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At the back-end of last year, I was faced with the unfortunate possibility that I may be made redundant. Although nothing had been decided, my first action was to start looking for jobs, should the worst case scenario happen.
I applied for some jobs online and a lady from Reed spotted my CV and gave me a call. Usually (due to past negative experiences) I am reluctant to deal with anyone from a recruitment agency. In the past I have found every consultant I've dealt with to be rude, pushy and very 'salesy' (yes I know they work to targets/commission, but still...). I'm not wishing to tarnish everybody with the same brush, but this is an opinion I've formed based on several people, not just one or two.
Reed are a nationwide recruitment company who have offices in most UK towns and cities as well as many jobs which they advertise online. As with most recruitment agencies their aim is to match candidates to jobs, for which they recieve commission from the company whose job they have filled.
Anyway, I went against my normal rule and decided to speak to this lady, partially because I wasn't definitely looking for a job at this point, I was merely dipping my toe in the job pool in case I was faced with the worst-case scenario. If she started offering me things I wasn't interested in I could just tell her straight, rather than feeling that I had to go for whatever she wanted me to, just because I needed a job. I arranged a meeting at her office the following day.
Now in my past experiences I've normally been made to feel pretty worthless by these companies. They have laughed in my face when I've told them what salary I'm looking for (despite me going on to prove it is completely realistic by achieving it - and more - myself) and one even had a go at me for getting a degree (waste of time apparently). This lady took the opposite approach; she bigged me up massively and when I left her office my head could hardley fit through the door.
She went through lots of questions about what I was looking for and seemed to take on board everything I said, including the location, salary and type of work I was after. She lavished me and my CV with praise and then came up with three positions she thought would be suitable and I thought two of them looked great. I told her straight that the other one wasn't up my street and instead of trying to sell it to me she just said 'no problem' and didn't mention it again. She put me forward for the other two jobs and I left feeling fairly positive.
I didn't hear anything for nearly two weeks, until a Friday at about 5pm. I was just finishing my work and me and my colleagues were all about to head into town and celebrate the end of our working week. She couldn't have picked a worse time to decide to ring me frankly. I didn't answer her call but she left a voicemail letting me know that she had secured me a phone interview for the upcoming Monday morning. Now she knew I was currently in work, so I'm not too sure how she expected me to get time off on a Monday morning, on the Friday evening prior to it, just as the office was closing down for the weekend.
I emailed her to tell her this and again didn't hear anything for a while. In the meantime I found out my job was safe. By the time I heard from this lady again, a few weeks later, I had completely stopped looking for jobs and informed her of this. Despite me telling her, she still continues to call and email every couple of weeks or so.
So to summarise, Reed are probably the best recruitment company I have ever used, but this doesn't mean they're great by any means. They are now annoying, pushy, and won't leave me alone despite me letting them know I'm no longer looking for work. They were quite incompetent at getting in touch and following through on jobs they told me about. That said, when I did go in looking for a job they found a couple of suitable positions and actually took on board what I was looking for and other aspects like salary and location, etc. If I absolutely had to use an agency again I would probably just go there.
If anyone reading this works in recruitment, I hope you're not offended. As I say, the opinions I've formed do come from my own experiences and they're not just made up, obviously I can't comment on every single recruitment consultant, I'm just referring to the majority of the ones I've spoken to.
About a Boy (2002) is a British comedy film co-written and directed by brothers Chris and Paul Weitz, who are also known for directing American Pie (1999).
The film was adapted from the 1998 book of the same name, written by Nick Hornby (Fever Pitch, A Long Way Down). Although I usually choose books over films, in this case I read the book once years ago, and although I enjoyed it I've probably watched the film 30 plus times so felt more equipped to review the film. It isn't the only Nick Hornby book to hit the big screen either, the films High Fidelity (2000) and A Long Way Down (2014) both started life as novels by Hornby. Fever Pitch has also been made into a film twice.
==Partial plot synopsis==
The film starts by introducing the two main characters; Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) and Marcus Brewer (Nicholas Hoult) who are unknown to each other at this point.
Will is a 30-something-year-old man who is extremely shallow and lives alone in his swanky London flat. He spends most of his time smoking, eating out, playing pool, shopping, watching films and going out with a string of attractive women who he sleeps with and never calls again. His abundance of free time is explained by the fact that he lives off royalties (his diceased father wrote a famous Christmas song) and therefore doesn't need, or choose, to work.
Marcus is a young boy who gets bullied at school due to his dodgy haircut, wacky clothes and the fact that he does embarrassing things like accidentally singing in the middle of lessons and being walked to school by his Mum who shouts 'I love you' across the playground to him. He lives with just his Mother, Fiona, an eccentrically dressed vegetarian hippy who suffers from depression.
Near the start of the film Will realises that single mothers are the perfect short-term partners for him to pursue. He joins a group called SPAT (single parents alone together) where he is pleased to find he is the only man there and that of course all the women are single. This does mean he must invent a fictional son, and he crafts a little story about a two-year-old son called Ned and an ex-partner who left him. This works wonders for him in terms of sympathy from the rest of the group. He quickly notices the beautiful Suzie (Victoria Smurfit) and wastes no time arranging to take their children to the park together. He obviously turns up alone, inventing a reason why 'Ned', cannot be there. Suzie brings along her own toddler daughter as well as her friends' son, who just so happens to be Marcus.
