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We bought this 2kw portable, free standing electric stove last year as we have an all-electric flat but we have traditional taste, so we wanted something that blended in with out décor without looking ridiculous. The first thing to mention is that the fire is bigger than it seems in the pictures. We also have a Broseley cast iron stove with is much smaller and thinner so we use this in our living room fireplace. The Burley Chilton (ours does not have the wings on shown on the picture above for some reason) is a nice, traditional design. It looks and feels robust, unlike many of the cheaper electric stoves you see out there these days. Although it is composed predominantly from wood, you really wouldn't know unless you examined it close up as it does actually look like cast iron from a small distance, especially as the leaded-style window doors, which do open, are composed of cast iron as are the legs. It also has a circular indentation on the top panel, for those who want to buy a chimney pipe to make it look like an authentic stove. The only flaw in the design, I would say, is that the flames are restricted to just two narrow areas so if you were to look closely, it doesn't look particularly authentic, but then, none of them do. Our other one was £600 and even that doesn't look authentic. Saying that, the flame effect is made from orange and red plastic being blown by a fan and lit by two 40w light bulbs, so what do you expect? The fire has three settings, Lights Only, Low and High. We rarely use the lights only option as this is in our bedroom so we do actually use it for heat, unlike our 3kw Broseley which costs 3 times more to run than our heating system, so we often have lights only on this to make it feel cosy. In terms of heating the room, these fires are not overly effective. As they mainly work by acting as an industrial hairdryer, it's more effective for top up heat or taking the edge off the chill. To heat your home (or even room) with one would be astronomical in terms of cost (we found this out the hard way). The low setting is really not worth having on, to be honest, but the high setting does give a very good blast of heat and ten minutes on makes the bedroom bearable to get into. So would I recommend this fire then? Well, if you are looking at economical ways to heat your home, whether all electric or not, you are not going to get overall value for money from this as, although electric heating is 100% efficient, in terms of 1kw hour costing he same no matter what medium is using it, there are more effective heaters out there in terms of how they distribute the heat. For example, for heating our home, we have glass panel heaters at 1kw, which are 200w glass panel heating and 800w convector, much more efficient. On the other hand, if you need an electric fire anyway to fill a space in your home, this is attractive, lovely to have on and no more expensive than any other electric fan heater.
We've been renovating our flat for two years now and although we've done it on a massive budget, one of the earliest lessons we learned in moneysaving is that cheap paint is most certainly false economy. We discovered it takes you five times as long, the finish is five times worse and it's so thin and watery that you need to buy five times more by volume. Our first attempt was with Wilko's 5l tubs of Magnolia which were heartbreakingly cheap compared to branded paint. Oh what a mistake this was - we spent day after day recoating the walls in an attempt to get an even finish. Even after five coats it looked grotty and was useless with a roller, our tool of choice. Oh went over it with first a paintbrush, which left ridiculous lines everywhere, then a paint pad, which didn't look much better. We decided to cut our losses and just pay out for Dulux paint, which in the scheme of things isn't that expensive and B&Q often have offers on. At £22.98 for 5 litres, (or in our case last week 2 x 5l for £30 at B&Q!!!!), it's reasonable and covers 13msq per litre, so 65sqm per 5l can. Over bare plaster, as it can be very porous, it's taken three coats of the Natural Hessian, although a darker colour in the hallway, Dusted Damson, covered very well in two coats. I just think that as we have a huge window bearing over the main wall that imperfections show up so much more with light paint. The rest of the living room has purple on the walls so that's taking three coats too, however, had we just been repainting, or painting over a light colour, I think one or two coats max would be sufficient, so in this respect, good value for money. One of the best things about this paint, especially as we have a light colour now, is that it is wipe-clean, which is a huge bonus in our home of sticky, dirty paws. I understand too that it has an invisible protective coating which locks in the colour for longer, thus extending the life of your redecoration and making it even more value for money (unless you fancy a change of colour of course). According to our tins, Dulux paint now is taking steps toward greener production, with a 30% lower carbon footprint, so if you're environmentally minded, which most of us are, this is a considerable step towards greener living, for no extra cost. The range of Dulux Matt colours is enticing, but just a warning with darker colours. They look great on the little square in the book, and even on the small area you do with the tester point. Once the colour surrounds you on a daily basis, you start to see it in a different light. This is the second time we've had to repaint the living room due to choosing a colour we liked and have learned our lesson. Natural all the way now, and colour through soft furnishings. Overall Dulux Matt paint is good paint to work with. Unlike our early experiences with cheap Magnolia, we have found it to be almost a pleasure to paint this time round. With good technique, less so than with cheap paint, a good, even and thick finish is possible, even likely. It is very good paint and I know lots of professional decorators swear by it as the cost/labour ration is almost exactly as it should be. I can't fault it really.
