- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
I, like many others, have been swept up in the recent colouring trend xD As a complete beginner, I asked in a group I belong to online for recommendations of good, budget price pencils to buy. I was recommended these and am delighted with them.
Initially, a key point that enticed me to buy these alongside the recommendation was the price. I got them on offer at cultipens.com for under £4 for a pack of 24 pencils. The price does vary a little bit over various retailers, but they are hugely less expensive than 'professional' art pencils, and are of good quality.
Staedtler Noris pencils are available in a fairly wide range of colours - in my mixed pack of 24 pencils I got several shades of each colour, all different enough to be 'useful', but close enough in tone etc to make them really good for blending and shading. The colours are very true to the lead, unlike other brands I have tried where the result is nowhere near as bright as the lead might suggest! I use them alongside my daughters aged 16, 12 and 10, and all of us found them comfortable and easy to use, even for shading etc., and had no 'snapping lead' problems, unlike some other budget brands we have used previously!
We all liked the slim hexagonal design of the pencil, but I do think that young children, or people who have dexterity problems, might find them tricky to grip and manipulate. A minor point really as this isn't the 'target market' for this particular model of Staedtler pencil, but I thought worth mentioning in case anyone is looking for something for those groups to use.
Agent Provocateur is a huge brand that most have heard of. I will admit that I fell for the advertising they put out, and did honestly have the opinion that they were a fantastic quality brand - pricey, yes, but with goods that warranted those prices. So, when I saw a couple of multiway bras in their sale cut to a price I could finally stretch to, I jumped on the opportunity to add them to my lingerie collection.
I purchased a black and a white option of the same bra, which I have now owned for about a year. They both arrived quickly, beautifully packaged (if in slightly eco-unfriendly packaging..!), with tissue paper wrapped round each item in a lovely box..opening it really did feel like opening a gift!
The contents, however, were not as impressive as the packaging. I would describe the bras as 'fine' - true to the website image, true to size, but at the same time not particularly high quality. In all honesty, I have had bras made of nicer fabrics from high street stores. I suppose I was expecting a bit of luxury, something I had previously associated with the brand - but the lace was a little bit scratchy to touch, the lining again 'fine' rather than 'wow'.
On wearing, again, I was left with a feeling of 'fine', occasionally shifting into annoyed - as multiways, the bras I bought have detatchable straps - good thing? Well, yes, but not when they are fiddly as hell to reposition, yet still manage to come undone when you are wearing them..! I have a medium bust and am of the age that 'one supported, one not' when a strap works its way free is very obvious! I now tend to use these bras just as strapless ones, as I have other multiways that don't release themselves and cause embarrassment...!
On the plus side, the bras have been fine to wash, retaining their shape and elasticity in the strap etc. They haven't 'bobbled' like some cheap lace can over time when you are a lazy 'chuck it in the machine' washer like I am xD
Overall, I would say these bras are middle of the road - there are definitely better multiway bras available, but at the same time I have had worse. I think I was disappointed as I was expecting something *more* from such a respected and fairly expensive brand. I wouldn't purchase Agent Provocateur bras in future, as I have found better quality for less on the high street.
I don't generally bother trying to 'hide' my cold sores, but I had a function to go to, and so bought these naively hoping that they would make mine less visible - I was disappointed!
Compeed cold sore patches cost around £5-6 for a sturdy plastic box containing 15 plasters, although it has been a while since I purchased any and a quick search showed me that Boots are currently charging £6.19 for this pack.
The packaging is great, very sturdy and easy to open, and easy to find in your bag! The plasters have the 'normal' backing of shiny paper on them, which is easy to remove.
Actually using these was problematic for me. My first attempt quickly descended into farce, as whilst I was able to remove the backing paper quite easily, I somehow managed to 'fold' the plaster between my finger and my face. I did try to 'reopen' it, but this was just not happening! I do have medical problems though, one of which includes shaky hands, so this may be something others find easier to do than I do!
I finally managed to fix one to my face, but my problems were not over. I have read that others have found these stick really well, but for me it really didn't. I generally get cold sores around my mouth, which I think is fairly typical, but just found that normal things such as speaking would loosen the plaster. It felt as though it was always 'hanging by a thread', and very insecure. It was actually very irritating as it made me hyper aware of my cold sore and quite self conscious.
The first plaster only lasted a few hours, as it actually came away on one side, and started 'flapping', so I removed it. Not one to give up easily, I applied a second. I found the same problems again...it was hard to get the plaster to stick evenly, so it had creases in it which were uncomfortable and made me self conscious. As I went about my day to day life, it became increasingly insecure and irritating, so again I removed it, this time admitting defeat!
I can't comment on whether these actually speed up the healing process, as I just found it far too insecure and annoying to leave it on more than a few hours. I definitely wouldn't recommend them from my experience with them.
I a bit of a martyr to cold sores, particularly in the winter and when under stress, so in the run up to Christmas, I can normally expect an outbreak or two! After several years of trial and error with products, I now always make sure I have some Zovirax in my first aid kit, 'on standby', as for me it has proved to be by far the best remedy.
Zovirax comes packaged in a teeny tiny metal tube, within a cardboard outer box, and is usually sold for around £4.99 for a 2g tube. I would be the first to admit that this seems (and well, is) on the pricey side, but at the same time, have yet to find anything which works as effectively for me, so I am prepared to pay the asking price! The active ingredient in Zovirax is Aciclovir, which I was actually precribed once from my GP for a particularly bad outbreak that ended up close to my eye, so the NHS must think it an effective remedy!
For me, the packaging is a bit of a pain in all honesty. The tube really is tiny, approximately 4cm long, the perfect size to get lost unless you keep it in the outer cardboard...but there again, the outer box, as it contains a backing piece, is a bit annoying to fit into a small handbag..oh the dilemma! I generally keep the outer box at home, and transport the tiny tube around with me, and end up hunting desperately for it in the deepest, darkest corners of my handbag when I feel a tingle of a cold sore starting to appear!
Aside from being the perfect size to lose in your bag, the packaging also annoys me in that whilst the screw lid is effective at preventing leaks and easy to remove, it can be fiddly to replace as its easy to get it cross threaded as its so small. Another moan about the packaging is how difficult it is to get the amount you would like out of the tube. More often than not, I end up expelling rather more than I need, and this feels wasteful, particularly as it is so expensive. I really wish Zovirax would take another look at their packaging!
The cream itself is white in colour, with no noticeable odour. It has a 'medium' consistency - it will sit on the tip of your finger without running, but is easy to spread over affected areas. The optimum time to apply Zovirax is at the 'tingle' stage, which fellow cold sore sufferers will, I am sure, be familiar with! When applied at this stage, this product has, on several occasions, completely prevented any visible cold sore appearing for me. If you miss this stage, it can also be applied at blister stage. Applied at this stage, I've found it dramatically reduces the amount of time that it takes for an outbreak to disappear, from 10-14 days untreated to around 3-5 days when using this product. It seems to dry the blister out at a much faster rate than happens without treatment, and I also use it on the 'scab' stage (I know, ewww..), as it seems to keep the scabby areas more supple and prevent cracking, which I have found has helped to prevent spread of the cold sore outbreak. It is VERY important to wash your hands following application, to avoid spreading the virus....small note but an important one!
