Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Karma Beads ~ Budget, what budget?!

From a flirtation with a catalogue back in early April, to photographing Karma for Fashion Week in May, to dipping my wrist into the Karma line with a preloved opportunity back in August and now jumping right in with a beautifully timed set of discounts from one retailer in October!

Display Bracelet - April 2014

Alas, there was quite a wait as nearly everything I wanted was out of stock.  However it didn't really take that long (although it felt like forever whilst I was waiting) and finally in November I was looking at a rather large pile of Karma beads, stoppers and a free jewellery box... it was quite a good package!

The start of my Karma bracelet - August 2014

I mentioned when I wrote about Karma back in August that I wanted to finish the design of my first bracelet before I bought all the beads.  Ignoring my usual, but mismatched, ooh shiny approach; I planned to buy multiples from the start with this brand.

My repeated beads are the matt obsidian beads and the karma bead stoppers which I am using as spacers, and both of these are at the lowest price point of the Karma range.

I've discovered I have incredibly expensive tastes with Karma beads as the ones I am naturally drawn to start at about £70/80 and just keep rising... so I'm curbing that inclination at the moment (as well as chasing the discounts) and going for something I've got more chance of affording so I can finish my bracelet.

I bought one matt black textured bead - the Shanghai bead.  The pattern shows up better in a photograph than with the naked eye, I'm not sure whether that's just this particular bead or all of them in general as I only have one so far.

The other main difference is in the size of the beads, Shanghai is 1.1cm in diameter, whereas the plain matt obsidian beads are 1cm in diameter.

Of course no Karma bracelet for me could exist without the skulls, it was after all what caught my eye in the first place!

TS Karma Skull Stoppers

TS Karma Stoppers - Skulls vs Patterned

First up were some Skulls Stoppers, although I'm using the smaller ones as spacers, I wanted a showcase pair for part of the bracelet!  The Skull Stoppers are actually bigger and chunkier than the others I've been using so that's worth bearing in mind when you're buying.

Next in my package of lovely beads was the Small Skull Bead.  The bead is 0.9cm diameter and the way it is cored at a slight angle it fits as a "slim" bead on the bracelet - I did consider the large skull bead (which is 1.1cm in diameter) but I was worried it might be too big for my design and/or make my 18cm bracelet too tight.

I bought the Karma bracelet preloved and I guessed at what my correct size was.  In Trollbeads I wear a 17cm chain with a 2cm lock so I'm hoping that as Karma has smaller beads, that the finished bracelet will sit in roughly the same place on my wrist as my Troll bracelet does, providing I don't overfill it with large beads that is.

Finally, saving the best until last, is the bead that has always been top of my Karma Wish List right from the start, simply called Skulls Bead!

Skulls Bead is also 1.1cm in diameter and here it is shown below in a comparison shot with the other round beads in my package of "Budget, what budget?!"

So how is the bracelet looking now, did I manage to complete the design?

Sadly not quite, but it is definitely looking more like the finished article I have in mind... and I do have a £9 off voucher for my next order!

My almost finished Thomas Sabo Karma Bracelet

I'm so close now I'd really like to finish this design so I can wear the full version.  I think I might need to replenish my bead budget a bit more before getting my final 2 beads... watch this space, hopefully won't be long now!

I'm actually surprised I've lasted this long before I broke...
What was your last budget breaker?  What temptation caused you to stray?!

Monday, 29 December 2014

#HullBloggers go mad in Fudge!

Normally you know what you're getting with Curling Stones, well actually you don't given my tendency to blog random jewellery at times, but you do know that you're getting jewellery... except when you're not, and today, is one of those not jewellery days.  

Afternoon Tea at Fudge in Hull

You're not getting the lovely giant scone and cup of tea either...

As a rather niche jewellery blogger, whose blogging focuses on modular jewellery systems of which 80-90% of coverage is given over to Trollbeads, I don't tend to do the rounds of Blogger Meets and networking opportunities - they are often beauty/lifestyle orientated, and as a non-make up wearing niche blogger there's sometimes much on the agenda that I have little interest in.  Not that I don't have a "lifestyle" because that just covers anything you might happen to do in life, sort of... But as much as I might enjoy my day out meeting other bloggers and finding out about new things (I love learning about all kinds of stuff, yes, even make up which I don't use!) I think that often my place would be more beneficial to someone who's really into all that stuff and will give it due coverage if they like it.

My Earl Grey matches the beauty products!

