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I am starting on a mission to review all of my new household items that I purchased to move in to my new home back in the summer. The next on my list is my beautiful Candy GOFS272 7Kg 1200 Spin Slim Depth Washing Machine. I say beautiful because despite owning my own home before, I have never owned my own brand spanking new washing machine; I've always had second hand. So this is a big novelty and on the first night we washed a load in the washing machine, I'm not ashamed to say we watched it for a while! Originally, when we were looking around we were checking out Comet, Currys, Argos, Tesco, Asda, etc and Google Shopping and we couldn't find anything within our budget (£200) with a high load capacity and spin of at least 1200. Then we came across the Co-Operative's selection of household appliances and the Candy model was on special (and still is) at £229.99 reduced from £279.99. It was a little over our budget, but there weren't any comparable models out there and it was free delivery - so we just splashed out!
A quick note then to say that the Co-Op does offer some add on products. Fortunately, we know a plumber and didn't have an appliance to take away because it's a new home. However, should you need that, it's £19.99 for the 'Connection of your new Washing Machine' and £9.99 for 'Recycling and Removal of your old disconnected appliance'. I personally can't comment on either of these services as I didn't use them. There's optional additional warranty available too, but as I have a more cost effective appliance insurance plan, I opted not to take it, plus you get a 1 year manufacturer's warrantee with it and a 5 year parts guarantee (which you must activate with Candy directly over the phone), the contact details for which are usefully stuck on the front of the machine! As mentioned, it's free, rapid delivery which means it will be delivered to you by the next working day. Pretty cool for free!
The machine measures a standard 85cm x 60cm, but is only 40cm deep which is half the depth of a standard sized washing machine, which is good if you're stuck for space and need to stick it in a tiny basement, utility room or at the end of your counter top. It's white in colour and the Candy logo is in shiny silver colouring, which looks quite retro and reminds me of the old Manchester United strip! It has an Electronic Display, a simple to use program selector dial with 9 programs from 90C Cotton (for Towels, Sheets, etc) to a 33 minute, low temperature, 800 Spin quick wash; an absolute life saver for me because my stuff might just smell 'worn' but isn't particularly dirty so doesn't need the full wash.
There is a timed delay start button and a spin speed selector, too. I tend to use the automatic spin speed selection for the program I've chosen rather than defining it myself. There's a half load option, which uses less water and energy if you only need to wash a few bits. With there only being two of us in the house this is really great in case we only have a few bits and pieces to go through the cycle. The wash performance of the machine is A which is only one down from top marks (A+ to G scale). I can vouch for that, even on cool washes with value laundry detergent it cleans very effectively - we've been using Asda own non-bio gel which costs £3 for 21 wash loads and we've been getting 25-28 loads per bottle and our laundry smells gorgeous and is nice and clean! The machine is a cold water fill only.
Very importantly the washing machine is quite quiet - we spend a lot of time in our kitchen and our family life revolves around the kitchen (our 'hub'), gossiping about our day at work, cooking together, enjoying a cuppa; there's nothing worse than getting to a juicy part of the conversation and the washing machine spin kicking off and not being able to hear anyone for 15 minutes. With the Candy we don't have that problem and I can actually hear myself think!
To clean it, we simply use a damp cloth and a little anti-bacterial spray. With such a small drum it's easy to reach the back and also the rubber door seal is accessible to get in between the gaps and make sure there's no nasties living in there! Everything else is simply wipe clean and the drawer is easily removed for an intense clean although using gel rather than powder makes that job a little less frequent for us.
Nowadays, washing machines come with all sorts of measures, one of which I just mentioned, and these measures work on a scale running from A+ to G. The Candy machine is A+ for energy efficiency, which is top marks and means that it is the most economical kind of washing machine you can get and consequently, will keep energy bills as low as they can be while you wash. With a wash performance of A, I think that's pretty cool! The spin performance runs on the same scale, but this time, A+ means that the most water is extracted and a grade of G means the least. The Candy comes in at a rating of B, which isn't the best - but it only has a spin speed of 1200RPM. When clothes come out, they do take slightly longer to dry than say a 1600 spin machine, but the energy consumption and high washing performance are good compromises; particularly given it's huge 7kg load!
A final note on the eco stuff, the washing machine consumes 45 litres of water per full cottons wash load. The less water consumed the better and according to 'Which?' the average consumption for a washing machine is 10l per kg of cottons. So at a full load, the Candy can wash 7kg, which, if it was an 'average' machine would consumer 70 litres (10l per kg) but in actual fact it uses around 45 litres per full load. This is an important consideration for those who may be thinking about having a water meter fitted - this washing machine would help to keep costs low! In the 'Which?' test, the most efficient models used 33l per kg, so this model is very close at 45l, added to the electricity consumption and spin efficiency, washing performance and all of the other measures, I recommend the machine as a eco-friendly model.
We've been using the washing machine for a while now and are really happy with it. I would really recommend it at the full price it represents great value for money. If you can get it on offer (which is still active) then that's even better. You can use the extra money to stock up on laundry detergent and softener!
Finally after three and a half years of living back with my parents after a relationship breakdown and selling my house, I moved out in to my own place back in August. A very exciting and momentous occasion indeed; one for which, you'd think I'd have prepared for during those three and a half years. However, I hadn't and when we found our new place, we didn't have much more than the TV from my bedroom and a rather large stash of candles...
My partner's Mum offered to buy us something for the new place and suggested a Microwave. We had a built in oven so I didn't really see this as a necessity over, say knives and forks, but you don't look a gift horse in the mouth. My partner went with her to Asda and they returned with the Russell Hobbs RHM1707B Microwave in Piano Black. It cost £30 in a one off sale at the store (it is now £49.96) and was actually cheaper than their own brand model. It was quite heavy in the box, maybe I am a bit of a weakling, but I had to get some help to carry it in from the car and lift it out of the box on to the worktop. It's not particularly large either - just standard microwave sized (Ok, you got me, I'm more Olive Oil than Popeye!).
Our kitchen is steel blue, black and white, so the microwave looks excellent - we have stainless steel and black accessories. It's shiny and sleek and really does look like 'piano' black - looks wise, I was very satisfied. The microwave has two dials rather than digital controls, so it's a case of setting the mode dial first - high, medium high, medium, low or defrost - then setting the time, from 0-30 minutes. Couldn't be simpler! Plus, the dials are reasonably easy to grip and read, so perfect for older people or those with arthritis in their hands. Inside the microwave, there's the usual turning plate - it's frosted glass so it's easy to grip and it it's also easy to remove for cleaning in case of spillages, etc. It's ready to go straight from the box, with a fitted, fused 3 pin plug and instructions for usage, including some recommendations on cooking times.
One comment I must make here is that the microwave is actually difficult to keep clean on the outside (not the inside, the instruction booklet even contains handy cleaning hints). Because of the shiny surface, every single finger print shows up and I can't seem to get it cleaned back to its original state - any tips would be very much appreciated! That said, the rest of the microwave is very simple to keep clean and it even has four little feet underneath it so that you can sweep out any crumbs or dirt from under it, without having to lift it up.
The microwave is 700W, which is ok, I got quite a shock the first time I used it as we had a 900W at my parents' house, so things take a little bit longer. However, that's fine, just means I've had to re-educate myself on my microwave cooking times... I've been using it for over a month now and it has been fantastic, I really rate it and am totally used the timings now, in fact, just this morning I made a lovely spinach and chilli omelette in it for my breakfast in just 1m 30s, yum! Overall, for the price, simplicity, performance and look, I would definitely recommend this microwave, even at the full price of £49.96 - but if you can get it on sale (like us, or bought for you!) then even better. It's a lovely looking product and would complement any kitchen where black is a key part of the colour scheme!
I got an Advent Laptop when I was 24 for my birthday off my super generous Step Dad. I had it for 4 years when at Christmas this year it overheated, switched off and left a lingering smell like an exploded hairdryer (you know that smell, right?). I had insurance through PC World and when I took it in to see them, they advised me that I had a free back up service as part of my package and if I brought in an external memory device, they could back up all of my information - which included about 3000 photos, so I thought about it for half a second, then went and bought the cheapest external hard drive they had for sale. They actually even gave me £10 off, so I paid just £55 (it's now only £50 full price!) for the Western Digital Elements SE Portable WDBPCK5000ABK 500 GB External Portable Hard Drive. They backed up my data and ultimately replaced my laptop with a newer model as mine was quite old, so all in all, thumbs up to PC World - but back to the review in hand!
My (now not so new) hard drive looks smart - it's black matte on the top and bottom and glossy black around the edges, it's a relatively small size, 11cm x 8cm and just under 2cm deep. It's got smart rounded corners and is lightweight - at just 0.2kg; it's perfect to carry around making it super portable. There are some really nice protective cases you can buy from PC World for just £4.99 too, though I am sure that you can pick them up cheaper online now. For a non gadget orientated person this is completely sufficient for me - though I have seen much smarter looking hard drives with price tags to match. That said; I have also seen some where they need wall plug power to work and are the size of a DVD player! It's robust and has shock absorbing technology which means you can take it wherever you go without worrying too much about your precious data being lost; perfect peace of mind!
