Jane Austen’s house

Jane Austen’s house

During my week off, we went to Chawton in Hampshire, to have a walk and visit Jane Austen’s house. The house is open to the public as a museum, and you can walk around the house, seeing where Jane lived and wrote her books. There is also a learning centre, where you can watch a short video about Jane Austen’s life and books. The video shows you around the house, but anyone who only listens to the video can still understand what is going on.

Outside there is a garden, where you can learn about the herbs that a family living at this time would have used.

Inside the house, all but one of the rooms are open to the public, and there is a selection of 41 objects, which help visitors to understand more about what life was like in a village home over 200 years ago. The objects include Jane’s writing table, (a very low desk – I can’t imagine that she was very tall!), and a bookcase that belonged to her father, George Austen. You may not be able to see all of the objects at once as they are being rotated throughout the year. 2017 is the 200th anniversary of Janes death in 1817. She died aged only 41 years due to an illness.

Downstairs you can see where Jane worked and wrote her manuscripts, and upstairs you can go into the bedrooms, including the one that Jane shared with her sister Cassandra. There are no audio guides, so my partner read the information as we walked around the house.

Following her father’s death, Jane, her sister and mother needed to find somewhere to live. Her brother Edward made the house in Chawton available to them, and this is where Jane spent the last eight years of her life, revising the three manuscripts she had written previously, writing three more novels, and starting one which was never finished due to her health problems.

In many ways, she had a lot of freedom to write and pursue her own interests there, as her sister Cassandra took over much of the work of running the house. The house was shared by Jane, Cassandra, their mother, and a female friend, who was a close friend of the family. They were frequently visited by other family members. Jane had six brothers, one of whom was instrumental in getting Jane’s books published.

Examples of Jane’s work include Pride and Prejudice, (the only one of the books that I have read so far, and one which I would definitely recommend!), Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and and Mansfield Park. Don’t forget that you can also get a free book by signing up for Audible using the link on my audio book page.

I did enjoy the Pride and prejudice film, particularly as it stayed close to the plot of the book and true to the clever and witty dialogues, but I’m generally a “the book was better” kind of girl! I was far less impressed by the recent Pride and Prejudice with zombies film, but then I do usually find anything to do with zombies rather pointless!

Although it’s not thought that characters in the books were based on specific people, the depth to the characters leads me to believe that she drew on her experiences of people around her. It’s believed that some of the close relationships between sisters, such as the one between Jane and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, was based on Jane’s own close relationship with her sister Cassandra. I think everyone has come across someone as irritating as Mrs Bennet, and a long-suffering, strong man of few words like her husband!

After Jane’s death, Jane’s mother and sister lived in the house until they died. After this, it was used for workers on the estate until it was sold in 1947, when the museum was established.

After our walk around the house and garden, we bought some lemon gingerbread from the gift shop, and headed to the nearby café, Cassandra’s, for a late lunch.

If you’re interested in Jane Austen, or you have a more general interest in life in the past, I’d recommend that you visit this house and museum.

You can find more information on the Jane Austen’s house website. This post contains affiliate links.

Listen to the podcast episode

I’ve also produced a podcast episode about Jane Austen’s house. 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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Interview with Mel from Blind Alive

Today I have something a bit different for you. It’s an audio interview, in which I talk to Mel from Blind Alive about her Eyes Free Fitness programmes.

Mel produces described work-outs so that blind people can take part in them and keep fit.

I first heard about Mel’s work through a comment on my blog post about keeping fit, and I wanted to find out more about what’s on offer, why Mel decided to make the audio exercise materials, and how they have helped people so far.

You can find the interview as episode 27 of the Unseen Beauty podcast, which is available on iTunes or Player FM, or you can listen to it directly here.

I hope you enjoy the interview and that you find Mel’s advice useful.

Have you tried any of the Eyes Free Fitness work-outs or exercises? If so, let me know in the comments.

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Chocolate tasting – German and Swedish chocolate

Hello to all the chocolate lovers out there!

One of the things we do when we visit new countries is a chocolate test! We look for a few different types of chocolate from that country, buy it, and chomp our way through it! All in the name of cultural research! Good idea, right?

Today’s post is about chocolate from Sweden and Germany.

