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Reviews Written by
Andrew Kerr "Alabony" (Dunfermline, Scotland)

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Farrow & Ball How to Decorate: Transform your home with paint & paper
Farrow & Ball How to Decorate: Transform your home with paint & paper
by Farrow & Ball
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sumptuously-produced and full of theory and inspiration, 30 May 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've been a fan of F&B paints for about 15 years, and have recently bought a period house where I'm thirsty for inspiration. So, what perfect timing to be offered this book through the Vine programme.

Its finish oozes class - quality paper, rich, full of colour images, and with classy endpapers too. But does the substance match the form?

Well, actually, it rather does in my opinion. There are a few pieces of naked promotion (talking through the colours that inspired different historic periods, but using the specific Farrow & Ball colour names, for example), as well as a 'Directory' section where they explain why their products are so good, etc etc, but I can readily forgive them this advertising because I love their approach to this book.

They start with first principles, 'Where To Start' - architecture, light and style, taking you through colours, how to use neutrals, and how best to use sample pots. This is section 1, and is in itself a very useful grounding.

Then, the next section (the main part of the book, really) is The Manual. Here, they deal with ways of decorating, ways of achieving a smooth flow throughout your home, how to deal with feature walls, accents, floors, children's rooms, and a good deal else besides.

The third section, as mentioned previously, is the Directory, which is where they do a lot of their self-promotion stuff. I found this less useful, but there are still several gems of info in there too (eg, how and when to use different paint finishes, and the effect they'll have).

All of this is accompanied by hundreds of beautifully-shot photos of rooms to illustrate the ideas, in numerous styles of home. Yes, there are lots of photos of gorgeous period Georgian and Victorian rooms, which are probably what most people associate F&B with. But there are also lots of photos of modern houses, flats and 'normal' homes too. It's not just a showpiece for their period paints, but genuinely a style and decorating sourcebook, full of ideas and 'I never thought them at would work, but it really does' kind of inspiration.

As a coffee-table book, it's lovely to browse through. As a source of inspiration, it's genuinely valuable and informative.

Well worth the money, and I can see me coming back to it for more inspiration for years to come. Recommended.

QardioBase Smart Digital Bathroom Scale: Qardio Fitness, BMI, Weight & Body Composition Analyzer - Bluetooth & WiFi Sync with App, Opal White
QardioBase Smart Digital Bathroom Scale: Qardio Fitness, BMI, Weight & Body Composition Analyzer - Bluetooth & WiFi Sync with App, Opal White
Price: £129.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Potentially brilliant but currently flawed, 29 May 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've had the same old 'digital but far from smart' scales for 12 years now, so was keen to try out this fancy set of scales through the Vine programme.

Setup was not 'easy', particularly - took a few goes to get the scales to pair with my wi-fi (I suspect it was actually needing a firmware download, which I eventually tried, despite it not obviously asking for one), but the app is easy to find, download, and set up with your initial personal data.

Again, finding and setting up the scales through the app was just a little bit of a fiddle - it kept asking me to step off the scales and then back on, when it should only need you to do this once according to the setup instructions.

However, once it's all set up, it seems to be very reliable at recognising you when you step on, giving you a little friendly face that winks at you before telling you your name, just in case you'd forgotten it. It then just takes a couple of seconds to return both a precise and accurate weight and/or body fat reading.

What you want the scales to tell you is easily selected through the app - weight, body fat and BMI; weight only; and there's also a pregnancy mode, which I'm afraid I haven't explored, being a bloke. Your history is shown in the app, so you can track progress towards a goal, etc. Generally, the app is easy to use, has some customisable settings so that you get what you want out of it, and seems to remain reliably paired. You also have the option to pair the device with other family members so that you can all track your weight.

It's all rather smart, well-presented, and useful. So what's so wrong with it that I can only give it three stars??

As others have also commented (please take note, manufacturer!), being a circular scale, the feet mean there's a significant overlap on the edges, so it takes a while to get the knack of stepping on in the middle, then edging your feet carefully to the sides in time to see your weight, which is always displayed dead centre. Qardio seem to be aware of this already, because they helpfully supply '2 extra feet'. I attached these to the edges at the sides on my second try of the device because it was already annoying me, but it's still pretty unstable. So, you still have to remember to do the workaround every single time you use it. Call me old-fashioned, but it's one of my bugbears - any gadget should JUST WORK. If I have to make allowances for it, I get cross and end up not enjoying the experience of using it. I think someone else also mentioned that its instability also means that it's not easy for children to use. I would just about trust my 9-year-old daughter to know how to stand in the middle first, etc, but my 5-year-old son would struggle I think.

All in all, then, it's a cool-looking and useful device, flawed by the fact that it's always a bit of a nuisance to use. Where's the fun in that? Just make it square next time, guys, and then I'll be keen to use it frequently.