Masterchef, currently showing 'The Professionals', is a televised cookery shown on the BBC. I didn't start watching this until last year and I honestly can not understand why, it is brilliant. Judged by Gregg Wallace and Michel Roux Junior, Masterchef the Professionals is for contestants currently working in the catering industry to prove that they have what it takes to be Michelin star material. Easier said than done when a two Michelin star chef is judging you! Airing Time: The show is currently airing Monday to Thursday from around 8pm. Monday is a half hour programme, Tuesday an hour, Wednesday is 45 minutes and Thursday is an hour and a half. Don't worry if you miss it, or are a Coronation Street fan, with which it clashes, as you can either catch up of you have cable TV or you can watch it online on BBC I-Player. Be warned if you have Virgin that it often takes some time to update. Show Format: At present we are working up to the quarter final. Each group in this first round must first perform a skills and taste test under the watchful eye of Gregg Wallace and Monica Galetti, the Sous Chef of Michel Roux Jr. Of the four, only three will go on to the actual cooking and many are out just through loss of nerve. Having passed under the watchful eye of Monica and Gregg, the three remaining chefs then go on to cook two dishes based around a set main ingredient. On Monday this was Mackerel. Various other ingredients are also supplied and I get the feeling that the judges have two dishes in mind with the ingredients they supply. Most contestants cook similar dishes as a result. No one is eliminated after this stage. In the final stage, the contestants are required to cook two classic dishes (often French) from a recipe and to a very high standard. After this stage, one chef is chosen to remain in the competition for the final of this heat. Thursday is when the competition really heats up. All four winners from the week must cook for three stern food critics to secure their place in the quarter final. They must produce three dishes (starter, main and dessert) of their own design and present it to the critics in turn. Of the four, two are chosen to go through to the quarter final. As the show changes each year, it is as yet unknown what lies beyond this first stage of the competition. Judges: Gregg Wallace is a former Greengrocer turned fruit and vegetable expert. He is also a writer and of course, presenter on Masterchef where he is considered the 'ingredients expert'. He often writes for the Good Food magazine and is an entrepreneur, running his own mail order fruit and veg businesses, one of which supplies direct to the hospitality and restaurant trade. He was also known for presenting Veg Talk on BBC Radio 4 back in the nineties. Michel Roux Jr. is a two star Michelin starred chef, son of Albert Roux and nephew of Michel Roux, two famous French chefs. He started out his chefs training in the French Army and worked under numerous top chefs, including his father at La Gavroche, where he now currently cooks. My opinion: Masterchef is both entertaining and inspirational. I love to cook although did not have a great interest Masterchef until, as I say, some reason last year I really got into it and have been a big fan ever since. It even inspired my partner and I to splash out on visiting a Michelin star restaurant for our anniversary last year as we had no idea what fine dining really was (it was nice but I've had just as nice elsewhere for a quarter of the price). Despite that, it has inspired my own culinary creations no end. Watching people who are really passionate about the food they prepare makes you feel bad if you shirk any meal that takes longer than 15 minutes to cook. Since the current Professional series started, we've started having a special meal every Friday evening, as we don't go out on this evening. Each week we watch then cook something we like with a bottle of Martini Asti to wash it all down (classy I know!). I really enjoy this programme and would recommend it to all those who think they wouldn't like it, as I did. At the very least, it's really great to watch people who have such a passion for something the way the contestants do. It would be nice if I could show that kind of dedication to any one subject.
