Blogmas 2018 – looking after your dog at Christmas

To finish off the week in which we’ve been looking at dogs, I decided to put together some tips for how you can take extra care of your dog in the colder weather, when there’s snow on the ground, and when there are more tasty treats around, not all of which are good for dogs.

Out and about

Many dogs love playing in the snow, but the salt put down on pavements can hurt their paws, especially if there are any small cuts on the pads. So be careful where you’re walking.

Your dog might recognise its favourite place for swimming, but if a lake or river is frozen over, it’s best to avoid because you don’t want there to be an accident involving your dog falling through the ice.

Some breeds’ coats are ideal for the cold weather, but if you have a young dog, an older inactive dog, or a dog with a fine coat, consider getting them a coat for wintry walks to keep them warm and dry. Cindy had one towards the end because of her arthritis and she never minded wearing it.

Snowy conditions may make your dog less visible, so you can do some work in advance to make sure they do come back when you call them. This is important anyway, but even more so when it’s harder to see them in snowy conditions. You might also consider a bell for their collar.

It’s important for dogs to get exercise, but only when it’s safe for you both to do so. A missed walk because of howling winds and a snowstorm is better than either you or your dog getting injured in dangerous weather conditions when people have been advised to stay indoors.

Try to stick to roads with pavements, but if you can’t, walk with the traffic coming towards you and the dog on the side furthest from the traffic. If you know that you’ll be out and about on roads with no pavements, consider wearing something reflective – this can also apply to your dog because you can buy reflective jackets or collars.

Frozen, hard ground is harder on a dog’s joints, so try to take things more gently when you first go outside – partly because it will take longer to warm up, and partly because landing on harder ground will impact more on a dog’s joints.

Antifreeze is used a lot more in the winter months, but it is toxic to dogs. Unfortunately it smells and tastes sweet, which makes it appealing to drink or lap up from the ground.

When you’re at home

As well as making sure there is no salt on your dog’s paws when they get back inside, it’s also good to check that there is no compact snow in there either. This can freeze and become very painful. I used to trim the long hair under Cindy the retriever’s pads so that it didn’t become uncomfortable after walking on the snow.

If you’ve been out in the rain or snow, make sure your dog has somewhere warm and dry to lie and get warm again. Towel-dry your dog to get the most of the water out of their coat. Cindy used to let me use the hairdryer on her, but not all dogs will like this!

If your dog isn’t as active in the winter, you might need to alter their diet accordingly.

If you let your dog outside, some dogs may bark or scratch to come in, but others won’t – so don’t forget about them or leave them out there for a long time or they could get too cold or develop hypothermia.

Around Christmas time

We have lots of treats around at Christmas time, but some of these are dangerous for dogs.

Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is poisonous to dogs. If you really want to give your dog chocolate, you buy doggy treats instead.

Currants, raisins and sultanas are also bad for dogs, including foods that contain these ingredients such as mince pies and Christmas cake.

Apparently blue cheese is bad for dogs too – I didn’t know that.

Holly and mistletoe can also cause an upset stomach. Eating pine branches or chomping on the Christmas tree may cause stomach upset, but the real problem is that the sharp pine needles can damage a dog internally if they scratch its insides.

Whilst onions and garlic may initially cause an upset stomach, the main problem is that they can damage the red blood cells, which can lead to anaemia.

Don’t leave unattended alcohol where dogs can lap it up! Smaller dogs will have less tolerance to alcohol, and if drunk in excess, it can lead to low body temperature or even a coma.

So, there’s a list of things not to do, but a few minutes to make sure your dog doesn’t get the forbidden products is much better than the trauma of having an ill dog, especially over the Christmas season when it’s harder to get vet appointments.

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.

Body Shop – a full size bouncy sleeping mask from the Drops of Youth range. I’ve never tried this before, but it’s been on my list of things I want to splash out on. RRP is £25 and you get 90ml. Apparently, the soft, gel-like texture moulds itself like a second skin and its enriched with Edelweiss stem cells from Italy and sea holly from France. Very festive! I haven’t used it yet, but I’m looking forward to trying it. You put it on as the last step in your evening skincare routine and leave it overnight.

Glossybox – I personally can’t think of anything more annoying to work with than a loose powder eye shadow, but that’s just my personal preference and I’m not saying it’s a bad product. Still, I’ll be finding a home for this Pop Beauty eye shadow pigment!

This post may contain affiliate links.

Blogmas 2018 – why do we associate robins with Christmas?

