Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Scouts - Join the Adventure

Great news for anyone trying to get their child into a local scout group - a new Bishopston group is opening very soon, which will be music to your ears if you've been trying in vain to move up the never-ending waiting lists for other groups in the BS7 area. There will be an information evening about the new group for parents and their budding scouts taking place at Cairns Road Baptist Church, BS6 7TH on Wednesday 6th November, from 6.30-7.30pm.

If you've got hazy recollections of the scouting movement or are faintly unnerved by the idea of 'uniformed organisations' I can assure you that things have moved on massively since my childhood and the Scouting movement of today is a thoroughly 21st-century operation, offering what I reckon is the best value, most educational entertainment currently out there. Their tag line (which I've borrowed for this blog post) couldn't be more apt, and since joining Beavers aged 6 my son has enjoyed one rip-roaring adventure after another. My own memories of making cups of tea and stitching on buttons for the quaintly named 'homemaker' badge don't come close to the fun stuff that kids seem to be doing these days, which encompasses everything from more traditional outward bound-y pursuits, like orienteering and knot tying, to more contemporary-based entertainment, such as trips to Alton Towers and Laser Quest. 
Be prepared...for rather a lot of sewing!
Open to children of both sexes, Beavers and Cubs offers a non-competitive environment where kids can get stuck into activities that are not just great for learning about stuff and the wider world, but which have the fantastic added function of helping to build confidence and nurture team spirit. We have found its role vital in helping to bring our child - who can be a quiet, under-confident boy at times - out of his shell. It's a great place for children who perhaps aren't hugely competitive or sporty to find other ways of being part of something by showing them there is a world beyond the football pitch. 

Each week, there's lots of running around outdoors, learning about different cultures and working towards badges which not only teach kids invaluable life skills but which give them a real sense of achievement and boost their esteem. Add in the fact that your child gets to do all that stuff (knot tying, bonfire building, rocket making etc, etc) that you either don't know how to do or don't have the time or resources to do, and it's a win-win all round. 
Bear Grylls - a thoroughly modern Chief Scout
As if that wasn't enough to get you firing off your details to the local group right now, I've happened upon some interesting research - according to the Institute for Public Policy Research, young people who join up to clubs such as beavers, cubs and scouts do better in later life. Former Scouts and Guides are 3% less likely to be depressed and 5% less likely to be single, separated or divorced by the age of 30. They are also more likely to own a home, achieve good qualifications and be earning a decent income. 

Next term, our son will take part in a night hike, participate in a Remembrance Sunday parade and go ice skating, amongst other activities, at the fantastic value price of just £35 per term. That's a lot of adventure for not very much money...


If you'd like to find out more about the 1st Bishopston Scout Group and how to get on the waiting list, click here.

You can also contact Hannah Bester on 07507 839381, hannah.bester@scouts.org.uk for more details about the new Bishopston scout group.


Monday, 21 October 2013

Easy Home-made Pizza

Saturday night is pizza night in our household. If we're feeling a bit flush we might head to a favourite local pizza joint (Acapella or Prego on North View, perhaps, though we usually reserve the latter for a Monday night when you can enjoy a wallet-friendly two for one on all pizzas.) But more often than not I use the relative calm of a Saturday evening chez nous to perfect my pizza dough and try out some new topping combinations. For anyone scared by the word 'dough' - and I admit I was till I started making it myself - don't be. It's actually pretty hard to get wrong. According to the kids, my home-made pizzas win out against shop-bought alternatives, which is high praise indeed, given how fussy the two of them are.

Easy and incredibly cheap, I guarantee once you start making your own pizzas you won't look back. Here's my fool-proof pizza dough recipe:

  • 250g plain white flour
  • 250 strong white bread flour or OO Italian flour
  • 7g sachet of fast-action yeast
  • 2 tsp flaky salt
  • 300ml warm water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
  • Packet of natural bread crumbs
  • Olive oil spray
The above quantity makes 4 regular sized pizzas. It's best to use proper pizza baking sheets, though regular rectangular sheets will do.


In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients, expect the breadcrumbs. Once flour, yeast and salt is combined, slowly add your olive oil, mixing in as you go. Do the same with the water. If the dough seems a little dry add a few extra drops of water, but go carefully or your mixture will get too wet. Combine the ingredients into a dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Now for the kneading, a great work-out for the old bingo wings! A good dough needs at least 10 minutes kneading to get the dough aerated and elastic. Once you're happy with it, spray a clean bowl with olive oil spray, add your ball of dough and cover with cling-film and a clean tea towel. Place the dough somewhere warm, like a sunny window sill or in front of a warm oven, and leave to proof, for at least at hour, or a bit longer if possible. You're looking for the dough to double in size. 

