Our visit to Island Farm donkey sanctuary

​I’ve always like donkeys. I think they’re cool and I’ve supported various donkey charities over the years, but the only time I tried to visit one, it was out of season and the sanctuary was closed to the public. One donkey came up to the fence to bray at us, but it wasn’t the same as going inside!

So one of the things I put on our list of things to do on our week off was visit a donkey sanctuary. I discovered the Island farm Donkey Sanctuary near Wallingford in Oxfordshire and we drove there on a sunny day, earlier this week.

There is no entrance fee, but donations are appreciated and you can also support the sanctuary in other ways such as by adopting a donkey, or buying gifts from the shop. The sanctuary is open every day apart from Christmas day from 11 till 4, and they sometimes hold special events. There is one planned for the 2nd Bank Holiday weekend in May (2019) so check out the site if you’d like to go!

Visitors are encouraged to interact with the donkeys, though children should be supervised to ensure they don’t scare the donkeys and any treats should be given in at reception. It’s hard to make sure that all donkeys have a balanced diet if people give them too many treats, and some of the donkeys are on special diets, which means certain foods would be harmful to them.

When we arrived, we saw a lot of donkeys out in their fields. The donkeys are in various fields with groups ranging in size. Donkeys like company!

Speaking of company – going on a weekday during term-time was great, because when we were walking around, there was hardly anyone else there apart from a couple of visitors and people who worked there. I like donkeys more than people!

There was also some information around on the walls to teach visitors about donkeys, what they like to eat, differences between horses and donkeys, and further information about individual donkeys who live at the sanctuary.

After popping into reception, we were encouraged to walk around the grounds and see the donkeys. Many of them were behind electric wire fences. I did reach across to pat one who came right up to us, but I don’t suggest that anyone else does that! Also we later found that some of the donkeys were wandering around on the path area, so I could get up close and talk to a couple of them who were grazing or standing around in the sunshine. As someone who can’t see the animals, I’m always especially happy if I can get to meet some!

They didn’t solicit attention like your average golden retriever! Well maybe they would if they know you, or if they know you’ve come to feed them! But they stood still while I stroked and talked to them, with one of them twitching his ear in my direction. I think they like to know what’s going on!

Jack was definitely up for a stroke, and stood patiently while we had a chat.

Pollyanna must have been tired, because she was chilling out on the floor, happy for me to stroke her lovely silky coat!

Many of the donkeys come to the sanctuary with problems associated with neglect, such as skin problems, parasites, and worst of all, overgrown hooves. These are very painful and if not treated, can lead to problems with walking. This of course means extra vet bills to get the problems sorted out.

The donkeys seemed content, chomping at the grass, or trying to get their friends to play!

As well as around 120 donkeys, and over 50 more living with foster families, there are other animals at the sanctuary such as a couple of Shetland ponies, some chickens, goats, and a pig!

The donkeys have plenty of space to graze and enjoy the sunshine, and as they don’t like getting wet, there are also shelters for when it rains. Some of the ones whom I stroked had been enjoying a roll around, which keeps the pesky flies at bay, and also helps to remove any loose hair.

Some of the donkeys are active in the local community, attending fairs, starring in nativity plays, or taking part in country shows. This raises the profile of the work of the sanctuary and introduces new people to the donkeys. The donkeys have also starred in some TV shows – from animal rescue programmes to children’s TV.

I wanted to support one of the donkeys and decided to adopt Loppy, a 32-year-old mare who has what are believed to be the longest ears (around 45 cm) of any female donkey in the country. She came down from Scotland in 1996 and was bought at a livestock market and offered to the donkey sanctuary where she would have a good home. Loppy is an Andalusian donkey, which is in danger of becoming extinct. Loppy is one of the larger donkeys at 14.2 hands, but she is very gentle and friendly. You can read more about Loppy here.

You could sponsor a donkey at reception, but I chose to just do it myself online because I wanted to take my time and read through the individual stories.

I could complete the adoption process using my screenreader. The only slightly tricky thing was the payment types, because they were neither radio buttons nor check boxes, so a blind user can’t be sure which payment method had been selected because there was no feedback apart from the fact that it was highlighted visually. But I chose the one I wanted and hoped for the best – and it worked!

I would recommend this as a place to visit for anyone who loves animals or who wants to learn a bit more about donkeys.

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Broadlands country show a day out for all the family

Recently I’ve taken to signing up for tourist information so I know what’s going on. I can’t see flyers or adverts for upcoming events, so the alerts and newsletters work well for me because they come directly by email and I can look through to see if there’s anything we would enjoy.

That’s how I found out about the Broadlands Country show that was held in the grounds of Broadlands country house near Romsey over the bank holiday weekend.

It’s a day out for all the family. We saw lots of families with children, and plenty of visitors brought their dogs along too. Parking was free, and there were various events and displays throughout the weekend.

We decided to go on the Monday. After buying our programme and getting inside, one of the first animals I met was a very friendly Labrador. He was competing in the gun dog trials and very eager to meet some new people!

I enjoyed walking through the big tent with all the animals. I believe there were some competitions going on, and some of the animals were getting ready for those. I heard lots of chickens, ducks, and some very noisy cockerels, who sounded as though they were all competing with one another to see who could be the loudest.

S described the chickens, ducks, and fluffy bunnies as we walked past, and some of the animals could be stroked. This is how I met my first ferret – I knew roughly what shape they are, but didn’t know how big they were or what they felt like. I think the one we met was a bit shy, but he was happy enough to get a gentle stroke.

I also met some cute guinea pigs!

At lunchtime we got a table near where the falconry displays were going on. We had already walked round the falconry section and spotted a harris hawk and a very sleepy owl, but from the table I was in a good position to hear the handlers talking about the birds and how they trained them.

