New skincare and bath products in April – tried and tested!

Well, April has come and gone. I tried some interesting new products, and am going to share them with you here. I was particularly interested to see that the Body Shop has some new launches coming in the next couple of months, and I tried out at least one of them in April. Let me know in the comments if you have tried any of these.

Australian body care

This is a new brand for me. I saw the tea tree skin wash on Latest in Beauty, and with my subscription only costing £2 per product, this was a good deal for a full size. This, unlike some other tea tree products, was fairly gentle and lathered up well. I think it’s something I’d be more likely to use as a hand wash though as I don’t enjoy the tingly tea tree sensation all over my body. Nice enough, but not something I’m in a hurry to buy again.

Aveda

I’ve already raved about the almond conditioner, but in April I finished up the almond shampoo as well. These are really good products – they leave your hair feeling and smelling amazing, and the naturally derived cherry blossom and sweet almond restore softness and shine. I would definitely buy these again.

Body shop

the satsuma lotion is one of the light-weight body moisturisers that aren’t talked about as much. But I really like them, especially in the summer. This is a fresh, citrusy satsuma scent, and the lotion absorbs quickly and easily. There are lotions in a number of scents, but I prefer the mango one and this one. They make a nice change from heavier products such as the butters, but they are still moisturising enough to make a difference. The pump also keeps them fresher for longer because you’re not opening the whole tub up to the air.

This roots of strength day cream is marketed at the 40+ range, so a bit older than me, but only just! It’s a non-greasy moisturiser, although it is one of the richer ones that the Body Shop does. It’s main selling points are plumping the skin and reducing fine lines. It contains ginger from Madagascar, ginseng from China and ruscus from Europe. I enjoyed using it, but there are other Body Shop moisturisers that I like more.

The chamomile eye make up remover is something that I got in an advent calendar, but I also have a full-size one on the go. I like it because it’s gentle and it gets the job done. I don’t tend to shop around for these because once I’ve found one I like, I don’t like to take the risk that a different one will sting my eyes. So I usually keep one of these in my stash!

This is one of the new arrivals, and sadly it’s out of stock as I write this, but you can ask to be notified when it’s back. The mango bath blend is one of the new range of bath blends that are packed full of fruit and vegetables, rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Other blends in the range include banana, berry and pear. It’s a mid-range bubble bath in terms of the amount of bubbles you get, but the silky smooth skin and the amazing scent make it a treat worth splashing out on. I also have the banana one and I’m looking forward to using that on pamper nights. Seriously these smell like fruity cocktails with real fruit, not the synthetic fruit scents.

Cowshed

I still like this brand as much as I always did in terms of the products, but I don’t like their rebrand and the fact that they lost all the cool names. I had a mini of the indulge body lotion in our Christmas Eve box and I finished it up in April. It contains Madagascan Ylang Ylang, Moroccan Rose, and Indian Palmarosa, but isn’t only floral. I’m not sure what they did to it, because I don’t usually like floral lotions, but it’s a scent and formula that I enjoy.

Crabtree and Evelyn

Previously I’ve only had hand cream from this brand, but I got this Silky rose body lotion in a Christmas gift set. I’m not usually a fan of rose, but this also has some citrus notes such as lemon, so I actually quite liked it. It was good to try something else from this brand and I’m glad it’s not all flowery scents. The lotion absorbed well and I like the pump dispenser.

Kores

This is an old favourite, the Sunflower conditioner. Technically it’s for coloured hair, which I don’t have, but I like this conditioner so much, I don’t care! It leaves my hair so soft and silky, and it’s a good detangler as well. Generally this brand is known for its shower products and body lotions, but the haircare is definitely worth looking at as well.

Natura

I got this Herb Infused Sheet Mask in one of my Pip boxes. I don’t usually go for multi-masks unless I’m intentionally targeting different parts of the face with different products – this one is intended to hydrate, brighten, and reduce pore size, but I did actually enjoy using it, and extra points for the recyclable rather than plastic packaging.

Nuxe

The Rev de Miel face balm was one of the Latest in Beauty products of the month – usually a high-end product that is available all month. It’s marketed for dry or sensitive skin, or for normal skin in cold weather. It’s a fairly thick face cream, but I used it in the daytime too, because it sank in quickly and wasn’t greasy, so it was easy to put make-up on over it. It has the kind of smell that is characteristic of Nuxe products, but nothing overpowering. It contains honey, propolis and oils to nourish, soothe, and repair skin.

I’m not going to get another one just yet because I have other face creams, but it’s definitely something I’d use again.

Tigi

This mango protection spray has been knocking around for a while because it’s for sun or heat protection and I was mainly using it for when I went outside in the sunshine. It’s a small bottle that you can easily put in your bag, and of course it gets extra points because it’s mango. I do have another heat protection spray, but I will repurchase this because nothing smells as good as mango and it’s more handy than some of the big bottles you can get to use before you use heat tools on your hair.

Tropic skincare

Actually I have no idea where I got this super greens oil mini. It has a very strong plant-based scent, but it’s not unpleasant. It makes me think of preparing broccoli! Anyway, it’s designed to help boost your skin’s natural defences. I used it in my night-time skincare routine, especially on dryer areas.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them!

