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I recently moved into a new room which has no shelves to speak of, so I need somewhere to store some stuff and make it look less Spartan. Given that my finances are tight at the moment, I was definitely looking for something that has a lowish price, and that's actually portable enough to carry home myself (and avoid delivery or cab charges). After browsing through the Argos catalogue, this seemed perfect for me needs, and at 14 pounds, a bargain to boot.
It comes flat-packed in a long narrow cardboard box. I wouldn't say it was precisely easy to carry, less because of the weight (not bad at about 9kg) but more because of the akward shape, but I managed well enough.
Once unpacked, it was fairly easy to figure out which part is what, helped by the thankfully detailed instructions. You do need a medium cross-tipped screw-driver to assemble it (which I didn't have, so I had to wait for a friend to bring one over) as well as a hammer for the little nails that attach the back to the size. It was fairly easy to assemble once you have the tools, and I personally found it easier to attach the bottom panel, one side panel and top panel before attaching the other side panel, though I'm sure other people might find a different order works better. In any case, it's important for the case to be straight before you attach the back. The shelves you just slide in once you fix the metal supports (there are holes for that purpose on the side, so you just pop them in). The instructions reccomended fixing it to a wall but I didn't do that, as it's small and short enough not to be much of a hazard even in the unlikely event it does fall.
Once assembled, it looked really good in the room space and while small (85x65 cm), you can fit a fair amount of stuff on it, as it has three shelves and the top can be used as a shelf too (I mostly keep decorative candles there). I managed to fit most of my books (but only because those are the books I amassed in two months in the UK) and have some extra space so I finally have an excuse to go shopping. You can easily adjust the height of the shelves, which is really useful.
My verdict: great value for money, and I like the look. I would ideally like something bigger, but for people who already have other bookshelves/have really limited space, this is a great solution.
This particular flavour of Ben and Jerry's used to be my default impulsive junk food 10 PM purchase when I was a student, but I haven't really tasted it since. A few weeks ago, Sainsbury's had a half price offer on all B&J ice-creams (which, considering they're usually at about 5 pounds, is a definite draw), so I thought it was high time to get reacquainted with what used to be my favourite dessert though unfortunately, as is often the case, the nostalgic memory was better than the reality.
Ben & Jerry's are known for their elaborate flavours and ingredients combinations, and this one is the epitomy of their flavour philosophy, with a blend of thick chocolate ice-cream, caramel swirls, melted marshmallow and, of course, fudge fish, which give the flavour what should be an unapetising name (and thankfully the shape is the only thing that has to do with fish in the ice-cream: no fish flavour in this brand, though I'm sure actual fish ice-cream exists somewhere in the world).
The packaging is the familiar Ben and Jerry's pint tub, with the little fish on a violet background giving it that extra whimsical quality. Despite boasting all-natural ingredients, the ingredients list is best not read, as like most US products contains the dreaded words "corn" and "syrup". No matter, since nobody is seriously expecting this product to be healthy.
As for the ice-cream itself-the first spoonfull assaults your taste buds with a chocolate explosion, which is nice enough...and then you get to the other ingredients. The fish are pleasantly chewy, but personally not a huge draw for me, beyond the visual appear. The thick, dark caramel however is a treat and really complimentary to the chocolate, and the marshmallow swirls are personally my favourite thing, and quite different to most other ice-cream flavours. All those flavours work really well together...for about three spoonfulls. That's right, I was chagrined to discover that unlike my student days, this was simply too sweet for me. Even starting from the base ice-cream and ignoring all the rest, the consistency is too creamy and cloyingly sweet, and not at all refreshing. If you factor in the toppings, it's less like ice-cream and more like eating a chilly melted cake. A pretty good cake, but one that tends to fall like a brick on your stomach. I think my palette definitely favours simpler ice-cream flavours these days.
My verdict: while I wouldn't refuse a spoonfull at a friend's house or something, I don't see myself buying this again. However, if you don't mind too sweet flavours, this definitely is the one for you.
