My problems with the dining in the dark experience

This idea has been on my “posts to write” spreadsheet for a while, and with all the talk of the Birdbox challenge, it reminded me that I wanted to share my thoughts about the whole “dining in the dark” experience.

Don’t get me wrong – if people want to turn all the lights off and eat their dinner in the dark, it’s totally up to them! But I do have some concerns about things that I’ve read or heard about these experiences, particularly when it’s seen as a representation of what life is like when you are really unable to see.

Not all people with a visual impairment have no vision at all

This is the first problem. Many people with sight loss are able to see something. Even I can see lights, although this doesn’t help me to eat my dinner because I can’t se colours and shapes. But blindness doesn’t mean 100% sight loss for everyone who is affected by it.

You have none of the skills that I’ve taken years to learn

If someone is suddenly plunged into darkness, all they have is their other senses, but none of those skills and tips that I’ve picked up over years of eating without the ability to see.

You just have to get on with it, without knowing how to measure how much is on your fork by how heavy the fork is, or by using your knife and fork together to measure the size of the piece of food.

It’s true there are times when I put an empty fork to my mouth, and that is irritating, but it’s better than trying to ram something in there that is way too big!

You haven’t learned how to pour things without looking, or without spilling anything.

You haven’t learned to be aware of where things are on the table, so as not to knock them over. I am not perfect, and everyone drops or spills things occasionally, but I’m no worse than most of my sighted friends, and less clumsy than some of them. These things matter to me – I don’t want to be seen as clumsy, so I make sure that I’m not.

You haven’t learn to use your fork as a tool to work out what foods are based on their shape or texture.

You haven’t learned to use your fork to run it under the edge of the knife to see whether it’s serrated, and therefore whether your knife is the right way up. Ok, this caught me out the other day because I wasn’t paying attention, but blunt knives don’t cut well and there is a way to check, without involving fingers.

You haven’t learned to be aware where the edge of your plate is, so as not to push food off the edge.

These are all things that (most) blind people learn at an early age. But good luck, you have 2 hours to master them, and you might not have anyone around to give you tips!

It’s not realistic to have no idea what’s on your plate

I know some dining in the dark experiences let you order what you want, but apparently others just present you with a plate of stuff from vague choices like “meat” and “vegetarian”, and you have no idea what’s on it.

This has occasionally happened to me at buffets in the past – something that can’t happen now because I need to be clear that there’s nothing on the plate that will set off my allergies.

I don’t like people drawing attention to my blindness by describing where everything is on my plate – I can work this out for myself – but it’s not unreasonable to want to know what’s on there. Not least because there might be something horrible, like peas, that need to be removed or avoided!

I wouldn’t feel comfortable about being presented with a plate of stuff with no idea what’s on it. This idea just seems to make the whole experience more uncomfortable, and when would that even happen? Is it assumed that blind people don’t prepare their own food or know what they’re ordering in restaurants?

Going out for dinner is fun!

For me at least it is. S and I went out for a meal yesterday and saw it as a nice thing to do. We meet up with friends. We go out for dinner if we want to celebrate something special, or on occasions when neither of us feels like cooking. It’s not an ordeal for me, and neither does it look like feeding time at the zoo when we’re done.

Whilst some people may have feelings of trepidation before a meal in the dark, it doesn’t mean that eating out is a negative experience for people who do it all the time.

In real life, most other people can see you

I cringed at the idea of “Oh well, noone else can see, so let’s just ignore the cutlery and eat like the monkeys”.

There are some foods that it’s acceptable to eat with fingers. But you can’t just abandon normal civilised table manners just because you can’t see and nobody can see you.

Ok, if someone loses their sight, they need time to learn. And some people naturally have better coordination skills than others, but for people to automatically make the assumption that everyone eats like this is not ok. It’s actually quite insulting. Not being able to see is no excuse for having food all down your dress! People who do this all the time tend to have a better idea of where their mouth is!

How do you think my first date with S would have gone if I’d eaten like that? It involved whole chicken breasts (no skin or bones) and pasta, and was very good, but do you think there would have been a second date if I’d carried on like that?

Blind people, unless they live in a bubble, are generally not only surrounded by other blind people. People can see us and form opinions about on us based on how we behave and present ourselves.

