Blogmas day 23 – beating the Christmas stress

I love this time of year, but I know for some it can be stressful.

How will the food turn out?
Will people like their presents?
Will everything be done on time?
Will everyone get on?

It can be a tough time of year with people cooking for more people than they usually would, or spending time with people they wouldn’t usually choose to. I know of couples who are spending Christmas apart because they both want to be with their families. Parents who are separated have to come to an agreement about where their children will be and when. Some people will be alone, sometimes for the first time, sometimes because of the loss of a loved one, sometimes because a relationship broke down.

Some people will be far from home and unable to be with the people they love.

Some people will have to work while others are having fun. Some people will be, or will have loved ones who are too ill to celebrate.

There’s so much rushing around at this time of year, that in itself can make people stressed out and long for a bit of peace and quiet.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this today. I just wanted to take a couple of steps back to reflect – to say that the things that have been stressing me out are not that big a deal because the most important thing is that everyone has fun, and to acknowledge that this time won’t be easy for some, for a whole host of different reasons.

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, I wish you all the best for your Christmas weekend.

The calendars

In L’Occitane there was a foot cream. Not something I ever buy, but I guess feet need some Christmas love too!
In M&S there was a night cream that I haven’t tried yet, so it will show up in one of my empties or favourites posts!

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 22 – winter holiday tag

I don’t often do tag posts, but it’s Christmas and I want something light-hearted for today’s blog post – so here we go!

I was nominated by S & J from the Cozy Den – go and check them out if you haven’t already! They’re doing Blogmas too!

What is your favourite holiday tradition?
Hmm that’s a tough one because I love the time leading up to Christmas with all the fun of decorating the house, buying and wrapping presents, Christmas baking and visiting Christmas markets.

What are your favourite go-to winter lippies?
Hmm, I have so many. I have a lot of festive reds, and I like something with a satin finish or with “moisturising” on the label because my lips can get really dry this time of year.

What is your favourite winter scent?
It has to be a real Christmas tree. We don’t have one, but my grandparents did when I was a child and I loved that pine smell so much. Now, whenever I smell it, I immediately think of Christmas!

What is your go-to winter fashion trend?
I don’t have one, but I’m not one of those people who stand around in the cold with a skimpy dress and no coat! I love to be warm, so winter is a time to get out the fleeces, fluffy blankets and cosy jumpers! I’ve got a couple of really nice scarves too – a thick wool one, and one with an a sparkly owl that hangs from the middle.

Your all-time favourite holiday song?
I want something really original for this one! I know – last year there was a funny video doing the rounds on Facebook with goats singing Christmas songs! Wait, I need to find it now! Here! Merry Christmas from the goats!

Do you prefer to travel during the holidays or stay home?
I have spent a couple of Christmases away with some friends on the Isle of Wight, but I prefer to stay at home.

Your favourite winter skincare must haves?
Erm, all of the stuff from my advent calendars? If I can’t have that, then all the things you need for a pamper night – a relaxing bath, followed by a face mask. Not to mention something to take care of the lips, like a mango or pink grapefruit lip balm from Burt’s Bees!

Your favourite winter hair care must have?
I’d say the banana hair mask from the Body Shop!

Your favourite winter activity?
Either going to Christmas markets or going on wintry walks!

Your must-have winter beauty product?
I think this was meant to be make-up, but skincare is important too if you want to look your best!
I was really impressed with the night cream from Gatineau and as their skincare collection is on half-price at the moment at Feel Unique, I treated myself to it! There’s loads of other stuff in the sale at the moment, so if you are in the UK and want £10 off your first order, you can use my affiliate link!

Do you love the snow or hate it?
I love it when I don’t need to go anywhere and I can build a snowdog in peace! It’s not so much fun when you are struggling home from work, all the trains are cancelled and you need to queue for ages in the taxi queue because the snow has melted and frozen over again!

One item on your wish list this year?
I didn’t actually make one, but I am pretty sure that Mother Christmas got me a new office chair – more about that next year!

