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After seeing the adverts on TV for the Avon Mega Effects mascara (I believe these adverts are currently being trialled in the Midlands Region) I thought I would try it out. The mascara costs £10 and comes in a choice of three colours blackest black (for night time wow), brown / black (for every day wear) and blue (to highlight the eye). The price is about average for a mascara however as often with Avon they have special offers and therefore I would be keen not to pay the full price of £10 - the latest offer is two for £12. When I received the mascara I was surprised at how small it is, the advertising makes it look bigger than it is. To test the mascara I applied to a strip of false eyelashes on my finger. Once I managed to open the mascara - you need to rock it side to side then pull it out quite forcefully first time - the mascara applied to the eyelashes quite easily and evenly as I think there is something within the packaging that allows an even spread of the mascara onto the brush. The results of the mascara looked good and given how small it is it easily fits into a bag, although I'm not sure I can get used to the non traditional shape - a curve the shape of your eyelash rather than the traditional wand.
I purchased these Mikado biscuits from my local Sainsburys petrol station as they were on offer for £1, having purchased them previously I do not think that I would have paid any more than a pound for a small box of biscuits (75g). The biscuits come in a silver foil and then a box so would keep for a good few months without any problem - except the fact that I am a chocoholic :-) The biscuits themselves are like very thin breadsticks (but biscuit) and they are dipped in chocolate except for the very end to allow easy handling. The layer of milk chocolate is quite thin and easily melts when dipped into a cup of tea but doesn't run into the tea and the biscuit also stays in tact and doesn't drop into the tea! The chocolate tastes nice, like your average milk chocolate (not the standard of Cadbury or Galaxy). I like these biscuits as they are something different but they are not as filling as your average every day biscuit and at £1 for a small packet it feels like I am paying more for the packaging than for the biscuits themselves.
I eat quite a few biscuits and often choose the high end brands when they are on offer; however as I couldn't see an offer on my favourite type of biscuit the Bourbon cream I thought I would try out the Tesco Everyday Value range. At just 43p for a 400g packet of biscuits I wasn't expecting a lot, the packaging is very basic (although in my opinion a slight improvement from the picture shown here). I was expecting the packaging to be fiddly to open as it was a value item but to my surprise there was a tab to easily pull open. The biscuits themselves are as you would expect from a Bourbon cream, two oblong chocolate biscuits with a creamy centre holding them together. I have to say if you gave me a leading brand and these value biscuits I wouldn't be able to taste the difference or see the difference, they have been produced to a good standard with all of the biscuits in my packet staying together nicely. I can't fault these for 43p, the packaging isn't attractive but it is the taste that counts.
I have visited a few TGI's and having been working away there was a TGI's right by my hotel so I thought I would visit. The restaurant itself had very tall ceilings and lots of windows with mostly booths to sit in, it's open plan but tables are close together - making the most of every square foot! As it has been mid week each time I have visited it has been fairly quiet and the staff have immediately seated me and have been very friendly and happy to give recommendations. The staff are possibly a little over friendly, I'm not sure if they were looking for tips or for a good rating on the survey they were getting everyone to fill in. Also, where it appeared people had a birthday they were singing and clapping, I found this a little over the top after a long day at work I was looking for a quiet meal. The food itself came in reasonable time and the staff were happy to bring additional sauces and starters as sides. The pricing I would say is mid range although they do have a mid week special of two courses for £14.99 - this isn't available on Friday or Saturday, I'm surprised they don't offer it on a Friday as their name is TGI Friday There is a good range of food options from steaks, chicken, burgers, ribs to salads. I would suggest viewing their menu online to see what is currently available.
As you may have seen from other posts I am a fan of up to date gadgets, so when my contract came up for renewal on my mobile phone I decided the iPhone 5 was the one I was going to go for. My contract is a little pricey at around £50 per month, but this includes the initial cost of the phone as well as Internet access, unlimited calls and unlimited texts. The phone itself is thinner than the previous version of the iPhone, but slightly longer. It is touch screen with a very delicate screen so a case would be recommended. The phone itself is quiet easy to use and if you have an iCloud account you can transfer all of your contacts, applications and even photos over to your new phone - just remember to back up your old phone first. The instructions are easy to follow and you are supplied with a little pin to be able to access the sim card slot (a little fiddly as it is tiny). The phone does eveything you would expect from a phone - makes calls and sends texts, but also has many added extras such as internet access, access to the App store (where you can download many useful tools as well as games - fees do apply for certain Apps). I rarely have problems with signal which is good (not sure if that is down to the phone or geography!) and the phone has a variety of ring tones to choose from so it covers my needs. The main downside I find is the battery life, if I didn't touch the phone all day I would probably loose 20% battery life so I'm sure you can imagine how quickly the battery drains when you are using the internet or making calls. I would recommend the phone for anyone who wants something that is a bit more than a phone and is willing to pay a premium for that.
