things in one guitar. It seems to be a hard wearing guitar too as it has been all over the place with me and not scratched or shown any signs of damage even at a slightly wet festival and when busking.
TONE AND RESPONSE:
A new CPX will be bright sounding with rich lows. Over time like any good guitar (and beer) the wood matures and mellows as does the tone. Having played mine a lot and owned it a fair while my CPX sounds voluptous and sweet, it is a really beautiful sounding instrument. Of course the choice of woods are essential to the tone of any guitar and the spruce top and nato sides are top notch. If I were to describe the tone in 3 words they would be SWEET, RICH and POWERFUL.
The 3 band EQ has a tuner and features Yamaha's A.R.T (Acoustic Resonance Technology) pre-amp. This feature is designed to bring out the best in the guitar in terms of sound, projection, distortion and dynamics. At the time this was brand new technology from Yamaha who moved away from traditional Piezo pickups to this type which gives more control over the acoustics. The A.R.T has 6 layers which dampens vibration and reduces distortion. It is highly sensitive and balanced and picks up a whole range of sounds easily. The pickup lives under the top plate and there are two main pick ups under the saddle. In addition there is a bass and treble pick up (on the corresponding side of the body) which enables the final sound to come together in the full and impressive tone that makes this guitar sound so pretty and loud.
If you fancy something completely different and unexpected from a guitar that looks like an acoustic, then use a distortion pedal and add some reverb. That confuses people :)
Despite being fatter and larger than the dinky APX, this is still easy to carry and play. The guitar fits snugly on your lap if seated and is comfortable to wear with a guitar strap as it is not heavy. It is a guitar that can be played gently or bashed about through an amp. The fingerboard stays smooth even with lots and lots of playing and shows no sign of wear, if anything the more you play it the smoother it will be due to the oils from your fingers. It stays in tune even if left for weeks and weeks and the intonation is spot on up the fingerboard.
The action on the CPX is excellent, I like the action on my guitars to be somewhat loose as I like to stretch the notes a lot and this guitar works beautifully whether strummed or plucked. I tend to use a lighter gauge string to be able to stretch them around. The guitar projects well and does not need an amp to make itself known but if you hook it up it can really make some noise. It has none of the rawness of an electric guitar, instead it purrs along with a real darkness to the lower register. I love the sound of this guitar and my favourite way to play it is either acoustically or rigged up through a 10w amp and maybe a pedal or two. I use a 10w because the thing is pretty loud especially when I wire it up via the Line6 delay modeller. This guitar lends itself to retro sounds and I love bouncing it off the walls by using reverb and delay (think John Martyn "Inside out" but not quite as skilled and without the facial hair)....
* Solid spruce top
* Nato back and sides
* Nato neck with rosewood fingerboard
* Rosewood bridge
* Die-cast chrome machine heads
* Available in a range of colours, finishes and a 12 string
* Pre-amp System A.R.T. with inbuilt tuner
* Bindings - cream
* Abalone and mother of pearl dots and embellishments.
There is a nice vid on Youtube where you can get an idea of the sound:
This model is now discontinued but is still available online through a few guitar and music shops. You are most likely to pick up one on Ebay pre-owned. They vary in price from £380-600.
I give it 10/10 for beauty, tone, playability and design.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
A beard is not essential..., 28 May 2013
I would consider myself to be a folk fan although my music taste is very eclectic. I seem to have been born at the wrong time as my large music collection seems to be predominantly made up of 60's and 70's music from Zeppelin to Zappa and a large chunk of both my vinyl and cd collection would come under the heading of "folk". Folk music is often wrongly categorised online and the genre subsequently seems to encompass singer songwriters, mellow acoustic and all manner of artists. Tesco are especially annoying in regards to this, having the audacity to place Daniel O'Donnell in their folk section. Traditionalists would reject anything that was not a recording of a song from the 18th century. For me folk music encompasses both tradition and modernity, after all the great Louis Armstrong once famously said " All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song". Quite right too.