We are regular visitors to Hanahana in Newcastle, particularly on birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. The fact that we return to this restaurant time after time is testament to how much we think of it, as one bad experience at a restaurant can put us off for good if it is serious enough. As it happens, we have only had one bad experience at Hanahana. One extremely busy Saturday evening, dressed up to the nines as we were off to a posh party afterwards, we were seated in the pathway of all the cooking smoke possible and couldn't see or breathe. We also had to keep leaning to the side to dodge it when it got really bad. This same evening, (they must have been having a bad one), we also couldn't flag down a waiter to move seats nor order drinks for almost the entire evening, so something went really badly wrong. We don't hold this against Hanahana because I can honestly say that this is certainly not the norm for them and the multitude of positive experiences far deserves a really good review. First off, Hanahana is a Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant. Teppanyaki roughly translates as 'hot-plate pan fried' and this pretty much sums up the experience. Guests are seated around a large kitchen island, sometimes with people you don't know if there's only a couple of you or so, with a huge hot-plate stacked with fish, vegetables and meats. After a few moments of being seated, the show begins when the chef takes his place behind the island and begins to prepare the food. He starts by banging his frying flipper on the bench to grab attention then proceeds to clean the hotplate with speed and style in a sort of dance with his scrapers. The rest of the evening is captivating really, and you often forget to have conversations with the people you came with as you are too busy watching the chef perform his skills. Most of the evening is quite interactive with the chef who is preparing the food right in front of you. The highlight for some, and horror for others, is when the chef, about halfway through, commands a volunteer to get up, don the chefs hat, flip an egg and catch it in the gap in the hat. We like to go with one particular friend as he always stands up and takes the heat ff everyone else! A word of warning if you're the brave one to do this though, last time we were in we were seated behind a group of suited professionals. The lady who got up to flip the egg was wearing an expensive suit, flipped the egg and it missed and cracked all down her shoulder, hence a big dry cleaning bill and having to walk round town all evening with a cracked egg down your shoulder. The food in Hanahana is delicious. As we all love Japanese cuisine, there's not much on the menu we don't like but we usually get the 'String of Pearls' set menu. Each part of the menu is small, but there are multiple courses, so although you probably eat less than if you went to a conventional style restaurant, you actually end up far more full. Little and often seems to work, no wonder Japanese girls have such lovely figures. Much of the menu is seafood, including Sushi, but there are met and vegetarian options too. In terms of price, it's not too bad for a treat. It's certainly not cheap, but then, with fresh scallops and sushi served, I really wouldn't expect it to be. Also, considering you have your own personal chef, really it's excellent value for money. Altogether, we spend around £35 per head including drinks, although I think the food menu we get was under £23 per head last time we were there. There are cheaper menu options, but we do like our sushi, scallops etc, so we never skimp on this. The service in Hanahana, barring the above experience, is always second to none. When you arrive, you are greeted and seated in the small reception area. This can get crowded on a Saturday night, however. You can order drinks from here and then someone will take you to your table. The norm is absolutely perfect, attentive service. Plates are cleared as soon as you have finished (there isn't much room so this is ideal), starters and fill-ins are brought quickly and without hesitation and there is usually always someone nearby if you need to order drinks, or it's pre-empted and you are asked, but not in an over the top way like some conventional restaurants desperate to make up their margins. We usually just get the Japanese beer, Kirin, which is lovely. We come to Hanahana at least three times a year and love it. I heartily recommend it, especially if you like your seafood/meat.
As part of our frugal living drive (we need a big deposit for a big house), my partner and I have cut back on our food and living expenses to a huge degree and we are now making big savings. Unfortunately, our two little'uns won't comply and continue to be fussy and go on food strike if we dare give them something disagreeable or cheap (or even expensive for that matter). They love Felix - but only in the pouches. We've purchased the tins, and they might eat a little bit from the first one, then completely stop and go on hunger strike until we cave in and go and spend our heard-earned on the pouches for them. We've tried different brands to try and tantalise them. We actually thought we'd got them into Whiskas when it was on an excellent offer in the supermarket but one day, out of the blue, the hunger strike started up again. In fact, the only constants, until now, have been Chicken, Tuna (we are treated to a cat chorus every time they hear the tin opener so opening tins of tomatoes etc has become a nightmare as they think it's their favourite foodstuff) and Felix pouches. The above scenario means we have a huge 'emergency' cat food stock, aka rejected food graveyard, in our kitchen cupboard, which to me is money tied up and they won't even eat it in an emergency (when we can't get to the shop). So imagine our surprise when we found a way to feed our cats for less by buying the most expensive food!!! Due to our kitten's rather stinky tray presents, we decided we had to try a higher quality food to make her more 'healthy' inside, so off I went to the local pet shop, crying inside at the cost of what I was about to buy - Royal Canin. I bought the small bags (400g), one for the 8 year old indoor cat (Indoor 27) and one bag of Kitten 36 for the little one. They were £2.79 and £2.45 respectively and only do 5-6 meals per bag - so the manufacturers say...... What can I say? They absolutely love it and fight over who is getting which bowl each time a fresh meal is presented. They get a full meal serving, but it's so much food for them that it actually lasts them 2 meals altogether. So, in one day, they're now eating one pouch of Felix (for variety) and one serving of Royal Canin each, and it's working out cheaper than feeding them just Felix. Now we don't starve them to save money, they eat as much as they like then once they're full, it's left. They're both a very healthy weight, perhaps a little over-healthy, in fact, so I guess that the guide on the packet is the most extreme situation for the piggiest cat. After all, I can't force them to eat 95g of food if they don't want to. So cost wise, well, previously they were eating 3 -4 pouches of Felix each, costing £13.77 per week. They're now on the programme above and it's costing us around £10 per week. A small saving, but that's with much better quality, more expensive food. We're now looking into buying the sacks of it to improve the cost even more. All in all, I can highly recommend Royal Canin despite my previous misgivings over price. And they do deserve it, whatever the cost, if it's something they love to eat.
