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This was a product I bought as my 'free' product when buying a 3 for 2 offer on this range, I needed cleanser and moisturiser anyway and thought that this sounded like a good option for my third product. This normally retails at £2.99 for a 75ml bottle but Boots own products often seem to be on offer.
This face mask comes in a white tube with green writing and a green flip top lid and describes itself as containing 'soothing aloe vera' and has no fragrance, no colour, is hypo-allergenic and dermatologically tested. It says that it will 'remove excess oil and impurities to purify your skin' and also says that it simultaneously moisturises to make your skin look revivied. The mask itself is white in colour and smells nice with a hint of aloe vera.
To apply this product you are to apply it to dry, cleansed skin and avoid the eye area. You then leave it on for 3 minutes and then rinse the product off. The label advises that you use once a week if you have dry skin and twice a week if you have normal/oily/combination skin.
When I applied this face mask I noticed that it doesn't feel as thick as other face masks I've used. This may have been because I was using a small amount but it almost felt like applying a moisturiser rather than a face mask. I didn't mind this so much because I don't particularly like the feeling of being caked in a really thick face mask and not being able to smile in case it doesn't set properly! This did still dry out like a normal face mask does but not to the point where you feel like you can't move any of your facial muscles and it doesn't give you that 'tight' feeling you get from other face masks. I suppose if you like that side of face masks you could apply a lot more of this and perhaps leave it on for longer. It's white in colour when it's on your face but because it's not as thick you don't look quite as scary with this on as you might do with other face masks! I washed this off after three minutes as directed and found it easy to wash off rather than having to spend half an hour over the sink trying to remove it all from my face and hair!
After using this my face felt really clean and soft and had quite a matte look to it so it seemed to have removed any excess oil as it said it would. I used it in combination with the Boots Simply Sensitive Foaming Facial Wash so my skin felt extra clean and soft, and then using the moisturiser afterwards helped to seal the deal in my eyes! My skin didn't feel too tight like it can do after using other face masks which I personally liked.
In general I think that this is a good face mask for more regular use because it's quicker to use than a normal face mask; it doesn't require to be left on for as long and it's quicker to wash off which means it could be used in the morning before work and lessens your chances of having to answer the door while you've got it on! Even if you did have to answer the door, it's not as obvious and you don't look like you walked out of a horror film!
Overall I would recommend this face mask for people who want to more deeply cleanse their face on a regular basis but at the moment I'm not sure if I would pay £2.99 for it or buy it outside of a 3 for 2 offer, I may update this review once I've used it more frequently.
I've used foaming face washes in the past and really liked them but haven't been able to find one in my price range until recently. I've been on the pill for a long time to control my acne prone skin and when I recently made the (brave) decision to come off the pill I knew I was going to need a better cleanser than the one I'd been using which didn't seem to completely cleanse my face. While in Boots I came across their 'Simply Sensitive' range and the products were on 3 for 2 offer so I decided to give their foaming face wash a go. It retails at £2.49 for a 150ml bottle and I find that Boots often have offers on their own brand products.
This face wash comes in a clear pump action bottle with light green logos and writing and it states that it has 'soothing aloe vera' which means that the liquid itself is tinted lightly with green. It also states that it has no fragrance, no colour, is hypo-allergenic and dermatologically tested, all factors which bode well with me because my skin is very sensitive and dries out or gets a rash if I use products which are too strong. In my eyes this is the Boots own version of the 'Simple' brand and range of products, but with added aloe vera.
The face wash itself comes out as a foam as you would expect and I find that a little goes a long way and one quick pump is plenty of face wash to cover your whole face. The consistency of this face wash means that it lathers really well on your face and you can rub it in without it all disappearing so you can give your face a good wash with it. It moves over your skin really easily and smells nice with a faint hint of aloe vera. To apply you just need to wet your face, then squirt some of the face wash onto your hands using the pump and then lather it over your face and rinse, I prefer to rinse by leaning over the sink and giving my face a good splash to make sure all the wash has been removed! You can then dry with a towel.
I find that this face wash removes all make-up really well as well as giving your face a good wash at the same time, it even removes all of my mascara so that by time time I've used this wash my face is completely clean. I've even checked this by using some cotton wool and a cleansing lotion after using this wash and there was nothing left on my face to remove, the cotton wool ball was pretty much clean! The other great thing about this wash is that it leaves your face feeling really soft and smooth, as well as squeaky clean and so far I've not had any bad skin reactions or breakouts of spots while using this!
Longevity/Value for money:
I've been using this for a week and have barely used any of the face wash so I think this is going to last me a long while and makes it really good value for money in my opinion.
Overall I really like this face wash, it's well priced, it feels nice to use, it smells nice, is really effective at removing make-up and daily dirt/grime from your face and leaves your face feeling soft and clean!
