My organic fruit and vegetable subscription box

What I got in my first three fruit and vegetable subscription boxes, and what I thought of the products!

So, I mentioned in my subscriptions post that we’d just started getting a vegetable box from Able and Cole.

I thought I’d give it a couple of weeks and then tell you about what we’ve been getting.

I chose the medium-size box which gives us 3 types of fruit and six types of vegetables each week. The food comes on a set day every week, and you can choose not to have certain things if you don’t like them. So for example I don’t like sweetcorn, so I put that on my “never send me” list, and they just give you something else. You don’t know what it’s going to be, but hey, you don’t get the thing you don’t want!

You can also add other things from the store to your box – I couldn’t resist a little chocolate owl, but there are other, healthier options too. You just have to add the additional items to your basket and check it out two days before delivery.

You get a free cookery book with your first order – not useful for me because it’s in standard print and I can’t read it, but I think S will look through it and see if there is anything good in there. You also get your first and fourth boxes half-price if you’re a new customer.

If you don’t want a box one week, you just amend your order in your account settings, so there are no problems if you’re going away or if you have too much veg left over.

Week 1

In week 1 we got:

  • Bananas
  • Tangerines
  • Pears
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • onions

Ok so that was a good selection! I’d never cooked with kale before. I found a tasty recipe, but we both agreed that it would have been better without the kale, so I added that to our “don’t send” list. Still, it was good to try something new!

I usually buy bananas, onions, potatoes and mushrooms anyway, and it is good to get organic ones.
The pears made a nice change – I don’t usually pick them up, but I enjoyed them. The tomatoes and bananas were good quality as well, but the tangerines were a bit sour – not a fan of those, but I think it was just that particular batch!

Week 2

Week two we got:

  • Potatoes – but a different kind
  • Peppery salad
  • Sweet potatoes – because I didn’t want sweetcorn
  • Onions
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • bananas
  • Mandarins
  • Apples

Yum yum, I’m glad I said no to the sweetcorn and got the sweet potatoes! One went in a soup and the others went into some mash!

I think potatoes and onions are a staple in every box, and that’s fine with me. I was less happy about the carrots though – there are quite a few of them and I don’t use them all the time. This may become a problem if they’re in every box! Also, you don’t get a huge amount of potatoes, which isn’t a big deal for us because we also eat a lot of rice, noodles, and pasta, but if you have potatoes more than once or twice, you’ll run out.

The mandarins were better, the bananas were fine, and it was good to get some apples. I think these are smaller than the ones I usually get from the supermarket, but I don’t want to support an industry that throws away food because it’s not perfect or an exact size. I think too much perfectly good food gets slung out, and that makes me sad – so I don’t mind the odd wonky carrot or small apple!

The mixed leaf salad was good too, although I didn’t finish it all before the next box came. We use a lot of tomatoes, so the cherry tomatoes were a nice alternative to the full-size ones.

Week 3

This week we got:

  • More carrots!
  • Apples
  • Red onions
  • Clementines
  • Potatoes
  • Aubergine – instead of pepper
  • Spinach – instead of kale
  • Peppery salad
  • Bananas

So more bananas, potatoes and onions, but this time a different kind of onion. Fine for us because they will get used up, although I am getting behind on bananas!

I was very happy with my substitutes – I buy both aubergines and spinach, and I think they are nicer than the things we would have got! So yay for substitutes!

The carrots may be a problem if they continue to be in every box – I’m going to look for “interesting things to do with carrots so they don’t just taste like boring carrots” – any ideas welcome! I wish it were mushrooms every week because we use them so much more than carrots!

Apples and oranges again, but that’s fine – I haven’t tasted the tangerines but the fruit was in good condition and you get about 5 of each thing.

More salad – I think similar to last time. I probably would use it up – the only reason I didn’t was because we made a load of pumpkin soup.

We’re getting through most of the fruit and vegetables and I do think it’s a good way to try new things that you wouldn’t pick up. I did need to buy more mushrooms last week, but apart from that we haven’t had to stock up with extra fruit and veg from the supermarket – well apart from to feed my mango obsession!

For now I’m really happy to keep the subscription going, though if I see carrots in the next box, I may have to stop them!

There are also a lot of recipe ideas on the site, and you can get the newsletter, which gives you three new recipes each week, although these are not specific to one box. You can also get different boxes – smaller ones, ones for only fruit, ones for the slow cooker etc. Oh and I’ve just noticed a cheese club mmmm!