So, a question that went through my head the other day is – why do we have the Christmas robin? Not the Christmas pigeon or the Christmas crow?
I mean, they’re everywhere at Christmas time. On Christmas cards or pictures, and we have a few on our Christmas tree as well.
So I decided to try and find out.
Most of the articles I found made a link between the red breast of a robin and the red uniform worn by postmen in the UK in Victorian times. In fact, our Royal Mail postmen still wear red jackets or red shirts today. Red is considered a royal colour and also a colour that is seen on the Union Jack.
Christmas cards were just becoming popular during the Victorian period, and as the postman brought your cards, the association was made with the robin, which led to robins being depicted on the cards as well.
It also led to the postmen being called robins, although this name isn’t used nowadays.
I also learned that robins like to live in areas where there are big trees and hedgerows. As we started planting hedgerows to mark out the borders of our fields or gardens, robins and people started living closer together – or rather, the robins were encouraged to move closer to the humans. There are more species of birds around in the Summer, but in the Winter, the birds would need to find something to eat. When snow covers the ground, it makes it harder for birds to find food, which sometimes makes them bolder. They’re hungry and they need to find food. So it became more common to see robins on snowy scenes, which may have also contributed to their popularity on Christmas cards.
If you want to give the robins a helping hand in the Winter, they like berries or chopped apples, and mealworms. Especially if the ground is frozen over or there is snow, it’s important to give them access to water as well. Putting water out is good, but you also need to check that it hasn’t frozen over. If you put dried mealworms out, you can also soak them in water to help the birds get moisture in their diet.
Whether or not our affection for the robin has something to do with the Christmas association is unclear, but the robin was voted in 1960 as our national bird.
Have you seen many robins this year?

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.
Body Shop – a full size moringa shower gel. We had a shower gel a couple of days ago – I don’t mind another one, but it would have been nice to see some of the fruity products instead of another floral one. There are lovely ranges such as grapefruit, strawberry or raspberry – would have been good to see one of those instead. But never mind, this is a full-size one and I will use it.
Glossybox – this wasn’t something I’ve ever seen before – in fact I didn’t know that this brand did lip products. It’s the Inc.redible jelly lip quencher from Nails Inc. It’s a tinted lip balm in stick form with avocado, vitamin E, and rice bran oil. It doesn’t have a specific taste, but it is gentle and creamy on the lips.
This post may contain affiliate links.

Blogmas 2018 – staying warm this Winter with the Hive smart heating system

Earlier this week I talked about what you can do to keep warm this Winter. Staying on a similar theme, I want to tell you about the new addition to our home – the Hive active heating system. We got ours in the Black Friday sale, so as well as making our heating system more efficient and accessible, it was also a bit cheaper!

Why do you want a smart heating system?

When I lived in my last house, I put some markers on the dial of the thermostat so that I knew where 20 degrees was and could then go up or down a bit from there. IT wasn’t exact, because the dial was too small, but I could keep a constant temperature. However, in the night I usually turned it off or down, and as I couldn’t set the heating timer myself, I had to make a quick run for it in the morning and either get ready in a cold house, or sit with my hands around a coffee mug till it was warm enough to type! I probably saved on heating bills, but it wasn’t fun!
When I moved in with S, things improved a lot because he could set the timer, but he was the only one who could change it. So I had to remember to tell him if I had an early meeting and wanted the heating on early. If we didn’t want to be woken up by the heating at the weekend, we had to remember to turn it off, or I had to ask S to change the time, and then put it back again for Monday. When I was home alone, I could turn the heating on or off, but had no idea of the temperature.
Then we learned about systems that you can control using your phone, which should in theory make them more accessible to me. Interfaces on electrical devices often aren’t usable for me as someone with no vision, but if the app is accessible – and this isn’t a given – but if the app has been designed to work well with screenreading software, it can give me the access to the displays and controls.
It’s not just blind people who want smart heating systems – there are other factors such as the comfort of either of us being able to change the temperature or the week’s heating schedule from anywhere in the house, or to pop the heating on before we get home.

Why Hive?

If we were going to get a smart heating control system, I needed to make sure it was going to be something that I’d be able to use. I did some online research, and it appeared that there were two main systems in the running – Hive and Nest.
With Hive, you can download the app for free and trial it using a test house. So the house isn’t real, but you can look at the controls and the various parts of the app.
One of our friend let me join his Nest so that I could also test the accessibility of the app’s interface. I could have used it, but it felt less intuitive than the Hive interface, and the scheduler screen was very confusing. Still, it was good to be able to try both of them so that I had something to compare.
I could have used Nest, but the Hive app felt more streamlined and worked better with VoiceOver. S preferred the look of it to, so we decided to go for Hive in the end.

What was the installation process like?

We went for the package with installation, so a British gas engineer came out to install the Hive system, which connects to the boiler, set up the Hive receiver and the Hive thermostat.
It took about 45 minutes and the engineer gave me the product number that I needed to connect the device to our Hive account. Afterwards, as I was there on my own, he explained the functions of the buttons on the thermostat and pointed out how to override the thermostat on the main device so that we could still turn on the heating in the event of a problem with the thermostat. He was helpful and efficient.

What is it like to use Hive with VoiceOver?