There were various options available for lunch from burgers and hog roast to a noodle bar.

We didn’t end up trying any of the activities, but there was a climbing wall for children, as well as things like crossbow shooting! I wonder how good I would be at that?!

As well as the displays and activities, there were a lot of stalls where you could buy locally-produced goods such as food and craft items. A bit like the kind of stalls that you see at a Christmas market. We were tempted in by the fudge stall (mmm chocolate orange, banana, and coffee fudge!), and I also stopped by the woodcraft stall to get a new fruit bowl and an owl door stop! Just because I needed a couple more owls for my collection. My grandad was really good at making things out of wood, and I guess that’s why I like them.

I also found a little donkey brooch, and S got me some owl earrings. It was meant to be a surprise, but the lady on the stall started talking about them, so I guessed there was something owl-related that was being bought in secret.

Some of the stalls were more for people interested in falconry or dog training so that they could pick up new equipment or supplies, but there was plenty to see if you were just a regular visitor.

On our way back, we stopped by at the gun dog trials to get some pictures and see what they were up to and how they worked with their handlers.

The good weather definitely helped, but it was a fun day out and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s thinking of going next year.

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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.

Blogmas 2018 – looking after your dog at Christmas

To finish off the week in which we’ve been looking at dogs, I decided to put together some tips for how you can take extra care of your dog in the colder weather, when there’s snow on the ground, and when there are more tasty treats around, not all of which are good for dogs.

Out and about

Many dogs love playing in the snow, but the salt put down on pavements can hurt their paws, especially if there are any small cuts on the pads. So be careful where you’re walking.

Your dog might recognise its favourite place for swimming, but if a lake or river is frozen over, it’s best to avoid because you don’t want there to be an accident involving your dog falling through the ice.

Some breeds’ coats are ideal for the cold weather, but if you have a young dog, an older inactive dog, or a dog with a fine coat, consider getting them a coat for wintry walks to keep them warm and dry. Cindy had one towards the end because of her arthritis and she never minded wearing it.

Snowy conditions may make your dog less visible, so you can do some work in advance to make sure they do come back when you call them. This is important anyway, but even more so when it’s harder to see them in snowy conditions. You might also consider a bell for their collar.

It’s important for dogs to get exercise, but only when it’s safe for you both to do so. A missed walk because of howling winds and a snowstorm is better than either you or your dog getting injured in dangerous weather conditions when people have been advised to stay indoors.

Try to stick to roads with pavements, but if you can’t, walk with the traffic coming towards you and the dog on the side furthest from the traffic. If you know that you’ll be out and about on roads with no pavements, consider wearing something reflective – this can also apply to your dog because you can buy reflective jackets or collars.

Frozen, hard ground is harder on a dog’s joints, so try to take things more gently when you first go outside – partly because it will take longer to warm up, and partly because landing on harder ground will impact more on a dog’s joints.

Antifreeze is used a lot more in the winter months, but it is toxic to dogs. Unfortunately it smells and tastes sweet, which makes it appealing to drink or lap up from the ground.

When you’re at home

As well as making sure there is no salt on your dog’s paws when they get back inside, it’s also good to check that there is no compact snow in there either. This can freeze and become very painful. I used to trim the long hair under Cindy the retriever’s pads so that it didn’t become uncomfortable after walking on the snow.

If you’ve been out in the rain or snow, make sure your dog has somewhere warm and dry to lie and get warm again. Towel-dry your dog to get the most of the water out of their coat. Cindy used to let me use the hairdryer on her, but not all dogs will like this!

If your dog isn’t as active in the winter, you might need to alter their diet accordingly.

If you let your dog outside, some dogs may bark or scratch to come in, but others won’t – so don’t forget about them or leave them out there for a long time or they could get too cold or develop hypothermia.

Around Christmas time

We have lots of treats around at Christmas time, but some of these are dangerous for dogs.

Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is poisonous to dogs. If you really want to give your dog chocolate, you buy doggy treats instead.

Currants, raisins and sultanas are also bad for dogs, including foods that contain these ingredients such as mince pies and Christmas cake.

Apparently blue cheese is bad for dogs too – I didn’t know that.

Holly and mistletoe can also cause an upset stomach. Eating pine branches or chomping on the Christmas tree may cause stomach upset, but the real problem is that the sharp pine needles can damage a dog internally if they scratch its insides.

Whilst onions and garlic may initially cause an upset stomach, the main problem is that they can damage the red blood cells, which can lead to anaemia.

Don’t leave unattended alcohol where dogs can lap it up! Smaller dogs will have less tolerance to alcohol, and if drunk in excess, it can lead to low body temperature or even a coma.

So, there’s a list of things not to do, but a few minutes to make sure your dog doesn’t get the forbidden products is much better than the trauma of having an ill dog, especially over the Christmas season when it’s harder to get vet appointments.

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.

Body Shop – a full size bouncy sleeping mask from the Drops of Youth range. I’ve never tried this before, but it’s been on my list of things I want to splash out on. RRP is £25 and you get 90ml. Apparently, the soft, gel-like texture moulds itself like a second skin and its enriched with Edelweiss stem cells from Italy and sea holly from France. Very festive! I haven’t used it yet, but I’m looking forward to trying it. You put it on as the last step in your evening skincare routine and leave it overnight.

Glossybox – I personally can’t think of anything more annoying to work with than a loose powder eye shadow, but that’s just my personal preference and I’m not saying it’s a bad product. Still, I’ll be finding a home for this Pop Beauty eye shadow pigment!

Unseen Beauty Blogmas Giveaway

Today you have another chance to enter my Unseen Beauty Blogmas giveaway. There will be a box with 10 prizes from the Glossybox and Body Shop advent calendars, and the prizes will be revealed throughout December. You can enter once on each Blogmas 2018 page, which means you have up to 24 chances of winning. You can enter at any time from when the page goes live to the end of December 2018.