Have you heard of a terabyte (TB)? Well I hadn't, but its 1,000 gigabytes (GB) for those who are as technically ignorant as me - for those who don't know a gigabyte or what the heck I am talking about, it's measures of data storage and transfer - just like ounces and pounds, grams and kilograms. So this hard drive is 'half a terabyte' in size, or 500GB. This is roughly enough for any 'average PC user' who wants to store documents, movies, games and photographs or who wants to copy and take back ups of a regular laptop or desktop. Currently I have a few thousand photographs, 3 years worth of University work (including PDF learning material as it was Distance Learning), hundreds of draft blog posts, downloaded recipes, e-books and about 100 albums and I've only used less than 10% of the drives capacity. Essentially, the cost per gigabyte of storage is just 10p. For online cloud storage you can't get even get that sort of deal!
The Western Digital Elements SE Portable WDBPCK5000ABK 500 GB External Portable Hard Drive has USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 meaning high speed data transfer, at up to 5 gigabytes per second. I have pictures taken with my DSLR camera which are very fine and large in size and they take fractions of a second to transfer to the hard drive, so it's quick. If you don't have a USB 3.0 port on your PC then you can enjoy reasonably fast speeds of 480 megabytes per second, which doubles the transfer time compared to USB 3.0 but again would be sufficient for an average user.
Overall this external hard drive is excellent value for money - a lot of storage for not a lot of coin. The transfer speeds are fast; it's reliable, robust and looks good plus it is super portable so you can take it anywhere without lugging power cables, etc around with you. I've had this for 9 months now and I use it very regularly, I rate it excellent for an average PC user and I would certainly recommend it!
It is available online and in PC World stores.
In 2002 when I started University I was comfortably a size 12. I didn't feel self conscious really, despite having quite big legs I had a toned, flat tummy and slender arms. When I quit University a year later after partying and blowing my money I had crept up to a size 14. I was still squashing myself in to my size 12 stuff (denial phase) and in 2003 I started a job in an office where the canteen had the best fry up going - at only a £1 for the full works I was having one every couple of days. Money was tight and at home we'd just eat whatever was on offer at the Supermarket, so things like family bags of Chicken Nuggets, Oven Chips, Pasta, Sausages, etc plus anything our parents put in the little food hampers they made for us whilst we were starting out.
One morning I was getting ready and my jeans wouldn't fasten. I remember because they were Diesel and had cost me £100 the summer before I started at University. I was shocked and pulled out another pair, this time from Oasis, and they wouldn't fasten either. I just started crying, the realisation that I'd grown in to a size 14/16 hit me hard and I rang my Mam in tears; she told me that she would buy me a couple of new bits and pieces of clothing, provided I joined Weight Watchers and did something about my spiralling eating habits.
That was the very beginning of 2004 and I had a holiday coming up in the July and I was also set to be a Bridesmaid for my Dad a few days before jetting off to Zakynthos - when we were measured for our Bridesmaid dresses I had to get an 18, my sister got an 8. I joined Weight Watchers and my Mam came along with me for moral support. She'd almost reached goal in the late 80s after having my sister and she raved about how great it was. We both lost weight, I lost 17lb which took me back down to a 'real' size 14 and I went off on my holiday. For a fortnight, we ate out 3 meals a day (an all you can eat buffet every single morning and evening) and drank so many cocktails that I had a permanent hangover; when I got back to Weight Watchers after the holiday I had unsurprisingly put on 12lb out of the 17lb I'd lost. I kept on going to classes, but then I missed a couple or didn't stay for the meeting, then I would put on ½ lb, lose a ½ lb and then eventually, I decided to give it up.
Following on from that, I ballooned, I since joined Weight Watchers 5 other times, which including my first, is 6 different classes - there was always an excuse, the time of the class was an issue, I didn't like the leader, I hated the class 'cliques', etc. In between times I had tried Cabbage Soup, Atkins, South Beach, Dukan, Blood Group, Maple Syrup, Celebrity Slim, Slim-Fast and many, many other faddy diets. Then, in 2011 two things happened; I quit smoking with the assistance of Nicorette which I'd tried a bunch of times before - but this time it worked, and, I had to buy a pair of size 20 jeans. As a result of the 20 jeans I decided that 2012 would be the year I lost weight and I'd give Weight Watchers its 7th chance, now that I finally felt I capable of mustering the appropriate amount of willpower to support it, as I had done with quitting smoking.
I didn't let go entirely over Christmas, but I did have plenty of festive goodies when I went back to work I felt the pinch in my previously comfortable work clothes. I told my Sister I was thinking of joining and she said she would come along too, partly for moral support, partly to lose 2 stone of baby weight before her holidays. We chose a meeting we could both get to by going on the Weight Watchers website and searching by our postcode and the days we could make it. It was quite simple to find a meeting and once we set a date for the Friday evening at 5.15pm at the pub literally over the road from my work, I put it to the back of my mind.
I have got to say, joining up and going along to your first meeting is one of the biggest steps. I like to think of it as a club for addicts (OA - Obese Anonymous?); admitting you have a problem is the first and biggest step - the next is walking through the door into your first meeting. You don't know what to expect (unless you've haphazardly joined a previous 6 times...) and you feel embarrassed, nervous, like everyone will look at you, etc. It's like a first day at school, or at a new job - particularly when you are already self conscious about yourself. It's at this point you'll usually be surprised because there are women AND MEN, of ALL shapes, sizes, heights and weights. I felt instantly at ease when I was welcomed to the class by the leader and her manager (it was a brand new class, just setting up for the first meeting). Plus, I kind of had that 'I am the big sister; I'll lead the way' thing going on, looking after my little sis. Anyway, we joined up, filling out a really simple form, then we took off our shoes and stepped on the scales.
My first weigh in was probably key to my success so far. I was horrified by the weight I saw, they weighed at least 6lb more than my scales at home and like my leader told me, the scales at Weight Watchers costs thousands of pounds and get calibrated regularly. I'd been kidding myself, I was at least 3 stone heavier than I was in 2002; 10 years of yo-yo dieting had really taken their toll. My new leader worked out my daily pro-points allowance along with my 5% and 10% goals for me, then off I went to have a look at the 'shop'. The shop happens after weigh in usually and is a big stall filled with things to help your weight loss including foods, recipe books, the Weight Watchers magazine and tools like the calculator. Everything at the meetings is exclusive to the meetings and although it can be bought on eBay, you don't get the guarantee that you do with the shop. I bought myself a 'Starter Pack' which contained a shopping guide (a book filled with the pro-points values for all of the major supermarkets, along with basic food like fish, meat and vegetables), an eating out guide (pro-points for all major restaurants and styles of cuisine) and a journal. It cost £9.95 - roughly the equivalent of 33p a day over a month and it was my best investment yet.
When you initially go to the meeting you might think it feels like one big selling scam. You may have to pay to join, then there's usually a cash raffle (normally £1 a ticket and the winner gets all of the money to spend on goodies from the shop), the shop and then a clerk at the end telling you to join up for the monthly pass. Here's my recommendation: look for coupons for a free first meeting and registration - you can get these in the papers, on line at the Weight Watchers website, or if you know a friend who already goes, get them to recommend you. Buy the raffle ticket; I've won about £30 of shop stuff with those tickets and I have only been going 17 weeks (£1 per week x 17 = £17 speculated to accumulate £30 = £13 profit, ha!). Don't spend too much on the shop, lots of the foods Weight Watchers do are fabulous for lazy people, I prefer to hunt down the supermarket equivalent and save some money, or make up my own recipes. But there's some of the food which is ok, particularly the chocolate bars, yum! Finally, invest in the monthly pass. It's cheaper than paying as you go (£19.95 every 4 weeks rather than £5.99 a class = £4.01 cheaper), you get online access to e-source too and access to the app on your phone (iPhone) AND if that's not enough, it gives you mass amounts of motivation to go to every class and stay for the full meeting which is imperative if you want to succeed.
I also recommend getting the deluxe starter pack. It's £19.95 which may seem like a hoard of money, but trust me, when you get on the scales every week and see a change you'll be happy you did invest it. Plus in addition to what I got in my starter kit it has a calculator to work out pro-points for everything that isn't included in one of the books.
Of course, when you join you get enough information free to get you started including some suggested food plans and a pro-point guide, but seriously, when you compare different brands of foods the pro-points values differ greatly.
The meeting is split in to two parts, the weighing in and the 'class' or 'meeting'. People who stay for the class are, on average, 50% more successful than those who don't. Usually, the leader will ask if anyone has had a particularly good week and wants to share. You do not have to share your weight loss / gain and this is one key difference to some other slimming clubs. There's no naming and shaming, but I generally do share when I've had a good OR bad week as it helps me to understand maybe where I've gone wrong, or what other people are doing which could help me. Some people choose not to speak and that's ok too. Then, there is a focused talk on 'tracking' or 'weighing' or 'exercising', etc. Members get to share their stories too which is fun, particularly when it's about mistakes they've made guessing portion sizes or pro-points values. I've made quite a few friends at Weight Watchers, in fact a couple of girls who've given up are still in touch regularly by phone which is really nice and they still support me.
