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I usually just buy whatever shower gel is on offer in the supermarket, but Original Source have managed to bring out some brand loyalty in this fickle customer. I've used quite a few of their different scents now and absolutely love their products.
They aren't the cheapest on the shelf at around £1.50-2.00 but they are often on offer - 2 bottles for £2 of £1 a bottle or something like that. What I love most abput the products is the range of scents.
Original Source is so-called because of the 100% natural scents they use, which accounts for the freshness and strength of their scents. None of their products are animal tested and are vegan, which is nice to know.
My favourite is a fairly new one I think - Honey and Shea Butter. It says on the bottle that '49 bee miles' went into the making of this bottle and it shows in the beautiful rich sweet scent of the gel. As it is slightly creamier than some of the others it does a great job with moisturising and had banished my winter dry patches.
Some of the other I love are the Tea Tree and Mint - which produces an 'interesting' sensation when you wash with it. Just don't get it in your eyes. I'm not so keen on the Lime as I find it a bit drying on my skin, but love the Cocoa one as it is like washing with a bar of Dairy Milk!
The scents of these are pretty strong but with the exception of the tea tree one I don't find myself smelling of them for very long. I quite like this as I'd rather smell of my perfume than soap but it also means my boyfriend doesn't mind sharing. Most of the scents are fairly unisex, with obvious exception of the lavender scent, which is the only one I've smelled in the range which I'm not fussy on - a bit too old lady for me. They don't really froth up much for me, going on more like a cream even when I use a bath puff but then not much does with the hard water we have.
The major niggle I have with these is that it can be really tough to squeeze it out of the bottles! Maybe I just have a pathetic grip but especially as the bottle empties I can't squeeze hard enough to get a decent dollop.
Overall though, these shower gels are lovely and refreshing, decent value and very nice all round!
When the dog ate my Dior mascara, it's fair to say I was pretty upset with her. It has been my favourite, and now I couldn't afford to pay £20 to replace it. So, armed with my trusty Advantage card I headed to Boots, to buy my budget favourite mascara, Maybelline Great Lash. However, they had none of this left and so in desperation I picked up Colossal Volum' Express - partly because it was reduced to £1 off making it £5.99 and partly because it was bright and pretty!
The masacra claims to give up to 7x more volume using its 'mega brush'. I bought it in my customary shade of black and took it home, not really expecting much.
The packaging on this is very pretty - the mascara itself is bright yellow with purple lettering on it and comes in a cardboard and plastic Maybelline container - I like this because it means no-one can have opened it before you buy it unlike some other brands!
So, what's it like to actually use? In my opinion, great! When I first opened the tube up the thing I noticed was the size of the brush - I like big brushes as they make application quicker and easier and this one is massive. The next thing I noticed was the smell - the mascara does have a slightly cloying, chemical smell which may seem a strange thing to say about a mascara but its true.
Putting this mascara on is easy. I have blonde eyelashes which need all the help they can get and this mascara is great for thickening and lengthening. It takes a couple of coats and eyelash curlers for me to really give my lashes the thickness and volume I like but for a value mascara it does do a really good job.
It also wears quite well - it will stay on all day without giving me panda eyes. The only criticism I would have is that when it dries it dries very hard and crumbles a bit if you rub your eye for whatever reason. It removes very well with a dedicated eye make up remover, but unlike my Dior won't come off with just my usual cleanser.
Overall, a good value mascara which offers length and volume. No match for Dior, but Maybelline are definitely out in front of the budget mascara brands.
In June this year the dear old Micra which I shared with my dad finally reached the natural end of its life, and we decided to take advantage of the government's scrappage scheme to upgrade to a brand new car. We went in to buy a Micra, but seeing a Pixo on the courtyard we decided one of these would be ideal. They are, in my opinion better looking cars than Micras, almost like a Nissan Note's much prettier and less chunky little sister.
As anyone who has shopped for a small car will probably realise, the waiting lists since the scrappage scheme started have been huge. The Nissan Pixo is no exception - we got ours quickly as it just happened that the day we visited the showroom someone had cancelled an order, so we snapped it up. The salesman informed us that these cars are so popular under the scrappage scheme that the wait was until January and this was in June.
So, after a quick test drive we snapped this one up as it was everything we were looking for - small, economical and cheap. The thing that most attracted us to the Pixo was the price. A middle of the range model with a few extras such as electric windows cost us around £5,500, allowing for the scrappage we got for our old car. This really was an absolute bargain for a brand new car.
