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I had to buy myself a new calculator last year when I lost my trusty old calculator and was finding I needed to have a calculator to hand when sorting my house finances- and it wasn't always feasible to have my computer open and to use the calculator application. After doing a quick search, I found this Casio calculator on Amazon for £2.40 plus p&p and I thought this was a decent price as I like the option of having it posted to me so went for the online purchase- though I am sure I could have found a cheaper option in a supermarket. The calculator is as the picture- it measures approx 10 x 14cm so is a good size. The buttons are a good size and aren't too small so this prevents you hitting the wrong number and it is easy to use. It has a solar panel so it recharges itself as long as you use it in natural light- I don't know of anyone who has a calculator that they have to change the batteries in so this is a standard function for a lot of calculators. The calculator offers all the basic functions such as add, minus, divide, plus there is a percentage button and a memory add/ memory clear button. There are no scientific functions on this calculator as it is just your basic desk calculator- good for working out what you have left of a budget or adding up numbers. I have had this calculator for around 8 months now and have had no problems with it, It meets my needs for a calculator- ie adding up bills at home or working out your every day things like salary/ saving for holidays etc., . The only downsides I can think of are it does not have the scientific complicated functions some people may need (ie for people doing A Levels or maths exams) and it is a good size to keep on a desk or at home but may be a bit bulky if you carry a calculator around with you. So, overall I would recommend this for general occasional use at home or work, but not for scientific or complicated use.
Everyone will be familiar with erasers- normally from when you are at school and either you have to have an eraser handy as you are using a pencil, or from in your pencil case or desk tidy. Erasers come hand in hand with pencils - if you have a pencil, you need an eraser. However, since stopping full time education, I am probably one of the rare people who do still have an eraser to hand at most times- at work, at home, in with my art materials. I still find erasers relevant to my day to day life. **The Product** The Staedtler Mars plastic eraser is a 2inch x 3/4 inch white plastic looking, shiny on the outside eraser that comes in a cellophane wrap with a cardboard sleeve around it- you are supposed to leave the card sleeve on as it protects the eraser from your mucky hands. The card sleeve can be torn down for when the eraser gets smaller. **Features** From the website, Staedtler boast that this is their most efficient ('Made in Germany') eraser that can be used both for erasing graphite (pencil to you and me) and also to erase OHP pens from OHP film without leaving a smudge mark and without discolouring the paper. I didn't realise until I read these features that these are the things we demand of an eraser without really being aware of it. Just think how annoying it is when you go to erase something such as a line you have made whilst reading a book and the eraser just makes more of a mess on the paper and hardly erasers anything. With erasers, I find, you need it to work, there and then- to totally remove all traces of pencil or OHP marker on film and to leave the surface perfect so you can write on it again without any evidence of the layer you have erased. Staedtler also confirm this is latex free and has 'minimal crumbling' and is age resistant! In my experience, an eraser can be in a drawer or an old pencil case for 15-20 years and you would still pick it up and expect it to work as it did the first day you unwrapped it- without having discoloured or perished over the years. **Usage** This eraser is really easy to use, It has pointed corners (8 in total) so you can use the edges for fine erasing detail and use the broader edges for larger areas. It is sturdy and I have never had one of these erasers snap or tear when I have been using it. They are very solid and do come across as like pliable plastic (not sure if that is where the name comes from!). **Availability** Rymans are selling these for 94p plus VAT. So these are cheap and easily available. I would expect to see these wrapped up for individual sale in most of the major stationery shops and also in kits of pencils or Staedtler OHP Pens as they can be used on over head projector film. **Overall** If you use pencils at work or at home or if you draw and need a reliable eraser that will last for literally YEARS and will also take on hard regular use without falling apart or crumbling into little pieces then this is the eraser for you. It is built to be used and to do it's job well and it does. So, recommended.
After a rough day at work and in need of a pick me up, I fancied buying a bottle of Bucks Fizz or something fizzy with some but not too much alcohol in it. I spotted this Alcoholic Dandelion and Burdock in a local Spar shop for 3 for £5. They also sell Alcoholic Cloudy Lemonade and Alcoholic Ginger Bitter. I bought the Dandelion and burdock one for myself and my other half said he would drink the other two - so this review is only of the Dandelion and Burdock drink of the range. **Product** This comes in a wide glass bottle with a metal cap that you need a bottle opener to lever off. Once open, you can if you try hard re-affix the cap and put the bottle back in the refrigerator, but (I tried this) it will lose some of the fizz- so it is best to open and drink in the same sitting. Each bottle is 500mls- about a pint and this is more than you get in most single bottle 'alcopop' type drinks. Each bottle is 2 units of alcohol and contains 4% alcohol. **Taste** This taste EXACTLY like dandelion and Burdock. EXACTLY. There is no weird 'gone off' taste that would confirm there is alcohol in this, it just tastes like a can of the very retro and quite old fashioned Dandelion and Burdock. This could be a good thing- if you like the taste, but a bad thing as it is easy to forget it contains alcohol. But, as it does taste so much like Dandelion and Burdock I could not drink more than 1-2 bottles in a night of this otherwise it would just be too fizzy and gaseous/ filling. I can imagine it is quite heavy to drink lots of- like with the WKD drinks, drink more than one bottle and you get heartburn- that sort of effect. **Overall** I would definitely buy this again as I think one bottle with it's relatively low alcohol content makes a lovely refreshing mid- week drink. It is a less alcohol alternative to some wines if you like to treat yourself to a glass or three of wine mid week, and I think it makes a lovely refreshing change to the alcopop-type drinks that are on sale at the moment and also to the usual wine/ beer/ spirits that get quite dull. The only downside is the bottle is in the style of an ale so it isn't the most feminine looking of drinks. It looks like a bottle of stout or something, so I would say if you are at home, pour this into a nice glass as swigging it from the bottle really doesn't look very girly!
