Blogmas day 10 – gifts for coffee lovers

Some ideas for what you can buy the coffee lover in your life!

So, yesterday was a festive day for us – shopping in town and baking Christmas biscuits. I wasn’t so impressed with the cookie cutters I bought, but we ended up with almond Christmas trees and cinnamon hearts.

Gifts for coffee lovers

Maybe you know someone who’s always got a cup of coffee on the go, or who likes to try new and different types of coffee? If so, here are some ideas for a perfect gift for them.

1. Skincare

Those who have been following my blog for a while will already have seen my skincare for coffee lovers post. Basically I was looking for skincare that wasn’t your usual coffee scrubs. Some of the best things I found were:

A coffee lover’s lip balm gift set with 3 moisturising lip balms in Americano, Latte and Mocha.
Anatomicals Java Lather shower gel – it’s called a body cleanser, but it’s really a body wash for the bath or shower and it smells amaaazing!

2. Mugs

If you’re going to have a cup of coffee, you need a nice mug. Try to think about the person’s likes and find something that ties in with that. I got this 3d owl mug > for my birthday and I love it.

Alternatively you could find something with a funny saying on it. I don’t have this don’t talk to me until this mug is empty coffee mug, but it would suit me!

If your friend likes ground coffee, but doesn’t always have access to a coffee machine, you could get them one of these infuser mugs. I got one last Christmas and it’s great for a single cup of coffee or loose-leaf tea.

3. Clothing

If you know someone well enough, why not get them some comfy winter pyjamas? Your coffee-loving friend might like this one that I bought today with coffee and chill printed on it. I also like these because they are true to size – there’s nothing worse than buying pyjamas and finding they came up too small.

I also have this All I need is a cup of coffee owl t-shirt.

4. Food and drink

These coffee chocolates from the Chocolate Imporium are among the best coffee chocolates I’ve tasted and I would definitely recommend them!

I tried this hazelnut coffee at a friend’s house, and Whittard of Chelsea does a wide range of speciality coffees if you’re looking for something a bit different.

One year a friend got me a box with different types of coffee to try from around the world. I can’t find the one I got, but this selection box is similar, with coffee from Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Peru, and Kenya.

5. Postboxed gifts for coffee lovers

You may remember that I did a review on Postboxed a company that specialises in gifts that fit through the letterbox, so you don’t have to worry whether the recipient is at home. Postboxed has a couple of gifts for coffee lovers too:

This coffee towel is printed with an infographic that tells you how to make different kinds of coffee drink.

A bar of roast espresso chocolate for the chocolate-loving coffee drinker.

11 coffee shops in London that you must not miss is a small book with notes and colour photographs for coffee lovers who live in or plan to visit London.

You can buy these things individually, or put them together in a gift box. If the items you select won’t fit in one letterbox-friendly box, they will be packed into two and sent off at the same time.

Let me know if you have any other good ideas for coffee lovers!

Christmas tree in Stockholm

The calendars

So, what was behind your door no. 10?

L’Occitane – today I got another bar of soap, this time the Verbena scent. I know I was a bit underwhelmed about the last soap, but I put it out in the bathroom yesterday and it’s actually really nice!

M&S – Formula Innovate radiance reveal peel. I was a bit worried about this because I don’t like those masks that you have to pull off along with half your face!But this has to be rinced off with warm water, so I don’tthink it’s one of those. I haven’t tried anything from this brand before, so I’ll give it a go later today.

Question of the day

Today’s question – do you send Christmas cards?

I used to, but I haven’t done so for about 10 years now. When I was a child, I used to write my messages in Braille and my Nan wrote underneath them so that people could read them. When I was a bit older and not living with my Nan, I printed out labels with the addresses and messages, but it became too much hassle trying to remember what was on each label that I couldn’t read. Now it would be a bit easier because there are text recognition apps for blind people to use on their smartphones, but I decided instead to do something for the environment and just contact or message the people whom I wanted to wish a happy Christmas!

How about you? Do you send out Christmas cards?

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Blogger swap box from the cozy den

Find out what happened when I arranged a blogger swap box with new friends from Germany!

If you read my November favourites post, you will know that I did a blogger swap box with some new blogging friends. Today I’m going to tell you about it!

