Brand vs Budget: Volumising Shampoo/Conditioner

Over Christmas (read about my holiday here) I ended up leaving my big toiletries at university due to very limited suitcase space and so just used whatever hair washing products were hanging around. I ended up concentrating around two different sets; a Pantene silicone-free duo aimed at fine hair, and a set of Boots own-brand “Provitamin” products designed to be volumising. As both of these are really aimed at the same thing I thought I’d try my hand at a comparison review.

2014-01-15 11.04.01First up, let’s discuss the brand version – the Pantene Pro-V Aqualight Duo, priced at £3.69 each. One important thing to note is that although the conditioner claims to be ‘silicone free’ the shampoo doesn’t. I forgot to check the ingredients on it before I threw away the empty bottle, or I’d give them a quick analyse for you (I did the co-washing trend a few years back, so am pretty clued up on ‘goodies’ and ‘nasties’ in hair products).

I’ve got to admit I really didn’t get on with the Pantene shampoo. To me is felt sticky, didn’t lather (not a deal breaker for me, but it just didn’t feel pleasant) and I actually felt my hair was drier than before. It also seemed to make me a little tangled and bird’s-nest like which definitely isn’t a good thing!

The conditioner was more of a success – I loved the smell (not too strong!) and it felt moisturising but didn’t weigh me down. Now I definitely do NOT have fine hair (if you suggested that to my poor hairdresser he’d probably die laughing, the amount of hair I have is the bane of his life!) but I do find my very thick hair gets weighed down easily, so I like a lightweight but nourishing conditioner. This came pretty close to being ideal!

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Moving onto the budget version!

2014-01-15 11.04.24At £1.99 per huge bottle (and normally on Buy 1 Get 1 Free too!) it’s a lot cheaper than the Pantene offering, and by far my favourite.

The shampoo actually feels like it’s washing my hair, without stripping it. Granted it isn’t as gentle as my favourite Tresemme Naturals product, but it definitely feels a good-quality product.

The conditioner is perhaps a little runnier than I would like, so you have to use a good handful, but it is light and feels nourishing. I do feel I get a little build-up from this product so wouldn’t want to use it long-term, but its an excellent budget choice for holidays.

2014-01-15 11.05.59-2All in all, I definitely prefered the budget duo when comparing these two sets of products. For a significantly cheaper price there’s actually a slight improvement in quality. However I don’t think I’ll be sticking to either of these products over a long period of time…currently I’m extremely excited as what used to be my all-time favourite conditioner seems to be newly available!

What are your favourite hair-washing products?

Year 2 Term 2: Aims & Ideals

Today marks the beginning of the Spring term of my second year at university, so today I thought I’d go with a more studenty post – what do I want to achieve this term, and how am I going to go about achieving it?

 

First, I want to improve on last term’s results. I finished my first year with a high 1st and I definitely want to continue with that this year. I felt my first term went okay (although with much room for improvement!) – we covered a lot of completely new and more applied material than before, so I have a lot of revising to do to make sure it’s up to scratch to prevent falling behind!

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I also want to work on my study skills, or at least at not wasting time! I really struggle to work at university when I have a single hour’s break and last term those hour’s turned into a little bit of a gossip session. This term I really want to make the time a little more productive! The type of work I generally have to do isn’t really suitable for an hour’s work (short of reading over notes, I find an hour is too little for settling down and getting a really good grip on a maths problem of this level!) so instead of studying I’m thinking of making those hours into time for me to work on this blog. I even bought a mini keyboard for my tablet, which is an old one of my boyfriend’s kindly gifted to me over the holidays, which will make this a whole lot easier. Does anyone have an recommendation of blogging-related apps which could be useful?

Also in terms of study skills, I want to continue to improve on my technique when I’m actually studying. I want to share some of these tips with you guys, if its something you’d be interested in reading about?

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In terms of my cooking and diet I want to become a little more adventurous. I really enjoyed experimenting with some new ingredients when making my Chicken Massaman Curry, and I want that to continue. Following on from reader feedback (I love getting it, so please get in touch if you have a suggestion!) I want to work on more vegetarian/meat-free recipes so will be doing that!

Looking at my timetable, I’m due to be doing a lot more full days at university this term (I had a strange timetable last term – full on mornings, but finished by 1 three days a week, which was lovely as I got a decent lunch at home!) so I really need to work on making up a decent packed lunch. Currently toying between salad filled wraps, or rice/pasta combinations, but I’m sure I’ll rotate these ideas over the term!