I purchased the iPad as soon as it came out, I wasn't quite sad enough to queue through the night like I saw some people doing on TV but I did visit my nearest Apple shop on launch day. The iPad has a great advantage over a PC or a Laptop and that is its size, I can fit it into my handbag which is perfect to enable me to take out with me. I recuruit Avon Reps who are required to sign up online so this is a really handy gadget to have, my phone is a little small and if the rep doesn't have their laptop handy they can use my iPad. The iPad itself is really easy to use, and I was very impressed by the customer service in the Apple shop as they offered to help set eveything up and show me how it worked. I believe they also run classes if you want to learn more about the iPad or other Apple products. Surfing the internet is easy and it is all touch screen it is heat sensitive so you need to use your finger (not a nail!) you can also download endless Apps from the App Store (you will need to set up an account to do this and there is a charge for some Apps). There are lots of games you can download for the iPad and it's easy to hold and move the iPad if you are playing a game where you need to direct a character (e.g. Temple Run) although I have to say I don't really find much time to play games they are useful when waiting in an airport or on a plane. The main downside I have found it not really being able to use a spreadsheet, there are things you can download but nothing beats Excel on a laptop where you can use a proper keyboard to create formulas (although I believe you can purchase a keyboard for the iPad, that just adds to the expense and the weight).
As Christmas is approaching and being six months pregnant going shopping is not too of my list for my weekends I thought starting my shopping online would be a much better idea. The website is pretty easy to use, it has a search area and also different categories if you are not sure what you are looking for or if you just want ideas. As boots have the 3 for 2 offer at the moment I found it useful to select the 3 for 2 section and sort in price order to make the most of the offer by purchasing items of similar prices and boots automatically sorts them in order so you get the maximum benefit from the offer. As I had spent over £50 I qualified for free standard delivery, this took around 3 days which was fine as there is plenty of time until Christmas. There is also an option to pay for a specified delivery date or to collect from your local store. My delivery came in a large box and I have no concerns over the way it was packaged, they also sent me a copy of their Christmas catalogue to browse. The only downside I found to the boots website was the number of items showing out of stock, I would have found it more useful if they had removed those items or put them at the end of the search to save me scrolling through things I can't purchase - had I been in store they wouldn't be on the shelf to look at.
Many shops have loyalty schemes nowadays and Boots are no different, although I think the reward they pay per pound spend is one of the better ones. Maybe this is because their profit margin is better than the likes of other shops. To sign up for the advantage card you need to provide basic details such and your name, address and email address and of course this will allow the company to track your spending habits as part of their consumer research and it will also allow them to target you with offers relative to your spending habits. On one occasion I also received a product recall notice for an item I had purchased which was a useful way of using my personal details. The scheme it self offers 4 points for every £1 spent with each point being worth 1p, they also have special offers where extra points are awarded as well as events (usually in the run up to Christmas) where you can receive £10 of points when you spend £50, this of course encourages you to go back to their shop to spend your points where you may be tempted to spend more. Points can be spent on the majority of items, if you look on the shelf labels items you can spend your points on will have a little blue star. Points are awarded for purchases in store and online so if you plan on doing some online Christmas shopping you can still take advantage of the points scheme.
As an Avon Rep I always try and buy Avon products rather than going to Boots; however I have to say I'm not a fan of the 'adult' shampoo selection so I go for the kids alternative. The 250ml bottle is yellow with a cartoon character on the front, I presume this is to make the awkward bath time moments that little bit easier for parents by making the bottle appeal to children. The usual cost is £2.50 but there are often offers of 5 items for £5 so I usually wait for those and stock up. The thing that appeals to me about the kids shampoo range is the smell, I particularly like the strawberry and the apple, adult shampoo seems to just smell like shampoo whereas these make my hair smell fruity. The shampoo itself seems to clean my hair well enough and I don't need to lather a lot to wash all of my hair. When on offer working out at around £1 each I think these are great value for money and with Avon you get delivery free to your door from your local representative. They have also made it easier to order now by putting the brochure online so if you don't get a book through your door you can still place an order through the nearest rep - I have been using mine www.laurasbrochure.co.uk which helps reach more customers :-)
Having thought that I had escaped the heart burn during my pregnancy, it seemed to hit me all of a sudden last weekend with unbearable burning pain in my chest. My first thought was to ask my other half to fetch me some Rennies but when he went to our local shop they didn't have any so he came back with a bottle of Gaviscon costing £3.85 - well worth it for the pain I was in! Gaviscon is safe to take during pregnancy and you can have 10ml, I used one of those plastic syringes you get with the calpol to measure. I was expecting the taste to be horrible like old fashioned medicine but to my surprise it didn't taste too bad, it was a sweet peppermint taste. The relief from the Gaviscon was almost instant, cooling the burning pain I had. I only needed one more dose a few hours later and the pain had gone but I will be keeping the bottle handy for if it returns.