There are four grades of Pixo from the very basic Visia to the slightly more luxurious Tekna with A/C. The very cheapest Pixo is £6,995 and the most expensive £9,995. All have a very small 1.0 three cylinder engine and are 5 door hatchbacks (great for anyone who is, like me, an unofficial taxi service).
The size of the engine was something which niggled us when we bought this car. We thought that maybe such a small engine would make the car a little gutless. We couldn't have been more wrong. Alright, it's not the most powerful but it really is a fast little car - it's so small and light it can get away with such a small engine. You can really get away quick and acceleration is brilliant on faster roads. It does lose a little power sometimes on hills and struggles a little bit, but it's just a case of learning how to handle the car and changing down when appropriate.
The ride comfort in this car isn't the best. You tend to feel lumps and bumps in the road quite a bit, but it seems to me this is the price you pay for having a slightly higher seat which I prefer - it makes me feel a bit safer. There is also a fair amount of roll in the car, but nothing too extreme. In the old Micra I used to brace my legs against the sides of the car, and this is nowhere near anything like this.
You might have guessed by now that I'm no massive petrolhead, but I do enjoy driving and this car really does make it a pleasure to drive. I haven't been passed my test all that long (march this year) and think this is a brilliant car for a new driver as it is uncomplicated and not too powerful.
We did have some concerns about the build quality of this car - being built in India would it be of the same quality of the cars built in Sunderland? Our concerns proved to be unfounded. We have had only one problem with this car - the horn didn't work when we picked it up, and we just took it back to the dealership and it was fixed in an afternoon. Compared to some horror stories I have heard with new cars this is a minor complaint and it was sorted out with no problems. So far, so good on the reliability front.
In terms of economy, this car is great. It costs only £35 a year to tax because of how low the emissions are. While no car is green I suppose this (other than horrid electric cars) is the next best thing. It uses little petrol (I'm not sure how much we use) and with figures of 64.2mpg fuel efficiency and 103g/km CO2 emission tag it compares very well to other small cars on the environmental front.
The most annoying thing about this car that I have found is that it has no rev counter. I'm slightly deaf, and as this car has such a small engine I struggle to hear it sometimes. My way of driving had adapted when learning to use the rev counter more perhaps than most people, and it was something I struggled with in this car at first and led to much stalling. However, like most things I got used to it and now have a feel for the car.
Overall, I love this little car. It's an ideal city car in my opinion, and does its job for me economically and efficiently. It's probably not one for true petrol heads but is just great for getting from A to B. A brilliant little car from Nissan.
Topshop has long established itself as THE high street shop for people in my age group, and in my opinion it is easy to see why. I've shopped in loads of different stores, from the cupboard we have at home in Sunderland to the absolutely enormous Oxford Street flagship and its safe to say that pretty much every time I go in, there's something I want to buy.
Whatever store I go into the format seems to be the same - plenty of wall displays and rails spaced out with various mannequins dotted around the shop. There are no fancy tricks in a Topshop store, the clothes just speak for themselves. There is almost always music playing, usually some upoming indie band from a TV screen. Not my taste, but in keeping with the shop in general.
What sets the store aside from any others is the things it sells. The clothes are amazing - head and shoulders above pretty much anything else on the high street in terms of style, range and quality. In my opinion Topshop is at the forefront of British high street style, and is way ahead of any others.
The store sells everything you need in terms of clothes, from loads of different styles of basics such as T shirts and jumpers to real style statements (sequin hotpants or fur legwarmers anyone?). Not all of it is to my taste, and some of what they sell is fit only to be worn by six foot tall 18 year old stick insects. However, you can get some real classics. I've got a black coat from Topshop which is timeless and has lasted me for years.
The shoes, bags and jewelry are good too. Some of the shoes are a little architectural for my liking, but I love looking at the kooky styles and shapes. The shoe lounge in Topshop is my favourite place on Oxford Street. While some of the heels are a little out there, I have several pairs of Topshop shoes including a classic black pair I wore for my graduation and several pairs of pumps. Topshop do simply the best high street pumps in terms of comfort and style. The bags are great quality, and again a mix of classics and high fashion. The jewellery I'm not such a fan of - I'll buy soemthing there for a one off night out but the quality isn't always the best. I don't mind if it's a piece to wear with a specific outfit though, as they do some stunning designs.
I do however have some niggles.
1. The changing rooms. The curtains never cover the gaps, and the lighting in the Sunderland store is terrible with nowhere for anyone to sit if you need their opinion (this is compensated for, however, by some shops having handy sofas where I park my boyfriend).
2. The prices. Some are quite ludicrous. I was looking at a fairly simple jumper on saturday priced at £45 but the most overpriced things are the shoes. At around £80 for a pair of very high fashion heels which will not last long before they are out of style it's significantly more than high street competitors.