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

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

Update

I’ve since realised that there is no need for any unwanted carrots. If you go into your account, then click on the subscription box, you will then see what is going to be in your next box. I think this works two or three days before the box is sent out. Rather than adding the carrots to the never send list, I can click on them and see some alternatives, one of which is extra potatoes, so if you are finding that you don’t get enough of them, you can add in extra.This is also a way to select what you want instead of a mystery veg option if there would normally be something from your “never send me” list.

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

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11 things you shouldn’t do when pitching ideas

How not to pitch ideas

This post is about mistakes that people make when they are pitching ideas – whether it’s a blogger who wants to do some guest posts, or a company who wants to let people know about their new product or service.

I haven’t used any names, but all of these examples are messages that I have actually been sent as someone with a website, a blog, and an online business.

I want this post to be a bit light-hearted, because it’s not just a major rant, but I also want to have a look at the effect these things have on the person reading them. I also don’t want to seem unapproachable, because I love collaborating and working with others, but there’s a good and a not so good way to do it!

Let me know in the comments if you can add any more to this list!

1 but it’s free!

Here I’m not talking about freebies, sign-up bonuses or opt-in promotions that people use to encourage people to sign up to their site. There’s a reason to do that – you’re giving people added value and those people are already interested in your site.

I’m talking about books that are free for a specific period of time, limited-time trials of products or services, or things that are free for review.

Yes, it’s great that they are free, and everyone thinks their products and services are wonderful, but it’s only a good deal if the other person wanted that thing in the first place.

Making people aware of the free thing is fine, but coming back to people when they don’t want it and saying “but it’s free! Why don’t you want it!” looks a bit desperate! It’s better to spend the time and energy on people who do actually want, and who stand to benefit from it. There is so much free stuff out there nowadays, that being free isn’t enough if it doesn’t add value to a particular person.

2 I want a call with you!

Why?

I’m not talking about people who want to learn English – in fact I generally do have a call with them first to talk about what I can offer and how I can help them.

I’m talking about complete strangers who contact me on social media, ask for a call, and give me no idea as to what it’s about.

I know that some cultures place more value on building a relationship and don’t want to get straight down to business, but we’re all busy, and if I don’t have an idea what a meeting with a complete stranger is going to be about, I can’t make an informed decision about whether I want to attend, and I’m unlikely to say yes!

It doesn’t have to be all the details, but I do have two very different websites, and when people want to get in touch with me, it’s good to know why!

3 your website is rubbish

Well thank you! Aren’t I lucky that you’re here to save the day!

To be fair, nobody has actually said that my website or podcast are rubbish, but It’s implied with phrases like “your website doesn’t communicate your key message” or it “doesn’t reflect your values” or “you will never reach your potential audience”.

It’s obvious that SEO professionals, web designers and copy writers have to identify a need that they can fill, but saying that the current offering is not fit for purpose is unlikely to get a good response, unless you like to cash in on people feeling bad. Maybe someone does feel that their current set-up is terrible, but there are nicer ways to start the conversation like

Do you wish that you had someone who could help you with…?
Do you want to be better at …?
Is … something that frustrates you?

4 This service is for x so you need it too

These people have usually identified a niche, such as teachers, but they forget that there is diversity in the niche. It’s not that I expect them to know exactly who will be interested in their offer, but to tell me I definitely need something when it doesn’t fit my business model is kind of annoying. I don’t need an HR system because I don’t employ staff. I don’t need a new way for students to pay, because I’m happy with the one I have, and anyway who’s going to want to pay using a site that has no social proof? I don’t need an online calendar because I hate them!

Again, I don’t expect people to know what I want, but

Do you need …?
Is better than
Your business will fail unless you have …

I know this goes against some of the common marketing techniques that dredge up the worst emotional words that you can think of, but there are people in the world who don’t respond well to those tactics.

5 why didn’t you reply to my spam?

Oh yes, replying to spam is right there at the top of my to-do-list!

Of course people don’t think that their message was spam, but spam is unsolicited mail that you haven’t signed up to. Follow-up is fine, but 3 times in one week chasing someone who hasn’t even agreed to work with you is pushy.

6 You need a blog post on this obscure thing that nobody has ever heard of

Because my readers are going to love that and it really adds value to my audience!

Pitching guest ideas is great. Pitching original or unusual ideas is also fine, as long as they fit with the site that you’re pitching. But if someone says “no”, you need to respect that. Also, the “no” is unlikely to miraculously become a “yes” if you try to start an argument about the fact that you know more about the obscure thing than the person who doesn’t want a post about it!