Multiple entries on the same page will not be counted – I have a spreadsheet to log them!

Your answers to the questions will help me to get to know my readers and where they are based. Also, they prove that you’re a real person as I don’t use inaccessible widgets on my site.

The giveaway is international, but if postal restrictions prevent me from sending a product to your country, I will replace it with an alternative.

The form only goes to me.

What’s 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 brushli>
  6. MUA Cosmic Vixen palette with 15 eye shadows.
  7. Karmameju konjac sponge

Products 8-10 coming soon!

Giveaway entry form

     
 

Terms and conditions

  1. The give-away is open until 23:59 on 31st December 2018, and I’ll draw the winner on 2nd January 2019.
  2. I will give each entry a number and then draw the winner by asking Siri to generate a random number. I want to make it as easy and accessible as possible for people to enter.
  3. Your email address is being collected solely for the purpose of contacting you if you win the prize. You are welcome to sign up to my newsletter at the same time, but this isn’t necessary to take part in the give-away. If you do not win the prize, your email address will only be stored if you have signed up to the newsletter or asked for your entry to be carried over to the next give-away.
  4. I will email the winner on 2nd January to ask for their address so that I can send the prize. The winner will have 7 days in which to respond. If they haven’t responded after 7 days, I will draw a new winner.
  5. No cash alternatives are available and the winner is responsible for checking product ingredients for any known allergens)

This post may contain affiliate links.

Blogmas 2018 – visit to the Dogs Trust rehoming centre

When I was planning my Blogmas content, I knew I wanted to talk about some charities, and that there would be some kind of Dogs Trust post. On Saturday we had my interview with Aimee, a volunteer who works at the Newbury Centre and told us about her experiences working with the dogs on Christmas Day. When I was organising the interview, Emily from Dogs Trust also invited me to one of the centres so that I could look around, find out more about the work that goes on there, and hopefully meet some dogs!
S and I drove to Newbury last Saturday, where we met Kaylee, who took us on a tour of the facility and answered my questions.
The first stop was the rehoming area, where you can see some of the dogs who are looking for new homes. S was particularly amused by Lulu the lurcher, who was meticulously rearranging her bowls to get every last morsel of food that had dropped underneath!
Nothing happens from the front of the kennels, so the dogs don’t expect treats or interactions from there. It’s a chance for people to see the dogs, but the dogs have their own space too, because they’re behind the glass. They have differently coloured tiles in there, so they can choose whether they want to lie on something warm or cool, and the staff find out what kind of bed they like to lie on.
When a dog first comes to the centre, the staff spend some time getting to know the dog to find out about its personality, what it likes, what it needs in terms of training, and what kind of home they think will be most suitable. Then the dog’s details are released, and people can come to find out a bit more.
Some people know exactly what kind of dog they want, but it’s good to have an open mind because there may be a better match for you that’s a breed that you hadn’t even considered before.
As well as thinking about what kind of dog you would like, if you’re looking to give a dog a home, it’s also good to think about what you can offer. For example, do you have an active or a quiet home? Do you have other animals? We have a fairly quiet home with no other animals, which would be fine for an older dog who wants to chill, but less suitable for a puppy or a dog who prefers to have doggy pals around.
I would have happily taken one or two home with me, but we’re not looking to get a dog at the moment. Still, part of me is glad that there weren’t any retrievers there at the time of our visit, or I would have really struggled!
At the moment, there are 54 dogs either at the Newbury centre or in foster care. Some of the dogs don’t do as well in the kennel environment, so they go to live in homes with foster carers until a suitable “forever home” can be found.

What’s it like living at the centre?

As well as the kennels, there is some other accommodation for dogs who need things to be a bit quieter. They may still be great additions to a family, but they feel stressed out by all the coming and going in the main kennel block, or the presence of other dogs might be unsettling for them. So they get to live in a house where things are a bit quieter.
There is plenty of space outside for exercise. The dogs are taken for their walks, either individually or with their kennel mate. They can go in the garden, where we also went to meet some of the dogs, or there is a field that has agility and other training equipment that can be used by the trainers – either to teach something specific, or just to keep their brains and bodies active while they’re at the centre.
A vet nurse is based at the centre, and any minor treatments can be carried out at the centre in the vet room. This includes things such as drops for ear problems, or routine flea and worm treatments. All dogs are checked for any health problems when they arrive at the centre, and their health is monitored throughout their stay. If there is anything more serious, the dog is taken to the local vet. There is a special agreement for some dogs with manageable long-term health conditions, which means that the vet bills are covered by Dogs’ Trust in some cases where the cost of continuing the treatment might make it more difficult for the dog to find a home.
We also visited the grooming room, which was equipped with a height-adjustable grooming bench and a shower. I would love to spend time in there grooming some dogs! The dogs look so much better once all the tangles are gone and the loose hair is combed out. It can also be therapeutic for the dog, and a good way to get them used to being handled.

Meeting some furry friends

A trip to the dog centre wouldn’t be complete without me having some canine contact and we finished the visit by going out into the garden, where several dogs were brought out to meet us.
First came Digger the collie terrier cross and his spaniel friend. Digger was originally a dogs Trust dog, but he now lives with one of the staff and occasionally comes to work with her. Digger got his name because of his love for digging, although he is apparently good at jumping over walls too!
Then came Jimmy – whose full name is Jimmy Jim Jams. He’s an ex-racing greyhound. Once greyhounds can no longer make money in racing, their owners often have no use for them and they end up at rescue centres. Jimmy was a friendly boy and he has since been rehomed.

Who’s looking for a home?

