Sunday, 31 March 2013

Kellogg's Children's Cereals - Win and Review

That's right. That magic word at the top there, WIN!  You've got some reading to do first, but you could win some Kellogg's cereals for yourself, or your children.  Kellogg's got in touch with me recently and offered me the chance to try out their new range of children's cereals.  I was more than happy to help them out, partly because I'm a big kid myself.  I'm the person who, when faced with a hotel breakfast bar, bypasses the sensible stuff & reaches straight for the chocolate, sugar coated cereals, no matter what people around me might be eating.

There are 4 cereals in Kellogg's new range, all lower in sugar, high fibre, wholegrain, low in salt, and a good source of Vitamin D (a big consideration in this bad weather!)  In fact, they're so healthy that they're allowed to be advertised on children's TV, where there are strict guidelines on what is allowed to be advertised.

The 4 cereals are additions to existing brands, as you can see. Strawberry Rice Krispie Multigrain Shapes, Coco Pops Croc Prints, Honey Pops & Honey Loops.  Squeaky, Daddy & I tucked in to them all.

Not cheesy footballs
Well. When I say Squeaky, Daddy & I, I mean mostly me.  I'll be honest here.  Squeaky was very excited about the Honey Pops, as was I.  She was mostly excited because the picture on the box makes the Pops look like biscuits, which are one of her favourite things in the world.  She was a bit upset to find out that they weren't actually biscuits, but instead were crispy balls, which Daddy said looked more than a bit like those cheesy footballs you get at Christmas.  I really like them though, no matter how much they remind me of Christmas.  They're light & crispy, and stay crisp in the milk. And don't taste of cheese!

I have raised a strange child.  When the average three year old is faced with the choice of "grown-up" breakfasts, or cereals aimed at children, especially those that taste of chocolate, which do they choose?  Squeaky deigned to try each of the cereals in the range once.  And then demanded corn flakes and/or plain porridge.  I should be pleased, for the most part her dietary preferences leave something to be desired, but when she's got the chance of indulgent children's cereals, wouldn't it be great if she'd eat them?  This isn't a criticism of the cereals at all, just an observation on the oddities of my daughter.  I will bear this moment in mind in a couple of years' time when she refuses to entertain the concept of anything other than the most absurd, multicoloured, sugar-coated, chocolate-filled nonsense.

Coco Pops Croc Prints.
She tried out the Coco Pops Croc Prints, but after a few mouthfuls decided they weren't for her.  She does the same with ordinary Coco Pops, so I know it's nothing about these ones.  I really enjoyed them, they're not overwhelmingly chocolatey, and kept me feeling full well into the morning.  Squeaky ate most of a bowl of them without milk the next day, so maybe this is the way forward.  She also claimed to have found a crocodile in the bottom of her bed, which may or may not have been connected.

We did best with the Honey Loops, Squeaky ate most of a bowl, and I only had a few to finish off.  They stayed nice and crisp though, and were sweet without being sickly.  A good alternative, and the one we'd be most likely to buy again, as we both liked them.

The Rice Krispies Strawberry Multigrain Shapes were the least favourite in our house.  Squeaky, as I've said, is quite the plain cereal fan, and I'm not a fan of fruit flavours if there's no actual fruit in front of me (I blame being a child of the 1970's).  They're nice and reminiscent of strawberry milkshake, but just not quite for us.  You may well have other opinions.  We don't dislike them, but they're less of a favourite here.

Well, how do you fancy the chance to try all four of these cereals out for yourself?  It's dead easy, just follow the Rafflecopter instructions below to enter. (You might need to use a laptop/desktop, sorry mobile people)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to you all!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Vitamin D Day

What does Sunday 31st March mean to you?  It's Easter Sunday, yes.  It's the first day of British Summer Time.  You've lost an hour's sleep.  You've got to plan some horrible trick to play on your other half tomorrow morning.  But as well as all that, it's the first ever Vitamin D Day!

The Growing Up Milk-man!
Dr Chris Steele (him off This Morning!) has joined forces with to launch Vitamin D Day, aiming to address parents' misconceptions about Vitamin D, and raise awareness of the role diet can play in supplying this essential vitamin.  I was shocked to read that British toddlers are only getting 27% of their daily recommended Vitamin D intake, especially when it's one of the easiest vitamins to increase in a toddler's diet.

