- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
When my Blackberry contract ran out in November 2012, I knew that I wanted an iPhone style touchscreen for my next mobile but couldn't afford to pay iPhone prices. After a little searching around I decided to go for the Samsung Galaxy S2. I got mine through Carphone Warehouse for £20 a month, no upfront fee - which is a damn good deal for this phone!
When you pick this phone up, without a case on, it feels a little flimsy and thin. I always think that iPhones feel very heavy and solid - this is the total opposite. The battery case is a very flimsy piece of plastic that to be honest I am amazed has survived a year and a bit. The design of the phone is quite smart though and if you get it in white, looks not dissimilar to an iPhone (if that's the look you're going for!). Mine is in black but my partner has it in white and whilst I prefer the black version, the white is quite smart as well. Size wise I picked the S2 because I felt that the S3 was far too big; the S2 felt massive compared to my old blackberry but after a few months I got used to it. It fits well in all my pockets and bags without any problems. Even with a case on, it feels like a decent size and now my blackberry feels absolutely tiny. The size of the handset is 6.6 cm wide and 12.5 cm tall.
**How It Works**
The phone has three main function buttons - the 'home' button, which is on the front of the phone at the very bottom and middle of the screen, the 'on/off' button on the right hand side and the 'volume controls' on the left. Everything else is touch screen. You swipe to open the screen after pressing the on button. Swiping and poking is basically how all touchscreen phones work and the Galaxy S2 is no exception. Apps can be downloaded from the Play store for free (or you can pay for them if you wish) for a variety of different functions. You can really customise the phone to exactly what you want on it - if you want it just for business, you can download business related apps. If you're looking for something that will entertain you then you can download games and entertainment apps.
The battery life isn't amazing but if you switch off the wifi/mobile data and turn the screen down you can get a good two days out of it even if you're texting a fair bit. With everything turned off I lose around 8% of battery when I'm at work every day - from 9 to 6. That's pretty good! The fact that the batteries can be changed is a massive bonus for this phone; I have friends who have other smartphones who have to carry a charger around with them or plug them into their car whenever they're driving. That's fine if you drive a lot but if you don't have a car it's wholly impractical!
The Samsung S2 runs an Android operating system. It has an 8 MP camera with flash, which is more than adequate - I get great photos off my phone and the video quality is also very good. It connects with a micro USB port. The memory is 16GB, with an optional extra 32GB on the MicroSD card. You can connect with WiFi, 3G or Bluetooth.
I haven't really had any major issues with the phone; I enjoy using it and it has a good amount of memory so you can download different apps onto it. I have a lot of my music on it and use it to listen to music on the bus every morning. The sound quality is average but then again I'm not really using the best headphones. I play a lot of games on my phone when I'm bored and rarely have any issues with them running but this can depend on what you have downloaded. I find the phone itself really easy to use and I picked it up very quickly. It is so easy to customise and change things that make it easier for you to use such as font and app placement.
I would recommend that anyone with a smartphone downloads an anti-virus app, I have Avast on my phone. This just gives me a bit of piece of mind that my phone is protected and also includes a tracking device in case I lose or have my phone taken.
Picture messaging and 3g doesn't always work on my phone; I'm not sure if this is a phone problem or a network problem though. I think the camera may be my favourite aspect of the phone. A phone camera is never going to be as good as a DSLR or bridge camera but it is every bit as good as a compact and better in some cases. It struggles a little bit in low light but that's because of the fixed lens. My contract finishes at the end of the year and to be honest I probably won't bother upgrading just yet - I'm more than happy to keep my S2. It's durable, reliable and it looks smart.
Both my partner and I use our phones for gaming and watching media (him so what more than me!) and the screen clarity is fantastic. My partner watches Netflix and Youtube a lot and the video is often better than it is on my laptop. It really is super bright and clear. When I first started using the S2 I was surprised by how bright and clear it all was because I was used to a small little blackberry screen that showed barely anything. You can set the screen to 'auto rotate' so that you can watch media horizontally which is a really useful feature.
As with all products, there are some negative aspects to it! Unlike my Blackberry, the alarm doesn't go off if phone isn't switched on, which is a bit of a pain if you're relying on and you forget to switch it on when it's charging over night. The alarms aren't particularly loud either, which if you're a heavy sleeper like me can cause a few problems!
The keyboard is occasionally difficult to handle and the auto-correct, to be frank, sucks. Sometimes it randomly deletes words and autocorrects to something completely different which can be very annoying at times.
My Blackberry had a light indicator that flashed when a text message was received or a phone call came in. I really liked this feature but despite the S2 appearing to have the capability for it (it has the little LED on the front required) I have yet to find a way to make it work. It was very useful for seeing who had text you and whether or not you needed to bother answering it.
My other half, as I mentioned earlier, has the white version and for some reason his phone seems to be worse than mine; it crashes at least twice a week and the battery life is very limited. I suspect this may be almost completely due to the large amount of games he downloads and the time he spends on it compare to the time I spend on mine (he uses his more like a mini tablet than a phone most days) but it's not much of a comfort if you're desperately trying to text someone and it freezes on you.
I really enjoy having this phone; I loved my old Blackberry but it had a fair few negatives. Unfortunately it feels a little bit sometimes that the bad bits of the blackberry have been solved by the S2, but the good bits haven't been included (the battery life, the LED on the front). Having said that I think this is a fantastic alternative to the iPhone and a mobile handset that I would recommend to anyone who is looking for something stylish, simple and useful when they upgrade to a smartphone.
