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My riding story – horse riding with a visual impairment

I wrote this post because of a request that I received in the comments. I was asked to talk a bit more about my experiences with horses and horse-riding as someone with a visual impairment, so here’s my horsy story.

How it all started

I knew that my teaching assistant, who helped in maths and science lessons, and prepared Braille materials for me, had horses. She used to tell me about them, and I was really excited when she invited me to the farm where they were kept to have my first ride.

The first ride on Silke was a stroll down by the canal and back again, but after that, I was hooked. It seemed like a whole other world and there was so much to learn! I set about learning as much as I could, with an intensity that must have driven my poor grandparents crazy. When I couldn’t be with horses, then I was reading about them, thinking about them, and telling anyone who would listen what I had recently discovered!

After that, I visited Silke several times, and also rode one of the other horses there, Rhumba, who was bigger and thought that cantering through the fields by the canal was a lot of fun. So did I! When Silke had her first foal, I was allowed to meet him after a couple of days. All fluffy and still discovering what his spindly legs were for.

I enjoyed our visits, but they lived quite far away, so we needed to find something closer if this was going to become a hobby.

Making horse-riding accessible

We were lucky that the riding stables close to us was so welcoming and helpful. I think I took this for granted at the time, but having been to other stables now, I know I lucked out!

Sometimes I had lessons as part of a group, and sometimes I had private lessons. One of the most important things was that the trainer didn’t just let things go – if my hands or legs weren’t in the right position, she would physically show me what I should be doing. If I was sitting like a sack of potatoes, I was called out on it. I got the additional help that I needed because of my visual impairment, but I was expected to work as hard as everyone else.

One of my favourite things was jumping. It helped that the horse I usually rode loved to jump, but this was good experience for when I rode other horses who weren’t so keen on it. The instructor described the jump, told me if I needed to do anything to correct my approach to it, then gave me a few seconds warning before it was time to jump! I loved it!

We made a tactile arena on a big piece of cardboard and stuck Braille letters on so that I could learn their positions. (Braille is a tactile system which blind people use to read). Once I’d memorised where the letters were, I could understand instructions about where I needed to go. We had a couple of people around the arena who called out the letters as I approached them, so I knew when to turn. If there weren’t enough people, the trainer got a lot of exercise, getting to the letters before I did so that she would be in place to call them out! I understand now that people use more high-tech solutions such as Bluetooth headsets with someone giving visual information.

My assistant teacher also found a 2d wooden horse, and we mounted it on another piece of card, then labelled all the parts of the body with pieces of string that connected the Braille label to the corresponding part of the horse.

My grandparents never shared my love of horses, but Granddad took me to and from the stables every Saturday, and Nan read aloud my pony magazines, often slowly so that I could copy out information that I wanted for my Braille horse folder.

I know that at least one of the people whom I used to ride with has gone on to become an international dressage rider. I stopped riding when I was at High School – other interests got in the way. With hindsight I should have stayed with the horses, but you’re always smarter when you’re looking back.

Competing

As well as the weekly lessons, the riding school held its own yearly competitions in which you could enter for events such as dressage and jumping. We spent time grooming, plaiting manes, getting saddles ready and waiting for the big day. I was with the other sighted girls, so I didn’t feel different. Most of us didn’t have our own horses, so we were split up into pairs.

Everyone wanted to ride Bridget, the horse that I usually rode. She was so popular, partly because she seemed to enjoy what we did – especially jumping. But partly because she was a really kind horse with a lovely nature. She would put her head on your shoulder after you’d finished grooming her, and sometimes it felt as though the horses made more sense to me than the other people my age!

Anyway, I wasn’t one of the people in team Bridget, but I was assigned Sam, whom I hadn’t ridden before. He didn’t enjoy tearing around as much as I did, and I’m not sure he ever saw the point of hurtling over jumps when you could do the smart thing and walk round them, but you knew that he wouldn’t get flustered in an arena with so many people around, and he was one of the most reliable horses there. He got the job done – and in doing so we won one 1st, two third, and 2 clear round rosettes! I was proud of him and our picture was on my grandparents’ wall for ages!

I don’t remember it being horribly competitive. Yes, everyone wanted to win, but for me it was more about improving my own skills and becoming a better rider.

Trip to Berlin

The photo at the top of this post was taken when I went to visit my friend Sarah in Berlin. We were doing a kind of language exchange and had each planned fun activities for the other when she came to visit.

One of the things that we did in Germany was a ride through the countryside around Berlin. We met the horses, Maja and Marietta, and were escorted out by their owner for an evening ride. The things I remember most about that day were riding through a field of sunflowers – my favourite flower – and the fact that Maja liked to be in the lead! Ok, I also quite enjoyed being in the lead. The others described the path that we were going to take, where the turns were, and whether there were any low-hanging branches to avoid.

I was really glad I got to do this because so many stables are overcautious when it comes to working with disabled riders and it was great to go and explore on horseback without any unnecessary concerns – or the dreaded lead rein. Oh yes, and galloping was cool too!

Since then

I tried a couple of other riding schools as an adult, but never found one that I wanted to go to regularly. It’s true that you don’t realise what you have – until you don’t have it any more. I went on a couple of nice rides with a friend who lived locally, but I never started riding again every week.