While Vitamin D is naturally produced in the body with exposure to sunlight, there is only so much sunlight in the UK, and if the sunshine isn't there, you can't get out in it, as well as the associated skin cancer risks.  Oily fish, eggs and breakfast cereals are other dietary sources of Vitamin D, which helps children absorb calcium and develop strong & healthy bones & teeth.  I've had a number of bone injuries myself, so I'm eager to make sure Squeaky's bones are as strong as can be so she avoids similar problems when she grows up.  2 beakers of Growing Up Milk provides 73% of the daily requirement, so it sounds simple to me.

Squeaky is still a fussy eater, even at the ripe old age of three, so I do look out for ways to make sure she gets the balanced nutrition she needs.  Growing Up Milk is something that's been part of our lives ever since I went back to work & finished breastfeeding, and I'm confident that it's helping to support her development.

One thing I really like about the website is their toddler meal planner. I've found it quite hard to find out what portion sizes a child should be eating, and whether or not Squeaky is eating enough.  I've found this is really useful to put my mind at ease about how much a portion should be, and given me a few ideas for other things to try with Squeaky.  We're getting there, slowly.

Disclosure: Statistical information in this post has been provided by I have not received payment for this post, and have not been told what to write. I have chosen to share this information because I found it of interest & relevance to my own situation, and hoped it to be of use to others. The choice whether or not to breastfeed, and when to cease doing so, is a personal one, please read my other posts on the subject.

Happy Easter

However you celebrate it, have a Happy Easter!  And don't wear chocolate on your head, it's much better in your mouth.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Packmate Storage Solutions Review

My airing cupboard, before
I had something of an epiphany recently.  One of those moments where you realise where you've been going wrong all along.  While our new house is so much better than our old one, in many many ways, I'm still adjusting to the changes in storage space.  I've got less wardrobe space, but I've now got an airing cupboard that I didn't have in the old house (and discovered more towels & bedlinen than one person could reasonably use in a lifetime).  I had to work out a better way to organise them.  So when Packmate offered me the chance to try out some of their storage solutions, I had to give it a go.  (Secretly, I think Squeaky Daddy had been in touch with them first, as he despairs of my inability to keep things tidy.)

I am slightly, just slightly, ashamed to show you these photos.  This is what Packmate had to do battle with.  The organised chaos of my airing cupboard, organised in as much as I knew what shelf things were on, but nothing more than that.  And the complete disaster area of my wardrobe.  This is AFTER I had a massive clear out of clothes that I don't wear any more & took them to the charity shop.  I'm not going to say what you can learn about me from these photos.

Packmate sent me a selection of their products.  I received a set of  vacuum storage bags, a set of travel storage bags, a hanging storage bag for suits, a blanket storage box & underbed storage bags from their Storeasy range.

My wardrobe, before
I have to admit I was sceptical about the vacuum bags.  I've bought vacuum bags before from various places, and then found that because I've got a Dyson, and it has a non-standard nozzle, I couldn't connect it up to the bag to suck the air out, meaning I couldn't get the full shrinking effect.  I'm pleased to say that wasn't the case with Packmate, as the vacuum outlet was small enough for my Dyson's nozzle to fit, so I finally found out what vacuum bags are meant to do!

What I really liked was that thought had gone into the design of the bags.  Rather than just clear, or plain bags, they've got a really attractive leaf design.  I haven't got the patience to get things up into the attic twice a year, so my vacuum bags will be living on the top shelf of my wardrobe, and I'm glad to have something that I don't mind looking at! The travel storage bags had a different, striped design, equally attractive.
The vacuum bag's groovy leaves

Airing Cupboard, after
How did I get on?  That's what you really want to know, right?  Well, see that airing cupboard up there?  I took out the towels & bedding that weren't in current rotation (use, wash, spare, guests) and put them into the blanket box, and look at it now!  You can actually see that it's an airing cupboard, with a hot water tank in it!  The blanket box fits in at the back on the top shelf, you can just about see it in the top left of this shot.  Now I can not only tell which shelf something is on, but I can actually find it without running the risk of falling victim to an avalanche of bathtowels.  Seriously, I think there were more in there than in my local Matalan!