3. Some, though by no means all, of the staff. Some of those who work at my local store come across as a bit surly, unhelpful and snobby.
Anyway, back to the positives. I'm incredibly fickle, and will often fall in love with something entirely in a shop, buy it, take it home and think - what was I thinking?! Topshop is great for this, I've never had any problems with their returns policy and unlike many other high street stores it's fuss free to return something. I often lose my reciept, but they're always happy to still give me an exchange. In fact, I have a friend who used to work for Topshop and she reckons they will allow you to return pretty much anything in any state.
Overall, I love Topshop. It's definitely at the cutting edge of British high street style and is always the best place to go for me when I'm looking for fashion inspiration.
Florence and the Machine have been around for a while now, so I thought I would give in to the hype and give the debut album 'Lungs' a listen. I'm not a Radio 1 fan so hadn't really heard any of the songs, and assumed Florence was just another in a long line of 'alternative' singers latched on to by record companies. Well I was wrong.
Florence and the Machine consists of Florence Welch, and whoever or whatever she happens to consider her band at that time. So far, so right on. But the strength in the music of Florence and the Machine is Florence herself, and so I don't see why she shouldn't make her band whatever she wants it to be. She burst onto the scence last summer, and has remianed fairly popular. A few friends went to see her tour, and said she was amazing, a real high-energy and original performer.
The very first time I listened to this album I was hooked, from beginning to end. It really is something different from all the girly singers out there - Little Boots and Pixie Lott pale in the shadow of Florence.
The album, Lungs, is consistently brilliant. Stand out tracks include Rabbit Heart and Drumming Song, but my personal favourite is Kiss With A Fist. It's a really catchy, lyrical yet drum heavy number which I play when I'm walking to work to put a spring in my step. The album is consistently good quality. Her cover of you've got the love is faithful to the original but Florence's unique voice lends it new meaning, and I love it as much as I love the original.
Overall, I'd say this was an ultimately very listenable album. It's difficult to pin it to one genre, it's Florence's soul voice over an indie type music. The fusion is brilliant, and I'd recommend this album to anyone looking for a good listen. There are very few albums I can be bothered to listen to all the way through, and this has staked a place as one of those few.
I'm a Sunderland fan and have been all of my life, so my review here may just well be a little biased. I've previously held season tickets at the Stadium of Light and still get to matches when I can, finances permitting.
When it first was named I wasn't sure at all about the name, but now think it suits the ground. Can't be as bad as 'Sports direct @ St. James' Park' anyway. Haha.
The Stadium of Light is the best football ground I've been to. I went to Old Trafford expecting it to blow me away, but compared to my home ground it was like an old tin shed. On a matchday, the Stadium is a special place to be. As soon as you get in the vicinity of the ground you can really feel a buzz of matchday excitement. The ground itself is imposing, but confusingly the best view of it is from across the river Wear. From the outside it doesn't really look like anything special, but its's once you're inside that it feels like an amazing place.
The old school turnstiles have now been replaced with barcode scanners, which have definitely improved the queues on matchdays and have been an excellent update. Once you get into the concourse there is plenty of space to find somewhere to stand with good head height making sure it isn't claustrophobic. There are plenty of bars, food kiosks and betting shops to indulge yourself. There are queues for food and drink pretty much all of the time, but never too long.
When you walk out into the stands there is a real hairs ont he back of the neck moment when you first see the size and beauty of the place. Watching the match here is a bit of a special experience. There are excellent views from pretty much anywhere in the stadium so I'm never fussy about where I sit. However, if you have family I'd avoid 'crazy corner' (the south-west) as this is where the loudest, most vocal and more aggressive fans sit as it's next to the away area.
What make sthe stadium really special is its meaning to local people. In Sunderland I think football must be the most important thing in plenty of people's lives. The stadium is their house of worship. There are plenty of connections between the people and the ground - it's built on the old Monkwearmouth Colliery, has a Davy Lamp Statue and one of every SUnderland fan's hero, Bob Stokoe. The connection between the people and the place make the Stadium of light something special.
I was really glad to see in the summer that the stadium is now being put to use as a music venue. I went to the Take That gig and it was brilliant, and know the Oasis one was too.
All in all, a very special place to visit. The club is going from strength to strength, and the stadium is the launchpad to do it from.
I really don't know what to make of Frankie and Benny's. I've had a few greatly different experiences, and it all seems to depend on which branch of the chain you visit. The chain is a series of fairly homogenous restaurants serving Italian American food such as pizzas, pastas, burgers etc with a backdrop of swing music.