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Life of a mature student – 8 things not to do if you have an exam

I thought exams were a thing of the past, but I’m doing a part-time IT degree at the Open University. Much of the assessment process is around submitting assignments – I wrote about this in my post about getting assignments done and submitted, , but some of it does actually involve timed exams.

At school I didn’t mind exams too much – but as adults it’s easy to get out of practice, and when the time for the exam drew closer, I worried about it far more than I used to at school. Seems I don’t like exams very much! I don’t like that feeling of the time slipping away – time that I will never get back! I’d much rather take my time to do something well, than feel under pressure to get the questions answered. But sometimes you just have to get on with it and do the exam.

So, whatever it is that you’re studying, if you’re preparing for an exam, here are 8 things that you shouldn’t do. Most of these are from my own experience.

1. Don’t keep looking at the clock

Yes, you need to know what the time is so that you can plan out your time and divide it between the questions. There’s no point doing brilliantly in one area if you lose a whole bunch of marks because you didn’t get round to an important section of the question paper. But it’s also not good if you waste time because you keep checking the time, or letting the clock make you anxious or nervous.

It’s good to be aware of the clock, but try not to focus on it so much that it stops you thinking about the questions and how you are going to answer them.

2. Don’t focus on the things that you don’t know

There’s plenty that you do know. There may be something that you’ve forgotten or can’t quite remember. If you let yourself go down the rabbit hole of worrying about that, it’s a sure way to start feeling negative about yourself, getting annoyed that you didn’t revise that particular thing, panicking, and then it’s really hard to think clearly. Sometimes it’s good to focus on the things that you do know. Answer those questions that will be easy for you. Come back to the things that you’re not sure about. Don’t even think about them to start with. You can use the time that you have left to address them, but make sure you first get down all of the things that will help you to get the points.

3. Don’t leave multiple choice answers empty if you won’t be penalised for a wrong answer

I struggle with this one because whether I’m doing an exam or someone is just asking me a question, I don’t like to commit if I don’t think I have a good chance of being right. So, if I’m doing a quiz, I’ll either say I don’t know the answer or I’ll give you the 100% right answer. There’s no middle ground.

This strategy might be ok for pub quizzes or life in general, but it doesn’t help with multiple choice questions. Unless you know you will be penalised for wrong answers, it’s worth putting something in the box. Usually there’s a 25% chance of being right, so really you have nothing to lose.

4. Don’t forget that with multiple choice, sometimes you can eliminate answers

Following on from point three, if you can discard one or two of the other answers, you increase the percentage chance you have of getting the question right. If you get rid of two out of the four, you have a guess with a 50% chance of being right. Even if you don’t know the right answer, can you find any answers that are definitely, or likely to be wrong?

5. Don’t panic and give up too soon

It’s tempting to see a question that you hadn’t expected or that looks complicated and then think “I can’t do this” or “I don’t know anything about this”. This can then set you on a downward spiral where you begin to doubt yourself and your abilities. Sometimes it helps to read the question again, breaking the task down into the individual parts that you need to complete. Sometimes it helps to move on and come back to the difficult question. Sometimes it helps to take a few deep breaths and resist the urge to make a run for the door or close the exam window and cry!

6. Don’t keep revising until right before the exam

In my school days, sometimes I didn’t even look at my notes the day of the exam. If you’ve revised thoroughly, trying to learn just before the exam can actually make things worse because you start to panic. What you really need is a clear head. Everyone works differently, but trying to do too much immediately before the exam may make you feel more stressed out, so in the long run it might not be what you need.

7. Don’t get so carried away that you go way over the word count

Essay type answers with word counts can feel quite restrictive if you’re used to writing a lot. Some markers are very strict and they’ll just disregard all of the extra words. This doesn’t help you if you’ve got so involved in the topic that your answer is much longer than it should be. Try and make a plan for the structure of your answer before you start writing it. This way you’re less likely to get carried away and write too much.

8. Make sure you know exactly what the question is asking

There are all kinds of ways in which you can lose marks if you don’t do this. It can be as simple as putting your answer in the wrong unit of measurement, or as complicated as misreading the entire task. It’s not enough to know something about the subject – you’re being assessed on how well you apply the knowledge that you have to the question or task that you’re being asked to do. Sometimes it is worth rereading the question to make sure you know exactly what’s expected of you. Have a look back over your answer and see whether you have addressed all the points in the question. Sometimes the number of marks available can give you a clue as to how this will be calculated. Don’t waste time answering a question that hasn’t been asked – even if what you write is correct, if it’s not relevant, it won’t help you to pick up points.

I hope these tips have been helpful. Are there any more that you would add?

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11 things that make me feel like a non-typical bride

I’ve joined a couple of wedding groups to maybe get some inspiration and chat to other brides. I thought I might find it hard to fit in – because I’m not an ultra-girlie extravert – and I do find some of the conversations a bit hard to relate to, but I’ve picked up some tips as well – the best of which so far was about wedding insurance. I didn’t even know that was a thing. Fortunately I got ours before the whole coronavirus thing as I imagine it may have gone up now.

Anyway, in one of the groups there was a discussion about what people will be doing with their phones on the day. Everyone said they would be turning it off and leaving it in the hotel room/giving it to a bridesmaid/leaving it at home etc.