What of the wardrobe?  Well, I originally thought I'd chosen the wrong time of year to do this, moving into springtime, and I decided to vacuum pack away all my summer clothes.  This time last year we had a mini-heatwave.  However, I'm very glad right now that I didn't pack my jumpers away instead.  In tidying my wardrobe I found jumpers, shirts and trousers that I'd completely forgotten, because they'd been pushed to the back never to see the light of day again.  Now the summer clothes are bagged up, as you can see at the top, the winter clothes are hanging up, I can get at my shoes in the box at the bottom, and I've even got space to put my perfumes.  (Keep them in the boxes, in the dark, they retain their scent longer that way).

Wardrobe, after

The vacuum bags were very easy to use, and had space for a massive amount of clothes in them.  There's actually more in those bags than was in the wardrobe, as I also emptied a couple of drawers into the bags at the same time.  The travel bags (the green striped ones on top) were even easier.  These don't need the vacuum hose, you just place items in, zip it up, and roll the air out at the bottom, so they're ideal for travelling, as you can squeeze so much more into your hand luggage, and avoid the excess charges for checking your bags in at the airport.  I wish I'd been thinking a bit more, I could have used these last week to pack our clothes in for the trip to the caravan, I would have saved so much space in the car!

Packmate are available from Lakeland, TK Maxx, Homesense, and various online retailers, with prices from £9.99.

Disclosure: I was provided with a range of Packmate storage bags free of charge for the purposes of this review. I was not told what to write and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Simply Swim Review

Sometimes a review opportunity comes along that I can't resist.  Especially when it's from a company that I already shop with, and happily recommend to people without it being for blogging purposes.  If I get to blog about it too, all the better.  One such opportunity happened recently, when I was approached by the folk at Simply Swim, who asked if Squeaky & I would like to review their swimwear ranges.

Well, they got in touch shortly before Miss Squeaky came down with the chickenpox, so this review has taken a bit longer than I would have hoped, because people don't take nicely to your child being all spotty in public places, so the local pool was off-limits until the spots had completely gone away (and also, our local pool has been closed for a few weeks for repairs & asbestos removal, bah.)  Last week though, we finally got the chance to try out our new swimming costumes.

Image from Simply Swim, used with permission
I love Simply Swim.  I've shopped with them before, and have been amazed by the ranges they stock.  Everything from "posing by the pool" to serious competitive swimwear, and a range of sizes that I can't begin to do justice to.  My favourite thing is the multitude of ways you can sort your selection.  Size 8, want something with low cut legs, in red?  You can narrow it down like that.  Specific cup sizes, or a favourite brand?  You can do that too.  It's mind-blowing, and makes me very happy.

I'm a fussy one when it comes to swimwear.  Aside from having big boobs, which need to be kept securely in place, I like to swim fairly long distances, so I want a costume that can stand up to chlorine, that will stay on my shoulders, and doesn't make me look like Free Willy, and I have a favourite brand.  Putting all those together, I chose the Zoggs Mandalay BootySuit D-Plus.  And I didn't tell Squeaky Daddy.  When I put this on last week, for the first time, he not only noticed, but actually said "Wow! That's a really nice costume" (or words to that effect, I didn't have the tape recorder to hand).  If your man-creature is anything like mine, you'll know how rare these kind of events are - to notice a new item of clothing is unusual in itself, but to complement?  Well, nothing short of a miracle, so for that alone, I have to say a huge thank you to Simply Swim! (You don't get a picture of me in a swimming costume, sorry. I have my limits.)
Move over Kate Moss

For Squeaky, I chose the Zoggs Tots Girls Bowen Swimdress, at least partly because I think Zoggs are a great brand.  And I bravely risked being thrown out of a leisure centre somewhere on the South Coast to take a photo of Miss Squeaky mugging for the camera in her new cossie!  (Do not try this at home, swimming pools are not known for their tolerance of photography)

As I mentioned, we hit the pools last week.  Squeaky & I put our new costumes through their paces with an afternoon of leisure pool sliding & wave machines, and a morning of learner pool & proper lane swimming.  And the verdict?  Excellent.  Both costumes stayed exactly where they were put, looked great, and mine felt really comfortable, even when I was pounding out proper lengths.  They dried quickly, and the costumes are made from high quality, durable materials.  At £32 for mine, and £14 for Squeaky's costume, they're reasonably priced, and I can honestly say from past experience they will last & last.  I've worn Zoggs costumes for years and they are fantastically durable.

What better time to go shopping and stock up for the summer?  Who knows, if enough of us start dreaming about the beach, maybe the weather will finally pick up!