This is one method of Weight loss that works, is sustainable and really does give results. Basically, it centres on a structure called 'Pro-Points', which I have mentioned a couple of times. Each food has a pro-points value and you have a pro-points allowance which you can use on food items. For instance, the minimum amount of pro-points per day is currently 26 and a rasher of bacon is 1 pro-point. Depending on the fat, protein, carbohydrate and fibre content every item of food (and drink) has a value. As well as daily pro-points you also can eat as much fruit and vegetables as you need to make you full and you get 49 weekly pro-points which can be used for treats or split between the 7 days to bump up your daily pro-points. But seriously, the daily allowances are generous enough that you can afford to use your weeklies purely for treats. A bottle of wine is 18 pro-points and a Mushroom Chow Mein is 6 pro-points for instance. You can also 'earn' pro-points by doing activities which can be as simple as walking the dog, or running up and down the stairs.
The key to following the system is to 'track' and there are various methods. You can track on an iPhone app (there's no app for Blackberry, Android, Nokia users), you can track online via e-source or you can track using good old fashioned pen and paper. I chose the latter from the beginning so that if I lost my way I would have a permanent record of what I did to succeed. I like the look and feel of the Journal I got in my starter pack and am now on my second (they last 12 weeks and cost £4.50). I like to write my feelings down and de-brief each week summing up what went well and what didn't. I have also tracked my measurements as some people tend to lose inches (particularly those who exercise alongside their weight loss journey) instead of, or as well as, pounds.
When I started I was nervous. I got home and I read everything, every page of every book and my first 'goal' was just to learn some pro-points values. I knew that when I had done Weight Watchers in the past I'd lost between 5 and 7lb in my first week, so my second goal was to have a big weight loss. My third goal was to track religiously and I did, measuring everything out and my Sister and I text each other every day to support each other and to come up with ideas for meals and lunches. We were asked by our leader to help out with the class, running the shop and performing administrative duties, welcoming new starters and helping weigh if necessary. When my first week was done we got weighed. My sister lost 5.5lb, I was so happy for her; then I got on and only lost 2lb and I was absolutely gutted. Really expected something more and I was disappointed. We got on learning what we needed to do with the shop and stuff and then we settled down for the class. Our leader got out some big blocks of lard wrapped in cling film and asked if anyone wanted to share how well / not well they'd done that week. I said I was gutted I'd only lost 2lb. So she handed me a big block of lard and I just rolled my eyes (inside, not outwardly!) and then she told me that was half a pound, she kept on adding blocks of lard and when she got to 2lb I was horrified, it was such a large amount. It made me really think about what the fat looked like on my body and how I was going to do anything to lose it.
The next week I went and I lost another pound, then slowly but surely I got to my 'silver seven', it wasn't easy. I don't really drink, I quit smoking, food is like my best friend, love and family all wrapped in to one. I cried loads to begin with, especially when I was hormonal or I didn't get the result I expected at the scales which if I thought hard enough about were always explainable (hormones, misjudged portions, wrong pro-points values, etc). But, I persevered. My next goal was '5%', which as the name suggests (!) is the point at which you've lost 5% of your total start weight. I got my 5% and I was elated, I'd never reached any sort of goal before doing Weight Watchers and something inside me just clicked, I knew this time was forever. I got to my 5% without lifting a finger physically. But then the weight loss seemed to slow slightly, though it was still moving in the right direction. I am such an exercise-phobe, but I ventured to the gym and got on the exercise bike, the only gym based exercise I really like. I went once a week to begin with and I soon hit my 10% goal. I then ramped up to two or three gym sessions a week (though I am not a religious gym bunny by any stretch of the imagination) and I have noticed that I now have a little muscle definition and shape in my previously flabby cottage cheese cankles (calves and ankles in one!). I then got my 'blue star' online which means I'd lost 25lb and I am now just 1lb away from having lost 2 stone. Though I am still 33lb away from goal, I can taste it, I know by the end of this year I will almost be there, if I haven't hit it by then!
My Top Tips:
- Small is Beautiful - make tiny goals, rather than disappointing yourself
- Preparation is Key - I actually have a list in my handbag of choices I can make in restaurants and even in sandwich counters which will not deviate from my pro-points plan
- Weigh to Weigh Less - Weigh all your foods which are not pre-weighed by virtue of packaging / portion size. Seriously, go weigh out 60g dried rice / pasta. That's 6 pro-points worth, I mean, really, I'd have triple that!
- Track your Journey - by this I mean both write EVERYTHING you eat down, even if it's a huge kebab which you don't know the value of. Just looking at it written down will make you realise why you put on weight in the first place. AND track your clothes size, your weight on a graph and pin it up, put your 'fat' pictures in your journal or folder and all of your fabulous progress
- Enlist support - explain to your partner how much they're damaging your self confidence by telling you they miss the old you, who'd share a take away or eat loads or drink loads. Tell them you need them to support you and if they love you, they will. Even if it takes them some time. When you stand in your size down jeans, smiling from ear to ear, walking on sunshine, they will realise how much they've contributed to your success. Trust me.
- DON'T QUIT - quitting gets you no where, except putting on a bit more weight, feeling a bit more miserable, looking for another quick fix solution (oh I forgot the TUC biscuit diet from my list...), stick with it, keep your chin up and get your leaders phone number for the times when you feel down. Don't be shy about ringing. That's what they are there for.
- Don't scrimp - you might think that it's expensive, that you can join and get the stuff and do it yourself, or worse, but it off eBay. You can, but you're taking a risk, depending on what type of person you are, if you need support and help and have failed in the past, you need to go to the classes and take everything you can from them.
Some of the worst things about Weight Watchers for me are:
- The fact the business cancelled the class I originally signed up to, I had to change classes and there was only one other class we could attend together
- The way in which you feel when you put on weight; no matter what your leader says about forgetting what's happened and moving on, it's nigh on impossible to do
- Feeling as though you're missing out on your very favourite food (look through the eating out guide at some burger chains, pizza restaurants, etc - urgh, 40+ pro-points!)
- Negative people, who say it doesn't work
- That exercise (in whatever form it takes) isn't necessary, but really pushes your body results down the right track
Some of the better things about Weight Watchers for me are:
- That my new Sunday morning class is fabulous, our leader is down to earth and inspiring and we've made a bunch more friends
- That I've almost completely learned that when the chips are down, I can look back through my journal and figure out what went wrong and how I can pull my weight loss back on track the next week
- Compromising - all of the time - I now make educated swaps, like Leggera Pizza at Pizza Express instead of large stuffed crust at Pizza Hut. I occasionally go wild and have something really naughty, but I work it off in the gym or I use my weekly pro-points plus some daily and some activity pro-points!
- Positive support networks. My Mam, Sister and Partner are now all following Weight Watchers and two of my friends from work are too. It's fabulous - we all have Weight Watcher friendly snacks in our drawers at work to share!
- That I've actually learned to love 'some' exercise. I have discovered that I don't just like cycling I love it, I want to do a cycling challenge at some point in the future and I LOVE Rollerskating, an hour and a half generates 17 pro-points for me, which equates to a Nando's Chicken Burger and fries. Yum! (actually, a couple of days ago in Nando's the girl on the next table to me had her Weight Watchers books out, with the menu, working out what she could / couldn't have. It stopped me feeling so daft when I got mine out!
By far the best thing though, is that I've dropped a dress size (maybe two). I comfortably fit in to a size 16 now and could probably do with a size 14 in a couple of things I've bought lately. I get loads of compliments at work and I feel a million dollars, even though I am no where near goal! I can't recommend it enough. You won't get quick results, this is not drop a dress size in a fortnight, or lost a stone in a day, but it is a sustainable, realistic option which eventually will become a way of eating well, for life, rather than constantly feeling like you are on a 'diet'.
Thank you for reading, I hope I've covered everything you'd like to know, but if you have any more questions, message me, or go online and drop Weight Watchers a line, they are really helpful and friendly.
In 2006 a new web site launched called Boohoo. I remember it well. I read about it in Company or Cosmo or Glamour and I thought it looked absolutely fabulous. Cheap, quality clothing, which sought to follow trends whilst remaining within a reasonable budget - this was in the days just before Primark became 'cool' (and over priced). I went on their site to find that they only went up to a size 14, which meant my shopping experience with Boohoo ended right there.
Over the following years the company really exploded into magazines, billboards, award ceremonies, etc picking up some prestigious silver (probably glass) ware. Over 2009 -2010 they launched innovative web features, like 360 product views, catwalk videos, etc. I seriously heard about them what seemed like non-stop from colleagues, friends and even family. Raving about how cheap they were. Only £6 for a skirt, or £5 for a dress, or £3 for a top... whatever, you get the picture! Anyway, my desk buddy at work told me they stocked size 16s and convinced me after Tweeting some pictures of herself wearing a new outfit from Boohoo; I just snapped - I had to try this site!