One tube generally lasts me around 3-4 outbreaks, as a little bit does go quite a long way, so from that perspective it is quite cost effective although being pricey initially. It has a good long shelf life (typically around a year, but this obviously depends how long it has sat on a shelf in a shop before you have purchased it!). It needs to be stored under 25C to prevent the cream 'splitting' (I accidentally left my makeup bag with it in on a radiator once, so know what happens when you don't follow this guideline!)
Overall, this is a great product - it does exactly what it claims to do. I just wish it were a little bit cheaper, and that the packaging were a little better, so have knocked a star off for the packaging problems!!
My makeup bag probably contains more Rimmel products than all other brands put together. This product is, typically of Rimmel, priced at the cheaper end of the market, and usually retails for around £2.99. It is widely available in chain chemists as well as larger supermarkets. The current range has (according to the Rimmel website) 15 shades, from pale pastels to dark gothic, although I did notice that the shade I actually have is not on their list, despite still being available to buy at several large retailers including Superdrug, so I wonder if there may be a few more shades lurking about on the market!
I purchased shade 93, 'Black Cherries', mainly to match a lipstick I have in the same shade. The lipstick is one I have been fond of since my late teens, and the name is a really good description of the colour. It is a very dark purple, almost black, just like the cherry.
The packaging is amongst the better ones out there for a product in this price bracket. The slim lid is easy to undo, even with dramatically long halloween acrylic nails affecting your grip! It is a glass bottle as standard, and the brush is a good size; neither too big nor too small. A beautician friend of mine told me that the 'correct' way to apply nail varnish is in 3 strokes, and the brush is just the right size for me to do this. The bristles in the brush are securely attached, and I didn't notice any of them falling out during application, which is a problem I have sometimes had with nail varnishes.
*Ease of Application*
This, for me, is where the product falls down slightly. Even on first opening, the product seemed a little bit thicker and gloopier than other nail varnishes I have tried. Despite using a clear basecoat to avoid staining my nails, I found it difficult to get an even finish on the surface of my nail. Bearing in mind that I had acrylic nails, the surface of my nail was as smooth as any nail is likely to get!
As with many dark coloured nail varnishes, two coats is needed really to both get the depth of colour and even out any initial streakiness. I did notice that although I seemed to get 'lumps', where the varnish was noticeably thicker on some parts of the nail than others, particularly on the second coat, as the polish dried, these did seem to 'self level' a certain extent, and improve the eventual look of the nail varnish. I found laying my hands horizontally allowed the varnish to even out to the best finish, and was satisfied with the appearance of it once it had done so.
I'm not sure if its because of the lasting finish formulation or not, but I did notice that this varnish seemed to take longer than average to harden properly. Whilst touch dry within a few minutes, the finish was susceptible to 'denting' or 'fingerprinting' for some hours after application. I usually find that when the smell of nail varnish is more or less gone, this means the product is 'properly set', and with this varnish the odour did hang around for a good few hours. If you are going to apply this, I would recommend that you try to find a time to do it when you can avoid using your hands too much for some considerable time!
*True To Colour?*
A pet peeve of mine is those varnishes which look lovely in the bottle, but then, when you apply them, seem to look very different on the nail. I honestly can't fault this product on that score; the colour was exactly as I had been led to believe by the bottle, and not at all paler or different.
If you manage to avoid denting/damaging the finish for the first few hours, then this product does have pretty good staying power. After 4 days of wear, there were was a slight 'wearing off' on the very tips of my nails, but this was less than 1mm wide, and I honestly don't think I have tried any other varnish which has lasted better. I didn't have any chips at all, it was more like the varnish had been buffed off by my normal day to day use of my hands!
Overall this is a great buy from the cheaper end of the market. I am sure there are slightly better, pricier options out there, but for the price this is great value for money. The colour is true to how it appears, and the finish is good if you can get past the first few hours unscathed! I would recommend it overall, and will probably purchase more items from this range in future.
I know that there are already quite a few reviews of Slimming World (SW) already on here, but I thought it might be worth my writing one as there seem to be relatively few written by those who have opted for online memebership, rather than the 'traditional' classes route! My 'star rating' is based on my online membership, and is not a reflection of the classes route, which I haven't experienced.
It was back in March that I finally decided that I needed to have a serious try at doing something about my weight. I am only 5ft 3, and was hovering around the 12 stone mark. I knew some friends who had done really well following SW, so decided that it might be worth a try. The fact that my sister was getting married in October, and that I was to be 'Maid of Dishonour' was an added incentive; I look terrible in her graduation photos from a few years ago, and, knowing my mum would inevitably put wedding pics up on her wall, wanted to avoid that horrible sinking feeling of seeing horrendous photos of myself every time I went round there!
*Cost and Options*
I decided that the online option was for me, as I have health issues which often make it difficult for me to go out. I wanted support and guidance, but really didn't want to rely on being able to go out in order to achieve this. SW currently offer 3 levels of online membership, with different associated 'benefits'. Costs are currently £60 bronze, £65 silver and £80 gold, all for 3 months' membership. The basic difference between the 3 options is that with silver, in addition to bronze online access you receive 7 issues of the monthly SW magazine by post, and with gold, you receive the magazines and also get 2 SW books. The magazines retail for over £2 each in the shops, so if you think you may like to read them then a £5 for 7, home delivered, is a real bargain. Typically, subscribers also receive the magazine a week or so before it hits the shops, making your SW non-subbers jealous!
After some umming and ahhing, I plumped for the gold option, mainly because £15 was cheaper than I could purchase the books on offer (even secondhand), and I wanted to get as much information about it all as possible, to maximise my chances of success!
*Does It Work?*
Let's be honest, this is what we all want to know when considering any 'diet plan'. I have to say its a resounding 'Yes' for me. I now weigh 9st 5lbs (or thereabouts), and have done this entirely by eating differently (I absolutely hate exercise). I have recently started doing a bit of exercise but wanted to stress that my losses were entirely down to the plan, and not because I have also been doing huge long hikes or lots of Zumba classes!
*Is It Easy To Follow?*
With a little bit of willpower, yes. I follow the latest plan, 'Extra Easy' (EE). On EE, you basically have a few groups of foods to consider. There are the 'super free' - things like veg and fruit, 'free' - baked beans is probably my number one from these, as well as rice, pasta and potatoes, 'Healthy Extras' (HE), which fall into 2 groups, a dairy one(A) and a fibre one (B), and 'Syns'' - everything else, especially naughties!
The way the EE plan works is that you are required to have at least 1/3 from the 'super free' group with every meal. You are also allocated a maximum of 15 'syns' to spend each day, however you wish, and one HE from group A, one from group B. As long as you stick to the 1/3 super free rule, you can eat as much pasta, potatoes and rice as you like.
I have found it really, really easy to fit into family life with a few small tweaks. The two things I personally miss the most are bread and cheese (both HE's), but to be honest I think any kind of weight control programme is going to require a few little sacrifices, and I can still have extra out of my allowance by using syns on them!
*The Online Experience*
Whichever level of membership you opt for, the online 'experience' is the same. You receive 3 months of access to the website which allows you to access 1200 recipes, a 'syn checker', food diary, weight loss charts, and 'rewards'.