After my experiences with Tesco Dental Floss (see my other review!) flossing went a little bit out of the window for me as it was taking forever! However a recent visit to the dentist made me think that I need to start flossing again and when I explained my flossing woes he recommended trying some different brands out. As I was stood in the supermarket I was amazed at how expensive some brands of dental floss are! So I went for a branded one which was waxed where you got the most amount of floss in the pot for the best price and that ended up being Oral B essential floss, 50m for £2 in Tesco.
This floss comes in a small white round pot with the blue Oral B label on the front. It has a flip top lid and inside there is the dental floss and a metal cutter to break the floss with. The floss is white and smells nice and minty and was easy to get out of the pot and broke easily on the cutter.
When using this floss I immediately noticed how much better it was than the Tesco floss I'd used before! The wax seems to stay on the floss pretty well which means that it slides easily between your teeth and gums without having to stand there manically sawing away wincing at the thought of it slicing your gums when it finally goes through! It's a little bit wider than other floss I've used which makes it a bit more like a tape and means that it seems to remove plaque from the surface of your teeth as well as it does from the bits inbetween teeth. It definitely seems to do it's job properly in terms of removing plaque and any other lovely bits of gunk stuck inbetween your teeth and leaves your teeth feeling cleaner and smoother even before brushing. The fact that it slides easily between your teeth means that flossing is a lot quicker and a lot less of a battle which in turn makes you more likely to do it more often! This floss rarely gets stuck, even in the areas where I have barely any gap between my teeth, and if it does get stuck then it doesn't snap or start disintegrating so I'm not left with bits of floss in my teeth.
This dental floss has been a revelation for me, flossing is so much less of a chore now and I think this dental floss is definitely worth an extra bit of money over Tesco or other own branded supermarket floss. I would recommend this floss to other people (I will definitely buy it again), and if you're struggling with flossing I'd definitely recommend trying a different floss as it can make a lot of difference!
I've only recently got into flossing my teeth, which I know is naughty of me but I'd tried in the past and had never been able to get to grips with it! I wanted to buy a cheap-ish dental floss first in order to see how I got on with it, so I bought Tesco Total Care Freshmint Floss which comes in a pack of 2 for £1.23. There are 50m in each 'pot' so that's 100m of floss for the price which is very well priced in my opinion!
The floss comes in a blue triangular pot with a flip top lid which you can flip open to reveal the dental floss and the little metal cutter which helps you break off the floss. As a first time user I found it quite tricky to actually get the dental floss to come through smoothly from the pot, but once I'd worked it out it broke off quite easily and I could get more out without too much hassle. The floss smells minty as you would expect and is white in colour.
This is a waxed dental floss which should make it a bit easier to use however I found it to have quite a thin and stringy consistency compared to other flosses I've used since and found that it wore thin very quickly as opposed to other types of floss. Some of my teeth are quite close together which makes them a bit tricky to floss and I found that with this floss it kept getting stuck and when I tried to get it out the floss either snapped or disintegrated which left me with thin, stringy bits of floss between my teeth. Let me note here that I've not had this problem with other dental flosses since and my flossing 'technique' is still much the same so I can only assume that the Tesco dental floss isn't very strong. Also, because it thinned out quite quickly and lost it's waxed appearance it meant it didn't glide between my teeth as easily as I expected.
However, overall my mouth felt cleaner and this floss did do what it was supposed to do which was clean the bits between my teeth and gums that I may not reach with a brush, however it didn't do it as effortlessly as I would have liked!
'Saw': The ride, is now not the most recent addition to Thorpe Park's inventory of rides but is probably still the most popular from recent years. It is based around the popular series of Horror/Thriller films, 'SAW' and I think the park owed it to Lionsgate the producers of the SAW movies to make the ride fit in well with the film series and to meet visitors expectations, particularly when the films have a large fan base. I personally feel that this ride is one of the better themed rides at Thorpe Park and they have put in a lot of thought regarding it's design rather than just plonking the ride in with no thought. I find that this is more reminiscent of the American style theme park where every ride appears to be more about an experience rather than just the ride itself. This ride is designed to build up the anticipation even from before you're in the queue line.
The queueing system
This ride has a queue system which is long and winding in order to be able to cope with long queues and has a barbed wire effect on top of the metal fences which make you feel like you're queuing in an abandoned compound. The queue time for the ride is shown on a display at the front of the ride and there is a fast track entrance for if you have a fast track ticket in order to get you onto the ride quicker. While you're in the queue you can see that the queue will end up in a warehouse style building and from that point on you don't know what's in store inside, however you can see the rollercoaster itself while you're queuing! I went on this ride a couple of weeks ago and noticed that a new addition is a retail stand within the queue which sells refreshments, though if you have a weak stomach I'd recommend bypassing it! Both times I've been on this ride the queue time has been an hour and that's been on relatively busy days and I think an hour is a suitable amount of time to be waiting for such a popular ride.