Ready to slam in the oven...

When the dough is nearly ready heat your oven quite high and throw you pizza sheets in to warm up. In the meantime prepare your toppings. I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to pizza - no pineapple or sweetcorn for me - and I tend to stick with traditional combinations. You can't mess up a simple Margherita of ready-made passata topped with slices of mozzarella, a sprinkling of oregano, a few basil leaves and a swirl of olive oil. I might add in a few slices of Parma ham, Italian pepperoni or a few anchovies and a handful of capers. I sometimes mix things up by eschewing mozzarella for goats cheese, which I combine with some sweet red onion, slowly softened and lightly caramelised in a pan.

When you're read to start assembling your pizzas, take a sheet out of the oven and sprinkle with your dried breadcrumbs - this gives that essential crunch to your base which makes your pizzas extra authentic. Roll out your dough and position it on your sheet before adding your toppings. They take just 10 minutes or so to cook in the oven. 

Ready to wolf down with a glass of chilled white
Simple, quick and devoid of all those nasty additives hiding in manufactured pizzas - what's not to love?


Friday, 18 October 2013

The Beauty Myth of Anti-Ageing

Pick up any women's magazine or newspaper supplement these days and chances are you'll stumble on a feature about cosmetic surgery or 'aesthetic procedures'. Entire magazines are dedicated to the subject of anti ageing, their pages revealing a vast and complex world of potions, treatments and procedures that claim to hold back the onset of time. For anyone who watched the recent Channel 4 series 'How Not to Get Old' there are some truly bizarre treatments being peddled out on a high street near you, procedures that make lofty promises about keeping us looking younger for longer. The programme was interesting for several reasons. Firstly most of the procedures tested were not what you'd call 'accessible' in terms of prices with many treatments running into the thousands of pounds. It's no wonder, therefore, that the value of the cosmetic surgery industry is expected to reach £3.15 billion by 2015.

Furthermore, most of the treatments trialled didn't seem to make any long-lasting, discernible difference. Is one day of slightly plumper lips or fresher skin worth plundering your savings for, and having to hide away at home while you wait for your face to 'settle down'? Experiencing disappointing results and a bit of temporary bruising is actually a best case scenario when compared to what can happen when procedures are carried out by less experienced hands. And despite well-documented warnings about an unregulated industry where clumsily handled procedures are leaving some poor people scarred for life, the fixation with youth - an obsession that seems to pervade the female-oriented media - seems to have skewed all sense of reality when it comes to beauty. 

There's a certain madness in promoting anti-ageing creams that cost hundreds of pounds when thousands of people in the UK are struggling to feed their children, or littering a beauty article with references to botox, fillers and laser treatments, procedures that can be hugely expensive and which, despite the growing perception that they are risk-free, can cause long-term damage. For those that can afford to shell out on the latest ground-breaking treatment there's the danger of starting a process that seems to breed further dissatisfaction: improving those crows feet around your eyes suddenly makes the wrinkles on your forehead stand out even more, and so on.

A few years back I had an operation to remove a tumour on my salivary gland. Though my tumour was thankfully benign, the surgery to remove the lump was delicate. My operation involved making the very same incision that is used for standard face lifts in this country. What I hadn't considered until facing my surgery was just how many nerve branches are involved in the facial area - nerves that control movement to the eyes and mouth and which allow the face to show expression. While standard face lift surgery shouldn't compromise these nerve muscles, there is always a margin of error. My particular surgery was frightening in that it directly involved a facial nerve; a slip of the surgeon's hand and a nick of that nerve could have resulted in permanent nerve paralysis. As I came round from my operation, bruised and sore, and with a face clipped together like Frankenstein, I wondered how anyone would willingly put themselves through such an ordeal in the name of beauty. Furthermore, I experienced some temporary nerve paralysis where I couldn't blink one eye and had a slight drooping on one side of my mouth. That anyone would risk permanent damage of this nature to look younger is pure madness to me.

Like anyone else the discovery of another grey hair or a more pronounced wrinkle doesn't exactly fill me with joy, but I do worry that the promotion of aesthetic procedures is clouding our judgement when it comes to expectations around beauty. I fear for the generation of young girls growing up who already have such unrealistic imagery foisted upon them, and will continue to do so as they become women. Wouldn't it be great if ageing wasn't perceived as such a bad thing and the concept of growing old gracefully was more widely advertised? 