As a young teenager I may have tired of my instructor complaining about my seat or leg positions, but she held me to a high standard, as she did with everyone else. I get the feeling that some other schools are so used to people who get a lot out of just being carried around on a horse, and that’s a great thing for some people, but setting the bar really low for all disabled riders is a sure way to demotivate people, especially those who are eager to learn and improve. If you’ve ridden before, the last thing you want is a lead rein, and the only way you can add more insult to injury is to give the lead rein to a 10-year-old child – yes, that did happen once. It didn’t make me want to go back!

Putting disabled riders in the same group can work if they are at a similar level, but not if what they want from the lesson or what they are able to achieve independently is vastly different.

Where I live now, I haven’t really looked around to see what’s available. I have different hobbies now. But I always look back fondly to the time when every Saturday morning was spent at the stables, grooming horses, cleaning saddles, carrying around buckets of food and water, playing games that involved teaching the stable dogs new tricks, and waiting for my lesson to come around.

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Finished in July – 15 empty products and what I thought of them

A little later than usual, but I still wanted to let you know about the products I tried out in July. So here we go – let me know if you’ve used any of these, and if so, what you thought of them!

1. Madara serum (Feelunique)

This time miracle serum from Madara is probably something that I got in a Lovelula box, but to be honest, I don’t remember! I haven’t had something that I don’t like from Madara – it’s a natural brand and its products came to be among my favourites in the Lovelula line-up because of their moisturising properties.

It promises to increase the cellular renewal cycle and thus improve the appearance of skin and reduce fine lines. Not sure there’s much that can be done for my frown lines now, but I like the bit about essential moisture and vitality and I enjoyed using this serum.

2. Molton Brown hand cream (Molton Brown)

I picked up this Molton Brown hand cream when I got the hair care products from them a couple of months ago. As I remember, it was to avoid paying P&P, because I’d rather spend the money on something I’d use than the packaging! Also it’s made with oranges, and I like things with a citrus scent.

Yes, it’s luxurious. Yes, it smells great. Yes, it would make a lovely gift. Given the price though, this is more of a luxury, and there are plenty of cheaper brands that do just as well in terms of softening your hands an cuticles!

3. Korres conditioner (Waitrose)

I picked up this Korres sunflower and mountain tea conditioner from the supermarket because I love Korres skincare and wanted to try out a couple of things from their haircare range.

I’m not a specialist, but I noticed too late that this range is for coloured hair. Still, although I don’t have coloured hair, I still used it because as I understand it, the main difference is that the formula is more gentle and doesn’t strip the hair as much. I wouldn’t go out of my way to by products for coloured hair, but I didn’t see any problem with using this one up, especially as I really liked it. My hairdresser even asked what I’d been using because my hair was so soft, silky, and smooth. If anyone knows more about the differences with products for coloured hair, do let me know in the comments.

4. Raspberry body butter (the Body Shop)

I’m a fan of the body butters from the Body Shop® and I had a raspberry one in my drawer. This was more at the beginning of July, before the really hot weather set in and I reached more for the lightweight formulas. Really I’d say this is more of a winter product, but it is good if you have dryer areas that you want to take care of. Raspberry isn’t my personal favourite in terms of the scents, but if it’s yours, then you’ll smell of tangy raspberries all day! I haven’t found one body butter that I don’t like though, so really it’s just a question of personal preference.

If you’re reading this between 14th Aug and 9AM 4th September 2018, there is an online offer at the Body Shop where you can get £10 off when you spend £30. Use code 14671.

5. Body lotion (Lush)

After trying out some Lush products that were kindly sent to me by a reader, I decided to try out some other things from there. I picked up a couple of my favourite bubble bars, and also decided to try out their Sympathy for the Skin body lotion. It comes in a little pot, and is quite thin, a bit like the body yoghurts I’ve talked about from the Body Shop®. It smells really refreshing too – there’s banana in there, but it’s not totally a banana scent. Perhaps it’s the cocoa butter and vanilla blend. In any event, I think this is a good product for the summer – nice and gentle with a refreshing, but not overpowering scent.

In terms of value for money though, it is quite expensive in terms of what you get. If you compare it to the body yoghurts, they are around the same price, but you get twice as much product. So, whilst I liked this, I think there is better value for a similar product elsewhere. Lush is still my go-to place for bubble bars though!

6. I’m forever blowing bubbles (Lush)

This was what I thought would be a bar, but it’s a kind of circular thing on a stick. You’re apparently supposed to use it for blowing bubbles while you’re running your bath. I didn’t – I just used it like a normal bubble bar, but it’s a novel idea, especially for children or children at heart! It’s smaller than the other bubble bars though, so although I enjoyed it, I’d probably just get the normal ones in future.

7. Green lemon and orange blossom body wash (Boots)

I like Sanctuary Spa products, particularly this citrusy range. The green lemon and orange blossom body wash is fresh and good for waking you up in the morning. As I write this, it’s part of a 3-for-2 offer. No idea how long it will last, but I thought it was worth mentioning! I’ve had it before and often come back to this range.