Marcus and Will don't hit it off but an unexpected incident that day changes things and Marcus begins to realise that he would like his Mum to have someone special in her life in order to help with her depression. He decides this someone could be Will. He persuades Will to take the two of them out for lunch, which proves to be a fairly awkward meal where Will is horrified to realise he appears to have been set up on some kind of date with Fiona, and it becomes very clear the two of them have absolutely nothing in common. It is, however, the start of an unlikely friendship between Will and Marcus.
Obviously more than this happens throughout the rest of the film and other characters are introduced but I won't divulge the entire plot. That said, I think it's fair to say the plot isn't huge and there are no massive spoilers to give, but the plot that does exist is delivered so fantastically in my opinion that this doesn't matter.
The majority of the soundtrack is written and performed by the fantastic Badly Drawn Boy (aka Darren Gough) and was released as an album (also 2002, also entitled About a Boy).
I won't list every track but the better known/most heavily featured songs are:
Something to Talk About
Above Me, Below You
River, Sea, Ocean
This album sounds just glorious and I used to listen to it a lot when it was released. As a 14-year-old child it was unlike the rest of my music collection (it consisted of rock and pop punk only) but I adored this album then and still do now. It's one of those rare albums where every song is equally amazing, in my opinion.
The style of music has a folk-y feel and is very chilled out, it feels effortless; a lot of songs predominantly feature acoustic guitar, piano, and also other less-common instruments such as the harmonica.
Something I love about this album is that certain songs on it instantly take me to the point in the film where they are played.
This album manages to be incredibly calm and relaxing but far from dull.
Hugh Grant as Will Freeman
Nicholas Hoult as Marcus Brewer
Toni Collette as Fiona Brewer
Rachel Weisz as Rachel (Will's love interest later in the film)
Nat Gastiain Tena as Ellie (Marcus' friend/love interest)
Sharon Small as Christine (A friend of Will's)
Nicholas Hutchinson as John (A friend of Will's)
Victoria Smurfit as Suzie
In a nutshell, to me this film is perfection. I think the cast is superb, the soundtrack is my second favourite of any film (Billy Elliot marginally wins because I'm a huge T.Rex fan) and the fact that there isn't a huge storyline becomes irrelevant because the film is so funny and easy to watch.
Toni Collette is one of my favourite actresses anyway, and I think she gives an outstanding and extremely believable performance in About a Boy. She is Australian and I think she masters the British accent very well. She is just perfect in this role.
Hugh Grant plays his usual role, and in this case his shallow charm and slight social awkwardness makes him perfect for the part. Despite spending most of the film as some kind of wannabee playboy, he is somehow likeable.
This was one of Nicolas Hoult's first acting roles, and as far as I'm aware it is his first main role. Hoult does such a good job of playing a socially inept pre-teen who the audience will probably like and at the very least sympathise or identify with. This part established him well as an actor and 12 years later he is all grown up and has a successful career as an actor/model.
One of the things that keeps this film funny in my opinion is the sarcastic, dry nature of the humour. The film is narrated in parts by mainly Will and occasionally Marcus. This is funny particularly in Will's case as he is usually polite and does not say what he actually thinks, but the watcher still gets to find out what his thoughts are via the narrative.
There are a few fairly grim issues dealt with in About a Boy (bullying, depression) but it isn't an overall serious film. That said, I don't feel that the film makes too much light of these very real issues, it does have (very fleeting) slightly more somber moments and manages to have a happy ending without coming across as being too unrealistic or twee.
Over all I think this is a very funny, feel-good film. It is not the blatant, in-your-face kind of humour but much more understated, sarcastic and really quite 'British'. Despite being predominately a comedy, it is quite affecting in places and the top-notch acting and hilarious observations delivered through the main narrative make it outstanding.
Rotten Tomatoes - 93%
IMDB - 7.1/10
Certificate - PG-13. The film contains a bit of swearing, no nudity or violence.
Running time - 105 minutes
Although this is a film-only review a quick look on Amazon tells me this can be purchased on DVD for under £3, brand new and including delivery.
I hope my cheese reviews aren't becoming too boring. I love to cook and have really wanted to do some food/recipe reviews and cheese is my passion so it makes sense that this is what I would review!
Parmigiano-reggiano aka parmesan cheese isn't my favourite but it is probably the cheese I use the most in my cooking. It has a strong, pungent taste and is very dry and great for grating very finely and stirring into dishes or sprinkling on top. I tend to buy it already finely grated, usually in a 100g pouch for about £1.50. It works out cheaper just to buy a solid block but due to pure laziness I get the ready-grated stuff every time. You can buy a tub of Parmesan shavings too but I've never bought this.
I always buy my parmesan from the chilled section of the supermarket but you can get tubs of it from the non-chilled section (usually located with things like tomato purée) but in my opinion these aren't very nice, and they absolutely stink (not in a good way). A tub of this could be a handy staple to have in though as it doesn't go out of date for months and months.
My favourite parmesan recipes include:
Risotto balls - I know these have a proper name which I don't know, but I do know how to make them! Cook a normal risotto using arborio rice, garlic, onion, and any other finely chopped veg you like. Stir in Parmesan at the end and then leave it to cool and set. Once the risotto is cold and quite firm stir in more parmesan and seasoning, shape the mix into balls, roll each one in whisked egg then breadcrumbs and bake for 20 mins (you could fry them but I try and save a few calories).