Ok, I do make life easier for myself by not ordering things like spaghetti when out – because spaghetti should be snapped into more reasonably-sized lengths before it even sees the saucepan. I also don’t tend to order things that have to be dissected because you can’t eat all of it – chicken breast that has to be relieved of its skin is a pain. But generally, I order what I want and deal with it. If the food is served in a dish for sharing, I usually let friends serve me – because it’s easier, they can judge the portions better, and any spillage on the table cloth is then clearly down to them! But I’m also capable of doing it myself.

So you can’t use proper cutlery or wine glasses?

In one review that I read, it said that the knives were blunt and people drank their wine out of tumblers – because sharp knives and real wine glasses were asking for trouble! Why didn’t they just go the whole hog and have plastic ones? No, plastic cutlery is actually really annoying!

I can see why they did it – you don’t want people who have suddenly lost their sense of spatial awareness suddenly brandishing a steak knife around, but it’s still unrealistic. If I have a steak, I want a good sharp knife to chop it up with. And if you give me wine in a tumbler, I’ll be insulted – unless it’s in a restaurant where everyone has them because it’s supposed to be trendy!

There’s no quality assurance

It’s an idea that any restaurant can take on board, so there is no way of measuring how well it is being done. I’ve heard of some blind people who work in these restaurants and they’ve reported that it’s a really good way to get into conversations with people. But with no standards or guidelines, what is being done well in a little town somewhere in Germany, may not be replicated somewhere else.

I know what it’s like for you

When someone said that to me, all I could think to say was “no, you really don’t!” You know what it’s like for you, as someone who’s spent years doing things in a certain way, suddenly being asked to do them in a different way, with no help or experience to rely on.

Oh, and whilst you can step out of the darkened room after the meal is over, I can’t.

Final thoughts

I have written this from the perspective of someone who has never been to a “dining in the dark experience”. My comments are based on what people have told me, and first-hand reviews that people have written online. Whilst I don’t usually review things I haven’t experienced myself, what interests me here is the impressions that people come away with who have never done this before, and the way the experience is being portrayed online. If you had a different experience, feel free to share it.

Many of these restaurants provide employment for people with visual impairments, which in itself is a good thing. I’ve heard first-hand that visually impaired people get into conversations with the diners about what life is really like when you’re blind, which is also a good thing – probably.

If the whole experience were just about the role that being able to appreciate food visually plays in the eating experience, I could probably go along with that. We do enjoy food with our other senses.

I did hear from one person who saw it as a kind of challenge to learn to do things in a different way, and I could respect that. But so many other people left their sense of self-respect along with their coat and phone in the bar, and I find that really odd.

If people just have a good time and enjoy the experience for what it is – fair enough. I want people to have fun! Maybe they’ll learn some things about themselves too and be happy about it!

But whenever I read reviews, all I find is people saying how they felt vulnerable, gave up on the cutlery, had no idea what they were eating, shovelled food in with their hands, whish they’d worn a bib, and then reckon they have a better understanding of what life is like for me? I don’t think so!

How about you? Do you have any thoughts on this? Have you been to one of these experiences? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Blogmas 2018 -where did the tradition of the Yule log come from?

In the post for day 9 I was talking about the Yule Log as an alternative dessert, but then I began wondering where this tradition actually came from. We don’t have cakes that look like tree branches at any other time of the year, so why do we have them in December?

The last one I made was a long time ago – some kind of high school project. The sponge part went well enough, but the decorating with chocolate got so messy, especially the bit with a fork where you’re supposed to make it look like a branch. It tasted absolutely fine, but I don’t have a photo and that’s maybe not a bad thing! However if you would like to make one yourself, The Little Wise Owl posted a recipe on her blog yesterday.

So, where did this log tradition come from?

The cake is made to look like a log because in the old Pagan tradition, real logs were burned at the end of Winter as the days got shorter. People selected a really big log from the forest and kept it burning throughout the darkest time of the year. If the log stopped burning, they believed that there would be terrible luck, but if all went well, there would be good luck in the next year and the days would begin to get longer again. The good luck was especially promised to those who’d had a hand in dragging the log over the rough ground from the forest to the house. This is why it became a family event, with groups of family members going out together, hunting for the best log to bring home.

The word Yule is an old English word that related to the Pagan Winter festival in December and January.

There were various superstitions around the Yule log, including the idea that if the log didn’t start burning on the first attempt, there would be bad luck for everyone in the home. So it was important to get things right!

