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I recently booked a trip by Eurostar from London to Brussels, as I was looking for a fast but reasonably priced option. Flying was out of the question as getting to the airport just added up travel time and travel costs.
I booked through Eurostar.com website, which was fairly easy. Often they do special £69 return fares but these sell out very fast, and as such I was unable to book one (2 months in advance).
I browsed a lot of different dates and fares, and found that to travel mid afternoon cost a lot more, but morning and early afternoon trains were cheaper. I opted for an early afternoon train for my outward journey, returning 3 days later on a very early morning train. The total cost was £109 for Standard Seats. An additional fee for insurance (about £11) is optional, but I chose not to have this, as I obtained travel insurance elsewhere. Standard seating is non refundable or exchangeable, so if you cancel your tickets you will not get your money back! And you also cannot change the date or time of your tickets - even for the same day!
When booking, you also have the option of choosing your seats, as they do tend to pack up the carriages full, but leave some carriages half empty. So i changed both my outbound and return seats to a quieter carriage. However there was one problem with this - on my return during check-in, the staff were unable to find my booking and said my seat had already been taken. After 5 minutes on the phone, however, I was then told my seat was fine and it was all ok. And upon boarding, all was fine.
I opted to print my tickets at home which was easy enough, although next time I will pay the extra few pound for them to be sent to me by post if i buy again, as you have to scan in your tickets at check-in, and both times, my tickets did not work, despite being printed high quality. But this was easily resolved as they also have a manual check-in desk with staff.
With Eurostar before travelling they advise you to get a doctor's letter for any medication in case they want to verify it. However, I was no prepared to spend £20 for a letter which I might not even need, so upon contacting Eurostar, they advised that I take along a prescription with those medicines, and or the original boxes, with the pharmacy label to check against my passport. Needless to say, on both journeys, none of my medication was questioned, but I would advise to have those things above just in case.
At London, Check-In is very easy to find at St Pancras in the lower concourse about halfway down. Check-In opened 1 hour and 20 minutes before my train was due to leave, so plenty of time. As mentioned above, you scan in your tickets at the barriers, however mine refused to scan, so I was sent to a check-in desk where they did that for me with no hassle whatsoever.
After this, you join one of 3 queues for security checks, where like at an airport, you must place all your bags, coats, scarves etc onto a conveyor belt for inspection, and you'll go through a body scanner. All easy enough, you collect your things at the other side and go through to Passport Control. After this and in front of you is the Eurostar Lounge. Once in the Euostar Lounge, there are lots of seating areas and places to get drinks and snacks. There are departures boards all over the place so there's no worry of missing your train! There are 6 platforms (numbered 5-10) on which the Eurostar leaves.
In Brussels, Check-In was straightforward (besides my ticket not scanning at the barrier and a glitch in sorting out my seats). Brussels Midi is a large station, however to find Eurostar departures, you want to be heading right. The main concourse (with platforms 7-22) will be on your left. You want to head in the opposite direction towards Sam's Cafe, and just a little further up opposite you will find the Eurostar departures. Here you will check in with your Eurostar Ticket, then you will go through the same Security checks as in London, then onto Belgian Passport Control, UK Passport Control and finally into the Eurostar lounge, which has a cafe and the usual facilities. There are only 2 platforms at Brussels, but I recommend llistening out closely for boarding announcements as I found these very quiet, and I was only able to realise that boarding was taking place when people started to move in the direction of the Platform. I think the announcement is made via a small screen in front of the 2 platform entrances and by very quiet vocal announcement.
All announcements are made in English, French and Dutch.
When your Eurostar starts to board, an announcement will be made 20 minutes before the train leaves, so that passengers can board in time. All platforms are clearly signposted and flat escalators (London) take you straight up to the platform and Eurostar train.
I found my coaches very easy to find and upon getting on the train it looked like any other standard train, with a bit of extra luggage space. I only had 1 piece of handluggage and a holdall. The luggage racks are situated above seating, with a large rack at the top for small to medium bags (can easily put a large holdall up there or a small case), and the smaller racks underneath were ideal for smaller bags, coats etc.
ON BOARD EUROSTAR
Well I can say that with changing my seat online, I had a quiet coach and on both outward and return journeys the seat next to me was empty. There was no 'food trolley' service brought to your seats, however there was a buffet carriage about 2 carriages away from me. I had not been to either of these as I took my own food (to cut down costs). As said above, all announcements were made in English, French and Dutch and were very easy to understand.
My Eurostar made 1 stop on the outward journey at Lille. On the return journey it made 2 stops at Callais and Lille.
When going under the Eurotunnel, this took about 20 minutes. I was really amazed at the speed of the Eurostar as well, it was fantastic. Sometimes it did make my ears have that 'pressure' feeling, like when you go by plane, but it wasnt anything unpleasant!
Brussels - Upon arriving at Brussels Midi, you walk onto the platform and down to the bottom and turn left. Here you will be met with lifts, to the left of the lifts a staircase, and to the far left another walkway. I decided to take the stairs - not many at all, and this was the quickest way to get down into the main station area as a lot of people were waiting for the lifts.
London - When arriving back into London St Pancras, I had to walk along with everyone else down to the front of the platform, where you go down a flat escalator. We were advised to have our passports and tickets ready for inspection, however once we were off the escalator, you turn left and out the doors into the lower concourse of St Pancras (Arrivals, to right of M&S), and there was no inspection.
Overall, my experience of Eurostar was very easy, straightforward and I would happily do it again. I was lucky to have purchased cheaper tickets, but I have seen standard tickets for up to £200 for 1 way and there is no way I would pay that much considering that the Standard seating in Eurostar is of a very standard quality. However, for £109, this is perfectly reasonable as it IS taking you from London to Brussels in just 2 hours!
15 years ago I was 10 years old and oblivious to what music really was. I mean I had listened to the radio which my mum played day, but it never really held my interest. It was just something in the background.
Then whilst at my grandma's one day in 1997, Top of the Pops was on TV and we all gathered round to watch the weekly round-up of the charts. And that's when I discovered Hanson. 3 long, blonde-haired lads, quite literally bopping about behind their instruments to their Number 1 achievement that was 'Mmmbop'. After that music changed me and for Christmas I opened up a present from my parents which was their debut album 'Middle of Nowhere'. And boy, from that moment on, the way I viewed music was never the same again!