8.Green lemon and orange blossom moisture miracle (Boots)

Something else that’s on 3 for 2 as I write this is the moisture miracle, which is another of the light-weight moisturisers that seem to be everywhere this summer. Put them on damp skin and they’re dry within minutes, whilst still giving you moisture throughout the rest of the day. None of this watery nonsense that I’ve tried with other brands in the past that dry quickly, but make you feel as if there’s nothing there!

If orange and lemon isn’t your thing, there are moisture miracles in their other scents as well!

9. Maybelline pore eraser primer (Amazon)

I got this pore eraser primer because it was recommended as a cheaper alternative to the Porefessional one. It’s quite thick, and if you don’t like silicone-based primers, you probably won’t like it. However, I think it makes a really nice base. You maybe don’t want it on the hottest days, but I like it more than some of the more expensive primers that I’ve received in beauty boxes lately.

10. MUA whipped velvet blush (Amazon)

I finally finished up a make-up product!! I get through my skincare much faster than my make-up, but I came to the end of my cream velvet blush from MUA.

I’m a big fan of products, and I don’t use any powder blushes. I liked this and used it right down to the bottom till there was only a tiny bit smeared around the edges. I do prefer the sticks though because you just draw them on and blend, so I won’t be repurchasing this one.

11. Burt’s Bees tropical pineapple lip balm (Amazon)

I raved about this pineapple lip balm to begin with – because pineapple! It does smell and taste great, but the flavour crystals do feel a bit rough on the lips as you apply it. Great if you want to exfoliate your lips at the same time, but not so great if you keep applying it and want something a bit more gentle on the lips. I do like the Burt’s Bees products, but would pick up the mango or grapefruit smooth ones rather than getting another one with flavour crystals.

12. Mango whipped body lotion (Body Shop®)

I’ve talked about this mango whipped lotion before. It smells amazing. It’s got a creamy light texture – perfect for the summer months. It’s a pump, so a bit more hygienic than the tubs. Ok I had to take it apart to get every last drop out, but you can get most of the product out using the pump. I’ve talked about this before and it’s a firm favourite.

13. Bee Good serum (Amazon)

I won’t go on about this Bee Good serum here because I’ve only just reviewed it in my Latest in Beauty post. It’s something I would get again though.

14. Noughty Blondie Locks shampoo (Amazon)

I got a conditioner and this shampoo as one item in Latest in Beauty, which was really good value because both of them were full-size. I wanted to try out something from Noughty as I’d seen these haircare products around on Feelunique. I don’t want to say anything bad really because I didn’t dislike the shampoo, but having tried out some Korres products at the same time, the Naughty ones just didn’t excite me as much. So there’s nothing wrong with it – I just liked another brand more.

frosted plum shower gel

The last of my Christmas stuff from the Body Shop®. All of their shower gels are nice enough and good quality, but this scent was a bit sweet for me. Bring back the spiced apple!

Update

I realised that I put it in the header image, but forgot to mention the Pixie glow tonic. This is an exfoliating toner that uses glycolic acid to help remove dead skin cells, and is a good alternative for those of us who don’t like physical exfoliants that rub away at the top layer of skin. I’ve tried a few of these and I do prefer the Nip+Fab pads or the Clarins exfoliating toner. This Pixie one is a bit cheaper, but I’m not a fan of the scent.

So, have you used any of these things? Don’t forget to let me know what you think of them!

The shop names in brackets tell you where my link will lead you, but of course you can get the products in other places too. Some of the links are affiliate links. Some are just added to show you more information and pictures for those who want to know what they look like.

You can get £10 off your first Feel Unique order by going onto the site using my affiliate link. This offer is open to new customers only, and the minimum spend is £30.

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On integrity and balance – can a blog have too many sponsored posts?

I’m in a number of groups on Facebook. Some are for bloggers, and others are for people who are interested in the same kind of things as me such as subscription boxes and beauty or skincare products.

A common complaint that I see is about bloggers and YouTubers, and how they get so many free products, whereas the rest of the population has to save up hard-earned cash. There is definite resentment there sometimes, and it’s definitely against the “influencers” (I hate that word), not against the brands that send out the free stuff – which in itself is interesting.

This is often met with the response that people who say these things don’t realise how much work actually goes into running a blog or Youtube channel and they have no idea about everything that goes on behind the scenes.

There is truth in that – but is it the whole story? I don’t think so, or it wouldn’t find so much resonance with other beauty and skincare lovers.

Do I work with brands?

Unseen Beauty isn’t my job. It’s my hobby. I sometimes make money from it, but I don’t live from it. Most of the things I talk about on here have been bought with my own money. If I get free products or have sponsored content, it’s marked as such.

I don’t work as much with brands as I could.

I get inspiration from other bloggers and Youtubers who work with brands, and if done well, I think it’s definitely a good way for brands to let people know about their products.

The first time I was sent some gorgeous products from a brand that I genuinely liked, I felt so humbled and grateful. But I still wrote an honest review of them. I loved a couple, liked a couple more, and there was one that wasn’t a bad product, but it wasn’t really one that I would buy again. That’s normal.

