Thursday 29 September 2016

Marks & Spencer’s - Macmillan Coffee Morning*

Unless you’ve been living under a rock then you’ll have no doubt seen posters and adverts galore about Macmillan Coffee Mornings happening as we speak all over the country. I’ve certainly seen a few bakes sales this week at work and its fantastic to see lots of events taking place all over to raise that all important money. Having a coffee morning is the perfect opportunity for a catch up with friends and have some delicious cake all for a good cause. One in three of us will face cancer and the money raised at Macmillan Coffee Mornings will ensure that no one has to face it alone.

This year is the 7th world’s biggest coffee morning in partnership with M&S and all the stops have been pulled out to ensure this is the best one yet. Since 2010 thanks to the support of M&S customers and employees an incredible £6 million has been raised. By 2020, almost 1 in 2 people will get cancer at some point in their lives but you can help be there for even more people by taking part where you can. The Birmingham store is even inviting shoppers to join them for a coffee and a slice of cake on Friday 30th September.

Whether you’re baking or faking it this year you will find a fantastic range of treats in M&S stores this September including a delicious selection of cakes, biscuit and a new range of 13 flavours of cake and cookie mixes. I was lucky enough to receive a few goodies including this ‘Hot Stuff’ mug, Tatty Devine Pin Badge, Pure Ceylon Teabags and Thumbprint Cookie Mix. Whenever you treat yourself to coffee and cake in the M&S Café, a donation will go to Macmillan Cancer Support. I decided to make these strawberry and white chocolate thumb print cookies and bring them along to our Macmillan Coffee Morning at work where they were sold and eaten for charity. They tasted really delicious and went down a storm with the buyers. All I had to do was add butter and the rest of the mix was provided - 10% of the sale of this product is donated to Macmillan Cancer Support.

So if you have a work bake sale or the chance to attend a coffee morning, please pop in. Think of the lives you could change, grab a slice of cake and a cuppa and get involved. Remember – calories don’t count if it’s for charity! If you would like to learn more about Macmillan’s partnership with M&S, please visit their website.

*I received some items from M&S free of charge in exchange for this blog post. All opinions are my own and I was not influenced in any way.

Monday 26 September 2016

Purrfect Cat Subscription Box Review*

I love receiving subscription boxes for my pets, there is just something about it that makes me feel good about spending the money because it’s not technically for me. I love the excitement of receiving the box and seeing what is inside, then sharing the goodies with my furry friends. I recently received a Purrfect Box run by the same people who brought me my Pawsome Box for dogs. This time I decided to treat Biscuit my cat, he has just moved in with me so the more treats and things I can get, the better! I am hoping they will all help to settle him in to his new surroundings.

Purrfect Box is a surprise box containing quality products worth over £30 for your cat delivered straight to your doorstep. You can order a gift subscription or subscribe yourself from just £19.90 but you can save money by committing to subscribe for a longer amount of time. The box comes filled with goodies, wrapped in paw print tissue paper.

The first item I received for Biscuit was this Catch Ball. I am not sure if it is filled with catnip or not but Biscuit seemed to enjoy playing with it which leads me to believe it is filled with the good stuff. I think this ball is well designed and good quality. I love the little pop out fish section too.

These Pet Munchies Gourmet Chicken Liver Treats are a favourite in this household and we have bought these before. These treats do have a very strong scent so bare that in mind when cracking these open. I have a specific cupboard set aside for cat treats but if I’d have stored these anywhere else they would have caused a stink! These treats are natural so its always nice to know you're giving your cat some good.

I then saw this Gim Cat Pudding Sachet which is something I haven’t seen before. This liquid substance does not have a strong scent and can be given to your cat by popping this on the end of your finger. Just be careful if your cat bites! My cat is not fussy when it comes to food and really enjoyed this which is a bonus and it won’t go to waste!

Biscuit loves these play and fill mice and is not the first one he has owned. I love seeing the effects of a cat on catnip, it’s great if you want some peace and quiet for a bit whilst they roll around. I felt like the catnip remained strong for a while and is still giving off the same effects after a couple of weeks of using it.

This Bowl is amazing, simply pop it in the freezer and when you come to use it, the water is kept nice and cold. I assume this can also be used for food, but food doesn’t hang around long enough in my house! The bowl is of a reasonable size and can also be used for dogs. This has been great for both the puppy and the cat this summer.

This dangly fish toy has also gone down well with Biscuit, although he does like most toys. I love that you can attach this to your arm or leg and watch TV whilst also playing with your cat with minimal movement. I have proceeded to hang this from the radiator so I don’t even have to move a muscle now whilst the cat has some fun.

