April empties – grapefruit, strawberries and apples!

Hello again and although it’s a bit later than planned, it’s time for my April empties!

I don’t know about you, but I think that April flew by – probably because I spent one week of it on holiday! It was a skincare and bath and shower kind of month!

These are the products that I used up in April.

Skincare

I’ve mentioned it before, but I love love love the pink grapefruit hand cream from the Body Shop. It only comes in the 30 ml tubes, and I finished up another one!

I reviewed the Soap and Glory hand food (hand cream) in my post about hands, and I finished up a tube of it last month. The marshmallow does make it smell quite sweet, and I wouldn’t buy it for the scent, but the wonderful formula and the way that my hands feel so smooth afterwards would definitely encourage me to buy it again.

Finishing up the Greek skincare products that I bought to try, I was sorry to see the end of the Fresh line Galatea body milk. I’ll definitely be buying that again and I think this kind of thing is particularly good in the summer, when you want something a bit lighter on your skin. Also I couldn’t say “no” to the lovely coconut and almond scent.

I got a sample of the Marlenha Petal Delicate Eye Serum in my Lovelula box, and whilst I did enjoy it, I can’t justify spending 48 Euros on this. I know it’s a luxury brand and although it promises eyes that look brighter, fresher and more rejuvenated, I think there are more affordable alternatives on the market.

I chose a Yes To Grapefruit mask from Latest in Beauty. I didn’t realise they were hard to get hold of in the UK – at least I couldn’t find a link for them, but I’ve just discovered the Yes To range and I enjoyed this mask, which is a correct and repair mask, promising pore perfection! I wouldn’t say this is a problem area of mine, but I don’t think it can do any harm!

When I still got my Love Me Beauty subscription, I got a mini of the Aromatherapy Associates hydrating, renewing rose cleanser. To be honest, I still have loads of my vitamin E cleanser from the Body Shop, but I did enjoy using this delicately rose-scented cleanser. I’m not usually a fan of flowery products, but this one was subtle and it removed all of my make-up. I can’t say how it does on really heavy make-up, but it did what I needed it to, and I would buy this again once I’ve got my cleanser backlog down!

Bath and shower

I mentioned the Korres almond and cherry body lotion in the March empties post. This month I finished up the Korres almond and cherry shower gel as well. I think these are really good quality products and I’m looking forward to trying out more of this Greek skincare range.

When I’m in hotels, I don’t usually bother with the free body washes and hair products because I usually assume that my own are nicer. However, if it says grapefruit on the bottle, I obviously need to give it a go. I would only put hair and body wash on my body, but this smelled really good in the shower and I was impressed at the hotel choosing this for the guests. I haven’t tried to buy it, so I don’t know if you have to be a business, but it looks as if you can just buy the grapefruit and tangerine hair and body wash from this site. There is also a really lovely Mango and honey body lotion that smells good enough to eat!

Can you believe I’m still using up products from my Body Shop advent calendar? I don’t think I’d go out and buy the strawberry shower gel because I’m not a massive fan of the strawberry range, but it was nice enough to have a little bottle of it to try. I’m more of a citrus girl, but if you like the strawberry scent, I think all of the Body Shop’s shower gels are decent in terms of the formula – it just depends on your favourite scents.

If you are in to citrus, you’d also like the verbena foaming bath soak from L’Occitane. Not the cheapest bubble bath on the market, but definitely worth it if you’re looking for a treat with lemony bubbles to sooth and relax you while you soak.

Hair care

As I continue my quest for the best hair mask, I tried out the L’Oreal Paris hair expertise nourishing mask. All of these say they’re for dry hair, and although I don’t have dry hair, I like to do a mask 2 or 3 times a month to give it an extra moisturising and nourishing treat. I liked this one from L’Oreal more than the Tony and Guy one, but I think the Garnier ones are still my favourites so far. This mask contains botanical oils and apricot seed, and it gives nourishment to the hair fibres whilst protecting the hair from dryness. It’s a generous pot and I’d say it’s good value because you get a number of treatments out of it.