I get it – you don’t want to be like one of those people who spends the whole evening on their phone whenever you meet up with them – but some of these things just seemed a bit extreme to me.

So I piped up and said I’d have mine with me. I wouldn’t be looking at it all the time, but it would be on, apart from during the ceremony. I’m quite good at ignoring it when I’m busy, but I at least like to have it.

Also, as a blind person, in a big group of people, I can’t just look around and find people – so if I can message them, it’s a massive help. Not in a bridezilla “come here right now!” kind of way, but if I want to speak to someone and don’t know where they are, the phone is my friend! My maid of honour won’t know most of the people there, and I don’t know what they all look like to describe them to her.

I don’t go out of my way to rebel or to be the odd one out. I think in some ways I just say the thing that some other people are thinking, but they don’t want to be the first to say it. Because as soon as I made my comment about having the phone with me, a whole bunch of others said that they would bee keeping theirs with them too. True, mostly for selfie-taking-related reasons, but they were out there – the phone-keepers! It just took one person to put another point of view.

So that got me thinking – I am a bit different in a few other ways. I don’t actually care about that – I’ve always been a bit of a head-strong “I’ll do it my way” kind of girl – but it did make me smile, so I thought I’d list out some of the other ways as well.

I think a wedding is a real chance for a couple to give their own vibe to the day – to make it special and personal. We’ve got lots of ideas about how we’re going to do that and, especially if you are organising it yourselves, you don’t have to feel constrained by things that don’t fit with your idea of how the day should be.

Usually I do like rules and structure. Rules help us to manage expectations and know what’s coming up. But I guess if a rule doesn’t make sense to me, and I’m not obliged to follow it, I usually won’t!

So here are a few more things:

  1. I only follow the traditions that I like. These do not include not allowing the groom to see me on my wedding day. However, I’m happy to start new ones too, like the bride doing a speech.
  2. I’m not making my own confetti, because I don’t see the point of it! It makes such a mess and someone has to clear it up. It gets everywhere and some of it is bad for wildlife. Time and money saved!
  3. I’m organising my own hen do. Maybe I’m a control freak. But also it’s because I like organising, I want it to be fun for everyone, including me, and I know that most of the people there won’t know each other. Also I don’t want to dump all that responsibility on any of my friends, especially when I know I will enjoy sorting it out.
  4. I’m not buying into the whole craziness with gifts – a bunch of gifts when you ask someone to be your bridesmaid, more gifts for all your hens, gifts the night before your wedding, and then gifts on the day. Ok the last one is fine, because I want to show people who have helped us that we appreciate them, but what’s with the whole proposal box for other members of your wedding party thing? Fine if you want to do it, but it all feels a bit commercial and social media driven to me.
  5. I’m not getting wasted on my hen night – because I don’t drink. Yay for no hang-over the next day!
  6. I’m not going to pick my dress based on whether anyone cries, or not buy a dress I really like because I didn’t get emotional. It’s like a pressure to feel the right thing, but really it’s about what you like and feel happy with. I tend to be a bit more practical, but that’s ok.
  7. I don’t get excited about wedding stationery. I guess I’m just not the ideal target audience! But that’s the cool thing about weddings – you can put the time and money into the things that you do really care about.
  8. I don’t ask people I don’t know whether everyone else is doing a thing if I want to do it, or whether anyone else is not doing a thing because I really don’t want to do it. I’m not judging people who do, because it sounds like they just want a bit of reassurance. But what I read between the lines when people do that is “I reeeally want to/don’t want to – is that ok?
  9. I don’t want a beach honeymoon – because we don’t like beach holidays! We’re still going to have fun though!
  10. There will be no salted caramel – anywhere! Not because of my allergies – although there will be no allergens either –we just think salted caramel is a thing that shouldn’t be a thing!
  11. And maybe the most safety-conscious – I won’t be lobbing my bouquet. Because let’s face it, blind bride hurling her bouquet into the crowd is bound to end in tears, or a split lip – but seriously. I’m going to time and trouble deciding on flowers that I like – I want to take better care of them and keep them!

That’s a lot of “I won’t”s! There are a lot of things that we ARE doing to make our big day special and personalised, but I can’t really share those with you yet. I don’t want my blog readers to know more than the people at my wedding. So anyone interested in the details and more wedding content will need to wait till the big day is over next year!

For those of you who are married, are there any traditions that you ignored, or new ones that you made?

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Same storm – different ships

It occurs to me that even when all the norms are thrown out of the window, it doesn’t take long for a sense of pressure to build up about what is “normal” behaviour, or what people should be doing or feeling in these new and different times.

That’s a bit crazy, isn’t it?

In some ways, this is the perfect chance to take a look at our lives, listen to our bodies, and do what works best for us within the boundaries of what’s allowed at the moment.

I first noticed it with socialising. Many people are really struggling with the lack of contact with others. I understand that. But I felt a real sense of social overload in the first couple of weeks – partly because I wanted to be at all the parties, but also because unlike a lot of people right now, I’m fortunate enough to still be able to work – so after a day with lots of online calls, more online calls weren’t what I really needed.