Once you get inside the 'warehouse' this is when the SAW theme really starts to take off. You are queuing in a dark warehouse with some banging/air rifle type noises and there are TV screens dotted around where the Jigsaw doll comes on the screen and the famous Jigsaw voice starts talking to you like he talks to his victims in the SAW film, using the popular phrase 'I want to play a game...'. This and the barbed wire queue line really starts to build the anticipation for the ride itself, rather than just standing in a boring queue line with nothing to look at or do. As a side point, it doesn't matter if you haven't seen the SAW films because you can still appreciate the design and find the ride just as scary, if not more scary!
As it's a rollercoaster type ride for health and safety reasons you need to be 1.4m, having worked at a theme park before I'd like to note here that you shouldn't argue with the staff about this, it's there for your safety because the restraints are made for someone of that height and the general nature of the ride may be unsuitable for someone shorter than 1.4m. Before you get on you need to hand over any loose items like bags to the staff who will give you a wristband which you use to get your items back afterwards. Don't take small items on the ride, it's amazing how much damage something small like a coin or a mobile phone can do if it falls from a height at speed and hits someone! Alternatively it could be quite difficult to remove from the ride area so it might be lost forever!
On the ride you sit in rows of four in small carts and you have your typical rollercoaster style restraint which goes over your body. The staff come to check these before sending the ride which makes you feel well looked after! I'm not going to spoil the ride for you but it starts inside the warehouse and is extremely relative to the SAW theme, and you then find yourself outside preparing for what I think is the scariest part of the ride! You see, the overriding feature of this ride is the style of the rollercoaster track because the track becomes vertical so you are slowly taken up a vertical climb and then on the other side there is what they call an 'inverted' drop because you go slightly beyond vertical before leveling out again ready for the rest of the loops in the ride. I actually find going up worse than coming down, I hate that feeling of slowly going up a vertical track and the way down goes a lot quicker! It feels really high speed but also fun and will definitely leave you out of breath!
Once you're off the ride
Hopefully you won't be feeling too nauseous! When you exit the ride you can look at your ride photo (and buy it if you feel so inclined!) and you can visit the SAW ride shop where you can buy SAW themed merchandise as well as refreshments. You're then free to roam the rest of the park for the day having hopefully survived the SAW experience!
Overall this is a really fun ride and I don't think it would disappoint any SAW fans or anyone that had never seen the films!
I received Buzz one Christmas as a present, it came with the game and with four buzzers which have a big red button at the top and four rectangular buttons which are outlined in different colours in order to be able to make suggestions. In order to play you just plug your controllers in, put the disc into your playstation and off you go!
This is predominantly a music quiz and the manufacturer states that it uses songs all the way from the 1950s to 2005 which should give most of the family a good chance to get some answers right! I know some of the songs I've never heard of but some I'll recognise in a second. I really like that there is a large period that the music is from because it doesn't isolate people who may not be up to date with modern music! There are 1000 song clips and over 5000 questions which should stop the game from being too repetitive and you can play on your own against the computer or with up to three other people.
The gameshow is hosted by 'Buzz' and he has a host called 'Rose'. Players can then select their own character to represent them throughout the game and the set up on the screen is just like a TV gameshow.
There are eight rounds however you don't have to play all of the rounds at once so if you only have a small amount of time to play or someone in your group has a short attention span you can just play one or two rounds! The rounds are as follows:
Point Builder: A simple round which gives everyone a chance to build up some points. These are multiple choice questions and you all get points if you get the question right.
Snap: If you see the right answer appear onscreen, then Buzz (press your red button) in as fast as you can.Whoever's fastest and gets the answer right gets the points!
Fastest Finger: The quicker you buzz, the more points you get, so first the answer gets the most points, second gets the next most and so on.
Offloader: In this round you can 'offload' your question to someone else, this is good for if you get a question you can't answer or you know they won't be able to answer because if they get it wrong they lose points!
Pass the Bomb: This is like a 'hot potato' game. The bomb gets passed from player to player and you need to get the question right to pass it on, if you get it wrong you hold the bomb until you get a question right and if it explodes while you're holding it you lose points!
Point Stealer:If you get questions right you can steal points from other players, a nice way to get revenge! This is also really good for bringing down one person if they're way ahead of everyone else!!
Buzz Stop: This is a pass or play round, so Buzz in if you want no-one else to have the chance to answer the question if you know it, and pass if you don't. Basically you buzz when a question comes up that you want to answer but they move quite quickly so you need to be fast!
Look Before You Leap:The final round, you buzz if you know the answer but if you don't know the answer then you'll lose points!
Tie-Breaker: If there's a draw then of course there's a tie breaker to sort it out!
As you can see, not only can you win points in this game but you can also lose points, steal them from other players or have someone set you up! This makes it a lot more fun than just building up points alone.
There are a few things I find annoying about this game and that is that although 'Buzz' is generally quite a funny gameshow host (because he's got lots of cheesy lines!) he does have a tendency to go on a bit when you just want to get going! Also when a character wins a round they have an on screen celebration which takes forever and you can't skip past it so you just have to wait until they're finished high kicking or whatever it is that your character decides to do!
In general this is a really fun game and even my dad who doesn't like video games got involved and enjoyed it!