As much as I LOVE milk chocolate (and caramel stuffed chocolate, and white chocolate, and chocolate desserts, and I could go on forever) for its creamy deliciousness, occasionally I feel like being a chocolate purist and going for the dark stuff. Not only is it packed with anti-oxidants (and a bunch of other benefits I can't remember off the top of my head but that a quick google with reveal), but you can satisfy your chocolate craving with a much smaller quantity. I can eat truly frightening amounts of milk chocolate (especially Lindt's variety-but that's a matter for another review), but with real dark chocolate (ie anything over 70%), usually about an ounce or so hits the spot (which is not to say I can't eat more-it's just that it's easier to restrain myself).
As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to chocolates you can get from a supermarket shelf, you simply can't go better with Lindt, and this particular variety is no exception. The black and white packaging (and golden lettering) is elegant, simple and luxurious, and a perfect fit to the quality of the product. The chocolate itself is potent enough to get that cocoa high without the slightly bitter aftertaste higher concentration of cocoa other varieties have, making it appealing to a wider range of palette. The pieces melt easily in your month resulting in a very thick, gooey chocolatey deliciousness you'll probably still feel for a while after your first taste.
At around two pounds, this is not a cheap chocolate, but I personally think it's worth every pence. And the various offers make it more affordable-I just bought two for 2.50 from Waitrose today, so start looking for those bargains.
Among comic book fans, this limited eight-part series is arguably the most contraversial crossover event, written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Oliver Coipel since Bendis' last contraversial universe-altering Avengers: Dissasembled.
The story prominently features two superhero teams: the New Avengers (another Bendis creation) and the X-Men (the team from the Astonishing book) who come together at the beginning of the story to deal with a specific problem: how to deal with the Scarlett Witch, a long-time Avenger who recently had a mental breakdown as outlined in the events of Dissasembled, whose reality-altering mutant powers have grown out of control.
Without wanting to give away much of the plot, I'll just say that attempting to "deal" with an unstable mutant of a nearly omnipotent power level who also happens to be the daughter of powerful Marvel villain Magneto and sister to the overprotective and morally flexible Avenger Quicksilver can lead to some unexpected, universe-altering consequences. While the House of M storyline itself is complete, it's impossible to look at at a vacuum, as it ties up several year-long stories from both the Avengers and X-Men books, and drastically alters the status quo for all mutants within the Marvelverse. I completely understand why a lot of fans have issues with this book and the influence it had on storylines up to this day, but as a fan of both high drama and the delightfully dysfunctionnal extended Magneto family, this was a real treat for me.
This book works both because of the sheer amount of detail and alternative world-building involved, and because it uses the setting to do some brilliant character exploration. Members of both superhero teams get their moments to shine, but I especially enjoyed everyyhing involving Pietro and Wanda (Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch). Bendis' specific brand of quippy, conversational dialogue is complemented by Coipel's distinctive and extremely expressive art. The latter's style takes some getting used to, but really allows the emotional moments to shine.
I'd definitely reccomend it to anyone, but you'll probably need to read some more comic titles to get the full context. I'd say Avengers:Dissasembled and the follow up Decimation are a must.
I wouldn't know how to compare this to the regular Red Bull, because as a diet drink afficionado, I don't think I've ever tasted the stuff (except with a triple measure of vodka and at the time, I was mostly tasting the vodka).
Either way, the sugar free version comes in a variation of the familiar silver and blue can, with the colours slightly more faded than the regular Red Bull can. The taste taste is pleasant but completely artificial, with a flavour that most reminds me of generic kids' bubble gum ,though if I recall my taste of original Red Bull correctly, that's due more to the drink flavour itself than the sweeteners. If anything, Red Bull sugar free is one fizzy drink where you don't have to compromise too much on flavour with the diet version. Either way the flavour is what it is: either you enjoy it, or you don't.
As for the actual effect...well, we've all seen the commercial and know the slogan. I still maintain that none of the energy drinks can hold a candle to a strong cup of coffee, but if you're mainlining caffeine in order to stay awake for the sake of your studies/deadline/night of partying, it's not realistic (or probably good for your stomach) to drink coffee all night, and Red Bull is a refreshing alternative. I definitely felt slightly more alert after consuming one, though having a few in a row leaves you feeling slightly ill from all the fizziness and overwhelmingly sweet taste. It makes a great drink mixer (and produces some interesting effects if you have several vodka and red bulls), but given that it can cost over 2 pounds in an off-licence (1.35 per can in Sainsbury's), it's not a cheap one.
