Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Hotter Shoes For Men | Review

I am one of those shoppers who, if visiting the supermarket for a couple of essential items, will happen to come away with a new nail polish, lipstick or mascara that was definitely not on the shopping list.
My husband is the same, although not with cosmetics obviously. And his item of choosing has now become a long running joke. Approximately every 6-8 weeks he will come home with a new pair of shoes, all excited that they only cost him £8. Despite my eye-rolling and telling him there is a clear reason why they are £8 he is still delighted with his bargain.

After my recent visit and review of Hotter Shoes in Norwich I felt I needed to do something to convince him that he could do much better than those £8 shoes. And believe me this is a big challenge.
After showing him the range of shoes they have for men he was up for the idea of going along to the store to see if there were any that could tempt him away from his cheaper favourites.


Our aim was to find some "rugged" shoes or boots, which are durable and not too clunky. A tough enough sole for wearing outdoors but not too "workman/hiking boot". Something for outdoor adventures, sailing in particular, but also something that could be worn to the pub or on a date night.

He then decided he wanted a boot style, something I've been trying to get him to buy for so long. I think the trends around at the moment when it comes to mens footwear is fantastic. I remember a time when it was just "cool" [is that word still cool or not?] for them to wear trainers pretty much anywhere and everywhere.
My husband isn't a trainers kind of guy.
So the trend of a smart shoe or boot which can be worn with a casual outfit suits him perfectly.

By looking online we had already narrowed down his list of boots to try out to the Focus Boots and the Brett Boots. I think we both preferred the Focus boots looking online, however my husband still wanted to try the Brett boots too, and as soon as his slipped his foot in he had his Hotter moment.
He liked them so much that he didn't even bother trying on any others!

Despite initially liking the lighter brown he instead chose the dark brown grain. He felt this was more versatile, smarter and less likely to show up any kinds of stains or marks.

I didn't want to influence my husbands thoughts on the shoes, or on the brand, and was instead interested to hear what he had to say and what his impressions were.
He said:

You can see and feel that these are quality shoes.
I like the different designs and I'm impressed by the variety and ranges available. It's nice to see colours other than the standard brown and black, both with the plum colours and the different shades of brown available. (This is something that impressed me too. I was really pleased that Hotter have spread the Autumnal colours used in their women's range into the men's range also.)
This is somewhere I would shop again.

Now, being completely honest, he did gasp a little at the price. And I think people do tend to do this nowadays simply because there are shops out there who provide a cheaper alternative.
However, we need to consider the quality of shoes and comparing these to a cheaper version, which are likely to come out on top?
It's a worthwhile investment to spend a little more money on shoes which will not only fit better, and look after your feet, but also last a lot longer.

After leaving the Hotter store we headed to my mother-in-laws for lunch. We told her of my husbands new boots and she in turn told us that her favourite boots which she has had for a couple of years are from Hotter.
So there we go, a family of Hotter fans!

Now....when is the children's range coming out?


My husband was given a pair of boots for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

10 Things To Do in Autumn


1. Collect pinecones. Last year started a new obsession for me. I love collecting pine cones of different shapes and sizes and using them as decoration around the house. I have a couple of bowls full of them and also save some to decorate at Christmas.

2. Make chocolate apples. Chocolate dipped apples are so easy and fun to make with children. Also, it's an apple therefore one of your five a day right?! Chocolate can be healthy, see.

3. Autumn is Halloween session and the supermarkets are full of pumpkins. Whether you carve them or decorate with glue and glitter, a must on any Autumn "must do" list is to have a homemade decorated pumpkin.

4. Kick leaves. Isn't there some kind of law that as soon as there is a big pile of red, orange and brown leaves you have to run through and kick them and throw them around? No. That should totally be a rule.

5. Watch Hocus Pocus. Following on from number 3, Hocus Pocus is a must in the Autumn right?

6. Buy some new wellies. I love an excuse to buy new shoes or boots. This year my wellies of choice are Wellibobs from Joules (surprise, surprise!). These are so comfortable and perfect for all day wear.

7. Make mulled cyder. If you believe mulled wine should only be for Christmas, and winter, then mulled cider/cyder is a fantastic alternative. In fact, I kind of prefer it to mulled wine.

8. Make the best hot chocolate, add cream, marshmallows and chocolate shavings, and snuggle in the warm.

9. Make S'mores. This seems to be an American craze which is becoming a lot more popular in the UK. Enjoy the great outdoors, and make a fire either in your garden or in a safe outdoor space using firelighters, firewood and kindling from Certainly Wood. Grab a blanket, some mulled cyder, and some loved ones and enjoy the warmth from the fire.

10. Test your heating. With the colder weather creeping up most of us turn our heating on for the first time. So depressing but oh so cosy too.