The tradition then developed to tie in with the Christmas celebrations. The log was lit on Christmas Eve and hopefully it would burn all throughout the 12 Days of Christmas.

Most of us don’t have open fires now, so the tradition with the real log has died out to the point that I didn’t even know about it before researching this article. But the chocolate variation still remains today and people can either buy or make them. Not every family has one, but growing up, we often had one as an alternative that was especially popular with the children!

It’s thought that the chocolate log we know today originated in France, where it is called a Bûche de Nöel.

Do you like this dessert? Have you ever made one?

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 old favourite today – it’s another body butter, but this time from the shea range – a nice and gentle one that isn’t strongly scented and that is rich and moisturising. It’s a travel size, but a bit goes a long way!

Glossybox – today we got a Lollipop liquid highlighter. I’ve had the kind you put on with an applicator before, but never a squeezy tube of highlighter. It was easy enough to apply, but I think the shade might be too dark for me. Hmm – always a risk you take with tone or skin-type specific products, but I’m sure I’ll find something to do with it! Maybe it’ll be ok.

Unseen Beauty Blogmas Giveaway

Today you have another chance to enter my Unseen Beauty Blogmas giveaway. There will be a box with 10 prizes from the Glossybox and Body Shop advent calendars, and the prizes will be revealed throughout December. You can enter once on each Blogmas 2018 page, which means you have up to 24 chances of winning. You can enter at any time from when the page goes live to the end of December 2018.

Multiple entries on the same page will not be counted – I have a spreadsheet to log them!

Your answers to the questions will help me to get to know my readers and where they are based. Also, they prove that you’re a real person as I don’t use inaccessible widgets on my site.

The giveaway is international, but if postal restrictions prevent me from sending a product to your country, I will replace it with an alternative.

The form only goes to me.

What’s in the box?

  1. Huda Beauty Winter solstice palate Featuring one pearlescent creamy formula and three icy pressed pearl powders.
  2. Spa of the World® French grapeseed body scrub from the Body Shop.
  3. Black eye liner pencil from the Body Shop
  4. An eye make-up brush from the Body Shop something will be coming later to go with that!
  5. Real Techniques expert face brush
  6. MUA Cosmic Vixen palette with 15 eye shadows.
  7. Karmameju konjac sponge
  8. Luxie Beauty highlighter brush

Products 9 and 10 coming soon!

Giveaway entry form

     
 

Terms and conditions

  1. The give-away is open until 23:59 on 31st December 2018, and I’ll draw the winner on 2nd January 2019.
  2. I will give each entry a number and then draw the winner by asking Siri to generate a random number. I want to make it as easy and accessible as possible for people to enter.
  3. Your email address is being collected solely for the purpose of contacting you if you win the prize. You are welcome to sign up to my newsletter at the same time, but this isn’t necessary to take part in the give-away. If you do not win the prize, your email address will only be stored if you have signed up to the newsletter or asked for your entry to be carried over to the next give-away.
  4. I will email the winner on 2nd January to ask for their address so that I can send the prize. The winner will have 7 days in which to respond. If they haven’t responded after 7 days, I will draw a new winner.
  5. No cash alternatives are available and the winner is responsible for checking product ingredients for any known allergens)

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.

It’s a simple thing really, but it made me happy to get a chocolate calendar that I can just enjoy and read without having to do any extra work that sighted friends wouldn’t have to do!

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.

Unseen Beauty Blogmas Giveaway

Today you have another chance to enter my Unseen Beauty Blogmas giveaway. There will be a box with 10 prizes from the Glossybox and Body Shop advent calendars, and the prizes will be revealed throughout December. You can enter once on each Blogmas 2018 page, which means you have up to 24 chances of winning. You can enter at any time from when the page goes live to the end of December 2018.

Multiple entries on the same page will not be counted – I have a spreadsheet to log them!

Your answers to the questions will help me to get to know my readers and where they are based. Also, they prove that you’re a real person as I don’t use inaccessible widgets on my site.

The giveaway is international, but if postal restrictions prevent me from sending a product to your country, I will replace it with an alternative.

The form only goes to me.

What’s in the box?

  1. Huda Beauty Winter solstice palate Featuring one pearlescent creamy formula and three icy pressed pearl powders.
  2. Spa of the World® French grapeseed body scrub from the Body Shop.
  3. Black eye liner pencil from the Body Shop
  4. An eye make-up brush from the Body Shop something will be coming later to go with that!
  5. Real Techniques expert face brush

Products 6-10 coming soon!