Before December 2010 sewing was something that I had struggled through during Textiles at school. I even made my own 50's style occasion dress (still have it) and I enjoyed making my own clothes but found it a real struggle so by the end of that GCSE I was done with sewing, until last year that is! I had recently become a student, the local Primark wasn't living up to my expectations and everywhere else was too expensive so I decided I was going to try and do it myself. I started off using my mum's sewing machine (and her expertise) to see whether I'd stick with it. I didn't start small, I dove straight in and went for a dress pattern, Burda 7739 to be precise! It definitely wasn't the easiest first project I could have chosen, it had a zip, puff sleeves and a collar but with my mum there to help me wade through the sewing jargon I managed and I still love that dress! Since then I've made skirts and other dresses and I even made my clothes for my most recent job - I managed to make two black work skirts out of £15 of fabric which had the same fabric composition as the workwear they sell on Oasis and Warehouse at £40 a go.
Most people seem to think that dressmaking is ridiculously difficult but once you've worked your way through a pattern or two it becomes clear that they're all much of a muchness and pretty soon you find yourself knowing what you need to do without even looking at the pattern. As for skills like darts, zips and linings, you just pick it up as you go through trial and error! Most patterns give you very clear instructions and pictures to guide you through the process so it's not as scary as it sounds.
I think making your own clothes isn't very popular today because you can buy clothes so cheaply from places like Primark and the supermarkets, however even if you just learn how to adjust a hem and sew on a button you can make amendments to your clothing or buy damaged clothing at a reduced price and repair it yourself. One of my early projects was a maxi dress which was £3 in the sale which swamped me but I turned it into a mini dress. Another project was another £3 maxi dress bought 8 sizes too big for me so I could use the fabric to make something else out of it! Having the skill of sewing gives you so many more options, for example I tried on a skirt in a shop because I loved the colour but it was way shorter than I like my skirts so I found a pattern and made a similar one which suits my requirements better. I love the flexibility in being able to create a garment that fits the way I want it and is in a colour of my choice rather than having to accept second best.
Once you start sewing your own clothes you also then realise how awful the quality of the clothes in some stores are, there are a few places where I don't buy clothes anymore because once I looked properly at the sewing I realised that the item was badly sewn (a lot of the time the stitching is loopy where the machine has not been threaded properly or the tension is not right for the fabric) and seams were starting to come apart before it had even left the shop and I realised that even I as a novice could do a better job and for a better price too! Places like Fabric Land sell a variety of fabrics for cheap prices (and some more expensive fabrics for occasion wear) and so you can make clothing quite cheaply and it's also original, not everyone else is going to be wandering around in it. Even though I'm a novice sewer I get so many compliments from strangers about clothes I've made and I always feel really proud when I can tell them that I made it myself and they look shocked!
I would thoroughly recommend getting a second hand machine and having a go at sewing your own clothes, you may not be a pro at first but it's really worth it in the long run!
In an age where technology reigns supreme I have found solace in knitting and other crafty activities. I went to university for the first time and being a few years older than everyone else and not interested in going out on the lash but having loads of extra time on my hands I felt I needed some new hobbies. Knitting became one of those new hobbies as a way to do something productive with my time (instead of wiling away the hours on facebook), a way to keep my hands busy and a way to keep my mind off of homesickness/loneliness/feeling a bit different to everyone else! I'm not sure why I chose knitting but it was near Christmas and I decided I wanted to knit my mum a scarf so off I went! I remember my nan trying to help me learn to knit when I was younger with a pair of children's red metal knitting needles, I was always dropping stitches, making a mess and generally didn't appreciate knitting. So when it came to trying to knit a scarf I had to educate myself from scratch, learning how to cast on and how to do a simple knit/garter stitch. Now this is where knitting and technology work well together... thanks to YouTube I could watch videos of people casting on and knitting and could pause and rewind as many times as needed rather than trying to fathom it out from a set of pictureless instructions! I highly recommend YouTube to anyone wanting to learn to knit! I had no idea where to buy knitting equipment so ended up in John Lewis as I was living in a new city and didn't know of any independent shops, and left there with some chunky 10mm knitting needles and some chunky and very funky) wool and with my YouTube videos I was well away!
Since those early days I've learned different stitches (more thanks to YouTube), discovered Ravelry which meant discovering loads of free patterns at my disposal and a whole knitting community, learnt some new techniques (cabling, increasing, decreasing) and have finally mastered the art of knitting in the round and particular magic loop, what a happy day that was when I finally cracked it! My projects are still small, but they fill me with a lot of pleasure, not only when I'm knitting them but also when I have the finished product in my hands. My first project was the scarf for my mum which she loved and since then I've made things for me and most recently a hat for my housemate which she also loved! I've found that people really appreciate the effort put into knitted gifts and you can knit 'cool' items rather than just baby clothes and the sort of jumpers your nan used to knit!