I met Sazzy and Joanie (S & J) from the the Cozy Den blog in a blogging Facebook group. There are threads on most days where bloggers can share their work whilst supporting other bloggers. It’s a lovely little community.

Anyway, we got talking on my blog about the Yes To sheet masks, and I think it was S who said that they aren’t available in Germany. That’s when I thought about a blogger swap box – I could send S & J some products from the UK, including Yes To ones that weren’t available in Germany, and I could try out some new German products. Win win!

Happily they agreed, so we set our price limit for the box, agreed when we’d do it, and sent each other a bit of information about the kind of things we liked/avoided/really wanted!

When my box came, it was at the end of a tough week and just the right time for a pamper session! The box smelled amazing and between us S (oh dear that’s bad – now we have two S people), so my partner S read out the German labels to me and I translated them! Teamwork! Having a blind girlfriend gets my S into all kinds of beauty-related projects!

There were plenty of bathtime treats in there which is great, because I love pampering sessions and skincare, especially now that the winter is here. I’ve already used the trio, which were vanilla but had a fresh and zingy scent too! The pink grapefruit shower foam smells good enough to eat, and I’m looking forward to using the body lotion with orange blossom, and to relaxing with the bath salts, bath cube, and cute little bath melt!

I’ve also tried both of the face mask sachets –honey is good for your skin, and I love the scent of the tropical one, which contains pineapple and coconut. To be honest I’ve only ever done sheet masks, so it was fun to try something else!

Lip care is really important, especially at this time of year, and the minty lip care will see me through the winter.

I love trying new hand creams. The one in the box has avocado oil, aloe vera and chamomile in it.

I’m a bit of a pain to buy for in terms of make-up because I don’t use powder products, but they managed to find me an eye shadow crayon and two cream shadows. I haven’t tried these brands before and I was excited to add them to my make-up collection.

The one thing I asked for from Germany was Jogurette. If you don’t know what they are, then you’re missing out! They’re little individually wrapped chocolate fingers with strawberry yoghurt in the middle and they’re amazing! They’re also all gone!!! Sorry S, I’ll share most things but not Jogurette!

As well as the chocolate, there was some Lebkuchen and Speculazius – two types of yummy Christmas biscuits!

There were so many other lovely things in there that I haven’t had the chance to try them all yet. I really enjoyed both putting together S & J’s box with things I hoped they would like, and opening my own and trying out all the goodies that you can’t get on my local high street.

If you’d like to find out what was in S and J’s box from me, head on over to their swap box post on the Cozy Den.

Have you done a swap box before? If so, why not let us know about it, or link your blog/Youtube video in the comments?

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We tried out some Japanese chocolate and snacks

So, this is the part where S gets roped into helping on the blog – by eating chocolate! Good deal, isn’t it?!

I decided that I wanted to try out some Japanese sweets and snacks, so to make it a tiny bit more objective, I bought up a bunch of stuff from Amazon and we had a taste test together – although not all at once! I was pleased to say that there were only a couple of things that I really didn’t like, and I enjoyed having the chance to munch on some new and unfamiliar snacks.

I was first introduced to Japanese food when a Japanese student, who soon became my friend, came to study at my school for 9 months when I was in year 12. She brought different things for us to try, such as seaweed and some cute little biscuit bears with chocolate in the middle!

So I was keen to see what else was available online – Amazon makes all things possible!

I bought two packs – one which was just different types of Japanese KitKat, and the other one was snacks. Actually I just thought they were sweets, but when it arrived, there was a mixture of sweet and savoury stuff in there. You don’t have to choose exactly what you want because you are given a random mixture each time, though no two things were the same.

There was no English on the packets, so it really was a lucky dip, unless you find the same picture on the internet with English descriptions – S did manage this for a couple of things, and he recognised some of the words. However, if you have an allergy and are used to checking ingredient lists before you eat things, this won’t be a good idea for you. It did concern me a bit, but my allergies aren’t life-threatening so I just did it at home with S so I could be comfortable if I didn’t feel great. I was fine, but I wouldn’t recommend that people with allergies do this!

KitKats

We got a pack of 14 Japanese KitKats. I didn’t measure them, but they’re minis, so you get two little fingers in each pack, or one of them just had one, like a mini KitKat chunky.

My favourites had to be the green tea ones. I’d never thought of chocolate and green tea before, but they went well together! I would buy those again. The sake (a type of alcoholic drink made with rice) KitKat with white chocolate was good too.