Milo is not widely available in the UK, although is available freely elsewhere in Europe as I became addicted to it Greece originally. It originates in Australia and I hadn't had it for years so was surprised to see it sitting there on the shelf in my local Sainsburys, priced at a very reasonable £1.85 for 400g. Milo is an energy mix drink, targeted at children but loved by adults. It's packaged in a green, round tin with a pop off top (a bit like a paint tin), in the form of a powder, which you mix with milk. The great thing about Milo is that you can have it hot or cold, and it is full of B-vitamins for energy giving properties. Milo is delicious at any time of the day. I have it for breakfast, lunch and tea and I vary on whether I have it hot or cold depending upon the weather. Although I don't advocate this for health reasons, I actually find it very filling as a small meal/snack in its own right. As for taste, Milo is chocolaty and malty, something like Ovaltine but with much more flavour. You can find it in amongst the hot chocolates and malted drinks in the hot drinks aisle, although I have only ever seen it in Sainsburys, it may be available elsewhere. I'd love to write about the history of this drink but that would do a fellow reviewer an injustice as it could only be a replica of their hard work, so I won't in this case. All I will say is that it is nutritious, packed with flavour, fun to drink whilst being healthy and that there are a multitude of ways to use it, including whipped into cream, as hot chocolate and as a sprinkle on desserts.
After seeing someone else writing about this, I got really excited, as I do every Saturday night awaiting my numbers to roll out. Of course they never do or I wouldn't be writing this, as one of the things I would do if I won the lottery is stop surfing the internet and get out live life to the full. So, my ideas for if we win the lottery :- 1 - Quit Job (other half) 2 - Spend three months in Tobago to absorb the news and overcome the shock 3 - Buy a better house, in the country with no neighbours. Nothing big mind, just a beautiful, character country cottage. 4 - Set up a home for neglected/abandoned cats. The only thing stopping me now is that I can't afford it, but I love cats to bits and the thought of them being mistreated breaks my heart. It would be my donation to charity. 5. Distribute a sizeable amount to best friends and family to help them out and make them happy. The rest I would just sit on until the right opportunities came along. I'd probably need a lot of the cash for my cats! We're simple folk so we wouldn't be splashing out on mansions, Ferrari's etc (although a Mercedes Mclaren may have to be purchased......). We would travel a lot, as this is what we love to do, we would be able to afford to have kids. SO many things, it would give us a freedom we can now only imagine. And no, it wouldn't destroy our lives but enrich it. Only very materialistic people can be torn apart because of money.