We don’t use all the features of the app because we don’t have a lot of connected devices, but it’s been fine so far. We have schedules set up now and I can easily amend them if our plans change or I have an early morning meeting. I can read both the temperature in the room where the thermostat is and set the desired temperature.
The buttons on the app are labelled and I can change the time and temperature sliders by touch.
Maybe in the future we’ll add additional zones, but for now, we’re happy and it does what it needs to.
You can also control Hive using Alexa and Google Assistant, but we prefer to keep to the iPhone app.
The website says you can save money by never heating an empty house again. This isn’t something we did, because we always just turned the heating off if we were going out, so I don’t expect to see any massive savings on the heating bill. But it will benefit us in terms of me being able to control the heating independently, and as a result not being cold in the morning! And a cold Kirsty is a grumpy Kirsty, so that’s always good!

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.
Body Shop – another Spa of the World product – this time the Japanese Camellia cream, which is something I haven’t tried before. It’s probably not something I would have picked up because the scent is quite a strong floral one, but it feels like a rich, nourishing body cream, and I’m looking forward to giving it a go.
Glossybox – I don’t use most of the styling products I get in boxes or calendars, which is why I was happy to see a hair mask today. We have the Elgon concentrated restore mask- something I haven’t heard of before, so I look forward to trying that too. It’s a generous size, so even with my vary long hair, I’ll get a few treatments out of it.
This post may contain affiliate links.

Blogmas 2018 – visit to the Dogs Trust rehoming centre

When I was planning my Blogmas content, I knew I wanted to talk about some charities, and that there would be some kind of Dogs Trust post. On Saturday we had my interview with Aimee, a volunteer who works at the Newbury Centre and told us about her experiences working with the dogs on Christmas Day. When I was organising the interview, Emily from Dogs Trust also invited me to one of the centres so that I could look around, find out more about the work that goes on there, and hopefully meet some dogs!
S and I drove to Newbury last Saturday, where we met Kaylee, who took us on a tour of the facility and answered my questions.
The first stop was the rehoming area, where you can see some of the dogs who are looking for new homes. S was particularly amused by Lulu the lurcher, who was meticulously rearranging her bowls to get every last morsel of food that had dropped underneath!
Nothing happens from the front of the kennels, so the dogs don’t expect treats or interactions from there. It’s a chance for people to see the dogs, but the dogs have their own space too, because they’re behind the glass. They have differently coloured tiles in there, so they can choose whether they want to lie on something warm or cool, and the staff find out what kind of bed they like to lie on.
When a dog first comes to the centre, the staff spend some time getting to know the dog to find out about its personality, what it likes, what it needs in terms of training, and what kind of home they think will be most suitable. Then the dog’s details are released, and people can come to find out a bit more.
Some people know exactly what kind of dog they want, but it’s good to have an open mind because there may be a better match for you that’s a breed that you hadn’t even considered before.
As well as thinking about what kind of dog you would like, if you’re looking to give a dog a home, it’s also good to think about what you can offer. For example, do you have an active or a quiet home? Do you have other animals? We have a fairly quiet home with no other animals, which would be fine for an older dog who wants to chill, but less suitable for a puppy or a dog who prefers to have doggy pals around.
I would have happily taken one or two home with me, but we’re not looking to get a dog at the moment. Still, part of me is glad that there weren’t any retrievers there at the time of our visit, or I would have really struggled!
At the moment, there are 54 dogs either at the Newbury centre or in foster care. Some of the dogs don’t do as well in the kennel environment, so they go to live in homes with foster carers until a suitable “forever home” can be found.

What’s it like living at the centre?

As well as the kennels, there is some other accommodation for dogs who need things to be a bit quieter. They may still be great additions to a family, but they feel stressed out by all the coming and going in the main kennel block, or the presence of other dogs might be unsettling for them. So they get to live in a house where things are a bit quieter.
There is plenty of space outside for exercise. The dogs are taken for their walks, either individually or with their kennel mate. They can go in the garden, where we also went to meet some of the dogs, or there is a field that has agility and other training equipment that can be used by the trainers – either to teach something specific, or just to keep their brains and bodies active while they’re at the centre.
A vet nurse is based at the centre, and any minor treatments can be carried out at the centre in the vet room. This includes things such as drops for ear problems, or routine flea and worm treatments. All dogs are checked for any health problems when they arrive at the centre, and their health is monitored throughout their stay. If there is anything more serious, the dog is taken to the local vet. There is a special agreement for some dogs with manageable long-term health conditions, which means that the vet bills are covered by Dogs’ Trust in some cases where the cost of continuing the treatment might make it more difficult for the dog to find a home.
We also visited the grooming room, which was equipped with a height-adjustable grooming bench and a shower. I would love to spend time in there grooming some dogs! The dogs look so much better once all the tangles are gone and the loose hair is combed out. It can also be therapeutic for the dog, and a good way to get them used to being handled.