Your favourite holiday treat?
Holiday food would be turkey with all the trimmings. But I think they mean something more indulgent than that – I’m not a fan of the traditional Christmas desserts, but I do like a slice of chocolate log!

Holiday shopping finished before December or last minute?
Somewhere in between. This is the latest I’ve ever been this year because the last present arrived today, but that’s just because I had an extra idea. Mostly I’m done by mid-December.

I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you feel like doing this tag, feel free to post your link in the comments!

The calendars

In L’Occitane there was a shower oil. I prefer the shower gels, but it was still a nice product.

In M&S there was a primer – I didn’t use it today because I had a can’t-really-be-bothered-with-a-lot-of-make-up-day, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it compares to my Benefit or Elf primers!

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 21 – how much do you know about reindeer?

When I was a child, I used to insist that we left something out for Rudolph and the other reindeer, not just Father Christmas. I thought they would rather like dog biscuits, so they got some of Cindy’s shapes! (It was just a coincidence that my guide dog shared the name with the dog with whom I grew up!) The shapes were always gone in the morning, so reindeer must like dog biscuits, right? Much more interesting than a plain old carrot?!

I didn’t know much about reindeer then!

A few days ago, I came across a blog post with 12 facts about reindeer. I’ve used it a couple of times in my lessons, and I thought I’d share it with you too!

I hope you enjoy it and learn something about Santa’s friends!

Do your children, or did you as a child leave food out for the reindeer?

The calendars

IN L’Occitane there was a Verbena handcream. It seems a bit more lightweight than the others, but I love that lemony scent!

In M&S there was something that will be passed on to Mother Christmas – a face oil! I don’t use them, but 19 hits and 2 misses so far is not at all bad for a calendar!

How about you?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 20 – 10 December favourites!

So, as I usually do my monthly favourites at this time of the month, I thought I’d share December’s as part of Blogmas.

1. Firstly I’d like to mention my phone. It’s a joint birthday and Christmas present from S and it means that I now have a main phone and a really old one that I can use for video calls at work. I didn’t want the newest model or anything, but I did need a faster one and one with more space for all my books and music, so I’ve really been appreciating my phone since I got it in September.

2. I don’t have an office secret Santa because I work for myself, so I bought myself a silly present today. I wasn’t actually looking for this, but when I saw it, it kind of sums me up – love owls, hate mornings and stupid behaviour so maybe I do have irritable owl syndrome as it says on this mug! I got it for myself anyway!

3. The next thing is something I got for Giving Tuesday and I was alerted to it from the lovely Kerry from Kerry Life and Loves – go check her out if you haven’t already! She said in one of her posts that Radley was doing a collaboration with the Dogs Trust and they’d brought out a range of backpacks and coin purses with the usual Radley dog, plus a range of other dogs based on real dogs at the Dogs Trust. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I got the retriever purse! It’s out of stock at the moment, but you can sign up to be notified when new stock comes in.

4. I was happy with my Red Carpet lipstick from Elf, so I got 2 more – Wine Tour and Touch of Berry. One is moisturising and one is satin – I don’t like lipsticks that really dry out your lips, so always look for ones that moisturise. These are a good price too, even with the shipping.

5. Blogmas! It’s been fun, although I struggled most at weekends and on days off where I try to spend as little time online as possible! I’m wondering whether I joined the party too late – so many people are doing Blogmas this year that I’m way behind with all the content that I wanted to read. I wonder if other people feel the same? I wonder if Bloguary or Blogpril would be better in terms of getting more people to see the content? I don’t know, but I have enjoyed taking part, coming up with Christmassy ideas, and of course reading the content that my blogging friends have been putting out.

6. Clinique make-up. I was kindly sent some money for Christmas from someone who is probably reading this, so thanks again! I’d heard really good things about the Clinique chubby sticks, so I got the sculpting highlight and the cream contour. Anyone who has been following my blog for a while will know about my love for cream rather than powder products, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed with these. Yes, you have to blend them well, and yes, this is a pain if you can’t see what you’re doing – but it’s much less of a pain than dealing with fall-out from powder if you can’t see it’s there, so this type of product has meant that I can do a lot more with my make-up than I did before. I’ve tried Clinique skincare before, but not the make-up, and I think it’s really good quality.