My other half bought me a bottle of this for Christmas; it came in a clear bag with a little snowman puff sponge (which, unfortunately is useless - but this review is about the shower gel, not the sponge!). I don't know how much he paid for it but I believe it was on offer, as he left the sale price tag on. Men, eh?!
On first impressions this is a nice smelling shower gel that is presented very smartly as well. The bottle is taller and thinner than most Body Shop shower gels and the overall look is one of quite a high end product. The gold cap compliments the creamy contents perfectly which really adds to the look. It looks smart in my shower so I can't complain there!
The most important thing about any shower product is how it smells and how it works. This product smells nice - don't get me wrong, it's not an offensive smell - but for me it's a bit too plain. It's very sweet and almost on the verge of a caramel scent rather than a vanilla. It's a fairly thick liquid which makes it easy to ensure that you're not pouring out too much. I have only used about a 6th of this already and I've been using it daily since Christmas day. Unfortunately this is probably where my praises end for this product. The cap is incredibly hard to get off in the shower and I've nearly broken a nail once or twice doing it! Some mornings I just give up and go to my regular Nivea shower gel because I don't have the time to stand there struggling with the tiny little lip on the top to get the cap of. It applies to your skin nicely but I never feel that it's done much. Whilst the scent does linger for a little while when you get out of the shower I don't feel that my skin is as clean as it could be.
To conclude, whilst this was a nice gift to receive it won't be one that I will rush out to buy again when it runs out. The thought and look is there but the practical aspect lacks somewhat. It is just a bit 'meh' really!
I first learnt about sea kelp as a supplement about three years ago; but I only got round to buying my first pot of sea kelp tablets a year or so ago. As I run a nail art blog, having nails that are in great condition all year round is really important to me. When I noticed recently that my nails were brittle and starting to peel, I decided to see if the sea kelp tablets I had would help at all. I was hoping primarily that my nails would grow quicker so that the peeling ends could be filled off and the new, healthier nail could grow to a nice length. With my sister's wedding coming up, it seemed like the ideal time to try them out properly.
Sea kelp tablets are basically the powdered, pill form of a very natural product - sea weed! Kelp itself can be eaten to improve energy levels and control thyroid problems but if you don't have access to it, then sea kelp tablets are a good alternative. Iodine is present in a lot of the higher range of multi-vitamins so if you're taking something daily already, it's worth checking to see whether or not you're already getting your dose of iodine that sea kelp tablets will provide you. Unlike vitamin C, iodine is not water soluble so taking too many tablets can cause serious health problems.
After about a fortnight of taking two tablets a day (which I have now cut down to one tablet a day, see below) my nails are definitely growing quicker; they don't appear to be any stronger right now but I'm guessing that is something that will come over time. My hair growth has definitely improved which is a bonus as I wanted it longer anyway! Sea kelp takes quite a while to start working so don't be disheartened if you don't see results very quickly. I've heard that sea kelp is good for weight loss but as I'm not taking it for this purpose I can't comment on that issue, even though the bottle I have has 'supports weight management' as its main tagline. After a little bit of googling I found an article from the Daily Fail slamming a footballer's wife for taking them; this is the only source I can find that says they don't work for weight loss. Make up your own mind on that!
Medically, sea kelp can be used to stimulate low thyroid production and as it contains a high level of calcium, it's great for your bones and digestion. There is evidence to suggest that sea kelp may help slow down the aging process and anecdotally, Japenese women are reported as saying it's what keeps their hair coloured well into their old age. There are of course risks related to sea kelp, so you should be very careful if you want to start taking them. If you have any thyroid issues at all then you should check with your doctor first - it can cause hyperthyroidism and other illnesses that just aren't fun. Make sure to source your sea kelp tablets properly as some can contain too much iodine (the element that helps your hair to grow) or heavy metals that can be dangerous to pregnant women and their babies. As sea kelp is not a medically recognised supplement, it can be unpredictable and there is a small possibility that you may experience a weird side effect. Consulting a doctor before starting on the supplement is a good plan!
Back to the tablets I've been taking - the only real issue I have with them is that they're really big and aren't coated so they're quite hard to swallow! I have to break one tablet into two every time I take them. This is a bit of a pain but the benefits far outweigh this little inconvenience. To stop them from drying out, the pot has a roll of cotton wool underneath the lid which has to be removed every time I take a tablet out; again this is a mere annoyance but not really something you can get around. The bottle is easy to open and has all the nutritional data printed on it which reassures me somewhat. I cut my dose down when I realised that taking the recommended two to three tablets was giving me between 200 and 300% of my daily iodine intake! If you eat a varied diet that you can and do get iodine through the day from various sources (such as milk and meat) so taking 300% of your RDA in a tablet on top of that is just not necessary. I was also worried about the possibility of causing a side effect at that dose level. I'm not really sure how others have found 600mg tablets because that, according to my bottles nutritional information, would be 1200% over the RDA of iodine per tablet - either my values are off or something fishy is going on!
I got my tablets from Holland and Barret. It was about £5 for a big pot of 500 30mg tablets, which has lasted me forever (I have a feeling it was on half price). If you wait until Holland and Barret do one of their stickered events (half price or buy one, get one for 1p) then you can grab a pot of sea kelp tablets for a very reasonable price! Health food shops will also stock sea kelp tablets, and you may be able to find it in other more palatable forms if you can't handle taking massive tablets every day. Amazon sell kelp powder however I am unsure how much it is or how much iodine it contains.