Meeting some furry friends

A trip to the dog centre wouldn’t be complete without me having some canine contact and we finished the visit by going out into the garden, where several dogs were brought out to meet us.
First came Digger the collie terrier cross and his spaniel friend. Digger was originally a dogs Trust dog, but he now lives with one of the staff and occasionally comes to work with her. Digger got his name because of his love for digging, although he is apparently good at jumping over walls too!
Then came Jimmy – whose full name is Jimmy Jim Jams. He’s an ex-racing greyhound. Once greyhounds can no longer make money in racing, their owners often have no use for them and they end up at rescue centres. Jimmy was a friendly boy and he has since been rehomed.

Who’s looking for a home?

Here are some of the other dogs who are looking for homes in the Newbury centre:
Mickey the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is five years old and loves people once he has had the chance to get to know them. He too would like a quiet, preferably adult-only home, with owners who will continue with his training and give him some reassurance as he settles in and gets to know his new surroundings.
Rakki the Saluki is a slightly younger dog at 15 months old. He loves playtime and has a cheeky personality. He’s still quite young, so he has more to learn and is looking for a home with owners who are willing to continue his training and socialising.
Mojo the crossbreed (rehomed) is for me the most tempting of them all. She is 10 years old and enjoys gentle games of fetch or pottering outside, but her favourite thing is cuddles. Often the older dogs get overlooked because people want to have a puppy or young dog, but the older dogs have a lot of love to give, and they’re just waiting for someone to give them a chance. They also often don’t need as much in the way of exercise or training as some of the younger, more boisterous dogs.
This isn’t an exhaustive list though. Clicking on any of these pages will take you to the Dogs Trust site. If you click on the rehoming link, there is a form with filters that you can use to bring up a list of dogs and filter them by location, breed, age etc. Unless you’re willing to travel, it is good to look for dogs locally so that you can go and visit them. Some dogs will require multiple visits first so that you can get to know them. Also, some are living in foster homes, so if you want to meet a specific dog, it’s good to get in touch with the centre first so that the dog can be brought in if they are living off-site. Some links have been removed as the dogs have been rehomed.
Could you give one of these lovely dogs a home? If you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll try and get answers for you.

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.
Body Shop – a mini of the gentle eye make-up remover. I already use this and have a full-size one, but it’s good to have the mini so you don’t need to take a massive one on short trips away.
Glossybox – a Karmameju konjac sponge that will be product 7 in the giveaway.

This post may contain affiliate links.

Blogmas 2018 – Christmas A to Z

I don’t usually do tag posts, but I thought this one from Hidden Little Gem might be fun. So here are my answers to the Christmas A to Z! I’m not going to tag any other bloggers, but if you have festive associations for letters of the alphabet, why not add them in the comments?

Advent calendars

They’ve become a bit of a theme on my blog! This year I have 2 beauty ones, a cheese one, and a Braille one with chocolate!

Blogmas

This is my second year doing Blogmas. It does take time and effort, but I enjoy writing the posts, trying to come up with creative ideas, researching the articles, and finding out what everyone else is writing about too.

Christmas tree

When I was a child, we had a real one, and I love the smell of pine trees. Now we have a plastic one, but we’ve started a tradition where we put some Christmas music on and S and I decorate the tree together.

Decorating the house

We don’t have loads of decorations like some people do, but we have another tree in the kitchen, a little one in my office, various wreaths and things around the house, and it always makes me feel in the mood for Christmas when we’ve finished!

Elves

I haven’t got into the elf on the shelf thing, but they’re getting more and more popular now.

Freshly baked Christmas biscuits

I work with a lot of people in Germany, and they keep talking about the delicious biscuits that they baked. So last year I’d had enough of just hearing about them and made some too! I think I’ll be doing it again this year!

Going shopping for Christmas presents

Whether it’s physically going to the shops and wandering round whilst listening to Christmas music, or doing my shopping online, I like making a list and then trying to find things that I think people will like. Any excuse for shopping eh?!

Holly

Well, my favourite Holly is the yellow Labrador who has featured on the blog before, but we used to get some holly branches to decorate the house when I was younger, so for me, this belongs to Christmas as well.

Ice

It didn’t say they have to be good associations! I love snow, but try to avoid the ice. I’ll have to dig out the ice chains that I bought for my shoes if we have any problems with ice – they worked quite well.

Jewellery

It gives me an excuse to get out my snowmen, Christmas trees and reindeer necklaces and earrings. I don’t go in for the Christmas jumper thing, but I accessorise with jewellery instead.

Keeping warm

As I said yesterday, I don’t enjoy being cold, but there’s something satisfying about creating a cosy space where you can enjoy a night in front of a film or snuggling down with a good book and steaming cup of hot chocolate!