The only one I didn’t really like was made with some kind of nuts, and I’m not a fan of any kind of nutty chocolate, so that was to be expected. Still, I was happy that only one of the bars had nuts in it.

There were a couple that tasted like the KitKats you can buy here – a milk one and a plain one. They weren’t quite the same though, so as well as the packaging being different, there must be different ingredients in the chocolate too. The wafer in the plain one tasted less sweet than the ones you can buy in the UK. There was also a white chocolate one that must have had something else mixed in with it – I like white chocolate, but this one was very sweet.

There was also a mint one – yum yum! I do like a good bit of mint chocolate!

Another interesting taste was the ginger chocolate – I do wish we could have more experimental flavours in the UK. Ok you can find them if you know where to look, but you don’t get things like that in standard chocolate bars.

Finally I need to mention the strawberry one, because I’m a fan of fruity chocolate!

Snacks

So these were the snacks that I originally thought were just sweets – but they were actually a mixture of 20 sweet and savoury snacks. Here are some of the highlights although in some cases, I can’t tell you exactly what they were!

There was a packet with small, square snacks like rice crackers. I like the rice cracker idea, but I found these a bit salty. In fact, I’d say that about a lot of the savoury things, but then I’m not a fan of salty snacks in general.

There were a number of Umaibo – like long, thin, crunchy rolls made of puffed corn, which come in a variety of flavours:

Tonkatsu sauce – this was sweet and zingy – I could taste the vinegar!
Mentai – marinated roe of Pollock. I would eat these at a party or something, but not being a massive fish lover, I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy them!
Pizza – I could definitely taste the pepperoni or barbecue sauce
Peperoni
Green salad – this really tasted like slightly spicy whatsits!

We had a bag of some kind of cereal balls with something like tomato or prawn cocktail flavouring – a bit like skip-flavoured whatsits!

The only thing I couldn’t finish was the squid, but I really don’t like most seafood and some fish. Still, I gave it a go!

The other thing that I wasn’t particularly fond of but which I did manage to finish was the dried fish sticks. They tasted a bit like cardboard until you started to chew, and very fishy!

The first sweet thing I tried was the Daifuku – this was good, but we only got one, so I tried to tear it in half! It’s like a cross between a jelly sweet and a marshmellow, with a strawberry filling inside. I could definitely eat more of those!

There was a tasty star shaped chocolate infused wafer.

My favourites were some tasty, sweet cracker things, softer than rice cakes and a bit thicker than crisps. They were slightly sweet and tasted a bit like waffles!

There was one salty dried plumb – dried plum = good, salty dried plum = not good!

There was something like a boiled strawberry sweet – nice enough, but only one in a packet? It wasn’t very big!

Who remembers flumps? There was something that looked like a larger one of those, as well as a bag of teeny tiny marsh mellows!

There was a card with some chocolate-filled sweets that looked a bit like smarties, but you had to push them out of the plastic in the same way that you would headache tablets! Interesting packaging, but the sweets were good!

How about you?

Have you tried any of these things? If so, what did you think of them? Have you had any taste testing boxes from other countries? Let me know in the comments!

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Postboxed – gifts that will fit through the letter box so you don’t have to worry

My review of Postboxed – gifts that slide through the letter box so the recipient doesn’t need to be at home to get them.

We’ve all been there – you are expecting the postman to bring you something nice, only to find one of those “sorry you weren’t at home” cards which means you’ll either have to go and collect it, arrange a redelivery, or hunt around for where it might have been slung.

One of the benefits of working from home is the ability to indulge in my online shopping habit and know that I’ll be in most of the time to take in the delivery. In fact, our usual postman knows me quite well by now! He even waits for me while I make a mad dash for it down the stairs, whereas some of the other delivery drivers are already halfway back to the gate by the time I open the door.

Of course even I get caught out sometimes. It’s usually the parcel delivery companies. I had a note to say that the parcel was either on my property or with one of the neighbours – massively helpful, particularly when you’re blind! In the end I enlisted the help of my sighted partner, but even he didn’t see it straight away because it had been chucked behind the wheelie bin. I guess I should count myself lucky it wasn’t in the bin – my Nan once had that happen to her new jacket.