Trunki Knorr10116 18 Litre Zimba Zebra Suitcase
Trunki Knorr10116 18 Litre Zimba Zebra Suitcase
Price: £37.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great design, sturdy, and the kids love it., 20 May 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My some loves animals, so when I was offered the zebra print Trunki through the Vine programme, I was keen to try it out.

Firstly, it's a sturdy mini suitcase in its own right. I believe them when they say it's made of the same tough, lightweight plastic as 'proper' suitcases. It will comfortably stand up to years of travelling. It has solid, clasps at either side. Again, they're built to last. It might take a few seconds to get the hang of them, but they're really easy and quick to use in practice.

So, it's a practical suitcase, with enough space to hold lots of toys and things to keep your child entertained. It has a couple of straps that interlock to help things in place too.

But that's not all. It's a great 'toy' in its own right.

With a gently-scooped top sides, there's a subtle saddle shape to it, and with a sturdy wheel at each corner, your child can either wheel themselves along with their feet, or you can attach the included shoulder strap and pull them along. The wheels are pretty small, of course, so they're best suited to smooth floors or airport concourses. With the little 'horn' bits on the front, my 5-year old loves it.

I think the ideal age range is probably from about 3 years up, and my 9-year-old daughter is still very attached to her one that she's had for about 5 years now.

Drawbacks? Not many. It really is hand luggage size, and I've never flown with an airline who'd refuse it on size grounds. It does have pretty basic locks, but given that it will usually travel in the cabin with you, or on car journeys when security isn't an issue, this is a very minor concern.

It IS a wee bit expensive, but will last for years, keep your child entertained in the process, and I'm sure my son will continue to love it for years to come.

Proops 5" Nylon Jaw Flat Nose Soft Pliers, Opticians, Jewellery Making, Craft Tool. (S7175) Free UK Postage
Proops 5" Nylon Jaw Flat Nose Soft Pliers, Opticians, Jewellery Making, Craft Tool. (S7175) Free UK Postage
Offered by proops brothers ltd
Price: £3.50

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Waste of money - not fit for purpose, 17 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Why would you buy soft nose pliers? Well, I have a toilet seat that works loose every few weeks, so I need pliers to tighten the bolts without chewing the thread. A few quid to get a good pair of pliers with a nylon covering over the jaws seemed ideal.

But the very first time I tried to use them in anger, I discovered that there's actually nothing - repeat, nothing, holding the nylon sheaths onto the metal jaws beneath apart from a tiny bit of friction. So, with the pliers doing their job, out of sight beneath the toilet, unless I hear the little sheath falling off, I have no idea whether I'm chewing the thread or not.

This will be a problem for pretty much any application, given that the plastic needs no persuasion to fall off - it literally just falls off sometimes! Buy if you can be bothered super-gluing them on, but I could have superglued some plastic bits onto another pair of pliers instead.

Brabantia Foldable Laundry Basket - Grey
Brabantia Foldable Laundry Basket - Grey
Price: £16.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Good quality, and just the right size., 27 April 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Having moved into a new house that needs renovation, we're currently struggling with the fact that the washing machine is stuck in the back porch, a long way from the sensible place for the laundry basket and the drying space. So, given a chance to try this out through the Vine programme, I was keen to give it a go.

When it arrived, I was impressed with how flat it goes when folded. I was less impressed with how small it looked when opened up. But actually, I needn't have worried. It does take quite a substantial load - more than enough to take a 9kg-capacity machine load.

It's handy, folds flat out of the way when not in use, and feels like it'll last a long time because it's sturdily built. Recommended.

Printed Popband Ponytail Holder Hair Bands/Ties, Tribal
Printed Popband Ponytail Holder Hair Bands/Ties, Tribal
Price: £8.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Good value, cool-looking and well made - recommended., 9 April 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We constantly have to pester our 9-year-old daughter to tie her hair back at mealtimes, and she's very careless about keeping a hairband handy when we're out and about too. So, having been offered these Popbands through Vine, I was keen to see if these would help her keep one handy.

So, what exactly ARE they? They're just broad, ribbon-like elasticated bands in funky colours and patterns. Because they're broader, they're much more comfortable to wear on your wrist for a long period than a standard thin hairband. These 'tribal' ones have cool geometric patterns, but a range of other colours and patterns are available in other packs.

They're actually a pretty effective and pretty hairband too, and my daughter particularly loves the patterned ones. She's keen to wear them as a bracelet anyway, so it means she pretty much always has a hairband handy too.

They feel like they're pretty decent quality too, and will last. Her two favourite ones are just beginning to show a few signs of age, but they're being used very frequently, and she still has three others from the pack to fall back on.

My wife doesn't mind using them from time to time either!