7 I haven’t read your content because using a standard template is easier

Ok, so I should take the time to reply to you, even though you haven’t done any research about me or my site. Sounds fair?

Recently someone has even been selling software that sends out a load of customised emails – sometimes not even that well customised (dear enter name here), in the hope that some of them will generate interest in guest content.

I think that’s really disrespectful.

I’ve even had people wanting me to pay them for guest-written posts that don’t fit in with what my site’s about!

It’s great to tell people that you enjoy their blog, but if you say “I enjoy every post you write and learn something every time”, it could apply to any number of educational sites. However, if you say “I particularly enjoyed your post on …” it at least shows that you’ve read one of them and it’s not just a standard message to many bloggers.

8 I know you only work online with adults, but why won’t you test our product for small groups of children?

There’s no harm in asking, but if someone says your product or service isn’t right for them, move on! Or are you the kind of person who goes into the shoe shop and complains that they don’t sell cabbages?

Don’t get me wrong – I love testing products, but if there’s something that isn’t relevant to my business, or some kind of product that I know I will never use in my free time, it’s better for both of us that you find someone who will love it!

This isn’t really aimed at brands in the beauty and lifestyle world, but companies trying to get me to buy things for my business. In terms of being sent blogger mail, it’s an honour and a privilege. I am really grateful. But I can’t run something if I don’t think it fits with my brand or what my audience is interested in.

9 Podcast guests on shows that don’t take guests

I’ve had a couple of guests on the podcast, and I think in all cases I approached them to ask if they would do it. If a guest came up that would be a good fit, I’d be open to that too, but when people approach me because they want publicity for their new book, that has nothing to do with any of the topics I cover, that’s not adding value to my audience. A bit of research would show that, and also highlight some other podcasts that would be a much better fit.

10 you’re not using our app

This came up because of a discussion in a forum where someone was complaining about an email that said “You’re not using our app! Download it here!” The feeling was that it came across as bossy rather than helpful, and something like “did you know that we have an app?” would have come across better.

11 I’ll use your platform to post my advert

Because everyone goes to the trouble of building a platform and loyal following just so that they can give others free advertising. Even better if you’re offering exactly the same products or services as the person who owns the website! Don’t do it!
Direct sales links on posts that have nothing to do with that topic are not cool either! It’s like that pushy person at a social gathering that everyone tries to avoid because all they want to do is talk about themselves!

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October favourites – owls, pumpkins, and Charlotte Tilbury

Yes we’re getting into the Halloween spirit here. For two years running now, S has come home with a huge pumpkin and there’s going to be pumpkin soup – this time spicy pumpkin soup! I don’t know why I don’t think of doing it at other times of the year, but it seems to be an October thing.

Soup in general is more of a winter thing for me because I like to make my own. I think it’s healthier and tastier than many of the shop-bought ones, and if you make a big batch, lunch is sorted for a couple of days. It’s also a way to use up some of your vegetables!

Hair

I talked in my September favourites about my paddle brush, and I noticed that Tangle Teezer also did a travel brush. My hair is very long, and I usually wear it down, so I can get a bit windswept! I like this brush because it is compact and easy to stash in your handbag. It doesn’t have a handle, which means it takes up less space, and there is a protective cover to go over the bristles. Perfect for when you’re on the go and need to sort your hair out!

Owls, dogs and wolves

I have a couple of birthday presents to mention –yes it was last month, but I wanted to at least use them a bit first! Earlier this year, we went to visit Wolfwatch UK – you can read about it here. Wolfwatch UK has a range of wolf t-shirts on their site, and I got one for my birthday. You can see the whole range here. This is a really good organisation, and I would encourage anyone who cares about wolves to support them – either by buying products such as the t-shirt, or by adopting a wolf – no, the wolf doesn’t come to live with you, but you sponsor them and help pay for their food and vet bills!

The other cool thing that happened at the end of September was that S got me a new strap for my handback as one of my presents. The side of the handbag looks like an owl, complete with wings, eyes, and little owl nose. However, about a year ago, the strap broke. Not just when I was moving the bag at home, but as we were dashing through the airport, complete with luggage on the way to check-in. We gathered up the broken bits, but the clip on the strap had snapped, so it needed to be replaced. S got me a new strap, so now the handbag can come out again!

Skincare

I mentioned my Malin Goetz moisturiser in a previous Latest in Beauty review. At the time I wasn’t that excited by it, but I’ve been using it regularly this month and I’ve discovered that I do really like it. It is light, but it does the job and overall I think it’s a good day cream. It combines vitamin E with soothing chamomile and is apparently suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.