7. If you get the Latest in Beauty subscription box, they usually put in a couple of little free samples. Today was truffles and I very much approve of those, but what I wanted to tell you about was a little sample of the Lavera night cream. I liked it so much that I got the full-size one. Firstly it was the smell, which I loved, but I was also pleased to have found an organic cream that also left my skin feeling wonderful and soft.

8. Hot chocolate. Just because it’s winter and you can’t go wrong with a big mug of hot chocolate when it’s cold and you’re snuggled up in the warm. We like the Whispa one or Options orange sachets.

9. I’d never heard of Shay and Blue before, but I really liked their blood orange perfume that came in the M&S calendar. I would like to try out more citrus scents from this range in the new year – once I’ve used up some of the wonderful things from the calendars!

10. Time off! I love it! I spend so long in front of my laptop that a couple of days offline this week have done me the world of good! I’d definitely recommend it!

So, what things have you been enjoying this month?

The calendars

IN L’Occitane there was a shimmering cherry lotion – something I haven’t tried before, so I’m looking forward to that. I love a cherry scent!

In M&S there was a Pixie lip gloss. The only thing I’ve tried from Pixie is their glow tonic, so it’s good to have a look at one of their lip products too.

How about you?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 19 – Christmas markets

So, do you know what the number one thing that you should do is when you’re planning a trip to a Christmas market? Make sure the Christmas market that you want to go to hasn’t been cancelled!

We didn’t do this, so we turned up in Reading at the place where the market should be, only to find no market! Not good! We did manage to find out online that it had been cancelled, but the information wasn’t easily available.

Anyway, I did find a stall with a lady selling some very cute owl rings, so not all was lost, and we kept with our original lunch plan of going to Comptoir Libanais (Lebanese canteen.

We ordered two starters and two mains, which we shared. We had grilled haloumi, pastry parcels with fetta, spinach and pine nuts, followed by a mixed grill and a chicken tagine (I actually wanted the lamb one, but they couldn’t take out the peppers). The restaurant was quite busy, always a good sign, and I would definitely recommend it and go back again.

After that we went to a Christmas market that had not been cancelled – the one in Winchester. It takes place in the grounds of the cathedral and there are plenty of stalls selling home-made gifts, food, mulled wine, Christmas decorations, and other hand-made goods. I was sorry I was so full from lunch because the food smelled great, but I couldn’t eat any more!

I did however find a cute little wolf pendant, a doggy cheese board (so a wooden board in the shape of a terrier for serving cheese), a cheese wheel for Christmas, a chocolate snowman from Holland, and I got a cup of mulled wine too – because that’s a fun thing to do at Christmas markets!

There was also the chance to go ice-skating, although we didn’t do it!

Have you been to any Christmas markets this year? If so, which are your favourites?

The calendars

IN L’Occitane there was another soap – not my favourite find, but they definitely last longer than the lotions and shower gels!

In M&S I got my first Leighton Denny nail varnish, and a 12ml one at that! This will get me in the festive mood later!

How about you?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 18 – Christmas customs

If I do a blogging challenge again, it won’t be when I’ve booked time off work. It’s easy when I’m already sitting at my laptop for hours each day, but not so easy when I’m out and about, not trying to think about work or either of my websites!

Anyway, this is what I want to share with you for day 18. It’s something I put together about Christmas traditions in the UK, mainly for my learners and podcast listeners in other parts of the world! Enjoy!

The calendars

It was a day of body lotions, with a body lotion in both the L’Occitane and the M&S calendar. I’ve used the almond milk one from L’Occitane already and it was wonderful. I’ve still to try out the Ameliorate Skin Transforming Body Lotion from M&S, but it’s a lovely decent size again! How about you?

Question of the day

Star or angel on top of the tree? We have a star!

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 17 – the best bits of 2017

So, I thought what better for day 17 than a post about the best bits of the year?