I've now got some more friends at university and though at first I was a bit embarrassed about revealing that I knit, they all know now and I think some even admire the fact that I knit (yet don't seem to want to try themselves)! It's a nice change from being glued to the tv or the computer because you can challenge yourself and if you're a beginner like me you have to think about what you're doing! I'm looking forward to being able to knit myself some cardigans and a few more challenging projects!
Overall I think that more people should learn to knit, especially when everyone is short on cash and places like Topshop are charging £20 for a simple bobble hat - why not make your own?
When my GHDs started to stop operating as well as they once had I decided it was time for some new straighteners but at the time I was aware of a lot of new straighteners coming on the market which were possibly better than GHDs but didn't have the hype surrounding them. In comes Corioliss. They manufacture hair styling products just like GHD do but their products are much more fun and stylish! I ended up going for the Corioliss C2 straightener and have never wished for my GHDs back so I feel it was a good choice and want to educate people about the world outside of GHD!
The Corioliss C2 straightener comes in a variety of colours and patterns. Mine is 'platinum zebra' which is exactly as it sounds, a platinum colour zebra print, but I've also seen these straighteners in leopard print, red, other colours of zebra print, black, gold, sparkly, crystals.... the list goes on! This automatically made them more appealing to me because I like products which are a bit more interesting than normal and it makes them a bit easier to find in the drawer as well! These straighteners are quite slim in appearance but that doesn't mean that they're any less effective. They have a long swivel cord and a little remote control attached as well for ease of use.
How they work:
These straighteners have titanium plates which are meant to be better for your hair than ceramic plates which is always a bonus as far as I'm concerned as straightening can be notoriously hard on your hair. The plates are also meant to distribute the heat evenly. They heat up to 210 degrees in 20 seconds (this is a correct estimation and they flash when they're up to temperature) but with the remote you can turn the heat up or down dependent on how much heat your hair needs. The remote also controls turning the straightener on and off. I think the remote is great because it means that you're not fiddling around right near the hot plates of the straightener so there's less chance of you burning yourself! Another nice feature is that the straightener has a 'sleep mode' so it turns itself off after 20 minutes so there's less chance of you accidentally starting a house fire because you accidentally left them on! I'm not sure how common a feature this is now but it wasn't that common when I bought these.
Are they any good?
The ultimate question! Since day 1 I've found these straighteners really good and really easy to use and two years later I don't feel like they're losing their ability to straighten whereas I found with my GHDs that after a couple of years they weren't straightening as well as they once did. Because these are quite slim it's easier to get closer to your scalp but they can still straighten more chunky sections of hair. I find that they straighten my hair very quickly and feel less 'clunky' than other straighteners I've tried and open and close smoothly. I generally do the bottom half of my hair while the top half is tied up and then straighten the top and have found that this works fine. I've had short hair (in a graduated bob style) and longer hair while owning these straighteners and have found them effective for both types of hair style. My hair always looks sleek when I've used these and not frizzy and I don't have to go over my hair hundreds of times!
I've also tried creating waves and curls with these straighteners and this has also been really effective. Even when I haven't used any sprays or mousses the curls/waves haven't fallen out quickly and they seem to look nice on the first attempt.
When you buy these straighteners they come with a heat proof mat/travel case (all-in-one) which you can lay out flat when you're using your straighteners then when you're finished wrap around the straighteners and tie up. This is really helpful for not damaging surfaces (or yourself) and makes it a lot easier to chuck them in your bag straight after use if you're traveling or need to take them somewhere. I believe they also now come with a finger glove as well so you don't burn your hands!
These retail at about £80 so are cheaper than GHDs (another advantage) but are just as effective and come with the added extras which you would usually pay another £15-20 for so I think these are really good value for money.
I really like these straighteners and they've lasted me two years so far and are still going strong! I also appreciate the extras you get with them and the fact that they're a bit cheaper than some of the alternatives without sacrificing on quality.
When I was at school I hated science and what made it worse was that I went to a grammar school where we had to do double science and I was put in the bottom set with all the people who were there because they couldn't be bothered to try, the ultimate insult to someone who was really trying but just didn't get science! The teachers were boring, the experiments were rubbish and there was always far too much maths involved for my liking! So what brought me to study science at the OU? Well, firstly I was doing a horrendously boring admin job (having previously worked in other boring admin jobs) and I felt like I needed to give my poor brain some proper action! I chose science because I'd started to have an inkling that I'd like to work in the health service and thought science might be a good option for that and finally I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it!
Enrolling for a science course at the open university is really easy and the website really helps to guide you through the process. You can read about all the courses offered in detail and the OU recommended courses which are suitable for beginners and you can read feedback from other people that have completed the course and come out alive! I chose S104 which is 'Exploring Science' worth 60 points and once completed can be turned into a 'Certificate in Natural Sciences' to make you sound really clever! The process of enrolling is all done online and the OU guide you through the process to make it easy for you.