However there is always an exception to this and that honour goes to #HullBloggers 

#HullBloggers pretty much does what is says on the label, well apart from when it doesn't... your birth certificate is not checked at the door (good job or they definitely wouldn't have me) and there is no initiation ritual, or if there was I was running late for that one and missed out.  I love that they are such an inclusive bunch, friendly and totally open to whoever wishes to come, regardless of what you blog about, or indeed how long you've been blogging.  Like a lot of Hullcentric things this means that there's something for everyone, yes, even me!

There have been 2 meets so far and this one took place at Fudge, a restaurant and bakery in the Princes Avenue area of Hull.

Afternoon Tea at Fudge and another Earl Grey!

#HullBloggers hired the 1st Floor Dining and Bar above Fudge Restaurant (the bakery is just next door) and we all pre-ordered an Afternoon Tea Party, served, er, during the afternoon!  Ingeniously after a research trip (or three) to Fudge in the run up to this meet, the organisers decided to add a side of Fudge's own Handbaked Nachos - good choice!

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here, let's get this into a more orderly fashion... we actually talked back in late October about the possibility of meeting up again, and staggeringly, by early December I was actually setting off to meet up with everyone at a fully organised meet!

Alex, Jenny and Jaye organised this event and the goody bags, raffles (yes there were two) and product support were amazing, and more importantly, were so varied that even this blogger has been overwhelmed with just how much of these I'm currently using, looking forward to using, have used and really enjoyed!  Given the timeframe of how quickly they pulled all this together it was super impressive!

My burstingly full goody bag from #HullBloggers

The absolute first thing I reached for in my goody bag was my frame from Frame Again, it's the cardboard box at the front of the bag!

Prior to the event we were invited to send a photograph to Jake at Frame Again - I was really excited by this as I'd had a look at the website and the idea really appealed to me.  Now I'm a big user of the standard clip frame for many prints (harking back to my student days for cheapness and simplicity) and all the non-clip frames I own are fairly traditional and predominantly wood based.  Anyone who knows me would be surprised by my enthusiasm for recycled plastic chunky frames, but we should all have the capacity to surprise others lest we get too predictable!

My photo framed by Frame Again

I actually spent quite a lot of time choosing what to have framed, in the end I plumped for an old photograph taken in 2010 with my then phone and slightly enhanced using basic online software.  I didn't get to choose the frame colours of electric pink and white but I'm absolutely stoked by how good this looks.

It's easy to change the photo & the magnets will help you stack the frames!

The frames all contain magnets so you can stack them side by side, on top, back to back or hang them traditionally on a wall (the place to hook them is built in, so the frame sits flat onto the wall).

The nook for the hook!

I work from home in my regular job and I have lots of photos on the walls that I've mostly taken myself.  I like to choose photos that I can gaze at during the working day that make me happy so I plan to expand on my photo wall with some Frame Again again!

Frame Again - recycled plastic photo frames

We had a nosey at all the pics on our table and each frame was a great match to the photo.  Had I left the meet at this point I already would have been totally satisfied!  That's how much I love my frame...

However there was a LOT more to get through...  The best thing about the day itself was catching up with everyone and their news, I was feeling a bit knackered as I'd been away during the week for work, and at the weekend for fun, and as I'd only just got back I was a bit quiet in my corner as I really needed a bit more sleep - it's an age thing, I can no longer burn the candle at both ends without a few extra naps built in, more like burning the candle in sensible bursts to save both setting fire to yourself and not becoming a puddle of wax... or something like that!

Arbonne talk & products
p.s. the open "cream" at the edge of the photo is actually the milk that came with my tea...
there were a lot of milky fingers during this session as people tried out different "products"!

During the afternoon we had demonstrations from Arbonne and Younique and about The Library of Fragrance - it was fun to see what what was out there as I confess that I pay little attention to these things in my everyday life.  Arbonne and the Library of Fragrance smelt very nice & Younique demonstrated their 3D fibre lashes (the latest thing in mascara I'm told) which was interesting to watch, but as I don't wear it I used my time instead to catch up with a few folk whilst many of the girls had their lashes done!

Arbonne testing & our 3 organisers demo The Library of Fragrance!

There were 2 raffles held to raise money for Look Good Feel Better, a cancer charity which we were raising money for, and in between all of this there was lots of time to eat the yummy buffet!

There were a LOT of raffle prizes!

The first raffle was a single ticket raffle designed to ensure that everyone won a prize, I was lucky in that I won a prize I was hoping for, a package of 2 notebooks from Ohh Deer (quirky illustrated gifts) - I do love a good notebook!

Ohh Deer Notebooks - great prize for me as I love stationary!