I have always liked cutting up bits of paper and magazines and writing letters with glitter all over them and stickers but it really did not dawn on me that I should always have been making my own cards rather than buying them as I have done for the last 10-15 years! . I think I always thought any card that I make for anyone would look silly (despite the fact that I consider myself quite accomplished artistically and have exhibited paintings etc)- I still struggle with card making as I'm always a bit stuck for what to stick on the card! **The Product** So, in an attempt to get a clearer idea of what exactly to do to make cards that looked a bit more 'professional' just to send to family and friends, I picked up a copy of Cardmaking and Papercraft magazine. The magazine was expensive as it costs £4.99 an issue (one a month) but you do normally get a free gift or a pack of free things with each edition-the thing that convinced me to part with £4.99 for one magazine in this instance was the set of 6 unmounted ink stamps that were free plus inside were 8 A5 design sheets of decorated paper that you can cut up to use as background designs or borders for your cards. **What to Expect** The magazine is quite thin (not fat like Vogue or one of the other glossies!), it has a thicker card cover and is the standard A4 magazine size. It appeals to all ages from 12 to 80 as it has step by step guides with photos teaching you how to do things such as make something quilled out of strips of paper or how to make quite a complicated looking flower out of bits of folder paper to then stick onto cards. Each edition follows a similar format, with regular 'Featured' card makers and people who write articles promoting their products. There are lots of adverts in the magazine including a lot of full page adverts for rubber stamping companies and to advertising DVDs people have made of printables and layouts along a certain theme (ie Woodland glade or fairies) that sell for £16-22 and ads for fancy £300+ machines you can buy to do posh things for cards and embossers etc so the magazine does lean towards the more serious professional card maker. **Downsides** I found a lot of the articles about "what you need to make THIS card..." included a list of really expensive things- for example one lady who has regular articles in the magazine (as she has her own website and card materials company and wins lots of awards within the niche card making community and who is keen to try to sell you products with her name on), always seems to show you a picture of a card and to make it you will need to buy £280-400 of equipment! So, things like this put me off as I will not be spending several hundred pounds to make one card. I understand if you buy a pack of 5 papers for £11, and use half of one of them then you will have spare sheets to make more cards, but I am not about to fork out a fortune that will 'work out at a reasonable price per card if i were to make 500 cards from the stuff i've bought'. ! I know the idea is if you keep seeing for the cards you like the look of that you will need to buy all these machines to make them, then eventually you will buy one and you will then not need to buy it again, but for me who is more about saving up sweet wrappers and buttons and scraps of ribbon and buying budget card packs and offshoot packs from Poundland to make inexpensive cards, I dislike the blatant advertising of a 'Featured' card maker's own brand machines/ template or paper design DVDs and expensive packs of papers that you could get for cheaper elsewhere if you just used a bit of creativity. There is a letters page and a glossary of the basic card making terms that are useful and the pictures of cards do give you some ideas for how a card should be laid out with borders and a feature picture and lettering etc., There is also a website: www.cardmakingandpapercraft.com that has free printables of papers (some you need a code for - some are free) and information about the magazine and competitions on. **Overall** Overall I am giving this 3 stars because it is expensive, it promotes the featured card maker's own brand products that are quite expensive and it tries to get you to buy expensive equipment and materials that you could get for cheaper without much indication that you can use other inexpensive things or things you have around the house. But, on the plus side, I like the step by step guides for techniques and if you just look at the pictures and don't necessarily read the 'buy this to make this!' sections, you can get some inspiration and ideas for themes for cards or for unusual things you could then take away and adapt to what you can make using the scraps and things you have in the house and to suit your budget. So, I think this is one to buy for the free stuff and just to refer to for themes and how to guides for techniques to try. Not one to buy every month.