I will continue to take one tablet a day until I am satisfied with my nail and hair condition - I'll definitely be keeping an eye open for any unwanted side effects though. Health is so much more important than long nails and shiny hair! If you're pregnant (or breast feeding), under 18 or have kidney, thyroid or liver problems, then please do not take these tablets as they could cause you a lot of problems.
When you're a student and you catch the dreaded 'Freshers Flu', there's nothing more comforting than a big bowl of steaming soup to make you feel better. Normally I'd reach for cream of chicken but in times of extreme homesickness and comfort eating, there's nothing better than a tin of Heinz big soups to take you back to coming in from school in the winter and being served a delicious bowl of home made hotpot or stew.
The Minted Lamb Hotpot version of Heinz's Big Soups is definitely big - it's packed full of potatoes, carrots, peas and onions. The veg isn't minimal either! The chunks are really substantial which is a double edged sword; on the one hand, it definitely fills you up, on the other heating the potatoes without burning the soup part can be tricky. The amount of lamb for a 'lamb hotpot' is unfortunately on the measly side; I didn't have any chunks bigger than my little fingernail in the last pot I had. This is probably the most disappointing aspect of this soup. They might as well get rid of the little bits of lamb and just sell it as a minted veg hotpot!
The actual soup broth is really tasty. As with all good lamb related items, it has just a hint of mint and is a really rich base which would stand alone as a soup quite nicely. The veg that is in abundance just adds to the depth of flavour and so every spoonful is a little bite of home cooked heaven. It's not overly salt or peppered which is a bonus. As the texture isn't as watery as some other soups by Heinz (chicken noodle, I'm looking at you here!) it makes a really good base for an actual lamb hotpot - just add half a pint of boiling water to it in the pot, and some actually visible chunks of lamb (I guess putting some more potatoes in there is a good idea too if you're feeding a lot of people) and cook as normal! This is a trick that my mum taught me long ago and one that I would carry on if meat wasn't so expensive. In some ways, I am inclined to say that as a soup, this variety falls down but as a casserole base it comes into it's own.
Probably the biggest problem I have with this soup is the price, as noted by other reviewers. Currently, these tins are £1.08 in Tesco for the 400g size. As a student who has to watch my budget carefully, this means that I only get to eat these when my lovely mum gifts them to me from her store cupboard... But the biggest problem with this is these soups are just not value for money. If there was more lamb then I could probably justify it as I would feel like I was getting a very decent meal; and would make each tin stretch to two bowls, but with the pitiful amount of meat in each tin it's just not worth seperating them. They make a great meal on a cold winters afternoon but unless they're on offer, I just won't - no, I just can't - buy them.
Nutrition info (per 400g tin):
Calories; 228, Carbohydrates; 32g, Fat; 5g, Protein; 11g
Running is not a sport or fitness activity that comes naturally to me; in fact I'd rather spend 45 minutes in a swimming pool than go for a half hour run (to the same effect). However swimming pools are expensive, have weird opening hours and aren't always convenient to go to so I decided that I definitely needed another type of cardio in my fitness repetoire; and that running would be it no matter how much I hate it.
I started my running adventure with Couch to 5k (a great starters training program, it's widely publicised on the web and costs nothing) and a pair of cheerleading/dance trainers. These lasted about two weeks before I really hurt my foot in them due to the lack of padding and my elephant like footfall. Whilst resting my foot I decided to look into how much actual running trainers might cost me and found that really they're not that expensive, if you don't want ones that shoot fire out the heels or anything too fancy. The main thing you need is support. Everyone runs differently, so trying to get a 'one size fits all' shoe is a bit difficult. If you're looking into using running as a serious keep fit method, I'd recommend going to a running shop that has a gait analyser in it so that you can be certain the shoes you buy will be right for your feet and style. Personally, I can give advice but not take it; so I bought my Asics from a shoe shop not knowing how the heck I run or what kind of pronation, if any, I have (turns out I'm an over pronator, yay me!). Pronation, to put it simply, is the angle at which your foot strikes the ground as you run. Most people don't notice it until they start running regularly (as over and under pronation puts stress on your ankles, lower leg and knees) but some pronate even in walk and need orthopedic linings. The pull of Asics for me was that they're a recognised running brand and they range in price from relatively cheap (£40) to very expensive and smart (£150+) - which to me tells me that they must know what they're doing, and they cater for everyone. I paid £45 for mine.
Asics are a very well known running brand, having started in Japan in the late 1940s. Throughout the years they've worked hard to create the best pair of running trainers that you can get; from cushioned souls to proper supportive linings and outers. Asics use gel cushioning systems in their shoes which creates a soft, spongy platform to run on. They're now sold all over the world in running shops, sports shops and online which makes them probably one of the most popular shoe brands. They don't just make shoes for running; but also for football, rugby and basketball too (I've seen people use them for netball and volleyball as well).
The style of these trainers is pretty smart. They have purple soles, a white main body and silver mesh on the sides, with silver, white and purple detailing on them. To be honest the colour and look of them wasn't important to me but them being purple is a bonus! I'm not a massive fan of these bright, neon coloured running shoes that seem to be in fashion, as long as it does it's purpose then it's good enough. The laces are plain white cloth and tie very well; I've had laces in the past that slip out of the knot no matter what within ten minutes of running so this is definitely a plus. Along the lower part of the inside of the shoe is a grey band; the man in the running informed me that this is a visual representation of what support and type of running shoe these are. A wider band means more generalised and good for anyone, a starter shoe if you will. Other shoes that are more specialised to under or over pronators will have a different band on them (I can't remember unfortunately if it's the colour or width that changes). These shoes hug my feet tight, so much so that initially I thought they were too small; I'm just not used to shoes that actually do what they're meant to!