Pesto sauce - using a hand blender or food processor blend 50g of fresh basil leaves and 25g rocket. Then add two chopped garlic cloves and 120g parmesan and blend again. Stir in 150g fat free from age frais and blend again. Makes four portions and is great mixed through pasta or if you put it in the fridge it hardens a bit and makes a great dip.
Calorie-wise, parmesan is about the same as most other cheeses, you get about 30g for about 100 calories. However, with parmesan you feel you're getting a lot for your calories, when it's finely grated it's so light that you weigh out 30g and it seems a lot! Also it has a strong flavour meaning you don't need to use loads.
While I'm reviewing a few cheeses, I felt it only right to talk about my beloved gorgonzola next. As someone who adores cheese my favourite one had to be a good one, albeit one that bloody stinks.
Gorgonzola derives its name from the place of the same name, located in Milan, where it was originally made. It is made from cow's milk, and is a blue viened cheese, which is produced in a similar way to roquefort cheese. The mould which gives it its blue viens is actually made separately and then added to the cow's milk (sounds delicious doesn't it?)
The end result is a fairly soft and squidgy cheese which carries a strong odour and an even stronger taste. To me it is like a cross between a stilton and a brie. It is similar in texture to brie or maybe camembert, but the taste is more like that of stilton. It is basically a hybrid of two already fantastic cheeses, which therefore means that this is the absolute king of the cheese world!
It is not dissimilar in taste to most other blue cheeses so I think it is definitely the creamy texture of this one that knocks it into poll position. I've heard the taste described as being like both 'sick and 'feet' but frankly I'd be surprised if anyone who says this actually knows what either of these things taste like. I think blue cheese is one of those tastes that is unique and you either like it or you don't. If you are a fan of other blue cheese but haven't tried gorgonzola then I wholly suggest you give it a go.
Gorgonzola is a very versatile cooking ingredient and some of the ways I like to enjoy it include:
*Risotto - just stir the cheese in near the end. It is soft anyway and melts very easily. It gives the risotto a good kick and a delicious flavour.
*Cheese sauce - some make this to go with steak but as I'm not a fan I usually make this to stir through pasta. I make it exactly the same way as I would a normal cheese sauce; melt butter, stir in flour, add milk, and then just add the gorgonzola in place of your normal cheese for a rich tasting, stronger alternative.
*Pizza - pizza ai quattro formaggi (four-cheeses pizza) is often found on the menu in an Italian restaurant, and gorgonzola is one of the cheeses used. I often add bits of this cheese to pizzas myself at home too.
*On its own, or with crackers and grapes as a cheese board. Simple and delicious!
*Tart - using puff or filo pastry, I love using caramalised red onion, cherry tomatoes and a strong cheese like this as a filling.
Over all, I highly recommend giving gorgonzola a go if you're a cheese fan and haven't tried it. It is sold in most supermarkets for about £2.00 for a 150g block. A 30g portion contains around 100 calories which is this case isn't bad as the strength of it means you don't need loads.
Although not strictly a vegetarian, it is extremely rare for me to eat meat. I therefore like to try lots of other things, including any type of cheese I can get my hands on. Normally I say the stronger the better, but there a few other milder cheeses that I really love, including halloumi.
Halloumi is a Cypriot cheese which has an extremely high melting point so can therefore be grilled/fried and still retain a solid shape rather than melting into a big mess. For me, heating my halloumi is the only way to enjoy it, as it is quite hard and tasteless in its cold form.
I don't buy halloumi every week as it usually has a shorter sell-by date than other cheeses but every few months ago I will purchase a block, which usually sets me back about £2.30 for 250g. It can be found in the normal cheese fridges of most of the supermarkets.
As I said it is a very firm cheese, which is springy to the touch and white in colour. It has a fairly rubbery texture but can be easily cut into slices. Halloumi is quite tasty and the one critisicm i have of the taste is that it is slightly salty, hence why I can't eat a massive amount (which is probably a good thing). The taste is hard to desribe as it's unlike anything else I've tasted, but it is not too strong, so if you like other milder cheeses like mozarella i would recommend giving it a go. It seems to be a bit of a 'love or hate' one so just try it if you haven't!
I've heard people describe the texture as 'squeaky' which I understand as it is a bit rubbery and can literally squeak on your teeth when you eat it! I find that if I cook it for long enough so that it is a bit softer then this isn't really an issue. I tend to enjoy my halloumi in one of the following meals:
*Cous cous salad - fried and chopped red onions, corguette, aubergine and garlic mixed with cous cous (which has been cooked in vegetable stock) and slices of grilled halloumi. The flavours work really well together.
*Stick it on the barbie - when I have a BBQ I always put slices of halloumi on there. People seem to love it and it is a good meat alternative for me.
*Jazz up a (quorn) burger - I often eat meat-free Quorn/Linda McCartney/vegetable burgers and a couple of slices of grilled halloumi on top is a nice treat. Obviously I'm sure this would be good on meaty burgers too.
*Like most cheese this is a versatile ingredient which can be used in a big range of salads, pastas and other dishes, but those are the main ways I enjoy mine.
There are about 100 calories per 30g of halloumi, which is not a great deal of cheese for your calories in this case but as I said the salty taste means that a small amount is usually enough.