Anyone who has been following the blog will have heard me rave about the White Company’s Seychelles hand cream. I also discovered that they do a bath and body gift set, and my Mum got it as one of my birthday presents. I’ve been using the moisturising body lotion this month and it smells wonderful. I’m not a fan of products that are just coconut, because they can be a bit overpowering, but this is mixed with vanilla and almond, and I think it smells good enough to eat!

Make-up

I got some birthday money and decided to treat myself to a lipstick from Charlotte Tilbury. I already have a cream shadow from her collection, but I didn’t have any lipsticks. I decided to go for Bitch Perfect from the K.I.S.S.I.N.G. range. It came beautifully wrapped with some samples to try – the ones that I’d chosen as well as a little bottle of the new Charlotte Tilbury perfume. It’s described as a “peach-toned nude creamy lipstick” – well done CT for actually describing your colours. You don’t know how happy that makes blind shoppers. It glides on easily and is creamy, so it doesn’t dry out your lips. This is more than I usually spend on a lipstick, but I think birthday money can be used to get something that’s a bit of a treat!

Drinks and sweet treats

Last year we both received infusers for Christmas. It’s a mug that has a mesh metal basket to sit on the top, and there’s a lid to stop your drink getting cold. You can use them for either loose-leaf tea, or ground coffee. When the drink is ready, you just lift out the basket and it’s good to go. Ideal if you don’t want to make a whole jug of coffee or a whole teapot of loose-leaf tea.

Ours were gifts, so I can’t provide an exact link, but these are similar to what we have.

I suppose it wouldn’t be a favourites post without some reference to chocolate!

I heard that Lindt did chocolate mango truffles, but they were very expensive on Amazon. When I started shopping around, I discovered the Chocolate Imporium and bought both the mango truffles and some Eiscafe coffee chocolates. All of the chocolates are individually wrapped. The coffee ones are solid squares of milk chocolate, and they taste of ground coffee beans. The mango chocolates are white chocolate shells with real mango around a centre of creamy mango goodness! These are luxury, so not just your mid-afternoon sugar fix, but if you like something different, it’s well worth checking out the site because they have all kinds of things ranging from truffles to unusual chocolate bars – ideal for stocking fillers or secret Santa!

Bath and body

You may already know that I love the pink grapefruit shower gel from the Body Shop! Actually I love the whole range, but I’m working my way through a huge 750 ml bottle of the shower gel at the moment, and at the time of writing, they are on offer with 1/3 off. This is one way to make your bathroom and yourself smell of grapefruit all day!

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How about you? What have you been enjoying this month? Let me know in the comments! Also, have you tried any of these things?

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This post contains some affiliate links, but all views are my honest opinions. For screenreader users, I can’t vouch for the accessibility of some of these sites because a few of the products were birthday presents, so I didn’t go through the check-out process myself.

We tried out some Japanese chocolate and snacks

So, this is the part where S gets roped into helping on the blog – by eating chocolate! Good deal, isn’t it?!

I decided that I wanted to try out some Japanese sweets and snacks, so to make it a tiny bit more objective, I bought up a bunch of stuff from Amazon and we had a taste test together – although not all at once! I was pleased to say that there were only a couple of things that I really didn’t like, and I enjoyed having the chance to munch on some new and unfamiliar snacks.

I was first introduced to Japanese food when a Japanese student, who soon became my friend, came to study at my school for 9 months when I was in year 12. She brought different things for us to try, such as seaweed and some cute little biscuit bears with chocolate in the middle!

So I was keen to see what else was available online – Amazon makes all things possible!

I bought two packs – one which was just different types of Japanese KitKat, and the other one was snacks. Actually I just thought they were sweets, but when it arrived, there was a mixture of sweet and savoury stuff in there. You don’t have to choose exactly what you want because you are given a random mixture each time, though no two things were the same.

There was no English on the packets, so it really was a lucky dip, unless you find the same picture on the internet with English descriptions – S did manage this for a couple of things, and he recognised some of the words. However, if you have an allergy and are used to checking ingredient lists before you eat things, this won’t be a good idea for you. It did concern me a bit, but my allergies aren’t life-threatening so I just did it at home with S so I could be comfortable if I didn’t feel great. I was fine, but I wouldn’t recommend that people with allergies do this!

KitKats

We got a pack of 14 Japanese KitKats. I didn’t measure them, but they’re minis, so you get two little fingers in each pack, or one of them just had one, like a mini KitKat chunky.