Since using these, my runs have got longer and the pain that I felt in my ankles and lower legs has reduced. It's not gone completely; I'd need to get some shoes that were specially tailored towards my feet to eradicate it completely, but for a twice weekly running session they're more than good enough. They're very firm feeling shoes even when you hold them in your hands which makes me believe I can get a good few years out of these. I'm not planning on running marathons (10k is probably the furthest I'd ever run!) in them, but I get the feeling that I could if I wanted to. The shoes are very well made and despite my heavy footfalls would pass for brand new if I cleaned them up a bit. Overall I am very pleased with them and would recommend them and the brand to anyone who wants to start running. Yes, £40 may seem like a lot for a pair of trainers, but at the end of the day they're helping to reduce stress and injury to your legs and they're worth the cash. It's worth shopping around to see if you can get them cheaper in store or online but I would always recommend trying them on before you buy them. I'm a size 6 in most shoes but a 6.5 in these, so they have a little room for wiggling and expansion. If you compare the number of times you'd have to go swimming (only 10 in my town) to the number of runs you'll get out of a decent pair of running shoes, they're a lot cheaper!
These shoes are definitely helping me enjoy running more; before I got them every time out was a chore and I came home hurting. Now whilst I don't enjoy running (it may be something to do with my only possible route having three big hills in succession as I leave my door!) they make it much more accessible and feasible for me to go.
I've always had an issue with 'extra light' or 'reduced fat' cheeses; that being that cheese itself is basically pure fat like butter or milk and whilst it contains calcium and protein, it's never going to be massively healthy for you so brands should probably stop advertising it as such. That being said, I'll normally always go for the lower fat varieties because they taste better and are normally less strong. I don't like strong cheese at all!
These Laughing Cow 'extra light' triangles are no exception to that rule. Whilst they still have a distinctive taste that you will be able to recognise as the same as the regular triangles, they are milder in my opinion and therefore may be more suited to younger people or fussy people like me who can't stand anything strong tasting. I find that one of the 8 slices you get in a box spreads well onto 3 large rice cakes and gives them a lovely flavour, which can then be topped with ham, lettuce, salsa, peppers, avocado or whatever else tickles your fancy. I can't comment on if there's a size difference between these and regular Laughing Cow triangles because I haven't had them in years! You get 140g in the box, which is split into 8 individual cheeses. They're foil wrapped and opened by the same classic red string device as normal Laughing Cow cheeses, something that I just can't get the hang of and so I normally end up smashing my cheese triangle to bits trying to get into them! This gets quite annoying after a while.
The actual cheese itself is creamy, and not very solid even after 48 hours in the fridge which makes it easy to spread (but makes it look a bit dodgy - not sure I like the fact that it's still very soft even though it's been chilled for a while, makes me wonder what's in it...) Each slice is 20 calories each, which is a massive difference to slicing a chunk of cheddar or even the regular triangles.
The packaging for these is very simple and recognisable. The purple colour makes it stand out on the shelf (I can only think of one other brand that uses purple on their cheese) and the distinctive red cow mascot smiles proudly out at you. For around £1.20 they're not too expensive but still more per piece than the equivalent of say, a block of value cheddar. However, if you're watching your weight but you still want to indulge if your love of cheese they're more than a passable alternative.
The GHD brand has pretty much sky rocketed since it was first launched a decade ago. Standing for 'Good Hair Design', it's now the best known brand of hair straightener and is almost certainly the cause of most of the poker straight hair styles we see today. Celebrities endorse it, the public love it, but for nearly 5 times the price of a regular pair of straighteners, is it worth it?
GHD straighteners come in many different styles and sizes, from the mini styler to the salon styler (with the widest plates of all, great for thick and long hair). Not only do they come in different sizes, but periodically GHD creates and releases new designs; currently you can get a 'peacock' design (in teal, lavender or blue), a 'gold' series design or red gloss/black gloss. The different designs come with different packaging, plate or plastic body colour and are a nice gift if you don't mind paying a little extra. Some of them come with extra clips and heat protection mats but these aren't standard to the normal GHD straighteners. Personally, I can't tell the difference between the 'gold' series and the normal straighteners apart from a little more detail on the barrel, which I don't think is worth the extra £20, but there we go.
The first thing you'll notice when you buy a pair of GHDs is the packaing. Mine came in a silver and black box with the logo on the front, inside the straighteners were nestled in to their plastic home very safe and sound. Out of the box they look sleek and very professional - I have the standard salon styler IV model and whilst they're not pretty colours like some you get, they are instantly recognisable as GHDs. The outer casing is tought black plastic and the plates are a lovely gold colour, with the logo on the handle. The cord is fairly long - 2.8 metres long in fact - so you get a decent reach on them and can plug them in anywhere. The barrel of the plates is slightly rounded which means you can make curls as well as straightened styles, and the end of the barrels have finger holds on which make for easy gripping without burning your fingers. It is recommended that you use a heat proof glove when using these though as your hair will get very hot! The plates are also incredibly, skin melting hot. Don't leave them around children!
The only thing that I dislike about these straighteners is that there's no heat adjuster on them; it's one heat for everything. Sometimes I feel that my hair doesn't need such a high heat on them and so I'm reluctant to use them. As a result of that, I would never use them every day, I only use them for special occasions. However with a good heat defense spray, there's no real reason you couldn't use them a few times a week if you took care of your hair. It might be a good idea to look into a deep conditioning treatment if you're going to use these very regularly as well.