Disclosure: I was invited to choose two items from Simply Swim's range free of charge for the purposes of this review.  I was not told what to write and all opinions are my own. All links are provided for your convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Bacon Connoisseurs Week - No Bake Bacon Lasagne

Don't you just love random "weeks"?  You know the sort of thing, Take your goldfish to work week, Pyjamas In The Supermarket week, stuff like that.  Well this is Bacon Connoisseurs Week!  That's right, the 18th to 24th of March is Bacon Connoisseurs Week.

Bacon Connoisseurs week encourages us, the bacon eaters, to buy good quality bacon, such as Red Tractor assured, where the welfare of the animals is ensured, and the quality of the bacon is so much better.  That's a week I can really get behind.  I love my bacon, whether it's in a simple sandwich, or something a bit more involved.  Bacon is the food I would choose for my Desert Island, I never get bored of it.

So, in celebration of Bacon Connoisseurs Week, here's a little recipe, from Fay Ripley, the week's ambassador, to get your tastebuds tingling.

No Bake Bacon Lasagne

Serves: 3-4
Cooking time: approximately 35 minutes


240g dry cured oak smoked bacon rashers
15mlsp (1tbsp) olive oil
2 large mushrooms, sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
400g (approx) can chopped tomatoes
15mlsp (1tbsp) tomato ketchup
15mlsp (1tbsp) fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
8 fresh lasagne sheets, cut in half–or if dried lightly soaked in boiling water
Grated parmesan cheese
Fresh Basil leaves
Black pepper to season


In a large non-stick saucepan heat the oil and fry the bacon, mushrooms and garlic for about 4 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato ketchup / sauce and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Plunge lasagne sheets into boiling water for about 2-3 minutes (Follow pack instructions). Remove from water, rinse well and allow to drain.

Assemble & Serve:
Cut each lasagne sheet in half. Onto each plate start with a square of lasagne, top with a spoonful of sauce and repeat making up to 3-4 layers of lasagne.

Finish with the top being with a piece of lasagne, sprinkle generously with grated parmesan and scatter with fresh basil leaves.

As the observant may notice, I didn't have the fresh basil leaves to hand, but even so, it's really tasty.  The bacon & mushroom give the lasagne a really rich flavour, and it comes out looking and tasting like a rustic (read expensive) restaurant dish.  Give it a try for yourself!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Nature Paint review

Before. A nightmare to remove!
When I started thinking about this post (yes, believe it or not, I do actually think before I write this blog), I came up with the perfect opening line.  And was immediately struck down with one of the most horrific earworms known to humanity.  Of course, because of that I absolutely had to use that line, and share the joy with you all.  You can thank me later.

It's that time of year, now that spring is in the air...  when people's thoughts turn to DIY.  We moved in to our house the middle of last year.  It used to be a show house, and so the decoration is all very nice, but a bit 1991, and not entirely to my taste.  So when Nature Paint said they were looking for bloggers to review their paint range, I knew this was one for me.  Squeaky's room was decorated as a nursery, but a 3 going-on 13 year old wants something more girly than teddy bears, so hers was the room we chose to make-over.

Here's the info on Nature Paint, before I go any further.
  • Nature Paint is fully biodegradable so any waste can be composted safely.
  • All packaging is 100% recyclable for minimal impact on the planet.
  • Nature Paint is 100% VOC free - so none of the chemicals that contribute to climate change or affect our health. They are the only paint manufacturers to have achieved this, and a new ZERO VOC badge had to be designed for their packaging.
  • Nature Paint is made in Cornwall from natural & local materials including Cornish clay, French ochre and Italian sienna. The pigments are natural, lightproof, & artist-grade, meaning they are probably the most fade-proof colours available.
  • As there are no nasty chemicals, Nature Paint doesn't have the kind of painty fumes that give you a headache.  Instead, it has a faint clay smell which disappears as it dries, meaning it is perfectly safe, and even pleasant, to sleep in a room that has been painted that day.
  • As there are no synthetic materials, Nature Paint does not create static, and actually repels dust, so walls stay cleaner for longer.
  • Nature Paint has excellent breathability, due to its natural characteristics, which means it can deal with even the levels of humidity in a domestic kitchen or bathroom, with far less chance of mould growth than standard paints.
Helping, apparently.