Anyway – enough moaning – the reason I’m telling you this is because I recently discovered Postboxed, a new gift service that takes away the problem of the recipient needing to be in, because all of their gift packages fit through the letter box.

I think this is a great idea for 3 reasons:

  1. You don’t need to worry about your friend being in (I’ve had cryptic conversations about whether I’d be in on a certain date because flowers were coming)
  2. The gifts are packaged for you – so there are no trips to the post office (really handy for my business now that Christmas is coming up – I believe they even ship internationally)
  3. you can either put your own box together or choose from one of the themed boxes that have been put together with specific types of people in mind (coffee lovers, cyclists, women, gin lovers etc).

I decided to order two boxes to try them out.

Firstly, S and I enjoy cooking spicy food, so I got the foodie matchboxes for us to try some serious chilli! You get 3 match boxes. The first contains a bottle of the 2014 chilli world champion, Carolina Reaper chilli powder and some very, very spicy chocolate! In the second matchbox, there are four of the world’s most expensive spices: 1 jar of sargol Persian Saffron, 1 jar of premium Madagascan Vanilla, 1 jar of true Ceylon Cinnamon, and 1 jar of fragrant Indian Cardamom. I haven’t used all of them yet, but I put the cinnamon into a meat dish and it was very good. The 3rd box contains 1 jar of Scorpion Moruga (2,000,000 SHU) chilli powder (the current World Champion), 1 jar of Scorpion Butch T (1,500,000 SHU) chilli powder, 1 jar of 7 Pot (1,300,000 SHU) chilli powder, and 1 jar of Ghost powder (1,000,000 SHU) (Naga Bhut Jolokia) chilli powder. No, I hadn’t heard of them either, apart from the ghost chilli, but they are some of the hottest chilli powders in the world. Yes, the bottles are tiny to fit in the matchbox, but believe me, you really don’t need much! I used just one of them to make a batch of spicy meatballs, which we really enjoyed, but I wouldn’t have needed any more. Tip – the little jars are well-packed with cute little corks, so if the powder doesn’t all come out when you open it, get something thin and pointy like a bamboo skewer to make sure you don’t waste any.

If you have food lovers in your life who like it hot, I think this makes a really interesting and original gift.

The other box I got was one that I put together myself. There was a box for chocolate lovers, but I am not a fan of salt and chocolate together. This box was slightly larger because I ordered four bars of chocolate, but I read that if you put too much in your box, the order will be sent in two letterbox-friendly boxes. My boxes didn’t come through the letter box because the postman had a bunch of other stuff for me, but I measured them afterwards and they would have fit.

Anyway back to the chocolate! I got things that I’d never heard of before because I was intrigued and wanted to try them. So there was some roast espresso chocolate, honey milk chocolate, lavender chocolate, and orange, geranium and lemon chocolate.

The bars work out at around £5 per bar, but you are getting good quality chocolate, and the bar is a fair size too.

I learned by this that you should never judge a bar by its name. I fully expected the coffee to be my favourite, as I’m a lover of all things coffee, but actually it was the lavender that I liked most. I was really surprised by this. I mean, lavender is something you put in the bath or you use lavender oil before going to bed, but I never knew that you could put it in chocolate too and that it would taste so good! The coffee bar was good too, although I think I would have preferred a bit more coffee in it. I’d never had honey chocolate before and I would definitely get it, and the orange and lemon one, again. I was a bit worried about the geranium in the latter, but it tasted more citrusy, and not as though I were eating flowers!

From an accessibility point of view, I could browse products and place my order myself, without getting frustrated or needing to ask for sighted assistance because of inaccessible design, something which access technology users can’t take for granted. This good user experience is another reason why I would return.

So, if you’re looking for an unusual gift now that Christmas is coming up, or maybe you’d like to treat a special someone, you’ll find plenty of variety on Postboxed. I went for the foodie options, but there are also books, tea towels with information about particular topics of interest, alcohol, tea, socks, and jewellery to name a few other options.

The boxes were not PR samples, which means I paid for the products myself, but as I was so happy with the service and the quality of the products, I have become an affiliate, so the links are affiliate links.

So, have you heard of or used this service before? What do you think of this idea? Let me know in the comments!

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Chocolate tasting – German and Swedish chocolate

Hello to all the chocolate lovers out there!

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

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

Swedish chocolate

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

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

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

German chocolate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

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

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

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March favourites

Hi everyone and welcome to my March favourites!