From my own personal experience I would never go near a surgeon's knife voluntarily, and with so many new procedures springing up on the market the long-term effects of such treatments can't, in my mind, be fully understood yet. A jar of £200 face cream isn't going to stop the inevitable creep of the years and playing around with needles and muscle relaxants might iron out a few lines but at what cost? I'll take the wrinkles, thanks...

Monday, 14 October 2013

Cairns Road Nearly New Sale

Just a quick post from me today to let you know about a don't-miss event on Saturday 19th October. It's the bi-annual Noah's Ark sale, taking place at the baptist church on Cairns Road, BS6 7TH. These sales are somewhat legendary in the local area and having been to quite a few myself over the years I can recommend a visit if you like a rummage through a variety of good quality, pre-loved items, covering everything from nursery equipment to clothing. The sale kicks off at 11am and is held in the vast hall and adjacent connecting rooms. These sales are extremely popular and it's not unusual for queues to start forming outside the door well in advance of the start time. To be armed with the best chance of nabbing a particular item get there early and go equipped with a large bag or two (those big blue Ikea bags are perfect.)

Another insider tip to bear in mind is that the rooms are arranged by item so if you're after something in particular, head to the right room the minute you get through the doors. The usual set-up is that clothing and toys are laid out in the main hall while the next room along holds everything baby-related - maternity clothes, high chairs, baby carriers, car seats, stair gates and more. The next room in is where you'll find things like trikes, bikes and bigger garden toys and pieces of equipment. Do note this is how it was arranged on my last visit, and the layout may alter from time to time, but as a rule you'll find similar items grouped together. Good stuff shifts quickly so you really need to move fast once you get inside.

On a practical level I would most definitely recommend leaving the kids at home. It can be a bit of a mad scramble plus the many trestle tables loaded with toys will provide just too much temptation for little ones. Remember to bring cash or a cheque book and some extra change for a mid-sale restorative cup of tea and slice of cake, served from the little cafe area near the front of the hall. 

Although the quality is generally very good it's important to check over anything you're interested in buying, particularly the bigger ticket items such as buggies or high chairs, as all sales are final. A good proportion of the sale's profits go to investing in new equipment and learning aides for the preschool and Cairns Road Cafe so it's a great way to see your cash put to good use. The sales are usually held twice a year, in October and March.

On a similar note, did you know that parenting website Netmums has an incredibly dynamic and busy Nearly New facility? You can sell, swap or give away pretty much anything, from your child's old school uniform to the bike they've now outgrown. It's not limited to children's items, either, and when I took a cursory glance at the current items available I came across all manner of amazing bargains, from a  John Lewis sofa, free to collector, a buggy board for £20 and a BMX scooter in great condition for £30. There's no auction process - you simply message the vendor direct with your details and take it from there. Plus it's free to advertise your goods so if you're in the market to sell this is a great place to recycle unwanted items and make a bit of pocket money on the side. All you need to do is sign up to your local site.

Find out more about Netmums Nearly New here


Friday, 11 October 2013

Doing London on the Cheap

Contrary to popular believe you can enjoy a budget weekend in the capital with kids in tow. In fact there's lots to recommend London if you're after a change of scenery on a shoestring, and despite some unavoidable costs (eg. travel, accommodation and food) the scope for low-cost and indeed free activities is surprisingly wide. Just be sure not to step anywhere near Hamleys...

First up, travel, and any self-respecting bargain hunter will already know about the Friends and Family Railcard. They cost £30 and entitle you to save a third on adult fares and 60% off kids fares for an entire year. The only thing to remember is that you have to be travelling with at least one child to get the discount on your journey. Once you get to London all children under 10 years of age can travel for free on London's transport network, including the tube, buses, DLR and overground. Bargain. Grown-ups should opt for buying an Oyster card, especially if you'll be making further trips to the capital in the future.
Soldiers at St James

If you're making a weekend of it there are numerous options for overnight accommodation but my personal recommendation comes courtesy of the basic and dependable Premier Inn chain, in particular its branch at Old Street. Located just moments from the tube station, this particular hotel makes a brilliant choice for families. We paid just £69 for a family room on our last visit at the end of the summer holidays. If you're au fait with the Premier Inn model, you'll know that rooms are functional rather than stylish, but usually clean and comfortable. Despite being at the epicentre of trendy Old Street, with all its attendant nightlife, this hotel is really quiet - our room seemed to be completely soundproofed against any late night revelry and we all enjoyed a blissfully undisturbed night's kip. Do take up the offer of breakfast - you pay around £8 per adult but kids eat completely free. We stuffed them with a full English and a variety of pastries so we could keep our lunchtime expenditure to a minimum. I might also have made off with a croissant or two in my bag to cover off any mid-morning snack requirements...