Here are some of the other dogs who are looking for homes in the Newbury centre:
Mickey the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is five years old and loves people once he has had the chance to get to know them. He too would like a quiet, preferably adult-only home, with owners who will continue with his training and give him some reassurance as he settles in and gets to know his new surroundings.
Rakki the Saluki is a slightly younger dog at 15 months old. He loves playtime and has a cheeky personality. He’s still quite young, so he has more to learn and is looking for a home with owners who are willing to continue his training and socialising.
Mojo the crossbreed (rehomed) is for me the most tempting of them all. She is 10 years old and enjoys gentle games of fetch or pottering outside, but her favourite thing is cuddles. Often the older dogs get overlooked because people want to have a puppy or young dog, but the older dogs have a lot of love to give, and they’re just waiting for someone to give them a chance. They also often don’t need as much in the way of exercise or training as some of the younger, more boisterous dogs.
This isn’t an exhaustive list though. Clicking on any of these pages will take you to the Dogs Trust site. If you click on the rehoming link, there is a form with filters that you can use to bring up a list of dogs and filter them by location, breed, age etc. Unless you’re willing to travel, it is good to look for dogs locally so that you can go and visit them. Some dogs will require multiple visits first so that you can get to know them. Also, some are living in foster homes, so if you want to meet a specific dog, it’s good to get in touch with the centre first so that the dog can be brought in if they are living off-site. Some links have been removed as the dogs have been rehomed.
Could you give one of these lovely dogs a home? If you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll try and get answers for you.

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.
Body Shop – a mini of the gentle eye make-up remover. I already use this and have a full-size one, but it’s good to have the mini so you don’t need to take a massive one on short trips away.
Glossybox – a Karmameju konjac sponge that will be product 7 in the giveaway.

Unseen Beauty Blogmas Giveaway

Today you have another chance to enter my Unseen Beauty Blogmas giveaway. There will be a box with 10 prizes from the Glossybox and Body Shop advent calendars, and the prizes will be revealed throughout December. You can enter once on each Blogmas 2018 page, which means you have up to 24 chances of winning. You can enter at any time from when the page goes live to the end of December 2018.
Multiple entries on the same page will not be counted – I have a spreadsheet to log them!
Your answers to the questions will help me to get to know my readers and where they are based. Also, they prove that you’re a real person as I don’t use inaccessible widgets on my site.
The giveaway is international, but if postal restrictions prevent me from sending a product to your country, I will replace it with an alternative.
The form only goes to me.

What’s 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
Products 8-10 coming soon!

Giveaway entry form

Terms and conditions

1. The give-away is open until 23:59 on 31st December 2018, and I’ll draw the winner on 2nd January 2019.
2. I will give each entry a number and then draw the winner by asking Siri to generate a random number. I want to make it as easy and accessible as possible for people to enter.
3. Your email address is being collected solely for the purpose of contacting you if you win the prize. You are welcome to sign up to my newsletter at the same time, but this isn’t necessary to take part in the give-away. If you do not win the prize, your email address will only be stored if you have signed up to the newsletter or asked for your entry to be carried over to the next give-away.
4. I will email the winner on 2nd January to ask for their address so that I can send the prize. The winner will have 7 days in which to respond. If they haven’t responded after 7 days, I will draw a new winner.
5. No cash alternatives are available and the winner is responsible for checking product ingredients for any known allergens)

This post may contain affiliate links.

Blogmas 2018 – looking after Dogs Trust dogs on Christmas Day

Today’s post is the next in my series of posts about charities, and today we’ve got an interview from a Dogs Trust volunteer who tells us what it’s like working at the rehoming centre with the dogs on Christmas Day. The header image is of Amy and sponsor dog Mike.
Thanks to Amy for answering my questions, and to Em from the Dogs Trust for arranging the interview.

1. What’s a typical Christmas Day like at one of your centres?

Christmas Day at the rehoming centre is very much a typical day so the normal cleaning, feeding, exercising and training. It’s a normal day at work for us but we try to add extra bits to make some good festive fun for everyone at the centre, two and four legged!
We like to be as festive as we can be, so we wear Santa hats and Christmas jumpers to get in the spirit! In the morning it is business as usual, so we ensure all the kennels have been cleaned and the dogs have had their morning walks.
On Christmas morning we try and squeeze in lots of group walks so everyone can join in! Of course, we have some dogs who would prefer the quieter way of life, so for them it’s time for some focused one-to-one training. We make sure that all dogs have a little extra fuss as it’s Christmas! It’s also lovely for us to get a bit of additional time with the dogs as we’re not open to the public.
Next is Christmas lunch for all the staff which is always a team effort, prepared by everyone in the rehoming centre that day. And, it’s always delicious!
Our dogs get a special Christmas dinner too. A very generous local turkey farmer kindly donates turkey leg meat which we cook for the dogs. Our dogs are constantly monitored by our veterinary team, so everything is given in moderation, and we always make sure to get a bit of veg in there too!

2. Do the animals get presents or any special treats?

Our supporters are fantastic all year round with donations, but they are always extra generous at Christmas with treats and toys, which really helps the dogs feel extra special on the big day! Extra supplies come in handy after their lunch, so when we’re tucking into our dinner the dogs can savour a long-lasting chew!
Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross Mike, our Sponsor Dog gets very spoilt at Christmas with lots of gifts from his wonderful sponsors. He loves to open them all and is very generous, sharing them with his doggie friends at the rehoming centre. He gets sent all kinds of goodies from toys and treats, to blankets and coats from his generous sponsors all around the country
As we get to Christmas night and all the dogs are tucked up in bed, we go home to celebrate with our families as the next team arrive for more fun on Boxing Day!