Swedish chocolate

We tested three types of Swedish chocolate. My favourite is the Marabou apelsin krokant milk chocolate bar, which is a delicious chocolate orange bar with crispy bits! If you like Terry’s chocolate oranges, you will like this bar too! It’s got a distinct orange flavour and the crunchy bits just add to the texture! Yum! We buy one every time we go to Sweden now!

The other Marabou product is the Marabou mint krokant milk chocolate bar which is basically a crunchy mint bar! The crunchy pieces in this bar are not as soft as the orange ones – they’re more like tiny bits of butterscotch or something like that, so they don’t melt in your mouth straight away. I do like this one too, but it also has tiny bits of nut in it, and I think the mint would be better without them.

I couldn’t find the third one online, but it’s the Plopp bar! Ok, I admit it, I bought it because of the name, which is at first a bit amusing for English speakers, but I wasn’t disappointed with the milk chocolate and soft caramel centre! These are slightly smaller than the other two, and also very moreish!

German chocolate

In terms of German chocolate, it wasn’t as much about trying out new things, but sending my partner off with a list of things to bring back when he went on a business trip there! I haven’t been to Germany for a while, but I used to go regularly, and I always left a bit of room in my suitcase for chocolate – specifically coffee and strawberry chocolate!

I don’t know what it is about the English chocolate market, but we are not very adventurous when it comes to chocolate with coffee or fruity fillings.

If you go to Germany, or a German shop here in the UK, you don’t have this problem, because Ritter produces both coffee and strawberry chocolate.

My favourite is the Ritter Sport Espresso (5 bars). It’s quite strong, and ideal for coffee lovers. I find in the UK, there are only really weak, creamy alternatives with a hint of coffee flavour, but this is not like that, which is why I like it.

There is also a strawberry one – the Ritter Sport strawberry yoghurt chocolate bar (5 bars). This has a creamy yoghurt centre with strawberry in the centre of each square and is a treat for anyone who likes to mix chocolate and fruit as I do!

My other strawberry favourites are the Ferrero Yogurette bars, which are individually wrapped, thin, finger bars of chocolate with a smooth strawberry yoghurt filling inside. This is different to the Ritter one, because that has tiny strawberry bits in it. I remember several years ago that there was also a special mango edition of these, but I haven’t seen them since.

When I went on my school exchange to Germany, I collected a selection of the Yogurette bars and bottles of sparkling mineral water. My host family was concerned that I was hungry and thirsty, but the real problem was that some of the English students didn’t like these things, so I rescued them before they got thrown away! Because you can’t throw Yogurette away!!! That’s just wrong!

What do you think?

Have you tried any of these bars? What do you think of them?

If you’re Swedish or German, are there other things that you think I should try?

Or maybe you’re from another country – I’m always looking for chocolate recommendations, so let me know your suggestions in the comments!

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March empties

March empties

I enjoy reading other people’s empties posts, so if you’ve written one, you’re welcome to drop the link in the comments. I see them as a way of trying out new things, and unless I really hate or can’t use something, I do try to finish things up. I feel better when more things are leaving as empties than coming in as additions to my collection, but I think there’s also a need for balance – some people seem to get so obsessed with “making progress” on things and finishing them, that I wonder if they even enjoy using them. After all, that’s the point isn’t it? We buy products because we want to enjoy them…

Anyway, these are my empties for March.

Make-up

I finally got round to finishing something in my make-up box! It’s the Make up for ever skin equaliser primer that I got in a beauty subscription box. I didn’t actually repurchase this, firstly because my Debenhams doesn’t have a Make-up Forever counter, and partly because I found a cheaper alternative that I feel does the job just as well, but I really liked using this primer and would definitely recommend it – good coverage, and it feels good when you’re applying it to your face.

Perfume

My Mum got a mini sample of the Estee Lauder Modern Muse le Rouge perfume which she then gave to me to try out. I really didn’t like it when I sprayed it in the shop, but the scent grew on me as I started to wear it. The main notes are sour cherry and rose and by the end of the sample, I was quite enjoying it. Still, if I were going to buy a perfume from Estee Lauder, I would go for the Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. I was actually surprised that I liked this, because it’s a floral fragrance, with the main notes being the tuberose and gardenia flowers, with orange flowers and jasmin. Maybe it’s because I like the jasmin. No idea, but this is a beautiful scent. Not one of my empties, but I started thinking about it when I was talking about the other Estee Lauder fragrance.

