Mobile hairdresser – yes or no?

When I used to work in London, I learned the way to the local hairdresser’s salon with my guide dog. We went there a couple of times, but for years now I’ve been having my hair done by mobile hairdressers – hairdressers who come to my house. I haven’t had the same one all the time because I moved house, but it’s never been that hard to find one. They’ve come via recommendations from friends who were already using their services, so it’s not as uncommon as you might think.

I’m quite low-maintenance now – I am still growing my hair, so just get it trimmed regularly. In the past though I’ve had regular cut and highlights done all in the comfort of my own home.

I know some people wouldn’t be able to imagine it. For them, the whole experience of going to the hair salon is part of the pamper session. Certainly if your home isn’t somewhere you can relax, or you need a change of scenery, the salon can be a welcome time away from the rest of life.

However I’d say there are advantages of having a mobile hairdresser come to you, as long as you find a good one (although that’s the same with anything when you’re looking for someone to provide a service).

Convenience

This is the main reason why I do it. I don’t have to learn the way to the salon or organise transport if it’s too far. More than that though, I can just fit it into my day and I only have to plan in as long as it will take the hairdresser to do her thing. No travel time to factor in, which meant that I was back at my desk 10 minutes after my hairdresser had finished this morning, and it would have been sooner if I hadn’t stopped to make coffee! If you don’t have much time, having someone come to you can be more efficient.

Familiar surroundings

I don’t find it hard to learn the layout of new buildings, and when I’ve been to the salon, the staff were helpful. However, if you’ve got 5 conversations, music, a running tap, a telephone ringing, and 3 hairdryers going, it can soon get very loud, and apart from loudness not being my favourite thing, when a blind person can’t hear properly, it can also be a bit disorientating.

In your house, you already know where everything is.

This won’t apply to everyone, but if you can’t access inaccessible buildings, have had issues with people not welcoming your guide dog, have sensory sensitivities, or need to think about other issues relating to mobility or transport, it’s another option that you might want to consider.

The products that you love

If you want to keep to a specific shampoo or conditioner, many mobile hairdressers are happy to do that and use the products that you already have in. Ok, in a salon you get the products included in the treatment, and you may get to try new brands, but if you have something you know and like, you can keep with what works for you.

h3> Cost

This wasn’t the main reason why I did it, but it certainly plays a part. Hairdressers that don’t work from a salon don’t have to factor in overheads for accommodation, and self-employed people often don’t have the extra costs that you need to cover in when you’re employing staff and keeping premises running. They can then pass these savings on to the customer. Who doesn’t like a bargain?

Same person every time

You don’t get different people depending on who’s available –you’re guaranteed the same person every time and they know your hair and your preferences, so you have a sense of continuity.

Later evening slots

This will vary from salon to salon, but certainly when I was commuting back from London every day, I had later appointments – much later than the salon would have been open. Not every mobile hairdresser wants to work late in the evening, but if you find one who does, it means you don’t have to leave work early or try and squash an appointment into your lunch break.

No cash necessary

This will also vary from hairdresser to hairdresser, but my current one and I’m pretty sure the first one I had were happy for me to pay online via bank transfer. I do use cash and I do use a card, but I like the freedom of being completely in control, and not having to trust that someone put the right details into the card reader because I can’t read the amount on the screen!

Disadvantages

As with any type of service, you’ll get good people and people who think they are good, but aren’t qualified or who don’t do a good job. If someone’s really terrible, they’ll probably not stay in business long, but it’s always good if you can get a recommendation from someone who’s already happy with the service that they provide.

A mobile hairdresser will bring their own equipment, but you won’t have the same set-up as in a salon. So no chair where you lie down and get your hair washed. No comfortable chair for getting things done that take longer – you might just be on your kitchen chair and having your hair washed over the bath. If you’re up for the whole pampering experience, it might not be what you’re looking for!

If there are people coming in and out of your kitchen all the time wanting your attention, you might just find it too stressful and prefer to go away somewhere on your own for a couple of hours!

You’re working with the one person, so if they get ill or get stranded in the snow, you’ll have to rearrange! If they’re going to be on holiday when you want to have your hair done, you’ll have to wait or get it done sooner. If you leave it late to get your Christmas appointment, there might not be any left (although that can happen in a salon too!)

The hair trimmings do end up on your floor, but my old hairdresser and the current one both offer to take the hoover or the dustpan and brush to them.

So what do you think?

Really it depends on your individual circumstances and what’s important to you.

Have you ever had a mobile hairdresser come to your house? Would you consider it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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How I do eye make-up as someone with a visual impairment – update

I wrote a post about this back in 2017 when I first started the blog, but a few things have changed since then, so I decided to redo it. This isn’t so much about favourite products, although I will mention a couple. It’s about the things I do to make life easier as someone who can’t check in the mirror whether what I’ve done is ok.

Mascara

Nothing has really changed here and what a person likes is a very individual thing. It is completely possible to apply mascara without being able to see. Yes, you have to be careful, and yes, there is a chance you could get it wrong, although I don’t have that many accidents. My main problem is that I have nystagmus, occasional involuntary movements of the eye, which I think to be fair is more of a challenge in terms of mascara application than not being able to see in the first place.

Different blind people have different preferences, so the key is to find out what works for you. I am not a fan of travel-size brushes because they are so small, but some people love them.

I prefer a fatter brush that is the same shape all the way round. Otherwise, unless I mark the brush somehow, I don’t know whether I have the bristle side or the comb side unless I touch it, which I don’t want to do. So one that looks the same all the way round is easier for me, and the fatter ones are great because you have a bigger surface area.

When applying, I bring the brush closer to my eye lids and blink gently until the lash touches the brush. This prevents me from poking myself in the eye with it! Once brush and lash have connected, I can move along it to make sure all the lashes are coated.

I tend to prefer a non-waterproof formula, but that’s just so that it’s less of a pain to get rid of.

Some people get their lashes tinted so they don’t have to bother with it at all, but I don’t find it that hard and therefore don’t mind doing it.

Eye primer

Contrary to what I said in my first post, I prefer the ones that you apply with an applicator. Some of the thicker formulas in jars can be more annoying when it comes to spreading them evenly. I have a few different ones, but prefer the clear formulas, because they are more forgiving and I really just want them to stop the eye shadow creasing and not for any additional colour.

Eye shadow

This is the biggest area of change from 2 years ago. At that time I was really into cream shadow pots. I still like these, but in many ways you get what you pay for, and some of these do tend to dry up, even if you’re careful. Once they’ve dried up, they’re impossible to use and you have to throw them out. Ok, they’re not meant to last forever, but you do want to get your money’s worth out of them. My Charlotte Tilbury Eyes to Mesmerise is still going strong and my Mac paint pot, but I don’t like to have too many of these open now.