2013-11-20 15.58.25Budgeting wise – I need to, and I need to save money! I may need to shell out for a deposit on a new rented place in a few months, and invest in some workwear so the pennies need to be saved. I managed to save a huge amount of money using a ‘piggy bank’ last term, and I’m hoping this method along with experimenting with cheaper ingredients will help my savings mount up.

And whilst I am budgeting, I’m also experimenting with my make-up and beauty regime. In the spirit of things, however, I’m trying to keep everything as low cost as possible. Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming ‘budget buys’ post as I’ve nabbed some great sale bargains (including the aforementioned workwear!)

So that’s a broad outline of what I want to achieve over the next term. Now for the important bit! What do you want to see on my blog over the next twelve weeks? All and any suggestions are welcome!

The Leather Satchel Co – New Website & Discount

As you all know (from this post, this post, and possibly this one too!) I’m a huge fan of the Leather Satchel Co. I love my satchel (it’s a bespoke custom design), it gets lots of comments from people (including impressing on a recent interview), and it fits everything I need into it. It’s the perfect bag for me!

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The company my satchel came from are pretty much the original satchel makers (they’ve been about a LOT longer than the Cambridge Satchel Company), and they were absolutely delightful to deal with. They listened to everything I had to say, did virtually everything I wanted, and delivery was exceptionally quick (though they did email to warn me of what they felt was a delay). However, some things did go amiss. There was confusion about a small part of my order, and a mix-up of delivery addresses. I felt these problems stemmed from the fact that they didn’t really have a proper website, more an online display, and customers needed to email to order. It was a long-winded way of doing things, and to be perfectly honest I wasn’t the hugest fan of their system, nor their website design. But all that has changed!

They have this month launched a new website, and whilst it’s still the it’s tweaking stage I personally believe it’s a huge improvement! There’s a wider selection of photographs open, and you can buy a variety of standard satchels easily straight off the site – but you can still order your customised satchels too!

2013-06-17 15.17.58There’s also a much-improved care guide (though I’m curious as to the product photographed – I’m trying to find out more about that!), an excellent size guide, and the colour guide seems a lot more accurate now. I think my favourite part is the fact you can order standard satchels directly from the site now – I have my eye on these (a blue one, and a lovely brown one).

To top it all of for you, I have a unique discount code that is still valid, which entitles you to an amount off of your order. I don’t get paid any money for providing you with this discount, and all the opinions of the company are entirely my own but the code is unique to my blog/name so please don’t share it out anywhere else!

EDIT: due to my code being shared externally to this site it was removed by the company – understandably as it was being used excessively. I’m hoping to do more collaborations with The Leather Satchel Company in the future, so watch this space!

I genuinely do recommend this company – my bag is amazing and I’m sure others made by them will be too. For all of my readers wondering about longevity of the bag, a post will be up soon. But for now, go ahead, use my code and treat yourself!

What’s your favourite satchel? 

Also – Don’t forget to vote for me in the National UK Blog Awards 2014, in the following three categories; FoodLifestyle; and Young Persons (18-25) 

12 Days of Christmas (#8): Gifts for the Baker

Apologies for this post coming up so late for Christmas, however I made this bundle up for a housemate of mine, and needed to wait til she received it before publishing!

As you can probably tell from this blog, I’m a massive lover of baking, and this housemate is also relatively keen on baking. She also seems to love vintage-style items (her room is amazingly well decorated!) and so I went with a slight vintage theme on a baking gift set for her present. Oh, and some cute reindeer cake cases, as it is Christmas after all!

IMAG0448I bought a vintage-themed baking set from Wilkinsons; a thick and decorated ceramic bowl, with a mixture of cookie cutters inside. I love this type of bowl!

I then scoured Ebay searching for a nice, not-too-expensive, slightly pretty rolling pin, and ended up finding one with a floral print end. It was delivered really quickly, is a good weight and really looks great for the price. Yes, you can get cheaper rolling pins, but I didn’t want to go down the plain route! I can’t find exactly what I bought, but this set is similar.

Finally, I bought a Kilner jar from Wilkinson’s, which I plan to fill with the dry ingredients to make some kind of Christmassy bake – that’ll be another blog post!

All in all, I reckon this is a fabulous little gift set, I’d be happy to receive it! I’m almost reluctant to give it away! Best of all, it falls under the £20 barrier, so is perfect for those on a budget.

 

Do you make up gift sets or hampers to give as presents?

