Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Sherbet Lane - Stationery Subscription Box Review


I don't think everyone quite understands it, but I love stationery, and while I wouldn't call myself addicted, I have to write letters on pretty paper, and use notebooks with a funky cover. Plain is just a bit boring! I was lucky enough to chat with designer and illustrator Claire Keay for Essex Lowdown, and kept in touch after doing the article. It's great when you freelance and you can keep some of the connections you make, and write follow up content.

So hear I am with a new and shiny #SherbetBox - this is the stationery subscription box from Claire's Sherbet Lane brand, which was initially crowd funded in super quick time. So far it seems, so good, so well done, as I know it's not easy launching a new project, and wondering if anyone will fund or buy it.



My Sherbet Box was the second one to be released for July 2016, and the theme was all seaside related. Inside my box of goodies was a themed pencil, a themed gift tag, a small sweet, a colouring sheet, a small note pad, 3 large greetings cards, postcards, and a seaside print, limited edition for the box. There was also a large sticker, some small stickers, and a tin with magnets and paper clips in.

The box fits through your letter box, and it's surprising how much you can fit neatly into it - maybe I'll put together and send all my presents like this in future! First impressions were good, it was all nicely themed, and the note describing the theme and why it was chosen was a really nice touch. I think it makes it more unique and a bit more personal, plus I love hearing the inspiration behind things I'm buying.



The quality was a big plus point for me, the small print was on good quality card and ideal for framing. The greetings cards were also really good quality, better than I expected to be honest, and unlike some have said not too large for me.

One thing that was slightly disappointing was the colouring sheet, it was a bit flimsy, and got a bit crumpled tucked into the bottom of the box. Perhaps thicker paper, a sheet placed in an envelope for extra protection, or maybe a mini book of a few sheets to colour would have fared better in the post.



The contents are a surprise, so you are partly buying on Claire's previous work, other boxes, or because you like the latest theme. My concern would be while I love stationery, and the idea of getting a box full of goodies through the post, different to what's in the shops, I might eventually end up with a lot of 'stuff''. Lovely stuff, but stuff that might start gathering dust, if it's the sort of items I don't use all that often, or slight repeats from previous boxes. I think that will be the challenge, producing box after box, and balancing the mix of treats and useful things you can never have enough of.

Money Talk:



The Sherbet Boxes currently cost £45.00 for a 3 month subscription, and £15.00 for a one-off box.

I absolutely appreciate the effort gone into creating the designs and producing/sourcing items for the box, and that you get free postage in the UK. It was all very well done, but I would have expected some kind of deal if I was subscribing for more than 1 month.

Some contents were absolutely worth the money and had value to me, but I think overall I wanted a bit more - 1 pencil is great, but one gift tag? it was cute, but it looked a little sad on it's own and would've been great as a set.



I don't think I'd buy regularly as a subscriber, but I would consider buying occasionally as a treat if I had the funds, and they'd make a lovely gift for someone. I think the designs will appeal to a wide audience as well - cute stationery is fairly well ageless!

For all the insider gossip on #SherbetBox and the chance to have your say on future themes, visit Facebook or for all of Claire's work check out he Sherbet Lane website. You can also read my interview with Claire on Essex Lowdown here.

* This box was sent to me for a review, but all opinions and feedback are my own.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Book Review - The Woolworths Girls By Elaine Everest

Although I don't get the chance to read, or be in the mind set to read as much as I'd like, yep I still have a pile of un-read books to keep me going for the rest of the year, I couldn't pass up the chance to review a new book by fellow writer/journo Elaine Everest. The Woolworths Girls jumped out at me, apart from loving and missing their Pick and Mix, I also love seeing and reading about what town centres and iconic shops used to be like, so this novel sounded a great fit.

The story opens on three nervous young women, all slightly different ages, and coming from different backgrounds. Maisie, Sarah, and Freda all turn up at Erith Woolworths on the same day hoping for a job. They became instant friends, and the shop where they ended up working becomes the backdrop for life, love, and sometimes pain.

New characters are introduced at various points in the story, some like Alan, trainee manager, make an instant impact as a love interest, while others such as Betty Billington develop bigger roles as the story moves on, both through daily life, bigger dramas, and the onset and eventual impact of war.
Sometimes the book left me wanting more - it would've been fun to see old pictures of Woolworths, and what the store was like, beyond working for the company. I also questioned how quick Sarah fell in love, and would've liked to have seen a bit more of Freda and Lenny together.



I'd say this was a book full of moments, and all of those moments I enjoyed. The obvious contrast between the 3 girls when they met, the insights into the local community, and the inclusion of local busybody Vera were all well-written. I don't want to give away too much and end up writing a spoiler post, but some of the lesser characters have some surprises I didn't expect, and as for the ending - it's a poignant one.

My concentration did go a few times, but overall I was engaged, and enjoyed Elaine's vivid writing style. I've read a fair few historical based novels before, and some of the story is nothing new, but this novel will stand out against the rest for the variety of characters in the same community, and the shop setting provided scope for interesting day to day details.

I can't imagine the work that goes into writing a whole book, I've only ever tried the odd short story, so well done Elaine, and I would read/buy your work again in the future.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Nickleodeon's The Other Kingdom - Accessories and Craft Unboxing

When I was living in a rented house for six months last summer we didn't have any access to a TV aerial, and rather than connect to Sky, we bought Internet TV boxes. I had a Now TV Box connect to my TV, and I have to admit to using the entertainment pass, and watching some of the American teen programmes on there - light and easy Saturday morning viewing! It's more of a guilty pleasure, rather than me being their target audience, but when an email popped through about a new show The Other Kingdom, promising a box of handicrafts, or make-up/accessories I wanted to give the opportunity a go - you know me and crafts.



What came through the post was a very pretty gift box (definitely a keeper), with an outer sleeve that had the programme logo on, and a 3D butterfly. Opening the box wasn't quite what I expected, as I thought it would be a mix of branded merchandise to make or use, but it was a mix of products from other sources.

My box had - glitter nail art and body glitter sets, small fabric flowers, shimmery fabric in 2 different colours, an unusual Amethyst Necklace, small pink beads, and two colours of ribbon, along with a beaded fairy crown headband.



I think the ribbon would be great to make hair bow clips with, or a bigger bow to decorate a plain top. I even had the idea of hemming the fabric so it doesn't fray, and shaping it into an apron, with the ribbon as a tie at the top - I've not tried it out yet, but you could easily accessorise to make a fairy costume without cutting up any existing clothes, or buying a one-time wear fairy outfit.

I couldn't resist a more crafty project though, so I used a plain cardboard wreath from my stash, and cut strips of fabric to tie around the wreath, with the ends pointing into the middle to make it look more quirky. I then added some fabric flowers, a fairy wand, and a few other bits to finish decorating the project. Time is needed to tie up the fabric pieces, and let the glitter glue dry, but other than that it's a fairly quick project to do, and would look great hung up for a party, or room decoration.



I hope this gives you or your teens a few ideas for fairy princess makes or decorations - if you keep an eye on my blog or follow my Instagram account (These City Days) you may find a few other bits and pieces as the series gets under way.

About The Other Kingdom

The Other Kingdom premieres on Nickleodeon at 6.30pm on August 8th 2016. It's a live action series featuring Astral as the fairy princess. Follow her journey as she has to choose between being a fairy princess, or living her life as a human. Human teen-dom v's the fairy kingdom of Athenia!

* I was gifted this box of goodies for a possible unboxing post, but any opinions expressed are my own.

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