So, what to do in London that won't see you fleeced of every last penny? The free museums are a given, but be prepared to queue for entry to places like the Natural History Museum. They can also get uncomfortably busy. If you want to try something totally different and are prepared to venture out as far as Zone 4 you could visit the RAF Museum at Colindale. Entry is completely free and the place is vast - think hangars filled with everything aviation related, from WW2 fighter planes to flight simulators. There's a great interactive area where kids can get inside models, play at being pilots and have a go at low-level hang gliding. 

I should perhaps mention at this point that we have two boys so if my suggestions seem a little male-orientated I apologise. A more unisex option that we tried out on our last trip was an afternoon of outdoor play at the Princess Diana Memorial Garden in Kensington. It being the last really sunny day of the summer holidays when we visited, we had to endure a one-in-one-out queue to gain entry to this sweet little playground, but I imagine those were unusual circumstances. It's a contained space that provides a bit of sanctuary from the bustle of the West End, and it has some lovely play equipment and nice zones in which to rest and recharge before taking on the rest of the city.
Thames Barrier Park

Having been to London several times before with the kids our choices on our last visit were perhaps a little unconventional, but no less successful and budget-friendly. A ride on the DLR was a huge hit, simply because the kids can sit at the front of a driver-less train and, well, drive it...boy heaven. We rode out as far as the Thames Barrier which my elder, design-obsessed son wanted to see. It is actually pretty impressive when viewed from the tranquil surroundings of the Thames Barrier Park at Silvertown.

The biggest success, though, was a ride on the cable cars across the Greenwich Peninsula. With child returns around the £4 mark and adults at £8 this is a much cheaper way to take in the London skyline than the Eye. Granted the cable cars don't offer quite as much visual interest as the Eye, but when a family ticket on the Eye clocks up a whopping £63 that's a big dent in your spending money. 

London from above - without paying ££s

Our kids loved going on the cable cars and we barely had to queue to get on them. You could buy a single and then cruise back across the river by boat, or just pick up the tube from the 02. We did the latter, stopping off at Canary Wharf so my son could fulfil a life-long desire to see One Canada Square in all its architectural glory. He's a Richard Rogers in the making...

A quick scoot up to Buck House, followed by a climb on the lions at Trafalgar Square and a walk around the refined environs of the confectionery section at Fortnum & Mason for a bag of treats to enjoy on the train journey home, and we were all pretty much pooped. London is exhausting with children in tow. Even when travelling on the tube there are huge distances involved - just changing branch line sometimes involves a convoluted march up and down stairs and across concourses - and you can forget how tired little legs can get. That's why it sometimes pays to avoid the major tourist sights or try to cover unrealistic distances. Taking a more leftfield approach in our choices this time around made for a much less stressful, enjoyable trip, and it certainly helped to keep a handle on costs.

If you'd like to find out more about the Premier Inn at Old Street, visit the website here.

And for more information about the Emirate Airline cable cars, click here.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Broadening Our Pizza Horizons at Acapella

It is a truth universally acknowledged by parents across the land that when it comes to dining out with little 'uns sticking with what you know is the safer choice when it comes to restaurants. Children have rigid tastes with regard to eating out, and when they say they want a Margherita pizza, what they're actually saying is that they want a Pizza Express Margherita pizza. If you deviate from this request you will be in trouble. A Margherita from Zizzi, or Strada, or anywhere else, for that matter is not the same thing. They're contrary so and sos, kids. 

The good news is that just when you thought you were doomed to spend every future culinary experience in an identikit chain restaurant, staring at an unchanging menu while a white noise of '90s nu-jazz washes over you, in between emphatically checking with the waitress that the orange juice definitely does not have bits in it, your kids suddenly grow up. No longer do you have a couple of culinary dictators on your hands but rather reasonable little people who are quite open to the idea of TRYING SOMEWHERE NEW. Yes, it's great fun and happens sometime around the ages of 8-9 years old. On a less positive note, this new-found maturity will cost you. Your child will suddenly develop a huge appetite, consigning those halcyon days of children's menus and sharing a pizza to the past. So, finding good value, good quality restaurants to celebrate your new-found freedom is what it's all about.

