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I am going away in a week and instead of being disorganised and changing my money at the airport as I usually do I thought I would save myself some cash and do it in advance. I diligently checked a comparison site and OnlineFX came up as the best deal.
I had to create an account on their website which was pretty straightforward and I ordered my currency. A receipt was emailed to my email address and I thought all was well. I ordered well before the deadline for next day delivery so was expecting to receive my cash the following day.
A couple of hours later I received a phone call from them explaining that I was too late for next day delivery and that my cash would arrive the day after. I thought this odd as I ordered well before the deadline but as I am not going away for a while I let it slide.
A couple of hours later I received an email (not even a phone call) stating it was "too difficult" for the dealer to get my currency and they would be refunding mew which could take up to 5 days! If I was getting emergency cash just before I left on the basis that they do next day delivery it would have left me with no money to travel with. I am just thankful I have a few days before I leave. This does mean that I don't have time to use another delivery service and will have to use a High Street Bureau de Change which is what I was trying to avoid by using an online company.
I wouldn't recommend this company to anyone. They advertise products they can't supply and take a long time to refund (even though they seem to be able to take the cash from your account instantly).
I am aware that this probably isn't typical service but taking 5 days to refund when things go wrong is not acceptable. Neither is taking money for products they don't know they can supply.
Smokey Eye Effects by Max Factor is shaped like a double ended pen. It has two complimentary colours which work well together to create a smokey eye effect. There are 9 shades to choose from, with brighter blue and purple shades, classic black and white and more natural shades for during the day. I went for bronze haze which is a light golden colour teamed with a darker brown. It cost £7.99 in Boot's which I think is very reasonable when you consider you are getting two eyeshadows.
The eyeshadow has a texture similar to lipstick and you apply it by rubbing it directly on the lids. The eyeshadows are shaped for ease of application - the lighter colour which you use over the whole of your lids has a rounded end whereas the darker colour is more pointed for a more precise application.
It goes on smoothly and evenly and the creamy texture is very nice to work with. It doesn't really need much blending but if you need to it can be done with your fingers. I was concerned that the creamy texture would mean that it would fall into the creases of the eye but it doesn't as it seems to dry to a powder finish.
The packing is quite nice. It is black in the centre with clear plastic lids over the eyeshow so you can see the colours. It is nice and thick so it's is easy to use.
This product didn't irritate my eyes at all but bear in mind that I don't wear contacts or have sensitive eyes.
One issue I do have with this product is its staying power. The colour seems to fade after a few hours and you definitely need to reapply if you put is on in the morning and want to wear it on a night out. Having said that, I would expect that for the price I paid for it so I don't see this as a major problem.
I would recommend this to people who like the smokey eye look but don't have the time / skills / inclination to spend hours blending lots of different eyeshadows. The effect you get is almost as good and it only takes about 2 minutes.
I love liquid eyeliner. I don't wear it on a day to day basis but I like to wear it when I go out I the evening, or during the day if I am doing anything smart. I find that adding it makes me instantly look more polished and made up.
Last time I was in Boot's you got extra Advantage points with L'Oreal Superliner so I thought I would give it a go as L'Oreal tend to make very good value for money products. I paid £6.99 for mine so I would class it as a mid-priced eyeliner.
The packaging of this eyeliner is black with different coloured writing depending on what colour you go for. I went for carbon gloss which meant the writing was a pretty hideous green colour - I much prefer the gold lettering of the normal black! I am not a person that is really bothered about packaging of make-up though so I didn't let that put me off!
The applicator is sponge tipped. It is like the nib of a fine felt tip and is slightly bendy. I find this eyeliner incredible easy to put on, and one you get the knack it is really easy to vary the width of the line. Even I can manage a nice thick line of top tapering off to finer flicks of a cat-eye look with this applicator and I am rubbish at putting on eyeliner! If you find it hard I would recommend this one as it is the easiest to use I have ever found.
As I said earlier, I went for carbon gloss which is meant have carbon black pigments that make the black more intense. I have never been able to see the different between this and normal black in any product, to me black is black and anything less intense is dark grey. This could be because I have dark eyes and lashes anyway and perhaps the difference would be more noticeable on a fair person.
