August 2020 – chocolate owls, neck fans, results, and cheese bread!

Good things in August 2020

Well, August isn’t usually holiday month for me. It hasn’t been for as long as I can remember. When you don’t have children, taking holidays outside of the school holidays often feels like a smart move! It’s hot! It’s sometimes a bit much! But generally there’s a holiday vibe and I like the long summer nights where you can eat in the garden and spend more time outdoors.

We are still being careful and shielding, so you won’t see a lot of staycation posts this summer, but there are still good things, and things to be grateful for. I think in some ways I’ve socialised more this year than I have before, even though I’m not saying “yes” to any face-to-face socialising right now.

New course

Since I’ve been working for myself, August is often a quieter time because many of my customers go on holiday. This year was the launch of my pilot programme for a new course though, so it was actually quite busy – getting things ready and starting off the programme. I have a really lovely group and I’m enjoying working with them. It’s good to try something new!

University results

This actually belongs in July, but I didn’t write this kind of post then!

The end of the university year was a bit different because two of my final assessments were cancelled. With so much else going on, it was quite nice to not have to do them, but nobody really knew what would happen in terms of the results. We knew the previous results would probably become more relevant now, but it wasn’t really clear what would happen. I think an opportunity for better communication was missed there.

As it happened, I got my two distinctions, but as I understand it, the calculations were all adjusted down because they also reflected previous students’ performances on the final exams. I wasn’t on the threshold, so I got what I was aiming for, but some people dropped down into the next bracket, through what felt like no fault of their own. If you screw up an assessment, ultimately it’s on you, but if it happens because generally other people don’t do as well in that assessment, it doesn’t feel fair.

Overall I was happy – year 1 took me 2 years because I’m part-time, but I did it! Posts about the final two modules are coming soon – I don’t like to write them until I’ve properly finished.

Next module booked

There were some questions about the accessibility of the module I wanted to study next. That took a bit of time to resolve, but it feels as though we have a better process in place now, and a way to make sure that the transitions to future modules go more smoothly.

I’m looking forward to writing the code for web pages – less so to the reliance on diagrams to communicate ideas about how said web pages should turn out! But at least we have a plan now to make it more accessible!

New products

The Body Shop has come out with some new hair and body mists. Body mists are nothing new, but not all of them are suitable to be used on hair – some ingredients can dry your hair out – but these ones are fine .

There are 5 in the range – apricot and agave, lime and matcha, pomegranate and red berries, pink pepper and lychee, and coconut and yuzu.

I got the apricot one and the lime one. My favourite is the apricot one, but both of them are good!

Not quite so new, but I also enjoyed the new zesty lemon range of products – they were a special edition, but if they come back, I can definitely recommend them if you love zingy citrussy scents. I enjoyed the zesty lemon body yoghurt. It’s made with lumpy lemons, which presumably wouldn’t be up to the normal standard for selling and eating.

Portable neck fan

I turned up to an online meeting during the heatwave and a friend was wearing one of these! It’s a great idea – you take your fan around with you wherever you go! It’s like three sides of a square. The side opposite the open side goes behind your neck, and the two arms sit on your shoulders, facing forwards. You have to be careful with long hair, but I push mine back and I haven’t caught it yet! The arms blow out air onto your face and neck, and there are multiple settings for how intense you want the fan to be. This is the neck fan that I got.

New platform to try

I was involved in an accessibility research project throughout August. I probably can’t say a lot about that at the moment, but one thing it also gave me was the opportunity to try out Microsoft Teams with Jaws and VoiceOver (the two screenreaders that I use on my laptop and my phone).

I was impressed! It’s so much better than what we use at university! I mainly use Zoom and other conferencing tools at work, but it was interesting to try something new. It’s more involved than Zoom, but it also has more features for working collaboratively.

Chocolate owls

These are the owls featured in the image for this post. They were delicious – some were with orange essential oil and others with peppermint. (If you intend to try this, make sure the essential oils you have are suitable for internal use – not all are).

The owl moulds can be bought from Amazon – this is one of my owl mould sets.

They were amazing – both sets were good, but I think my favourites were the orange ones! I’m going to try dark chocolate tnex.

New Turkish friends

I know my biggest weakness in learning a language is speaking. I hate it. I don’t want to do it until I’m really good – but the only way to become really good is to do it!

Especially if you’re living in a country where you’re not being exposed to the additional language every day, you need to be more proactive.

So I went to a language exchange site. You have to be a bit careful, because especially if you are a woman, you can get inundated with messages, some of which are quite annoying. I started chatting with a few people. Some fizzle out straight away, so it’s good to not only rely on one or two right at the beginning. I’ve found two people wit whom I’m meeting regularly online now for English and Turkish practice. It’s hard for me – I would much prefer to write – but they are both really friendly and having a real person to speak with definitely gives you a reason to do it!