The biggest improvement I’d say is in terms of crayons. Maybe I was just using the wrong ones before, but a lot of them felt quite firm and this meant that they dragged along the lid, making the experience of applying them quite uncomfortable. I’ve discovered some really creamy ones recently though such as the ELF shadow sticks and the NARS shadow sticks which you just apply by colouring in your eye lids with the crayon. You can feel that you’re in the right place by where the tip of the crayon is on your eye lid, and even for someone with fairly small, hooded eyes, it’s not hard to do. Both of these crayons come in a range of colours.

I tend to go for simpler single-colour looks that I can do easily, rather than attempting something more complicated that may not work out.

Recently I got my hands on a liquid eye shadow. To be honest it was in the sale and I bought it just to see how good I would be at applying it before investing in more. I was impressed at how easy it was, and overall I’d say the crayons and liquid eye shadows are actually easier to apply without sight than the creams – though I will still continue to use all of them because I like the variety.

The only thing I don’t use is powder products. I know of blind women who do, but I just can’t be bothered with the hassle, and it feels too unpredictable because I can’t see if there was any fall-out or how evenly I have applied it. I want something where I feel I have a higher chance of getting it right first time, and this is particularly important when you can’t judge the results for yourself. Powder shadows don’t give me that assurance. If I cared about it enough, I could keep practicing I suppose, but I don’t really see the point when there are easier options available to me.

Brows

I’m not the right person to ask about these because I don’t do much with them. I’d rather a more natural look anyway and a brow gel is about as far as I can be bothered to go!

So as you can see I don’t make life complicated, and there are blind people who do a lot more. My point is though that there are some blind or partially sighted people who don’t think any make-up can be applied unless you can see what you’re doing, and I wanted to show why this isn’t true. I also felt some of my comments 2 years ago didn’t really reflect what I do now, which is why I wanted to post an update.

Let me know in the comments if you know of any more products that you think I would like!

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The circle – book review and thoughts on privacy and transparency

One of my students was reading this book by Dave Eggers, and I decided to read it too so that we could discuss it in class. I don’t always do this, but I thought the book looked interesting and I was looking for something new to read. Fortunately the library had a copy, and it didn’t take me long – I was done in a couple of days!

Mae Holland has a boring job until one day a college friend helps her to get a job at the Circle, the most influential technology company in the world. Exciting projects, recognition, rewards and opportunities are waiting for her, but even on the first day, things aren’t quite right or what they seem. As Mae becomes more and more involved, she looses touch with her old life and even though her family is proud of her at first, her new life and career leaves no room for her relationships, made worse by the fact that the company provides help for her family that Mae would never have been able to give on her own.

The new projects, whilst exciting, become increasingly intrusive and sinister. Slowly the company swallows up competitors and silences anyone who would stand against it.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but it wasn’t the ending I wanted. Still, it was believable and I suppose these dystopian novels never end well!

There is a film too with Emma Watson, but I haven’t seen it so can’t comment. I only read the book – the original was in English, but I read the German version.

Overall I think the book explores some interesting topics such as the potential dangers of a world in which one company has the power to affect every area of life, what happens when people are completely “transparent” and there is no privacy, and what happens if an idea is taken further than it was ever intended to go.

There are some interesting characters, even though I felt the main protagonist was a bit of an idiot at times! I think we can see clearly how she was brainwashed, but it would have been good if the author had developed the sense of being torn between two completely different points of view a bit more. Did she really never lie awake at night questioning some of the things she was told?

I can believe that some people are so taken in that they’ll believe anything once the organisation has got its claws in, but it would maybe have been good to have some other figures to put the alternative point of view. We did have her ex, who made a good case, but maybe one of the other politicians could have made a stand too about why it’s not good to have every single meeting or discussion in the public domain. Why were there no legal challenges about secret cameras being installed everywhere, including in people’s homes? It felt for me as though some corners were cut here, even if the overall end result would have been the same. At some points, the narrative moved too fast, and the lack of resistance made it less believable for me.

It certainly opens up the discussion around privacy, who really owns your data, surveillance, the right to be forgotten, and how much of ourselves we should be willing to share.

The problem I have though, is that often people are unwilling to accept responsibility for their own part in the problem. Ok, if large companies are misusing data, selling data unlawfully, not adequately protecting data from theft or abuse by third parties, they should be called to account for it.

But if you have a public profile and publish your full home address on it, and I have seen someone doing that, then I hope nothing happens to you. But if you then post on that public profile that you’re going on holiday for two weeks, you’re not doing yourself any favours.

The bloggers that I follow don’t do this, and people have different thresholds for how much information is too much information, but I’ve seen things that people post on social media about their children that have made me cringe –things that most people would only want members of the family or close friends to know – not any random that they may have added on Facebook. Private things, that, if the kid found out about it in ten or so years, could leave them feeling unduly exposed or betrayed. I don’t mean general things about struggles they’ve had, but things that are intimate or deeply personal and their own story to tell if they want to. Blogging gives a certain extra layer of anonymity that social media sites don’t, particularly if you’re operating under your own name.

If people go to random websites and give details of their home address, phone number, date of birth, or anything else for that matter – without checking out the site first – of course it’s wrong that the sites exist, but would you give all this information to a random person on the street?

If people sign into all kinds of apps and games with their Facebook account, without checking out what other permissions they are agreeing to – of course it’s not ok if that data is then used in some illegal or morally dubious way, but some responsibility has to lie with the person who clicked the “ok” button, or just used their Facebook login because it was easier.

So yes – large companies need to be held to account, but on a smaller scale, we all have a role to play too. We’re not just mindless passive players, being swept along with the current – or if we are, we shouldn’t be.

When I was taking part in a feedback exercise for my university, I was amazed at a section of the group that was so anti social media because it was so scary and dangerous. I don’t see that in my day-to-day life. I work online and my friends generally don’t feel that way either. Some concerns may be valid, and I wouldn’t just dismiss all of them, but writing it off completely seems like saying “cars are dangerous because you could get run over by them” Let’s not educate people about safe driving. Let’s just ban them all together.”

The danger I see with books like this is that half the population will go running scared and feel vindicated because this is where we’ll all end up you know when the big tech companies take over every part of our lives, and the rest think it’s exaggerated and will never happen. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Checks and balances should be in place. The law needs to keep up with the advancements in technology as some things are only not illegal because the current legislation hasn’t caught up with what’s now technically possible (for example, existing harassment legislation had to be amended to specifically address stalking, which includes activities associated with cyberstalking, as these became more prevalent..)

But on the other hand, dumping vast amounts of previously classified information online without considering possible consequences, or saying “I have nothing to hide so I don’t care what’s known about me” are both somewhat naïve.

It’s like so many things – balance is important. A couple of the early ideas in the Circle had potential to be useful, but when taken too far, they weren’t.