Now, I am all too aware of the way in which Mmmbop as a song stuck with Hanson. It ultimately gave a rather naive and closed image of 'a boy band with pop songs'. Yes, they were boys in a band, they did have pop songs, but not in the cliche, stereotypical way. These lads (Isaac, Taylor and Zac - all brothers), played their own instruments and wrote all their own songs - lyrics which touched on topics so mature for their age, it made me think just how talented they were to produce such well thought out songs with catchy and successful melodies.
And while most people will only ever remember them for MMMBop, the rest of the songs on the album 'Middle of Nowhere' really are the missing pieces of an amazing musical journey, which touches on subjects such as losing loved ones, relationship troubles, loyalty, buildings friendships, losing friendships, and even focussing on the smaller aspects of life that we often overlook. And this is the reason why such an album was a turning point for me. It opened up my eyes to the bigger world and to what music was really about.
So let's have a look at the tracks on the album....
1. Thinking of You
This little opener begins with a piano introduction which I'm sure every single fan of this band will recognise within the first 2 notes being played. Taylor (the middle brother, now 29) sings lead on this song, and its a neutral introduction which is sweet and catchy. The middle section really builds up on the song and overall its about exactly what is says 'Thinking of You.' It's a nice lead in to the next song....
The debut single and one which gave the Hanson brothers their 13 weeks at the Number 1 spot in the UK. This song, sings about 'Mmmbop'. 'Well what's an Mmmbop'?? well an Mmmbop is a moment in time (according to Hanson), a moment in time that's so small, it's gone before you know it. The song is an uplifting statement on life. 'Hold on to the ones who really care, cos in the end they'll be the only ones there,' 'plant a seed, plant a flower, plant a rose, you can plant any one of those, keep planting to find out which one grows, it's a secret no-one knows.' One feels that in a way, the message is to hold on to the important things in life, dont dwell on things you don't have, and appreciate what you do have.
The album becomes a bit more mellow at this point, and 'Weird' is about not fitting in and being an outsider. This was the 3rd single off the album. At one point or many, we all might feel like we don't fit in. But the fact is that we dont! We're all different and being weird is actually not such a bad thing after all. I think the video for the song makes a point that all our individual isolated feelings are a collective thing, however the song seems more focussed on the individual. In both ways it's genius.
A more, how shall I put it, 'agressive' song next. This one is about relationship troubles and finally confronting the person involved. It's a great song in which the words you can probably apply to a past experience of your own.
5. Where's The Love?
The second single released from the album, and what a corker! Even though it talks of too much take and not enough give (hence 'you dont mind the taking girl but you dont know how to give') and a relationship breaking down, the song remains quite an upbeat and positive song! And of course the 'round and round and round and round' bit just gets me every time!
Now for the 6th song on the album, we are diverted to totally different subject matter. Something more relative to the age of the boys. This song is about looking back at the school Yearbook and wondering about a boy called Johnny who mysteriously disappeared. Kind of ironic in a way, since the boys never went to school and were home-educated, but I am assuming that the song was a clever way to form a connection with fans of the same ages as themselves. Its a clever and powerful song which forms an interesting subject change midway through the album.
7. Look At You
Turning to the dancefloor now, is a funky track with some chunky style keyboards and bit of cheeky wording that is somewhat flirty, competitive and just plain fun! It has some fantastic melodies which lead into the chorus and this was probably one of my favourite songs from the album for a LONG TIME.
Back to relationships, the Hanson guys look at the breakup from the opposite side, in the way that they're singing about doing the breaking up this time. And they regret it. This is sung by the youngest brother Zac (10 at the time, now 26), and his vocals are fantastic in this song. They match perfectly with the overall meaning of the lyrics and the music.
9. I Will Come To You
The 4th single off the album and it's a sing out loud, pull your heart-strings song, which is almost choir-like during the middle 8. It's all about being there for somebody no matter what, whenever they need you for a shoulder to cry on or for support. I think the idea is help out your fellow men and show compassion even for people you dont know.
10. A Minute Without You
An upbeat and well thought out song, that's just pure romance right there! About missing the person you love, and they have it right down to a tee! 'When the minutes seem like hours and the hours seem like days, when a week goes by you know it takes my breath away, all the minutes in the world could never take your place, there's 1440 hours in my day.' Brilliant!
Something with a liiiiittle bit of cheesy funk pop in there. It's a cute song about rekindling a relationship, and though not one of my favourite songs, it is a good little tune!
12. With You In Your Dreams
This is the closing track to the album. A slow, gospel based song dedicated to their grandmother who passed away. It's a sad song, in which they sing out lyrics 'if I'm gone when you wake up, please don't cry, if I'm gone when you wake up, don't ask why.' I think this song acts as words of closure and comfort. A brilliant heartfelt song.
Bonus Track: Man From Milwaukee
A bonus track to finish off the album with something positive, completely random, a little bit crazy, but loveable!
Here, the Hanson lads sing about a weird crazy man from Milwaukee who they met at a bus stop in the 'Middle of Nowhere'. This guy has no hair, odd toes, likes to talk about the sky and where he comes from (Albertane) they like to run around in their underwear. All in all, this is a fun way to round off the album.
So there we have it, 'Middle of Nowhere', a brilliant album, which packs in love, friendship, betrayal, passing moments, aliens, missing that special someone as well as missing the most obscurest of events and people. This album is jam-packed with lyrics that could possibly be related to any aspect of life, and that's why I love it so much.
Baking potatoes have become a favourite evening meal recently of mine, because I can team it with a number of vegetables or cooked chicken and it's a nice change! Since I became a student, instant noodles were a frequent commodity for a while and I was really getting fed up of them! So I thought I would try out baked potatoes again, which I have found very versatile and have come up with some great toppings for them! So here I hope to give some ideas on how to cook the perfect baked potato and provide a number of different toppings.