Duolingo

I wrote before about improving my Turkish on Duolingo.

I saw that this way of strengthening the connection between language pairs was also really good brain training. A lot of activities for training your memory involve pictures, and therefore don’t work for me. But I love languages, so I decided to use my subscription to this app to work on my active languages, refresh a couple that I used to speak, and also try a couple of new ones.

I want to write a more in-depth post about this and what I’ve discovered. At the moment I have 12 courses, which are combinations of 8 languages!

Baking bread

I haven’t jumped on the sourdough train, but we have been trying out some bread recipes. Yesterday we made cheese and onion bread – something I’ve never had before – but it has cheese in it, so it must be good, right? It was amazing! Random internet recipes can be a risky business, but I can recommend this yummy cheese and onion bread! Not an affiliate link – just something we found and enjoyed.

So, that’s a round-up of my August! Tomorrow is September – I love autumn!

How was August for you?

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Making our own chocolates at Dr Choc’s in Windsor

This is the next in my series about finding things for us to do on Groupon. Things that I didn’t even know existed nearby. Things that S and I can do together to experience something, learn something new, or do something we haven’t done before.
On a Saturday afternoon in late December, we found ourselves back in Windsor, where we visited Doctor Choc’s. We’d been there before to buy slabs of coffee or orange chocolate, but I later discovered that you can do chocolate making workshops there too. So of course we had to go back.

This is not a sponsored post – just something I decided to do with S and that I’d like to share with you.

We were a bit early, so we browsed around the shop for a while until it was time for the workshop to start.

I don’t know what the maximum numbers are, but nobody else had signed up that day, so it was just us and the member of staff running the workshop, which made it a really personal experience and gave us time to ask questions, or for me to get a bit of extra help when I needed it.

The workshops take place in an area behind the counter where there is a large table for dipping and decorating, and where the three chocolate machines full of their molten goodness are.

Rings came off, and I had to squeeze my unruly mane into a hairnet – I haven’t done that since I was about 12 when I used to do dressage competitions!

What we made

Our first task was to make the shells for the filled chocolates. You choose plain, milk, or white chocolate, and hold your mould under the chocolate machine so that you can fill three of the sections in the tray. As I couldn’t see where the chocolate was going to come out, I needed assistance lining mine up, and then to get rid of the excess.

The chocolate making room

When the shells in their mould were taken off to cool, we moved on to bigger, more shallow moulds. The tray had room for three bars. You could go for three of the same type, but both S and I wanted one of each – a plain, a milk, and a white chocolate bar.

Before we filled the trays, we chose from a range of jars which toppings we wanted to use. There were all kinds of things – nuts, seeds, fruit, chocolate decorations. I chose ground coffee beans for my dark one, chocolate buttons and a sugar butterfly for the milk, and guava pieces for the white one.

We then filled the moulds for the three bars and brought them back to the table where the decorations were waiting. They set fairly quickly, so it was important to get the toppings on so that they would set into the chocolate. They were then taken away to cool.

The next step was to pipe chocolate fondant filling into our shells. I’ve done icing with a piping bag before and I won’t get an award for the most beautiful piping, but I got the chocolate filling in the shell and this was easier once I’d worked out how fast it was coming out and how hard you needed to squish it to get the right amount! When this was done, we went back to the chocolate machine to give our chocolates a bottom that sealed the piped filling inside the shell.

Chocolate machines producing white, milk, and dark chocolate

The final part involved a cup of molten chocolate into which we dipped some pre-formed truffles. You put them on a stick, slosh it around so it’s covered, then remove it whilst not losing the truffle off the end of your cocktail stick. It’s all in the angle apparently! The truffles were really big, and we also dipped a couple of pieces of candid fruit. The remaining chocolate wasn’t wasted – it was set with a wooden stirrer in it for use as a hot chocolate spoon.

The café

The Groupon deal we got also included a drink at the café upstairs while we waited for our chocolates to set. I got hot chocolate in a cute little jar and it was very rich and very good. There was also a wide selection of cakes on offer – I didn’t have one because we were going to another event in the evening, and truth be told I’d rather fill up on pure chocolate than cake, but if you want some chocolate cake while you’re waiting, that’s no problem!

I enjoyed this experience – both because we learned a bit more about how the chocolates are made, and because we went away with some delicious chocolates! I think it’s a good activity to do with a friend or as part of a larger group. The staff were friendly and helpful, and you don’t have to have any prior experience or particular creative skills!

From an accessibility point of view, help was available if I wanted it, either from the member of staff or from S, but I was also able to participate actively in the workshop.

So if you like chocolate and can get to Windsor, I’d definitely recommend it. Also check Groupon to see if the deal’s still running!

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Good things in October – book club, breadmaking, and fluffy blankets!