Giveaway entry form

     
 

Terms and conditions

  1. The give-away is open until 23:59 on 31st December 2018, and I’ll draw the winner on 2nd January 2019.
  2. I will give each entry a number and then draw the winner by asking Siri to generate a random number. I want to make it as easy and accessible as possible for people to enter.
  3. Your email address is being collected solely for the purpose of contacting you if you win the prize. You are welcome to sign up to my newsletter at the same time, but this isn’t necessary to take part in the give-away. If you do not win the prize, your email address will only be stored if you have signed up to the newsletter or asked for your entry to be carried over to the next give-away.
  4. I will email the winner on 2nd January to ask for their address so that I can send the prize. The winner will have 7 days in which to respond. If they haven’t responded after 7 days, I will draw a new winner.
  5. No cash alternatives are available and the winner is responsible for checking product ingredients for any known allergens)

This post may contain affiliate links.

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.

Unseen Beauty Blogmas Giveaway

Today you have another chance to enter my Unseen Beauty Blogmas giveaway. There will be a box with 10 prizes from the Glossybox and Body Shop advent calendars, and the prizes will be revealed throughout December. You can enter once on each Blogmas 2018 page, which means you have up to 24 chances of winning. You can enter at any time from when the page goes live to the end of December 2018.

Multiple entries on the same page will not be counted – I have a spreadsheet to log them!

Your answers to the questions will help me to get to know my readers and where they are based. Also, they prove that you’re a real person as I don’t use inaccessible widgets on my site.

The giveaway is international, but if postal restrictions prevent me from sending a product to your country, I will replace it with an alternative.

The form only goes to me.

What’s in the box?

  1. Huda Beauty Winter solstice palate Featuring one pearlescent creamy formula and three icy pressed pearl powders.
  2. Spa of the World® French grapeseed body scrub from the Body Shop.
  3. Black eye liner pencil from the Body Shop
  4. An eye make-up brush from the Body Shop something will be coming later to go with that!
  5. Real Techniques expert face brush

Products 6-10 coming soon!

Giveaway entry form

     
 

Terms and conditions

  1. The give-away is open until 23:59 on 31st December 2018, and I’ll draw the winner on 2nd January 2019.
  2. I will give each entry a number and then draw the winner by asking Siri to generate a random number. I want to make it as easy and accessible as possible for people to enter.
  3. Your email address is being collected solely for the purpose of contacting you if you win the prize. You are welcome to sign up to my newsletter at the same time, but this isn’t necessary to take part in the give-away. If you do not win the prize, your email address will only be stored if you have signed up to the newsletter or asked for your entry to be carried over to the next give-away.
  4. I will email the winner on 2nd January to ask for their address so that I can send the prize. The winner will have 7 days in which to respond. If they haven’t responded after 7 days, I will draw a new winner.
  5. No cash alternatives are available and the winner is responsible for checking product ingredients for any known allergens)

This post may contain affiliate links.

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!

Unseen Beauty Blogmas Giveaway

Today you have another chance to enter my Unseen Beauty Blogmas giveaway. There will be a box with 10 prizes from the Glossybox and Body Shop advent calendars, and the prizes will be revealed throughout December. You can enter once on each Blogmas 2018 page, which means you have up to 24 chances of winning. You can enter at any time from when the page goes live to the end of December 2018.

Multiple entries on the same page will not be counted – I have a spreadsheet to log them!

Your answers to the questions will help me to get to know my readers and where they are based. Also, they prove that you’re a real person as I don’t use inaccessible widgets on my site.

The giveaway is international, but if postal restrictions prevent me from sending a product to your country, I will replace it with an alternative.

The form only goes to me.

What’s in the box?

  1. Huda Beauty Winter solstice palate Featuring one pearlescent creamy formula and three icy pressed pearl powders.
  2. Spa of the World® French grapeseed body scrub from the Body Shop.
  3. Black eye liner pencil from the Body Shop
  4. An eye make-up brush from the Body Shop something will be coming later to go with that!

Products 5-10 coming soon!