We were sent a S'mores kit for the purpose of this review.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Constant

Friendships to me have never been high on my list of priorities.
To say I have had a bad experience with all of my friendships would be correct. I have been incredibly unlucky.
In 29 years I have learnt a lot about people, and a lot about myself. But the main thing I've learnt is that people are unpredictable.

The majority of my friendships now are online. Some of these friendships will always just be online, with the odd hello and chat at a blog conference or event, and some are friendships that have crossed over into the real world.
This is one of the best things about blogging for me, and the fact that I have been able to make these friendships and meet people who I maybe wouldn't have met in real life, away from blogging.

I can be too taken in by people. And I think this is something I am constantly learning.
I get too sucked into this persona that is projected via blogs, and Instagram photos. I believe that these people are being completely real and showing themselves, when in reality they are making the most of this perfect life which they can play out online.
They can be the person they always wanted to be. The sweet girl, the girl who always says what is on her mind, the confident one, the one who is always positive, the one who can do no wrong, the one who is everyone's friend.
But it doesn't take long for these persona's to be crushed and, in my opinion, you can only be the character you want to be for a short amount of time, and in the end people will either see through it or you will show your true side.

I've been blogging now for 3 and a half years and I can say that I am in a happy place when it comes to particular friendships. And in particular that these friendships, although working fine online and through other means of communication, also require some actual real life interaction.
Not so much in a "this friendship will not work if we don't see each other", but more of a "I really need to see you properly" kind of way.
Actually sitting face to face, and hearing each others voices. Being around each other. Those tiny awkward silences, the looks you give each other which can not be expressed via an emoji.
Real life interaction to remind you and reassure you of what is real.

There are so many benefits to online friendships. For me, the biggest benefit is that I am able to meet people who I wouldn't have met before. People who live miles away from me. People I wouldn't meet at the childrens centre, or at work.
I love meeting people at blog conferences, but I think these are mostly down to chance. The best thing for me, is someone finding you, or you finding someone else, on social media and choosing to then contact them, choosing to look at their blogs, choosing to almost make that next step to meet up, be it at a blog conference or somewhere away from blogging completely.

For so long I have hoped for a constant friendship. A friendship similar to the ones I envy in others. A friendship where I feel I can be myself, and a friendship where I feel the other person/s are completely themselves.
Everything is out in the open. No judging, and complete honesty is key.
I am a soppy person. I will tell my friends I love them. I miss them. I will tell them how much they mean to me. And a true friend will accept how I am, even if they are not the same. They won't tell me not to say those things, or change the subject, but at the same time they can take the mickey out of me being that way.

I sometimes sit and cry. Yes, I know, is there anything I don't cry about?!
I cry tears of sadness at not being able to see those friends often enough. Tears at the distance between us.
But I also cry tears of happiness. Happiness that I have found true friendship. Happiness that despite the distance, we are closer than I ever could have hoped.

The happiness that is constant.

Adjectives

1. not changing or varying; uniform; regular; invariable.

2. continuing without pause or letup; unceasing.

3. regularly recurrent; continual; persistent:

4. faithful; unswerving in love, devotion, etc.:

5. steadfast; firm in mind or purpose; resolute.

6. Obsolete. certain; confident.


Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Carnivores Low Calorie Alternative | Quorn Review

My husband is very much of the caveman variety.
"I am man. Man eats meat"
I very rarely get away with giving him a meatless meal. I have to try and include meat in some form to every dish. A quiche Lorraine has to be served with rashers of bacon, or a chicken breast.

Back when I was in high school and taking my food technology GCSE we had to put together a piece of coursework and a menu for an in flight meal.
My chosen meal was a simple sausage and mash. As part of the coursework we had to put together a survey, buy some ingredients and put together blind taste tests.
Of the 5 different sausages I selected, there was a clear winner, one which actually surprised us all.
Quorn.

My husband won't even consider the idea of eating Quorn, whereas I'm open minded to it. I can easily live without meat if I have to. The advantages for me are in terms of calories, and with my "lifestyle change" I am trying to reduce my calorie intake where possible. Substituting meat for quorn is an easy alternative.

This week I introduced the boys to Quorn. I created meals they usually eat and like, and was interested to see if their reaction was any different. The results were mixed.

We bought some Swedish style meatballs, sausages and mince.
The meatballs were served with macaroni cheese, something the boys will usually eat in record time. The meatballs were ok at first, but were quite spicy so the boys only ate a couple before the taste became too much. These were nice and I don't think the taste really differed too much from beef meatballs we usually buy.

The biggest hit was the mince. I served this up in a lasagne which is the boys favourite. They knew that something was different with the taste but couldn't put their finger on what. They ate the lasagne said it was something they would like again, although it isn't better than the usual lasagne we make.