The way I straighten my hair with these is quick and easy, and even though I have fairly long (past shoulders) hair it takes at most 5 minutes to do it all. I spray all my hair with heat defense spray and plug my GHDs in, once I've sectioned the bottom part off I turn them on. By the time I've got that sorted, they've heated up - yes, from cold, these straighteners take about 1 minute to heat up, if that. I then grab sections of the hair I've left out of the clip and just run the straighteners down my hair from the root to tip; each section only really needs one or two going over. I make sure I have a heat proof mat to rest my straighteners on when I'm sorting out the rest of my hair and away I go, with the next section! It really is easy and simple. This is where the GHDs really come into their own and shine out from other straighteners. Others take a long time to heat up, or they simply don't work as well. Whilst this may not be a massive pro to some people; there's nothing worse than being in a rush in the morning and having to decide between good hair or good make up, which this almost instant heat up stops!
I've tried to curl my hair with my GHDs before (if you're interested in this then have a look on youtube for a decent tutorial) but I simply can't get it to work consistently! And as my hair doesn't really hold curls very well, I never try very hard with it. Personally I'm more a fan of no heat curls that you leave in over night, they hold better in my hair too! I've heard that others have better results than me with the curls though, so it probably just takes practice. I also occasionally use them to run down over braids to make sure that the crimp I want is going to be really set; this works pretty well though you have to be careful if you use plastic braiding bands as they will melt. Apparently you can create waves with them too but again this is something I have never managed to do.
GHDs currently retail for around £100 and if you're not paying this for them, you really need to question whether they're genuine or not. There's a massive problem with GHDs at the moment with fakes in the market place; make sure that you buy these off a genuine website if you're going to buy them online. A tip is to see where they're coming from as most of the fakes are from China (but don't be fooled, there are some sellers in the UK). To be safe buy them either from the official GHD website (ghdhair.com) or from a salon that's a trusted GHD seller. On the internet you can find websites that will verify whether your purchase is genuine or not by the serial number; if in doubt check them out. The problem with fraudulent copies is that they're often not made properly and so can be very dangerous, with the plates heating up to unacceptably hot temperatures, becoming lose, the electric supply being dodgy or the safety gauge that stops them turning on at any time not being in place. In short - if you want to save money on straighteners, don't buy fake GHDs, just buy a different, cheaper brand. There are various mid range hair straighteners that do the same thing for half the price, and you're not going to hurt yourself or burn your house down with them.
Overall, I am massively impressed with my GHDs and think they are probably one of the most useful and cost efficient Christmas presents I will ever receive. I'm expecting to keep my GHDs for at least another three years which will total five years of use, more than worth it I think. Plus they look pretty smart!
I'm always in two minds about clear nail varnishes; on the one hand they're useful for preventing stains and fixing your nail colour but on the other they take effort and time to put on which I just don't have the patience for.
This nail varnish is the only top/base coat I own, well the only pure clear one anyway. I bought it many moons ago for about £3, which is not very expensive I'm sure you'll agree! In my younger days I used to spend hours painting my nails including a top and bottom coat, and I'd always be disappointed when one of the coats wasn't dried properly so my perfectly (well, almost) applied nail varnish either wrinkled or dented fairly quick. I've come to the conclusion that this is because I'm impatient, hence why I don't bother with it any more. I'm also not certain what the third dimension of this nail varnish is - maybe it's referring to the fact that you can use it on it's own (which I often do now, rather than use it as a top/base coat).
Having said that, if you can hold yourself to not touch anything for half an hour after you've put this on as a base coat, it works pretty well. It gives your nails a shiny, stable surface for any other nail varnish to glide onto and as a top coat it's pretty hard wearing. It doesn't chip immediately unless you rush it and don't let it dry. There are two metal ball bearings in the bottle which help the longevity of this product as nail varnish that has split needs mixing to come back together - the ball bearings aid this beautifully. I'm not sure why they're not in every Barry M bottle! As a nail varnish on it's own, it's middle of the road. But then again, what amazing things can you do with a clear nail varnish?
Barry M nail varnish is available from most Superdrug and Boots stores; it comes in a massive range of colours, styles and sparkles, and whilst this particular one doesn't hit all the spots, it is generally a good starter polish range for those who love bright colours and aren't massively fussed about how long wearing it is.
At uni I don't get much chance to cook properly; so when I come home the first thing I do is raid the cupboard and have a look at what my parents have found in the supermarkets whilst I was away. These shake bags by Colmans have definitely become a staple!
Shake bags are so simple and easy to make; all you do is get the ingredients on the back (or the ingredients you want to use) prepared, put them in the bag, put the seasoning in the bag, shake and bake! The ingredients list states the amount and how you should put the ingredient in the bag - for instance, potatoes in the sausage casserole bag need to be sliced or they won't cook. There's also a full text and picture guide on the back which clearly states cooking times and how to do it perfectly which is helpful. The bag must not touch the side or top of the oven otherwise it'll melt on and ruining your dinner (and oven!).You're not meant to put more than the stated amount of ingredients in - I'll talk about this more in a bit.
So far we've had the Mediterranean chicken and sausage casserole from this range, and we're trying the garlic roasted chicken tonight. Each different variety has different instructions - the casserole requires 150ml of water in it (though personally as we like more gravy in this house we put a bit more in) and the roast chicken bag needs to be slit 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Each different bag also requires different vegetables to compliment the meat and herbs. The other varieties in the range include a lemon and dill salmon and a sticky rib combo, as well as some other chicken flavours.