What did you think of this box? I think they are great value for such a good variety of treats, toys and accessories. For £5 discount on a Purrfect Box for your cat, use code ukbtkfqt on their website.

*I received this box free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not influenced in any way. Please see my disclaimer for more information.

Thursday 22 September 2016

Buying a House – Solicitors and Surveys

This post follows on from my ‘Putting in an Offer’ post and is part 3 in the series of buying a house. The next step once our offer was accepted on the house was to fully apply for the mortgage. We instructed a solicitor who was happy to act on our behalf and we gave the estate agent their details. Once applying for the mortgage via our financial adviser we had to pay for a survey. We weren’t expecting to have to pay for this so soon and the funds weren’t in place so we had to take some out of our deposit with a view of paying this back before everything was completed. I was so worried at this stage. When money gets involved it feels more real and if it all went wrong then we would be out of pocket with nothing to show for it.

There are a few different types of survey and this will all be explained to you when the time comes. We went for a Homebuyers Survey which cost £200 but this will vary per lender. The survey was booked for 2 weeks after applying for the mortgage. You will probably feel like you’re in limbo at this point. We also knew our seller hadn’t found a house so the chain hadn’t even been set up and we were already paying for things which worried me. I had no idea what was meant to happen next or what we needed to do. I spent hours on google and read hundreds of horror stories.

Before our survey took place I was told I was potentially being made redundant from work. All my hopes and dreams were shattered. If I was made redundant then our mortgage application and offer would have been withdrawn. Even if I found another job there was no guarantee I would be on the same wage meaning the amount we could borrow would reduce and we would lose the house. Of all the things that I had researched that could go wrong, this was not something I expected and made all the other horror stories seem trivial. We continued as normal hoping and praying we would complete before my impending doom. I knew if we could just get the house then we would be fine and we would be able to run it from James’ wage until I found another job. The survey took place and the mortgage lenders sent us a text saying they were reviewing the valuation report. In the meantime the seller found a vacant property which meant we had no chain – hurrah! We hoped this would speed things along. The estate agents needed to send over a Memorandum of Sale to the solicitors which they still hadn’t done so we chased that up and awaited the survey results. Thankfully I kept my job too if you were wondering!

The day after our survey took place we were told that the mortgage offer had been issued and we awaited this to arrive by post and hoped that it matched the amount we wanted to borrow. This was then re-issued due to a spelling error with my surname! Trust me to have an awkward name!

We then received our welcome pack from the solicitors which outlined all of their fees and asked for us to pay for the searches as soon as possible. I wanted to get things moving so I sent the payment straight away and filled out all of the forms required which proved we had the deposit, insurance and some information on our identity. They also asked for our ‘desired completion date’ so we went as early as we could – 6 weeks into the future so we could get in ASAP if possible! The next day we popped into the Solicitors office to prove our identity physically to avoid any further delays. We were told the searches could take up to 6 weeks because they relied on the local council to get the results back to them. This actually took around 3 weeks in the end.

The next stage involved waiting for the sellers solicitor to send over a draft contract. We chased the estate agent for this and when we found out it had been sent we then chased our solicitor. So much of the house buying process is just chase chase chase! In the meantime we received the results from the survey. There were some things that were classed as ‘level 3’ which need immediate attention. These included gas, electrics and heating but we were advised that these will always be flagged up as the surveyor cannot physically test them and generally people don’t have the safety certificates as it’s not a legal requirement unless the house is a rental. There was also mention of the property not having any mains powered smoke alarms. Most houses I have been in do not have these, just battery powered ones so we weren’t too concerned with this point. There was nothing on there that made us feel any different about the house and none of it devalued it.

We received some documents in the post and the searches were started. The documents consisted of all of the fixtures and fittings that the seller is leaving. Some people will even take the lightbulbs with them! We were really lucky in that our seller left us the washing machine, fridge, freezer, oven, mirrors and even garden furniture. We plan to replace these items eventually but the initial expense this saved us was fantastic and after a good clean they would definitely do the job.

The water searches came back after 2 days but the local ones took longer and came back after roughly 3 weeks and we then had to wait for the solicitor to prepare their final report on all of the findings of the searches and the contract information ready for exchange. When we received this report it detailed the final balance payable to complete and lots of information about the house. It was interesting to see what had been going on behind the scenes, the solicitors had even arranged for the seller to have the boiler serviced which was handy!

We wanted to exchange as soon as possible so we signed the contracts, the mortgage deed and settled the funds the next day. All that was left to do was to exchange and complete….