Not that I don’t want to keep up with my friends – I still book some in and have some that I really need to organise, but not every night. Because it was only in my crazy 20s that I went out every night and still made it into work the next day, running on coffee and not much else.

Then there’s the whole – learn-a-new-thing phenomenon, but I’m already doing a part-time degree on top of working full time, so I don’t tick that box either. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that people are gaining new skills, especially if they have a lot of time at the moment. It’s way better than being bored. But if you don’t have the time or capacity to learn something new – if you’re exhausted at the end of the day after running your business or home-schooling your children – that’s ok too! Don’t feel bad about it.

Then there are the creative projects – I’m not doing those either. I can create things with words, but I’m not making, painting, or restoring anything! I did make some banana muffins last night and we’re still doing our monthly spice boxes where we try new recipes. Maybe that counts?

I did have a bit of a moment in the sales last week –my guilty pleasure – but I can’t join in any of the “I’ve eaten/drunk too much” conversations either. I don’t drink alcohol, and I guess I’m used to being at home where the same food is available all the time because I work from home. I’m not going to lie just so I can take part in the conversation, but I’m not going to be the one who joins in to say it’s not a problem for me either, because that just sets you apart even more. So I stay quiet.

I’m not trying to make myself out to be some kind of saint – I have a nicely-stocked chocolate drawer! What I’m saying is that I’ve noticed new pressures springing up around the new normal. Pressures to say you fit in or mirror the experiences others are having. And some people just don’t – which is ok.

I’ve never cared that much about peer pressure. We were having this conversation the other day about school. I care what people think – especially if I know I’ve been unfair or unreasonable in some way – but I don’t care enough to change who I am or what I want just so that I can fit in with what’s currently popular. Of course there are people whose opinions I really do care about, but it’s more based on reasoning that I can follow, rather than “you have to do x to be cool/part of our club”. Especially if I don’t think that x is very cool or interesting!

I’m not knocking any of the really cool stuff that is going on right now, but I am saying it shouldn’t feel like a competition or extra pressure if you’re already struggling to stay afloat.

This is a very long way of getting to my point, which is I hope people don’t feel even more stress by the new norms that are emerging, if those norms don’t reflect who you are or what you like doing with your time.

It’s ok if you aren’t a domestic goddess.

It’s ok if you don’t need as much social contact as some of your friends.

It’s ok if you can’t whip up a restaurant-style meal or if your chocolate cake flops in the middle!

It’s ok if you can’t join in with friends who are complaining about how absolutely awful the lockdown is because you’re just happy to be healthy and making the best of each day.

Of course, if you’re not ok and you’re not going from one fun activity to the next, it’s ok to say that too.

It’s ok if you just need a rest. Adapting to new things can be tiring. We sometimes give being busy much more prestige than it deserves and it feels as though some people have switched a crazily busy social life for a crazily busy home life with no time to just be still and recharge.

It’s ok if you need someone to talk to.

It’s also ok if your experience of the lockdown is different from many of the people around you.

There’s a post doing the rounds on social media about how this is the same storm, but we all have different ships. The experience is not going to be the same, because we are not on the same ship. We can help each other out and support each other for sure, but nobody ever really knows what it’s like on another person’s ship in this storm.

Oh, and if you don’t start doing all the things you haven’t been able to as soon as you are allowed to – even if everyone else you know is doing them – that’s ok too. Especially if you have health concerns that they don’t have!

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My guest post – accessibility problems that make me abandon my virtual shopping trolley

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I published an interview with Gemma from the Wheelescapades blog. This month I’ve also written a post for Gemma, which she published today. It’s about accessibility problems that make me abandon my virtual shopping trolley
all those little things that turn an enjoyable experience into a frustrating or disappointing one. I talk about these things because I want to raise awareness of them – to do my bit to make the online world a more accessible place, and to help people see the often small changes that they can make in order for this to happen.

So, if this sounds interesting, hop on over to Gemma’s blog and have a read. Why not check out some of her other articles while you’re there?

Mystery pamper packages from Heidi at the Body Shop at Home

I’ve said for ages the Body Shop is missing a trick by not offering a beauty box subscription. They still aren’t, but Heidi, my friend and a consultant at the Body Shop at home, does now offer mystery pamper packages. They have the added bonus that they’re not entirely a mystery because she asks you a few questions first to make sure that you get things that you like.

This post is not sponsored and I paid for my pamper package. I think it’s a cool idea, so I wanted to show you what was in mine, and to let people in the UK know about them. Especially at the moment, when we’re being asked to stay at home, they can be a nice treat for yourself, or to tell someone else that you were thinking of them.

It could be a complete surprise, but Heidi also likes to get an idea of what you like, what type of skin you have, whether you have any favourite ranges or things that you particularly want to avoid.

What was in my box?

I got my box before the lockdown, so Heidi packaged it up herself. At the moment, all packages are coming directly from the warehouse to keep everyone safe, but essentially they still work in the same way – Heidi puts your products together and the package is worth more than you pay for it.

Mine included a sachet of hot chocolate too, but that was gone by the time we got round to taking the photo!