First I'm going to talk about a recent and pretty horrendous visit to my local branch, in Sunderland's Sunniside area. On arriving we were met pretty quickly by a pleasant waitress, who showed us to a table right beside the toilets in spite of there being plenty others free, so we asked to move and were obliged. We were then sat in the draught of the door and were sick of asking to move so stayed put.
We were immediately asked what we wanted to drink. I ordered a lemon soda, my boyfriend a lime soda. We waited around ten minutes for these while looking at the menu before the waitress came back and told us sorry, they didn't have the ingredients for this so could we choose something else. We ordered some different soft drinks and she walked away again, in spite of us clearly being ready to order. After at least another ten minute wait she returned with our drinks and took our order.
I ordered a classic cheeseburger, and my boyfriend a black and blue burger which is Cajun spiced with blue cheese. With both costing over £8 we expected at the very least a nice burger. We again had a slightly longer than expected wait for the food to arrive - I could see it sitting on the pass for at least 5-10 minutes before it was brought to the table. When it arrived it was cold, but I was hungry so I just started anyway. I cut into the burger and it was so ridiculously greasy that fat spurted out up my arm. Really disgusting. Anyway, I took a first bite and tried a few chips, but the food was bordering on inedible. The chip were hard and stale, and the burger looked undercooked and just a greasy mess.
My boyfriend, strangely, didn't find any reason to complain with his and it was a lot better than mine in spite of our orders being so similar. After repeated attempts to catch the waitress' eye she eventually came over after my boyfriend had finished his meal to ask if everything was OK. No, I explained, it wasn't as my meal was really bad for the reasons outlined above. I've never complained about food in a restaurant before, but this was unacceptable.
She offered me a free dessert as compensation, which I refused as I had lost my appetite by then, and politely requested that my meal be removed from the bill. At this point she proceeded to stick her fingers into the plate of food I had in front of me, declaring that 'oh yeah, it is a bit minging isn't it'! Very professional. We asked for the bill, it was brought, we paid for my boyfriends meal and 2 drinks - around £14 and left very quickly.
I think on this occasion the terrible service can be accounted for by the fact that the waitresses were busy playing with balloons they were using to decorate a table for a birthday. My opinion of this place is based on my own experience, but I know I'm not the only one to encounter bad management and bad food here.
The last time before this that we had visited a Frankie and Benny's our experience could hardly have been more different. The newly opened Metrocentre branch provided us with exemplary serivce, with polite and helpful staff. The food was good - I had a cheeseburger and it was done to perfection and very tasty. The only complaint was that my boyfriend's carbonara was a very small portion for the price, and quite watery like the pasta hadn't been drained properly. That said, he ate the lot. The bill came to around £25, which I consider very expensive for a burger and a bowl of pasta with 3 soft drinks.
So the standard of service and food you get seems to depend on which branch you choose to visit. One universal complaint with this place is, I think, price. The quality of the food does not match up to the fact that the dishes on the menu cost at least £8 for a main course. It's overpriced for its place in the market, and I struggle to see how some branches survive when you consider the price and low quality combined.
It's difficult to give Frankie & Benny's an overall star rating - the Sunderland branch gets 1 star, the Metrocentre gets three, giving me an average of 2, so suppose that's it!
This amazing novel had me gripped from the very first line! I'm a massive fan of Sebastian Faulks, but had been put of this novel by reviews which said there were passages which were too long winded and scientific. Lesson one - read it yourself and make your own opinion! This is an incredible book, not quite up there with Birdsong (my favourite book of all time - so far) but still amazing.
I can't describe the story better than Fauks himself so:
"The story begins in the 1870s with the lives of two young men: Jacques Rebière, a peasant's son in Brittany, and Thomas Midwinter, a merchant's son in Lincolnshire. Jacques has a naturally scientific turn of mind, in which he is encouraged by the help of the local priest. He is inspired by his desire to find a cure for the mysterious illness of his elder brother Olivier -- who hears voices and is confined by his father to a stable. Jacques studies to become a doctor.
Thomas is forced, reluctantly at first, into medicine by his father and by the friendly concern of his elder sister Sonia. He is at first more interested in literature, and approaches medicine, then psychiatry, from a humane, psychological standpoint.
Jacques and Thomas meet in Deauville, fall intellectually in love and promise to join forces in their life's work: an attempt to understand the mystery of the human mind and in particular the meeting of thought and flesh. Jacques studies under the great neurologist Charcot in Paris; Thomas sees madness close up as a junior doctor in an English county lunatic asylum."