Tuesday 20 September 2016

My Little Box Mademoiselle - September

This month’s My Little Box was the first one I paid for myself and I am so pleased I decided to stick with this box. I love the variety in each box and this month was no exception. One of the things I love most about this box is the magazine it comes with, it is full of helpful tips and tricks and no other box I have been subscribed to has had this feature. There is such a mixture of items in each box it really is exciting and I have found that I have used all of them! The box this month had a centre flap opening to the lid tied with a ribbon. So unique! 

The first item I received was this gorgeous navy Mademoiselle Pierlot’s Purse RRP £30. It feels sturdy and of really great quality and has lovely red edge detailing. This is going to be perfect for travelling, it’s just big enough for your passport and some money and a few cards. It feels too luxurious to use for day to day, it would be a shame to ruin it by stuffing it with receipts!  When you use the code MYLITTLEBOX you can get yourself 30% off the Claudie Pierlot range online. from 01/10/16 – 15/10/16

Another thing I like about this box is that you always receive a little pouch, these come in handy for so many things at home. I use mine for make-up, hair accessories and even use one to store my tablets and remedies in so they can be nicely tucked away in my bedside drawers. I love this month’s pouch, it’s so cute!

I was so pleased to see this Ren 3-in-1 cleansing water in my box this month. Me and Ren go way back, when I first started my blog ‘Christie Critique’ in 2012, I featured a post all about Ren and it became my most viewed post. Back in 2012 I would get about 2-3 views a day but my post on Ren had well over 1000 views! I haven’t used Ren products since 2012 so I was glad to see this in my box, it brought back good memories. I have wanted to try a cleansing/micellar water for a while and have been really enjoying this Ren one. This is something I would definitely repurchase and my skin is left feeling so clean and fresh after using this. 

I was in need of a new mascara so the Mascara Mademoiselle Audacious Volume RRP £14 was a welcomed addition to this month’s box. The magazine also had a makeup tutorial using this mascara and some tips to tell if your mascara is past its  best!

The brush is a standard spoolie but the results are great. I haven’t had any problems with mascara fallout since using this product and have really been enjoying it.

The final item in this month’s box was the Ginseng shot mask by Erborian Korean Skin Therapy RRP £6. This single shot sheet mask brings a bouncy freshness to your face. It’s so simple to use, simply unfold, leave on the skin for 10-15 minutes and you are good to go. My skin felt so refreshed after using this and I could definitely see that the radiance had improved in my complexion.

What do you think of this month’s box?


Saturday 17 September 2016

The Konjac Sponge Company*

A few months ago I received a Konjac Sponge in a Glossybox and absolutely loved it even though it was not from the official Konjac Sponge Company brand. When I saw the genuine brand on the Socialberry network for review, I knew I had to apply. 

The Konjac Sponge Company ensures all of their sponges are handmade and tested for authenticity and purity. Originating from South Korea, these sponges are the secret to silky smooth skin. The collection is vegan and cruelty free and suitable for all skin types, even sensitive baby skin. There is a sponge out there for everyone.

I received the cleansing doggy sponge and decided to test it out on my mums Frenchie Macy. For only £9.99 this chemical free sponge is perfect for cleansing away tear stains which are common with her breed as her eyes protrude slightly. Despite not really enjoyed bath time, this sponge is ideal just to cleanse Macy’s face without giving her a full wash. The sponges are soft on her delicate skin and great for using around the eye area due to their shape.

The sponges are made from pure vegetable fibre and once fully hydrated with water they become soft like jelly. After use, squeeze out the excess water and hang in an airy dry place. I like to pop mine on the radiator. With care, these Konjac Sponges can last up to 3 months.

Overall I am really impressed with the sponges I have tried so far. Konjac Sponges can be purchased online and in luxury stores such as Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Fenwick. Have you ever tried one of these sponges?

*I received this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not influenced in any way.


Wednesday 14 September 2016

How to Have a Home Movie Night – Featuring Savisto*

Having just moved out with my partner we have been rather busy with buying things for the house and decorating that we haven’t really had the time to sit down with each other or the money for a night off. We set aside one evening where we promised that we would have a night off wallpapering and treat ourselves to a relaxing night. We decided that instead of spending a lot of money and going out that we would have a home movie night, which costs a lot less than a trip to the cinema these days!

Having chosen a few films to watch on Netflix, and got the viewing area nice and comfy we decided on our snacks. Firstly, no movie night is complete without pick n mix which I picked up half price – I couldn’t resist. We then made nachos using tortilla chips, cheese, salsa, sour crème and jalapeños. You can buy a pre-made nacho pack to make things even easier! Hot dogs were also on the list, another classic cinema treat.