Whereas most paints come ready mixed, and can't be sent through standard mail, Nature Paint is delivered in a powdered form, which you then mix up with water when you are ready to use it.  That means it can be sent through the post.  And when it arrives, it takes up much less space than a normal can of paint, the 1kg tins I received were roughly the size of a normal 1 litre paint can, though when made up they contain 2.5 litres of paint.

At this time in the blogging process, I feel the need to point out that in order to provide you lovely readers with a proper review, I had to spend THREE WHOLE DAYS working to decorate Miss Squeaky's bedroom.  One to strip the old and uncooperative wallpaper.  One to put down sufficient base coats of white paint onto a wall that had never been painted before & so acted like a particularly thirsty sponge as soon as it met white emulsion.  And a third day to actually do the Nature Paint thing.  I had an enthusiastic, though not particularly talented assistant, in the shape of Squeaky, who quite enjoyed picking the wallpaper off the walls, but was not impressed that I wasn't prepared to let her loose with a paintbrush.  (She was also my room-mate for 3 nights, not due to fumes, just having to take everything out of a fairly small bedroom to have the space to work)
Angel Delight? Or paint?

The colour I chose was Campion.  When I looked through the range, I half expected a whole host of muted beiges, the sort of colours normally seen on bobbly arran jumpers and old lady's cups of tea.  I was very pleasantly surprised to find a range of 63 colours, ranging from whites & creams through pinks & reds, blues & greens even into very deep greys.  The hardest part was choosing which one to go for.

The paint came in two tins, each about the size of a 1 litre paint tin, so they take up very little space, even though each tin is 2 1/2 litres once made up.  That's the fun part, making the paint.  If you've got a drill with a mixing attachment, or are prepared to sacrifice your hand blender to the paint gods, it'd be pretty quick.  I, on the other hand, only sacrificed an elderly wooden spoon, so the mixing process took a little while, and built up my arm muscles.  It's not difficult, just takes a while.  Squeaky Daddy took a look into the bucket I was mixing the paint in, and said it looked like Angel Delight, which probably says something about my cooking!

After painting.
After the paint was mixed, and had twenty minutes to thicken, off we went to the walls.  Application is a little bit different to "traditional" emulsion.  Rather than being kind of goopy, I found that Nature Paint was a bit thinner, and I would have struggled to apply it with a roller - I am not the most confident of decorators.  After one coat it looked a little patchy, but the instructions did say that it would need two coats, so I was expecting that.

I was pleased to find that the claims about the lack of painty smells were very accurate, it was a really pleasant environment to work in, with only a faint clay smell, none of the usual chemicals.  After 4 hours or so, maybe a bit longer, I went back and applied the second coat of paint, which evened up the colour on the walls.  I was a little bit apprehensive before I started that the colour might have been a touch too dark, but as you can see it's a subtle pink, with a slight purple tone to it.  It's a really grown up colour, and one that I hope Squeaky will love for a long time to come, she's certainly taken with it at the moment.

Bunting from the amazing Mummy Mandy
At £19.99 for a 1kg tin (makes 2.5 litres) Nature Paint is pretty comparable with big name branded paints.  It did take all of the first tin, and about half of the second to cover the walls in Squeaky's room, but that would have been the case with any paint, as the walls were quite thirsty to start with.

One thing I would like to have seen, either in each tin, or just available from Nature Paint, is a measure.  Some kind of scoop where 1 level scoop is the right amount of paint to mix with e.g. 100ml of water.  As I said, I used all the first tin, and some of the second. I had to get my scales out to weigh the paint powder to mix with the amount of water I calculated (100g paint / 150ml water)  A scoop would make this process a lot easier.  I didn't want to mix up all the second can of paint, because the paint only keeps for about 3 days once made up, and I like to have some leftover paint for emergency touch-ups in the future.

Would I buy Nature Paint again in the future?  I don't see why not.  I'm already thinking about what colours to paint our bedroom next.

Nature Paint is available to order online, or from B&Q and John Lewis.

Disclosure: I was provided with paint to decorate one room free of charge for the purposes of this review. I was not told what to write and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive payment for their use. 

Monday, 4 March 2013


We've been suffering from the Whys for a while, I think Squeaky picked them up in nursery, much the same as the Chicken Pops.  Whys are extremely contagious, once one child has contracted the Whys, they will spread it to all their friends, acquaintances, and even other children that they just pass by from the comfort of a Tesco's trolley seat with remarkable efficiency.