I have a Henry Hoover and it cheers me up to have quote novel/ cute home products. I had previously looked online to see what other (if any) Henry merchandise is out there and was a little disappointed at the search results as you can't really get a great deal of things. Then I spotted this Henry face Mug in the Next directors for £5. I bought one and was very happy with it. **Product** You get a standard size mug with a decent size handle. The mug is made from your standard mug crockery (ie smashable if dropped) and holds your average sized mug of tea or coffee. This product is aimed at adults as it is breakable, it is a standard size- so it is not one of those mugs where it will hold the equivalent of 3 mugs of coffee etc., - it is just the standard mug size. The design is printed on the mug and goes all the way around. There is a picture of Henry's smiling face on both sides of the mug and the handle is all white- as in the photo. **My Experience** After using this mug less than 5 times, we noticed when washing the mug that the handle was starting to feel a bit loose- as if it was about to fall off. It was sort of 'grinding' when you moved the handle and so I made the decision to return the mug to Next for a replacement as I had not had the mug for long and mugs, in my opinion should last for years- not just a few weeks. Especially as we had not dropped or done anything to break the mug. Also, ss a precaution (in case this was from a bad batch) I wrote to the manufacturers Paladone Products just so they were aware of the fault and could look into it. I was not asking for a replacement as Next sent me a replacement- it was more a case of just trying to be helpful in case something had gone wrong in production. I was surprised when Paladone sent me a letter and a new mug! So, now I have two Henry mugs (the one with the bad handle was returned to Next- who replaced it) and they have both served our house well for the past 3 years being in almost daily use and I have had no further issues or problems with them. **Other** The mugs are white inside so this will show up and tea or coffee stains- I find I generally prefer mugs that are coloured inside as they seem to stain less. I paid £5 for the original mug, but I have seen these advertised on other websites for £8-£22 (!) each so I think the slight 'cult' status of the Henry Hoover is pushing up the prices. **Overall** I am giving the Henry Mug a 3 out of 5 stars because it is your 'average' mug. Although the printing is of a high quality and none of the print has washed off or faded since I bought it, the mug does stain very easily with the white interior and as the mug is a standard size and shape (unlike other novelty mugs I have seen) I don't think I would pay over £5 for this mug. I was very impressed with the customer service from Paladone the manufacturers and would buy their products again but the mug is just a standard mug. It will appeal to Henry fans and is great for a secret santa gift etc.,
I bought a double-bed sized fold out futon about 6 years ago. I had just graduated and my boyfriend at the time convinced me to spend my first full pay packet from my first month working full time on a futon. I have no idea why I agreed to this (I was hoping to spend the money on things you buy when you're 21 like Hello Kitty stationery/ writing paper and clothes/ shoes, not a FUTON). I am still bitter about this as the futon cost me £500. **The Futon Shop** I bought it from a shop called "The Futon Shop" who sell futons in all shapes and sizes. Delivery was free on the same afternoon that I bought the futon. The shop seemed to be a small independent retailer but I have done some research and they have a website: http://www.futonshop.co.uk and are based in Sheffield but deliver all over the UK. The futon I bought was the Tokyo futon with the pine base (still selling, now for £375 for a single to £675 for a king sized futon plus the pine frame). **Assembly** The futon was delivered and the man from the store kindly offered to carry the futon into the spare room and I was wondering why he was pouring with sweat after carrying the soft part up the stairs. I just thought he was unfit or in a rush! The futon came partially assembled- the pine base was folded up into the L shape and all we had to do was figure out how to add the removable wooden arms. This was just a case of screwing the arm parts on when the futon was in the L (sofa type) position. **Positions** To make the upright position: the pine base is folded into an /\_ position. The base of the futon is essentially in thirds so when the futon is being used as a sofa, the back of the futon forms a /\ shape and the end part of the base is left to form the /\_ shape (when looking from the side)- the bit you sit on. To make the flat bed position- this is really easy- all you do is pull the pine base along the floor so it goes from a /\_ position to _ _ _. From the website I have learned that there is also a mid way position - you can prop the edge piece up to form a \_ _ shape! I never knew this and the futon as I recall did not come with an instruction manual. **The Soft Part** To look at them, futons look light and come across like a sofa bed- something you can put in your spare room in case you have to accommodate guests and need a fold up bed. However, the thing that surprised me is the soft part- the bit that you have to fold into a 'b' shape when in the sofa potion, this literally WEIGHS A TON ! The futon I had felt as if it was filled with sand as it was a nightmare to fold up as there are no carry handles or bits to pull on- and as it is filled quite a lot- the material is not baggy so you cannot get a good grip on it. To fold the futon back into an upright sofa position (/\_) it is easy to adjust the pine base. the hard part is lifting and folding the soft part as you have to fold this into a 'b' shape- so you have to move the soft fabric part on the flat bit of the pine base with the base in the /\_ position, then stand in front of the futon and use all your strength to lift the front two thirds back up so it folds back where your knees are to form a !> shape (looking again, from the side!). This is the hardest thing to do and each time I had to fold the futon back up from a bed into a sofa as it filled our spare room when it was folded flat- I endured lots of swearing, trying to grasp the bit I was trying to lift and dropping it and skinning my knuckles against the material as I couldn't get a grip of it and struggling with it's weight. I ended up kicking and nudging and pulling and pushing and just trying to generally 'lift and try to throw/ shunt it in the right direction'. Many times, I had to give up and just push the fabric up against the pine base in a very untidy way, just as it was so heavy to try to lift and fold up! I consider myself to be quite strong and can lift a fair weight - I don't have gripping or lifting problems. If you have any sort of mobility issues or cannot lift or grip heavy and bulky items then avoid these like these will be no good for you- unless you have one or two strong people to help you - for example, a futon like the one I had would be no good at all for an elderly relative or for someone with any sort of shoulder or neck/ back injuries! It is not kjust the weight- it is the cumbersomeness- it is bulky and awkward to grip so that makes it harder to fold up. **Sleep** The futon I had had a slotted pine base that was sturdy and well made. I slept on the futon many times over the years and found it to be really comfortable- I got a good nights sleep and woke up feeling refreshed- but I like firm mattresses. The bit you sleep on is very very firm- but I am sure they are filled with just sand, so if you like soft mattresses, then again, this would not be suitable for you. When laid flat, the futon is practically on the ground (only 2-3 inches off the ground)- so it is like sleeping on the floor. **Advice** When the pine base is laid flat, and if you are trying to unfurl the bit to lay on (the heavy bit), you have to be very careful if standing on the wooden slats not to get your foot stuck between them- so whilst dragging the mattress type bit around you do have to stand on the pine base- but once or twice I put my foot between the slats as it is only a few inches off the ground and almost fell over which I'm sure would have done quite a lot of damage to my ankles and feet (but that would have been my own silly fault and not the fault of the product)- (just a word or warning!). **Overall** Sadly, my ex selfishly gave away the futon I had shelled out £500 on to a friend of a friend who said they wanted a futon for their spare room. He gave it to them for free (yes, again, I am bitter- but this is why he is an ex because he did things like that) without asking me and leaving us without a spare bed! So the tale of me and my futon, does not end well. However, I would say a few things if you like the idea of having a futon- 1: Lift the soft part when you are in the shop- try to unfold and fold it up so you know what you will have to contend with 2: Definitely get home delivery or assistance to carry this up stairs if you have stairs in your house 3: Shop around 4: Understand the work you will have to go through to fold and unfold this- there is no way a child or a teenager could lift this if they had one in their room. Other than those cautionary points, I do often miss having the futon- as it was great to sleep on. But it was really awkward and a struggle to manoeuvre around. Expect bruises and skinned knuckles from lifting and folding/ unfolding!