Until a few months ago, we weren't really big butter eaters in our household due to the bad publicity that butter has had in the press from 'healthy' margarine manufacturers. We did buy it once or twice as a treat and the habit has stuck, we can't bear margarine anymore! The problem with butter is the price in comparison with margarines, which when you compare by weight is quite substantial. You also tend to use loads more because it's so tasty, whereas piling up the marge on your toast reminds me somewhat of melted then reformed plastic, thus increasing the costs and the chance of heart disease. But we love it, so we've decided to buy butter only. Being the credit crunch and all, and my being unemployed, I spend much of my time looking at ways to cut costs. We've started venturing further into the realm of value brands and trying the various bits and pieces to compare with branded goods. One of our most successful trials has been Tesco Value Butter. I honestly can not find fault with it. I even heard a whisper that it's made in the same factory as Country Life, although I cannot vouch for this. Tesco Value butter comes in a block of 250g, exactly the same size and shape as regular brands of butter. The packaging is dark, Tesco Blue with the stripy value logo on the front. It's actually much more attractive than the image displayed on the top of this review. The wrapping is the grease proof paper kind you used to get on Echo marge, which is fine for us as then it makes a great medium for greasing baking tins before use. Tesco Value butter (here I'm writing of the Salted Butter) is delicious in flavour. It is salty, which is exactly how I like it, and to sadly contradict another reviewer on here, I do find that it has a creamy texture. I suppose all taste buds are different and it isn't the creamiest butter I've ever tasted, but it is good. It tastes as good as any other butter I've tried which is unbelievable for a 69p pack (increased from 50p on their offer a few weeks back). The butter is also great for baking. In the past, due to prohibitive costs, I would tend to use stork margarine, however last week I made some toffee sauce for our popcorn and it was divine. The saltiness really added a lot of flavour and I've not had toffee popcorn quite as nice, ever. Fairy cakes and sponges come out light and fluffy and my flapjacks were fantastic too. After trying Tesco Value Butter, we are very unlikely to go back to branded alternatives. I know it's only 30p difference from the bottom of the market brands, but over time (we use eight packs a month) it's almost £30 saved on butter alone. And whilst it was on offer at 50p per pack, I got ten of them from the freezer! I was never one for Tesco Value products after a nasty experience with their version of 'Weetabix' about 8 years ago, however, slowly but surely I'm starting to try more and more, and I'm pleasantly surprised as how far they've come in terms of quality.
It may seem slightly eccentric to be writing a review on cat litter, however I believe in the case of Tesco Value Cat Litter the review is warranted. I got my first cat three years ago and was fine with the price of Asda own brand cat litter until it DOUBLED in price from around £1.40 to £3!!!! I found this shocking so I bought my cat the Asda Smart Price Cat Litter, which she refused to use as it had wood chippings in. So I was resigned to paying this extortionate price for 10 litres to keep my little kitty happy (and prevent her from going anywhere else in the house!) Roll on to last year and I was in Tesco's buying litter. I was just about to reach for their own brand when I noticed that one of the bags of the value stuff had split, and lo and behold it was normal litter (the little white gravel). So, at £1.16 for 10l, I thought it was worth a try. I've never looked back. I now have two house cats and I've saved a small fortune on litter. Neither cat has any complaints about the standard of toilet to which I am subjecting them. The litter is the same style, quality and volume of the stuff you pay three times more for. I believe it's a little know, hidden secret. I honestly can't understand why people pay the extortionate amounts they do for litter when this little gem is sitting on the shelf. I even went into Pets at Home to price up their bulk buy litter and nothing worked out quite as cheap as the Tesco Value stuff. The only downside, which doesn't bother me at all, is that the packaging is in keeping with all Tesco Value items, which may be a problem for some. The litter itself performs as well as store brand items. It doesn't clump when wet and left to dry, as this is dangerous for the cat, but it does hold together quite well so that you can scoop out the soiled stuff. Okay, it's not the crème de la crème of toilette for the little ones, but do you really need it? It's a toilet, remember, and I can't see any reason why running a cats toilet should cost five times more than running a human toilet, which s a much more engineered system. At the end of the day, cat litter is gravel. This is not odour free, but then, I'm not sure the odour free stuff really works and it puts the cats off the tray. If you really need to have a perfumed tray, you can buy sprinkle powder and it still works out cheaper, but why bother? At the price of this litter you can just clean it out more often. I heartily recommend this litter for all house cat/kitten owners. I've gone from spending, if you balance it out over two cats, £24 per month to £8.50 per month on this alone. That's a saving of £15.50 per month, or £186 per year on toilet matter. And I can honestly say, neither I nor my fussy cats can tell the difference.