I couldn't go further than this without giving away the entire story, but all I will say is that this brief description does capture the essence of the stroy and its three central characters in Thomas, Jacques and Sonia. The chracterisation is a real strong point in this novel.
Jacques is clearly the most complex of the three mainstays, I had a feeling that I could never quite trust him and this is later revealed to be the right instinct. He is he most mercurial and interesting of the characters- a flawed and fascinating man. Thomas is more of a plodder - I didn't really warm to him until I reached the section where he goes to Africa, and his passion comes through. Sonia is a well drawn Englishwoman of her time - but with a stubborn heart I can relate to, and strong character.
There is a huge cast of supporting characters which are all well done. There is one brief fleeting moment where Faulks gives us an insight into the mind of the psychotic Olivier which is truly breathtaking. It took courage in the conviction of his writing to make the glimpse of Olivier so fleeting and it is a courage which pays off.
What makes this work outstanding is the closeness with which it adheres to the study of the mind - all through reading it I felt as though not much was happening (although it was) in the same way that in lived experience sometimes it feels like not much is happening although clearly when you look back it is. It's a sense which is hard to express, but is captured superbly by Faulks.
There are the long scientific passages which some readers have complained of. However, they were of great interest to me as the advances made in the study and treatment of mental illness are of personal interest. Some of the details in his story are a real testament to the thoroughness of Faulk's research, which can only have been painstaking and fully in-depth.
I can't praise this book enough - it is the skill of Faulks' writing that make sit the epic sweeping study of the human mind that it is. The characters are outstandingly well drawn, and the subject matter handled sensitively and in an enlightening way. It's not fluffy lighthearted bedtime reading (I'd say avoid if Marian keyes et al - urgh - is your thing) but is well worth the investment of your time and energy.
Overall, another masterpiece from Faulks.
Having recently graduated and been left with nothing but a part time casual job, I decided that it might be of some use to me to try to claim Jobseeker's Allowance as it may help me to find a job. Wrong! This review will focus on my experience of tryiong to claim Jobseeker's and find a job using their service. I found the whole system to be an absolute joke.
My first contact was a half hour phone interview, where they took all of my details of income and working pattern. This was fine - the person on the other end of the phone was pleasant and polite. However, from this point on I had nothing but problems with the service. The next appointment I could get was in 3 weeks time - I know we are in the middle of a recession etc but this seemed a very long time. It wasn't the end of the world for me, but I'd hate to think I ever needed to claim to pay the mortgage!
So, I went to my appointment at my local Jobcentre (Sunderland). What a charming place it was too. You are greeted by a surly member of staff who assumes you are a regular and told to sit down on non-existent seats. You are then called to a quick preliminary meeting, then on to a more in depth job search.
This really annoyed me. In spite of me saying I check every day for jobs the man interviewing me proceeded to explain to me how to use the internet to jobsearch. He then suggested that I should aspire to no more than minimum wage in spite of having a degree and plenty of work experience. He also hinted that maybe I shouldn't put my qualifications on my C.V. as it may intimidate employers! Good God. No thanks, I explained, I get paid more than that now and am proud of what I have acheived. He then proceeded to roll off a list of jobs that were clearly unsuited to me. So far, so unhelpful. I was then given my first signing on day.
To claim Jobseeker's allowance you need to sign on once every two weeks. I attended my first appointment and was promptly told I wasn't entitled as I had worked 18 hours the previous week. I explained that I work a month in hand, and these had been my first hours for months, meaning I hadn't been paid for several months, and wouldn't be again until nearly two months' time. Really not fair - it doesn't take into account the individual circumstances of anyone who works part-time while trying to find a job which surely better than not working??!!
Now comes the really annoying bit - the member of staff proceeded to suggest I quit my job as it was having an effect on my claim. This to me seems to be the opposite of what a Jobcentre should acheive - it's surely meant to encourage people into work, and help them find it rather than tell them to give up what little work they have managed to find. Also, I really don't understand why someone couldn't have told me I wasn't entitled earlier.
This is just a small snapshot of my experiences with the Jobcentre Plus service, but rest assured it got no better. In the end, I gave up. I really feel for anyone who needs this service - my hours at work have picked up now, and I have no responsibilites. The money they give you is barely worth having - I've no idea how people live on it.
I found the whole system is geared towards people who feel no need to work, and hate that it is this which has lead to anyone who genuinely needs to use the serivce as being branded a scrounger. The whole system of Jobcentre Plus is an absolute joke!
Now as a Sunderland fan I have more reason to like Mike Ashley than most - what he has had a hand in doing to Newcastle has brought me endless amusement. Unlike some people, I do not hate the shop just because of who owns the chain. I hate the shop because it is a rubbish shop!