I carefully shopped around the site, I wanted a skater dress for my partner's cousin's 18 th birthday party, but because of my size I wanted knee length and elbow length. I found the site pretty easy to navigate my way about and I liked the punchy graphics, edgy font type faces and seriously cool dresses. I found a lovely plain black skater dress, knee length, I checked out the model's video and also the height of the model (very important when selecting a dress!!!), I then had a look at the sizes. It went up to a 16! And having lost a bit of weight, and after checking the size guide, 16 would fit me! As it was the party on the Saturday evening and it was Wednesday evening when I ordered I paid £5.99 (instead of the standard £3.99) for Next Day courier delivery, which would arrive on the Friday, giving me plenty of time to try the dress on, and shop for an alternative if it didn't fit me.
I paid via Paypal as I didn't have my debit card with me when I ordered, but knew my Paypal log in details to which my debit card is linked. Other usual methods of payments can be used such as Credit Card, Debit Card and of course, Paypal. The money left my account right away and I received an almost instant email to tell me that the dress had been dispatched - I was so excited. On the Thursday I got an email with a tracking number on for the courier company, but when I tried to track it there wasn't any record of the number - but I figured because it was next day delivery they hadn't even logged it on to their systems as it was going through the network so quickly.
The Friday came and went. The Saturday came and (saw me wearing an old horrible dress to the party) went. The Sunday, Monday and Tuesday came and went. Then on the Wednesday coincidentally after sending an email to the customer services at Boohoo, the dress arrived. Despite being really annoyed about the delay, I was so excited to try on the dress, already deciding I'd wear it for work instead (what can I say, I'm a girl who loves dresses - any excuse to buy one and I do!!!). I went to my bedroom and quickly tried it on. It fit lovely around my whole top half and it looked absolutely gorgeous. The material was quite thick and heavy; perfect for the mild weather we had back in January, and it had a little cute patent cinch waist belt which really set off the detail in the dress. The only problem was the hemline. It was absolutely awful. The dress was knee length but only at the edges, then the cut was like an upside down U shape, meaning at the bit that counts (my thighs and knees) it was really, really short.
I was so disappointed, as it had the potential to be a great dress, one that I could wear every day or really dress up for an evening out. Anyway, I decided to keep it, I am far too lazy to send things back unless they really don't fit, and I chose to keep it as something to aim toward wearing. In the meantime though, I wanted my £2 back that I'd paid extra for the Next Day delivery and didn't receive.
That's when the problems really started.
Boohoo doesn't have a customer services telephone number, so everything is done via email. I emailed them about the Next Day delivery fee in addition to the email I'd sent them asking where my dress was. I got an automatic acknowledgement email instantly, but no reply, so I gave it 3 working days and still heard nothing. I then remembered that I had paid using Paypal so I decided to open a dispute. Almost instantly I got a response to the dispute. The response said that they were sorry that I did not receive my order on time, they try to fulfil all orders within the quoted timescales but on this occasion were unable to do so, they apologised for any inconvenience caused. It then went on to state that unfortunately they were unable to resolve my issue whilst a Paypal dispute was open, they suggested that I close the dispute and then they would be able to offer me a refund for the postage and a partial refund for the item as a goodwill gesture.
I thought, fair enough, they clearly have a great reputation and so I closed the Paypal dispute despite the warnings from Paypal that they couldn't reopen the case once it had closed. I didn't receive a refund though from Boohoo. Instead I got an email off them telling me to close the Paypal dispute. When I advised them that I already had, they responded with the same email telling me to close it. I replied again (getting quite cross) and they replied again with the same damn email template telling me to close the dispute. I sent them a screen shot from Paypal to show them that I had - they sent me a fourth email telling me to close the Paypal dispute. I almost cried!
My next stop was sending them a 'threatening', complaining style email - I will take it further, I will seek advice from Trading Standards, blah, blah, all mouth no idea... But! They responded this time with a non-generic mail, telling me to double check that Paypal had closed the dispute and asking for my Debit Card details to which the Paypal account was linked. I stupidly sent them my details via email in a desperate attempt to put an end to it. They wrote back and said 'for security purposes' (please!) that they could only refund me via the same method with which I paid.
I remembered reading about Visa protection - so I called up my bank and they told me that because I'd used Paypal as an intermediary, they couldn't help me, their Fraud and Legal guys told me that Paypal had a legal right to help me. So I contacted Paypal. They told me that my choice to close the dispute waived my right to any support from them. I was literally at my wits end - this had become a matter of principle not about the £2 anymore! I then entered some kind of search in to Google like 'Boohoo customer service telephone number'. To say I was shocked by the results would be an understatement. Apparently I wasn't the only one. They were rated 1 star out of 5 on a consumer website for consumer confidence and trust. They were ranked lowest on another for online clothing stores. There were forums strewn all over the web about their poor customer service and shoddy policies (including, but not limited to, their lack of phone number).
And, they had essentially conned me into closing a Paypal dispute, knowing it would leave me completely at their mercy!
When I looked back on my impression of Boohoo at the beginning I realised that it was made up of all the good stuff, because that's all I'd heard. If I'd read the reviews and trust / service ratings, I'd probably never have ordered from them.
I eventually called Trading Standards (or Consumer Direct I think they are called), for the first time ever in my life! They advised me that due to the distance selling regulations I was entitled to a refund for the postage, because the regulations state that a person must receive an item ordered over the phone / via web (distance) within 30 days OR within the timescale specified where a service has been paid for. They also advised me that I was entitled to a full refund for the goods too, as they'd not been supplied on time. They told me to post a letter recorded delivery and give Boohoo 14 days to respond (then call them back if they hadn't).
Sure enough, mention of the act, the consumer advice body and the demand for a reply or further action worked - I got an email back from them. This time though I noticed it was written like a letter and sought to actually investigate my issue. They told me I would receive a refund via Paypal (a miracle, given the earlier problems) for the postage. They did tell me that they would not refund me for the dress unless I returned it and I didn't know if this was right or wrong, but to be honest I was just so fed up with it all I didn't really care anymore.
My experience with Boohoo left me with a very bitter taste in my mouth and had me think a lot about 'fast fashion'. I came to the conclusion that if I wanted over priced but fashionable clothing with a risk of weird sizing and cuts I'd go to Primark, if I wanted cheap, good quality fast fashion I'd 'splash out' and go to New Look, George at Asda or H&M. I would never, ever shop online now with a company who I hadn't checked with about their telephone number and customer services policy - I'd been well and truly burnt. However, although the company don't care about the customers who have a bad experience, that doesn't really matter while magazines are giving them awards for cheap fashionable clothing (they must spend their customer service budget on marketing and press releases). They don't have anything in their About Us section about Customers and I really have to agree with all of the scathing reviews I've read online. Mention of their name makes me shudder...
However, all that said, people I know have had great experiences with them, so if you are willing to take a gamble and aren't relying on anything to arrive for a particular occasion or event and aren't particularly bothered about quality measurements, lengths, cuts, etc; then the bottom line is that they offer fast fashion very cheaply and have won awards for such.
Boohoo can be found at www.boohoo.com. They have a Twitter account and Blog and even a TV channel (online) on which you can find out all about latest trends, styles and new items in stock.
Thanks for reading
I am a sucker for freebies and a sucker for all things beauty, so when you put the two together, voile a! I am in heaven! When I was sauntering about on the Money Saving Expert forums 'Freebies low spend Required' I came across a post for Latest In Beauty. It's a lovely little site where you get 3 decent sample sizes of beauty products to try each month and all it costs is a premium £1.50 text message. Not technically a freebie, but hey, I have to justify it somehow! Anyway, on their website are exclusive offers including money off the full sized versions of the samples you've tried. Every now and then, they offer large samples which are individually chargeable which give you a better idea of what a product would be like. For example, using a face wash once won't tell you really if you're going to like it. But using it for a fortnight might give you a clearer idea and if it's a luxury, expensive product - you must have wished you could try a mini (but not sample) sized version of the product?!
It was here that I discovered Mirenesse.
It cost me £4.95 for a tube of the Secret Weapon 24 hour Mascara. The tube is roughly a third of the full size tube which costs £20, so essentially I saved £2 on the RRP for the quantity I got. But, although I would happily pay a fiver to trial a new mascara, I would never just walk in to Boots or a department store and just splurge on a £20 mascara - it would just be totally inexcusable in my eyes (I deliberate for ages over spending that much on clothing / shoes, let alone make up!).
I awaited my delivery and as with all products I buy I opened the parcel and went straight to the mirror to try it out. It came in some gorgeous glossy packaging, which was kind of like the heavier pages of a glossy magazine (you know the adverts?). It was a small box and the instructions for use were printed on the packaging meaning there was no leaflet or unnecessary papers inside. The mascara is made from a water based formula - but it doesn't run. It's exclusive formula actually wraps the lashes in tubes of product, which effectively 'set'. It claims to be long wearing (24 hour!), smear, sweat, tear, smudge, sleep, flake AND water resistant. It is fragrance, mineral oil, petrolatum, alcohol and SLS (soap) free too, so it's perfect for contact lens wearers. Good job I am one then, so I can report on it...