It’s the last day of October and time to think about what happened during the last month. These posts used to be about new products I’d tried, but I wanted the month review to be more inclusive than that – a real snapshot of what was good about the last 30 or so days. And also I think this gives a more rounded view of the person behind the blog!

My post yesterday about being blind and unable to drive got a lot of comments on social media – my disability posts often do – but that’s not all of who I am! I’m just an average woman in her 30s who gets excited about autumn, organising her wedding, finding orange twirls, reading a good book, and planning her next trip to the spa or to see miniature donkeys! I’m happy to share my thoughts on the disability topics, and I think they’re important, but there’s much more to me than that!

Flu jab

Ok, not usually something to get excited about, but that’s what my first weekend in October was all about! I qualify for a free one now because of my health issues in August, but even if you don’t, they’re only around £15. Some of my friends have been really ill with the flu already this winter, and if I can do something to avoid that I will. Partly because being self-employed = no sickness pay, but also some people haven’t been right for two or three weeks. So I’m glad I could get mine!

Anyway it was an excuse to snuggle on the sofa and get the fluffy blankets out. Did I mention I love autumn? Walking through the woods, feeling the fresh autumn breeze, then snuggling up with a hot drink in the warm.

Making bread

I dusted off my old school recipe folder and we made tarragon bread! I don’t often make my own bread, but it always tastes better fresh, and I like the way that the tarragon gives it a different flavour. I’ve lost touch with the friend who gave me the recipe in year 11 at school, but she was good to me at a time when things were really tough, and chomping into it reminds me you never know who you’ll meet, or that help can come from unexpected places!

Apart from that, there’s something really satisfying about kneading dough!

Books

In my usual all or nothing fashion, I’ve been reading a lot recently. I finished all three of the Millennium series (The girl with the dragon tattoo). I’ve seen the film for the first one and decided to read the books. Described as Swedish crime novels – which would usually put me off because after working in the justice system, it frustrates me how people get it so wrong. But I’d seen the film and knew it wasn’t just another unrealistic detective drama.

I read the first book in English, but there was something about the writing style that didn’t flow as well for me. I imagine this doesn’t happen with the original, but I can’t read Swedish! So I read books two and three in German and enjoyed the writing more.

The books deal with some unpleasant and difficult topics, so anyone about to read them should be aware of that. I won’t put any spoilers here, but I found myself wanting the best for Lisbeth Salander, and the series raises some important questions about violence against women, and the people that the system fails.

Book club

On a lighter note, I joined in with the online book club for the second time this year. Each month we get a different book to read and then there is a discussion in the Facebook group at the end of the month. The books are varied – last month’s was an animal story that was autobiographical in nature. This month was young adult fantasy.

I like the book club for a number of reasons. It introduces you to new books that you otherwise might not have read. It’s accessible because you can take part from the comfort of your own sofa. You don’t stand out for being the only one without a glass of wine. You can explore ideas with other people who’ve read the book too.

Module results

I got a distinction in TM112, the Open University module that I finished in September. I plan to write a post about it for my mature students’ series, but I actually enjoyed this one more than the first, mainly because it was more about using an accessible programming language and less dragging stuff about with a mouse! Anyway I enjoyed the module and was happy with the result.

2 new modules started

This academic year is different because I’m doing two modules at the same time. I’m still part-time – I wouldn’t want to do full-time job and full-time university – but they don’t run one after the other as they did last year. This means I’ll have a longer break in the summer.

I’m doing another IT module – we’re writing programmes for robots at the moment, and the other one is about language and culture. I chose the second one because I couldn’t bring myself to do a whole module of maths.

Present that keeps giving

It’s the second time that I’ve had a subscription as a gift. The first time was when S bought me an Audible subscription. My Mum got me a Pip Box subscription for my birthday. You can read about the September box here and I may do one about October too. It’s not one of the subscription boxes that you hear so much about, but some of the others have got really samey of late, and I also wanted to try some more natural, cruelty-free skincare products. It’s also nice when you keep getting birthday presents long after your birthday lol!

Orange twirls

Yay we finally found them! S had been out hunting for them a few weeks ago when I read about them online, but he didn’t find any. By chance he saw some last weekend! If you like orange chocolate and you like twirls, snap them up! They’re a special edition, so I’m not sure how long they’ll be around for!

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New Cadbury chocolate bars – which one will win?

Cadbury had a competition in which members of the public could come up with new chocolate bar flavours. Now, three of those chocolate bar designs have become reality, but only one will make it into long-term production. Chocolate lovers everywhere are being asked to vote for their favourite one! That’s a great marketing technique to get people to buy all three, isn’t it? But we succumbed to the great marketing technique and did just that yesterday evening!

S saw the raspberry one. I then remembered reading about them and said we had to buy the coffee one too. And then there was just the orange one left – so into the basket it hopped!

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos because – well – we tucked into them last night. But I’m not one of those bloggers who only feels that they can write something when they have a picture to go with the text, so if you want to know what they look like, you can find them on the Cadbury inventor page or keep a look out for them in the shops!