I'm getting married in June 2015 but as someone who likes to be organised and works in events, I have nearly finished planning/booking everything already. Me and my fiancé, Chris, decided straight away that we would be spending nowhere near the average cost of a UK wedding, which is currently reported to be somewhere between £18,000 and £22,000. We are fairly young and haven't bought our first house yet, so it was completely unjustifiable to spend an amount which probably could pay for a deposit on a house, on just one day. After all, getting married is about the rest of your life, not just one day.
This said, we do want a day to remember and we love a good party...so we settled on a budget of £10,000, but this includes every single thing; the wedding, the reception, and the Florida honeymoon. It still seems a lot of money but it is an amount we are able to save between us over the next year, meaning we won't be starting our married life in debt, still paying off the big day.
Sticking to a budget means I've had to come up with lots of money saving strategies, which I'd love to share to help anyone in a similar situation.
==Sort out your priorities==
First of all we decided which parts of the wedding were most important to us, the parts which we didn't mind forking out more for, so that we also knew which parts we would have to scrimp on. For both of us it was the photographer, after all the photos are an everlasting reminder of the day. We spent a long time choosing someone we absolutely loved. We still had a budget but it was a lot higher than it could of been. We ended up paying for a fantastic photographer to stay for the whole day, rather than just a certain part. Now that we had paid out for our most important thing, it was time to get scrimping!
==It's not what you know...it's who you know==
We've been lucky to have several helpful friends at hand!
Wedding cakes can cost about £300 plus, but I'm a talented baker (if I say so myself) so I was originally going to make the cake. However I thought this may be a tad stressful having yet another thing to do on the run up to the day (I was still prepared to do it though). Luckily a good friend, who is fantastic at making professional looking cakes, offered to bake one for me just for the price of the ingredients, which will be about £80.
One of my bridesmaids is a hairdresser, and although I'm not going to ask her to do mine, she happily offered to do her own and the other two bridesmaids' hair.
Another person I know is DJ, I asked him what he would charge for his services and he said he'd do it for nothing. I will insist of giving him a bit of cash or least buying him some beers but that has certainly saved us a lot!
Lastly, we are having a marquee wedding, and obviously needed somewhere to put it! A friend of my Mum's has offered us use of their land very cheaply indeed.
I think we have saved about £1000 in total due to the help of people we know. I think nearly everyone has friends or relatives who can help with something. Maybe you know someone with a posh car who will drive you to the church, or someone who is a good photographer?
We have been making loads of decorations as the marquee will need decorating. I've been making bunting and chair decorations and Chris has been making paper lanterns, sign posts, and a great big 'Mr and Mrs' vintage-style sign.
The chair decorations I'm making would cost about £2 each to buy (£160 in total by the time we get 80), instead I spent £30 on material to make them with! A big saving.
We reckon we will have saved hundreds on decorations by the time we've finished.
==Always barter and shop around==
This is probably the way I've saved the most. I often ask for discounts on things anyway and my job often means I have to negotiate on prices. I knew I would have fun bartering on everything for the wedding. I've been getting at least five quotes for each thing, including the food, marquee, bar hire and entertainment. Once we've chosen the one to go with I've aimed for a minimum 10% discount from the price, which I normally get.
The best bargain I got was the marquee hire. This started at over £3000 and I ended up getting it for £2100 including delivery, putting it up, dismantling it, all the furniture, a few decorations, lighting, basically everything. It is a massive marquee too!
==You don't have to have a posh meal==
We are feeding our guests twice, for a total cost of £11 per head. Afternoon tea at 4pm followed by fish and chips in the evening. This may not be a big posh three/four course meal, but I can't see anyone not liking these two meals, and it has saved us a lot of cash.
==Do me a favour==
I originally really wanted good wedding favours, but Chris has persuaded me that a lot of people aren't bothered about them and leave them behind on the table :( At a couple of quid each they could soon get expensive so it makes sense not to bother.
Other things going down the same route of 'not bothering with' include a car and a band. We can't justify £300 on a car to drive what is essentially a minute ride, and as much as I love live music we are going with just the DJ in order to save more money.
I have a friend who is spending £1000 on wedding flowers which is apparently pretty normal...this blows my mind. They die after a few days! We are buying a few bunches the day before the wedding, from Tesco or somewhere, which I will use to fill up various bottles and jars in the marquee as decoration. For the buttonholes and mine and the bridesmaids bouquets we are getting Yorkshire Lavendar as it will go well with the Summer wedding, and it was cost a grand total of about £50 for the lot.
EBay has been pretty useful for us. One of the reasons we have been getting things sorted so far in advance is that it means we have ages to look for bargains and of course eBay is a great place for this.
So far, the bridesmaids dresses have been the best ebay find. I bought them for £12 each and they are perfect!
==Thanks for reading==
I hope this has been a useful read. One last thing I'd like to just point out is about having a marquee wedding. Many people mistakenly think this saves a lot of money, which isn't really the case. We chose a marquee wedding purely because of the blank canvas it provides. As a creative pair we really wanted to decorate and also choose our own food etc. The cost of hiring a marquee, plus the land to put it on and the fact you need furniture, decorations, toilets, etc means that it is unlikely to be a cheaper option. There is much more to do too. I don't regret choosing this style of wedding but a lot of people have made the assumption it's a money-saver so I thought I'd set the record straight!
Most people think of Space Raiders as being a snack which was popular with children back in the 90's, but I eat more Space Raiders nowadays then I did when I was growing up.