There is no known cure for the Whys.  Calpol can help to counter some of the more unpleasant aspects, but must be administered to the parent or carer, rather than the child. Gin is somewhat more effective, but must be taken with extreme care, or unintended side effects may include tears, headaches, and actually telling the child "why" in no uncertain terms.

On a more serious note, why (ha ha ha) do all our "Why?" conversations seem to end up in an unending cycle of "Why?", "I don't know", "Why?", "Because I'm not very clever", "Why?", "Because I didn't pay enough attention at school", "Why?" ad infinitum.  We spent our whole car journey home from nursery today discussing why my car was clean and daddy's car wasn't.  The reason being I went through the car wash over the weekend, and he didn't.  Why?  Because my car was dirty. Why? Because I hadn't washed it. Why? Because I was at work. Why? To earn money to buy you nice things. Why? Because otherwise you can't have nice things. Why? Because you have to pay for things. Why? Because otherwise that's stealing. Why? Because that's what it's called when you don't pay for something. Why? I don't know...  and the cycle begins.

If anyone has a surefire cure for the Whys that doesn't involve medicating one or other of us, I'd be really pleased to hear from you, and you could probably make your millions selling it.  Honestly, I would pay good money for a cure, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

SSE's Customer Service Guarantee

In my job I spend quite a bit of time on the phone to energy companies with my clients, trying to help them sort out their bills, repayments, house moves, supplier changes, you name it.  It can be a frustrating task, and I've heard certain pieces of hold music more than any person really should.  The quality of customer service varies enormously, and it can be a real problem when we can't get the answers we need to sort things out.

Let me tell you about my own experiences recently.  When we moved house, we kept our old energy supplier.  Somewhere along the line, a different energy company ended up supplying us gas for a month, and my new/old company tried to tell me about this online.  Unfortunately, my online account wouldn't log in to my new address, because I used the same email for my old address.  Eventually we found out what had been going on, and got the gas transferred, and the online billing sorted out for the new address, which involved shutting down the online account for the old address.  Then I got a letter about my old address, telling me they had been trying to contact me, I owed them large amounts of money, and they wanted to take me to court.  It took me a few phone calls, being told a whole selection of rubbish, before we finally sorted out that a) I didn't owe them anything, b) they owed me, and c) they'd been trying to contact me through my online account for the old address - the one that doesn't work any more.  We sorted out a new bill, and the customer service advisor promised me it would be sent by post, because I can't get into the online account.  Guess what? I got an email, and no letter.  Great stuff there.

Right now, I'm wishing I hadn't changed energy suppliers.  Partly because I've not got any confidence in them any more, and partly because if I'd been supplied by one of the SSE group (SSE, Scottish Hydro, Southern Electric, Swalec & Atlantic), I'd be a little bit better off now.  SSE have launched a new Customer Service Guarantee, and if they fail to meet their promises, they'll give you £20 off your next bill.  I can't argue with that, £20 is a nice bit of cash, and very welcome.

Their promises are simple.  They're committed to:

  • Finding ways to save you money.  If they have a deal that will save you money, they'll let you know.
  • Making life easier for you.  If they say they'll call you back, they will.  Which also saves you hanging on the phone while they look into the ins & outs of your account.
  • Helping when you need them most.  If you're having difficulty paying, they'll work out a payment plan with you that meets your needs.
I phoned SSE a few weeks back, with one of my clients, and I can honestly say that they met every one of those commitments.  They checked she was on the best tariff for her needs, they worked out a short term payment plan, and made longer term suggestions for how to manage her bills, and they called me back after checking things out, rather than leaving me listening to endless repeats of Damien Rice's Cannonball.  In fact, I'd say they went one step further, as they made sure both me & my client understood everything, how the bills were calculated, what she needed to do, and what her options were in the future.  We all went away from that call a lot clearer and happier about the situation.

If you want to know more about SSE's Customer Service Guarantee, they've put together a video to explain it in a bit more detail.

I'm hoping other utility companies follow SSE's lead, it would certainly make my working life a bit easier.  There's no big secret to good customer service, you just have to remember that customers are people, and treat them how you'd want to be treated.  Sounds so simple, doesn't it?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.  I was not told what to write, all opinions are my own, and the experiences detailed above are genuine.

