Something adorable, somewhere new, something funny – good things in September

Another month is over – almost – and it’s time to think about the good things in September!

Something I haven’t done before

Wedding fairs! I didn’t even know that they were a thing, but they are a good way to find suppliers, check out venues, and get inspiration for the big day. I want to do a specific post about wedding fairs, but I went to three in September and had a good time chatting to local businesses, collecting information for my wedding planning spreadsheet, and eating yummy cake!

Something that made me smile

Have you ever heard of a fridgezoo? I hadn’t until I encountered one at a friend’s house! They live in the fridge and react to the light when the door is opened. Ours is a walrus, and he talks to you in Japanese any time the fridge door is open! He makes me smile and you can find him here! I think the idea is that they warn you if small children open the fridge door, but they can be fun for adults as well!

Something unexpected

It’s always nice to win something! I am part of Heidi’s Body Shop at Home group on Facebook and she did a prize draw for a lovely set of shower gels. I was very happy to hear that I won the draw! If you want to check out Heidi’s group, you can find it here.

Something to do with nature

Autumn is here! It’s my favourite season because I’m not really a fan of the hot weather. I like the way that autumn feels like new beginnings – probably because that’s how it always used to be with the thought of going back to school. I like the cooler temperatures, and the way you can feel nature preparing for the winter. I like walking through the woods and feeling all the crunchy leaves. I like making pumpkin soup and getting out the cosy fleeces and woollies for snuggly evenings on the sofa with a good book and a big mug of hot chocolate!

Something adorable

There were two contenders for this, but we’ll go with the first one – all the animals that I met at the Miller’s Ark open day! You can read about our visit here, and you can see me with baby Lavender the donkey on this post! I need more donkeys in my life!

Somewhere new

I haven’t got round to writing up this post yet as we only did it at the end of last week, but we booked an alpaca walking experience for my birthday. I’d never come up close to an alpaca before and didn’t really know what they look like, so I was happy to find somewhere where you can go and meet them, feed them, and take them for a walk! You’ll be able to find out more about Humphrey the alpaca in one of my October posts.

Something to celebrate

September is my birthday month, so I took the whole week off at the end of September to celebrate it! I joked with my mum about getting old – because I’m in my late 30s – but really, getting old is a privilege. Not everyone is able to. So I never see it as a depressing thing – rather a chance to spend time with people I care about, share some cake (this year it was Harry Potter), and make good memories.

Something new to try

One of my birthday presents was this hair treatment from Kiehls. I might not have picked it up because it says for chemically processed hair or excessive heat styling – neither of which apply to me – but if you have long hair and want to give the ends some love, this is a good thing to try. I often use hair masks and rinse-out treatments, but this is one that you just comb through and leave in. It’s not cheap, but you don’t need much, and it doesn’t leave your hair feeling greasy.

Something delicious

On my birthday S and I went to a new Lebanese restaurant and found it was a really good choice. I can highly recommend the Lebanese House in Newbury. You can order main dishes, but we chose a selection of smaller dishes to share. I found plenty that I could have despite my allergy, and the mocktails were very good too!

Something I’m grateful for

Feeling better! I’m definitely grateful for that! I will be having treatment and tests for a while yet, but my medication was changed last week and I feel so much better for it. I don’t feel tired all the time or that I just want to curl up and tell everyone to $*%!. I still need to be checked to make sure it’s ok for me to stay on the medication longer-term, but I feel much better than I have been, and I’ve got some of my energy and motivation back – which makes me happy!
So, what have you been enjoying this month? Let me know in the comments!

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Getting close to the animals – open day at Miller’s Ark

It was the second day of our holiday and I had been planning this particular adventure for the last couple of weeks. One of our friends mentioned that there is a local farm that does adult-only open days. It does ones for the whole family too, but every 4 to 6 weeks there’s one just for the adults, which appealed to me because then you don’t have to negotiate herds of small squealing people if you want to see the animals! So into the diary it went!

I checked out the Miller’s Ark Facebook page and was excited to read that they had a donkey foal who was just over a week old. I wasn’t sure we’d be able to get close to her, but as it happened we could go in with her and her mum and stroke her soft woolly coat!

The weather wasn’t great, but most of the pens were indoors anyway. The donkeys weren’t fond of the rain though, so some of them huddled inside.

Lunch

We arrived around lunchtime, so went to get a snack first. There is a café on site with a range of burgers, hot food and drinks. You can bring your own lunch and eat it in the picnic area, or you can buy food and eat it in the tea room, where you can also read about the farm’s history.

The food was fine – the only problem for me was the very friendly cat, whom we had to send away a couple of times because I have a cat allergy! I’m so glad it doesn’t include all the other animals – it’s just cats!

Goats and sheep

The first animals we met were some goats and sheep that were in the same pen. We had picked up some food when we paid our entrance fees, and the goats in particular were very happy about this. They came right up to the fence, balancing on their back legs with their front legs on the bars so that they could see over and get closer to the food.