No matter which branch of Sports Direct you visit, from walking in the door you are confronted by a dark, vast and overcrowded cavern of tat. The single worst thing about this shop is how overcrowded every branch I've ever visited seems to be. I struggle to get around the shop with a few shopping bags, so don't know how anyone with a pushchair or wheelchair would manage.
Some of the things this store sells are absolutley awful. It is generally end of the line tat. I recently popped in to buy the boyfriend a football shirt he wanted. I visited two branches and neither had any of my three options in stock. Rubbish - I wasn't looking for anything unusual, just an England or Sunderland top. The stores I visited only had ridiculous sizes. The women's section, which I popped in to see if I could find any decent value gym trousers is appalling - some really nasty stuff. Not just sports clothes but unbranded stuff you would expect to find on a market stall. I appreciate this is a store which has positioned itself at the lower end of the sportswear market but it really is terrible.
The staff I have also found to be particularly unhelpful. On both occasions when looking for the top for my boyfriend I asked if they had any more in stock, and was on both occasions greeted with a monosyllabic grunt. I suggest Mr. Ashley invests a little more in customer service training for his staff, as I found them to be most unhelpful. I can't really blame them though - my sister worked for the company while she was at college and the conditions and pay were terrible, on top of it being an awful atmosphere to work in.
I would avoid ever shopping here again. It has little that would be of any use to me selling low quality goods at the end of the line. An overall terrible shop.
I thought I would give these a try, as they combined my two favourite cadbury's products in Giant Buttons and Caramel. Really, what more could you want than giant caramel-filled buttons?! I got these from my local Spar, and paid £2.50 for two bags on special offer, which I thought was an OK price for a decent size bag of sweets.
So me and the boyfriend settled down in front of sunday's X Factor and cracked these open. The bag has a handy tear off top with a sticky label tab to reseal it. When you open the bag the characteristic Cadbury's chocolate scent wafts out. The sweets themselves are the same size as Giant Buttons if you've ever tried those - about the size of a 50p piece. Bite into them and gorgeous Cadbury's Caramel oozes out.
I was worried before I tried these that they would disappoint me by not having enough caramel, but this certainly isn't the case. There is an excellent balance between the chocolate and caramel. They are a great non-messy alternative to a bar of caramel, which I always seem to end up with on my chin. I'd say that as a product they are pretty perfect as I couldn't ask for more than gorgeous Cadbury's Dairy Milk with Caramel. A happy marriage!
These aren't just another gimmicky chocolate product as I can see that they are great for sharing and on the go. They'd be good at the cinema or on car journeys, and are a really nice little treat.
Needless to say we scoffed the lot while watching the telly, which says it all about how lovely these little treats are. Obviously not for those watching their waistline, but a real indulgence. Recommended!
This hotel is undoubtedly the best I have ever stayed in. Here's why...
We booked this hotel as a top secret hotel through lastminute.com, paying £86 for the room for the night of Saturday 26th Septmeber 2009. For anyone who isn't familiar with lastminute's top secret system you basically get a star rating and description, but not the name of the hotel before you book. However, for London hotels if you put the description into Google you can easily find out which one matches the description, so we knew what we were getting before we booked. We arrived by Tube from King's Cross station to St. Paul's Underground station. It's only a couple of stops away so nice and handy.
From here the hotel is fairly easy to find. Just follow the signs for the cathdral then look for Godliman Street on the other side of the cathedral and you can't miss it. It's maybe an easy 5 minute walk from the tube station to the hotel. The transport links to the hotel are good - St. Paul's Underground station is perhaps not the best served but it is easy to make links to all of the major sightseeing points in London. The hotel is also in close proximity to the City, so would be good for business travellers and tourists alike. There is also a decent bus service running about 2 minutes away from the hotel's entrance, although I prefer to go by Underground.
On our arrival at the hotel, the porter came out of the hotel and carried our bags in for us to the reception. First impressions - wow. The hotel is built around a massive atrium/ bar, the space is incredible, all glass and marble and really befitting a 5* hotel. We went to reception but were told our room wasn't ready - fair enough as we were early for our check-in time, althought the staff were still apologetic.
After half an hour of wandering around and discovering the area around the hotel we went back and found our room. Again, wow. The decor was really gorgeous. The design of the rooms is unique - ours looked over the massive atrium/bar area with a floor to ceiling one way glass window. Everything in the room was faultless - the bed linen was beautiful, the beds were comfortable, the bathroom spotless. The shower was amazing, with jets not only above your head but also from the sides. There were complimentary copies of Harper's Bazaar and Wallpaper magazines, bathrobes and slippers. I'd never stayed 5* before and was blown away by the difference between 4* and 5*. The hotel is very quiet once you are in your room - I didn't hear a single nosie through the night.