Giveaway entry form

     
 

Terms and conditions

  1. The give-away is open until 23:59 on 31st December 2018, and I’ll draw the winner on 2nd January 2019.
  2. I will give each entry a number and then draw the winner by asking Siri to generate a random number. I want to make it as easy and accessible as possible for people to enter.
  3. Your email address is being collected solely for the purpose of contacting you if you win the prize. You are welcome to sign up to my newsletter at the same time, but this isn’t necessary to take part in the give-away. If you do not win the prize, your email address will only be stored if you have signed up to the newsletter or asked for your entry to be carried over to the next give-away.
  4. I will email the winner on 2nd January to ask for their address so that I can send the prize. The winner will have 7 days in which to respond. If they haven’t responded after 7 days, I will draw a new winner.
  5. No cash alternatives are available and the winner is responsible for checking product ingredients for any known allergens)

This post may contain affiliate links.

Blogmas 2018 – brussel sprouts

They’re a bit like marmite! You probably either think they’re an important part of the Christmas dinner, or you can’t stand them. Either way, we apparently eat more of them in the UK than in any other country in Europe, and if you go to any restaurant for a Christmassy meal, you’ll find a couple on your plate. Yes, I’m talking about brussel sprouts!

I didn’t even realise that people bought and enjoyed them at other times of the year, but I know at least 3 people who do!

I bought the Christmas decoration in the picture because I thought it would be amusing to have an enormous sprout hanging from our tree, but S is less of a fan than I am an he wasn’t impressed!

I have to say, I don’t particularly like them (when I did Christmas with a couple of friends, I only agreed to have the obligatory one sprout on my plate each year), but I think part of that comes down to the fact that traditionally we don’t do anything very exciting with them. Perhaps if we spiced them up or masked the flavour somehow, they might be ok? That’s why I went in search of some recipes to make them a bit more interesting. More of that later, but first some sprout facts for you.

Did you know that there are over 100 types of brussel sprouts?

Did you know that sprouts contain vitamins A and C?

Did you know that the long period of hot weather this Summer caused concern about whether there would even be enough sprouts for Christmas 2018? I’ve seen plenty in the shops though, so either we’ve imported them or the damage to the harvest wasn’t as bad as predicted.

Did you know that we’re not just fussy eaters? The reason why some people don’t like sprouts is genetic. There’s a gene that makes sprouts taste bitter to some people.

Did you know that the area covered by sprout fields in the UK has been compared in the past to over 3200 football pitches?

Now for those recipes – I don’t have any of my own to share, but when I asked in a blogging group, Carol shared her link with me in which she suggests some alternative ways to cook brussel sprouts. Let us know if you try any of them!

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 50ml pot of the Spa of the World® French grapeseed body scrub with organic sugar and grapeseed powder. As I already have my mango scrub, which I got for my birthday, I’m putting the grapeseed scrub in the giveaway box.

Glossybox – a deluxe sample of the Nip+Fab dragon’s blood fix serum which I have already talked about on my blog before. It’s a lovely serum that absorbs quickly and “delivers an instant shot of moisture to dehydrated skin”. It’s something I used, and I was glad to get another one.

Unseen Beauty Blogmas Giveaway

You have 24 chances to enter my Unseen Beauty Blogmas giveaway. There will be 10 prizes from the Glossybox and Body Shop advent calendars, and the prizes will be revealed throughout December. You can enter once on each Blogmas 2018 page, which means you have up to 24 chances of winning. You can enter at any time from when the page goes live to the end of December 2018.

Multiple entries on the same page will not be counted – I have a spreadsheet to log them!

Your answers to the questions will help me to get to know my readers and where they are based. Also, they prove that you’re a real person as I don’t use inaccessible widgets on my site.

The giveaway is international, but if postal restrictions prevent me from sending a product to your country, I will replace it with an alternative.

The form only goes to me.

What’s in the box?

  1. Huda Beauty Winter solstice palate Featuring one pearlescent creamy formula and three icy pressed pearl powders.
  2. Spa of the World® French grapeseed body scrub from the Body Shop.

Products 3-10 coming soon!

Giveaway entry form

     
 

Terms and conditions

  1. The give-away is open until 23:59 on 31st December 2018, and I’ll draw the winner on 2nd January 2019.
  2. I will give each entry a number and then draw the winner by asking Siri to generate a random number. I want to make it as easy and accessible as possible for people to enter.
  3. Your email address is being collected solely for the purpose of contacting you if you win the prize. You are welcome to sign up to my newsletter at the same time, but this isn’t necessary to take part in the give-away. If you do not win the prize, your email address will only be stored if you have signed up to the newsletter or asked for your entry to be carried over to the next give-away.
  4. I will email the winner on 2nd January to ask for their address so that I can send the prize. The winner will have 7 days in which to respond. If they haven’t responded after 7 days, I will draw a new winner.
  5. No cash alternatives are available and the winner is responsible for checking product ingredients for any known allergens)

This post may contain affiliate links.