I put some food on my hand and held it out to them. A couple of times I had two little goat faces feeding from the same hand, as if they were kissing. So much goat cuteness!

There was a little one who kept getting pushed out of the way, but S distracted the bigger goats with some food, while I held some more down for the little one. He hadn’t learned to gobble the food down yet, and was much more sedate about taking it gently and chewing slowly till it was all gone.

All around the farm there were volunteers with the animals who told you more about them and answered your questions. There was another pen with goats that you could go in, so I met a few more close up, including Jeanie, the frisky goat who escaped out of the pen and had to be brought back. I had to hide my hair under my coat because some of the goats thought it was food. No, my hair is not hay!

Two of the smaller goats were lying side by side on a children’s slide – so cute!

When we were talking to the donkeys, there was a weird sound. It was a bit like a dog growling, but I didn’t think it was a dog. S went to check it out and found that it was a sheep, but I’ve never heard a sheep bleat like that before. He sounded a bit annoyed, but I think that was just his normal voice. Maybe he had been bleating at the visitors all morning and made himself a bit hoarse!

Donkeys

I think my absolute favourite of all the animals had to be the donkeys! We visited 3 enclosures and spent the most time in one with mums and foals. It was so relaxing just hanging out with them, grooming them, stroking them, and learning about their stories, likes, quirks, and donkey life in general.

Spice was making her way through a hay bale and she was really chilled out – so I spent a lot of time talking to her and grooming her. There were various brushes around in the enclosure and the donkeys were happy to let you groom them.

The two younger lads were up for mischief, trying to get each other to play and having to be told to calm down!

The donkeys were different sizes, but they were all miniature donkeys. They were friendly and inquisitive, and seemed perfectly happy to have visitors in their enclosure, although due to the fact that the little ones were there, there could only be a certain number of people in at a time. While we were waiting, I reached over and some of the donkeys came for pats.

I’d already read about Lavender, the foal who was just over a week old. I thought we would maybe get to see her from afar, but we were actually able to go in with her and her mum. She still had that woolly foal fur, and after a meeting with a 3-day-old horse many years ago, I was surprised how steady she was on her little legs. Her mum showed no signs of worry that we were in there. In fact her biggest concern seemed to be that she was missing out on the fuss herself!

Pigs

It said on the website that some of the pigs like their tummies being tickled, but the one I found was more interested in snuffling around all over the floor of his enclosure and munching. Still, he was happy to be stroked and I felt his little piggy ears! They had wiry coats, a bit like a terrier, and I hadn’t realised just how sociable they can be.

The volunteer who was in with the pigs was talking about her own pigs and how they like company. They come to sit with her when she drinks her coffee outside and liked to know what was going on!

Golden retriever

When S spotted the golden retriever, he knew stroking him would make my day! This is my favourite breed of dog, and Dudley was more than happy to get some fuss. He started by sitting there having his ears rubbed, then rolled over for tummy tickles! Goldies are the best!

Birds and small animals

I didn’t hold any of the birds or guinea pigs, but you could visit them as well. There were also chickens and ducks wandering around. It went from drizzling to raining quite heavily throughout the day, and the ducks definitely weren’t a fan of the umbrella going up!

Overall impressions and future events

I really enjoyed our visit to the farm and will be sure to go again.

The animals were well cared for. The volunteers and staff clearly cared about them and were able to answer questions about the individual animals, their life on the farm, their behaviour, what they ate, and to tell stories of their antics.

I liked the idea of an adult only open day because it was so chilled out in a way that it never is if there are lots of children around and I generally try to avoid really noisy events. If you have children though, there are open days that everyone can join in and learn about the animals. Under 2s go free.

There are also some special events coming up during the Christmas period such as carrols in the barn and living nativities. You can also book children’s parties at the venue, or the animals can travel to events such as fairs, schools, or private functions. I got the impression that this was to help educate people about the animals and give them the chance to meet them. I never got the impression that they were being used as an attraction, so anyone who is thinking about booking an event should do so for the love of animals and the relationships we can have with them – not just as a way to entertain the little ones.

I did suggest that our honeymoon suite could have a massive garden area outside for donkeys, but if we did that on our big day, the guests might not see that much of me, so S said it wasn’t one of my better ideas!

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Lovelula subscription box September 19

Lovelula was the first beauty subscription box I tried. I’ve had a break for a few months, but I decided to re-subscribe last month after seeing some great products from previous months on various blogs and YouTube channels. This is not a sponsored post – I just like the box and wanted to tell you what I got in mine.
Lovelula is a beauty box for natural and cruelty-free skincare and make-up items. There are various plans which mean you can save money the more boxes you sign up for, but a rolling monthly subscription costs £14.95 at the time of writing and the value of the products was around 4 times that.

My favourite product this month

When I got this box before, I was introduced to Madara – a brand that produces a wide range of moisturising face and body products. I didn’t know that they did body creams too, so I was really happy with the Infusion Vert intense anti-oxidant body cream that we got in the September box. It’s a generous size (200ml) and it’s my kind of scent as someone who loves all things citrus. It contains horsetail, thyme and lemon balm, with the main scent being the lemon. The cream absorbs fairly quickly, but your skin is soft all day.