Staying on the topic of hair care, I finished up the Schwarzkopf super soft apple shampoo. This is much less than I used to pay for shampoo, but I can’t say that the product was any less affective! I want something that does a good job on my hair, but also smells pleasant, and I find that a lot of the more expensive brands don’t tick the second box. This is apparently for “fine , weak and lifeless hair”, which in a way discourages me from buying it again, but on the other hand, it did a good job! There are products for dry hair, fine hair, damaged hair, coloured hair – what about normal hair? Anyway, it makes my hair super soft and does boost volume, so the chances are I’ll just ignore the packaging and buy it again because I liked the apple scent and the results!

How about you?

So, what have you got through in April? What will you definitely be buying again? Were there any products that you couldn’t stand?! If you have a favourites or an empties post for April, feel free to drop the link in the comments – I love to read them. Here are my April favourites.

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This post contains affiliate links and a pr sample.

Being kind to hands

Winter is not kind to hands. I find that, particularly when the weather is colder, my hands get dry, and I like to keep a tube of hand cream on my desk or in my bag at all times.

I decided to look into some products that are designed to take care of our hands or give them a treat. This is what I came up with!

1. Seychelles hand cream from the White Company

I discovered this Seychelles hand cream on Latest in Beauty, and I liked it so much that I got another one the following month!

The scent is gorgeous and makes you think you’re on a hot, sunny island somewhere (must be the coconut!) The consistency is good – it’s neither greasy nor watery. Afterwards your hands feel wonderfully soft and what’s more, you don’t need to keep reapplying it. I’ll definitely be getting a full-sized one of these soon like the one behind the link.

2. Kaeso luscious manicure kit

I decided to get this manicure kit for healthy hands and nails because I wanted to try out the Kaeso range, and I also thought it would be a good way to try out some new types of products. The set includes

  • 1 x Red Berry Splash, Hand Soak 195ml
  • 1 x Pink Grapefruit Drizzle, Hygiene Spray 195ml
  • 1 x Mulberry & Pomegranate Sorbet, Hand Scrub 95ml
  • 1 x Wild Berry Butter, Hand Mask 250ml
  • 1 x Cranberry Sensation, Hand Treatment Cream 250ml

Many of the products are fruity, which gives them points before I even start using them, and they don’t contain any parabens or sulphates. If you want to try out these products, it does work out cheaper to get the set – you just have to work out whether you would use them all.

I don’t like scrubs, so I gave the scrub away. It smelled good though!

I haven’t used a hand soak before – you just put some of it in warm water and then leave to soak in the fruity goodness.

My favourite product was the hand mask. It’s rich and creamy and after wrapping my hands up and leaving them for a while, I definitely noticed the difference in terms of softness and the feeling that they’d been moisturised. I wouldn’t buy the set again, but I would buy this product individually.

The hand cream is good value for money – you get a big tube of it, a little goes a long way, and it smells delicious. It doesn’t knock my current favourites off the top of the list, but it’s definitely something I would use again.

I’m not convinced we needed such a big hand sanitiser and I think the cuticle cream from the same range would have been a nicer finishing touch to the bag, but I guess it’ll come in useful before doing the other treatments. Still, 195 ml will still be going when all the other stuff has run out! I do use hand sanitisers, but not really in the house and this is too big for a handbag.

So, all in all, I think the set is a good buy, especially if you don’t have an aversion to scrubs like I do! I will use four out of the five products and I enjoyed trying out two new products (the soak and the hand mask).

3. Hand mask

One of my friends was talking about hand glove masks on Youtube and, as someone who is really into sheet masks, I was keen to try out a sheet mask for hands! I got the almond and shea butter moisture hand mask. I’m not sure what I was expecting really, but the gloves were much thinner than the sheet masks I use, which meant they were a bit difficult to get on, particularly as they were already covered in the product. For some reason I thought they’d be dry on the outside and moist inside. In fact I would have paid more for that, so if anyone knows of a glove mask like that, please let me know!