I am not anew blogger, because I’ve been blogging on my business site for a few years, but this year I took my first steps into the world of beauty and lifestyle blogging, which is a lot more personal than educational blogging. I’ve enjoyed seeing Unseen Beauty grow, getting to know some great people online, and having the chance to work with some lovely brands.

Make-up and skincare

On Thursday I had to move my make-up collection into a bigger box because things falling out of the old one was driving me crazy! My skincare collection is still a lot bigger than my make-up, because that’s where my focus is, but I’m so happy that I now have a bigger choice in terms of make-up, and a lot of that is down to the fact that I’m better aware of what’s out there. As someone who has to do the no mirror make-up challenge every day due to my blindness, I was really happy to find more cream products this year, because I find them easier to work with than powders. I discovered all the joys of cream shadows, cream blusher, cream highlight, and cream contour! Yay! So special thanks to my partner S, who gives me honest feedback when I’m trying new stuff out, and my friend Amy, who introduced me to a lot of the new types of product.

One way in which I’ve been able to try out a lot of new products for a fraction of the price is through my beauty subscriptions. I tried out a couple, but stuck with Latest in Beauty and Lovelula for most of the year. I really like Latest in Beauty because you get to fill your own box. Lovelula is good too because of the organic and cruelty-free products, but a lot of make-up has been sneaking into what was originally known as a skincare box, and I prefer to choose my own make-up. So I’m on the fence about that for next year, but it’s still a good box if you aren’t as fussy as I am, and both boxes have given me the chance to try out a lot of lovely products without having to buy them full-size. In terms of Latest in Beauty, there were only 3 products that I didn’t like out of a whole year, and one of those was because I didn’t read it properly!

I’ve always been pretty good at the basic stuff such as moisturising, but I feel that I understand more about the science behind what the different products do, and because of this, I’ve now got a better skincare routine – maybe I’ll do a post about that in the new year!

On the subject of trying new things, my advent calendars have also been a lovely way to open something new and exciting every day. The L’Occitane one has let me see the variety of scents and products that they do and try them out, and the M&S one has introduced me to a lot of new brands.


The big news at home is that we now have a garden – yay! The garden was a disaster when we moved in with rocks everywhere and only really a little patio area that was usable. Now we have a new fence, a new patio, and a grass area. I’m looking forward to getting out there next year.


This year I spent a week in Sweden and Denmark, and another in the South of France. Both were working holidays, but we still found plenty of time for sightseeing!

We also spent a weekend away at Wolfwatch, fulfilling my dream of getting close to a wolf and being woken up by howling!


At work I’ve started working with new customers and continued working with existing ones. I get a lot of job satisfaction from seeing people grow in confidence and start using the things that they have learned. I’ve developed a new area on my site for teachers, and I’m over halfway through writing my second book for freelance teachers. My first book for language learners has been sold in 15 countries and this year became available as a hard copy, as well as an ebook. I got to episode 100 of the English with Kirsty podcast!

The calendars

So, what was behind your door no. 16?

L’Occitane – this time it was another shower gel. I find these a little on the small side, but they are lovely and a good way to find out what scents you most enjoy from the range!

M&S: this time I got something else I hadn’t tried before – the Ren instant firming beauty shot. It’s a serum that hydrates, firms, lifts, and plumps the skin. I’m doing a post on serums in the new year and I’m excited to try another one out!

Question of the day

Plastic or real Christmas tree? What do you think?

As a child, we usually had a real one, and I loved the pine scent, but now we have a plastic one! It’s easier, less mess, and I do feel a bit bad about all those trees in January.

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Blogmas day 16 – let us howl

Our visit to the Wolf Conservation Trust near Reading, whom we met there, and what we learned!

So, I’m going to break with the Christmas posts to tell you about what I did last night – because it’s cool, and also I’d like more people to find out about the Trust.

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know that S and I are interested in Wolves. I published the walking with wolves post earlier in the year. While I was researching that trip, I also discovered the UK wolf conservation Trust website, and last night, S and I went with some friends to their Howl Night!