Before I decided I would treat myself to a small tube of Sanctuary hand cream whilst in Boots a few months ago, I had often walked past the Sanctuary products in store just thinking they were out of my price range. Normally, I am not one to spend more than £1.50 on a hand cream (in my desk drawer at work there are the remnants of a tube of 'value' hand cream that I have been slowly using over the past three years!). So, as far as hand creams go, I am not the most avid consumer. However, I was window shopping in Boots one lunchtime, feeling a little blue and felt like buying myself something nice for a change. **Product** I bought a small (a 30ml travel sized tube) for £2 in Boots. The plastic tube is your usual squashy plastic tube but this has a flip lid that is easy to open (without hurting your fingers) but is sturdy enough to be put in your handbag without fear of the lid coming open and dispensing hand cream all over your things. The travel sized 30ml tube is a nice size- it is 1-1.5 inches wide and 4 inches tall. **The Cream** The hand cream itself is white and quite thick- I would describe it as thinner than sudocrem but thicker than a shampoo- sort of mid way consistency. It is quite heavily fragranced and smells like a luxurious perfume or a quite fancy department store. The scent is a powdery clean and soft smell and is quite a grown up smell- it is not like your average So! or Impulse smell, it is more like a Chanel sort of smell- expensive and luxurious- like a warm cashmere or angora sweater type scent. **Does it Work?** This product describes itself as 'whisper-light non greasy, nourishing cream'. It does have a non-greasy feel and your hands do feel velvety soft and moisturised after applying the cream, but I would not describe it as whisper-light. It just doesn't feel to be the right word to describe this. It is quite a hearty cream as it does make your hands feel as if they have been nourished- I would say if you tend to get dry hands, do try this as it does leave your hands feeling really soft. **Technical Bits** The back of the tube notes this has a 24 month shelf life. The product is not tested on animals and contains no parabens. It contains shea butter and sweetened almond oil. The ingredients list is long, I will not type it all out here, but if you have a known allergy to any specific hand cream ingredients then I would advise you checking the list on the pack before buying this. **Overall** Coming from someone who generally does not use hand cream on a daily basis, who works in a badly air conditioned hot and stuffy office and types all day and also paints and doesn't use rubber gloves when I really should and is prone to chilblains- this product has really turned around my opinion of hand creams. Although I still only use this occasionally (when my hands feel uncomfortable or dry) I would definitely buy this again. I expect this small tube will last me several months, but I will be buying it again as I love the smell and the soft matte velvety feel.
I have been a fan of Lucozade since it helped me back to recovery after a mystery virus when I was 15- I couldn't eat much and Lucozade Orange was one of the few things I could ingest. Since then, if I am feeling run down at all, I reach for the Lucozade. However, I dislike the Original Lucozade as I just don't like the taste of it. So, overall- I am hit and miss with the Lucozade varieties. **Product** This is quite a new edition of Lucozade energy drink- I have only seen it on sale for the last 6 months myself. It is sold individually for the usual 89p- £1 for a 380ml plastic bottle with a screw lid. The cap is one of the wide caps that I have noticed Lucozade bottles have now. I have noticed the Cherry Lucozade can be bought in supermarkets individually (have not seen it as a multipack yet) and it is also on sale in express stores (Tesco/ Sainsbury's etc) and some newsagents. **Taste** I would describe the taste as like Cherryade. If you fondly remember drinking over coloured Cherryade as a child, then you will like this. The taste is not as 'artificial' as an economy bottle of Cherryade such as those featuring a black and white bear from the 1980's (I'm not going to name names!)- it is much more of a fruity cherry type taste. The Cherry flavour is strong- but not unpleasant. The balance of sweet and fruity is just right and is not sickly or overpowering as some full-sugar energy drinks can be. If you do find this is a bit too much for you, it works perfectly diluted down a little with plain lemonade. **Technical Info** 87 calories per 100mls 13.4g of sugar per 100mls (= 256 calories per 380ml bottle and 50.8g of sugar)- this is very high- and the drink is intended for people who are very active or who need a boost so I would not advise drinking this on top of your three normal meals plus other drinks or you may find your jeans getting a bit tight! . As with the other varieties of Lucozade, this is not recommended to replace lost fluids during diarrhoea. The main ingredients are carbonated water, 24% glucose-fructose syrup (this is like a super concentrated sugar syrup) and cherry juice (2%) from concentrate plus preservatives and caffeine. **Overall** I would recommend trying this for a change if you like cherry flavoured things and if you need a boost- for example if you have been 'off your food' recently or have been feeling run down and in need of sugar/ a boost- as a replacement to a can of an energy drink like Redbull. I would not recommend this if you are on a diet (and are cutting out excess calories in drinks), if you are looking for something to drink late in the evening (the caffeine may keep you awake!) or if you have been advised to cut down on sugar. As far as the other varieties of Lucozade go, this is one of my favourites. Lucozade orange will always be my number one favourite type of Lucozade (for that refreshing ice cold orange barley type taste first thing in the morning to get me up and about and off to work!), but this is a close second. I much prefer this to the awful caribbean/ tropical Lucozade (tastes like shampoo), to the cola version (tastes like 'off' Pepsi) and to the original Lucozade (that has a flat, sugar-cordial taste I don't care for).