The only trouble we've encountered with these is that the portion sizes seem to be massively off - the sausage casserole is meant to serve 4 people but if we had only put in the amount the packet told us, it would've been about 5 sausages and a small potato per person. Definitely not enough! As a result the nutrition info may be a bit off if you want to actually have enough food to eat... Price wise they're not too bad; at the moment they're three for three pound (normal price £1.50 odd) so they're a pretty good deal. The best thing about them is that you can just stick them in the oven and let it cook!
I am, like some of the other reviewers, an unashamed MASSIVE Eeyore fan (best Winnie the Pooh character hands down) and so when I spied this on my many visits to the Disney store I had to have it. So, as any self respecting female would do, I begged and pleaded with my other half for him to buy me it! My 21st birthday came and went and no Eeyore; however when we went on a shopping trip at the end of the summer he took me into the Disney store and bought me one as a going to uni present. After we bought him we went to Nandos and our waitress was so taken by him she wanted to take him home too!
I actually have the 'extra large' Eeyore soft toy; which is about half the height of the super giant version. This soft toy costs around £35 - however it sometimes goes on sale to £17.50 (before you think I'm money grabbing, I spotted it originally when it was half price and started my nagging then - not my problem that my OH dragged his feet!). The toy is 50cm high and 48cm wide, making it the perfect cuddle size! The tail, an important feature on any Eeyore item, is attached with velcro and a small length of ribbon so it can be detached and reattached without being lost. The 'super giant' version is one I can only dream of, as it retails at £100!
I love this for snuggling up to when my OH isn't there, it's wonderful to hold and so soft and comforting! I imagine that any Eeyore fanatic would be well impressed with this. It would be a nice christening gift for a little girl too who could grow up with Eeyore and have him there to hug and hold whenever they feel the need. If you know someone who loves Eeyore and doesn't have this - when they need something special, this is the gift for them!
My lips are normally pretty good at staying moisturised but a few weeks ago when I returned to uni, the shock of going from beautiful sunshine down south to harsh gale force winds and down pouring rain turned my lips to chapped monstrosities in the matter of hours. As I said, it's not a problem I've ever really had before so I was a bit stumped as to how to solve it! For the first few days, I just coated them in Vaseline - after getting fed up of them cracking and bleeding all the time, I turned to google for help and found that Vaseline was likely to be making them worse.
Googling found me a few recommendations that I considered carefully. Home made recipes included gargling with salt water (not for me) and putting strange concoctions on your lips, whereas shop bought remedies all seemed to point to Blistex (with some confusion over whether Blistex and chapsticks were the same thing). Next time I was able to get to town, my first purchase was a tube of this.
I paid around £2.25 for this from Superdrug and received a small, 5g metal tube for my pennies. Eager to get the healing going, I applied a generous amount of the cream onto my lips and felt an initial tingle, along with a mentholly aroma. It doesn't really taste, but it does definitely have a smell associated with it. The packaging is plain and clinical - the cap of the tube is red with blue writing on a white background and a blue tip to the tube. It has the ingredients, application advice and in red, 'Formerly Blisteze' written on the tube. The application advice is to apply once an hour every hour initially, then when the symptoms ease a bit to apply it as needed. It can be used for cold sores or chapped and cracked lips.
The application is where we meet our first and only problem; occasionally you can take the lid off and the cream will just come out without any pressure being put on the tube. It doesn't stop either! This means that you can waste a lot of the cream because trying to get it on your finger and trying to get the cap back on quick time is hard. A lot of the cream then ends up on the inside of the cap or the outside of the tube. And as the product is in the first place a little bit expensive, it can be a bit annoying to waste it when you're advised to use it so often.
The best thing about this product is that it works! My lips felt softer straight away and within about 5 hours the chaps and nicks were starting to heal. By the next day you wouldn't have even noticed that two days before my lips were bleeding and cracking any time I opened my mouth. It took about three days of application to get them back to total normality and now I only use the cream once a week or so when I feel my lips getting a little dry. This is now going to be a staple ingredient in my first aid closet, and the product I will definitely turn to next time my lips decide they want to turn plastic and make me look like I've been in a knuckle fight.
Unfortunately I've had the 'pleasure' of sampling some of the different methods of treating psychological illnesses (namely depression) - both medication and therapy wise - so I felt that this would be a useful topic for me to write on. As with my other reviews on similar topics, I'll be frank but I will try and avoid 'triggering' comments so please read with caution if you feel you may be affected.
Firstly, I must stress that if you're experiencing any symptoms of mental unwellness, please go to your doctor as soon as possible or tell someone you trust. Don't suffer in silence. It doesn't matter if your dogs sisters cousin down the road had a terrible experience with treatment, that means nothing really. Why? Because depression and other mental illnesses are incredibly individual and as the title says, what works for one doesn't work for another. Secondly, if you're on a medication that you don't think is working, talk to your doctor before you stop taking it. Rapid and unsupervised withdrawal can cause more problems in itself.
Personally I have never got along with anti-depressant drugs to date; I've tried two types of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors - the most common type of anti-depressant prescribed) and one SNRI (Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors - a much stronger type of anti-depressant) and to be frank I never want to go near medication again. There is a wealth of anti depressant drugs out there; SSRIs, SNRIs, MAOIs, tricyclics, tetracyclics... some preferred by GPs and psychiatrists and some old fashioned that aren't really used any more. In the last 30 years medication treatments have improved greatly and generally the side effects now go within two to four weeks but they can still be devastating for the initial period. The most common side effects with SSRIs are nausea, 'foggy' head, weight gain or loss and in younger patients, increased risk of harmful/suicidal behaviour. Yes, I'm not quite sure how GPs can readily hand out pills to a suicidal person that may increase their likelihood of attempting suicide but there we go...