My verdict: a nice treat once in a while, but you might as well stick to coffee or cheaper soft drinks.
Among the dedicated Buffy fan contingent, it's usually a toss-up between this season and season 2 when it comes to naming an all-time favourite, and once you watch it, it's easy to see why.
Season 3 has a lot going for it: this is the season of the young vampire Slayer and her friends' last year of high school, featuring one of the better Buffys season villains in the equally camp and terrifying Sunnydale Mayor, the truly fantastic Eliza Dushku giving a memorable and charismatic performance as Slayer anti-heroine Faith, and a season finale that's both edge of your seat suspense and the ultimate wish fulfilment for every pupil out there. Aside from a strong arc, this season has some of the best individual episodes. The season opener Anne, coming on the heels of the crushing season 2 finale is a beautiful exploration of feeling lost and ultimately reclaiming one's identity; Lover's Walk features the much-anticipated and utterly satisfying return of Spike; The Wish is an absolutely fantastic take of a dystopian alternate universe (which rather than stay a one-off has a brilliant follow-up in the episode Doppelgangland) and Graduation Part 1 and 2 is my personnal favourite season finale. And while everyone has episodes they prefer, I would argue that this is a season that lacks an outright (Go Fish-like) dud. The actors are truly in top form throughout, and the special effects have significantly improved.
This is also the last season with Angel, her brooding vampire paramour, is in before he goes off to have his own adventures in the spinoff, and the writers do a brilliant job of thematically setting up his character journey that follows up on his own show, so this is required viewing for anyone planning to check out Angel: the series.
I cannot reccomend this emphatically enough!
One purchase that I generally spend more than my usual amount of time researching and mulling over is shoes, for two very important reasons: I have bad knees, and I walk a LOT (it's my favourite de-stress method, and if I can avoid other modes of transport, I'll walk the distance, even if it takes me a few hours). So at least where everyday shoes are concerned, quality is extremely important to me, as cheap shoes tend to fall apart on my feet rather quickly and leave me in a considerable amount of pain.
What they allegedly do:
A lot of us are probably aware of the Shape-ups promise: they're supposed to improve your posture, aid circulation, and help to firm up your leg, buttock and abdominal areas. The shoes even come with a little informational booklet on all their benefits and an exercise DVD that's currently gathering dust in my closet as I can't bother to check it out.
Appearance and price:
I got the all-black, leather version, and I'm very happy with the way they look (even if the effect is essentially reminiscent of platform trainers, something which can lead to unfortunate 90s flashbacks for some). The thick, curved rubber sole can give the shoes a rather clunky effect, especially on less than dainty sizes like my own UK 6 1/2, but personally I like the look, and play it down by wearing them with bootcut or straight trousers (they do look a bit silly with skinny jeans). I got mine for the equivalent of 80 pounds, but you can find them for as cheap as 60, which for the quality is a steal.
Actually using the product:
I have no idea whether they've toned up my backside or anything else, anymore than going to the gym or generally walking around a lot do. What I do know is that since I started regularly wearing them, my knee pain has all but disappeared, an effect that even happens on days where I deal with a lot of stairs, which are normally a killer. The rubber sole absorbs impact really well, so your actual muscles will start hurting far sooner than your feet/joints/knees will, and after a few hours' walk, you do start feeling your buttocks and thighs working, but whether that's because of the shoe's design or because they allow you to walk for longer is anybody's guess. I should also note that I practically haven't taken them off since buying them last summer, and beyond some slight visual wear and tear, they're as in good of a shape as when I bought them.
Would I reccomend it:
YES! The bottom line is: they make walking easier and more comfortable, and generally walking around more can only be beneficial to one's health and fitness levels. I consider it the best purchase I've ever made, and have even bought their boot and sandal models (not as effective as the trainers, but still great for my knees).