3. How do you feel about working when other people are at home with their families?

When I applied for the job as a Canine Carer, it was a given that there would be times we would have to work during holidays. I don’t mind though, the dogs in our care and the team at the centre are all part of the Dogs Trust family, and that’s what Christmas is all about
It always surprises me how many people ask if we have Christmas off, but the dogs need our love and care every day. We are their home until they find their special someone, and it’s a joy to be able to be one of the people who provide them with everything they need until that happens.
I love dogs and my job, and spending time with them isn’t a chore! Working Christmas Day means we tend to get a second Christmas with our families. It’s a win/win situation when you get two Christmas days, right?

4. Do you have any stories about dogs at the centre that you have become fond of?

Where do I start? there are so many!
First there is Mike, the Sponsor Dog. This will be our fourth Christmas together and I love watching him open his presents – he is so funny to watch! He devours his Christmas dinner and always has room for more! Then he goes out for a walk with some of his walking buddies and we have a snuggle before he finishes the day with a long snooze. He is just a joy to be around at any time of the year, but he does get extra excited on Christmas day by all the treats.
Then there is Mr Branston Pickles, a gorgeous Crossbreed who will be spending this Christmas in his new home after being with us for two years. He is going to love being snuggled up by the fireplace, opening his presents in his new home. It’s what we work towards and makes the hard work worth it.
Over the Christmas period we often see an increase of dogs being handed over, or even abandoned. Last year, Dogs Trust had nearly 5,000 calls from people wanting to hand over their dogs in the month after Christmas – and sadly we think this will happen again.
Back on Christmas Eve in 2015, two strays found themselves with us, so we called them Twinkle and Santa. Twinkle was a nervous, small Lurcher and Santa was a friendly Shih-Tzu who became wonderful friends, and a favourite duo amongst the team!
Then, in 2016 we met Mary, Gabriella, Melchior, Balthazar, Angel and Casper, our Christmas puppies! They were Staffie cross Lurcher pups who were an unwanted accidental litter, so they came into the centre to be looked after until we could find them new homes. They brought us so much Christmas cheer, lots of mess and lots of cuddles!
And finally, there is Staffordshire Bull Terrier Peggy-Sue, my little Christmas cherub. She was a stray who arrived at the centre in June 2016. She quickly found herself a new home but sadly it wasn’t to be, so I started fostering her from late October that year. She spent her first Christmas with me, my partner, nan and grandad. We fell in love and adopted Peggy in October 2017, so she spent her second Christmas with us last year. I was working so she spent the day with my partner watching Christmas films and waiting for me to come home so we could open all our presents and eat our Christmas dinner together. This will be her third Christmas with us and we can’t wait!

5. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of buying a puppy as a Christmas present?

We would always ask anyone considering bringing a four-legged friend into their life to rehome a rescue dog. We have thousands of dogs of all shapes and sizes in our rehoming centres waiting to meet their special someone. We would never recommend buying a puppy from any online source, but instead to do your research thoroughly so you can be confident that the puppy you have your eye on has been bred responsibly.
We have a wealth of advice on our website to help people be confident that they are buying a puppy from a good breeder, instead of a seller who makes a living pedalling sick puppies who may have been illegally imported into this country.
We want people to realise that if an advert seems too good to be true, it probably is. And, when you visit a puppy you should expect the breeder to be as curious about you and the home you can provide, as you are about the puppy. If anyone ever feels rushed into making a purchase, they should walk away. It’s hard to do but it’s the right thing to do. If something doesn’t quite feel right, or anything about the situation feels dodgy – report them to Trading Standards.

6. How can members of the public help Dogs Trust at this time of year?

There are so many ways that people can get involved at Christmas. We are always super grateful for any donations, and each centre has lots of different volunteering opportunities, so it’s always best to check our website to see what is happening at your local rehoming centre! Dogs Trust also runs a big fostering scheme for dogs who struggle with kennel life, so if this is something that might be for you, we can give you lots of information!

Final thoughts

I really enjoyed getting a look behind the scenes at what it’s like at the centre and I hope you did too. Later this month I’ll be bringing you another post about when S and I visited one of the centres, but for now, if you want to know any more, the Dogs Trust website is a great place to start. There is a lot of information on there, whether you’re interesting in rehoming opportunities, volunteering, or making a donation. If you have any questions, you can also leave them in the comments and I’ll make sure they are passed on.

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.
Body Shop – one of my firm favourites – anyone who’s been reading the blog for a while will know that I love mango products, and this mango hand cream is one of my favourites. So I’m really happy to have that in the calendar.
Glossybox – something else that is going in the giveaway box! It’s the Real Techniques expert face brush for foundation.

Unseen Beauty Blogmas Giveaway

Today you have another chance to enter my Unseen Beauty Blogmas giveaway. There will be a box with 10 prizes from the Glossybox and Body Shop advent calendars, and the prizes will be revealed throughout December. You can enter once on each Blogmas 2018 page, which means you have up to 24 chances of winning. You can enter at any time from when the page goes live to the end of December 2018.
Multiple entries on the same page will not be counted – I have a spreadsheet to log them!
Your answers to the questions will help me to get to know my readers and where they are based. Also, they prove that you’re a real person as I don’t use inaccessible widgets on my site.
The giveaway is international, but if postal restrictions prevent me from sending a product to your country, I will replace it with an alternative.
The form only goes to me.

What’s 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
Products 6-10 coming soon!

Giveaway entry form

Terms and conditions

1. The give-away is open until 23:59 on 31st December 2018, and I’ll draw the winner on 2nd January 2019.
2. I will give each entry a number and then draw the winner by asking Siri to generate a random number. I want to make it as easy and accessible as possible for people to enter.
3. Your email address is being collected solely for the purpose of contacting you if you win the prize. You are welcome to sign up to my newsletter at the same time, but this isn’t necessary to take part in the give-away. If you do not win the prize, your email address will only be stored if you have signed up to the newsletter or asked for your entry to be carried over to the next give-away.
4. I will email the winner on 2nd January to ask for their address so that I can send the prize. The winner will have 7 days in which to respond. If they haven’t responded after 7 days, I will draw a new winner.
5. No cash alternatives are available and the winner is responsible for checking product ingredients for any known allergens)

This post may contain affiliate links.