Anyway, I know that they need to be suitable for all sizes, but these gloves were way too big for me and I found the whole experience quite messy! I’m going to stick to the hand mask lotion from the Kaeso kit!

4. Glass nail file

I needed a new nail file anyway, and I don’t like the sandpapery scratchy ones, so I decided to get a glass one instead. There were so many on offer, I didn’t know which one to get, but in the end I got the manicare glass nail file which I think does the job nicely!

5. Hand food hand cream

This is a “Youtube made me buy it” product! It’s the Soap and Glory hand food (hand cream)!

It contains shea butter, macadamia oil and marshmallow. Some people rave about the scent. I’m not that fussed about it to be honest because I find it quite sweet, but I do like the silky smooth finish after using it, and it leaves my hands feeling soft for a long time, which is why I would buy it again.

How about you?

What are your favourite hand products? Let me know in the comments!

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The Co-Op puts Braille on some of its products to make them accessible to blind customers

“It says chocolate cake!”

It was only when I was tidying up the kitchen and moving empty cake boxes that I noticed it! The Braille on the bottom of a chocolate cake from the co-op.

Braille is a system of patterns of dots that blind people use in order to read. Some blind people label things in Braille, I have sticky labels on my spice rack, but it’s still quite uncommon to find products that have been labelled in Braille by the manufacturer.

Legally, tablets and medicines have to be labelled in Braille (let’s see if we’re as fortunate when the UK leaves the EU). This is nothing new, although I did have to point out to the vet that sticking their own labels over the Braille ones kind of defeated the object of having it in the first place.

Anyway, as long as I keep things in their original cardboard boxes, it’s easy enough to identify what tablets are. But chocolate cake? That was something new.

Of course the discovery meant that we had to buy more chocolate cake in order to get a photo for this blog. See the hardship I went to for you, my readers?!

I contacted the Co-op to find out a bit more about why they had decided to label some of their products in Braille. This is the response I received back from Ian Ferguson, Manager on the Food Policy Team:

“We are the only retailer to carry braille on food and non-food products as we understand how important braille is to help for our visually impaired customers to lead independent lives, and we take very seriously our commitment to our customers to provide excellent products and customer service.”

“The Co-operative Food provides braille on all of its own-brand food and non-food product packaging, where it is technically feasible.

We first introduced braille onto our own-brand medicines in 2001, and then onto all products, where technically possible, from 2002.

Unique braille files and metal printing blocks are created for each of the many thousands of individual products, and are checked before being printed on pack.

For cardboard we would use a unique set of metal printing blocks, for self-adhesive labels we would use silk-screen printing.”

I have to be honest and say that I don’t usually shop at the Co-op. I used to live near one, and it was really handy to have it so close by if I forgot something. But I would like to support what they’re doing, and also to make other blind shoppers aware of it. After all, I only discovered the Braille by accident as I was tidying up.

As I mentioned in my article about Braille products from L’Occitane, having Braille labels on products wouldn’t necessarily help me in the store (I’m not going to pick up every box on the shelf to see whether it’s what I’m looking for), but once in the home, it’s nice not to have to remember what things are or label them myself. Also, if you know that the label is on the bottom of the box, for boxes with no plastic insert, it’s also a good way to know which way up they should go!

The statement doesn’t give further examples of Braille products. I’ve seen it on cakes and pizza bases, but I’d be interested to know what else you’ve come across with Braille on it. Let me know in the comments if you’ve found Braille on other Co-op products too!

So well done to the Co-op!

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April favourites – elephants, skincare, and chocolate bunnies!

Hello and welcome to my April favourites post!