Lebkuchen

They come from Germany and are a kind of soft, spicy biscuit, sometimes with chocolate, sometimes with icing, and sometimes with a sweet and fruity filling.

Markets

We’ve been to three so far and may go to one more before December is over. Walking round Christmas markets is fun!

New ornaments for the tree

I started this last year and am trying to get one or two ornaments each year that are somehow relevant to us or what we have been doing. This year it was a reindeer to remind me of the real reindeer that I met at the Christmas fair.

Office party

I used to enjoy these. I don’t have one now because I’m self-employed and don’t have colleagues. But when I worked for the government in London, we used to have a lot of fun, and there was usually more than one – team party, department party, party for the building, party for another team that decided to invite me, party for any colleague in London who wanted to go…

Postman

Or the postlady or the parcel man/woman – all the wonderful people who bring my online shopping in December!

Quiet evenings in

The time before Christmas can involve a lot of events, rushing around, and being busy. Sometimes it’s good to take some time out, have a long bath, and unwind before the next thing happens!

Reindeer

Because they are adorable and I met my first one this year. He was so soft and he loved munching on his carrot!

Snow

It wouldn’t really be Christmas without it! Crunching through it where nobody else has walked. Building a snowman. Throwing snowballs. Playing in the snow with dogs who go chasing after snowballs and then roll around on their back! I’d love to try building an igloo one day, but haven’t tried it yet.

Tinsel

Putting it on the tree, around the house, or even on my white cane. There’s something about the smell of tinsel when it’s been in a box all year and then finally comes out again for Christmas!

Using more glitter

I don’t usually tend to go for sparkly make-up, but I will make an exception for Christmas and get the glittery things out!

Visiting or catching up with friends

I know this is a thing you can and should do all year round, but it seems at Christmas time we sometimes make that bit more effort to get back in touch with people we haven’t seen or spoken to for a while. If you’re just doing it out of a sense of duty, that’s not so good, but if it’s genuinely to catch up, then that’s great!

Wrapping presents

I used to always do this on my own, but now S and I do most of them together – teamwork – and it gets the job done faster.

Xmas music

I imagine if you work in retail, you’re probably done with Christmas music by the first week in December, but I have had the Christmas music on and it puts me in a good mood!

Yule log

Because chocolate cake is better than Christmas cake or Christmas pudding!

Zzz
I couldn’t think of anything else – but you do need a rest once it’s all over!

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.
Body Shop – a mini of the Spa of the World Adriatic Peony body wash. I haven’t tried this before – it’s quite flora, a bit like the jasmin one. It’s probably not one that I’d pick up, but I like these little shower gels and am always happy to try out a new line.
Glossybox – the MUA Cosmic Vixen palette with 15 eye shadows. I won’t be reviewing this as it’s the next product to go in the giveaway box This post may contain affiliate links.

Blogmas 2018 – my first Braille chocolate advent calendar

Regular readers of this blog will know that I care about accessibility and accessible products.
In terms of advent calendars, when I was a child, my Nan always helped to prepare them. We typed the number in Braille onto clear sticky-back plastic, cut them out, and my Nan stuck them on the right doors.
Now Sean helps with the beauty calendars – I type out the labels and he sticks them on the appropriate box so that I can locate and open it myself.
However, for the first time this year, I got a chocolate advent calendar that was ready to go! No adaptations needed. I just wait for the right day, locate the number in Braille that is already printed on the door, and open it to get the day’s chocolate.
Just a simple thing that kids (and adults) all over the country take for granted, but up until now, this hasn’t been possible.
Braille chocolate advent calendars are nothing new in Germany – I know they’ve been around for a few years – but so far I haven’t seen one in the UK.
That’s why I was happy when one of my friends offered to send me one.
I know it’s a bit late to share this now – tomorrow we are opening day 12, but I firstly wanted to give a shout out to the company that is making them, and secondly wanted to let other people know for next year – whether that’s parents of blind children, or Braille-reading adults who want an accessible chocolate calendar.
The doors are arranged in 8 rows with 3 doors in each row. There are differences between German and English Braille, but the numbers are the same and there is no other writing on the calendar, so there would be no problems with confusing younger or new Braille readers.
This page about the advent calendar is in German, but there is also an email address where you can order it, and the company accepts Paypal. I’m not sure how much it would cost to get one sent from Germany to the UK if you order it directly, but it’s not a heavy calendar, so it shouldn’t be much.

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.
Body Shop – a shine liquid lip gloss. I haven’t tried any of these before, and although I don’t often wear lip gloss, it’s always good to have a change sometimes!
Glossybox – I can’t actually find the link for this, but it’s the Bellapierre kissproof lip finish – a clear lip topper to give a glossy finish to liquid lipsticks. The only lipstick I tried from this brand nearly clamped my lips shut because it was so sticky, so I can see why they came out with a product like this. I don’t have the other lipstick any more, but would use this topper on other liquid lips if I think they feel as though they would dry out my lips.
This post may contain affiliate links.