My riding story – horse riding with a visual impairment

I wrote this post because of a request that I received in the comments. I was asked to talk a bit more about my experiences with horses and horse-riding as someone with a visual impairment, so here’s my horsy story.

How it all started

I knew that my teaching assistant, who helped in maths and science lessons, and prepared Braille materials for me, had horses. She used to tell me about them, and I was really excited when she invited me to the farm where they were kept to have my first ride.

The first ride on Silke was a stroll down by the canal and back again, but after that, I was hooked. It seemed like a whole other world and there was so much to learn! I set about learning as much as I could, with an intensity that must have driven my poor grandparents crazy. When I couldn’t be with horses, then I was reading about them, thinking about them, and telling anyone who would listen what I had recently discovered!

After that, I visited Silke several times, and also rode one of the other horses there, Rhumba, who was bigger and thought that cantering through the fields by the canal was a lot of fun. So did I! When Silke had her first foal, I was allowed to meet him after a couple of days. All fluffy and still discovering what his spindly legs were for.

I enjoyed our visits, but they lived quite far away, so we needed to find something closer if this was going to become a hobby.

Making horse-riding accessible

We were lucky that the riding stables close to us was so welcoming and helpful. I think I took this for granted at the time, but having been to other stables now, I know I lucked out!

Sometimes I had lessons as part of a group, and sometimes I had private lessons. One of the most important things was that the trainer didn’t just let things go – if my hands or legs weren’t in the right position, she would physically show me what I should be doing. If I was sitting like a sack of potatoes, I was called out on it. I got the additional help that I needed because of my visual impairment, but I was expected to work as hard as everyone else.

One of my favourite things was jumping. It helped that the horse I usually rode loved to jump, but this was good experience for when I rode other horses who weren’t so keen on it. The instructor described the jump, told me if I needed to do anything to correct my approach to it, then gave me a few seconds warning before it was time to jump! I loved it!

We made a tactile arena on a big piece of cardboard and stuck Braille letters on so that I could learn their positions. (Braille is a tactile system which blind people use to read). Once I’d memorised where the letters were, I could understand instructions about where I needed to go. We had a couple of people around the arena who called out the letters as I approached them, so I knew when to turn. If there weren’t enough people, the trainer got a lot of exercise, getting to the letters before I did so that she would be in place to call them out! I understand now that people use more high-tech solutions such as Bluetooth headsets with someone giving visual information.

My assistant teacher also found a 2d wooden horse, and we mounted it on another piece of card, then labelled all the parts of the body with pieces of string that connected the Braille label to the corresponding part of the horse.

My grandparents never shared my love of horses, but Granddad took me to and from the stables every Saturday, and Nan read aloud my pony magazines, often slowly so that I could copy out information that I wanted for my Braille horse folder.

I know that at least one of the people whom I used to ride with has gone on to become an international dressage rider. I stopped riding when I was at High School – other interests got in the way. With hindsight I should have stayed with the horses, but you’re always smarter when you’re looking back.

Competing

As well as the weekly lessons, the riding school held its own yearly competitions in which you could enter for events such as dressage and jumping. We spent time grooming, plaiting manes, getting saddles ready and waiting for the big day. I was with the other sighted girls, so I didn’t feel different. Most of us didn’t have our own horses, so we were split up into pairs.

Everyone wanted to ride Bridget, the horse that I usually rode. She was so popular, partly because she seemed to enjoy what we did – especially jumping. But partly because she was a really kind horse with a lovely nature. She would put her head on your shoulder after you’d finished grooming her, and sometimes it felt as though the horses made more sense to me than the other people my age!

Anyway, I wasn’t one of the people in team Bridget, but I was assigned Sam, whom I hadn’t ridden before. He didn’t enjoy tearing around as much as I did, and I’m not sure he ever saw the point of hurtling over jumps when you could do the smart thing and walk round them, but you knew that he wouldn’t get flustered in an arena with so many people around, and he was one of the most reliable horses there. He got the job done – and in doing so we won one 1st, two third, and 2 clear round rosettes! I was proud of him and our picture was on my grandparents’ wall for ages!

I don’t remember it being horribly competitive. Yes, everyone wanted to win, but for me it was more about improving my own skills and becoming a better rider.

Trip to Berlin

The photo at the top of this post was taken when I went to visit my friend Sarah in Berlin. We were doing a kind of language exchange and had each planned fun activities for the other when she came to visit.

One of the things that we did in Germany was a ride through the countryside around Berlin. We met the horses, Maja and Marietta, and were escorted out by their owner for an evening ride. The things I remember most about that day were riding through a field of sunflowers – my favourite flower – and the fact that Maja liked to be in the lead! Ok, I also quite enjoyed being in the lead. The others described the path that we were going to take, where the turns were, and whether there were any low-hanging branches to avoid.

I was really glad I got to do this because so many stables are overcautious when it comes to working with disabled riders and it was great to go and explore on horseback without any unnecessary concerns – or the dreaded lead rein. Oh yes, and galloping was cool too!

Since then

I tried a couple of other riding schools as an adult, but never found one that I wanted to go to regularly. It’s true that you don’t realise what you have – until you don’t have it any more. I went on a couple of nice rides with a friend who lived locally, but I never started riding again every week.

As a young teenager I may have tired of my instructor complaining about my seat or leg positions, but she held me to a high standard, as she did with everyone else. I get the feeling that some other schools are so used to people who get a lot out of just being carried around on a horse, and that’s a great thing for some people, but setting the bar really low for all disabled riders is a sure way to demotivate people, especially those who are eager to learn and improve. If you’ve ridden before, the last thing you want is a lead rein, and the only way you can add more insult to injury is to give the lead rein to a 10-year-old child – yes, that did happen once. It didn’t make me want to go back!