Our personal quest to do just that led us to a lovely little restaurant called Acapella over the weekend. Located on the Wells Road, a few minutes' drive from Temple Meads station, Acapella has carved something of a reputation for itself on rewiew website Tripadvisor. Based on user reviews the website has named Acapella the UK's best independent pizzeria. It's gained lofty praise from The Guardian newspaper, too, and was voted Bristol's best cafe in the 2012 Bristol Good Food Awards. Despite being home to a large Italian community, good, independent pizzerias are surprisingly thin on the ground in Bristol, so we were interested to see if Acapella would live up to the claims touted on its website and the wider press. 
The 'Glissando' pizza. Delish.

In terms of quality and prices, it is indeed spot on. The other advantage it boasts is that it's one of the few BYO establishments operating in Bristol, charging just £1 per head corkage, a no-brainer when it comes to slashing pounds off your bill. 

The pizzas we tried were very good indeed, and come in two sizes; a 12-inch is ample for filling up kids with seemingly bottomless stomachs, but 'piccolo' child-size pizzas are also available at just £4.95 a pop. We should have probably skipped a starter of garlic pizza bread, delicious though it was, and saved room for the really flavoursome, authentic style pizzas that we'd chosen as mains. I'd opted for the 'Glissando', which combines the standard tomato and mozzarella base with caramelised onions, sun-dried tomatoes and capers, a mix of flavours and textures which works fantastically well. We shared a 'two tomato' salad and should have stopped there, had it not been our first time at Acapella which made sampling the dessert menu seem a non-negotiable. Desserts err on the cakey-side and are perhaps a little limited but the option we plumped for - the sticky ginger, orange and cinnamon cake - was delicious but not an obvious choice post-pizza when you perhaps fancy something a little lighter to offset all those carbs.
Diet? What diet? 14 inches of pizza heaven

Acapella has a lovely, intimate atmosphere. It's not big and within minutes of taking our seats the rest of the tables had been snapped up, and those remaining were already reserved. A bit of a secret to those of us living further afield, Acapella is obviously a much-loved local institution. We were served by exceptionally friendly, attentive staff and while the general vibe is perhaps more cafe than restaurant, this only adds to the genuine, unpretentious charm of the place. Our kids loved the novelty of eating somewhere beyond the confines of our usual stomping ground, and it was nice to introduce them to somewhere 'unbranded', as it were. 
Small but perfectly formed

So, our mission to find great, family-friendly eating establishments has got off to a flying start and we will definitely be back to this fab little independent in the future.

To find out more about Acapella visit the website here

And to see what other people thought of it, check out the reviews on Tripadvisor


Thursday, 3 October 2013

Is fashion in tune with the real world?

Is it just me or is there a disconnect between the world of fashion and retail and ‘normal’ consumers? Now, I like fashion quite a lot. I think it does play a role in defining identity, both on an individual level and cultural level. UK designers are amongst the most creative in the world and our high streets wipe the floor with those of our European counterparts. I ‘get’ that high fashion exists in the realm of fantasy, affordable only to a select few and attainable to the masses only when reinterpreted and reworked from cheap materials in a factory somewhere in the Far East. 

But what I don’t get is how, despite the economic downturn, the fashion press and retailers seem to think it’s quite reasonable to sell and promote ordinary, work-a-day items at quite ridiculous prices.  For example, have you tried buying jeans recently? Since when did Levi’s jeans – the epitome of 'work wear' and a byword for democratic clothing - become so expensive? An average pair of Levi's jeans will set you back £80 these days. Yes, I know you can pick up a pair of skinnies for about the same price as a sandwich in Primark, but the point is not that cheap alternatives do not exist, but that all along the fashion chain some seriously dubious pricing mechanisms are at play. Look at the ongoing fashion for 'premium' denim. Just what makes it 'premium'? How can a piece of cotton crafted into a pair of trousers justify a price tag of upwards of £150? 