They were 10 pence a bag back then and up until a couple of years ago I was put off buying them by the 150% price increase to 25 pence they had undergone over the years. However, they can often be found on offer for £1 for a pack of ten, bringing them back to their original minimal price tag.
I usually opt for the beef variety, I don't like actual beef but I find the flavour of it very tasty. The multi-pack contains ten individual 13g bags of crisps.
The retro design of each individual bag hasn't changed since I can remember, which I actually love. The bag is plain black with a basic picture of a red alien's head and the words 'SPACE RAIDERS' in yellow above it. The nutritional information is clearly displaced on the front also.
Upon opening the bag I am greeted with an instant smell, which is similar to beef stock. There are about 12 pale yellow alien-head-shaped crisps inside. These are a baked corn crisp so they are quite puffed up rather than flat like potato crisps.
The crisps are nice and crunchy and have a fairly strong beefy taste to them. I wish the bag was bigger as you just don't get enough in there for my liking but as these are designed to be a childrens' snack...I guess that greedy 25 year old me is not the target customer!
One good thing about the small bag size (and the fact they are baked not fried) is that they are great for trying to be healthy but just wanting a small snack. At 64 calories and 3.0g fat per bag they are not too bad compared to other crisps. I wouldn't say they help fill me at all so they really are just something I have as a treat rather than because I am hungry.
As someone who camps and attends festivals every Summer, wellies have always been an unavoidable form of footwear for me. This was a shame, as I've always found them very uncomfortable. It's a nightmare when it's hot but there is mud on the ground and the last thing I want to wear become a necessity. Boots made from rubber which are almost knee-high and usually have to be worn with something under them really aren't ideal Summer attire.
Up until recently I had always bought wellies for about £15 - £20, usually brightly coloured or featuring some kind of pattern printed on them. These would need replacing every three years or so, depending on how much use they had that particular year.
I've always had my eye on getting a pair of Hunter wellies, but begrudged paying over the odds for something I didn't really like wearing anyway...this year it suddenly clicked...'maybe if I buy some good quality wellington boots they won't be as uncomfortable and will last me years and years so it'll actually work out cheaper!' We all know that if you buy cheap, you often buy twice (or actually multiple times as can be the case).
Based in Edinburgh, Hunter Boot Ltd describe their products as being 'timeless British style'; a description I completely agree with. They have been making footwear for over 150 years and without a doubt their wellies are the thing the brand is most famous for. They are worn by a massive range of people, and the fact that they are a fusion of fashion and functionality means they're loved by almost everyone from festival-goers like me, to people who actually need a decent boot, such as farmers and other outdoor workers.
Hunter even supply waterproof footwear to HM the Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh!
The company started out as North British Rubber Company in 1856 and the demand of World War I meant that they had to dramatically increase their production of wellington boots.
Nowadays they manufacture and sell wellies, socks, other footwear, umbrellas and other accessories such as hats and scarves.
**CHOOSING MY PAIR**
Hunter boots come in not only several colours, but several styles also.
Some of the styles include:
*Colour block: the top half off the boot is a different colour to the bottom
*Back adjustable: a rather self-explanatory style; there is a part at the back of the boot where you can adjust the width of them
*Side adjustable: as above, but the adjusting is done at the side
*Original gloss wellie: plain boots with a gloss finish
There are other styles too and loads of colours including navy, light blue, orange, classic green, red, black and more. They make them for kids, men and women.
My first thought was (as it usually is) to go for the brightest coloured ones available. I was pretty into some orange ones, which were quite vibrant and glossy. After a bit of time spent browsing the various styles available, the small part of me that is 'sensible' decided to go for a more classic colour, so that I wouldn't go off them, and also they would look ok with any clothes.
Black just wasn't quite doing it for me, but I had seen a few pairs of navy blue ones, which I found much more appealing.
The pair I eventually settled on were just called 'Hunter Original Tall Wellies' and I ordered them in navy blue. A classic pair that I couldn't really go wrong with!
**THE ARRIVAL OF THE BOOTS**
My Hunter wellies arrived in a large, flat, square glossy black box which featured a large Hunter logo printed onto it. I was immediately impressed (it doesn't take much does it?) as I already felt as though I was receiving a high-end product, and I hadn't even opened the packaging yet.
The box contained just the boots and a small information card about caring for them. There was a bit of packaging around each boot as well as a cardboard insert in each one to stop them from becoming squashed. There was not an excess of wasteful packaging as is often the case when I have footwear delivered (the shoes I buy are not exactly made of porcelain so I don't understand the need for all this wrapping).
Upon unwrapping the boots from their minimal packaging I could tell at once that they were much nicer quality that any wellies I had owned before. They are made from a soft, matt rubber rather than the nasty, cheap, plastic-like material my previous wellies have been made from. The reason I didn't opt for the 'gloss' style boots was that I felt this could cheapen the look of them somewhat.
The boots are a simple, classic design with the only stand-out feature being the famous black and red logo across the front of each boot which you will find on every pair of Hunters. There's a buckled strap on the side of each boot also. Despite being plain in appearance I immediately loved the look of them and couldn't wait to put them on.
The little 'care card' that had been placed in the box is again a black glossy item, with the Hunter logo across the front. It opens up into a mini three part piece of literature which tells me about the history of the brand, how to clean my new boots, and other advice and recommendations about caring for them. It also lets me know the boots come with a 12 month warranty.