Hair products

Now I wasn’t going to do this review, because I really like a lot of the products from this brand, but I want to be honest. I love all things mango, so I tried the Burt’s Bees shiny mango shampoo, but I really didn’t enjoy it. The product was fine in terms of cleaning my hair, but the scent wasn’t just mango – it had something else with it that overpowered the mango, and I really wasn’t a fan. Still, I don’t think there was anything wrong with the product, it just wasn’t as mango-scented as I had expected.

Another shampoo I got through was the Rainforest shine shampoo from the Body shop. It contains olive oil from Italy, and sugar cane and aloe vera from Paraguay. It’s a lovely natural shampoo, and this one is for normal to dry hair (so check out the others if you have a different hair type). Still, having tried two now from the Body Shop, I think I like the banana one best.

I’ve already liked and reviewed a Garnier hair balm on here. I got another one from a friend and I really liked this one too. It says it’s for dry and damaged hair, which I don’t have, but I don’t see anything wrong with giving your hair a nourishing treatment once in a while, so I was glad to try out the Garnier strength restorer balm with honey. I would buy this again.

Skincare

Now for something lovely – I finished my body lotion from the Korres almond and cherry collection. I’m really becoming a fan of these lighter lotions and milks and wish I hadn’t written them off as ineffective for so long. It absorbs quickly and leaves your skin feeling soft and smelling great! I’m looking forward to trying out more products from Korres.

I had a couple of Charlotte Tilbury samples because I bought one of her cream shadows, which is wonderful by the way. The eye cream was a nice eye cream, although I don’t think I would pay £40 for it because there are products that I think are equally as good at a lower price point. The moisturiser was also nice, but again I wouldn’t pay £70 for this when there are perfectly good products for less than half the price. Still, if you’re a Charlotte Tilbury fan, why not? The only thing I really didn’t like was the night cream. It has some good reviews, and one person said it should be treated as a balm not a cream, so you don’t end up putting too much on and feeling sticky. I didn’t like the scent of this and it did feel sticky for ages. I went around with a shiny face for the rest of the evening and I can’t say my skin felt wonderful the next day. Still, there are people who say that they love it…but for £100, I think there are better products on the market!

I can’t actually find this online to link it, but the image on this post is the anti-aging gel mask from Core Beauty that I got in one of my subscription boxes. I can understand the benefits of masks for hydration, purifying, soothing, cleansing – but anti-ageing? I’m not convinced! I didn’t know quite what to expect, but the texture of the gel was a bit like the slime you can buy for children – I think I’ll stick to the sheet masks!

Another mask I tried was the Masque Bar green tea sheet mask, It is meant to reduce the appearance of dark circles and pigmentation, and give you a more even, radiant complexion. I only had one as it was in a beauty box, whereas the link is to a pack of three. I liked it and would be happy to try other masks from the Masque Bar. The only thing is that the application is slightly more of a faff because it came in two halves – the top and the bottom half of the face, rather than the individual sheets that I’ve used before.

Bath and Shower

The last thing is the Almond and honey bath milk from the Body Shop. I’ve only just discovered Body Shop bubble baths and I like them – good scent, decent amount of bubbles, and this one has moisturising properties too. You can read my review of the whole almond and honey range here.

Over to you

So, what products have you finished up recently? Let me know in the comments.

If you’d like to read my March favourites, you can find them here.

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Visit to the small breeds farm and owl centre

After surprising my partner with a trip to the wolf sanctuary, he surprised me with a trip to the owl centre!

The owl centre is in Herefordshire, and it is home to a wide variety of owls, as well as a number of small animals.

The owls live in the owl garden, and here you can see the five native British owls, as well as owls from all around the world. Some of these owl species are not on public display anywhere else in Europe.

The five owl species that you’ll find in Britain are the British Barn owl, the Tawny owl, the Little owl, the Short-eared owl, and the Long-eared owl. My favourite is the barn owl!

All of these owls are facing challenges at the moment due to changes in farming practices (better pest control means less rodents to feed upon), new roads, and fewer suitable feeding sites. These challenges are particularly intense in the winter time, especially when snowy conditions make it harder to find food. There are a number of charities that work to help the owls to thrive and survive, particularly as falling population numbers have been a cause for concern in recent years.