To apply the mascara you will need to follow the instructions the first time as it's quite tricky. You also need to have (in my opinion) a eyelash brush too. You know like a lash separator? I use an old mascara wand which you can just soak for an hour in warm water and gently wash to remove the old mascara. So, you apply the mascara as you would normally, first to one eye, then to the other. Instantly / within max 30 seconds you need to apply a second coat. If you wait any longer to get back to the first eye for the second coat it will prove disastrous, your lashes will literally clump in to one - I know this because I ignored the instructions the first time I used it! To begin with, it was easier for me to do one eye, count to 20 then apply a second coat. THEN start on the other eye. The reason you need two coats is to build up the polymers which enrobe the lashes to form the mascara 'tubes'. Until you're an expert, even if you do one eye at a time and get the hang of it first, when doing both eyes initially you will need to use the mascara brush to brush through the lashes and separate them.
When you are done, look in the mirror. Think about the times you've messed on with false eyelashes and glue. Realise that this is the last time you are ever going to need them! Because if you get the hang of applying Mirenesse Secret Weapon 24 Hour Mascara you'll never need them again! Honestly, I have stumpy eyelashes which look ok with normal mascara, they look lovely with lengthening mascaras. They look amazing with the Mirenesse Mascara. I loved it from the first (second, but first proper, following the instructions...) use! Plus, the best part is that my trial size product has lasted me almost a year now, without drying up, because I only use it for weekends out.
The best part is removing it! It's just so wonderful to watch what happens. You take a facecloth or muslin square and run a sink full of warm water. Soak your cloth in there and then press it against your eye, essentially you're trying to loosen the product in the warm water. Next you simply 'prise' off the mascara tubes - to be truthful it looks like your eyelashes are falling out because the tubes are still intact and literally pull off. It's not your eyelashes though, it is just the tubes. Afterwards, you won't believe that you do not have little mascara particles left, none wipes in to your eyes like it does when you use make up remover or wipes and you do not get panda eyes. It is so kind to your eyes that you don't even feel like you've worn make up and is therefore perfect for contact lens wearers like me!
The product lasted a full day without budging, I never sleep in make up but a girl's gotta test these things out, so I slept in the stuff. I woke up and my top and bottom lashes were a little stuck together but a little rub and they were fine a couple of tubes rolled off, but there wasn't any mascara on my pillow and although the rest of me wasn't, my eyes literally could have done another day (if you didn't look TOO close!).
When the product runs out I will definitely hot foot it over to the Mirenesse site and order the full size product - an investment in beautiful lashes - just think, false lashes cost around £4 a set, more for luxe brands. This is just 5 pairs of falsies, worth every penny to me to avoid the glue, hassle and absolute obviousness of stick ons! Thanks for reading!
If you read my review on Revlon Top Speed Nail Colour you will know that I got suckered in to another offer in Boots. This time, I went in for moisturiser and I got a booklet of coupons, one of which was for £3 off Revlon products. I wanted a nail varnish and when I went to the Revlon cabinet they had an in store offer for two products for £10 on top of which I could use the £3 off voucher. I chose my nail varnish and then the main promoted product caught my eye; the Revlon Lip Stain and Balm.
I have really pale skin which burns easily in the skin, almost like a redhead, except I am not a redhead, I am just a normal mousey brown. I like to wear either a nude lip and smoky eyes, or bare eyes (just mascara and natural shadows) and a dark plum or pillar box red lip. Anything else doesn't really seem to suit me, so I stick with the same sorts of things. I had a look at the Lip Stain and Balm shades and I selected Forbidden, which is a reddish plum colour - perfect for me and my taste in lip colours!
The product is basically a double ended stick. It's quite innovative. Although I have tried double ended stain and gloss lip products with those wand type applicators, I've never seen anything like this. It's basically a 'pen' at one end. It looks just like a felt tip and you literally draw the stain on to your lips. This is perfect though because it allows precision in application and no mess at all. In fact, you can reapply this without a mirror making it ideal for on the go touch ups. The other end is a balm, a normal lip balm which adds a subtle sheen, not glossy at all, just quite natural looking which is really suited to the current make up trend of stripping back to basics. plus the balm is quite nice used alone, it is not flavoured, sticky or heavy, it's comforting and softening.
I applied the product without lip liner after gently exfoliating my lips. The stain can be applied sparingly / lightly for a lower impact colour, but if you want to go the whole nine yards, you might need to keep 'colouring in'. It dries instantly and isn't transferable as was proven when I subsequently applied the white lip balm stick and it didn't change colour at all with the stain. The colour really doesn't need touching up - it doesn't wear off, it just fades slightly, so I think you could manage just using the lip balm all evening / day. However, I liked the strong bold colour, so I applied it around 3 times during an evening out. The lip balm however, you can apply as much as you like to keep your lips looking soft and... dare I say it... 'Just Bitten'.
Value for money wise I think this is going to be a brilliant investment, I paid £3.50 for it, the RRP was £7. I don't know about you, but I have spent hundreds on make up over the years and thrown it away, I don't like it / it's no longer in fashion / I don't wear it anymore, etc. But as I am getting older I am realising that it's far better to have a much smaller quantity of classic 'go-to' cosmetics which I know look good, will fit in with any trend and last a long time - rather than fast fashion drugstore make up (kind of like clothing too!). I think the Revlon Just Bitten Lip Stain and Balm fits in to that category and therefore the £7 price tag would have been really good value for money.
The product is available from Boots, Department stores, Superdrug, some Supermarkets and online. Thank you for reading!
In 2012 amongst many other more important and life changing resolutions, I decided to make a resolution to wear a different nail polish every week. I had noticed a colleagues nails looking particularly ragged and unkempt and realised that other people must notice mine too; when I was on day10 of wearing the same purple nail polish which had been reduced by chipping to a tiny smattering just near my cuticle. I was in a little bit of a beauty rut and I decided that aiming to wear a different colour every week would inspire me to look after my nails a little better.
The only trouble with my resolution was realising that the reason I had fallen in to the rut in the first place was because it takes time (which I don't really have) and effort to keep nails perfectly groomed. I mean, two or three coats of colour + base coat + top coat + drying time = a 30 minute minimum time slot required for home manicure and although Hugh Grant seems to get away with allocating his time into half hour slots in About a Boy, I can't do that as I rarely have a half hour spare particularly through the week when I am at work, writing reviews, blogging, attending classes and tending to hobbies (you get the picture!). But, determined, I started the year with red, which stained my nails so the subsequent colours never looked quite right on my pink coloured fingers. Then, I got really brittle nails which were peeling as soon as I washed my hands so I spent the next week or so wearing peeling and brittleness solutions (which really don't work!) and taking skin, hair and nails vitamins. I managed to stick to the resolution wearing all the colours I had, that were season suitable, then, last weekend, I came across the revolution.
I was in Boots and I bought something and the lady at the counter gave me a brochure with some money off coupons inside. I noticed that one of the coupons was for Revlon and I'd decided I wanted a new nail polish, so I scooted over to the Revlon cabinet to have a look. I had a look at the colours they had and chose Hazy from the Top Speed range - not particularly because it was Top Speed, but I thought that would be very helpful! It was £6.49 and they had an offer on for 2 lip or nail (or a combination of) products for £10. I checked my voucher booklet and the voucher for Revlon stated it could be combined with in store offers, so I chose a lip product too, and I received 2 for £10 plus £3 off Revlon, total £7 for the two products.
I was going out that night, so I decided to try my new nail varnish. The bottle is a classic Revlon tapered shape, with a silver lid (different to the classic gold and black lids I usually associated with Revlon polishes). The bottle contains a couple of mixing bearings to prevent the polish from becoming gloopy or clagging. The consistency of the polish is surprisingly thick and glossy for a quick drying nail product, I usually found in the past that even with supposed 'one coat' products, that quick dry equates to thin consistency. The product claims to dry within 60 seconds. I applied a thinnish coat to my nails after applying a nourishing basecoat and by the time I'd painted my final finger, my first one was dry! Properly dry too, I pressed really hard on my nail and didn't get any smudging or finger prints. It was almost too good to be true.
Instantly, I applied a second coat as though the polish has a decent pigmentation, the Hazy shade I opted for is quite pale and to get a maximum impact I opted for two coats. This dried at the same speed, even though some polishes take double the time on the second coat. That was it, I was good to go!
The polish lasted 3 days, but by the third day it was seriously tatty, so it most certainly isn't chip resistant, but it doesn't claim to be. However, because it takes literally a few minutes to apply, it's fine to apply on a morning before work quickly. I also haven't tried using it with a sealing top coat which could prevent or help the chipping a little.
This saviour will be a permanent feature now on my must have beauty products. I mean I have tried using other quick dry varnishes and they never seem to actually work, not like the Top Speed range from Revlon. As well as the speed, they are reasonably priced at £6.49 a bottle (worth it for the time saved along), I think I pay around £3 for my usual polishes and they take ages to dry and several coats to colour nails sufficiently. I'd rather have half the polishes and double my time NOT painting my nails! Plus, all the better if you can stock up when there's an offer on! eBay also carry a small range for slightly less than you will pay in the shops as do Amazon. I just hope that Revlon bring out a nice Pistachio colour in this range, which looks to be the big Spring nail trend.