Mango perfume

I’ve mentioned the mango eau de toilette before on the blog – in fact, Heidi reads my blog and saw that I had run out! This usually retails for £9, so there’s almost half the £20 I paid for the box covered by the first product! The mango range is my favourite range from the Body Shop, so I was really happy to get something mango-scented in there. It’s fresh and fruity – sometimes I use it as a perfume and other times as a body mist. But either way the mango scent follows you around for the rest of the day!

Egyptian milk and honey bath powder

This is the most expensive item in the box and it’s from the Spa of the world range. You put some of the Egyptian milk and honey bath powder to milk in your bath, swish it around, and the powder dissolves into the water. It contains honey and three oil extracts to make your skin feel smooth and help you relax.

Bath time and pamper time are important for me, so it was good to get a body care treat in my box. Oh, and it also comes with a cute little wooden trowel to scoop the powder into your bath!

Coffee face mask

I’m excited whenever I see the C word – coffee! Like mango, it’s one of my favourite things! I usually go for the sheet masks, but I was intrigued when the Body Shop brought out a coffee mask, and happy that Heidi put a travel size one in my pamper package.

It’s an exfoliating mask with natural coffee bean particles. Good for use in the morning to wake you up, and it smells amazing too! It’s enriched with coffee and Community Trade sesame seed oil from Nicaragua, Community Trade cocoa butter and shea butter from Ghana, and organic Community Trade cane sugar from Paraguay.

Vitamin E lip care

This vitamin E lip care with SPF15 is a good handbag essential to keep your lips from getting chapped and sore. This one is particularly good if you don’t like flavoured lip care. It does contain coconut, but you don’t really taste it.

Final thoughts

So, this is a way to get a surprise, or also to try out something that you’ve had your eye on for a while. If you want to find out more, check out Heidi’s Facebook group. I was really happy with mine and highly recommend them! There was bath care, fragrance, and two face products, with a product from four different ranges, and the value was a lot more than the £20 that I paid.

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Help Miller’s Ark to stay afloat!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you will know that I love animals. There are plenty of posts in my “animals” category!

Last year I told you about our visit to Miller’s Ark, where we could get close to the animals and have some donkey hugs. That was in September. We then went back in November, and also in January this year to see the tiny lambs, one of whom was only ten minutes old when we arrived.

Each time I fed sheep and goats, got down in the hay with donkeys, patted piglets, and went to seek out my friend Dudley, the golden retriever.

The current situation has stopped all that. No more trips to the farm on open days, because the farm is closed. We went on the adult-only days, but there were other events for the whole family too, as well as private events, animal therapy events, and educational events. All of them postponed now because of the social distancing measures.

This is of course necessary, but the events are the way in which the farm made money.

Now, animals still need to b fed, vet bills still need to be paid, and there are all the other jobs around a working farm that need to be done to keep the animals warm, clean, and safe.

On a normal visit, we’d buy our entry tickets, pick up a cup of food for the sheep and goats, and usually have lunch in the barn as well. Plenty of other people were doing the same, and that is a lot of lost revenue.

I care about the animals, and I also care about having farms like this to visit once all of the restrictions are lifted. That’s why, when I read about the sponsor an animal scheme, I was happy to sign up.

You can sponsor a range of animals, from goats to cats, donkeys to golden retrievers! I’ve put the price list below – the smaller figure is for one month and the figure in brackets is for three. If you want to sponsor one or more of the animals, contact Miller’s Ark via their contact page and they will send you their bank details for the bank transfer.

  • Sponsor a goat £5 (£12)
  • Sponsor a donkey £10 (£25)
  • Sponsor a farm cat £5 (£12)
  • Sponsor a pig £5 (£12)
  • Sponsor a duck £2 (£5)
  • Sponsor a turkey £2 (£5)
  • Sponsor a sheep £5 (£12)
  • Sponsor our bull £10 (£25)
  • Sponsor Dudley the dog £5 (£12)
  • Sponsor Napoleon (Great Dane) £5 (£12)

Sponsors are also entered into a raffle to win vouchers that can be used on the farm.

I don’t promote things that I haven’t done myself. I’m supporting the farm and I would encourage other animal-lovers to help as well, especially if you’re in the Hampshire area and can visit when this is all over.

There is also a GoFundMe page if you’d prefer to support the farm in this way. Miller’s Ark is a charity and donations on the GoFundMe page are eligible for gift aid as well.

You can keep up with what’s going on at the farm by following the social media accounts (see contact page, which I’ve linked above), and there is also an email newsletter that you can sign up for.

This is a tough time for charities right now, so whether or not you’d like to help the animals at the ark, please think about any charities that you normally support and see if there is anything you can do to help them.

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Pamper products in March

I’ve got a slightly smaller collection of stuff to talk about this month – mainly because I’m not repeating staple products that I’ve already talked about, but I think that during this time of uncertainty, it’s nice to do things for our well-being. For me, that’s been long baths where I can relax and get a break from interacting with people – because as much as I like people, I recharge best by getting some time out alone. If anything, as I’m still working full-time from home, and every group that I’ve ever been involved with is now meeting online, I’ve felt a bit of socialising fatigue, which I know sounds odd in a time of social isolation. It seems selfish writing that when there are people who are really isolated and craving some human interaction, but I’ve also learned that people having a different problem doesn’t make your own problem any les valid.