This may have changed now but when I enrolled because I was earning less than a certain amount a year I was able to get a grant to cover my course fees as well as a grant for paying for other materials I might need (though to be honest there aren't many materials needed on an OU course)! This was great because it meant I could study for free! I have just looked and the cost of S104 is £700 now but if you're entitled to the maximum grants then they will pay for the course up to the value of £800 and give you a £265 grant for other materials.
Before the course starts the OU send you all your textbooks (a massive box of 8 textbooks for S104!) and some other bits and bobs you might need such as dvds, computer software and for my course some rocks and things to look at! The textbooks were great, easy to read and colourful and easy to navigate for finding answers. All of this is included in the cost of the course.
How the course works:
All Open University courses involve distance learning although some do have residential courses or tutorials to attend (though tutorials are generally optional). You are assigned a tutor who you can ring or email for help and they mark all your assignments for you. You are given your own study area on the OU website where you can login and see information about your course, assignment marks and most importantly a calendar with deadlines for assignments and to guide you on what you should be doing that week. S104 lasts 9 months but I found the workload easy to manage around a full-time job.
S104 is assessed through 7 Tutor Marked Assignments (TMAs), 9 Interactive computer marked assignments (ICMAs) and one end of course assignment (ECA). In S104 there is generally one TMA for each book (and each book is on a different subject - for example there is one about human biology, one about earthquakes and volcanoes, one about rocks and so on) so there was generally one TMA to do a month as well as one ICMA a month and then the ECA at the end of the course... surprisingly! The TMAs consist of 4/5 big questions which you research using your textbook and answer, there's a combination of maths questions and essay style questions but all the information you need is in your textbook. The ICMAs are tests on the website, usually multiple choice questions and you can use your book to help you answer them. The great thing about the ICMAs is that they're not done under test conditions so you can go back to it as many times as you like (so you can answer the questions as you're reading the textbook rather than having to read the book then try and answer the ICMA and remember where the answers were) and you can do the questions in any order. The ECA is just like a bigger version of a TMA and again you can use your textbook! You're given deadlines for all of them, you do them on the computer and then submit them to your tutor before the deadline. Your tutor then marks it, the mark goes onto the website and your tutor sends the marked copy to you with comments and marks so you can see how you did!
On S104 there was also group work! The OU provide a computer program which works like a discussion forum and you can log onto it and talk to other people from your 'class' as well as your tutor. This meant you could have a chat about the perils of keeping yourself motivated, help each other out and do your group work. Some TMAs had questions which required you to complete an activity with your group which your tutor assigns and sets up on the program and you then do the activity and write about it/copy and paste it into your TMA and it counts towards your mark.
One other thing I will mention is that we sometimes had to do 'experiments' at home, don't worry they didn't involve nasty chemicals or Bunsen burners! One I vividly remember was having to collect rainfall and recording my results and commenting on what might have effected the results. My mum and dad thought this was hilarious but it was quite fun and was something a bit different to discuss on the OU forums, particularly when people's experiments kept getting urinated in by the neighbours cat and then having to write about why your results were inconsistent!
The content of the course:
S104 covers a wide variety of scientific areas, from learning about chemistry to physics to learning about tectonic plates and volcanoes to measuring rainfall in your back garden! You're given about a month to cover each textbook which means that the pace is quite nice, you don't feel like you're spending too long on one subject and by the time you've had enough you're moving onto something completely different! Some areas I'd covered before at school and other areas I hadn't really learned much about before such as scientific maths! I hated the maths at first but slowly it started to make more sense and I saw real improvement over the months! Some areas I found really boring (rocks!) and other areas I found far more interesting but that's nice because if you want to do further study it really helps you to narrow down where your interest lies.
I really enjoyed S104 and studying with The Open University. You need to be motivated to work in your own time, particularly when you're working full-time but I feel that the benefits are worth it. I loved having the freedom to work when I wanted to without being on a strict schedule and it meant I could work my study around work and my social life. I didn't feel too isolated because all my friends were interested in my course and there were the OU programs to talk to other people and facebook groups to talk to other OU students and my tutor was very supportive if I needed help! I also liked that they provided you with everything you needed because then you weren't having to worry about where to find information.
My employers were very impressed by my dedication to study whilst working full-time, as were interviewers at brick universities when I applied, and many universities accept open university credits as part of their entry requirements. I'm now at brick university and I really miss the OU and the freedom and flexibility it gave me and if I could study my degree with the OU I would in a second as I much prefer the OU way which I suppose is the ultimate praise for them!
Another purchase made in the lead up to starting university was my George Foreman grill, affectionately (but not surprisingly) named 'George'. George is one of the smaller grills which can take 2-3 portions of meat/chicken and doesn't have the bun warmers and extra bits that come with some of them. The reason I purchased George was because in my university halls there was a grill (but it was disgusting) and they had decided not to give us an oven but instead a microwave oven so I felt that I needed something else of my own to cook meat and other 'inventions' on.
When I bought George he was in Tesco on offer for £15. Tesco do their own cheaper versions but I decided to go for the real deal because I wanted something reputable that was more likely to last. These grills can be bought in lots of places; most big supermarkets, department stores, argos and on the internet. They come boxed with the grill, a drip tray, a spatula type thing and an instruction book.