Alton Towers is a theme park based in Staffordshire and in the past few years has expanded to include a hotel and a Waterpark. Upon arrival at Alton Towersyou are directed to one of many car parks, it is advisable to make note of where you have parked as it gets very busy. You can then walk to the main entrance or take the monorail, there is sometimes a queue for the monorail but it fills quickly so you don't have to wait too long. When you arrive at the entrance you need to purchase your ticket, this gives you access to the park, all rides and any live shows you want to watch. The cost of the ticket is £45 for an adult or £36 for a child, discounts are given if you book in advance online. There is also an option to buy a season ticket for around £90 per year if you expect to visit a few times. Once you are in the park there are lots of rides to choose from, there are thrill rides such as Oblivion (holding you facing down then plumiting the roller coaster into Oblivion), Air (a roller coaster where you can lie down), Rita (queen of speed - prepare to go very fast). There are also family rides such as the River Rapids (prepare to get wet) and the haunted house (with laser guns to compete against your fellow rides). There are plenty of rides for children as well and also a play area. There are often queues for the adult rides which when compared to Disney I think Alton Towers could improve, Alton Towers just feels as though you are queuing up and down where as I find Disney keep you entertained whilst queuing. They do offer fast pass tickets which allow you to queue jump (but these cost £10 for 3 rides), there is also a single rider queue for some rides where empty seats are filled up by people riding on their own which is a good idea. If you are hungry whilst at Alton Towers there is plenty to choose from, including a large Burger King. Although as at most attraction parks the prices are inflated, so take a picnic if it's a nice day. As always my day at Alton Towers was very enjoyable; however, having visited several times throughout my life it seems that everything is becoming based around charging customers. A few years ago you could obtain fast pass tickets for free (now £10 for 3 rides) and you could park for free (now £6 per car), and I was a little disappointed that it has now become a rather expensive day out if you have a family.
I visited the West Midland Safari Park a few times as a child, and after recently being given some free tickets I thought I would visit again. The Safari Park is located in Bewdley in Worcestershire and is fairly well sign posted from the M5. Upon arrival you drive to the kiosk where you pay for entry to the safari and the park (excluding rides), which costs £14.99 for adults and £12.99. This then allows you access to the Safari which you can choose to drive through straight away or you can visit the park and drive through later. The Safari takes around an hour, where you drive through the various animals in your own car. Animals include Zebra, Giraffe, Rhino, Deer Tigers and Cheetah. I was slightly disappointed with this as it felt as though we were driving round incredibly slowly as people in other cars were taking photographs of animals causing traffic to queue back but as there only seemed to be a few of each animal it felt like a lot of waiting. I also expected to see Monkeys as they are the animal I remember as a child, climbing over the car; however, I'm told they contracted foot and mouth a few years previously so are no longer there. Once we had finished the Safari we parked the car and headed into the main park, as it was a typical British day of pouring rain we headed straight to the rides rather than visiting the Sea Lion show or the Penguin Cove. The rides require a wristband which can be purchased for £11.99 per adult and £10.50 per child, this allows you to go on as many rides as you want to (individual tickets can also be purchased). The Safari Park is about the animals so doesn't compete with some of the major theme parks but it does have a couple of big roller coasters and thrill seeker rides as well as a log flume, water rapid ride and bumper cars. There are also several children's rides and a helter skelter, so plenty of variety but not a large number of rides. We had a good day out, we enjoyed looking at the various animals in the safari even if it was a little slow. We didn't spend too long around the theme park rides due to the rain as we were soaked through but the time we did spend was enjoyable. This was followed by a picnic (again sat in the car due to the British weather!). Although we had a good day I had been given free tickets, I'm not sure if we had paid for the day it would have been value for money.