In all honesty, I was disappointed with what I received for my money on this point. The plan is fantastic, but I did feel that I was being a little bit cheated by the lack of personalisation regarding my online experience, particularly when I considered that the price I was paying was pretty much the same as someone who goes to a class, as they seem to get a lot more for their money.
The recipes are pretty good, but are available so many places online now that this in itself wouldn't really be a reason for me to join..you could also purchase a lot of SW recipe books for the price of 3 months membership.
The weight loss chart and graph were quite nice, but I have recreated my own in Excel (and I am by no means a technical genius).
The 'support' consisted of 'standard letter' type pages, which the system selects for you and displays based on your 'result' that week; a gain, and you see a 'oh well, have some motivation' message, a loss and you see 'oh wow you've done well', basically! There really was zero true 'personalisation' just signposts to read the same sections of the website over and over again depending on my weekly weigh in result.
'Rewards' are coloured gifs which display on your SW online profile. Not worth paying for imho.
The food diary was marginally handy, as as you add things in, it allows you to select whether they are syns, HE's or whatever, but yuou need to know yourself which group to flag them into. I was disappointed by this, as I had naively assumed that the system would allocate the groups if I just put in the food...no..lol
The syn checker was probably the thing that I used the most, but I did find over time that I 'learned' the value of things, and used it less and less. In the end, I didn't renew my membership after the 3 month period I initially signed up for, although I have continued to follow the plan.
SW itself works. The plan works. It is a healthy plan to follow, you see results, and never need to feel hungry.
The online 'experience' is, imho, a bit of a rip off. Zero personalisation, and nothing I can't do myself in either word or excel on my own computer, for free. I would've been better off just buying the books and learning the plan, rather than spending such a large sum of money on not very much from the online membership 'benefits'.
As it stands, the online membership is definitely not good value for money when compared to the cost of attending a SW class.
When I first heard about everything5pounds.com, I honestly thought it was one of those 'if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is' situations. I am happy to say I was wrong. I have been a customer of this website for well over a year now, and would definitely recommend them.
Everything 5 pounds does exactly what you would expect from a website with that name; it sells items which are all £5. Whilst the primary focus is on womens wear, including footwear and accessories, they also have a children's wear section.
The website itself is well designed, very clear and easy to navigate. Sections are clearly marked, even down to FAQs and delivery info, which some websites seem to 'hide' or make difficult to find! The site loads well and the photos shown are always clear and true representations of items. The search function is, I would say 'better than average', returning hits which are relevant and not just a mish mash of anything with similar characters in unlike other websites' search engines!
The women's wear section is by far the largest on site, and offers all the usual things you would expect, from dresses and skirts, coats, jackets and knitwear, to trousers, tops and lingerie. I have personally ordered tops, dresses and cardigans from this section, and overall have been pleased with them. On the negative side, it is easy to see where the costs are saved on some items, for example slightly dodgy zips or a lot of loose threads hanging from an item, but by the same token I have always felt I have had good value for money on the items I have received, and haven't received anything I felt was unwearable from a quality point of view.
The one negative thing I would say about items is that sizing seems to vary a fair bit over different items, particularly on items which are sized in ranges such as 10-12; on a couple of occasions, I have ordered different items in one order, which are sized the same onsite, but when they arrived, some fit beautifully whereas others refused to do up over my 'lady bumps'! I would advise anyone thinking of ordering to check customer comments/reviews on individual items, as often people will flag it up if an item tends to run smaller/bigger than average. I have followed advice from such comments a few times and it hasn't failed me yet! This of course makes things a little bit tricky if you are ordering for someone else, and one improvement I would love to see made is more detailed measurements of individual items on the listings onsite.
There is a very surprising amount of variety available onsite for the price, from boots to heels, flats to platforms. Again, I have ordered several pairs of various shoes/boots, and overall have been very pleased with the quality of them. Unfortunately, also again, there sometimes seems to be a little issue with sizing, and I would again urge you to check customer comments regarding this on any individual item before ordering.
I ordered several handbags from the site for my kids to use at my sister's wedding. I also ordered one for myself. I was really pleased with the overall quality of the bags, and also liked the fact that even with the 'clutch' bags, a chain was provided which can be attached inside the bag to convert it into a shoulder bag. On one of the bags the clasp was a tiny bit stiff to open, but we just greased it a little bit and after that it was fine. We all got lots of comments on how lovely our bags were, and people were very surprised to find out that they had been purchased so cheaply.
This seems to be a section of the site which is currently being developed. Not so long ago, there was no childrens wear at all ever in it, and even now there are only maybe 10 or so items available at any one time. So far I haven't seen anything that caught my eye, but given my experiences of other items, it is a section I will keep checking to see if I find anything as if I liked something I would have no hesitation about ordering it.
P&P costs are based on weight and are extremely reasonable. I had wondered initially if everything 5 pounds were clawing back money lost on the price of items through postage charges, but would definitely say this is not the case.
As well as being reasonably priced, delivery has always been very fast and efficient, and well packaged.
I recently had to return a pair of boots which I had purchased for my daughter, as when they arrived they were considerably larger than the size stamped on them. I ordered a 2, but was delivered the European equivalent of a 2.5, but could actually get my 5.5 foot into them! I emailed everything 5 pounds, and received a response the next day, apologising and informing me that they would send a returns slip with a pre paid postage sticker. I received this within a couple of days and packaged the item up for return.
They refunded the cost of the item as well as a contribution towards my original postage payment (I ordered several items in one parcel, so I assume the amount for this was representative of one item's portion of the p&p bill). The refund was received quickly and with no quibbles. I am really happy with the returns service, second to none.
*Everything 5 Pounds on Facebook*
In all honesty, this tends to be a source of frustration for me rather than anything else! Whilst they do highlight new arrivals and popular items, the very fact that this is done on facebook means that often within minutes of a post popping up, an item has sold out. I tend to rely on email notifications of new arrivals rather than the Facebook portal for this reason.
I know some companies offer discounts/offer codes on their Facebook pages, but haven't yet seen any of these for this company, although to be fair everything is highly discounted already! They do send reminder posts to their Facebook page about their weekly prize draw (£100 voucher to be won), which I have yet to win..booo...lol, but you can enter this draw via the website so don't necessarily need to be a Facebook 'liker' to do this.
I really like this particular feature from this website. I am always a bit wary about signing up for email mailing lists, fearing a deluge of spam, but I can honestly say that I have only ever received relevant emails informing me of products, and probably on average once a week I would recommend signing up to this as its often the best way to find out about new releases as they happen, and get to the items before they sell out!
I would definitely recommend this website to friends and family, but do bear in mind to check comments about sizing on individual items. It is also worth noting that popular things sell out VERY quickly in certain sizes, so if you see something you like it is best to order it straight away.
I'm normally more of an aerosol gal, but decided on a whim to try this out as I have recently started going to the gym, and had heard whispers that roll ons are better for reducing nasty wet patches! I chose this particular one partly because I had a good opinion of Dove as a brand, but also because it was on special offer for under £1 which seemed like a bargain. It was not.
It has its good points. The packaging is well designed; the shape makes it very easy and comfortable to hold securely, making it easy to apply. The rollerball applicator is a good size, and rolls smoothly (something which I don't always remember other brands doing!). The packaging is sturdy, having survived quite a few trips to the gym in the bottom of my bag witout any cracking or mis-shaping.