The grill is quite sturdy but doesn't take up too much room. The lid is on a hinge so you can open and close it and it turns on automatically when you plug it in. A red light comes on to tell you that it's heating up and then this light turns off when the grill is at the right temperature. My grill is a silver colour as are most of the other grills I believe, with the grill plates themselves being black. The drip tray is a long plastic oblong which sits nicely under the edge of the grill.
To use the grill you just wait for it to heat up and then plonk on whatever you want to grill. I've done toasted sandwiches, toasted wraps (banana and nutella, mmm), chicken, sausages, burgers, steak and possibly a few other random things as well! There are some great recipes in the instruction booklet and guidance as to how long each type of food should take to grill, however if you know anything about grilling/cooking you should be able to use your own discretion. The only item that I've had some issue with is a certain type of sausages. Frozen sausages bought frozen and cooked from frozen seem to grill really well on George, however fresh sausages which have been frozen seem to burn on the outside before they've cooked inside regardless of whether they're frozen or defrosted (I've tried both!), however this could be down to my poor grilling technique!
When grilling I tend to turn the item I'm grilling over quite frequently to get them done nice and evenly. Another great thing about George for cooking sausages is that the corrugated grill plate means you can sit a sausage in there and it won't roll around. Woe betide you if you try to grill a sausage put in horizontally though as it will roll all over the place!
There's also an element of pleasure when you see how much fat is coming out of your burger, in a 'I'm not going to be eating all that grease' *smug face* kind of way.
I particularly like chicken grilled on George. Chicken is one of those meats that fills me with fear because I panic about not cooking it enough and poisoning myself, or overcooking it so it's dry and chewy. These fears don't come into play with George. He cooks chicken quickly and gives it a lovely grilled appearance and if you stick a knife into the chicken you can check that it's hot and appropriately coloured inside. I've never managed to overcook chicken on George so it always tastes lovely and not dry but also feels healthy to eat and great with a salad.
When I was looking into buying one of these this is what everyone was moaning about. Apparently cleaning a George is really tricky and it's not worth buying one for this reason. It's all lies! I clean George after every use (otherwise my precious would be ruined!) and I clean him while he's still warm by using a damp cloth (perhaps with a bit of washing up liquid) to wipe away anything which has been left on the grill. Residue is removed really easily and even if you leave your grill til it's cooler it's still easy to clean. The drip tray I either leave for the fat to solidify if there's a lot and scoop out the fat and chuck it in the bin then wash the tray or if there's not a lot in there then I just give it a wash. I was told that washing the fat into the sink could block the drain and I didn't want to be fined by halls for that!
In case you can't tell, I love my George! He's easy to use and clean and makes cooking meat a lot quicker and tastier. Some of my housemates have been out and bought their own after seeing mine, though they do laugh about how I treat my George like my baby! Look after him and he'll look after your food!
I'm in my early-mid twenties and my feet have probably been mistreated by my shoes as much as the next girl. I've worn horrendously high heels, I've worn cheap shoes with soles so thin you can feel the pavement on every step, shoes that the rain has leaked through in seconds and finally shoes that don't fit properly and pinch my toes/give me blisters/make me unable to walk after a few hours! I had always been told that Clarks shoes were really comfortable but I had given in to them six years ago at my mum's insistence while buying some new work shoes and they were the most uncomfortable shoes I've ever owned, they absolutely killed the arches on my feet and were very painful! My mum thought that I was just playing up because they were Clarks shoes and uncool, until she tried wearing them and also had to admit defeat! Since then I'd held a grudge against Clarks and just assumed that I was destined to wear shoes that don't live up to my expectations. However I recently started working as a Care Assistant and would be on my feet all day and would need shoes which covered the whole of my foot and met certain requirements, for which I decided to put my grudge aside and give Clarks another go.
The Clarks Unloop shoe completely met my requirements, it's from the unstructured range so has loads of padding and is like heaven on your feet. I have to admit though that I wasn't prepared to pay the Clarks prices for them so I ended up buying them online in the sale for half the price! However I was so impressed by the shoes themselves that they completely changed my mind about Clarks and having looked around the store I found that there were some quite trendy styles on offer which, I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting! Mary Portas has just introduced a range with them and they also have a Boutique range which offers more trendy options aimed at people my age. I also like Clarks Originals, particularly the Yarra Desert boots which are my autumn/winter boots for this year!
I also really like that they offer wider fits for adults because I find that my feet are wider than the average woman's and my little toes always seem to get squished which causes me a lot of pain, but usually wider shoes end up being too wide or only in the rubbish styles! Clarks seem to offer quite a large range of wider fit shoes but I also find that most of their normal shoes fit my feet without me having to buy wider versions, so maybe they just have a more realistic view of the width of feet than other stores!