So in terms of feeding Quorn to my family in the future, I'm not sure it's something I would do because it doesn't seem necessary when they are perfectly happy with meat.
I would only purchase Quorn again if I wanted to reduce the calories in a meal for me.

For recipe ideas follow Quorn on their youtube channel.
 

We were sent vouchers to purchase Quorn for the purpose of this review.


Having Our "Hotter Moment" | Hotter Shoes Review

I don't know many women who don't like shoes, so when my mum and I were invited along to Hotter in Norwich to learn about the brand and the history, as well as looking around at the shoes on offer when the store would be closed we jumped at the chance.
My mum has always struggled with shoes. She has wide feet (why does that feel like such an insult and like I should apologise? Sorry mum) and with a couple of other issues does find it difficult to find shoes that fit properly. In the past she has bought shoes and boots in the hope that they will stretch, but they don't. Bad for her but good for me as I then get them! Win!
So I suppose we both went along wanting to challenge Hotter.
For my mum: Did they have any shoes that would fit her comfortably and suit her needs?
For me: Did they have something suitable for my age group and to suit my style?

My question may seem quite harsh, but my initial impression of Hotter was that it is aimed at an older customer and would primarily cater to those.
I was aware of the store and had walked past a number of times but from the shoes I had seen I was convinced that it wasn't a place for me.
However, before we visited and accepted the invitation I looked online to see what they had to offer and was really surprised at the amount of shoes I was able to put on my "must try on" list.
Knowing we would be limited to time we made sure we looked thoroughly through the website a number of times. And we decided to do our lists and stick to them.

As we arrived at the store at 7pm we were greeted by a happy team who offered us a drink (we accepted the Prosecco, obvs) and gave us an approximate run down to the evening.
As we waited for the other bloggers to arrive we had a chat with the staff, who were all really passionate about the store and about the products, and had a look around the store.

I instantly knew that my original thought of the store being aimed at older women was in fact not the case.
I really liked that shoes were all placed within sections that would appeal to a particular person, or age range. So the boots and shoes I would shop for were all on the left hand side, and shoes for an older customer, or maybe someone who was looking for shoes for work for example, were placed on the right hand side.

I really noticed the fact the Hotter have put a lot of thought and research into their current styles. The colours are all on trend with fashion in other stores and have a real Autumnal feel to them, which will also work well into Winter.
I was really drawn to the knee high boots. In fact if it was an option I would have taken them all home. The styles were all wearable, and comfortable. They could be dressed up smart or worn casual. The heel height on all of the boots was really practical and have enough height if you like a boot with a heel, yet are still perfect for someone who is used to wearing flats and wants to treat themselves to some heels.
What impressed me most was that the detail isn't just thought about when it comes to the outside of the shoes and boots. They all have beautiful lining which mostly consists of, again, on trend fabrics such as tweed and tartan.

I also fell in love with the masculine pieces available for women. This again is such a big look at the moment and is something that is all over the high street and I'm glad that this is also a hot look for Hotter too.

Looking around the rest of the store it is clear that comfort is a bit and important aspect when it comes to Hotter.

We found the presentation put on for us by the PR Manager, Mel, really informative. As my mum quite rightly pointed out, it's refreshing to hear a company who is growing at the moment with so many other businesses shutting down.

1959: Thomas and Harnet Houlgrave set up a slipper making business
1990's: Second generation Stewart Houlgrave takes over the business, making and selling footwear
1996: Launch of mail order
2002: 1st retail store opens in Southport, UK
2004: Launch of website
2011: 25th store opens
2014: 71st store opens

And how did we get on? We both left with a pair of shoes kindly given to us by Hotter (as well as bags of our own purchased shoes). My mum was given a pair of Mist shoes. These perfect when it comes to her wide feet but they are also ideal for her job, in which she stands on her feet for 4 and a half hours. And also for dog walking as they are not only comfortable, but are also waterproof so suitable to be taken out in any weather and in any terrain.
I was in need for some new knee high boots and it was a really tough job to choose which to go for as they all suit my style, the ranges of colours were really appealing, and they were all comfortable.
I decided on the Hampshire boots and went for the taupe colour as I felt this was something that not everyone else would be wearing. I felt it would be different to black or brown and would also go with the majority of my dresses.

I really like that half sizes are available as well as wide fit. And the mens section was equally as fantastic as the womens. The mens brogues in particular were rather amazing, and again focused on Autumnal colours.

I suppose the moral of this story is that looks can be deceiving, and just because somewhere looks like it wouldn't be for you, it doesn't mean this is true.
We will definitely purchase from Hotter again, and suggest you pop in for a look (and a sneaky purchase) too.



We were each given a pair of shoes and an invitation to the Hotter shoes event for the purpose if this review.