I was reminded of this again yesterday when I read a review of some facemasks that another blogger had been sent. She liked some, but thought that one didn’t really do much for her. I respect people who do that. And there are plenty who do, both bloggers and Youtubers who won’t say everything was amazing. Because let’s face it, it’s rare that you think everything in one selection is equally amazing. Readers and viewers know that. If content creators don’t keep it real for fear of upsetting a brand or never being picked for another campaign, they will pay in the long-run because people won’t stick around.

Also there’s another side to it. Several of my readers have contacted me to say that they’ve bought things as a result of my recommendations. I know that just because I loved something, it doesn’t mean other people will, but I have a clear conscience about the recommendation, because I mean what I say on here. Some of my blind readers have bought things directly because I said I found them easier to use as someone who’s unable to see. I have a responsibility to my readers to be honest about things like that, as well as my more general opinions.

So, yes, I do work with brands, although not as many as some other bloggers. Working with brands is exciting. It feels good. It’s fun. But it also comes with a responsibility to stay true to yourself.

I could spend more time identifying opportunities, and I also turn some down because they have nothing to do with my site, or are things that I would never use.

In a previous job I ran the staff magazine and whilst some people had great idea, there were other stories that we just couldn’t run. The magazine had a set of aims and things that it could cover, and some things just fell outside of that and we had to say “no”. It’s the same with my blog. If something doesn’t feel right, or if I’d have to lie and either make out I’d use something when I really wouldn’t, or else say I loved a certain type of product when I really don’t – I won’t do it.

I don’t think that collaborations, free products or promoting specific brands are a bad thing either, but I do think that some people make a better job of it than others.

Getting it right

I do watch YouTubers who get sent a lot of stuff from brands, but I think the people who come across in the best way are those that make it about sharing information, rather than saying “look at me and how lucky I am!” That’s such a turn-off. But if you do it in a way that says “hey, here are some new things that are coming out this month”, it adds value and might give the readers or viewers ideas about things they might like to try.

I think the other problem I see, mainly on blogs, is when people go down the road of only posting sponsored content and never mixing it up. Some say they are blogging full-time and need to make money, but I’d say there’s a difference between not being willing to work for brands for free, and not being willing to create content that adds value to your own platform. The latter is called content marketing and should be part of any online presence. Otherwise it’s just like doing advertising – advertising – advertising. It gets boring if you don’t throw some other value-adding content into the mix such as opinion posts, how-to posts, information that will help readers, or even just things you’ve been enjoying recently that you aren’t being paid to promote.

What other value is the blog giving to readers? Why should they keep coming back, rather than visiting all the other beauty or fashion blogs?

It’s a fairly saturated space out there. I don’t mean it’s impossible to get and keep people’s attention, but I do think that content creators have to offer something unique, and two ways they can do that are by mixing up their content with things other than sponsored post, and keeping it real, which means not adoring or recommending every sponsored single item 100%!

It’s easy for me to say because this isn’t my career, but even if it were, keeping your sense of credibility and integrity has to be better than selling yourself out to make a quick few pounds. I mean it both morally, and also in terms of followers, who are like a type of customer, believing in your opinions and choosing to stick around.

Finally, some of the blogs that I enjoy the most don’t have any sponsored content. It doesn’t have to be about that. Blogging was originally a place for people to write, and it still can be – without us all feeling that we have to fit the same mould.

So what do you think?

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me here, and that’s fine, as long as you can be respectful in the comments! But I have a feeling that some people will get what I’m saying!

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DnD without sight – making the character sheet

I’ve already written a post about making DND accessible for someone who is blind. Today I thought I’d go in to more detail about how we make the character sheets for my characters.

I don’t think that there is any one right way to do this. What is helpful will depend on how the person likes to work. Someone with partial sight might enlarge the character sheet or use a magnifier. Someone who’s not as confident with access technology or a screenreader will probably prefer a more low-tech solution.

I use Excel a lot at work and for organising just about every aspect of life! So it made sense for us to use a character sheet in Excel. However, we couldn’t just download one from the internet and go, because many of them don’t take into consideration the things that are important to a blind person using a screenreader.

So I explained to my partner, who is also our GM, what’s important and what causes problems for me, and we built a new character sheet from scratch.

Things to consider

My character sheet looks a bit different from standard ones because I have the things that I need regularly at the top. My special abilities are more relevant than my eye or hair colour most of the time, so I prioritise the things that I need to refer to more often.

I don’t use a mouse. In Excel, I move around from square to square using the arrow keys. I won’t notice something if it’s way off to the right somewhere, so we start everything in the first column. Individual tables can stretch out into the columns to the right of this, but I don’t like multiple columns of text or figures that are placed next to one another, because I could miss something important.

One of the biggest problems I had with the generic downloadable character sheets was merged cells. I hate them with a passion! They might look good for spacing and printing out, but I think they are a total pain and quite disorientating. For example, if you have a line of 4 merged cells next to each other, and you press the right arrow key, it takes you a cell to the right of the furthest point on the block of cells, not just one cell to the right as would normally be the case.

When I’m setting up other spreadsheets, I usually have one table per page. This isn’t the case with my character sheet, but I split up blocks of information with a blank line so that I can jump back and forth between the blocks using control up and control down arrow.

It doesn’t matter to me whether all of the information would print out nicely on one page, because I’m never going to print it out! I do share it with my GM, partly so he can have a copy as he does with other players, and partly so he can help with design improvements, but we just have a shared folder in Dropbox, so it never gets printed.