- The perfect baked potato: preparation -
So I have found to get the perfect baked potato, they are better to be bought loose, as the pre-bagged ones in supermarkets are quite small and don't fill that gap very well for a main meal. Make sure you wash the potato well in cold water, to scrub out any soil or dirt. Then (carefully!) stab with a fork all over 5 or 6 times. Preheat the oven to 200C for a few minutes and pop it in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half to bake away. Some people like to put a bit of sea salt and oil on the potato before cooking but I have found this gives the potato a funny aftertaste and makes the skin soggy and greasy, so I don't do this. Once time is up, take it out the oven, cut in half and mash up with a fork and salt and pepper to taste. I also like to add a knob of butter to each half as well as a teaspoon of mayonnaise as this adds a nice flavour and makes the potato more mouth watering and less dry. Of course, this isn't too healthy if you are trying to lose weight, but it's a nice substitute and as I'm trying to gain weight, this is a great little extra to add. If I'm out of mayonnaise I add a bit of cream cheese instead and mix it in.
- My 3 favourite toppings! -
Prawn and mayonnaise
This is one of my favourites. I simply take a couple of handfuls of prawns, usually frozen ones and defrost them, give them a quick rinse in cold water and dry them off and put them in a bowl.
Added to the prawns I put 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise and 1 teaspoon of seafood sauce. I then add paprika for a little kick and some pepper.
I spoon this straight onto the jacket potato halves and sprinkle with cheddar cheese, and it goes under the grill for 10 minutes.
The Classic - Baked beans and cheese
This is fairly straight forward, heat up a tin of baked beans in a pan on the stove and pour on top of the jacket potato halves.
I then grate some cheese - I like Dutch gouda, as it's not so strong as cheddar is sometimes and it melts very nicely - and this is sprinkled on top, and the jacket potatoes are then placed under the grill for 10 minutes.
Herby cheese and salsa
Simply get some herby cheese, like Boursin, and cut 4 or 5 small chunks for each jacket potato half and set aside.
Get some tomato salsa like the ones in supermarkets that are sold as dips for nachos and spread some on top of each half of the jacket potato, then put the small cubes of herby cheese on top and grill for 10 minutes.
Well there you have it, those are my 3 favourite jacket potato toppings and I hope the little twists such as adding cream cheese to the potato for more flavour have helped if you are stuck for ideas! Enjoy!
Doritos have long been a favourite snack of mine, and the first ones I ever tasted were the Tangy Cheese flavoured ones. Doritos typically are triangular shaped corn 'crisps' (aka. nachos) that are manufactured by Walkers Snack Foods Ltd and it took a good few months... possibly a year or two even before the Chilli Heatwave variety hit the shelves.
You cannot miss these in a supermarket, newsagents or café. They come very brightly packaged in a red crisp packet with the blue, black and white Doritos logo across the top and a large motif of the nachos on the front wth 'CHiLLi HeaTWaVe' spelt out next to it. On the lower left is also A GDA bar with the calories per packet, sugar, fat, saturates and salt contained. On the back of the packet on the left tells you how they're made ('the traditional Mexican way') and that they are cooked in sunseed oil which is 'naturally lower in saturates' compared to other cooking oils. On the right side of the packet are the nutritional values, best before date and the ingredients. It also says these are suitable for vegetarians! If needed, there is an address to which you can write to.
Now we've gotten past the packaging, lets get to the actual corn chips! Upon opening the packet a sudden strong fragrance definitely emerges... one which smells spicy... somewhat tomatoey even, but it definitely starts making my mouth water!
Looking at the contents inside, there is quite a decent portion of chips which are all coated in seasoning (the ingredients list on the back gives you a somewhat vague list of what is in the seasoning), and look a dark orangey-red colour.
Taking one out of the packet and taking a bite, there is a very intense flavour of spiceyness. The flavour is quite hard to describe. It's almost a tomato-chilli flavour with a kick. It's not actual chilli where it burns your mouth and the burning stays for a good half an hour after you've finished eating them. The aftertaste disappears extremely quickly. The actual taste is very very nice though, and I could easily munch my way through 2 packets of these in one sitting.
As far as I know, they are available in several different weight bags, 30g, 35g and a much larger bag of 245g. The 30g bags come in multipacks of 12 with two other Doritos flavours (Cool Original and Tangy Cheese). At the moment Sainsbury's have these on offer for 2 multipacks for £3. The 35g bags generally cost in the region of 50p, depending where you buy them from and the very large bags can be bought for about £1.45.
What I like about Doritos is that they're a little bit nicer than you're general run of the mill crisps in salt and vinegar and cheese and onion. They're great to settle down with, with a beer or a coke, and they go especially well with most dips. Being a person who doesn't like the overly hot spices in some curries or foods, these are ideal because the flavour is still there without burning your mouth and making you sweat! However, those who like their chilli flavoured crisps very hot might feel a little let down with the lack of 'punch'.
I would highly recommend these if you haven't tried them yet, and if you can get salsa and/or dips to go with them it just adds to the great flavours!
The Cadbury Crème Egg is one of those iconic chocolates, which despite being oh so very destructive against your nashers, have stood the test of time and are to die for.
As expected the Crème Egg is well... an egg shape, although I would say it is smaller than your typical egg that you might have boiled or fried on a Saturday morning, but it fits very nicely into the palm of your hand. The egg is also wrapped in foil which has 'Crème Egg' splashed across it in purple lettering against a bright yellow and red background, so they're pretty hard to miss!
Generally they cost between 50p-60p for each egg and can be bought singly, in multipacks, in a chocolate bar style and also very very mini eggs.
The Cadbury's Crème Egg, however, requires some sort of skill. This involves not just eating it, but finding a way to unwrap it so the foil doesn't get all 'gooed' up with the fondant contained within the egg, as well as trying to eat the thing with dignity without getting a lovely chocolate-fondant ring around your face!
The chocolate in the Crème Egg is quite thick and depending on how you choose 'to eat yours' you will more than like dip your nose in the fondant when you finally crack that chocolate shell or break the whole thing altogether! Personally, I like to nibble the top of the egg until the fondant appears! The fondant itself replicates the yolk and white of a real egg except it's not real yolk or egg white! I can only describe it as a runny sugary... fondant. This can get a bit sickly after just one egg! So I never have more than one in one go, as I'm pretty sure it cant be that good for your teeth either.