Subscription for a chocolate lover

It’s good to read other blogs. You can make new friends, support fellow bloggers – and one other thing is that you get ideas for what you can spend your money on!

One of the ideas that I got from a blog recently was about the tasting boxes from Hotel Chocolat.

I am already a fan of Hotel Chocolate! In fact, writing about my chocolate obsession on the blog is a good thing, because then friends use the blog to find out what my favourite box is and buy it for my birthday! Win!

So, as a chocolate lover, particularly when it comes to tasty treats from Hotel Chocolat, I was interested to discover that they have a tasting club.

What’s even better is that you get your first box cheaper – I paid £9.95 instead of the £22.95 that it usually costs. This wasn’t an affiliate code and I believe it is open to any customer on their first box, though of course it’s best to check first as the terms on the site may change.

You can choose from five different boxes – classic, mellow, fortified, high cocoa, and rare and vintage. We went for the mellow box with no alcohol.

We received around 25 chocolates, including one large slab. The idea was that S and I share them, but as he had to go away on a business trip and the box was left on my desk, that didn’t quite work out as planned and there wasn’t one of each type left when he got back!

I won’t list everything, but my favourites were Sicilian orange, raspberry, and lemon and lavender. The chunky chocolate slab was also great. I think salt and chocolate or salt and caramel just shouldn’t be a thing, but it’s still chocolate, so I just left them till last! Seriously though – salt doesn’t belong in chocolate … ever!

If you want to contribute your opinions, you can either use the form that’s provided in the box, or vote online. The form can either be posted back, or you can send them a picture of it once you’ve filled it in. This isn’t a very accessible way to do it for me though, so I was glad to see that you can also submit your answers online. Unfortunately, I left it too late to do this for my box. I have logged in and can find the form, but it’s for the next box, which hasn’t arrived yet. Still, the form is well-labelled and I will be able to complete it as an access technology user. For each type of chocolate, you choose how many stars you want to give it and can add your comments in a text field under the name of each chocolate.

Of course I still needed help to identify each chocolate, but I expected this when I ordered it.

Being a club member also entitles you to other things such as 5% off other orders and special things in the shop such as an exclusive deal on the extra thick Easter eggs. Of course this too will change as the site is updated, but you get information with your box about any special offers.

If you don’t want one of these boxes every month, you can snooze it as long as the box hasn’t already been sent out.

I think it’s a nice thing for us to do together as apart from the big block, there were two of everything. It’s not an “I need a chocolate fix now!” kind of box, but if you want to take your time and savour some different flavours – on your own or with someone else – I think it’s an interesting way to do it either every month, or once in a while. We have to be a bit careful with food boxes or tasting clubs because of my allergies, but the things that I’m allergic to aren’t usually found in chocolate!

I think this would also be an ideal gift for a chocolate lover if you want the gift to keep giving over several months.

You can find out more about the tasting club on the Hotel Chocolat website.

Listen to the podcast episode

I’ve also produced a podcast episode about my Hotel Chocolat subscription box. You can look for Unseen Beauty on Apple podcasts (previously known as iTunes), or wherever you get your podcasts. Alternatively, you can listen to it here:

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Easter treats with Abel and Cole

You may remember my review of our fruit and vegetable box that I did a while ago.

Well, we’ve continued to get the boxes, but I also like to browse the Abel and Cole site for what else they have. For example, I don’t like most of the Christmas desserts that you usually get, so I ordered a chocolate orange log from Abel and Cole with our Christmas order last year. Chilled things come in durable bags with ice packs. The bags are lined with sheep’s wool, which keeps in the cold and is better for the environment than some of the cooler bags that you can buy. You just put your cooler out before your next delivery is due and the driver will collect it, meaning there’s no waste.

In this week’s box we got satsumas, apples, a mango, potatoes, courgettes, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and broccoli. I’m now into the habit of checking what’s due to be in the box two days before our delivery, and I swap out anything we don’t want. So there’s never “too many carrots” as I was complaining about before. Also, if you still have a lot of fruit and veg one week, you can change the frequency to every two weeks for a while or until you catch up.

