Sounds like the plot of a bizarre porn film doesn’t it? Or perhaps that’s just my overactive imagination.

(It’s not a film, in case you’re wondering. I don’t think so anyway.)

It’s actually just some products I’m going to talk about in this weekend’s review round-up. I was just doing my best to make jewellery, a canvas print and a cross shredder sound intriguing, which is no mean feat, let me tell you.

The wonders of shredding

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘are there any’?

Well, I’ll have you know that I was more excited than it’s probably acceptable to be by the thought of having my very own cross shredder. I’ve always been a sucker for office supplies. Forget your fineliners and funny-shaped paperclips, a cross-shredder is the daddy of all office equipment.

The Powershred DS1 from Fellowes is awesome. Not only can it shred up to 11 sheets at once – perfect for someone as impatient as me – but it can even shred credit cards, paperclips and staples. Pretty cool huh?

"Fellowes shredder"

Bred to shred

The cross shredding action means it cuts everything up into tiny bits, rather than just into long strips, so it’s a much more effective way to protect your identity. It’s also very good for creating bedding material for Christmas hampers. (Which is really the reason anyone would buy a shredder after all).

It looks pretty stylish for a shredder too, and it’s dead simple to remove and empty the bin.*

Canvas prints from Hello Canvas

A lot of the stuff I’m asked to review on my blog is for younger children**, so when Hello Canvas asked if I wanted to check out the quality of their canvas prints, I thought it would be nice to do something for Bee for a change. So I ordered her this:

"Bee and Stitch"

A picture of a picture of a picture. Weird.

It was taken on our trip last year to Disneyland Paris, and this is one of the only moments over the whole four days that Bee smiled. Turns out Being Abroad isn’t really her thing, and in combination with Disney, even less so. Still, she is a massive Stitch fan, so this brightened up an otherwise tear-stained trip for her.

The picture looks pretty stunning where we’ve hung it on a chimney breast wall – the print quality is really good, and it’s certainly going to be a talking point, even if it’s just that it will prompt people coming into the house to say ‘What the hell is that?’

Jewellery from Olivia Accessories

What girl doesn’t love a nice pearl necklace? Well that’s what I thought, when Olivia Accessories asked if I’d like to try out something from their range of jewellery. As some of you may know, I have a bit of a thing about peacocks, so this feather bangle was an obvious choice, and works really well as a striking accessory for an otherwise more conservative outfit:

"feather bangle"

"pearl necklace"

Pearls on the other handy add a good dash of Thatcher to any ensemble, so are ideal for times when I want to look a little bit more serious. Or just older, like when I’m trying to get served lager in the local Sainsbury’s.

*Carrying on the dubious tone of this post, it also has a ‘throat width’ of 230mm. *snigger*

**Apart from the shredder obviously. Don’t give your small child a shredder to play with.

What can you get nowadays for 99p?

You’re probably thinking ‘not much’ – penny sweets are about ten pence each nowadays, and what happened to Mars Bars being 25p eh? When did that stop? When did I become old??

If inflation is making you feel your age, you need a trip to the 99p Stores.*

Now reviewing the shopping experience at 99p Stores may not seem like the most glamorous of assignments, but bloody hell, we certainly got a lot for our money. We were given £50 to spend, but as there were only baskets, not forklift trucks, we quite literally couldn’t spend it all at once. We physically couldn’t carry fifty quid’s worth of cereal.

We did manage to spend £29.70 in our first trip, and this is what we got:

"99p Stores"

Cor blimey, what a lot of shopping.

If you’ve never been to a 99p Stores before, you might be surprised to see that they actually sell a lot of branded items – food in particular. We eat a lot of cereal in our house, but normally I’m too tight to buy brand names, so we stocked up on lots of horribly over sweet breakfast items, at bargain prices. It really is a lot cheaper than you could buy in the supermarket, and the choice is quite amazing. I picked up three totally random things I have been meaning to get for a while – a pair of flip-flops, some more cord for our strimmer, and a book light. And each less than a pound! Bizarre.