I’ve been collecting owls for years, but I think Harry Potter contributed to an increased interest in all things with owls on them! Products with owl designs are everywhere in the shops, and I hope this increased interest in them will also translate into people learning more about them and supporting them. A good way to do this is to visit the owl centre. There is information outside every cage about the species, where it’s from, and more general information about its appearance, feeding habits and preferred nesting sites.

If you want to see more owl pictures, visit the owl page on the owl sanctuary’s website.

It was probably a good time to visit because there were lots of tiny animals. We went in the pen with some lambs. They were rather cautious, but as soon as one headed over, the others dared to come a bit closer.
The farm encourages petting and stroking of the animals, so it’s a good experience for visually impaired people too. We didn’t ask about handling any of the owls, apart from the one that greeted people at the entrance, but my partner read the information to me so I could imagine how the different species looked. In any event, it was daytime, so some of them probably wanted to sleep!

There are a number of different types of goat, including pygmies, boer goats, and Golden Guernsey Goats, all of which were eager to chomp anything they could find, and not just the food that was offered to them. One larger goat tried to munch my hair, and one of the tiny kids, that were the size of small cats, tried to nibble the bottom of my dress.

The miniature horses and donkeys have often been featured on TV.

The farm would not be complete without the farm dogs! When my boyfriend said “I’ve seen someone whom you’ll want to meet,” I wasn’t expecting a Labrador, in fact there were two of them, but I was very happy to give them a pat!

Other animals that you can visit are reindeer, alpaca, pigs, cows (including the miniature zebu, the world’s smallest breed of cow), sheep, horses, and donkeys.

This is where you can see some pictures of the other animals on the Owl Centre’s website.

There is also a house for small animals. I stroked some floppy bunny ears, but there weren’t so many opportunities for interaction here. Still you could see the guinea pigs, mice, chipmunks and chinchillas.

After our visit, we had lunch in the gift shop, where I also bought an owl necklace, an owl bracelet and a little bag with an owl face on it to add to my ever-growing owl collection.

Never miss another post!

L’Occitane review – bringing Braille labels to visually impaired customers

L’Occitane review – bringing Braille labels to visually impaired customers

After hearing that there were Braille labels on some of the L’Occitane products, I decided to find out more about them, and also to try some of the products myself. Braille is a tactile reading system used by blind people. It consists of patterns of raised dots which form the letters or groups of letters.

I was interested to know why the company had decided to use Braille labels, and I was also keen to try out some new products – a recurring theme on this blog!

Background information

According to Sophie OLIVER, Group PR and Communications Manager, “as a sensorial brand, L’Occitane chooses to support the visually impaired by offering braille on most of its packaging. L’Occitane has always sought to make its products available to a broad spectrum of the population and the blind represent a category of people for whom access to consumer goods is often very difficult..

“The inspiration for having Braille on the packaging came from Company Founder, Olivier Baussan. In the 1990’s, Olivier was visiting a L’Occitane store and at the same time a blind man was shopping. Olivier witnessed the difficulty the man had choosing his products and from that day began the commitment to have Braille on L’Occitane packaging.”

I found this fascinating because as someone who shops online, I wouldn’t think of using Braille packaging to pick out my products. It does, however, help a lot in terms of identifying the products once I’ve got them home. I admit, this wouldn’t be so hard if I didn’t have such a ridiculous amount of cosmetic and skincare products, but that’s a choice that I made! It occurs to me that the labels help people in a way that Olivier Baussan hadn’t even thought of. Having said that, not all blind people are as fond of online shopping as I am, and I can definitely see how being able to identify the products whilst still in the shop would help.

The products that I tested

I tried five L’Occitane products. Two of them had Braille labels stuck directly to the bottles, in fact these were the two that are used in the bath or shower, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t be kept in their cardboard boxes. The other three came in boxes with Braille on the side. I usually bin boxes for products straight away, but I kept them because of the Braille!

My favourite out of the products I tried was the shea light comforting face cream. It smelled good, and is a lovely, light moisturiser. I’ve been using it at the moment, but I could imagine this as a light and refreshing product for the summer. This cream is for combination skin, so next time I will try the other one in the range, which is the shea ultra-rich comforting face cream with a higher percentage of shea butter, which makes it better for dry skin.

If I were having a particularly dry day, I’d probably reach for something more heavy-duty, but I love this light, fresh formula and would definitely recommend it. It absorbs well and is moisturising without being greasy.