I feel I am now fully qualified to write a review of this product, having spent the best part of a day scouring, scrubbing and rubbing my ankles and feet in lemon juice and salt to get the damn stuff off me. I found this Garnier No Streaks bronzer in Home Bargains for £2.99 - what a bargain! It'll set you back a tenner in any other shop. I got home and got ready to try it. I am going to a wedding on Saturday and my top half has caught the sun but my legs are lily white (not a good look in a black and cream dress and strappy black heels). I was desperate for something to even up my colour and as this promised bronze, and not orange, I thought I couldn't fail. I've never been hugely successful with fake tan. I am so pale and it always goes a streaky orange colour, but having seen this on TV, I really thought I had it nailed. I got it out of the bag, stripped off my jeans and planted myself on our wooden floor (the floor is stained oak so I didn't see too much a problem dying it as we are going to sand of the lacquer soon and re-colour it). Holding it about 40cm away, as advised on the can, I began lightly spraying in even movements, as advised. You can't see where this tan is going as it's clear; however the fact that I had no dry parts on my legs assured me I had everywhere covered. I let it dry (about ten minutes), stuck on a dark dressing gown and began to think of reading some reviews of this stuff (yes, I know, daft after the event). I got on DooYoo (the best, most honest reviews) and sat down with a cuppa to enjoy the raving reviews and exclamations of how great this stuff looked once dry. Amazingly, whilst I was reading, I noticed that my right foot was still wet (even though I had sprayed it no longer than any other part of me). I immediately got out my self tanning glove to wipe some off, hoping to blend it in. Whilst reading the reviews, I was happy to see some good points, although dismayed to see how many people hadn't managed to get it right. Some were really funny (David Dickinson for under a Tenner!) lol, others terrifying. I have to admit I was a bit smug because I thought it had gone very well, assuming others just hadn't put it on correctly. After a while I got up to use the bathroom and did an almighty skid across the living room where the spray had gone onto the floor. After recovering from the shock, I immediately laid a towel to collect it and make the floor safe. That is lesson number 1 - never spray onto a shiny wooden floor then go for a walk. After a few hours the tan started to develop and I was thinking what a lovely brown colour I was going. I could see that my right foot was slightly darker than the rest of me, but I just thought I'd avoid that bit when I re-sprayed the next day. Bear in mind that the sun had long gone down and the evening was drawing in so I couldn't see myself clearly. Roll on the next morning and I get up to make my other half's breakfast, pull on my dressing gown and head for the kitchen. OH comes into the living room and starts laughing hysterically and pointing at my foot. Oh my god, I looked down and I had the brightest orange foot I have ever seen in my life. He asked me what I had done to myself and I had to admit that I had been at the tan bottle again. We can only conclude that whilst spraying my legs, nearly all of the surplus that didn't hit my legs hit my right foot. How this is possible I do not know, but something to bear in mind - lesson 2 - keep the feet out of the way whilst doing the legs. We decided to have a look at what might have become of my legs. I opened the dressing gown and they were actually a nice, light tan colour - in parts. It certainly wasn't the even colour I was hoping for, although I'm going to try and even it out with Dove Summer Glow, as I can't have pale legs at this do. Regarding my foot, well, the orange had to go. It's mostly faded now, after hours of special treatments found on the net. Thus far we have had two hot showers with a scrubbing brush and soap, a handful of salt and half a lemon rubbed into it, baby wipes and a leg shave. My next two on the list are Nair hair remover and whitening toothpaste. However, despite the disappointment, I can confirm that the above treatments do work - over time. My foot is down to a more subtle shade of orange and I have a table full of orange baby wipes. Would I buy this again? Maybe I would, but I would need more alone time to practise and never, ever will I try it again before a big event. I may even have to wear tights to cover up my "tanned skin", never mind my white skin. At the price I paid, it is worth giving it another shot. Overall, the spray is easy to apply onto legs. I imagine that you would need a helper if you were doing your upper body as your arms and the angled nozzle can only get so far. Exfoliation and moisturising are critical, or you will end up with orange knees and ankles.