12 Days of Christmas (#7): Secret Santa Gift Guide

I mentioned yesterday that my house did a Secret Santa. I highly recommend this as a cost-saving exercise, for two main reasons. One, you only have to buy for one person, so it will be inevitably cheaper. And two (my favourite!) you end up with a slightly higher budget for this one person, so you can get them something they will truly treasure.

Here’s what I received from my secret Santa (we had a £15-£20 budget);

  • A homemade ‘Tomato-Free’ recipe binder
  • A cake-pop stand, and sticks – guess they’ll be some cake pop recipes coming soon!
  • A festive cupcake set, which I hope to make good use of this weekend
  • A lovely tartan snood, which I’ve absolutely fallen in love with!

I would always recommend that, especially with a slightly larger budget, you try to stick with a theme whilst creating a secret Santa present. I feel it just makes it look so much more expensive, and it seems like a whole lot more thought has gone into it. Here’s my ideas for some Secret Santa gifts!

For the Relaxer

Relax CollageSome girly bubble bath, a nice mug, a good book (I LOVE Dorothy Koomson – I’m hoping her new book “The Flavours of Love” will be in my stocking this year) and some yummy hot chocolate.

For the Prospective Student

Student Collage

A good pretty pencil case, some lovely photo frames, a cheap and easy cookbook (this is a personal favourite) and some bed linen – I highly recommend H&M’s offerings as they are 100% cotton and very comfortable!

For the Fashion Conscious

Fashion Collage

A winter-berry nail polish (I’m lusting over this shade at the moment!), a pretty purse, an on-trend ‘curtain’ material scarf (loving this one!) and a good lipstick.

As for what I got when I was playing Secret Santa? You’ll have to wait until tomorrow!

Do you like giving secret gifts?

12 Days of Christmas (#6): A Budget Dinner

As you might know from this post, my housemates and I decided to a do a Christmas dinner (on a “school” night no less!). None of us are particularly full in the bank department right now, so we had to do it on a tight budget. I think in the end we each spend under £5, and we had an amazing dinner. Here’s how to copy us and do it on a budget!

Note: we have moved our main shop to Aldi, so that’s where I’m pricing from today (due to having receipts) unless stated otherwise. For all of my other recipes I tend to price using ASDA online, disregarding special offers. That said, all of my costings are very rough (and generally rounded up) anyway!

2013-12-12 18.39.23What we bought (specially) for this dinner:

  • A stuffed chicken breast joint (£2.99 – you can get turkey versions too!)
  • Pigs in Blankets (£2.50 for 12, from Tesco)

We then added:

  • Potatoes (both mashed with black pepper, and roasted with garlic) – £1
  • Homemade Yorkshire puddings (see here for recipe) – £1
  • Gravy – 20p
  • Sweetcorn – 50p
  • Roasted carrots – 20p
  • Broccoli – £1
  • & whatever other veg people had lying around that they fancied (hence I added red cabbage, savoy cabbage and curly kale)- 50p

2013-12-12 19.16.08We even managed to find 8 crackers for a £1 in Poundland! Okay, they didn’t have exciting plastic gifts, but they did include some rather lame festive jokes, obligatory hat, and even some cute stickers!

2013-12-12 18.39.56We finished off the meal with syrup sponges (£3 for four) and gave out our Secret Santa presents (although that’s another post!).

2013-12-12 18.40.28This was a fabulously festive night with my girls, the best antidote to a horribly stressful week. I really do suggest all student houses give this a go, even if it is the only time they cook together.

What’s your tips for Christmas dinner on a budget?

12 Days of Christmas (#3): Gifts For The Man In Your Life

I will confess that the products that on this post aren’t the cheapest and most budget friendly options, but (1) I have to avoid posting exactly what I have got my boyfriend or dad, and (2) I try and do my Christmas shopping in advance, so most things I would have originally chosen are long gone. I’ll give some cheaper ideas in the post too, but a lot of those don’t photograph too well! All photographs are taken from the links given.