My next favourite was the verbena foaming bath soak, which is great for anyone who loves citrus fragrances, such as lemon, as I do. It’s wonderful to relax in the lemony bubbles, and the bottle is a good size, so you get a number of uses out of it. I also like the raised design on the side.

The third thing is something that I had never seen before, the lavender relaxing roll-on. I have friends who put lavender oil on their pillows to help them relax and have a good night’s sleep, but I put this on myself instead and can smell it whichever way I’m facing. The roll-on action means that you don’t end up wasting oil or getting soaked in it if too much comes out at once.

You can see a picture of the shea butter hand cream on this post. I’d say it’s more of a hand butter, with 20% shea butter in it. It’s thick and rich and I’d say particularly good for the winter, when your hands can get really dry. I have also taken it away with me when I’m travelling, because flying and hotel air con can have a real drying effect on your skin (travel sizes are available). There are a range of other hand creams, and this one is particularly good for those who don’t like strong scents.

The only thing that didn’t quite convince me was the almond shower oil. I love the almond scent, but find the texture a bit too rich and oily. Not so bad in the shower, but it leaves quite a mess in the bath, so I think I’ll stick to my shower gels! Still it was good to try something new!

New soap

As well as providing Braille labels on its products, the charitable part of L’Occitane is also involved in preventing avoidable sight loss. More than 2 million people have received ophthalmologic care thanks to the NGO programmes that the L’Occitane Foundation supports.

According to a L’Occitane press release, “L’Occitane is committed to fighting avoidable blindness around the world. To date, we have directly helped more than two million people to receive quality and sometimes sight-saving eye care.” This includes helping to fund the Orbis Flying Eye hospital, which travels the globe, providing sight-saving eye operations in developing countries, and giving practical training to health professionals. During the last 16 years, L’Occitane has contributed around £1,386,000 to support the work of Orbis.

I haven’t actually tried this soap, but I wanted to mention it because it’s raising money for a good cause. If you buy the shea milk solidarity soap, 100% of the profits (excluding taxes and transport costs) will be donated to NGOs dedicated to fighting preventable blindness.

Final thoughts and question for you!

I like the idea of Braille labels. I wouldn’t say they’re a necessity, as I do label things myself, and try not to buy too many things that feel the same for use at any one time, but if I like the products, the Braille labels would definitely be a reason to buy them, and I love the fact that L’Occitane have decided to do this.

I’d recommend trying out some of these products, whether or not you’re visually impaired, but if you are, this is the only skincare company I know of that produces Braille labels, and I definitely enjoyed being able to read what was in the products. If you have any friends who can read Braille, these products would make a lovely gift.

Also, I like the fact that L’Occitane works to prevent avoidable blindness. If I had the chance, I would want to be able to see. My eye condition needs a lot more research before this is possible, but I am happy to support a company that is working to enable other people to see.

This post contains PR samples. All opinions are my own.

If you’re looking for other articles about blindness and life as an adult, you might enjoy these

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Lovelula March 17

Today I’d like to tell you about my March Lovelula box. I don’t like to write these posts as soon as the box arrives, as I’d rather take some time to test the products and tell you what I think of them.

So now I have one build-your-own beauty box, and one which is a surprise, though out of all the surprise boxes I investigated online, I think this is the one which gives me the most products I’d be likely to use. In addition to that, buying from Lovelula means you are supporting eco-friendly, natural brans, which is something that I want to do.

My favourite product in the box was one of the smaller ones, but it is full-size and a little goes a long way! It’s the Papaya & Pineapple Lip Balm by Hurraw. Ok, I’m like a magpie when I discover things with pineapple and papaya in them, but there are actually benefits to using this too! The papaya seed oil contains moisturising fatty acids and is good for the skin. It has a creamy texture, tastes delicious and does a good job of moisturising my lips.

My next favourite is the PHB Ethical Beauty Brightening Hand Cream. To be honest I’d never thought of a brightening hand cream, but the organic butters soften skin and reduce dryness without leaving a horrible greasy residue – a big dealbreaker for me when it comes to hand cream! The scent is neroli and ylang ylang, something I wouldn’t have known without looking at the website, but it’s a pleasant sent and something I’m happy to have on my hands.

Next up is the Seascape Island Apothecary Unwind Body Wash. This contains soothing lavender oil, and ylang ylang. Perfect for relaxing in the bath at the end of a long day and calming the mind before going to bed. I don’t tend to wear lavender fragrances during the day, but I like to smell it before going to bed.