Blogmas 2018 – 7 ways to keep warm this Winter

When I get cold, I get grumpy! Not the same level of grumpy as when I haven’t had enough coffee – because that’s really bad – but I don’t do well when I’m cold!
One solution is to turn the heating up, but that doesn’t always work when you’re going out in the cold, and in any event it’s nice to snuggle up under something warm on an evening in.
So what else can you do to stay warm? Here are five low-cost ideas:

1. Baths

I love baths. They make me slow down, stop doing things, and take some time out to relax and destress. I know some people get bored in the bath, but this is never a problem that I’ve had. It’s time for me to have only positive sensory input – no noise –just a warm place to spend some time and unwind.
There are so many amazing products to help with this – from bath soaks to bubble bars and oils or shower gels that nourish your skin while you soak.
Baths are also good for getting warm too – as long as you don’t set the temperature too hot, or your skin won’t thank you for it!

2. Wrapping up warm

I can’t have wool next to my skin, which means a lot of woolly jumpers, hats, and things like that are out for me. All I’d be able to think of is the how annoying it is to feel the wool against me and I’d never get anything else done! But there are loads of other options such as fleecy things, or synthetic materials that don’t feel the same as wool.
I found some gloves at a Christmas market a couple of weeks ago that are very warm, but have two holes – one for the thumb, and one for all the fingers. They’re then cut off where the fingers start – which is good for anyone who still wants to use their hands.
Even cotton scarves can be warm – sometimes just having something round your neck is enough. I have thicker woolly ones, velvet ones, one with Labrador puppies, and one that came as a gift a couple of years ago with an owl hanging from it. Most people think it’s a necklace, but it keeps me warm as well.

3. Snuggling under a blanket

Blankets don’t have to be wool either – you can get some really soft ones either to suit your colour scheme, or with a picture of something that you like. S bought us some warm blankets with wolves on last year – one for our bed and a smaller one for the sofa in my office.

4. Wear a coat when it’s cold

I don’t want to judge, but on Saturday there were people at the Christmas market in the cold and pouring rain with no coats on. People going out to Christmas parties, not wanting to put a coat on because it would ruin the outfit. You don’t have to keep it on all night, but at least give yourself the option of wearing one!

5. Keep the cold out

See if you have any places at home where the cold is getting in. Windows, keyholes, external doors. If you can illuminate the draughts, the house will feel warmer.
In a previous job, my desk was directly under the air con unit and the cold air always came straight down to where I was sitting. It was so uncomfortable until I persuaded someone to come and deal with it!

6. Keep moving

I have a job that involves sitting at a desk all day, but I try and build in some exercise too, because apart from the obvious health benefits, working out also gets your blood circulation going and helps you to feel warmer.

7. Hot chocolate

If it’s cold outside, it’s good to indulge now and again in a steaming mug of hot chocolate. I’ve been buying chocolate orange or chocolate mint recently, but there are so many varieties available now. And those little chocolate sets with a mug and chocolate also make a nice little gift.
Do you have any more tips to add?

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.
Body Shop – two products today, both from the Fuji green tea range. We have the purifying shampoo and the hydrating conditioner. I don’t think I’ve tried these, because I usually go for the banana or strawberry haircare products, so I look forward to trying these out.
Glossybox – a deluxe sample of the BareMinerals skinlongevity vital power infusion serum. I didn’t know this brand also did skincare – I thought it was just mineral make-up. We won’t dwell on the fact that the first time I heard of this brand I was looking for Bear Minerals! I used this serum in my skincare routine this morning and liked it. It promises to empower, renew, replenish and fortify, so let’s see!

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Blogmas 2018 – non-traditional Christmas desserts

I work with a lot of customers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. As Christmas time gets closer, they sometimes ask me about our English Christmas desserts, and then it’s quite hard for me to be objective because I don’t like most of them!
I’ve had a couple of mince pies this year, but when it comes to Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, I usually pass. I don’t like them.
If you’ve got people around your table who do like them, I think it’s only fair to accommodate them, but what do you do for everyone else?
Sometimes I just fill up on savoury things and don’t bother with dessert. I’ve had icecream or sorbet for Christmas dinner dessert before. Sometimes I skip that course and wait for cheese and biscuits later.
I’m not sure yet what we’re going to do this year, but last year I bought a chocolate orange log from Abel and Cole, an online service that delivers organic and often locally-produced fruit, vegetables, meat, baked goods, and other groceries straight to your door.
I knew chocolate orange cake would go down well with most of the people there, and I wanted to try it. My family used to buy chocolate logs in the past, and I loved the idea of getting chocolate cake instead of something fruity that I wasn’t going to enjoy!
This chocolate log is 750G, and it’s organic chocolate covering a rich chocolate sponge with a smooth ganache and orange curd inside.
The cake came packed in a cooler bag that was insulated with lambs’ wool to keep the contents cold. The bags can then be collected the next time the driver comes to you so there is no waste.
I actually bought a cheese wheel from the Christmas market last year, but Abel and Cole also sells a cheese board gift set containing 3 cheeses, biscuits, chutney, and a cheese board.
When it comes to Christmas dessert, I’m more of a fan of breaking with tradition and serving/eating something I actually want to eat. What do you think about this? What will be on your Christmas dinner table for dessert? Let me know in the comments!