Something for the cold autumn evenings!

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know that I love baths! I love them all year round, but especially when we get to autumn and cosy nights in!
The Kathleen Tranquil fields bubble bath and shower gel was also a generous size – 150ml. It’s more something that I would use as a bubble bath because the main scents are lavender, vanilla and frankincense. I have paid its full price for bubble bath before, but it would have to be a special treat and one that I really liked!
I tend to be a bit more generous with it than the instructions suggest, because I like lots of bubbles. That means I’ll get through it a lot quicker and the price per use will go up – so if you really like your bubbles, this might not be the best thing. Still, I think the lavender will help me to relax when I’m taking time out to soak, particularly if I do it before bed.

Something new to try

My aunt once told me you can only say you don’t like something if you’ve tried it at least once. She had a point!
I don’t usually use oil cleansers and I didn’t think I was going to like the Balm Balm little miracle cleanser, but I wanted to give it a fair chance. The cleanser comes in a little glass bottle with a pump. You apply it with your hands and then remove it with a damp cloth or cotton pad.
The first time I tried it, I thought I’d never get the oil off and it would be greasy for the rest of the day! I also wasn’t sure about the rose scent. But I was pleasantly surprised! It did come off and my face was so soft afterwards. I think this is one of the nice things about the subscription boxes – you may get things that you can’t or won’t use, but it’salso a way to try out new products or types of product that you otherwise wouldn’t have picked up.
So I was happy with this one and am now more open-minded about giving oil cleansers a fair try!

Make-up

I’ve never used a soy mascara before, but this month I got to try one! I’ve never heard of the Brand Imani before either, but we got an full-sized midnight soy mascara..
Plus points were no flaking or clumping and I liked the packaging. Not so sure about the no smudging though and I did apply a second coat. The biggest problem for me is that I’m fussy when it comes to my wands and I like a big fluffy one rather than a curved one. So although I’ll use this, it doesn’t tick all the boxes it would need to for me to buy it again.

Sample

We also received a sample of the UrbanVeda reviving body wash, which I took away with me this week. It was creamy and the product itself was nice enough, but I found the scent a bit too floral. Still, if they have other scents in the range, I’d be interested to try them out.

Overall thoughts

You never know what you’re going to get in a beauty box, and some months you may end up with things to pass along or put in a giveaway. I was happy that I can and will use everything in this box – so that was an automatic win for me and it made me happy!
My clear favourite was the Madara product and I would buy that again. The Balm Balm product was a pleasant surprise – I need to try it out for longer than a couple of days, but I like it more than I thought I would. The Kathleen bubble bath isn’t something that I’d buy, but I will enjoy using it.
What do you think about this box? Have you used any of these products before? Let me know in the comments!

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When keeping a medical information log can be helpful

The more people who get involved with your medical treatment, the higher the chance that something can be forgotten/noted incorrectly/misunderstood. That’s why making a medical log yourself can be a good idea.

I used to have a problem colleague. Someone who was powerful and used to getting their own way, and who didn’t care whom they had to trample over to get it. Before not very long, we clashed. I won. But I’d poked the bear and made myself an enemy who began looking for chances to make my life difficult. Eventually I found a way to make sure they left me alone, but even after this, when I should have been safe, I kept a folder with emails, dates of conversations and exactly what had been agreed each time we had to deal with each other. Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember what happened several weeks ago, and should I ever need it, I would have cold, hard evidence to fall back on.

I started thinking about this colleague the other day, and how keeping records can be a good thing with ongoing situations.

I’m talking about medical treatment here, but it can be anything. Problems at a child’s school, the difficult colleague, allergies that you’re trying to pin down to something specific, or how much money you’re spending on your house. The kind of things that go on for a while, and for which you can’t completely rely on your brain to remember all the little details.

Overall I’ve been really happy with the care I’ve received since my medical incident back in August, but the appointments and the tests are ongoing. I’ve noticed a couple of things. An important bit of information missing here, a miscommunication there. Someone apparently not quite following the normal procedure, which makes it harder for the next person in the chain. I don’t think anyone does these things deliberately – in fact I’ve seen it happening when I worked in a large organisation with lots of incredibly busy people involved in handling cases. Sometimes things fall through the cracks. The only person who is there consistently through everything is you!

So today I sat down and wrote a chronological list of what happened, with whom, what advice I was given, and what each person said they were going to do. Because sometimes these things are important, and if I’m going to query something or say it isn’t right, I need to be clear about my version of events too.

It doesn’t need to be a novel – just a list of dates and key things that happened on those dates. I’ve had to go back around a month to do it, but from now on I’ll update it when things happen, so they’re fresh in my mind and I don’t have to look back at my diary to check dates and people’s names.

I’m not saying you should do this for every illness, but it can help with things that are more complicated with various specialists or hospital departments involved. However hard they try, sometimes systems and people don’t communicate as well as they should.