If someone doesn’t like or know how to use Excel, they could use Word or even Notepad to store the information, but you do lose the number-crunching and automatic updating of cell functionality that comes with Excel.

Things don’t always stay the same

I guess it’s the same with anyone – if you need a piece of information often enough, you can memorise it. However there is also a search function in my screenreader software, which means I can search for a word that I want to locate in the text, and my focus will jump to it. This is also quicker than having to scan a lot of information with my fingertips.

Another benefit of working on the spreadsheet is that I can quickly note down changes such as decreasing hit points, how many spell slots or crossbow bolts I have left, how many times I’ve used my cone of cold etc. We’ve got it set up so that I have a permanent value, then a temporary value, and a cell which calculates how many uses/spells etc I have left.

We try to automate as much as possible without making the sheet ridiculously complicated. One way of doing this is pulling information from other sheets in the workbook, so the main sheet doesn’t get cluttered with unnecessary additional information.

One of these sheets is all the spells I can choose from. So when I reach a new level and can add additional spells, I can go to the complete spell list page, see what I want, start typing the name of the spell on my main sheet, and the rest of the row will populate with the saving throw, description, damage etc. The same works if I’m playing a character that swaps out spells on a daily basis and having the information populating the rows saves me time.

In terms of magical items or potions, the others use cards that are handed out, then handed back if the item is used or sold. I have the cards too, but I keep track of them on my character sheet, deleting things once they have been used.

Taking notes

I think I take more notes than most other people. Partly it’s what I have always done in previous jobs before I started working for myself – I had the laptop with me and could usually take down more information than someone trying to keep up with a pen and paper. That meant I often ended up taking the notes, and taking other people’s turn to do so in exchange for help with stuff that I found more difficult.

I do it in our DnD sessions because I can’t see the maps and it helps me to build up a mental image of what’s around us. It also gives me the chance to help other players out if we forget the name of the NPC we met a couple of weeks ago. That gives it more of a feeling of give and take when I ask for help with exactly where to go in combat or finding the best position.

So, I have a big space at the bottom of my character sheet for making notes. Each session gets a row, and each individual bit of useful information gets a square. I keep moving to the right until the session is over. If there’s a lot of combat, I don’t tend to write much. If we’re moving around and interacting more, there tend to be more notes. Having the spreadsheet means that I can not only access the important information about my character, but constantly add my own notes as well.

Using Braille

I have heard people talking about Braille character sheets before. I used one once, because we went to a one-off game in a pub garden, and I knew there would be no plug sockets. Making notes wasn’t so important, and it was a low level character, so I used a d20 to track the number of hit points I had left. It was ok, but I missed the ability to write stuff down and I wouldn’t want to do it all the time.

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The blog covers many interests such as beauty and skincare products, animals, accessibility, travel, and my random thoughts. There are more DnD posts planned.

Latest in Beauty subscription box review May 2018

I thought I’d do another Latest in Beauty post. I know it’s August, so three months ago since I got these products, but I like to try them out fully first, rather than just saying “hey this is what I got!” Because I can’t give an honest opinion if I start talking about them as soon as they arrive. Also, things sell out quite quickly on the site, so I’ve linked to the full size products on other sites. But this should give you an idea of what you can put in a Latest in Beauty build-your-own box. There was a lot of haircare this month, but that was also because I keep away from some of the more traditional Summer products like tanning items. I paid £18 for this box, which works out at £2 per item. At the time of writing, you can also get 3 products for £9, or 6 products for £15.

So here’s what I got!

  1. Youth Enhancing Hydrate, Smooth & Prime Serum (Amazon) – This was a travel size, whereas I’ve linked to the full-size product. This is a lovely, non-oily serum that uses ingredients from British bees, and every sale helps to protect the bees. Contains honey and anti-oxidant rich propolis. If you buy the full size, you get it in a pump container, which keeps it fresher for longer and reduces waste.
  2. Soften glove masks (Amazon) Something I’ve mentioned before on here, and a good product to use after you’ve applied nail varnish remover or had your hands in water that dries them out. The only slight problem is that these masks are a little big, but I guess they need to make them suitable for all size of hand, and mine are on the small side. There’s no mess with these because all the product is inside the glove.
  3. Ooharr single use face mask (Amazon) I’m usually a sheet mask kind of girl, but I like these fruity masks that are packed with natural ingredients, such as orange, lime and cucumber. This is a revitalising mask with vitamin C, intended to nourish and hydrate the face. I don’t use these all the time, but think that they make a nice change.
  4. Yes to tomatoes detoxifying charcoal mask (Boots) This is a sheet mask and it’s great for those times when you want to pamper your skin and clean out your pores. My face is more prone to blemishes at certain times and I like something like this as an alternative to my exfoliating toner. I was a bit worried about using this because the yes to cucumber one made my face red and sore, but this one was fine. It contains tomatoes, aloe vera, ginger, witch hazel, and green tea.
  5. Sweet as cherry pie handcream (Amazon) I like Patisserie de Bain products and although they feel slightly sticky when you apply them, these handcreams soon absorb and leave your hands really soft. There are a range of scents, but my favourites are the lemon and cherry ones.
  6. Bois d’Orange Lait Sorbet Body Lotion (M&S) This was actually quite a small lotion, but I saw it as a way to try something new, and I’m a fan of all citrusy things. This orange fragrance from Roger & Gallet didn’t disappoint!
  7. Tigi Bed head beach bound sun protection spray (Feelunique) I already raved about this in my July favourites and I think it was my favourite product in the box. It smells amazing and I care about protecting my hair from sun damage. It does say specifically formulated for coloured hair, but any protection is good – surely – even if you don’t have coloured hair. And mango scent!
  8. Tigi Bed Head totally Beachin’ conditioner (Lookfantastic) I liked this conditioner, and I got it because I really enjoyed the other Tigi Bed Head samples that I got a couple of months ago. We had hot weather when I used it, but I’m probably not the ideal target audience, because I don’t spend a long time in the sun, and the beach is definitely not my happy place! So I can’t really say how well it worked in terms of nourishing sun-damaged hair, but it was a good conditioner and left my hair feeling soft and silky.
  9. Tigi Bed Head totally beachin’ shampoo (Lookfantastic) Again, I wasn’t really the target audience for this, because it’s meant to remove debris like sand from your hair, but it’s also good for when you’ve been out in the sun generally, and who doesn’t love the smell of mango and tangerine? Not something I would buy, but definitely something I was happy to try.