Each egg contains 170 calories, which actually kind of shocked me, since it's such a small thing! However, I don't think that will put off the majority of us lot who love the iconic Cadbury's Crème Egg and I'm sure it will, once again, be another favourite this Easter!
Since starting university I have found myself buying food and drinks more and more whilst I am out. Unfortunately this isn't great for my purse, however on each little lunch trip I try and go for something different each time.
Fanta Twist is a drink I had tried before but had not had it for quite a while, so I picked a 500ml bottle at the newsagents for a bargain price of 25p! Usually they are around the 70p-80p price mark but this one had only a few days left before its best before date.
Fanta Twist is pretty hard to not notice! The bottle is for the most part see through and the fizzy drink can be seen inside as a bright coral pinky orange delight! The label is red and orange with the words 'Fanta fruit twist' splashed across the front. Additionally the bottle is shaped in a sort of hourglass fashion with round patterned indents. This makes the bottle easy for holding which I like. The lid is your typical pop bottle lid which screws on and off, and is red in colour.
On the label is states that the drink contained is 'Carbonated orange, peach and passionfruit flavour soft drink', which might make you think it contains no natural juices when it says 'flavour' but looking lower down the label the list of ingredients show it has 3% juice from concentrate. It doesn't sound a lot however when you then see the list of flavourings, preservatives, stabilisers and colours. There is also nutritional information which tells you that you get 55 calories per 100ml.
Opening the bottle was a fizzy bubbling and fragrance of tropical flavours which smelled fairly sweet. Taking a glug right from the bottle, the passionfruit flavour immediately hits the tastebuds as a sweet and tropical flavour. The peach and orange are slightly less noticeable, but the taste is extremely refreshing! I love drinking this particularly when it's cold from the fridge and for those who are old enough to drink, it goes brilliantly with white rum.
Fanta Twist is a very summery drink and so refreshing. In the summer I think if you made your own ice-lollies using this they would be amazing! Also even at full price this drink is worth every penny.
Fanta Twist is also available in large 2 litre bottles from supermarkets and smaller convenience shops.
Ribena is a drink I can remember happily glugging when I was a child, but since then I hadn't drank any... up until now!
I had been suffering from tonsillitis and currently have a cold and my boyfriend suggested that I drink some Ribena as it contains lots of Vitamin C and antioxidants. I was a little hesitant as I am pretty sure orange juice would do a better job, but as my throat was sore I could drink orange juice and so I went to my cornershop and picked up a 1 litre bottle of Ribena concentrated juice drink for £2.99.
The bottle is fairly easy to spot. It has a label across the top in purple colours showing blackcurrants and the name Ribena with Blackcurrant underneath it and ingredients on the back. It also tells us that the bottle is 100% recycled. There is a smaller label at the bottom of the bottom which says 'Rich in Vitamin C a Powerful Antioxidant - Superfruits make it'. On the back of this is nutritional information and directions on making the drink. Finally, you can see the lovely deep purple juice inside the bottle as the bottle is clear! The lid is a screw cap which is covered in gold foil. The bottle is easy peasy to open but the gold foil is a bit of a pain to peel off. Inside the opening to the bottle is a seal which can be pulled out by the loop attached.
Sniffing the contents of the bottle, you get a very fruity and deep blackcurrant smell which is very sweet. Of course you don't drink this right out of the bottle as it is. You need to add water, and on the bottle it states you need 1 part Ribena to 4 parts of water. I usually pour the 1 part of Ribena first then top up to a desired taste which amounts to between 4-5 parts of water. In the glass the drink looks very refreshing, a sort of purple-red colour, and the smell is much lighter this time!
Taste-wise it's quite sweet but very fruity and after one sip I can easily drink another 2 glasses! It is good to know that there are no artificial colours , flavours or sweeteners in Ribena and this one bottle is enough for 20 servings of 250ml. Each 250ml glass contains 115 calories and 167% RDA of Vitamin C.
I do think that in comparison to other concentrated juices that you need to dilute with water, this seems a little expensive, but it's a very nice drink and refreshing! It also seems to be helping me on my way to recovery by giving me energy, as well as being easy going on the sore throat!
Overall, a very nice drink and I would definitely recommend it if you like blackcurrants or that berry flavour.
As with many of my fellow female make-up lovers out there, mascara is one of those products which are never quite there. You can never find the perfect mascara. For me there is a checklist and a mission of which a mascara must fulfill (I swear I'm not generally so fussy...):
At the top of my list is:
1. Waterproof. And when I say waterproof, I literally mean waterproof. That mascara can't move a millimetre, smudge, run... nothing.
2. The wand needs to be the right length and size for good application. Wands that look like a scrambled mess, they just don't give a good application. It needs to be neat, therefore avoiding clumping and having too much mascara on the wand.
3. Colour and vibrancy. If a mascara says 'intense violet' then that is how I would expect it to look on my lashes. It's quite a disappointment to buy a mascara like that to see the colour on the wand and after application to barely see it on the lashes.
The Barry M Extreme Waterproof Black Mascara is a product which immediately caught my attention when I was out shopping. Firstly because it was only £5.95 and secondly the packaging was bright and bold - this really hooked me in, I admit it! It was also easy to spot as it was in a Barry M stall as are most Barry M products in places like Superdrugs and Boots. The product promises to volumise, lengthen and thicken lashes... that's quite a lot of promises!
Feeling very optimistic about my newest Barry M purchase I decided to try it out when I got home. The wand twists and pulls out, as with most mascaras on the market, and to my horror (yes, oh the horror!) the brush on the wand looked very bulky and messy. But wait a moment I thought, I haven't even tried applying this yet, this mascara still has hope! So I proceeded to apply the mascara, but unfortunately with great difficulty. Now, I have been using mascara for a good few years and have never experienced such problems with application. The brush was so bulky, that even tilting my head back and applying the mascara, it imprinted on the upper lashline and left lots of little clumps creating a mess. So after many cotton buds soaked in makeup remover and half an hour later, I was a little exasperated to say the least and quite disappointed.
The staying power of the mascara was... well ok. Not great. It smudged a little but why keep it on when you end up looking like a panda? I think if Barry M re-designed this (the wand), I think it would produce much better results. The mascara colour itself was bold, but really the wand applicator lets it down. All in all, not a product I would buy again and it is the only Barry M product I can say I really dislike!