So bathtime is good. My skincare regime is good – there’s something comfortingly predictable about all the steps that always come in the same order and are doing something good for my skin.

Here are a few things that I discovered in March:

Aveda

I only discovered this brand at the end of last year when I got a travel size of the almond cherry shampoo. After that I got the shampoo and the conditioner because I was so impressed. The conditioner was finished first, but they both lasted a decent amount of time. They are not cheap, but some of the more expensive products are less watery, so you end up using less. This conditioner is especially good for long hair like mine. It contains naturally derived cherry blossom extract, almond oil and shea butter. It leaves my hair soft, less tangly, and smelling amazing!

Body shop

Of course there are products from the Body Shop in here!

The first is a big jar of the Drops of youth ® Bouncy sleeping mask. This has a slightly strange consistency – it’s like a gel, but it settles down into more of a cream once it’s been on for a few minutes. It’s an overnight mask, but I usually put it on a little while before I go to bed so that it doesn’t stick to the pillow. It’s great for giving thirsty dry skin a drink overnight, and it promises skin that looks plumper, fresher, and renewed. It smells good too, though I couldn’t tell you wat it smells of! I can’t speak for anyone else, but an unlikely benefit I’ve found is that sometimes I get red blotches on my forehead, and using face oils or this mask helps to reduce those as well.

This isn’t a cheap mask, but the jar lasts a long time. Luckily for me, my friend Salomi bought me one last year, so I already have another one to use.

We often hear about the body butters, but the Body Shop does some really nice lotions as well. I keep coming back to the almond milk and honey body lotion because it’s really gentle and soothing. It comes in a tube, so you can get every last bit out! You can smell the honey more than the almond milk, and although it’s not as thick as the butters, it does keep your skin hydrated for a long time.

Still on the subject of body lotions, there are a couple of whipped lotions too, which are light in texture, but which are still great moisturisers – particularly nice in the summer months, when you want something a bit lighter. The mango whipped lotion is part of the mango range, so of course one of my favourites! It contains mango seed oil from India and smells like real mangos.

Molton Brown

In February I talked about my Indian cress hair set that my Mum got me for Christmas, and in March I finished up the conditioner. Again, not a cheap set, but it lasted ages, particularly the conditioner. I’m not usually a floral scent kind of girl, but this jasmin and honeysuckle is fresh and not overly floral. My hair smelled great for ages and more importantly, it felt soft, nourished, and smooth. These products are cruelty-free and even the packaging lets you know you’re in for a treat!

I think sometimes we can spend a lot on things like make-up and then be horrified when a hair or skincare product is a bit more pricy – but I would actually rather invest more in the things that will be put on my hair and skin first.

Retro Rich

I hadn’t actually heard of this brand before. I follow Sussex Sandra on YouTube and she finds some interesting new boxes, particularly more inclusive ones, because many of the mainstream boxes often leave her with things that she can’t use because they don’t take into consideration the full range of skin tones that their members have. We should be doing better than this.

Anyway, Sandra reviewed a haircare beauty box, primarily aimed at people with curly or coily hair – so not me with my type 1 straight hair – but the products sounded so good and inclusive that I wanted to give it a go. I use some of them differently, but they looked like interesting, good quality products and I decided to give the box a go.

The February box focussed on the brand Retro Rich, and that’s how I discovered the Queen of the Nile hair mask – probably my favourite item in the box. Some of the other products are things that I wash out whereas people with different types of hair can leave them in, but super long hair needs moisturising down to the tips, and this mask is something that anyone can use to give their hair a pamper. You just use it like any other hair mask – leave it on for 10 minutes or pop it under a shower cap (I’ve done both). It smells lovely and my hair felt amazing afterwards.

The box comes out every two months and you can find out more about the Odyssey box here.

Rituals

It was the first time that I tried a shower oil from Rituals. I wasn’t actually sure whether I’d like it, but having used it, I actually liked it more than the foam, which seems to be their more well-known shower product. This ritual of Sakura oil contains cherry blossom extract, and rice milk, known for its purifying properties. I love this scent anyway, and the oil isn’t greasy – it’s easy to wash off and doesn’t leave a mess in your bath or shower!

Weleda

I’ve tried the pomegranate body lotion before, so I also picked up one of the Pomegranate shower gels. This brand is probably best known for its skin food, which isn’t something I tend to use, but the pomegranate range is worth exploring as well!

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Interview with Gemma from the Wheelescapades blog

We’re doing something different this week. I’ve got the first in a series of interviews with you from some of my blogger friends. I wanted to introduce you to them and their blogs, and I also wanted to get some conversations going about disability and accessibility, bringing in some different perspectives.

I’ve been following Gemma’s blog for a while. I can’t remember how I initially found her – I think it was a blogging group, but I enjoy reading her blog – not just because she enjoys cheese as much as I do, but because her blog makes me smile, and it also makes me think. I hadn’t considered some of the access issues that wheelchair users face on a day-to-day basis. Ok, I guess we can all think of how the lack of step-free access is a dealbreaker if you want to go somewhere, but Gemma has also got me thinking about things like the height of product displayss, and how the type of table at a restaurant can affect how accessible it is to use. (As a guide dog owner, I wasn’t a fan of those ones with the big round base either, but I’d never considered the problems they cause if you want to wheel right up to it).