Collage

 

From left to right, top to bottom, we have…

  • A box of classic ales. Beer or cider always goes down well!
  • A cute Christmassy jumper – I love this one!
  • Some kind of manly cooking course – this Pie & Pint one local to my home looks amazing! I’d want to book one that we could both do together though, as I’m greedy!
  • A scarf – I love the tartan styles ones around at the moment. I bought a lambswool one (before they became fashionable I’ll have you know!) during the Edinburgh Fringe and I love it!
  • A Make Your Own Bacon Kit – how cool does this look?! I can’t think of many men who would be disappointed to find this in their stocking!
  • A good leather wallet – Ebay has some fab offerings, like this one.
  • A funny book is something I think is a great little stocking filler. I’ve done FML ones in the past, but I desperately want to read this Exam Fails one!
  • If you know your man’s style well enough (I find they are quite personal things) then a watch is a good idea. Argos seems to have some good looking and relatively cheap ones (I like this). There’s currently an offer on too, so definitely have a look!
  • Finally, some aftershave. I’ve bought W this Paul Smith since the beginning of our relationship, and I love the smell.

Other ideas I have include finding a small plastic toy (try toy shops) version of his favourite animal, IOU’s (whatever you like – cooking, household chores, etc…), gift-cards for places such as Cineworld or restaurants (if all goes well, a nice date night for you!), or a selection of DVD’s and sweet treats to make your own night in. If you have met at university (and so will be spending Christmas apart), a nice photoframe filled with you two is a nice idea too! Basically, I like to think of presents I’d like to receive, make them a little more masculine, and then find those. And that way, it means if he doesn’t like something, I get to keep it!

What is Santa bringing your man this year?

Budget Buys: Personalised Pampering Gift Set

I love making up hampers and gift-sets as presents for friends and families – it looks like so much more effort has gone in that picking something up off of the shelves, and you can personalise it to their individual tastes. I thought over the next few weeks I would do a few posts on some of the gifts I have made up over the years, and some products I would recommend. First up is a girly-night-in pampering set!

2013-11-25 14.19.41Basically, this little series is going to be all about what I would love to receive in a gift like the ones I am describing!

If someone was going to make me a gift set of pampering goodies, I’d love them to go more on the treats rather than the beauty products (I find they are such a personal thing – I for one hate really scented body lotions, which are commonplace  in most pre-made budget options).

I’d love a pair of slippers (I treated myself to the ones in the picture in Primark, for £2), some girlie magazines (if they have freebies, so much the better!), a cute mug (Cath Kidston is the obvious choice, but Wilkinson’s have some great ones too!), and some chocolate goodies.

On the beauty side of things, I personally would prefer to be given nail polishes, maybe a nail file – things that aren’t going to irritate skin or cause fear that the recipient smells! This set was £2 and I talk more about it here.

I reckon you could make a great set for £10, and I know this is the type of present I love to receive!

 

Do you make up your often gift sets or hampers?

Budget Beauty Buys: Current Favourites

As you all know, I love saving money. If I know I can get something cheaper I will, so I really enjoy comparing budget buys with branded products. Recently I’ve been branching out in terms of where I buy my beauty products, and have ended up finding some very cheap and surprisingly good little gems. Here we go…

IMAG0451First up are my beloved Rimmel Soft Khol Kajal Eyeliners (can be found easily, especially in Boots). I’ve used these ever since I started wearing eyeliner, simply because my mum always used them too! Granted they smudge easily, yes they aren’t the longest lasting, but they offer what I think is a great everyday look, but also look great when used heavily to define eyes. I have worked out they heavily applied, powdered, and applied again makes them last longer. My everyday look is to line my upper waterline with the grey, then add a light coat of mascara. Eyes done!

Next is a BB cream by Lacura, found in Aldi. I’m actually not sure if they stock this anymore, because I found it on it’s on, with a greatly reduced sticker on it – I paid £2.99 for this tube.

2013-11-09 08.20.56Even at the original price of £4.99, I would still consider this to be a bargain. It does seem as though regular use of it would break me out, so I save it for special occasions as the coverage is surprisingly good. It works well for a day out, when you don’t want to be too made-up but still want to look nice, and it lasts all day too! I’ve found it works really well mixed into my normal foundation (Bourjois 10-Hour Sleep Effect) as it adds the pink tone my skin needs.

2013-11-09 08.21.16I hope the above photo portrays the best thing about this BB cream – the fact that its pale! I have a huge problem getting BB creams to match my skin tone, but this one really is pale!

Back to eyes now…I have used Natural Collection mascaras for years, and at £1.99 you really can’t go wrong. My absolute favourite is the Lash Curl one, as I prefer the wand. I do find them gloopy when new, but a wash of the brush under the hot tap and a shake of the tube normally helps!

2013-11-24 20.31.05Next up is a set of my new favourite nail colours – from Primark. I absolutely love these colours, they look classy and elegant, but are still different. However the formula is pretty bad (though for 50p each, can’t complain!) and even with a base and top coat they chip within a day. That said, my top coat is pretty cheap, so I’m hoping the Seche Vite one will come my way soon!