The eyeliner lasts fairly well. If I put it on in the morning it lasts until the evening, but you might need to reapply if you are going out for the night. In a night out in a sweaty cub it hold it's own fairly well but it does often disappear by the end of the night but I am yet to find a liquid eyeliner that doesn't.
I don't have particularly sensitive eyes but some cheaper brands of liquid eyeliner make my eyes sting and this one doesn't. I have slept in it before (yes I know it's naughty) and my eyes were fine in the morning.
I got this mascara free on Glamour magazine. I didn't think that anything could beat DiorShow mascara but I was wrong!
The packaging of this mascara is a very dark green, so dark it almost looks black. It has a slightly sparkly effect and has silver writing. It's OK packaging - not amazing beautiful but not horrendously ugly either.
The brush to this an average size and straight with densely packed short bristles. It is easy to use and it doesn't get mascara all over your eyelids. The brush really seems to capture every single eyelash - even the tiny ones!
After the first coat I couldn't believe how good my eye lashes looked. They were long and thick and not clumpy at all. For during the day this would be enough for most people but I love having long eyelashes so put another coat on and they looked amazing, still without a clump in sight. It didn't look like I had loads of mascara on, it looked like I had naturally amazing lashes.
On a night out I went for 3 layers and had compliments from 3 separate people on my long eyelashes. Even my boyfriend noticed which is un-heard-of! After 3 layers it looks like you have natural lashes that are as long and thick as false ones without looking like you are wearing false eyelashes.
This mascara stays put all day. It doesn't claim to be waterproof and I haven't tested this out but my eyelashes look as good at the end of the day as they do when I put it on. I slept in it after a night out and it still looked good in the morning and hadn't smudged down my face. I find it easy to remove but I guess that partly depends on your eye makeup remover.
Clinique is a high-end brand and this mascara costs between £15 and £17, with the usual bargains to be found on eBay. This isn't cheap but in my opinion is worth every penny!
Before I begin this review I feel I should point out that I don't suffer from excessive perspiration as a lot of people who read this review probably will do and I am therefore not writing this from the point of view of someone who does.
My office is like a sauna and I cycle to work and back and I was finding that the usual antiperspirants like Dove and Sure just weren't cutting it. While I didn't have huge damp patches or smell I did find I was having a reapply and it made me feel a bit self-conscious.
Mitchum antiperspirant claims to be the strongest you can get without protection. It claims that it is so effective you could skip a day so I thought I would give it a try.
The packaging is distinctive. It is a light green with coloured writing which depends on which scent you get. I chose power fresh and the writing is a light pink. It isn't particularly attractive but it's not that bad. It looks a bit more "clinical" than most deodorant
The smell is a fresh delicate fragrance which is feminine and not to over powering. The ball with which you apply the deodorant is really large. This is good because you can do each armpit really quickly. I applied it immediately after shaving and don't get any irritation. I did once put it on after I had nicked myself shaving and it stung like hell but that really was my own fault. One thing that I don't like about this product is that it takes absolutely ages to dry because the consistency is quite thick and sticky.
So, for the most important bit, does it work ... yes it does. It is amazing. I don't know if you could skip a day and I am not going to test it but it keeps me completely dry with no odour in my boiling office and when I cycle. No matter what I do when I go to bed at night my armpits are completely dry. It seems to be less effective if you don't let it dry before putting your clothes on though so be prepared to wait a few minutes before putting your top on. It does leave white marks. Not as badly as Sure but still noticeable. I am yet to find an antiperspirant that doesn't though and I think it is worth is as it is so effective.
My lovely boyfriend brought these as a present for me this weekend. They are listed on the manufacturer's website at £15 reduced from £20 which seems a lot for a pair of slippers to me! My boyfriend got them at TK Maxx for £6.99 which is a far more reasonable price.