So, after a little relax in the room and much discussion about how we couldn't believe we had paid so little we went back out. In the area around the hotel there are some excellent facilites. St. Paul's cathedral itself is well worht a visit. There are also a range of cafes and restaurant including Cafe Rouge, Pizza Express, Yo Sushi!, Starbucks, Costa and an M&S Simply Food - a really good choice right on the doorstep. The facilities in the hotel are similarly good. We had a drink in the smaller bar after returning fromt he theatre, and the range of drinks was excellent.
There was a good and not ridiculously overpriced room service menu, although we didn't sample it. The minibar in the rooms is well-stocked if a little pricey. When we stayed the hotel's facilities weren't fully complete such as the pool and spa - but I suspect this is why we got such a bargain. We didn't eat in the hotel as our budget didn't allow for it, but we could see breakfast service from our room and it looked very nice!
The service in the hotel was second to none. The staff couldn't do enough for us. The smaller details in the service really made our stay an excellent one. The porters were always ready to help with bags and take them to our room for us, the concierge was knowledgeable about London and transport and always helpful and the recption staff were polite and efficent. I couldn't fault a single member of staff I came across.
Overall, this hotel is truly outstanding. I will be saving up to go back - currently the rate per night including continental breakfast is around £100. I can't really do justice to how impressed I was with this place - can only say go and try it for yourself!
I have real problem skin - an mix of dry and oily with the occasional outbreak of spots. I've tried a few things over the years, and have found things for spotty skin too drying, and for dry skin too oily. It's been a real pain, but when I ran out of moisturiser my mam told me to try a bit of this, which she has been buying for years. First time I tried it I absolutley loved it.
This cream has been a Body Shop staple for years, and it's easy to see why. When I bought it the shop assistant said it was one of their most popular products. It comes in 50ml pots which are pink with a black lid and labelled in the theme of the Body Shop's vitamin e range. A pot will set you back around £8, although recently it was on promotion at £5 a pot, so I stocked up!
When you open the pot the cream is a light pink colour, and has a very perfumed smell. It kind of smells like old ladies, but in a nice way. Like a really feminine and flowery smell. The cream is a nice consistency. I have found I need very little of this cream to keep my skin moisturised, and when you apply it it sinks in very easily, meaning you can put your make-up on straight away. I've found it makes a great base for my foundation.
It really has helped to keep my skin balanced since I started using it. My dry patches are gone, and spots I get far fewer spots. The only slight snag with this product is the price - it is on the expensive side for an everyday cream but in my opinion is seriously worth the investment. A pot lasts me around 2-3 months, which I consider to be good value.
As with all Body Shop products this one is not tested on animals etc. Also, as an aside my sister suffers from eczema and has very sensitive skin. Often highly perfumed products upset her skin, but in spite of the lovely smell of this one it doesn't affect her.
I'd recommend this cream to anyone!
I've recently graduated from university, and decided to clear out some of my old textbooks. After looking on ebay at how little the titles I had were selling for I decided to open a seller account with Amazon. I've used the service before as a buyer and never had any issues, and thought I couldn't go wrong with a company as big as Amazon.
So far, I've been proven right! I listed four books about one week ago, and three of these have sold already. They've sold for at least double what they would have reached on ebay, so I'm really pleased.
Signing up for an Amazon seller account is easy. Just log in to your buyer account and find the sell your stuff link on the homepage. Fill in the necessary details and then you are ready to create your listings. In this process so far only one thing concerned me - you are required to add a credit card to your file and to me the reasons for this aren't clear. However, nothing has been taken from my card so so far so good.
I like the way Amazon listings work. Creating the listings is really easy - just put in the item's ISBN number or title and it will find your item for you. Just select the books condition (New, Used-Like New etc) and a few words about it. You don't need to faff around adding pictures and descriptions. Your item is then listed with the new copies Amazon sells - beside their item listing appear the marketplace listing - it will say New and Used from £(). I'd advise undercutting the lowest price listed - especially as an new seller. There are lots of sellers who must do this as a business so for buyers to prefer you to them you need a lower price.
Unlike ebay you don't pay them a penny in fees unless your item sells. The postage charge is set at a flat £2.75 for buyers, which sometimes seems a little unfair on sellers as one of my items cost over £4 to post - but the way Amazon fees work more than makes up for this. My account works on a payment on dispatch system - as soon as I mark an item as dispatched the credit shows in my account. For a new seller there is however a 14 day holding period from opening the account.