 

That rounds up my current favourites. Would you like to see more beauty posts?

PS: Happy Birthday to me!

 

 

 

Welcome To My Second-Year Room

This post is about two months late, but something I’ve been meaning to do. My landlady paid a visit recently and my room had to be tidied and cleaned (it isn’t usually THAT bad, but I generally have a floor-drobe going on!) and I took advantage of that to take some photos and write this post. Sorry that it’s so picture heavy, but I really feel this gets some of my personality across.

I also hope this will give you tips on how to make a home on the budget; check out my first year post about home-ifying student halls too! Here we go…

Welcome to my room!

2013-11-20 15.57.00I got the ‘big’ room of the house this year (paying the premium for it too!) and I’m very glad as I really enjoy having space.

Here you can see one of my favourite bargain buys for this year – the three canvases on the wall look great, are a neutral colour so can move with me from house-to-house in the future, and were ridiculously cheap at £6.99 from Argos. Most importantly – they are really lightweight so blue-tac onto the wall, with no need for damage! There’s a great cheap selection online, so it’s really worth having a look.

2013-11-20 15.35.32The price for having a bigger room is the fact that I have to share with the boiler. Luckily it’s in its own cupboard, but its slightly noisy, and also has various lights which glow out through the door. And it doesn’t mean my room is warm either, far from it! I have, however, accessorised the boiled with the addition of a five-hook over-door hanger (from Wilkinsons) where I place my coats, belts and bags.

2013-11-20 15.36.36My lovely Leather Satchel resides here too! I am still totally loving my bag, it gets so many comments, fits everything in, and is just perfect. I’m so lucky to have it!

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Now onto my bookcase – I have a LOT of books and folders, and really that’s for another post! Put it this way – the shelves are actually being supported by the folders as they don’t hold up themselves anymore (they were broken when I moved it!).

Now over to my bed…

2013-11-20 15.51.02I love love love cushions, and really think they give my room a home-y feel. I have six, which is probably overkill, but it means I’m nice and warm and cosy when I snuggle in! I also love my sentimental soft toys – the penguins above were one of the first presents my boy bought me, back when we’d been together for about a fortnight. He did well!

2013-11-20 15.51.28Speaking of cuddly toys, this is the adorable Highland Cow my parents bought as an early Christmas present – so cute!

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Now to the realllyyyyy girly part of my room – the dressing table! Here I have the makeup mirror that formed part of my 18th ‘Prep for Uni’ birthday present bundle, and is probably one of the best things you could buy a female prospective student as it ensures a good light to apply makeup. No idea where mine is from, but I’m sure I’ve seen them in Boots.

I also have lots of lovely photos, my make-up bag, my vintage-style alarm clock, my Cath Kidston Salt & Pepper Pots Ornaments (I have a terrier cross, hence the terrier theme with my cushion and ornaments), my bargain wide bowl (£1 in the sale in Marks & Spencer), my key pot (the really lovely butterfly box – a leaving present from work) and various other pretty bits. This is the one area I try to keep work/uni free!
I have also built a ‘bedside table’ out of two plastic storage boxes (storing dried foods I buy in bulk) and a prettier fabric box. In the pretty box go my cooking books, kindle and emergency chocolate supply. Oh, I always recommend a little lamp too – I love mine for giving a soft glow to the room before bed, instead of using the harsh main light.

2013-11-20 15.55.39Here’s my desk. Its a little battered, and rather on the small side, but it isn’t too bad (one of my housemates doesn’t have a proper desk at all!) and now I have another extension lead I can finally charge and use my laptop at the same time!

The academic in me really recommends a wall planner for students – mine really does help me keep track of deadlines, and how long it is until I can go home to a really decent (i.e. expensive) meal.

2013-11-20 15.55.54To hide a really bashed part of my desk, I’ve made an arrangement of my biscuit tins (bought separately, from TK Maxx) and my memory box (filled with letters/card from my boy, birthday cards from my parents, pictures my sister drew me when she was younger, etc – I really recommend that everyone has a box like this!).

And that rounds up the room I’m living in for my second year of university. Of course, I spend less time in it than my room in halls, because I’m living with lovely friends, we have a lovely lounge area, and it’s just a whole lot nicer than my experience of university accomodation (which really wasn’t great for me!).

What’s your way of adding home-y touches to a rented place?