The slippers are made by a company called Bedroom Athletics. I had never heard of them before and looked up their website. They do a good selection of women's slippers - most in "bootie" style of these ones but some more traditional ones. They also sell women's pyjamas and "lounge wear", which seems to be a nice way of saying clothes to slob around in. They also have a smaller selection of men's slippers. I have never seen them in the shops but apparently you can buy them at John Lewis, Brown Thomas Office, Urban Outfitters, Bank, USC, Treds, Fenwicks, Bentalls and Hoopers, as well as at a selection of independent retailers.
The slippers themselves look like black furry ankle boots (they are faux fur so no guilt for veggies). They fasten up with a zip up the front of the boot that you can't see when it is done up which makes them really easy to put on - a quality I feel is essential for slippers. The soles are also black with pink polka dots on and there is a pink trim near the tops of the boot. They do have some grip as well so you won't be falling down the stairs!
When I put these on I couldn't believe how lovely and warm they are. They cover your ankles as well as your feet which makes an enormous difference to how warm they are. The bottoms of the slippers feel incredibly soft to walk on and they seem to be much thicker than in a normal pair of slippers. This adds to how warm they are and means they feel nice to walk in. An advantage of the fact that they are "booties" rather than traditional slippers is that they stay on your feet. I generally find that normal slippers fall off making them hard to walk in.
I would thoroughly recommend these, provided you can get them from somewhere cheap. The only concern I have is that they will make my feel too hot in the summer!
I brought this purse from Viva La Diva (see my review of the website) with my Christmas money from my granny. It cost £28 which isn't that cheap but I thought I'd treat myself.
The purse is black with a silver zip detail on the flap at the front which zips and unzips but is purely decoration as it doesn't have a function. The fastener of the zip as a small skull on it. The top of the purse has a kneeling skeleton embossed into the leather. It is 11.5cm by 20.5cm which is pretty big, almost like a mini clutch bag - this is good for me as I am forever losing my purse and this is hard to lose but might not be everyone's cup of tea and is too big to fit in some smaller evening bags. The main fastener is a press stud. It is slightly different from your average black purse without being too try-hard and out there.
In the top flap there is a good sized mirror which is big enough to easily do your make-up with. At the front of the inside is space for your cards, and behind that is a zipped compartment for change. Behind that is an unzipped space for storing notes with another section for holding cards which is useful if you have cards that you don't want everyone to see every time you open up your purse. Behind that is a similar compartment which I don't really use but would be handy as a place to store receipts. The inner parts of the purse are made of black cloth with the image of the kneeling skeleton on the front repeated in grey. It is a dark grey so it's quite subtle.
There are a couple of downsides to the purse.
The first is that the zipped compartment's zip extends all the way around the side of the purse rather than just unzipping across the top. This means that it is easy not to zip it up properly if you are not careful which results in money falling out in your bag and all over the floor when you open it.
The other major "flaw" is that the zipped compartment is not attached to the compartments fully - it seems to be attached at either end. The problem with that is that it leaves a hole between these two compartments, and when you are trying to put cash back into the purse in the dark it is easy to put cash in the hole and lose it on the floor.
I think the purse could be improved by rectifying these design issues.
All in all I do like this purse, but it misses out on a star because of the issues above.
I brought these boots in September 2009 at a cost of £65 from Viva La Diva. They are currently on sale in Schuh for £45 (grrr!). They are flat ankle boots with buckle detailing around the ankle and a round toe. The buckles are proper adjustable buckles but I have never felt the need to adjust them! They are available in black purple and brown (I got the black ones). The lining on the inside is a brown check patterned material and the outside is made of leather (so maybe not one for veggies and vegans).
What drew me to these boots is that they are very wearable while still being very slightly edgy. They are very versatile and can be worn with skinny jeans tucked in or with dresses and skirts. They are smart enough to wear to work (depending on your office dress code of course) and comfortable and study enough to be worn when walking longer distances. They have a decent amount of grip so you don't slip when it is icey.