My first favourite is a beauty subscription box. You may remember from my previous review that I was not too impressed with the accessibility of Lovemebeauty. I decided to cancel that subscription and sign up for Latest in Beauty instead.

The first order comes with a make-up bag as you can see on the picture. Subsequent orders don’t, and I think this is better than getting a new bag every time as you do with Lovemebeauty. After all, how many make-up bags does a girl need? Anyway, you can choose 3 products for £9, 6 for £15 or 9 for £19. I started with 6, but I am a bit tempted to go to the next level. We’ll see. I certainly didn’t find it difficult to fill my basket. I’m not going to do separate posts for this, but the products will show up in my favourites and empties, and if you’re looking for a build-your-own box with a decent variety of products and an accessible site, I’d advise you to check this out. Another plus point is that new products are being added and rotated all the time, so there isn’t a massive scramble at the beginning of the month with the potential of losing out if you’re not quick enough.

Make-up

I’ve got a number of make-up products this month. First of all, I discovered via Youtube that Charlotte Tilbury makes cream shadows, so I decided that my first Charlotte Tilbury product should be one of them. I decided to go for eyes to mesmorise cream shadow in Jean and I was definitely not disappointed. This is a cream shadow that is more like a cream than a firm body butter, so it’s super-easy to apply, it doesn’t crease and it’s a nice addition to my cream shadow collection.

Next to some lipsticks. These are from different brands, but one thing they have in common is the moisturising effect – I hate lipsticks that dry your lips out and, where possible, I like to go for the satin or silk ones, or ones which say they add moisture.

People kept raving about the new Burt’s Bees lipsticks, so I decided to get myself one. I went for the Burt’s Bees Blush basin lipstick. It glides on nicely and comes in recyclable packaging with an indented honeycomb design on it, which makes it easy to identify!

Next is the Kat von Dee studded kiss lipstick which I got as a mini in a beauty box. I don’t have any other products from Kat von Dee, so I don’t know if they all have such creative packaging, but I love the unusual packaging on this and the lipstick has staying power!

My Makeup Forever face primer ran out, and getting hold of a new one was proving to be a pain – they don’t stock it in my local Debinems. However, I discovered the ELF hydrating face primer, which comes in a handy pump dispenser and is about half the price! I still like the Makeup Forever one, but the ELF one does the job just as well, so I see it as a bargain!

As I was happy with the primer, when I discovered that ELF were doing moisturising lipsticks, I decided to get one of those as well! I went for the red carpet one, which took a while to come as I think it came from the US, but was worth the wait.

Skincare

I thought I knew everything there was to know about the Body Shop mango range, but no. I have only just discovered the mango whip body lotion. It’s described as lightweight, but incredibly moisturising,and I would agree. I’m only just learning that some of the more lightweight milks and lotions can be as effective as the heavier butters because they absorb so well.

The first product that I got from Burt’s Bees was their intense hydration night cream. It was inspired by Clary sage, a plant which keeps its moisture, despite growing in a harsh environment where moisture is hard to come by. The Burt’s Bees range uses natural ingredients and I like this rich but non-greasy formula. One of my friends didn’t like the smell – I think it’s fine, it just smells like being outside in the nature in a non-floral kind of way!

One of the products in my first Latest in Beauty box was the Seychelles hand cream from the White Company. Now I understand what all the hype about the White Company is about! For me, hand creams have to smell good, have a good consistency (not oily or sticky) and produce good results (soft, smooth hands). This handcream ticks all three boxes and with its blend of almond oil and coconut among other things, it smells wonderful!

Food and drink

Seriously, who knew that cherry M&Ms were a thing? I didn’t – until a couple of weeks ago. I’ve never really been interested in M&Ms because I thought there were just the peanut ones – but cherry chocolate is soooo good! You can get your own cherry M&Ms here.

Owls, dogs and wolves

You know by now that I love wolves. I found this stirling silver howling wolf pendant on Amazon and decided to add it to my collection. The pendant is well-made and you can easily feel the wolf’s outline. The only thing is that this doesn’t come with a chain – I didn’t read it properly – so you’ll either need to find one at home or purchase one separately.

How about you?

Do you like any of these products? What are you enjoying this month? Have you tried out Latest in Beauty? Let me know in the comments!

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