I think some things are close enough to real life to make you smile as you relate to something, like going through 101 reasons someone may not have responded to you when the real reason was just that they hadn’t been glued to their phone and hadn’t seen your message or post. Or, even though we don’t have a bunch of screens on our desk for every single app, the juggling act you do when there are multiple ways for people to keep in touch with you and you have to keep on top of all of them. (Yes, message me on WhatsApp and I still may forget to reply!)

Mae comes across as very naïve and gullible, and she never questions or says “no”. Maybe that’s the path we take when our digital footprint becomes more important than anything else, but real life is rarely so black and white. Some parts of the novel reminded me of my teacher in year 5 “you’ve got some good ideas Kirsty, but this is just the skeleton. His bones are fine, but now put some meat on him!”

Maybe it was meant to be more of an easy read, but I was left wanting to unpack the issues a bit more, or to get a bit deeper into some of the characters which felt a bit superficial.

Have you read this book or seen the film? What did you think?

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5 ways to make your YouTube videos more accessible to people with a visual impairment

I decided to do this post because a couple of the YouTubers that I follow have asked me if there’s anything they can do to make their channels more accessible to people with a visual impairment.

I don’t expect people to completely rethink what they’re doing or particularly to accommodate me, and in many ways, I enjoy “watching” YouTube videos in the same way as everyone else – just without the pictures! I don’t want or expect special treatment. But it makes me happy when people ask this question because they want to be inclusive and make watching their channel a good experience for people who may not be able to see what they’re doing.

YouTube is a visual platform, but I use it as a source of information and entertainment and I know a lot of other visually impaired people do too.

So if you’re interested, here are some things that you could do to make your YouTube channel more accessible.

1. Don’t rely on putting information on screen

If you just display information on the screen, I can’t read it. I know it’s handy for putting up prices or where you can get products, but if you could put that same information in the information box as well, it means that blind people can read it. Information posted onscreen during a video is not read out by screenreading software, but I can use my software to read information on a web page.

If there are key points that you want people to remember – don’t just post them on screen with some music in the background. Either read them out, or put the information in the description box. Some of your sighted viewers have your videos on while they’re doing other things, and you can’t expect people to be glued to the screen at all times!

Having the information in a static place can also help sighted viewers if they want to view a particular link that you mentioned earlier in the video, or to refer back to something.

2. Try to describe colours

If you’re talking about a product, where possible, it’s good if you can mention the colour, rather than saying “it’s this colour” or not mentioning it at all because most people can see it. It’s like scents – your viewers can’t smell something, so often you try to say what it’s like or what it reminds you of. For people who can’t see the colours, it’s great if you can mention what they are, particularly if the product has a name that’s not connected with the colour. If a piece of make-up is named after an emotion, for example, I have no idea what colour that is!

The same goes for clothes too. Is it a long or short dress? Straight or floaty skirt? Long-strap or clutch bag? Chunky or delicate necklace?

Reading out some product information will make the video a bit longer, but I really appreciate it when people do!

If it’s a Vlog, can you say something about what you’re doing? I don’t mean you have to describe everything you see and do, but I enjoy Vlogs more when people give their viewers some clue as to what they’re talking about, rather than just capturing footage with the camera. I get the impression that they would do this anyway, and it’s nothing to do with making the content more accessible, but the fact that we have a bit more verbal information does make the Vlog more enjoyable for someone who can’t see what’s going on.

3. Not all of your YouTube viewers are on Instagram

I know many of them will be. There are also blind people on Instagram, but my time there lasted about 3 days. If you can’t see the pictures, it can be quite a boring experience. So whilst I can understand that many YouTubers want to get people following them on all platforms, there are still people in the world who have no plans to sign up to Instagram. So if you say things like “find out what I thought about the product on my Instagram stories” Or “enter by following me on Instagram”, you’re potentially excluding some people. If someone has chosen to follow you on YouTube, they shouldn’t have to jump through extra hoops to find out what you thought of a product. Even if you decide to do a story on it somewhere else, you could mention your thoughts in your next video as well.

4. Lookbooks aren’t accessible to people who can’t see them

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them because I’m sure some people enjoy them, but signposting is good. I’m happy to just not click on something if I know there will only be music and content I can’t access, but it saves my time if it’s clear from the title or description that that’s what it is!

5.Be willing to answer questions

I don’t mean you should prepare to be bombarded by loads of detailed questions, but I certainly appreciate it when people whom I follow take the time to reply back about things like the shade or consistency of a product. It’s generally a good thing to do if you interact with viewers anyway, because it’s a way to carry on the conversation and build up a relationship with them, but if someone didn’t get a piece of information that they wanted because they couldn’t see what you were showing, it’s helpful if you can take a couple of minutes to answer a question. You can’t be expected to know everything that people might want to know!

I hope the tips were useful.

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My weighted blanket – what is it and why did I get one for Christmas?

I thought I’d do a bit more of an in-depth post about one of my Christmas presents because some people have no idea what they are, and in any event I’m moving away from monthly favourites posts to articles with more information on one topic.

When I first started to learn about sensory differences, I thought all of my behaviours were sensory avoiding ones. Like avoiding loud noise or certain textures. But now I see that that from a young age, I showed signs of sensory-seeking behaviour too, like the hours I would spend on my swing, or the drama with the duvet and the sheets.

I’ll explain! In those days, we had a normal sheet, and then another sheet on top of that, to go over you, and the duvet or blankets on top. But that upper sheet between me and whatever else was on the bed had to be pulled really tight. I always asked my Nan to make it as tight as she could before she said good night.

When I was old enough to do it myself, I always did. Not just at bedtime. If I got out of bed in the night, the whole procedure had to be done again, even when I was half-asleep. I’d kneel down on the floor next to the bed and push the sheet as far under the mattress as it would go. Then I’d inch my way in from the top, only pulling it as far as necessary for me to get under and feeling that tight cocoon feeling of being wrapped up. Not quite the same as the weight of a blanket, but I knew I liked it and it made me feel safe and cosy so that I could fall asleep again. That was just the way the bed had to be!

Later we did away with these extra sheets and just had duvets, but I always wanted the heaviest one I could find, even in the Summer. As an adult, I left the same Winter duvet on all year round and maybe added something extra in the Winter. Not because I was cold, but because I wanted the extra weight on top of me.

I often used to sit with my dog on my lap – not a little lap dog, but 34 kg of golden retriever. Sitting with her and stroking her had its own beneficial and therapeutic effects, but I never thought anything of all that weight on my lap.

Finding out about weighted blankets

So then I started hearing about weighted blankets. I’d had one on my Amazon list for a while, but I’d never seen one. And that was the problem – firstly the expense, because they aren’t cheap, but secondly although I love online shopping, I really wanted to see one and to touch whatever it was that made it feel heavy. Nobody has them on display though. You have to buy them online. And that worried me because it would be a lot of money to waste if I wasn’t ok with the texture of the material used to give it the weight.