My favourites had to be the green tea ones. I’d never thought of chocolate and green tea before, but they went well together! I would buy those again. The sake (a type of alcoholic drink made with rice) KitKat with white chocolate was good too.

The only one I didn’t really like was made with some kind of nuts, and I’m not a fan of any kind of nutty chocolate, so that was to be expected. Still, I was happy that only one of the bars had nuts in it.

There were a couple that tasted like the KitKats you can buy here – a milk one and a plain one. They weren’t quite the same though, so as well as the packaging being different, there must be different ingredients in the chocolate too. The wafer in the plain one tasted less sweet than the ones you can buy in the UK. There was also a white chocolate one that must have had something else mixed in with it – I like white chocolate, but this one was very sweet.

There was also a mint one – yum yum! I do like a good bit of mint chocolate!

Another interesting taste was the ginger chocolate – I do wish we could have more experimental flavours in the UK. Ok you can find them if you know where to look, but you don’t get things like that in standard chocolate bars.

Finally I need to mention the strawberry one, because I’m a fan of fruity chocolate!

Snacks

So these were the snacks that I originally thought were just sweets – but they were actually a mixture of 20 sweet and savoury snacks. Here are some of the highlights although in some cases, I can’t tell you exactly what they were!

There was a packet with small, square snacks like rice crackers. I like the rice cracker idea, but I found these a bit salty. In fact, I’d say that about a lot of the savoury things, but then I’m not a fan of salty snacks in general.

There were a number of Umaibo – like long, thin, crunchy rolls made of puffed corn, which come in a variety of flavours:

Tonkatsu sauce – this was sweet and zingy – I could taste the vinegar!
Mentai – marinated roe of Pollock. I would eat these at a party or something, but not being a massive fish lover, I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy them!
Pizza – I could definitely taste the pepperoni or barbecue sauce
Peperoni
Green salad – this really tasted like slightly spicy whatsits!

We had a bag of some kind of cereal balls with something like tomato or prawn cocktail flavouring – a bit like skip-flavoured whatsits!

The only thing I couldn’t finish was the squid, but I really don’t like most seafood and some fish. Still, I gave it a go!

The other thing that I wasn’t particularly fond of but which I did manage to finish was the dried fish sticks. They tasted a bit like cardboard until you started to chew, and very fishy!

The first sweet thing I tried was the Daifuku – this was good, but we only got one, so I tried to tear it in half! It’s like a cross between a jelly sweet and a marshmellow, with a strawberry filling inside. I could definitely eat more of those!

There was a tasty star shaped chocolate infused wafer.

My favourites were some tasty, sweet cracker things, softer than rice cakes and a bit thicker than crisps. They were slightly sweet and tasted a bit like waffles!

There was one salty dried plumb – dried plum = good, salty dried plum = not good!

There was something like a boiled strawberry sweet – nice enough, but only one in a packet? It wasn’t very big!

Who remembers flumps? There was something that looked like a larger one of those, as well as a bag of teeny tiny marsh mellows!

There was a card with some chocolate-filled sweets that looked a bit like smarties, but you had to push them out of the plastic in the same way that you would headache tablets! Interesting packaging, but the sweets were good!

How about you?

Have you tried any of these things? If so, what did you think of them? Have you had any taste testing boxes from other countries? Let me know in the comments!

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What subscriptions do you have?

I talk about our subscriptions for beauty, food, and entertainment.

What subscriptions do you have?

When I started thinking about this post and adding up the subscriptions that we have, I was a little surprised. However we do use all of them. One is very new, so we’ll have to see whether we’re going to keep it.

The beauty ones are definitely mine, but the rest are ours as a household. Maybe there are some here that you didn’t know about.

Beauty

I have two beauty subscriptions. The first is Latest in Beauty. The great thing about Latest in Beauty is that you make your own box. You might not love everything you pick – that’s just the way it goes with trying new products – but you make the decisions about what goes into your box, so if there are types of products that you’ll never use, you never have to get them.

There are build-your-own boxes and curated boxes. If you build your own, you can get 3, 6 or 9 products. The more products you get, the cheaper they become. I look through the list once my payment is taken and select the things that I want. First I look for new and exciting things, then I look for things that I need, then I look for things that I’ve had before and really enjoyed. Some months it’s really hard to choose because there are so many things that I would like. Other months it’s a bit harder, like a couple of months ago when there were a lot of nail varnishes and tanning products, neither of which really interest me. But I’ve discovered a lot of cool stuff this way!

My second beauty box is Lovelula – the natural and cruelty-free beauty box. You can sign up for the monthly boxes (there are different pricing structures, so if you’re interested, check them out here.)