The one thing that was missing was the popcorn and we weren’t interested in buying the pre-packaged stuff. We wanted the warm and tasty kind, freshly popped. When Savisto contacted me and asked me to review their Vintage Style Popcorn Maker I knew it would be the perfect addition to our home movie night. Costing just £23.99, this Popcorn Maker is the ultimate movie night companion and comes complete with 6 re-usable popcorn boxes. A full lid of kernels will make enough to fill 4 cartons with some to spare.

I couldn’t believe how easy the Popcorn Maker was to use. I simply poured my kernels into the popcorn chamber, switched the machine on and 5 minutes later my fresh popcorn was served!

This machine from Savisto does not use any oil or butter, only hot air so your snack is virtually fat free. The best thing is the popcorn is ready in just 5 minutes! You can buy additional popcorn boxes here so why not invite all of your friends round for a movie night too? It’s easy, budget friendly and you’re in the comfort of your own home.

Will you be having your own movie night at home? Head over to Savisto and get your very own Popcorn Maker!

*I received this popcorn maker free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not influenced in any way.

Sunday 11 September 2016

Cocktail Masterclass - All Bar One Norwich*

I was recently invited along to All Bar One in Norwich for an Exclusive Blogger Cocktail Masterclass which I was really excited about attending. All Bar One is located on Tombland in Norwich and is the perfect place to start your night out. It has recently reopened after being renovated from fire damage and it’s better than ever before. When I arrived I was surprised to see that no other bloggers had turned up, I checked twitter and saw that Hannah was on her way and I was pleased it wasn’t just going to be me! Hannah then arrived and the manager said we were waiting for 6 more bloggers, despite it already being 20 minutes after the start time. The manager then decided to wait until 7 to start the event and apologised by means of a glass of bubbly for us both – we were happy. No one else arrived in the end which I think was quite rude as they hadn’t called to cancel or anything. All Bar One had set the table up for 8 of us and I did feel bad no one had bothered showing up, I am sure there were plenty of Norwich bloggers who would have loved to attend so we were both a bit disappointed.

We sat at our table and got ourselves comfortable and started on the nibbles that had been laid out. We met Sam who was taking the masterclass. He was very knowledgeable about the cocktails we were making and knew all of the recipes off by heart. He also answered any questions we had along the way. We got to make 3 cocktails, and of course drink them! As no one else had turned up we got a more personal experience and me and Hannah got a chance to use the proper Boston Glass and Shaker which is usually just used by the host!

The first cocktail we made was a Cosmopolitan which tasted the strongest of the three, but I still had no problem in knocking it back! Firstly we filled our glasses with ice to chill them then added 50ml of cranberry juice and 12.5ml of lime juice. Sam told us that by adding the fruit juice first, at least if you mess the cocktail up then you haven’t wasted any alcohol and can start again! We then added 12.5ml of Cointreau which has a very orangey taste, then we added 37.5ml of Absolut Citron Vodka, added ice and then it was time to shake! Sam taught us how to correctly place the shaker onto the glass, how to hold it and then how to remove it at the end. We had great fun doing this but it was hard work! We then double strained the drink into the glass and added garnish of orange peel and straws. This cocktail was very fruity and you could really taste the vodka. After just half a glass I already started to feel a bit woozy!

We then made a Strawberry Daiquiri which was my favourite of the three we made. This cocktail consisted of 12.5ml of lime juice, 12.5ml sugar syrup, 50ml strawberry puree and 50ml of Bacardi rum. Once again we then mixed this up in the shaker and double strained it to get rid of any excess crushed ice. Sam told us they do a skinny version of the sugar syrup (the calories were a bit shocking!) and skinny versions of some of the cocktails were also available. This cocktail didn’t taste alcoholic and went down far too easily. We garnished this with half a strawberry pressed onto the side of the glass. Things were definitely getting more blurry at this point and despite there only being 2 of us we had a really good laugh!

Lastly we made a Sun Rise which had the most components to it. When we were adding the ingredients, I didn’t think I was going to like it but it was absolutely delicious! This cocktail was served in what I can only describe as a noodle pot, which after 3 drinks me and Hannah found hilarious. This cocktail consisted of 12.5ml of lemon juice, 12.5ml of Bottlegreen Ginger And Lemon Grass drink, 50ml mango juice, 50ml Riesling white wine and 50ml Opihr Spiced Gin. Hannah did mention it smelled a bit like a curry – but it didn’t taste this way thankfully! The mixture of all of these flavours combined really well and we really enjoyed it. This one was served with plenty of ice too.