Once you start looking out for something, you se it cropping up everywhere. I noticed posts on blogs about them and how they helped children who wanted the same kind of sensory input. I kept thinking about it, but didn’t get round to buying one. I also kind of hoped it might drop in price a bit as things on Amazon sometimes have a tendency to do, but these are specialised and therefore I didn’t fancy my chances.

So when S asked me to make a Christmas list, I started with the things on my Amazon wish list. I didn’t want a specific one, but I found the link to one and added it to the spreadsheet. He ended up choosing a different one, but I’m not sure I would have indulged in this for myself, so I was very happy about it turning up under the Christmas tree!

The blanket arrives!

On Christmas Day I had a very heavy box to open! A 15kg heavy kind of box! It was my blanket!

It was a bit different to what I’d imagined. It’s not as big as a double duvet, but it can go over 2 people when folded out, so it’s a double one. I thought the weight of it would be concentrated over a smaller area, but then I realised it was supposed to be a double one!

The idea is that the blanket goes over the body, and it’s not supposed to hang over the bed, otherwise it will just pull down towards the floor. You can get different weights depending on a person’s body weight and preferences.

The tiny beads are kept in place in squares, so you don’t have the problem that they all fall down to the bottom or to one side. It can apparently go in the washing machine, but I dread to think how heavy it will get when full of water – it’s heavy enough now. So I’d want to reduce the need for that to happen and put it in a duvet cover or something if you’re not going to have it on top of your duvet as we do.

We put it on the bed on Christmas night and I had the best sleep I’ve had in a long time. I don’t have sleep issues, but I would say I sleep better with it on – it’s a deeper and a better quality of sleep. The weight relaxes me and although hew wasn’t originally the one looking for one, S seems to like it too!

It is fine now, but it will be too hot in the Summer. I hadn’t really planned on having it on the bed, so when the weather gets warmer, I’ll take it off and use it as a blanket on the sofa in my office. For times when I’ve had enough or need some balancing time if I’ve felt overstimulated and want to hide and snuggle under its weight .

How do weighted blankets help?

Weighted blankets look and feel like normal blankets, but they are heavier, because they have been filled with tiny polypropylene pellets that are distributed evenly throughout the blanket in squares that are about the size of a hand when it’s spread out.

The feeling of the weighted blanket is often compared to the sense of being hugged. This can help people who like to feel the pressure of being squeezed in a big hug, or apparently it is also good for some people who don’t like so much physical contact with another person, but who enjoy the pressure sensation.

It’s said that using the blanket is similar to deep pressure therapy and stimulates the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter – a chemical in the brain that can make us feel calm, happy or relaxed. It’s often released when we do things like hugging, and therefore the weight of the blanket is compared to that feeling of being hugged.

I can’t give advice for individuals and wouldn’t want to. Some people will like them, others won’t.

From what I’ve read, some people on the autism spectrum as well as those with anxiety and/or sleep issues have said that weighted blankets have helped them. I’ve read most about them on blogs related to autism, but the blankets are used by neurotypical people as well.

I know that in the past, when I’ve felt sensory overload or just stressed out after a long day, I’ve gone to bed and burrowed right under the duvet, sometimes piling other blankets on top. I didn’t really understand why at the time, but just did it because I thought it would help. My blanket fortress to keep out the things that were stressing me out! For me, the weighted blanket is a cosy, heavy extension of that!

Have you ever heard of or used weighted blankets?

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Life of a student – the first 4 months of my Open University course

Back in October I wrote my first post about my studies, before the first module had started. It was exciting, and in some ways I didn’t know what to expect. My previous experience with the same university, but a different subject area, had not been great in terms of accessibility for visually impaired students, so I guess I was a bit apprehensive, even though it seemed a lot of progress had been made in terms of accessibility.

Now it’s four months later and I’ve nearly finished two out of three blocks in my first module. So how’s it been?

The topics

The first module that I chose is called Introduction to computing and information technology, which, as the name suggests, gives you a basic foundation in a number of topics, that you can then go on to develop, depending on which path through the degree you choose.

Block 1 was really varied and interesting. Some things were more familiar to me, such as writing basic HTML and recording and manipulating sound. These are both things I do all the time at work, even if the sound production for the podcast is done using different software. It felt nice to know that I wasn’t completely starting from scratch in these areas!

Other things included a basic introduction to how computers have developed over time – not at all technical, but I didn’t know much about the history, so that was good.

Some of the maths gave me a headache, but I discovered quickly that it was more the way some concepts were being explained and not that I was just too stupid to be able to do it. More about the maths in my do I really hate maths? post.

We also looked at considerations for product design and then usability testing for websites, which is something I offer with a specific focus on accessibility. Some of the design concepts were a bit harder for me to visualise as someone who doesn’t know things that most others take for granted such as what certain icons look like (I just care about what they do and that they have been labelled properly) But this didn’t prevent me from understanding the concepts or answering the questions.

We also had an introduction to databases – the ideas for which weren’t new, but the writing of basic queries was.

Block 2 was less enjoyable for me because it focussed on programming, in itself not a problem, but it was taught using a horrid visual programming language, which involves dragging blocks of code around with your mous and assembling them to create programmes. I can’t use a mouse and neither can I see animated characters moving around on my screen.

I really wish we could have started with something less visual and more applicable to real life, but you have to wait for the next module before you start learning textual programming languages. This made me sad, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that at least the theory and concepts would be useful, even if the practical stuff required me to rely more heavily on a sighted assistant than I would normally want to.

I told my assistant what I wanted them to do and they gave me feedback about what happened visually, because the resulting programmes only run in the inaccessible software where you create them.

I went into the module knowing what I was getting in to, but all of the routes through the IT degree begin with these first two modules, so there was really no way round it. On the plus side, the most inaccessible part of the whole degree is done, because if there’s another module with such a high content of inaccessible material, I’ll just choose another – the advantages of choosing an open degree where you pick all of your own modules!

This module has three distinct blocks and block 3 is about networking. It looks a lot more interesting than block 2, although the main reason I didn’t enjoy block 2 was the programming language itself, not the concept of programming, which if written in a textual language, should be very accessible. And after all, I’m a linguist. I like languages and the rules that govern how you can use them. These rules are adhered to even more strictly in programming, than in languages such as English with its many exceptions to grammar rules, so there’s even less room for error.

Keeping on track

You get an online planner on your student home page and you can see what content you’re supposed to cover each week. It seems some people like getting weeks ahead and then showing off about it in the forums. I’ve no problem with getting ahead, but do you really need to keep going on about it?

Anyway, for most of the weeks, I set aside some time each day in my calendar and did part of that week’s work. I treated it like any other task I have to get done throughout the day and built it into my weekly planner. This worked well, although it took more effort to get my act together and stay motivated during block 2 because I wasn’t enjoying it as much.

Over Christmas I just really wanted to be done with it, so I got ahead of myself, finished the block and submitted the assignment relating to it.The end of the block wasn’t as bad because it looked at some of the concepts we’d been learning in the horrid visual language, and compared it with the same code in Python and Java – only simple things, but they made much more sense to me and gave me hope for the future!