Recently I've become a bit of an obsessive with Barry M products. There are 3 main reasons for this.
1. I don't think that you need to spend ridiculous amounts of money on makeup and Barry M produce great quality make-up which isn't expensive.
2. Their range of products is extensive, interesting and colourful.
3. As with point number 2. the colours are bright and bold and the makeup has great lasting power.
So without needing much persuasion, I headed off to my local Superdrug to see what other Barry M wonders I might leave with that day and I came across the Supersoft Eye Crayon which is a chunky eye pencil that comes in 5 different shades: Purple, Black, Brown, Green and Blue. I had been looking for a while for a purple eye crayon and at only £3.95, it seemed like pretty good value! The pencils themselves are easy to distinguish between as each different shade has the same colour stick. They also come with a clear plastic lid cover to protect the nib of the pencil and are covered over the top with a peel-away plastic covering for safety and hygiene.
The purple crayon in particular is a shimmery lilac colour - not a dark purple and the application was fairly easy. I would recommend applying this even as a light eyeshadow for subtle shimmer on the eyelids. As an eyeliner it works particular well on the upper and lower lashlines and glides on smoothly. I would be wary applying this to the waterline of the lower lashes as the shimmer might cause irritation.
The colour itself is very vibrant and I'm very chuffed with this product! It's also great for smudging and blending. For sharp definition this might not be the best kind of pencil to use as it's meant for smudging and for that softer or smokier look, depending on the shade you choose. The colour also stays put for hours which is important as so many eye pencils/crayons barely last 10 minutes on me!
The pencil is also very easy to sharpen, unlike some pencils which seem to be made from a fake 'wood' looking plastic and get stuck in the pencil sharpener - not good!
Overall, I'm very pleased with this product from Barry M, it's cheap, is very versatile, application is easy, desired effect more than reaches my expectations and this is something I will continue to buy! It would be great if they had a wider range of colours, but that is the only thing I can think of where Barry M might improve in the range.
Barry M products can be bought from Superdrug stores, Boots and www.BarryM.com
I am a real sucker for buying shower gels, and somehow I never seem to learn that because I have sensitive/dry skin, I should use gentle soap-free or fragrance-free products. For me, I like my showers to be a little bit luxurious, and I like my shower products to smell lovely too.
Imperial Leather Shower Creams are something I discovered about 4 or 5 years ago, after having seen them on a TV advert and immediately falling in love with the idea that showertime could actually be a nice experience rather than just for the purpose of getting clean and feeling not at all motivated or invigorated.
The Nourishing Shower Cream is the first of the shower creams I decided to try. I think I initially bought this from Wilkinsons, where they sold very large bottles for the price you would normally pay in Boots for the standard 250ml bottle. Imperial Leather brands are fairly easy to find on shop shelves as you cant miss the bold red and white logo. This shower cream, comes in a white bottle (with a pink background) which sort of twists up the sides with a flip top lid. On the front of the bottle it has the name of said product and the words 'Extra moisturisers for softer skin with jojoba and vitamin E'. On the back it basically reiterates this with words that make it sound like you might go to heaven with this shower cream... although I think this is somewhat unlikely! However it does say that 'Vitamin E is known to nourish dry skin and it claims to produce a thick and creamy lather for a luxurious shower experience.' Which seemed like an ideal choice for my skin type!
There is also a list of ingredients and contact information for Cussons who are the company behind Imperial Leather!
I decided to take a sample sniff before deciding whether or not to buy and on first impressions the fragrance is a sweet floral scent, Quite a delicate fragrance and not overly heavy. So upon finding it pleasing to my nasal passages, I made my way to the till.
As far as I know Imperial Leather is available in Boots, Superdrug and large supermarkets and even pound shops. More often than not you'll find them on offer. From Boots a 250ml bottle is £1.49, but recently they've had an offer on where they are half price which is very good!
Using it in the shower is pretty straightforward and you'd use it like any other shower gel. I just squeezed out a blob the size of a 50p coin onto a bath scrunchie and after squishing it around for a bit it lathered very well and the fragrance was really soft and floral. Quite comforting in a way and it makes you feel comforted especially in the cold winter months whereas in summer it's just very light and sweet. The lather is very creamy too and feels so silky when using it on a shower puff.
It really feels like it's doing a lovely job of cleaning and moisturising. After coming out of the shower the fragrance isn't as noticeable but it's still there just very subtle and after drying off my skin is very silky and smooth. It doesn't feel moisturised per se, just softer and smoother. I still find I need to use body lotion afterwards, but even on my sensitive skin it doesnt irritate it at all. Some shower gels break me out in hives and I end up scratching as though I've got fleas! But no, this was very gentle, it cleansed very well and left a delicate, sweet floral scent on my skin.
I'd say with being able to find this in most shops and supermarkets, a lot of them have offers so I think it's well worth the money, even if you paid full price for it. I recommend this for anybody and it seems suitable enough for sensitive skin too!
DeviantArt is an artist's website, store, community and collective and individual gallery for all us creative folk and well everybody! I first came across it when a friend recommended I upload pictures of my art and create my own little gallery. DeviantArt as a whole is not just for painters or drawers, it is for anybody with a creative streak, whether you're a sculptor, digital artist, photographer, writer etc. The whole idea of the website is to exhibit, so to speak, your artistic and creative work, where other people can view it, leave comments and add it to their favourites if they so wish. It is also a place where you can search and browse art.
What is great about DeviantArt is that there are so many features which you can make the most of. The main homepage shows the most recent uploaded artworks and featured artworks. There is also a list of categories on the left hand side for you to search through, which includes Traditional, Digital, Anime, Film and Animation to name but a few. There is also a search box on the top right if you want to search specifically for subject. All photos on the website are shown as a thumbnail initially and when you click on it you a shown a larger size picture, if you click on this it will usually zoom to a larger size which is fantastic if you want to see the picture in more detail. If you are a member on DA you can also have the options of adding it to your Favourites Gallery, viewing the artists homepage and gallery, adding the artist as a Friend, Downloading it, sending it to your Mobile, buy as a Print (if available) or Request as a Print. Underneath the picture you will find information on when it was added to the artists gallery, the file and image size, resolution, comments it has received, who has added it to their favourites and how many views it's had. You can also comment in a comment box underneath if you so wish and make use of the hundreds of amusing Emoticons that DA has to offer!