This post is not sponsored – we just like chocolate!

the raspberry shortcake

Milk chocolate studded with raspberry pieces, white crisp pearls, and shortcake.

This was S’ favourite and my second favourite! I don’t usually go for raspberry things, but the zinginess of the raspberry went well with the milk chocolate, and you don’t see a lot of raspberry chocolate. In Germany it’s easy to find things like strawberry chocolate, but the UK market doesn’t seem to go for it. So I’d be happy to see more fruity chocolate around!

Simply the zest

Orange flavoured milk chocolate with caramel pieces and digestive biscuit chunks.

Love the name, not so sure about the bar. I was thinking biscuitty Terry’s chocolate orange, but no. I’m not sure I even agree with the description here, but I did copy it from the Cadbury site. It tastes to me like normal chocolate, caramel, and orange flavoured squishy bits. I thought they were raisins at first. I’m still not entirely sure what they are, but I’m not a fan. Shame really as I thought this would be my second favourite!

Choca-latte

Milk chocolate with coffee cream and digestive biscuit pieces.

Yeah ok it was a foregone conclusion! Unless they really did something to screw it up, this was going to be my favourite! Because coffee!

It’s quite rich because of the cream. I like dark chocolate with coffee, but this is not a strong coffee hit like you would get with an espresso bar. It’s meant to be latte, so creamy and milky. I like it, but couldn’t eat too much at once!

The winners

If I had to pick only one winner, it would be the coffee. However people in the UK don’t seem to like that much either – no more coffee creams in Quality Streets, which made me vary sad! I generally import my coffee chocolate from Germany!

So if the coffee bar doesn’t do so well in the votes, I hope the raspberry one wins.

What about you? Do you like fruity or coffee-flavoured chocolate? Have you tried any of these bars? If so, which one do you want to win?

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Blogmas 2018 -where did the tradition of the Yule log come from?

In the post for day 9 I was talking about the Yule Log as an alternative dessert, but then I began wondering where this tradition actually came from. We don’t have cakes that look like tree branches at any other time of the year, so why do we have them in December?
The last one I made was a long time ago – some kind of high school project. The sponge part went well enough, but the decorating with chocolate got so messy, especially the bit with a fork where you’re supposed to make it look like a branch. It tasted absolutely fine, but I don’t have a photo and that’s maybe not a bad thing! However if you would like to make one yourself, The Little Wise Owl posted a recipe on her blog yesterday.
So, where did this log tradition come from?
The cake is made to look like a log because in the old Pagan tradition, real logs were burned at the end of Winter as the days got shorter. People selected a really big log from the forest and kept it burning throughout the darkest time of the year. If the log stopped burning, there would be terrible luck, but if all went well, there would be good luck in the next year and the days would begin to get longer again. The good luck was especially promised to those who’d had a hand in dragging the log over the rough ground from the forest to the house. This is why it became a family event, with groups of family members going out together, hunting for the best log to bring home.
The word Yule is an old English word that related to the Winter festival in December and January.
There were various superstitions around the Yule log, including the idea that if the log didn’t start burning on the first attempt, there would be bad luck for everyone in the home. So it was important to get things right!
The tradition then developed to tie in with the Christmas celebrations. The log was lit on Christmas Eve and hopefully it would burn all throughout the 12 Days of Christmas.
Most of us don’t have open fires now, so the tradition with the real log has died out to the point that I didn’t even know about it before researching this article. But the chocolate variation still remains today and people can either buy or make them. Not every family has one, but growing up, we often had one as an alternative that was especially popular with the children!
It’s thought that the chocolate log we know today originated in France, where it is called a Bûche de Nöel.
Do you like this dessert? Have you ever made one?

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 – an old favourite today – it’s another body butter, but this time from the shea range – a nice and gentle one that isn’t strongly scented and that is rich and moisturising. It’s a travel size, but a bit goes a long way!
Glossybox – today we got a Lollipop liquid highlighter. I’ve had the kind you put on with an applicator before, but never a squeezy tube of highlighter. It was easy enough to apply, but I think the shade might be too dark for me. Hmm – always a risk you take with tone or skin-type specific products, but I’m sure I’ll find something to do with it! Maybe it’ll be ok.
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Blogmas 2018 – my first Braille chocolate advent calendar