The materials

I get printed books like everyone else, but I can’t use these, so I have been using the online versions of the books. They’re great! You can have the whole block appear on one page, which makes it really long, but then it’s easier to navigate the book using Jaws and jump around the document via the headings.

There are also downloadable or audio versions for people who want to learn that way, and it’s definitely good that more options are available now than there were when I was first looking at studying

a different module many years ago.

At first the image descriptions were missing, but afterI flagged this, my tutor was quick to help me track them down.

Working online

For me, working online is the best part. You don’t have to go anywhere. You don’t have to shift a load of access technology somewhere. You don’t have to rely on inaccessible printed books, or stacks of Braille books like I had at school. Braille books are great, but they take up a lot of room!

As someone who is self-employed, I’m lucky that I can set aside some time for study, but not having to go to physical lectures means that I can fit the work in when I have time for it, andI don’t have to work around a preset schedule. I love that!

This kind of course means that you spend a lot of time working on your own. Some people might miss the company, but I don’t. I can work collaboratively, but I don’t need other people to be around for me to stay motivated. In fact, working on my own in my quiet office is my favourite thing!

There are a couple of tutorials in each block. There’s a range of dates and you book in for the ones that you want to attend. I only want to attend online ones and whilst it’s easy to book them, the system used for accessing them is not very accessible for screenreader users.

In fact it’s the worst kind of inaccessible – the flaky kind. Sometimes it works and other times the screenreader loses focus and then you’re done for unless you leave the meeting and come back. The app didn’t seem that good either, although I haven’t tested it with an active meeting room link.

Basically I can attend and hear everything that’s going on, but due to issues with my screenreader losing focus, I can’t access the chat window reliably. To be honest I don’t care much – I can email any questions in at the end. It would be nice to participate more, but the tutorials aren’t really used much for discussion or working on projects – it’s more about the tutor explaining things. At school I was often that kid who knew the answer, but never put her hand up, so although I’d be happier if they switched to something more accessible, I don’t feel it affects my overall experience too much.

Also, my tutor has a list of all the tutorials I booked in for, and he contacted the other tutors to ask that they send me their slides in advance so that I can read them outside of the conference software. Usually the slides are made available afterwards.

In more general terms, my tutor has been quick to respond to emails, answering questions or chasing things up when I haven’t had what I needed.

Contact with others

Most of the time, you work on your own. That’s not to say that there is no contact with others, but you have to be a bit proactive and hunt it out. Still, there are plenty of opportunities to find others on your course.

There is a list of forums on the main website, with a specific one for each module. I’ve also found some Facebook groups (one for each module, and also some more general interest ones). There’s a Slack channel, which isn’t used heavily, but it’s there. There’s a Discord channel, which I honestly haven’t bothered with much because the app was a bit annoying, and I don’t think much is happening there. At the other end of the scale, there’s a WhatsApp group that I had to leave because it crashed my phone and I didn’t want to download 250 messages each time I wanted to look at it.But yes, anyone who’s looking for more contact with other students can join the Whatsapp group and their phone won’t stop buzzing with social interactions!

I attended a face-to-face meet-up too, which was nice enough, but there was no one there from any of the IT courses. So whilst it was nice to have a chat, it wasn’t that beneficial in terms of the course.

If there’s a problem, you have to be more direct about addressing it than you perhaps would in a face-to-face setting where people can see you.

These past few weeks have been tough, not so much because of the inaccessibility, but because of how being more dependent made me feel. I tend to withdraw if I’m not ok, find a solution, maybe hunt out one person that I trust to talk about it with, and then come back and be more sociable. That’s fine for me, but if someone really needed help or support, they would need to be upfront about it, because otherwise people wouldn’t know. So you need to be able to communicate somewhere, either to your tutor or in one of the groups, if something isn’t ok and you need help with it.

Assessments

I’ve completed two online assessments, received 1 assignment back, and submitted the second one. I’m not going to go into my marks here, but I’m happy with them – apart from some points I needlessly dropped by not double-checking something – grr!

Overall thoughts

Overall I’m enjoying both the online study experience and the introduction to computing and IT module. I didn’t enjoy the last block, and if any blind person who uses a screenreader is planning to do this module, they will need to bear in mind that they’ll need sighted assistance for the practical tasks in block two. All of the actual work needs to be your own, but you’ll need someone to move your mouse to drag the code blocks around and describe what they see.

If I hadn’t had such a good assistant with whom I can work well, my experience would have been much worse!

But I want to focus on the positives, because the theory and concepts I picked up in block 2 will help me when it comes to the introduction to Python in the next module. Also, block 3 looks a lot more accessible, so in accessibility terms, I think the worst is over.

In more general terms, I think it’s natural that for whatever reason, whether it’s to do with accessibility or just what you like and are good at, you’re going to like some parts of a course more than others. That’s life. Yes, it would have been better if a text-based alternative had been available to the visual coding language, but it wasn’t and I kept plodding on through. Sometimes you just need to get things done so you can move on to something else.

I’ve basically got a week off now because next week people are supposed to be working on their assignments and I’ve already finished mine. So I’ll enjoy that and then I’m looking forward to starting the networking topic.

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My problems with the dining in the dark experience

This idea has been on my “posts to write” spreadsheet for a while, and with all the talk of the Birdbox challenge, it reminded me that I wanted to share my thoughts about the whole “dining in the dark” experience.

Don’t get me wrong – if people want to turn all the lights off and eat their dinner in the dark, it’s totally up to them! But I do have some concerns about things that I’ve read or heard about these experiences, particularly when it’s seen as a representation of what life is like when you are really unable to see.

Not all people with a visual impairment have no vision at all

This is the first problem. Many people with sight loss are able to see something. Even I can see lights, although this doesn’t help me to eat my dinner because I can’t se colours and shapes. But blindness doesn’t mean 100% sight loss for everyone who is affected by it.

You have none of the skills that I’ve taken years to learn

If someone is suddenly plunged into darkness, all they have is their other senses, but none of those skills and tips that I’ve picked up over years of eating without the ability to see.

You just have to get on with it, without knowing how to measure how much is on your fork by how heavy the fork is, or by using your knife and fork together to measure the size of the piece of food.

It’s true there are times when I put an empty fork to my mouth, and that is irritating, but it’s better than trying to ram something in there that is way too big!

You haven’t learned how to pour things without looking, or without spilling anything.

You haven’t learned to be aware of where things are on the table, so as not to knock them over. I am not perfect, and everyone drops or spills things occasionally, but I’m no worse than most of my sighted friends, and less clumsy than some of them. These things matter to me – I don’t want to be seen as clumsy, so I make sure that I’m not.

You haven’t learn to use your fork as a tool to work out what foods are based on their shape or texture.