I purchased the 'waterlily and freshmint' scent for the daft reason that I quite like the colour blue! I do wish more places would have testers out of deodrants so I could smell before I bought though, as I really am not fond of this fragrance; it reminds me of cheap toilet cleaning products to be honest. The scent does last quite a long time though...I could notice it every time I moved my arms about which I suppose is a good thing, its just unfortunate for me that I picked a scent that I don't really like!
My biggest whinge about this product is that for me at least, it doesn't seem to reduce sweat at all, but rather scent any sweat that appears. I found myself noticeably damp 30mins or so after applying, even though I had only been doing general householdy things like making breakfast and washing up. Whilst I didn't smell bad (well, I smelt like cheap toilet cleaner, but...), I found the damp feeling rather uncomfortable. I also noticed on other occasions that I would find sweat patches under my arms, showing through my clothing, something I never have a problem with when I have used other deodrant products. For me, dryness is a key thing I look for in a deodrant, so I ended up purchasing a different one way before this product ran out or was even close to running out as I just felt it was so ineffective for my needs.
I am hugely disappointed in this as I had previously thought highly of the Dove brand, and this has actually put me off purchasing things from that brand in future. Avoid!
I first purchased this book about 18 months ago from Amazon, mainly on recommendations from other "hookers" who had used it in the past, knew the sort of things I liked, and thought it would suit me. It currently sells for £6.84 on Amazon UK.
This book has a laminated paperback cover, and 292 pages of various things to explore. It is printed in fairly large type, approximately the equivalent of size 10 Arial font in Microsoft Word, with clear spacing, so I think it would be easy to read and use for most people.
The one niggle I have about the "physical properties" of this book is that over time, the pages do have a tendency to drop out. I haven't mistreated the book, only ever using small scraps of paper as page markers, but even so, with the opening and closing which comes with following a pattern from a book to make an item, several of the pages have fallen out and had to be "repaired" with sticky tape! I know it is a little bit "naughty" but because of this, I would (unofficially of course!) advise anyone that purchased the book to make photocopies of the pages needed for a pattern rather than working directly from the book itself, to try to prevent this from happening.
It is worth noting that this book is printed in the USA, and as such US terms are used for the patterns, although there are "translations" provided in the first section of the book.
The content pages of the book are very well organised and set out. The book is split into two main sections, broken down into sub-sections. Each of the sub-sections in the main areas have their own lists of what is contained within them, which makes navigating the book very easy to do. For ease of reading, I thought it best to write about each section separately, as I feel this will give a clearer idea of the "good bits" and "not so good bits" contained in this book!
-SECTION ONE: "HOOKING UP"-
This section of the book is all about learning to crochet. It intends to teach anyone, even those who have never picked up a crochet hook before, how to crochet. It is split into 8 sub-sections, which I will cover separately.
1.1 - "VOULEZ-VOUS CROCHET AVEC MOI?"
This area of the book is a general introduction to the craft of crochet, including a little bit of the history of crochet, why crochet is good, a comparison between knitting and crochet, and a guide to the "lingo" used in crochet. The best feature, I feel, of this section is the chatty and informal way in which Debbie Stoller writes; when reading, it almost feels as though you are chatting to a friend about crochet, rather than reading any kind of "instructional manual". Debbie's style makes this section an entertaining read for those who are familiar with crochet, but is particularly fantastic for beginners, as she seems to have a knack of anticipating questions that newcomers may have, going on to answer them in her friendly style. Debbie's writing style is one of my favourite things about this book as a whole, as at no point in it do I feel "daft" for getting something wrong or having a question, but feel comfortable and not at all "lectured to"!
1.2 -"HOOK, LINE AND SINKER"; THE TOOLS OF CROCHET-
As the title of this section suggests, this part of the book is all about the things you need and use when crocheting. It covers everything from hooks and yarns, to textures, and sundries such as tapestry needles and stitch markers. It also includes some very useful information on how to choose a yarn for a project, and how to decipher the meanings of the often cryptic symbols on yarn labels!
The section is very detailed and I have yet to think of a tools related crochet question which I haven't been able to find the answer to in these pages! Probably the bits in this section that I have made the most use of are those instructing how to "translate" US & UK terms for hook sizes, yarn weights etc. Yes, this information can be found online, but again the clear and informal approach to presenting it are what makes it a favourite resource for me.
Part 1.3 of the book covers the very basics and beginnings of a crochet newcomers' journey. Debbie assumes that you have no foreknowledge of crochet whatsoever, and begins with the simple slip knot. Whilst I suppose that some people may find the suggestion that they can't tie a slip knot a bit insulting, I actually like it as I think it is much better to start from the very beginning and include EVERY technique that someone may need to crochet, rather than presume that they already know little bits (and essential ones at that)and leave them with only half the knowledge they need to do something!
This section also covers all the basic techniques and simple stitches, in a clear manner with great illustrations and photographs which help you to make sure you are on the right track with your work!
Walking tall builds on the techniques and skills learnt in section 1.3, and introduces the more complicated crochet stitches. It also covers how to add yarn when you come to the end of a ball, and information on deciphering crochet pattern abbreviations. Again there are clear and easy to follow instructions with helpful illustrations, and this is another valuable section of the book.
-1.5-"THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME"-
In this part of the book, Debbie introduces increases and decreases in crochet, as well as how to make a circular shape. My absolute favourite bit in this section is the part which covers how to make a "magic circle"...this is a simple technique once you have mastered it, but I had tried to learn it from several other sources with no success. Debbie finally solved that problem for me and it is a very useful addition to my crochet skills!
-1.6-"HOOKED ON A FEELING"-
This section introduces crochet charts, with instructions on how to read them, but is mainly focussed on some of the many different types of crochet stitches which can be used to create textured fabric. There are a good variety of stitches covered in this bit of the book, and again they are clearly explained and well illustrated/photographed. Despite having crocheted for some time now, I often refer back to this part of the book to remind myself of a stitch if I haven't used it for a while and it crops up in a pattern!
I must confess that despite having owned this book for some time, I haven't actually tried the techniques in this section yet! It covers tapestry crochet, filet crochet, and the Afghan stitch. Although I haven't actually tried the techniques I have read it, and find the instructions as clear as in other areas of the book, with, again, great photos, so I do feel that I would be able to follow this section to do these things should I ever get around to it!
-1.8-"OFF THE HOOK"-
This section covers constructing garments from "pieces" of crochet and all the techniques required for that, such as seaming, weaving sides, making joins etc.
It also has some handy bits on buttonholes, pom-poms and other decorative elements.
The most useful bit for me in this part though was the blocking section; essential but always something that for some reason confused me! But it is explained very clearly, not only the how but the WHY, which I loved.