The box also included a 5ml sample of the Kimberly Sayer Ultra Light Facial Moisturiser. On a positive note, I was glad to get the one for normal to dry skin, and this product does have a lot of good reviews on the site. However, I didn’t like it. Firstly I didn’t like the scent – I don’t know what it was about it – it contains lemon oil, but I like lemons. I have no idea, but I don’t like applying something on my face if I don’t like the scent. Secondly, far from being light, I found this quite greasy – again not something I want in a moisturiser. Thirdly, some sunscreen is better than none I suppose, but spf30 is not enough for me, so I’d need to still use sun block on top of this, which is fine, but it means it’s a bit pointless for me to specifically buy moisturisers with sunscreen.

Finally there was the Laidbare For Richer For Porer Pore Minimiser Facial Mask, which I can’t really tell you about as I gave it to a friend. According to the website: “Kaolin clay draws out impurities and toxins, Japanese seaweed extract detoxifies and smooths the skin. Shea butter gives hydration and conditions skin, whilst liquorice helps minimise inflammation and rose w
ater soothes irritation”. I’m more of a sheet mask kind of girl and I heard that this also contains some kind of exfoliation, which I already have covered because I don’t like anything super gritty on my skin. I don’t know how much exfoliant is in this because as I said, I gave it away. Still, I haven’t read any bad reviews about this.

Overall I was happy with the products in this box. It was another 80% month, i.e. I gave one product away, but that’s ok because I get plenty of stuff from my friends as well. I didn’t like the Kimberly Sayer product, but it was only a sample, and now I know what it’s like before investing in something larger than a sample size!

How about you?

Have you tried any of these products? What do you think of them? Have you tried any other products from these brands?

If you have a Lovelula subscription and wrote a post about the March box, feel free to pop the link in the comments.

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

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Walking with wolves

As you may have already noticed, I’m a big fan of wolves. I’ve always loved dogs, and my interest in wolves really came about through my partner, who had been interested in them long before I was.

I really think they get a raw deal – often portrayed as the big bad wolf, or bad guys in fairytales, which gives people the idea that they are something to be feared. They are definitely something to be respected, but rather than seeing them as the villain, as I started to read and find out more about them, I understood that there is a lot we can learn from their behaviour, ways of communicating and pack structures.

I wanted to do something with my partner that would allow us to learn more about these wonderful creatures. As the charities and organisations in the UK work with captive wolves, I began to wonder whether I would actually be able to touch one. The first place that I tried said that none of their wolves were accustomed enough to people for interaction to be possible, so I tried further afield and came across Wolfwatch UK, a non-profit organisation that works with displaced captive wolves. According to their website:

“Wolf Watch UK is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the rescue, welfare, and conservation of displaced wolves from captive situations across Europe. Aiming to set the standard for the care of captive wolves, and provide them with as close to natural a habitat as is possible. Whilst providing the opportunity to study, educate, and offer factual information to our visitors, allowing them to form their own opinions regarding this magnificent animal, and hopefully expel some of the myths and misconceptions that still exists around them.”

As visiting Wolfwatch would be quite a long drive, I organised a two-night stay in the cottage, a renovated barn close to the main house, and a private visit with two of the wolves. I was very excited. Initially it was going to be a surprise for my partner, but as it would involve him driving quite a long way, I let him in on it before we booked! I thought this would be better than just producing the postcode on the day and telling the sat nav to get us there.

Last Friday, , we drove to Wolfwatch and were greeted at the door by Tony, who runs the sanctuary, and his two very friendly dogs. After deerhound and spaniel hugs, we were shown to the cottage, where we would stay for the next two nights. It does have a kitchen with a fridge, hob, and microwave, so you could cook there if you wanted. We just bought snacks for lunchtime and went out to a local town for our evening meals.