Regular readers of this blog will know that I care about accessibility and accessible products.
In terms of advent calendars, when I was a child, my Nan always helped to prepare them. We typed the number in Braille onto clear sticky-back plastic, cut them out, and my Nan stuck them on the right doors.
Now Sean helps with the beauty calendars – I type out the labels and he sticks them on the appropriate box so that I can locate and open it myself.
However, for the first time this year, I got a chocolate advent calendar that was ready to go! No adaptations needed. I just wait for the right day, locate the number in Braille that is already printed on the door, and open it to get the day’s chocolate.
Just a simple thing that kids (and adults) all over the country take for granted, but up until now, this hasn’t been possible.
Braille chocolate advent calendars are nothing new in Germany – I know they’ve been around for a few years – but so far I haven’t seen one in the UK.
That’s why I was happy when one of my friends offered to send me one.
I know it’s a bit late to share this now – tomorrow we are opening day 12, but I firstly wanted to give a shout out to the company that is making them, and secondly wanted to let other people know for next year – whether that’s parents of blind children, or Braille-reading adults who want an accessible chocolate calendar.
The doors are arranged in 8 rows with 3 doors in each row. There are differences between German and English Braille, but the numbers are the same and there is no other writing on the calendar, so there would be no problems with confusing younger or new Braille readers.
This page about the advent calendar is in German, but there is also an email address where you can order it, and the company accepts Paypal. I’m not sure how much it would cost to get one sent from Germany to the UK if you order it directly, but it’s not a heavy calendar, so it shouldn’t be much.

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 shine liquid lip gloss. I haven’t tried any of these before, and although I don’t often wear lip gloss, it’s always good to have a change sometimes!
Glossybox – I can’t actually find the link for this, but it’s the Bellapierre kissproof lip finish – a clear lip topper to give a glossy finish to liquid lipsticks. The only lipstick I tried from this brand nearly clamped my lips shut because it was so sticky, so I can see why they came out with a product like this. I don’t have the other lipstick any more, but would use this topper on other liquid lips if I think they feel as though they would dry out my lips.
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Blogmas 2018 – non-traditional Christmas desserts

I work with a lot of customers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. As Christmas time gets closer, they sometimes ask me about our English Christmas desserts, and then it’s quite hard for me to be objective because I don’t like most of them!
I’ve had a couple of mince pies this year, but when it comes to Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, I usually pass. I don’t like them.
If you’ve got people around your table who do like them, I think it’s only fair to accommodate them, but what do you do for everyone else?
Sometimes I just fill up on savoury things and don’t bother with dessert. I’ve had icecream or sorbet for Christmas dinner dessert before. Sometimes I skip that course and wait for cheese and biscuits later.
I’m not sure yet what we’re going to do this year, but last year I bought a chocolate orange log from Abel and Cole, an online service that delivers organic and often locally-produced fruit, vegetables, meat, baked goods, and other groceries straight to your door.
I knew chocolate orange cake would go down well with most of the people there, and I wanted to try it. My family used to buy chocolate logs in the past, and I loved the idea of getting chocolate cake instead of something fruity that I wasn’t going to enjoy!
This chocolate log is 750G, and it’s organic chocolate covering a rich chocolate sponge with a smooth ganache and orange curd inside.
The cake came packed in a cooler bag that was insulated with lambs’ wool to keep the contents cold. The bags can then be collected the next time the driver comes to you so there is no waste.
I actually bought a cheese wheel from the Christmas market last year, but Abel and Cole also sells a cheese board gift set containing 3 cheeses, biscuits, chutney, and a cheese board.
When it comes to Christmas dessert, I’m more of a fan of breaking with tradition and serving/eating something I actually want to eat. What do you think about this? What will be on your Christmas dinner table for dessert? Let me know in the comments!

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 – this has to be the biggest box in the calendar! A 200ml tube of the almond milk and honey body lotion! I didn’t actually know this was available as a body lotion. I’ve tried the body butter and the body yoghurt in this range, but not the lotion. I love this when I want something really gentle, usually when I’ve had an allergic reaction and my skin feels a bit sensitive. This is a lovely, gentle product and it’s described as a soothing, restoring body lotion. Good size too, with almond milk from Spain and honey from Ethiopia!
Glossybox – a deluxe sample of the Charles Worthington body booster mousse. I can’t review this product as it’s not something that I use, but I know someone who will! It’s intended to give body, bounce and control to lifeless hair.
This post may contain affiliate links.

September favourites – birthday, chocolate skincare, and eye shadow sticks

Well, it’s the last day of September, and before we get into October, I’d like to talk about the good bits, the things I discovered, and generally things that made me happy.

Also, the giveaway is still open, so if you haven’t done so already, why not check it out? Details are at the end of the post. Closing date is 7th October 2018.

Birthday and family time

September is my birthday month, so it was good to spend some time celebrating with S, family and friends. There was the Chinese meal with S + 11 wonderful friends, the meal for 2 with S at Chiquitos, and the birthday shopping day in Reading, including a trip to the jewellers! There were also thoughtful gifts from friends, a visitor with cake (you know who you are and are probably reading this!), a Braille card from a company that not only brailles the cards, but also describes the pictures, and quite a lot of chocolate. Birthdays are great!