You haven’t learned to use your fork to run it under the edge of the knife to see whether it’s serrated, and therefore whether your knife is the right way up. Ok, this caught me out the other day because I wasn’t paying attention, but blunt knives don’t cut well and there is a way to check, without involving fingers.

You haven’t learned to be aware where the edge of your plate is, so as not to push food off the edge.

These are all things that (most) blind people learn at an early age. But good luck, you have 2 hours to master them, and you might not have anyone around to give you tips!

It’s not realistic to have no idea what’s on your plate

I know some dining in the dark experiences let you order what you want, but apparently others just present you with a plate of stuff from vague choices like “meat” and “vegetarian”, and you have no idea what’s on it.

This has occasionally happened to me at buffets in the past – something that can’t happen now because I need to be clear that there’s nothing on the plate that will set off my allergies.

I don’t like people drawing attention to my blindness by describing where everything is on my plate – I can work this out for myself – but it’s not unreasonable to want to know what’s on there. Not least because there might be something horrible, like peas, that need to be removed or avoided!

I wouldn’t feel comfortable about being presented with a plate of stuff with no idea what’s on it. This idea just seems to make the whole experience more uncomfortable, and when would that even happen? Is it assumed that blind people don’t prepare their own food or know what they’re ordering in restaurants?

Going out for dinner is fun!

For me at least it is. S and I went out for a meal yesterday and saw it as a nice thing to do. We meet up with friends. We go out for dinner if we want to celebrate something special, or on occasions when neither of us feels like cooking. It’s not an ordeal for me, and neither does it look like feeding time at the zoo when we’re done.

Whilst some people may have feelings of trepidation before a meal in the dark, it doesn’t mean that eating out is a negative experience for people who do it all the time.

In real life, most other people can see you

I cringed at the idea of “Oh well, noone else can see, so let’s just ignore the cutlery and eat like the monkeys”.

There are some foods that it’s acceptable to eat with fingers. But you can’t just abandon normal civilised table manners just because you can’t see and nobody can see you.

Ok, if someone loses their sight, they need time to learn. And some people naturally have better coordination skills than others, but for people to automatically make the assumption that everyone eats like this is not ok. It’s actually quite insulting. Not being able to see is no excuse for having food all down your dress! People who do this all the time tend to have a better idea of where their mouth is!

How do you think my first date with S would have gone if I’d eaten like that? It involved whole chicken breasts (no skin or bones) and pasta, and was very good, but do you think there would have been a second date if I’d carried on like that?

Blind people, unless they live in a bubble, are generally not only surrounded by other blind people. People can see us and form opinions about on us based on how we behave and present ourselves.

Ok, I do make life easier for myself by not ordering things like spaghetti when out – because spaghetti should be snapped into more reasonably-sized lengths before it even sees the saucepan. I also don’t tend to order things that have to be dissected because you can’t eat all of it – chicken breast that has to be relieved of its skin is a pain. But generally, I order what I want and deal with it. If the food is served in a dish for sharing, I usually let friends serve me – because it’s easier, they can judge the portions better, and any spillage on the table cloth is then clearly down to them! But I’m also capable of doing it myself.

So you can’t use proper cutlery or wine glasses?

In one review that I read, it said that the knives were blunt and people drank their wine out of tumblers – because sharp knives and real wine glasses were asking for trouble! Why didn’t they just go the whole hog and have plastic ones? No, plastic cutlery is actually really annoying!

I can see why they did it – you don’t want people who have suddenly lost their sense of spatial awareness suddenly brandishing a steak knife around, but it’s still unrealistic. If I have a steak, I want a good sharp knife to chop it up with. And if you give me wine in a tumbler, I’ll be insulted – unless it’s in a restaurant where everyone has them because it’s supposed to be trendy!

There’s no quality assurance

It’s an idea that any restaurant can take on board, so there is no way of measuring how well it is being done. I’ve heard of some blind people who work in these restaurants and they’ve reported that it’s a really good way to get into conversations with people. But with no standards or guidelines, what is being done well in a little town somewhere in Germany, may not be replicated somewhere else.

I know what it’s like for you

When someone said that to me, all I could think to say was “no, you really don’t!” You know what it’s like for you, as someone who’s spent years doing things in a certain way, suddenly being asked to do them in a different way, with no help or experience to rely on.

Oh, and whilst you can step out of the darkened room after the meal is over, I can’t.

Final thoughts

I have written this from the perspective of someone who has never been to a “dining in the dark experience”. My comments are based on what people have told me, and first-hand reviews that people have written online. Whilst I don’t usually review things I haven’t experienced myself, what interests me here is the impressions that people come away with who have never done this before, and the way the experience is being portrayed online. If you had a different experience, feel free to share it.

Many of these restaurants provide employment for people with visual impairments, which in itself is a good thing. I’ve heard first-hand that visually impaired people get into conversations with the diners about what life is really like when you’re blind, which is also a good thing – probably.

If the whole experience were just about the role that being able to appreciate food visually plays in the eating experience, I could probably go along with that. We do enjoy food with our other senses.

I did hear from one person who saw it as a kind of challenge to learn to do things in a different way, and I could respect that. But so many other people left their sense of self-respect along with their coat and phone in the bar, and I find that really odd.

If people just have a good time and enjoy the experience for what it is – fair enough. I want people to have fun! Maybe they’ll learn some things about themselves too and be happy about it!

But whenever I read reviews, all I find is people saying how they felt vulnerable, gave up on the cutlery, had no idea what they were eating, shovelled food in with their hands, whish they’d worn a bib, and then reckon they have a better understanding of what life is like for me? I don’t think so!

How about you? Do you have any thoughts on this? Have you been to one of these experiences? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Blogger tips – 10 things I learned from doing Blogmas

So, Blogmas is over, and I haven’t yet decided whether I’m doing it again next year. December is a looong way off!

I actually found it easier this year – mainly because I didn’t have the week before Christmas off, and it was easier for me to get my act together and write when I was already sitting at my desk in work mode. The weekends were a different story and the only times I nearly didn’t make it were weekends.

Overall I had a lot of fun and asking questions also helped me to get to know my readers a bit more to, which was a bonus. There are lots of positive things to write about during December, and although it was quite a lot of work, I enjoyed the experience of doing it again!

I think these things that I’m going to talk about are definitely true for Blogmas, but they also apply to any kind of regular blogging challenge such as Blogtober.

Did you do Blogmas this year? Would you add anything to the list? Do you like it when blogs that you follow take part in regular posting challenges, or does it drive you crazy when you suddenly have more posts in your feed? Let me know in the comments!

So here’s what I learned!

1. Decide before December whether you really want to do it

I wasn’t going to this year, but then one of my readers changed my mind. Some people like to plan more than others, but it does help if you can do a bit of thinking and preparing before you start.

2. Plan out your ideas

Following on from point 1, I’d already decided that I didn’t want to repeat any of the posts, which that meant that I had to come up with around 24 new ideas. Could I do that? I needed to know before I committed to Blogmas.