Having said that, although many of our experiences and accessibility frustrations are different, there’s a lot that we have in common. Just wanting to be able to do the same things as our friends without having to plan everything in advance, or the frustration of jumping through extra hoops to get the same results. The assumtions that our friends are our carers, and the fact that we would love to see a world where we didn’t need to talk about accessibility and inclusion as much because they were built in to the design, not an afterthought.

So anyway, that’s enough from me – here are Gemma’s answers to my questions. Be sure to check her blog out as well.

1. What is the name of your blog and how did you come to decide on that name?

Wheelescapades is the name of my blog, one word. Although too many people like to refer to it as Wheel Escapades. It took me long enough to combine the two words (as you can see how creative it is. Ha!), so I do get frustrated.

The origin is fairly straightforward. Wheel – I’m a wheelchair user. Escapades – a type of adventure. Basically my life.

2. Why did you start writing a blog?

I’d considered blogging for quite a while before I plucked up the courage and took the plunge. I’ve never written anything in my life, that wasn’t essays in education and one line stories as a kid. Though I did want to be a journalist as a teen.

Friends had often joked that I should write about the dramas of my life, our social life. Dramas that mainly happened because of my wheels. Getting stuck in lifts, turning up at restaurants to find I’ve been seated up a step. ‘Oh it’s ok, we’ll help you up, lift your wheelchair’. No you won’t.

People assume my friends are carers, that they’re doing a good deed. They think that I cannot reply myself when asked if I enjoyed my meal. They ask the person with me ‘would you like a bag with that?’. I’ve got my own.

I wanted to raise awareness of disability and accessibility. That we are all just people with the same needs and dreams. I wanted to do this as a human, with a life and a personality. I wanted to make people think but laugh. I hope I do that.

3. If you could change one law to improve life for people with disabilities, what would it be?

I don’t even know where to start.

The Equality Act 2010 states that venues should ‘make reasonable adjustments’ to enable equal access for all. This is a start, but not enough. Who decides what reasonable is?

I long for a world I can access without thinking, without planning. I aim for spontaneity.

What would be great is if all venues and events had to state their accessibility online. I mean the finer details. No step. Step height. Door width. Lift. Lift size. Does it actually work. Accessible bathroom. Size. Facilities. Table height. Steps inside. Corridor width. Length.

This may seem trivial or picky, but this information would make a huge difference to the planning of my day. Because planning is a huge part of being disabled.

4. A friend is coming over for a relaxing evening. What will you be doing/eating/drinking/watching?

I’m not much of an evening person. More of a daytime socialiser. This will be a mid afternoon chill involving tea and cake.

I’m a Netflix binger, so whatever the latest drama season is will be our entertainment.

5. What’s something that you’ve learned since becoming a blogger?

I’ve learned that there are good people out there. Social media can be such an intimidating and judgemental place. The blogging community though, I’ve met some great people with so much support, motivation and kindness.

I’ve also learned I can have my say. Sometimes people find it interesting or useful, sometimes people can relate, sometimes they don’t.

I’ve learned I have a need to write.

6. If you could do any job for a day, what would it be and why?

This is a question that comes up in converse throughout life. I’ve always answered along the lines of Artist, Designer, Journalist. Something creative. Those are real jobs I’d love to do.

Recently I’ve thought a bit more about this, outside of my box a little. I’ve decided I’d choose to be an astronaut. Not only would going to space be pretty cool, but I’d like to know what it feels like to move my limbs freely. To be weightless.

I cannot lift my arms at all without support, so the idea of maybe scratching my head would be awesome.

7. What’s one thing you would like people to know about your disability, or people who have the same access needs as you?

I want people to be aware of Spinal Muscular Atrophy. I want them to know it’s not all about the wheels, but also it’s not the end of the world.

SMA means that I’m a wheelchair user, but it’s not the wheels I struggle with. It’s the weakness, the limited movement, the breathing difficulties.

Oh and people’s assumptions.

8. When was the last time you tried something new, and what was it?

I’ve not been very adventurous of late. But who knew chilli cheese hot cross buns could be a thing? An amazing thing that you all must try.

It’s not super recent, but last year I tried audiobooks for the first time ever. A whole new world of reading.

9. What does accessibility mean to you?

In obviously, daily life terms, it means ramps, wide doors, level pavements, working lifts, spacious rooms, hoists,

But really it means having equal access. Not being an afterthought. Not having to find a side entrance, traipse through a kitchen to get to a restaurant table. It means having a bathroom I can fit in that isn’t used as a storage cupboard.

In basic terms it means the ability to forget I’m disabled for a while.

10. What activities make you lose track of time?

Anything creative.

I studied Art, Craft and Textiles at university to Masters Degree. I used to sew with my Nan and make stuff with old boxes. I’ve always enjoyed making something from nothing. Turning balls of wool into stuffed animals. Skeins of thread into cushion covers.

11. What’s one blog post (written by you) that you would like people to read?

I most enjoy writing my ‘If We Were Having Coffee’ posts as I get to have a little chat and rant about what’s going on in my life, disability related and not. Readers can get to know me a little better and chat back about what’s going on with them.