Putting disabled riders in the same group can work if they are at a similar level, but not if what they want from the lesson or what they are able to achieve independently is vastly different.

Where I live now, I haven’t really looked around to see what’s available. I have different hobbies now. But I always look back fondly to the time when every Saturday morning was spent at the stables, grooming horses, cleaning saddles, carrying around buckets of food and water, playing games that involved teaching the stable dogs new tricks, and waiting for my lesson to come around.

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10 things that I’ve enjoyed this month – days out and new products

July has been a hot month here in the UK. In some ways I enjoyed the heat, but by about Thursday this week, I’d had enough of it and was glad to see the rain. The houses here in the UK are generally built for insulation, not for keeping cool. We’ve had some good days out in the sunshine, but the garden is glad of the rain, and so am I because it makes everything cooler. Here are some of the other things that I have been enjoying this month.

1. Chilli and cheese festival

This was actually June, but the end of June, so the June favourites post had already gone out! It happens every year and you can go to an event and buy lots of spicy things such as chilli sauces, marinades and cheese with chilli. We also picked up some different types of cheese, along with some spicy sausages. The bag was actually quite heavy by the time we got it back to the car, but most of the things in the header photo have already gone – certainly all the cheese and sausages. It will take us longer to get through the marinades and sauces, but we use a lot of this kind of stuff in our cooking at home, so the chilli and cheese festival is a good way to stock up, and it also supports not necessarily local, but smaller independent companies.

2. Pretty Animalz masks

Ok so this is also about the packaging, which is a bit lost on a blind user, but it’s kind of cool to have a fox or a penguin mask!

The fox is a brightening mask that contains coffee extract, liquorice and vitamin C. It’s intended to reduce the appearance of dark spots and pigmentation. When I got these, they were on 3 for 2 at Feelunique. They aren’t any more, but there are often sales on there with as much as 60% off at times, so it’s worth a look. Scroll down to the bottom to see how you can get £10 off your first order.

The penguin mask is a nourishing and purifying mask with lily flower, grapefruit and paper mulberry.

I know it’s just a sales technique with the animals, but I’ve had Masquebar masks before and was pleased with their quality, so I didn’t feel I was just buying into the packaging cuteness.

3. My first Lime Crime product

Because who doesn’t love cherries? I read a review of the Lime Crime wet cherry gloss on another blog, not sure where now, and I had some credit to use up on Feelunique! So I got myself one. I am not so much of a lip gloss wearer, but I thought it would be nice for the summer, and it promised not to be heavy and sticky, which is something you don’t want when you have long hair on a windy day! It comes in a range of shades, so you can choose whether you want
“Juicy Sheer with a translucent burst of colour in nudes, reds, berries and peaches.”
or
“Sparkly Sheer packed with iridescent pearls that light up lips.”

4. Hair protection spray

This was one of my Latest in Beauty choices. I do have a sun protection spray, but I thought it would be nice to try a different brand – and I love this one from Tigi Bedhead. It was a full-size product on Latest in Beauty too, which meant a saving, and this stuff smells amazing! Mango! I think we all know about the importance of sun protection for our skin, but sometimes forget the need to protect our hair. This does say it’s specifically for coloured hair, which I don’t have, but I don’t see why this would do any harm. My other one is potentially better, because it specifically mentions protecting against sun rays, rather than just heat, but it’s good to have alternatives. Also the other one appears to be out of stock now!

5. Ocado app

I raved about Ocado before in my online shopping post, but at the time of writing, I hadn’t tried out the app. I wish I had! The app is even easier to use than the site itself! You just have to locate the product that you want, and swiping upwards changes the quantity in your basket. I still tend to check out on the laptop, because it’s less hassle to book a slot or add any voucher codes that I want to use, but certainly for dealing with things that I want to buy, topping up things that have run out, and adding new things to the order while I’m out and about, the app is a great way to make this task easier.

6. Meeting online friends

I spend a lot of my time online, working with people in other parts of Europe. Occasionally I get to meet some, which is what happened 2 weeks ago, when S and I drove to a park in Kent to meet with someone whom I’ve known online for the last few years. I met Alf in an online forum on a German website similar to LinkedIn, and when he said that he was coming on holiday to the UK with his wife and little daughter, we all decided to meet up for a picnic. The internet makes so many new connections possible, and it’s great to meet online friends in real life.

7. Coffee bags

Just like teabags, but for coffee. I’m not sure why nobody thought of this sooner. I’ve got a couple of brands to try and although it would be expensive to do this all the time, it’s a great idea for travelling – you know, in the hotel rooms where you get a kettle but rarely find decent coffee? It’s also good because you don’t have to clear up the coffee grounds – they stay in their bag, so you can just throw away the bag, like a teabag. The ones I tried were nice, if a little weak, so I’ll need to leave them in for a bit longer. I’ve also picked up another brand, because I think they will be more intense. I’ll let you know. These were from Ocado, so I imagine you’ll be able to find them in other supermarkets too.

8. New beginning – back to studying

I was a bit hesitant to write about this, because I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen, but now that I’ve paid for the first module, it feels real! From October I’ll be starting a part-time Open University IT degree. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, because I always tell my students that we should never stop learning.

My biggest concern was accessibility – whether the materials could be provided in a way that is accessible to a blind student, particularly where they rely on diagrams and graphical information. I’d had some problems with distance learning in the past, but that was a long time ago, so I wanted to explore my options again.

I may do some more university posts once I’ve started the course, but after several discussions about how we can make things work, I’m feeling more positive about giving it a go, so wanted to include this in the good things that happened in July.