The first part of the evening is a presentation about wolf communication. We learned about ways in which they communicate with other wolves using long-distance communication, such as howls, as well as other verbal forms of communications, such as barks, growls, whimpers, yips and woofs! We then went on to look at body language – the positioning of the ears, tail, and posture, as well as the eye contact. Real footage from the centre’s wolves was used to demonstrate points about what was happening and what the wolves were trying to communicate.

The centre is home to 10 wolves in four packs – two packs of 3 and two packs of 2. After the presentation had finished, we went outside to see, and howl with them!

The first pack we saw was my favourite – Mosi and Torak. Mosi is one of the older wolves at 11 years of age, but that didn’t stop her being the most vocal with her howls! She deposed her sister Mai as alpha female, which led to her sister being moved out of the enclosure when they were younger. She was eager to respond to us with howls and interested in her visitors! Torak is a tall and proud wolf with a handsome, masculine head and the most mournful howl that you have ever Heard! He was more aloof and stayed to the back of the large enclosure, but that didn’t stop him joining in with a howl!

The next pack we came across was the arctic wolves, Massak, Pukak and Sikko. Sikko is the only female in this pack, where she lives with her brothers. They were born during a severe snowstorm in Park Safari, Quebec, and abandoned by their mother, who got out of her den with one other pup, but didn’t accept these three back as they had been touched by humans, who revived them from severe hyperthermia. Pukak loves his food and sometimes paws at the fence in anticipation. Massak is the dominant male and often lets his brother and sister go to greet visitors first. All of these wolves have thick, white coats to protect them from freezing arctic temperatures.

The next pack we saw was Mai and Motomo. Mai was separated from the pack with her sister and now lives with Motomo, an unsocialised wolf from Devon. Though partially spayed now, Mai and Motomo had been getting on better than expected as, soon after they were put together, Mai was found to be pregnant. We saw their offspring in the next enclosure. Apparently Mai likes to howl to Motomo when she is away on a walk. Motomo was only hand-reared for two weeks of his life, so he can’t be handled by the volunteers as he is still very scared of humans.

In the last large enclosure are Mai and Motomo’s offspring, now 6 years old. They were very playful when we came up, chasing and growling at one another. Nuka is the dominant male and the most adopted wolf at the trust. He already knows which humans he doesn’t want to have around him! Tala is a very friendly and inquisitive wolf, who is often put in her place by her sister Tundra, the dominant wolf in the pack. Tala’s inquisitiveness sometimes leads to the destruction of things such as Christmas trees put in their enclosure for children’s events! Tundra is a wary wolf who is less likely to come and greet visitors. If her brother and sister do silly things like playing in the pond, Tundra just looks on and doesn’t join in.

The wolves are well-cared for and have plenty of space to run around. As well as looking after the wolves in its care, the trust also supports other projects to help wolves in other parts of the world – both in terms of caring for captive wolves and educating the local population. The centre is also involved in research projects to enable people to better understand these wonderful animals.

If you’d like to support the Wolf Conservation Trust, there are plenty of different ways for you to get involved. If you can get to Reading, there are Howl Nights or wolf walks throughout the year. You can also make a donation, adopt a wolf, give a child a junior membership, or buy a wide range of wolf merchandise from the store. I’d already got myself a pair of earrings and a necklace online, but last night I also came back with a mug, a keyring, another pair of earrings and a hoodie! All for a good cause, so that’s ok 😉

Are there any nature or conservation organisations that you like to support?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

Listen to the podcast episode

I’ve also produced a podcast episode about the wolves. You can look for Unseen Beauty on Apple podcasts (previously known as iTunes), or wherever you get your podcasts. Alternatively, you can listen to it here:

The calendars

Going back to Blogmas and the advent calendars- what was behind your door no. 16?

L’Occitane – this time it was another soap – the last of the 3!

M&S: this time I got a hair spray, which I won’t use, so that’s something for Mother Christmas!

We still haven’t finished our Christmas shopping, so you can guess what we’ll be doing later!