English Folk music has a long and colourful history that has been handed down through the generations. Being "The people's music" it has been used to highlight political issues, tell stories, myths and legends. The older songs are windows to life in another time, but with issues and struggles that we can usually relate to today. This box set showcases three generations of folk musicians and bands from the 1950's up to present day.
THREE DISCS OF MUSIC:
Disc one could be said to explore the "roots" of folk music in the UK, Davy Graham, June Tabor, John Renbourne and Bert Jansch amongst others get an airing here. Discs two and three showcase the 1960's onwards highlighting some of the "new" folk artists who played their part on what has been called "the folk revival". There is a tracklist at the very end of this review.
I am generally not keen on compilations, especially in regards to folk music as the choice of tracks can sometimes be a bit suspect but in the case of this compilation it really is a good introduction to English folk music if you have no real knowledge of the genre. It features a wealth of talent from established and revered greats such as The Watersons and Bert Jansch (I challenge anybody to listen to him playing "Anji" and not be astounded as his skill), as well as some of the "new" wave of folk artists such as the brilliantly colourful Eliza Carthy (daughter of Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson - a pair with a long folk history spanning decades), and Jon Boden (he of the "Ratcatchers" with Eliza and the massive Bellowhead).
It is fair to say that I did know most of the tracks when I bought this but I grabbed it for the price and convenience, this is a THREE disc box set for a fiver. The selection of tracks is well chosen and features some lovely quirky inclusions such as "The Humblebums" who were a cracking 60's folkie outfit featuring no other than a Mr Billy Connolly.
This is an introduction to folk music in a box set which is enclosed in a card casing and has three slim card sleeves tucked inside it. Released on the Nascente label, a lot of thought has gone into balancing both the old and new, the traditional and modern. There are 45 individual tracks, 15 on each disc. The packaging is attractive, the front cover comprising several of the artists within the cd and some nice vintage nature pics laid out in a patchwork fashion.
If you have never really given folk music so much as a sniff then this is a good introduction to the genre although you may be surprised to hear that some of the more "twee" songs are actually hotbeds of death, heartbreak, sexual promiscuity and darkness. Take "Once I had a sweetheart", featured on this compilation and recorded by the wonderful Pentangle with Jacqui McShee. This song is a tragic tale of loss and false love and yet is sung in a sweet and crystal clear voice, it almost lulls you into a false sense of security and pleasant floaty fluff.
A lot of folk music is like this, a common theme in the older songs and "child ballads" is usually a dark and somewhat twisted one. "Child ballads" if you are new to them are the collected works of Francis James Child, a man who gathered together some 305 traditional ballads from England and Scotland (with some American inclusions) in the late nineteenth century. Many of today's folk artists record from the Child ballads and rework them to give them a new edge. The beauty of folk music is that it truly is the "music of the people" and therefore it can evolve and digress as time moves on. As I have noted, this does not make some traditionalists happy but if folk music is to be known to a new generation AND live on then it needs to be reinterpreted and recorded in different ways by different people. Eliza Carthy is somebody very known for doing just this.
So as a sampler this is good as an introduction to the individual artists. The down side of this of course is that it is very hard to sum up an artist with one track and if you do not care for it you may dismiss a wealth of amazing recordings based on the hearing of just one song. I would advise this collection as a starter but encourage you to branch out and check out the artists on Youtube to get a proper idea of their talents.
THE ARTISTS AND SONGS:
I am not going to list them all but on this great little set you will find seminal folkies such as Davy Graham, Ann Briggs, the incredible Mr Martin Carthy and of course Dave Swarbrick, a genius on the fiddle if ever there was one. Nic Jones is here too as well as Eliza Carthy's family -The Watersons. No folk compliation would be complete without Pentangle and Fairport Convention, the latter song "Matty Groves" is one of their most famous songs, an upbeat and rousing traditional number that has appeared in many guises and with a few different names and details.
AN EXAMPLE OF THE TRAD FOLK GENRE:
Taking "Matty" as an example of a typical folk song which ticks all of the right boxes- you have a Child ballad, adultery, a lovers tryst, murder, fighting for a Lady, a name change (it was known as "Little Musgrave and and Lady Barnard"), and antiquity in one. This song dates back to the 17th century.