Clarks shoes are undoubtedly more expensive than your average high street shoe from New Look or the normal places I would shop. However I have found that their sales are quite good and you can find discount codes for use on their website which makes them more affordable. I don't mind paying extra for their shoes because they are more comfortable, fit my feet better and are more sturdy and durable than high street equivalents. They also tend to be made from better quality materials which mean your feet can breathe!
I have bought all of my Clarks shoes on the internet so I can't comment on in-store service but I found the website easy to use and I was able to use discount codes in order to get my shoes at a cheaper price. It is easy to add items to your shopping basket and go through the checkout process and my shoes had arrived well packaged within 5 working days, much to my excitement! My shoes arrived with information on how to return the item which seemed an easy process.
Clarks stores are well lit and well laid out, it's always easy to browse through because the shoes are well spaced out, well ordered and easy to see. Although you do have to ask to try on shoes which some people don't like doing I find that the staff aren't too pushy and don't hover while you're trying shoes on and you don't feel forced to buy if you're not sure. The fact that all the shoes aren't out on display is also a bonus because it means that your shoes will be brand new and won't have been marked or damaged in the shop! The staff all seem to be friendly and helpful in my experience, however I've never had to try and return anything!
Overall I find that my mind has been completely changed about Clarks and I find their shoes to be good quality, although a little pricey and the shopping experience to be simple and efficient. I have had loads of compliments from my friends about my shoes, they don't know they're from Clarks and are always surprised when I tell them where I got them!
In September 2010 I found myself getting ready for my first year of university, the thought of going back to education having worked full-time for a few years was scary even though I had recently completed a certificate with the Open University. However there are many differences between submitting work at the OU and submitting work at a brick university and one of those is that with the OU I could submit everything online whereas at brick university I would be expected to submit my essays on paper and not just one copy but two! Which meant that because I was leaving home and moving away I would have to buy my own printer for the first time...
The decision making process:
There are a whole variety of different printers available today. Deskjet, inkjet, laserjet, ones that just print, ones that print, copy, fax and do everything else under the sun, so choosing a printer can be a difficult decision. Having done a bit of research it seemed that the general consensus was that printers which do a bit of everything may be a bit slower (particularly the cheap ones) and the colour printers seemed to use ink quite quickly which meant a lot of expenditure on cartridges which would not be practical considering I would be on a student budget! However it seemed that if you were happy to just print in black then a laserjet printer would be the best bet as the toner cartridges tend to last longer and they print quite quickly.
Another important consideration is what you're actually using your printer for. Do you use fax regularly? Do you need to photocopy on a frequent basis or are there cheap facilities for that nearby? Do you want to be able to print pictures and photos? Or are you just going to be printing documents? I decided that I would mainly just be wanting to print essays and maybe other forms and information I might need, I didn't want to start printing photos because it would cost too much in ink and so I deduced that I just wanted a basic laser printer but I didn't want to pay too much!
Buying the Brother HL 2030:
This was an easy find for me. I had a look at DooYoo and some other review sites to get information about the top rated laser printers and then had a search around to find one which was rated well but was also fairly cheap! Another important consideration was the price of the replacement cartridges because in some cases the replacement toner can cost more than the printer itself! Luckily for me I found this printer selling at Rymans online for half the price, £40 instead of £80/90.
Replacement toner cartridges:
The replacement toner for this printer retails at around £25 for a branded toner and around £18 for a compatible toner which is not made by Brother. Which you choose to buy depends on how fussy you are about branding. However I will say that I've had this printer for just over a year and have not yet had to change the toner cartridge and it's showing no signs of running out anytime soon. I'm not a heavy printer user but when I am printing essays I'm having to print 20/30 pages at a time so that should give you some idea of my usage.
This is a sturdy printer which isn't too big and is not too heavy if it needs to be moved around. Everything is within easy reach, there is a paper tray in the front of the printer which pulls out, switches are on the side and the USB lead plugs into the back. It is not too noisy when it prints and as it prints very quickly it doesn't make noise for very long. It does continue to make a background noise if it's standing by after it's finished printing but if you've finished printing you can just turn it off and that eradicates that problem!
I can only comment on setting this up on a Mac computer because I don't have a Windows PC but any Mac user will know that sometimes finding Mac compatible components can be difficult (even in this day and age) or setting them up can be tricky. Let me tell you that this is not a problem with this printer! I've not had to use the software which comes with the printer, I literally just had to plug the USB cable into both the printer and my Mac and my Mac recognised the printer straight away and so I could make it my default printer in the control panel and print to it straight away. It really was that simple and I've never had any problems printing.
For PC users the printer comes with software so you can install it and I would imagine that the process is fairly simple.
This printer prints documents very quickly but there's no sacrifice on quality. Everything I've printed has been clear and good quality with no smudge marks and the ink dries quickly so there's no worry about accidentally smudging the ink by picking it up too soon after printing.
This is an excellent printer and well suited to anyone who wants a simple printer without lots of bells and whistles. It prints quickly and efficiently, is easy to use and set up and is highly cost effective. I would highly recommend it to anyone.