If you’re asked questions in an appointment, it’s easy to get flustered because you can’t quite remember what happened or what you were told. But if you take time to write it all down when there’s no pressure, it’s easier for you to get things straight in your head. It’s also a good chance to think about any questions you want to ask when you’re next talking to someone, and to write them down so you don’t forget anything.

Do you think keeping a medical log helps? Let me know in the comments!

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15 bath and skincare products to talk about in September

I’m back with a products post to tell you about 15 more (mainly bath and skincare) products that I’ve been using recently. Have you used any of these? Let me know in the comments!

Body Shop

NO empties post on Unseen Beauty is complete without some Body Shop products.

The Mango body butter is one of my favourites because it’s from the mango range. It’s not a new product for me, but I love the tropical scent and the way it leaves your skin so soft afterwards.

I got the super volumising mascara because I wanted to find a cruelty-free one that I liked, but unfortunately although this was ok, I didn’t find it as volumising as some of my others, so I’m still looking. On the plus side, it had a decent brush and it didn’t clump.

I’m still using up advent calendar products, and last year I got the moringa body yoghurt. I love the body yoghurts, especially in the summer. The mango one is my favourite, followed by almond milk and honey. I don’t tend to by from the moringa range because it’s too floral for me, but if floral is your thing, then this is a great product because I’d highly recommend the body yoghurts on the whole.

I only use roll-on deodorants now because they’re better for the environment than aerosol cans, but I only recently discovered that the Body Shop did a roll-on deodorant as well. It’s from the aloe range, which is also quite new to me, but which is gentle and kind to the skin. It’s formulated for sensitive skin, so has no fragrance, but it does the job it’s supposed to, and I usually wear a body mist anyway, so the lack of fragrance doesn’t bother me. It’s slightly more expensive than other roll-on deodorants, but it’s made with community trade ingredients and gentle on the skin, so I would pay the extra and buy it again.

I picked up the tea tree skin clearing toner even though it’s for oily skin, which I don’t have! Still, if I do use it at times when I have hormonal breakouts because of the skin clearing properties – tea tree oil is my friend when it comes to that. This product took me a bit longer to use up because it’s not the right skin type for me to use all the time, but I like to have one or two tea tree products in my stash for when I need them.

Bubble Tea

Not for drinking! As well as a range of bath products, I discovered that Bubble Tea also produces hand cream. This lemongrass hand cream is out of stock as I’m writing this, but it was fresh and citrusy, and a good size too at 100 ml It also contains pineapple and shea butter, and is cruelty-free! I just got it from the supermarket and hope it will come back in stock.

Burt’s Bees

I love all things grapefruit, so when I saw that Burt’s Bees had a pink grapefruit lip balm I snapped it up! I have too many lip balms really, but this one actually got finished up, which shows how much I liked it! I can highly recommend the mango and pink grapefruit lip balms from this range – they keep your lips nice and soft, and they smell and taste amazing!

Clinique

I got a mini of this high impact mascara as a gift with purchase when I had my Clinique make-over.

As someone who can’t see to apply her make-up, as a rule I tend to struggle with mini mascaras more than full-size ones, but I wouldn’t expect a full-size one as a gift with purchase. It’s described as thickening and volumising and I would buy it again because I agree it does both!

Elizabeth Arden

When I was about 16, someone bought me the Sunflowers perfume for Christmas and I felt like buying it again a couple of years ago. It’s very fresh and summary with notes of melon and peach. Buying perfume is always a bit risky, but this friend did well and the fruity fragrance is just my thing. I’m not sure if it’s too young for me now, or it just makes me feel 16 again because it was my signature fragrance at that time!

Freshly

I’ve talked about the Freshly products before, but I finally finished up the toner as well, which lasted a long time because it came in a spray bottle, meaning you spray it directly onto the face. It’s good because you don’t waste any, but it’s also good because there’s no need for cotton pads. I liked all of the products in this set. They’re not cheap, but they didn’t give me any reactions, and they’re made with natural ingredients from fruits and other foods, which means they smell amazing too. This soothing and hydrating toner had lime extract in it, and the apple micellar water was lovely too.

Lush

This is a Halloween special, so if you want it, you need to get it before they all get snapped up! Yesterday I tried the lucky cat bewitched bubble bar, which comes in the shape of a lucky cat face. It smells of bergamotte and blackberry. Poor little cat face, but it makes a lovely relaxing bath!

Nuxe

After being introduced to this brand last Christmas, I was interested to try some more of their products when they came up on Latest in Beauty. I’ve got a couple of mini tubes of the correction cream, which has a light, gel-like texture and the typical Nuxe scent. It’s for normal to combination skin and although it does feel lightweight, it keeps the skin moisturised and is also intended to help protect the skin against pollution whilst protecting the skin’s natural balance.

Radox

Good old Radox! I usually just use them for bubble bath, but was intrigued to try out the grapefruit shower gel! I have to be honest and say I don’t like it as much as the Body Shop pink grapefruit range, but if you need some shower gel and are looking for a grapefruit one, it’s a good everyday one to have.