I didn’t write any of my posts in advance. That’s not to judge anyone who did, but I wanted it to feel fresh as I was writing it. But I did have my spreadsheet with the ideas all mapped out, which meant that on the day I just had to get the text written and posted.

3. Reciprocate – it’s about the community!

It’s obvious that most bloggers are going to have less time around Christmas, but if you want people to take the time to read your posts and engage, it’s nice to do the same. Ok, you won’t always have something meaningful to say and I don’t like leaving comments that just say “great post” because they don’t really convey more than a like would.

Sometimes it just feels as though people get so caught up in the act of creating and promoting their own stuff that they forget to engage with other people in the blogging community. This can happen even more when time is at a premium and you’re working to turn around posts quickly and at the same time enjoy yourself before Christmas. So even if you’re doing Blogmas yourself, it’s nice if you can try and find a bit of time to read and comment on other people’s posts as well.

4. It’s hard when you’re not at your desk

I’ve already touched on this. The discipline needed to sit yourself down and write a blog post, when really all you want to do is curl up on the sofa with a good book and mug of hot chocolate is not to be underestimated. My strategy was to try and get it done earlier in the day so that I could relax afterwards, rather than leaving it till I was panicking at 11 o’clock at night! Obviously that doesn’t work if you have plans to be out all day, but you can look at what days each date will fall on, and if you know you’re going to have less time, plan something for that day that won’t take as long to write.

5. Eliminate the one thing that will do your head in!

This is going to be different for everyone, but have a think about it – what is the one thing that is likely to derail your attempt to complete the challenge? Is there one thing that you can say up front that you’re not going to do?

For me, as a blind blogger, it was the photos. I can’t take my own photos. I can’t see the quality of, or even what’s on stock photos. Stressing out about getting photos for daily blog posts would make me want to give up before I even started. So I didn’t.

I got help with photos of specific things like stroking the reindeer or the cheese advent calendar, but if I wanted to write a post about looking after your hair in winter and didn’t have an image for it, so be it. I’m not going to have my life ruled by the expectation that every post needs 20 photos before people will look twice at it.

This is my space on the internet. If people like what I do, they’ll come back.

For you it might be something else. Maybe you hate writing long posts and that’s stopping you from signing up to something like Blogmas. Ok, then write short ones and make this part of how you do Blogmas.

Do you hate writing gift guides? Don’t do any then! There are plenty of other things you can do.

IF 24 days will be too many, start with 12! Or do 24 days about something you enjoy, rather than something that everyone else is doing.

Or don’t do a challenge like this at all – I’m not saying you have to. I’m just saying that the way everyone else does it doesn’t mean it’s the right and only way. It makes me sad to see people wanting to be a part of something, but then not doing it because they can’t do it in quite the same way as everyone else.

6. Answer your comments

It’s only polite. If someone has taken the time to leave you a comment, and by that I don’t mean the spammy “Love your post now come and look at mine” ones, it’s not good to ignore them. Carry on the conversation if you can, and if there’s nothing to say, at least acknowledge it with a like or a thank you.

I admit I was a few days late with mine, but I do always try to come back to them.

7. Make the content feel like yours, not just a list of generic prompts

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using prompts if you’re stuck for ideas, but there are only so many posts that you can read on the same topic before it gets a bit boring. Unless, that is, someone did something a bit unusual to make their post stand out. Maybe they told a story. Maybe instead of a generic gift guide, they did one for someone with a specific hobby. Maybe some of the posts could be tied in to what the blog is about the rest of the year, but still have a wintry twist.

I don’t know. It’s different for everyone, but when people’s feeds are inundated with posts, you need to be a bit creative if you want to get people’s attention.

8. Send out some emails before December

You don’t have to do this, but if you can think of a couple of brands or charities that you’d like to work with, or another blogger who you’d like to ask about a guest post, why not see if the idea has a chance before December. Then, if they don’t get back to you, you know that you need to fill the space with something else. Or, one thing may lead to another. Originally I contacted Dogs Trust about interviewing a volunteer, but we were also invited to visit the rehoming centre, which meant that one idea generated enough content for two posts.

Many people are planning events way before December, so if you want to find out what’s on, it’s also good to plan in advance so you don’t miss anything that you’d like to have gone to.

9. Find other people who are doing it

It’s nice if you can read what other people are doing and encourage each other along the way!

10. Don’t forget to share

It’s like blogging the rest of the year. You’ll hopefully build up a following of loyal readers and sometimes they’ll share your posts. Sometimes people will magically find you via the blog reader. But most of the time, people won’t know your posts are out there unless someone tells them – so don’t forget to take the few minute to post or schedule on social media so that more people find out about your posts.

Let me know if there are any other tips that you would add!

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December products – haircare, chocolate bodycare, and Harry Potter bath products

Dec 18 empties

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with empties this year. I want to be a bit more selective – so if something was just ok or I’ve talked about it before, I probably won’t mention it again. I think I’ll limit them to 15 items too so that they don’t get too long!

1. Hotel Chocolat body lotion

This chocolate body lotion was amazing! I mentioned it a couple of months ago when I got it for my birthday, but I wanted to mention it again here because it’s such a lovely range and I’m looking forward to trying out more of the products. Hotel Chocolat is only really known for its main product, the chocolate, but this lovely gentle and delicious-smelling skincare is well worth a mention as well.

2. Caffeinated shampoo and conditioner

I managed to get hold of one sample of shampoo and to of conditioner, which given the length of my hair, worked out well when I used them all together. The idea with this is that the caffeine stimulates the hair follicles, so it’s really something you would need to use for a longer time before you could say whether it was working. Still, why does something that does a good thing like that have to smell so bad? Really, it was awful! That combined with the tingly sensation that you get if you use a mint scalp massage treatment. I’m not convinced. I would love the benefits that this promises, but I’d have to slather on something nice afterwards like a hair mist or my mango detangler. This felt more like something you endure for good results than a pleasant treat for the hair.

3. Guava hand cream

I said how much I liked the guava body butter from Korres, and I picked up the hand cream in the same scent as well. These are nice, generous tubes, and out of the two hand creams I’ve tried from Korres, I liked this guava one more. Partly because the guava scent was more prominent, but I felt it was a bit more nourishing too. I try out a lot of hand creams and something has to be good for me to buy it again, but I would get this again!

4. Naughty elf

Want a cosy night in? Get yourself a naughty elf from Lush! Well they seem to have sold out now, but see if he comes back in the Christmas 2019 collection. Anyway, I heard about the naughty elf bubble bar in a review, and as bubble bars are my favourite thing from Lush and I love citrus scents, he sounded right up my street! I find with bath bombs, you have to add bubble bath too, but these are just a treat on their own. You could snap him in half if you wanted to get another bath out of him. He apparently looks a bit like Father Christmas and is not how you’d expect an elf to look. Also he turns your bathwater red!