According to everyone I know when I excitedly waved this brush in front of them as if it were some new magic trick I was particularly proud of, these pop-out brushes have 'been around since the 1980s' (or earlier) and 'everyone used to have one at school'- both boys and girls. Not me. I seem to have completely missed out of this whole 'brush revolution' that I am led to believe, happened at some point in the 1990's. Still, it is 'never too late to have a happy childhood' and so my relationship with this brush began. When I saw this pop out brush in an Avon brochure I had to buy one immediately as I had been making-do with a very sad and worn out looking snapped round hair brush (the handle had snapped off so I only had the round head part and most of the bristles on that had come off) so I really really needed a new brush. As I liked the size of the 'snapped' old brush, this appealed to me as it is half the size of a standard round brush when folded and it is almost flat (1 inch high x 4.5 inches long x 1 inch wide when closed). **Product** You get a plastic handle half made of solid plastic and a flexible rubber part that has pop up bristles on the other side that forms the brush. When open, the hard plastic side has a mirror (see picture) so you can check your hair (handy!). The brush is activated by a gentle push, 'thus popping' the brush up to use as you would a normal hair brush. **Usage** This is easy to use. Since this product arrived and I flipped it open and figured out that you push the rubber part and 'whoop' you have a brush I have been like a child with a new toy. I must admit for the first few uses, I did find the flexible brush part folding back in on itself when I used it. My hair is very thick so any brush with a flexible section is going to struggle. I found by placing my fingers underneath the rubber part of the brush when using it it prevents the brush from folding in on itself- this is just a matter of how you hold the brush when you use it to make it more sturdy. This is only an issue when I am using the brush on the back of my hair as my fringe is not so thick so the brush copes fine. **Price** Mine cost me 99p but these can be bought for 69p in Wilkinson's and for 70p plus postage on Amazon. I think this is really cheap for the convenience this product provides. **Does it Work?** Yes, it does. I carry this everywhere with me- it is smaller than any brush I have had so fits really well in a small clutch bag or handbag or even a coat pocket. As I have quite a 'new' fringe that is supposed to look even and 1920's style and I walk to and from work- any hint of a breeze and my hair is all over the place. So, a discrete brush to hand that I can just pop, swoosh, brush and fold back up in a flash is perfect for me. **Would I recommend it?** YES. Yes I would. The only drawbacks to the product I have found it that it is not actually stuck together as you may expect. I have had this for 6 months now and use it several times a day and on two occasions (only two) the tiny bits holding the flexible rubber brush part have flown off and I thought the brush had broken. It was easy to fix, but this does raise the issue of if you have small children who like to pull at and chew on things- keep this away from them. In time I do expect the flexible rubber part (that you push on to form the brush bit) to tear or perish/ deteriorate in some way, but for 99p, this is a bargain. I've already had more than what I would consider 99p's worth of use from this and I will definitely be buying 'spares' (one to leave in my drawer at work, one for home...). If you like to carry a brush around with you or have a hair style that suffers in the wind/rain then this is perfect for keeping in the car or your bag or desk drawer etc., It is a cheap and convenient product so bear this in mind, and i'm sure at some point it will break or fall apart where I lose a bit but for the price it is awesome.