Madara

I forgot I had this, but this overnight cream from Madara is something I would buy again. You tend to get a lot of Madara products in the Lovelula natural beauty boxes, and they tend to cater more towards dry skin. I’ve tried a few of their products now, but recently found out that they do haircare and body lotion too, so I’m looking forward to trying out some of those.

Yes to

There’s been a bit of a grapefruit theme this time. I also tried the Yes to grapefruit body wash and was happy enough with it. However, I’ve had bad reactions to two different lines from this brand, so although this body wash was fine for me, I’m going to be avoiding the brand in future because there’s something in some of their products that really doesn’t like me.

So, what have you been using or used up recently that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!

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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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Latest in Beauty choices – August 2019

I thought I’d let you see what I picked for my Latest in Beauty choices in August.

Latest in Beauty is a subscription box with a difference – you can choose your own products.

I think this can make it a better option because although you can’t guarantee in advance that you’ll love everything, you can definitely make sure that you don’t get products in your box that are the wrong shade or that you will just leave sitting in a drawer for ages because you won’t use them.

I don’t make my choices on the highest value products, although I do try to make sure that they’re good value for money. This works – partly because you do end up paying less than the retail price, but also because I’m not wasting money on things I won’t use.

You can choose a 3, 6 or 9 product box. I get 9 products for £18, which means that the products work out at around £2 each.

Every month there is a star product, which means there is enough of this product for any subscriber who wants one. I didn’t get the August star product because it was an eye liner and I don’t use those, but September’s is a Nars lipstick and I’ll be snapping that up!

I didn’t get any make-up this time, but on the site there is skincare, makeup, haircare, tools, and bath stuff. Products are added all through the month, so you’re not at a disadvantage if you get your box at the end of the month like I do. New products are being added each day, but some of the ones mentioned here are still available.

A quick note about accessibility – as a blind customer I have no problem picking out my items and checking them out each month. This should be the way it is for all sites, but unfortunately this isn’t the case with all beauty boxes, so I like to highlight good practice when I find it!

Face masks

I like to use my LiB subscription to stock up on face masks because there are often new ones in the edit, and it’s a really cost-effective way to buy masks. I have only ever had one bad experience in about 3 years of trying different masks, and that was with a well-known brand. This didn’t put me off trying others – particularly the more natural ones.

  • It’s skin fresh mask avocado – with natural ingredients and over 25 vitamins. I’ve had this one before and it’s a nourishing mask for when your face needs some hydration.
  • It’s skin fresh mask olive – a firming and refreshing mask, again for dry skin. I haven’t tried this one yet, but I liked the avocado one and this is from the same brand.
  • Mitomo soy bean mask – to keep pores clean. I love Korean and Japanese skincare and although I haven’t tried this mask before, I’ve had another one from the brand. I got this because it’s said to reduce irritation and improve skin texture. My skin’s been a bit sensitive lately, so I thought something that was both detoxifying and soothing would be a nice treat!

Hair

  • Jo Hansford intensive hair mask – to be used as a wash-off mask or an overnight treatment. This isn’t strictly for my type of hair because my hair isn’t coloured, but I wanted to try something from the Jo Hansford range and I generally give my hair a mask treatment every one or two weeks because it’s very long and I want the ends to get some tlc! This mask contains Ethically harvested Castanha do Brasil and sunflower extract.

New to try

Every month I like to try a few new things just because they’re there and I can! Sometimes this means full sizes, other times it’s a sample – but even with samples it’s good to try something out first before buying the full size.

  • Sebamed clear face mattifying cream – because hormonal breakouts! Reduces the skin’s oily shine and the formation of pimples, blackheads and skin impurities. I thought this may help, particularly at the times of the month when the hormonal breakouts like to raise their ugly heads!
  • Weleda sea buckthorn body wash – my favourite from Wileda is the pomegranate range, but I thought I’d give this a go too because generally the brand makes things that smell great and that are also gentle on the skin.

General things that I need

Sometimes I pick up general things like deodorant, cotton pads, shower gel etc because they are things that I always use and want to keep topped up.

  • Sure advance protect antiperspirant roll on – not very exciting, but it’s something I use every day, so why not pick one up when they’re here?

Yardley London lily of the valley hand cream – I tend to get through hand creams because I have one on my desk, one in my bag, one by my bed etc. Also, if my hands are covered in hand cream, I’m less likely to bite my cuticles. Well it’s a strategy at least. So I picked this up because I hadn’t tried anything from Yardley and I thought it sounded good. It has a floral, but not overpoweringly floral scent. The cream rubs in well and isn’t greasy.

Fragrance

I don’t often get fragrances, but I will if I think something looks interesting.

  • Kieren NYC perfume bundle – I got this because I thought it would be a good way to get to know the brand as there are four fragrances in the set. They come on cards in a little bag. I am not sure if any of them are going to be my new favourite scent – I need to test them out a bit more. I automatically liked Sunday brunch because of the citrus notes, but I also liked 10 a.m. flirt because it’s fruity.