All in all, I think they're a pretty cool new take on a simple item. Well made, good to look at, and do their job well. Recommended.

Sealy Select Response Clusterfill Pillow
Sealy Select Response Clusterfill Pillow
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Initially feels nice, but 'ages' quickly, 29 Mar. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My wife is fussy about her pillow, and was keen to try something new, so when I was offered this through the Vine programme, I was keen to see if it would be good for her.

She likes a firm pillow and tends to sleep on her side, so this sounded like it might be a good 'fit'.

And initially it was. Although we're used to feather pillows, and this feels obviously synthesic-filled, it has quite a nice loft to it, and feels quite good quality.

But less than 5 weeks later, it's feeling quite flat, and cheap. We fluff and plump our pillows every morning when making the bed, so it's not through any kind of neglect on our part. And if there's any more care required to keep it fresh, frankly, I don't want to do it. A bit of a plump up every morning should be enough for any pillow to stay firm enough for normal use.

So, all in all, the pillow's current state rather reflects our own feelings about this pillow. A bit flat.

SkimProt Guard for Bank Card
SkimProt Guard for Bank Card
Offered by Luxorama Ltd
Price: £6.40

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good so far, but how do I know it works in practice?, 24 Mar. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've recently started getting more concerned about bank card security, so when I was offered this SkimProt guard through the Vine programme for review, I was keen to try it out.

It comes in a neat package, with very simple, easy-to-follow instructions. It takes all of about 30 seconds of reasonable care to fit it to your card using the template provided, and it sticks well. There's a small chance that you can use the template and still have an everso slight edge of the SkimProt hanging over the edge of your card (of the order of a fraction of a millimetre), which feels like it could end up gradually snagging on your wallet or purse over time, so I think it's worth taking a few extra seconds of care to avoid this is possible.

So, once it's fitted, how is it in use? Well, this is the tricky bit, frankly... My card still works fine in bank machines and on PoS devices, so in that sense, I can happily confirm that it doesn't stop my dad working. Can I tell you it definitely has foiled the attempts of some miscreant to skim my card? No. For all I know, they have tried and failed.

But this is kind of the problem with this 'device' - how do you know it does its job in everyday use? I really only have the manufacturer's word for it. It might serve some purpose as a visual deterrent perhaps, but an opportunist criminal would surely still try it on the off-chance. But whether I can tell you it will stop nefarious attempts to steal your hard-earned cash, I can't say for sure. Perhaps the manufacturers can put more explanation into their literature to help explain how it stops the criminals.

For this main reason, I feel I can only give it four stars. Seems fine in normal use, but can't prove it actually does the job it's intended for.

ZOOB Fastback Monster Trucks Construction Set
ZOOB Fastback Monster Trucks Construction Set
Offered by Crocodile Stores Limited
Price: £21.23

5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun, pretty educational, and keeps their interest for ages., 5 Feb. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My 5-year-old son loves Zoob and already had a set that he plays with frequently, so it was great to get the chance to try this through the Vine program.

The set says it includes the pieces to build 3 different trucks, but actually, given the variety of combinations that Zoob bits allow, you can just go a bit crazy and try out loads of other combinations too.

As others have mentioned, the joy of Zoob is that your creation is very 'playable' too. My little boy absolutely loves just grabbing some pieces and making swords, crosses, boxes, whatever - and often just messing about with something he's made to change it into something else 'on the hoof'. This is what makes it quite different from Lego and other 'construction' toys and in my opinion, even better for imaginative play. Reminds me a bit of Meccano in my youth...

The fact that the axles have been thought through so that they can be attached in a variety of ways also allows small people to play and invent without having to worry so much about whether it'll work - they'll spin freely anyway. I also think this is one of those fairly rare toys that keeps educating the children who play with it, without them realising they're learning while they play. The whole time, they're thinking about how to construct their next creation, and once it's built, they can learn a bit more about its balance, and trajectory as they let it go.

With this set, the variety of options available, and the extra fun of adding wheels and the pull-back motor, means that three months after he first received it, my wee boy still loves to get it out and play with his trucks. I do have to say as well that everything feels pretty solid, and I say that after witnessing some pretty vigorous destruction testing! The main problem is that once he's made one that looks good and he likes playing with, he's loath to take it apart again to make something different! I think that's the measure of a toy that has real staying power.

Trekmates Men's Long Sleeve Zip Top - Grey, Large
Trekmates Men's Long Sleeve Zip Top - Grey, Large

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good value, and a well-made merino top, 28 Jan. 2016
I got this on a deal, and it really was a bargain. But even at full price, it feels good quality. As others have mentioned, merino is great for walking/trekking and even as a base layer for cold hill runs. Comfy, stretchy, cosy (but not too warm), and feels made to last. Recommended.

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