I like Lovelula because I want to use more natural and cruelty-free products, and this is a good way to try some new types of product and new brands in a way that’s cheaper than buying them full-price. There are sometimes one or two things in the box that I wouldn’t use, but I don’t feel that these are wasted because they go into swap boxes with other bloggers, into a blog prize draw, or I use them as gifts. If it got to the point where I was using only one or two of the products, that would be a problem, but as it is, I use most of them.

The other good thing about Lovelula is that you get a discount on the brands in the box each month, and if you really like something, you can buy it in the shop. This is different from Latest in Beauty because they have rolling stock, which means once something has sold out, it’s gone unless they bring it back again.

Both boxes provide a range of full-size and sample-size products, and particularly as someone who loves to try new things, they both work well for me.

Entertainment

We hardly ever watch TV in our house. If we watch anything, it’s usually Netflix, Prime video or a DVD. Oh and then there are all the beauty videos on Youtube, but fortunately they’re free!

At the beginning of last year, we weren’t sure whether to go for Netflix or Amazon Prime. Both of them were offering one month for free, so we tried them both out and continued both subscriptions, but for different reasons!

I’d say that we use Netflix more in terms of watching things – either together or on our own. There are some things that S watches that drive me crazy, and I’m sure he feels the same about some of my choices. You can set up individual profiles, so that the suggestions are based on what you actually like, rather than some random thing that another member of the household was watching. The number of people who can watch at any one time is based on the payment plan that you choose.

I usually just listen on my phone because I don’t need a screen. I really like the way that you can filter by audio described content, which is content that has an additional sound track for explaining to blind people what’s happening on the screen. When I’m watching on my own, I’m usually only interested in this type of content, and it’s nice that it can be pulled out into a separate list. I wouldn’t say we’re really heavy users of the service, but it’s nice to have it.

We do watch a few things on Amazon Prime, but there is less audio-described content on there and you can’t filter it as you can on Netflix. If Prime only had the option of Amazon Video, it probably wouldn’t be worth our while, but it gives you a number of other benefits too, which we definitely use:

  • Free next day delivery. This isn’t just cool because it’s quicker, although that is cool! It helps me to plan when the deliveries are coming so that they don’t arrive on a day when I have back-to-back meetings.
  • Free magazines – every month there is a range of magazines that offer one issue for free. You buy them for £0 on your Amazon account and then you can read them on the Kindle app, or presumably on your kindle (I don’t have one!) This doesn’t work if you want to read the same magazine every month, but if you have a more general interest, such as beauty or travel, you can usually find something to read.
  • Amazon music – most of the time I prefer listening to my own music – I haven’t really got on board with the stream on demand thing, but there are times when it’s good to put on someone else’s playlist, such as when I go running and want some upbeat, motivational music.
  • Extra free books on Audible – we’ll come to Audible in a minute, but when I signed up, being an Amazon Prime member gave me an extra 2 books for free.
  • Share with your household – I’m the Amazon Prime account holder, but S gets all of these benefits too because I linked both of our accounts to our household.

If you want to try out Amazon Prime free for a month, you can sign up here.

Finally we have Audible – a service for audio books. I love audio books! I used to read Braille books, but you can’t take a huge volume of Braille on the train with you, so in my commuter days I read a lot of audio books! They’re also good when you want to relax. S likes them too, so we often listen to books together as a change to watching films.

S bought me an Audible subscription last Christmas. I decided to continue it after the gift ran out, and then I got 3 more books because I’m an Amazon Prime member. Now I pay for them, but I think it’s worth it. I tend to go for longer books, so I can have several nights of entertainment for a similar price to, for example, a trip to the cinema.

You have to buy the books on the Audible site and then you can listen to them on the Audible app. You can’t buy books on the app. There are over 200,000 books to choose from, and the player lets you speed them up if that’s your thing!

If you sign up to the service, you are eligible to get one book for free, as long as you haven’t had a free book from Audible in the last year (3 free books if you’re an Amazon Prime member). If you like it, you keep the subscription going and you will be charged for a new credit each month. The credit is used to buy your next book. If you just want the free book, you can cancel your subscription within the first month – you won’t be charged, and you get to keep your book.

If you’re interested, you can use my Audible free trial link (If you are based in Germany, use my German link.

Food

And finally we come to food. We get a weekly organic fruit and vegetable box. There are a number of different options to suit different households and preferences, but you can read about our first three boxes here. I like the way that you don’t have to get anything that you don’t like, but you are introduced to seasonal produce and you might also have to find recipies for things you’ve never tried before, which keeps things interesting.