After being a laptop user for many years I thought I would see what they hype was all about with the iPad, so I took myself down to my local Apple shop and handed over my £399 in exchange for my new iPad. The price is reasonable and in line with laptops but would the iPad be all it was made out to be? Whilst in the shop the assistant helped me set up my iPad, a very simple process as I already had an Apple account for my iPhone. My auntie was also with me and when setting hers up she had to create a new Apple account, again this was very straight forward and the sales assistant helped with the process. We were also told about workshops they run free of charge to help people with their Apple products, I was very impressed with this level of customer service, although I've not attended any as my local Apple shop is at least half an hour away. The iPad is touch screen so takes some getting used to compared to a laptop, and you need to be gentle using the end of the finger (rather than a nail) as it is heat sensitive. The Internet is simple to use, just connect through your broadband as you would a laptop. You also have access to many 'apps' anything from games to mobile banking, something have a small charge but there are many you can access for free. One useful feature I have found is FaceTime, this allows you to speak to someone and see them, a bit like a video camera. As my sister is in Australia currently and all you need is Internet connection I have found this useful - and free! The disappointing thing is that you can't connect a camera to the iPad so you can't upload pictures (to Facebook etc.) unless you use the built in camera, which is of a good enough quality but you wouldn't necessarily want to take the iPad out with you all the time. Although, it is very lightweight and thin enough so can easily be taken on an aeroplane. The one other disadvantage is the battery life, it depends what you are using your iPad for but the charge only seems to last a few hours, but you can buy portable chargers.
I had often considered joining a gym and looked at a local gym attached to a hotel, they had a very nice heated swimming pool, all of the usual gym equipment, weights room and a studio for classes with varying times including before and after work. All sounded very good until they confirmed the price, £60 per month with a 12 month contract!! For someone who had never been to a gym before a 12 month was a long commitment if it didn't suit me. I decided against this gym as much as it was very nice the price and commitment was more than I wanted to sign up to. Not long after I saw signs for a Pure Gym opening in my area, a little dubious of the £10.99 rolling monthly contract I thought I would go and find out a little more. The gym is basic with no swimming pool; however, they do have all of the equipment you would expect to see in a gym, a separate weights area and fitness studio for classes. The gym is open 24 hours a day, although it is not staffed from midnight to 5am so the changing rooms are closed during this time. How do they keep the prices down - everything is communicated online, classes are free but must be booked online and places are limited, no staff overnight (CCTV cameras and an emergency help button), you have to take your own padlock to use the lockers and take your own towel.
As someone who was working within a Finance Department (albeit not in a specifically financial role - more planning than accounting) I decided that as part of my development plan I would like to increase my financial knowledge to help me understand what is is my stakeholders were responsible for (mainly accountants) and also keep my options open for the future. I decided to look into classroom based courses, as I felt that having other people to study with would be better than going it alone. After looking at my local college website I saw the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) have 3 courses available, Foundation, Intermediate and Technician. So off I went to my local college to the open day and enrolled myself onto the Intermediate course. So a couple of weeks later I found myself sat in a classroom, with a group of people (mostly younger than me) who all seemed to know each other as they had completed the Foundation course together. Initial thoughts were I should have done the course from the first level rather than jumping in at the deep end but it did save me a year of studying. However, after speaking to some of the other students a lot of the work they did in the first year was around health and safety rather than concentrating totally on accountancy. I did struggle with a few of the basics having not sat the Foundation level and I would recommend anyone thinking of skipping the first year to read up on some of the basic principals. The Intermediate level covers the following topics: Accounts Preparation (1 and 2) Indirect Tax (i.e. VAT) Costs and Revenues Cash Management Professional Ethics Spreadsheets All of the exams are computer based and with the exception of Spreadsheets are marked by the computer so the results are available within 15 minutes. The topics flow well and all have example tests on the AAT website, although I would recommend classroom learning rather than trying to learn from a book as some of the principals need context. The intermediate course lasts 18 months as does the Technician level which I am currently studying (although I believe some colleges squeeze them into 12 months). The intermediate is more numbers focused whereas with the Technician level there is more freedom of choice for the topics you study and many are more principal based rather than number crunching and there is also a written project to complete. Unfortunately Technician exams are not instantly marked so can take up to six weeks for the results. So my experience of Accountancy, I remember on my first day at college being told "accountants are boring people" and I can sort of see how some of the number crunching they do why they would be perceived in that way as I do find the day to day updating of data fairly tedious. However, the side that interests me is more the forecasting and budgeting side where things aren't as black and white. To anyone thinking of becoming an Accountant, prepare yourself for hard work, several years of studying (with course fees circa £1k) and lots of exams. If you can try and find a job which supports the course as it would help the understanding of your learning.