You have the wife of a nobleman who has a romp with a servant, whose husband then returns home and finds the pair together. He challenges the servant "Matty" to a duel which Matty then loses. His wife then spurns the nobleman so he kills her too by stabbing her through the heart.
" A Grave a grave Lord Donald cried, to put these lovers in, but bury my lady at the top for she was of noble kin".....
Not a cheery ditty lyrically but in reality the recorded version by Fairport is a jaunty and Jiggy song with fantastic fiddle playing and a deep bouncy bassline. And indeed every August a crowd of some 20'000 folkies of all ages bounce around to this at Fairport's Cropredy Convention in Oxfordshire.
The humour, darkness and history is the paradox of folk music and one of the reasons that I love it.
If you are a Traditionalist then this collection will probably make your toes curl. But then if you are traditionalist then you probably already have most of the earlier artists featured in this set. This is a fine release to give a tiny taste of a genre of music which is vast and diverse. The set has snippets of info about each featured performer and is packaged tidily. It is cheap as chips for just a fiver and this is probably as good a way as any to get a taste of the huge spectrum of UK folk music without spending a fortune.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Guatemalan grooviness., 28 May 2013
These were bought for me as a gift, I would certainly never pay this much for what are effectively very nice and different flip flops, but they are lovely and were appreciated by me. These are the Guatemalan "Love" sandals which come in a few colours including the lovely purples in the pic. Mine are brighter however and have a striped rainbow coloured design which appeals to my inner hippy and matches my horrible tie-dyed clothes...
I love bohemian clothing. Anything rainbow, floaty, hippy, indian style is my idea of heaven. These fit the bill because of their woven rainbow straps. I remember when my daughter was tiny we bought a pair of Guatemalan dungarees made from the same woven fabric. They were so bright and unlike anything found in the rather uninspiring high street that even though she has long outgrown them, I have hung onto them with a view to one day making some form of patchwork quilt with them. The person who bought these for me knew me well in terms of the style that I like and although Reef are primarily a "surfer" oriented company, these are just on the edge of that for me to like them.
Traditional Guatemalan weaving is beautiful and colourful. The distinctive patterns and skillful designs make them recognisable. The descendants of the Mayan people pride themselves in using bright and bold colourways and the weaving is not confined to just rugs and throws, some Guatemalans wear whole outfits of finely woven patterns based on traditional shapes and designs. The same method of weaving has stayed the same over hundreds of years via backstrap looms or larger treadle ones for sheets of woven cloth. This is the cloth that the straps on these sandals are made from.
There is more on the history of the weaving in the link below with some amazing pictures:
We are told that these sandal straps are hand woven in Guatemala and feature traditionally patterns and designs. Reef state that the straps are created in partnership with the nonprofit organization Nest. From an ethical standpoint this is very interesting but even with some digging I was unable to find out what proportion of profits actually go to the people who weave the straps. I would like to know though.
There is more information on Nest here:
These shoes are very soft underfoot and are well cushioned. They apparently used to have thicker soles on them and there have been a few negative comments on the internet due to this, but as these are my first pair of this type I really do not know any different. I wear them around the house, and have worn them to the beach. They are easy to walk on sand with and dry fast when wet from the sea. The weaving has stayed intact and I have even hand washed them. They also look good with pretty much anything due to the variety of colours on the strap.
The toe posts of these are flexible and did not need to be broken in at all, no blisters or problems even when worn for long periods. These have a footbed shape to the base which I love (Birkenstock fan here) which are exceptionally comfortable and good for my feet. The soles although soft keep their shape well so there is no sagging over time of the footbed itself or the straps. The outer tread is rubber and lightly textured with an all over "leaf" type design. The "Reef" logo is embossed onto the bottom of the sole but this is subtle which is good because nobody wants to look like an old fart trying to be "down with the kids"....