Skincare

Firstly, you may remember that the Burt’s Bees haircare products I mentioned in my March empties didn’t get a good review. However, I do like this brand, particularly their skincare products. My newest addition is the Burt’s Bees mango lip balm. Of course I bought it because it says “mango”, but I was impressed with this handy stick that you can put in your bag. I much prefer balms that come in a stick form because they are easier to apply, and this one also tastes of mango – an additional bonus. I know that’s not the point of it – I also like the way my lips feel soft and smooth after using this product, and the fact that natural products are used is an additional benefit.

I’ve said before that I don’t like exfoliators, and in the past I got round this problem by buying exfoliating toners that use natural fruit acids. I was very happy to discover some exfoliating pads on the Latest in Beauty website, and I was keen to try them out. I got the glycolic fix cleansing pads from Nip and Fab, and I’m really impressed with them. Ok, it’s a bit lazy having the pads already made up, but as someone who can’t see, I do find it a pain to use some of the bottles with massive wide necks and a thin substance inside (surely a little neck or pump would have been better?) so having the product already on the pad is a bonus. Plus I think these are good for travelling, because they take up less room in your travel bag. At the time of writing, this pack of 60 pads was on offer for half price.

I have already mentioned the shea light comforting face cream in my L’Occitane review, but I’ve been using it all month and I would add it to my list of face cream favourites, which doesn’t often happen, because overall I’m happy with my Body Shop face care products. Next time I’d like to get the other face cream in this range from L’Occitane because it is specifically for dryer skin.

Jewellery

I had some time to spare at the airport, so I went into an expensive jewellery shop! I didn’t buy anything, but I did get my fingers measured to check my ring size, which meant I was able to put in an order for this ring with a family of elephants walking across it! When I bought it, the ring was on sale for around £15, which gives a saving of around £40 on the usual asking price (as I write, it’s still at that price). I like more delicate rings, rather than ones with huge spiky rocks sticking out of them, and I like elephants too! The elephants are engraved into the ring and I appreciate this tactile element to the ring. So if you’d like to give a home to a family of elephants, you can check them out on Amazon!

Bath and shower

I like to switch out my bubble bath and this month I went back to my chocolate orange bubble bath! I love this smell and the room smells of chocolate and oranges for ages. I’m not a big fan of bath products that leave a mess in the bath or leave me covered in oil, so I tend to look out for nice bubble baths, and this one is a winner!

The problem with creating cherry-scented products is you have to be careful that they don’t smell like cough mixture – because who would want to take a bath in cough mixture? I think Patisserie De Bain got it right with this Patisserie de Bain Sweet as cherry pie shower crème and I’m looking forward to trying the lemon one.

Food and drink

We are still getting through our Easter chocolate supply! The supermarket where I usually shop had run out of Cadbury’s crème eggs, so we had to go on a hunt of our own! I’ve started a tradition of buying Lindt bunnies for both of us. I think this is a good Easter tradition and they are so delicious!

Hair care

For moisturised, tangle-free, healthy-looking hair! Sounds good! So I decided to try the Body Shop’s banana conditioner and I liked it! It smells of bananas, but is not overpowering, and my hair was lovely and silky afterwards.

Books

The last thing on my list is a book – The elf stones of Shannara, which I got for Christmas last year. I never used to read fantasy books, but I have recently discovered it can be a refreshing change to venture into worlds that aren’t real! To be honest, I thought the stories were kind of pointless and just about fighting stuff, but although there are some quite violent scenes in this book, there is a clear narrative about a princess and her companion, who have to go on a dangerous quest in order to save the tree that protects the people from evil.

If you prefer listening to audio books, I explain how you can get a free audio book from Audible on my audio book page.

How about you?

So, what have you been enjoying this month? Please let me know in the comments, and if you’ve written a favourites post, feel free to link it.

This post contains affiliate links and a PR sample.

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Jane Austen’s house

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interview with Mel from Blind Alive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is my interview with Mel.

Chocolate tasting – German and Swedish chocolate

Hello to all the chocolate lovers out there!

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

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

Swedish chocolate

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

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

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

German chocolate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

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

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

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