I don't want to name the drugs I've been on because it may cloud someone's judgement if they're offered them, but the two classes of SSRI that I've been on have been useless. The first one made me acutely suicidal and sick all the time; I ended up in A+E twice having tried to take my life when I was on it. After the first attempt I asked my doctor if it could be the drug and she said no... Despite me having only just turned 19 (the 'danger' zone for increased suicide risk is often thought to be only under 18s with anti-depressants, but brains don't read a manual and I strongly suspect that this arbitrarily assigned figure is wrong and dangerously so). The second one I tried turned me into a zombie for two weeks and I nearly got kicked out of university because I had a lot of work due in that I just could not manage to do. I remember clearly the third morning of taking it - when my boyfriend was staying over and he had to walk me to the kitchen to get breakfast because I couldn't make my body move and when he got back three hours later, I was still sitting in exactly the same place holding my now very cold mug full of tea because time just went. It was like being awake whilst being asleep... horrible. The SNRI was fine until my best friend burst into tears after I shouted and bitched at her for stepping in my path when we were walking along. It was then I realised that my personality had changed totally; I'm normally very passive and don't get upset about things easily but on it I was rude, quick to judge and arrogant. I'm not sure how that works but there we go... Within in two days of stopping it I was back to normal.
Onto alternative forms of treatment; one of the most common for many mental illnesses is talking therapies. Like with anti-depressant drugs, there are many different forms of talking therapies, such as cognitive behaviour therapy, counselling and mindfullness. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) focuses on changing the negative thought processes to positive ones and works to turn people from being aggressive or passive thinkers and actors to being assertive. It has very rich roots and works best when combined with medication, like other therapies. Personally I've only used CBT very sparsely but I have friends who seem to swear by it; I think it depends on the person. Counselling tends to try and identify the cause of disordered thinking and prevent it happening again by understanding what makes you think that way. I hate counselling as it seems every time I go I leave feeling more upset but for the first time, I've stuck to a course and have my last session in a few weeks time. I don't think it's done much to help - talking therapies work best when the person is receptive, right now I'm simply not open to it. There are lots of different methods of therapy so if you want to go this route I'd suggest talking to your doctor or mental health care official and asking them what's available in your area and what waiting times etc. are like. Typically most GPs will give medication solely as it's quick to work, there's no wait and for most people, it's effective if you get the right dose and medication type. I've heard waiting lists for therapies being up to 2 years long!
To slam or recommend a medication or therapy on here is dangerous in my eyes as different people and different circumstances call for different treatments. I strongly believe my depression is the result of a chemical imbalance which is why I should get over my medication fears and why talking therapies and 'normal' anti-depressants don't really work for me but I could be wrong. Other people may have a definite cause to their depression that can be eased by CBT or counselling. However the first and foremost treatment you should seek is from your doctor.
As a child the strongest memory I have of my maternal grandparents is either visiting them and playing cards or ludo or them visiting us and having a family game of Monopoly in the afternoon. My Grandad, bless him, was a terrible cheat and would cause endless hours of laughter and joy every time we played - and was definitely an influence on my game playing style!
Monopoly, if for some reason you've never played it before, is a game based on buying property and houses and charging those who land on your spaces rent whilst avoiding bankruptcy as you can't afford to pay rent to another player. The age range of Monopoly is dependent on how easily children grasp the concept really; and as long as they can hold their concentration for a decent amount of time there's no reason why a younger child should play it with the help of an adult. You can play with anywhere between two and 8 players with the only limitation being the number of playing pieces available. As you get more players involved, the game gets harder as more people are fighting for properties!
The game now comes in many different themes including those themed around TV shows, locations, films and others. There are also now lots of new editions that include electronic cash machines and even a junior version for kids to use. Personally, I've only ever played the classic version - but in many different versions such as Dr Who, The Simpsons and Anglesey town. The only difference in the variations is that the places are obviously named differently, the currency and chance/community chest cards are themed, and there may be one or two counter pieces that are different (for example, in the Dr Who set there's a Tardis playing piece). If you're mad about a certain theme then they make a nice gift but generally, they don't add anything exciting or new to the game. Personally my favourite set I've seen is the 'nostalgia' wooden box set - it's very smart!
The actual game play of Monopoly is very simple; you roll the two dice and move around the board. If you land on a property square that has not yet been bought, you can buy it for the price on the board. When you land on a square that has been bought by another player, you have to pay them rent (if they notice you have landed there - remain vigilant!). As you move around the board your aim is to buy buy buy and to build on complete sets in order to bankrupt your opponent. Once you have a full set of properties, you can buy houses and hotels which make the property cost more every time you land on them. However, all the other players are trying to do the exact same thing and there's no rules on who can buy what so it can lead to some tense moments when someone else lands on a space you really need! The game ends when all players bar one are bankrupt or you reach a previously agreed time. We normally play a timed game because it can last for hours if you don't - 3 hours is generally a good time. There are rules you can instill if you want a quicker game but they tend to detract from the full enjoyment!
The one downside to Monopoly is that it nearly always results in an argument in my household. Whether it's over a property that I want to make a full set or the amount of rent that's due, there's always something to shout about. I think tensions run especially high as Monopoly has a really competitive element in it which old and young alike enjoy. It can be a good idea to have a mediator at hand to solve those tricky disputes that arise. Also making sure the rule book is to hand is a good idea as well!