The one I think should be read though, is one of my most recent. I wrote this piece for Disabled Access Day. I feel access is misunderstood and thought to be either as simple as putting in a ramp, or so unachievable that it’s mind boggling.

12. Can you think of one or two bloggers that you think my readers should check out in addition to your blog?

Two of my greatest blogging pals.

Lorna at Gin & Lemonade. A fellow wheelchair user that often writes just what I’m thinking, but better than I think it.

And Caz at Invisibly me, whose posts are informative with a sprinkling of fun.

Places to find me

Wheelescapades Blog
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram

Thanks Gemma for answering my questions – it’s been great to find out a bit more about you.

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Walk a mile in their shoes – or stay a day in their self-isolation house

I think it was a joke. I’m not sure. Maybe there’s a picture that would make it clear if it was a joke, but I can only read the text.

Anyway – I’ve seen it a couple of times now – a post to people without kids asking them how life is in lockdown without kids. How wonderful it is. All the things you have time to do.

I get it – I have no idea what it’s like to entertain or home-school children who are scared or full of energy or sad because they can’t see their mates/go to their favourite places. The constant noise and interruptions or fighting with siblings.

I know I sometimes overthink things or take them too literally, but it got me thinking.

We don’t fit so easily into groups like that. Those with children and those without. Those who are medically vulnerable and those who aren’t. Those who are self-employed, employed, or unemployed. Those who are quite happy to take a break from people and those who hate the lack of contact with others.

All of these things together, and many more, go to make up our own individual set of circumstances. You may think someone has it easy, but you don’t know what else they’re dealing with.

I might be tempted to feel envious of my employed mates right now, but as a business owner, I got to make the decisions about what’s safe. I went into voluntary isolation at least a week before it was mandatory, and I’m not stuck working in conditions that I don’t think are safe, as some people that I know are.

Going back to the children thing – I chose not to have children, but I didn’t choose some of the other things.

I have a physical disability that means I shop online for food because this means I can do it independently. I do it every week – and I have done for the last 20 years or so. It worked fine for me up until now – now everyone wants to shop online and it’s hard to get a slot. I’m ok, but I know some blind people who are really struggling to get the basics because the one accessible way of getting food that they always use has suddenly become problematic. I’ve had offers of help from a couple of local people if we need anything, but not everyone has a network like that.

I have a medical condition that means it’s better if we self-isolate. My prescription wasn’t affected, but I also need items from the chemist and they weren’t there when we tried to get them during the last weeks. I’m ok now, but it took trips to four or five different chemists till I had what I needed.

I know someone who has died and a couple more who have been quite seriously ill, at least one of whom had the virus. So I’ve experienced all the emotions that go along with that – sadness, worry, fear for people I care about . On the other hand, I know plenty of people who still don’t know anyone who caught the virus.

My business is online, but I’ve had a number of cancellations for training since the lockdowns started across the world, which is inevitable, but still tough.

So no, I don’t have children, but life’s not one big party right now! There are good days and hard days – just like for everyone else. I’ve laughed about funny things, cried about sad things, and got frustrated by the people who still aren’t taking it seriously.

I see other people too in my group of friends and customers.

Some are scared because they have vulnerable relatives who live far away in other countries, whom they can’t help to get the basic essentials.

Some have family members working on the front line in the NHS, and they’re concerned about supplies to keep their loved ones safe.

Some have had to shut down their businesses temporarily and find new ways to generate income – or not.

Some are far more at risk or they are living with people who may not survive a severe case of the virus.

Some of those people who are more at risk need help from others to carry out personal care tasks. Those tasks are necessary, but each new person they let into their home could be bringing the virus with them. I haven’t experienced this, but I heard someone talking about it recently.

S and I living and working together 24/7 isn’t hard, but I know there are some people stuck in the house with those who are hurting them – physically, psychologically or emotionally. I have no idea how hard that is.

Others are completely alone, with no contact to anyone. I used to live alone and loved it, but it’s a different story if you get ill and have to do everything yourself.

I have to remind myself that generally I adapt well to this kind of more isolated life, (though in some ways I’ve had more contact to people than ever through all the wonderful opportunities we now have with technology). But I know I would be moaning if I were stuck in a room of 100 people for the foreseeable future and couldn’t get away to have some peace and quiet.

I need to have more patience with people who are complaining about being bored. I don’t relate to boredom – there are never enough hours in the day for all the things I want to do – but I suppose it’s a real struggle for those who do.

We all have our own struggles. As parents, as self-employed people, as at-risk people, as people who love to be outdoors. As extroverts who crave lots of face-to-face social contact – I don’t relate, but apparently it’s a thing! As basic human beings who are doing their best in what is a really difficult time. We need to be kind.

I think there’s a danger to look at other groups of people – those without kids – those with a guaranteed income – those who appear to be fit and healthy. But we don’t really know what’s going on for them, what’s making them sad, or keeping them up at night. We probably have different problems, but I think we’re all going through something right now.

Some will be open about it. Others will hide away and look fine on the outside – I’m really good at that when I’m not ok. I’m not asking for help in this post, but it’s often not the people who shout the loudest who need our help the most.

I think we need to be a bit careful because you never know what someone else is dealing with. You may think their life looks easy, but you don’t really know what struggles they have.

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