I feel compelled to join in the debate about Tesco's tonight as I have finally had enough of them for good and will no longer be going back. I have a relatively long history with Tesco's, have spent thousands of pounds in their stores over the years and continued to go despite poor service, ignorant staff and second rate food. Why? Because I had a clubcard and thought that I might as well get points for money I was going to spend anyway. Well, Tesco, you will be receiving my cut-up club card in the post sometime this week, along with my mobile SIM card and the end of my custom. Maybe readers are shocked by my distaste for Tesco's? Well, I can explain. I can put up with rude staff, I can put up with poor quality food (just choose something else) and although I'm not happy about it, it doesn't make me as angry as my multitude of bad experiences with the staff at our local Tesco Express. I go in that store almost every day, for bits and bobs but mainly for cigarettes. I'm 29 years old (and have been smoking since I was 16) so I don't exactly look like a spring chicken, yet the staff at this Tesco store, no matter how often they look at my passport (yes, I have to take my passport, at almost 30 years old, to this Tesco to buy cigarettes!), still do not comprehend that I am old enough to buy cigarettes. So tonight, we ran out of Rizla's for our rollups so I offered to walk the 20 minute round trip to Tesco's to get some as OH had had a drink and couldn't drive. I stuck on my trainers and hit the track, got there, stood in a queue for ten minutes, asked for my Rizlas and was asked for ID. Yes, stupid, I know, I should always remember to dig my passport out of its safe place to take to the shops with me for bits of sticky paper! So I explained that it was just Rizlas and not cigarettes, that they have seen my ID many times before, that I'm a very regular customer (the guy who I'd me even says HELLO to me when I come in every day) and that I'm 30 years old in a few months. But that's not the worst part. In front of me in the queue was a young lad in a tracksuit (probably about 17) with his 13 year old girlfriend, who bought 20 cigarettes and was not asked for ID. Yet I am told, at almost twice the legal age for purchasing tobocco products, that it is their policy and they're doing nothing wrong. The woman who gave the kids the cigs on the other till even hypocritically piped up that it was something along the lines of "Look 25, think 30" or some other inane brainwashing gimmick that Tesco's use to get their staff to toe the line. Everyone in the shop was bemused by this, I was mortified and left, having to listen to those two kids outside laughing at me for getting ID'd. Well, smokers need to smoke so I had a 40 minute round trip to Sainsbury's to get them as the newsagents on the block was closed. Sainsbury's gave me what I asked for with no humiliating scenes. All in all, I've had enough of this shop and if they can't treat me with any kind of respect, as a human being, as an adult and as a paying customer and humiliate me in front of local customers, then I can't bear to spend another penny in their shops. Oh, and I would put down my purchase details immediately, unfortunately I was unable to make that purchase. I agree with the guy a couple of months back when he said Tesco's staff have to meet a certain psychometric profile. I suppose, ultimately, as an educated and rational human being, I should feel more sorry for their staff than angry. I have a huge catalogue of complaints, none of which I would ever normally voice, but today was so humiliating and made me so angry that I had to put pen to paper. I will never enter that shop again and unless I have absolutely no choice, Tesco's will never get another penny from myself or my family. As long as some of us shop elsewhere, they can't dominate the UK shopping scene. If I could give a score lower than 1 star I most certainly would.
I have been using this foundation for more than ten years now. As I suffered from acne whilst a teenager (and still some now), I really struggled to find a make up that didn't cause spots, as well as make the spots I already had stand out like a big, crispy scab on my face. My mother took me to Clinique to get try their facial cleansing stuff (the three step method). I absolutely hated this. The soap dried me face out, the toner made it sting and rash and the moisturiser was so greasy that my spots doubled after using it. I did, however, get the Suberbalanced make-up in Ivory (I'm very pale), and I've never looked back. It's the only make up I can or will wear. Firstly, the make-up seems to blend into your skin as well as moisturiser. You don't get ugly patches when you try to blend as you do with most others, and because the tone is so close to my natural skin colour, I never look like I've been tangoed around my jaw and hairline. Secondly, the make-up creates a beautiful, dewy complexion that I could never hope to achieve with any other product I've tried. I have an awful complexion, but wearing this has brought compliments I never expected. It also stays on all night, you don't have to reapply it. At over £20, it's not cheap, but a bottle of this lasts me six months if I use it almost every day. It's a very small price to pay and considering I do not like Clinique products generally, I would be heartbroken if they ever discontinued this line. If it gives such a good finish on my skin, it can do wonders for anyone. I thoroughly recommend this product. It has never caused my skin any problems, not spots, rashes or all the other blemishes products seem to bring out in my skin.