DA hosts all sorts of genres and styles of art and creative pieces, this includes surrealism, poetry, prose, classical nudes, manga, animation. The sky really is the limit, although they do have rules that pornographic and obscene content will not be tolerated! If for example there is work by an artist which is considered to contain nudity or 18+ material (non-pornographic) this can be hidden by them if they mark it as an 18+ artwork, unless you are a member where you can choose to view 18+ pieces or not.
If you wish to create your own gallery, you simply register with the website and a username which is the name you will go by on the website. You can choose to go for a standard account which is free, or you can subscribe for a small fee for 3 months (around £4, since prices are converted from US Dollars as this is an American website), or 1 year (around £15). You can choose the payments to be billed automatically or you can pre-pay them each time you want to renew. With this extra fee, you get the extra services of browsing with no ads, you can customise 20 picture slots on your homepage and you can make journals with Forum, Shoutbox, Polls and CSS as well as other perks. I usually subscribe every 3 months, and I find that although I dont find much difference really with the extras such as the journal (since I don't use it), I do have more people viewing my homepage and leaving comments. I don't know why this is but I fnd it a better way to get more involved in the community.
With a typical account you have a Profile which you can display information about yourself at the top under your username such as what artist you are or what you specialise in, your gender/location, online status and the date you joined DA. On the right you'll find tabs that when clicked on will take you to the relevant page. The first tab is Profile, which is basically your homepage and this page has it's own URL for you to use and pass on to people if you want, the 2nd tab is your Gallery which where all the thumbnails of photos you upload will go, unless you put them into your Scraps folder.
The 3rd tab is Prints and this is where you can sell your artwork and make a little money! Admittedly, it is commissions based so if you sell anything you will only get back pennies I imagine or at most for larger items a few pounds. On here you can put your artwork on postcards, mugs, magnets, canvas, printed posters, puzzles and I'm sure there are more. I have used this service and so far had no problems with it at all; however there are 2 different Print accounts. There is a standard account which is free, but all artworks that have been ordered must go through quality inspection before being sent, so this is something to bear in mind, however on the FAQs on their website you will find all the info you need regarding this. If you decide to opt for the Premium Print account you get a number of privileges, however this does incur a fee!
The 4th tab is Faves where all the art you have added to your Favourites will go and last but not least the 5th tab is Journal which allows you to write your own journal which is displayed on your homepage. With each account at Deviant Art your homepage displays your most recent uploaded artworks, your Featured work which you can select in your Edit options underneath the 5 tabs and from this same Edit option you can edit your Devious Information section which can include your own picture and answers to some set questions about yourself like your age, tools you use, favourite artist to name but a few. Underneath this are Devious Comments where other members can make comments on your gallery or whatever.
Now the important bit when you want to actually start building your own gallery of pictures! Underneath the 5 tabs you will find a link to Submit Deviation, which will take you to a page where you can have a title for your piece, and a tool to upload it from your computer. I often find that using a high megapixel camera or high quality scanner works well for this. You can add comments if you wish about the piece and keywords which are used through the Search facility bar on DA for people to find your work, and you can choose license options and there is a box where you can state if it contains mature content. It is important to note that all artworks you submit must be of your own work and plagiarism will infer action being taken! And this is where you will find the Terms and Conditions and Submission Policy which you should read before you submit a piece and accept if you do! Then, there you have it! You've just started a gallery and I tell you, once you see the first thumbnail in your gallery you'll want to put more in! It's a very rewarding thing to be able to present your work in this way.
DA is also a community and a lovely one at that! There are forums and chatroom where you can discuss art/particular styles. In particular, there is a Thumbshare forum and chat where members ask to view other member's work. Each thumbnail as it is otherwise known can be displayed on a forum or chat by it's number (you will find this if you upload your picture and it will be at the end of the URL) and this is a great way to advertise your work a bit and get a bit better known without feeling like you're doing 'shameless promotion' since others are asking to see it!), as well as looking at other people's work. The great thing about DA for artists, is that they encourage the community spirit and creativity. More often than not there are creative competitions based on a theme or style and you can win some great prizes like subscriptions or DA merchandise.
On that note, this leads me to the DA Store! Oh what a wondrous thing it is! Here you can buy merchandise to show of your Deviousness, through teeshirts, stickers, sweatshirts, bags, badges and the cute little DA man plush toy (I am still saving up for this!)! You can also buy from the Prints Store as mentioned above from any member who has activated a Print account and has added their art to it. Prices are a little expensive, however the postage is very good. It is calculated by how much you buy and is sent by Royal Mail, although when I received my order about a week after placing my order, it was shipped from the US! I'm not going to complain since I paid standard postage and all items were packed very well and the prints were very professional and of the highest quality!
I think if you're an artist, writer, or someone who just enjoys dabbling in a bit of drawing, painting, sewing, whatever, DeviantArt is a fantastic place to show your work, meet talnted people with the same interests, engage in great discussions and of course view the many hundreds and thousands of artworks (if you can manage it!), because it's a great place for such wonderful inspiration, it really has a strong community and with so many thousands of members there is art pouring out from every direction. I definitely recommend it, as I have had nothing but positive experiences of DeviantArt since I first signed up in 2005.
Unfortunately, many people can relate to quite an irritating and embarrassing problem. It's tough to get rid of and aside from that it's unsightly - I'm talking about dandruff. I tend to get it every now and then and whilst I will use an anti-dandruff shampoo, as soon as it seems to have disappeared I will stop and revert to something else.
For about 3 years I have used a shampoo which worked fantastically and heyho, about 6 weeks ago I thought I would go back to a regular shampoo. Oh dear... what a mistake that was....