Revlon Top Speed Nail Colour is available in a range of fab shades from Boots, Superdrug, most large department stores, some larger supermarkets and online. Thanks for reading!
I travel regularly with work for a quick 'over-nighter' and I don't really need to take a lot. But, my one and only suitcase is sufficient enough for a fortnight holiday though it is only small-ish still, it's a burden to take on the train, get in to the luggage compartments at the end of the carriage (particularly on the train which gets in to Kings Cross just before 9am) and it is silver, covered in luggage tags and really just doesn't look very professional. I made the decision to buy a new, plain black case with a pocket on the outside for my laptop, small enough to fit enough clothes in just for an overnight stay (maybe for two nights just to be sure!).
I began looking around and couldn't believe how much suitcases were! When I saw a small Dunlop trolley case with a discreet logo in Sports Direct for £7.99 which looked just perfect for what I wanted, my partner bought it straight away for me (I would have liked that sentence to read 'I snapped it straight up', but hey, it's nice to be spoilt - even if it is with a suitcase!). I got home with the case and was travelling the next day, so I got ready to pack it.
My initial observations were this: it had about a million tags on it; it seemed to take a lifetime to get them all off. Not just Dunlop's fault, also down to Sports Direct I guess! My second observation was that the lock was absolutely rubbish, in fact as I tried to unlock it the key bent, so I picked it with a hair grip and threw it away (I have luggage locks so I used my own). The case itself though looked fine, and despite a bit of a sticky residue from all of the stickers and labels, I was ready to pack.
I got the 22 inch case so that it was suitable to be used as hand luggage on a plane as well as for my travels. I fit the following in to the case:
Pair of long sleeved, full length trousers flannelette (heavy) pyjamas
Underwear sufficient for 3 days (2 days plus spares... I used to be a Brownie Guide)
Pair of smart heels
Toiletry Bag (including Electric Toothbrush, charger, Toothpaste (full size), Mouthwash (full size), Facecloth, Make up, Hairbrush, Straighteners, Shower Gel and Shower Puff)
Laptop and charger
I also managed to squash in my handbag for the train journey back to save having that to carry as well as the case (I hate manoeuvring around the Tube with a handbag, I am scared I'll get pick pocketed, or in all the hurrying, lose it or leave it somewhere!).
The body of the case is lightweight but very durable, I didn't struggle to carry the case with all of the above in it, and in the past I have struggled with my own case as it has a hard body, which is great for durability, but not so good from a weight perspective. Another little criticism is that the handle is quite tricky to extend, it seems to stick, but this could just be a fault on my particular model though.
The wheels did not stick and kept up with the pace in London (and have done ever since on several more trips). The case can standalone and doesn't tip due to uneven weight from the front or rear framework of the build. There is one internal pocket and two external pockets which are useful for putting in paperwork for business. However, the pockets are not flexible or spacious and so putting in clothing or shoes for example wouldn't be possible. There is a plastic luggage tag attached to the case too which is very useful especially if using it as luggage for a flight. I like the elasticated internal security straps, very useful for packing neatly and holding ironed items flat and securely in order to keep them crease free!
For the money - this case represents exceptional value for money - for less than a tenner I have a great little case which has a couple of little quirks (no suitable lock, sticking handle), but on the whole is just what I needed. I would highly recommend this as a cheap solution for regular travellers.
Available (most cheaply) from Sports Direct. Thanks for reading!
At the end of last year I got Dermalogica Lip Renewal Complex in my Glossy Box (Google it if you want to know more!). I must admit, I am not a big Dermalogica fan. Anything which gets a lot of hype I tend to steer clear of, it's usually over priced, not as effective as cheaper brands and because I kind of like to be different and not follow the crowds (not in a 'cool' way, just in 'my' way!). The Lip Renewal Complex is an Anti Aging product and to be honest I also tend to steer clear of them. I kind of figure I moisturise now and am investing in my skin's future and I will start using anti-aging products when I need to (my Mam has never used them and hasn't got a wrinkle); but, when I found the Dermalogica Lip Renewal Complex in my Glossy Box, I decided I would give it a go.
The product contains various buzz word ingredients designed to restore the delicate tissue around lips, minimise those feathery lines and help prevent signs of aging caused by 'Advanced Glycation End-products' (stands for AGES!!!!! - a damaging by product of sugar and protein reactions in the skin) - no I am not making this up! The active ingredients include:
-Vitamin E which is said to fight free radicals in the skin
-Avocado Oil, Shea and Cocoa butters, Rice Bran Oil, Wheatgerm Oil; all of which are excellent skin emollients and full of vitamins which condition and smooth rough or dried out skin
-Arginine/Lysine Polypeptide which are 'peptides' that trap sugar preventing AGEs
-Palmitoyl Oligopeptide which is a peptide molecule to boost the skins natural collagen formation and help reduce fine lines
-Hyaluronic Acid - retains moisture
A lot of that sounds like skin-jargon to me, but I have found the oils and butters as well as Vitamin E to be very effective at nourishing skin, so some of it makes sense.
The product claims to provide 'Superior conditioning' (that) 'lasts hours beyond application and is ideal for wearing alone or as a smoothing primer before lipstick application'. Dermalogica recommend that the product is used at least once a day to get the benefits out of it.
To be honest I used the product as I would a normal lip balm, maybe 5 times a day. I got a teeny tiny sample size which lasted me about a week. I have very dry lips which don't react well to many lip balms they tend to get sticky if I use really nourishing lip treatments, or dry out if I use anything less. I have to normally stick to Vaseline or Lanolips. However, this product was absolutely great for me!
My lips were particularly sore when I used it (it was December I think when I got it so very cold and harsh outside) and they cleared up literally after the first use. It wasn't any better than Vaseline though, and therefore, despite all of the jargon, it's too expensive for what it is - £16.95 for the full sized tube is just too much for me for a lip balm - it could be different if you do suffer with fine lines around your lips, but I can't really comment on the efficacy of the product for that particular issue, but to be frank, even if it had the Death Becomes Her youthful essence concentrate in the formula, I still wouldn't pay £16.95.
As a lip balm, this works - very well, even on the most particularly fussy, driest of lips, like mine! But as a lip balm it's extortionate as a 99p tin of Vaseline would be just as effective. Therefore, despite all the hype my opinion on Dermalogica still stands :o(
My partner's cousin told us in October that she wanted a birthday party for her 21st in January. With four months to prepare / save up, we offered to make the cake, string up the balloons and decorate the party room for her as my gift to her. Then she decided she didn't want a party and so we bought her some driving lessons in an online group buying offer as it was too good to miss (she passed her test incidentally...). Then, with just 3 weeks to go, she changed her mind and decided she was miserable because all along she'd wanted a party - and of course her first question was, would we still make the cake, string up the balloons and decorate the party room for her... (Kids, ey?!)
The clock was against us and everyone knows how bad January is on the bank balance so, our budget was against us too. Determined I began trawling eBay for party supplies. I'd been to some of the big supermarkets and was horrified that it was going to cost over £2 for 10 balloons, so when I saw 25 on eBay for 99p, I snapped them up in both silver and pink. I also bought balloon ribbon from the same seller which cost £1.49 for 500m. I had carefully checked the product description and the balloons were 10" tall and 'suitable for Helium'. My next stop was the party shop in town to see about the Helium. I had seen Helium canisters on eBay, but I didn't have time to get one delivered as I didn't get paid until 25th January, the party was 28th so it was last minute dot com to say the least!
In the party shop I politely asked the owner if they sold Helium canisters. He replied 'Nope, absolute waste of money'. Through the conversation he explained he'd had so many customers come in to the store who had bought helium canisters and had had to go in to his shop and pay for him to inflate the balloons as the canister didn't have enough helium and didn't inflate as many as it claimed to. I asked how much he charged for helium and he told me for a 10" balloon it would cost me £1 per balloon - if the balloons were suitable, but most that were bought on line would not be suitable as they need to be reinforced and specially treated. I said thank you very much and left the store. Rapidly. I'd heard Card Warehouse were cheap too so I gave them a call, they wanted to charge us 75p per balloon for helium, 25p per balloon for ribbon and they would only use their own balloons which were £2.99 for 6!
I almost burst in to tears when we got home, I'd promised to deliver 12 sets of 3 balloons - 36 in total - it was going to cost me £36 and there was no way I could afford that. I found a couple of canisters online and agreed with a guy in a town about 25 miles away to go and collect one for £25. The description on eBay said it would inflate 30 x 9" balloons. It wasn't much cheaper and might not even fill enough balloons; but, including petrol, it wouldn't cost as much as getting the store to inflate them and I kind of decided I would just have to take a chance. Until, by absolute chance whilst shopping for some unrelated bits and pieces, I found the Balloon Time Helium Balloon Kit in Asda.
At just £20 I figured it was worth a punt. I bought it and hurried home to try it out. Within the sturdy brightly patterned cardboard box it contained a helium canister and came with a pack of multi coloured balloons and ribbon, with instructions which stated it would inflate 30 x 9" balloons. It was so simple to use. All that's required is a strong grip to unscrew the valve, and then it's a case of attaching the balloon over the nozzle and pressing down (careful when removing it!). The instructions are so easy to follow anyone could do it (though don't let kids near, helium is very dangerous if not handled correctly - and make sure you read the instructions!). After my partner tied the balloon she let go and the balloon flew straight to the ceiling. Perfect!