I was shopping specifically though with a small picnic in mind, as Belle and I were meeting friends today at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. I picked up some sandwich spread, which was a bit of a blast from the past, drinks, dip, fruit bars, mini-cookies, and some intriguing looking ‘hummus chips’ – crisps made with chick pea flour. That’s the lovely thing about 99p Stores – yes, they have the brands, but they also have some really unusual things you just wouldn’t see anywhere else in your average UK shopping centre.

"99p stores picnic"

Om nom nom

I worked out that this little feast came to less than four pounds, which was about the price of a Mr Whippy at the fiesta.

The staff were helpful, the choice was great, and we even picked up a One Direction stationery set for Bee.** When I go back to spend the rest of my vouchers, I’ll definitely be taking Boyfriend, so he can stock up on pickles and cleaning products – two of his favourite things. We might just get some more of those hummus chips too…***

*This works quite literally too, as they do a lot of skin care products.

**Don’t tell her. It’s a surprise.

***Brushes crumbs away guiltily.

I’ve been to quite a few festivals in my time, (any excuse not to wash for a few days), but I’ve never seen anything like the fireworks and animation display that celebrated the end of Camp Bestival 2012.

The weekend had been fantastic already, with surprise treats such as Chic – who’d have thought they wrote so many songs?? – and more predictably incredible entertainment in the form of Rolf Harris, but who’d have thought that something so amazing was going to be tucked away last thing on Sunday, long after I’ve normally given up and dragged the kids home?

The afternoon had been warm and relaxed. I’d spent a happy hour lying on the floor of the spoken word tent, thinking about how much more I liked Russell Kane as an author than a comedian, and then I’d teamed up with some strangers for a music quiz. A quick pint of pear cider and a last-minute entry into Ecover’s ‘Feel Good Giveaway‘* on my way to meet Boyfriend, and after a special moment sharing our dislike of the Happy Mondays, we were ready for some firework fun.

This video, courtesy of BrightonArt, is about fifteen minutes long, but it is well worth the watch. Set against the already stunning backdrop of Lulworth Castle, the combination of fireworks and animation was just breathtaking and made for a really spectacular end to a wonderful weekend.

 

 

*I could win £2,000 of family clothes from Boden! Nice. Fingers crossed I get lucky, so I can fit right in with all the yummy mummies at Camp Bestival next year.

If you follow me on twitter, you may have picked up on the fact that I was at Camp Bestival this weekend, courtesy of the very lovely people at Ecover.

"Ecover at Camp Bestival"

Yay for Ecover!

Despite the BBC predicting heavy rain, the sun shone for the whole weekend, and Boyfriend and I had a really wonderful time. I’ve been to Camp Bestival a few times before, so understood the whole family friendly vibe, but it was interesting to see Boyfriend’s confusion, as he compared it to his only other festival experience at Leeds. ‘When are people going to start pushing over the portaloos?’ he asked at one point, after telling me a rather nasty story about a guy, not wanting to lose his place at the front of a crowd, doing a poo on the floor.

Camp Bestival, needless to say, is not like this.

I shall be doing a proper round-up later in the week, including my personal highlights, but this is just a post to say thank you very much indeed to Ecover, for sending me off on such a fantastic weekend. If it wasn’t for Ecover, I’d never have seen this legend would I?

"Rolf Harris at Camp Bestival"

Can you tell who it is yet??

Thank you Ecover!

Last week, my talented colleague Bee and I paid a visit to the Argos Christmas gift show.

Well, well, well. What can we say? We were NOT impressed.

Now I totally accept that there may be some inherent differences between boys and girls, with girls often being inclined to enjoy more traditionally ‘girly’ toys, and vice versa. I also know though that there are plenty of girls who like playing with robots, cars, dinosaurs, and other things that aren’t bright pink, so why on earth did Argos feel the need to shove such horrible gender stereotypes down our throats?

See here, we have toys for girls:

And here, the toys that boys are allowed to play with:

It got worse.

On one side of the room, you had a hairdresser, offering women the chance to get their hair curled with the latest appliances, and opposite, you had this, because we all know that only men can play musical instruments:

Women obviously are too busy getting their nails done and arranging their daughters’ toys into different shades of pink.