**THE WEARING OF THE BOOTS**
Most of my current shoes are a size six, with the occasional pair of sevens in my collection too. I usually find wellies need to be slightly bigger than other shoe-types I went for the size sevens, which are a perfect fit.
I find it easier to get these boots on than I have with other boots in the past. I can pretty much slide my foot straight in but once I've done this they are a perfect fit and don't feel loose at all. I was worried about the fit on my calves as although my legs aren't massive, I also don't have skinny legs. Some manufacturers of female wellies do tend to presume that all women have stick-thin calves. These fit just fine although I think had my legs been much wider I'd struggle to get them on (bear in mind my legs are pretty normal in size). If this had been the case I would have probably exchanged for an adjustable-width pair.
The inside of wellies can often feel uncomfortable or itchy, but the soft lining on these boots means this is not the case at all. They come right up to just below my knees and still feel completely comfortable on both the foot and leg.
One thing I did notice about these is that they make my feet look a lot smaller than normal! This is never a bad thing and it just adds to how much I like to look of these boots. The heel of each boot is almost an inch thick so I feel pretty tall in these and it helps to make them comfortable and easy to walk in.
I've been out in my new wellies a few times and not experienced any kind of rubbing or soreness as I have often done in the past with cheap pairs.
The grip on the soles of these is fantastic and when I got them it was nice and wet outside so I went for a walk with my Mum's dogs and made sure to go in as many puddles as possible just to make sure they are waterproof. Of course they are perfectly so.
From more of a 'looking good' point of view, these boots tick that box too. With them being navy blue they go with just about anything and I love wearing them with a dress and jacket, or with jeans tucked into them when it's colder. In summer I will wear them with shorts too; they are so versatile.
**CARING FOR THE BOOTS**
As I said the boots do come with a 'care card'. This contains fairly basic information, and so far I have just followed the part which advises to clean the boots with just lukewarm water and soap. I did this after going out in them and all the muck came off easily. I'm sure in a few months time I will not really bother cleaning them and will just give them the occasional wipe when they get particularly filthy - after all mud-less wellies just look a bit wrong don't they?
**WHERE FROM AND HOW MUCH?**
I paid £67.50 for my Hunter boots, which was less than I was expecting to pay. I ordered from http://www.wellie-web.co.uk/ where they stock sizes 3 - 12 in this style. They were selling at £75 but I had a 10% discount code which made them £67.50.
I had originally seen them at £85 in quite a few places (including on the official Hunter website) which is why I thought I would end up paying more that the £67.50 they actually cost me.
They are also available online at many other outlets including Amazon and Very.
What can I say? They've turned a wellington boot-hater to someone who is basically in love with them. I'm currently trying to think of more situations in my life where wearing wellies can be incorporated. I may have suggested to my fiancé that when we get married next year (we're having an outdoor marquee wedding) I will probably have to wear them under my dress just in case of mud. Pretty certain he thinks I'm ridiculous.
I give these 5/5, they are comfortable, excellent quality, they look good, they make my feet look smaller, I am proud to wear the Hunter brand, and they have made this year's level of Glastonbury excitement go up even more than I thought possible.
Obviously having not had these long I can't comment on how long they will last, but the material is thick and there is no part that seems as though it will break or come apart any time soon. They seem very durable and hard-wearing. Also there is the 12 month warranty in place in case they are faulty in some way.
I've not got a bad word to say about them, I can't even fault the price as I think it's worth it, especially as I did think I'd be looking at nearer £100 but ended up paying less than £70.
I don't usually buy that many Smart Price products from Asda, purely because I do my shopping online and whenever I search for an item it rarely shows the value range options in the search results. The other day I decided to simply search 'Smart Price' and a huge list of this range was displayed on the page. Most of it was so cheap that I thought it was at least worth giving some items a go.
One of the things i bought was this pack of four chocolate mousses. At 18p for the pack I couldn't resist trying them!
The mousses come in four plastic pots which are attached together. The packaging is extremely basic and mainly white, with the product name, ingredients and nutritional info printed on the top.
Upon peeling back the lid of one of the mousse pots I could almost immediately smell a chocolately aroma, which was pleasant. The contents of the pot looked appetising too. The taste of the mousse is most definitely chocolate but not particularly rich, it tastes quite cheap but not too bad. The texture of the mousse is pretty good though as it's nice and light and full of air bubbles, but not so bubbly that you feel as though you're practically eating a pot of nothing!
Over all, I can't fault these much as they're just so cheap. At 4.5 pence each they are one of the cheapest snacks around and I did quite enjoy the one I've eaten so far.
I will buy them again with them being so cheap but they wouldn't fill me up so I wouldn't buy many because of the danger of scoffing the lot just because they're there and then not even feeling full!
Yes there are much tastier products like this around but really for the price this was to be expected.
Each 60g pot contains 83 calories and 2.2g of fat.
I'm a very keen baker but I've never bothered sifting flour or icing sugar; I usually blend with an electric mixer and find this makes the mixture very smooth, light and lump-free and prior sifting of ingredients is not necessary.
Unable to resist a new kitchen gadget, I ended up buying this sifter from IKEA despite my lack of any need for it. This isn't just a standard sieve, and I really wanted to have a go with it.