I wouldn't say I'm a pro photographer at all, so forgive me if in this review I do not discuss 'aperture' or the likes of, but look instead to the quality and user-friendliness of this starter DSLR. Until now, I've had crap cameras. Always wanted a good one but baulked at the thought of spending hundreds on one. Finally that time came last month. As we were sick of having no decent photographs of ourselves and our pets, me and the other half bit the bullet. We were worried. A good DSLR will set you back quite a few hundred. Then we found the Sony Alpha 200, at £259 from Argos (reduced from £299). When you are used to questionable quality photographs, the images you get from the Sony Alpha just take your breath away. Such depth, clarity and quality, we could see each and every hair in fine definition on our kitten's head. The camera itself is so easy to use. As I say, I'm a real amateur, but because the camera has auto-settings, I have been taking some amazing photographs. You can hardly tell I'm not a pro! The camera is 10mp, with 3 frames per second in fast shoot mode. It has an anti-shake feature (for caffeine addicts amongst us!). You expect, for a 'cheap' camera, that the body will be made of cheap plastic. Not at all with this camera. It is sturdy, well built and all the mouldings are in the right place for a comfortable fit in the hand. The only downside we have thus far experienced (and not sure if it is us or the camera!) is that we sometimes get a dark 'arc' on the bottom of some of the pictures. We can't figure out why this is happening and only seems to be when we use the flash in some circumstances. If anyone can clarify if this is the camera or us, that would be most appreciated.
I can honestly say I have never before purchased a Guerlain perfume until I smelled Insolence. They've never appealed to me, perhaps because both my elderly aunt and grandmother were both big fans and their scent, although memorable for me from childhood, was not one I wanted to replicate on myself. Come Christmas 2007 and I am in Boots, desperately searching for a present for my best friend, frantically searching for a scent that stood out, that captivated and wasn't just another sickly sweet clone that has become the norm in young perfume. I sprayed Insolence onto the card and can't say I was really expecting anything other than the above, so boy was I surprised. It was beautiful. I bought it there and then, 50ml x 2 (one for her, one for me) and became a fan. My friend loved it, as it happened. It has replaced Anna Sui, Sui Dreams as the only perfume she ever wears or buys! Insolence is sweet, yet heady. It's not a light, floral breeze that dissipates on contact with fresh air but a modern, enduring and clear alternative for young women, without being overpowering. Perhaps it is a bit too sweet for more mature women, but anything up to 40 years old and it smells good enough to eat. More suited to an evening wear than at the office, Insolence embodies the sensuality in fragrance that only the elder, more refined perfume houses are able to attain. But be warned, it's different and for those who are looking for something different, out of the mainstream. It has the capacity to become a classic, with Orange Blossom and Rose laying the sensuous foundation from which it launches the stunning and vibrant top note of violet. It is reminiscent of Parma Violets, but not as you knew them as a kid! The bottle is also unique. Guerlain has its own sculpture department who craft each individual bottle to embody the sent it 'embodies'. Asymmetrically designed (well that's all the rage now isn't it?) without appearing gaudy or 'modern', the bottle defines the image of Guerlain, classy, quality but daring to be different! I really like this perfume and often have men asking me what it is so they can buy it for their girlfriend/wives. To me, if it captivates men and women alike, it is a success and well worth the money.
I have finally made it to the £50 payout mark on YouGov, and after more than five years as a member, I feel qualified enough now to be able to write a decent, helpful review on it. YouGov started up years ago as a panel to ask ordinary people about anything from Government to the brands that you use in your home. It was, first and foremost, an opinion indicator for political questions, but I believe that in order to reward people for their input, they also offered their services commercially. The downside of this survey site is that the payout level is £50. However, don't be disheartened by my length of service.... I was very patchy with surveys I did; I even gave up on it for a couple of years, but have made it up in the last year. I have earned £16.25 over the last year, half of that since the turn of 2009. I think the more you take part in the surveys, the more you're asked to take part. When I gave up for such a long time, survey invitations were very sparse. Since I picked back up, the invitations have been coming thick and fast. The surveys vary from your opinion on the competency of the government to what you think of certain brands and they pay from £0.50 to £1. Sometimes, the surveys are a little intrusive, i.e. asking about your household income etc. On the whole, the surveys are enjoyable, fairly quick, and you never get halfway through one and get the "Thanks but no thanks" message familiar to most surveyors. The system is well administrated, all my surveys have been calculated accurately and there is a running log going back to the day you joined. YouGov also offer the chance to earn extra cash for your pot by offering a referral system. The referral gets £1 for joining up and then you earn the same as they do for 3 months for all surveys completed. All in all, YouGov is a well-organised, reliable survey system. And if you stick with it, it's well worth the joy of the £50 at the end. I wholeheartedly recommend it. As an aside, if anyone would like to use my referral link (and of course help me out too), please do send me a message and I shall send it to you.