Afternoon Tea at Oakley Hall

“When you grow up you’ll learn to like tea!” That’s what my family said. They were kind of right, but it was more the fact that I learned there’s more on offer in the whole tea experience than just English tea … with milk! There’s jasmin tea and mint tea and mango tea and green tea – all of which I’m quite happy to drink. None of them can push coffee off the first place in my hot drink favourites list though and none of them come with milk! Milk goes in hot chocolate!

I’d never bothered with the idea of afternoon tea before because at first I thought it was just tea and scones. I will eat a scone –(scone rhymes with gone by the way), – but without the jam and cream! Anyway, it was only when I started reading posts by bloggers like Kerry and Gemma that I realised afternoon was about much more than that. It is an experience! Even better, a lot of places let you swap out the tea for coffee!

So a friend and I decided to do afternoon tea one afternoon at the end of August to celebrate her birthday.

Oakley Hall is a hotel in north Hampshire. I’d been to a couple of events there, but I discovered that they do afternoon tea as well, so I booked us in for a weekday afternoon, which turned out to be a smart thing to do as it was really quiet and relaxing.

What did we have?

There was quite an extensive tea menu, but I can’t really tell you much about that because we both chose coffee!

When the stand came, we pretty much shared it out equally unless there was something someone didn’t like.

There was a selection of four finger sandwiches each, either in bread or cute little rolls. I’d mentioned my allergy beforehand and they made sure that there was nothing on the stand that I was allergic to. This should be normal practice, but I always get the feeling that some places care more than others about getting it right, so I light to highlight good practice when I come across it!

There was so much food on the stand, we knew we’d be taking some home. I’m a savoury kind of girl, so I finished my sandwiches, planned to take the scones, and then went for the desserts that A. sounded most delicious and B. would not travel so well!

In the “sounded most delicious” category, one of the first things I tried was a banoffee boat – a carefully crafted biscuit shell with a banana and cream filling, topped with chocolate!

There was a delicate little cake with a strawberry on top, so I had that next, along with both lemon macaroons, because B didn’t want hers!

It was lovely to sit and chat over our afternoon tea. The staff were around if we needed anything, and we didn’t feel under any pressure to leave. We went after about an hour and a half because I had to get back for a meeting, but I think we could have easily stayed there a bit longer. I was definitely full though by the time I left and a bit high on sugar! (It used to be a joke that I could deal with alcohol, but too much sugar was a problem!)

Anyway, some of the cakes were slices, so we chopped them in half and filled our take-away boxes! This meant that S could get some too, including the Victoria sponge, the caramel slice (very good, but a little much caramel for me), and the cherry cake (which apparently looked unusual because it was green, but which was actually really good!)

This was my first afternoon tea and I can see why people keep going back to them. I understand it’s a different atmosphere at the themed ones because you have the room all decorated to suit the theme and there are many more people there, but if you’re just a couple of friends who want to mark a special occasion or have a good old catch up, this is a good way to do it!

Have you been to any good afternoon teas lately?

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New Cadbury chocolate bars – which one will win?

Cadbury had a competition in which members of the public could come up with new chocolate bar flavours. Now, three of those chocolate bar designs have become reality, but only one will make it into long-term production. Chocolate lovers everywhere are being asked to vote for their favourite one! That’s a great marketing technique to get people to buy all three, isn’t it? But we succumbed to the great marketing technique and did just that yesterday evening!

S saw the raspberry one. I then remembered reading about them and said we had to buy the coffee one too. And then there was just the orange one left – so into the basket it hopped!

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos because – well – we tucked into them last night. But I’m not one of those bloggers who only feels that they can write something when they have a picture to go with the text, so if you want to know what they look like, you can find them on the Cadbury inventor page or keep a look out for them in the shops!

This post is not sponsored – we just like chocolate!

the raspberry shortcake

Milk chocolate studded with raspberry pieces, white crisp pearls, and shortcake.

This was S’ favourite and my second favourite! I don’t usually go for raspberry things, but the zinginess of the raspberry went well with the milk chocolate, and you don’t see a lot of raspberry chocolate. In Germany it’s easy to find things like strawberry chocolate, but the UK market doesn’t seem to go for it. So I’d be happy to see more fruity chocolate around!

Simply the zest

Orange flavoured milk chocolate with caramel pieces and digestive biscuit chunks.

Love the name, not so sure about the bar. I was thinking biscuitty Terry’s chocolate orange, but no. I’m not sure I even agree with the description here, but I did copy it from the Cadbury site. It tastes to me like normal chocolate, caramel, and orange flavoured squishy bits. I thought they were raisins at first. I’m still not entirely sure what they are, but I’m not a fan. Shame really as I thought this would be my second favourite!

Choca-latte

Milk chocolate with coffee cream and digestive biscuit pieces.

Yeah ok it was a foregone conclusion! Unless they really did something to screw it up, this was going to be my favourite! Because coffee!

It’s quite rich because of the cream. I like dark chocolate with coffee, but this is not a strong coffee hit like you would get with an espresso bar. It’s meant to be latte, so creamy and milky. I like it, but couldn’t eat too much at once!