So all in all, a bit more haircare this time. Nothing I dislike this month, which was great! Also a few things that I would buy again. So all in all I think this was a successful month!

Have you tried any of these products? What did you think of them? Do you get Latest in Beauty? If you’ve done any reviews or Youtube videos, you’re welcome to drop your links in the comments.

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

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You can get £10 off your first Feel Unique order by going onto the site using my affiliate link. This offer is open to new customers only, and the minimum spend is £30. So basically you can get £30 of products for £20. This is an affiliate link, so I also get a reward – in this case it’s £10 worth of products, which I will use to buy new things to test out on Unseen Beauty.

10 things that I’ve enjoyed this month – days out and new products

July has been a hot month here in the UK. In some ways I enjoyed the heat, but by about Thursday this week, I’d had enough of it and was glad to see the rain. The houses here in the UK are generally built for insulation, not for keeping cool. We’ve had some good days out in the sunshine, but the garden is glad of the rain, and so am I because it makes everything cooler. Here are some of the other things that I have been enjoying this month.

1. Chilli and cheese festival

This was actually June, but the end of June, so the June favourites post had already gone out! It happens every year and you can go to an event and buy lots of spicy things such as chilli sauces, marinades and cheese with chilli. We also picked up some different types of cheese, along with some spicy sausages. The bag was actually quite heavy by the time we got it back to the car, but most of the things in the header photo have already gone – certainly all the cheese and sausages. It will take us longer to get through the marinades and sauces, but we use a lot of this kind of stuff in our cooking at home, so the chilli and cheese festival is a good way to stock up, and it also supports not necessarily local, but smaller independent companies.

2. Pretty Animalz masks

Ok so this is also about the packaging, which is a bit lost on a blind user, but it’s kind of cool to have a fox or a penguin mask!

The fox is a brightening mask that contains coffee extract, liquorice and vitamin C. It’s intended to reduce the appearance of dark spots and pigmentation. When I got these, they were on 3 for 2 at Feelunique. They aren’t any more, but there are often sales on there with as much as 60% off at times, so it’s worth a look. Scroll down to the bottom to see how you can get £10 off your first order.

The penguin mask is a nourishing and purifying mask with lily flower, grapefruit and paper mulberry.

I know it’s just a sales technique with the animals, but I’ve had Masquebar masks before and was pleased with their quality, so I didn’t feel I was just buying into the packaging cuteness.

3. My first Lime Crime product

Because who doesn’t love cherries? I read a review of the Lime Crime wet cherry gloss on another blog, not sure where now, and I had some credit to use up on Feelunique! So I got myself one. I am not so much of a lip gloss wearer, but I thought it would be nice for the summer, and it promised not to be heavy and sticky, which is something you don’t want when you have long hair on a windy day! It comes in a range of shades, so you can choose whether you want
“Juicy Sheer with a translucent burst of colour in nudes, reds, berries and peaches.”
or
“Sparkly Sheer packed with iridescent pearls that light up lips.”

4. Hair protection spray

This was one of my Latest in Beauty choices. I do have a sun protection spray, but I thought it would be nice to try a different brand – and I love this one from Tigi Bedhead. It was a full-size product on Latest in Beauty too, which meant a saving, and this stuff smells amazing! Mango! I think we all know about the importance of sun protection for our skin, but sometimes forget the need to protect our hair. This does say it’s specifically for coloured hair, which I don’t have, but I don’t see why this would do any harm. My other one is potentially better, because it specifically mentions protecting against sun rays, rather than just heat, but it’s good to have alternatives. Also the other one appears to be out of stock now!

5. Ocado app

I raved about Ocado before in my online shopping post, but at the time of writing, I hadn’t tried out the app. I wish I had! The app is even easier to use than the site itself! You just have to locate the product that you want, and swiping upwards changes the quantity in your basket. I still tend to check out on the laptop, because it’s less hassle to book a slot or add any voucher codes that I want to use, but certainly for dealing with things that I want to buy, topping up things that have run out, and adding new things to the order while I’m out and about, the app is a great way to make this task easier.