The cottage is surrounded by beautiful hills and countryside and it’s an ideal place to get away from it all. If you’re lucky, you hear the wolves howling. I made this recording whilst leaning as far as I could out of an upstairs window, so the birds and background noise are quite loud, but I didn’t want to miss the howls all together by running downstairs to go outside! I think this is Anja howling:

https://englishwithkirsty.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/anja.mp3

On Saturday morning, we met Tony, and Helen, who also works at Wolfwatch, and went to the enclose where Madadh and Kgosi live. They are Canadian wolves, brother and sister, and both in their senior years. I had already adopted Madadh on the website (see below for ways that you can help the wolves), and I was very keen to meet her. There was also a special link with visual impairment, because as Kgosi lost his sight, Madadh helped him out, both in terms of getting around the enclosure and finding food. So in a way, she was his guide wolf, and later that day, she became mine, too.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I went in (apart from a lot of mud because it had been raining!) I didn’t know how big they would be, what their fur would be like, how keen they would be on interacting with people or how they would respond to us. I imagined them to be something like very big German Shepherds, which wasn’t far wrong, but as they live outside and still had their thick winter coats, it wasn’t like the German Shepherd coats I’d felt before. I felt really privileged to have the opportunity to get so clos to what, despite the familiarity with people that these two wolves have developed after being hand-reared as puppies, is still a wild animal.

Madadh (also known as Maddy) was the first to the gate and she was definitely interested in the dog kibble that we’d brought for her. The first part I felt of her was the big, gentle snout coming in for the biscuits. I was amazed how gently she took them. She then allowed me to stroke her head, her pointy ears, her silky (if a bit wet) coat, and to feel the length of her body. After she had sussed us out, her brother Kgosi came to join us as well. He is much bigger, like a stately old man, and he too was partial to the scooby snacks! He let me touch his strong body, his massive paws and his thick, powerful tail. If he dropped a snack, Maddy was quick to help tidy up!

We spent the next hour or so with them – walking around their enclosure, taking photos, giving them treats and learning about their history, their lives and about the other wolves who live at Wolfwatch. Kgosi couldn’t see the treats, but his keen sense of smell didn’t let him down. He usually allows his sister to go and check out new sights and sounds, but if she needs him, he is ready to defend her.

Madadh is accustomed to being on a lead when she needs to be moved somewhere, and when we took her into the field, I held her lead and she led me along. The sighted members of the party were there to make sure that she didn’t guide mi into the lake, but there was something magical about being guided along by a wolf!

I felt a sense of awe that these powerful, independent animals had developed such trust for Tony, and as we came in with him, they accepted us as well. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to get close to these fascinating creatures.

As I was lying in bed on the morning that we left, I woke to the sounds of howls. I was in no state to be leaning out of windows, so I just stayed there and listened. Du to the direction of the howls, it was unlikely to be Maddy and Kgosi, but even though the other wolves are not socialized and would not welcome us in their enclosures, mainly due to less than positive experiences with humans, they still need our help.

What can you do to help?

There are a number of ways that you can help wolves like Maddy and Kgosi. Buying any of the products on the Wolfwatch website supports the wolves directly – they need to be fed, vet bills need to be paid and their enclosures need to be kept in good condition. Things that you can do include arranging a visit, as we did, adopting a wolf, which gives you access to additional information and resources on the website, visiting the cottage, or gifting membership to someone else. If you can’t afford to do any of these things, you can still learn about them, or share social media updates from organisations that help wolves, and in doing so convey the message that they are not some terrible enemy to be feared, but a smart and intelligent wild animal that deserves our help and respect.

Some of the stories I have heard about the conditions in which wolves have been kept are truly awful. Despite the similarities to dogs, they are not pets. They are not dogs. They are wild animals and need to be kept in an environment that is appropriate for them.

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Podcast

Unseen Beauty is also available as a podcast. If you want to listen to it, you can find it on iTunes or Player FM.

The URL for the podcast feed is
https://player.fm/series/unseen-beauty

Skansen – a place worth visiting if you’re in Stockholm

I may have mentioned before that when we go away, I do the research and make a list of things for us to do, we decide what sounds interesting, then my partner works out the logistics of getting there.

Last year we spent a few days in Stockholm. We’re not really the typical tourists who go from one museum to the next, but I was first drawn to the idea of visiting Skansen because I read that there were wolves there, and we both love wolves.

Wolves at Skansen
Wolves!

Skansen is an open-air museum and zoo that is situated on the island of Djurgarden, near Stockholm.

You can see a variety of wild and domestic animals there, as well as a range of buildings, mostly from the 18th, 19th and early 20th century. The buildings were moved to the museum from other parts of Sweden and show how things changed in terms of the architecture.

The wild animals have plenty of space to move around and get away from screaming children and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see wolves, wolverines, lynx, reindeer, moose, bison, grey seals and bears.