The second raffle was drawn for some of the bigger prizes with no guaranteed wins... I did however win one!  But I put it back into the draw for someone else to enjoy as it was a juice detox - which I didn't think I'd use, but even if I had been prepared to give it a go, it was due to start the day before my birthday... and I had definite un-detox-like plans for that day!!!

What was really sweet was that one of the organisers was super lucky in the second raffle but kept putting the prizes back in as she felt it wasn't fair!  The table I was sat on were quite lucky as a group and there were a few swaps going on as people were trading prizes so everyone was perfectly matched by the end of the session!

It was soon time to head home and I sadly had to decline the post meet drinks as I had an early start the following morning for work, the photos I saw online later looked like everyone enjoyed themselves.

Old El Paso Burrito Kit and my 2nd Goody Bag!

Before leaving we were given a 2nd goodie bag and an Old El Paso kit so I looked like I'd been on a massive shopping spree as I emerged into the cold December air from a very warm and cozy Fudge!

The Goody Bag Review (or Ramblings)

I really appreciated the sheer effort that everyone had gone to to provide products to try that were as varied as we were, I was delighted by the sheer amount of food contained within the bags!!  I always said I'd work for tea and beads so it was no surprise to find some tea and other culinary delights!!

Frame Again
When I got in the first thing to come out was my Frame Again picture, this is currently living on my bedside table and never fails to make me smile.  I really do plan to get some more of these for my office.

My Frame Again Picture

Peanut Hottie
My first big surprise was actually the thing I thought I'd hate the most, instead turning out to be something I really loved!

Peanut Hottie is a peanut butter based hot drink, I HATE peanut butter, I like peanuts but I'm not a hug fan... (oops typo, I'm a definite hug fan, just not a huge fan of peanuts)  However I was determined to try everything so I delved in with a cup before bedtime - I figured I'd get the worst bit over with... it looked like milky tea when I made it, I gingerly took a sip... I loved it.  I was gobsmacked.

The biggest surprise of all!

It's very sweet and you do need a good 4 heaped teaspoons to make a mug sized drink, but it's surprisingly lovely, especially surprising, if like me you hate peanut butter!!  Now this is something I never would have picked up off the shelf if I saw it in my local supermarket, but now I've tried it I definitely want to try the Peanut Butter and Hot Chocolate version.

I've also tried this out on my best friend and my other half and it's got a thumbs up from them too!  I was typing this up last night and another victim, er, I mean visitor, was handed a Peanut Hottie drink... another thumbs up and there's going to be at least a few sold on this basis.  Overall opinion tends to be it's very sweet, definitely a treat, like a good hot chocolate.

Kettle Chips
I spotted the Kettle Crisps straight away, a big sharing bag of one of their "seasonal" flavours, they weren't hard to miss being such a big bag.

Seasonally flavoured Kettle Chips

I was already a fan of Kettle Crisps, but the flavour was a new one I hadn't tried before - Cheshire Cheddar, Red Wine and Cranberry.  Really enjoyed these, quite rich in taste.  I did end up sharing a bit, but mostly I kept eating these myself... I've been so lucky so far with flavours in my goody bag!

American Chip Spice
One item in my goody bag that I, and anyone else who has ever frequented a take away in Hull would be very familiar with was these...

American Chip Spice... from Hull!

American Chip Spice... the formerly best kept secret from East Yorkshire!  The packaging may have changed but we all know and refer to it as "y'know, chip spice, from Hull, for your chips!"  I was so pleased to see these in my goody bag, and even managed to snaffle some extra... just in case we ran out.

Virtue Ice Tea
Another drink that was included in my goody bag was a can of Virtue Ice Tea Drink - again I've never been a major fan of Iced Tea but I did enjoy this, I saved some for my other half who is more of an Iced Tea drinker and it got another thumbs up.

A new Iced Tea

This is something I'd buy again if I saw it, it was quite refreshing and not like other iced teas I've tried.  By the way the can is a bit "used" as we'd recycled it before I remembered I didn't have a photo!

Enjoy Crumb
There was also cake from Enjoy Crumb - I got Rocky Road, 4 pieces, it was absolutely delicious and it was shared, although if I'd have tasted it first I may well have kept it all to myself!

It was so good, this was all that was left to photograph!

Enjoy Crumb do cakes through the letterbox and gift boxes for special occasions, so there are lots of other different types of cake available.  Gift boxes often come with different teas or coffee and a variety of cakes, we tried some of these at the Blogger Meet and I also had some of the teas in my goody bag as well.

Next up was Propercorn - again it was lovely!  The corn at the bottom of the bag had quite a lot of the flavouring on it which made it a bit strong towards the end, it didn't stop me eating it all though...