I have worn them loads over the winter - not quite daily but certainly at least 4 or 5 days a week every week. I have worn them through mud, snow and rain and they still look good and only show a little bit of wear. The soles have barely worn at all and the rocket dog logo is still raised and visible on them. They don't leak at all even when it is very wet. I have looked after them well by polishing them and allowing them to dry out when they get wet which I'm sure has help but am very happy with the quality of these boots. They will definitely last me another winter and may even keep going beyond that!
I do have very wide feet and these boots fit me fine in my usual size so if your feet are narrow they might not be right for you.
I am lucky in that I have family in Geneva and Ryanair and easyjet fly there very cheaply. To get the cheapest seat possible I only take handluggage and for this I need a holdall. I brought this for £14.99 from Argos. The main reasons I went for this are the low price and the floral design.
The bag 29 by 46 by 25cm, which is small enough to take on a flight as hand luggage. Despite being fairly small you can fit a lot in it as it has a 30 litre capacity - a bit like Mary Poppins' bag! It comes with a detachable strap that you can wear across your body. It has two wheels and a handle so you can pull it along the floor and fastens with a zip. There are two small handles at the top so you can carry it like a bowling bag if you prefer. It is made of canvas so is not waterproof. It is very lightweight at only 1.5kg.
I really like the monochrome, floral design of this bag and I have been complimented on it more than once.
One downside is that the plastic of the pull-along handle is very flimsy. I wouldn't be surprised if it snapped - although it hasn't yet *touches wood*.
Another really irritating thing is that when you are pulling the bag along if the floor deviates from being completely smooth in anyway it topples over. This means that the wheels are useless outdoors as pavements are not smooth. Because the bag is fairly small I just carry it with the small top handles when I am outside so it isn't a huge problem but it shouldn't really happen. On smooth floors like in airports it's not such a problem although it still topples occasionally.
I think that for the money this bag is OK - I will use it until it wears out or the handle snaps but I won't be buying another one. When the time comes I will pay a bit more to get better quality!
I stayed one night at the Novotel Manchester Piccadilly in September 2010. I found the hotel through a site called Accor Hotels and a double room for one night cost £68 - not including breakfast It is 3 star hotel.
The hotel has an impressive reception, with high ceilings and a lot of space and comfy seats dotted around. We were given a very warm welcome by the concierge, who told us all the info we needed to know and which floor our rooms were on. We were offered help with our bags but we didn't need it since we only had a small overnight bag between us.
There is a bar and restaurant at the hotel but we didn't use them.
The room itself was a good size with a huge comfortable double bed. It had a large window overlooking a brick wall which isn't the most beautiful view but we were in the middle of a city so to be expected. There were all the usual things you expect such as a safe, television, wardrobe, ironing board kettle etc. There is free wifi and satellite TV but we didn't make use of it.
The room had its own en-suite bathroom with a shower and sink. The shower was amazing, warm and powerful - and enough room for 2 ;-). The bathroom itself was big enough so it didn't feel cramped. The toilet was in its own separate little room which is unusual but I can see why it could be useful.
The hotel is ideally placed for a visit to Manchester. It is just off Piccadilly gardens. It is about a 10 minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly station. It is also within easy walking distance of the Northern Quarter and the main shopping centre.
We went for breakfast elsewhere so I can't comment on that.
I would recommend this place if you are looking for a decent place to stay in Manchester without breaking the bank. It is an ideal base to explore Manchester from.
Inspired Selection is a recruitment agency that specializes in publishing and digital media. They have offices in London and Oxford and place candidates nationally, although in practice most of their vacancies are in the Oxford and London area. They cover all areas of publishing from scientific to financial to fiction. From working in companies that use them I have gleaned that they seem to be the most respected agency among employers
I got my current job through them, and have used them in the past when job searching so I think I am well placed to write a review of their service.
I first got in touch with about four years ago by answering an advert for a job (I can't remember where). Before putting me forward they arranged an appointment at their Regent Street office with one of their agents. They went through what I was looking for in a job and my experience with me and suggested changes to my CV to show off my skills in the best way. They didn't force these changes on me but suggested them with the rationale behind it and left it up to me whether or not I implemented them. Once I did this they went through the job with me and put me forward once they had ascertained that I was happy with the role and that I was suitable. I didn't get the job in the end but it was my own fault as I was fully briefed and the agent prepared me well for the interview. A week or so later I received an email from them about another job asking me to call them, and again they went over the role thoroughly with me (over the phone this time) and ascertained that it was right for me. Again I didn't get it but it was through no fault of the agent.