It is a great place for a family day out – there are pony rides for children and I imagine that children who love animals would get a lot out of it. I just wish that some parents would not just see it as a wide open space where the kids can let off steam, (there’s a playground for that), but instead that this is the animals’ home, the people are visitors, and as a guest in someone else’s home, there are rules you should follow, such as showing them some respect and not doing things that would potentially distress or scare them.

They are wild animals, so of course there are barriers to separate them from the people, but I was pleased that they had a lot of space and it wasn’t what you might think of when you hear the word zoo.

We wanted to see all of the animals, but we were particularly happy to see the wolves. I don’t understand people who go to nature reserves and complain about not seeing the animals because they were hibernating or asleep – I see it as a bonus if you do catch a glimpse of them, not a tourist right!

As we were walking around one of the traditional farm houses, someone who worked there produced a Braille floor plan of the house. I think they were glad to have found someone who could read it, and they took some time explaining to us what life was like, what the rooms were used for and something about the tasks that the people living on the farm would have done.

You can also visit a replica of a 19th century town and find out what life would have been like there for the farmers, craftsmen and traders. There is also a Sami camp, where you can learn more about the Sami culture and way of life.

If you’re in Stockholm, I would definitely recommend this as a place worth visiting. WE spent the whole day there. Be aware that most things are outdoors, so for the best experience, try to choose a day when it’s not raining! You can buy food on site, and also pay a visit to the gift shop before you leave. I came out with a plush wolf to add to my growing collection!

How about you?

Have you been to Skansen? Do you have any more recommendations for things to do or see in Stockholm?

If you like wolves as much as we do, make sure you don’t miss next week’s post which will be all about wolves in the UK.

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Podcast

Unseen Beauty is also available as a podcast. If you want to listen to it, you can find it on iTunes or Player FM.

The URL for the podcast feed is
https://player.fm/series/unseen-beauty

Why I use eye cream even though I can’t see

Why I use eye cream even though I can’t see

One of my friends was surprised that eye cream features in my skincare regime, but even though I don’t tire my eyes with the hours and hours I spend in front of a computer screen, because I’m not actually using my eyes, it’s still important to take care of this most sensitive part of my face.

I first started using the Elderflower cooling eye gel from the Body Shop. This isn’t an eye cream as such, but it is cooling and refreshing on the skin.

Also, after watching loads of “best of 2016” reviews on Youtube, I decided to try the Kiehls avocado eye treatment, which I’m going to review here.

This eye cream contains avocado oil, which is said to be the most moisturising of all fruit oils, as well as vitamins A and E. It also contains shea butter, which protects skin from dehydration and improves the appearance of dry skin.

The Kiehls eye cream is thicker than the Body Shop one, but you can’t really compare the two products because they have different functions. The Body Shop one is to cool and moisturise, whereas the Kiehls one is more about moisturising, preventing dehydration and addressing concerns related to dry skin around the eyes.

It’s true that my eyes don’t work as hard as those of people who can see, but I’m in my mid 30s now, and I want to do what I can to reduce any fine lines or signs of aging. I do take care of my face, but eye creams are specially formulated to treat the more delicate skin around the eyes and target some of the problems we can get in this area, such as fine lines or dark circles. I’m not going to obsess over these things, but as I can’t see them, I want to keep them at bay!

The fine lines and wrinkles come because the skin makes less collagen as you age. They can also be because of sun damage, though I guess this is less likely in my case as I’m super-fussy with my high factor sun block and moisturisers.

Whilst doing a bit of research on this topic, I discovered an ongoing debate about whether it is necessary to use specific eye creams on this area, or whether a good moisturiser should do the job. Ultimately I think it’s a matter of choice, and I’m not trying to persuade you one way or the other. My main point is to say that just because I don’t use my eyes, I still see the importance of looking after the area around them, to nourish this thinner, and more sensitive skin, and to do what I can to combat lines and/or dark circles, which are bound to show up at some time, whether or not you can see.

How about you? Do you use an eye cream? If so, which is your favourite? Let me know in the comments! Next time I want to try the eye cream from Barefaced – has anyone tried that?

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Podcast

Unseen Beauty is also available as a podcast. If you want to listen to it, you can find it on iTunes or Player FM.

The URL for the podcast feed is
https://player.fm/series/unseen-beauty