These are a hand-made item and therefore the website states that slight variations may occur in the colours of the woven straps. This is true for mine where the straps are slightly mismatched but then I think that gives them character. These are very lovely shoes but I wonder if the high price is due to the name rather than the materials unless of course Reef are donating a sizeable chunk to the charitable organisation involved with the weavers.
The colourful woven straps are double seamed at the edges with tight stitches and these have held true despite being worn a lot. The rainbow colours on mine have not faded either and they are just as bright and beautiful as the day that I received them. So I would say that these are well made despite their simple design and they seem to be able to hold up to all sorts of wear and tear. They have also survived a few rounds in the washing machine on a cool wash with no damage showing.
* Soft cotton strap with hand-woven textiles from Guatemala
* Colourful and lively shoes
* EVA footbed
* Lightly textured rubber outer sole
* Toe post logo
* Excellent arch support
These are great!
5.0 out of 5 stars
No jellyfish poo!, 28 May 2013
Noisy daughter (nearly 4) is fascinated by all things living. Slugs, fish, wolves, hamsters, even flies, they all provoke an excited noise and a lot of interest. She has all manner of silly interactive pets and even Playstation pet games, plus we have a house full of real living animals. I found this lamp by accident when browsing on Ebay whilst looking for a cuddly jellyfish toy.... yes really!
We paid a tenner for this but from what I can see they are now discontinued from most shops. They initially retailed at around £29.99.
I had never seen one of these in action before although have a not so secret lava lamp fetish so am not adverse to strange lighting. There are some fish lamps available but I never cared for those much and my local family centre has an aquarium one which the kids love but it is gaudy and plastic looking. I bought the jellyfish lamp because the colours looked good and the jellyfish look pretty realistic on Youtube videos. I knew that my daughter would love this.
The lamp is shaped like a dinky fish tank with a black plastic casing and clear front. The lid houses LED lights. The tank holds three "jellyfish" which bimble around aimlessly and amusingly when the thing is turned on.
The lamp comes to you needing a set up. There are some instructions but it is not very difficult to follow, certainly not flat-pack furniture level involvement...
SETTING YOUR WIBBLY JELLYFISH HOUSE UP:
You basically need to fill the tank with water and add a squirt of washing up liquid and then throw your jellyfish into the tank. We named ours first but you can skip this bit as they all look the same.
Then the moment of magic, you turn the thing on. Three over-excited wibbly jelllyfish wobble and sometimes skitter about.
There is a little rubber bung on the top of the tank which you open to get the water in. The water needs to be filled to the top for everything to work properly and eliminate air. We used a plastic jug for this. The detergent used reduces the bubbles and enables good movement of the inhabitants. Then you squish the jellyfish into the tank- there is a bit on how best to do this in the instructions.
There is a cable to connect up for the light part at the back of the tank which is self explanatory. All that is left to do now is to turn it on.
WE HAVE LIGHT:
These things once in the water are amazingly lifelike. I was quite surprised at how good these look. They have the same translucent glow of a real jellyfish and the tentacles look lifelike. If that is not fun enough then you can increase the interest by setting the LED lights to run through the colours which shift gently from one to the other, or you can choose a colour and leave it at that. we liked the blue best and the light that it gives to the room is really mellow so it is perfect for night time. The light that is emitted from this lamp is subtle enough to leave on at night yet bright enough to be able to see and avoid the obligatory piece of left out lego that I inevitably step on when I need to go and have a wee.
The lamp and movement of the jellyfish when combined with the colours creates a hypnotic effect and my daughter and I loved watching it.
QUALITY AND CONSTRUCTION:
The lamp is shaped like a dinky fish tank with a black plastic casing and clear front. The lid houses LED lights. It is pretty well made with no rough edges or obvious flaws. The jellyfish bimble around aimlessly and amusingly when the thing is turned on and this starts fairly immediately. They are made from soft wobbly silicone and feel very strange in your hand when you hold them out of the water too which is amusing for children.
The tank is fairly stable despite being a smallish size and the lid fits nice and flush on the top. It makes a slight noise that reminds me of a fish tank pump which I guess could add to the authenticity. All in all the lamp kit is reasonably well made for the money and certainly worth the cost for the fun factor.