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.
Body Shop – this has to be the biggest box in the calendar! A 200ml tube of the almond milk and honey body lotion! I didn’t actually know this was available as a body lotion. I’ve tried the body butter and the body yoghurt in this range, but not the lotion. I love this when I want something really gentle, usually when I’ve had an allergic reaction and my skin feels a bit sensitive. This is a lovely, gentle product and it’s described as a soothing, restoring body lotion. Good size too, with almond milk from Spain and honey from Ethiopia!
Glossybox – a deluxe sample of the Charles Worthington body booster mousse. I can’t review this product as it’s not something that I use, but I know someone who will! It’s intended to give body, bounce and control to lifeless hair.
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Blogmas 2018 – looking after Dogs Trust dogs on Christmas Day

Today’s post is the next in my series of posts about charities, and today we’ve got an interview from a Dogs Trust volunteer who tells us what it’s like working at the rehoming centre with the dogs on Christmas Day. The header image is of Amy and sponsor dog Mike.
Thanks to Amy for answering my questions, and to Em from the Dogs Trust for arranging the interview.

1. What’s a typical Christmas Day like at one of your centres?

Christmas Day at the rehoming centre is very much a typical day so the normal cleaning, feeding, exercising and training. It’s a normal day at work for us but we try to add extra bits to make some good festive fun for everyone at the centre, two and four legged!
We like to be as festive as we can be, so we wear Santa hats and Christmas jumpers to get in the spirit! In the morning it is business as usual, so we ensure all the kennels have been cleaned and the dogs have had their morning walks.
On Christmas morning we try and squeeze in lots of group walks so everyone can join in! Of course, we have some dogs who would prefer the quieter way of life, so for them it’s time for some focused one-to-one training. We make sure that all dogs have a little extra fuss as it’s Christmas! It’s also lovely for us to get a bit of additional time with the dogs as we’re not open to the public.
Next is Christmas lunch for all the staff which is always a team effort, prepared by everyone in the rehoming centre that day. And, it’s always delicious!
Our dogs get a special Christmas dinner too. A very generous local turkey farmer kindly donates turkey leg meat which we cook for the dogs. Our dogs are constantly monitored by our veterinary team, so everything is given in moderation, and we always make sure to get a bit of veg in there too!

2. Do the animals get presents or any special treats?

Our supporters are fantastic all year round with donations, but they are always extra generous at Christmas with treats and toys, which really helps the dogs feel extra special on the big day! Extra supplies come in handy after their lunch, so when we’re tucking into our dinner the dogs can savour a long-lasting chew!
Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross Mike, our Sponsor Dog gets very spoilt at Christmas with lots of gifts from his wonderful sponsors. He loves to open them all and is very generous, sharing them with his doggie friends at the rehoming centre. He gets sent all kinds of goodies from toys and treats, to blankets and coats from his generous sponsors all around the country
As we get to Christmas night and all the dogs are tucked up in bed, we go home to celebrate with our families as the next team arrive for more fun on Boxing Day!

3. How do you feel about working when other people are at home with their families?

When I applied for the job as a Canine Carer, it was a given that there would be times we would have to work during holidays. I don’t mind though, the dogs in our care and the team at the centre are all part of the Dogs Trust family, and that’s what Christmas is all about
It always surprises me how many people ask if we have Christmas off, but the dogs need our love and care every day. We are their home until they find their special someone, and it’s a joy to be able to be one of the people who provide them with everything they need until that happens.
I love dogs and my job, and spending time with them isn’t a chore! Working Christmas Day means we tend to get a second Christmas with our families. It’s a win/win situation when you get two Christmas days, right?