The winners

If I had to pick only one winner, it would be the coffee. However people in the UK don’t seem to like that much either – no more coffee creams in Quality Streets, which made me vary sad! I generally import my coffee chocolate from Germany!

So if the coffee bar doesn’t do so well in the votes, I hope the raspberry one wins.

What about you? Do you like fruity or coffee-flavoured chocolate? Have you tried any of these bars? If so, which one do you want to win?

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Pong a monthly cheese subscription

When I was doing the “gifts that keep giving” post for Blogmas, I was intrigued by the number of cheese subscription boxes that are available. There’s plenty to choose from in different price ranges and I recently had a look at some of the options. This post is not sponsored – I just love cheese and wanted to tell you about it!

I narrowed it down to two subscriptions and the final decision was made by the sign-up process. One was accessible to me as a blind shopper using a screenreader and no mouse, and the other one wasn’t. It’s not difficult to guess which one I went for, but there’s a lesson in there about site design and customer experience. We go for the path of least resistance. We won’t necessarily say “hey your site’s inaccessible”, because it’s just quicker and easier to go to the competition!

Anyway – back to the cheese!

What did I get?

I went for the Pong cheese subscription – love the name – from Pong Cheese! You can choose how often you want your box and there are ways to customise it such as no goat’s cheese, no blue cheese, or vegetarian only. I didn’t tick any of the boxes for mine. You can also go for the premium selection to get an extra special cheese.

The box arrived by mail and it was well-packed, with a couple of cooling packs. There were four cheeses inside:

  • Petit Munster – a soft cheese made from milk produced by cows living in the regions between Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comté in France. It’s traditionally eaten with boiled potatoes, cumin seeds and a glass of wine.
  • Lincolnshire poacher – this is a cheddar-style cheese, matured for 15-20 months and produced in Lincolnshire. It’s made using unpasteurised cows’ milk and traditional rennet. It has a nutty taste and is somewhere between a farmhouse cheddar and a Swiss mountain cheese in terms of the flavour.
  • Cravet – a delicate, Italian goat’s milk cheese, made in the Piemonte region of Italy.
  • Roquefort – a French blue cheese that according to legend, came about because a lovestruck young farmer left his lunch behind in a cave after being distracted by a beautiful woman. He returned for it several months later, and the Penicillium Roqueforti mould had transformed his cheese sandwich into Roquefort!

The cheese comes with tasting information in the form of a leaflet. I couldn’t read this due to my visual impairment, but after contacting the customer service team at Pong Cheese, I received the information by email so I could write it up for you and also know more about what I was eating.

What did I think of the cheeses?

I’m not a professional cheese tester, but here goes….

The first to be eaten up were the Lincolnshire Poacher and the Cravet. The Lincolnshire Poacher was similar to cheddar, but with a different flavour to anything I’d tried before – slightly dryer, less crumbly.

I hadn’t realised the goat’s cheese rind was edible, but probably wouldn’t have eaten it anyway. This was the smallest cheese, with the typical goat’s cheese taste, but not too strong.

The Munster was a creamy spreadable cheese – quite spicy in flavour, but I enjoyed it. I didn’t try it with cumin seeds, though I could imagine this working well.

If you don’t like strong blue cheese, you probably won’t enjoy the Roquefort as much. I did eat some, but I can’t put it away in such large quantities as I can other cheeses!

Overall I thought there was a good mix of cheeses and I’ll be interested to see what’s in next month’s box!

What do you think?

I wanted to try this out because it’s a way to try new things that I otherwise might not think about picking up to try. The information lets you know a bit more about how and where the cheese is produced, which, as well as being interesting, might help you to discover other things that you like.

Pong Cheese also has a shop, so you can buy other things there such as a selection of themed cheese boxes and hampers.

Have you tried anything like this? Would you like to? Let me know in the comments!

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Restaurant review – The Real Greek in Reading

Earlier this week I talked about my trip to the Clinique counter in Reading. After we’d finished there, S and I decided to go for a late lunch at The Real Greek – a treat for us, because we don’t have a Greek restaurant near where we live.

We’ve been a couple of times now, and unless it’s in the middle of winter after a trip to the Christmas market, we try to sit outside. It’s nice to get some fresh air, and restaurants are always less loud if you can get a table outside! There are several restaurants alongside the canal, but we generally get drawn back to this one.

The staff are friendly and helpful, and the food is both delicious and reasonably priced.

We usually get a selection of meze dishes. The menu recommends 3 or 4 per person, but we found 6 between us was plenty!

We began with humus and flat bread, which was then followed by a selection from the hot and cold meze selection.

One of my firm favourites is the grilled aubergine, but I am also a big fan of the filo parcels stuffed with creamy leek, spinach and feta. On other trips we’ve tried the haloumi fries and the falafel – all very good!

In terms of meat, we tried char-grilled traditional Greek pork and beef sausage, and we also recommend the lamb meatballs that come with yoghurt, tomato sauce, and onions, or the minced lamb served with Anatolian spices.