The photo in the post header was taken earlier in the month, when I met up with two of my cousins, whom I hadn’t seen for eight years. They were staying with their mum in a holiday cottage, another aunt and uncle came too, and we had a family reunion. It was lovely to see them after so long.

New finds – skincare and make-up

This could also fit under the birthday heading. I had no idea that Hotel Chocolat also did skincare – until I was bought one of the body lotions for my birthday. You can check out the whole chocolate skincare range here It’s mainly cocoa butter with nuts such as almond and coconut – so not good for you if you have nut allergies, but I don’t, and I think the lotion I got smelled good enough to eat!

I can’t help thinking this next product was bought just because of the name, suggesting that it suits me! However, the lippy cow lip treatment from Cowshed is a good product to prepare for the colder weather.
And ok I may be a lippy cow as well!

Finally, the lovely Joanna from MyPinkRambles was talking about the ELF eye shadow sticks the other day, and I picked up a couple when we went to Superdrug. If you find it hard to apply powder shadows because of a visual impairment, or just prefer something that’s quick and easy to draw on, this may be of interest to you. They are very creamy, and don’t drag on the lids as some of the other eye crayons do. I got rose gold and perfect pearl.

New finds – food and home

I can’t link this because it was a gift, but I was given a sunflower to sit in my office. I love sunflowers, and this one isn’t going to die through neglect because it’s artificial! Some fake flowers can look awful, but if you find tasteful ones, it can brighten up the room without the need to worry about keeping plants alive – which I’m not good at!

If you have children or you’re bored of ordinary-looking fried eggs, I’ve discovered some moulds recently. To be honest, I’m more of a scrambled or poached egg kind of girl, but I got this owl egg-mould to add to my ever-growing owl collection. One of the things I like about Ocado – you can get all the usual food and grocery stuff, but there are also a decent number of toiletries and things for the home on there. By the way, if anyone wants to try Ocado for the first time, there is an offer whereby we both get £20 of vouchers – £20 for you and £20 for me. You also get a free smart pass for a year, so if you like Ocado, you won’t need to pay delivery charges for one year. have to be a new customer to apply – see terms and conditions in your invitation. You can request an invitation in the contact form if you’re interested.

Studying

The beginning of my course is getting closer. I’ve found the Facebook groups really good – there is a specific one for my course, as well as one for my region. The forum on the Open University site is also quite active, but I like the way that Facebook is being used to bring people together so that they can help each other. There is also a Whatsapp group, but maybe I’m too old – I can’t keep up with so many messages lol!

I also went to a meet-up for new and existing students. I was the only one from the IT degree there, but it was still good to meet some other people on different courses, talk about their experiences, and see the wide range of backgrounds that people come from to do distance learning.

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Newly discovered and favourite things in August

So, actually I wanted to put this up earlier in the week, but if you saw my post from Thursday, you’ll know that life didn’t go to plan this week!

Anyway – these are the things that I enjoyed in August – in terms of products, activities and new discoveries.

1. Masktime

This is not a new thing for me, but I wanted to try it out for a couple of months before telling you about it so I could see what kind of things came in the boxes. The picture in the post header is of masks that I got back in the springtime in a subscription called Masktime – masks for sheet mask lovers.

To be fair, the last box contained a couple of other things, such as a gel mask and a bubble mask, but generally you get a selection of sheet masks for different things (rehydration, detoxifying etc.

I used to buy sheet masks regularly, as I find them relaxing, and less hassle than traditional masks, and this subscription gives you the chance to discover some new brands and types of mask.

There are details in English on the masks themselves and on the card that you get with them, so no worries if you don’t speak Korean! The only thing is, if you’re blind and usually identify products by scanning them and reading the information electronically, your app may struggle as there is Korean and English writing on the package. I generally ask for a real person (usually S) to read the information and instructions to me, as the apps don’t work so well on these, particularly if you have a multi-step mask with little sachets of product that have to be applied in a certain order.

It’s a selection, so you don’t choose what you get, but I’ve pretty much tried or I plan to try everything that I’ve received, which I can’t say about all my other subscription boxes. You can find out more on the Masktime website. At the time of writing, there’s 10% off your first box – not an affiliate link. You can also buy one-off boxes for specific skin types and individual products, and within the subscriptions there are different price levels, depending on how many masks you want. I would say it’s good value for money, especially when you consider how much single masks can retail for.

2. Lindt Europe – blueberry, coffee and passion fruit chocolate

So, I’ve done a post before about the chocolate Emporium. I originally found the site when I was looking for mango chocolates, but they do a wide range of stuff on there, particularly good for people like me who like fruity chocolate.
I got an email to say that there were some new things in from Lindt Europe, and in a moment of weakness while waiting for a meeting to start, ordered a couple of things for us to try.
S was a fan of the hello blueberry muffin bar, which did really taste like blueberry muffins. I liked the peach and apricot bar, because I have never had peach and apricot chocolate before. The papaya was good too, and I also found a couple of coffee ones. Here’s the link to the whole Lindt Europe range. These are bars that we do not usually get in the UK, and some of the packaging is in German.