As there was only two of us, we had the added bonus of sampling Sam’s Creamy Christmas Martini he has designed for Christmas. I can’t remember exactly what went in it but it was absolutely delicious and considering it contained the most alcohol of all of the drinks we tried, it didn’t taste that way! We did suggest he add Holly and Candy Canes to garnish this so watch this space haha! Overall I had a really nice time at All Bar One and really enjoyed the cocktail making experience. I would love to return again with a group of friends. Would you attend something like this?

*I attended this masterclass free of charge. All opinions are my own and I was not influenced in any way.

Thursday 8 September 2016

My Purrfect Gift Box - August*

Once again My Purrfect Gift Box couldn’t have come at a better time and I always have a great smile on my face when I see the vibrant purple box waiting for me on my door step. As I have mentioned before and want to mention again, when you buy this box a portion of the subscription costs goes to support UK cat charities, rescue centres and animal shelters. So while you are giving to yourself, know you are giving to the cats that need us across the UK. I think that is such a lovely gesture. This month’s box was all about 'A Day In The Park' celebrating the end of summer, warm nights and love/romance.

The first item I received was this gorgeous bangle with 3 pendants. It comes complete with a ‘C’ for cat, but as my name begins with a C I was even more excited to receive and wear this lovely piece of jewellery as a cat lover. The moon stone charm gives the bracelet a pop of colour and I have received a few compliments from wearing this already.

I then received these cat face lights. I am currently decorating my cats bedroom (yes, he has his own room!) and these lights are going to look great in there. These are also battery powered which means you can place them pretty much wherever you like and you’re not restricted to having them near a plug. These lights come from Etsy and retail at £18.95. These are hand painted and you get 20 cat faces on the wire. I think they are fun and really bring something extra to a room!

This peacock/bird shaped cat toy has been well received by my furry friend! Made of felt this toy is handmade and sold on Etsy. I love catnip toys, Biscuit goes crazy for them and for only £3.95 you can’t really go wrong for hours of fun! I love that this box had lots of nice treats for Biscuit in this month.

I love that these Vets Kitchen little heart treats are actually heart shaped. These treats contain natural ingredients and are free from artificial colours and flavourings. Biscuit loves these, I like to give him a couple of treats in the evening and he has been practically launching towards me when he sees me get the packet out of the cupboard.

This cat decal is adorable and also comes from Etsy for just £2.99. I have chosen to place it on my laptop but it could have been applied to a window or even the car. It is removable but not reusable but I am happy with it taking pride of place on my laptop and makes me smile every time I come to use it. I think this is a great gift for a cat lover, I want one for every shiny surface I own!

I have always wanted a cat eared headband but never bought one. I love this accessory and it’s a great addition to my collection – I’m not sure I will wear it out of the house or to work but I am sure I can rock it at home or at a fancy dress party!

This furry heart cat toy is handmade from wool and is just £4 from Paw and Gnaw. Filled with a premium dried catnip centre, Biscuit was drawn to this immediately but thankfully didn’t smell strong to me.

I am in love with this cute print depicting three cats sat on the moon, this will also go perfectly in my cat themed room once I start to get things in place. This comes signed by Etsy designer ACatLikeCuriosity and there are many more prints where this one came from! The prints are really affordable and you can even have your own pet illustrated in cartoon form by the artist which I am extremely tempted by.

What do you think of this box? Would you buy this for a fellow cat lover? Even if you don’t want to subscribe, you can purchase some of the items in the shop.

*I received this box free of charge. All opinions are my own and I was not influenced in any way.

Tuesday 6 September 2016

BKLYN Luxury Bobble Hats*

As much as I hate to say it, Summer is winding down. Personally I cannot wait for Autumn and the colder months, pumpkin spiced lattes, crunchy leaves on the floor - it's my favourite time of year. When I was contacted by BKLYN to try one of their Fur Pom Pom Hats, I knew it was going to be the perfect transitioning piece for my wardrobe, that will see me right through until winter.
The hats come in a wide range of colours with plenty of options to mix and match so you are bound to find something that suits your style. The fur pom pom is even detachable so you can buy multiple hats in many colours and switch them about. I received my hat in navy, white and purple.

The Fur Pom Pom Hat cost £55 and come packaged nicely in a protective sleeve box. The quality of the hat is outstanding and definitely worth the price tag. The hats are made using the finest Italian merino wool and is the softest hat I have ever owned.

The natural fibres of the material mean that the hat is also gently on your hair and skin. I feel really comfortable wearing the hat and it doesn't irritate my head in the slightest.

Head over to the BKLYN website to get your own Fur Pom Pom Hat. What colour would you choose?

*I received this item free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not influenced in any way.
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