Stuffed vine leaves are a total pain to make yourself, so I often take the chance to get them when they’re available at a restaurant!

There are various seafood dishes too, but as neither of us is a fan of fish or seafood, I can’t comment on how good they are!

I have to be careful with my allergies and unfortunately the ingredients I can’t have often feature in this type of cooking, but the descriptions on the menu are good, so it’s easy for me to avoid the things I can’t have. I guess it wouldn’t be a problem if you do the traditional English thing where you order your own dishes and guard them against all inquisitive forks, but we tend to put everything in the middle and share!

It’s harder to eat this way when we’re in a big group, but S doesn’t mind, and if he really wants something I can’t have, he has to eat it all himself while I munch on aubergines or lamb!

There is also a children’s menu and a vegan menu – we didn’t need either of them, but it’s good to know that they’re available for anyone who does!

When it comes to dessert, I’m always tempted by the baklava or mango sorbet, but as we usually go at lunchtime, I just have a coffee – either regular or a Greek coffee. If you do still have room though, there is a good selection of desserts.

At the time of writing, there are 15 restaurants listed on the site, so it’s worth checking out whether there’s one near you if you don’t live near Reading.

Have you been to The Real Greek? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

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My amazing new coffee machine and my challenges buying coffee for it

My friends have been hearing about this all week, so it’s time to share it with you, my blog readers!

I have been drinking coffee in some form since I was about 7 or 8. Sometimes with permission. Sometimes because I figured out how to make it when I was somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be, or when people who were supposed to be supervising weren’t about. But for as long as I can remember, it’s been the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, and the only thing that kept me going when I was doing two jobs or working crazy hours.

It’s the thing that kickstarts my brain, and anyone who’s smart knows not to talk to me until I’ve had a couple of cups of it See this post for example That would probably have never happened if coffee had been involved!

Anyway a couple of weeks ago we were visiting a friend and he told me about the new coffee machine that he’d got for Christmas.

I enjoyed the coffee that he made me, but I was also interested in the machine itself, as I had wrongly assumed that a lot of the newer machines were touch-screen only, like the ones you can get in large offices. They are not at all user-friendly if you can’t see the touch screen. Some can be controlled by apps, but any update to the app that messes with the accessibility will then render your machine inaccessible, and I wasn’t keen to go down this route.

My friend’s machine only has two buttons though – proper buttons – and I decided that would be fine for me. The pods would be more of a challenge to read as something like the Seeing AI app would struggle to read the shiny packaging. But if kept in their box, Seeing AI could either read the box, or I could manually print some Braille labels.

So I was sold on the idea and went home to investigate!

Buying my machine

In the end I went for a similar coffee machine to the one we’d been talking about, but with no milk frother. It came within 2 days and I could get going straight away because there was a free box with 14 coffees to try.

You pour water into the compartment at the end, put your chosen pod in its compartment, put your cup under the nozzle, then press whichever button you want. In the morning I tend to go for a triple Espresso topped up with two lots of water, but you don’t have to be that extreme!

It’s simple, no fuss, really quick, and there are over 30 types of really good coffee to choose from!

Buying my coffee and accessibility problems

I had also seen that there was an app for buying your coffee pods, and was keen to try it out.

At first there were some quirks to get used to. There’s a button labelled as UIButtonBarNewSmall next to every type of coffee. I figured out that if you click that, a slider appears which allows you to select how many of those capsules you want, in multiples of 10. Not great, but doable, and when I tweeted Nespresso to tell them about it, they responded quickly and positively to say that my message would be passed on to the web team.

So I put an assortment of pods into my basket, complete with my free recycling bag which will be collected with the next order once the bag is full, but the basket screen was as far as I got.

I could find where and how to add a promotion code, how to amend my order, but not how to do the one thing I wanted to do – check out! Apparently, there was a continue button, which takes you to the login screen, but you can’t get to it using VoiceOver. It’s as if the button just isn’t there. I can’t navigate to it, never mind click on it.

I could have just gone the easy way and got S to click the button for me, but I shouldn’t have to do that. I’m old enough to buy my own coffee and I don’t always have someone nearby waiting to click buttons when I can’t.

So I logged in to the website and finished off my order there. The website is actually very accessible and I had no problems completing my order. But I still felt a bit short changed because my account hadn’t updated to include the things I put in my basket today, which meant I had to do it again.

As I was finishing writing the post, I tweeted Nespreso again and they replied before I had even hit publish on the blog article. That is pretty speedy customer service! They apologised for the inconvenience and promised to pass on my comments. It would be really good if these issues could be fixed in the next update of the app.

There are times when 90% accessible just isn’t good enough, if the missing 10% is the thing that prevents someone from buying from you!

Ok, I love my coffee and I would have either used the site or got someone to help, but any type of business needs to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy their products and services.

So, my pods are on their way and should be with me in the next couple of days!

Overall thoughts

I don’t want this to be a ranting post though. I did get my order in and I am very happy with the machine. The coffees are really good, and I am grateful to my friend (another S) for giving me the idea.

I think I need a coffee now!

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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, 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 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 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.

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.