-SECTION TWO:"CROCHET AWAY"-
The second main section of the book is mainly made up of patterns, with a resource guide, credits and index at the end of it. It begins with a really informative and detailed look at how to read a crochet pattern, as well as a reminder of abbreviations, and then moves on to the patterns themselves which are split into the following groups:
* Scarves and Shawls (5 patterns)
* Hats (6 patterns)
* Bags (5 patterns)
* Spring & Summer (6 garment patterns for this time of year)
* Fall & Winter (6 patterns, again for seasonal garments)
* Accessories (5 patterns)
* Home, Gifts & Baby (7 patterns)
There are patterns which would suit a variety of tastes, but in all honesty I do feel that they tend to lean towards the "alternative" rather than "everyday", for example a hat with a skull on it, or a bright green mat with flowers on...this suited me but I do think would not be everyone's cup of tea.
I hate to say it but this section of the book is, for me, a fair bit weaker than the previous one. I have used patterns from a number of different sources and have to say despite all the earlier great, clear information, some of these patterns do have bits in which are put in such a way as to leave me scratching my head and often having to try out what I THINK it is trying to say before realising I have the wrong end of the stick, meaning I have to undo that section of work and do it again in another way. Considering that this book is aimed at complete beginners upwards, I do feel that clearer instructions on some of the patterns would have been a great improvement to this book.
A further irritation with this book is the amount of errata within it: if (like me) you purchase the first edition, there are 2 pages of errata in total within the patterns. This mightn't sound a lot when you consider the number of patterns in the book, but (silly me) presumed that patterns in a book would've been checked to the point of NOT being incorrect, and this did cause me a few problems with a couple of the patterns. The errata are available to download as a free PDF file (see link at bottom of review), but if I wanted to have to look things up online, I would just look patterns up online, and not buy a book!
Another thing that niggles me is the naming of some of the patterns; whilst some are clear enough to work out what it actually is, others have lovely names but no actual clue as to what the garment/item may be. This is only a minor niggle really, as there are fantastic colour photos (several on each pattern, as well as diagrams and charts on some), but it does mean you have to look up a pattern in some of the sections to actually be able to see what it is.
I was also less than happy with the "resources" section of the book, as having checked out a few of them I did end up feeling that many were there as they had "supported" publication in some way (e.g. by providing yarn for free to make samples to be photographed for the book), rather than because they were genuinely the best available. Having said that, there are a few handy ones so it isn't a complete waste of ink!
This book aims to provide something for everyone from beginner to more advanced, and whilst I think the first section makes it a fantastic purchase for a beginner, the second section does rather leave something to be desired. Having said that, there are some really unusual and alternative patterns within the book, and it is available at a reasonable price. I think it was worth what I paid for it, and have used it to make several items, so from that point of view it is good value for money.
Link to errata:- http://knithappens.com/snbhh-errata.pdf
I am a huge fan of sauces and condiments, and have a fairly (if I do say so myself) impressive assortment in my fridge and cupboard, something to suit just about any meal or taste, so when I saw this new flavoured mayonnaise advertised on TV, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it to try it.
I purchased my 250ml squeezy bottle in Tesco, for £1.79 a couple of weeks ago, but it has since been put on offer and is now available there for £1 for the same pack. The bottle is a fairly standard plastic sauce bottle; it stands on its lid to allow the contents to fall to the opening to be easily retrieved, and is reasonably easy to squeeze and use, even for my 7 year old daughter.
One thing that isn't immediately clear from the packaging (but can be found in the small print on the back of the bottle), is that this is in fact a reduced calorie mayonnaise, with less than half the calories of Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise. I saw this as a bit of a bonus, but my other half was less than impressed, as he isn't typically a fan of "reduced fat/sugar" varieties of products! Having said that, by the time I noticed this, the bottle was home and he couldn't really do a lot about it so he agreed to try it with the rest of us!
When I saw this advertised, my first thought was "that would be nice with fish", so it was with fish it had its first outing! When you squeeze a blob of this onto your plate, it comes out in a lovely smooth, fairly thick consistency, with the typical "creamy" colour of an ordinary mayonnaise, and does look appetising. The one thing I did notice though was that it doesn't really smell very lemony at all, which did disappoint me a bit intitially as I presumed this meant it wouldn't taste very lemony either....boy was I wrong!
To say this has a "zing" of lemon seems a huge understatement to me. The taste is so lemony that it puts me in mind of, well, squashed up lemons with nothing else added, except maybe a pinch of sugar! It has a nice lemony taste, not too tart or too sweet, but in all honesty all I could taste when I put a small dab of this on a mouthful of fish was lemon. Obviously I do like lemons, otherwise I wouldn't have purchased this in the first place, but not only could I not taste the fish, I couldn't detect any particular creaminess of mayonnaise or anything else really, other than lemon! I like my condiments to complement a meal, not completely take it over, as I felt this did.
However, not being one to waste things, I decided to give it another try a couple of days later with some canned tuna to make sandwiches. This time, in an attempt to muffle the lemon a little, I added some "ordinary" unflavoured mayonnaise to the mixture, in about equal parts to the amount of lemon mayonnaise I put in. Now, as we all know, canned tuna is a pretty strong odour and in most cases a pretty strong taste too....not once you add this to it! Once the mixture was made up, weirdly all it smelt of was lemons, despite the fact that when I had initially used it on a plate I could hardly smell lemon in it at all...and all the tuna mixture tasted of was, again, lemons!
A couple of days later we made chicken enchiladas, a spicy Mexican dish, and this time I could feel heat from the chili in this as well as taste lemon, but could only just about detect the flavours of the other spices and the meat under the thick lemon duvet smothering my tastebuds!
Really all Hellmann seem to have done with this product is to invent a way to make lemons look creamy and have a nice smooth and fairly thick mayonnaise-like texture, and pack one heck of a flavour punch! None of my family were able to detect any flavours when we tried this with foods other than the lemon. I will not give up and will keep "watering this down" with other mayonnaise and trying with different foods, but in all honesty this is in an attempt not to have totally wasted my money than out of any desire to do so. I just feel that, as much as I love lemons, the flavour in this is just too strong. It is unpleasant but it totally blankets just about anything else it is paired with.
For this reason, I don't really feel I can recommend it for its intended purpose, as a simple condiment. It probably does have its uses if you can be bothered to experiment to find the level at which it doesn't drown everything else, but I think in future I will just go back to my old fashioned ways and use a bit of real lemon when I want one, to enhance rather than overpower anything it touches!
By some miracle, my usually "too short to do anything but buy fake tips" nails have managed to grow into a reasonable state over the summer! I was delighted about this, but wanted to protect them as well as "make the most of them", so decided to invest in some new polishes and bits and bobs in order to do this.
I am a huge fan of the look of a French manicure; I think not only does it make even pretty short nails look elegant and attractive, but it helps to keep nails looking "clean", as well as goes with more or less any outfit and is suitable for just about any situation. Having said that, as a former "fake tips only" nail person, who also tends to suffer occasionally from shaky hands, I was less than confident in my ability to be able to re-create this look by myself at home! Armed with more optimism than expectation, I took my trusty "Advantage card" into Boots to try to find a kit that would help me to achieve the desired results!