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Blogmas day 15 – office Christmas party

So, most of the time I don’t miss having colleagues too much! I love having an office to myself, and I still have plenty of people contact through working with my customers and being active in various networks. But when it gets to this time of year, I do miss the office Christmas parties!

I say “parties” because I usually ended up going to more than one! I worked for the government, so there were a lot of people in our building, which meant that departments and teams did their own thing. However they weren’t always that strict about who attended, so as well as going to my own, I sometimes got invited to other people’s events as well! I remember being quite tired at the end of December!

Most of the time it involved going for a meal somewhere followed by drinks and dancing afterwards. Once I missed the last train home the night before Christmas Eve and had to get a taxi after I’d got as close as I could on the train. I think I got in at around 4AM and then had to get organised the next day to go to my Mum’s. I didn’t feel my best that day!

They weren’t all as late as that though!

Working in the centre of London, we were spoiled for choice in terms of restaurants. You could have whatever type of cuisine you wanted, but you had to be quick. If you started thinking about your Christmas party booking in December, it was usually too late as most places were already full.

The parties were a lovely excuse to get dressed up, have a laugh, a few glasses of wine, and get to know some new people. I remember one year I was the only person from my part of the office. I was also the first to arrive and felt very self-conscious. This was compounded by the fact that I was from the Director’s Office, and people were a bit wary of talking to me. Maybe before I joined, people kept themselves to themselves from that office, I don’t know, but after a drink or two, people overcame their initial shyness and we had a really good evening!

Mainly I did it to have fun, but in such a large organisation, it was a really good way to get to know some people from other buildings or areas. I think it helped too – if they remembered you later when you needed to contact them about something, you weren’t just a name behind an email, but someone they had already met and chatted too.

I think it’s great that some companies in the private sector put on their own events for staff and I’ve been to a couple with my partner.

Now I’m self-employed, I don’t have a Christmas party, but as I’m always roping S in to help with one thing or another for my business, I said I’d take him out for dinner, or maybe lunch after the Christmas market! It’s a bit late now, but maybe I could organise something next year for other local business owners, or some kind of online event for bloggers. I don’t know. But I’d like a plate of turkey and all the trimmings that I haven’t cooked!

How about you? Will you be attending any office Christmas parties this year? Or have you already?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

The calendars

So, what was behind your door no. 15?

L’Occitane – this time it was a lip balm. I didn’t even know that they did them, but I guess this is the point of the calendar! It’s a non-flavoured one and good for a handbag.

M&S: it’s the second mascara – this time the Diego Dalla Palma Ciglione Mascara one in black. I haven’t tried this one before and I’m not going to open it yet because I don’t like to have too many mascaras on the go! But I’m looking forward to trying it out as I haven’t had anything from this brand before.

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Blogmas day 14 – winter weather expressions

English people have a reputation for talking about the weather. Have you noticed that some of the expressions we use are about winter weather?

At this time of year, there is a lot to say about ice, snow and cold, windy weather. Here are some wintry weather idioms and their meanings.

1. To be skating on thin ice
To be doing something that is dangerous or which could have negative consequences.

2. A snowball effect
A situation which gains momentum or where something increases in size or impact.

3. To be snowed under
To have so much to do that you can’t take on anything else.

4. Every cloud has a silver lining
Even if a situation looks bad, something good will come out of it.

5. To get wind of something
To learn about something, even though it was supposed to be a secret.

6. To have a face like thunder
To have a facial expression that shows that you are very angry.

7. To throw caution to the wind
This means that someone is taking a big risk.

Can you think of any more?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

The calendars

So, what was behind your door no. 14?

L’Occitane – time for another shower gel! These are like travel minis – maybe ok for the shower, but in the bath I tend to use a bit of another shower gel as well! Still, it’s good to go through the whole range of scents!

M&S: Today I got a maringa cleansing balm from Emma Hardy. I’ve never used a cleansing balm before because I usually use a cream cleanser or micellar water, so I’m looking forward to trying this out!

Question for the day

Brussel sprouts – yes or no? I’d have to say no, unless they are the ones made entirely out of chocolate!

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