The other food subscription is the Spicebox. You can read a review about it here. Basically you are sent a box every month with little bags of spices and a recipe for a delicious curry. You have to buy the main ingredients in edition, but all the rare things are measured out for you, so you only buy what you need for the dish, the spice blends are already mixed, and you don’t have to trek round looking for things that aren’t sold in the supermarket.

S and I always cook and enjoy these together – a kind of date night in! You get one a month, and there’s usually an extra sachet with spices for another dish. You can find out more about the company on The Spicery’s web page.

How about you

What subscriptions do you have, and which are your favourites? Let me know in the comments!

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How do you do the washing when you can’t see?

Tips for doing the washing when you’re blind and can’t see colours, and some new products from Ecover

When I was a child, I just had to throw anything dirty in the big wicker box, and it miraculously appeared back in my cupboard, clean and usually ironed as well. The only time I got involved with it was when it started to rain and I had to dash out into the garden to help my Nan get everything off the line and into the basket before it got wet!

When I started living on my own, I was responsible for that lovely chore – the washing! Nothing unusual in that, apart from the fact that I had to develop a system for separating the colours so I didn’t inadvertently wash things together that could run. Not so easy when you can’t see colours, but I developed some ways to make it easier:

  • Have several bins for washing so that you only have to identify the colour of each item once.
  • Don’t buy the same top in a number of colours. Try to have different things in the wardrobe so they can all be identified by touch – hopefully then you’ll remember what colour they are!
  • Don’t buy really, really cheap fabrics as they are more likely to run – and the worst part about that is that you won’t even know it unless someone points it out!
  • Invest in a colour detector – these are little gadgets that you put up against the material, press a button, and a voice announces the colour. There are also apps that do this, but the stand-alone gadgets tend to be better, if more expensive. They work well on single-colour garments, but patterns confuse them!

When S and I moved in together, we kept the multiple bin system, because there is no way I would remember what colour all of his stuff is, and many of his shirts and t-shirts feel the same. So He has to put his stuff in the right bin, and then I know that anything in the same bin can be washed together.

We have a washing machine with dials on it, so I know what the moving them to different positions means in terms of the different programmes. You can also get little stickers that you put onto the machine to highlight the programmes that you use regularly. This is much easier than a touchscreen washing machine.

Products from Ecover

Ecover recently held an event for bloggers. I was unable to attend, but they kindly sent me a lavender and sandalwood washing non-bio laundry detergent and a gardenia and vanilla fabric softener to try.

Firstly – how did they smell? I’m super-fussy about that. I don’t believe my sense of smell is better because of my blindness, but I think I pay extra attention to it, in the same way that other people might be lured in by pretty packaging! Both of them smelled nice and fresh, although my personal preference was the gardenia and vanilla fabric softener.

I hadn’t heard of Ecover before. The company was founded in the 1970s when Frans Bogaerts and his team in Belgium designed a new product because they were concerned about the harmful effect that phosphates in washing powder was having on the water system. This pollution was a problem for the plants and animals, so they developed a phosphate-free washing powder with the idea that making clothes clean shouldn’t lead to pollution further down the line.

The range has developed, and now there are a number of household cleaning products made from biodegradable plant-based and mineral ingredients.

The packaging is eco-friendly too – it’s made from 75% plastic derived from and 25% recycled plastic. The bottles are 100% recyclable. Ecover does not test on animals and the products are suitable for sensitive skin.

I’ve heard complaints before that environmentally-friendly cleaning products don’t do the job as well, but this wasn’t the case here. The clothes were clean and fresh, and as the detergent is a concentrated formula, you don’t need to use as much, so the bottle lasts longer.

Overall, I really like the concept behind the brand. One family can’t save the planet, but it’s the little steps that help and I think we all have a responsibility to do the little things to protect the environment, because they all add up.

From a practical point of view, I prefer capsules to liquid detergents because you don’t have to measure them out, which can be a bit fiddly if you can’t see the line on the measuring cup. As a result, I wouldn’t buy the detergent, but there are also laundry tablets available in the range.
The fabric softener made a nice change, and if you don’t want the scents that I mentioned, there are other fragrances too such as apple blossom and almond. The gardenia was quite a delicate fragrance, which is good if you don’t like heavily-scented products.

If you want to find out more about Ecover, you can follow Ecover on Twitter or visit their website.

Have you tried any of these products? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

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September empties – lots of mangos

There is a bit of a mango theme going on this month, but that’s to be expected with me.