The instructions state that this is not suitable for kids under 14. My daughter is nearly 4.... she copes just fine with a hot multi-fuel stove so I think she can manage not to fiddle about with the lamp. I guess it depends on the child. The instructions also state rather obviously that being an electrical device, you will need to unplug this before emptying it...
Apart from the fun factor and the chill out factor this thing could be useful for those who home educate as it is a brilliant tool for involved discussion about sea-life, pollution, electricity, safety, LED lighting, evolution etc. The possibilities are endless. The other really great thing about this is that mood lighting like this has some very positive effects on people with profound learning disablilities and I have known of several projects that use LED lights in a chill out space for people with non-verbal autism. This could be a valuable tool in a similar setting and of course it would be a great thing to have in any classroom, childrens centre, or even hospital ward.
If you get air bubbles in the tank they will impede movement of the jellyfish. You can either add a few more drops of washing up liquid, check that your water level is at the top or let the water sit for a day or two to let the bubbles disperse. When you add the water initially do it slowly to minimise bubbling.
We love this. It is small enough to site on a shelf or in a small corner and it is effective and bonkers enough to keep both my daughter and I amused...
* Fun and educational lamp
* Lovely coloured mood lighting
* Three baby silicone jellyfish included
* Fully sealed water-tight tank
* Mains adapter included
* Dimensions: Height: 22cm x Width: 23cm x Depth: 8cm
This is a great lamp for kids. With it's mellow lighting and unpredictable inhabitants it will amuse as well as create a decent ambience. There is no jellyfish poo to clean up either.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
There is nothing sneaky about this cat..., 28 May 2013
Beanie Babies are a line of collectable stuffed animals made by Ty Warner. Each toy has an inner "posable lining" and is stuffed with plastic pellets giving the toys flexibility like a mini beanbag, hence the name of course.
Beanies were launched in 1993 and since then have produced collectable bears (such as Garcia the bear which as a Deadhead I certainly approve of!) and a variety of mini versions which have had the indignity of being stuffed inside a McDonald's Happy meal box. There is a beanie available for pretty much any animal you can think of and they do a large variety of cats including this one here.
Stupid name for a cat but there you go. Sneaky is a soft black beanie cat with orange ear tips and a matching bow. She was coveted by my daughter for a while before I bought her from Amazon. Sneaky is very well made, has never made a mess or become frazzled (which is more than can be said for our 4 living cats) and is very high quality for such a simple toy.
She has a moulded hard plastic orange nose and shiny green eyes which are very well attached although the makers "Ty Warner" state that the toy is not suitable for a child under 3 years old. We have several beanies and have never had a problem with any of them despite surviving several runs through the washing machine and being on the receiving end of a rambunctious toddler.
The fur on this cat is plush and very thick making the toy very appealing and cuddly for a child. The seams are tight and the cat manages not to grumble when held by its tail or ear. A very nice feature is the orange contrast and this is sewn tidily in the ears with no loose bits to unravel. Sneaky is the perfect size for a small child to lug about and being a bean bag the cat will snuggle into the child with no hard edges so beanies make a great toy to bring to bed. Even the ribbon has stayed intact although admittedly it has seen better days. The checked orange ribbon is sewn to the cat under the neck meaning that it will not come off or become a choking hazard but it does look a big dog-eared as time goes on.
Beanie Babies have always been distinctive and identifiable by their two tags. They all come with a large swing tag at the top in a heart shape and a fabric tag on the bottom. The heart one usually gets removed fairly quickly as my daughter finds it annoying. The large heart is made of card therefore easy to remove and sometimes features little poems or details about the toy such as date of birth etc. Ours just had a "to" and "from" inside the heart. There are basic care instructions included.
We paid £5.95 for this little toy and that is in my opinion a bargain. The beanies are well made, collectable (if you like that sort of thing) and a decent size, Sneaky the cat for example is around 8" long making it a lot harder to lose in the ever growing toy mountain. This little cat has given my daughter a lot of joy and has been with her on many adventures. Due to her love of cats especially, I see this toy being used for a long time yet.
