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

“It says chocolate cake!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So well done to the Co-op!

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April favourites – elephants, skincare, and chocolate bunnies!

Hello and welcome to my April favourites post!

Skincare

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

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

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

Jewellery

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

Bath and shower

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

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

Food and drink

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

Hair care

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

Books

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

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

How about you?

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

This post contains affiliate links and a PR sample.

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Jane Austen’s house

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interview with Mel from Blind Alive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is my interview with Mel.

Chocolate tasting – German and Swedish chocolate

Hello to all the chocolate lovers out there!

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

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

Swedish chocolate

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

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

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

German chocolate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

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

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

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March empties

March empties

I enjoy reading other people’s empties posts, so if you’ve written one, you’re welcome to drop the link in the comments. I see them as a way of trying out new things, and unless I really hate or can’t use something, I do try to finish things up. I feel better when more things are leaving as empties than coming in as additions to my collection, but I think there’s also a need for balance – some people seem to get so obsessed with “making progress” on things and finishing them, that I wonder if they even enjoy using them. After all, that’s the point isn’t it? We buy products because we want to enjoy them…

Anyway, these are my empties for March.

Make-up

I finally got round to finishing something in my make-up box! It’s the Make up for ever skin equaliser primer that I got in a beauty subscription box. I didn’t actually repurchase this, firstly because my Debenhams doesn’t have a Make-up Forever counter, and partly because I found a cheaper alternative that I feel does the job just as well, but I really liked using this primer and would definitely recommend it – good coverage, and it feels good when you’re applying it to your face.

Perfume

My Mum got a mini sample of the Estee Lauder Modern Muse le Rouge perfume which she then gave to me to try out. I really didn’t like it when I sprayed it in the shop, but the scent grew on me as I started to wear it. The main notes are sour cherry and rose and by the end of the sample, I was quite enjoying it. Still, if I were going to buy a perfume from Estee Lauder, I would go for the Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. I was actually surprised that I liked this, because it’s a floral fragrance, with the main notes being the tuberose and gardenia flowers, with orange flowers and jasmin. Maybe it’s because I like the jasmin. No idea, but this is a beautiful scent. Not one of my empties, but I started thinking about it when I was talking about the other Estee Lauder fragrance.

Hair products

Now I wasn’t going to do this review, because I really like a lot of the products from this brand, but I want to be honest. I love all things mango, so I tried the Burt’s Bees shiny mango shampoo, but I really didn’t enjoy it. The product was fine in terms of cleaning my hair, but the scent wasn’t just mango – it had something else with it that overpowered the mango, and I really wasn’t a fan. Still, I don’t think there was anything wrong with the product, it just wasn’t as mango-scented as I had expected.

Another shampoo I got through was the Rainforest shine shampoo from the Body shop. It contains olive oil from Italy, and sugar cane and aloe vera from Paraguay. It’s a lovely natural shampoo, and this one is for normal to dry hair (so check out the others if you have a different hair type). Still, having tried two now from the Body Shop, I think I like the banana one best.

I’ve already liked and reviewed a Garnier hair balm on here. I got another one from a friend and I really liked this one too. It says it’s for dry and damaged hair, which I don’t have, but I don’t see anything wrong with giving your hair a nourishing treatment once in a while, so I was glad to try out the Garnier strength restorer balm with honey. I would buy this again.

Skincare

Now for something lovely – I finished my body lotion from the Korres almond and cherry collection. I’m really becoming a fan of these lighter lotions and milks and wish I hadn’t written them off as ineffective for so long. It absorbs quickly and leaves your skin feeling soft and smelling great! I’m looking forward to trying out more products from Korres.

I had a couple of Charlotte Tilbury samples because I bought one of her cream shadows, which is wonderful by the way. The eye cream was a nice eye cream, although I don’t think I would pay £40 for it because there are products that I think are equally as good at a lower price point. The moisturiser was also nice, but again I wouldn’t pay £70 for this when there are perfectly good products for less than half the price. Still, if you’re a Charlotte Tilbury fan, why not? The only thing I really didn’t like was the night cream. It has some good reviews, and one person said it should be treated as a balm not a cream, so you don’t end up putting too much on and feeling sticky. I didn’t like the scent of this and it did feel sticky for ages. I went around with a shiny face for the rest of the evening and I can’t say my skin felt wonderful the next day. Still, there are people who say that they love it…but for £100, I think there are better products on the market!