Have you tried Latest in Beauty? If so, what did you get in August? If not, do you think it’s a good idea?

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August 19 highlights – afternoon tea, friends, and a new owl bag

August was a bit of a tough month – for two years running! In some ways I’m happy it’s September, and not just because September is my birthday month. Some good things happened in August too though, so I’ve decided to write about them here!

1. Friends

I didn’t tell everyone at first about the hospital incident that resulted in my first aid post, but when I did, stop hiding and open up a bit, people were lovely. I had visitors. I caught up with people whom I hadn’t seen in ages. I had lovely messages. I had friends invite me round and give me a lift so I didn’t have to spend as long on my own the first night S was away. I don’t actually mind being on my own – I used to live on my own – but when you’ve been rushed to hospital in the middle of the night … things always feel worse in the night time.

Life gets busy and we don’t even mean not to keep in touch, but if you don’t make an effort to do it, you don’t get round to it, or it ends up taking ages. I didn’t enjoy the hospital experience, but it did remind me that I have a lovely network of people around me.

2. Replacement bag

My owl bag gets a lot of comments because he’s a bit unusual. I talked about him first a couple of years ago. We fixed him once with a new strap because I’d been carrying too much around, but his feathers were starting to get frayed at the bottom, the stitching round his ears was coming undone, and the metal that kept him together was starting to wear through. So S got me a replacement.

Apart from being an owl, and therefore fitting in with all my other owls, I love the tactile design with the textured feathers, the eyes and the sparkly beak!

3. Sushi restaurant

Thanks to someone who was only here for a visit, we discovered a new sushi restaurant. It’s delicious and I actually went 3 times in August! I’m not usually a fan of fish, but there are other types of sushi too. It’s always good to try out new places! Two more sets of friends want to try it out, so no doubt we’ll be back in September too!

4.New walking pals

I’m still having tests and can’t do some of my usual fitness activities, but I’ve found a few new people to go walking with for some exercise and fresh air. It’s so good to get out in the nature, especially on days when it isn’t so hot.

5. Securing my place on my next module

This academic year I’m doing the second half of my first year of my degree because I’m part-time. The first two modules came one after the other. The ones for October both start at the same time – so I’ll have more to do, but a longer break in the summer.

I had booked onto my 3rd IT module a while ago, but then I needed something else at the same level. Most other people going down the IT route did an entire module of maths, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that, so I chose a linguistics module as well.

This is one of the nice things about an open degree. I’m doing it so that I can use the knowledge I learn at work, rather than to apply for specific jobs, so I can customise it to make it as interesting and relevant as possible. As I already work in the language field, I think something related to this will be more useful than maths.

6. Wedding preparations

We didn’t make a lot of headway with wedding preparations – our August kind of got taken over by other things. There was a venue that we were considering. As it turned out, it didn’t offer what we were looking for, but we had a lovely meal there and a walk, so it was still a good day out.

7. My first afternoon tea

It’s taken other blogging friends to open my eyes to what’s about in terms of afternoon tea. I thought it was all about the tea, but most places will let you swap out the tea for coffee – this had me more interested in the idea, as did the fact that there were savoury as well as sweet treats.

Anyway I was talking to one of my friends and we decided to do an afternoon tea for her birthday. I’ll probably write a full post about it, but it happened in August, so it belongs in the August highlights.

8. Rain!

I know, I know – some people aren’t happy about it. But I really struggle with the heat, especially wen I’m supposed to be working. I’m more of an autumn kind of girl. So a couple of times this month I was doing a happy dance because we finally got some rain, which meant that things cooled down a bit.

I know it’s not so much fun for the people further north who had the floods. We didn’t get anything like that in the south and after a second lot of really hot weather, I was happy about the rain. Everything smells so fresh and alive afterwards too!

9. First customers for my new business

My new website EwK Services went live earlier this year. As I split out my businesses, some customers that wanted my translation or language services automatically transferred over to EwK Services, but it also got its first project that had nothing to do with my first business. For me, that was also a reason to celebrate.

10. New fan

Things only tend to break when you’re using them, and that was true for my fan too! It broke during that really hot spell that we had in July and I didn’t get round to replacing it until we had another really hot spell in August.

The one I bought wasn’t the most amazing in terms of power, but it’s small, portable, and can follow me around the house when I’m struggling with the heat. It’s a tower fan, so it doesn’t take up much space either.

The other nice thing was that it was available from Ocado, so I could pick it up with my groceries! I really like the fact that Ocado does home products and toiletries that you can just add to your basket along with your food.

The fan and I are now firm friends!

How about you?

My favourites posts used to be all about the things I’d bought. I have bought some things and I do plan on writing a couple of products posts in September, but good things can also be a walk in the nature, a good book, time with friends, or just taking some time out for self-care. This month I’ve had to take things a bit easier due to health reasons, but going at a slower pace and taking time to recover has also made me appreciate people, and the little things more.