Back in my student days in the UK, I was a bit of Galaxy devotee. I never got into Cadbury (and I'm fully expecting to be run out of the country by an angry mob for stating such a sentiment), there were only so many chocolate packages that people could mail me from abroad (though on one memorable occasion I got a 5kg package of nothing but Milka chocolates. I was the most popular girl in student halls for a while) and the upmarket brands were too pricey.
Galaxy was the perfect solution to my chocolate dilemma: creamy and smooth, and completely affordable. So it was for great enthusiasm I reached for a Galaxy bar in the supermarket after nearly a detail. The packaging was nice and milimalist like I remembered, the golden/brown tones and swirl remiscent of smoooth, melt-in-your mouth chocolate.
Unfortunately, I was too blinded by nostalgia by account for the way one's palette often changes throughout the years. Rather than the silky, creamy delight I was expecting what I got instead was a rather ordinary, overly sweet taste. The chocolate is certainly creamy, but that doesn't make up for the fact it's fact it's too heavy and the sugar and light on the cocoa, and I found the overall result mediocre at best. Still better than some of the more cardboardy chocolate bars, but nothing I'd consider eating again, barring a dire emergency and lack of any other kind of chocolate around.
I freely admit that my penchant for Swiss/Belgian chocolates and real dark chocolate (ideally over 80%) have turned my chocolate tastes very specific, and I'm sure it's a perfectly fine bar of chocolate for a lot of people. And at the 1 pound I paid for it in Sainsbury's (it was on discount), reasonnably priced as well!
I'd probably reccomend it as an alternative to some of the downmarket products. Or to anybody afflicted with a late night case of the munchies.
There's a reason Buffy that nearly a decade after it ended, Buffy is one of the shows that immediately gets brought up when talking about great genre television (or great television in general), and season 2 is where it really hits its stride.
The show starts up with Buffy is back in Sunnydale after a summer away, and is still significantly affected by events of the season 1 finale where the young vampire Slayer faced her destiny and even died and came back to life, an event followed up by the central emotional conflict of "When She Was Bad" and a surprise plot development later in the season.
There are so many ways in which season 2 is an improvement on the previous one, the least of which is that we first get the full 22-episode run (as opposed to S1's 12). It's also the season that sees the introduction of Spike and Drusilla, a pair of vampires who are about ten times more compelling, interesting and, let's face it, prettier to look at than the previous Big Bad The Master (who while posessing a high camp value, was much more of a traditional Nosferatu-like baddie). Spike in particular was supposed to be killed off midway through the season, but the fan response to James Marsters' charismatic performance was so positive, Joss Whedon decides to keep him on for longer. And the general arc takes an unexpected but truly genius turn midway through the season, in a plotline heavily featuring Buffy's vampire boyfriend Angel.
This season features some outstanding episodes including but not limited to "School Hard", which introduces Spike an finds a rather creative way to deal with him at the end, the emotionally gripping two parter "Surprise/Innocence" which kicks the season into high gear, the beautifally devasting "Passion" and of course the truly fantastic and action-packed finale "Becoming". It also has some less succesful episodes: Phases has a solid plot but special effects right out of the 50s, Go Fish has a second-rate X-Files premise and a bizarre implied death method I can't believe they got past sensors and I dare you to look at the monster in the extended date rape metaphor "Reptile Boy" without laughing yourself to tears (let's just say it's not subtle). Still, even the less than stellar episodes are worth watching, and the writing, complex themes and characters are as stellar as ever, with some definite improvement in acting and production values from the first season.
I'm definitely reccomending this one without reservations: if season 2 doesn't hook you on Buffy, nothing will!
I'm not a fan of foundation at all-I think I was in my late twenties before I even tried it on, and most days I can get away with just wearing moisturizer. For the couple of times a year when I actually do put the stuff on, what I was primarily looking for was ease of use and a natural effect-there's nothing I hate more than obviously caked-on makeup.
I've bought this abroad about two years ago (I did mention I use it rarely), at about 12 euro at the time, but it's now available on Amazon UK for 7.95 pounds. It comes in a handy little glass bottle that's the perfect size for your make-up bag.