I can’t actually find this online to link it, but the image on this post is the anti-aging gel mask from Kore Beauty that I got in one of my subscription boxes. I can understand the benefits of masks for hydration, purifying, soothing, cleansing – but anti-ageing? I’m not convinced! I didn’t know quite what to expect, but the texture of the gel was a bit like the slime you can buy for children – I think I’ll stick to the sheet masks!

Another mask I tried was the Masque Bar green tea sheet mask, It is meant to reduce the appearance of dark circles and pigmentation, and give you a more even, radiant complexion. I only had one as it was in a beauty box, whereas the link is to a pack of three. I liked it and would be happy to try other masks from the Masque Bar. The only thing is that the application is slightly more of a faff because it came in two halves – the top and the bottom half of the face, rather than the individual sheets that I’ve used before.

Bath and Shower

The last thing is the Almond and honey bath milk from the Body Shop. I’ve only just discovered Body Shop bubble baths and I like them – good scent, decent amount of bubbles, and this one has moisturising properties too. You can read my review of the whole almond and honey range here.

Over to you

So, what products have you finished up recently? Let me know in the comments.

If you’d like to read my March favourites, you can find them here.

This post contains some affiliate links. All opinions are my honest views on the products.

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Visit to the small breeds farm and owl centre

After surprising my partner with a trip to the wolf sanctuary, he surprised me with a trip to the owl centre!

The owl centre is in Herefordshire, and it is home to a wide variety of owls, as well as a number of small animals.

The owls live in the owl garden, and here you can see the five native British owls, as well as owls from all around the world. Some of these owl species are not on public display anywhere else in Europe.

The five owl species that you’ll find in Britain are the British Barn owl, the Tawny owl, the Little owl, the Short-eared owl, and the Long-eared owl. My favourite is the barn owl!

All of these owls are facing challenges at the moment due to changes in farming practices (better pest control means less rodents to feed upon), new roads, and fewer suitable feeding sites. These challenges are particularly intense in the winter time, especially when snowy conditions make it harder to find food. There are a number of charities that work to help the owls to thrive and survive, particularly as falling population numbers have been a cause for concern in recent years.

I’ve been collecting owls for years, but I think Harry Potter contributed to an increased interest in all things with owls on them! Products with owl designs are everywhere in the shops, and I hope this increased interest in them will also translate into people learning more about them and supporting them. A good way to do this is to visit the owl centre. There is information outside every cage about the species, where it’s from, and more general information about its appearance, feeding habits and preferred nesting sites.

If you want to see more owl pictures, visit the owl page on the owl sanctuary’s website.

It was probably a good time to visit because there were lots of tiny animals. We went in the pen with some lambs. They were rather cautious, but as soon as one headed over, the others dared to come a bit closer.
The farm encourages petting and stroking of the animals, so it’s a good experience for visually impaired people too. We didn’t ask about handling any of the owls, apart from the one that greeted people at the entrance, but my partner read the information to me so I could imagine how the different species looked. In any event, it was daytime, so some of them probably wanted to sleep!

There are a number of different types of goat, including pygmies, boer goats, and Golden Guernsey Goats, all of which were eager to chomp anything they could find, and not just the food that was offered to them. One larger goat tried to munch my hair, and one of the tiny kids, that were the size of small cats, tried to nibble the bottom of my dress.

The miniature horses and donkeys have often been featured on TV.

The farm would not be complete without the farm dogs! When my boyfriend said “I’ve seen someone whom you’ll want to meet,” I wasn’t expecting a Labrador, in fact there were two of them, but I was very happy to give them a pat!

Other animals that you can visit are reindeer, alpaca, pigs, cows (including the miniature zebu, the world’s smallest breed of cow), sheep, horses, and donkeys.

This is where you can see some pictures of the other animals on the Owl Centre’s website.

There is also a house for small animals. I stroked some floppy bunny ears, but there weren’t so many opportunities for interaction here. Still you could see the guinea pigs, mice, chipmunks and chinchillas.

After our visit, we had lunch in the gift shop, where I also bought an owl necklace, an owl bracelet and a little bag with an owl face on it to add to my ever-growing owl collection.

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