Whilst browsing through the Discussion Topics (as I like to do from time to time when I cannot think of a review to write or just feel like waffling on about something discussion related ...) this topic caught my eye. I eat much less fruit than I used to. I think I avoided most fruits like the plague as a child (eating the custard and leaving the peach slices when served this at school and eating the crumble but leaving the gooey fruit part...), then in my late teens I became overtly pre-occupied with losing weight. During this 'phase' I ate a lot of fruit. Plums and apples were part of my staple diet due to their low calorie and 'healthy' credentials. In recent years, when I have been working full-time yet have had at times painfully little to live on for a food budget, fruit for me is a rare buy as it can be expensive (Sainsbury's £2 for 4 apples! £2.49 for 5 plums? £2.99 for 500g of grapes? Oh please!!) So I suppose my fruit consumption could be described diagrammatically in terms of a bell shape. I know I should eat more fruit. My favourites are (in no particular order): 1: Plums: I think it is Sapphire plums that are my favourite of all the plums I have tried. Plums are very hit or miss unfortunately as supermarkets get different varieties in and these can vary wildly from small hard sour or tasteless plums to very large juicy delicious plums. I try to look at the label as it is normally printed with the variety (so I can try to spot the ones that I like for future selective purchasing!). A punnet of plums can cost up to £2.49 in my local Co-op for 5 plums. For me this is way too expensive. In Summer, I try to buy plums at the fruit and veg market for £1 for around 15 plums. If you get a 'good' plum, it will be juicy and sweet. Unfortunately I have had a bad run with plums recently and the last 7 or 8 punnets I have bought have either gone from being unripe and really hard/ sour to being mouldy and gone- off in the space of a day with no middle-ground! 2: Slightly Unripe Bananas: I do like bananas but really dislike the powdery texture or the pith that you get in 'ripe' bananas. I will avoid banana's that have lots of black spots on the skin as this to me means it has gone powdery inside. The thought of warm mushed up bananas makes me feel nauseous. For me, a banana has to have a little green still on the skin and it has to be cold- so I look for the 1 or 2 days pre-ripe banana and will only buy one at a time (go Tesco for your 17p individual bananas!) and will keep it in the fridge. 3: Green Apples: Golden delicious crispy crunchy apples are my favourite, but I dislike how the skin is quite hard to chew and digest. Also, I find if I bite into an apple, I end up feeling as if the skin has become stuck in between my lower teeth. I could peel the apple, but that creates so much waste, and I have a theory that in an apple some of the vitamins are going to be in the skin (as with a potato?- but I haven't checked this out - yet). I used to have an apple corer that I really do need to track down as this created nice little segments so you can concentrate on the flesh of the apple. These are my top fruits. I tried my first 'actual' / fresh coconut last year (at the age of 32!) and although I liked the juice/ 'milk', the very high fat content and rich rich nutty taste made me not think of it as a 'fruit'. I didn't realise I was so picky when it comes to fruit! I think for 2013 I do need to eat more fruit.
I don't do much shopping in Sainsburies, but I like store loyalty cards in general and I have had my Nectar card for several years now. Also, I have a plan to live on virtually nothing in 2013 (exacerbated by the fact my employer has said they are not going to pay me for being off ill for 2 weeks with the mumps as I had 4 instances of even going home a few hours early due to illness in the previous 365 days...)- so money is going to be VERY tight. One of my temporary solutions is to focus on ways to get money or 'free' food: With the Nectar card, you can collect points in Sainsburies (in general £1 spent is 1 point)- on your food shop, in their petrol station and for buying their insurance products, you can also shop online logging in first to the Nectar card website then proceeding to various merchants to earn more points. You can also earn points by shopping on eBay, using British Gas or Vision Express. You can redeem your points in blocks- 500 points can be redeemed for £2.50 in a Sainsburies store. You can also redeem your points in Homebase, Argos and at Vue cinemas. You can also use points for vouchers for money off or two for one entry to places such as Legoland or as money towards flights/ holidays on Expedia. You can also choose to donate points to some charities such as Oxfam. The website to check for the full exhaustive list of where you can collect and spend Nectar points (most have a 500 points = £2.50 redemption value) can be found at: www.nectar.com. I have recently become aware of two ways to earn 1100 Nectar points each month with no outlay. The main sources I use personally to collect regular Nectar points may be new to some of you so let me enlighten you! The first is by using the Yahoo search feature on the Nectar card website. You have to do 200 random searches using their Yahoo search box within each calendar month to get 100 Nectar points each month. The points will be credited in the following month. I tried this for December, and I got the points credited to my Nectar card a few weeks ago. So this does work. Another new way to collect points is by registering online with AdPoints. You set up a password with AdPoints and input your Nectar Card details - then you watch adverts and click if you liked them or not and answer questions about the advert. I have been doing this for 5 weeks now and in the first 3 weeks I could earn the maximum 250 points (your weekly limit) within an hour. For the last 2 weeks I have been unable to reach the 250 points maximum, only managing to accrue 190 points then just 66 points last week as I had viewed all the adverts on the site so could not earn any more points. There are around 45 ads currently on the site, I thought there would be a constant stream of new ads to watch (some are only 10-20 seconds long), but the available ads for me to watch has dwindled. I will update this review if this changes. Nontheless, for the first 4 weeks that I got the 250 points each week, these were credited to my Nectar points and visible on a till receipt as useable if I'd wanted to use £2.50 or £5 worth of points against food in Sainsburies. I worked out if you get 250 points a week for a year, that works out to around £65-70 worth of points to spend in Sainsburies on food (my plan was to save up my points all year then have a free December and spend the points on Xmas food). Unless destitution forces me to have to use the points earlier in the year! There are some restrictions with the Yahoo searches: your searches have to make sense and have to create atleast one result- so "shoe laces" is good, "Snarfle winchester" is bad. You do not have to click through to the merchants, just do the search. You can also do this on the smart phone Nectar application. You also get an additional 100 points a month if you also do another 200 searches on a PC or laptop (but these cannot run on the Safari web browser- they need Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome to work). So, in a perfect world, if there are 12-15 ads a week on AdPoints for you to watch and if you can use the yahoo Nectar search on both your phone app and your PC, then you would make 1200 Nectar points a month. .. But as I am finding, the AdPoints option is dwindling. Still I would recommend trying it as you should be able to watch all the ads that are there. My plan for a 'living on virtually nothing' 2013 is still a goal of mine, and getting free food from Sainsburies is part of that via Nectar Points!