How about you? What were your August highlights? Let me know in the comments!

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Our visit to the computer museum at Blechley Park

S had already been to the Computer Museum at Bletchley Park, but I wanted to go too! So we arranged to go back during our week off in July.

Bletchley Park was a centre in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, where people worked tirelessly round the clock during WW2 to decipher messages sent by Hitler and his allies using enigma machines. They also translated the messages, picked out what was most relevant, and passed on crucial information to the military. This information could then be used to position troops where they would be most useful, intercept enemy forces, or even to see how well misinformation, intentionally planted by the UK and its allies was being believed. This became crucial in the D Day landings, because the German forces were expecting the allied troops to land elsewhere.

Today Bletchley Park is open to the public as a museum where you can visit a series of buildings that were originally used by the people working at Bletchley Park. I thought they were all bussed in each morning, but apparently some people lived there full-time as well with numerous groups and social events being organised for them. Of course, we know now what they were doing, but at the time their work was top secret.

Access to information

There is a good mixture of information –in terms of the codebreaking machines, how they worked, how they were used to decipher the encrypted messages, and what it was like for the men and women working in the facility. Some of the rooms have speakers playing conversations as if the workers were talking to one another including references to their work, free time (two women sharing a wedding dress because it was cheaper), and a romantic picnic between two of the people working there – who were allowed to talk about anything apart from what they were actually doing.

In other parts of the museum there were audio recordings that you could listen to by picking up an earpiece. It stopped playing when you replaced it on the cradle. These were first-hand accounts about everyday life, specific individuals, working on the code-breaking machines, and some more personal stories, such as the lady who found out through the intercepted messages that her fiancé’s regiment had been captured. She couldn’t continue her work and had to go home. That must have been so awful.

Working together

One of the things that really struck me was the need for collaborative working. Everyone had their job, but that job on its own didn’t contribute much. You needed all the people working together. The engineers, the people working the machines day and night (often the Wrens – Women’s Royal Naval Service), the translators, the radio operators, the military analysts, and the admin staff. Of course there are key figures like Alan Turing, without whose contributions and designs the process would have been much slower or even impossible as the German equipment became more sophisticated, but in order to be successful, everyone needed to play their part and pull together.

This applied to nations working together as well. Without the codebreaking knowledge provided by Polish experts with their bomba machine even before the war started, the British teams would have been years behind in their research. Similarly, the British team passed on information to their American allies.

Given that many of the men were away overseas in the armed forces, women played a key role in the code breaking operation, particularly as more machines were added that had to be maintained and operated 24/7.

Important figures

Block B contains the museum where you can learn about the life and works of Alan Turing, discover how the work at Bletchley Park influenced key WW2 events, see enigma machines, learn how the Lorenz cypher was broken, and find out more about the various stages of the codebreaking process.

The enigma machine was invented by a German engineer, Arthur Scherbius, after WW1. It looked a bit like a typewriter, but with a lamp board above the letters. The operator pressed the letter that they wanted, and the corresponding enciphered letter lit up on the lamp board. There was also a series of rotors that were set at the beginning of each message transition, and which rotated each time a letter was pressed, thus changing the cypher. In fact, one of the key breakthroughs was when an operator had to transmit a message a second time and didn’t bother changing the starting positions of the rotors. There was also a plug board on the front of the machine, where pairs of letters were transposed, creating further settings to choose from when encrypting the messages.

The bombe machine was a device developed by Alan Turing, with engineering design by Harald Keen, to discover the daily settings of the enigma machines including the rotors being used, their starting positions, and one of the wirings of the plugboard. With this information, the settings on an enigma machine could be replicated and the plaintext of the messages for that day (or pair of days in the case of the German Navy messages) could be discovered, translated, and disseminated. Identifying the settings was made easier by the fact that there were specific words that cropped up in most messages and it would therefore be possible to predict how these would look if you knew the machine’s settings.

You can visit Alan Turing’s office at Bletchley Park, complete with a mug chained to the radiator, and there is also a slate statue of him, which gave me an idea how he looked. It’s also relevant to mention the recent news here that Alan Turing was chosen to appear on the new £50 note, officially recognising his contributions. Alan Turing had been working with the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park part-time since 1938, and he signed up full-time once the war began. He worked with Dilly-Knox on deciphering the encrypted text produced by the enigma machine and also developed a procedure for working out the wheel settings on the Lorenz machine.

Alfred Dilly (Dilwyn) Knox was a codebreaker who worked at Bletchley Park. He helped decrypt the Zimmermann telegram, which brought the USA into WW1. He didn’t see the full extent of the work in which he was involved because he died in 1943, before WW2 had ended, but he worked at Bletchley Park on the cryptanalysis of enigma cyphers, and was responsible for the method that broke the Italian naval enigma.

The highly confidential and strategically important messages between Hitler and German commanders were encrypted using a Lorenz machine. Originally these were deciphered by hand, but the workers could not keep up with the sheer volume of messages that were intercepted and needed to be understood. Therefore, a plan was devised to automate this process using machines. Thanks to Tommy Flowers, a General Post Office engineer, this lead to the design of Colossus, the first semi-programmable electronic computer.