3. Turkish

I used to have Turkish lessons and be reasonably good at it – well the understanding part anyway. Speaking was never really my thing, mainly because I don’t think about how hard it is when I speak German now, and I had forgotten what it’s like to have the vocabulary of a small child when you start a new language. But I could read articles and enjoy podcasts that were meant for a Turkish audience.

Life moved on and I became busy with other things. It’s hard for me when my interests change – I’ll be doing something 100%, and then it’ll go down to nothing. Like when a relationship ends! I don’t think I’ll ever feel as passionate about the hobby as I once did, but I got out my old notes recently and was happy about how much I could still remember and understand. So I’ve subscribed to a short Turkish news magazine podcast and decided to start going through my old class notes again. It seems a shame to throw all that effort and hard work away, especially as most of the time this hobby made me happy.

4. Apple micellar water and lime toner

You know I love fruity things! I heard about a company called Freshly Cosmetics from another blogger, and really liked the sound of some of the products.

To be fair, there are a few spelling mistakes and errors on the site, and I think this may have put me off buying from them if I hadn’t known of someone else who had. So the communications professional in me can’t get away from the message that not checking your texts thoroughly could end up costing you in the long run. In the end I did order, but I certainly went through the thought process of “is this really a serious site?”

Anyway – the products came really quickly and I love the scent of the green apple micellar water. and the lime toner. I’ve never seen a toner in a spray container before, but it does actually mean that you use less, so waste less as a result – and you don’t need to use cotton pads. Both of them smell amazing and fresh.

These are not budget items and I think they would make a nice gift or a special treat for yourself. The brand focusses on natural ingredients and is also involved in a reforestation project.

5. My favourite serum ran out

This is very sad, because it’s expensive. I got it heavily reduced in a post –Christmas sale at Feelunique last year. I think I only paid about 1/3 of the price, but I really like this serum! It’s not oily, it’s not watery, it goes on smoothly, and helps you to build a lovely base for make-upYou can find the smoothing serum on Gatineau’s website.

6. Happy

This is such a lovely, summery fragrance – even better because it contains grapefruit! I’ve talked about Happy from Clinique before, but I wanted to mention it again because I’ve been wearing it all through August and now sadly the bottle is empty. Described as a fruity floral fragrance, and perfect for the summer!

7. Up close and personal with the owls

I had to include my new feathered friends in the August highlights! If you missed the post, here’s what I got up to when I met some owls from Hilltop Birds of Prey.

8. Body Shop club card event

A week ago last Wednesday I was invited to an event at my local Body Shop. It wasn’t a blogger event, but one for anyone with a Love Your Body card, which is a loyalty points programme. If you have a card, you can earn points when you buy things from the Body Shop. You also get £5 to spend on your birthday, and the chance to be invited to Exclusive events.

This was the first one that I’d been to. I could take a guest, and there was free chocolate (yay!), as well as prosecco for those who wanted it, or fizzy mango for those of us who didn’t! The main point of the evening was to launch the new almond milk with oats face mask, and to encourage anyone who hadn’t signed it to sign the petition against animal testing. There was also a free gift for those who attended (a make-up bag containing a body wash and bath lily), as well as another free gift if you spent more than £30 (a grapefruit perfume and a mini grapefruit body butter). I was very happy about the grapefruit. There was also 30% off a lot of the products. My Mum and I had a good evening, and I’m interested to see now what will happen as a result of the petition against animal testing in the cosmetic industry.

Signing up for a Love Your Body card is free, and you can get one here if you’re interested.

9. Grapefruit bubble bath

From the very expensive to something under £1! 750 ml of grapefruity goodness for your bath. Not the biggest bubbles I’ve ever seen, but the scent is amazing, and it will last you ages.
I got mine from Ocado, but as it’s Waitrose own brand, I imagine you can get it there too.

10. Sorbet maker

And finally – something I haven’t tried out yet, but which made me happy when I found it with 70% off in the Ocado clearance sale. I think it’s sold out now, so I can’t add a link, but once I’ve eaten the sorbet I have in the freezer, I’m looking forward to making my own. Mango of course! Have you tried making your own icecream or sorbet? How did it turn out? Any tips that you want to pass on?

So now it’s September and people are talking about autumn, cosy jumpers, and I saw the first advent calendar advert on Facebook. September is my birthday month, and there will also be the Autumn giveaway later in the month – you can follow the blog or sign up for updates if you want to find out what is in the box and how you can take part.

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May favourites – haircare, keeping fit, and fruity chocolates

So it’s time to talk about the things I’ve been enjoying this month. Let me know if you’ve tried any of them, and also what you’ve been enjoying lately.