Popcorn with flavour!

I was now on a mission to at least find something I didn't like as this was becoming a bit one dimensional... tasty and lovely but I was wondering if I would find anything that I didn't like???

Old El Paso
We all got an Old El Paso kit as we were leaving, mine was the Burrito Kit and I'd also got a jar of Salsa in my goody bag as well.  I was originally going to save this for the bus as I'm always looking for food ideas that are nice and easy to do on board, and the dates were fine on the kit... however one Saturday we decided to crack this open at home.

The Old El Paso Kit from the Blogger Meet

As anyone who is familiar with these kits knows you need to buy some basic ingredients, we choose mince, cheese, lettuce, fresh tomato and sour cream.

I enjoyed this kit although I personally prefer the Taco or Fajita kits, in fact the Fajita kit is a good one to use on the bus as it's so easy to make!

Old El Paso Fajitas on the Bus!

Moving on from the food there were a few beauty products that I've actually tried, the first one was Skinetica - amazing the difference a change of packaging makes.

Skinetica - new and old packaging

I'd had a sample of this previously in an opaque white plastic bottle but hadn't tried it - it now comes in a blue see through plastic bottle which somehow makes it more appealing?!  I don't have acne nor wear make up so I'm not really the target audience, however it can be used simply as a toner which is how I've been using it for the last couple of weeks.  It works fine as a toner, doesn't leave my skin too dry after use and I'm quite happy with it.  Would I buy another bottle, possibly not at the price given I have good skin anyway but I am going to pass the other unused bottle onto someone else to try.  I really like it as a toner but I'm curious to see if it will help someone who does have problem skin.

Paul Mitchell
There was a Paul Mitchell Dry Shampoo - I've never used a dry shampoo before so I have nothing to compare it to... I also didn't think I'd use this.

Dry Shampoo

However we had a bonfire mid-December and my hair absolutely stank of smoke and I didn't have time to wash it.  Remembering I had this I applied liberally according to the instructions and brushed it through - amazingly no smoke smell, no sticky residue and no white powder.  I have quite dry dark hair that has a natural curl so I don't wash it very often anyway; I will definitely keep this for emergencies!

Lots'n'lots of samples!
There were quite a few mini-samples and I'm going to work my way through these, although the Lypsyl has gone straight in my bag! Love that stuff!!

Mini samples to try out

Tea, the natural bloggers fuel... I know I like Yorkshire Gold and the Taylors Tea already having tried these before.

Tea is always welcome!

As these are all individually wrapped I will take them to work with me on visits, so I know I'm never short of a tea bag when I need one!

A purse from Missco Girl, a present from Tessies and a fabulous sausage dog roll of tape from Ohh Deer!

Discount Heaven!
In addition to all these, there were lots and lots of discount codes and cards!

I have a lot of discount codes and cards to work through :)

My favourite so far has been a voucher for Personal Planner - this was very generous and more than enough to try out their biggest planner.  I spent ages deliberating what to get, I love stationary, diaries and planners but I also end up using my computer and phone, especially for work so I wanted to try and make something that I'd actually use all year long.

I love that there is a lot you can do to personalise these, so I'd recommend thinking about this well before you want it to start if you're as indecisive as me!  You can start them on any month so this is not a December only website :)

My gift card from Personal Planner

I thought about what I could fit in my handbag (which is not Tardis like) and I opted for a slightly smaller square planner and another notebook... I put my order in late, just before Christmas so I'm waiting for these to arrive.

The process of choosing on the website was fairly straightforward, the hardest part was choosing what I wanted.  If I get good use out of these in 2015, I can see me ordering a repeat for next year, especially to keep track of all my New Year's Beads Resolutions and blogging info.

I still have quite a lot of the vouchers to go through but phew! If I were to put in all of what was in the bag then you would grow very old reading this (well done if you've made it this far!) or perhaps you have already fallen asleep?

I've tried to include things I've tried and really enjoyed, or things I'm really looking forward to trying.
DISCLAIMER: Whilst everything from Fudge (room hire, drinks and food) was paid for by each of the bloggers, everything else in this blog post was provided by either the Brand, a PR company or an individual shop.  I'm not obliged to write about or mention any of them, so the ones mentioned in this post are because I've got something (good, bad or indifferent) to say about them, but just to be clear... I didn't buy them myself nor am I being paid to write about them, or told what to write, all opinions are my own, as usual! :)
I'm curious to know if you've tried any of these products
and/or what you think to them after reading today's not jewellery post...
Care to swap any tales or first impressions??