Friday, 1 March 2013

LED Hut LED Lighting Review

Sometimes a review opportunity comes along that speaks to you so much, you just can't help but get a little bit excited about it.  It may not be the most glamorous product, but you know, sometimes it's genuinely an item you really need and can get behind.  This is one such time.  I was, and still am, honestly excited by the chance to review LED Hut's LED lighting range.

Five! Count them!
Let me explain.  The people who built my house thought it would be a great idea to fit spotlights in the kitchen.  Yeah, they look great.  But really.  Who needs five 60watt bulbs in a room that is only 3m x 4m?  Honestly?  It's like walking out on stage at the London Palladium, only without Bruce Forsyth.  And the cost?  Well, you don't want to know.  Seriously, it's been costing me a fortune.  So when the opportunity arose to try out some LED lights, I knew which room I wanted to concentrate on.

The good people at LED Hut have a bulb selector on their website, so even if like me, you know nothing, they can direct you towards the right bulb, just by matching the fitting of your existing bulb, and then choosing from the range.  And if you're really stuck, they've got a telephone helpline, and I'm sure they've been asked far dafter questions than "What bulbs do I need?"  I had to ask, because none really looked like the ones I was replacing.

Picture courtesy of LEDHut
With a bit of help, I selected these High power spotlight bulbs to screw in replacing my old incandescent bulbs, which I seem to have spent a lot of time replacing over the 8 months since we moved in here (I don't know how old they were when we got here, but I'm guessing they weren't new).  The new bulbs have a 5 year warranty, and should last around 25 times longer than my old bulbs, which means they should last me a good 20 years.  No more climbing on chairs for me!

More importantly, we've gone down from 60watts per bulb to 4.6 watts.  That's more than a 90% saving, which in reality means I'm looking to save around £80 a year, for changing the lights in one room.  Imagine if I changed the rest of the bulbs in the house!

Don't get me wrong, there is a very slight difference in the amount of light, but it's actually an improvement.  While it's not quite as bright as before, that's not at all a bad thing, it's less blinding, less migraine inducing and far more comfortable.  And a big, big thing I've noticed is that it's a lot cooler and more comfortable to work in the kitchen.  With incandescent bulbs, and spotlights in particular, an awful lot of the energy is converted into heat rather than light, which is wasted in most cases.  In my kitchen it felt a bit like being under a sunlamp.  Now none of the energy is wasted and it's all converted into light, which means I only get hot from the cooker, not from above as well.

Squeaky is quite amused by the spotty lights.  They do take a little bit of getting used to, but you don't really spend a lot of time looking up at lightbulbs when they're off.  Or I don't anyway, maybe I'm strange.  The new bulbs are a little bit smaller than my old incandescents, but that again is a good thing. The old bulbs were a very snug fit in the fittings, and extremely difficult to remove, whereas the LED bulbs have enough space for me to grip them to turn in & out without risking breaking the bulb.  There's much less risk of breaking a bulb with this particular one, as there's a lot less glass, the body of the bulb is metal.  There's also no toxic materials inside, so even if the bulb did somehow get damaged, there's no risk to your health like with other bulb types.

My brightly lit kitchen
LED Bulbs aren't a cheap option in the beginning.  The bulbs in my kitchen cost £11.62 each, meaning it would have cost me £58.10 to replace all the bulbs in the kitchen myself.  But looking at an £80 saving per year on my electricity bill, I'm in profit in 9 months.  And if they last twenty years, well, I'm laughing. No more bulbs to buy, cheaper bills, cooler kitchen.  It's just a case of balancing out the initial outlay with the saving.

The rest of my house is fairly awkward lighting-wise as well, they had some really strange ideas when they built this house.  Sadly, the bulbs that feature most heavily in the rest of the house are a fitting that LED Hut don't stock at present.  I'm keeping my eyes open for the future though, as I'd love to upgrade the rest of the house.  LED Hut have converted me to LED lighting.

Wondering whether LED is right for you?  Well, here's some facts that might help.

The average household lighting bill in the UK is around £300 per year.  Replacing existing halogen bulbs with LED bulbs can cut lighting costs by up to 90%, or an average of £270 a year!

LED light bulbs last 25-30 years, so no replacement costs.

LED bulbs use 90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.

A typical home switching all its halogen lights to LED could also save 6 tonnes of CO2.

Disclosure: I was provided with LED bulbs for one room free of charge for the purpose of this review. I was not told what to write and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.