The product's main selling point is supposed to be its super-blendable texture (due to "ultra-fine" pigments) and its ability to perfectly match the skin tone. I'm more or less pleased when it comes to the latter, and with 33 shades currently available, there should be something for most people. As for the actual blendability-I've found that using anything more than a tiny (and I do mean miniscule) amount tends to lead to an unpleasant mask effect. I don't know whether it's me being unused to makeup, but I've frequently found myself applying it only to immediately pat my face with a damp cloth to wipe off the excess. And if I use it with the matching powder, I feel like I'm auditionning for a drag show. Nowadays I just put a dot-sized amount on my cheeks, T-Zone and chin and blend like there's not tomorrow to get a natural effect, but I suspect that's not useful for people who want more coverage. One positive thing I can say is that it doesn't seem irritate my skin and comes off relatively easily.
My verdict: Never again. I'm just using this bottle until it runs out (which with my usage, could be a while longer) and am sticking with tinted moisturizer in the future, or trying one of the more upmarket brands.
I have a problem with dry skin, especially on my legs, which has been exacerbated since I loved to the UK (the water here really doesn't agree with me), so I needed a good intense moisturizing lotion asap. I bought this one because I've been happy with Garnier moisturizers in the past, and I saw that it was reccomended for dry to extra-dry skin.
How does it work:
According to label, the active ingredients are Shea-Butter and L-Bifidus, suitable for sensitive skin and allegedly improving skin quality within seven days. It also claims to keep skin moisturized for 48 hours, which seemed like a rather extravagant claim to me.
Packaging and Price:
The product comes in a fairly basic light green, slightly hourglass-shaped bottle with a picture of a shea nut on the front (I can only assume-have only actually seen said not on cosmetics labels). I bought it in a minimarket for just over 2 pounds, but have since seen it for slightly cheaper prices in large retail chains, which I feel is very reasonnable for the 400 ml size and the Garnier brand.
Using the product:
The texture is thicker than the typical lotion (though not as thick as most body butters) and absorbs quite quickly and easily, leaving skin silky-soft and no residue. As a result, you only need to use a little bit, and my bottle still has about a quarter left after 20 days (of daily application). The cream has a nice discreet and natural scent. I don't know whether it will actually keep skin moisturized for 48 hours (I didn't go that long without using it), but it's definitely improved the overall quality of my skin to the point where I never notice dryness anymore.
Would I reccomend it:
Absolutely, and with no reservations. It really works, is easily absorbed and it's simply excellent value for money. It is very moisturizing though, so it's probably for fellow dry skins sufferers alone.
It's hard for me to be objective when it comes to Buffy, since my instinctive reaction whenever it gets so much as mentionned is "Greatest show ever", but I'll give it a try for this review. Even among Buffy fanatics there is a general consensus that the first season is not the shows greatest, and I agree. Having said that, even early, still-finding its feet, campy and occasionally silly Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still among the most original, entertaining and utterly addictive shows you'll find. From the very opening scene, which I really don't want to spoil, it becomes apparent that this is a show that thrives on taking typical horror movie tropes and turning them on their head. Hardly surprising, giving that Joss Whedon's initial idea for the show was having the pretty blonde who dies early in a horror film actually kick the monster's ass.
The show starts with Buffy transferring into the high school of Sunnydale, after an unfortunate gym-burning incident in her previous school in LA. Rather than have us go through a typical "hero discovers their special destiny" plot, it soon becomes apparent that Buffy is aware of her destiny as a Vampire Slayer, and she's very eager to get away from it. It goes without staying that she doesn't stick with that decision for long.
This season does a fantastic job at setting up the show's premise, and introducing Buffy characters like the title heroine herself (a pitch-perfect performance by a very young Sarah Michelle Gellar) , her best friends Willow and Xander, her watcher Giles, her snarky antagonist Cordelia and of course her mysterious love interest Angel. The first season is about as far from polished as you can get: the makeup and wardrobe choices can give you pause, the special effects are occasionally laughably bad and the actors are still growing into their roles and making the occasional unfortunate acting choice (I consider David Boreanaz' season 1 Angel to be one of the great unintentional comedy performances). What it lacks in sleekness it more than makes up in character depth, quotable dialogue and originality.