Special Easter treats

So, as Easter is coming up, I wanted to try out some of the Easter treats on the Abel and Cole site and I added a few extra things to our order this week.

I’d already tried the delicious chocolate owl lollies from Cocoa Loco, and there are some Easter bunny ones too. I got one for me and one for S – because I’m an only child and we don’t share chocolate 😉 Anyway apart from being delicious organic chocolate, I love the way that these little lollies are so tactile. You can feel the floppy bunny ears, the fluffy tail, and the shape of the rest of the body.

If you want something bigger, they also do a thumpingly chocolatey solid marbled rabbit. I haven’t tried that yet, but we just might!

I like the fact that you can read a bit about the products and their producers on the Abel and Cole page, so you know where your food comes from.

These rabbits are home-made in Horsham. The cocoa is grown in gaps in the rainforest canopy, not from clear-cut areas, which presumably means that no rainforest is destroyed to grow the chocolate. They’re listed as organic, vegetarian and fair trade.

That’s another thing – if you’re doing a search, you can put filters on your results to match your dietary requirements such as vegetarian or dairy-free..

I then decided to try a couple of things from the Authentic Bread Company, which was set up by a couple in Gloucestershire, who transformed their garage into a fully-functioning bakery. Since then, the company has won 15 awards, including 6 Soil Association awards. Now it really is a family business because the two adult children have joined as well.

The shortbread chick biscuits are made from organic flour, sugar, butter and rice flour. They’re cut into cute little chick shapes and rather moreish! I don’t think they’ll last long!

I also got some mini chocolate and orange hot cross buns. I’m not so much a fan of hot cross buns, but the addition of chocolate persuaded me to try and they’re made with chocolate chips, rather than a hint of chocolate flavouring. The orange is more subtle, but it is there.

Sunflower bread isn’t something for Easter, but I love sunflower seeds, so I decided to get a small loaf as well. You have two options for the size and I may get a larger one next time. It’s delicious, made using traditional processes, and contains no preservatives or palm oil.

These are just a few of the things available as well as the fruit and vegetables! We also got some falafel for lunch!

How about you?

Have you tried these boxes? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Also, if you’re interested in trying out one of the boxes, they do a recommendation scheme. If you send me your email address, I can invite you, which means you get £20 off your first order! Even if you get your first box half-price, you can still fill up your order to make sure you get the full value for your £20 – just remember to check out the basket (I didn’t the first time, so I only got my box and not the extra things I’d added).

Click here if you’d like to find out about our other subscriptions.

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I am an affiliate for Abel and Cole, but I only promote products that I use and enjoy.

Happy international spicy food day – in celebration of the chilli!

Some chilli facts, our curry night, and why spicy food could be good for you!

Do you like spicy food? 16th January is international spicy food day and I’d like to celebrate by telling and showing you what we got up to at the weekend!

I’ll start off by saying that we like our food to be hot and spicy. I don’t even realise I’m doing it sometimes. Once, when cooking for friends, I put “a little sprinkling” of chilli flakes in a dish and sent one of them running for a drink! I didn’t think it was particularly spicy, so in part it’s just what you’re used to!

Here are a few spicy facts for you!

  1. If you eat something that’s too spicy, drink some milk. Water won’t help because it will just spread the burn to another part of your mouth. The casein protein in milk binds to the capsaicin in the pepper, which prevents it from binding to your tongue’s pain receptors.
  2. According to archaeologists, people have been eating spicy food for around 6000 years.
  3. Scoville heat units are used to measure the heat produced by hot foods such as chillis.
  4. If you were a bird, you wouldn’t get the fiery sensation in your beak when you pecked at a chilli because you’d be immune to its effects.
  5. Chilli peppers are a good source of vitamin C.

Pathia night

We’ve been getting spice boxes from the Spicery for about 3 years now. You may remember the review that I did last year.

I don’t post about them every month, but we cook them every month – It’s a kind of stay-at-home date night idea. We cook the food together and then enjoy what we’ve made. The curry night box serves four, so we make two meals for two out of it. There are also other boxes if you prefer, such as street food, date night, curry favourites (more well-known dishes than the ones we get), and I believe there is a vegetarian option too. You can buy individual meals, or set up a subscription. If you don’t fancy the meal that has been chosen for one particular month, you can swap to one of the other boxes for that month.