6. Meeting online friends

I spend a lot of my time online, working with people in other parts of Europe. Occasionally I get to meet some, which is what happened 2 weeks ago, when S and I drove to a park in Kent to meet with someone whom I’ve known online for the last few years. I met Alf in an online forum on a German website similar to LinkedIn, and when he said that he was coming on holiday to the UK with his wife and little daughter, we all decided to meet up for a picnic. The internet makes so many new connections possible, and it’s great to meet online friends in real life.

7. Coffee bags

Just like teabags, but for coffee. I’m not sure why nobody thought of this sooner. I’ve got a couple of brands to try and although it would be expensive to do this all the time, it’s a great idea for travelling – you know, in the hotel rooms where you get a kettle but rarely find decent coffee? It’s also good because you don’t have to clear up the coffee grounds – they stay in their bag, so you can just throw away the bag, like a teabag. The ones I tried were nice, if a little weak, so I’ll need to leave them in for a bit longer. I’ve also picked up another brand, because I think they will be more intense. I’ll let you know. These were from Ocado, so I imagine you’ll be able to find them in other supermarkets too.

8. New beginning – back to studying

I was a bit hesitant to write about this, because I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen, but now that I’ve paid for the first module, it feels real! From October I’ll be starting a part-time Open University IT degree. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, because I always tell my students that we should never stop learning.

My biggest concern was accessibility – whether the materials could be provided in a way that is accessible to a blind student, particularly where they rely on diagrams and graphical information. I’d had some problems with distance learning in the past, but that was a long time ago, so I wanted to explore my options again.

I may do some more university posts once I’ve started the course, but after several discussions about how we can make things work, I’m feeling more positive about giving it a go, so wanted to include this in the good things that happened in July.

I am looking forward to officially developing my skills in areas that I’ve just been researching and learning myself.

9. Going to the zoo

It was S’s birthday this month and we decided to go on a day out to Marwell zoo with another friend. A lot of the animals were hiding because of the heat, but we did see the giraffes, the tiger, the bongos, the penguins, zebras, capybaras, cheetahs, owls, flamingos, and more! There were also some wooden and metal animals around, which I enjoyed “meeting” so I could get an idea of what they looked like – such as the big hippo and the wooden shark. The most vocal of all the creatures were the penguins, and I had no idea that they could make so much noise. S managed to get a video of them, which was a real highlight for me!

10. Moisturiser

My first product from Origins – this GinZing moisturiser contains GinZing and coffee extract to jumpstart hydration levels and leave you with a radiant and glowing complexion. I like this non-greasy moisturiser that I didn’t know about before, and again this is another reason I like the beauty boxes, because you get to discover new brands. This was from my M&S Summer box, which has now sold out.

What have you enjoyed this month?

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

This post contains some affiliate links, but I only promote things that I’ve tried and tested.

You can get £10 off your first Feel Unique order by going onto the site using my affiliate link. This offer is open to new customers only, and the minimum spend is £30. So basically you can get £30 of products for £20. This is an affiliate link, so I also get a reward – in this case it’s £10 worth of products, which I will use to buy new things to test out on Unseen Beauty. However I only promote things that I enjoy, and I was very happy with the service I received from Feel Unique.

8 books that I have read recently

I haven’t done a books post for a while. I started doing them monthly, but if I only managed one or two books in a month, that wasn’t very exciting. So here are my 8 most recent books. It’s an eclectic mix again – personal story, travel, drama, sci-fi and easy reads. Some are things that I’ve been wanting to read, others are audio books that I read with S, whilst others are books that people have recommended. As always, there are no pictures of the books because I read them electronically, and in any event I don’t bow down to the assertion that you need a bunch of images every time you want to write something.

1. Northanger Abbey audio drama

By: Jane Austin
I got this when it was the daily sale purchase from Audible. They have deals on every day, and if something you want to read comes up when you already have a subscription, it’s a good way to get extra books cheaply.

After visiting Jane Austen’s house, I decided I wanted to read more of her books. I love the way that the characters spoke to each other and have adopted “odious man” into my own vocabulary! I think it’s fascinating to see how life was so much different in those days, particularly in relation to the role of women and how finding a suitable match was seen to be so important. The social events may have changed, but humanity hasn’t changed that much. I saw huge parallels with social media nowadays and how people can be so busy constructing the image of themselves as they want others to see them.

I thought the dramatization was really well done and will look out for more.

2.
Twirling naked in the streets and noone noticed – growing up with undiagnosed autism

By: Jeannie Davide-Rivera
I got it as an audio book from iTunes
This is one of the few books that I have read twice. I first got it a couple of years ago when I was doing some research about autism in relation to an adult learner, but although I have never experienced the specific difficulties that the learner was having, I soon realised that I shared some of the traits described in the books and articles that I was reading.

This book follows the story of a child who becomes a teenager, then an adult, and it is only in adulthood that she discovers that she has autism. There’s plenty of information about boys and men on the spectrum, but not so much about women, which is why I particularly enjoyed this book.