I am looking forward to officially developing my skills in areas that I’ve just been researching and learning myself.

9. Going to the zoo

It was S’s birthday this month and we decided to go on a day out to Marwell zoo with another friend. A lot of the animals were hiding because of the heat, but we did see the giraffes, the tiger, the bongos, the penguins, zebras, capybaras, cheetahs, owls, flamingos, and more! There were also some wooden and metal animals around, which I enjoyed “meeting” so I could get an idea of what they looked like – such as the big hippo and the wooden shark. The most vocal of all the creatures were the penguins, and I had no idea that they could make so much noise. S managed to get a video of them, which was a real highlight for me!

10. Moisturiser

My first product from Origins – this GinZing moisturiser contains GinZing and coffee extract to jumpstart hydration levels and leave you with a radiant and glowing complexion. I like this non-greasy moisturiser that I didn’t know about before, and again this is another reason I like the beauty boxes, because you get to discover new brands. This was from my M&S Summer box, which has now sold out.

What have you enjoyed this month?

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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. So basically you can get £30 of products for £20. This is an affiliate link, so I also get a reward – in this case it’s £10 worth of products, which I will use to buy new things to test out on Unseen Beauty. However I only promote things that I enjoy, and I was very happy with the service I received from Feel Unique.

July favourites – haircare, cream shadows and chocolate animals

The make-up, skincare and haircare products that I’ve been enjoying this month!

It’s time for my July favourites! These are the things that I have been enjoying this month. Do let me know if you’ve tried any of them, and what you thought of them. Also, if you’ve done a July favourites post or Youtube video, feel free to post the link in the comments.

Skincare

The first thing I want to talk about is something we got in the April Lovelula box – the hydra plump and firm cream from FOM London. I’d never tried anything from this brand before, but I like this rich cream for hydrating thirsty skin. When checking the site for the link, I was surprised how expensive the full size is – I hadn’t realised this was a high-end one, but to be fair a little goes a long way. The cream contains an anti-aging silk complex that promotes collagen production and moisture retention. This is combined with antioxidants (rhidiola and ginseng) and shea butter for thirsty skin. This cream is rich, but not greasy, and it does have a fairly strong scent. I like it, but if you prefer scentless ones, this is probably not for you! To be honest I can’t justify spending £50 on a face cream, but I was glad that I got to try this sample size!

I mentioned the almond hand and nail butter. in my December haul, but I only really started using it this month. It’s a tub, so not handbag size, and a little of this silky smooth butter will make your hands and nails soft for several hours. I like the almond smell too!

This was just a little tester because I wanted to try the Korres basil lemon range. I knew that I liked their body milks, so I got the one in the basil lemon scent and I was not disappointed. A good choice for citrus lovers like me!

Make-up

I got two new items of make-up this month. Firstly I got the Body shop eye crayon in gold. I can’t find these on the main site, but I got it through Heidi’s Facebook group. There are a number of colours and they’ve just brought some more out. Basically these are twist-up crayons, and they’re really creamy, so it doesn’t feel scratchy on your eye lid. I can easily colour in my eyelids with these and know that I have the product exactly where I want it!

The second product is also for the eyes and I found out about it on Wavy Kate’s Youtube channel. I didn’t even know that ELF did cream eye shadows, but they do, and they’re called smudge pots. You get a little plastic pot (not a glass one like some of the cream shadows, but I’m more interested in the product than the packaging!) I got the Cruisin’ Chic smudge pot from Amazon, but it’s unavailable at the moment, so I can’t post a link. Still, they are available in other colours, and I believe ELF is coming to Superdrug, although it seems it isn’t available in all stores yet.

Haircare

This is really just a beginning of July favourite as I only had the chance to use it when I was in the south of France at the beginning of the month. Still, I was glad that I picked up the Philip Kingsley sun shield to protect my hair from the sun. I always take such good care of my skin, never venturing out into the sun without my factor 50, so I was happy to discover on Youtube that there is a product to protect your hair too. It’s enriched with sunflower extract and promises to guard against damage and dryness caused by UV rays, chlorine and salt water. It’s a spray that you just spray onto your hair, particularly the ends, and brush through. Well I’m not sure if you’re supposed to brush through, but I did so that it covered all the way down the hair! It’s hard to measure the effectiveness of a product like this, but I like to think I did what I could to protect my hair from the effects of the sun.

I’ve been on a mission to find a good shampoo and conditioner for a while now and I’ve been impressed with the Yes to cucumbers volumising shampoo. It smells good, lathers up well, leaves my hair clean and shiny, and doesn’t smell of chemicals, which is what bothers me about some of the more high-end haircare products. I would buy this again!

Bath and shower

I really enjoyed doing the research for my skincare for coffee lovers post. I think my favourite of all the products was the Java Lather coffee buzz from Anatomicals. It smells so rich and good, like you’re bathing in coffee! Mmmm!

Perfume

You may have seen this in my Christmas post, but I’ve been enjoying my Innisfree this month because I think it’s such a lovely, summery scent. I guess I’d describe it as fruity and floral, and I was surprised to read that it contains lavender oil, because you really can’t smell it! For anyone who wants to know what’s in it, it also contains lily, apricot, peach, lemon, jasmin, rose and cedarwood. Unfortunately the link I posted in January doesn’t work any more – I guess they stopped selling it there – but you can buy directly from Fragrances of Ireland.

Tasty treats

So Colin the Caterpillar got a couple of comments last month and I decided to show you what else I was given! I don’t have a link for these praline animals because they’re from the Co-op, and I don’t think you can buy online from there, but you get sheep, rabbits, chickens, ducks and eggs made out of plain, milk and white chocolate. Too cute, but as you can see they’ve all gone!

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April favourites – elephants, skincare, and chocolate bunnies!

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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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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