5. Spot zap fix

Not at all glamorous. Maybe you don’t have those monthly hormonal breakouts, but if you do, this zap fix is just the thing. It’s like a pen with a roller that you apply to clean skin and I haven’t found anything that takes breakouts down as fast as this. I’ve already got another one – two in fact because they were on Black Friday half price! It says it’s for teenagers, but I don’t really care if it does the job.

6. Korres hair mask

I have talked about this hair mask before, but although there are a lot of hair masks that I think were nice enough, this is one that I go back to. It comes in a tube, which means you don’t get the product wet by dipping into it. It contains almond and linseed extracts, so isn’t floral, like some masks. It also contains shea butter to help your hair stay moisturised and protect against split ends. It also claims to control static and prevent frizzy hair, although this isn’t a problem I have, so I can’t say how true this is.

7. Nails Inc hand mask

I hated this so much! It was sticky and smelled of alcohol. The hands were modelled on someone whose hands are twice the size of mine. I won’t be buying this again! It wasn’t particularly cheap either, and there are much better hand masks on the market.

8. Elizabeth Arden Prevage serum

I got a mini sample of this Prevage serum in a bag of free products after stocking up in the Feelunique Black Friday sale. This has become my favourite place to buy beauty and skincare! 50ml of this costs £170, and it’s not something I would usually go out and buy, but it was by far the best thing in the free gift. It is packed with antioxidants, apparently the most powerful antioxidant available today, and primarily helps the skin to fight the effects of environmental aggression. It was a sample, and I therefore couldn’t use it long enough to say whether it really made a difference, but as serums go, I enjoyed using it. I doubt I would shell out £170!

9. Banana shower gel

I have mentioned this before, but I get the feeling the banana range is mainly known for the haircare. There are other things as well though such as the body butter and the shower gel that are also worth checking out if you prefer the fruity scents.

10. Aveda shampoo

I got this cherry almond shampoo when I was on the Lookfantastic site, spending my Glossy points. I wanted to try something from aveda because I’d heard good things about the brand. It’s a 98% natural lightweight shampoo with cherry blossom and almond oil to clean your hair and leave it silky and glossy. I’m not very faithful to shampoos, but I’d pick this up again.

11. Philip Kingsley conditioner

This isn’t a brand that I’d usually reach for, but I got the body-building conditioner in my Glossybox advent calendar. It was nice enough as a conditioner, though I can’t say that I noticed increased volume in my hair or that I would run out and get it again.

12. Strawberry cupcake shower gel

This was something else that we got in the Glossybox calendar. Some people would find this too sweet, but the whole range is based on desserts, so you expect them to be sweet. My favourites from this brand are the lemon and cherry ranges, but I was happy to use this strawberry shower gel too.

13. Fuji green tea shampoo and conditioner

We got this purifying shampoo and hydrating conditioner in the Body Shop calendar. The only reason I wouldn’t get these again is that I like other hair products from the Body Shop more, and out of the two I probably preferred the conditioner for hair that needs a bit of nourishment. If you’re looking for something from the Body Shop and you don’t like the fruity ranges, this would definitely be something I could recommend.

14. Rituals Hamam shower gel

I got a small sample of this in the December Tili box. I like Rituals scents, but this one knocks you out with the eucalyptus! Fine if you have a cold and need to clear the airwaves, but I think otherwise I’d choose one of their other scents!

15. Harry Potter bath bombs

I got a set of these for Christmas. I’m not sure if they were limited edition from Superdrug as I can’t find them now, but if you get them, be warned! They are a bit of fun, and the designs are cool, but the cauldron one turns your water black, the golden snitch one makes it look as if you’ve been bathing in urine, and the Gryffindor one makes it look as though you’ve been bathing in blood! Just so you know! They are very big and smell quite good. In fact, I was blissfully aware of the strangely coloured water until it was pointed out to me later, but I think I was at a distinct advantage not being able to see it!

So, what products have you enjoyed recently?

Discounts and offers

And finally if you’ve made it this far – just a reminder that I have some affiliate discount codes for you:

Feelunique – you can get £10 off your first Feel Unique order by going onto the site using my affiliate link. This offer is open to new customers only, and the minimum spend is £30.

Glossybox – you can get 20% off your first box by using my code KIRSTY-RGE when you place your first order on the Glossybox site.

Ocado – if you would like me to send you an invitation to Ocado, just fill out your details using the form below. You will receive a £20 voucher for your first shop, and a free smart pass, which gives you free deliveries for one year (minimum spend applies).

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually once a week, you can sign up using this form.

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

This post contains some affiliate links, but I only promote things that I’ve tried and tested, and I give honest reviews.

Blogmas giveaway winners

Happy New Year everyone!

It feels as though everyone has written a new year post about goals and stuff – I do have some, but I’ll talk about that later when I’ve had some time to work towards reaching them!

For now I’ll just let you know about the winners for the Unseen Beauty giveaway!

Here’s a reminder of what was in the box:

  1. Huda Beauty Winter solstice palate Featuring one pearlescent creamy formula and three icy pressed pearl powders.
  2. Spa of the World® French grapeseed body scrub from the Body Shop.
  3. Black eye liner pencil from the Body Shop
  4. An eye make-up brush from the Body Shop something will be coming later to go with that!
  5. Real Techniques expert face brush
  6. MUA Cosmic Vixen palette with 15 eye shadows.
  7. Karmameju konjac sponge
  8. Luxie Beauty highlighter brush
  9. Himalayan charcoal face mask from the Body Shop.
  10. Oils Of Life™ Intensely Revitalising Facial Oil

 

I did the draw with help from Siri and the winner – out of 101 entries – was number 8, which belonged to Kerry.

So congratulations to Kerry – if you haven’t visited her blog before, go and check it out! She has some really interesting posts that stop and make you think, as well as some lovely travel posts and ones that can teach you something (Kerry works in skincare, so I’m always interested in what she has to say on that subject).

I said “winners” because although I didn’t announce it at the start, I had put together another box with some make-up and skincare products for the reader who was most active during Blogmas. If this person had also won the main giveaway I’d have just done another draw, but as it happens, I don’t need to. My most active reader/commenter/giveaway enterer had a clear winner and it was Caz so also go and have a look at her site too if you don’t know her Invisibly Me blog already. Doing Blogmas is a big undertaking, but it’s easier when you have the support of lovely readers who interact with the posts – so this second giveaway is just a thank you really for the time Caz took to do that. It sums up a part of blogging that sometimes gets missed – not just creating your own content, but building the community and supporting others in the space as well. Of course other people did that too, but I had to pick one winner!

So congratulations to Kerry and Caz. If you let me have your addresses, I’ll get your boxes out as soon as I can.

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually once a week, you can sign up using this form.

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

This post contains some affiliate links, but I only promote things that I’ve tried and tested.