This kit comes in a few different guises with slightly different shades and packaging. The one I opted for is described on my receipt as "natural", although there isn't any shade referencing on the box that I could find! It is comprised of 3 polishes; 13.3ml of "Acrylic strong, protecting base & top coat" in a typical nail polish glass bottle with a screw lid and brush (this is clear in colour), 13.3ml glass bottle of a pale pink polish described as "Hard & Healthy French manicure", and a 2.9ml "White Tip French Tip Pen". It also inclueds a sheet of adhesive nail guides, which essentially are curved, sticky pieces of shiny white paper, intended to make applying the white tips neatly easier. For some reason you get 42 of these little "guides", which seems rather an unusual number to choose but I suppose there is some logic in the company's thinking somewhere! The whole kit is contained in one cardboard box with a clear plastic front to enable you to clearly see the contents of the kit before purchase (except for the nail guides which are hiding behind the rest of the stuff in the box!)
I paid £9.69 for the kit in Boots, although it was part of a "3 for 2" offer, and I also received a couple of £5 off vouchers when I used my Advantage card (for fragrances and the No.7 collection), so I felt this was a fairly reasonable price for the contents of the kit with all the "bonuses" thrown in on top!
-USING THE KIT-
The main reason that I opted for this kit over the many others available was the fact that the white polish in the kit comes in the form of a pen, which in theory makes application a lot easier and helps even a novice such as myself to achieve a "professional" finish. After applying the clear base coat, which was a little bit runnier than polishes I am used to, but easy enough to open use and came with a decent sized brush, I "prepped the pen" as per the instructions on the box by holding upside down, pointing onto a piece of scrap paper and pressing the tip into the pen for 30 seconds. This sounds easy, and it was, once I had located the tip to replace in the pen as this mysteriously flew off across the floor without my noticing when I pulled the cap off the pen! The tip is made of a "stiff sponge" type material, reminiscent of highlighter pens, and it was fairly easy to see where the polish was saturating the nib of the pen. The nib itself is shaped a lot like those found on chunky type highlighters...a sort of "wedge" shape.
On my first hand, I decided to have a go at doing the tips without the guides, as I had watched a few youtube videos about French manicures before I set out to do this, and those mentioned that some people actually find "free-handing" easier than using the guides. I simply turned the pen until the wedge tip lined up with my nail, then (again following advice found online), dragged my nail under the pen rather than moving the pen in order to draw the white tip onto my nail. This was fairly easy to do, although I did have a couple of slightly wiggly lines at first these were only very slight and I guesstimate I only had to "go over" the white bit of my actual nail by less than 1mm to correct it into a better line. The first coat goes on quite streaky, although I expected this as the instructions with the kit do state to apply 2 coats of the white to the tips of the nail.
I left the first coat to dry for approximately 5mins before attempting to do the second coat. For some reason I found this a fair bit trickier than applying the first coat. I am not sure whether this was because there was less polish left on the tip of the pen (so I pressed it in again upside down as to prep it to put a bit more on it), or whether the surface of the nail was less smooth having had the first coat of polish applied, but I did find this a bit of a challenge to do! The pen seemed to "drag" a little bit against the first coat of polish, and actually slightly scratched off the first coat in a few small patches.
Being a novice, on the first nail I tried to correct this by pressing the tip in again whilst on the nail (don't do this...you get a "blob" of polish which is then difficult to spread out evenly, and I actually ended up having to take all the polish off this nail with nail varnish remover and start again from scratch on this nail!). My second attempt at correction was to "re-prep" the pen, and this did seem to work to some extent, but I still found it quite difficult to get a smooth and even finish on the nail with the second coat of white.
For the second hand, I did use the nail guides. These were a bit of a swine to peel from the backing paper, as they are pretty small and thin, and haven't been cut apart all that well, so as you try to peel away one sticker, two or three others try to come with it, which leads to a bit of fiddling about as you try to seperate one sticker from the others without ripping it! Once I had one sticker, it was fairly easy to apply to the nail just under the natural "white bit" of my nail to mask off the area next to where I would be using the pen. The one thing I would mention about the guides though is that they are all identical, whereas obviously my nails are not. This meant that while the curve of the sticker fit some nails beautifully, on others (particularly smaller nails such as my little fingernail), the curve didn't really curve enough and left a fairly straight-ish line across the nail which wasn't really what I was hoping for. I think in some ways it may even have been better to just have a straight sticker, as then at least all nails would have a uniform line, but as it was, some nails had a fairly natural cirve whereas others were almost straight.
I proceeded to use the pen with pretty much the same "lack of ease of use" as on the first hand, waited for the polish to dry, then removed the guides. To be honest, the result I got on the hand without the guides was a fair bit better than that on the one with....partly because of the shape of the curv/not curve, but also because on a couple of nails the polish had seemed to "collect" against the edge of the sticker, leaving a fairly obvious "ridge" between one side of the white tip and the other side. This wasn't even an "ending line" where no polish met polish, but more of a "mini hillock" between the two areas!
Once I was not entirely happy, but felt that I had achieved the best tips I was likely to be able to get, I moved on to applying the pink polish. As with the base coat, the bottle was easy enough to open with a decent sized brush, with the usual odour of nail polishes, but again I found the polish looked very runny...whilst I had assumed that the base coat was runny as it was intended as a base coat, I was a little bit concerned to see the consistency of the coloured polish, but thought (as a novice), that this was perhaps not only because the polish had to go over a white tip, so maybe runnier wouldn't distort the white so much, but also as when you do a French manicure you have a fair few layers of polish, perhaps this was to minimise the thickness of polish on the nail? A little anxious but hopeful, I carried on!
In the bottle, the pink looks quite subtle, very similar to the pink of my natural nail, but when I put it onto my nail I must admit I was less than ecstatic about the outcome; the polish went on VERY streakily for a start; I don't claim in any way to be a nail expert, but the way this polish went onto my nail it actually looked as though there were as many as 2-3 different shades of pink on the nail, some bits considerably more pink than others. I wasn't too put off by this though as again the kit said to apply two coats of polish at this stage, so I hoped the second coat would even this out. It didn't. If anything, not only was the streakiness still very visible, but the overall effect looked even worse, as the pink was so pink it made the white tips look a bit odd...the shade they went I can only really describe as "6yr old girl going to a party"...it was almost a "bubblegum" pink, it made the white a very childish colour and I really was not at all happy with this result, so yet again I took all the polish off poor nail number one and had to start doing this one again from scratch!
I decided not to apply 2 coats of the pink to the other nails, as I was so unhappy with the way that had looked, but at the same time I didn't want to settle for the awful streaky nature of the nail finish either! After a few minutes of sitting glumly and thinking, I remembered that I had a Rimmel Lasting Finish polish in "Icing Sugar" (a beigey-nude shade), and decided to try to apply this in the place of the second coat of pink, to try to even out the streakiness and also tone down what I thought was, even with one coat, a bit of a childish pink for someone in their 30s such as myself! I am happy to say this worked beautifully; the Rimmel polish did exactly as I had hoped and I ended up with a nice pearly and pretty even finish to the nail...I guess all is well that ends well, but at the same time, I must say I was disappointed to have to "add to" the kit with some of my own supplies in order to get what I felt was an alright looking finish.
Although I was eventually able to obtain a finish which looks acceptable from around 10inches away, this was not at all easy and I really felt a bit let down not only by how tricky the pen seemed to make things, but also by the quality and colour of the other polishes in the kit. Despite my inital hopes regarding the pen, I honestly think it made things worse rather than better, and in future I would definitely not opt for this kit, preferring to "take my chances" with freehanding polish applied with a brush! On some of the nails I used the guides on, even after my attempt at salvage, the "hillocks" remained visible and made it look as if I had great big cracks in my nails.