For those people in relationships, it is time again to think about Valentine's Day. If it is a 'new' relationship (ie new since the last Valentine's Day) it is time to start throwing those questions into the air such as 'Valentines Day? what do you normally like to do?' just those open questions to gauge whether or not your other half is going to be expecting a gift or just a card, or if they are morally against Valentine's Day so you are prepared. Personally, I like to find out what the other person is expecting- so do they normally just get a take-away and stay in or do they like to go out for a meal or do they want card/ gift etc., I find men when in the pub, will spout the whole 'It's all commercial, women just use it as an excuse to get presents' spiel (trying to get out of buying anything for us?!)- but they secretly are expecting a card at the very least. So, I always try to manage expectations- let it be known if you like to make a big fuss of Valentine's Day or if you really (genuinely!- do not say you don't celebrate it then get upset if your partner doesn't buy you anything!) really do not celebrate it at all. Once I have found out from a social (ie staying in or going out etc) perspective what the man would like to do; then I tailor the gift/ card to fit in with that. For me it would be overkill to buy card/ gift and a nice meal out. I normally err on the side of 'buy something cute and small' - one Valentine's Day I left a creme egg in my partner's shoe so he would find it when he was getting dressed for work. He didn't particularly love chocolate, but it is the thought that counts- make them feel loved. So there are several options: 1: Small and cute- for the 'aww' factor- ie a Ferrero Rocher or a little Lindt Bear snook into their work bag or lunch box so they see it when you aren't there and know you have thought about them. Lottery tickets or scratchcards are good here too- cheap and thoughtful. 2: Surprise- buy them something they have been going on about for ages- you will know what is 'acceptable' for a price range for what you should spend without embarrassing them (if they have only got you a 99p card from a petrol station, you don't want them to end up feeling guilty if you have shelled out £50 for a bottle of man-scent cologne they've been going on about or a Blu-ray box set). It's a gift you know they want, but note if payday for them falls pre 14th February, avoid buying them anything they might just go and buy for themselves!. 3: Unusual- if you know their boss at work- contact them in advance to book your partner a day off work or a morning off so you get a lie in together or can spend a day off together on Valentine's Day- you can then surprise your partner when the alarm clock goes off and you say 'you aren't going to work today' (be on hand with 'proof' you aren't lying to reassure them it isn't a prank and note this will work best if they dislike their job). 4: Other- there are other options such as buying tickets for you both to a show or event or sports match (depending upon their interests) where the item won't have arrived, or the event will not be until later in the year- you can spring this on them by printing something out and putting it inside the card to show the plans are in motion. 5: Co-presents- if their birthday is in the few month's after Valentines Day, you can get them a joint Valentine's and birthday present- this may be something such as a ticket or a gift experience that has cost a bit more than you would spend for their birthday- again, it is the thought that counts- here you wouldn't have to think of two different gifts, just one gift for two occasions. 6: Free stuff- even on a budget, you can do Valentine's Day on the cheap-- make a card (even if it turns out bad, it shows you have thought about them); wrap up a pair of their own (pick the 'nicer' ones) socks (and see if they notice it is a pair of their socks from their sock drawer!- the humour factor); bake them a cake or their favourite food, do something unusual for them- ie- give them a back rub or run them a bath or iron their clothes (if, like me, you don't iron that much). Overall- it depends upon your partner, what they are 'used' to doing- do they have a routine that they like for Valentine's Day- is it an excuse to go for a posh meal for just the two of you; do they hate their job? - can you get them a day off-- it depends upon your budget and most of all- how much you want to make them feel special!
As you all know from my other reviews, I do suffer from depression, anxiety and fatigue. To help myself, I do frequently buy Powerade Blue ('Berry & Tropical' flavour) to give my body a boost and for me, it does help to lift my mood and give me a bit more 'get up and go'- whether the effect is purely psychological or not. *The Product* This drink is made by the Coca Cola company. They sell in most supermarkets and express stores in the chilled drinks refrigerators for £1.29 each (500ml bottles) but are normally on a 2 for £2 offer. You get a plastic bottle with a built in sports cap. These can be bought individually or as multipacks in supermarkets. The multipacks can work out cheaper so if you like these, and drink them a lot- it is worth checking the deals. To open the bottle, you just pull off a clear plastic lid (that clicks back on) and then lift the drinks nozzle. You can do this by hand or you can use your teeth (with care obviously!) if you are running for example- as this is marketed as a 'sports' type drink so it is designed to be drunk on the go. Once you have 'activated' the spout, it is easy to drink from by sucking at the multi-hole sports cap. This variety has one of those berry tastes which is a bit hard for your brain as it is bright blue. I know I always have issues with fruity tasting things that are blue as my brain does not seem to like that BLUE = BERRY. The taste is similar to that of a cordial- with only 16 calories per 100mls it is a less sweet and sickly alternative to coke or lucozade. *What is in it?* The main selling point of this drink is it is supposed to replenish the minerals you lose in sweat. So, this drink contains: Calcium (good for teeth and bones), magnesium (your cells need this), potassium (normally found in bananas) and sodium (you need sodium to function). The drink is designed for people who are active and who need to the hydration as it says on the bottle "Powerade ION4 hydrates better than water". In my case, I have to take medication for my depression and one of the unpleasant side effect is night sweats (i'm not menopausal- it is a meds side effect!) - so I drink this if I am feeling washed-out as I think it will help 'put back in' some of the minerals I may have lost. The Ingredients listed include: water, glucose, fructose, citric acid, mineral salts, flavourings, stabilisers, sweeteners (including sucralose and acesulfame K) and colour (brilliant blue). All in all, these do not sound all that 'healthy' but this is supposed to be a replenishing drink- an alternative to Lucozade (that states on the bottle it is NOT good for replenishing lost fluids) or Coke. I suppose the closest alternative to this would be Lucozade sport - less sugar than the original Lucozade but this as far as I am aware does not contain the minerals that this product does. *Nutrition* Per 100ml 16 calories 3.9g carbohydrates (3.9g sugar) 0g fat 0.05g sodium *Overall* I do like this product as I like the idea that it is replenishing some minerals such as magnesium and potassium (both are supposed to ward off heart attacks and strokes) that my diet may otherwise be lacking in. The taste is pleasant and it is not full of sugar- and does not just contain loads of stimulants like caffeine or guarana/ taurine that I can be sensitive to. If you work out or feel run down, I would recommend trying this.