The double series opening and the finale are probably the highest points of the season, but there are some great episodes in the middle too, like the brilliantly disturbing "The Pack" which allows Nicholas Brendon to show off his range beyond Xander, "Angel" which contains some interesting revelations about the character and "Nighmares", which is equal parts hilariously and horrifying. Even the weaker episodes have a watchability factor, like "I Robot, You Jane", which like the title indicates is as gloriously entertaining as any "so bad it's good" B-Movie.
I would definitely reccomend for anybody who enjoys the supernatural, strong female heroines, witty dialogue and expectations-defying television. And then I would tell them to promptly watch the following seasons, because as great as S1 of Buffy is, it gets so much better.
I don't generally experiment with perfumes too much, and Gaultier's Classique has been my preferred scent for the last ten years. I admit that what initially drew me to it is the packaging, which is a case of marketing genius. The bottle is peach-coloured glass shaped in the form of a female torso, with the outlines of a corset and suspenders subtly created by using a different glass texture. The simple metal cylindrical container the bottle comes in contributes to the perfect combination of classic and modern (and I've kept the container, as I've found it very handy for taking your perfume on a trip without worrying about accidents).
Great design aside, what really makes this product a winner is the perfume itself. According to JPG website, it's a blend of amber wood, vanilla, ginger, oranger blossom and rose, which makes it sound a lot more flowery than it actually is. I'm not fond of floral and cloyingly sweet smells, and this scent hits just the right combination of spicy, sweet and a floral hint, without being overpowering. It's very much a classy and luxurious scent, without coming off as overly heavy and formal. It's definitely long-lasting as well, and just a light application can last you through the day-or through the night.
The perfume is versatile enough to go from day to night and wear the whole year around, if not for one factor which might give people pause: the price. I don't exactly remember how much I paid for mine when I got it from a Duty Free shop in Athens airport a few months back-I think it was around 60 euro (approximately 50 £). The price at JPG online is a whooping 68 £, but Amazon UK is currently selling it at a much more reasonnable 47 £. For me, the quality makes up for the price, and I'd definitely reccomend it.
The second volume of Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men is not as strong as the excellent "Gifted", but still a very entertaining read. In the wake of events of the first volume, Wing, the young mutant who's lost his powers, commits suicide in the Danger Room, causing the advance technology of the team's training facility's program to go completely off script and override its own safety protocols, threatening the X-Men (now with the addition of their risen from the dead teammate Colossus) and young students.
The Danger Room has been a part of the X-Men's routine since the team's inception, so taking that familiar element and turning it into something unfamiliar and, well, dangerous is a bold move on Whedon's part, and one that definitely pays off, both in terms of the real sense of threat he manages to convey and in the character interactions that result from it-between the book's regular and some unexpected guest characters.
Joss Whedon's writing remains as sharp and witty and is perfectly complemented by Cassaday's distinctive art. The book is worth checking out both for the standalone story and for some developments which will play a part in the larger arc, particularly where Emma Frost is concerned.
On the surface, the basic premise of Supersize Me, namely that McDonald's is bad for you, is hardly groundbreaking stuff. Yet Morgan Spurlock manages to take this almost elementary truth, and using his usual straightforward, approachable and no-nonsense documentary style (no Michael Mooresque confrontation and showboating here) creates a film that leaves you gradually feeling queasier as you watch it, an experience mirroring what he himself goes through.
The premise is pretty simple: Spurlock commits to eating only McDonalds for a month, while various physicians monitor what this does to his body. While some weight gain is expected by all involved, the negative impact far exceeds anyone's expectations. At the beginning of the month, Spurlock is actually a fairly healthy and fit individual, generally eating healthily and engaging in frequent exercise. As the month goes on, and with Spurlock not shying away from sharing anything, whether it's vomiting on camera or describing the negative impact on his libido, everybody starts expressing feelings of unease on the experiment, from the Spurlock's physicians monitoring his skyrocketing cholesterol to his appropriately horrified vegan chef girlfriend. Yet Spurlock soldiers on to the conclusion of the month, narrating the ravaging effect Big Macs have on his body.
It's easy to see why this documentary led McDonald's to one of their most expensive and extensive crisis management PR campaigns: personally I'm unable to look at the golden arches without thinking of Spurlock's brilliant experiment.