Come on Argos. We’re in the 21st century now. Pull yourself together.

A few months ago Bee and I were sent a couple of the new BlackBerry Curve 9320s to test out. We’re both already BlackBerry users, but this is the new ‘affordable’ BlackBerry, designed particularly with the teen market in mind, with fast and handy social media apps pre-loaded.

"BlackBerry Curve 9320"

The new BlackBerry Curve 9320

I have to confess that I’m a bit of an old person when it comes to gadgets. I do love BlackBerry, but mainly because I’m too stupid to work touchscreen phones properly, and with my current torch I’m forever accidentally putting people on hold or mute with my cheek as I talk to them.

I’ve never really used BBM either, so when Bee first added me, and sent a message, it took me about half a day to work out that the new little symbol on my screen actually meant that I had a message.

Given then that I’m not entirely sure of the difference between 3G and WiFi, I’m going to hand over to my glamorous assistant Bee to give you the lowdown. I think you’ll agree that she’s written a pretty comprehensive review. Perhaps I should get her in more often…

I already had a really ancient 8520 that was basically falling apart, so I was interested to see how this new flashy one would be better. This isn’t the most luxurious Curve you can get but even though I didn’t pay for it I think I would have, because it seems good value for money.

I think its great for teenagers because it isn’t too expensive, (£129.95 on the BlackBerry website – uk.blackberry.com), and it’s definitely a good phone for social networking. It comes with Facebook and Twitter already downloaded on it so I could log in and start using them straight away. It’s less business orientated than most BlackBerrys are, so more appropriate for teenagers.

I’m pretty clumsy and have broken a fair few phones in my time, but I’ve dropped this on the pavement a few times and it’s got a bit damp but it’s survived well and it has barely scratched or dented in the couple of months I’ve had it. The good thing about this phone is that it has a sturdy screen as opposed to touch screen phones where the screen seems to smash on impact with most hard surfaces.

The buttons are bigger than on the 8520 so it’s easy to use even for people who aren’t used to the BlackBerry keypad. The phone is lightweight and thinner than the 8520 which I personally prefer.

The screen on the 9320 is clearer than older models and the camera is remarkably better than on other Curves, but is still not as high quality as the camera on the latest Torch.

What I particularly like about this phone is that the internet is super speedy, whether its connected to 3G or WiFi. The phone has a YouTube app which you couldn’t get on my 8520, and this plays video instantly even when out and about, with barely any buffering. Even when you are out of 3G range the internet is still pretty fast in comparison to any other phone I’ve had.

The phone generally is pretty fast, especially when posting things to Twitter, Facebook or the Tumblr App. However I’ve found that if you switch between applications quickly this can slow the phone down and sometimes freeze it. This usually sets off the dreaded little black clock, which BlackBerry users will know happens when the phone is trying to keep up with itself. This can sometimes end up happening every time you press a button, and means having to restart the phone to get it to do anything.

The sound quality on this phone is really good, it goes up to a high volume and isn’t as tinny as expected. However when listening with earphones the sound quality isn’t as good as an iPod/iPhone.

The battery life on this phone can be a bit temperamental, sometimes it lasts well, up to 2 days, but sometimes it lasts barely half a day. The battery level can drop at an alarming rate unexpectedly, so it’s always best to have a charger with you if you’re going somewhere so you don’t get caught out. However the battery life doesn’t seem to be affected by how much you use it as much as with other phones, for example you could play an hour of video on it or just leave it on the table and it would still drain the battery about as quickly.

Sometimes it takes a couple of tries for the phone to unlock, as it did my old BlackBerry. BlackBerrys generally don’t seem to last very well over time, for example my old one had the front casing coming off, some of the letter buttons not working, and would have to be coaxed into locking and unlocking a lot of the time. I wouldn’t recommend getting the Curve 9320 if you value durability over being technologically up to date.

Overall this phone is great as far as Curves go, and is definitely good value for money. I would recommend this as the BlackBerry to get for teenagers or people less interested in using it for work. The BlackBerry Curve 9320 is a nice compromise for people who want a good quality Smartphone on a budget.