Accessibility

We went in the school holidays, and parking was tricky. Fortunately we have a blue badge! There is also a gift shop on site, and two places where you can buy food. The one with the more extensive choices is not the first one you see, so it’s good to pick up a map and orientate yourself.

In terms of accessibility, my main access to information was S, who read information to me as we went round. There are audio guides, but they are operated using a touch screen, which makes it impossible for someone with no sight to use them. There are also a number of interactive exhibits that demonstrate points about the code-breaking process. These weren’t accessible to me either, but they could easily be replicated later if someone were feeling helpful or creative! Still, it would be good if the museum could look into maybe having some more information available on its website, or at least some of the tasks. Even if they were behind a membership area paywall that you could only access as a ticket holder. It is a museum about technology after all and technology can be a powerful force in terms of making information more accessible.

My main point for going there though was to learn, and with S as my guide, I could definitely do that. In fact, we ran out of time and didn’t manage to see everything, so we’re planning another trip (tickets are valid for one year and disabled people can take an assistant for free).

On the way home we went to Windsor for some delicious Lebanese food. We also stopped by to say “hi!” to the swans of Windsor before making our way home.

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Why first aid knowledge is important – you never know when you’ll need it

I’ve been trying to write other posts, but then I keep coming back to this one. I think it’s the most important thing I have to say at the moment, but it won’t be the easiest post to write.

My experience with first aid training hasn’t been good. We got the chance to do an introduction to first aid when I was at school as some kind of extra curricular activity.

It was led by an external provider who had clearly never come across a visually impaired person before. That’s fair enough. To be honest we got on fine until it came time for the test. I passed mine, both the theory and the practical parts, but he said I couldn’t get the certificate for course completion because I wouldn’t be able to safely assess an emergency situation independently.

There are definitely things it would be harder for me to do, and things that I do differently. Perhaps I wouldn’t be able to become a first aider at work because of issues around risk assessment and insurance, but certainly anyone I’ve patched up or helped in the past wasn’t bothered that I couldn’t see them. Most people are able to explain what happened and most things aren’t that serious.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have been bothered, apart from the fact that a boy in the group was given his theory test back to “have another look at it” because some of his answers were wrong and he wouldn’t pass. I hated the trainer at that point – how could he make such a fuss about my not being able to do things if he was willing to so openly let another course member cheat like that?

I didn’t pursue it. Partly because you have to choose your battles and at that time I was having bigger problems elsewhere. Also I didn’t think the certificate was worth the paper it was written on if it were so easy to get it dishonestly. Now I would be more likely to keep searching until I found an accessible alternative as I know that some visually impaired people have had really good experiences.

What I did do was get myself a book on first aid. A big thick manual that went into fa more detail than the introductory course. I read it, and in the end could be sure that I knew far more about the subject than anyone who had passed that stupid course!

First aid training has to be refreshed though, and I didn’t do that. Still, a fair bit had stayed with me and it came in useful nearly two weeks ago when I became unwell and we spent the night in A&E.

I don’t really want to talk about the details here. I’m still processing it myself and it was a big thing for me even to tell my friends about it. I don’t find it easy to be open at the best of times when something is wrong.

I feel much better now and am undergoing treatment and having some tests. Maybe I’ll write about it some time, but that time isn’t now.

The point is that I remembered what I’d read about first aid, what the problem might be, and what we should do about it. S hadn’t had any first aid training, but he’d also picked up some information from a film or tv programme and we pretty much came to the same conclusion about what the symptoms meant. We’re both pretty calm in a crisis and quickly decided to go to the hospital.

So the point of writing this is to say it’s better to have some basic knowledge in advance than to be frantically googling if something happens. You can save yourself time and stress. Even if what happens isn’t exactly like what it says in the book, you’ll have a better idea of what to do, what to look out for, and if you go to the hospital or call an ambulance, what information is going to be relevant.

The NHS has lots of useful information or you could look into the availability of courses in your area.

It’s also helpful if you can do some basic things to be ready if there’s an emergency. I wrote last year about hunting around for painkillers after my accident, and how it would have been better to have known where they were immediately. The same goes for the first aid kit – a basic one doesn’t cost very much and it’s good to have it around if you need it. Also, if you keep raiding it, replace what you’ve taken.

If there’s an emergency, you should call the emergency services, but if you spend any amount of time on your own long-term or temporarily, is there someone close by that you can call in an emergency? I have someone who has offered that I can call them any time if there’s a problem when S is away, and this has given me peace of mind.

Hopefully I won’t have to do it, but it’s reassuring to know the offer is there. I’ve dealt with floods, collapsing ceilings, and sprained knees in the middle of the night on my own before – partly because I’m stubborn, but partly because I didn’t want to bother anyone at that time. If you have the conversation in advance, you don’t have to think about who might be willing to help. Similarly, is there someone whom you could be there for in this way?

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