On the positive side, the end result did last well (although bear in mind it had a Rimmel Lasting Touch polish under a top coat, so whether this was the kits' polishes lasting or the Rimmel, I can't be sure..!)
There is an option on the back of the box to return to base if you are not happy for a refund, but as the mailing address to do this is in the USA, I feel this would be a waste of time and money as it would probably cost almost as much to return as I may receive back!
I definitely wouldn't purchase this kit again, nor would I recommend it. I would even go so far as to say it has put me off the Nailene brand in general!
When summer is here (which apparently it is, regardless of what the weather is doing!), I always seem to find myself drawn to fizzy drinks. In general I am not really much of a "pop" drinker, preferring fruit juice or a hot drink, but for some reason during the summer months my body just seems to crave a bit of fizz!
Having said that, I am, like most people, very well aware that many such drinks do contain gobsmackingly large amounts of sugar, with a calorie count to match. On the other hand, I have often found that "sugar free" or "zero" varieties of drinks are somewhat of a disappointment when compared to their full sugar siblings, so it was after some considerable umming and ahhing in the supermarket, plus noting that these particular drinks were on offer in my local Tescos (2 packs of selected 300ml 6 can packs of pop for a fiver), that I decided to take the plunge and give these a try.
This drink comes packaged in a few different formats, from "single-serve" bottles, to multipacks of cans or even larger bottles. I have only so far tried the 330ml can version, so it is this size and packaging my review is based on.
One of my pet hates is warm fizzy drinks, so I made sure my cans were thoroughly chilled before trying this, and even popped a few ice cubes into the glass for good measure! When I first opened the can, I was pleasantly surprised to notice that unlike some sugar free drinks, this variety of Dr Pepper did not smell very different to its full-sugar counterpart. Some "diet" soft drinks have an almost chemical smell to me, which can be a little bit off-putting, but I honestly don't think I would've realised this was a diet version of a drink if someone had served it to me in a glass and not mentioned it. The colour of the drink (more or less the same as a cola, a kind of caramel brown), also looked the same to me as a regular Dr Pepper.
This theme of "I can't believe its not sugared"(!) continued when I tasted the drink. For those that haven't tried Dr Pepper before, it is quite a tricky flavour to describe; a pleasant mix of fruit and something almost like caramel. My dad says that it tastes like "sasparilla from the soda fountain used to", but having never tried sasparilla I am not entirely sure how right he is about this! I was almost astounded to find that to me at least, there was very little difference in taste between this drink and a "normal" Dr Pepper; perhaps this tasted a little bit "lighter" as if I had let an ice cube or two melt in my glass of regular drink before drinking it, but it was not in any way watery or disappointing.
I found there was just the right amount of "fizz" for me, enough to make your tongue tingle but not so many bubbles that they irritate the back of your throat and induce a coughing fit! Being canned, I didn't really have to worry about the drink going flat during storage. This was the main reason I chose to purchase the can format rather than a large bottle; as I only drink fizzy drinks occasionally, I tend to find a big bottle will go flat before I finish it and I end up wasting it, so whilst it is a cheaper option it is a bit of a false economy for me personally as I end up throwing the flat half of a big bottle away! The cans have a shelf life of approximately 7 months, so even an occasional pop drinker such as myself should be able to polish off 6 cans in that time!
As I mentioned, one of the main factors for me when purchasing this was its claim to be sugar free and hence low calorie. I can't say that I inspected the label in the shop other than to note the "zero" branding, but did have a gander whilst I was drinking my can (chilled from the fridge), and noted that one 330ml can contains 1.5Kcalories, alongside 0 sugar, fat and salt. Whilst I am not for a minute going to suggest that this means it is a healthy drink, it did make me feel a little better about choosing pop than I would've had I been drinking the "regular" version.
Overall I was very pleasantly surprised by this product. It has none of the chemical taste or smell which I had previously come to associate with "light" or "diet" versions of soft drinks, totally delivered on flavour and fizz, and was a lovely small treat for myself. I would definitely recommend it to others as a choice of pop, and will almost definitely be purchasing this again. I will admit it is a bit on the pricey side compared to some shop brand fizzy drinks, but having said that I honestly think it is worth every penny as it delivers on everything I might want from a fizzy drink!
I bought these on a recent supermarket expedition, mainly because my usual crisps were out of stock, and these were on offer for £1 for 6x 31.8g (who comes up with these amounts?!) bags.
I do have a bit of a naughty crisps in the evening habit, and thought at that price they would be worth giving a try. I saw them in Tescos and there they were available either in bags of 6x Jacket Potato with Creamy Butter, or a mixed bag of 2 each of Jacket Potato & Creamy Butter, Jacket Potato with Mediterranean Tomato & Herbs, and Jacket Potato with Caramelised Onion. I purchased one of each of the 6 bag options available.
The main selling point that Seabrook seem to be trying to push with this new range is that it has 90% less salt than their original "core range" of flavours, yet they claim the crisps still have "all the taste". I must admit I was a little bit sceptical about this claim, as I always thought a lot of the flavour of crisps came from the salt on them, but I was willing to give these a try, especially when I saw that Seabrook have a logo on the pack stating that they are supporting Breast Cancer Care (although once I read the small print on this later I was a bit less impressed...!)
The first flavour I opted to try from the range I had bought was the Jacket Potato with Creamy Butter flavour. In all honesty, I wasn't really expecting the crisps to taste that much like the description, as I often find they don't, but I was very pleasantly surprised on putting the first crisp into my mouth that they did taste EXACTLY like an oven cooked jacket potato with butter on. I proceeded to munch my way through the pack, but when I got about halfway through it I could taste a very odd, slightly sweet aftertaste, which seemed to be building up in my mouth as I ate more of the crisps. The only way I can describe it is that it was a little bit like eating an artificial sweetener like canderel alongside my jacket potato with butter! I tried having a drink to "wash" the aftertaste away, but it carried on building up to the point that I actually started to feel quite nauseous and ended up giving the last 1/4 pack of the crisps to the dog! (He seemed quite happy with them, and made no comment about an aftertaste...!)
The nauseous feeling persisted for quite some time after I had stopped eating the crisps, at least an hour or so, and it was this I think which has totally put me off trying any of the other flavours I have bought or eating more of the same variety. On the plus side, they may have cured my unhealthy crisps fixation as I haven't actually been able to bring myself to eat any crisps since eating these...!
So, whilst overall this product sounds like a good idea, a healthier choice of crisp, from my personal experience I have to say they are unfortunately just unpleasant to eat, and I would definitely not recommend them or purchase them again.
These ready meals are a new range recently launched by Uncle Ben's. I am not a huge eater of ready meals really, but I do have a bit of a bad tendency to be a late night snacker, and on a recent shopping trip, when I saw these offered in Tesco for an introductory price of £1 per pot, I thought I would give them a try :)
The varieties on offer in my local Tesco were the Mexican Chilli and Spicy Tikka Masala flavours, so I purchased one of each of these alongside a couple of the new Dolmio ready meals in a very similar format, mainly out of curiosity!