The item came with no packaging or instruction, but I found it fairly simple and self-explanitary to use.
This is like a metal cup with a handle. You put the flour is the cup part and squeeze the lever on the handle. This forces the flour through a very fine metal mesh in the bottom of the cup, and the flour comes through the bottom of the cup nice and fine and lump-free. It is really quick to use and I usually found that when baking and using about 100g of flour it would just take a few squeezes of the handle and it was all sifted through. I weirdly enjoyed using it and it's way more fun than a boring old sieve.
It cost about £2.50 which would be an ok price if I still had it. Unfortunately this utensil is really difficult to clean, which at first was just annoying and eventually just became impossible. It ended up that there small bits of cocoa powder and icing sugar stuck in some of the little nooks and crannies which I couldn't get out. I eventually threw it out as I wasn't going to use it dirty.
I wouldn't really recommend this as although it works well it is badly designed in terms of being washable!
When I went away to Uni, I did a big shop at IKEA, where I bought loads of cheap kitchen stuff and other bits. I bought the least expensive items they had, as I knew there was no point in taking anything too nice into halls of residence with me.
One of the things I bought was this 16 piece cutlery set. It contains 4 knives, 4 forks, 4 teaspoons and 4 tablespoons.
It came in a really basic box in plain white packaging. It cost me about £1.50 which even for basic, value cutlery is incredibly cheap.
All the items are a very simple design. The full things are made of metal, there is no plastic handle or patterns on them or anything (not that I expected anything like that!) The fork is more of a trident as it only has three prongs, and the knife is not the sharpest, but really all the cutlery is perfectly adequate and feels absolutely fine to use.
I've used value cutlery in the past which just bend or snap after a while but this set felt really quite sturdy.
I don't still use this set as now that I'm a grown up I have a rather nice cutlery set, but I think this set was perfect for me as a student who needed something basic and cheap. If I wasn't someone who is so into nice kitchen things then I would happily still use the set now. This cutlery never actually broke, bits just went missing whilst living in halls so I replaced it with different cutlery when I left.
I have to give it 5/5 because for around £1.50 this set is more than worth its cost.
I love IKEA and I love kitchen gadgets. Therefore I can often be found browsing the kitchen utensil section of IKEA looking for my next unnecessary but fantastic purchase. Last time I was there one of my new objects included an egg slicer. I never thought I'd find myself reviewing an egg slicer but let me try and tell you about it!
I don't have a big need for such an item but I genuinely think I had just run out of other things to buy when I chose this. It comes in a few colours; I normally go for green every time but they only had yellow or red ones left when I was there so I went for the yellow one as shown in the picture. It cost me the bargain price of 80 pence and is not much bigger than the size of a pack of cards so I figured I could justify this quite pointless purchase without much thought.
It is a simple model which is made from plastic and metal. The plastic part is round with an egg-shaped dipped part in the middle. You place a hard boiled egg in this section and then pull the metal lever down onto it. The metal lever has several thin, sharp wires across it which go through the egg and cut it into slices.
This gadget is perfect for slicing eggs for salads and sandwiches. The wire cutters are very sharp (be careful!) and slice through the egg very easily and neatly. The slices are the perfect width; I would say it makes around 8 slices from an egg.
It is easier to clean than I thought it would be as it doesn't really get that dirty so doesn't take an awful lot of washing.
Overall I can't fault this product as it does exactly what it is made to do. It's hardly my most used piece of kitchen equipment but it's really useful when I can't be bothered with the effort of mashing eggs with a fork (yes I realise this takes very little effort but this takes even less). I've had it a while now and it's still in perfect condition and as it takes up so little room I am happy to keep it in my cutlery drawer despite its limited usage.
For those who don't know, Very.co.uk is an online catalogue, who refer to themselves as an 'Online department store'. They sell clothes, homeware, electronics and gifts from several different brands and designers. Items can be bought and paid for there and then as usual, or you can set up a credit account with them whereby you pay items off on a monthly basis.
I first opened an account with Very back when I was a student and wanted to buy a couple of things but was a bit skint (looking back this was probably a bad idea but soon after I got a part time job so it was fine). I still use it now every now and then when buying something expensive which I would rather split the cost for. Occasionally I see clothes on there which I genuinely want anyway - not just because I don't have to pay upfront - and I buy them and then just pay them off before the interest kicks in.
Their items can often cost slightly more than they do elsewhere, of course this is because they know they can do this as some people would rather own the item straight away than save up and hunt for a bargain. They do also have some great sales at certain points in the year and I've picked up some real bargains on this site such as dresses for around £7 that were once much more expensive.
The website is easy to use. It heavily features the hot pink colour on it which is also the colour of the company logo and the parcels you receive your goods in. The main categories are clearly listed across the top of the homepage so you can look at what you want and then use the filters to narrow down on things like brand, size and gender.
95% of the time, Very have an extremely quick and efficient delivery service. It is usually Yodel who deliver which I have had bad experiences with in the past, but normally with Very the item comes the next day as long as they have it in stock and you order before 9pm.
Now for my negative opinions about this site. I have found them to be fairly unhelpful on a number of occasions. They are happy to take emails about most queries but as soon as you have a problem such as a faulty item which is their mistake, they make you ring the call centre, spend ages on hold and speak to an often rude customer advisor. Personally I really don't see why I should have to waste my time doing this when they're at fault.