Haircare

I’ll start with my haircare treat. A couple of weeks ago I got a couple of Molton Brown hair minis in a beauty box and I really liked the quality and the way my hair was so soft and shiny afterwards. I wasn’t too fussed about the floral scent, so I had a look on the website to see what else they had. I picked up this Glossing hair care set with plum-kadu, which is more expensive than the hair products I usually buy, but when I think of what I spend on my make-up or skincare, I decided to give it a go.

To be honest, I am getting through these products more slowly than the others – partly because I don’t want to waste it, but a little of these does go a long way and it doesn’t feel that the product has been watered down at all. I can’t justify using this all the time, but if I want to give my hair a treat, it’s definitely something I would pick up again, and I think it would make a lovely gift for someone (it comes in a presentation box).

Make-up

In my April favourites I mentioned the Clinique blush stick that I’d picked up and someone mentioned that there are sticks for eyes as well. I didn’t know about this, so I decided to try one out. The Clinique chubby sticks for eyes are like crayons and you colour in your eyelid with them. They’re a bit like the ones from the Body Shop. Some eye crayons are more like pencils and they are a pain because they don’t glide on well and you have to keep sharpening them. However these ones are like a crayon, they don’t scratch, and you can get decent coverage with them quickly and easily. As someone who can’t see what I’m doing, these are really easy to use and I get good results every time (apart from the first time when I was a bit sparing with it and it didn’t show up very well – lesson learned!)

I also got a Laura Mercier lipstick, mainly because I’d read that they were really moisturising and kind to lips. I like it and am glad to have a new brand in my collection. However, although it goes on smoothly and is quite creamy, I think it’s not as moisturising as some of my satin lipsticks.

Owls, wolves and dogs

When I was trying out the TILI box from QVC, I also picked up a cute little owl necklace. (Link removed as it sold out). I wasn’t impressed with the ordering process, which is why I haven’t done a post on it. There was an issue with the website which meant that my order couldn’t be submitted and I had to call them to put it through. Kind of annoying, but the owl is sweet and I’ve been wearing him a lot this month.

Bath and shower

I mentioned my bubble bar discovery earlier in the month when I was talking about my lovely gift of Lush products On our week off, I ended up going to the Lush Store to see what other bars they had, and came out with a Sunny side Bubble bar that contains orange lemon and tangerine. I think I still prefer the Bright Side to be honest, but this is a bit more of a delicate scent for anyone who doesn’t want to be blasted by oranges! Again, it was a generous amount of bubbles, even with just half a bar.

Lifestyle !

So this is the random category for things that I can’t put anywhere else.

We’ve been Amazon Prime members for a while and mainly use it for the free deliveries, next-day deliveries, selection of free magazines that you can read on the Kindle app, Amazon music app, and occasional things we want to watch on Amazon video. However, I also discovered that there are free books! Every month, the editors select pre-release books from different genres, and you can select one for free. I haven’t actually finished my first one yet, but I like the way that they choose books from a range of genres so that you’re likely to find one or two books that you wouldn’t mind giving a go! The service is called Amazon first reads, and if you’re interested in becoming a Prime member, (the first month is free), you can find out more about Prime here.

The lovely hot weather meant that we went to our first barbecue of the year in May as well and enjoyed some good company, good food (yay chicken with mango marinade and haloumi!), and there’s also something really good about eating outside.

I’ve been doing regular sessions on the running machine and bike, but as Blind Alive had a sale, I got two of their fitness workouts – one for use with weights, and the boot camp, which is the hardest in the cardio series. The good thing about these workouts is that they are made with blind people in mind, which means that all the moves are described in a way that’s easy to follow if you can’t watch a video of someone demonstrating the exercises. It’s so frustrating when you can’t just find something on Youtube and follow along because you have no idea what’s going on. In fact, if you don’t do things properly, you can end up doing more harm than good, which is why I appreciate the fact that someone has taken the time to put together these workouts and describe what you need to do. You can find a full list of the fitness workouts here. Also, if you want to listen to Mel from Blind Alive’s interview with me, you can find it here.

Maybe I shouldn’t be talking about it just after the work-outs, but Hotel Chocolat has brought out a cheesecake selection chocolate box. There’s coffee, lemon, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, passion fruit – so many good things and no sea salt in sight – which is how all selection boxes should be as far as I’m concerned! I particularly like this selection because there are a lot of fruity chocolates in it – and of course there’s coffee chocolate too! You can find out more about the cheesecake collection here.

Fragrance

I wouldn’t say this has pushed any of my firm favourites out of place, but I was pleasantly surprised when we got a perfume in the Pink Parcel box in April. It’s a risk to put a fragrance in anything, but I liked the Catherine Malandrino Style de Paris Purse Spray because it’s a real summery scent and of course it has one of my favourite ingredients – grapefruit!

So, what have you been enjoying this month? Let me know in the comments!

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

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