Thursday, 10 May 2012

My New 15" Cambridge Satchel Company Batchel


On Saturday the 14th of April just before 12am, I placed an order for a Cambridge Satchel Company 'Batchel', and it FINALLY arrived today after 26 patient days of waiting-- as the bags are handmade, CSC do state that the bags can take up to 30 days to make and ship, but I did not-so-secretly hope that mine would arrive a lot earlier. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I got an e-mail from CSC yesterday saying that my order had finally been despatched and was on its way to me with FedEx Next Day Delivery!

Before placing an order for the bag (as a birthday present from my mom), I travelled to the dusty corners of the internet and back in an attempt to find a useful review of the Batchel, but alas, it's surprisingly difficult to find many of any substance, despite the massive following that CSC are quickly gaining. Granted, I'm not in a position to give a 'proper' review yet as I haven't used it properly, so my intention here is to provide readers with a good amount of pictures and a clearer idea of the size and what it's capable of holding, because if you are anything like me, you won't/don't have the opportunity to go and see one in the flesh before buying online.
15" Cambridge Satchel Company 'Batchel' in Vintage Brown
This bag is absolutely beautiful. It's incredibly well made and looks very expensive. The whole thing feels very, very luxurious and the vintage brown colour is lovely. I was pleased to find that it's also a lot lighter than I expected after hearing quite a few people comment on the product's weight; although, it may just be that I've become accustomed to weighty leather after carrying around my slouchy leather ASOS satchel day in and day out lately.

Before placing my order, I was a little concerned that the 15inch bag would swamp me, because some of the articles/reviews I did stumble upon seemed to suggest that nobody under a certain height should get a 15". Rubbish. Rubbish. Rubbish. I'm 5'5" and I love it. I would still love it if I was  4'11". It really irritates me when people try to put height/weight/whatever limits on what people should and shouldn't wear or use. Such tosh. If you need a roomier bag and will actually be using the Batchel for anything practical, I would definitely suggest going for the 15", because I'm not entirely sure how you would fit much else in smaller sizes (unless, unlike me, you don't carry much around).

The Batchel is described as being 10cm wide at the base, and indeed, when considering it from the outside, the Batchel does look quite roomy. At first, looking at it from the outside, it seemed as though my DSLR would fit, but in actual fact, it doesn't have a chance of fitting without extreme, unsightly bulges. Due to the stiffness of the leather, and the way that they bag is stitched, you actually loose about 2-3 centimetres of that width on the inside, meaning that the total 'usable' width inside of the bag is around 7.5cm. This isn't really an issue for me (although I would love to be able to fit my DSLR in there) because CSC does specify that the measurement is taken from the base and I expected that it would be significantly less spacious inside.
Inside of the bag: this picture shows you how reduced the space is once you look inside the Batchel. 
Although I'm quite aware that the real buckles will get tedious and frustrating at times, I actually love that they're not imitation buckles/magnetic buckles/clip buckles or anything like that, and besides, I hear that through time they become easier to do and undo because the leather becomes softer.
The handle: The CSC Designer Batchel also comes with a handle, however, the style is quite different not only in colour, but in the formation of the handle. On the original Batchel you don't get the top handle panel, which I feel makes the whole thing look a lot more pulled together and structured.
Cambridge Satchel Company 'Batchel' holding an A4 folder.
You can quite easily add an A4 folder plus a few other things (purse, pencil case, phone, ipod) in the batchel. Although I didn't picture it buckled, it buckles just fine with the folder in it. If anybody would like to me to "test" out things that will fit in the bag, then I'd be happy to do that providing I have the object or something of a similar size. 

The inside of the Batchel isn't lined, and for that reason you don't have the little pocket most bags normally have for mobile phones/travel cards/bits and bobs, etc.; however, you do get quite a roomy front pocket which makes up for the lack of inner pocket. 

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Monday, 7 May 2012

Rant: Bad service at make-up counters.


The thought of approaching a sales assistant at a make-up counter--whether it be in a department store or at a stand-alone shop-- fills me with a mixture of anxiety, anger and mild self-loathing. I don't know whether it's just me, but I find that often times when I go to these places and ask for help, I end up leaving feeling just a little bit shit. I am always extremely polite when speaking to people, so it's doubly upsetting when I end up having a rubbish experience.

The "What-are-you-doing-here,-commoner?" stare:
Last year while shopping around with a university friend I found myself at the Bobbi Brown counter in Debenhams, Leicester, wanting to purchase a replacement gel liner in 'Black Ink'. On finally getting the sales assistant's attention, she greeted me with what was possibly the most snooty, stuck-up facial expression I have ever had the misfortune to come across in my life. It took me everything that I had not to say "forget it" and walk away. I honestly believe that this woman wondered what business somebody not made up to the nines like her could have with Bobbi Brown.

It annoys me that just because I go to a make-up counter with very little make-up on, wearing jeans and Vans, some assistants seem to feel that I either a) have no clue what I'm going on about or b) can't afford to be there in the first place. Excuse me, I love make-up and I could really help with your commission if you weren't acting like such a dick.

The "Oh well, never mind" attitude:

Today I went to a MAC store with the intention of finding a new concealer because I am currently running out and it's a little cheaper to buy from there than it is Bobbi Brown. On applying ONE concealer on me (badly) the assistant points me in the direction of the mirror, SAYING NOTHING, and waits for me to say "it's too ashy" before saying "yeah" and making no move to try another colour on me. Surely if I ask for help and the first colour is wrong, the assistant should offer to help me out with another? She did absolutely nothing. Left with nothing. I'll just go buy from Bobbi Brown again, providing the person selling to me is pleasant.

On the other hand...

I have had the odd good experience with make-up artists/assistants at counters. On going to the Clinique counter in Selfridge's, Birmingham, there was a lovely woman helping me out there. I wanted a new foundation and she cleansed my face properly first, talked me through the various foundations, tried THREE shades on my lower cheek to find the best colour match, applied one beautifully (I've never looked so flawless) talking me through application, etc etc. She was fantastic and I left with something that was perfect for me at the time. But this kind of service seems extremely rare.

Just sort it out,  guys. It's not that hard to be nice.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Gluten Free Birthday Cake featuring ~Expertly Sliced Strawberry~

It was my mom's birthday yesterday and it was my job to bake the cake! I have coeliac disease and that means I cannot eat any gluten (which is in everything) AT ALL, EVER AGAIN. For the most part, I'm pretty comfortable with having coeliac disease now and I manage my diet well; however, baking without gluten can come to be quite troublesome. Thanks to xanthan gum, though, I can usually whip together a pretty good cake. 

Recipe/how I altered it to make it gluten free:

I used THIS recipe from BBC Good food, added about a tablespoon more milk* and about a 3/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum. My mom and I have learnt the hard way that too much xanthan gum=a very unpleasant cake. So use it sparingly-ish.

*If you're using a normal gluten-filled recipe and converting it to gluten free with a gf flour (i.e. Dove's Farm), you will probably find that you need to add a little more liquid than the recipe calls for-- not too much though! I don't have any exact figures to give you, but I tend to guess and it normally turns out alright for me! 
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