4. Do you have any stories about dogs at the centre that you have become fond of?

Where do I start? there are so many!
First there is Mike, the Sponsor Dog. This will be our fourth Christmas together and I love watching him open his presents – he is so funny to watch! He devours his Christmas dinner and always has room for more! Then he goes out for a walk with some of his walking buddies and we have a snuggle before he finishes the day with a long snooze. He is just a joy to be around at any time of the year, but he does get extra excited on Christmas day by all the treats.
Then there is Mr Branston Pickles, a gorgeous Crossbreed who will be spending this Christmas in his new home after being with us for two years. He is going to love being snuggled up by the fireplace, opening his presents in his new home. It’s what we work towards and makes the hard work worth it.
Over the Christmas period we often see an increase of dogs being handed over, or even abandoned. Last year, Dogs Trust had nearly 5,000 calls from people wanting to hand over their dogs in the month after Christmas – and sadly we think this will happen again.
Back on Christmas Eve in 2015, two strays found themselves with us, so we called them Twinkle and Santa. Twinkle was a nervous, small Lurcher and Santa was a friendly Shih-Tzu who became wonderful friends, and a favourite duo amongst the team!
Then, in 2016 we met Mary, Gabriella, Melchior, Balthazar, Angel and Casper, our Christmas puppies! They were Staffie cross Lurcher pups who were an unwanted accidental litter, so they came into the centre to be looked after until we could find them new homes. They brought us so much Christmas cheer, lots of mess and lots of cuddles!
And finally, there is Staffordshire Bull Terrier Peggy-Sue, my little Christmas cherub. She was a stray who arrived at the centre in June 2016. She quickly found herself a new home but sadly it wasn’t to be, so I started fostering her from late October that year. She spent her first Christmas with me, my partner, nan and grandad. We fell in love and adopted Peggy in October 2017, so she spent her second Christmas with us last year. I was working so she spent the day with my partner watching Christmas films and waiting for me to come home so we could open all our presents and eat our Christmas dinner together. This will be her third Christmas with us and we can’t wait!

5. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of buying a puppy as a Christmas present?

We would always ask anyone considering bringing a four-legged friend into their life to rehome a rescue dog. We have thousands of dogs of all shapes and sizes in our rehoming centres waiting to meet their special someone. We would never recommend buying a puppy from any online source, but instead to do your research thoroughly so you can be confident that the puppy you have your eye on has been bred responsibly.
We have a wealth of advice on our website to help people be confident that they are buying a puppy from a good breeder, instead of a seller who makes a living pedalling sick puppies who may have been illegally imported into this country.
We want people to realise that if an advert seems too good to be true, it probably is. And, when you visit a puppy you should expect the breeder to be as curious about you and the home you can provide, as you are about the puppy. If anyone ever feels rushed into making a purchase, they should walk away. It’s hard to do but it’s the right thing to do. If something doesn’t quite feel right, or anything about the situation feels dodgy – report them to Trading Standards.

6. How can members of the public help Dogs Trust at this time of year?

There are so many ways that people can get involved at Christmas. We are always super grateful for any donations, and each centre has lots of different volunteering opportunities, so it’s always best to check our website to see what is happening at your local rehoming centre! Dogs Trust also runs a big fostering scheme for dogs who struggle with kennel life, so if this is something that might be for you, we can give you lots of information!

Final thoughts

I really enjoyed getting a look behind the scenes at what it’s like at the centre and I hope you did too. Later this month I’ll be bringing you another post about when S and I visited one of the centres, but for now, if you want to know any more, the Dogs Trust website is a great place to start. There is a lot of information on there, whether you’re interesting in rehoming opportunities, volunteering, or making a donation. If you have any questions, you can also leave them in the comments and I’ll make sure they are passed on.

Blogmas 2018 – cheese advent calendar

So, S had to pop out and get something for the workmen that were doing a job on our house, and he came back with lunch, plus a gift for me! Yes, it was another advent calendar, but a different one this time – one filled with cheese.

I’d love to link it, but it seems both Sainsburys and Asda have sold out!

The main point of writing this wasn’t to gloat about my wonderful cheese calendar that you can’t get any more, but to point out that if you can’t have/don’t like chocolate, or beauty calendars aren’t your thing, you don’t have to miss out on the whole advent calendar thing if you want to be involved. There are some with sweets in, some with cheese, and even a chilli one. I’ve only just seen that whilst doing some research for this post – I’ll have to remember that for S next year! There are also tea and coffee ones, ones with alcohol, and even ones for animals! I don’t suppose they understand, but they wouldn’t say no to a doggy-friendly treat!

In the cheese calendar there is a small round piece of cheese each day. I’ve been doing the continental breakfast thing and having the cheese with a roll or some crackers. Usually I just skip breakfast entirely, but it’s been interesting to try out some cheeses – from standard ones like cheddar and Edam, to more unusual ones like a festive cranberry one. I’ve also discovered I like Jarlsberg…I think there’s a ginger cheese in there too, which should be interesting, but I haven’t got to it yet.

How about you. Have you seen any food or drink advent calendars this year that are a bit unusual?

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.

Body Shop – an eye shadow brush that I won’t be reviewing, because it’s the next item in the giveaway!

Glossybox – a travel size shower gel in strawberry cupcake from Patisserie de Bain. I haven’t had the shower gel before, but I’ve had the hand cream in this scent. The brand is basically cake shop for the bathroom, so all of the products smell sweet like desserts. My favourites are lemon and cherry, but I like this strawberry one as well, and I’m always happy about fruity shower gels!

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