On the day of the party, we drove to the venue armed with our balloon weights, ribbons and balloons. We inflated 37 balloons in total (one to play with!), added to the 1 at home that made 38 x TEN not NINE inch balloons. I was absolutely delighted, we tied all of the balloons up with pretty (cheap) curling ribbon and stood admiring the display. The instructions stated that the balloons would last 5-7 hours; we inflated them at 3pm (it took us about an hour) and at 11pm when the party ended they were still up.
I couldn't believe how perfect the helium canister was for what we wanted. I can't understand why the guy at the shop warned me so vehemently against buying one. Well, aside from the fact that it undercut his prices and lost him business in addition to his attitude. But it really did work. And it really did save us a lot of money - approximately £16! Plus, it was so much easier than trying to cart ready inflated balloons around town in a Fiesta. I noticed in Tesco the other day the same canister is available and costs £33. I rate this canister 5 out of 5 because it is excellent quality, cheap, fit for purpose and it is so convenient. I think the fact you get balloons and ribbon with it anyway is amazing, there were 30 9" multi coloured balloons, perfect for a child's birthday party, or to use with cheap latex balloons from eBay. Obviously, the larger the balloon the less quantity the canister can fill. I really do rate this product and I would recommend it to anyone planning a party, whether on a budget or not.
Available in Asda stores, or online at Asda.com.
Thanks for reading!
From time to time we get vendors popping in to work to sell their bits and pieces. Recently we had a Clinique stand and they were offering staff 10% discount. Plus it was bonus time, so it was buy two products (one to be skincare) and get a freebie. To say I was sucked in would be an understatement. It was through this stand that I got my hands on my Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturising Gel (Oily / Oily Combination).
My moisturiser is in a frosted plastic tube and is a pale, Easter-yellow colour; it's emblazoned with the large silver C of Clinique and has a silver screw lid. The version I have is a 50ml tube, but it is also available as a 125ml bottle which includes a pump dispenser. The tube which I bought was £16.50 (less my 10% corporate discount) and the bottle is £29.00. I was drawn to the product as I have the most strange skin type ever. It's not combination - i.e. oily T Zone, dry patches elsewhere, it is actually pretty normal skin, but it is what I like to call 'imperfection prone' I don't get horrendous spots, they are more pimples, and usually, if I put moisturisers or cleansers on for 'normal' skin, then my spots flare up and I look oily. I also have a bit of redness across my cheeks. I tend to sway toward combination and oil free products and I was in need of a new moisturiser so I chose to take this one.
I washed my face and applied the moisturiser. I used quite a bit the first time maybe 2 x 5p piece sized blobs, because it didn't feel like it moisturised my skin very much - it's oil-free for people with Oily / Oily Combination skin, so of course it's not heavy - it's really light. I had been using a heavier crème moisturiser, so I put quite a bit on to begin with. It's like a semi-transparent runny gel consistency, pale yellow in colour and smells almost edible! I've since learned that using it morning and night 1 x 5p piece sized blob is sufficient. It soaks in to skin instantly, as though the skin is thirsty and drinking it all in. it leaves a really nice matte finish, meaning adding foundation or powder or just a touch of blusher over the top is very easy and doesn't leave shine or a greasy finish.
After using the moisturiser for 2 weeks the imperfections I'd seen on my face seemed to clear a little and I know this was partly down to the cleanser I was using too (not Clinique). But the moisturiser didn't make my skin break out which is unusual for me and it seemed to compliment the cleanser well. So much so that I am still using it 8 weeks later! I really rate it and I think that it's perfect for 'almost' normal skin - much better than the Clinique Dry / Very Dry range which I've found to be far too rich for my skin 'type'.
As well as being a great moisturiser for skin, I've also found it has protected my nose during a cold (normally go very red and sore) and moisturising my lips with it on a morning seems to have prevented them from chapping as much as they usually do in winter. The moisturiser also seems to prevent my lip colour feathering around my lips without having to add lip liner or a coating of powder. All in all, I am really impressed by the stuff and my skin looks absolutely great which makes the product value for money in my eyes, regardless of cost. That said, I've got a little over quarter of my tube left and I've had it for a little over 8 weeks. If it lasts me 11 weeks I will be really happy as I think this makes the price tag further justifiable; and I think that the larger bottle will most definitely be on my birthday wish list as it represents even better value for money!
When I use a beauty product I always gauge it's efficacy by the amount I talk about it to my friends, the amount of compliments I get from using it, and I always ask myself would I recommend it to my best friends. The answers are lots, lots, and YES definitely, she's already using it too. Based on that, I highly recommend this product to others too!
Available from Clinique online shop, stores, concessionary stands in large department stores and certain branches of Boots / Superdrug.
Thanks for reading! :o)
Oh and if you'd like to take a look at my full Clinque haul, I wrote a little post on my blog http://www.nanna-kate.blogspot.com/2011/12/clinique-haul.html X
I am one of those girls who still remember life before GHDs, when the Babyliss Steam Straightener with detachable water canister for hot steam (and burnt head) was all the rage. I'm showing my age now, but I also remember the days when it was in fact, believe it or not, fashionable to wear your hair crimped. Or, to sleep in plaits, or worse, rags the night before school. I also had a perm. Yes, I looked like Steve McManaman before he discovered mousse and I don't mind telling you, I had serious envy over naturally curly crowns.
But, now, in the noughties, frizzy hair is a thing of the past and though curls drop in and out of the fashion press, straightened, glossy locks thanks to GHD I have been able to wear my awful hair relatively straight over the last few years. I've dabbled with non-GHD straighteners, including the Babyliss Pro 230 (a fabulous straightening iron) but always tend to go back to GHD and my latest pair were purple so that speaks for itself as to why they've been my styling tool of choice.
This Christmas, realising my purple ones were seriously due an upgrade, I put straighteners on my Christmas list, but due to the current economic climate (I just love using that phrase!) my partner and I had set a budget for Christmas spending and GHDs would just eat most of that up at £100+ for a pair. So, I Googled 'alternative straighteners to GHD' and the Remington S9500 Pearl Hair Straightener was strewn across the results. I mentioned it to my partner who berated me and said that was the pair she'd told me about weeks ago in Asda, reduced to just £25 (from £85-£99 RRP depending where you buy it). Off she went to see if they still had them and I eagerly awaited Christmas morning!
I know the suspense must be killing you now, but I can reveal that under the tree was a package containing a beautiful new pair of straighteners from Santa Claus. I couldn't wait to try them and after putting on my new Christmas outfit, I opened the box. There was a lot of packaging material (like an Egg Carton), so that was a bit of a downside, but the downsides ended there.
The straighteners are stunning, off white and black with a pretty floral design running across the top display. They are the same width as GHDs and roughly the same weight (I HATE heavy styling tools, they make my arms ache!). They have ceramic plates, which is common now; it replaced metal as the plate material because it allows the plates to glide across the hair rather than dragging and it smoothes the hair cuticles down over to ensure a straight, frizz free finish. But more important than the ceramic plate is the ceramic coating. The more ceramic / higher the grade of the ceramic coating the better the straightener, and these beauties have maximum grade ceramic with crushed pearl. Remington have doubled the ceramic layer, so the S9500s contain 15 times more ceramic than any other straighteners. And let me tell you, this is not just a bit of marketing hype, using the straighteners I could physically feel how easier they glided through my hair, it's hard to explain the feeling, but they just moved smoother than any other straighteners I had used. They are also less susceptible to damage from hair products / scratches and due to the amount of ceramic there are claims that they last 5 times longer than any other straightener on the market, though this will take me a while to prove! The plates float, which allows for even straightening and they meet along the full length, so no need to squeeze the plates together.
They heat up slower than GHDs by a few seconds (maybe 5 or so) but they have a variable temperature control from 150°C right up to 235°C, which is HOT! There is a simple display and a basic plus / minus / on / off selection of buttons. There is an LCD lock too so that you don't accidentally change the temperature when straightening your hair. They are also more rounded than GHDs which means curling your hair with them is much easier. Though they take a little more time than GHDs to heat up, because they are hotter they do retain the heat a lot longer in the 11cm ceramic plates. A plus point if the 3m cord just doesn't give you enough leeway to make it to the mirror. A downside if you've just straightened your hair and need to pack them straight up!
So, that's where the pearly, pewter coloured heatproof mat and case which are included in the box come in. They not only protect your surfaces once you've unplugged your straighteners and leave them to cool; they also allow you to put your straighteners away in a bag / case whilst they are still hot. There are some other really cool features, namely the auto shut off after 60 minutes, so no panicking that you've left your straighteners on the minute you hit the office and the hinge lock so that you can pack them away neatly. And, it comes with a 5 year guarantee as standard.