I don’t relate to everything she says, but some things really made sense to me on a level that was deeper than just academic understanding, I got it! These ranged from sensory sensitivities (which in my case people thought for years were just a blindness thing), to the way she approaches some tasks, interacted with other children, and responds to people and/or specific situations. Some of the things in the book and on Jeannie’s blog sounded like something I might write, and that felt good to read because most of the time people don’t think that way. I like it because it isn’t a book “about” people by someone with no first-hand knowledge, but a book by someone giving an honest account of their own experiences.

3. The peacock Emporium

By: Jojo Moyes
This was another daily sale book and I picked it up because I’d read some other books by the author.

I struggled a bit with the narrative because I found it really hard to relate to the main character. She seemed so passive. People can’t help you to get what you want if you don’t try to work out for yourself what that is. But I think it also addressed some important issues such as what it’s like for newcomers in small communities, and how or when you should get involved when it’s clear that someone is being treated badly by their partner.

4. Steelheart

By: Brandon Sanderson
This was another of my monthly Audible books.

We got this because it was written by the same author as the Way of Kings series. The idea is that a handful of people have been given superpowers and become known as epics, but the epics want to rule, and in doing so, crush civilisations and fight with each other. One young boy, who saw his father killed, wants to join the good guys, ordinary people trying to bring down the worst band of epics. He has knowledge that they need, but will he be allowed to join them?

There was a twist or two in the plot that I didn’t anticipate. I got a bit bored during the lengthy weapons descriptions, but I liked the idea that with every superpower comes a weakness, which means that nobody is really invincible, and the clever tech was cool. Maybe just a bit less talk about guns?

5. Around the world in 80 days

By: Michael Palin

I seem to remember this was on offer too – in any event I was in the mood for some non-fiction, so I got the audio book from Audible.

The story of this adventure wasn’t new to me because I had seen the TV programme as a child with my grandparents. I didn’t actually know it was a book. But I wanted to revisit all the places again, so got the book when S was away and I wanted something to read – because I know I always go to bed really late if he isn’t around!

Each day is described in terms of the places the team visited, the people they met, and the things that happened as they travelled around the world, following the route that Phileas Fogg had taken around 100 years earlier.

6. Fated

By: Benedict Jacka
Another book that I got from Audible!

We got this because it was said to be similar to the Jim Butcher Harry Dresden urban fantasy series, but this one is set in London. Camden to be specific, and I used to work not far from there! It’s fun to have places like Camden Market and the British Museum popping up in the stories that you read.

It is similar to the Dresden files in that it explains life from the perspective of a magic user in a world where magic is all around you, but most people just don’t notice it. There is friendship, sometimes with unlikely creatures, questions of conscience, hunger for power, fear, and excitement. There isn’t much violence, but the book does touch on issues of slavery and torture. I’m not quite sure which reader demographic the author was going for – the writing style would have also made it suitable for a younger audience, but some of the material was not.

7. Fallen Angels

By: Richard Morgan
This is the second in the altered Carbon series. Another one from Audible.

This is the second book about Takeshi Covacs, set 50 years after the Altered Carbon book (and TV series). It’s a mix of sci-fi thriller and war novel that includes politics, philosophy and action.

I loved the idea of this – all the different characters having to work together whilst discovering technology from a civilisation that was so much more advanced than their own. But some of the scenes were a bit disturbing – I think that because bodies are dispensible as people can be downloaded into new ones, they are treated as mere sleves with quite horrifying results. It kind of shows that whatever changes, whatever advances are made in science and technology, things like greed, the need to be in charge and have the biggest and best stay pretty much the same.

It was still an exciting read though with several points at which you were convinced that everything was lost, only to find another plot twist.

8. The one plus one

By Jojo Moyes

I actually read this in German, but found an English link for you!

Another non-demanding, highly improbable book about a family and the struggles they faced. The sad scene with the dog did actually make me cry. But on the whole I found this too farfetched. Everything isn’t suddenly ok if an absent parent suddenly shows up again, and as someone who has had accessibility struggles, it’s not ok to pretend that your dog is a guide dog just so he’ll be let in somewhere.

I like the idea of bringing people together whose lives are so different – a mother struggling to make ends meet and a successful businessman who made a mistake, but I don’t think this is one of the author’s best books. I did however read on to the end, so it can’t have been that bad because I’m not someone who’ll finish a book just because they started it.

Have you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments!

Your chance to get a free audio book from Audible

If you’re in the UK or Germany, you can get a free ebook if you sign up for an Audible subscription. Whether or not you continue with the monthly subscription, you get to keep your audio book, and you can choose from 200,000 titles on a wide range of subjects. You can then download the Audible app on your phone and take your book with you wherever you go! (Books have to be purchased on the website – you can’t do it on the app).

Link for the UK
Link for Germany

1. This offer is open to people in Germany and the UK. Remember to use the correct link for your country.
2. You are eligible if you haven’t had a free audio book from Audible in the last year.
3. If you don’t want to pay, you must remember to cancel your subscription within the first month. You will still be able to keep your free book.
4. If you like the service, you will continue to receive a credit each month, which can be used to buy a book. Buying books on subscription is often cheaper than buying them individually.

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