Since it didn't seem like much dandruff, I thought instead of using the powerful shampoo I used to use made from natural ingredients, I would use a typical anti-dandruff shampoo in a bottle. So upon a trip to Boots I came across the L'Oreal Paris Elvive range of Intensive shampoos. They come in a selection for different hair types and I picked up the one for Normal hair. The bottles are easy to find on the shelves, they are a dark blue colour with the L'Oreal Paris logo and Elvive Anti Dandruff written in white. The picture shown above is slightly different to the bottle I bought as each hair type has a different colour on the bottle, and for this bottle for Normal hair it is orange. Complete with an orange rim around the flip top lid.
This shampoo promises a lot of things....
1. Effective from 1st use
2. Effective even against persistent flakes
3. Soothing action
4. Lasting anti-flake action
On the back of the bottle it's persistent in re-telling me exactly what is said on the front of the bottle and it also promises (I quote): 'With regular use, no more flakes and discomfort, just shiny, healthy looking hair.' Apparantly the active ingredient is Selenium Disulfide which is the active ingredient of getting rid of those nasty flakes... well I thought, we'll soon see.
I proceeded to the checkout with the smaller bottle of 250ml for £2.28. There is also a larger bottle available in 400ml for £3.48. At the moment Boots have an offer on the big bottles where you can buy 2 for £5.
So when I get home I proceeded to wash my hair with the shampoo. The directions tell me to apply and massage into the scalp, leave for a few moments and rinse out. So I flip the lid up and squeeze out a generous blob of shampoo which is very bright pearlescent orange, thick and smells somewhat of apples. Quite a pleasant frangrance really! Massaging into the hair was ok, nothing spectacular, it lathered up well and I left it for a few minutes. I rinsed out and my hair felt very soft and light. I proceeded with my conditioner.
After blow-drying I have to say I was extremely disappointed and somewhat horrified. For living up to its promises I can tell you now, no way was it effective from 1st use. In fact I think I had about 5 times more flakes which were even more visible, on the other hand, my hair was left looking and shiny and healthy.
However, I am always willing to give new products a 2nd chance (as long as I don't have some strange allergic reaction of course!) and I've kept on using this for the past 6 weeks now. I have to be honest, this has made my scalp a whole lot worse. I don't have an itchy scalp and this hasn't cause me an itchy scalp but it has increased my 'flaking' (disgusting I know) ten fold! I really think this is an awful product. Considering it is meant to prevent dandruff it does anything but that - the only good things about it are that it smells nice and it leaves hair clean and shiny. Even then I wouldn't buy it because it simply doesn't do what it promises, if anything it spurs on dandruff to make a hell of a snow shower! I am now going to go back to my old anti-dandruff shampoo and hope that it will undo the damage this shampoo has done!
Unless you couldn't tell already, I definitely do not recommend this product and I think L'Oreal Elvive need to really have a good look at this shampoo and either change it so it does work or take the words 'Anti-Dandruff' off the bottle!
It is only in the past 4 years that I have started drinking fruit juices. As a child and teenager, they seemed rather boring and fizzy drinks and milkshakes usually were the first choice of drinks to satisfy my need for something to give me lots of energy and something very sweet.
I noticed I was going on sugar highs and feeling very lethargic not long afterwards and I wanted things to change - a healthier diet and more Vitamin C. Princes Pure Orange Juice was the first orange juice I bought when browsing in a supermarket. It immediately caught my eye with the bold blue packaging and the images of full and sliced oranges surrounding a glass of the juice. You also cant miss the 'Princes' logo in bold writing on the top of the rectangular carton. I was also glad to find that it doesn't have those 'bits' (in other words, the orange pulp) for the added choke factor - I think I remember that was what first put me off orange juice in the first place when I sampled some as a wee kid and found the pulp or 'bits' irritated my throat and I found it hard to drink.
For those of you who don't like the 'bits' you'll be pleased to know that this doesn't contain any, not one little piece. Instead looking at the side of the carton it says the ingredients are Orange juice from concentrate (100%), and that is all! Horray! No additives, no added sugar! For a 1 litre carton you can normally buy it from all big supermarkets and corner shops for around the 99p mark.
As for nutritional info it says on the carton that per 100ml serving there are 42 calories and per carton you can get 10 servings, although it also says that each 150ml is equal to 1 portion of your 5 fruit and vegetables per day. It also says it is best served chilled and once opened it should be consumed within 3 days, although I think this is codswallop and it tastes fine even 6 or 7 days after opening.
The opening for the carton is a plastic pull up white lid which reveals a small peel-back foil. I often find how easy it is to open varies from carton to carton. Sometimes it peels back easily and other times it's just irritatingly tough and snaps off leaving the 'opening' still covered. It is also a good idea to shake (with the lid closed!) before serving! The juice pours easily depending on how the foil has come off, but I usually transfer the juice from the carton to a bottle, as it's safer to shake for even distribution of juice without the fear that the lid will come off and orange ends up flying everywhere, and it's also clearer to see how much juice I have left!
The colour of the orange juice is a very sunny colour so to speak, a kind of vibrant yellow-orange - as would be expected! The scent is very orangey and fresh, not over-bearing and the taste is very smooth. It's not zingy and it's not too sweet, it's very fruity and fresh - basically like fresh orange juice without the zap that hits your tongue. The consistency is not watery-like at all which is good; it's got some good body to it. Not too thin, not too thick, it's just how a fruit juice should be in my opinion.
I have tried other orange juices out of curiosity recently and none of them can compare to this one. It's just got the right balance and for 99p for a litre which lasts me a week I think it's excellent value for money! It also goes fantastically well with French toast!
Normally when I buy haircare products I will try and stay within a budget of no more than 3 or 4 pounds, as I simply cannot justify spending more than that. A couple of weeks ago I had run out of heat protection spray which I use before styling with hair straighteners or curling tongues. Unfortunately when I went to look through the catalogue of this particular brand of spray, it seemed that they had discontinued it and it was now time to look for another.
I don't enjoy randomly going into shops and trying to find something unless absolutely necessary, so thank goodness for Dooyoo! I found a few reviews on protection sprays and found a positive comment on the Heat Protection Spray by Charles Worthington. Now, first of all I thought this is going to be way out of my price range as the name sounds quite premium and I had never heard of Charles Worthington before. I quickly looked the product up on the Boots website and saw that it costs 4.49 pounds for 200ml. This is a bit more costly than what I would normally be happy to pay, however the sleek and professional lilac packaging soon drew me in.