The first thing I noticed when I picked these up from the shelf was that the rice didn't look like rice I am accustomed to seeing in ready meals; unlike the old "pot rice" type snacks, the rice in these is not dried, and just looks like freshly cooked rice. I did have a quick look at the "best before" date on the packs, as I thought that the fact the rice wasn't dehydrated may have meant that these products have a short shelf life, but was surprised to see that both of them had best before dates in June of next year, giving each pot a very healthy 10 month or so storage period.
The meals come in two plastic tubs; a short one of "sauce" and a larger one of rice, held together by a cardboard band with all the relevant information on it. Between them the pots hold 300g of product, and contain about 300-400 calories, depending on the variety. To prepare the product, you simply remove the cardboard sleeve by means of a pull strip, peel back the plastic lids of the tubs about 1/4 of the way, place both tubs into the microwave together and cook on full power for 90 seconds (based on an 800 watt microwave). The tubs were very sturdy and easy to manipulate, especially as the larger tub has a "ridge" which makes it easy to grip. There is a warning on the pack that the tubs become very hot when microwaved, and this should be noted!
When I first took the tubs out of the microwave, I was a bit sceptical that the pot of sauce would fit into the larger pot in order to be mixed with the rice, but so long as you are a little bit careful and opt for a "dip and scoop" mixing action rather than a manic stir, it is possible to mix the two together without any spillages! Because of the ridge at the top of the large pot, it is possible to hold onto the pot and move it to take to eat without it being too hot, even when only allowed "mixing time" after exiting the microwave.
I would definitely recommend a spoon rather than a fork to eat these with, as although there is a good amount of sauce, I don't think the sauce sticks the rice together enough to make eating it with a fork less than fiddly! I was pleasantly surprised by the rice; it doesn't clump together too much and tastes lovely, just like well cooked fresh rice.
The sauces themselves were more of a "thick gravy with bits in" texture than a thick sauce, but this did help with mixing the two elements together. The one thing I was a little bit disappointed with with both of the varieties I tried was the lack of "chunky bits" in the sauce; this meant that for most of the pot I was tasting exactly the same thing over and over, apart from the one time I struck lucky with a fairly big bit of tomato in the Mexican Chilli variety...although in fairness the Mexican Chilli does have a fair few kidney beans in it, which I found made for a nicer "eating experience" than the Tikka flavour, just because runny sauce and rice tends to have the consistency of baby food after a few mouthfuls!
The flavour of both sauces was good, although in all honesty I did find them on the spicy side; I am the sort of person who throws jalapeno peppers at just about anything, but even I found these sauces to be on the spicy side. I definitely would describe them as medium to hot on the spice front, not for those who prefer a milder curry or a half-hearted chilli!
The food stayed piping hot right to the bottom of the tub, and overall I would say I was satisfied with this product, although because of the lack of "chunky bits" and definite "hot side" spicyness of the pots, I am not sure I would want to pay the full RRP for them, but given the long shelf life I may pick up a couple again should I see them on offer.
I have seen them advertised on TV as a "lunch alternative", and whilst they were reasonably filling for a snack, I would be hesitant to say they would "do" an average person for a lunch unless it was a very light lunch...I would definitely say that these are more of a snack or something to be eaten as PART of a lunch, rather than a standalone lunch product.
This spring, myself and the other half decided that we would like to start hiking again. I say again, as whilst I used to hike a fair bit back in my late teens/early twenties, in all honesty it had been almost a decade since I had done any "proper" hiking! As I knew my fitness wasn't at a fantastic level, I felt that the appropriate gear might just give me a little bit of extra help in climbing mountains and the like, so we went into town to try to find some appropriate base layer type clothing.
I am not really a follower of labels at all, so when I went into our local branch of Sports Direct it was with the idea of finding "technical" gear that had all the properties I was looking for, such as comfort and the all important breathability factor, at a price I found acceptable, rather than with any particular brand in mind. I must confess to knowing very little about sports labels (to the eternal horror of some of my label loving friends I can't correctly identify more than about 2 of them from their logos!), but not wishing to draw undue attention to myself struggling through the countryside in my unfit state was simply looking for something that was fairly plain and basic looking, which would do the job I wanted it to do.
I have the black version of this top, as in the Dooyoo picture. In all honesty I would have preferred this top to have been completely plain black, without the prominent Nike "tick" blazoned across my chest, but I chose it based on other things and that is a small niggle really, and, I am sure, the reason some people would buy it! It is also available in a "cherry/white" option (which looks like shocking pink to me with a white logo, but I am not really a fan of pink anyway!), and a "Spark Pink" option, which again is erm, bright pink but this time with a pink logo. It comes in sizes XS-XL (8-16 UK), although I found that whilst I am usually a size 16 in tops, a L (supposedly a 14) was actually a better fit for me, so it may be worth trying this top on before just purchasing your "usual" size. I paid £16.99 for it in my local Sports Direct, but have since seen it on their website for £15, although obviously there is a delivery charge on top of this if you order it online.
The first thing that attracted me to this top in the shop was its colour. Mine is a classic matt black...nothing in the slightest bit attention grabbing or offensive about that, unlike some of the day-glo offerings on the rails! I also liked the shape of the top; I have a roundy face and a fairly roundy body to go with it, so the V-neckline and short sleeves (to hide the bingo wings!), along with the matt rather than shiny finish on the material, were a definite bonus in my eyes! Having said that, it wasn't really the look of the top that sold it to me, as there were a few other cheaper options in the shop that were really quite similar to this in appearance, but the feel of it.
Somehow it manages to feel slightly silky, almost like peach skin. I am not sure whether this is due to the fabric content alone (88% polyester, 12% elastane), or to do with the "dri-fit" technology that Nike have used to make the top breathable, but it feels really lovely against the skin. We wear a lot of black in our house, but I can still easily locate this top in a washing basket full of black clothing by the feel of it alone! It really isn't anything like any other top I own, and I would consider buying more of them just to wear as everyday T-shirts because it is so comfortable to wear. It has a great amount of stretch to it so moulds nicely to the body to keep heat in, while the fabric, alongside "airholes" in a decorative pattern down the back of the top, helps with cooling when that is needed too!
Something else I love about this top is how easy it is to care for. I have had it for about 4 months or so now and have worn and washed it numerous times on a 40C wash (it recommends on the label that you wash this top at 30C, but unfortunately my very antiquated washing machine doesn't have a setting lower than 40C so I just chanced it!), and line-dried (as with many products made of man-made fibres this top is not suitable to be tumble dried for fear of shrinking!), and there are no signs whatsoever of the fabric wearing thin anywhere, or the dreaded "bobbles" or anything untoward at all. I think it still looks just as good as the day I bought it. I was actually quite surprised to find that even the "rubbery" white tick on the front has yet to show any damage/peeling, as I have found with some clothing in the past that areas such as this can be prone to such things! The label also advises that you do not allow the top to "lay on itself when wet", but in all honesty I have never managed to decipher what Nike meant by that so it is another thing I have ignored on the care instructions! xD
Overall this is a fantastic technical garment that provides all of the attributes you could wish for in a decent base layer for exercising of many kinds. It moves with the body so would be equally good for zumba/yoga as for hiking or biking. I would definitely recommend it, and if it weren't for the huge white Nike logo on the front may well have treated myself to a couple more of these by now!