Payment is made by bank transfer, and to do this Amazon will take a small cut of your money as a kind of admin fee. This is a slight disadvantage, but when you sell on ebay paypal take a cut, so it's no worse. You can also claim your earnings in Amazon vouchers, for which there is no comission.
Amazon fees work like this; the buyer pays the price advertised and the postage. Amazon then take their fees from the final value, giving you the postage credit and the value of the item less their fees. The fees are really low in my opinion. This is an example of one of the items I've sold - it seems easier to show you than try to explain:
Buyer's Price: £7.29
Amazon Fees: £-2.60
Your Earnings: £7.44
So I actually get paid more than I set the price at. I prefer this method of taking the fees as opposed to ebay's system of a monthly bill as earnings on ebay can sometimes be a little false once you've paid the fees. I think the fees are marginally higher than ebay, but by using Amazon you are likely to get a better price which evens it out.
I also like the layout of the seller account page. It is really easy to navigate to see which items are on order and have been dispatched, look at your seller ratings and most importantly see how much you have earned!
After you've sold your items buyers are asked to leave feeback on similar topics to ebay seller feedback - item as described, dispatch time etc. The only criticism I can find of Amazon is that it only gives 2 days for the seller to dispatch the item, which can be a pain if you are working. However, I can see that it is really only fair on the buyer.
Overall, if you've got old books to sell I'd recommend Amazon over ebay. I've only used the service for buying and selling academic texts, but would recommend it to anyone looking to sell on books for the highest price.
Until a year ago, I had been a bottle blonde since I was fifteen. Because of this, I'd always paid to have my hair salon dyed. Since then, my mother has stopped bankrolling my haircuts (sob) so after an initial salon trip to head back to a more natural brown ish red colour, I have since dyed my hair at home in order to save the pennies!
After trying several different brands, L'Oreal Excellece Creme has established itself as my firm favourite. The packaging is not as funky and trendy as some other brands, and at first I was dubious that I would end up with an old woman shade of dull brown. But, on the recommendation of a reliable friend, I bought this dye in a Mahogany Brown shade and haven't looked back since.
The kit provides you with pre-conditioner, gloves, the dye itself, an activator and a post-dye conditioner. The pre-conditioner is an excellent idea. You rub it into your hair before you start dyeing where your hair might need some extra help. I've had trouble when dyeing my hair before with getting the colour to be even through my hair where it perhaps is a little fried from over use of straightners. The pre-conditioner helps overcome this, and is an excellent addition.
To make up the dye you squirt the colour into the activator bottle and give it a really good shake up. The kit comes with a fancy comb applicator which screws onto the top of the bottle, but this doesn't work for my hair as there is too much of it - I have long and very thick hair. So, I stick to using the old style squirter, and this does a fine job.
With this product it's advised that you work it through your roots first, leave for ten minutes then apply to the rest of your hair, and leave for a further twenty. In my opinion this is good advice - your hair ends up looking the same colour all the way through instead of being paler at the roots. So after rinsing, you apply the beautiful smelling conditioner and there you have it. Hair dyed within half an hour.
I really like this dye kit. Although it take it bit longer than the ten minute ones the results are better. I find the ten minute dyes wash out pretty quickly, whereas this one lasts a good few weeks longer. The colour it gives me is rich, and not too flat. The red in the mahogany gives it a lift and stops it from being a boring flat brown. I'm naturally a light mousey brown shade and the results on me are a mid-brown with a hint of red.
For a home dye kit, the results are surprisingly multi-tonal unlike other kits which can just look like a block. On average I'd say I dye my hair every other month with this product, which is OK for a home dye kit in my opinion. At around £6-7 it saves me about £60 compared with a salon dye so I can't complain. Unlike other kits (in spite of my mountains of hair) I don't need two boxes, so its worth paying a little more for this one compared to other kits.
There are a couple of niggles with this product - it stinks (which I'd expect during application) no matter how long I rinse it for after the smell hangs around for until at least the next wash. Also, the colour does fade from its original very rich tones quite quickly - I'd say after four washes it looks less rich than it did. But to me, this isn't too bad. The colour doesn't look awful after this time, just a bit less nice than at first.
Overall, this product is saving me a fortune on salon colours. I was nervous about dyeing my hair at home for the first time but haven't looked back since. I'd recommend this product to anyone looking for results which are not too drastic, but look good. This kit offers the closest I've found to a salon dye effect, which is the best recommendation i can give it.