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.

Boyfriend is currently off nosing around Japan, and has been keeping in touch regularly, telling me all about the weird and wonderful things he has come across.

My favourite so far is the cat cafes.

They are just like regular cafes, but full of cats, which you are welcome to pet as you drink your coffee, or whatever they drink in cafes in Japan. They even apparently have ‘cat menus’. You’re not allowed to eat the cats of course, the menus just give you information about them – their names, their colour, how they like to be stroked, that sort of thing. It does sound a little bit like a brothel, but in a nice way.

I would definitely go.

(To a cat cafe, not a brothel.)

"cat cafe"

Milk or cream?

Spending time with an animal such as a cat is meant to be very good for your emotional well-being, yet so many of us lack the time or space to keep our own pets. A cat cafe seems like the perfect compromise to me – all the fun of the petting, but without the hair to clean up, or the scratch marks on the end of your sofa.

The more you think about it, the more you feel we are missing a trick. Take dogs for example. Now I’m not a dog person, although I’ve heard that some people like them, but not everyone is able to keep a dog of their own. Why though should you have to miss out on all the benefits a dog can bring just because you work 10 hours a day and live in a small third floor flat? Dogs are good for petting, a great way to get some exercise, and a good way to meet people too. So how about a dog rental service? On a nice sunny Sunday, you can hire the hound of your choice, and take them off for a run around the park, get some fresh air, and have a brilliant ice breaker for when you spot a hunky looking stranger with a poodle.

Another thing that’s popular in Japan is the 24 hour pet shop. Boyfriend tells me they’re to take advantage of drunk people wanting to buy something cute.

This idea made me laugh quite a lot. It would make a change wouldn’t it from waking up to see a strange, dishevelled man with beer breath in your bed wouldn’t it? Instead you’d open your eyes warily, roll over, and come face to face with a guinea pig…

I read an article in Grazia this week that made me mad.

It was written by an anonymous male journalist, who was claiming that being cheated on is basically much harder for a man than a woman. He was empathising with the recently wronged Robert Pattinson. “Believe me,” he said, “it’s so much worse when a woman cheats on a man.”

Of course it is.

Just like it’s always worse when a man gets a cold?

(Did you detect my oh-so-subtle sarcasm?)

He goes on about how much harder it is for men to be cheated on, because it leads them to doubt themselves and their sexual prowess and makes them wonder what they were lacking as a man that made their partner stray. “When women have their hearts broken,” he whines on, “they get endless counselling sessions from friends until they feel better.”

Seriously, does it get much more patronising than that?

Firstly, anonymous male journalist, I would like to point out that just because we don’t have penises, doesn’t mean we are immune to worrying about our sexual performance. Newsflash for you – women occasionally experience self-doubt! Gasp! We also like to think outside the bedroom too, so our trampled self-esteem will affect lots of other areas of our lives as well. (This is similar to multi-tasking. It’s that thing women do when they think about more than one thing at once*.)

Also, this sweeping statement about women finding comfort in their friends makes several very basic and not always correct assumptions. It assumes that all women have friends that they feel comfortable confiding in, and it assumes we want to bang on and on to them about our problems. Neither of these are necessarily true. Heartbreak is often a very personal and private thing, and although men may have this image of women gathering in packs, necking Chardonnay, proclaiming all men to be bastards and immediately ‘feeling better’, it’s simply not true.

The fact is that being deceived by someone you love and trust is gutting, whether you’re a man or a woman, 18 or 80. Just because women might be more inclined to vent their emotions with friends sometimes, doesn’t mean the pain cuts any less deep.

If anonymous male journalist is still wondering what it is that he lacks as a man, perhaps he should focus less on the contents of his trousers, and more on his understanding on how women think and feel.

*Said in an anonymous male writer style patronising tone

Remember at the weekend how I marvelled at just what you could buy for 99p?

Well, I bet you never even knew how much fun one 99p could bring you and your family. I bet you thought that nowadays it took money or television or sweeties to keep the kids entertained. Think again. Praise be to the pretzel. Hours of fun from just one bag.


Who needs the internet eh?

Before the summer holidays started, I sat down and had a little talk with Belle about the impending six weeks, and exactly how we were going to manage the whole work, fun, childcare balance. As much as I didn’t want to, I explained to her, I was going to have to do some work, and as useful for me as her week away with Gran was going to be, we needed to come up with something else too.

“Don’t make me go to Clifton College holiday club!” she wailed, a look of panic on her face.

“I won’t make you go there again,” I reassured her, “I promised didn’t I?”

She looked relieved.

“I don’t want to go to the holiday club at school either,” she pleaded, “they just make you decorate keyrings all day.”

“OK,” I said, rapidly running out of options. “How about sports?”

We were quiet for a moment, both thinking about the disaster of the two-day football camp the previous summer. Belle, as you may have worked out, is not a fan of the whole ‘wrap-around-care’ concept. For her, holidays and after school are for watching all the television she has been kept away from during school hours.

“Well then,” I said, laughing hysterically inside at the very idea that she would agree, “the only other option is a residential camp, where you go away for the whole week with lots of people you don’t know.”

“I’ll do that one,” she said, and turned back to MI High, the conversation apparently now over.

Well, that was a shock.

So, tomorrow, she’s off. Monday to Friday, sleeping in yurt dorms, wading through swamps, meeting red squirrels, and tagging crabs. She’s only going to be about an hour away, but I am so proud of her. She’s getting pretty excited about it, and this afternoon has been sorting out what she wants to take, and zealously labelling everything with her rather lovely personalised stickers, provided specially for the occasion by This is Nessie. This is Nessie do a whole range of gorgeous personalised stuff, so if you are a stationery geek like me, they are well worth a look.

"Personalised name labels"

Who do these belong to then?

In the morning, we’ll be up early, and by 9.30am I will be child free for five whole days, as Bee is away next week too, doing some very grown-up work experience.

Five whole days!

I’ve never actually been alone in the house for that long. What will I do? Who will I talk to? Looking at Belle’s programme, I’m quite jealous. I quite fancy a safari scavenger hunt. Bonfires, marshmallows, yes please.

Maybe I’ll book myself in…

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.