Most of these are things that I have used up, but there are also a couple of things that I just didn’t like. I’m not a big fan of decluttering, because I think if I bought something, I should use it up, unless it is horrible in some way or really doesn’t suit me. But I did throw out a couple of things this month because I will never use them and they were just taking up space.

Skincare

I thought that all cotton pads were alike, but then I bought some, nice fair trade ones as I thought, but they weren’t well-made at all. They stuck to each other and tore apart in the middle, and they drove me wild! That’s why I was happy to discover the Cottontails oval cotton pads. They are slightly larger than other ones I’ve had because they’re oval, and when you take one out, you don’t get half of the next one along with it! I only get these now.

At the beginning of the month I finished up my Vitamin C glow-boosting moisturiser from the Body Shop. I’ve raved about this before – it’s a lovely, refreshing day cream that wakes your skin up in the morning and smells wonderfully of oranges! It is energising and hydrating, and contains aloe vera and vitamin C rich camu camu from the Amazonian rain forest. It absorbs quickly and my make-up sits well on top of it. I would definitely buy it again if I didn’t have so many other moisturisers to use up!

The other face cream that I finished was from the July Lovelula box. It was the Madara Smart Antioxidants Fine Line Minimising Cream. We got a generous 20ml travel size one, whereas the one behind the link is the full-size 50ml. I was particularly happy about this because firstly I’m a fan of Madara skincare, and secondly, this cream is formulated for dry skin, which is what I have. It’s described as a rich, youth-preserving cream, but I have to admit I also used it as a day cream because it was not so rich that it didn’t absorb quickly. It contains lichen, moss, fern, and archemilla, to give you hydration, reverse the first signs of ageing and smooth out fine lines. I don’t have that many fine lines to worry about, but anything that supressing the formulation of free radicals and repairs skin cells is a good thing. It smells more plant-based, but not in an overpowering or annoying way!

Yes, Miss Mango managed to use up two mango body products this month, although the mango body butter from the Body Shop was only a 50ml mini from a mango gift set. I’ve mentioned before how some of the Body Butters are softer than others, and this is one of the more creamy ones, which makes it glide on easily and spread over the skin. I love anything from this range, and on chilly autumn days, it’s the perfect end to a nice, hot bath!

The second mango product in this section was the chili mango and tonka bean body lotion that I reviewed for the Being by Sanctuary post.

It was probably my favourite scent out of the ones that I tried from that range. The lotion is thinner than the body butter, and the mango scent lasted for ages and ages after use. The chilli made it not quite as sweet as some of the other mango products that you come across.

Bath and shower

This was a lucky find at the back of my drawer. I actually thought I’d already used it – it was a Christmas present – but no! So I got to use it in September. I love the Grumpy Cow range from the Cowshed, and enjoyed using up this Cowshed – grumpy cow uplifting shower gel. I love the refreshing mandarin and grapefruit scent of this range. It’s not the cheapest shower gel you can buy, but I like it for a special treat!

Haircare

Yes, it’s back! I used up another bottle of the Avon Magnificent mango crazy hair tamer (2 bottles) I brush a couple of squirts of this through my hair and as well as smelling of mangos, it helps me to get the tangles out of my long hair. I’m not usually loyal to products because I like to try different things out, but this is the only detangler I use now!

Make-up

One of the things available in the Latest in Beauty edit was a mini version of the Benefit Cosmetics Porefessional primer I do have a full-size one, but I thought this would be nice for going away, and it took up much less space in my make-up bag when we went away for a wedding at the beginning of September. You get a few uses out of it, but it’s all gone now. It leaves your face with a silky smooth base on which to apply your foundation. Again, not the cheapest on the market, and I don’t use it all the time, but I do think it’s worth it!

I have about 5 different eye primers in my collection because I wanted to test some out from different brands. However I got rid of my Wet and Wild only a matter of prime eye primer, because it was just so sticky on my eyelids, which was A. uncomfortable to wear and B. made it harder for me to apply the eyeshadow evenly on top. So it had to go!

Lastly I got rid of my Kiko Velvet Touch Creamy Stick Blush in Hot Pink because it was bright pink and didn’t suit me. I got it in Latest in Beauty because I’d heard conflicting reports about it from “it’s a nice buildable colour” to “it’s Barbie pink!” It was the wrong colour for me and had to go, but if they did anything more subtle I’d be happy to try it because the formula was fine.

How about you?

Have you used any of these products? If so, what did you think?

What did you get through in September?

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