I've been using the straighteners for almost 2 weeks now, and seriously my hair has never looked shinier, straighter and healthier. The Remington S9500 Pearl Hair Straightener is available for around £35 - £40 on Amazon and if you really shop around you might find them reduced somewhere like we did. Even for their full RRP of £85-£99 they are not an alternative to GHD they are a replacement, seriously, they are far better quality, give a better finish, are hotter and give a smoother experience. I highly recommend them - my experience using them over the last couple of weeks has made me want to get the curling wand and other products in the range!
Within possibly one of the least suspecting neighbourhoods, the owners of the Balcony Hotel Steak and Fish Bar have whipped up a storm. Taking a run down, local boozer in the Hardwick estate in Stockton on Tees, they've created a tiny, perfectly formed rose amongst a bunch of spiky, ugly thorns; from the outside though, you just would not believe it. A concrete car park awaits you, framing the dilapidated building which used to be the Falcon, Harrowgate Lane. Past the vandalised cigarette extinguishers and through some heavy swing fire doors, you'll be greeted by one of the lovely local, friendly members of staff who seem trained to identify that you're a diner (or I stand out a mile from the locals) - not a local popping in for a pint - and take you straight through to the restaurant.
The restaurant is decorated aptly, leather effect table clothes and cow print upholstered seats - it's a steak bar after all! The tables are candle lit and sweetly subtle lighting really sets the scene - it's both romantic and a cool place to hang out with friends. After someone takes your drink orders you'll have chance to peruse the 'menu'. Drinks wise, there's a large selection of wines, spirits and champagnes, plus soft drinks and delicious, freshly ground coffee. The drinks aren't over priced, but it's not cheap either - a coffee is £2.60 and a pint is £3.50. Drinks are served promptly and hot drinks come with a selection of sugar, milk and cream.
The menu is a little unconventional. The first time we visited a lovely guy, who was working as front of house whilst the place was getting established, came to talk to us about the menu. Basically, all of the food is available to see raw in a huge glass chiller in the restaurant. On our first visit, he showed us that they had half a chiller of fresh seafood, including scallops, langoustines, the biggest seafood kebabs I've ever seen on skewers almost a half metre long and thick sea bass fillets; which had all been caught locally. On the other side, there was steak - more steak than I'd seen in a butchers! T Bone, Ribeye, Sirloin, Rump and rich, dark Fillet. He explained that the way it worked was that we ordered our choice of steak (or one of the many other dishes like the seafood, Teesside Parmesan, Mixed Grill, Chicken wrapped in Parma Ham, etc) and then we could either have it cooked to our liking out in the kitchen, OR the chef could sear it for us, then we could cook it to our liking on a Volcanic Rock at the table! He also explained that the market prices were on the board for steak and that we ordered by the ounce.
For my starter I chose Scallops, cooked in a lemon and garlic sauce. These were like no other scallops I've eaten, they were exceptional so chunky and meaty but with a delicate lemon flavour. The garlic was served separately and it was so concentrated, but complimented the lemon perfectly. For 8 Queen Scallops it cost £4.95. I chose Sirloin for my main as it's my favourite 'budget' cut of steak - ideally I like Fillet, but my purse strings wouldn't stretch quite that far! It was £1.30 market rate per oz for Sirloin, so I took a 6oz steak (Fillet was £2.60 per oz). Side orders are ordered and chargeable separately, you get three for £5.75 or individually they are priced between £2 and £3. I chose chips (of course!), mushrooms and Diane sauce. In total it cost £13.55 for Sirloin, Chips and Mushrooms, which I personally think is reasonable for pub standard grub - but when it was served - it was worlds apart from pub standard.
Firstly, the steak was literally seared. I like my steak rare and when I get it and it's medium / rare, I get seriously disappointed. This way I got to add a few steak spices to it and turn it over a couple of times on the rock and then it was ready; perfectly done for me. I left a little piece on the rocks for my partner to try, as she likes it well done. The side orders were huge - I would say that if we both had steak, the three side orders could have easily done the two of us and we are both big eaters. My partner got Parmesan and said it was the best she'd ever had - and she's a connoisseur when it comes to those delicious béchamel covered, breaded chicken breasts! The taste was incredible, the sauce spectacular and the service second to none - I have absolutely no criticism of the place, just bundles of praise.
Our bill was £31, for one starter, two mains and two drinks. I think this is pretty great value for money given the quality you get in return. There are also offers throughout the day and early evening where you can get two courses (not steaks) for £12.95 each - I can't comment on dessert though, we've never actually managed it, but based on the starters and mains I have no reason to doubt that dessert will also be phenomenal. We've been back a few times and plan to make it a regular haunt; and we definitely want to treat our families to a meal there. I highly recommend it, even if you have to travel from local towns; we came from Darlington, but Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Bishop, etc are within reasonable distance, given the superb quality of the Balcony Hotel.
Oh, and as its name would imply, it's also a hotel. You can reserve a room on laterooms.com, e-bookers, etc and by contacting the restaurant. Their website is www.balconyhotel.co.uk and they are on Facebook with lots of offers, themed nights and recently they offered pie, peas and a pint for £4.50 while the England match was on! Recommend you try to pop by and if you're not local but planning a trip in the North East, make some time to visit The Balcony.
I write a little craft-cum-baking-cum-thrifting blog as a part time hobby in addition to my full time job as a Credit Scoring Analyst - antitheses were made for me. As part of the blogging community I'm on Twitter and I also subscribe to a lot of similar blogs through Google Reader. It was through these social media channels that I heard the buzz about Mollie Makes, a craft magazine like no other, which was set to rock the crafting world. As with anything new, as soon as someone within the public eye mentions it, a stampede follows and this is exactly what happened with issue one. Some iconic craftster (if there is such a thing?!) mentioned MM and the uprising ensued. I missed issue one, it was a huge sell out and when I looked on eBay it was selling for around £40-£50. I mean, please...
So, I subscribed in time for issue two, determined not to miss out on the fun. I got the magazine through the post from Future Publishing / My Favourite Magazines. I don't mind telling you, it ain't cheap. At £4.99 an issue you've got to be a serious crafter to part with the dosh. But, I got an awesome deal - £5 for the first 3 issues and I figured for that price, it was most certainly worth finding out what the hype was all about. The magazine arrived on my doormat and I eagerly tore off the wrapping and inspected my new monthly read.
It's a little smaller than a usual glossy rag, but it has a gorgeous matte paper finish. It has a beautiful front cover font and luscious pastel shades decorating the pages. To someone like me it's pure magazine shelf candy. Lots of oohs and aahs later, I sat down to actually read the content.
This is where it goes downhill a tad I'm afraid. Along with lots of fabulously illustrated, bordered photography (think instagram meets spirograph) and a couple of super interesting interviews with crafty type people (recent issue featured my current blog crush, Elsie Larson from Red Velvet / A Beautiful Mess blog along with the lady behind Tatty Devine, of jewellery designing fame); there's just a humongous bunch of shamelessly predatory adverts, preying on people like me who will spend a month's wage on fabric and sewing supplies rather than eat (slight exaggeration, but you get the picture). The adverts are sometimes dressed up as a pattern or a most-wanted or wish-list, but they are essentially adverts and silly people like me are paying £4.99 per issue for such a tiny amount of content (the majority of which is available free by following craft blogs online). I'd say there's a 60% advert, 40% tangible content mix - which in my opinion is outrageous given the price tag. Almost like paying TV License fees just to receive Challenge TV?
In addition to the magazine though, you do get a cute little project to make; I've had a felt ring kit (3 scraps of felt), an iPhone cover (scraps of linen, red thread and a button) and a coin purse kit (small metal purse clip frame and scrap of material) for example. Aside from the fact that the stuff would only cost pennies to purchase, it is quite sweet and gives me something else to obsess over making through the month. The only trouble is, I use the kit as a complete justification to myself that the £5 / 3 I paid for the first 3 issues and the £10 I paid for the next 3 issues is completely worth it; as I am sure a lot of MM readers do too.
And did I mention the knitted fruit? Every issue there seems to be an abundance of weird knitted fruit either on the cover or in the pages. Or crocheted custard creams, felted fig rolls and braided bourbon biscuits. It's really odd. I don't know who makes that stuff or why, but somehow knitted fruit / biscuits have become all the rage.
The best bits of the magazine and the reason I took advantage of the subscription deal are that there are some interesting ideas (making large square neck scarves in to clothing, cutting clothing up to make neck scarves), nice interviews and I liked the kit on the front (so, sue me!). The worst bit is really everything else. It's just paying out (what I see is) a lot of money for a lot of advertising and filler material. Such a shame really, as craft IS fashionable and there's a lot more mileage that could be realised if only the magazine didn't include so much junk; sure the ladies who created it don't think that though as they rake in the pennies! It annoys me a bit, as crafting tends to be a thrifty hobby, for those who want to save some dosh or get a kick out of turning junk in to something useful (even when it costs money to do that!). The magazine's price tag in my eyes is a joke - a fiver could be a meal for four, probably more and I think to appeal to the wider (rather than the elite) crafting society, it should be reduced or give actual value for money.
Mollie Makes is available from My Favourite Magazines, Asda and other large Supermarkets, WH Smiths, etc. It costs £4.99 per issue and there are accompanying blog page / Twitter profile / Flickr page, all of which can be found by Googling Mollie Makes.