One of the trademarks of Ty Warner is that their beanies were designed to be affordable. A good business model because this when combined with their very clever limited editions, product withdrawals, stocking via small retailers and not chains, and the general unpredictability of the beanie animal design means that Ty have made a small fortune. It is in my opinion well deserved because Ty have supported the smaller businesses by avoiding huge chains and their products are well made and thought out.
Sneaky the cat is a great toy for young kids, it has none of the pink or schmaltzy nature of a lot of kids cuddlies and this one has a real halloween vibe. The cat is realistic (as realistic as a cuddly toy can be) but still retains a cuteness that younger kids will love. The cat has lasted a long time with us and we recommend it 100%.
5.0 out of 5 stars
A little speaker with big sound!, 28 May 2013
This is one of many little portable speakers that we own now that my daughter has become interested in gadgets. We have a range of items requiring external speakers if you are to enjoy them properly including the PSP, a tablet, mp3 etc and these little things are very handy and small.
There are many of these types of pop up speaker available, some sell for around £4. This is pricier than some but this is very well made. This little pop up speaker gives out a lot of noise for such a small device. I spend most of my online time on a laptop and these are not known for their great speakers so I bought myself a decent set for music. My daughter then wanted to pinch these to play her games on the tablet (equally not blessed in the volume department) so this is where this little speaker comes into its own and saves a lot of hassle. Another great thing about this is the portability, it can fit anywhere. It means that I can listen to radio from my phone in the bath tub and enjoy it rather than grimace at the tinny phone speakers.
The plastic casing of the speaker twists to open and close. Once open the main body is like a little concertina and the top half stays up on its own. The casing has a soft feel and is strong. The device is very user friendly with a simple on/off switch on the side and a status light which is a gorgeous blue colour. On the base you will find the little cable which is your main device jack (MP3, iPad, tablet, PSP etc) and this has a little channel which is there for you to tuck the cable away after use, stopping it from getting damaged. The X-mini is comes with a little fabric bag to keep it dust free and is available in a variety of colours.
The X-mini has an internal rechargeable battery which is charged via a usb port, so can be charged on a pc/laptop, or using a plug socket with a usb connector. The actual useage that you get from one charge is stated at being 11 hours which seems about right for us. The only downside (and I realise that this is me being really demanding) is that when it runs out you have to recharge via usb. Annoying when out and about (which is why we have a few) and I would love a mini-speaker that could also take batteries. Somebody please invent one.
One would expect something so small to be tinny and not loud enough to make any kind of impact. This assumption would be wrong. This little thing is surprisingly loud and to be honest I would not have believed that a tiny rechargeable speaker could emit such a noise had I not bought a cheaper one before this one. It is more than loud enough for gaming and listening to music around the home although obviously it will not be loud enough to annoy the neighbours, I have a nice separates system for that.
It enhances the sound of the PSP both in volume and also in depth, making the game much more engrossing. It is also great for the beach and garden on a sunny day...
One amazing feature of this little thing is "chaining" it. I am not talking about smoking here either, chaining is connecting several speakers in a line to increase depth of sound. This works well and I have managed to do it with speakers of several different makes so long as they all have a 3.5 jack which they nearly all do. My daughter also had great fun chaining her speakers with her friends which resulted in a chain comprising many colours and a lot of noise.
We have had this now for several months and it has already had a hard life! Our speaker has been lugged all over the house and outdoors and has survived sand and the odd dribble of sploshed drink. So far we have had no problems at all and it works brilliantly for what we need. The wiring has stayed true and does not crackle annoyingly when in play or when connected. It would seem that this is a very well made little portable speaker.
This is an excellent little speaker for all ages. it can be used for business use or entertainment and fits every device with a 3.5 jack. It fits snugly in my daughter's PSP bag alongside the console and several other charged mini speakers. I recommend this totally, it is especially good for kids or teens who like portable devices.