Fast forward to November last year and I was job hunting again. I emailed Inspired Selection and they said they had a role they felt I would be good for. They sent me the job spec but insisted that I went into the office to meet them again before putting me forward. Although this may seem like a hassle I actually think it is good business practice as it means the candidates put forward are suitable for the job and vice versa, and saves time in the long run as you don't waste time going to interviews for jobs you don't want and have no chance of getting anyway!
I was offered an interview, then a second interview and go the job and felt supported every step of the way. The agent even negotiated a higher salary for me.
Inspired Selection's website www.inspiredselection.com is simple but effective. You can search by location, type of job, keywords or reference number - or any combination of these. One criticism I do have is that it would be useful to be able to search via salary and sector. The job descriptions are very good, and generally contain enough information to allow you to make an informed decision about whether or not you want to apply.
If you like you can sign up to their mailshot which comes every few days and lists new jobs. You can opt to only receive jobs of particular categories, but not in particular areas of the country so you do get some that aren't relevant.
The thing that makes this agency stand out amongst all the other agencies I have used is that they seem to have the candidate's best interests at heart rather than their commission. All their agents have worked in the publishing sector so have good knowledge and they are honest about jobs. In one case I went for a job and the agent told me that the pay was lower than what I was looking for and that she felt it would be a step down in terms of experience. A lot of agencies would have sent you to the interview anyway. They really listen to what you want from a job and take it into account and are proactive in sending you jobs you might be interested in.
Elbows café is in the lovely Victoria Park village just to the North of Victoria Park in Hackney, London.
From the outside it looks like its quite small but once inside it is actually pretty big. It has a conservatory area to the back which I like the best as it is very bright. They serve coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cakes, paninis and hot meals. They have a seating area outside the front which is nice in the summer and for smokers.
The atmosphere here is lovely. They don't mind you stopping in just for a coffee, unlike a lot of other cafes who make you feel you have to get food, and you never feel rushed. They are pretty child friendly, I took my nephew in when he was 8 months old and the staff made a real fuss of him - he loved it. It doesn't tend to get over run with screaming babies and pushchairs though.
Their coffee is very good and I am something of a coffee snob! Their cakes are delicious and they always have a wide variety, all home made (or they taste it anyway). Their vegetable lasagne is absolutely delicious - so much so that I get it every time and I am not even a vegetarian! Others I have eaten there with have had Panini, salads and jacket potatoes and all have been very good as well.
The prices are very reasonable -a Panini comes to about £4-£6. A slice of cake is between £2.50 and £3.50. A cappocino is £2.20. It is very easy to have lunch for under £10 and they are very generous with their portion sizes. Even though they have table service they don't add service to the bill. When you go up to the counter to pay there is a coffee cup with tips written on it but you never feel like you are under any pressure to tip if you don't want to. I always do though!
During winter I hardly ever shave my legs. There doesn't seem much point when they are covered up all the time. I looked down at mine the other day and they resembled porcupines so something needed to be done. I decided to go for waxing as they were long enough and it lasts longer than shaving. I never normally use pre-covered wax strips but these were on offer at Boots for only £3 I thought I would give them a go as they seemed liked less messy than the usual stuff that comes in a pot and I wouldn't have to bother with warming it up.
When I got home that evening I tried them out. The first thing I noticed is that the strips are quite large which is good as they can be used on a large area and thus pull out a lot of hairs at once. I sat down, smoothed it strip onto my leg, braced myself, grit my teeth and pulled it off. To my immense surprise it didn't hurt at all. I was pretty happy about this until closer inspection of my legs revealed that the reason it didn't hurt was that it hadn't pulled the hairs out. I held the strip up to the light and there were two hairs on it. I touched the back of the stip with my hand and it wasn't really sticky - just slightly tacky. Thinking that it was a duff strip I tried with 3 more and it was the same. After that I gave up as pressing slightly tacky strips onto my legs and taking them off leaving all the hair behind seemed a pointless activity.