I've had issues before where they've sent me things like '10% off' codes and they don't work. When I've emailed them to tell them they've basically acted as though I made the code up and no wonder it doesn't work! Even when I've sent them their original email which had the code in it, they still don't help and I just have to leave it.
The interest Very charge can be very high, but if you have a buy now pay later order (only available sometimes) it can be interest free for up to a year, or you can you their 'take 3' option where you pay your order off in three payments and avoid the interest. Otherwise it is around a whopping 37%. I've recently had to ask them to put my credit limit down as they will keep just automatically putting it up and it was getting to around £3000. I just don't want that available to me, I could go absolutely wild!
The other main issue I have is that a lot of their brands can be quite poor quality. Obviously when ordering brands that are nothing to do with Very it's not their fault and you're just getting the same as you would if you ordered that brand from elsewhere. Very brands include things like the Ferns Cotton and Holly Willoughby ranges. Whenever I've ordered anything from these brands they never look anything like they do online and the quality is often terrible for the price. I don't bother with them anymore as I was always sending them back.
I absolutely love Pylones; their colourful and quirky goods are right up my street. Subsequently I own quite a few items from there, including a pair of tweezers.
Back when I bought these tweezers the shop was called Octopus, it has now changed names to Pylones - which is also the name of the brand. Even when the shop was called Octopus the brand of the goods sold was still Pylones. It's a French brand and there are shops in most main cities in the UK as well as in other countries.
These tweezers certainly look pretty, but of course I was buying them in the hope they would actually work well too. At around £8 they were more than I had spent on tweezers before.
There are several designs to choose from. Each pair is designed to look like a woman, with the face at the top and the length of the tweezers painted to look like the body. Some of them look quite oriental due to the style of the hair and clothes and there is also a nurse one and one that looks like catwoman. Mine is wearing a green dress and has black hair which is tied up in a bun. The design is quite detailed and looks great as it is painted and varnished and doesn't feel as if it will scratch or chip.
The tweezers sit in a plastic base which is a suction pad so they're very handy to stick on the side of the sink or wherever you want them.
Looks-wise these are obviously a winner, and they do work pretty well too. They have slanted edges, and 9 times out of 10 they grip the hair and pull it out no problem. The quality of them is good and they still look like they did when I bought them, with no chips or scratches.
Since buying these a few years ago I received a pair of Tweezerman tweezers one Christmas which also look pretty but do work slightly better (review on these to follow) so although these Pylones tweezers look great and do work well I have replaced them with something better since.
Final verdict: they look lovely and work ok, but the £8 price tag is reflected in the prettiness rather than the quality of the actual tweezers. They work as well as most tweezers you could get for maybe £2-£3. They do look nice in the bathroom and they'd make a great little gift though :)
--Why did I buy it?--
I purchased this bag mainly for work. I wanted a satchel style bag as I often have an additional bag or other item to carry so I wanted a bag I could wear without having to use my hand to carry it.
I was originally going to get a nice leather one, but at the time I didn't really have £100+ to spend, so I looked around for something that was good quality but under £50. I finally decided on this Nica bag as it had great reviews and I love the design.
As I said, this is a satchel style bag. It is a dark beige/olive kind of colour, with a grey and pink flower print on the main bag part. The details such as the strap and buckles are in medium brown.
One of the things that I love about the bag is that there is a small leather square on the front which features a little metal gold bicycle on it with the 'Nica' logo on it. I have a couple of other Nica bags and they too have cute little details like this which I love.
The main part of the bag is big enough for most of my daily belongings; purse, keys, phone, and maybe a few make-up items or whatever I have with me. However I do normally have to carry my lunch separately as it doesn't quite stretch to fitting a Tupperware in there as well. There is a large pocket across the front which isn't the most secure but fine for a book or something. There is a zipped pocket inside the bag and another less secure one. Both of these are useful for putting things that I want to be able to find quickly, without having to root through the main section of the bag.
The two buckles on the front of the bag are just for show and the bag actually fastens with magnets. This is much easier and quicker to fasten than buckles would be.
The main reason this bag is really practical is that I wear on my shoulder and it goes across my body, leaving my hands and arms completely free. The canvas strap is adjustable in length but I have it on the longest setting and that's about right for me. I'm 5' 8", so quite tall for a woman and this bag is definitely not designed for men!
I can't fault the quality of the bag. It's well made, fairly sturdy, and the quality hasn't faltered after using it practically every day for about six months.
The only thing that is wrong with it now, is that the part that goes against my body when I wear it has stained slightly; I think this has mainly come from the dye on my jeans. It's not a big problem as that part can't actually be seen when I'm wearing it. I don't know whether I blame the jeans or the bag!
Other than this the bag looks identical to how it did when I got it. Still in perfect condition.
--Price and availability--
The RRP for this bag is £49, I paid £40 for it from an eBay seller. I have googled it and it's not for sale in that many places but TH Baker (http://www.thbaker.co.uk) are selling it for £40.
I think it's well worth this price.
I would really recommend this bag. I think the price is reasonable for how pretty and well made it is. I got a lot of compliments at work when I started using it, and I love how it's very practical but also looks good.
The only two things I can think to say as negatives are that I wish I could fit slightly more in it (but I knew buying a satchel that I wouldn't be able to fit everything in it) and it's a shame about the staining on the inner side, but I don't know whether I blame the bag and it's not noticeable anyway.