So off I headed to Boots with my trusty Advantage Card and made my way to the hair styling section. Well all I can say is that I was completely dumbfounded when it came to finding it and I eventually had to ask a member of staff where the Charles Worthington products were. You can find so many different brands of styling products and haircare products that the packages all seem to blend together and Charles Worthington don't particularly stand out amongst them all. Don't get me wrong the packaging is very smart and professional looking but with so many other brands going for the salon style look, they don't stand out - which would clearly explain why I couldn't find them initially until they were pointed out to me!
Eventually I found the Heat Protection Spray which looked exactly how it did on the Boots website. The bottle is a lilac-purple colour in a sort of rectangular angled shape with an opaque lilac lid which just pulls off and presses back on to reveal a pump spray. On the front of the bottle is the Charles Worthington London logo in white at the top and silver lettering saying 'salon shine results' and then the words 'heat protection spray for protected sleek hair' in orange and white. On the back of the bottle it claims to do 5 things (as quoted from the bottle):
1. Create intense shine
2. Protect hair from daily damage of heat styling
3. Smooth frizz and flyaways
4. Maximise staying power of your finished style
5. Lock in moisture and transform hair's manageability and shine
For 200ml it seemed quite a small bottle and I wondered if it was worth forking out 4.49! However, it looks like a professional brand and whilst it may have been more expensive than my previous brand, paying more can often mean better quality. I admit I stuck with my last brand because it was cheap and did an adequate job, but there was the problem of the spray making my hair difficult to comb through and didn't always hold my style, so Charles Worthington's spray seemed to be the answer! On the back of the bottle you also get a list of ingredients, a little bit of info about the Salon Shine Results range and the address and telephone number should you wish to contact them. The packaging is recyclable and once opened should be used within 36 months.
To use the product it says to: Wash, dry, style as normal. Spray Heat Protection Spray liberally on each section of hair before using a heated appliance. Avoid contact with eyes.
It also says that for best results, you should use it regularly with Results shampoo and the spray is suitable for all hair types! My hair is usually quite dry and heavy so hopefully this would 'take the load off' a bit!
I didn't use Results shampoo, I stuck with my normal brand and followed by conditioner... dried my hair well and proceeded to use the spray. I didn't have as much time as I'd have hoped to spray individual sections of hair and I figured that this would use quite a lot of spray, so I just sprayed my hair all over and combed through. It didn't knot up my hair or dry with a tacky feeling which some sprays tend to do. The smell was quite fresh and clean and was pleasant overall! At first I thought that the spray would be a fine mist but it was a bit more than that and was more like spray from a water pistol! It does feel quit wet when on the hair.
After a minute or two I started putting the hair straighteners though section by section and it seemed to straighten quite well - normally I have to run them through one section about 4 or 5 times before all the kinks have disappeared but once or twice and it kept its hold! After straightening all of my hair it felt very light, and soft and I was pleased with the shine - it wasn't overly shiny when you can see that it is product making your hair shiny, but it was natural shiny! This immediately won me over! My hair was also easy to comb through, and I've had far less split ends since using it. As for flyaways and frizz it does make the hair smooth and frizz is far less visible. The spray also holds my style practically all day - with straighteners and curling tongues! Before with my previous spray the curls would start dropping after half an hour, but this spray by Charles Worthington really sticks to what it says!
Overall I'm very pleased with this little gem from Charles Worthington - it meets all my expectations and despite the price being a bit out of my budget, I think it is worth every penny. I think I will continue buying this and I would recommend this to anybody who uses heated styling appliances for their hair because as we all know, straighteners and tongues can cause immense damage to hair and we need to protect it! This spray does it extremely well and for 4.49 you are paying for a great quality product.
As a young child, Coco Pops were a cereal which I was not allowed to eat as they were chocolaty and therefore didn't constitute a healthy breakfast. To this day I still agree with the latter due to the fact that there are far more healthier cereals out there to buy and try and which will probably make you feel more energized and ready to take on the day!
However, more recently I thought I would give Coco Pops a go and see if they really are as bad as my parents and myself made them out to be!
Coco Pops are a puffed rice cereal covered in chocolate cocoa, which over the years has firmly attracted itself as a cereal for kids and adults alike! They come packaged in the typical plastic cereal bag and the familiar yellow cardboard box with the trademark monkey character who is famous for his outburst of 'We'd rather have a bowl of Coco Pops!' holding a spoon and standing next to a bowl of the said cereal. The packaging I would say is very much aimed towards young children what with the monkey character and his friends and the bright cartoon-like colours. I've so far, seen various box sizes of Coco Pops and at the moment I have in front of me a 600g box which cost about 2.70 pounds from Sainsburys. You can get these in smaller boxes too for about 1.80 pounds, but obviously if you shop around I'm sure you can find it cheaper.
On the front of the box there is also nutritional information for a 30g serving of which the values are a guideline for an adult's daily amount. There are 116 calories per serving (not too bad) and 11g of sugar. This to me seems just too much, then again what else do you expect from a cereal based on chocolate? On the side of the packet you can investigate the ingredients and nutritional information in more detail. I won't bore you with it all, but for allergy sufferers it notes that the cereal contains barley.
Onto the main taste testing and pouring them into a cereal bowl they are quite nice looking... not too overloaded with chocolate it seems and very, very light. I think for an adult you would need more than a 30g serving to fill you so the calories and sugar could start adding up at this point if you take into consideration eating the cereal with full fat milk.
Coco Pops I think do taste much better with ice-cold milk and you can immediately hear crackling as you pour the milk over them. Grabbing a spoon and eating an initial mouthful is quite pleasant, quite crunchy, chocolaty, but they are very sweet, and making my way about halfway through the bowl they get quite soft and soggy which is not how I like my cereal. The chocolate coating also eventually comes off into the milk creating a sort of milkshake which seems to make the whole experience even more sickly! Then again I imagine that kids would love this, but it's just a little too much for me. I like my cereal to keep its individual flavour without flavouring the milk and making it sweet.
Not a completely bad cereal though, but I would much rather eat something which wasn't so sweet and stayed crunchy for at least 5 minutes!