My leg hair is dark but really isn't particularly course, I would say it was average so I don't think it's that. I have waxed my legs many times before and, while I am not beautician, I know how to do it and used the same technique as I always do. The wax strips were less sticky that cello tape, I don't see how they could pull anyone's hair out. The only use I can see them having is for removing fluff from jumpers.
I won't be buying these again!
I love my sleep and have a commute of over an hour to work which means I have to get up early. This inevitably means I have to do my make up on the tube (classy girl that I am). One major problem with this is that was getting foundation all over the palms of my hands, which doesn't look great when you are hosting external meetings first thing and have to shake hands with people. The obvious solution to this (other than getting out of bed early enough to do my makeup before I leave the house) was to use something other than my hand to put it on. I went into Boots to investigate and found these cosmetic wedges.
They are little sponges shaped into wedges and cost £1.62 for four which I think is a very reasonable price. The instructions say that you should soak these in water and squeeze them then let them air-dry before use. I didn't do that the first time and was a bit disappointed but they work much better when you do this - and I don't really feel it would be fair to complain about results obtained by not following the manufacture's instructions my review is about the product when you do this.
To use them is pretty simple. Just squeeze a small amount of your foundation onto the sponge and wipe it on your face. After they have been soaked as above, they feel wonderfully soft on your skin. The wedge shape is ideal for using on your face. They blend as you wipe so you don't have to spend time rubbing your face and I think it's vastly reduced the amount of time I spend applying my foundation. The sponge gives a smooth even coverage which looks much better than when you apply with your fingers and I imagine it is much more hygienic to use a sponge that your hands which have been holding onto the hand rails in a dirty tube. And it's nice not to have to hind the palms of my hands when I get to work.
The wedges are easy to wash as well. Just rinse them out with warm soapy water and leave to air-dry.
I think these are great and I would recommend them to anyone who wears foundation.
I love buying vintage clothes. Some dresses are stunning and you never have the problem of everyone turning up in the same dress as you. I also have very hourglass proportions which I am happy about except when I am trying to but clothes. A lot of British shops now seem to be cut more for apple or pear shapes so I find it hard to find dresses that aren't made out of stretch material that fit properly. I find that vintage clothes from the 1070s and earlier are cut to accommodate hourglass figures and so fit me better.
The problem with vintage clothes is the expense. It is not unusual for vintage boutiques to charge around £70 for a dress which to me seems ludicrous, especially when you consider that the dress is second hand! You can pick up nice things in charity shops but the opportunities to do so are few and far between and you have to set aside a whole day to rummage though old pyjamas. Because of this I was overjoyed when my friend introduced me to the East End Thrift Store.
This shop is hidden down an alley way off Mile End Road between Whitechapel and Stepney Green tube stations. It is pretty hard to find if you don't know where you are going. They sell original vintage clothes, restored vintage clothes and dresses made out of vintage material. They have a wide range of coats, jackets, jumpers, playsuits, accessories and anything you can think of. Most things in the main shop cost £10-£15 and nothing costs over £30. A relatively new addition is The Assembly upstairs which is a collection of the more upmarket things. It is more expensive but is still cheaper than Rokit, Beyond Retro and most other vintage shops. They have some amazing things up there but I tend to stick to the cheap stuff!
I have heard on the grapevine that this started out as exclusive suppliers to TopShop for their vintage pieces but stopped supplying them as they felt they overcharged too much. I have never seen any evidence of this though so it may well just be a rumour!
Their normal opening hours are 10-6 every day but on the last Thursday of every month they have a party where they provide free booze (bottles of beer and white wine) and they stay open til late. They also have regular jumble sales where you can fill a bag for £10 or £20 - although to be honest they tend to be the dregs so I imagine you have to get there very early to get the best out of this.
This is probably my favourite shop in London.