You still need to buy the main ingredients yourself, but all the ingredients that are harder to get have been measured out, ground, and packaged up for you.

I like it because I wouldn’t have a clue how to make a lot of the dishes that we’ve tried, but you also get a step-by-step recipe that shows you how it’s done.

Sunday night was Pathia night. Pathia curries mix sweet, sour and hot flavours because there are sweet mangos, sour lemons and not one, but two types of chilli powder! I suppose if you wanted to, you could make it less hot by not adding the crumbled, dry-fried chillis at the end, but we didn’t want to do that!

Our meal consisted of the Pathia curry, red cabbage palya, home-made poppadoms, mango pickle, and cardamom rice.

Really this was supposed to be a prawn dish, but we don’t like prawns, so we used chicken instead. This worked out fine – you just need to remember that if you swap out ingredients, you need to think about the cooking times too. Chicken cooks more slowly than prawns, so it needed to go in sooner. Occasionally I make small changes to the shopping list because of my allergies, but we didn’t need to change anything for this one.

I’m not usually a fan of cabbage, but I ate this dish because it soaked up all the other flavours. As a child, I really wasn’t a fan of vegetables, but I eat so many more now that I know how to spice them up a bit!

If you’re interested in the pathia kit, you can get it here rather than as part of a subscription.

So, will you be doing anything to celebrate international spicy food day? What’s your favourite spicy dish?

I’ll leave you with an article from the BBC about chillis because I thought it was an interesting read!

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Blogmas day 13 – warming winter food

On Monday a box arrived from Amazon and inside was my new pressure cooker!

The reason I’m telling you this is that I used it last night to make one of my favourite winter meals – a quick and easy winter stew!

I used to have this as a child too, although my Nan didn’t use a pressure cooker. I could smell the stew as it was cooking and I knew there would be a tasty warm meal with dumplings.

Actually I didn’t make any dumplings, because I didn’t have much time yesterday, but it’s a hearty and pretty healthy meal because all I used was fresh vegetables and some meat, though of course you could do it without the meat.

I won’t write down a recipe because my stew is different every time. Yesterday I used pork, potatoes, mushrooms, a tomato, an aubergine, and a couple of onions. I covered the meat and vegetables with gravy and whatever herbs and spices I felt like chucking in! I tasted the gravy mixture to make sure the spices were right before I poured it over the meat and veg that were already in the pressure cooker.

If you like it spicy, you can add chillis. I added two because we like our meals to have a bit of heat, but you don’t need to do this if you don’t like spicy food.

I like to make stews in the pressure cooker for two reasons – it’s super quick – after I’d prepared everything and the pressure cooker started steaming, it took about 25 minutes for the meal to be cooked. Then you just need to wait for the pressure to go down so it’s safe to open the lid. The second thing is how it makes the potatoes all soft and fluffy!

You can tell when it’s ready, because even if you can’t see the steam, it starts to hiss like a big snake, which is when you need to start timing.

I will admit that I’m slightly scared of the pressure cooker because I’ve heard stories of bad things happening, and I know that there is a lot of pressure building up inside it, but I have also heard that they are safer now than they used to be, so it doesn’t put me off from using it.

I do have a slow cooker too, and I sometimes cook casseroles in there, but sometimes I don’t feel the meat tastes quite as good as when you do it in the pressure cooker.

Making this kind of meal is a good way to use up any vegetables you have left over. We do sometimes have an excess of veg because of our vegetable box, and as I don’t like waste, I’ve been making winter soups. Having some hearty winter stews as well will be a good way to mix things up a bit!

How about you? What do you like to cook when it’s cold and grim outside?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

The calendars

So, what was behind your door no. 13?

L’Occitane – I thought it was another soap, but no! It was a sugar bath cube! I haven’t tried one of those before, so it will be interesting to see what they’re like, and as it’s a sugar one, it shouldn’t be too messy because sugar is soluble.

M&S – today I got a fragrance – blood orange from Shay and Blue. I know it’s a risky business putting a fragrance in an advent calendar, and you won’t please everyone, but I really like this. I’m glad they went for a citrus one rather than a really floral one. You get 10ml, so enough to really try it out (I can’t see the point of those little 2ml ones!), and it’s something I would consider buying full size.

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