Just today I was flicking through Red magazine when I came across an article about parka coats. I love a parka coat as much as the next man, but it is not a high fashion item. It is a practical, winter staple, not a feat of designer engineering. The coat featured in said article cost £676. Yes, it was made of wool, but REALLY?? The coat was teamed with a cotton shirt at £270, a pair of jeans, £148 and a bag at - wait for it - £2,410. Total cost = £3,504. Granted, the bag was by Louis Vuitton, but it was JUST A BAG. How can a bag cost £2,410? Even if made from the finest Italian leather and hand crafted by the angels themselves is there really anyone out there in full possession of their faculties who believes this pricing to be acceptable? Obviously this is perhaps an excessive example but is anyone else a bit bored of fashion mags aimed at the 30-plus demographic assuming we're all investment bankers with £70k salaries?

Over on the high street excessive pricing is equally rife with quite average brands whacking out mass produced, poor quality products at disproportionately hefty price points. The prices in the more upmarket high street retailers (French Connection and Reiss spring to mind)have been creeping up for years now and not in a way that is in line with inflation, while quality has often deteriorated. And that's the point I'm making, in a round-about way. I am quite happy to pay good money for something that is designed and made well. I am not a fan of the Primark model and hate the excessive consumption incited by the 'pile it high, sell it cheap' modus operandi. And of course there are plenty of retailers meeting a good middle ground and servicing ordinary consumers perfectly well. I just think there are also an awful lot of brands and people working in the fashion industry who have got a very skewed idea of the average person's spending power. It would be good if those working on the fashion glossies and wider fashion industry recognised this from time to time.

What do you think? Comments welcome below...


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Online Beauty at Bath & Unwind

In the dim and distant past I could lose an entire afternoon trawling the beauty department of Liberty's. I would also frequently lose a significant portion of my income on expensive products in those heady days pre kids, when spending £30 on a new face cream seemed like a sound investment. A lifetime later and I'm a mother of two with very little time to mooch about sniffing perfumes and trying creams, and even less disposable income to spend on superfluous luxuries. However, there's no denying that I'm getting older and showing the effects of years of little sleep, excessive sunbathing and general daily stress on my face, so I reckon making a little bit of an investment in the skincare department isn't something to feel too guilty about. 

So I was excited to hear about Bath & Unwind, an online beauty retailer selling a great range of premium beauty products without the exorbitant price tag. Furthemore, Bath & Unwind is a local company, with head offices based in the heart of Bristol. I like to support local business as much as possible, so I decided to trial their service and see what they offer that makes them different to the many other online beauty retailers out there.

Image courtesy of Bath & Unwind

It's a nicely merchandised site with clear navigation and clean design - always a big winner for me as someone who's worked in the web industry since the early noughties and who has a big thing for usability. The registration function is equally seamless so you can enter your details and make your purchase quickly. Functionality aside, Bath & Unwind offers some nice added extras to the service, such as free standard delivery with no minimum spend and a loyalty points scheme whereby you automatically earn 5 reward points for every £1 spent, which can then be redeemed on subsequent purchases. Your points never expire and you can use them straight away or save them up and enjoy a bigger discount on a later order. 

For my purchase I opted for the fast delivery service which is £2.49 (or free for orders over £35) and guarantees delivery within 2 days; in my case I made my order mid-morning and received it first thing the next day, conveniently averting a 'run-out-of-moisturiser' crisis which could easily have resulted in a pre school-run tantrum (and a rather dry face.)

In terms of brands, Bath & Unwind is pretty far-reaching, taking in premium names such as Bliss, Elemis and Perricone MD alongside more mid-range, affordable brands such as Burt's Bees, Korres and Neal's Yard Remedies. In terms of pricing it's competitive with the other major players in the online beauty arena, but the site features frequent special offers and 3 for 1 deals. At the time of writing I spotted some tempting offers including free sample sets with any two products from the Ren range and 25% off the 'soothing' range from Aromatherapy Associates. There's also an outlet department where you can pick up great discounts, plus the range includes products for men and babies. 

Another aspect of the site I really like is the personal element that makes Bath & Unwind less of a faceless e-commerce site and more of a friendly beauty advisor. According to the 'about us' spiel, each product in the Bath & Unwind range is hand-picked by a beauty expert and facialist who adds her own 'Emily Loves' tag to the products she loves and recommends. Alongside personally picked products there are also beauty blogs written by members of the Bath & Unwind team so you can get some background info about the products and learn some useful tricks of the trade.

All in all Bath & Unwind ticks a lot of boxes and I'd really recommend it if you're after a particularly niche beauty brand or you simply don't have time for extended shopping trips. It offers really efficient service and a carefully edited, balanced range that makes for a most pleasant online shopping experience.

You can visit the Bath & Unwind website here. 

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