Having been ill recently, I was in a local shop and thought I would treat myself to a few simple luxuries that I would not normally buy. Kleenex tissues being one of them. I normally buy a supermarket's own value brand box of tissues, but seeing as there is always kitchen roll in the house (for the hamster's bedding purposes), I tend to think of tissues as unnecessary (or something I can not buy to save some money). However, having a bit of a residual cold left, I felt like buying a 'nice' box of tissues. I managed to get a pack that was on offer for £1.19 but normally Kleenex tissues, especially the Balsam or Extra Soft varieties sell for up to £3 a box (ie Sainsburies express stores). *Product* The box I bought was a standard sized box containing 70 3-ply tissues. The cardboard box is easy to open and there is a flexible plastic insert in the box- i'm not sure why this is there- it is between the tissues and the cardboard. You have to poke your hand through it to get to the first tissue - then all the others will come out in sequence once you start using the tissues. The tissues do not have any particular smell. Each tissue is square and the average size you would expect from a normal tissue (ie not 'mansize'). They really are very very soft- I have no idea how they make them feel so soft. Must be a Kleenex secret. *Worth the Price?* Considering I got these for what I consider to be a good price for Kleenex, yes. I don't think I would part with £2 or £3 for a box, but as a 'treat'- yes. The tissues being 3-ply are really really soft and it really does make a difference on what may be a sore nose- so I would consider buying these if I had a particularly bad head cold where I was blowing my nose all the time and my nose was feeling a bit sore. *Overall* In my opinion, for general everyday use these tissues feel too 'good' to waste on just having a tissue in your pocket that invariably ends up in the washing machine and all over your jumpers... for general, 'everyday' use, I think the cheaper brands are fine- but for the occasions where you really need a soft tissue, then yes. these do their job.
As you know, I have a weakness for buying stationery. Irrespective of whether I actually 'need' another pen in the house, if I see a pen when I am out and about and if it is either something I don't have already or I decide I have to buy it, then I will frequently come home with 'another pen'- however, there are worse habits than buying a 50p pen!. Fortunately, I write a LOT, and I draw and paint and tend to use stationery on a daily basis so there is no fear of my pen hoard taking over the house (yet!). For me, BIC are a reliable, quality brand that you can trust. I buy BIC pens when they are on offer or when I see a slightly unusual ink colour or when they bring out a new type of pen (my curiosity gets the better of me). I have phases where I will prefer writing with fine pens- and for these times, the BIC yellow barrelled fine ball point pen is my pen of choice as I know the ink is not going to cut-out mid sentence unless the ink has actually run out and I know I am not going to get frustrated shaking the pen and having to re-write over words as the ink flow has become erratic (common faults of cheaper versions of the BIC fine ball pen). **Product** The BIC yellow barrelled pens are fine ball point pens with an 0.8mm tip that gives an 0.3mm fine line. The BIC website (www.bicworld.com/en) indicates each pen will give 2.5-3.5 km of writing!. The pens are light and easy to use. the cap has a safety hole in it but the pen will not run out of the cap is left off - it is more to protect other things from being drawn on whilst the pen is in your bag or a pocket. **Availability** BIC pens are widely on sale in newsagents, stationers, supermarkets etc., either in multipacks of 4, 10 or 20 or boxes (50) or individually. You can buy them online too and can get better multi-pack deals if you shop around. **Range** The BIC fine pens come in a choice of four colours: Red, Black, Blue and Green. It would be nice to see purple or one other 'non-standard' colour added, but that is just my opinion. For schoolwork and office work and 'professional' use, the existing ink colours cater fine. **Would I recommend?** Yes. If you like fine writing and a brand where you know from experience and from the BIC reputation that you are most likely going to be able to use the pen from the point you take the cap off until it actually runs out of ink, then this is the ball pen for you. These pens are cheap and reliable- in supermarkets such as Tesco you can often get deals on 10packs of BIC pens for £2 etc so if you like writing with ball pens and are looking for a nice fine lined pen, then I would suggest looking online or at the stationery section in big supermarkets as you can get really good deals.