A set of Monopoly can be bought in many places; from high street stores such as WHSmiths and House of Fraser to online stores such as Amazon.co.uk. I've never bought my own set as they've either belonged to my parents or they've been presents but the game tends to retail between £15 and £35 depending on the recency of the edition and the time of year. However once you have a set, it's a timeless classic that will never get old.
As a self confessed magpie, anything glittery definitely gets my vote. Anything glittery and potentially free is a double win in my book, so when I walked into Boots and saw the offer to buy any Collection 2000 make up and get one of these gel liners for nothing, I jumped at the price. Unfortunately this offer ended a long time ago as it was when the product had just launched I think, but you can now pick up your own for around £3 depending on what offer is on at the time.
The tube of this glittery eyeliner is a very basic and handy clear plastic, meaning that it won't shatter and that you can always see the contents inside. There is a wide range of colours from black to silver to green to gold... Pretty much any colour you want. I have it in silver and green but plan to pick up the gold version tomorrow as I have a charity basketball game to cheer at and our team colours are gold and green! I plan to draw a gold star on my face with it, which isn't too hard to do but as I will discuss later can get a little tricky. At the end of the day when you're all glittered out it's not hard to get off with make up remover wipes though the glitter can be a little bit stubborn sometimes and needs a minute or so scrubbing. It's definitely not as bad as some other liquid eyeliners I've had though - and they weren't glittery! I have yet to hear any complaints of eyes stinging or feeling sore using this eyeliner - again something that has happened with other versions.
How should you wear this? However you want! Personally though I don't like going overboard on my make up and so I only wear this for special occasions (nights out/basketball games I'm cheering at). With the silver version of this eyeliner, I love putting a small amount of the very inner corner of my eyes just to open them up a bit for a subtle look, or if I'm wearing green eyeshadow lining the top of my eye lids with the green glitter colour. You can also line your top lids in a contrasting colour for a more bold look, or even line both the upper and lower lash line if you really want to go all out glittery.
Now the negatives; this eyeliner has a tendency to separate which is a definite negative but after a few minutes rolling it between the palms of your hands it will combine together again. The only other negative of this cheap alternative to an expensive product is that the brush on the end of the wand is not great - it is just a simple few hairs sticking out of the end and for precise application can be a bit heavy handed. Therefore, my gold star that I plan to adorn myself with on Tuesday may end up as a heart or just a blob of gold - oh well!
Overall though this is a great, cheap glittery eyeliner for special occasions and having fun. A definite must have in my make up bag and something I could not live without!
Barry M is always my go to for nail varnish when I'm looking for something that's vibrant and easy to apply. I have various different colours; however they tend to all be either green, gold or red. Recently I branched out into something different and bought a beautiful sky blue colour called 'Blueberry' - a perfect pastelly colour for spring time and right on trend.
Overall I find Barry M polishes very good value for money at just £2.99 for a 10ml pot. I have yet to run out of a shade though I am not regular with my nail painting. The flipside of that being that equally, I have a lot of very old Barry M polishes and they're all still perfectly good to use even five years plus on! Barry M nail varnish comes in pretty much every shade you can imagine, from red right through to black. They do pastels, metallics, crackle and 'effect' paints and shimmery colours to die for. I think they may even do glittery polishes as well, which are great for both younger teens and the young at heart!
The current trend is crackle/effect paints, which basically mean you can do fun little things on your nails in a few easy steps. Crackle paints go over an existing nail varnish colour and as they dry, bits of the nail varnish chip away so you're left with an almost wood grain effect on your nail. Effect nail varnishes don't require a base coat normally and use a magnet in the lid to make patterns in the tiny fragments of metal in the nail varnish. I've seen shimmers, stars, hearts and there's probably a lot more out there. I'm hoping that the next big thing in nails will be nail art pens - and that Barry M will bring out a wide range of different colour nail art pens so I can have fun doodling in a colour other than black!
In terms of actual use, Barry M nail varnishes are amongst the best I've ever used. They're thick without being gloopy and dry fairly quickly which means that you only need a couple of paints to do your nails, taking a matter of minutes rather than the half hour I'm used to! Once dried the varnish is very chip resistant and mine normally lasts for about a week before I start thinking 'gosh, I should redo/take my nail varnish off' as long as I put a top coat on. The colour remains the same in the bottle and on your nail which I think is a really important feature; I've had other nail varnishes that look like a great shade on the bottle but when you actually paint your nails with them they don't hold up. The blueberry colour I talked about at the start of the review is really something else; it's a really nice colour that I can't wait to use properly with some nice spring clothes!
The only downside I can find to Barry M nail varnishes is that their top coat is too runny and doesn't stay on well enough for my liking; I don't really use it most of the time as I feel it's just a bit of an effort for something that doesn't make a lot of difference. If I'm doodling with my nail art pen though I will take the extra time to use it so that the design is 'set' properly. I also occasionally find that the thickness of the nail varnish means that half of my nail is a darker shade than the other due to it pooling in the middle of my nail. This is easily sorted as long as it's spotted quickly by going over the nail again though.
I get a distinct feeling of excitement every time I go near a Barry M stand - I love all their products and the wide range of colours they come in, and the nail varnishes do not let the brand down in any way. I will continue buying these products and varnishes because they really do stand out against all the others on the market; yes they're not massively expensive so may get overlooked but the quality and application is great and they're really good fun.